Posted by: L. E. Barnes | February 25, 2013

Monday Message

Yes, I’ve been off the blogging scene for too long. Anyway, I’m making a comeback with my first post for nearly 3 months.

With our beloved Pope Benedict about to step down, I thought it would be appropriate to share the following video, in which Fr. Robert Barron discusses Benedict’s legacy:

 

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | December 1, 2012

Die a Virgin?

This past summer, I decided to “cast my bread upon the waters” in my search for love by signing up with catholicmatch.com. So far, I haven’t managed to strike up a dating relationship. I did exchange some messages with a few ladies and even talked on the phone several times with one lady who lives a couple of states away. However, our goals don’t seem to be compatible, so that fuse fizzled out about soon as it was lit.

The site has a forum where people can post and discuss all kinds of topics. This week, I came across the following post:

For those who have always been celibate ie never ever had sex – regardless of how old you are, do you ever worry that perhaps you’ll die a virgin? is this a big concern for you, and how do you deal with this. And for the re-born virgins either by virtue of having gone through a divorce and now celibate or have had premarital sex and now celibate in keeping with the teachings of the church, do you fear never having sex again?..and for all who fit into the category above, how has this negatively affected your relationships in the past. I know it has been a deal breaker for some of the guys I’ve dated…hence why I’m here on CM. please share your thoughts. Thanks.

A bunch of people weighed in on the issue. Some spoke of embracing abstinence until marriage, citing both Church teaching and other secondary–though very compelling–reasons. For example, one 32-year-old fellow wrote:

Well, I do not worry at all. St. Paul says it is harder to stay chaste than to get married Amen. Who can say, ” I turned down sex several times to such and such and that girl because I didn’t want to hurt her.” in front of your peers? Not many. Who can say, ” At my age of 32, I am humbled to remain a virgin. I do not date or marry mainly for the sex or company.” I dated one woman in that I told her up front that I wanted our touch to be “proper.” She soon melted in my arms. Why not take the time and kiss for hours? Why not massage each other? Hello! You got a great woman in front of you, massage her legs, back, scalp? Write some poetry about her eyes or something? I like being able to be apart of creation through the sex act; I want to have the commitment from her first and when I ask her father for her hand in marriage I will do it as a man.

Sex does not make a boy into a man.

Also, if I do get married, then I will remind my wife how much I waited for her. Also, I can look my son in the eye and tell him about my experience as a virgin, and also give my daughters an example of what you can get if you listen to mom on how to find a great husband.

Another commented:

I think two things mostly in response to this question. If I am swayed by the world then I would believe that to be a virgin is to be worthless. The voices of the world say why not indulge yourself whether or not children are wanted and whether or not you are showing love for a spouse? But, I believe that the pleasure of this world are nothing compared with those of paradise where there is no need for fulfillment and no need for anything.

Unfortunately, I’ve found that many of the subscribers at catholicmatch.com have bought into the world’s sexual mores, as the following comment on this discussion thread shows:

I feel that two loving adults can “consent” with each other. It has to be in love and in a dating relationshp. Sex is part animalistic and also a way to show love. I think it all depends on the indiviaul person. I do think it is not a good idea to just go sleep around with anyone. It is a very emotional connection so I think two people need to be in a steady type of relationship and not just running around with every one. I think if God wanted one to be a virgin he would have had the person to be in some type of religious order. I just want it to be clear that I do not think sex is a sport or entertainment…

The commandent says though shall not covet thy neighbeighors wife. Not having sex is a doctrinal rule of the church not a commandment. Plus, to my understanding God can forgive whom ever he wants.

I decided to add my thoughts on the matter as well. Here was my response:

I’m a 37- (almost 38!) year-old man. I’ve never been married, and I’ve remained celibate. So that makes me one of those people that our society loves to make fun of (e.g., the film “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”). These days, young people are expected to be promiscuous. Those who aren’t, as another person has already brought up in this discussion, are often accused of being secretly gay, afraid of commitment, etc. I have remained unmarried because my circumstances (let’s just say I’ve learned that life is good at throwing curve balls at you!) have not permitted me to do so. And I have remained celibate, even when presented with the opportunity to engage in fornication, because I don’t believe in sex outside of marriage.

In all honesty, it’s not easy for me. In fact, words can’t express how frustrating and lonely it is at times. And no, it’s not simply about sex; rather, it’s not having the love and companionship as well, not to mention not being able to have started a family of my own.

Thus, I’d have to respond to the initial question–whether I’m afraid that I’ll “die a virgin”–by saying that my fear is actually dying unfulfilled. And not being able to enter the sacrament of holy matrimony with a godly Catholic wife and have children would definitely be a big part of having an unfulfilled life. Some people in this discussion have said that they wouldn’t have any trouble going to the grave without these things, but God has not granted me any such grace. (This was a big factor in my decision not to try to enter the priesthood or religious life, despite the urgings of several people at my church, including my pastor.)

So, you’re getting a glimpse of what it’s like for a single Catholic like me trying out the online dating scene. I’m interesting in hearing your thoughts on the issue, especially from any of you who, like me, are struggling to remain chaste as a single Catholic.

And ladies, if you have any helpful advice for me, I’m all ears!

St. Raphael*, pray for us!

 

*Patron saint of single Catholics–something I’ve only learned since joining catholicmatch.com.

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | December 1, 2012

Byrdhood: Thanksgiving Lilyana Style

I’d like to share a beautiful blog post written by my cousin, a new grandma! She had a true cause for giving thanks on this past Thanksgiving:

Byrdhood: Thanksgiving Lilyana Style.

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | November 24, 2012

Revisiting the Dun Cow

I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving Day. When contemplating all that we have to be thankful for, we should be most grateful for God’s love, manifested in Christ’s living among us and going to the cross for us. No matter what we face, we can soldier on bolstered by the knowledge that He is always there and will see us through. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

A couple of years ago, I wrote and posted the following piece here on my blog, and I’ve decided to re-post it now. Walter Wangerin’s The Book of the Dun Cow, a sort of “Narnia meets Animal Farm,” touches on various spiritual issues by means of a fantasy story. (If you’ve never read it, I heartily recommend it!) The scene I relate in the post has stuck with me as a touching portrayal of God’s compassion, abiding presence, and assistance:

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about my own spiritual struggles, doubts, and frustrations. I’m sure we all go through those things. Not long ago I even started to sink into a despair and found myself fussing at God over my problems, wanting explanations for them and wondering whether there was any use in persevering in my spiritual disciplines. Fortunately, I snapped out of it and realized how foolish such thinking was.

Things often don’t make sense to us. As believers, we may feel abandoned by God and become mired in bewilderment and doubt. People in the Bible certainly did. We may cry out to God for answers, but more often than not, no answers come.

Or rather, the kind of answers we want doesn’t come. God usually isn’t going to explain why things are the way they are. What gives me the greatest comfort and hope is that God’s answer was to enter into our suffering–hence, the cross. “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured…” (Isaiah 53:4).

I love the following scene from Walter Wangerin’s fantasy novel The Book of the Dun Cow. In it, the novel’s protagonist, a talking rooster named Chauntecleer (derived from one of the stories in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales), having suffered some tragedies and facing what seems a very bleak future, decides to let God know how he feels. And a reply comes, not in a way he had expected but that illustrates the above words from Isaiah:

“You, God! You took me out of my life! You set me into this false place. You made me believe in you. You gave me hope! O my God, you taught me to hope! And then you killed me…. And by my will I demand to know now–it is most certainly time now to know: O God, where are you? Why have you hidden your face from us?… Infinite God, tell me what we have done to be shut from the rest of the universe! But you won’t tell me. You’ve dropped us in a bucket and let us be. It wears a person out, you know. Yeah, well.”

… And that is when the Dun Cow came to him.

She put her soft nose against him, to nudge him into a more peaceful position. Gently she arranged his head so that he might clearly see her. Her sweet breath went into his nostrils, and she assumed that he woke up; but he didn’t move. The Dun Cow took a single step back from the Rooster, then, and looked at him.

Horns strangely dangerous on one so soft stood wide away and sharp from either side of her head.

Her eyes were liquid with compassion–deep, deep, as the earth is deep. Her brow knew his suffering and knew, besides that, worlds more. But the goodness was that, though her wide brow knew so much, yet it bent over his pain alone and creased with it.

Chauntecleer watched his own desolation appear in the brown eyes of the Cow, then sink so deeply into them that she shuddered. Her eyes pooled as she looked at him. The tears rose and spilled over. And then she was weeping even as he had wept a few minutes ago–except without the anger. Strangely, Chauntecleer felt an urge to comfort her; but at this moment he was no Lord, and the initiative was not in him. A simple creature only, he watched–felt–the miracle take place. Nothing changed: The clouds would not be removed, nor his sons returned, nor his knowledge plenished. But there was this. His grief had become her grief, his sorrow her own. And though he grieved not one bit less for that, yet his heart made room for her, for her will and wisdom, and he bore the sorrow better.

Thank you, Mr. Wangerin, for this poignant scene. We probably all need a “Dun Cow” at times to remind us that God feels our pain and will never forsake us.

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, happy for us. Can’t say the same for the turkeys…

Uh oh, they’re starting to figure things out. Social media is turning out to have yet another drawback. We may have to end up settling for “tofurkey” on Thanksgiving.

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | November 19, 2012

Monday Message

Cardinal Dolan gives us a blunt reminder of what the Obama administration is really guilty of with the HHS mandate:

 

 

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | November 17, 2012

Sacred Space: A Rerun

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and with it the hustle and bustle of the Christmas shopping season will commence as well. Come Black Friday, people will hit the stores with a vengeance, trying to land the best deals they can find for the items on their family’s wish lists. I’ve never joined the ranks of the fanatical bargain seekers–in part because I have only a few people to get things for, but also because, frankly, I feel such obsession with buying gifts both causes unnecessary stress and takes away from the true reason for celebrating Christmas.

OK, I realize that it’s been a perennial complaint by preachers and pundits that our society has become too materialistic. Yet as you hit the malls this year, think about the ideas presented below. What follows is a post I wrote just over three years ago, when I was teaching a freshman composition class at the local community college. I had asked my students to read, discuss, and write about an article by a professor who argued that materialism was so pervasive in our society that our shopping malls had in fact become, in many respects, our new sacred spaces. (At the time I was not involved in “Sunday Snippets,” and no one has of yet left comments on the original post. So I’m re-presenting it now. )

We need sacred spaces. That’s what chapels, churches, basilicas, and cathedrals are for. But can shopping malls be sacred spaces?

My students’ reading assignment for yesterday was an article by history professor Jon Pahl entitled “The Mall as Sacred Space.” Pahl asserts that malls have taken on a quasi-religious nature in our society. By means of senory overstimulation–ads, smells, decorations, etc.–they induce people into buying. In fact, Pahl observes that while some 40% of people who go to malls have no intention of buying anything, only about 10% of all visitors leave the mall without having succumbed to the temptation to spend! But he takes this argument further and insists that malls even employ religious archetypes. Water, lighting, trees and other plants, music, and language used in advertising–all these elements come together to give shoppers the feeling that they have entered a sort of consecrated place where they can find what they need for personal fulfillment. Of course, this tactic simply masks malls’ true purpose, which is to get shoppers to part with their cash.

Interestingly, Pahl also notes that the sexes react to malls differently. Women, in his view, tend to be more susceptible to malls’ advertising ploys, especially ads that promote a supposedly ideal body image. Men, on the other hand, tend to dislike malls.

Yet Pahl maintains that despite their drawbacks malls do have some positive features. He even goes so far as to argue that malls have stepped in and filled a social and spiritual gap left by actual places of worship. However, he still warns readers to beware of the materialistic escapism that malls hold out to the public.

I admitted to my students that I never would have considered malls to be in any sense a sacred space–unless you regard them as places to offer a sacrifice of money to the gods of materialism. I also opined that Pahl was perhaps stretching things too far. My students seemed to agree with me. One fellow pointed out that people frequently go to the mall simply for socializing, and one young lady felt his claim that women were more easily enticed by malls than men was inaccurate. Yet the article certainly provides food for thought.

So the next time you visit a mall, stop to consider whether there’s more to the place than just buying and selling. Have malls actually succeeded in providing an environment that’s more inviting than our churches and other places of worship? And can that environment be considered sacred to any degree?

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | November 12, 2012

Monday Message

Fr. Robert Barron comments on how to resist the aggressive secularism confronting us today:

 

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | November 10, 2012

An Oldie, but a Goodie!

Hello, blogosphere friends!

I’ve been taking a long hiatus from the blogging world, mostly due to plain old laziness. But now I’m trying to back into the swing of things! For starters, I’m going to rerun a post I did a long time back. And with the way a lot of people feel in the wake of this week’s election results, perhaps it’s even fitting. So, without further ado, I give to you an oldie (but hopefully a goodie, anyway) about a biblical prophet who had a bone to pick with the Lord:

In a scene in the movie The Apostle, the main character, a preacher, vents his frustrations at God over the hardships he’s going through. He paces around the room, gesticulating forcefully, and yells, “I love you, Lord, I love you, but I’m mad at you. I am mad at you!” That’s pretty gutsy for a mere mortal to talk to the Almighty that way. But in fact, such audacity is not unusual in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In the Bible itself we read of devout people daring to question or express frustrations at God. The biblical prophets in particular will vent their spleen, letting God know they‘re not happy about the way He‘s running things. The book of Habakkuk provides a perfect case study of this.

We know virtually nothing about the prophet Habakkuk. The three-chapter book that bears his name is the eighth in the writings known as the Minor Prophets. Unlike some of the other prophetic books in the Bible, this one contains no biographical information about its author. Nor do we know the date of the book’s composition, though estimates range from the late seventh century to the early sixth century BC. We do know that Habakkuk was a Hebrew from the kingdom of Judah, living at a time when spiritual, social, and political decadence ran rampant among his people. He tackles head on a subject that probably all believers in God wrestle with at some point: Sometimes God’s ways just don’t make sense to us.

Habakkuk sees corruption and immorality around him. What especially troubles him, however, is that evildoers prosper while the just suffer oppression. So he decides to let God know how he feels about the situation, and he doesn‘t mince words: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?” (Hab. 1:2-3a)

Granted, the Hebrews had repeatedly strayed religiously and morally throughout their history. The Bible recounts their pattern of being blessed by God, turning from Him and being punished, then repenting and for a time experiencing God’s favor, only to backslide again. Judah’s sister kingdom, Israel, had flouted God’s commandments so much that He eventually let them be wiped off the map in 722 BC by the Assyrian Empire. Alas, Judah didn’t take this to heart and change its ways. Habakkuk, aware of God’s dealing with His wayward people in former times, wants to know why God seems to be ignoring Judah’s apostasy. Why aren’t the evildoers being punished?

And God replies. Habakkuk need not worry; God will punish Judah for its sins. He lets the prophet in on His plans for accomplishing this. Just as apostate Israel was overrun by a foreign power, so will apostate Judah. The Babylonian empire, under Nebuchadnezzar, would exact God’s judgment. And indeed, this prophecy came true in 587 BC.

So Habakkuk has his answer. However, this answer raises another question. Yes, God will not permit the religious apostasy and social injustice to continue. Nonetheless, Habakkuk finds God’s decision to use the Babylonians as His instrument of punishment downright disturbing. Why? Because as bad as the people of Judah have become, the Babylonians are worse. Their cruelty and idolatry outstrip Judah’s. Habakkuk complains:

“Too pure are you to look upon evil, and the sight of misery you cannot endure. Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself?…Shall he, then, keep on brandishing his sword to slay peoples without mercy?” (1:13)

Again, the prophet asks God to explain Himself, and again, God deigns to give an answer. He lets Habakkuk know that the Babylonians are in fact sowing the seeds of their own ultimate downfall. As we say, “What goes around, comes around.” The Babylonians’ evil ways will eventually fall back upon them. They too will eventually receive their own comeuppance. God assures Habakkuk that His justice will triumph, but it will happen according to God’s timetable, not ours. He explains, “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not come late.” Thus, Habakkuk learns what poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would so beautifully express more than 2000 years later:

Though the mills of God grind slowly,

Yet they grind exceedingly small;

Though with patience he stands waiting,

With exactness grinds he all.

The duty of believers is to remain faithful even in the midst of tribulation and doubt, for, as God promises, “the just man, because of his faith, shall live” (Hab. 2:4b).

In the first two chapter of this short book, Habakkuk presents his questions to God and receives answers. The third chapter consists of a beautiful psalm acknowledging God’s greatness and pledging trust in God regardless of outward circumstances. Its concluding verses proclaim what should be a believer’s attitude in the face of hardships:

“For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God” (3:17-19).

Posted by: L. E. Barnes | November 7, 2012

My Sentiments Exactly

This says it all.

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