The Last Supper (Original Painting, oil on board) by James Hrkach (1980)
The Last Supper (Original Painting, oil on board) by James Hrkach (1980)
Here is a video of my fourth son, Adam, who is an up-and-coming independent musical artist! This is a song he wrote last fall entitled “Park Bench.” Enjoy!
I was excited to be a vendor at the Dynamic Women of Faith Conference at the John Paul II Polish Cultural Center in Mississauga this past weekend! It’s hard to believe that we started with one book 13 years ago and now we have over 20 books in our catalog. #catholicfiction #ToBTalk #ToBFiction
By Christopher West
This July 25 marks 50 years since Pope Paul VI shocked the world when he issued his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life) reaffirming the traditional Christian teaching against contraception. Although he was mocked and scorned globally – both from outside and, sadly, from within the Church – his words were prescient. He warned that a contracepting world becomes a world of rampant infidelity; a world where women and childbearing are degraded; a world in which governments trample on the rights and needs of the family; and a world in which human beings believe they can manipulate their bodies at will (see HV 17).
Is there any doubt that this is the world we live in now?
We will never climb out of the sexual confusion and gender chaos in which we are now immersed until we recognize that the modern disorientation of sex and the eclipse of the very meaning of gender began when we started rendering our genitals unable to generate. Based on its Greek root, the very word gender means “the manner in which one generates.” We see the same root in words like genesis, generous, genitals, progeny, genes, and genealogy. We no longer see the gender-generation connection today because we are viewing ourselves through condom-colored glasses: erase the manner in which one generates from the sexual equation and the very meaning of gender is eventually erased.
In a 1984 interview, the future Pope Benedict XVI predicted that we will atone in our day for “the consequences of a sexuality which is no longer linked to … procreation. It logically follows from this that every form of [genital activity] is equivalent. … No longer having an objective reason to justify it, sex seeks the subjective reason in the gratification of the desire, in the most ‘satisfying’ answer for the individual.” In turn, he observed that everyone becomes “free to give to his personal libido the content considered suitable for himself. Hence, it naturally follows that all forms of sexual gratification are transformed into the ‘rights’ of the individual.” From there, he concluded that people end up demanding the right of “escaping from the ‘slavery of nature,’ demanding the right to be male or female at one’s will or pleasure” (The Ratzinger Report, pp. 85, 95).
Again, is there any doubt that this is the world we now live in?
Tragically, there are people in high places of the Church who have not been paying attention to the painful lessons of history – nor to the extensive and gloriously illuminating reflections of Saint John Paul II on the theology of the human body. As the 50th anniversary of Paul VI’s lifesaving encyclical approaches, they are raising their voices in a new wave of attacks against it. The operative language is that of “re-interpreting” Paul VI’s encyclical in order to keep it “dynamic” and “applicable” to “new realities.” But that is code for dissenting from it.
Perhaps you heard about a widely reported speech given by Father Maurizio Chiodi, a newly appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, at a conference at the Gregorian University in Rome at the end of last year. Therein he argued that a proper development of Paul VI’s teaching on “responsible parenthood” can actually obligate a couple to use contraception. There are cases, he argued, that make the practice of natural family planning “impossible or impractical” and, hence, “other forms of responsibility must be found” that require “other methods of birth control.”
If we consider the teaching of Humanae Vitae only as a precept to be imposed on people’s weakness, we are, indeed, placing an “impossible” and “impractical” burden on people. As Saint John Paul II insisted, “Love and life according to the Gospel cannot be thought of first and foremost as a kind of precept, because what they demand is beyond man’s abilities. They are possible only as a result of a gift of God who heals, restores, and transforms the human heart by his grace.” Living according to the demands of the Gospel, then, is “a possibility opened to man exclusively by grace, by the gift of God, by his love” (Veritatis Splendor 23, 24).
The Church does not only lay down the demands of God’s law and then leave men and women to their own resources in attempting to carry it out. As Pope Paul VI stated very clearly in Humanae Vitae, the Church “also announces the good news of salvation, and by means of the sacraments flings wide open the channels of grace, which makes man a new creature, capable of following the design of his Creator … with love and true freedom, finding the yoke of Christ to be sweet” (HV 25).
Yes, human beings are weak and must contend with the strong pull of concupiscence (the disordering of our passions that resulted from original sin). As human experience attests, this makes following God’s law a real struggle. But it is precisely that struggle that urges the heart to cry out for God’s grace, and God’s grace is sufficient for us (see 2 Cor 12:9)! As Saint Augustine put it in a wonderful turn of phrase: “The law was given so that grace might be sought; and grace was given that the law might be fulfilled.”
“Re-interpreting” Humanae Vitae in light of human weakness may seem like the “kind” or “pastoral” thing to do, but in the end it empties the Cross of its power. Instead of saying, “By the power of Christ, come higher,” those who are re-interpreting Humanae Vitae are actually saying, “Sorry, Christ’s power is not available to you, so stay lower.” Instead of saying, “God’s grace is sufficient for you to fulfill his law,” those who are re-interpreting Humanae Vitae are saying, “In your case, we need to adjust God’s law according to your concrete possibilities.”
“But what are ‘the concrete possibilities of man’?” asks Saint John Paul II. “And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ?” He continues:
This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which ﬂows from that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit. (Veritatis Splendor 103)
This is one of the most potent proclamations of the power of the Gospel I’ve ever heard. And thanks be to God that I heard it! Thanks be to God that Saint John Paul II was bold enough to proclaim it!
We serve no one by watering down the truth. In fact, we keep people in their chains. What’s needed is not a re-interpretation of Humanae Vitae. What’s needed, as Pope Paul VI himself said, is a “total vision of man and of his vocation” in order to understand this teaching in all of its beauty and fullness (HV 7). And this is precisely what Saint John Paul II gave us in his marvelous Theology of the Body. If you want to be equipped to address today’s sexual chaos and gender confusion with clarity, insight, and compassion, take up a study of it. You will not be disappointed.
The Cor Project exists to help men and women learn, live, and share the Theology of the Body. To learn more, watch Christopher West’s short film here.
Christopher West, is a lecturer, best-selling writer and author of multiple audio and video programs which have made him the world’s most recognized teacher of John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.” He is founder and president of The Cor Project, a global membership and outreach organization devoted to helping men and women learn, live, and share the Theology of the Body in compelling, life-transforming ways.
Also, Stealing Jenny is in the process of being translated into Portuguese through Babelcube. That will also be completed by the beginning of May.
And last — but certainly not least — as many of my followers also know, my husband and I have written a script for Stealing Jenny and a Christian Hollywood producer has expressed interest in financing and producing it. He’s had the script for several years, but we’ve been told that sometimes in Hollywood, projects can take many years to finance and produce. We’ll see where that goes!
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.
Here’s what I’ve been reading (and/or working on) during the past month!
by Amanda Lauer
A Life Such as Heaven Intended is the second of the “Heaven Intended” Series will be released on April 2, 2018 by Full Quiver Publishing.
Synopsis: In A Life Such as Heaven Intended, the Civil War rages around her, yet Brigid McGinnis has her life planned out. That was, until she stumbles across an unconscious Confederate soldier on her father’s property.
A blow to the head stole Dominic Warner’s memory. The beautiful fraulein who nurses him back to health steals something even more important — his heart.
For political and societal reasons, Brigid and Dominic must go their separate ways. They each get caught up in the war and put their lives on the line to remain true to the values and faith they share. Follow Brigid and Dominic from the battlefields surrounding Atlanta, along slave escape routes, to Little Rock, and eventually to the plains of Eastern Texas, as they learn to trust, forgive, love, and surrender to a plan greater than their own.
“A sweet historical romance between a German-born soldier and a young Southern lady blissfully unaware of both her father’s and servants’ clandestine actions. With secrets galore, flip-flopping loyalties, and Brigid’s imminent profession of religious vows, the reader is taken on a rollicking ride from war to peace and from subjugation to freedom.” Carolyn Astfalk, author, Ornamental Graces
“A civil war romance that blends heroic choices with faithful love.” A.K. Frailey, author, Last of Her Kind
“A moving love story set during the Civil War, Lauer brings to life different perspectives, fears, and hopes of people on both sides of this terrible war. Faith plays a beautiful part in this story, as the protagonists face trials, choices, and self-evaluation. I highly recommend A Life Such as Heaven Intended for lovers of historical American fiction.” ~Theresa Linden, author of award-winning Battle for His Soul
Other books I’ve been reading:
by Cascia Talbert
Synopsis: Combining healthy living and the Catholic faith in a book has never been done before until now. This book by Cascia Talbert, founder of the award winning online magazine for moms, the Healthy Moms Magazine and inspired by the Holy Spirit can help anyone attain a holy healthy life. Using diet recommendations for your age group, learning how to spot mental health issues, exercising your brain and body and praying to the saint or saints who are patrons for your health issue, can bring peace and possibly healing. We are all on a journey to sainthood. We can use the examples of the saints to teach us how to better understand how to have a healthy mind, get proper nutrition, and get enough physical activity. They are also our friends and will intercede for us when we are troubled, in times of need or struggling with a health issue. “Taking Care of Your Family’s Health and Well-Being, Saints to Turn to and the Catholic Faith,” introduces readers to special saints that can help us on our journey towards healthy living, happiness and eternal life in heaven. From the author, “My prayer and hope is that this book will be a Godsend for you and that you may live your life for His honor and Glory and attain everlasting life with Him in heaven.”
Review: On my “To Read” shelf
Synopsis: Police Officer Tuck Chandler is good at his job. He’s also good at holding women at arm’s length. Jilted by his fiancée for his dedication to his job, he’s not about to open himself up to hurt like that again.
Laurie Blake is a struggling photographer. After growing up in a wealthy family, she’s determined to make it on her own, even if it means doing it the hard way.
When Tuck is assigned to a puzzling burglary involving Laurie’s fledgling photography business, he goes into it with his usual perseverance. He wants to help her – if she’ll let him. As the case unfolds and the mystery deepens, another question arises.
Will the past get in the way of their future?
In July of 1968, I was a carefree nine-year-old enjoying summer vacation, still playing with dolls and pretending that I was the mother of ten children. I don’t remember watching news or hearing anyone talk about Humanae Vitae.
But I do recall my parents and their friends that summer having these sorts of conversations: “What does the pope expect we should do? Have 15 kids? Or not have sex? No way. We’re using birth control.” I didn’t think much about it except that in my naïve mindset, I didn’t know what sex or birth control were, but I remember thinking, shouldn’t moms and dads want to have lots of children?
In 1968 and with many of the faithful expecting and hoping that the Church would “change” its teaching on artificial contraception, Blessed Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) which confirmed and proclaimed the 2000-year consistent teaching of the Church that artificial methods of contraception were immoral.
Within two days, dissident theologians led by Father Charles Curran issued this statement: “Spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contraception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the value and sacredness of marriage,” thereby, leaving it up to individual Catholic couples’ “conscience” to decide. The problem was there was no indication from dissidents as to how couples should form their consciences (nor, in my opinion, did the dissidents care). Two months after HV, the “Winnipeg Statement” was issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops stating that “those who cannot accept the teaching should not be considered shut off from the Catholic Church, and that individuals can in good conscience use contraception as long as they have made an honest attempt to accept the difficult directives of the encyclical.”
While many of the faithful were only focusing on their own personal situations, Pope Paul VI was warning the faithful that going against natural law and the 2000-year teaching of the Church would bring a “general lowering of moral standards.” (HV 17) Welcome to the world in which we live.
Fifty years later, I’m more mature. I understand that there are many good and serious reasons to postpone or prevent pregnancy. In fact, I’ve lived through serious situations that necessitated avoiding pregnancy. But I also believe that there are so many good reasons NOT to dissent from Church teaching on this issue.
Blessed Pope Paul VI affirmed the Church’s teachings but he also gave an alternative and moral option: Natural Family Planning, which in the ’60s was becoming more and more effective.
Blessed Pope Paul VI said (HV 17) that we needed to “consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.”
I remember as a teenager in the late ’70s when I heard of a young man and woman moving in together. I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t shocked. In fact, in the ten years or so since I had heard the conversations between my parents and their friends, three things had become normalized: cohabitation, premarital sex, and contraception. In my formative years, I was taught by society that if everyone agrees something is okay, then it’s okay. Thus, I regarded a man and woman moving in together as simply an option rather than a moral choice.
Blessed Pope Paul VI went on to include another, very important, consequence for accepting contraception.
One “effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” (HV 17)
Well, we need only look to the recent scandals that have come to light in Hollywood and in other areas where men in power have been preying on young women. Why do large numbers of Christians and Catholics believe it’s completely acceptable to read the Fifty Shades books and to see the movies (and many defending their actions)? It is precisely because women themselves don’t reverence their own bodies. If they are contracepting (statistically, most Christians and Catholics use contraception openly), if they aren’t reverencing their own bodies, why should they expect their spouses to do so?
The sad effect in all of this is that the widespread dissent to Humanae Vitae and our society’s rejection of objective truth sent me in the wrong direction to the point that, when I began dating my husband in 1979, I was pro-choice, pro-premarital sex, and pro-contraception. I thank God every day that he gently led me back to the faith of my youth and to the truths of these beautiful teachings on sex and marriage.
Blessed Pope Paul VI was, indeed, a prophet. One need only look at the state of our world 50 years later to see that there is a general lowering of morals. Paul VI knew that the “Birth control commission” set up by his predecessor, Saint John XXIII, recommended that the Church “change” her stance on artificial contraception. However, guided by the Holy Spirit, he wrote Humanae Vitae. He probably suspected that his encyclical reiterating and confirming the Church’s 2000-year teaching on natural law would not be met with cheers and applause. We do need incentives to keep the moral law; otherwise, there are consequences.
I, for one, am grateful that Blessed Pope Paul VI embraced his mission to confirm and spread the truth. Now, we can clearly see his prophecies have come true — the morals of our world have changed greatly since 1968.
I’m 50 years older, but 50 years wiser. And very thankful to the Church for reaffirming the truth amidst pressures.
Copyright 2018 Ellen Gable Hrkach