One of the real problems of our time is the issue of and the availability of pornography. In some ways this is not a new phenomenon, but what is relatively new is the fact that pornography is no longer relegated to adult book stores and adult theaters. Anyone of any age can now bring up pornographic images of all kinds on home computers, iPhones and Tablets, and it is readily accessible on the cell phones children use at a very early age. In other words, it is all around us and sometimes it can also appear on our television screens in our living rooms and dens.
For this reason, the Bishops of the United States issued a Pastoral Letter on pornography in November 2015 entitled “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.” They begin their message as follows:
“As pastors of the Catholic Church, we offer this statement to give a word of hope and healing to those who have been harmed by pornography and to raise awareness of its pervasiveness and harms. In the confessional and in our daily ministry and work with families, we have seen the corrosive damage caused by pornography—children whose innocence is stolen, men and women who feel great guilt and shame for viewing pornography occasionally or habitually, spouses who feel betrayed and traumatized, and men, women and children exploited by the pornography industry. While the production and use of pornography has always been a problem, in recent years its impact has grown exponentially, in large part due to the internet and mobile technology. Some have even described it as a public health crisis. Everyone, in some way, is affected by increased pornography use in society. We all suffer negative consequences from its distorted view of the human person and sexuality. As bishops, we are called to proclaim anew the abundant mercy and healing of God found in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and through his Church.
“The audience of this statement is broad because pornography affects so many people’s lives and requires a collaborative, concentrated effort by all of us to counter its harms. The statement itself is addressed primarily to parents, clergy, diocesan and parish leaders, educators, mental health professionals, and all those in positions to help protect children from pornography and heal the men, women and young people who themselves view pornography, whether occasionally or habitually, or who have been victimized by pornography. Finally, we speak to religious allies and all people of good will who want to work together toward a culture of purity that upholds the dignity of every person and the sacredness of human sexuality.”
Viewing pornography can distort one’s view of sexuality, marriage and the opposite sex. It also has direct connections with sins such as adultery, domestic violence, the abuse of children in child pornography and sex trafficking. And it can lead to addiction with frequent use. It is so pervasive that it harms countless men, women, children, marriages and families. Yet so many in our society consider it a harmless pastime, “adult entertainment.”
Studies show that the average age of first exposure to pornography is 11, which means that many children are exposed even earlier. Almost all young males and more than half of young females see pornography before age 18. And we hear about young people “sexting,” creating their own pornography by sending sexual photographs of themselves to peers. Children and teens can easily become more accepting of premarital sex, of viewing women as sex objects, and of some degrading sexual practices that are prevalent in pornography.
Pornography is closely connected to masturbation, the bishops say. “While popular culture largely sees it as acceptable, masturbation is contrary to chastity and the dignity of one’s body. Like other sins against chastity, it seeks sexual pleasure outside of the mutual self-giving and fruitful intimacy of spouses in marriage, in this case, even outside of any relationship at all.”
The bishops say that the sin of pornography, like any other sin, “needs the Lord’s forgiveness and should be confessed within the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. The damage it causes to oneself, one’s relationships, society, and the Body of Christ needs healing.” Pornography is a distortion of God’s plan for sexuality. The Catholic Church has always taught that sexual activity is reserved for married couples. Therefore, the bishops say, “God’s plan for marriage and chastity within marriage brings real happiness and intimacy to couples; the Church wants this for all husbands and wives.”
I would encourage you to read the entire text of this Bishops’ Pastoral by googling the title, “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.” I think you will find there much food for thought and reflection. Especially if you are parents, you will find some excellent suggestions about how you can work with your children in helping them to form good and lasting chaste habits so that hopefully they can avoid the dangers of falling into pornography. And if by chance you find that you have lapsed into watching pornography, this Pastoral Letter will help you, along with God’s grace, to find ways of overcoming the habit.
EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Today’s readings contain God’s challenge to reassess life’s priorities and live accordingly. “Vanity of vanities…All things are vanity,” shouts the preacher, who offers a sober evaluation of life and work. He questions the value of someone working so hard to acquire a fortune that upon death will go to an idle, lazy person. Trust should be placed in what matters.
Paul answers the question raised by the First Reading. Ultimately, our priority should be set on “what is above not on what is on earth.” In Baptism, we have died with Christ and have been raised to a new creation. We are called to a life with Christ in God for eternity.
Jesus’ parable challenges a reassessment of true security. A rich man placed all his security in amassing an ever larger fortune. He dies suddenly and “the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” The lesson of the parable is that we should place our security in our relationship with God rather than on earthly wealth.
Another dimension to this parable emerges from its context. The parable is given in response to the question shouted from the crowd: “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” Jesus turns the query back on the questioner: “Is money more important than your relationship with your brother?” The parable provides a challenge to reassess our priorities in life. Our focus should not be on temporal wealth that soon disappears but on our spiritual relationship with God and one another.
In the reading from Colossians, Paul tells us how to focus our lives if we are to be with God in the afterlife. He says that those who seek what is above and think of what is above will find their life in Christ and will be with him in glory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The sixth beatitude proclaims, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ ‘Pure in heart’ refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness” (#2518).
The rich man in the Gospel has enjoyed the bountiful harvest that God has provided on his land. It is up to this man to decide whether he will share his wealth or hoard it for a day that might never come. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that humankind discerns goodness and truth from the abundance that God provides. The Catechism states: “Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator, which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie” (#1954).
For Your Reflection: Can a preoccupation with work be a form of vanity? How can seeking God’s will be a form of dying to yourself? When has an event in your life prompted you to reassess your priorities?
THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
About a week after Jesus plainly told his disciples that he would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life, he took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. While praying, his personal appearance was changed into a glorified form, and his clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus about his death that would soon take place. Peter, not knowing what he was saying and being very fearful, offered to put up three shelters for them. This is undoubtedly a reference to the booths that were used to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Israelites dwelt in booths for 7 days. Peter was expressing a wish to stay in that place. When a cloud enveloped them, a voice said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen, whom I love; listen to Him!” The cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had disappeared, and Jesus was alone with his disciples who were still very much afraid. Jesus warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after his resurrection.
Undoubtedly, the purpose of the transfiguration of Christ into at least a part of his heavenly glory was so that the “inner circle” of his disciples could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold him in his glory. The disciples, who had only known him in his human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ, though they could not fully comprehend it. That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of his coming death.
The disciples never forgot what happened that day on the mountain and no doubt this was intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only” (Jn 1:14). Peter also wrote of it, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the majestic glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain” (2Pt 1:16-18). Those who witnessed the transfiguration bore witness to it to the other disciples and to countless millions down through the centuries.
FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC
Thursday, August 8, 2019
If he hadn’t taken a trip with his bishop, Dominic would probably have remained within the structure of contemplative life. After the trip, he spent the rest of his life being a contemplative in active apostolic work. Born in old Castile, Spain, Dominic was trained for the priesthood by a priest-uncle, studied the arts and theology, and became a canon of the cathedral at Osma, where there was an attempt to revive the apostolic common life described in the Acts of the Apostles.
On a journey through France with his bishop, Dominic came face to face with the then virulent Albigensian heresy at Languedoc. The Albigensians—or Cathari, “the pure ones”—held to two principles—one good, one evil—in the world. All matter is evil; hence they denied the Incarnation and the sacraments. On the same principle, they abstained from procreation and took a minimum of food and drink. The inner circle led what some people regarded as a heroic life of purity and asceticism not shared by ordinary followers.
Dominic sensed the need for the Church to combat this heresy and was commissioned to be part of the preaching crusade against it. He saw immediately why the preaching crusade was not succeeding; the ordinary people admired and followed the ascetical heroes of the Albigensians. Understandably, they were not impressed by the Catholic preachers who travelled with horse and retinues, stayed at the best inns and had servants. Dominic, therefore, with three Cistercians, began itinerant preaching according to the gospel ideal. He continued this work for ten years, being successful with the ordinary people but not with the leaders.
His fellow preachers gradually became a community, and in 1215 Dominic founded a religious house at Toulouse, the beginning of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans.
Dominic’s ideal, and that of his Order, was to organically link a life with God, study, and prayer in all forms, with a ministry of salvation to people by the word of God. His ideal: contemplata tradere: “to pass on the fruits of contemplation” or “to speak only of God or with God.”
The Dominican ideal, like that of all religious communities, is for the imitation, not merely the admiration, of the rest of the Church. The effective combining of contemplation and activity is the vocation of truck driver Smith as well as theologian Aquinas. Acquired contemplation is the tranquil abiding in the presence of God and is an integral part of any full human life. It must be the wellspring of all Christian activity.
WELCOME, FR. BILL ROONEY, O.F.M.
I would like to introduce our newest friar to join our ministry at St. Peter’s. He is Fr. Bill Rooney, O.F.M., who grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and has been both a friar and a priest for quite a few years. Some of you who have been coming to St. Peter’s for a number of years may recognize him because he was stationed here a while back, but since then, he has served as a pastor of a parish in Cleveland, Ohio, and most recently as a pastor in Dietrich, Illinois, near Teutopolis. Fr. Bill will be living at our St. Gratian Friary in suburban Countryside and commuting each day to the Loop for ministry. He is a very outgoing person, and I think you will enjoy his presence at the altar, in the confessional, on the mezzanine and in the Front Office. Please welcome him and introduce yourself when you see him.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
Three guys are fishing on a lake when an angel appears in the boat with them. The first guy gets over his shock and humbly says to the angel, “I’ve suffered from back pain for years. Is it too much to ask that you help me?” The angel touches the man’s back, and he feels instant relief.
The second guy points to his Coke-bottle glasses and asks if the angel could cure his poor eyesight. The angel tosses the man’s glasses into the lake. When they hit the water, the man’s vision clears and he can see everything distinctly.
The angel now turns to the third guy, who throws up his hands in fear. “Don’t touch me!” he cries. “I’m on disability!”