Sunday, July 25, 2010

JP 2 We love you!

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Overcoming Sensuality II The Virtue of Fortitude

The Virtue of Temperance helps us, as we have seen, to moderate our behaviors.  It is a natural virtue that we all have.  When we put it into practice, temperance helps us to balance our use of legitimate goods against an inordinate desire for them.  It is easy to say, "moderation in all things", but it is much more difficult to persist.  That is where the virtue of fortitude helps in the overcoming of sensuality.  Rather than be slaves to our emotions and desires, we are capable of taming them so that desires and emotions serve us.  No longer enslaved, we are free to enjoy life, love others and serve God.  

The typical hedonist today does not aspire to anything larger and higher, but settles for "feeling good".  Such a life does not require fortitude.  A truly meaningful life, is determined in regards to man's true end — which is the knowledge and love of God — does indeed require a host of virtues belonging to fortitude.  The virtue of temperance is thus not enough for emotional well-being, since temperance deals with the greatest pleasures, not the greatest difficulties.  Rather, it belongs to fortitude to remove the obstacles that withdraw the will from following reason on account of difficulties that give rise to fear and sorrow.

Catholics believe that the human person ought to love what is larger than himself, namely truth, justice, and the common good of the social whole.  He ought to love the good of the entire civil community so much as to be willing to expose himself to the danger of death for its sake, and we would argue that he ought to love God (who is Truth) more than himself, and be willing to expose himself — not others — to the dangers of death for His sake, that is, for His cause.

St. Thomas writes:

Fortitude strengthens a man's mind against the greatest danger, which is that of death.  Now fortitude is a virtue; and it is essential to virtue to tend to good; wherefore it is in order to pursue some good that man does not fly from the danger of death.  But the dangers of death arising out of sickness, storms at sea, attacks from robbers, and the like, do not seem to come on a man through his pursuing some good.  On the other hand, the dangers of death which occur in battle come to man directly on account of some good, because, to wit, he is defending the common good by a just fight. (ST. II-II.123, a. 5)

What does this have to do with sensuality and lust?  Fortitude enables us to be strong in our use of reason when are passions threaten to enslave.  The battle could be a military one, but more specifically the battle is always a "moral" one.  For the sake of our salvation, for the love of others, for the establishment and strengthening of our wills, and for the good of the family unit we control our desires and appetites.

We love, so we do not let our selfishness hurt others.  We choose the good because God is Good.  Judges who refuse bribes, lawyers who refuse an unjust case, people who refuse revenge, a fireman running into a burning building, a parent giving up material goods and personal pampering for their child, all are using the virtue of fortitude.

Our strength, our fortitude is in the use of reason.  It is not fearlessness, but the willingness to act in spite of fear or actual danger to ourselves. A person who lacks fortitude loves "external goods" and the goods of the body (temporal goods) more than his character, more than the common good, and more than the sovereign good, namely God.  Thus, anything that he/she finds desirable must be had.  If something is pleasurable to such a one, he can see no reason to avoid it.  Excesses of self indulgence follow to the destruction of self and others.

It is also more than just will power.  It is a process of using reason and making a decision.  For Catholics it also means availing ourselves of the Grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit through the Eucharist, other Sacraments, prayer and acts of charity.  

We will still struggle against concupiscence and sensuality, but the struggle will not be hopeless.  Be strong. Be fearless in the battle against sin. Be free. 

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.  Amen

Friday, July 23, 2010

Overcoming Sensulality

A friend asked me to address the issue of sensuality and lust.  The media, Internet, current attitudes toward sex, fashions, and the abundant presence of all the pleasures of life certainly make the struggle more difficult.

Two virtues will help you overcome sensuality --  temperance and fortitude.

Sensuality can show itself as a tendency to seek what is most pleasant or comfortable, even to the point of sacrificing what is truly good. Temperance is the virtue by which grow in our ability to govern desires for pleasure.  

When we practice the virtue of temperance, we call it by different names, depending upon the physical desire that we are restraining. The desire for food is natural and good; but when we develop an inordinate desire for food, we call that the vice of gluttony. 

Likewise, the inordinate indulgence in wine or other alcoholic beverages is called drunkenness, and both gluttony and drunkenness are combated by abstinence, which is temperance applied to our desire for food and drink.

Similarly, we receive pleasure from sexual intercourse, but the desire for that pleasure outside of its proper bounds--that is, outside of marriage, or even inside marriage, when we are not open to the possibility of procreation--is called lust. The practice of temperance regarding sexual pleasure is called chastity.

Temperance is primarily concerned with the control of the desires of the flesh, but when it manifests itself as modesty, it can also restrain the desires of the spirit, such as pride. In all cases, the practice of temperance requires the balancing of legitimate goods against an inordinate desire for them.

Fortitude--next post!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Martha, Martha, Martha

My Jesus, come.  Maranatha.  Come into my home.  Occupy my every thought. Enter my heart.  Let me, like Mary, sit at Your feet and listen to Your Words.   Let me, like Martha, offer you my hospitality and love.  Correct me when I have allowed myself to be distracted or when I become resentful of others.  In that loving correction, Martha became a Saint.  Boldly, but humbly, I beg you my Lord, give me the grace to endure that which will make me a saint.  

Then Lord, help me to see in all people Your Most Holy Face, that I may likewise extend to them the same hospitality.   Let me serve with joy, and never grudgingly.  It is true that we can toil grudgingly.  We can serve grudgingly.  We can even, at times, Lord forgive us, pray grudgingly.  It is not possible to love grudgingly.  Mary chose the better part, not because she chose listening over doing, but because she chose love over resentment and grand-standing.  

Let all I do be done in this sweet spirit of being with You.  AMEN.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July is the Month of the Precious Blood of Jesus

O if we only would know and claim the marvelous Gift that our Lord has given us in His Precious Blood.  His Blood shed for us on the Cross washed away our sins and freed us from the bondage of iniquity.  We receive His Precious Blood every time we go to Holy Communion.  The Scriptures record the words of Jesus regarding His Blood:  

"This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:20).

As if that were not enough, the Lord Jesus gives us a further gift in His Blood.  The biblical image is that of "sprinkling".  David Wilkerson writes,

The first biblical reference to the sprinkling of blood is in Exodus 12:22. The Israelites were commanded to take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood of a slain lamb, and sprinkle it onto the lintel and two side-posts of their front door. That night, when the death angel came and saw the blood on the door posts, he would pass over the house.

Please understand -- as long as the blood was left in the basin, it was of no effect; it was merely blood that had been shed. The blood had power to save only when it was lifted out of the basin and sprinkled!

Why couldn't the Israelites have simply laid the basin of blood at the threshold and said, "It doesn't matter what we do with it. After all, blood is blood"? Suppose they had put the basin on a linen-covered table, or on a pedestal just inside the door?

I'll tell you what would have happened: The death angel would have struck that home! The blood had to be lifted out of the basin and sprinkled on the door to fulfill its purpose of protection.

Likewise, the Blood that Jesus shed on Calvary and the Precious Blood He continues to give us in Holy Communion not only saves but also PROTECTS US!

But we have to "sprinkle" ourselves with this protective blood.  If we are to experience the power and protection of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity we have received, We cannot just casually receive it at Church and then leave it in the basin of our hearts.  It needs to be "sprinkled"!

How do we "sprinkle" this Precious Blood?  First we must faithfully and consciously receive Him.  We receive Him faithfully by knowing and accepting that it is His Body and Blood that we receive and no mere symbolic representation.  We receive Him consciously when we not only eat and drink the Eucharist, but do so while praying for Him and His truth to come into our hearts.  We must ask that the Precious Blood not only saves us, but protects us from the snares of the Devil.  We ask for the angle of death and the culture of death to pass over us.  Our hearts and minds sprinkled with the Precious Blood will prevent any evil from entering in.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Boy And His Dog

I have finally been trained. Fear of hell and love of God sometimes fail to get me to move my big behind off the couch. There are times I will even sit in front of my computer, getting more and more hungry, but will not get up to make dinner. This may be a bit delicate, but I will not move from my spot until my bladder threatens to overflow AND I am in pain! But... one little whimper from my dog Dina and I am up and at-em.

I don't really understand why I am so attached to this creature. She is a sheltie, aka a shetland sheep dog, who would never qualify as a show dog. She sheds. She, like her owner, is overweight. Her oversensitive stomach results in frequent eruptions from one end or the other that require her human to fetch cleaner and paper towels. She sheds. She wants to play when I am tired. She does not fetch my slippers. She barks at the slightest noise outside. And did I mention, she sheds?

I do know that she is attached to me. Perhaps that is why I love her so. If I am sad, she will sit or lie at my feet for hours. If I turn on the TV she will sigh and resign herself to being ignored for an hour or so unless her bladder threatens to overflow! I didn't teach her how to do any of these things. It is just the way she loves.

I've often thought that I should preach a homily at Mass suggesting that my Catholic brothers and sisters need to be like my dog. I don't think that would go over very well. I do think, however, that if we all treated each other with the same regard and devotion that my dog, Dina, has for me the world would be a dog-gone great place to live!