10 Ways of Living as a Son of God

Mass on Ramapo Mountain

  1. God literally died for you. You are a son of God and you get your worth from His love for you. God willed your existence out of love. You are not just a product of chance. God willed YOUR existence, He created you exactly as you are, and He loves you as you are. He sees you as His son, and wants to see you prosper and live with the fullness of life that He wants for you. Jesus said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” in John 10:10. That’s pretty cool, huh?! And I haven’t even hit on the part about Jesus dying for us. He thought that we were worth dying for even though we had already messed up. So remember that even when things aren’t going well, Jesus believes in you and wants to give you another chance.
  1. Men are called to serve and protect. In the story of Adam and Eve, after Adam is created, “God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). God gave Adam and all men this duty, to “cultivate and care” for all of the Earth. This includes all of the plants and animals, but most importantly all of humanity. The Hebrew translation of “cultivate and care” is the word “Shamar,” which means to protect and keep.  So God wasn’t just giving us a job of being gardeners, but being protectors of all of God’s creation.  Our job is to honor God in all that we do and to selflessly serve and protect all others in our care, our wives, our families, our communities, those in need, and to even care for nature too, as  Pope Francis has put out so beautifully in his latest encyclical, Laudato Si.  A man is called to sacrifice of himself for others. Our ultimate model of manhood is Jesus Himself, and He gave us a very clear message that we need to put ourselves last in serving others. Sometimes this is in very heroic ways, like soldiers, police officers, and firemen. But we can also give of ourselves for others in everyday matters, like going out of our way to help a friend or someone in need, letting people go before us in lines, and making time to spend with your family instead doing what you want.
  1. Your masculinity doesn’t depend on what you look like. In our culture, there are these lies that in order to be a true man, we need to be super big and ripped. We see this all over: on sports, in commercials, in the locker room. This is a lie. Some men are naturally skinny or overweight, this has no bearing on their manhood. Sure, it is healthy to be in shape and to be able to do some heavy physical labor, but don’t be tempted to think any less of yourself if you don’t have big muscles. God judges us for what we do, not what we look like. In addition, remember that you can act like a man even when you are relatively young. Don’t let your elders convince you that just because you’re young, you’re destined to make mistakes and fail until you’re older. There are plenty of 10 year old boys who live much more manly lives than 40 year olds, by pursuing virtue and excellence in everything that they do.
  1. Pursuing virtue. Once I was privileged enough to attend a talk specifically on manliness at a Catholic conference (another shout-out to FOCUS!), and I was surprised to learn within the first few minutes that the essence of manliness is simply cultivating and living the virtues. Ultimately, this post could simply be about the 7 virtues, but I guess I wanted to flesh them out a little bit more for the sake of making them a bit more practical. The Catholic Gentleman has a wonderful post that highlights the importance of virtue that I would highly recommend, but the 7 virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope, and charity. The first 4 are called cardinal virtues that we can train ourselves in, and the final 3 are called theological virtues which are gifts from God. In your own life, your best bet is to pick out one of the cardinal virtues at a time, research them so that you can understand them, and then continuously work at attaining them. As for the theological virtues, your best bet is to take those into prayer each day, asking God for those gifts. He will provide.
  1. Treating women right. One of the easiest ways to distinguish a man from a boy is how he treats women. A man always treats women with respect, seeing them as a human being with their own life, needs, relationships, and feelings. Boys are sometimes tempted to use women, for their bodies, for a sense of emotional comfort, for power, etc. One of those general rules of thumb to apply here is to see every woman as your mother, sister, daughter, etc. This includes women that you see on screens and images. Would you treat one of them the way that you are treating this stranger? And beware, pornography may seem harmless at first, but it has a crippling effect on you and your relationships with the more beautiful sex. A huge way that we can honor women is by having chaste relationships with them. Save sex for marriage, and make sure to draw the line clearly with how physical you BOTH feel comfortable being with each other if you’re in a committed relationship. Save the “test drive” for cars, because women are so much better than that. It’s an insult to even compare them to cars. If you aren’t willing to lay down your life for them for the rest of your life, you have no right to a “test drive,” this is a go big or go home issue. On a lighter note, some things that I love to see men do for women is to open doors for them, let them eat first, paying for a date, listening attentively, and not talking down to them- especially with regards to subjects like sports and cars where the stereotype is that women don’t know anything about that. Oh yea, and if you’re Catholic, letting your wife / girlfriend / children go before you to receive Holy Communion. What a better way of sacrifice then letting them receive Jesus first?!
  1. True to our promises. A man is as good as his word, goes the common saying. “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation,” warns St. James in James 5:12. How often have you been affected by this in others? One of the most common issues where we see this in the 21st century is Facebook events. I’m guilty of putting “maybe” down for about 5 events in a row, only to never change to yes or no and never showing up. Doing that hurts my friends who went out of their way to invite me and don’t have any idea if I’m coming or not! And this can be applied to greater things, too.. How many times have we encountered people who are always promising to do things and never follow through? We stop taking that person seriously, don’t we? Perhaps the most important promises that affect each one of us are wedding vows. Each one of us has a mom and a dad. And most of our parents, at least at one point in time, were married. They promised to be love and serve each other, through good times and bad. They promised to be faithful to each other for their entire lives. They promised to marry each other for life. Yet, unfortunately, about half of marriages end in divorce. Dang. Talk about a broken promise. Think… they promised that they would love and serve each other in both good times and in bad. So as much as I feel for couples going through difficult marriages, divorce never really was an option according to their vows. Unfortunately these affects have wounded countless numbers of young people in my generation, who are now the likely generation in recent memory to ever get married. There is hurt everywhere because of broken promises. Long story short, a man keeps his word, even if it is very difficult. Even if just each of us as individuals try to get a little better on this, I think it would go a long way in changing the world.
  1. Taking the initiative to pursue a woman. For young men, assuming that you aren’t called to the priesthood or religious life, one of the most exhilarating times of our lives is attempting to win a woman’s heart. Notice how I used the words “pursue” and “win”, verbs that imply that you actually try. You don’t usually find the woman of your dreams by just sitting around waiting for her to walk through your door, but by going out and living life, and meeting her doing the same sort of things that you like to do. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and ask out a woman that you’re interested in! Rejection stings, but you’ll never have a shot if you don’t ask! Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of young women out there looking for relationships and potential husbands, but not many men going out and asking them. Instead, our culture has made hooking up seem like a normal thing to do. This is no way to treat a woman, to use her for her body with no thoughts for who she actually is as a person… to just try and get messed up enough that you don’t even know what you’re doing. That’s not being a man, that’s being an animal. A man goes out of his way to protect women and treat them with respect. The end goal of a relationship isn’t sex or physical pleasure. The end goal of a relationship is life-long friendship, love, and helping each other become closer to Christ. Kids are nice too, when we’re talking about marriage 😉
  1. Be sharpened by other men. Man was not created to be alone. We were actually created for community. I’ve already mentioned some cool things about relationships with women, but in general fraternal friendships are just as important! Jesus recognized this when He gave us the Church. It wasn’t just Peter alone who continued Jesus’ mission on bringing God’s Kingdom to earth in the Church, but the 12 Apostles, and the 72 Disciples, and countless others! Jesus founded the Church as a community, and it grew as a community. We are all the Body of Christ, and we are stronger together as a “body” as opposed to “a lone ear” or “a finger and two toes.” A pretty cool bible verse that highlights this is Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.” Of course this applies to women too, but I love the imagery of iron here and I think it speaks very clearly to men. When I am alone, I am more vulnerable to temptations and not always the person that I ought to be. When I am surrounded by my good friends, they encourage me to be the best that I can be in all things. One simple way that I’ve noticed this is in prayer accountability. As a missionary, I challenged men to commit to praying daily, as I do, so that they could grow closer to Jesus. Beforehand, most of them had never had a very regular prayer life, but after I challenged them to start one and continued to check up on them, they started making impressive improvements and I could see their lives change as they grew closer to Christ through prayer. Accountability and encouragement is one of the best ways that we can help build each other up as men.
  1. Only satisfied by God. This world is great. God has given us so many people to become friends with and countless other joys. But as tempting as it can be to strictly chase the things of this world, we have to remember that in the end only God will satisfy us. We were made for God, and nothing less will give us peace. We will always be wanting more… until we are finally with God, and we will have never-ending peace and joy, ecstasy really! So with that in mind, make daily prayer a part of your schedule, and make sure to be faithful to Sunday Mass and regular confession. Our relationship with God starts right here on earth.
  1. God’s son. Did you know that God desires a personal relationship with you? Kind of like any other friend, except He’s Jesus and He created, unconditionally loves, and died for you! Now, if you’re anything like me, you get a bit turned off by that mushy “God loves us” stuff. The girls eat that up, but for us as guys, it doesn’t really work. I think we need to take a different approach. God gave us two basic ways of seeing Him: as our Father in God the Father, and as our brother in Jesus. Some of us aren’t blessed in having a father or brother in our lives that gives us a glimpse of the true love and care of God/Jesus. As a Father, God cares for us at all times. He watches out for us, is ready to give us advice, and gives us everything that we need to live joyfully as His sons. As a brother, Jesus modeled for us a firm commitment to putting God first in all that we do, a strong work ethic in our day to day labors, compassion and care for those around us who need mercy and help, and is a friend whose shoulder we can lean on whenever we need some support. God is much closer to us than we think and remembering that He is by our side at all times will help us through the good and the bad times ahead.

I hope and pray that these tips inspire and encourage you! God bless!

Note: A couple of months ago I published a post about being a Daughter of God, which inspired me to write this one as well for the guys!

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What is Chastity and Why is it Important? An Interview with a Youth Chastity Speaker

The following is an interview with Perla, a youth chastity speaker. I have been so privileged to get to know her personally, and I hope that her story and words of wisdom on chastity inspire you as well!

Hi Perla! Thank you for taking the time to meet with me! Could you start by sharing a little about yourself? What was your childhood like?
Thanks Chris! Well, I come from a family of 5 and am the oldest sibling. I have a really close extended family where I grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. Then my dad worked in the United States, while the rest of us were in Mexico, so we all moved to the United States when I was 10 in order to live together.

What impact did moving to the United States have on your life?
It played a huge impact on my life! It was a whole new world – I had to learn English, the culture was so different, my extended family was so far away, and we didn’t get close to many people outside of our family.

What careers and interests did you have growing up?
I always wanted to become a teacher, I love little kids. I think I even have a special charisma with kids, I loooove kids. And math. So I wanted to become a math teacher. Of course, that changed when I got to college, when my encounter with Christ happened.

What was your encounter with Christ?
I had all the big questions, like what is the meaning of life, what happens after death, etc., but I never looked to the Catholic Church for those answers. I changed my major 5 times, always searching for the answers to life. Psychology gave some answers, but not enough. For a while, I thought that maybe service was the answer, so I did a lot of service. Then next I thought that it was love, so I started dating this guy. But nothing was enough, and I was tired of looking for answers. Then one day one of my friends invited me to join a Catholic bible study. I only joined because I witnessed how much joy my Protestant friends had in their lives, and they did bible study too. So I was willing to give a Catholic one a try. The bible study was run by three middle-aged couples, who hooked my friends and I by offering us a home cooked dinner – it worked for us college kids! In their homes, we went over the scripture readings for the next Sunday mass on Monday nights. I began to learn so much! Once I encountered the truth of the Eucharist and from there the truth of the Catholic faith, I decided to look at Catholic universities to finish college. A son of one of the families that hosted bible study went to Ave Maria University and told me about it. It was the only college that I applied to at that point, and praise God, they ended up offering me a full ride to study there.

What degree did you end up graduating with? And what did you want to do when you graduated?
I majored in Theology with a minor in Philosophy. I had this deep desire to do the same thing for other college students that was done for me: maybe offering a bible study for other college students. Providentially, FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) came to Ave Maria and shared their mission with the students and I, and it lined up perfectly with what I wanted to do after graduation! I applied and got accepted!

You were a missionary with FOCUS for how long, and what was it like?
I was a missionary for three years. It was a great experience, I loved meeting students where they were at and challenging them to take their faith seriously. It was also a great adventure, especially with being open to be placed anywhere in the country. I always thought that it was very humbling to have students open up to me and give me their trust and friendship.

How did you come across your new job?
After my 3rd year with FOCUS, I felt a strong call to come back home and work within my home diocese, San Angelo in Texas. The diocese didn’t have any openings for evangelization or anything like FOCUS, so a close friend invited me to apply for a job as a prevention specialist.

What is a prevention specialist?
We work as a team of 8, most of us are between ages 23-26, and we go to elementary, middle, and high schools in Midland, Odessa, and surrounding cities. Our aim is to prevent them from falling into high-risk behaviors and be fulfilled in their good decisions. So we speak with the students about their self worth, the purpose of their bodies, the purpose of sex, sexual abstinence, the risks of the media, STDs, parenting, and how to build healthy relationships. In addition, we offer assistance for anyone who has suffered from abuse or addiction afterwards.

How long are you at a school?
We are there for three days, Tues-Thurs.

What does a day at a school consist of?
Our presentations last for 45 minutes, but our total pace can vary anywhere from 1 to 7 presentations a day. And we might travel to a few schools per week. So we are aiming to work with around 30,000 students by the end of the school year!

What is your main message to the students?
The thing that I really focus on for them is that they know who they are. We talk about how they have so many important sides to them: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and sexual. We talk about why we have certain yearnings in our hearts in the first place, so that they can see their natural good desires. A big emphasis is placed on showing what is necessary for sex: commitment, faithfulness, truly loving your spouse. Because the purpose of sex is to bond husband and wife together and for the procreation of children. Bottomline. From this understanding we can show them that sex truly belongs in marriage- fulfilling also the heart and mind because all 6 sides of the person would be truly satisfied.

Was there a moment in your life where you started getting interested in speaking about chastity?
Yes! There were major two instances. Growing up, I had the common girl dream of meeting that perfect guy, falling in love, and getting married. But what my friends were doing, what the world was offering, with hooking up and all that, it never satisfied my heart. It was never going to fulfill me at the end of the day. Even a good relationship in high school was not satisfying for me because we weren’t going to get married soon after. There were plenty of attractive guys in high school that I was attracted to, but dating and hooking up just didn’t click right even though I didn’t know why exactly. The other instance was as a missionary on the college campus, where I was seeing women fall under pressure to have sex before marriage and not live chastely. There seemed to be a missing link between their faith, the meaning of their body, and their yearning for true love. It seemed as if God had to be kicked out because all He offered where restrictions to their desires. So I spent a lot of time with some college women learning and reconciling all of these things with God’s desire for us! So we deeply understood that chastity in fact fulfills our desires. It is way more than just “don’t don’t don’t.”

We hear the world chastity a lot, but are less familiar with what it actually means. How do you define it?
I understand chastity as purity of body, mind (thoughts and imagination), and intentions. Purity meaning no stain of selfishness, lust, slavery to passions, but free to love, to choose the best for the other person with joyful selflessness.

As you grew up, did you ever dream that you’d become both a missionary and chastity speaker?
No, not at all. Haha.

What would you have thought?
I would have thought that I would have been going abroad, India or Africa. I would have never thought that I would do it here, home, with my generation. That would have seemed extremely radical.

How has it been now that you’re living it out?
It’s been a transformative experience: to see the goodness of God in how He cares for me. I’ve learned how to put others before me. I’m convicted of the truths that I’m saying as a chastity speaker, as well. It’s challenged me to live with integrity in all areas of my life and truly love everyone who is around me. I’m asking myself questions like “am I building healthy relationships myself?”

Is our culture to blame for these problems of chastity? Or would you attribute this to their youth or something else?
I think that there are many factors. Yes, I think that society plays a role, especially the media like movies, music, and TV. I think those things have a huge pull on young people. It’s also on the parents, if they are not convicted of the truth and share it. Their children need to see good examples from them so that the message will get to their hearts. A third factor is that boys and girls need to be challenged, challenged to do something better. Such as love requires you to wait, to build your character first. Many times they are told that they don’t have self-control because they are young, but they actually do. They can stand up with courage against the current. I don’t think that they hear that enough, or at all.

What is different for the youth growing up in 2015 from what it was like for you growing up?
The biggest difference is that for today’s children the internet is so available, especially on their phones. It offers them so many extra risks and distractions.

What advice would you give the parents of children nowadays?
I would affirm them that they have a big influence on their kids’ lives. They mold their kids. I would challenge them to look into the truth of all these things, to live them out, and pass them on to their kids through example. I’d also ask them to try to monitor their social media time, monitor their exposure to the internet. I’m thinking especially of the risk of pornography.

What sort of role do you think pornography plays in our culture’s battle with chastity?
It plays a huge role. It is so available, and really young people are exposed to it, even as young as 9 years old. Every heart longs for true love so there is a natural curiosity for what intimacy is, but pornography does not offer an answer it actually begins to warp people’s hearts and minds and scar them for life in a sense. It handicaps them for true love and true sacrifice.

As a college campus missionary, it’s common to hear about students “hooking up.” What would you say to someone who just wants to have some fun for one night?
If I could really talk to them, I would ask them, have you looked at the true desires of your heart? Your heart has a true yearning and desire to be loved. You won’t be satisfied until you are known and loved: hopefully by your family and your spouse in the future. That yearning is in everyone’s hearts. One night stands… there is no way to truly love a person through that or be loved. Then understand that the opposite of love is use. Sure, hooking up offers a thrill but at the end it will not be fulfilling and isn’t love. It is the use of each other- most likely girl using guy for emotional gratification and guy using girl for physical aspect. It’s seeing only the body of the person without revealing who they truly are. You in fact see less of them instead of more.

How can someone struggling with chastity start to change their habits?
If you’re Catholic, make sure go to confession. Confess it clearly, humbly, and sincerely. Ask God for healing, in your heart and mind. Go to the sacraments. Besides that, get an accountability partner/group. Most young people ARE struggling with this, in actuality or in understanding. Be honest, form a small accountability group, and set small goals to grow little by little.

Any final thoughts?
I want to stress this: know and believe that God is interested in your love life. God is not a boring God. Trust and believe that He has something beautiful planned for you, and He will not leave you disappointed.

Thank you Perla! Thank you for your very important work with the youth!

How I Define Myself

About two months ago at the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) general member meeting, we played a very interesting social game. The leader assigned different names to each part of the room: class, race, religion, sex, and gender. We were told to stand in the part of the room that we identify with the most. I really enjoyed the premise of the game, which really made me think, and I especially liked the opportunity to talk as a group about why we identify with one over the other.

Being LASO, the LATIN AMERICAN Student Organization, you can guess which part of the room was most populated… the race one. But I noticed a unique pattern for why people identified with class, race, sex, and gender: they usually identified themselves with the one that they were most discriminated against for. The people who came from the lower class talked about how they didn’t have the same opportunities as their peers from middle or upper class families. Women talked about how because of their sex they have been treated as objects and haven’t had the same respect as men. The story goes on similarly for race and gender.

Interestingly enough, I was the only one to stand at the “religion” section. I’m the white guy in the group, and a missionary on top of that, so yea… I stood out like a sore thumb as always. Because of the awkwardness of being the only one in my group, they didn’t ask me to share why I was standing there. But I think I’d like to share now, in case anyone is curious. It really made me think, that’s for sure.

I identify with religion more than the others not simply because I am a “normal” American. Middle class, white, male. So what. There’s plenty of reasons for me to be proud to be from a middle class family of immigrants that “made it.” The ancestors that I identify with the most is my mom’s side, German farmers who immigrated to America because of religious persecution in 1841. They founded the town that I was blessed to grow up in. (Big honking beautiful Catholic church right in the center. Take that, religious persecution.)

My home parish: St. John the Baptist

My home parish: St. John the Baptist

Note: I very much resonate with and respect the students who identify with their Hispanic heritage above all else. These students are mostly first or second generation Americans, faced with difficulties in their homelands and searching for a better life in America. I bet that many of their parents have trouble speaking English because of that and many other factors school has always been more of a personal struggle for them. I bet that most of their families have been through times of living paycheck to paycheck. I also resonate with and respect the students who identified most with sex, gender, and class. This post is not to bash those students at all in any way. My goal is just to point out that while those are great things to identify with, I believe that religion – properly understood – takes the cake hands down in this one.

I identify with my Catholic Christian religion the most because I do not define myself by what other people think of me, instead I define myself by God’s love for me. I was created out of love for love. People might make fun of me and tear me down, but I try not to be bothered too much by what they try to do or say to me, because no matter what, I know that God loves me exactly the way that I am. God loves each of us exactly the way that we are, no matter our background, skin color, sex, gender, religion, age, etc. This gives me hope at all times and is a relationship to cherish. God is my rock and my foundation, so the rest of my life is at least set on firm ground.

If I were to define myself according to what others think of me, wouldn’t that leave me vulnerable to being hurt by them? I absolutely love this line by Lecrae:

“If you live for their acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.” – Lecrae

Our true hope in both good times and bad is God’s love for us. He has a great plan for us, even despite the struggles that we will surely go through, and He reminds the prophet Jeremiah:

“I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I think that most of the students identified with a certain thing because that’s a struggle that they have to deal with from their background. I’d say that that’s okay! We all have struggles, there is no shame in that. But I would encourage us all to turn what we identify with from a negative to a positive. Why dwell on your struggles if you could look forward to the future?

There are also those who identify with something because they genuinely like or treasure it, like their heritage for example. Even this pales in comparison to our relationship with God, our ultimate heritage. At the end of the day, though race, class (that you grew up from), sex, and gender are permanent things, they are just earthly things. The only thing that lasts through eternity is our relationship with Jesus.

“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we are being slain all the day;

we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

Lessons Learned from a Catholic with Same Sex Attraction

The following is a guest post from my friend Liam. 

Hindsight is 20/20. Let me explain. Growing up, I pictured I would one day live a perfect life: white man, beautiful wife, great kids, and a big house. Like many of our childhood dreams, I realized that’s not exactly going to happen. It doesn’t really help that I’m tan-skinned, gay, and my desired career as a high school history teacher wouldn’t quite pay the bills. Like I said, hindsight is 20/20. Getting to the point I made that probably stood out to you: yes, I’m an 18 year old gay dude writing on my friend’s Catholic blog. I guess you’re wondering how I got here; it’s okay, I sometimes question my sanity, too. Going back to that idea again: hindsight is 20/20. When I was a kid, I never knew what gay was. Besides “don we now our gay apparel”, I had never heard the word in my life. When I did come to the realization that I was gay (OHHH that explains the unnamed attraction I felt towards Jesse McCartney and that guy from Phil of the Future—there’s that darned hindsight), I was totally lost. I had allowed society to shape my mind as a child into not knowing about and then not accepting what it is to be gay. I had no guidance, and so I turned to society again…big mistake.

This time I turned to a different sector of society—one that said, rightfully, that it’s okay to be gay. Great. It is okay to be gay, because it’s not a choice. It’s a cross to bear, just like there are any number of other crosses that people must bear. (It’s also a blessing, but that comes later.) But it didn’t stop there. I fell into the trap that said it is okay to be gay and to make that one small part of me define my entire life. I’m blessed because I had an amazing support base in the form of my loving family and friends. But they really didn’t understand how being gay differs from being straight, especially when it comes to dating. This is where things got ugly. Considering such a small percentage of the population actually is gay, finding a significant other is more like selling yourself than anything else. Grindr, Jack’d, 321, chatzone, I had them all. I always had good intentions when using these tools: I wanted a boyfriend. I wasn’t looking for sex. I was going to save myself for the one I loved! I wanted what everyone else had around me. I wanted to be happy like them. What I didn’t realize at that point is that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. (Again, hindsight is 20/20.)

The more I thought this way, the less I relied on my relationship with God to make me happy. I felt empty. When I realized I couldn’t reach people on these social media outlets with talks of love and romance, I allowed the conversations to be turned into sexual ones. That got their attention. I began making promises, and then I began to fulfill those promises. Albert Einstein (he was a pretty smart guy) said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. With every different guy, I believed that things would be different. If I gave him what he wanted, he would magically fall in love with me. Our relationship would be founded in lust but it would magically become something holy. But you can’t expect sin to beget virtue; whether gay, straight, or bi. Sin begets sin. And with sin comes loneliness, feelings of worthlessness, depression, and even thoughts of suicide. (Now, doesn’t this sound like the side effects for a medication commercial?)

I started fulfilling these promises when I was 17. A year has passed. In one year, I destroyed my relationship with God, family members, and friends—all because I was empty and angry that everyone else wasn’t suffering along with me. I lost so much faith in myself that I didn’t even realize just how low I had sunk until I was awakened. <Enter Chris.> This happened at a retreat about the Holy Spirit. To keep a long story short, it saved my life. I thank God that Chris told me to sign up. Over this retreat I realized that God sees more of my own worth than I do. God trusts me. He loves and adores me and even filled me with His Holy Spirit. I felt my heart on fire, I cried, I even laughed for joy. I was so amazed that God would grace me, a sinner, with such an incredible experience.

When we came back from the retreat, I came out to Chris. And what he did in response amazed me: he prayed for me. He didn’t “pray the gay away” or ask God that in the future I would like women and get married. He prayed for me because he knew I was hurting and because he knew I needed a change in my life. He didn’t pray because I was gay and committing sins, but simply because I was committing sins. He was the first friend that I had come across that removed the gay label and didn’t support me simply because I was gay and confused but because I was human and confused. I don’t think he will really ever understand the impact that he is having on my life, even as he reads this over before he posts it to his blog.

So what’s the point of all this? Why do people (ESPECIALLY young gay people) need to hear my testimony? (Yes—it is because I’m very interesting BUT besides that…) I want people to read this because I want them to know an alternative to what society tells them that they have to do. Gay or straight—you don’t have to advertise yourselves on social media outlets to gain recognition. Especially in the “gay world”, you see that people-shopping is a common thing. Don’t make the same mistakes that I did. Believe me when I tell you that hindsight IS, you guessed it, 20/20. Hear it from someone who went through hell and came out (no pun intended) on the other side scarred but not broken. The path to self-destruction is lined with glittery promises of love and commitment that simply will not come true on places like Grindr. You may be curious—I get it! I really do. But trust me when I tell you that acting on that curiosity killed the metaphorical cat, along with its self-esteem, moral compass, and its friendships.

But then what?? Am I supposed to live a life of chastity? No sex? It’s not fair! Straight people can get married and have sex! Woah… hold up there. We are all called to chastity, even married people. Sorry to break it to you straight folk, but you’re not going to have it easy, either. There are going to be times when you will be tempted, even in a married state. We are called to chastity because God knows how we humans work. When we live a life of promiscuity, we become addicted whether we like it or not. This is because we feed off of these destructive relationships for our happiness. But it simply is not true happiness. Every time we give into desires of the flesh we get our momentary fix, but end up craving more and more like a heroin addict. It’s not the sex we crave—but the illusion of happiness and the false sense of security.

Still, I understand the arguments made for two gay people who are in love. It confuses me sometimes, too. It just doesn’t seem fair that two straight people have the option to live their lives in comfort when we gays don’t. To counter that, however, is the fact that, like I said, straight people don’t have it easy and don’t live in perpetual comfort, either! Marriage is difficult, as is any other state it life. Also, I was recently told by my friend (another missionary at my school), in a totally unrelated conversation, that we are not made for comfort. That one short phrase put so many things into perspective for me. Life is messy. We are dealt cards that seem unfair and burdens that we can barely carry. But we can carry them. And we will carry them. God would never give us a cross that we cannot bear. This becomes clear when we humble ourselves and simply realize that as our Creator, God knows us better than we do. When I came to this realization over the retreat, I surrendered: not to the wounds on my heart from people who left when they said they wouldn’t, not to the doubts in my head that said I could never become anything beautiful, but to the Will of God. My heart gets light as a feather even thinking about this. I feel so free now that I have removed the burden of virtually selling myself to people who just don’t care and never will. God has worked in me in so many incredible ways in the time since the retreat. It’s not because I’m now miraculously healed of “the gay” or because I am no longer tempted, but because I placed my trust 120 bajillion percent in God. God’s Door is always open; it’s up to us to keep ours open as well.

So what am I to do now, then? Should I pursue a life with another man or one dedicated God and chastity? The answer is that I shouldn’t be pursuing anything alone. Each one of us is called to discern what God wants us to do. God would not put us in a place where He knows we would not be happy. It’s simply a matter of trusting God. For now, I am taking things one day at a time. I am focusing on prayer and giving control to God, Who knows me better than I know myself. By living a chaste life at this moment (as all people are called to, not just gays) and opening my heart to whatever God has to offer, I know I will end up happy—even if God puts me on a very unexpected path. So please trust me when I tell you from experience, gay or straight, now is the time to surrender and trust. Everything else has a way of falling into place.

Let me leave you with this: you are beautiful and you deserve so much better than a life of aimless promiscuity and heartbreak. If you are gay, God made you that way because you have a specific role to fulfill in the Divine Plan—a role that God Himself trusts you with. He trusts you. It is when I realized this that I was able to overcome my past and become chaste (as we are ALL called to be—gay or straight, for the reasons explained above). It was at that moment that I realized that I could turn the shame of what I did into knowledge so others could learn from my mistakes. It was at that moment that I realized that informing people, especially my fellow young gay people, was the path I was to take next. It was at that moment that I realized that being gay is not my entire identity, but just a fraction of the person God made me to me. It was at that moment that I realized that being gay is not only a cross, but a blessing.

Growing up, I pictured I would one day live a perfect life—that life may not exist, but by God, I’m sure as heck going to make the best of the beautiful one that I do have.

Too Wise to Get Married?

Many “wise” and “experienced” Americans love to advise young adults to never get married, since “it isn’t worth it.” I may not be as experienced, but I’d like to disagree.

Is this really the best message to be sending to the youth of the world? This message demoralizes young adults, making them think that they are not perfect enough to get married. It makes marriage seem hopeless and a waste of time. “Live for yourself first.” I don’t know about you, but when I live for myself, life is booooorrrriiiinnnggggg. It’s when I’m helping others out that I come alive.

I agree that you need to go into marriage with the right mindset, it is a big responsibility, but you can’t just throw out the baby with the bathwater. Complaining about how bad it is isn’t helping anyone have a better marriage.

A major issue with this line of thinking is that it signals that marriage is only about what is best for ourselves, and if not, we can take the easy way out. If my spouse doesn’t treat me right anymore I should just end it. If I’d rather be with some other woman, I should do that since it’s all about me, right? If my kids are too much work I don’t have to be responsible for them. That’s the line of thinking that has been encouraged, and it leads to bad consequences for spouses and children everywhere.

The ridiculous thing about that line of thinking is that that’s not even LOVE. Our culture likes to say that everything’s about love, right? Well if marriage is all about love, then it shouldn’t be about us. Love isn’t selfish, it’s selfless. Marriage should be about doing all that we can for our spouse and for our children. It’s about doing what is best for them even if it is an inconvenience for you.

Of course marriage is hard. We understand that, and I’m not arguing against that. Often it is not the big decisions but lots of little ones that breeds tension. But that doesn’t mean that marriage doesn’t work. We don’t drop out of school because we have to do homework until late at night every night. We don’t quit work just because it is hard. Living your faith is difficult, but we don’t give that up because of that. If you want to do ANYTHING good in life, it is going to be hard, but it’ll be worth it.

The mindset that marriage is all about us seems to be a reason for many of the problems in our society. Divorce, abortion, contraception, cheating, single parent homes, domestic abuse, and more are the result of me-first marriages.

Instead of complaining about how hard marriage is, we need to encourage each other that marriage and love is worth it. It is about selflessly helping your spouse and children, building a foundation for a great society. A society with strong families has a strong foundation.

Our society needs to learn how to love again. When we learn how to love, we will learn that marriage is worth it. Bashing marriage will not help to foster stronger families and a stronger society. I don’t know about  you, but I’m too wise to not love.

Thoughts on People with Same Sex Attraction

So as a Catholic Christian, Jesus calls me to love everyone. Even people we don’t like, even our enemies, even people who want to kill us (Jesus forgave the soldiers and people who put Him to death- He died for them too!). I don’t mean emotional love necessarily but the type of love where you take care of your neighbor as yourself. So that’s a great rule and all, but in practice it is so hard to live! How often do we argue and bicker with our family and friends, let alone strangers! So we are all hypocrites, we are all sinners. Homosexual sex is a sin just like any sex outside of marriage for Christians. So we don’t promote the gay lifestyle just like we don’t promote cheating on your spouse. BUT ****this is the most important thing that I can say since nobody seems to get this**** having same sex attraction is not a sin. How can we judge someone for what they feel?! This is what Pope Francis said recently that made the news. Even if someone is living a gay lifestyle we still love them! We don’t agree but we love. You don’t deal with people by yelling at them, you share your beliefs out of love. So how do Catholic Christians treat people with same sex attraction? We love them like everyone else. They should not be bullied or made fun of in any way. They have a unique cross to bear but we all have unique crosses, we all need to be courageous in certain parts of our lives. I hope that that made sense and I didn’t offend anyone (love you all 😉 ) The part about homosexual sex being a sin is probably what everyone disagrees with but if you take that premise for granted then the rest of the argument should make sense I’d imagine. I guess I should note here that I have at least one friend with same sex attraction who is a practicing Catholic so this isn’t all just theoretical. Love him the same as the rest of my friends.

“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons

God is Love, Part 1

Have you ever read a papal encyclical? They are letters written by the Pope, often to the entire Church! As I read this one, I decided to write up a nice (and quite thorough)  summary of it for you, so enjoy!

The first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI was Deus Caritas Est, or God is Love. Please go ahead and read it yourself if you have time, it is pretty easy to read in my opinion, and it is so good that it was hard to keep myself from just copying and pasting the entire thing!

As I read through this encyclical, it became ever more apparent to me how important this message is today. The message that God is love, that man is meant for love, and that true love integrates the whole person- not just body or soul. We love God by loving our neighbor, and through this we can always continue to learn more of God’s love for us. This first part is a summary of the first half of the encyclical, which focuses on “The Unity of Love in Creation and in Salvation History.”

Pope Waving

“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life” (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

While God is often talked about in hateful ways in recent times, the Holy Father wanted to stress in his first encyclical that the central point of Christianity is God’s love for us, as shown through the person of Jesus Christ.

Let us first of all bring to mind the vast semantic range of the word “love”: we speak of love of country, love of one’s profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbour and love of God. So we need to ask: are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities?

The first type of love that the Holy Father defines is “eros,” which is merely enjoying material things and bodily pleasure. He continues:

Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness.

Man is a being made up of body and soul. Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved.

As you can see, the Holy Father isn’t necessarily saying that eros is bad, but rather that applied by itself, it does not respect the entire human person, and therefore leaves a sense of want in its wake. He also mentioned that another type of love is philia, which is the love of friends, which in scripture often refers to the love between Christ and His apostles. Next he turns his attention to the Song of Songs, pointing out that in the ancient Hebrew text there are also two different types of love: dodim, which is insecure and searching love, and agape, which is concerned for the care of the other and willing to sacrifice. He explains:

 Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33)

The Holy Father cautions us from making a clear distinction between the two loves, characterizing agape as “Christian” love and eros as “non-Christian” love, because they actually are both connected:

Yet eros and agape—ascending love and descending love—can never be completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the great promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to “be there for” the other. The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature. On the other hand, man cannot live by oblative, descending love alone. He cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf.Jn 7:37-38). Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).

Continuing that thought, he concludes that the different types of love, whether based on faith or worldly things, do not inherently contradict each other, but rather purifies the other:

Biblical faith does not set up a parallel universe, or one opposed to that primordial human phenomenon which is love, but rather accepts the whole man; it intervenes in his search for love in order to purify it and to reveal new dimensions of it.

The Holy Father next discusses the image of God that is portrayed in the scriptures. First of all, we learn that there is one God, who created all things (Deuteronomy 6:4). From this, we gather that God wills our existence. We also learn from the scriptures that God loves us, with a personal love- so much so that the prophets described it using metaphors of marriage, with idolatry portrayed as adultery. The next paragraph, on how God loves us with both eros and agape, is so good I might as well copy the whole thing:

We have seen that God’s eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives. Hosea above all shows us that this agape dimension of God’s love for man goes far beyond the aspect of gratuity. Israel has committed “adultery” and has broken the covenant; God should judge and repudiate her. It is precisely at this point that God is revealed to be God and not man: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! … My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11:8-9). God’s passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God’s love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love.

He continues by saying that from these very scriptures, we can see that God desires unity with us all, and not in some sort of Hindu way but rather a personal way:

Man can indeed enter into union with God—his primordial aspiration. But this union is no mere fusion, a sinking in the nameless ocean of the Divine; it is a unity which creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one. As Saint Paul says: “He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17).

From the scriptures we not only learn who God is, but also who man is. Man desires love as well!

Of all other creatures, not one is capable of being the helper that man needs, even though he has assigned a name to all the wild beasts and birds and thus made them fully a part of his life. So God forms woman from the rib of man. Now Adam finds the helper that he needed: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). …man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become “complete”. The biblical account thus concludes with a prophecy about Adam: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Two aspects of this are important. First, eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who “abandons his mother and father” in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become “one flesh”. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfil its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.

Next we see how Jesus Christ is the new revelation of God’s love, which is constantly renewed with the sacrament of the Eucharist: the reality of God’s love for us all which unites us as one.

When Jesus speaks in his parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity. …His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. …Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn 6:31-33). The ancient world had dimly perceived that man’s real food—what truly nourishes him as man—is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom: this same Logos now truly becomes food for us—as love. …Here we need to consider yet another aspect: this sacramental “mysticism” is social in character, for in sacramental communion I become one with the Lord, like all the other communicants. As Saint Paul says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one body”, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself.

The Holy Father stresses the connection between love of God and love of neighbor, quoting the first letter of John which says that someone who says that they love God but do not love their neighbor is a liar. He answers a common question on the difficulty in seeing God by saying that we often can see God through the witness of Christians and the Church in general:

True, no one has ever seen God as he is. And yet God is not totally invisible to us; he does not remain completely inaccessible.  He has become visible in as much as he “has sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 Jn 4:9). God has made himself visible: in Jesus we are able to see the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist. In the Church’s Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives.

The Holy Father encourages us by noting that love isn’t just a sentiment, but a continual process of faithfully following the God’s will:

In the gradual unfolding of this encounter, it is clearly revealed that love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go. Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the “yes” of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all- embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never “finished” and complete; throughout life, it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself.

Next he concludes this part of the encyclical:

 Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbour from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its real- ism and depth in their service to others. Love of God and love of neighbour are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first. Love is “divine” because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).