The Family That Falls Together

“As the family goes, so goes the nation,
and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

-Pope St. John Paul II

When we come into this world, we enter crying and naked. We enter crying as we become separated from the safe and comfortable warmth of our mother’s protection. We were once nuzzled in the warmth of that womb, where we are so utterly protected. We are naked, for we come into the world with nothing – no knowledge, no possessions, nothing. During our nine months in the womb and the several years afterward, we receive everything from our parents. All food, clothing, shelter, knowledge, values – everything comes from them. We are born into this world with a natural desire for these things. Our bodies need nourishment and protection, and our minds desire the same.

Traditionally, parents would serve an active role in this process. They would teach their children about whatever faith they professed and about the world. They instilled values and remained an active presence in the lives of their children. Today, we cannot expect for this to be the case. Families are broken. Parents are absent – if not physically, than at least emotionally. Parents have replaced interactive parenting methods with technology. When a child wants attention or to interact with parents or siblings, the immediate reaction has become to give them a phone or a tablet with games to play or videos to watch. Rather than children playing games with other people, they become closed in on themselves.

While it might initially seem to have little impact, as these children grow older, we can see some of these longterm effects. We see children and adolescents glued to their phones. They struggle to go a few minutes without a visual confirmation that the phone is indeed in their possession. They must look at their phones for the time, because they cannot seem to read the clock. Even more than these: adolescents do not have a proper understanding of authority. Because there is an absence of discipline in the home, they grow up seeing adults as just older peers. While previous generations of adolescents have had a disdain for authority, this current generation does not even recognize authority.

Because they have no notion of discipline from their parents, they have developed no form of discipline for themselves in their studies. They have lost all sense of a desire for knowledge and a sense of wonder. When students see a challenge before them, rather than pushing themselves to work through it, they stomp their feet and complain about how it’s too hard. They have an overwhelming sense of entitlement, which paralyzes them whenever they encounter something that does not come with immense ease. Students reject books for the sake of technology. School libraries remain ghost towns filled with the unencountered spirits of ages past trapped in the pages of unopened books. What is left to happen with these libraries but to throw out the books. The culture and knowledge of ages past has thus been rejected for the sake of the new and entertaining pages of websites that lead to new pages, which lead to new pages, which leads to the infinite nothingness of the ignorance of the uneducated Lords of the Interweb Realm.

I am scared for the future that lies ahead, with these students turning into responsible adults. These adolescents have been raised with no sense of responsibility or perseverance. What will happen when they have jobs that challenge them? How will businesses succeed with entitled 20-somethings, 30-somethings children. I look out at my students on a daily basis and wonder what the future holds for us. While some of these students are strong-willed and intelligent, many of them lack the strength to persevere in hardship. Many of these problems are surely based in the frailty of the family. The family is the fundamental building block of society. When the family falls, so does society. We must seek to strengthen the family once again, in order that all might persevere in strength, intelligence, and responsibility. This world that we desire must start with us. We cannot alter the hearts and minds of others. However, we can seek to inspire others by how we choose to live our own lives.

“If this country is ever demoralized,
it will come from trying to live without work.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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True Love Wins

“Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous,

it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

-1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

 There are so many things that I would like to say and tRainbow Flaghat need to be said. For a day that has been described as an immensely dark day and a day of victory, nothing more should be expected. Many people have expressed their great sorrow; others their great joy. Yesterday, 26 June 2o15, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that “same-sex couples should be able to exercise the right to marry in all states” (CNN). There are indeed many things to be said.

Firstly, no matter what side you find yourself on, it is important to approach dialogue with charity and understanding. Why would we discuss issues without the desire to understand the other? Why would we dialogue without seeking to bring others to gain understanding on our own beliefs? Truth and understanding should be the aim of all dialogue. Without it, dialogue goes nowhere. When we desire for others to know the truth, it helps shape our discussion into something worth taking note of. Charity must serve the soul of our discussion. Desiring the good of the other, and speaking with love and charity, we can formulate a discussion that does not result in two (or more) angered parties, but rather, we may find ourselves with greater understanding of the other, along with becoming more closely bonded as fellow human persons. I’m sure that we all know someone who has a different opinion on this topic than we do. No matter what, we must speak to them with love. We cannot condemn them. We cannot call them bigots. We must give them the respect that they deserve. All humans have inherent dignity. We must show them the respect that comes with that dignity. No, I do not expect to change anyone’s mind’s with this blog post, but I do hope to bring others to an understanding of my belief.

Next, the attitude of Americans toward the government doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. Firstly, people seem to be flip-flopping on their opinion. One minute, they are tearing down police officers, proclaiming “No justice, no peace.” The next minute, they are raving about the great decision of the Supreme Court. It seems like the government is only a good thing when convenient for us. Let’s riot and tear down the institution when they upset me. Let’s praise the government when they make the decisions that align with my beliefs. We must take our government for what it is. If we desire to have a different government, it doesn’t make sense to praise that government we seem to hate for making that decision we like.

Next, I want to discuss this idea of love. In regards to this issue, many people say that “love is love.” That’s both right and wrong. It’s right in saying that the love between a same-sex couple is the same as the love between a heterosexual couple. However, not all loves are the same; not all loves are created equal. The Greeks refer to four different kinds of love: storgephiliaeros, and agape. There are different extents to which we say we love people and things, so it only makes sense for them to be on different levels. Firstly, there is storge, which is a form of affection. It is seen, sometimes, as a familial love – the love amongst family members. It can also be amongst friends, colleagues, and between pets and owners. Next, there is philia, which is brotherly love. “I love my friends.” It can be understood as friendship or affection. Next, there is eros, which is intimate or romantic love. This would be the love one has for a significant other. Lastly, there is agape, which is a selfless love. Agape is seen as the pinnacle of all love, for it is the perfection of all love. All love aims for agape, for it forgets the self entirely for the sake of the other.

Now, in regards to marriage, to say that “love is love” does not really mean anything. Yes, love is obviously a necessary prerequisite for marriage. But only when one understands the end of marriage can that love become fruitful in resulting in a marriage. The union of the two spouses is a necessary element of the marital union. There is a second element that is immensely connected with the definition of marriage, which is something beyond us that we could not just redefine to our own liking – contrary to what many people think. Marriage aims at the procreation of and care for children. In a same-sex union, that is not possible. Yes, they can adopt and raise children that way, but they are unable to bear children between the two of them. Marriage recognizes the immense complementarity between the human biology of man and woman. Independent of each other, it does not make sense. Bring together a man and another man, it doesn’t make sense. Bring together two women, it doesn’t make sense. Marriage recognizes the complementarity and honors it, as the man and the woman come together to express their love for each other “till death do [they] part.” Yes, love is necessary for marriage, but so is that complementarity between man’s biology and woman’s biology.

No one is saying that there cannot be same-sex unions. If you desire to join together to express your love and be recognized by the law, I cannot stop you. However, to call those unions marriages is contrary to the very nature of a marriage. We cannot change the natures of things, whether we like it or not.

Some people bring up divorce against the argument of ‘same-sex marriage’ as a sin against marriage. However, ‘same-sex marriage’ and divorce are both contrary to the nature of marriage. We have been fighting against divorce for decades, centuries, millennia! Jesus Himself expressed divorce as something allowed for the hard-hearted (Matthew 19:1-12). Just because we do not want same-sex marriage does not mean that we have stopped fighting against divorce. We desire the sanctity of marriage to be upheld. Theology of the Body has remained something very important to the Church. Therefore, while we fight against divorce, we also take up the fight to redefine marriage, because we have not the power to redefine it.

I hope that you have grown in understanding of my belief. Here is a video expressing the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality.

“Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift,
which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls,
with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church.”

-Pope St. John Paul II

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The Blessing of True Fatherhood

“I believe that what we become depends
on what our fathers teach us at odd moments,
when they aren’t trying to teach us.
We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

-Umberto Eco

Today, we celebrate Father’s Day. On this day, we recognize all of men who have been blessed with the gift of children. We celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, because the task of being a parent is an important one, to say the least. It is the responsibility of parents to form their children in what is right and wrong, to educate them on the basics of this world, to prepare them to go out into the world. Without our parents, our lives would be greatly lacking, for we would be lost. Our parents have gained many years of experience, knowledge, and wisdom, all of which they desire to pass on to us, their children.

However, there are still things that we must learn for ourselves. We will fall; we will fail. Our parents can only protect us for so long. Allowing us to get hurt and to experience failure can be one of the hardest things they can do – I can only imagine. FatherhoodWe know how much it sucks to trip, to fall, to screw up. Imagine having to stand by and watch your children do that. I’m sure many of us have had to watch many of our friends spiral out and screw up. At times like those, our parents realize that is better to let us experience failure, to learn from our own mistakes. If we never got hurt, we would never have any motivation to change. When we fall down, we recognize the need to get up higher than we were before. Our parents help us do that, by making that sacrifice for us, their children. And for all of the sacrifices they makes, these two days are a small way for us to show how much we appreciate all that they have done for us.

I remember when I was younger, I used to complain about how there was no ‘Children’s Day.’ There’s a Mother’s Day, and a Father’s Day. There should be a Children’s Day! I’m sure that most children experience those thoughts. [Or at least I tell myself that to make me feel better.] However, it would be unjust to think that children deserve a Children’s Day. My parents said this when I was younger, but I never really understood it: There is no Children’s Day, because everyday is Children’s Day. When you think about it, that should truly be the case. Parents go everyday making sacrifice after sacrifice for their children. They rarely get thanked for all that they do, nor should they necessarily expect it. They don’t do it for the thanks; they do it because their children deserve it, by nature of their existence. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are thus those two days out of the year when the children show their parents how appreciative they are.

Father’s Day is a truly special day. It is a day when we show our fathers how much we appreciate everything they have done for us. We remember our fathers who have finished forming us and have gone up to the Lord. We recognize those still with us. Most importantly, I see it as an opportunity for fathers to reflect on how well they are doing as fathers. Not being a father myself, I cannot exactly speak from experience, but I do understand that the earthly fatherhood of a dad is called to reflect the heavenly fatherhood of God the Father. Fatherhood means sacrifice. It means forming one’s family in the ways of truth. It means leading them to beauty and goodness. It means laying down one’s life for one’s wife, just as Christ sacrificed for the Church. I realize that it is a very cheesy movie (like most Christian movies), but the movie Courageous has a scene in which the fathers make a resolution before God and their families, to be the best fathers they can be. I think that this example is a good one to follow for all fathers who desire to seek to be the best fathers they can be.

There are a lot of imperfect examples of fatherhood out in the world today. If we ourselves were raised by imperfect fathers, it can be difficult to understand God above as Father, for we have a distorted understanding of fatherhood. However, wherever we see our own fathers coming up short, we can know that the Lord possesses all virtue (for He is Goodness Itself) perfectly. He is there for us perfectly. The Lord loved us and continues to love us into existence. We thank the Lord for His love. We also thank the Lord for our earthly fathers, who seek to reflect the perfect light of fatherhood that has been revealed by the Godhead Himself.

To all Mothers and Fathers out there, thank you for all you do.

Dad, Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for all you do.

“Abba is not Hebrew, the language of liturgy,
but Aramaic, the language of home and everyday life…
We need to be wary of the suggestion…
that the correct translation of Abba is ‘Daddy.’
Abba is the intimate word of a family circle
where that obedient reverence was at the heart of the relationship,
whereas Daddy is the familiar word of a family circle
from which all thoughts of reverence and obedience have largely disappeared…
The best English translation of Abba is simply ‘Dear Father.”

-Thomas Allan Smail

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Mawwiage…That Bwessed Awwangement

“There is nothing nobler or more admirable
than when two people who see eye to eye
keep house as man and wife,
confounding their enemies
and delighting their friends.”

-Homer

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be a groomsman in my brother’s wedding. I’ve been to weddings before. I’ve participated in several, including serving some. I’ve had a few cousins get married, but this was the first time I had really been so close to the bride and groom. I can’t say I’m very close to my brother, but I did grow up with him, so I guess you could say I’ve known him all my life. So when I stood at the foot of the sanctuary last Saturday and watched as my brother gave himself in Marriage, and I couldn’t help but be hit by the immense reality of this great sacrament.

To the person who does not really understand Marriage, the wedding ceremony might seem a little odd to them. Here are two people saying that they will be with each other for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they will be crying. Their friends and family are crying. Wait… Is it a happy or sad occasion?? There is nothing sad about giving oneself entirely to another person. On the contrary, those who cry are struck by the beauty of the ceremony.

This man and this woman have been commissioned by the Lord. They are called to give themselves totally, faithfully, fruitfully, and freely to the other and for the sake of the other. They are called to lead their spouse and their children to heaven. This is integral to marriage: it is for the sake of the other. They are called to sacrifice their own wills, their own desires for the other’s sake. The vocation of marriage is supposed to be that icon of the love of Christ and the Church. There is a reason why it is called giving oneself in marriage: Marriage is a pure gift of self.

The all-too-controversial excerpt from Ephesians 5 expresses just that. However, the beginning of that excerpt seems to be skipped over: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (I. 5:21). That must be understood: both are called to be subordinate to each other. Different but EqualBut, when wives are called to be subordinate to their husbands, they are not called to degrade themselves. Subordination does not offend one’s dignity, but reveals a certain humility. When husbands are called to love their wives as their own bodies, it further reveals this difference in roles. If the husband and the wife had the same roles in marriage, it would be just like having two heads, or two bodies. That doesn’t really work. Just as Christ laid down His life for His spouse, the Church, a husband is called to lay down his life for his spouse. Husband and wife are called to make sacrifices for the other, but in different ways. The sacrament of Marriage reveals how man and woman are truly different, but also equal.

As I said above, marriage consists of man and woman giving completely of themselves for the sake of the other. It is a sacrament of sacrificial love. All people are called to die to themselves everyday. The married couple possesses a more specific calling in this manner: they are called to die to themselves in service of the other. Holy Orders and Marriage are referred to as the Sacraments at the Service of Communion – for the salvation of others. Marriage is ultimately intended for the other’s sake. Love is defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as willing the good of the beloved. By giving oneself to their spouse, husband and wife indeed will the other’s good by seeking to bring them to Heaven.

When it comes toChrist on the Cross marriage, it can be easy to get caught up in the ceremony, the tradition, the ritual, and the idea of love. However, marriage is obviously so much more than that. A man and a woman are joined together in order that they may lead each other to Heaven. Don’t get me wrong: there is merit in ceremony and tradition. However, those are only means to an end: bringing together the two called to Marriage, in order for them to begin their lives together in sacrificial love. A true marriage cannot lack sacrifice. The lover seeks to sacrifice for their beloved without counting the cost.

To my brother and my new sister-in-law, and to all those embarking on the journey of marriage, I pray that your lifelong companionship may be filled with love and sacrifice, that you may truly be each other’s guides to the Heavenly Kingdom.

“Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing I am doing your will.”

-‘Prayer for Generosity,’ St. Ignatius of Loyola

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Loneliness Mustn’t Mean Being Alone

Sometimes, I can sympathize with TJ here. Now, especially. While most of my friends have gone back to school, I’m still hanging out at home waiting to leave for my semester in Austria. I know: ultimately, it will be worth; I’m going to have the semester of my life. But right now, it can be rather easy to feel lonely. While I may be introverted, it is still possible to become lonely. One can look around and see that there is no one to be there. When I go off on my own, I don’t dislike being alone because I recognize that I can go spend time with other people if I wanted to do so. When there’s no one there, I have to be on my own, whether I want to or not.

Loneliness scares usBeing Alone. It’s a simple fact of life. Most people will admit to that fear: being alone. We don’t want to by ourselves. We fear the possibility of being ‘forever alone.’ We want to have someone with whom to spend time, in whom to confide. We want to have someone to love. We as humans have a natural desire to be with others. We are social creatures. It is inhuman to be completely alone. People have that naturally tendency to want other people with whom to share in this thing called life. We look for friends, for companions. We are born into families. We have that innate desire to be with people, while still being able to enjoy some solitude.

The truth is that no one is ever truly alone. In our loneliest of times, we are still not alone. We can always count on being with God. When we sulk in our loneliness, all we’re doing is ignoring the other in our presence: God. Loneliness does not mean we have to be alone. When we think we’re alone, practically speaking, we will be. However, we have the power to acknowledge a presence beyond ourselves. God is truly with us. Loneliness finds pain in being by one’s self. Solitude finds the glory of being by one’s self, acknowledging God’s presence. There can be true merit in being alone. However, if we encourage self-deprecating thoughts, if we only see ourselves as being lonely, we rid ourselves of the joy and grace that can come from true solitude. ‘Loneliness’ doesn’t mean being alone; it just further confirms our fear of solitude.

“Language…has created the word ‘loneliness’
to express the pain of being alone.
And it has created the word ‘solitude’
to express the glory of being alone.”

-Paul Tillich

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