Saturday, July 22, 2006
I Don't Want To Be Right" - Lyrics, Barbara Mandrell, my favorite version sung by Luther Ingram.
"If loving you is wrong I don't wanna be right
If being right means being without you
I'd rather live a wrong doing life."
(Pictured, Giotto's allegory of "Infidelity" Scrovegni Chapel.)
So why do men cheat? Have they stopped loving their wives? Or is it "The being in love that makes them high" as the Michael Jackson song says? Then again, it could be what Loretta's mother said in "Moonstruck" - men are afraid of death, so they cheat. I think it's that simple in some respects and yet a whole lot more complicated, albeit motives may vary from case to case. I'll just "think out loud" on this one however.
In many cases I believe the "new promiscuous" for youth has it's roots in the "old promiscuous" of dad, or more frequently now days, of a mom. However, I'm focusing on the guys for this post. If there is a disorder, if there is something a guy is doing on the side, "hurting no one" as they say, he's wrong. Disorder begets disorder. It impacts those nearest the unfaithful parent even if it is unacknowledged. Like alcoholism, there is enabling going on, denial - all the co-dependent stuff associated with the addiction. I've seen it. In my own family and the families of others. The guy who cheats is no longer present to his family or significant other - he's "excommunicated" himself as it were.
Like I've said, I've seen what happens. The dad is gone at key times, or late coming home - he's absentee. The mom is upset about it, tense and unhappy, resentful and passive aggressive, or she is in such denial, she works, shops, cleans, drinks, goes to Church - does something - compulsively to cope. She emotionally withdraws from the situation - or worse - overcompensates for the absence of the dad. Often no one ever acknowledges there is a problem, it gets repressed and everyone goes into denial mode. It screws up the kids - boys and girls. Especially when other addictions are involved.
So why do men cheat? In many cases I think there is a lack of self-esteem, they feel like a failure - or they are afraid they will be a failure. They may be overwhelmed with the stress of work and family life and seek an escape. That fear of death thing isn't that off the wall. Death represents failure, preceeded by growing older and imagining oneself inadequate, no longer needed, etc. There are manifold components to this. Then of course there is just plain lust, that is so often mistaken for love, as evidenced by celebrities such as Donald Trump or film and pop stars, who have an endless string of marriages and divorces. The gratification in having someone that desires you sexually is a powerful aphrodisiac - more appealing in the moment than the presidency of the United States (obviously) or the love and devotion of home and kin, or even a new sports car - its an ego thang!
Whether there is a mistress or just a chain of more or less anonymous sexual encounters, the guy has chosen to resolve conflict in this manner, seeking affirmation and validation through a physical act. Sometimes, as in an affair, there is also a level of emotional involvement, often mistaken for love when it is really infatuation or inordinate affection and attachment at best. The guy may feel more appreciated or loved by his new paramour. As time and encounters go by he reinforces theses feelings by lavishing gifts and favors. It's a power trip, as well as a control thing - something a man sometimes does when he feels he has been undermined in a relationship or situation, or when he senses the passion has died out in his current marriage. It can happen when both parties take one another for granted, and often enough, in today's culture, the wife finds herself the dominate wage earner or may have a better position in the work force. Again this becomes hugely apparent in the exaggerated reality of celebrities lives; break-ups occur when one party becomes more successful than the other and one of them is caught cheating - it's a compensation thing, I'm sure. I think it applies to ordinary couples as well. The cheating is a form of declaring one's independence, while shirking responsibilty, as well as betraying commitment, all the while insisting that he loves his wife. It hurts the person one is having the affair with and it destroys families, while harming emotional and moral stability. It's a moral dilemma, as such, it is not a 'victimless crime' and contributes to the further errosion of culture as well.
Ultimately, it boils down to men indulging the "joy of the will in natural goods" without directing and consecrating this joy to God. St. John of the Cross speaks indirectly of these things in "The Ascent of Mt Carmel" Book Three, Chapter 22. He likens this indulgence (by analogy, of infidelity) to drinking of the cup of the whore of Babylon when he asks;
"Who fails to drink little or much from the golden chalice of the Babylonian woman of the Apocalypse [Rev. 17:4]?
Going on to explain the harms that result;
"No matter how small the amount of this wine of joy, it immediately takes hold on the heart and subdues it, producing obscurity in the reason, as happens with those who get drunk from wine...
Spiritual weakness will augment and bring such evil on the soul that it will find itself a captive of its enemies, grinding at the mill like Samson with his eyes plucked out and the hair of his first strength cut. And afterward it (the soul) will perhaps die the second death as he (Samson) did together with his enemies."
In the end, promiscuous behavior and infidelity become so habituated, that it may seem to be an addiction. Repentance followed by frequent confession, with prayer and the Eucharist are the steps one must take in order to amend one's life and begin to repair the damage done to family and friends.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Girls just want to have fun - so do boys!
So my earlier post, "The low spark of low rise pants" about chastity and boys didn't impress anyone much. Maybe it was too frank, maybe no one cares. However I think that I am not the only Christian that finds a problem with youthful moral standards, read on:
What is happening with our teens? According to researchers at Yale and Columbia University teens pledging virginity until marriage are just as likely to have STDs as their peers. The reason for this is “technical virginity,” a loophole found by an increasing number of teen girls which allows them to do “everything but” intercourse and still claim virginity. This reasoning is insidiously attacking the bodies and minds of our young people, and is re-enforced through today’s popular celebrities." [snip] Haley DiMarco, "The New Promiscuous"
"And I just want to have a good time!" from 'Runaway' - Janet Jackson
So, what have I been saying...hello! Anyone out there listening?
Holy Father at the Great St. Bernard Pass on his vacation in the Alps.
He is so unobtrusive, so meek and mild, not flaunting himself or creating a stir when he travels. Unannounced, without fanfare, he visited Switzerland and a couple of monasteries. Can you imagine their delight when they learned the Holy Father was at the door?
I love this Pope!
Monday, July 17, 2006
(Title adapted from Steve Winwood and Traffic - "The low spark of high heeled boys." very cool '70's song.)
Guys and Chastity.
So, "how does a young man remain sinless" (Psalm 119) in the summertime? First of all he should pull his pants up and probably not shop at Abercrombie & Fitch - although they have the coolest clothes - that sometimes look like they came out of the dumpster - but they are cool.
This post is obviously only for guys interested in, or striving for chastity. A lot of young guys think it is impossible to remain chaste. Some think that they are chaste and celibate if they simply refrain from vaginal intercourse. We learned from the Clinton-Lewinski affair that many young people do not consider oral sex or masturbation "sex". These kids can't be Catholics however, can they? Yeah, I think there are Catholic kids with a messed up understanding of what sex is, and they probably do not see the need for confession either.
I could talk here about 'urban wear' and 'beach wear' or "club wear", and all sorts of suggestive and immodest fashions, but that's pretty obvious to everyone, right? Well, even if it isn't, I'm not going there. We all should know that minimal clothing is seductive. We know movies and TV and MTV is sexualized beyond belief. Music as well. Some of the rap and pop music pretty much glorify certain sex acts as well as promiscuous and lesbian behavior. (The homo stuff just isn't cool for guys - thank God.) Watch the Music Awards shows - it's pretty graphic choreography. So kids are surrounded by sex - you hear it in their language, and the age level is getting younger all of the time.
So how does any guy remain sinless? Especially in the age of Viagra? Confession, confession, confession - the Sacrament of Reconciliation - as often as needed. Frequenting the Sacrament with contrition - and a firm purpose of amendment of course - even if it seems like you 'can't' amend, or do not 'feel' like you can - try and understand that you 'will' it. Holiness is in the will.
Daily prayer, especially the rosary, and daily Mass when possible. Mental prayer or meditation is essential - where the daily examination of conscience is an obligatory component. Another good form of prayer is Lectio Divina - which is meditation/mental prayer and reading scripture all rolled into one. The other means is the practice of recollection outside the time of prayer; keeping one's self in the presence of God through short little prayers or aspirations, using the name of Jesus, and most especially, by frequent spiritual communions. Spiritual communion renews our awareness of Christ's presence in the Eucharist and renews our communion with him in "His silent loving action in the Eucharist" - at work in us through our explicit desire - thus His presence in us is "at work to accomplish infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine." Then, try to spend some time each week or more in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in adoration or simply enjoying to be in His presence. Cultivate devotion, confidence and love. Check out John Paul's book, "Theology of the Body" or other good commentaries on it, the book clears up many things concerning sex.
Some guys get themselves habituated to certain sins. All men, especially young men, have to be aware of their own bodies - not just to pump up, or how they are dressing themselves - but their biology and psychology. Our sexuality is a good thing and has one purpose, that of procreation. So many young people have problems with "delaying gratification" in a culture where everything is immediate. Men have built in release valves as it were. The temptation to masturbate goes away if you occupy yourself with something else - anything to take the focus off "it" - if you know what I mean. (Although, I don't see how that is possible with some kids who walk around the streets pulling at themselves all of the time - what a disgusting habit picked up from rap artists and other street trash. Don't ever do that!) Men's bodies have a natural release, it's politely referred to as 'nocturnal emissions'. Men do not have to masturbate. It won't 'fall off' or 'wither up' if you don't use it, as some proponents suggest in a round about way by saying it could lead to prostate cancer. Nonsense! The devil likes to suggest these things as well, it's ludicrous. (In the way of perfection, even natural responses from one's body ought not to be sought and one must remain detached from the pleasure, yet unperturbed when it occurs. And do not let your mind or the devil try to trick you into thinking the experience is a sin because you experienced pleasure - that is often a trick to keep you in that sexually charged moment and an invitation to commit a sin auto-erotically. )
As for other types of acting out sexually, these may have a compulsive dimension as well. One has to work at it. But never focus or dwell on the temptation or the act - it takes hold that way. Let impure thoughts go in one ear and out the other, don't focus. Sometimes they stick in the mind - don't focus on them, go on as if they are not there. (Don't get all uptight and try to repress them however, it makes them worse, be calm and let them blow away like "leaves on a windy day".) And if you feel like you've sinned by entertaining the thoughts - don't let your body or the devil convince you that you have already sinned gravely so you may as well go all the way. That is so much his best trick. The other really bad trick of his is, if you do fall, he suggests doing it again, since you've already sinned anyway. Every consent to his wicked suggestions forges another link in his chain - break it immediately through an act of contrition and go to confession as soon as you can. These acts of humility and repentance are your arms in battle, with trust in the Divine Mercy of course. That reminds me, pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy, even if you are steeped in sin, Jesus promised He would not fail to grant His grace and mercy to "even the most hardened sinner, even if he were to recite the chaplet only once." It is a very powerful prayer.
Maybe you've never heard of it, but there is a mortification referred to as custody of the eyes. It's when you keep from indulging your curiosity about things, the practice trains you to control your "wandering eyes". It can be exercized by not watching TV, or not listening to certain music at times, or not checking some one out on the street or at the beach. As you drive, ride or walk, or are just sitting there, you're going to see someone with a great body and perhaps little on it. You saw it, maybe you looked twice, it's not a sin - even though your body may have reacted. Take that reaction as a warning, divert your attention, move on, jump in the pool - do something. But do it without anxiety and without over reaction. Gradually one learns to not objectify and sexualize everybody and everything, especially if you do not make your body and other peoples body "an idol". There is a certain amount of idolotry in our culture that is directed toward the body. We live in a time wherein the most obvious sign of outward devotion may be properly called, "the cult of the body". We've got to stop our "sacrificing to idols" - a pagan custom revived in our day not unlike that which prospered in ancient Rome and Greece.
One more thing - never ever indulge in pornography - do not even have it near you. No magazines, no videos or DVDs, no nothing. The imprint upon the memory and imagination is powerful and diabolical. If you come across it you can't help the fact that you saw it, but do not let yourself get into it. Move along. Mortal sin is committed only when you willingly and deliberately entertain yourself with it, look at it or watch it indulgently, or act upon it. To see it accidently or even look with some curiosity, yet then to reject it - even though your body may have reacted - is not grave sin, don't get tricked into going further. But never have it around or buy it.
Be patient - but not too patient with yourself, remain calm, ask for help in prayer, keep going to confession and never give up. Chastity is possible - even in the summertime - and maybe even in Los Angeles.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
The Holy Father vacationing at John Paul's old retreat. It looks like Pope Benedict wears the soutane even on vacation - while he hikes around the mountains.
No wonder that many young priests and seminarians are so eager to wear the cassock around town these days. I like it now! (Please guys, just don't wear a cape - a nice long coat in the winter is so much better.)
I know a really cool priest who wears it even when he motorcycles around town - he tucks it under his leather jacket - wearing jeans underneath of course.
When I was in the monastery, Fr. Maurus died of cancer. Trappists do not embalm normally, nor do they use coffins. What is lovely about a monastic death is that the community assembles around the dying, praying. When the person dies, his body is placed in the chapel and monks keep vigil around the clock until the funeral. In Fr. Maurus' case, the funeral had to be delayed for relatives who were coming from a great distance to attend. Fr. Maurus began to deteriorate, the cancer or medicines began to smell foul. We burned incense to cover the odor, but it did little good. It reminded me of the "Brothers Karamozov" where the monk who had died decomposed and the people were disappointed as if this indicated he had not been a saint.
I hadn't known Fr. Maurus very well, but he was always kind and seemed an exemplary monk. He visually reprimanded me one evening as we novices were going upstairs to our cells and I started silently playing like the kids from "The Sound of Music" on the stairs, making everyone laugh out loud. I wasn't aware that Fr. Maurus was behind us, he gave me a severe look. I was sure he'd vote against my acceptance when it came time.
Yet there he lay, a corpse, before he had the chance. Instead of feeling disliked by him as I knelt reciting the psalter with my brother, I felt his warmth and kindness, I can almost smell that sickenly sweet odor of his rapidly decomposing body as I write.
At Mass today I thought of him again. The responsorial psalm was one of the psalms I prayed at Fr. Maurus' feet.
"Kindness and truth shall meet;
Justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven." -Psalm 85
It was at this verse that I understood something of the monk's life and that of the cross. It seemed to me that this passage contained the meaning of what happened on Calvary. The intersection of "kindness and truth" with "justice and peace" formed the cross, that cross of Jesus crucified, "the root of Jesse has blossomed" with the crimson corpse of the Divine Son, while justice has looked down from heaven, like that scene in Gibson's film, "The Passion", where that huge drop of water, that tear falls from Heaven, from the Divine Father.
"Kindness and truth" - Mercy and humility.
"Justice and peace" - Doing what is right, which is the way of peace.
Since then, suffering has had greater meaning for me, while I look upon this insight as a personal legacy to me from Fr. Maurus.
Later I thought of yesterday's post and Fr. Maurus' silent rebuke that night long ago. I always want to be funny. Last night I posted on that priest (Fr. Fay) because I wanted to insert the "Brainerd Cash Call" into one of my posts, at that poor guy's expense. If only the truth I could keep focused upon would remain Jesus and Him Crucified. One knows these things yet one never seems to learn.
I considered that perhaps Fr. Fay may have "sold his birthright for a meal" as Essau had, yet Fr. Fay can gain back his inheritance through repentance, as did the Prodigal Son. Let's pray for Fr. Fay and for all priests. Especially for those who prefer anything at all to the love of Christ.
And may the soul of Fr. Maurus and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Mea culpa!