Theotokos: My Journey with the Greatest of Saints

One of my earliest childhood memories was when I was five years old at St. Eugene Catholic School.  I remember every Wednesday my class and I would go to Adoration.  I remember kneeling and joining the class to pray the rosary. Now, this prayer takes about fifteen minutes to do, which is not long at all, but in my five year old brain, sitting still for fifteen minutes was an eternity. This was my introduction to Mary, the Mother of God.

Who is Mary to the Catholic Church?  I get asked this question all the time.  Do we worship her? No, but we do honor her.  She is the greatest of saints.  The bond between Mary and the Catholic Church “is inseparable from her union from Christ” (CCC 964).  She is both the Mother of Christ and the Mother of all mankind through “the order of grace” (CCC 967).  She is Queen of both Heaven and Earth, and she constantly works to bring us closer to Christ.

As I grew older, I learned more about Mary and her significance in the Christian Faith.  However, you see, there is a difference between learning and understanding.  You can learn what an artist is trying to depict in a painting, but you do not truly understand the message unless you feel the emotions that he or she is trying to portray.  Understanding the artist’s emotions, and who he or she is as a person, establishes a meaningful connection between yourself and the artist.  This concept was the core of my struggle in my relationship with Mary.  I knew a lot about her life.  I knew that she said yes to God, and her life was changed forever.  However, I did not understand her as a person.  I did not feel that connection.  I thought about this seriously and prayed about it during my senior year of high school.  I wanted God to help me to understand Mary better and establish that bond with her because I knew that by connecting with her, I would, through her grace, grow closer to Jesus Christ.

Fast forward to a windy winter day during my freshman year when one of the FOCUS missionaries approached some of my friends and me and told us about Marian Consecration.  In a nutshell, Marian Consecration is devoting yourself to Christ through Mary.  The author of the first book concerning Marian Consecration was St. Louis de Montfort, and it was titled True Devotion to Mary.  In it, St. Louis claimed that Marian Consecration was “the surest, easiest, and most perfect means” to becoming a saint.  I did an abridged version titled 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley.  This version involves a month-long retreat that can be done on your own or with others in which you get to know Mary better through the lives, examples, and teachings of four saints: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.

As the days of the retreat went by, I did get to know Mary better as a person.  I liked how each saint was impacted by her in a unique way.  Now, you would expect me to tell you that at the end of the retreat, I felt the power of God sweep over me like a huge wave…but I did not experience anything like that.  I thought to myself, did I do something wrong? In fact, I had not. God works in little but important ways.  St. Elijah did not experience God through an earthquake or a big storm; he experienced Him through a whisper in the wind.  Marian Consecration had opened a door for me, and little by little, I grew closer to Christ through Mary.  I felt her presence more, and I prayed to her more, asking her to pray for me and to bring me closer to Christ.  I was finally able to connect with her as a daughter would connect with her mother.

I also learned that Mary will come to our aid whenever we need her. This especially became evident to me during this past winter break when my brother was hospitalized.  It was a very hard time for my family and me, but my mother and I prayed the rosary to let out our stress and worries.  Through this whole process, the rosary became my favorite prayer, and now I never leave home without my rosary.

If you have a rosary, take it out and hold it in your hands. If not, Google a picture of a rosary.  Notice that when going through the rosary, you start with Christ and end with the Christ, as depicted in the crucifix.  However before you get back to Him, you go through fifty three Hail Marys and even through the medallion of Mary in many rosaries.  That is who Mary is to me.  Mary is the gateway to Christ.  She is like our counselor who guides us towards Christ.  She is our lawyer who shows us to Christ and vouches for our character and potential.  Remember, at her prompting, Jesus performed His first miracle at the Wedding of Cana, marking the start of His ministry.  Who better than her to lead us to Christ?

To me, Mary is the ultimate role model of faith.  We are all called to say yes to God in our lives.  Mary said the ultimate yes: she said yes to becoming the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ; she said yes to watching him get praised and criticized by many; she said yes to the most unbearable pain a mother could ever experience: watching her child get tortured, ridiculed, mocked, and crucified.  That takes some serious courage.  Her trust and faith in God inspires me every single day.

I challenge you to get to know Mary better; she will take you under her wing and lead you to Christ.  She did it for me, and I have no doubt that she will do it for you because she loves us more than we can possibly imagine.  She is our Mother, and she wants each of us to get to know and love her Son Jesus Christ.

 

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“This picture is of a statue of Mary at Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon. Her arms are extended out to the coast as a symbol of her love and protection for Lebanon. It is one of my favorite places to visit.”

*Theotokos: title of Mary, Mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Christianity

 

Blog post written by Lara Keddissi

 

 

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The History and Devotion of St. Thomas More

On February 7, 1478, Thomas More was born in London to Sir John More and Agnes More.  As the son of one of London’s most prosperous lawyers, Thomas More was educated at the prestigious St. Anthony’s School.  In addition, he worked as a household page for John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England.  Since John Morton saw potential in the young boy, he nominated Thomas More for a place at the University of Oxford.  In 1492, at the age of fourteen, Thomas More began his studies, receiving a classical education and becoming proficient in Latin and Greek.  After two years, More left Oxford to pursue legal studies at New Inn in London, where he remained until 1502.  After finishing his legal studies, More had contemplating withdrawing from a legal career to become a monk.  Between the years of 1503 and 1504, More lived near the Carthusian Monastery, while actively participating in the monks’ spiritual exercises.  After much consideration, More decided to remain a layman, although he engaged in ascetic practices for the remainder of his life.  Ascetic practices can be defined as withdrawing from worldly pleasures, with spiritual intention.  More was elected into Parliament in 1504, representing Great Yarmouth.  The following year, More wed Jane Colt.  The pair had four children, Margaret, Elizabeth, Cicely, and John, before Jane’s death in 1511.  Within thirty days of Jane’s death, More married Alice Harpur Middleton.  She was a rich widow and one of the eligible women in his group of friends.  More married her because he needed a mother for his children, and, in this time period, marriage was viewed as an “economic union”.  Many described Alice and Thomas’ marriage as pleasant, although Alice was much older and it was widely assumed their marriage was never consummated.  Alice and Thomas did not have any children, but Thomas helped raise Alice’s daughter from her previous marriage.  Thomas More insisted on giving his sons and daughters the same classical education, which was unusual at the time.  He eventually gained praise from other noble families, especially since his eldest daughter, Margaret, was achieving great academic accomplishments.

In 1510, More began representing London in Parliament, and he served as an undersheriff in the city of London.  In 1514, More became Master of Requests and was nominated as a Privy Chancellor.  More undertook a mission, in 1521, to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.  After this event, More was knighted and became under-treasurer of the Exchequer.  More became the secretary and personal advisor to King Henry VIII, with More’s actions becoming extremely influential.  He welcomed foreign diplomats, drafted official documents, and served as a liaison for King Henry VIII and Lord Chancellor Wolsey.  In addition to working for the English Government, More was a High Steward, a university official, for the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.  More was elected to be the Knight of the Shire for Middlesex and Speaker of the House of the Commons, in 1523.  Knights of the Shire are members of parliament who represented the wishes of their county.  More became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in 1525, which gave him executive and judicial responsibilities over Northern England.

More became the successor to Wolsey, as Lord Chancellor in 1529.  More supported the Catholic Church and viewed the Protestant Reformation as a heresy.  More began his resistance by preventing Luther’s books from being imported into England, detecting suspected Protestants, and arresting anyone possessing book on the Protestant Reformation.  As the dispute over supremacy heightened, More refused to acknowledge the King as the successor of Peter, which eventually led to More’s resignation.  In 1530, More withheld from signing a letter to Pope Clement VII, which asked him to annul King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  Catherine and Henry had daughters together, but they never had a son.  When Catherine became too old to have another child, Henry wanted marrying someone else, yearning for an heir to the throne.

In 1531, More was isolated, by King Henry VIII, with other members of clergy, for supporting papal supremacy.  A year later, King Henry VIII granted More’s request to leave office.  After King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon divorced, he married his next wife, Anne Boleyn.  More declined attending her coronation as Queen.  Although this was not an act of treason, King Henry VIII began to take action against More.  More was charged with accepting bribes, but due to lack of evidence, the charges were revoked.  Next, More was charged with colluding with Elizabeth Barton, “The Holy Maid of Kent”.  Barton was nun who outwardly spoke of the King ruining his soul for divorcing Catherine of Aragon.  When More spoke to a committee of the Privy Counsel, he acknowledged meeting with Elizabeth Barton, but his respectful manner cause the committee to drop the allegation of treason.  On April 13, 1534, More was asked to swear allegiance to the Act of Succession and take the Oath of Supremacy.  The Act of Succession acknowledged Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England.  More swore allegiance to the Act of Succession, although later rejecting its legitimacy.  The Oath of Supremacy recognized the King as the Head of the Church.  More refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, defending the Pope as the Head of the Church, and continued to deny the King’s divorce.  More was arrested for treason and was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Several friends and family members urged him to take the Oath of Supremacy.  They told him they took the oath for legal reasons, but they believed something different in their hearts.  More refused to do this, saying he could not take an oath for something he did not believe to be true in his heart.

On July 1, 1535, More was charged with high treason for denying the validity of the Act of Succession and refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy.  It took the jury fifteen minutes to find More guilty.  He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, but King Henry VIII changed his punishment to execution by decapitation.  The execution occurred on July 6, 1535; while walking up to the scaffold, his words to the officials are noted as “I pray you, I pray you, Mr. Lieutenant, see me safe up and for my coming down, I can shift for myself”.  Directly before his death, More declared himself “the King’s good servant, and God’s first.”

Thomas More was beatified, by Pope Leo XIII, on December 29, 1886, along with fifty-three other English martyrs.  Pope Pius XI canonized Thomas More on May 19, 1935.  Saint Thomas More’s feast day is July 9, and Pope John Paul II declared Saint Thomas More to be the patron of statesmen and politicians.  Despite his opposition to the Church of England, Thomas More was added as a martyr to the Church of England’s “Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church”, in 1980.

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Blog post written by Paige Townley

 

SEEKing Christ

I have wanted to go to SEEK ever since I heard about it back when I was in high school. When I was making my dentist appointment over the summer, I looked up the dates of SEEK 2017 to make sure I wouldn’t have a conflict come January. When it came time to sign up, I immediately started filling out the registration. But then I stopped myself.

It’s no secret that my first semester here was rough. And honestly, rough is a huge understatement. I was dealing with some difficult stuff, and a side effect of it was a huge increase in anxiety. A giant conference might not be a very enjoyable experience for me. All the big church events that I had been to while I was dealing with everything had gone, well, poorly for me.

So I took a step back and spent a few weeks deciding whether to go. In the end, I signed up. The Oh Hellos and Fr. Mike Schmitz were definitely contributing factors in that decision. Plus, things had begun to improve for me and a lot of my anxiety was subsiding. As January approached, I was getting excited, but I was still a little worried that I was going to get overwhelmed there and have a bad time. I am a total introvert, and large, crowded events are not my idea of fun. Amazingly, I went the whole week without getting overwhelmed or lost in the sea of 13,000 people. I really don’t know how. God is good.

I have been to a Steubenville Conference, something like 20 retreats, and several mission trips, but SEEK easily tops them all. It was one of the best weeks of my life. That rough semester I mentioned ended up leading me to a place of total surrender to God’s will. And when I say total surrender, I mean it. I’ve been pretty into my faith my whole life, and I always tried to submit my will to God’s, especially throughout high school. But this has been way different. All the little (and big) things that held me back before are gone now. So this was the state of my heart as I entered into SEEK.

I didn’t really have any expectations for the week. I just wanted whatever God had in store for me. As it turns out, He had a lot. Although the masses were quite lengthy, I loved them. The ability to begin each day with mass was a huge blessing. Attending mass with 13,000 others is pretty cool too. Also, the music was fantastic, so just good job FOCUS. The afternoon talks were one of the best parts, in my opinion. The options were overwhelming, and as each day began, I usually had no idea what talks I wanted to attend. This was one of the places where God really worked. At the beginning of the conference, I asked the Lord to guide me to the talks where I would hear what he wanted to tell me. And He did just that. I ended up going to several sessions that would not have been what I might have chosen on my own, but each one of them had a tremendous impact on me.

A prime example of this was the very first talk I went to. It was on bioethics. I’m a biomedical engineering major so it was something I was really interested in and curious about. I ended up learning a lot, but more than that, it led me somewhere pretty neat. I had a question about something after the talk, but the speaker had to leave right away. They told us that there was another bioethicist at the Christus Health booth. (The convention center was covered with booths for more religious communities and Catholic organizations than I knew existed. It was like Catholic Disneyland, and it was awesome.) A few days later, I was walking past the booth and something (the Holy Spirit) made me actually stop and ask my question. I ended up having an awesome conversation with the bioethicist about new organ growth technologies. He also told me about their hospital system, and then he asked if I’d ever considered a career in bioethics. I hadn’t, but I am now! He gave me a bunch of materials, and now I’m eagerly looking into it. I have no idea if I’ll follow a path into that field or not, but I think it’s incredible that I wouldn’t have come across it at all if I hadn’t given the decision on what sessions to attend to God.

The Lord had something in store for me on each night of the three main days as well. The first big night was an 80s dance that my friends and I really weren’t feeling, so instead we went to the River Walk for a late dinner after the keynote. We ended up at a crappy Mexican restaurant (I can say that it was crappy, because I’m from Texas and I know what good Tex-Mex is.) I didn’t think there could be bad Mexican food on the River Walk, but we managed to find it. Toward the end of the meal, my friend came back from the bathroom and, full of excitement, blurted “Guys, Fr. Mike is inside!” When I heard this, I jumped out of my seat and threw whatever was in my hand. And that is not an exaggeration. If you know me, you know how much I like Fr. Mike and how excited I get about him. I have also been waiting to see him in person for like three years, so this was a big deal. We all proceeded to go to the bathroom where we found two other girls freaking out and deciding if they should go talk to him. In the end we did, and he was super nice (was there even a question?) and talked to all of us for a little. I finally got to personally thank him for the impact he’s had on me, and it made him super happy. It was great. I don’t know what else to say. It was just one of those incredible moments of pure joy (and you can see it on my face in the pictures).

The next night, I talked to someone even better: God. I’m usually not a big fan of large group adoration. I don’t like the loud music and all the people. And I stopped having the emotional experience of it years ago. I usually just prefer a quieter, more intimate time of adoration. However, I am definitely not saying that there is anything wrong with this kind of adoration. It is a fantastic thing, and many people have incredible experiences during it where they really encounter Christ. So if you had an awesome, moving experience, that’s fantastic. If you didn’t feel anything, that’s also fantastic and totally normal. Please don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you or think that you didn’t do adoration right. I feel you, I’ve been there. So anyway, the big adoration night just usually isn’t my thing, but despite this, I had an awesome experience. I was just sitting there, playing with my hair, and I heard His voice. And I was sure it was Him. I went to talks that afternoon about being a modern-day disciple and reading scripture as a disciple, and one of the main things the speaker spoke about was hearing God’s voice. We were created in a way that we can speak to God. We were also created in a way that God can speak to us, and He does this through our thoughts. In that moment, I heard His voice more clearly than ever before, I just sat there and listened to what He wanted to tell me. It was nothing short of incredible. I even received a wonderful answer that consoled a deep wound I had received over the break. It was the kind of answer that could have only come from God. And as if all that wasn’t enough, every time I looked up at the Eucharist in the monstrance, a beaming smile immediately grew on my face. And over and over, that smile kept turning into giddy laughter. I was completely immersed in the Lord’s overflowing graces. The best part was when I realized that what I was hearing were only His shouts. I know that as I continue to pray, especially with scripture, and learn what God’s voice sounds like, I will begin to hear His voice everyday. And maybe, one day, I may come to know the person of Jesus Christ so well that I will be able to hear his whispers. And could anything be more lovely and intimate than the whispers of Love itself?

The events of the last night weren’t nearly as awesome as encountering God, but they were still pretty great. My sister recently introduced me to the Oh Hellos and they have quickly become one of my favorite bands. I love their music, and I had been looking forward to their concert at SEEK since signing up. On the morning of the concert, the lovely Amelia Joly approached me and asked if I wanted to meet the Oh Hellos. Out of 13,000 people, she had been 1 of 10 who won a meet and greet with them. What’s funny is that the only reason I could say yes was the fact that the comedian from the first night made a huge point about the ability to accept gifts. What he had said days before made it easy and enjoyable to accept this great gift (thanks again, Amelia). The meet and greet was neat, but the concert was still the best part. It was truly a gift from God. I stood there overflowing with joy and wishing that I could experience the music more fully. The best part of it all was that although I already knew all of the lyrics, God was still able to speak to me through them in new ways. It seemed like all the things I had been experiencing throughout the conference were manifesting themselves into the music. It was a fantastic end to a fantastic week.

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Blog post written by Nina Cassidy

Christ in the City: the week that changed my life

“Don’t look directly at them and they won’t bother you.”

“Don’t give him any money. He’s just going to use it to buy more drugs anyway.”

“She wouldn’t have ended up like that if she would’ve made better decisions. It’s her own fault.”

We’ve all said one of these things. If we haven’t said them, we’ve thought them. We’ve quickly walked past a group of homeless people in fear, avoiding eye contact. We’ve all done it. Most of us don’t, however, remember that they are people. The man you looked away from in disgust is someone’s son. He is a living, breathing man who has his own unique struggles, just like you and me. A week long mission trip at Christ in the City (CIC) in Denver gave me the incredible gift of perspective. That week gave me the ability to not only see the beautiful value in people experiencing homelessness, but the necessary reminder that every human being is a son or daughter of God.

A Christ in the City mission trip involves a few different crucial things. Every morning we went to mass together. We were given plenty of time for prayer and reflection, which is something we don’t always make a priority when we’re at school. After breakfast, we would head out on our first street walk of the day. A street walk is simply going out on the streets of Denver with the CIC missionaries and talking to the homeless. That’s it, just talking. There are so many resources in the city of Denver for the homeless. Most of them have a place to stay at night and somewhere to eat, but they are missing love and friendship in their lives. People avoid them and look down on them. The homeless lack genuine human interaction, which is exactly what Christ in the City brings them. The missionaries strive to create lasting friendships with their friends on the street. They listen to the stories of their lives, their problems, their joys. Christ in the City missionaries bring the love of Christ to the streets of Denver, and you have the opportunity to do that, too. The street walks are safe. We were always in a group with CIC missionaries, and each group has a male. The missionaries prepare you well for street walks, and they do them every day so they know how to handle any situation.

Street walks are powerful. I remember writing down the names of each person I met on the street, and some facts about them if I could. Each person had something to teach me or to inspire me with, even if it was indirectly. All I had to do was look them in the eyes, give them my undivided attention, and truly listen to what they had to say. We are called to love like Christ and to see Him in the every person that we meet. There is no greater need for love than in the homeless population. They are so deprived of genuine love, which is something we take for granted. On street walks, you learn about their lives. Not every person who is homeless is on the streets because of drugs or alcohol. They each have their own unique story. Some were dealt a really bad hand and are doing everything they can to get back on their feet. Some have experienced such tragedy and heartbreak. The gift of friendship and love can touch their hearts in such a powerful way, and I was shocked at how much it touched mine.

One afternoon, the group I was on a street walk with encountered a group of people and we quickly struck up a conversation with them. There was a woman with their group named Angie. She told us her troubles and her plan to get off the street. She was in a tough spot. What she said next touched my heart. She asked us to pray with her. We all held hands, bowed our heads, and asked the Lord to be with Angie during her time of need. It was a moment I’ll never forget, and definitely a moment that has impacted other moments in my life. It is so important to love more people in this world than just your closest friends and family members. The world doesn’t stop with you, but you have been given the great gift of prayer that can reach all the ends of the earth. Christ in the City taught me to love beyond my inner circle.

I was scared. I’m not going to lie to you. A Christ in the City mission trip pulls you all the way out of your comfort zone. But this past year the most important lesson I’ve learned is that nothing great has ever come from within my comfort zone. I was constantly meeting new people: the homeless, missionaries, or other students I hadn’t met before. I was constantly being challenged to improve my prayer life and to love like I’ve never loved before. It’s easy to talk to your parents or friends about what’s going on in their lives, but it is challenging when the person who pours their heart out to you is a complete stranger. You will grow so much as a person and as a Catholic within the one week of a CIC mission trip. If you give your full effort and attention, I have no doubt it will change how you see the world.

Christ in the City gave me a new perspective. The homeless man sleeping and shivering at the bus stop? Son of God with unique gifts and experiences. The girl in your chemistry class who annoys you every time she speaks? God created her perfectly in His image. He created her not for you to judge her, but to love her just as Christ does. The people in your life who you constantly fail to see the value in are just as much children of God as your best friends and family. Answer your call to love your brothers and sisters as Jesus does.

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For more information:

Email stmstudents@gmail.com or visit CIC’s website, christinthecity.co

 

Blog post written by Emily Clark

 

Home for the Holidays: Your Faith Life

They say it is hard to keep your faith in college, but I’d argue that it’s harder to when you go home. As I hope you all know, the community at St Thomas More is amazing. People continuously lift each other up and push one another toward holiness. With winter break coming up, it’s challenging to think about what we will do for an entire month without these friends by our side 24/7 and how this will impact our faith life. I know that when I go home I have a million things going on. Catching up with family and friends, working, celebrating a wonderful time of year, just to name a few. But just because we are at home and not in Norman doesn’t mean the role of Jesus Christ in our life should change. He should be as central to your life at home as He is here.  

Just because we have a break from school, doesn’t mean we have a break from Jesus. He is relentlessly pursuing us and He doesn’t deserve for us to check out for a month when we go home. We are presented with the decision of pursuing a relationship with our Lord or not. This does not change based on where we are or who we are surrounded by. Sometimes it’s easier than others to live out the faith continuously. But it’s in the moments that are testing, that we grow to rely on the Lord and learn do His will.

Here, our faith is built into our lives. For instance, I know that my schedule on Wednesday always consists of class, Pride, dinner and discourse, and late night liturgy. Very rarely does that change. At home life can be less structured. I know when the daily mass times at my home parish are, but I get into the habit of planning things at those times or preferring to sleep since they’re in the morning. We come to be accustomed to our Catholic bubble, with the same schedule and being surrounded by people who believe the same as us.

I come from a family that isn’t super strong in their faith and we never talk about Jesus. My dad and brother don’t ever go to mass and it’s a challenge to live out the faith at home when half your family doesn’t believe in it. But that shouldn’t change anything. What will most change their hearts is my active and continuous prayer for them to realize they are being pursued by our Lord and me not giving up hope that they will notice my actions. We are all called to live Christ-like, no matter where we are or what we’re doing. I find that this can often be difficult when it comes to family. Of course everyone loves their family, that’s a given, but we are called to do more than that. We are called to love them as Christ loves us, we are called to serve our families.

Don’t let being home kill your fire, but let it grow. Allow God to work in ways that He can’t when you’re bogged down by the stresses of school. Ask him to let you be vulnerable and challenged so that you can grow in Him.

It was recently brought to my attention that break is more of what the rest of our lives will look like. More so than our everyday lives here. This break you’re practicing what the rest of your life will look like, how will you practice?

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Blog post written by Kate Hawley

Chastity and Purity- Two words that shouldn’t make us cringe

I’m writing this anonymously to continue to provide a safe space for myself that is free of judgment, but also to allow myself the privacy to write about something that needs to be addressed. Without further ado, here are my thoughts about purity, chastity, and the respect we ought to have for our bodies. Let’s take a stroll down Vulnerable Lane.

Now, I’m no scholar about the subjects of purity and chastity or anything dealing with sexuality, and no I won’t be quoting Saint Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, but I will impart my two cents. I’ve struggled with chastity for almost all my life… no seriously. Ever since I was in elementary school. I learned what masturbation was in (roughly) the 4th grade. I also watched pornography for a short time in high school. I innocently partook in the pleasures of sexual immorality for probably seven years before realizing my actions were wrong. One day I suddenly felt shame. Something was not right. I realized I was addicted. —As I type the word addiction, I urge you to be free of judgment. Addictions come in all forms, and when you can’t go a day without indulging in whatever it is, then it’s an addiction.—

Let’s get one thing straight: sexuality is a beautiful thing. Sex is good. However, the world screws up the beauty of it and introduces these skewed desires that form our sexuality and desires to be impure. Sex is an expression of love that is so powerful and meant to CREATE LIFE through our bond with our spouse. This is why it is meant for a married man and woman. Thank you, God, for this amazing gift!

Pardon my short aside about sex… While premarital sex is becoming more common, I want to get back to the private but deadly sins of masturbation and pornography that can slowly eat away at us.

Why are these sins wrong? (There are many great sources online that I pulled from.) I know this concept is very counter-cultural. The world has a lot of ways of saying things are “good,” but what and who are they good for, and why? Engaging in masturbation and porn is selfish. It is self-centered. By engaging in masturbation, we are impurely training our sexuality and forming the habit of self-indulgence, not self-giving. It undermines the meaning of sex as only important for pleasure—your own pleasure. It is described as “adultery of the heart.” When we use porn, we use other people as a means for our own physical pleasure. Both the making of porn and the using dehumanizes people. Porn destroys relationships and is the leading form of infidelity that leads to divorce. Think about this: If you were in a relationship, married or not, would you be okay with them doing either of these things?

When I came to realize how wrong I was by sinning in these ways, I thought there was no hope left for happiness. I felt so wrong and dead on the inside, and I didn’t have a relationship with the Lord. I thought my sins made me irredeemable.

I didn’t realize there was still hope for me until one friend opened up to me about the same struggle with masturbation. Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone. I felt a little less odd. I felt very vulnerable, but it showed me that, if I could talk to a friend about this, I could actually talk to God about my biggest problems and vulnerabilities. That’s when I decided to make a serious effort to go to confession. I promised myself to visit the confessional every time I fell to temptation.

After we receive absolution from the priest, the Lord forgives our sins. We no longer have to carry that weight of sin after we confess them! Jesus takes our failings away from us. I can’t explain the consolation I feel after leaving the confessional. There is no longer a reason to hang my head in shame or to cry over my dirty soul. Jesus, in His power and might, becomes so tender to us in the confessional. He begs us to take Him back by allowing us to reconcile, so we can receive His love at our heart’s maximum capacity. If you haven’t been to confession in a while, no matter the kind of dirt on your soul, I strongly encourage you to go.

Over time, I have come to realize a couple things:

More people struggle with masturbation than we think. It is so common, yet it is not addressed. Some of my friends have or are currently dealing with the same sins. Let’s not think that Christians are above sexual sins or addictions.

Own your sin. Saying the words masturbation and pornography can be hard in the confessional. Practice saying it in your head if you’re nervous. Don’t take pride in it, but do name it. Isn’t acknowledgement the first step to overcoming something? A friend told me once that naming your sin allows the Lord to take it over instead of the evil one. Recognize the issue, and then go from there.

It is a sin to receive the Eucharist in this state. Jesus WANTS to heal us. The priest is always able to help us more when we provide specific information. In other words, don’t use fancy words to try and cover your sins. I used to say stuff like “sexual sin,” and I would leave it at that. Just say it. I PROMISE the priest has heard it said before by people of all ages and backgrounds. Rise above yourself and put your pride aside. I challenge you. Receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is probably the biggest burden I personally have ever felt. It’s also a huge insult to the Lord, who is waiting so patiently to make us clean.

[Confession times: St. Thomas More—Wednesdays 8-9pm, Thursdays 7:30-8:30pm. St Joseph—Saturday 3:30-4:30pm. Our Norman priests also take appointments.]

Don’t be afraid to start the conversation. You’re probably laughing at how absurd a request this is. Seriously though. I wouldn’t recommend guys and girls having a conversation about this, but within genders you realize how many people are affected by sins of the body. Having accountability has given me encouragement to honor my sexuality. Talking to others helps you get a fresh perspective on your actions. You might even realize underlying reasons to your actions when you talk to your friends or a priest about it.

Self-control. “Masturbation is not like throwing water on the fire of desire. It is like throwing gasoline on a fire.” Doing it once only allows the devil to trick you into thinking it’s okay for the next time. Temptations are hard to overcome. Most everyone has sexual desires. These desires are natural, and we must continue to respect our purity and others’. Realizing triggers (things that encourage you to masturbation or using pornography) has been a game-changer for me. If you start to notice the things setting you up for failure, you can eliminate the near occasion of sin.

As I write this, I wish I could tell you my battle is over, but I can’t. I have to make a daily choice to choose God and his beautiful desires for me over my own desires. However, I will leave you with hope. Saints never enter heaven unscathed. Everyone has a cross to bear, and this is mine. I’m not proud of it, but now I carry it in pursuit of Jesus. I carry this cross with the support of my friends, the Saints that intercede for me, and Jesus Himself. No battle should be fought alone. Let’s stand together for what is true and beautiful.

Great links and sources: Not all were used.

http://www.beginningcatholic.com/catholic-teaching-on-masturbation

http://mattfradd.com/category/pornography/   (great speaker with podcasts)

http://catholicbridge.com/catholic/masturbation.php    (disproving some myths)

Theology of the Body by John Paul II

http://www.aggiecatholicblog.org/2014/01/what-is-wrong-with-porn/ (blog by a Catholic college student)

Cowboy Born, Catholic Bred, STM Transformed

Hi there! My name is Bethany Heid (pronounced “hide”) and I’m going to tell you the story of how I got involved in St. Thomas More… and I’m not even an OU student.

I am a Catholic. I was adopted by two of the most Catholic parents I ever thought a girl could have. I was baptized at a month and a half, made my first communion at age 8, and was confirmed at age 15 (even though, at least for a little while, I wasn’t sure I wanted to). I attended Catholic school beginning in the fourth grade (prior to that I attended a Christian school, and a Lutheran school; I am a born and bred private school kid). And yet, all the while, my faith never seemed like it was mine. I’d go through periods where my faith life was on a great high (like after Kairos) and then after a while, it’d just sort of die down and take a back seat to everything else going on in my life.

Currently, I attend Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City (yes I know; I go to the “bad” school ;)). My initial plans after high school were to attend OSU-OKC for two years and then happily move to Stillwater and finish out the remainder of my college career there. But, like everything else in my life I’ve tried to plan, that wasn’t God’s plan for me.

In August of 2015, I found out that I had not passed a crucial class needed to move forward. And for a little bit, I didn’t even know if I was going back to college (I say a little bit but really I mean an evening). After thinking it over, I decided that maybe a career in business wasn’t for me and that it was finally time to jump head first into something I actually wanted to do and genuinely loved: becoming a librarian. Again, God’s plans for my life were different than what I had planned for myself. And where is the only place in Oklahoma where I can get a degree in library science?

If you guessed the University of Oklahoma, you’re correct!

Let’s back track just a little. From high school graduation until attending St. Thomas More for the very first time, I could count on one hand how many friends I had and they were all the same girls I’d graduated high school with. My social circle was awfully small and I didn’t get out much.

So, sometime after deciding my future career path, my mother mentioned to me that at OU there was a Catholic parish and that on Sunday nights, they served dinner to the students. She mentioned that the son of one of her co-workers attended and that my attending would be a good idea. She also suggested that I take along my friend Miryam so I wouldn’t be all alone on my very first day.

On Sunday, 27 September, 2015, we attended St. Thomas More for the very first time. That night, Miryam and I met Alexander Schmitt and he showed us the way to dinner (we tried to find it by ourselves but couldn’t and nearly left before I suggested that we go back inside and ask someone). Along the way, we met Thomas. We sat down to dinner and it wasn’t long before we met Chris and were soon filling out applications to attend the Awakening Retreat. And the rest is basically history.

For me, St. Thomas More has been like a beautiful and positive black hole. Once you’re in, you’re in. You can kick and scream and consider never attending again, but no matter what you do, God plants reasons inside your head to stay. You realize that you’d miss everyone you met terribly if you never again attended. You realize that you’ve probably met some of the best people you’re ever going to meet and that to miss out on doing the greatest thing in the world with them (sharing in the Eucharist) would be a tragedy. You’d have never met some of your best friends and even thinking that for a moment you would have to go without ever seeing them again is one of the hardest things to think about.

God has a plan for each of our lives. Sometimes that plan involves you planning on attending a school you never in a million years thought you would. Sometimes that plan means you jump head first into a career choice that you’d been thinking about, but were afraid of doing. Other times, you won’t even know what His plan is until years later when you realize that everything worked out in the way it did for a reason. I’ve heard that if you want to make God laugh, you plan your life. I’m not sure if this is true but if you’re ever in need of a reminder of this, just look to Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”. All we need to do is just listen to what He has to say to us and realize that the things that don’t work out in our favor are all for a reason.

I’ve been attending St. Thomas More for a little over a year now and it’s been one of the biggest blessings in my entire life. In attending St. Thomas More, my faith has become my own. My faith is my faith because I want it to be, not because somebody is forcing it to be. At St. Thomas More, you find a community that loves you, that shares your faith, encourages you, and accepts you…even if you don’t attend OU and drive to Norman with an OSU sticker on the back of your car.

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Blog post written by Bethany Heid