THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
GOING ON VOCATION: MARRIAGE AND HOLY ORDERS
As I have in the past, I'd like to begin just by pulling together some simple summary catechetical teachings with regard to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. What is the Sacrament of Holy Orders? Holy Orders is the sacrament through which men receive the power and grace to perform the sacred duties of bishops, priests and other ministers of the Church. This is something that our Lord also instituted to give grace. He instituted the sacrament at the Last Supper when he gave them the power and the responsibility to say Mass, to "Do this in remembrance of Me." He breathed on them, later on the Holy Spirit, after his resurrection, and he gave to them the power to forgive and to retain sins, as we saw when we looked at the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation.
Signs of a Priestly Vocation
Now a really basic question I want to ask is, "How do you know, as a young man, whether or not you have the signs of a vocation?" Because, really that's what Holy Orders consists of. It's a divine calling, a "vocacio." How do you know? Well, first of all, you have to ask yourself, "Am I living habitually in a state of grace? Do I experience the Lord's help?" Secondly, a young man has to ask himself whether or not he feels and he senses and he believes all that which the Catholic Church teaches. Does he feel the importance of it for his own soul? Does he believe it with his own mind? Does he seek to share that and live it out the best he can with the help of God? Does he enjoy Confession? Not in the sense of enjoy sharing your sins, but enjoying the meeting of our Lord in that sacrament. Does he look forward to Communion? Does he look forward to teaching catechism and growing in his faith and does he have that right and simple intention to fill his soul with the grace of Christ for salvation? Does he have that desire to share with others?
Now, this is what a catechism says. A whole lot more is involved these days, however, than simply what a catechism has to say. Why? Because we are having a crisis of vocations. There's no mistaking it. I think a fundamental reason why we are having a crisis of vocations when it comes to the Sacrament of Holy Orders is simple. We don't understand what it means to be a priest!
The Meaning of Priesthood: Fatherhood
If you look at the Old Testament, you find the same thing that you discover in the New Testament. To be a priest is to be a father, and I want to suggest something before we delve into Holy Orders. That is that the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught that all of us are priests. Do you understand that? All of us are priests by Baptism and that priesthood is made strong by Confirmation. The priesthood is a natural priesthood giving us the capacity to share and mediate with others the grace of Christ.
Now what do we mean when we distinguish between natural priesthood and supernatural priesthood? In a very real sense, we all know what fathering means because we have experienced it at the natural level-the idea of giving life, the idea of providing for that life. Because what do parents do? They give life. They nurture life. They care for it. They instruct. They teach. They raise that life to maturity. That's what we are called to do and in Baptism and in Confirmation, we have that charism, that vocation. And in Matrimony, we see that priesthood realized in a very real way.
However, from earliest times we have realized that nature itself is incapable of elevating humanity to the supernatural state of grace whereby we really live out the life of Divine Sonship. For that, Adam wasn't enough. What Adam lost is restored in Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation, and that's a natural priesthood. But Adam never had the capacity in himself to bestow upon the whole human race full membership in the Divine family the way that Christ has through the hypostatic union when he united humanity to his eternal divine nature. And that special gift of supernatural paternity is what the Sacrament of Holy Orders is all about.
Some people raise the objection, "Why can't women be ordained to the priesthood?" Well, if you go back and study the idea of priesthood in the Old Testament as well as the New, you realize that the priest in a public capacity was to serve the role of a father figure. In Judges, chapter 18 and elsewhere, priests are called "Fathers" because they provide that kind of supernatural or at least that spiritual provision. They are providers and they are rulers and they are fathers.
Now, nature itself does not bestow the capacity of paternity upon women, and nature was created by God. And nature is what God uses to bring about the supernatural transformation of grace in the New Covenant. So it's appropriate, I believe, and the Church has long taught and always will teach, I believe, that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is only proper for men.
Common Objections to Priestly Vocations
That raises other questions, though, because there are lots of young men here and I think in our society today, it's very, very difficult for men to have a sense of vocation. If you go around and tell your friends, "I'm thinking about the priesthood," what kind of comments do you think young men will get from their friends? "But you're so normal. You're such a regular guy!" Or you might hear from a teacher or a parent, "What a waste. What a shame. You could do so well in business, out in the world, you know, to have to go into the priesthood."
You encounter those kinds of objections: you encounter that kind of mentality very, very frequently and within young men, you often have the idea, "I love and desire feminine companionship. And I also find myself feeling at home in the world. So I must not be a priest." Well, I would say to young men who do not desire feminine companionship and who do not feel at home in the world, that you are not qualified to consider the priesthood. I say that with real gravity and seriousness because God calls men, and men are by nature inclined and attracted to women. And men who are attracted to women are the applicants, the qualified people for the priesthood.
The priesthood entails sacrifice. If you give up something you don't want, if you sacrifice something that isn't really attractive, it isn't really a sacrifice! A sacrifice is an expression to God that I like all these things, but I love you and I want to serve you so much that I am willing to give up these lower goods. So God is calling men who feel at home in the world, who can make it in the world, who are manly who love or at least desire and are attracted to women.
It's a shame that this idea is skewed, but it's very common, I'm afraid. I had a student ask the question, "But isn't it unnatural for the Church to require celibacy, because isn't it unnatural to suppress your sexuality?" That's a good question, isn't it? I mean, after all, God has made us the way we are, male and female. To be sexual, that is, to be male or female is natural. Is the Lord of nature calling us to suppress the natural in order to attain the supernatural? Not really. Not really, at all. What I think is unnatural is the way our society reduces sexuality down to genital activity. In other words, to be a man requires sexual intercourse. Oh, really?
I don't think that is necessarily the case. Genital functions in marriage, sexual activity within marriage is the natural means to express marital love. It's also the natural means to propagate the race, to become mothers and fathers. It's also the proper means for establishing marital communion, but it isn't the only way to experience your masculinity or your femininity. Our society reduces sexuality down to genital activity. That's not natural. In fact, I would say that my experience is this: that after being married, it wasn't until I became a father that I really discovered all that is meant in being a male and being masculine.
It is not just genital functions; it's even more: a calling to be a husband, a father, a brother, a son or a wife, a mother, a daughter or a sister -- to find your role and function, your calling, your gifts within the family and within the larger family of God. So the priesthood is calling forth people, not for men to suppress what is natural in them, but for them to supernaturally elevate that to experience fatherhood through Divine grace.
Take a look at somebody like John Paul II; I mean, is he a wimp? No, you look all around the world and you're hard pressed to find somebody more manly. He's outgoing, he's handsome, he's attractive, he's intelligent, he's athletic. He's got a sense of humor -- he's a man's man. He is an ideal priest and an ideal pontiff and he's a message to the world that you don't suppress natural masculinity when you become a priest. In fact, you allow God to supernaturally elevate and strengthen and exalt that masculinity, that sexuality.
So you might say, "Well look around at the priests we have." I look around and I have found many Godly priests. There are a lot of priests who struggle these days, a lot of priests who may be confused about their identity, their function in the Body of Christ. We need to pray for them. We need to sacrifice for our priests because, well, just face it. If you were the evil one and you wanted to attack the Church, who would you target? The hoy poloy, the rank and file, the likes of you and me? Not before you would signal out the bishops and target the priests. We have to pray for our priests and pray for an increase in holy vocations and seek a greater understanding of the sacrament of Holy Orders, because it's a beautiful gift that God has given to us, a supernatural fatherhood.
Sacrament of Matrimony
Now I know there are many loose ends. There are many questions that remain and I wish that we had time to answer all of them, but at this point in time, I think what would be best would be to move on to the Sacrament of Matrimony, mainly because it's more relevant for the majority of people here because we are going to be going home to our families where we are going to call upon the Lord to release more grace from the Sacrament of Matrimony for the well-being of our families.
So what is the Sacrament of Matrimony? A catechism might describe the Sacrament of Matrimony as that sacrament by which a baptized man and a baptized woman bind themselves for life in a lawful marriage and receive the grace to discharge their duties of state, the married state. The Sacrament of Matrimony, the catechism says, "consists in the mutual expression by both contracting parties of their free and mutual consent." It's the free consent of two individuals that constitutes the sacrament. It's an indissoluble sacrament. Why? Because of the very nature of covenant. The marital covenant is a reflection of the Blessed Trinity, as we will see.
The marital covenant is called by God to live out the love and the union of an indissoluble covenant bond. If we had the time, we could really unpack how it is that the Sacrament of Matrimony fits perfectly this understanding of "sacramentum," oath, of covenant as a sacred family bond. But I want to keep our discussion at a more practical level. I should say one other thing along these lines because the catechism teaches that the Church transmits this truth, but it often is misunderstood. That is, as soon as a couple expresses and exchanges consent, you've got the sacrament. But the Sacrament of Matrimony only becomes purely and intrinsically indissoluble when that marriage is consummated through the act of marriage, sexual intercourse.
Why is that? Because sexual intercourse is, in a sense, the oath enacted by which the contract is transformed into a covenant and that covenant shares in the sacramental grace that Christ instituted. So then, the Sacrament of Matrimony is purely indissoluble once it's consummated.
Now, all of this stuff sounds kind of humdrum and obvious perhaps. I often take a moment in my theology marriage classes to ask my students a basic question: "How many religions in the world teach and require strict monogamy?" How many religions in the world? Invariably, the response I get from students is, "Well, don't all of them teach it?" No. Hinduism doesn't. Buddhism doesn't. Islam? Well, maybe just the monotheistic religions? They require strict monogamy. No. Judaism has always allowed for polygamy up until the 1940s and that was just a tactical shift. Islam allows up to four wives.
Christianity is the only religion in world history to require strict monogamy. I don't think you can find any statement in the gospels as revolutionary as the statement found in Matthew 19. Turn with me to the first gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, "The Pharisees came up to Jesus and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?' He answered, 'Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh?'" So they were no longer two, but one flesh. And then Jesus makes this unbelievable statement, "What, therefore, God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
God is the one who unites the two and makes them one. It isn't government. It isn't the Church. It isn't even the two individuals themselves. God is the bonding agent in the sacrament. So Jesus is saying, "Hey, don't give yourselves so much credit. If God is uniting these two, who do you think you are, a mere man to break apart what God has joined together?" He goes on, "He said to them, "For your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so." Then he goes on to make that revolutionary statement when he says to them, "I say to you whoever divorces his wife, lewd conduct is a separate case marries another commits adultery."
What does that mean? Well, we could go into a long discussion and into every phrase of that, but it means, once married to a person, you are married for life! And what do you vow? You vow for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, better for worse as long as we both shall love? Is it just a contract? As long as the payoff is greater than the sacrifice? No, as long as we both shall live, because this is no mere contract. We're not just exchanging goods and services, pleasures and pleasantries. We're exchanging persons! I am yours and now you are mine God stands between us to bind us together in this covenant chain of matrimony. And he stands in between the two, not just to hold them together, but to be an endless source of grace and power and forgiving love so that they can work out whatever problems they face. And I've got to tell you, every married couple will have its struggles. I don't care who they are or how quiet and patient and gentle they may be. Effects of the Sacrament
So, here is the Sacrament of Matrimony. Now what does the Sacrament of Matrimony confer in terms of this grace? What are the effects of the sacrament, in other words? Well, the first thing is that it's an increase of sanctifying grace; that is, even apart from your spouse, you are joined closer to Jesus Christ. You receive a greater fullness of the Holy Spirit. You mature as a child of God. Then you receive a special sacramental grace that enables you to love with a divine love, to love like Christ loves, to forgive like Christ forgives. And unless we are willing to forgive like that, marriage won't work!
Goods of Marriage
It goes on and talks about how there are three goods of marriage. What are the three goods? Well, you go back to St. Augustine and he talked about the three goods of marriage. He said they were prodes, fides and sacramentum. Those three Latin terms speak of children. Children are one of the goods of marriage that God has always intended. Fidelity, that is faithful love and communion between the spouses, and also sacramentum, that is the grace that makes this marriage something more than merely marriage.
Every sacramental marriage becomes, as it were, a homily, a message, an icon of the union between Christ and his Church. Let's take a look at Ephesians, Chapter 5, and we will see how the Church got this idea. Ephesians, chapter 5, beginning in verse 22, it says, "Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord." And all the men are thinking, "Heh, hey, I like this." "...For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, is himself its savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands." So far, so good for the men, right? I see a few guys back there (laughter) until all of a sudden we come across verse 25, gentlemen, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church." "Just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot, or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy without blemish."
Do you realize that the husband's task is to bring the grace of salvation to bear more and more on the marriage and the family? How often have men wimped out on that? In treating religion like it's a "woman's thing?" How many families, how often have men wimped out on that, in treating religion like it's a woman's thing? How many families do you find where the woman is the one responsible for the religious instruction and formation, because, you know, "It ain't cool" to be religious if you're a man in American society?
What a total distortion of masculinity. We are called to be like Christ. We are called to lay down our lives in love for our bride. He goes on, "Even so, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hates his flesh but nourishes and cherishes it as Christ does the Church because we are members of his Body. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh."
Now, verse 32 says, "This mystery is a profound one." The Latin translation is, "This sacramentum is a great or a magnificent sacrament," and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church. It is the fact that Christ has married the Church, indissoluble and eternally, given his own life for her life: that makes matrimony a sacrament. Let me say that again. Prior to the coming of Christ, marriage was in a sense a covenant and a natural sacrament, but it didn't become a covenant sacrament of the new law, of the New Covenant until Christ established this new family order in his own flesh and blood by his flesh and blood constituted the Church as his bride.
It's that revolution in history that revolutionized social life. If societies would just practice this one idea of strict monogamy, we would have so much more harmony among men and women, between parents and children and so on and so forth.
Now, what does it mean to receive the grace of the sacrament in a practical way? I would like to quote from a famous encyclical written by Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii, because he gives to us a special insight on what St. Paul just said in Ephesians, 5:22, because, let's face it, what St. Paul just said is very, very controversial. Pope Pius XI says, "This subjection does not take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman, both in view of her dignity as a human person and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion. Nor does it bid her to obey her husband's every request, even if not in harmony with right reason or the dignity due her as a wife. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family. It forbids that in this body, which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin." And here's what I like the most, "For, if the man is the head, the woman is the heart and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, she ought to claim for herself the chief place in love."
This is a revolutionary insight. The man loves to claim priority and primacy in the order of authority, there's something right but inadequate or incomplete about that statement because the man if first in the order of authority must acknowledge that the woman is first in the order of love. Man is the head of the home; woman is the heart of the home. But look at yourself. Which is more important, your head or your heart? That's like asking which blade in the scissors does most of the cutting or which wing of the airplane does most of the flying? What a dumb question!
The head can't live without the heart and the heart can't live without the head. I would suggest that the New Covenant gives us a very interesting and radical insight because if the man is first in the order of authority and the woman is first in the order of love, if you came to compare those two orders, which order is superior, the order of authority or the order of love? Now, I'm speaking only in terms of personal opinion, but I might suggest to you that, as far as we humans are concerned, the order of love takes precedence over the order of authority, because somebody who has lots of authority but not lots of love is way below somebody who has lots of love but little authority.
The greatest saints in heaven are not the ones who had lots of power and lots of brains, but rather those who loved a lot. We need to live this out in our families before our society can get rid of a kind of radical feminism which wants to do away with the Christian family. Until we restore this perspective, this balanced vision of what it means to love as man and woman, we're not going to be able to balance the scales and restore the harmony and love of a covenant family.
Divorce and Remarriage, or Serial Polygamy, Corrodes the Foundation of Trust of Society
Now we've seen in Matthew 19 how Jesus Christ, very quietly, almost imperceptibly launched a social revolution in establishing for the first time in history strict, mandatory monogamy. And I've got to tell you that non-Catholics have slipped away from this because once you allow divorce and remarriage, like the non-Catholic churches all do, you have for all practical purposes serial polygamy. It might be one wife at a time, but it has all the practical consequences of polygamy; and the more we understand human psychology, the more we understand that this corrodes the very foundation of trust that every culture depends upon to continue living and thriving as a society.
Why? Because nowhere else in human relations do two people bare their souls as much as when they bare their bodies in marital union. When you take off your clothes and you become one flesh, you make yourself more vulnerable than anything else that can take place between two people. It's like you're putting your guts on the table. And if in society, we allow people to say, "Well, thank you very much for these pleasures and for these experiences and here, I've enjoyed our time, but now I'm moving on to greener pastures." It's like taking all those guts that you've put on the table and the guy just throws the table over and says, "I'm moving on."
If a man can't be trusted to protect the soul that has laid itself bare, who can that man be trusted with, or who can that woman be trusted with? If after somebody has given themselves so completely to you, you pack your bags and you leave and you say, "Well, I'm on to bigger and better things," what individual in society will you be safe with? What bond won't you break for convenience?
Divorce is the most fundamental violation of the covenant. We have got to hear the Lord say in Malachi, "For I, the Lord, hate divorce." The Lord hates it and we have to also the more we understand the covenant the more we will.
I shared this perspective with a class one time in Washington, D.C. I was teaching a Theology and Marriage course and I related a story that I had heard from a friend of mine. A friend of mine knew a friend of his who was a very top executive in U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh. The U.S. Steel building is enormous. You can see it from just anywhere in the Greater Pittsburgh area it's so large. On the top floor is the Executive Suite, the Executive Offices this one man, from what I understand, decided one day to go down to the spa and work out, which was just a few floors below his Executive Suite, near the very top of the U.S. Steel building.
After working out, after lifting and all this kind of thing, he discovered that he didn't have a towel and he needed a shower. Well, since he had the executive elevator, he could swing back up to his office and just pick up the towel that he left there on the floor there by the elevator, right? So he decided to do that, take a little risk. He punched the wrong button and the doors opened up in front of the Executive Cafeteria and the man stood there for a split second and then collapsed and covered himself.
I said to this seminar, "Can you imagine anything more humiliating than that, you know?" I mean that was just so humiliating, to be naked and ashamed. Oh, my! And two hands went up. And I said, "That was a rhetorical question, I didn't want to start a game of, 'Can you top this?'" And the hands stayed up. Since at the time they were married longer than me, I decided to go ahead and I called on the one guy. And he said, "I can imagine something far more humiliating than that. It's when you go back to the apartment where you and your Ex used to live when you were married and you're there and you take a shower and you're leaving the bathroom and then she walks in because you forgot she had a key and the two of you stare at each other and break down and sob."
I'm trying to teach a seminar and the other guy's hand is still up and his head is nodding I said, "Go ahead." And he said, "It wasn't an apartment: it was our old house. The same thing happened to me and of all the excruciating, humiliating experiences in my life, that is easily the top."
And I just shook my head at both of these guys, big, strapping guys their eyes just welled up with tears. They said, "When you're married, it is so beautiful. You're naked, you're not ashamed. You're joined together. You can love spiritually as well as physically when all of a sudden it all falls apart, it isn't just like you separate, it's like your body is ripped down the middle. It's like your limbs are taken off." And the one guy just went on for another five or ten minutes I just kind of sat there listening and learning more than the rest of them could have learned in two hours worth of lectures, as he went on describing the pain and the discovery of what covenant love was meant to be and of what is lost when that covenant love falls apart.
Does that mean that marriage should be dissoluble? No. Because the marriage covenant is that chain, that fetter, that covenant bond that keeps us together, so that we can be free to grow old and not fear being alone, being dumped, being trashed, rejected. Some of you out there know the pain. Some of you out there wish you could hold your hand up and say, "Oh, it's even worse than that." Our society has got to stop, look and listen once more to the holy Roman Catholic Church's teachings because they come straight from the heart of our Creator and our Redeemer and the lover of our souls and the lover of our families, Jesus Christ. Because he looks and he says, "If you don't have the love any more, come back to me and I will give you my infinite, endless love. If you don't have the energy to forgive any more, come back and I will give it to you." And he will.
All we have to do is think about it and regain our common sense. Whenever we find ourselves in a situation where we feel it's impossible to forgive and restore, let's just think about what God has done for us. The sins that we have committed against Almighty God are immeasurable. The debt that we owe to him is just limitless yet, he didn't just forgive us, he offered his own Son as the ransom and as the payment for our sins in order to be able to forgive us.
If God longed to forgive us so completely and so truly, who are we to withhold forgiveness for sins against ourselves? Who are we? If God, the Almighty, Majestic Ruler has forgiven us, then we should be greedy in looking for opportunities to share that forgiving love with spouses and with children and with friends and ex-friends. That is the one, distinctive, revolutionary idea that Christianity is still trying to establish on this earth and let's allow the Lord to do it through the covenant of marriage because apart from this, there is just no hope.
Marriage Forces Parents to Grow Up
I've got to tell you from my own experience, marriage "grew me up." You know, marriage is to have children and parents are supposed to work hard to help raise their children, to help their children grow up. Well, if parents help children to grow up, I've got to tell you from my experience, children force parents to grow up.
When I was a single man, I was a Christian and I tried, and I thought that I was living a good Christian life. When I got married, I discovered how selfish I was. But that discovery wasn't complete until I had children. Oh, my! To realize, first of all you're holding this little child. I remember Michael, seven years ago, holding my firstborn son, Michael, and looking at this little child and realizing that a year ago he had no existence whatsoever, no being at all, until our love brought forth new life. And the message of Christ came home to me in a way it never could have through mere study.
Love and life belong together. I remember thinking, "That's why contraception is so unnatural, because marital love is life-giving in its essence. And here is the life, the two of us have become one and that oneness is no merely defiction. That oneness is so real that it becomes a living person, and that little baby embodies the unity that those two have become." And all of a sudden, you hold your baby and it throws up down your back, and it wakes you up at three in the morning, and you've got to change the diapers and the return on your investment of time and energy is not always considerable. I mean you can't just say to your kid, "If you'll be cute for just 30 minutes each day, I'll put in two or three hours each night to care for you."
The kid just basically says, "What? No deal." And I looked at that child and I said, "Do you realize, Hahn, that that was you twenty-some years ago?" Do we realize that if it weren't for our parents, we wouldn't be here? And if they weren't loving us when it wasn't very convenient, we wouldn't have received an education. We wouldn't have received all of the social and spiritual necessities of life, as well as the physical and material necessities. We have been loved and cared for. Sure, our parents have flaws and warts. We all do. But if we can't cover up their sins, if we can't overlook and forgive them, who will we forgive? Who has given us so much as our parents.
The Sacrament of Matrimony enables us to enlarge our vision of human life to see history as the sphere in which God enables us to become co- creators, co-teachers, co-redeemers with the one who created and redeemed us all, Jesus Christ.
George Gilder wrote a book a few years ago entitled "Naked Nomads." "Single Men in America" was the subtitle. I remember reading that, and I discovered the following: that single men in America are 400% more likely to commit suicide. Single men in America have six times more accidents on the road. Single men in America account for 90% of crimes that are committed, while single men in America constitute 13% of the American population.
Married men, though with less time, make double the income. Married men pay lower insurance rates. Married men actually have longer lives, life span. In school, they have higher grades in colleges and universities across the board; and, of course, in the business world, they have better credit. Though they have less time, less energy, they have more of a sense of responsibility because they are growing up. They are finishing what they should have done when they were teenagers.
It's induced sanctification, imposed maturity upon us because, when I was a teenager thinking about marriage, and then when I got married in my twenties, I thought, "I'm going to do it so differently than my parents did. I've learned from all their mistakes." And then, all of a sudden I held that first child, and like, "Where are all my new ideas? What am I going to do? What AM I going to do?" And all of a sudden, I started calling my parents asking them for advice.
Mark Twain once quipped that at sixteen, he couldn't believe how dumb his father was, but by the age of 21 he said, "I can't imagine how much you've learned in five years." Something else is really going on here. We need men who are mature as fathers. We need men who understand what sex is all about, what female bodies are really for. And I tell you, our cities need it most of all.
I worked a few years ago in a ghetto ministry in Pittsburgh. I worked there for several months and I remember in our training session, we were told right out, "You are dealing with kids, about 99% of whom do not have their biological father in their house or their apartment." I thought wow! Then he added, "And those who might still have their fathers in from time to time, have fathers who are drunk and violent."
I remember thinking, "I can't even imagine what that would be like." And then the man made this conclusion, "Therefore, I do not want you to refer to God in your talks with these kids as Father." It was obvious why, and he said, "because as soon as they hear "father" what are they going to see? What are they going to conjure up in their imagination, some drunken bum, some violent tyrant?" And I raised my hand and I said, "You know, on the other hand, after experiencing nothing but fatherly failures, maybe this is their last chance. Maybe God is the last hope these people have to recover a sense of what fatherhood is."
In other words, if we bail out now, what hope do these kids ever have of thinking through what fatherly love entails? We had the most intense discussion for the next three hours and we decided to turn it around and to emphasize God as Father. And you should have seen what some of the kids had to say at the end of our summer ministry. It was beautiful. Maybe they didn't see it in their house or their apartment, but they began to believe and sense that the reality is there in God.
You know some people say, "All of this family of God stuff just doesn't work for me because I come from a bad family experience or so and so has had rotten parents." Well, I've got to tell you, I don't come from the most glorious and holy family either. My parents are great, but I've got to tell you, I sinned so well, I made family life very miserable for all of us, and my brother and sister threw in their two cents worth, too. Our family wasn't a big, happy Christian family. And I've got to tell you something, my wife comes from one of the godliest families I've ever, ever run into and when I was converting to the Catholic Church, I kept sharing with her how exciting it was to discover the family of God, where father and where mother and where brothers and sisters are supernaturally charged with this divine grace to love in God's universal family known as the Church.
It didn't impact her the same way. I didn't understand why until we talked about it some more and we realized that she had such a godly, loving family, she didn't have this intense, burning desire, this driving need to find that family to fulfill her, the same way I did. Now I've got to tell you, God has done miraculous things in my family. I've got to tell you, my Mom and my Dad are the two greatest human beings on earth. I love them. But it wasn't until we went through some hard times that we began to realize the sacrifices that are required to build strong family life.
My wife and I have experienced the same thing in terms of our married life. For the last four years, I've been Catholic and she has been Protestant, up until three weeks ago when she was received in the Catholic Church after much long, hard study. I hope that she has the opportunity to share her story with you some time. It's exciting. But, if it were not for the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony, we wouldn't have made it.
The Catholic Church teaches that baptized non-Catholic men and women who marry have the sacrament. Do you realize that? Protestants who were baptized and who marry receive the sacrament and the grace of the sacrament, as the Catholic Church teaches. And I am here today to tell you that I thank God that that is true because it is the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony that enabled us not just to weather the storm, not just to survive the difficulties. I mean ten years ago, when we were first married, we were involved together in ministry, in reaching out to troubled kids, sharing Jesus Christ with them.
She wanted to marry a minister. Her father is a minister. Her brother is a minister. Her uncle is a minister and her husband was a minister, and then he left the ministry and became a Catholic, after she had married a man who was very anti-Catholic. Do you want to know about a marriage that went through a real trial? I've got to tell you, ours did. It wasn't just the grace of the sacrament that enabled us to survive. I'm here today to testify to the grace of Jesus Christ to say that the grace of this sacrament enabled us to go through all of that and come out with a love supernaturally forged and stronger in a way that I have never seen in most other marriages that I have come across. I thank God for the pain and the tears and the struggles.
We've gone through a lot. Other couples have gone through even more, I suspect, but the struggles and the trials are not that which makes marriage less than sacramental. Those are what make marriage a sacrament. It's so necessary and right for Christ to institute marriage as a sacrament because that's where we need grace the most. To raise kids these days is not easy, especially teenagers. To teach them and to role model for them what love entails is very, very challenging.
Contrasting Perspectives: John Paul II and the ACLU
I want to share with you just briefly a contrast of perspectives to understand exactly what I am saying, and how important it is for Catholics to recover the grace of the sacrament. On the one hand, I want to share a few comments that Pope John Paul II has said about marriage and the family, and then I want to compare those with statements made by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU. Some call it the Anti- Christian Liberties Union.
Pope John Paul II said this, "In the family, each person is introduced to the human family and the family of God. The way of humanity passes by way of the family." He goes on to say in this article back in January, 1989, in this talk that he gave, "The Church and the family are each in its own way living representations in human history of the eternal loving communion of the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. Nowhere in all human life do humans signify and live out and symbolize the Holy Trinity like we do in marriage and the family." Pope John Paul adds that the Church, especially since Vatican II, has recognized herself as family. She is an immense family on mission.
Within this immense family Church is every human family, every family community as family on mission." He goes on to say that, "the family is on mission and this mission is fundamental for all peoples. For all humanity it is the mission of love and life. It is the witness to love and to life. Let's pray together," he adds, "for the most fundamental and important thing in the Church's mission, for the spiritual renewal of the family, of the human and Christian families in every nation, especially in our Western world. In this entire world, there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, unity and community. There is no other human reality which corresponds more to that divine mystery of the Trinity."
"With this great testimony, the family on mission is the image of the Trinity on mission, a program which I would call socio, political and economic. We must carry it forward. However, one cannot truly protect the family without getting to its roots, its profound reality, its intimate nature; and its intimate nature is the communion of persons and the image and likeness of the divine communion, family on mission, Trinity on mission."
Now that's very abstract. That's very theological. That's very lofty. That might seem to be up there in the stratosphere. I'll bring it down to earth. What he is saying is simple. The family is the lived image of the Blessed Trinity. We, in our families are responsible for enabling the world to believe that God can be three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No other religion has ever said that God is family, eternal family. Every other monotheistic religion has made God a solitary loner, an individual, merely a law-giver or a creator or a judge; whereas our God has revealed a family, an eternal family communion of love and of life.
In order to make that believable, we have to live it out in our families, through our marriages. How do we do it? Well, how do we don't do it? How do we not do it? We do not practice contraception. Contraception is unnatural. It goes against human nature and natural law. It goes against scriptural law. I just came across a book recently, written by a Protestant entitled, "The Bible and Birth Control", in which the author, Charles Provan, shows that for 400 years every single Protestant theologian using the Bible alone came to the conclusion that contraception is contrary to God's law.
The Protestants have been saying this for centuries. On the basis of the Bible alone, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Swingley, Knox, Cranmer - - all of them concluded that contraception is contrary to Divine law and contrary to human love. It wasn't until the 20th Century, when Protestant denominations began slipping and their stance on purity and chastity began to erode, and then the erosion became a flood, and the flood has become a disaster, as one Protestant denomination after another first allowed contraception, then allowed abortion. Many of them now actually endorse federal funding of abortion through tax dollars. Some have allowed homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle. All of them allow divorce and remarriage.
The Catholic Church stands alone and it is taking a lot of heat, and it calls forth Catholic believers to take a stand, to take a stand here on the basis of the Bible and natural law, to explain, but even more, to live out to the world the nature of marital love. The unitive and the procreative meaning of marital love and sexual intercourse belong together inseparably. Contraception breaks that apart, like divorce breaks it apart in terms of human persons. In order for us to take this lofty vision of John Paul II out into the world and make it believable, we have to start right at home, in our own lives.
Now let me read to you some insights from the ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union recently sent a letter to the members of the Assembly Education Committee of the Legislature of the State of California, where we are right now, quote - I'm quoting from the letter now, "It is our position (the ACLU) that teaching monogamous, heterosexual intercourse within marriage as a traditional American value is an unconstitutional establishment of a religious doctrine in public schools." Monogamy and heterosexuality are unconstitutional to teach in our public schools!
The ACLU says that the first amendment must protect all pornography, including child pornography. The ACLU said that those who sell and distribute child pornography are protected by the first amendment. If caught in the act of making child pornography, they can be prosecuted, but once that child pornography is produced, it is protected by law. The ACLU has as its spokesman and legal counsel a Baptist minister by the name of Barry Lynn. Reverend Lynn came to Milwaukee one night to debate a radical feminist on pornography. For an hour-and-a-half I watched as he made mincemeat of this feminist.
He just showed that feminism is not adequate to outlaw pornography and you could see that in that hour-and-a-half time, he had swayed almost the entire audience to his side. And then came time for questions from the audience. I did a hundred yard dash up to the mike. I said, "Reverend Lynn, would you clarify something for me? I've been delving in, a little bit, at least into the ACLU's official position on pornography, especially child pornography. Now, do I understand correctly that the ACLU says that child pornographers ought to be prosecuted as they do it, but once they've done it, it should be freely distributed for commercial profit?" And you could see him turning red from 50 feet away and he began to squirm, and there were murmurings in the crowd and he said, "Well, well first of all, let me say that when it comes to child pornography, we in the ACLU really...its...just a..." I said, "I know, it's a detestable, horrible thing and you just can't stand it, and it ought to be prosecuted as soon as it's done, right? But once it's done, should it be freely distributed for commercial profit?"
And he said, "Well, we think the first amendment ought to be implemented...." And I said, "Now wait a second. Let's get practical. Suppose my children were kidnapped, and they were molested and sexually assaulted, and it was put onto film while it happened, and suppose the perpetrators did or didn't get busted, but those films were produced. Should my neighbors be able to see my kids get molested so that some commercial pornographer down the street can make a buck as people watch my kids getting molested?" I said, "That position is so irrational that neither the far right nor the far left in this country could even conceive of it." And all of a sudden about 700 kids began applauding and as soon as he began to try to respond, they shouted him down. And for dramatic effect, I turned around and stormed out of the theater. And I was followed by a hundred other people who did the same thing.
We've got to get the message out that the ACLU is the vanguard of the sexual revolution. They're poisoning our kids. They are ruining our families, all in the name of the first amendment. It's lunacy for us to tolerate it! Do you know that over 80% of hard core pornography is produced in Southern California, and that's what they want to protect? That stuff is acid that kills and eats away at our marriages. It's going to poison our teenagers. It's going to ruin any sense of marital love, personal chastity, purity. People are going to despair that God's grace is enough to enable us to give ourselves for all of life in love.
We have got our work cut out for us. The ACLU is on record opposing any legislation outlawing drugs. Not just marijuana, cocaine, crack and heroin should all be legalized, they say. X-rated movies should not be rated because it suppresses artistic freedom. Homosexuals should be allowed to be foster parents.
How is it we sit back and tolerate this? We've got to pray. We've got to say a million more rosaries, but we've got to get out on the streets and take the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony and protect our kids and our marriages and our families and our society. We're in a war. The stakes are life and death.
As long as we depend on ourselves, Satan can sleep in because the battle is his. We've got to entrust ourselves to God Almighty. We've got to entrust ourselves to the sacraments as the almighty weapons he has given us to overcome the evil that has been unleashed in our society in a way that nobody could have imagined thirty years ago. If you had told somebody thirty years ago that in thirty years from now drugs are going to be on the streets, homosexuality would be rampant, pornography would be freely distributed all over the country, snuff flicks will be made and distributed widely where women are actually murdered on film; they would have thought you were a crazy lunatic!
Yet in thirty years, all this has happened, faster and far worse than anybody could have imagined, and we have been asleep at the wheel. And we're raising families. We're building marriages. We're teaching our children that purity is a possibility with the help of God and the grace of the sacraments. We've got to get out there and fight. Don't wait for the bishops! Don't wait for the priests. Love your kids. Don't wait until they are the ones molested. Don't wait until they are the ones divorced. We've got to get out there and fight.
We're going to have to close our time in a minute, but we're going to have to stop and pray and ask that this retreat be made a means of grace to empower us to go out and love and live the life of marriage as a sacrament in our homes, but then to go out and help others, aggressively, confidently, sincerely, humbly but boldly in the name of Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of lords. He is the Lord of American society. He looks down on our country and he says, "It is mine." There's not a square inch of this country that he doesn't look at and claim for himself. And we are his tools. We are his instruments. We're the lovers that he depends upon. We're the arms that he will use to embrace this wayward people. We've got to allow ourselves to be embraced by Christ through the sacraments so that we receive that Divine power to embrace others and to bring them back into God's universal family.
This isn't hard. It's humanly impossible apart from the Divine power of the sacraments! They are our nuclear weapons spiritually speaking. Let's stop relying upon our own personal jujitsu and use these sacraments to destroy the Satanic strongholds that are being built in our own cities, on our own blocks and in our own TV sets. Let's be wise. Let's be courageous. Let's fight. If we are not going to fight now, if we're not going to fight here, when are we going to fight? Where are we going to fight?
Let's ask Jesus Christ to show us, to fill us and to lead us to love like we have been loved!.
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