I Am That I Am

TBM Topic 26: Instruct the Ignorant

“I Am That I Am” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!


During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy every week.



Ignorant is not a word I particularly care for, yet most people are culpable. It comes from the Latin words in (not) and gnarus (knowing).

New Advent defines ignorance as “lack of knowledge about a thing in a being capable of knowing. Fundamentally speaking and with regard to a given object ignorance is the outcome of the limitations of our intellect or of the obscurity of the matter itself.”

Today, we Catholics (and fellow orthodox Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters) face bigotry based on ignorance of our faith, religion and history. The greater good would be served, society is led to believe, if God was kept in the pews and within the walls of our homes. God is good as long as God is contained.

But our God is an awesome God – awesome in the “awe-inspiring” way. God is not our bro. God is not our homeboy. God is the Almighty one – the Alpha (first) and the Omega (last) – the one who is, the one who was, the one who will be (Revelation 1:8).

And he will not be contained. We cannot limit his power, his mercy, his goodness or his Kingdom Come. Our reasons are not his reasons, and this is the first step to instructing ignorance: discernment of our own vocation.

Flannery O’Connor wrote that “Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an ax, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed.”

For many, the best reason to be a Christian is the joy and fellowship of other Christians. For others, Christians are the best reason not to be a Christian – their small-mindedness, their inability to compromise, their, well, ignorance.

And so, who has the high ground here? The miserable Christians who pray, “I believe – help my disbelief!” Or the one who discuss God’s take on a few things, would certainly invite him over for a drink, and then be done with the old chap. He’s not really our kind of man, if you know what we mean.

We certainly do. Which is ignorance on their part. I truly this many people intentionally stay ignorant of God – learn things about him, sure, and learn about things that surround him. But not him. After all, it is hard to look at God on the cross and really know that he knows our hearts. He can touch and change our lives, if we only get to know him. Our God is the God of all; our path towards God will never be repeated for another.

While discussing a struggle with my sister last night, she told me I had to believe the consequences would be bad if I continued. She did not mean in the short term, or even in human terms: she meant, if I really wanted a change of heart, I’d have to care more about offending God. The kind of caring that shows considerations for another feelings. In short, I need to know God on a much more personal level, the kind that changes my actions and words in the long-term as well as the short.

We Catholics have a prayer for that: the Act of Contrition. We say it after the sacrament of Reconciliation. It goes, O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

This prayer is not said or meant lightly. Humanity is like a heat-seeking missile: it seeks Truth. It is not pretentious to claim to know Truth, as the Catholic Church does, for example. 2,000 years of bad press and still the truths found in the dogmas and sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, resonate across every color and creed.

No one has it easy. No one knows (or can know) “everything.” Ignorance infects the best and most brilliant among us. It is the humility to ask God, to knock on his door, to seek his guidance, that really begins the journey. Some times, people need other people to help them get there, be it in books, blog posts, or conversations.

Perhaps more importantly though, a person needs to be self-aware where they are ignorant. One can always instruct where they know and understand, but they must also be willing to learn. That way, knowledge leads to wisdom, and not a higher level of ignorance.

Guest Post: Scapulars are Distractors from What’s Really Important

TBM topic 18: Scapulars

Join the discussion!

Guest post by B.

“Take, beloved son, this scapular of thy Order as a badge of my confraternity, and for thee and for all Carmelites, a sign of grace. Whoever dies in this garment will not suffer everlasting fire. It is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, and a pledge of peace and of the covenant.” 
–The Mother of God, 1251 AD

Among many Catholic traditions, scapulars have always been a source of confusion. At first, they seemed to me a cop-out. Simply wear this piece of cloth around your neck, and get a free ticket to heaven, no matter what you did in your life! It was an amulet that shielded you from your own crimes. Who needs sacraments when you’ve got a scapular? I never wore one in high school because I decided I wanted to get into heaven based on my faith and works, not on what I was wearing when I keeled over.

However, I later learned a much deeper problem with scapulars. Driving home with a few friends of mine, salvation of non-Christians came into the conversation. One Protestant friend asked if Catholics believed if non-Christians automatically went to hell.

 “No,” I replied, “Catholics believe that if a non-Christian leads a good moral life to the best of his knowledge, Jesus will have mercy.”

 The Protestant then followed up with, “Well, if that’s the case, why would you want to evangelize? If you just let them stay in their ignorance, they’ll have a greater chance of getting into heaven, because if a person doesn’t know about Jesus, he won’t be held to the higher standard than a Christian would be.”

I was confused by this as it seemed quite reasonable. A maximal chance to get to heaven made sense to me. Another Catholic friend spoke up and said, “Life’s not about getting to heaven.”

Whoa.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel: Jesus > scapulars

Life’s not about getting to heaven. I now embrace this idea whole-heartedly. When we’re children, all we understand is punishment/reward. We know if we don’t do our chores, we’ll be punished, but if we do our chores, nice things happen! Later, however, we find out that those chores, be it cleaning your room or washing the dishes, are actually good in of themselves, not because we receive a reward from doing them! We mature and begin to do these things because we want to, not because of a reward we’ll receive.

Life is the same way. When we are immature in our faith, we focus on our reward (heaven) and our punishment (hell). However, as we mature in our faith, we don’t do the right thing so that we can go to heaven; instead we do the right thing because it’s our purpose in this world! We do the right thing because we realize that it’s the best way to glorify God with the life and rationality He gave to us.

Heaven and hell should be the last thing on a Christian’s mind. We need to be focused on why we’re here on earth, and how we make the world a better place than how we found it. Scapulars distract from this as it focuses on what comes after instead of what is in front of us right now. Whatever comes after we die, that’s just extra. We’ll all die someday, and when we do it should be our desire to answer for what we did and what we failed to do. We should be proud to answer for whether we fulfilled our purpose. I don’t want to hide behind an amulet; I want to be exposed.

Judge me, O Lord.

Have You Filed Your Taxes?

I almost didn’t write one this week but, nonetheless, here is my volume 20:

one

Today is not, I repeat, not Tax Day. Tax Day was moved to Monday, because there is a holiday of some sort happening in Washington, D.C. Or, if you work at a tax law firm like I do, then every day is Tax Day!

two

Something I read for class, by Catholic Moral Theologian David Bohr:

The Christian life is like this. Faith is not usually a sudden inspiration that comes out of nowhere. Faith is a habit built up over time by doing faithful actions. Faith, as it was for the ancient Israelites, is not just a feeling or interior assurance, but is constituted in the real, material world by concrete practices. Faith is skillfully and wisely dealing with strangers, loved ones, money, genitals, and pots and pans. Faith is not usually something that comes in a flash of blinding light, but is built up over time by small actions like saying a prayer for a friend, cutting vegetables at a soup kitchen, putting one’s rear end in a pew every Sunday morning. If faith takes hold, these sort of actions and a thousand others become second nature.

three

Spring is here, finally! Still cold-ish sometimes, but at least I can walk outside with my shoes off again, feet squishing against the grass and cool mud.

More things I like about spring: driving with my windows down again, bare legs, shorts, spring skirts, playing and running outside with the family dog, weekend croquet matches, no more cold weather, birds singing, warm breezes, anything nautical, sunshine.

What are things you like about spring?

four

One of my best friends from college/ Kappa is at culinary school in New York and I miss her a lot. Fortunately, she keeps a blog. Even for a non-foodie like me, I enjoy it. She’s also been tying in Scripture verses to the beginning of her posts lately too, which gives new perspective. Check it out!

Vivy and me running down a hill in Georgia

five

My best friend (Bear-Bear, to those unawares) has an incredibly talented younger sister, whom I call Old Sport. Listen to her beautiful song here:

six

Doesn’t this song just make you happy? This website on St. Augustine makes me happy too– many thanks to Emina at Illumination for posting it! The libertarian allegory from the Mises Institute of Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” is worth a chuckle too; and, as always, are you reading WSJ’s James Taranto?

seven

We Bright Maidens had another lovely response to our post this week: saving sex for marriage. I must admit, I was rawther nervous about posting mine, but the responses, either public or private, were overall so gracious, that it made me feel very happy to share my stories and view point. Many thanks to Tito Edwards for featuring mine on National Catholic Register and The Pulp.It as well! AMDG!

In case you missed it:
“The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” by Julie Robison
“Cut to the Chaste.” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Three Strikes, I’m Out!” by Trista at Not a Minx

This next week’s topic is finally to be revealed…. REVERSION STORIES! How three cradle Catholics “re-discovered” the Church, and why we’ve stayed Catholic. Being friends with Trista and Elizabeth, I can assure the audience that y’all will be in for a treat.

After Lent, we’ll take a one week break, and then resume posts every two weeks. We’d like to invite anyone interested to write alongside us, and post it on our Facebook page! Or e-mail us the link, and we’ll happily post it for you.

Happy Friday, folks! See Conversion Diary for more.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Week Six: Saving Sex for Marriage

“The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” by Julie Robison
“Cut to the Chaste.” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Three Strikes, I’m Out!” by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the sixth post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

After my sophomore year of college, I sat on a park bench with three close friends from high school, licking ice cream out of cones and giggling over the stories we told each other. I distinctly remember feeling blissfully happy; the weather was warm and windy, the ice cream was delicious, there were people all around us in the square, and I was reunited with three girls I had been close with since our freshman year of high school.

One of my friends mentioned her boyfriend making pancakes one morning and serving her breakfast in bed. I had the most sheltered college experience of us four– at my alma mater, boys and girls live in separate dorms and there are visiting hours. Without thinking my question through, I wondered aloud how he got into her room so early. Then it dawned on me: why was he in her room that early? With trepidation, I then asked, trying not to tremble as I said the words: “Wait, have you two had sex?”

She admitted they had, in a low, sheepish voice. But the embarrassment soon wore off, as the other two girls chimed in that they had done it too with their respective boyfriends. I had just survived a semester of awkwardness between one boy because I had turned down his request for me to be his girlfriend, because I knew it would probably get too physical, and I didn’t see him respecting me as he should. The rest of the evening was disappointing, as my friends eagerly discussed sex and their various experiences, and I- I could only sit on the bench, and listen.

My three friends are not the only ones; I had many more experiences of home friends coming to me in college to talk about how they did something they thought they would save for marriage. Most of these conversations were them lamenting their disappointment, but most of them also never showed a desire to stop what they had started. I was there to talk them through it, to discuss how things could have gone differently, and how the future is still for the taking. It was a distinct contrast from most of my college friends, who are mostly not sexually active before marriage. I even have friends who did not kiss before they were married, so the contrast I feel, as you can imagine, is sometimes sharp.

Yesterday, MercatorNet published a book review of Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker.

The review began, “It’s complicated. More than a Facebook relationship status, “it’s complicated” sums up the ambiguity, fluidity, and contradictions experienced by “emerging adults” in America–at least when it comes to sex and relationships. What’s simple are the numbers: 84 per cent of unmarried, heterosexual, emerging adults (ages 18-23) in America have had sex—a number that cuts a wide swath across religious denominations, political leanings, family backgrounds, education levels, and geographic regions.

Yes, I can think complicated is an apt term for most modern relationships. One of the most interesting parts of the article discussed the very term “premarital sex,” which usually happened before a couple got married- opposed to now, where the couple might not even know each other’s name, let alone stay in a relationship. I am always intrigued when people say that sex isn’t a big deal. Perhaps not to some, but doesn’t an inner crevice of one’s soul want it to be? Theology of the Body teaches that our bodies are modes of communication in this world and that sex is a form of communicating, from the depths of one’s soul. As Catholics, we believe God gave us sex to join two people in a spiritual and bodily communion.

So, of course it is natural to want to have sex! Sex is wonderful and life-giving! Not only potentially to a child, but between the couple. Catholics are certainly not Puritans. We love sex! Which is why we value it so highly and thus, protect it from false forms. The Church says married couples are a visible sign of Christ and his love of his bride, the Church, as are consecrated religious and the chaste single. There is good reason why a Catholic bishops have started to deny communion to cohabiting couples. They are having sex outside the sacrament of marriage, which hurts the sacrament and hurts the sacredness of sex.

Catholics believe that we are masters of our own fate. We are like heat-seeking missals, always seeking truth, beauty and the good. But we have to say yes to choose good. We choose God’s way, and follow the teachings of the Church, which are time-proven and guided by the Holy Spirit. People are happiest when they are inter-relational; living in just community with virtuous people, and can self-preserve these good things through the commitment of marriage, sex and children.

My family!

This is not to say sex cannot be treated otherwise. It is true- a person can have sex with whomever they please. But the freedom to do something and the choice to do something are two different commodities. I can have sex; I choose not to, until I am married. In the Old Testament, one book I especially love reading is the Book of Tobit. It is a really beautiful book and testimony to Jewish piety and morality, specifically to the sacredness of marriage and love. I remember hearing this passage at my aunt and uncle’s wedding; it follows after Tobit’s son Tobiah marries Sarah:

When the girl’s parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, “My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance.” She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: “Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.’ Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.” They said together, “Amen, amen,” and went to bed for the night” (Tobit 8:4-9).

Patheos published a wonderful article yesterday, “Friendship and the Language of Sex” by Tim Muldoon. In using the story of Sarah and Tobiah, he writes,

Today, our common cultural attitude toward sex is that it is a pleasurable activity to be enjoyed by consenting adults, with proper protection. The story of Tobiah and Sarah, however, suggest a radically different model. Their sex is a duet in a story authored by God, made possible by their free and willing response. It is embedded in a context of familial and clan relationships; it is blessed, as it were, by parents and friends. Perhaps most importantly, though, it is sex that is oriented toward a noble purpose, rooted in prayer, expressing a shared desire to do what is good.

… I want to suggest that what the story offers to us is a way of thinking about sex that is rooted in friendship. According to Aristotle, who was active only a couple of hundred years before the author of Tobit, true friendship is rooted neither in pleasure or utility, but in a shared striving for the good. Even if we grant that the reason why many people choose to have sex is because it’s pleasurable, we must ask why people consider pleasure important. The psychoanalyst and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl observed in his landmark book Man’s Search for Meaning that the people in concentration camps who did not survive were those that gave up on meaning, and turned to pleasures shortly before they died. Pleasure, he seems to suggest, is for those who have lost a sense of noble purpose.

What makes Tobiah and Sarah friends is their shared sense of acting in cooperation in the unfolding story of God at work in the world. At the heart of Catholic faith is a profound sense that God reaches out in friendship toward each creature, and that living in cooperation with God enables us to live in cooperation, in friendship, with each other. In the context of friendship, then, sex is to be understood as cooperation with God. It is the shared practice of an intimacy embedded within a larger web of relationships: with parents and siblings, friends, fellow pilgrims. For that reason, the Church has from its earliest days recognized that sex has a social dimension to it. It changes one’s relationship to the other, and the changes the couple’s relationship to the rest of the world.

It is holy ground.

Saving sex for marriage isn’t the cool thing to do (in the heat of the moment), or the easy thing (when you really like a person, etc.). But as we told my baby sister last night, as she was bemoaning the “awkward talk” her teacher was giving the class on chastity, no one regrets saying no and waiting for sex. We told 11 year old Boo how she was worth waiting for, and if a guy wanted her to commit her body to him, he was going to have to step up and offer her his lifetime commitment, not just a good time. The good times will come, as will the bad, and when/ if I have sex, it will be the most self-giving thing I can do for that person; because I’ll have to step outside my wants, and become a wife, and then a mother.

This sounds old-fashioned, but mankind truly does not change at the evolutionary rate we like to think we do. Aquinas said that reason should be our guide for morality. Natural law, therefore, has very much a relationship to sexual ethics. You shan’t be surprised then when I, budding Thomist that I am, heartily declare that “one should act rationally.” Not having sex when one is not married seems pretty rational to me since I

A) don’t want to be pregnant (yet)
B) don’t want to get any funky diseases (ever)
C) don’t want to be overly emotionally attached to someone I may not marry
D am, in fact, not married (and have you seen the statistics on single parenthood?)

These are all graspable realities which I contend with in my decision. The wide-spread use and acceptance of birth control and legalized abortion seems to cut at each of those barriers. But they do not take them away. Dr. Janet Smith says, “Natural law depends upon such. It rests upon the claim that things have natures and essences that we can know and correspond our actions to.” But I did not need to give you that vocabulary lesson. Somewhere in your mind, you already knew that. I merely put the words there, to remind you. This is the beauty of natural law! It is so natural to the dignity of our very personhood.

CCC 2353: “Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.”

Catholic young adults are biologically no different than other young adults, but as Christians, we are called towards a higher purpose in all that we do, and that includes sex.

Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings

Week Five: My issue(s) with the Church

“Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings” by Julie Robison
“Half-Measures” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“The Church’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” by Trista at Not a Minx


This is the fifth post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

In the Gospel reading at Mass today (John 5:1-16), Jesus went to Jerusalem, where he met a man who had been ill for 38 years. Jesus saw him lying on the ground and asked him if he wanted to be well. The man  replied, that he was trying to get to the healing pool. Jesus then commanded him to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Later, Jesus met the same man in the temple area and said, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Last Friday, I heard Peter Kreeft say the great line of, “The Church is not the Magesterium.”

To clarify our terms- the Catholic Church ostentatiously has a very extensive and elaborate hierarchical system. In more recent years, the priesthood has come under attack- not only because many priests violated their sacred promises and the laws of God, but because an out-pouring of acceptable anti-Catholicism is seeping into the culture.

It is easy to look at the priests and say, they’re not doing their job. But that would only be looking at the Church by its skeleton, not its body. What of the lay people? Those whom, because they are not bound by Holy Orders, think they know better than the Church. Many think, for example, because a priest does not have sex, he must not know anything about it, forgetting that he lives his life in self-controlled celibacy. Or if he’s a priest, he’s repressing homosexual desires or molesting small children. All of these, even as thoughts, do grave injustice to the honor and dignity of the priesthood.

It is easy to say- priests are just men. But what is different is that they have set themselves apart. They have vowed to live the high road. When one priest does wrong to another person, it affects the entire foundation of the priesthood. When they do wrong, the consequences are clear.

But what about when lay people do wrong? What are the consequences there, when they do not attend Mass every week? What happens when Catholics don’t know their catechism? What happens when Catholic schools don’t teach the faith? What happens when parents and families do not reinforce religion in the home?

Well, fortunately for you dear reader, I can tell you.

I won’t be speaking from statistics, although they’re out there- like Pew finding a decent amount of Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence and support legalized abortion. I’ll be speaking from experience as a cradle Catholic: Mass every Sunday with the family, Catholic schooling Kindergarten through senior in high school, and all the high holy days in between.

I’ve encountered a lot of feelings and poor reasoning, which is one reason I am fascinated by Aquinas and canon law. I love reason and logic, and talking about one’s childhood in a high school religion class teaches one nothing of either. It is not surprising then, that I left high school with my Catholic faith not firmly planted, although still a strong aspect of my identity.

I went to a non-Catholic college, where the student population was roughly 40 percent Catholic, 60 percent Protestant. In the first few days of college, I had a great experience of sitting on the floor of my dorm room with my roommate, also Roman Catholic, talking to the girls across the hall: a Lutheran, an Evangelical Baptist, a Presbyterian (USA) and a non-denominational Christian. The conversation was fun, respectful and informative. I am still friends with all those girls, and very close with most of them. The importance of spiritual friendships in Christ is an essential part of living the Christian life.

The ability to verbalize ones beliefs is not only important for people who share the Christian faith, but those who do not. Richard Weaver said in ‘Ideas Have Consequences’ that, “Nothing can be done until we have decided whether we are primarily interested in truth.”

The Catholic Church is in dialogue with the Jews, Muslims, and, most recently, Atheists. I recently stumbled across a wonderful non-profit resource called “Why I’m Catholic”, which features really great conversion stories. Today’s story is from a former neopagan witch. Yep, you read that right. She used to be a witch, and now she’s a Roman Catholic. Isn’t God’s grace so bountiful?!

Before I launch into my Masters, I help out with RCIA, to get more personal experience. Talking with those people is so humbling and glorious; I love listening to how they found wholeness and truth in the Catholic Church. Many times, it was not an easy decision, and their friends and family do not support them. I became initially interested in helping out at RCIA because of the decent amount of friends I have who have converted/ are converting to Catholicism as well. It is not just reason and intellect which brought them into communion, but cor ad cor loquitur – heart speaking to heart, as it says on Cardinal Newman’s coat of arms.

Their story of how they found their way back to the Church is not one, however, that only non-Catholics can experience. I too came back more fully into my Catholic faith in college, literally diving into its rich intellectualism, long history, Church Fathers, consistency, and promise to uphold and defend justice, mercy, love, forgiveness and the Gospels, as well as the countless witnesses and conversations with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Furthermore, I love natural law, and I love the reasoning behind Church teachings, many of which can be supported using non-religious defense.

But I also hold very strongly to the belief that belief is a choice, and that, every day, I have to choose God, as he first chose me. To follow Christ, you also have to want to be cured, like the beggar. (Spiritually cured, of course, although physical cures are miraculously possible as well.)

Last night at RCIA, Fr. George asked me to talk about reconciliation, since one of my Lenten spiritual practices is going to Mass more than once a week and going to confession at least once a week. One of the most important reasons to frequently take communion and to go to confession is because it will heal you. Through God’s grace, the sacraments endow the recipient with the grace and moral courage needed to face an unloving world and desires not in your best spiritual interest, even if it is what you think you physically want.

Libby Edwards, the lady mentioned above, who converted from neopaganism to Catholicism said it best: “Witchcraft offers incredible freedom, but oh, it’s a clever lie.” This is why the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel asks him to “protect us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”

The priest said during the homily today that it is not just physical ailments which keep us down- it is spiritual ones. Things we don’t want to change about ourselves. Maybe we don’t want to stop swearing, or drinking a lot, or dressing a certain way, or using contraception, or doing whatever we want, whenever we want. It’s our life, right? But, oh! How even some of the Catholics closest to me have forgotten that we are not our own; that we were bought at a price.

 I take issue with the namby-pambiness I have witnessed among fellow Roman Catholics: be it from parents to teachers, from the community of believers to the individual, from the rectory for the home- there is a need to call for more faithfulness among the faithful. I have encountered too many feelings, and not enough faith. I have encountered too much fear, and not enough faith. I have encountered too much ignorance, and not enough faith. It is the promise we make at Confirmation to be soldiers for Christ- but how can we fight for truth if we do not follow our own leader?

Venerable John Paul II said, be not afraid. This is why he started the New Evangelization movement at the start of the third millennium. Modernity and people want to be different and counter-cultural, but they miss the point of life when they dress alternatively, or act scandalous, or listen to hip music. To truly be counter-cultural, one takes up the cross to follow Christ. The Catholic Church was established by Christ, who gave us the sacraments, to sustain us with grace and faith; the hierarchy, to ensure apostolic succession; and the laws, to survive faulty human judgment.

The Catholic Church survives and flourishes today, even after 2,000 years human fallibleness. The Catholic Church is more than bad priests. The Catholic Church is more that wayward lay people. The Catholic Church is just one part of the communion of saints, which is filled not only with the faithful believers, but the saints and the angels, those in heaven and those in purgatory, and a living, viable Trinitarian God. My issue with the Church isn’t the Church itself – it is the people within and outside the Church, wasting their earthly opportunity to find true happiness and joy.

I remember reading a book in my Intro to Western Religion class, where so many of the theologians’ final question was this: they wanted to know what happened to Paul on his way to Damascus and what he saw. I don’t think it matters specifically to them- I think we’re all walking to Damascus. If God hasn’t done it already, he just might knock you on your back if he has to get your attention. Or maybe, if you’re struggling with something, then hold on to God and wrestle him like Jacob, until you extract your blessing.

We all have a role to play in this life; may we find the moral courage to answer the call! The Catholic Church is here to support us through this life, to help us reach the next life, if we only let her.

And as a final hurray for the Catholic Church, here is a Eucharistic processional through the streets of NYC. I get chills every time I watch this:

“Speak up for what you believe. Love the Church. Defend her teaching. Trust in God. Believe in the Gospel. And don’t be afraid. Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life. Changing the course of American culture seems like a huge task. But St. Paul felt exactly the same way. Redeeming and converting a civilization has been done once. It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling us to do it. He chose us. He calls us. He’s waiting, and now we need to answer him.” 
-Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Evil Don’t Look Like Anything

Week Two: Contraception

“Evil Don’t Look Like Anything” by Julie Robison
“Beyaz Yourself” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Wearing Crucifixes and Condoms” by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the second post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens”. We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Today’s blog carnival is hosted by Fire of Thy Love

This week’s discussion of contraception is not a judgment of people who take it, or meant to belittle or dismiss its helpful medical benefits. But it is false to claim that most women currently on hormonal birth control are not on it to prevent pregnancy, and it is folly to defend any contraceptives as a safe way to have sex.

First of all, sex isn’t meant to be safe. Holding hands is safe. Sex is supposed to be exciting and the ultimate sign of love and commitment between two spouses in the marital bed. Sex is a risk; every act of love may result in a new creation. Sex is a bond, physically and emotionally. Contraception attempts to take away all the risk, lessen the bond, and leave the sensual excitement. There is no longer a need for commitment, just mutual consent.

At the beginning of this year, I was assigned to write an article for Our Sunday Visitor on a poll sponsored by Human Life International America and done by the polling company inc./ Women’s trend. I thought it was going to be very cut and dry. The teleconference press conference was a half hour, and I was the only journalist who asked any questions. Total weak sauce on the side of the journalists; the information was fascinating and the women speaking were fabulous—like Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, a breast cancer surgeon and co-director of the Sanofi Aventis Breast Cancer Center at the Steeplechase Cancer Center.

She said, “It’s long been known that estrogen/ progestogen combination drugs such as the pill does cause breast cancer. In fact, in 2005, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, put it as a Group I carcinogen.”

From what I’ve read by the Mayo Clinic (Dr. James R. Cerhan, 2006), the question of this connection between hormonal birth control and breast cancer should not even be a question any more. But I’ve now discussed it with multiple friends in med school and found other results. My mom is a cancer specialist too, and this topic has fascinated me since high school. I had only heard snippets of this growing up, mostly concluding in “inconclusive results.” But did y’all know that a woman’s risk for breast cancer is increased by 52 percent if she takes the pill for four years before her first pregnancy? The National Cancer Institute, according to its Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data, shows a 400 percent increase in non-invasive (“in situ”) breast cancer in premenopausal women since 1975!

And this poll, which surveyed over 800 women between the ages of 15 and 44, revealed that only 19 percent knew about the links to breast cancer. Of those participants, 3/5 admitted to using birth control to avoid pregnancy. My article, “Most women unaware of birth control pill health risks, poll finds,” continues to be republished in newspapers, the latest being San Diego’s Southern Cross. The research I did for it, the people I talked to and encountered, not only changed my perception and understanding of contraception, but my attitude of its noxious hold on society and the pedestal it arrogantly enjoys.

Even before this article, I had done a lot of research on the family and family planning for my senior thesis on the degradation of the family with the expansion of government (focusing on the black American family and the Moynihan Report). Did you know that the black community saw the work of government-sponsored Planned Parenthood as an attack on the black community for decades? As they rightly should have- it’s an unfortunate part of American history that the black community was targeted by “family planning” centers to lessen the amount of black people.

Even today, it was recently released that, in New York City, 41 percent of pregnancies ended in abortion in 2009. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, that’s 87,273 abortions. More than half of those were black babies. And that is only one major city, in one country. This is happening all over the world, to babies of all colors!

Which brings us back to contraception: yesterday evening, at RCIA, we talked about temptation and sin. The thing about temptation is that the Devil is taking something good and twisting it for his own, malicious ends. Temptation isn’t the bad thing- it’s how one chooses to respond, in what we do or fail to do.
For example, at one turning point in the movie Down With Love, Renee Zellweger has let Ewan McGregor’s character think he was tricking her into bed the whole time, when really, she had him him fooled: 
Then you, the great Catcher Block, would know that you’d been beaten at your own game… by me, Nancy Brown, your former secretary. And I would have, once and for all, set myself apart from all the other girls you’ve known, all those other girls that you never really cared about, by making myself someone like the one person you really love and admire above all others: you. Then, when you realized that you had finally met your match… I would have at last gained the respect that would make you wanna marry me first and seduce me later.


This, of course, is not how people should date, but Zellweger has it down: marry first, seduce later. Unfortunately, the Devil knows people lean towards the good in this world. So what does he do? He turns people’s hearts so that evil appears good, or at least, equal to the good. Because seducing is just as good as marrying, right? This is why free will is so important and our capacity to freely choose the good over the bad. Contraception- which starts with contra, meaning against- is detrimental for sex and the people who use it because of its very purpose, which is to disconnect the physically and emotionally sacred act from the physical and tangible formation of little souls.

Sex while using contraceptives outside and inside marriage (the current statistics say 85 percent of sexually-active Catholics use some sort of birth control) has taken its toll on the very institution of marriage, weakening its foundation and meaning, as well as being linked to health issues like breast cancer, and a substantial increase in infertility, divorce, and abortion over the past half century.

One of my favorite songs is a murder ballad by Okervil River called “Westfall”:

The song is about a boy and his friend who kill two girls. The end stanzas are the ones which give me absolute chills, when the band really speeds up and the passion is almost pleading–

And when I killed her it was so easy
that I wanted to kill her again.
I got down on both of my knees and…
She ain’t coming back again.

Now, with all these cameras focused on my face,
you’d think they could see it through my skin.
They’re looking for evil, thinking they can trace it,
but evil don’t look like anything.

C.S. Lewis said, “By mixing a little truth with it, they had made their lie far stronger.” Contraception claims to free women, free them from their “biological repercussions.” But when you compare men to women, they are functionally the same. One’s masculine or feminine vocation aside, men and women have very different natures, while retaining the ability to do similar tasks and activities.

The difference between men and women, without oversimplifying the matter, lies in the woman’s ability to create (with the man), carry and then give life to another human being. That is why women must defend this gift and calling: bearing children is the ultimate litmust test- it is the one thing men cannot do! They do not have the inner tools for it, medical procedures and flukes aside.

While doing research for my senior thesis, I had the pleasure of reading many fantastic documents like Pope Pius XI’s “Casti Connubii. Delivered in Rome on December 31, 1930, this is a very important treatisie on Christian marriage, especially since it followed the 1930 Lambeth Conference, which loosened the Protestants’ historical rejection and objections to birth control. I wish I could share more of this wonderful encyclical, but this passage held me particularly rapt:

This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man.


This is why contraception, with its outer appearance of helping women and relationships, actually does the opposite. It cheapens sex. It alleviates commitment. Contraception, like drops of water wearing down a stone, lessens the dignity of the human person when used to avoid becoming pregnant. It reduces romance and equalizes love. Even more so, the attitude of an “unwanted pregnancy” attempts to relinquish the newly created child’s dignity. But a person does not have worth because its mother wants it; as the Lord says even when your mother forsakes you, I will not.


Yes, God. I know, my rosary is getting near your ovaries! But people forget that their rights are not more important than right and wrong. People don’t want to be reminded that God’s law is eternal and, in the end, we all must answer for what we have done, and what we have failed to do. Contraception does not deliver people into more freedom, it decieves and corrupts charity.

This, I suppose, is my biggest problem with contraception: it warps people’s minds about what is life and what is not. It darkens the intellect. It takes the grave and moral matter of life and turns it into a gray matter. But anyone who has an abortion or uses contraception admits de facto that sex results in babies. Why else would they use contraception? If it’s actually a clump of cells growing rapidly, you might want to see an oncologist, not an ob/gyn.

Russell Kirk, on the object of human life, said,

Men are put into this world, he realizes, to struggle, to suffer, to contend against the evil that is in their neighbors and in themselves, and to aspire toward the triumph of Love. They are put into this world to live like men, and to die like men. He seeks to preserve a society which allows men to attain manhood, rather than keeping them within bonds of perpetual childhood. With Dante, he looks upward from this place of slime, this world of gorgons and chimeras, toward the light which gives Love to this poor earth and all the stars. And, with Burke, he knows that “they will never love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.”

May we all look upwards, without fear, and towards hope in the Lord’s already given gift of life. Happy Tuesday, y’all!