How does discernment work? (Only for boys!)

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Are you looking for a way to discern your calling?  The message todiscernment me this morning is that our children are missing their opportunity to discern a calling to religious life or even to marriage, because we are not telling them when to start listening.

For a little perspective on this message from this morning, my 15 year old son asked me last week sometime how old you have to be to enter the seminary to become a priest.  My answer was a very calm and cool, it depends on the situation.  He clarified and further got me excited by saying that he wondered if he could just enter the seminary at 15.  I responded by saying that the seminary would usually want to have a young person who had at least completed high school before they started any serious formation.  The conversation pretty much ended there.  However, it got me thinking and I believe the message I received this morning is the directive that we, as Catholic parents, should be using when helping our children through discernment.

So, if you are anything like me, you were pretty much raised by the culture that we live in.  My guess is, even if you were raised Catholic, which I wasn’t, the culture had a major influence on your upbringing, if you were born after 1965.  I used 1965, because it is really just an arbitrary year that I chose, but also because most of the people that I know or have had in depth conversations about the things that influenced them during their childhood were born bfclubafter 1965.  Anyway, the culture told us a lot of things about sex and love and the pursuit of happiness that probably made our process of discernment difficult.  If you were like me, you had close friends that helped that discernment process along whenever you strayed to far in the wrong direction.  For instance, when I was discerning a call to the priesthood, a good friend of mine told me that I needed to be married.  (For reasons that we will leave out of this post.)  However, it helped me realize that God was calling me to share my life with someone who could help shape me into a better version of who I could be if left to my own de”vices”.

So, what does this have to do with discernment for our children today?  It came to me this morning that when our children start experiencing their sexuality for the first times in their life, they will have natural questions.  It is how we answer those questions that will decide whether or not they will be choosing to consult us in the future about clarification of how this works.

For instance, if we find out about our son having a nocturnal emission for the first time, we could choose to make light of it and say it happens to all children in about the 6th grade and let it go.  (Unfortunately, this is the route I chose with my first two boys.)  However, the better route to take would be to ask them about what thoughts they had that could have potentially led to this experience.  It is important that this be done in a non-threatening and non-accusatory way, so we should choose our words carefully.  We could say something like, “Is there anything you can remember from your day that could have caused you to react differently than you can ever remember reacting?”  Truth is, the answer is most likely going to be dull silence from a 6th through 8th grader, but the fact that you are asking means that you respect that this is something that they need to take ownership of.  Their thoughts and reactions to stimuli that exist in the world are important, and they need to learn at a young age to take the fleshly thoughts captive and make sure they don’t let their imagination get away from them.  Once the boundaries are established for the stimuli that led to the reaction of their body, they can start to deal with what their body is saying to them.  It is saying that there bodies are ready to start cooperating with God in creation of new people.  How you word this, really depends on your child and their maturity level/vocabulary.  After establishing the reality of what is phyBible 1 Corinthians spirit God's templesically happening in their body, it would be a good time to start the conversation about saving themselves for their future vocation.  Whether that is a future wife or for a future vocation to the priesthood, their bodies are something that should be kept holy for the purpose that God wills for them.

Enough for now, I will continue this topic once I get some feedback from my wife about having this conversation with our daughter, who thankfully is only 3 years old.  So, we have some time to figure this out, but I would appreciate your feedback and comments for any advice you may be able to help out with…God bless you and thanks for reading!

Lord, please direct our steps as parents to have the conversations we should have with our children when the time comes to have them, and give us the wisdom to follow up on the ones that we may have missed.  I ask this, as always, in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen!

“ONE SHADE OF WHITE” – Feb 12

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Jason:

I was asked by a friend and colleague on Twitter why more men weren’t speaking out against this movie…I will make sure she sees this post…God bless you!

Originally posted on A DEVOTED LIFE:

“And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  Mark 7:20

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtI appeal to you brothers and sisters in Christ, do not watch the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. If you do not know anything about the book and movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, you may count yourself blessed.  The book, has sold more than 100 million copies and the movie adaptation will be released on Valentine’s Day.  I have not read the book and I have no plans to watch the movie.  My appeal to stay away from this latest Hollywood offering is based on the same rationale as staying away from pornography. There are many good…

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Read your own stuff…

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I wanted to take the chance to post today about how to keep yourself motivated to keep writing.  Sometimes, we all come to the point where we are accepting the lies of Satan that tell us that our opinion and our writing does not matter.  However, the truth is that if it was only my opinion and my writing that my blog was about, I would have quit posting long ago.  So, every once in a while it is helpful to pick an old post that someone else was looking at today and re-read it with the idea that you are to remember what God was doing in your life and through your writing what he was asking you to reveal to others about your struggle.  Sometimes this is hard, because you don’t know exactly the circumstances that led you to post about that topic on the day, but chances are you are still dealing with some of those same issues today.  God is probably finding new ways to reveal to you the truth about your healing process and finding new ways to use you to spread this good news to others.  If you are still reading this, the Lord wants to continue to use you through this medium of blogging, so you can stop reading now and get back to work!

Here is my offering for today:

Today’s readings…Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus

For me, the first reading from the 2nd letter to Timothy today goes way back to over ten years ago to the first time that I really took the time to reflect on this scripture…Here is one of my posts from  almost five years ago that is still moving to me today…Today, it is not just about the peace but also the grace that comes from following the will of God at all times in my life that I am thankful for keeping me aware of the gift that is my marriage and my relationship with God that leads every decision I make in my life.  Here is a picture to show you how I still feel today about my wife and the gift that she is to me from a God that graces me beyond my understanding…

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Lust for my wife?

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Some people will read this headline and say, “Why do I want to hear about how some married dude still has the hots for his wife?”  If that was the reason for this post, I would recommend that you not read it either, because the premise for the article would be all wrong.  However, the idea that we should have lust for our significant others that are either married to us, or have a committed relationship with us, is also wrong, and that is the purpose of this post.  Is it possible that the lust we feel for our committed partner is a result of many years of failed teaching about the purpose and meaning of relationships, or is it possible that no one ever took the time to tell us that we were meant for so much more than to be the object of someone’s lust or fantasy.

You may have heard that having a fantasy about someone is perfectly harmless, and I am sure there is a psychologist somewhere who would debate this with me, but I believe that there is no place in our lives for such things.  In scripture, we read, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”  (Romans 13:14)  It does not say that once we decide to live for Christ, we can dabble in the desires of the flesh, because they are a perfectly normal part of our being.  It says, and I believe we should, make no provision for the desires of the flesh.  To me, that means that we should not only not entertain the thoughts that sometimes can wander, we should utterly reject them as they are not a part of who God is calling us to be.

Now, to answer an old question from a colleague of mine from a few years back, “If we don’t lust after our wife, how do we know that we are attracted to her?”  I will use Paul 1st letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 4, verses 3-5 to answer that question.

This is the the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God.

I guess the big question is, are we just like the rest of the world?

Do we need lust to tell us that someone is a favorable match for us?  If we are called Christians, we should be about more than just accepting the way our flesh moves us.  Once we have discerned that it is God leading us, we can trust that he will lead us to the person that will help us get to heaven.

Finally, from the book of Tobit, we have a great prayer that I would recommend for every married couple to say to each other before they lay down to sleep together at night…Here it is:

Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors; 

blessed be your name forever and ever!

Let the heavens and all your creation bless you forever.  

You made Adam, and you made his wife Eve

to be his helper and support;

and from these two the human race has come.

You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone;

let us make him a helper like himself.’  

Now, not with lust,

but with fidelity I take this woman as my wife.

Send down your mercy on me and on her,

and grant that we may grow old together.

After saying this prayer, as Tobiah did with Sarah, you can be sure that the demons that may have surrounded you before will start to quake with fear.  Remember to have patience with yourself, and know that you will need perseverance to see the goodness flow from any relationship, but a good marriage is definitely worth it.  If you have never read the book of Tobit,  I would strongly suggest reading it to help you if you struggle with finding or creating a holy relationship with your wife or husband.  (Check it out here…)

As for me, I choose to not lust for my wife, but with the grace of God, I will wait on the Lord to reveal the new ways that I will learn to love her more each day for the rest of my life.  I pray that everyone who reads this will seek out that love that comes from God, our Father, in their life too!

One more day…Waiting for Jesus!

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From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop
Truth has arisen from the earth, and justice looked down from heaven

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth,was born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not proceeded from us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ, were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head.For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

Thanks be to God for the witness of such great Saints…Saint Augustine, pray for us!

Follow up…Mary did know!

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Mother of GodHere are the lyrics for the song, “Mary did you know.”

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you. (She is already delivered)

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Mary did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know.. Mary did you know

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

(Mary was presented in the temple at age 3, and stayed there many years before returning to live with her parents and her betrothal to Joseph, so she would be intimately aware of the prophetic message that was told about the Messiah!)

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

(She may not have known the details of how the plan of salvation would play out in her life, she certainly knew who her Son was!)

When I first posted my article about this song last week, I could not remember the exact lyrics that were so problematic for me, but it is clear to me now that I have read through them again.  The truth about Mary is that she did not need to wonder about her deliverance from sin, she was kept free from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception.  This is a fundamental truth or dogma of our faith as Catholics.  Whether or not she knew exactly the way the plan of salvation would play out is irrelevant, in my opinion.  She would be in perfect union with the Holy Spirit at all times in her life, and there would be no obstacle to her perfect union with God since before she was born, because she was kept free from sin by God’s grace.  I do not believe that this made the choice to bear the Son of God any easier, because she still lived in a world that would judge her harshly for the decision to bear a child without an earthly father.  Just as it was not easy for Jesus to choose to follow the will of his Father and accept the suffering of the Cross for the salvation of the world.  Jesus was fully divine, but fully human as well.  Mary was fully human, but fully reserved by God as a worthy recipient of the vehicle of God’s grace and mercy on the whole world.  Thank you Mary for your “yes” to God’s will, and thank you God for choosing such a beautiful Mother for us all!

My opinion is that the devil is busy trying to downplay the importance of Mary.  She is the perfect example to us all of what a human being, who is not God, can do when we follow the will of God in our life.  We can also be in perfect union with the Holy Spirit, but only if we comply with the will of God and accept the deliverance from our sins that He offers us through Mary’s Son.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner…Amen!

Mary did you know?

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There is a well known holiday song that discusses the idea that maybe we should wonder if Mary knew how Jesus would suffer and how we would inherit his kingdom.  I would not go so far to say that the message of this song is heresy, but it approaches it in my mind.  The truth is that Mary was completely human, and she was not a prophetess, she was a Mother.  Specifically, she is the Mother of God and by divine adoption, our Mother.  Even though she is the Mother of God and the only ever-virgin Mother of anyone in the history of man, she would not know, in advance, the events that would play out in her own or Jesus’ life.  God created us and therefore knows that we naturally would do anything to avoid suffering and pain, especially for our children, if at all possible.  So, if Mary would have know the exact nature of Jesus’ suffering, you can imagine how incessant would be her begging him to avoid it at all costs.  As it was, she knew he would suffer and also that she would share in his suffering and only asked that his suffering be transferred to her, as any mother would do, I’m sure.  For our sake, Jesus bore the full force of suffering before and during his crucifixion, and Mary was allowed to share it with him.  We, with the Virgin Mary as a guide, can also share his suffering with him for the redemption of souls.  As we await our Christmas celebration, we need only look at the Annunciation where the Angel revealed how Jesus was to be born in her virgin womb, and Joseph was asked to accept her into their marital home to see the beginnings of the suffering the incarnation would initiate in reparation for the sins of the world.

My prayer for today:

Even though you did not know Mary, I am thankful for the gift you made of your life and the example of Motherhood  and human love that you showed to the world…Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death…Amen!