Tag Archives: Christianity

Saint Thomas Aquinas

January 28th is the Feast Day of Saint Thomas Aquinas

By universal consent, Thomas Aquinas is the preeminent spokesman of the Catholic tradition of reason and of divine revelation. He is one of the great teachers of the medieval Catholic Church, honored with the titles Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor.

At five he was given to the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino in his parents’ hopes that he would choose that way of life and eventually became abbot. In 1239, he was sent to Naples to complete his studies. It was here that he was first attracted to Aristotle’s philosophy.

By 1243, Thomas abandoned his family’s plans for him and joined the Dominicans, much to his mother’s dismay. On her order, Thomas was captured by his brother and kept at home for over a year.

Once free, he went to Paris and then to Cologne, where he finished his studies with Albert the Great. He held two professorships at Paris, lived at the court of Pope Urban IV, directed the Dominican schools at Rome and Viterbo, combated adversaries of the mendicants, as well as the Averroists, and argued with some Franciscans about Aristotelianism.

His greatest contribution to the Catholic Church is his writings. The unity, harmony, and continuity of faith and reason, of revealed and natural human knowledge, pervades his writings. One might expect Thomas, as a man of the gospel, to be an ardent defender of revealed truth. But he was broad enough, deep enough, to see the whole natural order as coming from God the Creator, and to see reason as a divine gift to be highly cherished.

The Summa Theologiae, his last and, unfortunately, uncompleted work, deals with the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped work on it after celebrating Mass on December 6, 1273. When asked why he stopped writing, he replied, “I cannot go on…. All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” He died March 7, 1274.

We can look to Thomas Aquinas as a towering example of Catholicism in the sense of broadness, universality, and inclusiveness. We should be determined anew to exercise the divine gift of reason in us, our power to know, learn, and understand. At the same time we should thank God for the gift of his revelation, especially in Jesus Christ.

Saint Thomas Aquinas is the Patron Saint of:

Catholic Schools
Colleges
Schools
Students

From Franciscan Media’s Saint of the Day

Saint Paul

January 25th is the Feast Day of the Conversion of Saint Paul

Saint Paul’s life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.

From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).

Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.

So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

Paul is undoubtedly hard to understand. His style often reflects the rabbinical style of argument of his day, and often his thought skips on mountaintops while we plod below. But perhaps our problems are accentuated by the fact that so many beautiful jewels have become part of the everyday coin in our Christian language.

From Franciscan Media’s Saint of the Day

Saint Francis de Sales

January 24th is the Feast Day of Saint Francis de Sales

Francis was destined by his father to be a lawyer so that the young man could eventually take his elder’s place as a senator from the province of Savoy in France. For this reason Francis was sent to Padua to study law. After receiving his doctorate, he returned home and, in due time, told his parents he wished to enter the priesthood. His father strongly opposed Francis in this, and only after much patient persuasiveness on the part of the gentle Francis did his father finally consent. Francis was ordained and elected provost of the Diocese of Geneva, then a center for the Calvinists. Francis set out to convert them, especially in the district of Chablais. By preaching and distributing the little pamphlets he wrote to explain true Catholic doctrine, he had remarkable success.

At 35, he became bishop of Geneva. While administering his diocese he continued to preach, hear confessions, and catechize the children. His gentle character was a great asset in winning souls. He practiced his own axiom, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.”

Besides his two well-known books, the Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise on the Love of God, he wrote many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence. For his writings, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press. His writings, filled with his characteristic gentle spirit, are addressed to lay people. He wants to make them understand that they too are called to be saints. As he wrote in The Introduction to the Devout Life: “It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman…. It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world. ”

In spite of his busy and comparatively short life, he had time to collaborate with another saint, Jane Frances de Chantal, in the work of establishing the Sisters of the Visitation. These women were to practice the virtues exemplified in Mary’s visit to Elizabeth: humility, piety, and mutual charity. They at first engaged to a limited degree in works of mercy for the poor and the sick. Today, while some communities conduct schools, others live a strictly contemplative life.

Francis de Sales took seriously the words of Christ, “Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart.” As he said himself, it took him 20 years to conquer his quick temper, but no one ever suspected he had such a problem, so overflowing with good nature and kindness was his usual manner of acting. His perennial meekness and sunny disposition won for him the title of “Gentleman Saint.”

Saint Francis de Sales is the Patron Saint of:

Authors

Deafness

Journalists

Writers

From Franciscan Media’s Saint of the Day

Biography written by Father Don Miller, OFM

 

Father to Son

Father to Son

This letter was written by an anonymous father of a teenager struggling with sexual identity issues.  The letter was written without the intention of giving it to the boy, but perhaps just because the situation provided a reason to get these thoughts out.

Son,

We need to have a heart to heart talk.  The most important thing I need to tell you is that I love you.  Very, very much.  There is absolutely nothing that could ever make me stop loving you.  I am your dad and you are my son; forever.

In the world of psychology, they say a person is formed by nature and nurture.  Nature, naturally, refers to that with which we were born.  Our genetic makeup, predispositions and internal programing.  Nurture refers to our environment.  The external factors.  Our experiences; parents and family; environment; where we’ve lived and when we lived there.  To what degree nature and nurture affect us is an ongoing discussion.  Some psychologists believe nature is a stronger factor than nurture.  Others say the opposite.  I used to think it was stronger on the nurture side.  Over the years I have come to believe that nature plays the bigger part.

You remind me so much of myself at your age.  We each have lived in very different times, and the environments in which we experienced our childhoods are very different from each other.  I want you to realize how much I can relate to you; the things you are experiencing.  I am going to tell you a few things about myself here.  Some of this you may already know.  Some, maybe not.  If I go on about something I have already told you about, please be considerate and take it in anyway.

When I was about your age I was a bit of a mess.  With divorced alcoholic parents, the nurture part was not so hot.  My older brother, who had to deal with the same environment as me, was completely different from me socially.  He had a lot of friends and was very popular in school.  I did not have many friends and struggled socially.  I was smaller than most kids my age and was bullied.  I was very sensitive and hurt inside most of the time.  I couldn’t understand why nobody liked me and so many tortured me.

In the late 1960’s and early 70’s views on sexual identity were different than they are today.  Nowadays, society is much more accepting of alternative sexual identities and lifestyles than it was then.  There are still a lot of people around that have hatred and bias toward people different from themselves, but not nearly as bad as it was then.  When I was your age, being different was a death sentence.  For the most part the only people who associated with homosexuals were other homosexuals, and their lives were literally in danger.

I recall when I was in 7th or 8th grade I was walking down the hall at school and a girl I had a crush on was coming toward me.  I bravely made eye contact with her and smiled.  Her face contorted as if she had just taken a bite of something rotten and called me a “Femme!”  That was a label that carried an awful stigma.  It was a derogatory term used to deride boys with a feminine nature.  To be brandished a femme was to be cast out socially.  I was traumatized.

I believe the “femme” of my childhood days would in today’s world be called “transgender.”  If in my childhood I had lived in the same environment of today I probably would have accepted being that.  It wouldn’t have been hard to find people who accepted me.  No one accepted me at that age, and that hurt.  I was confused.  I was grappling with my self-image.  I wondered if I was a homosexual.  I remember thinking that maybe the reason I was feminine was because I was really a girl living in the body of a boy.

Where I lived we didn’t have Middle School.  Junior High School was 7th, 8th and 9th grade, and High School was 10th, 11th and 12th grade.  My summer after 9th grade, between Junior High and High School, my mother told me she was selling the house and we were moving to an apartment she had found close to where she worked.  It meant moving to a new school district.  I would enter High School not knowing anyone.  My mother thought I would be upset about moving away from all my friends.  She didn’t know that I didn’t have any friends.  I couldn’t wait to move.  This was my big chance to reset my image; start my life over.

I approached High School very carefully.  I chose a new group of friends and was successful at resurrecting my image.  I got all screwed up in different ways.  I began drinking and doing drugs.  But, that’s another story.

In 1976, in college, I took a class called The Psychology of Sex.  I wrote a paper in which I posited a theory about human sexuality.  I remember I got an A.  To summarize, gender is a given.  Only two options: male or female.  However, there are two inherent sexual proclivities, that are not necessarily affected by gender, that have a profound effect on one’s sexuality.

One proclivity is between Masculinity and Femininity.  To some degree each of us have a masculine and a feminine nature.  For example, a person might be 80% feminine and 20% masculine.  A man could be very feminine in nature, a woman might be very masculine, and vice versa.

The other proclivity is between heterosexuality and homosexuality.  For whatever reason, no matter the cause (which is a huge issue in itself) people are to some degree sexually attracted to either the same or opposite gender as oneself.

These two proclivities do not necessarily cause or correlate with each other, or with gender.  Everyone is either male or female, and falls somewhere on the lines for each of the above.  A predominantly masculine man or woman can be either heterosexual or homosexual.  Same for a feminine man or woman.

What does all this really mean?  Should we conclude that because we all have a proclivity to one or another that we have a right to behave according to our proclivities?  When I was young homosexuality was generally considered to be a psychological disorder, and a feminine boy just needed to “man up.”  Now that seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it?  What is the norm?  Are we not all disordered?  Regardless of proclivity, are we doing the right thing by accepting homosexual behavior as normal?  Would it be in his best interest to encourage a feminine boy to go ahead and “be a girl?”

Saint Pope John Paul the Great taught through his work titled Theology of the Body that God created us in His image; man and woman, He created us.  God gave us the wonderful gift of sex for marriage.  Marriage is Sacred.  A healthy sexual relationship is wonderful, but any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage is sin.  I’m not looking down on people for their sins.  When it comes to human sexuality, we are all disordered.  We are all sinners and require God’s grace for forgiveness.  It’s high on my list every time I approach the confessional.

Atheism and agnosticism are on the rise.  Ironic isn’t it, that this coincides with a growing general acceptance of alternative sexual identities and lifestyles.  It’s not hard to understand why someone who wishes to practice an alternative sexual lifestyle would also decide to write God out of the picture.  Church teachings just don’t jive with our preferences.

No one is an atheist or agnostic because they reasoned it out.  People choose to be an atheist or agnostic because they don’t want to believe in God.  To acknowledge the existence of God would be to surrender personal sovereignty and accept that there is such a thing as morality.

We need to accept ourselves for what we are; for how God made us and what His plans are for us.  A feminine boy should not be encouraged to be something he isn’t.  He is not a girl.  He is a boy.  A feminine boy, yes, but a boy none the less.  A person with same sex attraction cannot hope to realize their desires pursuing disordered sinful behavior.  We all are called by God, our creator, to a unique vocation.  Rising above and conquering our disordered desires brings us closer to our destiny; closer to our Creator, who is Love.  Those with more challenging disorders have a higher calling, perhaps a life of celibacy.  I certainly isn’t easy, but doing things God’s way is the best way.

Son, because you are not yet a legal adult and ready to move out on your own, you must live with us, your parents.  We are family.  Your mom and I are responsible for you.  So as your parents we too must draw the lines somewhere.  There must be rules.  We will need to talk these things through.  We will listen to you, but you will need to accept our authority.  We don’t make rules because we want to hurt you.  We make rules because we love you.

I will always love you.

Love,

Dad

Saint Anthony of Egypt

January 17th is the Feast Day of Saint Anthony of Egypt

The life of Anthony will remind many people of Saint Francis of Assisi. At 20, Anthony was so moved by the Gospel message, “Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor” (Mark 10:21b), that he actually did just that with his large inheritance. He is different from Francis in that most of Anthony’s life was spent in solitude. He saw the world completely covered with snares, and gave the Church and the world the witness of solitary asceticism, great personal mortification and prayer. But no saint is antisocial, and Anthony drew many people to himself for spiritual healing and guidance.

At 54, he responded to many requests and founded a sort of monastery of scattered cells. Again, like Francis, he had great fear of “stately buildings and well-laden tables.”

At 60, he hoped to be a martyr in the renewed Roman persecution of 311, fearlessly exposing himself to danger while giving moral and material support to those in prison. At 88, he was fighting the Arian heresy, that massive trauma from which it took the Church centuries to recover. “The mule kicking over the altar” denied the divinity of Christ.

Anthony is associated in art with a T-shaped cross, a pig and a book. The pig and the cross are symbols of his valiant warfare with the devil—the cross his constant means of power over evil spirits, the pig a symbol of the devil himself. The book recalls his preference for “the book of nature” over the printed word. Anthony died in solitude at age 105.

In an age that smiles at the notion of devils and angels, a person known for having power over evil spirits must at least make us pause. And in a day when people speak of life as a “rat race,” one who devotes a whole life to solitude and prayer points to an essential of the Christian life in all ages. Anthony’s hermit life reminds us of the absoluteness of our break with sin and the totality of our commitment to Christ. Even in God’s good world, there is another world whose false values constantly tempt us.

Saint Anthony of Egypt is the Patron Saint of:

Butchers

Gravediggers

Skin Diseases

 

From Franciscan Media’s Saint of the Day

Biography written by Father Don Miller, OFM

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

January 4th is the Feast Day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Mother Seton is one of the keystones of the American Catholic Church. She founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity. She opened the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage. All this she did in the span of 46 years while raising her five children.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton is a true daughter of the American Revolution, born August 28, 1774, just two years before the Declaration of Independence. By birth and marriage, she was linked to the first families of New York and enjoyed the fruits of high society. Reared a staunch Episcopalian, she learned the value of prayer, Scripture and a nightly examination of conscience. Her father, Dr. Richard Bayley, did not have much use for churches but was a great humanitarian, teaching his daughter to love and serve others.

The early deaths of her mother in 1777 and her baby sister in 1778 gave Elizabeth a feel for eternity and the temporariness of the pilgrim life on earth. Far from being brooding and sullen, she faced each new “holocaust,” as she put it, with hopeful cheerfulness.

At 19, Elizabeth was the belle of New York and married a handsome, wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton. They had five children before his business failed and he died of tuberculosis. At 30, Elizabeth was widowed, penniless, with five small children to support.

While in Italy with her dying husband, Elizabeth witnessed Catholicity in action through family friends. Three basic points led her to become a Catholic: belief in the Real Presence, devotion to the Blessed Mother and conviction that the Catholic Church led back to the apostles and to Christ. Many of her family and friends rejected her when she became a Catholic in March 1805.

To support her children, she opened a school in Baltimore. From the beginning, her group followed the lines of a religious community, which was officially founded in 1809.

The thousand or more letters of Mother Seton reveal the development of her spiritual life from ordinary goodness to heroic sanctity. She suffered great trials of sickness, misunderstanding, the death of loved ones (her husband and two young daughters) and the heartache of a wayward son. She died January 4, 1821, and became the first American-born citizen to be beatified (1963) and then canonized (1975). She is buried in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Elizabeth Seton had no extraordinary gifts. She was not a mystic or stigmatic. She did not prophesy or speak in tongues. She had two great devotions: abandonment to the will of God and an ardent love for the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote to a friend, Julia Scott, that she would prefer to exchange the world for a “cave or a desert.” “But God has given me a great deal to do, and I have always and hope always to prefer his will to every wish of my own.” Her brand of sanctity is open to everyone if we love God and do his will.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is the Patron Saint of:

Catholic Schools

Loss of Parents

From Franciscan Media’s Saint of the Day

Biography written by Father Don Miller, OFM

Solemnity of Mary

January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary

January 1st is the Eighth Day of Christmas! There are 12 of them, you know. And this day is also celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary.

The use of the word “Solemnity” here is not a statement about Mary’s personality. It is a designation used for certain days within the liturgical calendar of the Church. Solemnities are the highest rank of liturgical celebration, higher than feast days or memorials. By celebrating a solemnity dedicated to Mary’s motherhood, the Church highlights the significance of her part in the life of Jesus, and emphasizes that He is both human and Divine.

Mary’s role as the earthly mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, places her in a unique position in God’s redemptive plan.

Her cousin Elizabeth proclaimed: “Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42, 43)

To quote from Vatican II, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “The Blessed Virgin was eternally predestined, in conjunction with the incarnation of the divine Word, to be the Mother of God. By decree of divine Providence, she served on earth as the loving mother of the divine Redeemer, an associate of unique nobility, and the Lord’s humble handmaid. She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ.”

And the Lord, Jesus, dying on the Cross, presented Mary to be our mother also:

When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. (John 19: 26, 27)

When Darkness Falls

When Darkness Falls

The Universe is amazing.  So many wonders out there.  Like our closest neighbor, the moon, for example.  How is it that no matter where it is in its orbit, only one side faces Earth?

Astronomers explain it wasn’t always like that.  Over millions of years of gravitational pull, in the same way the Moon draws on our oceans to create tides,

the Earth’s pull slowed the spin of the moon until it settled into a precise gentle roll.  From the Earth, we’ll never see the other side.

The Sun is also fascinating.  It’s enormous compared to our planet and moon.  An average of 93 million miles away.  Think about how far that really is.  If the sun were the size of a basketball, the earth would be about the size of a pea and would be about 93 feet away.  If the Earth were the size of a pea, the moon would be like a speck of dust, and people would be teen tiny, like, microscopic!

So imagine this “basketball” is the Sun, with a pea sized planet orbiting around it about 93 feet away.

And the pea has a teeny tiny little pinhead sized satellite in orbit around it about three inches away.  And everything is timed just right, and in just the right place, so that about once every 18 months,

from some location on the surface of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun not only appear to be precisely the same size, but line up with moon exactly right on top of the sun, causing a total eclipse.

   

The odds of that happening are staggering.  I just cannot fathom how anyone can say this dance of the Sun Earth and Moon; Life the Universe and Everything, came into existence by chance!  Baloney!  It’s size and scope are unfathomable and it is more intricately engineered than a Swiss watch!

Oh, how fearfully and wonderfully made is God’s creation.

Someone I Love

Someone I Love

Someone I love is an atheist.  He would say he has reasoned it out.  He was born into a Catholic family.  Four years at a Catholic college, where he studied under an atheist philosophy Professor, cured him of that nonsense.  He’s read Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others.  He says the atheist world view makes more sense than religion.

Now, I do not think he is an atheist because he reasoned it out.  I think he believes there is no God because he doesn’t want there to be a God.  He is homosexual.  To believe in the existence of God would lead to the acceptance of objective Truth.  That means acknowledging that our own ideas of what is right and what is wrong could be mistaken.

Catholic teaching on the subject of homosexuality might come as a surprise to many people.  First and foremost, the Catholic Church emphasizes every human being, having been created by God, in His image and likeness, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  We are called to love all people, even those who disagree with our theology and world view.

Whatever the reasons, or causes of homosexuality, whether it be genetic, environmental or conditional, an obvious fact is that it is real.  Some people are just not sexually attracted to the opposite sex, but instead are sexually attracted to the same sex.  It’s a fact.  The Church teaching is that it is not a sin to be homosexual; however, the Church also teaches that any sexual behavior outside of the sacramental union of marriage is sin.  And marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  That goes for everyone.

When I was in my twenties I called myself an atheist.  Although I would have told you that I had, the Truth is I hadn’t reasoned it out that there’s no God.  I was using drugs, and was engaging in frequent casual sexual encounters.  I didn’t want to believe in God because I knew, deep down inside, it would mean no more sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.  The Truth is my behavior was disordered.

People often object when one defines homosexual activity as “disordered.”  I understand that.  I have come to accept that the Truth is, sexually, we all are disordered.  God created everything with a plan.  The plan for sex was marriage.  There are two primary purposes for sex.  First, procreation.  All sexual activity must be open to the possibility of the creation of a new life.  Babies.  Second, marital union.  The joy of sex is fulfilled to the highest degree as an expression of love and bonding between a married man and woman.  If either of these two purposes are absent from a sexual act, then it is sin.

God also endowed us with free will.  There is Truth.  There is right.  There is wrong.  And we have been given the freedom choose for ourselves.  What good would our love for anyone be, especially for God, if we were compelled to it?

I know there are many Christian denominations that have altered the doctrine on these things.  I believe the Catholic Church teaching to be correct because the Catholic Church, as is present in the world today, is the apostolic succession, the lineage of the original Church founded by Jesus about 2,000 years ago.  If the history of Christianity were to be visually represented like a family tree, the Catholic Church would be the main branch, with all other Christian denominations being the subsidiary branches and twigs splitting off it.

I’ve come to the Catholic Church through a series of conversions.  From atheist, to agnostic, to believer, to Protestant and eventually Roman Catholic.  I took that last leap, about ten years ago, mainly because I wish to cleave to the Main Branch.  And, as time goes by, I am more and more convinced.  Not only is it fulfilment in my heart and in my soul, but it is so reasonable.  It just makes so much sense.

My loved one who is homosexual naturally and completely disagrees with everything I’s said so far.  But I still love him.  We are extended family.  In-laws.  Over the years our approach (my wife’s and mine), to him has evolved.  We’ve learned the hard way that our efforts to convince him of the Truth have not only been ineffective, but have been damaging.  Eventually, after some very had years, we seem to have come to a mutual understanding.  We love and respect each other.  We accept that we have completely different world views, and it is best not to engage in conversations about it.  We pray for him.  We love him.

Yet, there is this underlying tension.  It seems inevitable that the time will come when we will be faced with a situation when our differences cannot be avoided.  How do we respond when confronted?  After some prayerful, and tearful, consideration we’ve concluded there is only one way.  Since the whole of our differences stem from one foundational difference, that in and of itself should be the only response.

“We believe in God.  You don’t.”

Say no more.  Say no less.

Drawing the Line

Drawing the Line

There appears to be a movement among youth these days which involves tying one’s identity to their sexuality.  One is either heterosexual (straight), homosexual (gay or lesbian), or bisexual (AC/DC).  These are terms familiar to most of my generation; the tail end of the Baby Boomers.  In our youth, we were aware of these sexual preferences; however, it wasn’t nearly so big of a deal as it is today.  The history of the shift is a very interesting study.  The latest trend we are witnessing is the “coming out” of transgenderism, which involves one being born with one set of sexual organs attached to the body (either male or female), but identifying one’s self as being the other.

While having a discussion about sexual identity, a teenager advises me that all his friends are bisexual, and he thinks he is bisexual as well.  When I asked him what that means to him, he explains that he sometimes is sexually attracted to girls, but sometimes to boys.  At different times, he has had a “crush” on either a male or a female.  He seemed a bit taken aback when I asked him “what difference does that make?”  I explained that in all my years, (being old by most age group standards), although I have never engaged in sexual activity with a male, I have also been sexually attracted to men as well as women at times.  I explained that in my early twenties I also held the notion that my “sexual identity” (I guess it is appropriate to call it that) was to refrain from committed relationships and engage in as many sexual encounters with as many women as possible.  I was a serious womanizer in those days.  Although I don’t agree with this activity today, at the time I felt it was right to do so.

How do we determine what kind of sexual behavior is acceptable, and what is not?  Obviously a “moral” question, the type which the world today teaches is not appropriate to put upon anyone.  Again I find myself quoting G.K. Chesterton, who notably stated that morality, like art, involves drawing the line somewhere.

Thank God for His Church.  It seems always His ways are the best, the right, the moral ways.  No matter how much we feel our way best, or perhaps don’t want that Christian morality messing with our good time, the Truth stands fast, and we either learn eventually that His ways are the best ways, or we remain in denial.

So, my question to the young lad, “what difference does that make?” takes on a whole new meaning for the serious Christian.  Because God really makes it quite simple for us.  As Saint Pope John Paul II so eloquently explains in Theology of the Body, sex is a wonderful beautiful gift that God created for marriage, for which there are only two acceptable purposes.  The primary purpose is children.  Every sexual act must be open to the possibility of the conception of a new human being.  The secondary purpose is the expression of bonding love and unity between a married man and woman.  Any sexual behavior outside of these two purposes is sin.  Marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and it is a lifetime commitment.

So, it really doesn’t matter if you find a same-sex person sexually appealing.  Whether you identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or whatever.  If you are not married, and you find yourself sexually drawn to any person of any sex, if you accept and love Jesus, you just don’t go there.  It is not a sin to have sexual attractions.  It is perfectly normal, regardless of your “preference.”  It is not sinful to be attracted to someone, same or opposite sex, as long as we don’t give in to lust.  The sin is in the behavior, not in the proclivity.  Do we act out on our impulses or do we rise above them?

John Joseph Cardinal O’Connor served as Archbishop of New York from 1984 until his death in 2000.  He was adamant concerning Church teaching on sexuality, and he received a lot of static from the society of his day about it.  When he would come out with statements supporting the Church’s teaching, he got a lot of bad press, and sometimes hordes of protestors on his doorstep.  Something that went unreported however, is how Cardinal O’Connor would visit the AIDS ward in the hospital, lovingly ministering to the suffering there.  We are called to hold fast to Truth when it comes to sin.  But, we recognize we are all sinners, and there can be no doubt that there are none among us who are free from disordered sexuality.

In our sexually overcharged society it is impossible to avoid the bombardment of sexual imagery.  I am a man married and faithful to my wife for almost 22 years now.  Thanks be to God!  Don’t you think there had to have been times in those years when I was tempted to sin? Of course there were.  And I’m sure having to put up with me all this time my dear spouse feels the same as well.  But, you see, fidelity is not about whether or not you are tempted.  It’s about not responding to the temptation with sinful and disordered behavior.  Like Chesterton said, you have got to draw the line somewhere.