Friday, December 27, 2013

What Do the Clergy Know About Romances?

So people say our priests are in no position to tell the faithful how to live as dating and married couples because they generally have no experience in these areas due to their commitment to celibacy. But little do they know that falling in love and living in marriage are in many ways similar to our relationship with God. In fact, the two are closely intertwined. So much so, we believe that conjugal love - the love between husband and wife - is a human experience that God gives us so that through this experience we will understand faith - our loving relationship with God -better and live in love with Him.

Due to their special vocational calling, the clergy and those called to consecrated celibacy know faith, i.e. the loving relationship between God and man, in a special and deeper way. They have committed their whole life to this faith and are living it everyday. Since faith and conjugal love are similar and intertwined, what they know about faith enables them to teach the faithful how to deal with conjugal love. Here’s a priest whose profound insights about faith, if properly understood in the context of conjugal love, will benefit many dating and married couples tremendously. To make them simple and understandable, I have summarized them in my own words. In order to show the commonality between faith and conjugal love, the words used by the priest to describe faith (believe, God, faith, etc.) are shown together with the words we normally use to describe conjugal love (fall in love, woman, love, etc.). Such words are italicized and shown in brackets. Also, being male, I use “man” as the subject and “woman” the object. The female readers can certainly change them around. Here we go:

- A man believes (falls in love) not because of scientific evidence but because his heart is touched by God (by the woman he loves). Faith (love) is a matter of one’s personal encounter with God (with the woman he loves) (pp. 19-23).

- Man can do everything else against his will, but he can believe (fall in love) only of his free will (p. 23).

- Believing (falling in love) is the result of a dialogue: God (the woman a man loves) touches his heart, he recognizes the touch, his heart enlightens his understanding, assent follows (i.e. this is the woman I need!). After the assent, the believer (the man) will continue to struggle as part of his faith journey (as part of the love journey) (pp. 24-26).

- Believing (falling in love) is the mind being “captured” to follow the heart. It is captured by God’s (by the woman’s) touch. Once touched, the heart is set in motion to assent, and the mind has to catch up with the heart. Therefore, theology (love) is like a pilgrim journey – a journey in which the mind is constantly chasing the heart, and the heart pulling the mind (pp. 24-26).

Who is this priest who is such a profound and romantic lover? Joseph Cardinal Razinger, who subsequently became Pope Benedict XVI. His theological insights are summarized from his book, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith – The Church as Communion; and the related pages shown in brackets.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Fountain of Love and Life Christmas Button Brings Love!

The Starbucks at beautiful and historic Main Street, Unionville was busy as usual when I hurried in during the hectic morning hours, happy to take a momentary shelter from the bone-chilling temperatures outside. The weather was as brutal as I could remember for the longest time at this time of the year. It was a long line-up. The customers were getting restless as the minutes ticked away and the time available for reporting to work got shorter. The attendant at the counter was working away methodically. While still friendly, her eyes were showing stress as she glanced nervously at the line that seemed to get only longer. Finally it was my turn.

"Tall blonde please," I gave her my order hastily and handed her my Starbucks gold card. For some reason unknown to me, her tired eyes suddenly lighted up and her face broke into a broad and hearty smile. "I like that!" she said staring at my chest. "I should get one of those!" she continued, letting down the guard that was usually there behind her professional friendliness, and warming up to me as though I were a good old high-school pal of hers.

Following her stare, I looked at my chest curiously. Then I finally realized what she was saying: loosely clipped to my parka was a Fountain of Love and Life Christmas button that said, “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas to me!”

I know what the button is for. It’s a declaration of my personal belief in the true meaning of Christmas; it’s a sign of recognition that tickles people’s nostalgia for the good old times; it’s my personal protest against the Christian culture in general that has become too eager to conform to the secular world by adopting an “all-inclusive” identity that effectively means no identity. It is many things but perhaps none more important than the fact that it has become a bridge, a common denominator, if you will, that breaks down human barriers and connects me with strangers who suddenly see in me the love of Christ that seems to have disappeared at this special time of the year when it’s supposed to shine most brightly.

“Merry Christmas!” the Starbucks attendant handed me my tall blonde cheerfully and smiled at me one more time to see me off lovingly. I had walked into the store feeling like a piece of frozen meat. But now I walked out with my coffee in hand and a heart filled with warmth and joy all because of a Christmas button!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Who Is the True Mother?

Many people are familiar with the biblical story about the judgment of King Solomon (1 Kgs 3:16-28), in which two women claimed to be the mother of the same baby. As a result, Solomon decided to cut the baby into two halves to settle the dispute. In order to save the baby, the true mother was willing to give it to the other woman. But the false mother insisted that the baby be killed. Naturally, based on their reactions, Solomon, the wise King, was able to tell who the true mother was.

Interestingly, in the “ordeal” that I referred to in my recent posts, we also have two “mothers” making claim to the same baby. One “mother” is doing everything she can to kill the baby: threatening everyone who attempts to take part in feeding the baby, trying to forcefully remove the baby from its shelter, taking much pleasure in telling the whole world that she is in the process of killing the baby, etc. If this mother prays – not sure she does - her petition is for the baby to die as soon as possible.

On the other hand, the other “mother” is doing just the opposite: doubling up her effort to find food for the baby in this critical moment when its life is in danger, pleading to the baby’s family members to come to her rescue, giving up her personal well-being and risking her own health to protect the baby, etc. This mother prays non-stop; her only petition is for God to protect the baby, even if it means a complete devastation of her personal life.

So, Mr./Ms. Reader, you are King Solomon. Who do you think is the true mother?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Flesh or Spirit (Romans 8:5-6) - What's Your Choice?

For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)

What saddens me the most in this whole ordeal that proves so disturbing and divisive is that so many of those whom we expect to lead spiritually and “walk by the Spirit”(Gal 5:16) because of God’s special callings for them, would choose flesh over Spirit when faced with the choice. On the other hand, I find much encouragement and consolation in the fact that so many ordinary Catholic faithful in the pews who, having received the grace of the Holy Spirit through baptism, would courageously embrace the lofty mission “to live our moral life in a way worthy of our sublime vocation as ‘sons in the Son’” (JPII, The Splendour of Truth, 18), and choose Spirit over flesh even if it means great personal suffering.