Tag Archives: St. john Paul 11

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grounded 9

‘The dignity of every woman is the responsibility of every man.’
St. John Paul 11, Theology of the Body

The test of my love lies in marriage; it is revealed in the eyes and heart of a person, a woman, my bride.

I will not be judged on my ministry gifts; these I exercise freely and receive some reward from others who value a snapshot, a post card, an edited glimpse of me.

Annette witnesses the whole broken image, or rather a series of images—the unrated miniseries without end. God keep her.

Marriage casts a searchlight that reveals the delightful, dirty dance—how we bless and bedevil each other with our love, or lack thereof—the hopes and fears of all these years, 39 and counting for this marriage. Sure, there are gaps, every marriage has them, but also treasures hidden from others that confirm two persons’ best selves and establish home on earth.

I love what for me is the apex of Theology of the Body: John Paul exhorts marrieds to not reduce sexuality to orgasm but rather to recognize and savor the extraordinary sexual essence of her womanhood, his manhood—the person behind the passion. A whole-enough marriage summons that essence and gifts each party with the other.

The other day, after two virus-inspired travel-free months, enjoying very much the rhythm of Annette and my uninterrupted life together, I noticed something: Annette’s peace. She looked lovely, at ease, a little playful. She was grounded because her husband was. I fell in love again.

Truth is, we married, committed to a long stint in grad school and baby-making, then I took off on a runway and never looked back. (I’ve accrued nearly 3 million miles with one airline.) Racing around the world may be good for the Kingdom but hell on a marriage. Annette learned how to partner with me from a distance. Costly. Our syncopated rhythm has not served her well. Her reward is heavenly, mine purgatorial. Who said life was fair? Mercy trumps justice!

Normal anxieties aside, she is more beautiful when her man is around. You could say the pandemic invited Annette to breathe. I savor the gift.

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Grounded 7

Authority arises from intimacy. And intimacy is about spending time with the beloved, lovers lingering together until…

Who knows? How long the lockdown? Next week? Month? When will the roar of ‘normal’ goad us into frantic action and dull our ardor for Him?

Not inclined to rush these days, I am quieted by Love. Deeper than human need, no doubt provoked by it, my hunger welcomes Jesus. He apprehends the ache and surrounds it. He is my desire, the only One who holds my gaze and eases my grasp on lesser objects.

I’ve no planes to catch, no early morning deadlines to deplete me before breakfast. I awake in the dark, rested and expectant, ready for Love. I light candles on the family ‘altar.’ Heavenly bodies beckon to me—Joseph protecting Mary and Son, St. John Paul ll praying for all to conceive new life in Jesus, then the Man Himself, His open body (envisioned by both St. Francis and Faustina) releasing yet again that river of Life. Only His climactic gift can cleanse and restore me.

I remain there for a couple hours until sunrise. Sort of lost in Love. I know that no-one loves me like He does but I tend to forfeit that grace by limiting love to a few minutes, often spent in wordy devotions. Done, box checked. Not the way to live in love; any long-married person will tell you that. Why do we treat Jesus worse than a long-suffering spouse?

Will the way change when the walls to the world come down? Hope not. Maybe I will proceed like I am loved, not stumbling over the debris that derides me. Maybe. To be strong is to be lovesick, overcome in the watches of the night.

I close with lyrics of a simple song—’Draw Me Close to You’–one I sing constantly, quietly, to Jesus:

‘Draw me close to You, never let me go. I lay it all down again, to hear You say that I’m your friend. You are my desire; no-one else will do. For nothing else could take Your place, to feel the warmth of Your embrace. Help me find a way, lead me back to You.’

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Fierce, Tender Love

‘Each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.’ (Neh.4:18)

Fighting for wholeness is at once a personal and corporate battle. We help others refuse daily the lure of familiar gods while we strategize to stop the advance of enemy armies. Like the rebuilders of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time, we heal with one hand and lance demons with the other.

Poland understands this well. The most powerful Catholic nation in Europe, she refuses to bow the knee to the LGBT+ juggernaut that has all but brought Western Europe to its knees. For example, France is mounting a national bill that would criminalize helpers who accompany persons beyond the rainbow curtain.

I just returned from Poland where we visited several Archbishops—gatekeepers of the Church who welcomed us. Like all church leaders, they are aware of the abuses and scandals of hypocrisy in their ranks. And they hold fast to how Jesus offers the better way to all who surrender to Him. They will not tolerate sexual identities built on a fault-line, incapable of engendering life.

What they did not know was how Jesus is transforming sinners like you and me, persons painfully aware of the wound but now immersed in the Mercy that has become our freedom, our wholeness, the gift we offer others out of gratitude.

Yes, we concurred; we must resist false ideologies. But at the same time, we must heal our divided members. We boldly proclaimed how this Church has become for us—and we for her—a community of healing capable of routing foreign armies. Ours is her deep wellspring of mercy for good Catholics harassed by idols and demons who seek chastity, not politicized ‘identities.’

We experienced the fierce and tender intercession of our Polish patrons—St. John Paul ll who ever displays the beauty of man for woman, woman for man, and St. Faustina who insists on Jesus’ mercy conquering all counterfeits.

These Church warriors teared up as they heard our stories: we declared to them: ‘We are the Church—members of Jesus—witnesses of wholeness and now healers poised to dig deep wells of mercy in every diocese of this great land.’

We were heard; we were welcomed. ‘Make Your Church in Poland a beacon of healing for all of Europe and beyond, Almighty King and Author of Mercy.’

‘I do not have time to tell about… [those] whose weaknesses were turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.’
(Heb. 11:32-34)

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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liberating chastity

Liberating Chastity

Chastity has taken a lot of hits lately. Many would deem this ‘successful integration of sexuality within the person’ (#2337) a failure, the prospects dim for unifying one’s best spiritual aspirations with bodily desires. As Church sexual abuse scandals drone on like a dirge, we are stumbled in our stewardship of ‘these powers of life and love.’ If our fathers who claim to represent Jesus have faltered to the point of wrecking children’s lives, and their fathers (bishops) cover for them in order to defend ‘holy’ banks and appearances, what hope for us?

Hypocrisy fires our anger, which readily goes south to ignite dark longings for justifying our own lusts—you screw up ‘holy’ man, I’ll screw up worse!

Eloquent fools rush in. I just read with sobriety and incredulity LGBT activist Frederic Martel’s ‘outing’ of the last four popes and their Roman administrations: ‘In the Closet of the Vatican.’ Pretty intense stuff; more later. What alerted me to Martel’s interpretive key was this one line skewering Pope Emeritus Benedict, whose commitment to sexual orthodoxy is consistent and much hated: ‘He was haunted by the fact that someone else might be having pleasure…’

Huh. That’s Benedict’s legacy, his own chaste life (and there’s no evidence to the contrary) so curdled by conflictual desires that he spends his life spoiling others’ ‘gay’ revelry? That’s Martel’s cause and cure: ‘out’ these collared hypocrites and party on! Unwittingly, Martel ‘outs’ himself and shows he knows nothing about genuine chastity. Only in discovering more about this misunderstood virtue can we rescue it from such a caricature.

Chastity is about uniting the good of our bodily desires for pleasure and creativity with a desire to dignify other lives. This is not a virtue of children but of adults who must lay aside childish things in order to own good and lusty longing for human connection then decide, with ongoing training, to assert the upper hand on what drives them; desires channeled to achieve life, not destroy fun.

No stranger to lust-propulsion, I through Jesus’ mercy discovered a longing greater than sexy idols—that is, a peaceful composure that invited me to explore a range of relationships fully-clothed in which I learned to open my mouth and heart, not my pants. It was fun–pleasurable, if not sensational. I grew up without sensual limits so biblical boundaries saved me. A clear unbiased reading of Scripture led me to conclude that ‘Jesus committed to only one model of sexual union, opposite-gender monogamy…He regarded all sexual activity outside of marriage to one person of the opposite gender as capable of jeopardizing one’s entrance into the Kingdom.’ (‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’, Dr. Robert Gagnon). To follow Him meant to commit to the same. Scary stuff.

Yet I needed the fear of God in regards to what I did with my body, precisely because of its impact on others. Masturbation hid me from others, porn demonized my vision of God’s children, and immoral acts violated the trust of holy friendships.

Two keys from the work of St. John Paul ll helped transform fear into expectancy. The first is his philosophical ‘personalism’ which invites all persons into an interior journey toward actualizing the truth in their lives, one that requires self-awareness and commitment to a process of development. Chastity, endowed by this ‘personalism’, is ‘how the subjective desires of the heart come into harmony with the objective norm’ (Christopher West).

That norm involved acting upon the second key. I learned through Theology of the Body that I was a ‘gift’ to others and that my design, however damaged by homosexual lust, was still inclined toward the other gift: woman. Then I discovered a pretty good relationship with a real one; I marveled at the difference between lust-propulsion and the emerging chastity in me that could open to Annette’s gender gift and grow to appreciate its exquisite rhythms. As I did, sexual ardor increased in a way that I can only describe as integrated. St. John Paul ll’s insists that chastity applies as readily to marrieds as to singles. We do not marry in order to avoid or channel lust; Jesus calls us in the spirit of St. Paul to love her like Jesus loves His Church. That requires nothing less than integration—the gift of slow-growing chastity.

Hypocrites and rumors of hypocrites aside, I can take responsibility for my own happiness. That requires loving free from the fetters of childish desires. Chastity liberates that happiness. Long may she live and grow in us.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Saved by Beauty

‘This aspiration—born of love—is a search for integral beauty, for purity free from stain. It is a search for perfection that contains a synthesis of human beauty—body and soul.’ (Theology of the Body, St. John Paul ll)

As she sat in the morning light, hair shining silver, I realized that she had never been lovelier. All the years together, just shy of 40—and she more dignified and womanly than ever. I thought of the Rogers and Hammerstein lyric: ‘Do I love you because you are beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?’ and concluded nothing except life means little without her. Beautiful Annette, or better put, beautiful marriage, saved me.

Isn’t that idolatry? Doesn’t only Jesus save? Of course, only one Savior, but Jesus has given marriage power to permeate its players with His very Presence in a way that saves man and woman through their communion—body, soul, spirit. St. Paul likens sexual fusion between husband and wife to the ‘great mystery’ of Christ’s union with the Church. For years now, I have participated in this most holy, earthy communion with another; in so doing, Annette and I share in Jesus infusing His Church with divine presence. As Annette and I permeate each other with our self-giving, we are being saved—made holy through love as we ‘submit to each other out of reverence for Jesus’ (Eph. 5:21).

This flies in the face of charges—laughably foolish—that any person who has same-sex attraction cannot be redeemed in his or her sexuality. I came across an ad for the film ‘Boy Erased’ that ominously read: ‘The truth cannot be converted…’ Du, du, du, dumb. Talk about an inverted, uninspired worldview!

As our common enemy would have it, homosexuality, the big ‘H’, now subordinates Jesus to little ‘j’. For every sheep that drank the cool-aid and now believes all we can do for the LGBT+ set is to agree with their divided, sterile identifications—hear this: Jesus redeems us for beauty! And that means He has power to enable sinners from any fractured starting point to join the dance of life. Marital love with Jesus at center redeems persons who participate in it.

‘Boy Erased’ and the trendy assault on anyone who efforts to grow beyond sexual illusion reveal a loss of vision for human creativity and dignity. Not beautiful Jesus; He has never lost sight nor power to summon what He sees. That takes disciplined response, of course. Any good thing does. Becoming who I am is hard yet deeply fulfilling. I am not even tempted to trade my marriage and its unitive, creative power for a weird friendship with a dude. I was created and redeemed for beauty. Beauty saved me.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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