❗️The annihilation and remaking of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
❗️The looming Amazonian Synod.
❗️The defrocked Mr. McCarrick.
❗️Archbishop Vigano’s explosive letters.
❗️Continuing revelations and investigations in Dioceses across the country relating to the abuse scandals.
It is no secret that we live in interesting and even troubling times. Such scandals remind us of the papacies of old. Jealousies, subterfuge, and politics were par for the course. When priests and prelates had factions and the talk of schism was real and present. It can lead even the most faithful among us to ask, “What are we to do?”
The Timeless Answer
The answer has already been given to us.
“Be not afraid.” This phrase is mentioned more than 365 times!
Saint Pope John Paul II also reminded us to never fear. The Polish pope left both an example to follow and the seeds of hope. Almost 20 years after his passing, a New Springtime is upon the Church.
As long ago as 1990, in Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II was speaking of this New Springtime. For those who grew up in the “JPII Generation,” many of us thought and hoped that it would mean a dramatic and unmistakable revival. A huge event. But that is often not how God works.
The seeds of this New Springtime were planted by the Polish Pope himself, in the hearts and minds of the young people to whom he felt a special connection and responsibility. Those “young people” are now the mothers, fathers, religious, priests, young and brave bishops who are coming into their own within the Church. They are professors, teachers, and theologians. They are catechists and pastors. And they have the example of John Paul II to follow to navigate these interesting times.
Impact of the Family
When he was Fr. Karol, John Paul II met with what came to be known as the “Little Family” (Mala Rodzina) and grew into what was called “Srodowisko.” This gathering of lay people with Fr. Karol helped him form his thoughts about love, man, and marriage, family—later known as Theology of the Body. He remarked that this little family became like his family. This experience formed the foundation of his Christological humanism and later, his first encyclical, Redeptor Hominis—the Redeemer of Man.
Hope During the Storms
What a beautiful way to follow the late pope’s example and to continue to water the flowers of the New Springtime! Within our own families and in our own parishes and communities we can form our own “Srodowiskos.” We can learn with and encourage our own friends, children, families, priests, and neighbors.
With the former Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family removing the study of moral theology from its courses, we, the JPII Generation, can continue to learn and teach and study as John Paul II intended, just as he himself started. We have his Theology of the Body for a text book. We have the writings of Janet Smith, Edward Sri, Pope Benedict XVI, the von Hildebrands, and Mgr Livio Melina, and Fr José Noriega as we continue. We have the sacraments, the Liturgy, and Cardinals like Sarah and Arinze to encourage us as we strive to be Holy and to help each other on the way to Heaven.
With the Amazonian Synod threatening to shake the foundations we know to be unshakeable, we have the Deposit of the Faith that is unchangeable. We have recourse to the Blessed Mother, to whom John Paul II constantly turned and consecrated himself and the Church. We can repeat after him, “Totus Tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt!”
Trust God Wholeheartedly
Despite the whispers of schism, allegations, accusations, and denials flying, we can have confidence that even in the most difficult of circumstances God’s Will shall prevail. Truth always shines forth in the end!
If Divine Providence can orchestrate the election of man who saw all of his family members die by his 20th birthday, survived WWII, withstood dangerous communist regimes, and survived an assassination attempt, imagine what He can do when we follow the example of John Paul II. Be one of the saints of the New Springtime!
Laura is a wife, mother, and the wearer of many hats. She is a Client and Marketing Manager for And Then There Were None, and a Birth and Bereavement Doula for her ministry FiLumena Birth and Bereavement. She is certified in Psychological First Aid and Grief and Loss Counseling. When she isn’t wearing one of those hats she can be found reading about her hero and spiritual father, Pope St. John Paul II, kayaking, crocheting, or exploring with her husband, her kids and her cats in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia! Check out her content at filumenabirth.com and Prolifewomen.com.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are considered the only mammal that willingly delays sleeps. For more interesting facts about sleep here is a link: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/25-random-facts-about-sleep. Sleep is an issue that pervades all of human life. As a father to four young children, I oftentimes determine the success [or failure] of a day over whether my children successfully or unsuccessfully take their scheduled nap!
The stresses of life, dealing with sick family members, and limited sleep due to my new work schedule drain me on a daily basis. The exhaustion last week became so overwhelming that I almost gave up hope. But the thing about tiredness is that is oftentimes causes people to forgot and lose strength to continue.
On the verge of wallowing in a lake of lassitude, I suddenly remembered the words of Bishop Paul Swain that he said at a confirmation Mass. Specifically referring to the sacrament of confirmation, but I believe his words apply to the rest of the sacraments as well, the successor of St. Peter said, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.”
In the past, I associated the sacraments as offensive weapons against sin, however, recently I have come to view the sacramental system as a means to shield and sustain oneness from the endless assault of the Enemy’s attacks. Below I wish to explore my experience with how the sacraments of confession, Eucharist, and marriage help provide spiritual rest for my pilgrim journey.
Growing up I remembered the summer vacations my family and I went on involved a ton of driving. If the rambunctious nature of sons is any indication of what I was like as a kid, I imagine my parents looked forward to taking a pause in the long drive to allow my siblings and I to run out our energy. As a parent, I learned that a periodic rest stop sometimes solves a fussy situation in the car. Pope Francis once declared, “Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey.”
Too many times I forget that life is more of a pilgrimage—toward Heaven. Life is not simply a tourist attraction for me to amass as much pleasurable and exciting experiences as possible.
Without Jesus as the focus of my journey I lean toward being a tourist of the world instead of a pilgrim in the world. Confession is the sacrament that provides me an opportunity to rest and receive God’s graces. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it” (CCC 1469.
Recently, I received the sacramental graces of the medicine box. I felt a large burden lifted from me and have the strength to be able to encounter the busyness of life with a calm assurance that God will sustain me even during tough situations.
Eucharist— Fuel for the Road Ahead
While Confession heals the wounds of my sins, the sacrament of the Eucharist provides me nourishment and strength for the journey for the rest of the week. In the book of Exodus, God listened to the plea of his people, traveling in the wilderness, a plea for food to sustain them during the tumultuous journey. As amazing and unmerited the gift of manna in the Old Testament, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist as a fulfillment of this prefiguration in Exodus. Jesus decisively teaches us in John 6,
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
After receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ every Sunday Mass, I gain the strength to make it through the trials of this world. According to the Catechism paragraph 1391, “The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”
Reading this passage makes me reflect on the popular adage, “you are what you eat”—receiving Jesus in this sacraments helps transform us into the best [i.e. most Christ-like] versions of ourselves!
Matrimony—Momentum for the Journey
G.K. Chesterton is considered a king of wit and satire—especially among Catholics. His quotes on marriage frequent social media. Ironically, I actually shared the below memes on Instagram recently!
Wait! “I thought this article was about theological REST STOPS for our pilgrim journey—not holy hand grenades,” one might say. I agree with Chesterton, oftentimes marriage is like going to war—sins of pride, impatience, anger, lust, greed, and sloth [to name just a few]—become casualties. However, war does not always involve active or constant movement. Rather, a large part of war entails strategizing against the enemy—and that involves resting and planning. The sacrament of marriage is a gift from God that allows spouses to acquire the graces of rest and perseverance.
Marriage as a sacrament involves total commitment towards one’s spouse. Husband and wife do not split responsibilities as in a 50/50 contract. Instead, marriage is a covenant—an oath that involves 100/100 dedication of the husband toward the wife and vice versa. Honestly, I sometimes struggle to view marriage this way. Throughout periods in my wife and I’s marriage either she or I would have to “more time and effort” than the other “put in”. Keeping a tally sheet and IOUs does not lead to a fruitful marriage. Only by donning a servant mentality did I truly receive the sacramental graces of matrimony to acquire true peace and rest.
Rely on the Sacraments for Rest!
To close, I wish to again ponder the words of Bishop Paul Swain, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.” Do you take advantage God’s oasis’ for holiness? If you are married do you take time to see God work in your spouse? Is there any ways you may be able to deepen your participation in the sacrifice of the Mass? Let us use the rest of Lent as a time to grow in holiness and thank God for the gifts of the sacraments—theological rest stops for our pilgrim journey!
Within the course of salvation history there have been many questions about the work of Christ and the role of the human freedom, or free will. There has been no shortage of theories. Church history shows that there have been many heresies from those trying find a synthesis between the two.
There seem to be two extremes when it comes to this issue—those who think that Christ will save us no matter what we do after coming to faith and those who think that one must continually work to attain salvation (Pelagianism).
The Catholic Definition of Freedom
Saint Pope John Paul II wrote two encyclicals titled Redemptor Hominis and Redemptoris Missio that deal with this important issue.
The Pope reaffirms the teaching of Christ in John 14:6 that He is the way and the truth. He echoes the words of God is creation where he saw the things that he created as good. The work of Christ is expressed as an act of love, and a love that the Father had from the beginning with creation. It was through this act of love that man was restored and made whole. Regarding this Pope John Paul II writes, “He and he alone also satisfied that fatherhood of God and that love which man in a way rejected by breaking the first Covenant and the later covenants that God again and again offered to man” (Redemptor Hominis Para 9). Man is unable to enter into relationship with God unless it is through Christ (Redemptoris Missio Para 5). What Christ did for man was the greatest act of love that ever done. It is one that our feeble minds can barely start to fathom freedom!
The Pope firmly establishes that it is Christ who is the only way and is the source of our salvation. The work of Christ on the cross was an act of love that echoes back to the point of creation, and he reconciles man to himself. How about human freedom? The freedom of man is a source of controversy for many.
Our lives as lack meaning if we do not have love. We were made to love and live in communion with each other. Through His life, death, and resurrection Christ has shown us what love is. This love changes the lives of the apostles, and they passed that on and it changed the world.
Freedom to Choose Life
God offers this newness of life to every man, but man has the freedom to reject it. In this regard Pope John Paul II writes, “Faith demands a free adherence on the part of man, but at the same time faith must also be offered to him” (Redemptoris Missio Para 8). Freedom is not the ultimate end as the world teaches it to be. Freedom is the choice to do as we ought to.
Freedom is only a gift if one knows how to use it for everything that is true good (Redemptor Hominis Para 21). When we encounter Him that is truth we can either accept of deny what he says. He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NRSV).
Once we reach this realization Christ calls us to a higher standard of living. We are bound to regulate of lives with this truth, and we have the freedom to do so or not (Redemptoris Missio Para 8).
Human freedom is a part of the redemption. By his work on the cross, Christ redeems us by an act of love. We are called to love others and do what Christ commands of us.
John Paul II. Redemptor Hominis 1979 Web. Accessed September 9, 2019.
John Paul II. Redemptoris Missio 1990. Web. Accessed September 9, 2019.
About our guest blogger:
William is aconvert to the Catholic faith. Before entering the churchhewas ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary. William liveswith his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults. Check out hiswebsite/blog atwilliamhemsworth.comfor more great and informativeCatholic content!
According to 20th century Scottish author William Barclay, “There are two great days in a person’s life—the day we are born and the day we discover why.” Everyone had a birthday. Birthdays are universal. Celebrations of life. Reminders of impending death. Or a view somewhere in between. Why do you celebrate your birthday?
Each new year of our life allows us to learn from our past shortcomings and hope future successes. Celebrating our birthday helps us to live in the present moment. On September 8th, the Catholic Church observes the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The topic of the Mother of God is a point of contention for Protestants. There are a lot of misconceptions that Catholics worship Mary. I even had a conversation with a co-worker last week who asked me, “Why is it that some Catholics worship Mary?” My reply was concise and the same as the official stance of the Catholic Church, “Catholics don’t worship Mary. She is not God. We never, ever worship her. Instead, we honor her.”
Some of you might still be skeptical. You might be thinking, “Well, if you don’t worship Mary why does the Church has a specific feast to celebrate her birthday [along with the countless other feasts!] It all seems too much.” That certainly is a valid concern. I can understand how non-Catholics perceive Catholics’ devotion to Mary as being excessive or over the top. This article will discuss three reasons why Catholic do celebrate the birthday of Mary— and how authentic honor should always end in the worship of Jesus Christ!
An Anchor to the Incarnation
Birthdays celebrate a real and historical event. Your parents received a birth certificate a few weeks after you were born. In the modern era, people use their date of birth on loan applications, online activity, account openings, as passwords, and other situations where you have to prove your identity.
When the Catholic Church celebrates the birthday of Mary, her existence as a real figure, in history, is recognized. Why it is important that Mary was actually born, a real person like you or I? Her existence is absolutely necessary for the doctrine of the Incarnation—the teachings that Jesus is fully God AND fully human. During the Nicene Creed, the priest and the laity bow at the following line: “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.”
Before I studied theology it always seemed peculiar that we would bow during those words. For my master’s course on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I had to write a paper discussing the internal consistency and unity of the doctrines. The doctrine I choose to study was the Incarnation. I discovered that Mariology [the theological study of Mary] was closely related to the Incarnation.
The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. formally rejected the heresy of Nestorianism— a belief that rejected Mary was the Mother of God and thus also rejecting the humanity of Jesus. Mary as the Mother of God secures the reality that Jesus was fully human along with being fully God.
Obeying the 4th Commandment
Another reason Catholics celebrate the birthday of Mary is out of honor. According to the Second Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, ” [Mary] she is our mother in the order of grace” (no. 61). This truth is in keeping with Scripture when Jesus gives her mother to the Apostle John (see John 19:26-27) and Sacred Tradition.
The vast number of Marian feast days throughout the year point to her holiness and complete obedience to God. Just like our earthly mother, we should honor our spiritual mother as well!
True Devotion of the Mother Ends with Worship of the Son
Each year it seems like retail stores put out Christmas displays and products earlier and earlier. Already I have heard people at work lament that the radio is not yet playing Christmas music. The birth of Christ is definitely something to get excited about. Catholics celebrate the birthday of Mary as a type of early preparation for Christmas!
The Catholic Church is quite clear that Jesus is the sole Mediator. According to St. Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human,d who gave himself as ransom for all.” We only honor Mary as a means to get closer to Her Son. St. Louis de Montfort said it best, “We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son” (True Devotion to Mary ).
While we are members of the Body of Christ, Mary is the “neck of the Body of Christ” connecting us to the Head—Jesus. Celebrate the birth of Mary because it was through her decision to fully obey God that the Savior of the World was born. Happy Birthday Mary and happy early birthday Jesus!
Human beings remain utterly unique among the living entities of God’s created hierarchy. We have bodies like the members of the animal kingdom as well as immortal spirits, the same substance of the angelic beings, which instill life in us. The human soul exists as the spiritual dimension of who we are.
In a positive atmosphere, developing youth get inspired and spurred on to greater achievements by the ideal that they are individually, intrinsically special. Loving caregivers pass this notion onto the next generation. But why is every human person unique? What makes you special?
One of the key elements in the shaping of one’s soul is simply relationships. A soul’s uniqueness lies in its relationships with other people, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The soul, though spiritual and unseen, acts as a crucial part of who we are. The inner movings of the soul affect our entire well-being. Likewise, the actions of the body have an impact on the soul. In this wonderful and intimate association between the body and the soul, the senses of the body have a big role to play.
Senses—Windows into the Soul
The physical senses relay information to us about our surroundings, especially about the people we interact with. We learn about other people through the senses. We see them and how they act. If we’re good friends, we’ll listen to what they have to say. This impacts the shaping of a soul. And the condition of our soul affects how we, in turn, react to those around us.
When a great deal of sin taints the soul, the relationships the soul may have are often damaged. In other words, the standing of one’s soul is going to have an effect on the friendships, bonds, and meetings a person has with others.
Since we gain knowledge via the physical senses, the senses have to filter through a lot of information. Today, much of the information generated by media has become sensualized or sexualized. Again, the senses feed through to the soul. When the senses intake garbage, the soul is on the receiving end of the deal. When you take in impurity, the soul is the eventual dumping ground.
Temple of the Holy Spirit
The soul, intended on a temple and home to God, does not deserve to be a junkyard. Digital imagery, graphics, and movies have been employed to provide porn and suggestive visuals, invading the mind and soul of the viewer. This is certainly one of the most dangerous capabilities of the media—especially movies . But movies, in their frequently damaging portrayals, offer numerous threats to viewers’ mentalities and interpersonal relationships.
Movies are not merely a brilliant product of man’s ingenuity and a splendid medium for artistic expression, but they have the potential to be moving—to touch us emotionally, speaking to us on a deeply personal level. More than this, when built up by relatable characters and a good soundtrack, films have the power of making their way into the fondness of our hearts. Movies and video content are simply more memorable than many other forms of media. They become ingrained upon the minds of their fans. As you can imagine, movies have a significant capacity for influencing people on a cultural level as well as a more subtle and psychological one.
Sexual License in Movies
One of the most commonly addressed dilemmas that the moviegoer faces is indecent exposure, which modern society softens and dubs as “entertainment” or some raunchy excuse of “fine art.” Pornography on the screen deserves neither title. While the problem has been discussed at length in numerous Christian circles, it remains an element of so much of today’s so-called entertainment industry. Thus, it merits mentioning yet again.
Interestingly, it is this very issue – that of sexual indecency – that plagued the art of cinema in its earliest and humblest of beginnings. The reason vivid sexual representation is so dangerous to the soul is that it subjects the eyes to a frame of potential temptation, the mind to a very specific memory. There is no imagination in many of the clips I’m alluding to. What’s there is there. The eyes, the windows to the soul, have just gotten a graphic image slapped against their transparent panes.
As mentioned earlier, when the soul is damaged, its relationships with other souls are also damaged. A saddening yet common real-world example of this is the effect of porn on the male mindset. When a porn addict experiences sexual attraction toward a woman, he begins to see her as a mere icon, an object, a thing of momentary pleasure. This type of content wreaks so much unhappiness and pain in society.
Catholic Impact on Movie Ratings
Catholics who were aware of what early cinematographers were doing realized something had to change. The Catholic Church was key in helping to purge film-making of its obsessive pornography and other suggestive imagery. During 1930s, less than two decades after cinematic theaters’ inception, a portion of the American Catholic population constructed and supported the National Legion of Decency. This group called for the censorship of Hollywood productions. They desired a moral standard for movies. Inevitably, it was these foundational steps taken by American Catholics that paved the way to the MPAA rating system of modern day!
Yet, even with the MPAA system in place, risqué content and outright nudity are common inclusions in today’s cinematic works, and the youth are more than welcome to come experience it. It’s something, like pornography in all its forms, that has to be battled by the entire faithful Christian community.
Watch but do not become the Characters
However, immodest sexuality is only one element which often gets drug into films. Many movie characters, good and bad alike, are portrayed as having rather immoral lifestyles. It’s this inclusion that often makes it possible to bring in some context of a sensual nature. Beyond that, immoral characters produce a toxic atmosphere around themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes these questionable characters appeal to the audience at large.
The personalities and attitudes of fictional characters can begin to affect the mannerisms and mentalities of moviegoers. Just as one’s sight is deeply impacted by sensual depictions, so are many of the senses affected by the on-screen characters and their behavior.
Movies are unique in that they can show a person for who he or she is. It stands as the only art form which captures a genuine living, breathing, talking person. A movie is an expression which falls just short of conversation – conversation with the viewer. But because of its realistic medium, film provides characters that can interact with us, at least in part, like real people.
Be Careful in Your Moviegoing
Similar to how those around us shape who we become, the characters in films and on TV can begin to leave their mark on our own mode of interacting with others. A fictional character can actually have an effect on how we enter into relationships— and how we treat them.
Inevitably, the cinematic entertainment industry provides a general good, but a lot of its fruits must undergo our scrutiny and selection. Not every film deserves to be watched. Not every apple deserves to be eaten. The Catholic wishing to keep a conscious clear and a heart and mind in purity is called to be more judgmental in what he or she views.
John Tuttle is a Catholic man who loves discovering and preserving truth and beauty. His work has been featured by Those Catholic Men, Love Thy Nerd, Movie Babble, Publishous, Tea with Tolkien, Catholic Journal: Reflections on Faith & Culture, and elsewhere. He is the founder of the web publication Of Intellect and Interest. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.