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

TBM topic 18: Scapulars

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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.

Guest Post: Tattoos are Permanent….and You are an Idiot

TBM Topic 12: Tattoos

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Guest post by B.

Most of my own views have already been stated by previous posters, that tattoos aren’t wrong, but they can be quite distracting and thus have important social consequences that need to be considered. I believe that the strongest argument for why one should very much consider not getting a tattoo is wonderfully summarized in this video, which also gives the title of this piece:


(warning: it has a few offensive words for the faint of ear)

A much more interesting argument than why you shouldn’t get a tattoo is why you should get one! As far as I’ve thought about it, there are two main reasons to consider a tattoo: to seal a memory, or to make a sign of commitment.

People before me posted pictures of tattoos showing devotion to God and Mary. I would like to offer a potential new tradition involving tattoos: getting inked together with your significant other after you get married! A ring can easily be removed as about a million of our nation’s married couples are demonstrating annually, but a tattoo requires a bit more effort to erase that mark. Not only would a tattoo be a permanent sign of commitment, it also would encourage choosing wisely!

Make sense? I think so. It doesn’t have to be gaudy or publicly displayed, and if your partner doesn’t want one, there’s no sense in pressuring him/her to get one anyway.

Anyone else think it’s an interesting idea?

Guest Post: Individual Modesty

TBM Topic 11: Catholic Modesty

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Guest post by B.

Please note that this is in particular regard to clothing. On the subject of Catholic modesty, it is written in the Catechism that:

2521. Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

I couldn’t agree more. As a 20-something male exploding with youth, sex crosses my mind a bajillion times a day. When I see a young women dressed immodestly, it is much, much harder to recognize the “intimate center of the person,” and rather focus on what I see in front of me: a piece of meat. I think if people want to be considered for who they really are, and not just their body, modesty is essential.

The problem, however, is identifying what exactly is modesty. The Catechism says that it means “refusing to unveil what should remain hidden.” That’s all good and wonderful, but it also very vague. What, exactly, should remain hidden? Staggeringly different opinions on this matter are observed through the world and history. Throughout all of our time on this planet, we’ve nailed it down to somewhere between this and this.

So where exactly does Catholic modesty lie? At what point does one begin taking excessive measures to preserve modesty? Can a Catholic show her shoulders? Can a Catholic man take off his shirt on the tennis court when it’s 90 degrees? How about a woman? How about a woman if she’s wearing a sports bra? Can a Catholic wear a bikini? These questions are impossible to answer, because it doesn’t seem like there is an objective standard for quantitative modesty at all.

If an explicit objective standard besides ‘be modest’ doesn’t exist, what is a Catholic to do? A simple test is to ask yourself why you’re wearing what you’re wearing. Are you wearing a particular item to inspire lust in someone else, or are you wearing it because it’s hot outside, or because you need more flexibility? Since no one can definitively say what body parts are okay to display, and how much, then it would seem that everything is fair game in the proper context.

That certainly isn’t a license to wear whatever you want wherever you want, but it gives a person freedom to wear what items that best handle particular situations. There doesn’t seem much reason to wear a skin-tight leotard on the streets except to show off your body, but on the gymnasium floor every ounce of flexibility is needed. The former is immodest, the latter isn’t.

I think it’s important to note as well that while a person should be modest to avoid stirring temptation in others, it’s also very fair to expect maturity from your fellow man. If this wasn’t the case, everyone would be obligated to wear burqas in order to minimize lustful impulses. If you see a person with clothes you deem immodest, think about why they’re wearing what they’re wearing. If I do that and I still think that they could wear items more conservative while still being comfortable and not impeding their actions, I feel I have room to criticize.

It’s interesting to imagine if we grew up in an environment where what scandalizes us today were commonplace, those things might not be as likely to inspire the same kind of lustful thinking as they do now. I think Victorians were prudish; they would likely think me highly immodest, at the least.

Modesty is important to protect personhood. Clothing and actions should be conservative to the point of compromising practical comfort/need. This means modest dress can cover a wide range of dress depending on a person’s situation. In the situations where less clothing is required, it should be expected of your fellow man to repress his lust the best he can and deal, and eventually society will get used to it. Be aware that if you’re concerned whether or not your crossing the line from modest to immodest, erring on the side of more than less is the best way to preserve your personhood in the eyes of others.

Throw some shorts over those bikini bottoms.