Taking Up Our Cross

Taking Up Our Cross

The first followers of Jesus called their faith The Way. Living the Gospel is a journey and a way of life, one that was so strikingly different from their pagan neighbors that they stood out. It’s no different today. As my grandfather used to say, “We live one way, the world lives another.” Our faith is counter-cultural. To put it bluntly, if you truly live as a Christian, you will not fit in.

This can mean a number of things, and none of them are easy. It can mean going out of your way during a busy, stressful day to help someone, or being patient with a cranky call center rep. It can mean refusing to engage in gossip about a troublesome family member, and doing your best to love them as Jesus does. It can mean being the only one of your friends not to live together before marriage, because your faith teaches that marriage and sex are sacred. It can mean giving up an hour of your Sunday morning to get dressed and visit Jesus at Mass, even when you “don’t get anything out of it” because you know its the right thing to do.

It can mean any form of denying yourself and your wishes, even if they are natural, because you believe that there is a proper ordering of things, and you have the gift of free will.

A wise person once said, “Christianity without suffering isn’t Christianity, it’s Paganism.” We can all be nice and get along. What makes Christianity different? It’s our willingness to bear wrongs patiently in the name of our God. It’s taking up your cross daily, and striving to live according to the Gospel.

Our society has indeed reached a new era of paganism. No, not too many people still believe in Zeus and Mars. The modern gods are Money, Conformity, Relativism and Desire, and the king of the gods, Self.

Everybody has a cross to bear, something that makes you say “I could be a perfect Catholic if that one teaching didn’t go against what I need in my life. It works for some people, but it won’t work for me because of x, y and z.” To live our faith, we need to abandon those thoughts. They are not from God. When Peter suggested that Jesus find a way out of his impending crucifixion, Jesus rebuked him saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” And yet we know the cross was hard for Jesus to accept. He sweat blood as he prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Accepting our cross is the hardest thing we’ll ever do. And we’re going to fall on occasion. But God knows this, and he loves us anyway. The beauty of our faith is that we know that if we leave the right path, our Good Shepherd loves us so much that he goes looking for us, eager to forgive us, bring us back, and help us follow the Way.


TLC’s Virgin Diaries: Really?

So while I was indulging in my guilty pleasure of watching Sister Wives on TLC on demand (yes, I’m that engrossed in it that I watch it on demand), I saw the trailer for Virgin Diaries, a 1-hour special on next sunday about adult virgins.
There has been a lot of buzz online about whether TLC is making fun of virgins or just simply providing a documentary type piece. Here’s my big problem with it: the trailer itself makes fun of virgins, and the fact that there is a show about it on TLC insinuates that it is something abnormal.
What in the world has happened? Yes, I’m not an idiot. I’ve been alive long enough to know that premarital sex is extremely common. But denigrating people who live by a higher moral standard? That’s terrible. And actually, if you look at the statistics, couples who wait until marriage to have sex have a much lower divorce rate than those that do not wait.

Why is that? There are probably a million reasons, and I have a guess. Let me just preface this by saying that my conjecture is NOT based on research, but simply my own observations from my own life and the lives of my friends and acquaintances. My guess is that couples who are committed to waiting until marriage to have sex probably develop a deeper bond while dating and have a deeper commitment in their marriage. This probably stems from having a stronger moral background to begin with and putting more value on the sanctity of marriage. If you deeply believe that sex is a gift from God meant only for the sacred intimacy between a husband and wife, then your view of marriage is faith-centered, and you’re probably going to put more work into keeping your marriage forever. I don’t know if my reasoning is 100% accurate, but the fact remains that couples who wait until marriage to have sex report higher marital satisfaction and lower divorce rates. Go figure.

Maybe part of it to is that if you are dating without the pressure of a sexual relationship, you have more freedom to choose. You have freedom to choose to be with each other, freedom to choose to deepen your relationship on a non-sexual level, freedom to love each other without trying to gain anything, and more freedom to walk away if you must.

Again, it’s all simply my thoughts on my own observations. I’ll welcome anyone else’s thoughts as well as long as they are respectful and thoughtful.

Professor Fired for Catholic Beliefs?

The University of Illinois fired adjunct professor Ken Howell over a statement that was declared “hate speech.”

But was it really?

Howell was a professor who taught Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought. His job was to teach students the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which includes a strong opinion about the morality of homosexual acts.

In an email to the class, Howell wrote that “Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same.” A student took offense to this and complained that it was “hate speech.” The University of Illinois agreed and kicked Howell out the door.

 To a public that is not entirely familiar with the finer points of Catholic teaching, this may in fact sound like a bigoted professor. The offended student argued their side writing that “Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another.”

In truth, this student’s comment shows an unfamiliarity with the concept of “Natural Law” in Catholic thought. In Catholic theology, Natural Law (capitalized) represents a philosophical code of ethics derived from the “natural” order of things in the physical world. In other words, deducing God’s intentions through nature. Natural Law was explored and determined by thousands of years of Catholic theologians including Augustine and Aquinas, and is used (in conjunction with the Scriptures) to determine the rules of morality.

The Catholic Church teaches that, while being homosexual is not a sin, engaging in homosexual acts is contrary to the Natural Law and therefore a sin. This is the official teaching of the Church, and a professor teaching a class on the Catholic religion should not be penalized for explaining this concept. People may not like or agree with the Church’s teaching, but the fact is, it’s what the Church teaches, and you’re not going to change that. The offended student clearly misunderstood the concept of Natural Law as a Catholic concept, and the University also misunderstood.

Every religion has a side that is often misunderstood by those who are not highly familiar with the finer points of the theology. Muslims hold Jihad, or Holy War, as one of the 5 primary tenents of their belief. Judaism disagrees that Jesus was the Messiah. Buhdists believe in reincarnation, a concept with is linked with the hated caste system in India. Some African tribal religions teach the ritual genital mutilation of females. The point is, if you’re going to pay a professor to teach students about the beliefs of a religion or culture, don’t penalize them for doing their job.

Would you rather censor everything so that students never learn about anything that could be confusing, challenging, dark, ugly, scarey, or just different? Do you want your graduates to think the world is absolutely perfect and everyone is the same? People need to know that there are many different types of people in this world. You can’t hide the truth of the world from university students. College kids are naive enough without you sheltering them.

The bottom line is, if you’re going to pay this professor to explain Catholic beliefs, don’t fire him if someone doesn’t agree. You’re doing a disservice to the man, but also to the student, who not only will never understand the definition of Natural Law as relates to Catholicism, but also will never learn that the world won’t always bend over backward to accomodate them.

Where does this lead? What other free academic thoughts are they going to suppress with the line of “hate speech”?