Do You Believe In Grace- Marriage Edition

I haven’t been intensely following the synod on the families, because I think I’d rather wait to hear the conclusions at the end instead of getting all worked up along the way. I pray for our spiritual leaders, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide them just like He’s done the last two thousand years or so. I did, though, read the text of one of Archbishop Chaput’s interventions today: http://aleteia.org/2015/10/10/archbishop-chaput-to-synod-fathers-we-need-to-call-people-to-perseverance-in-grace-not-confirm-them-in-their-errors/

The part that really struck me was when he wrote that “The work of this Synod needs to show much more confidence in…the transformative power of grace…..we need to call people to perseverance in grace and to trust in the greatness God intended for them…Marriage embodies Christian hope.”

I have wanted to write a blog on my thoughts on grace for some time now, but I couldn’t figure out how to formulate it, and then the good Archbishop summed it up for me. Let me explain how I got here.imgresOver the summer, I began to work for CatholicMarriagePrep.com, an online, self-paced, instructor-led marriage prep program. There are essentially 7 topics that couples think about, answer worksheets on, and then an online instructor such as myself answers and expounds upon them. It is amazing and I highly recommend this preparation to engaged couples getting married in the Catholic Church! It is adaptable to older couples, convalidations, and everyone in between.

What has really struck me as an instructor is the third worksheet on the Sacraments. Being able to express their form and the grace attached – even though I basically have a theology degree – was somewhat challenging! And then, we had to give a short testimony on the transforming grace of our marriage, and that’s what opened my eyes to really ask myself if I believe in grace. Because if I did, wouldn’t I be open to it, asking for it, and seeing it work in my life? I had to really think.

Without getting too technical about the types of grace, let’s focus on the big picture: grace is a gift. A free, undeserved help that God gives to His children (CCC 1997). It allows us to participate in the life of God, to attain the divine for which our soul yearns. The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion. (CCC 1989).

Who doesn’t want free gifts? If someone offers me free food, free baby clothes, etc, I never say no. Then why is it so easy to ignore the free gift of grace? I know that sin has something to do with that, but I want to focus here on the grace. Because, like Chaput said, marriage embodies hope. Hope of what? Hope that the grace of the sacrament can transform us into the true image of God, who is Love. Marriage has the ability to take us beyond our humanity and into the realm of divine. Love is hard work, made easier with grace, but still requires sacrifice. And I think because the goal of marriage is so transcendental, and so divine, that it is easily attacked, misunderstood, and given up on.

So here’s the challenge to couples married in the Church, who have the sacramental grace of marriage: Live it. Ask for the grace to love your spouse better, to lay down your life more willingly, to love your children more purely. But above all, to be transformed by that grace into Divine Love itself. With grace, our marriages will be a witness the world cannot ignore. With grace, we won’t give up on the hope of the greatness God intended for us.

Want to support the mission and ministry of CatholicMarriagePrep.com? Or, do you love your husband/wife? You can buy shirts here: https://www.agapecatholicministries.com/shop/

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Gun Control: Pro-Life or Anti-Suffering?

I know the shooting at Roseburg happened weeks ago, and is “old news” in the media world, but those wounds never go away. As such, it has taken me weeks to work through these thoughts and type them out. So, here goes:

I was disheartened by the news of the shooting in Roseburg. So much more tragedy, senseless shootings, and death.

I was also surprised about how many people voiced up about needing more gun control laws, people who are also for abortion and for assisted suicide. I was confused on how one could be upset about the loss of life in a mass shooting at a college (which I am, too), but actively support the loss of life in the womb, in sickness, and in the elderly.

I realized it comes from a false sense of compassion. We as a society hate suffering. I think for some it is the ultimate goal in life: to not suffer. A child in the womb who is going to have a disability or disease? Doctors advise mothers to end the life before it really begins. Or, who was unintentionally conceived and has the potential to be “unloved?” It’s a mother’s choice, apparently. A terminally ill patient? Assisted suicide, because suffering is the worst thing that can befall a person. An elderly person who can hardly get around? We find them to be a burden on society, not considering what they’ve given in their lifetime or the wisdom they’ve amassed.

But then there is a shooting on a college campus. Teenagers, barely adults. In the prime of their life, having done nothing to deserve death, studying to get an education to be tax-payers and maybe parents someday. That’s when people get vocal about morality. Somehow, these lives are more valuable? I guess to some, shootings are the real tragedy because ending the lives of the suffering doesn’t matter?

Whoopi Goldberg on “The View” doesn’t get it. “Should abortion be equated with gun violence?” she asks. Well, the bottom line is yes, because a life is intentionally being ended.

To me, and to the Church, they are all the same. They are all tragedies, because life has been taken. It is not our place to play God and to decide who lives or dies based on how much they are suffering or how much we think they will suffer. Perhaps some of these mass murderers have thought they are ending other people’s suffering? As confusing as it is, deciding the value of life based on suffering is a slippery slope.

This is not a political blog. To be honest, I’m not sure what the answer is to the violence besieging our country. I do suspect that it is a combination of laws, mental health, and moral reform. I don’t think one reform independent of the others will be enough. The fact that the Roseburg shooter asked victim’s religion is also disturbing, considering that the current cultural climate is so hostile to faith.

As Pope Francis has so deftly demonstrated, respect for life does not fit neatly into left or right, liberal or conservative. Undocumented workers’ lives are worth respect. Unborn life is worth respect. Muslim refugees’ lives are worth respect. The handicapped, the elderly, the patient with cancer or a brain tumor – their lives are worth respect. Criminals in prison – even on death row- their lives are worth respect. The Church has always faithfully taught that every life is precious.

So what are our families to do? How can our families promote respect for all life? First of all, this quote:

mother teresa quote

Also, I think we must teach our kids to respect all life by our witness. By donating food to soup kitchens, praying for the imprisoned, visiting a nursing home. To do anything and everything to cultivate the conviction that life is worth respect, at any stage and for everyone.

As Christians, we also need to struggle to understand the value of suffering, so we can be convicted of its purpose. To the goal of life is not to avoid suffering, it’s to accept suffering as our path to heaven. It’s not an easy topic, and may take a lifetime to grasp. But here is could good place to start: Peter Kreeft on God’s Answer to Suffering: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/suffering.htm