Raising a Catholic Family – A Reflection on Keeping Your Kids Catholic

Ann Sullivan
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

When Bill and I were married 40 years ago, we knew we wanted a big, Catholic family. We were blessed with exactly that. A large family. A Catholic family. In 1963 that didn’t sound like such a big deal, but in retrospect, it took a lot of work to accomplish both.

Of course, the most fundamental piece of this puzzle was finding the right mate. For years I prayed to St. Joseph to find a good Catholic husband. And I prayed to St. Anne.

Good St. Anne, get me a man

As fast as you can.

And if he should die, get me another,

Perhaps his brother

I don’t know if it was St. Anne or St. Joseph who found Bill for me, but I knew the moment I met him he was the answer to my prayers.

We both wanted a big family but the good Lord, in His infinite wisdom, only sent 11 children, three of whom He promptly took back to heaven, I suppose, to help the rest of us to get there some day.

Humanae Vitae came out in the early years of our marriage. Many of our Catholic friends were upset by the Church’s teachings on contraception. They claimed it wasn’t fair for the Holy Father to tell us how to live our lives. They went from one priest to another until they found one who would condone birth control. None of those couples are still married today.

Bill and I tried to put all our trust in God. We knew he would only give us what we could handle. After the sixth child, we decided to try Natural Family Planning. With the proper motivation, it works perfectly (motivation being the key!).

Keeping in Touch

A big family doesn’t just happen and neither does a Catholic family. You don’t have the babies baptized and expect them to grow into practicing Catholic adults all by themselves.

They have to be sprinkled with holy water, fed the Blessed Sacrament, and have a daily dose of prayer for nurturing.

We firmly believed that the more our children included God in their daily lives, the stronger their faith would be when they grew up.

Every time we heard a siren, we said three Hail Mary’s. First, in case it was an ambulance, for the sick or dying person. Second, in case it was a fire truck, for the firemen and those who need their help. And third, in case it was a police car, for the officers and the person who has committed a crime to be sorry and come back to God.

When we passed a Catholic church we blessed ourselves with the Sign of the Cross and said, “My Jesus, I love you” to acknowledge the fact that we were aware that Our Lord is there in the tabernacle, and we bowed our heads at the name of Jesus.

At bedtime, night prayers could take hours!

“God bless Mommy and Daddy, Erin, Colleen, Beth, Patrick, Matthew, Michael, Sean, and Seamus. God bless Wilbur (our dog), all our relatives, David’s hamster who got his foot caught in his wheel, David’s fish, who’s floating upside down for some reason, maybe because he didn’t like the bologna David and I gave him for lunch, David’s dog—well he doesn’t have one yet but I’m supposed to pray for him to get one only his mom said “no” because of his snake that got out of the aquarium because his brother took the lid off and . . .”

This is the perfect time to find out what’s going on in your child’s life. (“Who’s David?”) If they’re having a bad time at school or with friends or there’s something special they need, this is where it will come up. They know they can talk to God about anything and the fact that you’re there listening is okay.

From the time they were very little, we encouraged devotion to the Guardian Angels. We taught our kids that from the instant God breathed a soul into their bodies He blessed them with their very own angel. And this angel will be with them every instant of every day, finally taking them by the hand to meet Almighty God face to face when their life is over.

We encouraged them to name their angels as Bill and I named ours. (Fred and Bartholomew, respectively.)

We reminded them that their angels are always in the presence of God, so they can intercede for us. They are messengers, so we can send them to be with a sick friend or a lost child, but they go so fast they never leave our sides. We often encouraged the children to send their angels to visit Our Lord in the tabernacle, to keep Him company for us since we couldn’t be there with Him ourselves.

Many nights I stood by the front window at two a.m., praying for my errant teenagers and asking my angel to go with them and bring them home safely.

Family Rosary

The family Rosary was the single most important thing our family did together, next to the Mass.

We prayed the Rosary every night after dinner. Most of the time it was a battle. I knelt in front of the statue of Our Lady with five little boys wrestling and fighting behind me and three adolescent girls pouting and clamping their jaws shut in revolt. I could hear the boys hassling each other, their rosary beads being used as towropes for their Matchbox cars . . . and I couldn’t hear the girls voices at all!

I remember once asking a priest friend if we just shouldn’t say one decade every night instead of the whole Rosary. Maybe the kids wouldn’t resent it so much.

“Sure,” he said. “that’s just what the devil wants you to do. First you shorten it, then you stop saying it altogether.”

We didn’t shorten it. We hung in there and over the years we have reaped bountiful blessings that I know are due to the daily Rosary, the most important being that all eight of our children are practicing Catholics and they pray the Rosary with their own children.

Sacramental Treasure

We’ve always said grace before meals and continue to do so, even in restaurants. Out loud. Many people have remarked that it reminded them to pray, too.

I imagine more Confessions have started “Bless us, O Lord . . .” than “Bless me, Father.” But the habit of confession is one of the most important gifts we can give our children.

When there’s been a major blow up at home, it’s edifying for children to see their parents in line for Confession with them. It’s an awesome grace to be in the car together going home, realizing that Almighty God has forgiven all of us and has drenched us in His love and given us the ability to forgive each other and to start over.

This is especially true during the high school years, when kids are up against a veritable smorgasbord of sinful activities and behaviors that are so very tempting. If they’re in the habit of going to Confession regularly, they’ll receive the graces necessary to overcome those temptations and, if they fail, the confessional is the one place they can go to make their peace with God and have a fresh start tomorrow. As Catholics, this is one of our greatest treasures, yet it seems to be our best-kept secret. I’ll never understand why our Confession lines are so short.

Food for the Soul

Our dinner table turned into a catechetical roundtable when Bill and I realized our children were not being properly catechized in the Catholic school they attended. They learned a lot of “love thy neighbor” but not much in the way of dogmas or doctrines of our faith.

With at least 10 at the dinner table every night, we’d cover religion from kindergarten to high school. “Please pass the potatoes and what did you say the Third Commandment was?” “I don’t care if you are a sophomore and your theology teacher told you there’s no such thing as original sin, he’s wrong. If there were no original sin there’d be no need for redemption. We wouldn’t have needed a savior. Christ wouldn’t have come and died on the Cross for us. We wouldn’t have had Our Lady. If there were no original sin we’d all still be romping around in the Garden of Eden. And yes, I’ll be glad to go and talk to your teacher and the principal, tomorrow!”

Then the little kids would pipe in, “Who’s Reginald Sin and where’s the garden Eve played in?”

The discussions weren’t always so heated. Sometimes they were just plain funny. But they went on every night.

These are some of the ways we tried to live our faith with our children. Forty years ago there were just the two of us. Now, seven of the eight are married and we have 30 grandchildren with two more on the way. We two have multiplied into 47. That’s an awesome gift from God! We have been blessed abundantly and I hope you will be, too.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Book Reviews – May/June 2004

“Will Catholics Be ‘Left Behind’?” and “The New Anti-Catholicism”
Sean Gallagher and Edward O’Brien
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Will Catholics Be “Left Behind”?
A Catholic Critique of the Rapture and Today’s Prophecy Preachers

by Carl Olson
reviewed by Sean Gallagher

Ignatius Press, 2003. An understanding of the end of history and the fulfillment of the kingdom is built into the very essence of the Gospel. We can hear it in the first words
that Jesus proclaimed at the start of His public ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15).

At the same time the nature of these “last things” has always been shrouded in mystery. The Book of Revelation is filled with mysterious visions of the end, and even Jesus seems to tell us that He doesn’t have knowledge of the last days: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Mt. 24:36).

Despite this fact, from time to time there have emerged some who claim to have a special knowledge of the coming of the kingdom. Every age of the Church has seen this happen. The heretical Montanists of the third century claimed that the end was near and even swept away in their enthusiasm the theologian Tertullian. At the end of the first Christian millennium there were many who felt that the end was near. Although the religious fervor of the 11th century produced such great religious orders as the Cistercians, Carmelites, and the Carthusians, it also produced not a small number of heretical groups as well.

And so it was also at the end of the second millennium. The year 1995 saw the unveiling of Left Behind: A Novel of Earth’s Last Days, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. It was the first of a series of novels that were based upon LaHaye’s interpretation of biblical prophecy. In the eight years since its first appearance, Left Behind and its successors have sold tens of millions of copies and at times have kept a tight hold on the top of
the New York Times’ best-seller’s list.

In every age in which these “prophecy preachers” have emerged, the Church has responded by answering their claims and reiterating its ancient beliefs regarding the end times. In our own time this has started to happen in response to the Left Behind novels by the bishops of Illinois (the state in which the publisher of the novels, Tyndale House, is located), who issued a strong statement against the theological errors and anti- Catholic character of the books.

But all of us who are baptized, not simply the bishops, have a duty to defend the truth of the Church’s teaching and to point out errors where they are found. Carl Olson, in his book Will Catholics Be “Left Behind”?, has provided the faithful with an invaluable resource in preparing to answer the claims that LaHaye and Jenkins make about the end times in their best-selling novels.

Olson is in an excellent position to write such a critique, having been raised as a fundamentalist who subscribed to the dispensationalist theology that underlies the Left Behind novels and books by other popular prophecy preachers such as Hal Lindsey and Jack Van Impe. He entered the Church in 1997 and has since written numerous articles for This Rock, Envoy (where he now serves as editor), and the National Catholic Register.

His lived experience and study of dispensationalism emerges on nearly every page of the nearly 400-page book where he quotes and analyzes at length the works of such dispensationalist teachers as C.I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Charles Ryrie, and John Walvoord. At the same time he also examines the writings of more popular rapture writers such as Dave Hunt, Hal Lindsey, and of course, Tim LaHaye. Olson has clearly met the dispensationalists on their own terms.

However, in critiquing their claims about the end times, Olson appeals as much to the works of Reformed and Evangelical writers (including, surprisingly enough, Loraine Boettner, as well as Gary DeMar and Mark Noll) and secular scholars as much as he does Catholic writers. This makes it evident that a relatively small portion of Christians are dispensationalist.

But that could change, as the wide popularity of the Left Behind novels shows. Many Catholics are included among the fans and readers of the novels. Others have Evangelical friends who encourage them to read them. In any case, there appears to be a great deal of misunderstanding among Catholics about the serious errors in these anti-Catholic books.

Carl Olson seeks to correct that with his book. Its first part places the novel series in the historical context in which dispensationalism emerged while the second seeks to critique its fundamental tenets which include the sharp distinction, between Israel and the Church, its method of biblical interpretation, and, of course, the rapture. The book ends with a concise summary of the Catholic Church’s understanding of the nature of history, the
kingdom, and the second coming.

For those Catholics who seek to participate in the new evangelization by proclaiming the Gospel to the prevailing culture of our society, learning about the rapture and today’s prophecy preachers and how the Catholic Church responds to their claims is a must. Will Catholics Be “Left Behind”? is an excellent way for us to prepare for this task.

The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice

by Philip Jenkins
reviewed by Edward O’Brien

Oxford University Press, 2003. Philip Jenkins, professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State and prolific author, has written a fine analysis of anti-Catholic prejudice in America. Though he covers the early nativist attacks on Catholics in the 1840s and some other 19th-century material, Jenkins focuses primarily on modern America from 1949 to 2002. He presents a chilling historical examination of religious bigotry during this time period. Jenkins is an Episcopalian scholar and seems only slightly disturbed by the events that have weakened the Catholic Church since the 1960s: namely, the spreading dissent, the corruption and coverups by chancery officials leading to the sexual scandals of 2002, the lessening of traditional Catholic identity, and the vicious attacks against the
Church by anti-Catholics, as well as the Catholic-baiting by the country’s leading magazines and newspapers.

Jenkins comments dispassionately with the reserve and sang-froid of a social scientist and historian. He stands above and outside the shocking events he covers, like an eagle peering down into a deep valley. His keen eyesight and range are competent, but his glacial prose needs more warmth and feeling, more of a sense of dismay over the appalling ravages of a bigoted and narrow anti-Catholicism. Of course, the author is dealing with so many abominations—from the tale of Maria Monk to The Vagina Monologues and Sr. Mary Ignatius Explains It All—that we can appreciate the
reserve of a clinical, collegiate writing style.

If you love the Church, you’ll need a tough hide to read this book; the horrors within its 200 pages are unnerving in their harsh, scalding details. It is troubling and sobering to realize that the institution we cherish and respect is so widely and undeniably hated by others.

Jenkins writes, “The argument of this book is not so much that Catholicism is subjected to unjust abuse but that it is virtually the only major institution with which such liberties are still permitted.” Granted, but why has there been so much vituperative anti-Catholicism in America for the last 40 years? Because, answers Jenkins, too many Americans perceive the Roman Catholic Church as the church of fanaticism, tyranny, and ignorance. Protestant (and also now secular) Anglo-America has viewed Catholicism as the relentless enemy of liberty and independence, as a church which is subservient to an authoritarian foreign prince, the Pope. The undemocratic Church of Rome is also un-American because it is not nationalistic but universal.

Ethnicity has also played a role in promoting anti-Catholicism. Catholics were feared and despised because they were often Irish, Italian, Spanish, or other “lesser breeds without the law,” as Kipling put it. All the woes of mass immigration alarmed the “real Americans,” those welloff “WASPs” who bathed every day and attended a proper, respectable church. Jenkins convincingly shows that Catholicism seemed opposed to the American mind, to individualism and free, scientific inquiry. This alien church smelled of the dark, closed-in world of European ignorance and folly. It should have no place on our shores, or
at least no place of power, prestige, and acceptance.

Philip Jenkins presents many examples of the new anti- Catholicism. Let us look at two of the most striking. In 1989, “several thousand protestors” led by an AIDS activist group called “ACT-UP” demonstrated in the street during a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. One hundred and thirty of these protestors invaded the cathedral. The Mass was stopped and Cardinal John O’Connor, who had to abandon his sermon, was denounced as a bigot and a murderer. Condoms were thrown around; demonstrators, some of whom fell down deliberately, chanted unprintable slogans. A sacred Host was sacrilegiously thrown on the floor. Other protests by militant homosexuals have occurred over the years, but none were as extreme as this one at St. Patrick’s. No one was arrested, however. Jenkins writes, “ACT-UP’s views and demonstrations received strikingly little condemnation in the mass media, which were generally sympathetic to
radical gay claims.”

The author writes that “[p]erhaps the most sweeping indictment of Catholicism” is the 1999 movie Stigmata. A Pittsburgh hairdresser develops the bloody wounds of Christ. She has been chosen as a prophet, channeling a heavenly message to the world. She writes the “Jesus Gospel” in Aramaic, a fictional text which is supposedly Jesus’s actual words at the Last Supper; the one authentic gospel. This “gospel” presents a very different Christianity from that described in the four canonical gospels: God is only an impersonal force, so no visible church is needed. Therefore the Catholic Church is nothing but a lie.

The message of this film is that the Catholic Church could not survive for one day if Jesus’s authentic words were known. Worst of all, an epilogue to the film tries to claim that the “Jesus Gospel” is authentic, since its words are taken from the real-life Gospel of Thomas. This is an actual but controversial text which is not accepted as Scripture by scholars. It is hard to imagine a more fundamental attack on the Church than this movie. However, since anti-Catholic rhetoric is not seen as a “serious social problem,” this kind of evil fantasy goes on and on, rarely rebutted in the media.

Every Christian ought to read this troubling but informative study.

The books reviewed in this issue can be obtained from Benedictus Books. Call (888) 316-2640. CUF members receive a 10% discount.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Teaching by Example – The Role of Christian Parents

John Zimmer
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

It is told that Mark Twain once had an interesting conversation with a wealthy Boston businessman who made his money by taking advantage of the poor and disadvantaged. “Before I die,” the businessman boasted, “I intend to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb Mt. Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud from the top of the mountain.” Mark Twain replied, “I have a better idea. Why don’t you stay in Boston and try to keep them.”

This story hits at one of the truths of leadership—it is simply much easier to talk about morality and virtue than it is to actually practice them. Having good values is essential, but actually doing what you value is the hard part. Jesus Himself challenges us to put our words into action when He says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Lk. 6:46).

While growing in virtue is a good unto itself, it is a good of supreme importance in the rearing of children. Children imitate their parents, and actions often speak louder than words. This article will examine our high calling as Christian leaders and how we might practically live that out in the modern world.

Imitate Christ

As the father of three small children, I’m constantly reminded of just how much children imitate their parents. One Sunday morning at Mass, my four-year-old son was playing with Kleenex. He would push the tissue up his nose and leave it dangling there for all to see. After I had pulled the tissue out three or four times only to have him put it back in, I whispered to him somewhat exasperated, “Zachary, keep the tissue out of your nose!” He loudly replied, “But I want to be like daddy!” You see, I often walk around the house with a tissue in my nose. (He didn’t mention to those who overheard that I frequently have nosebleeds!)

Humans learn through imitation. We all look up to heroes. We all model ourselves after others. If this is true of adults, it is even truer of children. And while children will imitate their friends, the primary influence in early childhood and adolescence (the most formative years) is their parents. This brings us back to the importance of virtue and character. On the level of nature, our children will be able to grow in virtue to the degree that we, their
parents, are virtuous ourselves.

Spitting Image

When Jesus Christ came to this earth, He came to perfectly model virtue. The character of God is one of perfect righteousness and virtue. As Christians, and especially as Christian parents, our goal should be to assimilate the character of Christ as our own. One of the key ways that the Bible speaks about character and virtue is “image.” In the Bible, the word “image” has a powerful literary sense. It means that something shares uniquely in that which it reflects; it is not simply a shadow or representation. Colossians 1:15, a passage often used to assert the divinity of Christ, states that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” To say that Jesus is the image of God is to say that He perfectly reflects God, He shares perfectly in the nature of God.

Genesis 1:26 tells us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. To say that man is made in the “image” of God is to say that in some fundamental way, albeit a very limited way, human beings share in the nature of God. God’s intention in making us was not to make a photo or a representation of Himself, but to make us share in His very nature. The problem, as we all know, is that we lost it. Through sin, the image of God in us was tarnished. Thankfully, God in His mercy and love sent His Son Jesus to redeem mankind. Jesus Christ’s redemptive work is about restoring God’s image in us.

When we talk about growing in character and virtue, we are talking about growing in the image of God. It is not about simply doing nice things because Jesus told us to do them. It’s much deeper than that. It’s about allowing our nature to be transformed into the character—the very nature— of God.

Like Father, Like Son

Following Genesis 1:26, the very next passage in the Bible that speaks about “image” is Genesis 5:3, where it says, “Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” One of the most important things to understand about sonship in the Old Testament is that the son is understood to be the image of the father. When the son did things for that father, it was as if the father were actually doing them. The son is as good as the father. The son represents his father, and when he acts in his father’s name, it is as if the father himself had acted. Knowing this, let’s go back and read again Genesis 1:26.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Notice what is happening here— God is giving humanity dominion over creation. Dominion is God’s job! God is saying, “Let’s make man in our image like a son, and give him the job that would be ours, to govern the universe, and he will do it for us.” God is entrusting to us, His created children, the job that is rightfully His. It’s not a master-slave relationship, but a son who is doing the work of his father.

We have been given roles and responsibilities that really belong to God. This should raise the level of our dedication as parents. It’s God’s job to raise children, and yet He has entrusted that role to us. What an awesome yet terrifying responsibility.

Practically speaking then, there are two issues related to character formation that we should be concerned about as parents. First, how do we as parents grow in the character of Christ? Second, how do we help our children to grow in the image of Christ?

Who’s Your Daddy?

We must constantly remind ourselves that God is our Father. The devil, who is prowling around like a roaring lion (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8), is desperately trying to mold us into his image. Although we were intended to bear the image of God the Father, we can also bear the image of the father of lies. Ultimately there are only two models out there to follow. We need to choose to follow Christ. I would like to suggest three practical ways to orient ourselves toward the image of God. In each of these are suggestions for how parents and children can choose to mirror the image of God.

1. Spend time with your Father

For you: We need to spend time with God in prayer, opening ourselves to His grace and asking Him to reveal which images we hold that are not of Him. Sincerely ask Jesus to help you take on His image in a deeper and more real way. “Prayer restores man to God’s likeness” (Catechism, no. 2572).

For your children: There is a vital need for parents to spend time (both quality and quantity) with their children. One of the key identity-forming factors is a relationship with older people, especially fathers and mothers. We live in an age when schoolage children spend more waking hours with non-familial relations than they do with their family. Those relationships will impress upon them images, many of which are non- Christian. Three hundred years ago, sons worked with their fathers in the field, and daughters were in the home with their mothers. While we can’t go back to that time, we can make every effort to spend time with our children, helping them to be formed by our relationships with them.

2. Fill the mind with Christ-like images (Phil. 4:7-8)

For you: Meditate upon the Scriptures. Read the lives of the saints. Fill your mind with noble images of people with a Christ-like character. The more you fill your mind with godly images, the easier it will be to follow those same images.

For your children: In addition to reading the lives of the saints, which is particularly helpful for children, be aware of what images fill children’s minds. Our society is constantly throwing images at our children— from movies and music to athletics and advertisements. Choose wisely what images your children are exposed to
throughout the day.

3. Grow in virtue (2 Pet. 1:5-8)

For you: Reflect on your vices and where you need to grow in virtue. Pick a single virtue (don’t try to fix everything at once) and actively try to grow. Ask someone to hold you accountable to this. Be very practical.

For your children: A great way to help young children grow in virtue is through the practice of etiquette. Practicing kindness by saying please and thank you will help the same child to practice kindness in other ways. Manners are the guardians of virtue, and as a side benefit, wellmannered children create a more hospitable home! As children grow older and enter into adolescence, you can help them develop more “significant” virtues.

The Catechism reaffirms the constant teaching that parents are the first and primary educators of their children. Perhaps this teaching points at an underlying truth, that parents are the primary educators of their children whether they actively choose that role or not. Hebrews 6:12 encourages us to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” May we imitate Christ and those who follow Him, so that our children may do the same.

John Zimmer is the Director of Staff Formation for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) in Greeley, CO (www.focusonline.org).

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

CUF Replies – May/June 2004

CUF Answers Your Questions
CUF
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Dear Catholics United for the Faith,

CUF is a very good apologetics and faith-building organization. However, there are many good Catholic organizations out there catering to those who wish to grow in faith, so the need for this has really been fulfilled for many.

CUF used to be more active in rooting out heresy and dissidents, exposing them to the dioceses, the nuncio, and the Vatican, to remedy the scandal. Now it seems that some liberals in Church leadership frowned upon this and crushed this part of CUF (which I presume had Church employees or board members, e.g., priests or nuns on their staff). Thus, it is all the more reason why an entirely layperson-led-and-operated group is needed, as the diocese in which they operate may have widespread heresy. Any diocesan connection with this group may have a conflict of interest/concern, although a faithful
priest is obliged to disobey his bishop when his bishop’s actions and lack of action cause scandal.

Personally, I feel that before building up the dam to hold and raise the sea of faith, the many leaks of scandal at the bottom need first to be repaired. Or else these leaks might erode the structure and the entire dam could collapse.

I’m not saying that CUF is bad, but its withdrawal from being a total defender of the Church and the faith has left a void. This void has been filled in to an extent by some vocal Catholic organizations. These “politically incorrect” groups will gain popularity as the “Spirit of Vatican II” continues to promote scandal and heresy within the Catholic Church.

Dear Concerned Catholic,

I can only say that you are quite misinformed regarding the CUF apostolate. You apparently have not been a member and are unaware of what CUF is doing now to fill your alleged “void.” Certainly, from the beginning, CUF was established to “support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church,” thereby publicly expressing our fidelity to Christ and His Church, and especially to His Vicar on earth, who is charged with feeding the flock committed to Peter. In the defense of Catholic teaching, our members and chapters did not hesitate to bring to the attention of the Church’s authorities the doctrinal,
catechetical, sex education, and liturgical abuses that resulted in spreading dissent and disobedience in the Church, thereby inhibiting its sacred mission.

You do not seem to realize we remain involved in those same issues, though in a style you do not appear to appreciate. All these efforts, moreover, remain secondary to CUF’s primary effort to put flesh and blood on Vatican II’s decree on the laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem), which encouraged the Catholic laity to be active in both the Church and society. It was clear to our founder that Vatican II had been called to combat the modernity which was causing the rapid disintegration of “Christendom” and that the Church was looking to the laity to join in a massive effort at the re-evangelization of indifferent and nominal Catholics and the evangelization of new peoples called to accept the Gospel of Christ.

Mr. Stebbins realized that the “age of the laity” involved an “inner, personal, moral renewal” of the laity, who were being called to action in the modern world (and this time by an ecumenical council). Mr. Stebbins also noted that CUF (whose purpose was to be a rallying point and organizational focus for those in the Church in the United States who had been suffering quietly from disorders all too evident) existed in order to give a unified, public response to what Vatican II called “the universal call to holiness.”

A holy laity formed in prayer and the sacramental life following in the wake of the great saints of the Church were to help forge a real teamwork, a real cooperation among bishops, priests, and laymen such as had not really existed in the Church before the Council.

Such a laity desired by the popes and an ecumenical council are not called to strident, intemperate, and sometimes vicious denunciation of bishops—even those who have failed miserably. That is simply not the Catholic way. Bishops have their unique commission from the Savior, and we the laity have ours. Ours is not to be perceived as being in hostile opposition to the hierarchy of the Church, nor should we deliberately cultivate such an image. It is the enemies of the Church who have constantly sought to foster that ugly image of CUF in an effort to discredit our apostolate. Every orthodox lay group
seeking to assist the Church in this crisis of faith has to beware of imprudent zealotry in dealing with problems in the Church. Being a “total defender of the Church and faith” does not mean engaging in a veritable “guerilla war” against the bishops of the Church.

It is the bishops and the Church’s hierarchy, not we, who are the ones charged by Christ with the duty “to root out heresy and dissidents.” Laity have the obligation to bring scandals and abuses to the attention of their bishops, and, when necessary, to higher authorities (the Pope and Vatican congregations). However, as the ecumenical council noted, this is to be done through the channels the Church itself has established (see Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 37). CUF has never shied away from doing so, and we continue to do so in the manner desired by the popes themselves.

For the last 100 years, the Vicars of Christ have emphasized that lay people were not to publicly criticize bishops even when these were correctly perceived to be in error, and CUF has faithfully followed their teaching. We have avoided personal confrontations and focused on the issues rather than on the persons involved. Ours is a principled stand and it has proven itself as we have won the confidence of a number of bishops who had previously misunderstood the CUF lay apostolate as a freewheeling “vigilante group.” The Church is not served well by laity who are impatient and quarrelsome and take
upon themselves the task of antagonizing bishops, whose office they are obliged to respect and reverence. The action we are called upon to engage in, Mr. Stebbins noted, is “action that is swift, energetic, and loyal—action that is entrusted to us by the hierarchy. We must be partners of the clergy in the task of remaking Christian society. We are to comfort and give strength to the clergy. Zealous reformers are stirring, and sometimes burn very hot indeed, like a fire of straw. But that is not the kind of action which CUF will take as long as I can help it.”

For 35 years CUF has kept to the vision of a group apostolate which its founder laid down in these words: “Our work involves evangelization, edification, and sanctification, with a special mandate for action. But it is action involving a partnership with the hierarchy, and a movement for the formation of Christians whose faith, hope, and charity can really help to repair the dissent and disunity within the Church. I believe that God has not only assigned to us that task, but has also assigned a way of accomplishing it: In an alliance of bishops, priests, religious, and laity— all united for the faith.

In view of conditions in the Church these past three decades, CUF has had (and apparently continues to have in view of your letter) a difficult time in convincing others of the need to guard against being quarrelsome and confrontational, and becoming imprudent and embittered sons of the Church. Groups tempted to fall into that category only injure their own work but also cause scandal to others. You spoke of “many leaks of scandal” but ignore the scandal to the faithful by “leaks” of the sexual sins of bishops and priests. As you note, there are “leaks” [which] may erode the structure and the entire dam [of the Church] could collapse.”

CUF supports bringing abusive priests and bishops responsible for sexual scandals disfiguring the life of the Church to justice through legal remedies, and we support the victims of such horrific criminal conduct. However, it is not CUF’s apostolate to expose the offenders as individuals to public scrutiny and condemnation. Further, Catholic journalists, investigative reporters, and others who may be engaged in exposing the most sordid scandals have the serious obligation to avoid intemperate invective and harsh condemnations of popes and bishops for real or alleged failures in maintaining the doctrine and discipline of the Church.

We thank God that more and more bishops have come to see that CUF is what its founder desired, namely a group lay apostolate whose mission has not changed, namely, to further the spiritual and doctrinal formation of its members. The “spirit of CUF” motivating its “style” is what it is, and CUF has done much, as you say, to be a “good apologetics and faith-building organization.” There are other fine organizations in the Church, to be sure, and good Catholics will join them but always in the knowledge that they must always take “care to preserve the unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:3-4).

This is a long reply to your observations. But it does seem to me after 35 years in the CUF apostolate that it is one of the most important lay apostolates in the Church and is more needed than ever before in all the areas of concern you have noted.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

James Likoudis
Member, CUF Board of Directors
President Emeritus

CUF’s Catholic Responses department has a full-time staff to answer your questions on the Catholic faith. Call our Catholic hotline at (800) MY-FAITH, email: questions@cuf.org, or write: Catholic Responses, Catholics United for the Faith, 827 N. Fourth Street,
Steubenville, OH 43952

Also, view our vast selection of FAITH FACTS here!

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Chapter News – May/June 2004

Sustaining the Faithful
CUF
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

New Richmond, WI. The members of Christ the King Chapter heard a remarkable address entitled “Attack of the Donatists” by Dcn. Bernard Pedersen, who serves the parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota. His talk was on the fifth century Donatist schism in North Africa, which sorely tried the patience of St. Augustine. The
Donatists accused the Catholic Church of corruption and their doctrinal errors unfortunately have been revived among certain dissenters in the Church. The chapter also heard Mr. Robert Barnett, a Byzantine Catholic convert from Judaism, who spoke on A Theological Overview of Judaism.”

Green Bay, WI. The newsletter of Our Lady of Good Hope Chapter brings to the attention of readers the report of Archbishop Alfred Hughes to the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, affirming what CUF members for four decades had been striving to make known, namely, that there has been a crisis of catechesis in this country. One serious deficiency pointed out in the Archbishop’s analysis is the acknowledgement that the most widely known catechetical series and texts were relativistic in their approach to the Church and the Catholic faith. A generic Christianity leading students to believe that one church is as good as another with the Catholic Church just one church among equals, has seriously undermined fidelity to the Church and Catholic identity. Included in a recent issue is a commentary on the “orans posture” at Mass, an innovative practice that can be seen in various parishes. This posture, in which lay people imitate the gesture of the priest at the “Our Father,” is nowhere required, recommended, or even mentioned in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM).

Covington, KY. In the newsletter of St. Francis of Assisi Chapter much space is devoted to the film The Passion of the Christ and its message to move hearts in love for the Savior. Fr. Augustine de Noia, O.P., undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is quoted as saying: “Seeing this film will be an intensely religious experience for many people. It was for me. Anyone seeing this film—believer and unbeliever—will be forced to confront the central mystery of Christ’s Passion, indeed of Christianity itself. There is a powerful sense, sustained throughout the film, of the cosmic drama of which we are all a part. There is no possibility of neutrality here, and no one can remain simply an onlooker of these events.”

In recent meetings, members of St. Francis of Assisi Chapter heard Fr. Paul Berschied describe a recent trip to Grenada to visit Mary Rose Mission, which is an apostolate that cares for the indigent. They also heard Fr. William Hinds speak on his helping Catholics build churches and meeting people’s material needs in Cali, Columbia. The newsletter of this chapter is always full of notices concerning Catholic events and valuable reprints of major articles such as Fr. Michael Orsini’s “Different Levels of Catholic Teaching,” which originally appeared in Homiletic and Pastoral Review (12/20/03).

Faribault, MN. St. Peter the Rock Chapter continues its Scripture study with Ray and Kay Keller making their home available for meetings and discussions. In a recent newsletter, numbers 10-12 of Vatican II’s Dei Verbum were distributed to aid members in understanding how the Church regards the divine inspiration and inerrancy of God’s written Word.

Rochester, NY. Members of St. Pius X Chapter have been studying the recent writings of Pope John Paul II on the Rosary and the Eucharist. Their new chairman, Kariann LeMark, has led the discussions, with secretary Margaret Nolan bringing to the attention of members the most interesting events occurring in the diocese, including the activities of VOTF.

Granada Hills, CA. Secretary Gretschen Desautels of our Credo Veritatem Chapter writes that members have been studying the Gospel of St. John with discussions following. Members mourn the loss of Msgr. Francis M. Osborne, who died at the age of 91, and was beloved as a holy priest. From the beginning of the chapter’s formation, he was a friend of and advisor to its members. May he rest in peace.

Santa Rosa, CA. Members of Blessed Sacrament Chapter encouraged participation in pro-life Masses and activities focusing on the need to reverse Roe v. Wade, and continues its sponsorship of newspaper ads attracting attention to CUF. A recent issue of the chapter bulletin notices the work and writings of that great fourth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hilary, who wrote especially in defense of the divinity of Christ, a doctrine under attack today.

Steubenville, OH. CUF President Leon Suprenant, who is also chairman of our St. Maximilian Kolbe Chapter, notes that members viewed the Stephen Ray video “ Jesus: the Word Became Flesh” which is a “fast-paced, entertaining biography, travel documentary, Bible study, apologetics course, and Church history all rolled into one.” The chapter also welcomed Rita Marker, who gave a pro-life lecture. Mrs. Marker is head of the Anti-Euthanasia Task Force based in Steubenville.

Columbus, IN. Secretary Eileen Hartman of our Abba, Father Chapter of CUF writes that members and friends completed plans for a CUF-sponsored pilgrimage to the Cincinnati Museum to see the famed “Peter and the Vatican: Legacy of the Popes” exhibit which features the largest collection of objects from the Vatican ever to tour North America.

Newark, DE. Members of Our Lady of Peace Chapter mourn the loss of Fr. Pat Shaules, S.J., who for many years encouraged the CUF apostolate. After years of missionary work in the Far East, he took up residence in Hartly, Delaware. From there he established “Operation Help” to fund the most forgotten but most orthodox missions in Asia and Africa. Fr. Pat was an apostle in the true Jesuit tradition, founding Apostleships of Prayer, being a counselor to dozens, and speaking at CUF chapter meetings. He was always the priest-presence at pro-life demonstrations and assemblies. Chapter members attended his silent retreats at Wernersville and took home daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly spiritual “check-lists,” extensive reviews of the faith, and the Jesuit explanation of “discernment.” The Rosary recited at his wake and his funeral Mass were attended by many of his admirers, and all in Our Lady of Peace Chapter will miss him. Chapter members also recently heard Fr. William Jennings, who gave a talk entitled “Call to Holiness” at a dinner hosted by the chapter and at their next meeting they heard Fr. Joseph Kandathiparampil speak on “Christianity in the Far East.”

Charlotte, NC. Chairman Gail Buckley of Our Lady of Victory Chapter writes on the success of their hosting Fr. Robert Levis of EWTN’s popular “Web of Faith” program. Fr. Levis, who is on CUF’s advisory council, gave a rousing talk on problems in the Church and how CUF members can be such great witnesses to others who might be confused or losing their faith. Gail Buckley also reported the ongoing formation of three new chapters in the state: Gastonia, Cornelius, and Salisbury. Plans are also in progress for a large CUF Corpus Christi Conference to be held in Charlotte June 11-12. See the Calendar on p. 26 for further information and details. In view of the need for reparation for the offenses and outrages committed against Our Lord and His all-holy mother, members of this chapter
are encouraged to abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year.

Pensacola, FL. Barbara Bercier, secretary of our new Fr. John A. Hardon Chapter, informs us that members open their meetings with the Angelus, and have begun studying the Creed with the assistance of the Catechism and a background talk covering the Early Church Fathers and the earliest heresies. Chairman Charles Bercier presented a program on “Good News Concerning the Liturgy,” noting the effort being made by the Church to improve the deficient translations that have troubled the faithful the past four decades.

Dallas, TX. Members of St. Stephen the Martyr Chapter hosted author Susan Conroy, who in the summer of 1986 left her family and friends to go to Calcutta to assist the Missionaries of Charity in their work among the dying.

Virginia Beach, VA. Members of Mary Our Mother Chapter recently hosted their 2004 Tidewater CUF Conference, which was devoted to “The Eucharist: What Has Earth Compared to This?” CUF President Emeritus, Jim Likudous gave an interesting talk on Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the Eucharist.

Phoenix, AZ. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Chapter welcomed as a recent speaker Fr. Elmer Torborg, who had recently returned from Russia to present more information on the mission there, which had been supported by members of the chapter for some years. Members are pleased at the response to the various pro-life activities held in the diocese and are encouraged by the great support for such by the new Bishop of Phoenix, the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmstead, who led a 15-decade Rosary outside Planned Parenthood’s main office.

Tucson, AZ. St. Bernadette Soubirous Chapter held as part of the annual Tucson March for Life weekend, the CUF chapter’s fifth annual banquet, which featured Mr. Joe Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League. Chairman Michael Mohr writes that the March for Life weekend was attended by 1500 people with the Bishop of Tucson actively participating and marching and greeting every marcher with encouraging words.

Fly Creek, NY. Chairman Martha Wenner of our St. Francis of Assisi Chapter held a successful raffle with good food and company to raise funds for future chapter activities. Members participated in the March for Life in Washington, DC, and assisted in a protest organized to oppose an Oneonta city council proposal to issue certificates sanctioning same-sex and unmarried couples that would be equivalent to legitimate marriage licenses. Money was collected for a Right-to-Life ad in the Bay City Times. The chapter also made available to its members the Church’s teaching on indulgences and redemptive suffering, welcome reminders that our suffering, when united to Christ, has the capacity to assist in the salvation of mankind.

Essexville, MI.  Bonnie Harmon, secretary of Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapter, writes that the new location for the chapter’s school of religion with its 37 students has worked out very well. Members continue at each meeting to read and discuss the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas so brilliantly summarized in the volume My Way of Life. A special effort is being made to identify young students who live in the tri-city area to attract them by a formal invitation to attend CUF meetings and to learn about the CUF apostolate.

St. Paul, MN. The newsletter of our St. Thomas More Chapter notes that members sponsored a viewing of Stephen Ray’s film Jesus the Word Became Flesh, which is presented in movie-theatre quality by the Minnesota Catholic Film Society. CUF members also heard at another meeting Fr. Joseph Williams speak on “ Dismantling the DaVinci Code,” an analysis of the bestseller which has been properly described as “Nothing more than rehashed heresy.” Catholic activities in the area are duly noted together with the pro-life rallies that continue to bring public attention to the abortion issue involving the continued killing of innocent children. In an interesting column, member Andrew Livingston explains the proper meaning of Ephesians 5:24 (concerning wives being “subject to their husbands”) that has been so misunderstood by radical feminists and liturgists who have sought to exclude the passage from being read at Mass.

Trenton, NJ.  Chairman Susanne Catalina of our St. Pius X Chapter has completed plans for the chapter’s annual retreat for members, which will be conducted by retreat master Fr. Jude Winkler, O.F.M. at Villa Pauline in Mendham, New Jersey.

San Jose, CA. Members of our Guardian of the Redeemer Chapter once again elected Elizabeth Lam as chairman and secretary. To the pleasure of members who were disappointed that convert Pentecostal minister Dr. Alex Jones had been unable to accept a previous invitation, plans were completed to have him come to their area and speak on his conversion. Prayers of thanksgiving were offered for the husband of one of the chapter members who decided to join the Catholic Church.

Milwaukee, WI. Members of our St. Gregory VII Chapter heard Marquette University Ph.D. candidate Jeremy Holmes, who specializes in New Testament studies, speak on “Purgatory and Punishment,” a theme rather neglected in the consideration of the after-life. Members also express concern at the webpage of an area Catholic high school, which reveals the presence of a pro-homosexual advocacy club among its students. No effort is made to direct students to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church or the grave obligation to obey its teachings. Also, comments of the well-known pro-life physician Dr. Eugene Diamond are reproduced, which notice the “evident incompatibility” between the teachings of the Catholic Church and the standards of too many politicians who continue
to call themselves Catholics.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Living Simply – Taking the Holy Family’s Example to Heart

Rev. Thomas G. Morrow
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

In every age, when the Church has pursued reform, the reformers have gotten back to a life of profound poverty. St. Francis of Assisi is a classic example; St. Dominic Guzman, founder of the Dominicans, is another. St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and St. John Vianney are three more prime examples. Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi lived, if not evangelical poverty, at least Gospel simplicity.

Every Christian is called to live this simplicity. Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. wrote in his excellent book, Happy Are You Poor, “Scripture scholars seem to be of one mind . . .that most New Testament texts that deal with poverty as an ideal are meant to be applied to all who follow Christ.”

The most important example of poverty and simplicity is the Holy Family. Jesus was born in a stable. A stable! The Son of God! Was that a fluke, or was it a message? As St. Francis understood it, we should live humbly, simply. Jesus lived simply, and encouraged His followers to do the same: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk. 6:20).

If we observe the lives of the saints carefully, we see that much of their credibility comes from the fact that they lived so simply. In their very lives they taught detachment from material goods and the importance of living for the kingdom. This gives the Gospel a richness that the world can admire. Even the media could hardly resist little Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the poor sister who cared for the poor.

Danger of Riches

Jesus warns us of the dangers of riches: “But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Lk. 6:24). “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt. 19:23-24).

Why is the Lord so hard on the rich? St. Ignatius of Loyola gives us an insight. He wrote in the Spiritual Exercises: “[The devil] bids [his demons] first to tempt men with the lust of riches . . . that they may thereby more easily gain the empty honor of the world, and then come to unbounded pride. The first step in his snare is that of riches, the second honor, and the third, pride.” Pride is the root of every vice.

Well, “I’m not really rich,” some will say. “I live comfortably, but I’m not rich.” But, if we look at the history of the world, we in the United States are some of the richest people who have ever lived. And from the perspective of other people throughout the world, Africa, India, South and Central America, we are rarely seen as anything but rich.

Paul tells us there is great danger in riches: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9).

James has strong words for the rich as well: “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits” (Jas. 1:11).

At His Service

There is another reason not to be rich: We are responsible for the poor. We cannot live in relative luxury while the poor do not have enough to eat. We find in the First Letter of John, “But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:17).

St. Ambrose had strong words about helping the poor: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For, what has been given in common for the use of all, you have claimed for yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”

Jesus said:

Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and
in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty . . . and did not minister to thee?” Then he will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” And they will go away into eternal punishment” (Mt. 25:41-46).

Those are powerful words, even frightening. They should bring to mind two questions: (1) Do we help the poor? and (2) Do we help them enough? In light of these, we might ask ourselves, “Well, what can I buy and not offend the Lord? Should I feel guilty going out to dinner once in a while?”

The answer is broadly given in Scripture. In the Old Testament it is recommended that we give one tenth of our income back to the Lord (cf. Num. 18:23-24; Deut. 14:28-29). Often it is recommended that we give five percent to the poor and five percent toward the support of our Church.

Ten percent should be taken as the average. Some, at least for a time, might struggle to give five percent. Others may find that they can live quite comfortably giving 20 or 25 percent. How can you have at least moral certainty that you are giving enough? It should be enough so that you at least feel it; feel you have made a sacrifice. Pope John Paul II said in 1979 at Yankee Stadium, “You must never be content to leave [the poor] the crumbs from your feast. You must take of your substance and not just your abundance to help them. And, you must treat them like guests at your family table.”

One young couple began to give 10 percent of their income to the Lord, but they were perplexed as to whether it should be 10 percent of the net or gross. So, they went to their parish priest and asked his advice. He must have been Irish (he answered with a question), “Do you want your blessings net or gross?” They gave 10 percent of their gross.

Alms: The Best Investment

We tend to forget that giving to the Lord is a great investment. He promised a hundredfold return to anyone who would give up things for him (cf. Mk 10:29-30). That’s a great return. No mutual fund will give you that!

The Scriptures speak a great deal about giving to the poor: “Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from all affliction” (Sir. 29:12). In the book of Tobit we find:

“If you have many possessions, make your gift from them in proportion; if few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have. So you will be laying up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity. For charity delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness” (4:8-10).

Our Blessed Lord said, “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (Lk. 12:33). And again in Tobit we read, “It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold. For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin. Those who perform deeds of charity and of righteousness will have fullness of life” (12:8-9).

Judging by my own experience, and that of others, it seems that God is very quick to reward those who give to the poor and to the Church. And He is never outdone in generosity.

Attention, Christian Shoppers

We should reflect on the words of Jesus above when we are considering the purchase of a new house. Is this the sort of house the Lord would have us buy? Is this the kind of house Jesus would live in? Can we buy this house knowing how the poor are housed in South America? If we buy this house, will we model Christian simplicity? Can we afford to help the poor—and have a mother at home for our children—if we buy this house? How often couples strap themselves with crushingly burdensome payments when they buy a house beyond their means. Or, even if it is within their means, perhaps it flies in the face of Christian simplicity.

Do we take into account the poor when we buy a car? Can we justify an expensive, gas-guzzling car in light of the fact that some in our world haven’t even the means to buy a car? Can we justify frequent visits to the beauty parlor at $50 to $100 per session?

Must the furniture we buy be new and expensive? Or, might we get the same quality or better in used furniture? When we want some new thing, do we wait a few weeks or months to reflect on whether we really need it? Must we spend so much on clothes? Again, could we perhaps find high-quality clothing in second-hand shops? Would Mary and Joseph shop in thrift stores? I believe they would.

One woman told me she bought all the latest styles for her children. “I bought them at consignment shops,” she said. And she knew where all the best ones were. Her children had nice clothes but she was teaching them a simple lifestyle.

These attempts to save money should be done not so that we can horde our treasure, but so that we can give more to Jesus in His poor. And, as we have seen, how important it is that we do help the poor!

Teach Your Children

Pope John Paul II points out that parents must teach their children not to be materialistic. Children must grow up with a correct attitude of freedom with regard to material goods, by adopting a simple and austere lifestyle and being fully convinced that “man is more precious for what he is than for what he has” (Familiaris Consortio, no. 37).

Parents who buy their children $70 or $100 sneakers, or $70 chains, or $150 leather jackets, or give them expensive gifts for birthdays or Christmas, are not teaching them a “simple and austere lifestyle.”

Spending Wisely

It has been said that there are two philosophies in life. The first is to feast first and then suffer the hangover. The second is to fast first, and then feast. Need we ask which is the Christian philosophy? Applied to the use of money, those who save for what they want, doing without in the meantime, will save a fortune in interest over those who buy everything on credit. And, those who live simply early in life will have money to spare later on.

As Janet Luhrs said in her delightful book, The Simple Living Guide: “Simple living is about living deliberately. You choose your existence rather than go through life on automatic pilot . . . Simple living is about having money in the bank and a zero balance on your credit card statement . . . When you simplify, you’ll have space and time to know and love people in a deeper way . . . You’ll surround yourself with people who like and love you for who you are deep inside . . . Living simply will allow you the freedom to work moderate hours, and thus have the time for intimacy with God and others.”

Living simply includes good stewardship of what we do own. For example, the person who keeps his house or car in good repair, will save a good deal of money, money that can be shared with the poor.

Living simply, however, does not mean having inefficient tools. St. Maximilian Kolbe lived in Franciscan poverty, yet always bought the best printing presses so that they could efficiently do their work of publishing. By doing so, he was conserving time as well as money.

There are several reasons why the Christian should live simply. Jesus lived simply and encouraged His followers to do likewise. The Lord expects us to care for the poor as we would for Christ Himself. Giving back to the Lord in His poor and His Church is a great investment. And living simply allows us the freedom to have intimate relationships with God and others.

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk. 6:20).

Fr. Morrow writes from Wheaton, MD. He is the author of  Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World (Our Sunday Visitor, 2003) . Call Benedictus Books toll-free at (888) 316- 2640. CUF members receive a 10% discount.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

An Engagement That Began with a Blessing

Mary Ann Kuharski
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12).

This July our daughter Angie (23) will marry the “love of her life,” Adam, and we couldn’t be happier!

How they met and what plans they made for their engagement and wedding have been a great joy to watch for those of us on the sidelines.

I’d like to tell you that I helped bring them together, but when I tell Angie she just rolls her eyes and gives me one of those, “Aren’t you stretching it a bit?” look.

Well, you be the judge.

It happened about six years ago when I learned of a wonderful opportunity for my kids to attend World Youth Day in Paris, France. I won’t spoil it by describing the less-thanenthusiastic response I received from Angie and her sister when I first told them about the pilgrimage to see the Holy Father. I’m still not sure if their reluctance was based on the fact that they would have to pay for it out of their own savings earned from part-time jobs that helped pay their Catholic high school tuition. Or if, as they later confessed, they feared the 10-day trip would be nothing more than non-stop tours of Paris churches and endless Rosaries along the way!

Luckily, an anonymous donor sweetened the prospect by offering to pay a large portion of each girl’s expenses. The offer was irresistible and Angie and her younger sister Kari were off to Paris with 25 other teens from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

When Angie and Kari returned from the pilgrimage 10 days later, they bubbled with excitement about all that they had seen and done—including the tours through some of the great palaces and churches of Paris; an outdoor Mass near the Eiffel Tower; one night sleeping under the stars; and the awesome (as the kids would say) opportunity to see and experience Pope John Paul II as he interacted with the young people who traveled from across the globe to be in his presence.

In addition to coming home with backpacks full of photos and souvenirs, they had forged friendships with many of their young travel companions, and guess who was one of them? Yep, a tall, good-looking blonde 18-year-old named Adam.

Now, don’t I deserve some credit on this one?

Initially, Angie and Adam saw each other only in “follow up” get-togethers, but when the telephone call finally came asking to speak to Angie, she lit up brighter than John’s frontyard Christmas light display.

Soon they were attending each other’s school dances and proms and sharing special occasions with family and friends.

The first year of college they attended different schools, but Angie was so homesick (I was dumb enough at first to think she missed us!), she switched schools to be close to home and you-know-who!

But, the challenge of having part-time jobs to pay for their schooling and keeping focused on their education brought to Angie and Adam a sense of maturity and sureness.

Finally, they graduated and entered into the work force—both of them committed to paying off their remaining college loans.

They were in love but determined to do things in the right order.

Being maid of honor for her sister Mary Elizabeth in September only heightened the anticipation for Angie and Adam. Even siblings and friends were chiding, “You guys are next, aren’t you?”

But they were prudent, waiting until marriage seemed attainable and affordable.

One fall day as I worked frantically in a misty cold rain to bed down my roses for the winter and put away the remaining flower pots, there stood a beaming Adam beside the clothes pull.

When he saw John saunter up the back walk from the garage where he had been working, he quickly blurted out (before he lost his courage—he later said), “Well, now that I have you two together, there is something I want to ask you. I would like your permission to ask your daughter to marry me.”

His hand reached inside his pocket, pulling out a small box. He popped open the top with his shaking fingers to show off the beautiful diamond ring he planned to present to Angie.

Of course we said yes. The match seemed as perfect as the diamond. This is a guy who fits like a glove into the Kuharski family—a blessing in itself!

That evening, Adam and Angie were attending a special Emmy Awards event where one of Angie’s video profiles (done for a college Communication course) had been nominated for an award.

She didn’t win the Emmy, but the real prize came later when Adam knelt down in the lobby of the busy ballroom to propose marriage. It’s quite a feat to catch Angie, the “queen of right planning and coordinating,” by surprise, but that he did!

When she returned home that night, she literally floated through the front door holding her left hand out for all to see!

“I knew it would happen some day, but when it did, it was more exciting and wonderful than I ever thought possible. Even after we’ve dated for so long and known each other so well, I feel like our engagement is something special and it’s new all over again,” Angie later confided.

The rest of their wedding plans are perhaps like most others, with busy details to arrange for the church, reception hall, flowers, attendants, music, honeymoon, etc., but before Angie and Adam were swept up in the busy-ness, they did something else.

They called Fr. Tollefson, the associate priest as St. Charles, and arranged to have their engagement blessed— something I hadn’t seen done since John and I had our own engagement blessed many years ago.

How wonderful to witness it anew in the life of one of our children.

Thus, on a beautiful Sunday morning in November, Angie and Adam, surrounded by parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, stood before Father at the steps of the altar to receive his blessing and hear him say: “Let us pray, then, for God’s blessing to come upon this couple, our brother and sister, that as they await the day of their wedding, they will grow in mutual respect and they will prepare themselves properly and chastely for marriage.”

After two short Scripture readings and intercessory prayers, Father concluded with: “Lord God, the source of all love, the wise plan of your providence has brought these young people together. As they prepare themselves for the Sacrament of Marriage and pray for your grace, grant that, strengthened by your blessing, they may grow in their respect for one another and cherish each other with a sincere love.”

Unlike the secular society in which we live that has little regard for matrimony, the Catholic Church urges a profound reverence for the Sacrament of Marriage. In the Order for the Blessing of an Engaged Couple, it states: “The betrothal of a young Christian couple therefore is a special occasion for their families, who should celebrate it together with prayer and a special rite. In this way they ask God’s blessing that the happiness promised by the children’s engagement will be brought to fulfillment.”

And celebrate we did! What a great occasion for both families to come together in loving support of our children.

Hopefully, the Blessing for Engaged Couples will be sought more frequently by other young couples. It not only is a beautiful blessing and wonderful way to begin an engagement, but it’s a visible reminder to one and all of God’s presence in the covenant to come.

“So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

Mary Ann Kuharski is a homemaker and mother of 13, six of whom are adopted and of mixed races, most with special needs, the author of several books, and director of PROLIFE ACROSS AMERICA. For more information on Mary Ann’s pro-life work, call (612) 781-0410, or fax (612) 781-5031, or visit www.prolifeacrossamerica. org.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Straight Talk

Leon J. Suprenant, Jr.
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

I am truly blessed with many fond childhood memories. I had a loving father and mother and many other family members who cared deeply about me.

Even so, my dominant reality, at least during my school years, was that I was a fat kid. I was relentlessly teased, pushed around, and called names, and I felt powerless to do anything about it. By the time I hit adolescence, I was filled with rage, rebellion, and negative feelings about myself. In my late teens I finally started to get a handle on my weight, but for the past quarter century I’ve considered myself in “recovery,” always in need of vigilance lest I return to the nightmare of my youth.

I realize that homosexuality and obesity are two very different conditions, but there are some important points of similarity. For one thing, I know from experience how bullies on the playground (some of whom don’t change their stripes as adults) prey on kids who are different, so I can sympathize with those who have been mercilessly persecuted because of their not-so-hidden sexual identity struggles.

Leaving aside the bullies, there are several typical responses to the fat kid. Some disdainfully point out the obvious (“you’re fat”) and what should happen (“you need to lose 50 lbs.”), but through word and attitude communicate indifference (or worse) to the poor guy’s situation. On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who want to offer an easy way, who want to make the child feel good about being fat.

While my built-up defenses might have suggested otherwise, and I didn’t always respond favorably to constructive weight-loss suggestions, deep down I wanted to change. I appreciated efforts—even seemingly unsuccessful ones—to reach out to me. The people who cared most about me offered diets, changes in lifestyle, and fitness regimens to help me escape an unwanted condition. They offered a plan which typically involved hard work and discipline. Even more, they offered hope. Homosexual persons need a similar message.

Bible Basics

We all know about the dissent that has plagued the Church in recent decades, contributing mightily to the contemporary “crisis of faith.” Some point to problems in the revised liturgy—both in itself and, more credibly, in the way it’s been implemented. Others point to problems in moral theology ushered in by Fr. Charles Curran and his colleagues. But I think underneath this is a crisis in Scripture scholarship, which today has led to a certain agnosticism and skepticism about God’s inspired Word.

This is true when it comes to the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexual activity. One frequently hears, for example, that contrary to Church teaching (cf. Catechism, no. 2357), the sin of Sodom was not homosexual activity but inhospitality. Of course, we also hear that Our Lord’s multiplication of loaves was not a miracle, but an important lesson on sharing. Let’s look at just one of the several passages on homosexuality in the Bible:

“Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

First, note that there are actually two words in the Greek that are combined to form the word “homosexuals” in the above translation: malakoi  (literally, “effeminate males who play the sexual role of females”) and arsenokoitai (literally, “males who take other males to bed”). Despite persistent attempts to relativize or explain away this passage, what St. Paul is saying here is beyond reasonable dispute, and it’s entirely consistent with other biblical passages on the subject and two millennia of Church teaching.

Second, St. Paul is writing here to baptized Christians, some of whom used to engage in one or more of these serious sins. Even though they have now been washed, they are still prone to commit these sins and, if they want to inherit the kingdom, they must not return to such sinful ways. (By the way, this is one of a host of passages that dispels the “once saved, always saved” error we often encounter today.)

So, those who engage in homosexual acts are expected to walk away from that lifestyle, and in fact people even in St. Paul’s time were apparently able to do it, with God’s grace. Surely it can be a long, difficult road that can at times involve relapse, but contrary to the modern line that some people are born that way and unable to restrain themselves, it is indeed possible and necessary to decisively turn away from such a lifestyle.

Finally, there are many sins listed in this passage. While we might not experience predominant same-sex attractions ourselves, we are inclined to a host of other sins, and for ourselves eliminating those sinful areas of our lives has to be the first priority.

Still, there is good reason to single out homosexuality for special mention. While many forms of immoral conduct are rampant today, they are nonetheless considered wrong and utterly to be avoided. We don’t celebrate “drunk driving month.” We’re not required to give our employees sensitivity training so that they can be more understanding of the internal conflicts of adulterers. When we condemn corporate crime we’re not called “greedophobes.” We don’t congratulate robbers who “come out of the closet” (we indict them!).

When it comes to homosexuality, though, we are getting bullied and tricked into moving from decriminalization to societal recognition and institutional legitimacy.

Uncommon Valor

Fundamentalism is a significant problem today, but for the most part, fundamentalists stand outside the Church waiting to pounce on the unwary. Contemporary apologists such as Karl Keating and Pat Madrid have done a terrific job of arming the faithful against such attacks and transforming them into fruitful opportunities for dialogue and evangelization.

Homosexuality poses a more internal threat. It has effectively scaled the ramparts of the Church castle. If we deny the deleterious effects of homosexuality on the institutional Church, we have stuck our heads in the sand. We need repentance, purification, and grace, and we need heroic leaders—clerical and lay—who are willing to take on this beast.

Sexual impurity, even among seemingly devout, practicing Catholics, has weakened our defenses and compromised our witness when it comes to any sexual morality issue. In particular, Internet pornography has made substantial inroads in our culture and is destroying families. I urge men who struggle in the area of sexual addiction to seek assistance today. I’d especially recommend Steve Wood’s pamphlet “Breaking Free: 12 Steps to Sexual Purity for Men” (www.dads.org).

The National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People issued its report on the clerical sex abuse scandal shortly before this issue went to press. To no one’s surprise, the report indicated that over 80 percent of the victims were male, and of these the vast majority were postpubescent. While all categories and types of abuse are deplorable and tragic, the significant increase of homosexual activity involving young boys (and the accompanying episcopal misgovernance) beginning in the 1960s is what really turned this situation into a full-blown, front-page crisis.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to examine the complex causes of the scandal and offer possible remedies, though one obvious part of the solution would be not to accept seminary applicants who openly identify themselves as homosexual (see In Brief, p. 19). Rather, the point is that the entire Church, beginning at the top, more than ever needs to be spiritually ready to proclaim the truth about human sexuality in the face of the ungodly push for same-sex unions.

And the Church has published some very strong statements on this subject, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 2003 document regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons and the U.S. bishops’ “Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions,” which was promulgated at their fall 2003 meeting (call 800-MY-FAITH or visit www.cuf.org for these documents). But the battle has just begun, and how the Church responds to the presidential candidacy of John Kerry, a Catholic who favors not only same-sex unions but even partial-birth abortion, will be a telling indicator.

Getting Personal

The Catholic Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) and thus possesses the fullness of the truth. So, while other Christian communities have part of the truth (and often do more good with their portion of the truth than we do with the fullness), the strength of the Catholic perspective is that it’s inclusive; it captures the big picture. In the area of homosexuality, the Church doggedly insists upon a both-and: absolutely love
the sinner, and absolutely hate the sin. One without the other misses the mark. Other Christians surely affirm the need to love the sinner and the need for a pastoral approach, but without all the pastoral resources of the Church (especially Confession), the message can be a little strong on hating the sin, which is right, but incomplete.

I think that’s an especially important consideration today. Try criticizing somebody’s work, or cooking, or opinion, without that person taking it, well, personally. Homosexuals often define themselves—selling themselves short in the process—in terms of their sexual preference, so telling them that their conduct is objectively disordered and sinful, without all the pastoral charity the Church can muster, predictably isn’t going to go over well.

On the other hand, a significant segment of the Catholic Church (though not in her official teaching) has softened on the “hating the sin” part, buying into modern scholarship and rampant secularism and relativism that call into question the longstanding biblical and traditional condemnation of homosexual activity. Without that key aspect of the truth, loving the sinner loses its authentic, salvific meaning and degenerates into a spineless gospel of
tolerance.

I remember a time as a young adult when I casually referred to myself as being fat. At the time I was a starving law student and the thinnest I’d ever been in my life. The person I was addressing said, “Leon, what are you talking about? You’re not fat.” It struck me then how deeply I associated myself with my tendency toward obesity, as though it would always define who I am.

Our society has largely lost its sense of the intrinsic worth of the human person, so we tend to define ourselves through external, secondary characteristics. That is never good, but it’s especially tragic when those with same-sex attractions define themselves as “gay.” Once they are so defined, they give up hope of ever being anything else, and so through force and illusion they strive to change their environment—including the laws of society—to accommodate their lifestyle. In the face of this, we must be ambassadors of hope and mercy, not wimpy enablers.

Woe to us if out of silence or misplaced tolerance we allow homosexual relationships to take further steps toward becoming the legal equivalent of marriage. As St. Paul urges, we must not be deceived. If we do nothing, rest assured we will lose this battle in a few years.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Letters to the Editor – May/June 2004

CUF
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Praise and Correction

Dear Editor,

CUF’s 2004 Modern Day Saints and Blesseds calendar is a wonderful tool as it highlights the saints of our day and presents important information about everyday life for us as Christians. The short biographies presented each month are both inspiring and informative as they teach us about those who have made a positive and significant mark in the life of the Church. The information helps to unite oneself to the universal Church throughout the year. Bravo CUF!

I noticed an error, however, in the 2004 calendar. The feast day for St. Josemaría Escrivá should be June 26. Details of his life can be viewed at www.opusdei.org. A news article which addresses the first feast day of St. Josemaría can be seen at http://www.opusdei.org..

—Tim Barry
Pittsburgh, PA

Conduct Unbecoming a Catholic

Dear Editor,

In the past year or so several U.S. Catholic bishops have informed certain Catholic politicians in their dioceses that they may no longer present themselves for Holy Communion. Why? Because their adamant proabortion stance scandalizes the Church. Only the public retraction of their anti-life view will lift the sanction. One bishop directed their pastors to refuse to give them Holy Communion if they present themselves for it.

Are these bishops trying to control the way these politicians vote? No. No one questions the right of the military to discipline those guilty of “conduct unbecoming an officer.” These bishops, in effect, discipline these high-profile parishioners for “conduct unbecoming a Catholic.”

Paragraph 2272 of the Catechism states: “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.” Canon law provides: “Those . . . who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

The guilt of these politicians lies in the fact that their anti-life votes facilitate the grave offense of “formal cooperation.” How? By making it legal, with the mother’s consent, to kill her unborn son or daughter. Without those anti-life votes (or judicial rulings), virtually all such children would live.

Catechism no. 2272 further states: “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae, ‘by the very commission of the offense,’ and subject to the conditions provided by canon law.” Excommunicated Catholics are encouraged to continue to attend Mass and repent of their sin. Until they repent and are reinstated in the Church, however, they cannot receive the Holy Eucharist. Clearly, it is the sacred duty of every Catholic bishop to publicly condemn induced abortion and confront highprofile parishioners who scandalize the Church.

But what about typical Catholics like me who are not in politics and know that induced abortion is gravely sinful? Suppose a candidate wellknown for his pro-abortion views comes to town and offers each of us $100 for our vote. We take the cash and he is elected. In the eyes of Our Lord, we would surely bear our share of responsibility for the killing that followed.

But, as Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life asks: “How can the Lord see us as less guilty if, instead of cash-in-hand, we take our payoff in the form of a better job, lower taxes, improved healthcare, etc.?

Something to think about as we evaluate candidates in the upcoming elections.

—Frank Germain
Dunmore, PA

Rescuing America

Dear Editor,

The failure of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to take definitive action to change Catholic voting habits is a growing scandal.

Despite the gallant effort of pro-lifers the huge Catholic pro-abortion vote has become an insurmountable obstacle. This crisis is worsened when the hierarchy fails to relate moral decline and personal sin with a pro-abortion vote.

There are several steps that need to be taken. First, Catholic bishops en masse should follow the lead of Archbishop Raymond Burke in disciplining anti-life Catholic politicians. Second, the Catholic hierarchy needs to preach from the rooftops that no one can be a serious Catholic who is pro-choice in the voting booth. Finally all bishops and priests should make it perfectly clear that they themselves are voting pro-life.

The bottom line is that block voting by Catholics on the moral issues is essential to rescue the Christian heritage in America.

—George Koenig
St. Francis, WI

Thank you, CUF!

Dear Editor,

Your magazine is a godsend to my family and me. We have five children. One child, Carolyn Abigail, is in heaven and I pray for her to intercede to our dear Lord, Jesus Christ, that your ministry will continue to help others as it has helped my family.

Few things in life have such an impact that almost a year later we see, feel, and do things differently. This is what happened with me and others I know who attended the Spring 2003 CUF conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Should I speak about Jeff Cavins and his talk on suffering that hit right to the core of my very being because I recently experienced the loss of my child? His book, Amazing Grace For Those Who Suffer, written with Matt Pinto, has an outlook on suffering that only the divine could have.

Should I speak about Eric Genuis and the way the Holy Spirit worked through him? The Holy Spirit led me to talk with Eric Genuis about the loss of his children but the gain of saintly beings from his own flesh—and about the beautiful connection felt between all of us who have lost children.

Should I speak about Doug Barry of RADIX whose performance brought Jesus’ sacrifice and love right in front of our very eyes—as it should be? Doug Barry’s leap of faith in starting RADIX proves again that God will always provide the bread if we trust.

Should I speak about how God led reluctant me to the table with the NFP materials? The table was manned by Jason Adams, who wrote Called to Give Life, an absolutely beautiful sourcebook about the how’s and why’s of NFP. As I spoke about my own struggle in this area, Jason gave me much hope.

Should I speak about the man [Bernie Stetson]—working the lights and sound system for CUF—whom God also put into my path? As I mentioned earlier, I had just lost a baby. His story was so similar to mine and his words of wisdom meant more than all the riches in the world to me! His wife had just lost her father and shortly after, they lost their baby. I, too, lost my father and then my baby. His wife is a singer and did sing about the incident. God has plans for our suffering in which some things we understand and some things are a mystery. If things were so easy, would the magnificent kingdom of heaven be worth so much? Thank you to [Bernie] (and his family) for your faith, empathetic listening ear, unbelievable kindness, and patience in the midst of your work to help someone else. Your story and the others have given me hope to go on in joy amidst the suffering. I would love to purchase the CD that this angel’s wife made. [To order her music, visit www.maryjostetson.com or call (740) 937-2422.]

Should I speak about Bishop John M. Dougherty; the loving priests who heard our confessions (the priest that I went to was a beautiful spiritual director); Leon Suprenant, Ted Sri, Patrick Madrid, and Scott Hahn, whom I caught chasing or being chased by Jeff Cavins (we are supposed to be like children)? To get a sweet taste of God not only through the Eucharist received in the Saturday night Mass but also through these holy and real men, women, and children was bringing heaven to earth.

I am forever grateful for CUF and all that they do. My family and friends are anxiously awaiting the next Spirit-filled CUF conference nearby. Thank you. Your families are always in our prayers. Thank you for improving my relationship with God in a way that is truly divine. Thank you for evangelizing to people you don’t even know. God’s spirit cannot help but be contagious and people you don’t even know have been hearing the awesome beauty of His love as others and I pass on the glorious information that we learned at the CUF conference. You are fulfilling Pope John Paul II’s call for evangelization in an extraordinary way! This was your goal in that CUF conference about a year ago in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Your mission is working and living one year later!

—Suzanne Troll
Dubois, PA

Normal Childhood?

Dear Editor,

If a lesbian couple “marry” and somehow arrange to “have children” the children will be deprived of a father’s love. Similarly, if a homosexual male couple “marry” and somehow arrange to “have children” the children will be deprived of a mother’s love. This discrimination against children, individually and as a class, is already occurring when states allow gay couples to adopt. Gay “marriage” and adoption are the most aggressive way to oppose gender-diversity; the effect of this upon society will be horrific and will give those who oppose American democracy a new weapon in their propaganda arsenal.

Please contact your state and national legislators; a constitutional amendment may be what is necessary to save children from this form of child abuse. There can be little doubt that when hearings begin, some children raised by homosexual couples will testify about how “normal” their childhoods were. Prohomosexual psychologists can be counted on as well.

—George A. Morton
Hopewell Junction, NY

Address editorial mail to:

Editor, Lay Witness
827 North Fourth St.
Steubenville, OH 43952
Fax: (740) 283-4011

Try our email address: laywitness@cuf.org

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Lightheartedness

Donald DeMarco
From the May/Jun 2004 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

“HeartBeats” is a regular column on the virtues by popular Lay Witness contributor Donald DeMarco. Dr. DeMarco is professor emeritus of philosophy at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario. He also teaches at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, and continues to work as a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

His newest book, Architects of the Culture of Death was released in April. He is also the author of The Many Faces of Virtue . To order Dr. DeMarco’s books, call Benedictus Books toll-free (888) 316-2640. CUF members receive a 10% discount.

Lightheartedness

Lightheartedness is a most suitable virtue for man since he is essentially a lighthearted being. He is a lighthearted being who has fallen from grace and aspires to rise again. He is caught between the elemental forces of grace and gravity, struggling to reclaim his lightness and overcome the heaviness of his existence and the world around him. This may be why G.K. Chesterton held that in the great triad of Christian virtues—humility,
activity, and cheerfulness—cheerfulness is the most important of all. There is no more striking and startling a paradox concerning Chesterton, who is said to be the “master of the paradox,” than the fact that this man of conspicuous corpulence was also a man of cherubic cheerfulness. “Angels fly,” he wrote in Orthodoxy, “because they can take themselves lightly.”

Chesterton himself could soar because he did not take himself seriously. Too much concern for one’s ego, or pride, he once said, results in “the falsification of fact by the introduction of self.” Christian humility demands the “subtraction” of myself in order to see things as they are in themselves. The humble Christian is then free to undertake his appointed task or activity in a spirit of lighthearted cheerfulness. When Ebenezer
Scrooge, of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, finally unburdened himself from his weighty ego, he could almost fly: “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy.”

The heart that is light defies gravity and flies on the wings of levity. Cheerfulness is the natural expression of a person’s lightheartedness. John Ruskin, an essayist, critic, and reformer, believed it was an essential virtue: “Cheerfulness is as natural to the heart of a man in strong health, as color to his cheek; and wherever there is habitual gloom, there must be either bad air, unwholesome food, improperly severe labor, or erring habits.”
Shakespeare adds, “A light heart lives long.”

Hold onto Your Hats!

Czech writer Milan Kundera, titled his celebrated novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The lightness to which he referred, however, was really weightlessness. Astronauts who experience weightlessness do not fly, they merely roll about. Chesterton’s lightness
is upward, not circular. He could have justifiably called his autobiography The Enjoyable Lightness of Being. When another dispirited European writer, Franz Kafka, read Chesterton, he exclaimed, “He is so gay, one might almost believe he had found God.” From Kafka this is high praise, indeed.

Chesterton’s lightheartedness by no means was empty-headedness. He was not facetious. His cheerfulness never obscured his intelligence. It was his clear
intelligence, in fact that allowed him to see how reckless disregard could be so hilarious. Consider his rebuttal of socialism: “There might be people who prefer to have their hats leased out to them every week. Or wear their neighbors’ hats in rotation to express the idea of comradeship. Or possibly to crowd under one very large hat to represent an even larger, cosmic conception. But most of them feel that something is added to the dignity of men when they put on their own hats.”

It is interesting to note that disciples of the socialist Saint-Simon wore a special waistcoat that could neither be put on nor taken off unassisted. In their zeal to express comradeship, they lost sight of practical common sense. Chesterton could not be weighed down either by ego or by ideology. Nor was he weighed down by the realization that “the river of human nonsense flows on forever.” Nor was he daunted by the unfulfilled dreams of Christianity: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

Rose-colored Glasses

Opinion polls are like lampposts, Chesterton commented, “that drunks use more for support than for illumination.” “A light touch is the mark of strength,” he said. But for him it was also a mark of wit. He was rather rotund, but bore the slights of others with typical lightheartedness. A woman once chided him for not being a combatant in the war. “Why aren’t you out in the front?” she asked. “Ma’am,” he retorted, “if you’d just step this way, you will see that I am out in the front.” To George Bernard Shaw, who said to him, “If I were as fat as you, I would hang myself,” Chesterton calmly answered by saying, “If I
had a mind to kill myself, I would use you as the rope.”

Because he saw the lightness in the nature of everything, he could cheerfully avoid anything that was base. “Variability is one of the virtues of woman,” he wrote. “It obviates the crude requirements of polygamy. If you have a good wife you are sure to have a spiritual harem.” Thus, he could also hold that “purity is the only atmosphere for passion.” As a Christian, Chesterton had much to be cheerful about. “If there were no God,” he quipped, “there would be no atheists.” Another of his quotes reveals his wit: “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also our enemies; probably because generally they are
the same people.”

Eyes on the Prize

“Adventure,” he once remarked, “is the voluntary acceptance of discomfort.” Life itself is the greatest of all adventures, but its discomforts are always less than its joys. For it sets man on a search that leads to a discovery that makes everything worthwhile. As Chesterton put it: “Divinity and infancy definitely make a sort of epigram which a million repetitions cannot turn into a platitude. Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet. That tense sense of crisis which still tingles in the Christmas story and even in every Christmas celebration accentuates the idea of a search and discovery.”

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.