Recently Pope Francis was criticized for marrying 20 couples that had been living together. My friend, Lisa Wheeler, beautifully described the predicament “I see the main objection from most people is that the Pope has potentially caused scandal by the public ‘marrying’ of the couples. The concern I have with the public hand wringing has been and will continue to be that I don’t think people know how to pick their battles. Do we want couples to continue to live a lifestyle that is not in conformity with what the Church’s teachings are on faith and morals or do we want them to be embraced by a Church that extends mercy, shows compassion, and provides teachable moments to ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.'”

Couples that live together before saying their marriage vows statistically have a much higher chance of divorce, as there is an attitude of ‘trying it out’ and lack of commitment that carries over into their marriage. There is no question that it is a grave sin to intentionally reject doctrine as sacred as marriage, and just simply move in together.  So the priest who will be preparing a couple for marriage in these circumstances has to simultaneously present the Church as caring and loving, while at the same time convey the gravity of their sinful choices and the sacredness of their marriage vows.  Hopefully the marriage preparation will be more extensive than the one hour the priest spent with my husband and I before our wedding.  The only memory I have from that meeting was that I had to promise to raise the children Catholic.

One young lady that I know, who doesn’t attend any church, decided to find a minister who would marry her and her fiance.  She was quite shocked to discover most of the ministers she contacted refused to perform the ceremony, since she was not part of a faith community.  I did my best to explain the importance of God’s presence in a marriage, as well as the importance of being joined with other Christians, which is the body of Christ.  Eventually she found a ‘rent-a-minister’ to perform the ceremony.

I think those who skip the wedding and move in with a man or woman don’t realize the severe disservice to themselves, nor the long-term repercussions. In marriage you are giving 100% of yourself to your spouse, but when you jump the gun and just live together, you withhold significant parts of yourself.  Without  the vow to commit yourself ’till death do you part’, you are at risk emotionally and financially, and of course there is always the chance of pregnancy and abandonment. When just 25, actor Jeff Bridges met his wife Susan and fell head over heels in love with the gorgeous blonde, but he wasn’t ready to commit himself to marriage and children. So the two moved in together, and fell into the dilemma of many similar couples; Susan was ready for marriage and children, but Jeff continued to waffle, unwilling to commit.

As Jeff relates “She (Susan) actually talked to my mother about what she should do; they’d become the best of friends. And my mom, Dorothy — my own, wonderful, loving mother — counseled Sue to leave, forcing me to make a decision. My mother said, “Don’t stay with him.” “So we ended up living apart for six months, though we still saw each other. Then, when Sue got a job offer in Montana, it struck me that she was really leaving. The pressure was on! Finally I came to my senses. I thought, If I let this girl go, I will always know she was the one. So I got down on my knees and asked Sue to marry me.” (From link below)  But their marriage wasn’t a bed of roses; Jeff continued to pout for the next year about being ‘forced into marriage’. His saintly wife stuck it out and he finally realized that this stunning, enchanting woman, radiant inside and out, was the love of his life, and the greatest treasure he would ever find.  They were able to settle down into a life-long, successful marriage.

Was Bridges ‘forced’ into marriage? Of course not! He was ‘forced’ to make a decision. Too often young men and women date, get seriously involved, and then after a few years experience an agonizing breakup, because one or the other isn’t ‘ready’ for marriage. Some single people foolishly think you have to date hundreds just to find the perfect mate, as though finding a spouse can be reduced to purchasing a car or horse. My husband was just 19 when we married, but he valued me enough to marry me. I think women need to value themselves more and understand that they are ‘worth’ marrying.  If the other person doesn’t respect or treasure you enough to marry you, dump him or her and find someone else who thinks the world of you, and will treat you with dignity and honor. Don’t settle for second best. Just like the L’Oreal commercial touting their ultra expensive shampoo “You’re worth it”.

In the movie Pretty Woman, with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, Roberts played a prostitute paid by Gere to be a companion for his business trip.  The sassy prostitute is transformed into a woman of beauty and grace, and Gere falls madly in love with her.  At the end of the trip he asks her to move in with him.  The harlot-turned-princess tells him she knows it is a “really good offer”, but flatly turns him down claiming unless they married, he was still just ‘using’ her.  I was surprised that more people weren’t affected by this prophetic message about co-habitation, which I felt clearly portrayed the true meaning of ‘shacking up’.

I met my future husband at the ripe old age of 15, and being an active participant in the ‘sexual revolution’, we moved in together when I was 17. It was a really confusing time for me, because I felt I was way too young for marriage, but I was deeply in love. We separated for a few months, and I realized that of course I was too young for marriage, but I simply couldn’t imagine life without my ‘soul mate’. So one afternoon Paul said “let’s get married”, and I nodded “okay”. I knew that if regrets came later, I would remind myself it was the best solution for the quandary I found myself in.  Paul had changed jobs and moved an hour away, so we wound up constantly driving back and forth to see each other.  We made the decision to quit commuting and had a bare bones, do-it-yourself, wedding six weeks later, with simple finger sandwiches and fruit punch at the local VFW.

I was basically an atheist at that point in my life, but I knew having a mass with the wedding would please my in-laws, so I did it for them. Heaven only knows how much I needed the grace! After our wedding I was so surprised at the difference in my heart; being married just felt ‘right’. I think the natural law God places in our hearts nudged me that living together was a grave sin, in spite of the pervasive condoning of premarital sex in our culture.

My husband and I have now been married almost 39 years; was it always smooth sailing? Not hardly! We both had tremendous baggage and anger issues from both of our fathers being alcoholic and abusive; and I had the added problems of parents with multiple divorces and re-marriages. Plus, in the early years of our marriage, our faith was non-existent.  It got pretty rocky at times, but we made the decision that we were going to stay together, no matter what. So we vowed to never mention the ‘D’ word (divorce).  We discovered that love is a choice and you have to make the commitment to continue loving, no matter  how tedious or stressful.  Finally after 18 years of marriage our faith deepened considerably, and two years later we renewed our wedding vows.  We were just glowing as we promised again to ‘honor and cherish’ each other for the rest of our lives.  It was marvelous including God in our marriage this time.  He was there with his grace all along; we just didn’t realize it!

I am highly amused when I hear couples claim they want to first live together to make sure their marriage will be successful.  I assure them the man I married 39 years ago is definitely NOT the same man today; nor I am the same woman.  We have both grown spiritually and emotionally, and our hobbies and interests have also changed.  When I met Paul, he was an avid sports fan and enthusiastic gardener, while I had never watched a sports game or even touched a plant, much less planted one.  He disliked cats, while I couldn’t imagine life without one.  Now we spend most of our days off pruning, planting, and weeding our multiple gardens that are filled with fuschia bouganvilla, and lush hydrangeas, rhododendrums and azaleas.  I can proudly yell “go Dawgs” when I watch our favorite football team or “chop-chop” when we follow our local baseball team.  And of course we have two annoying kitties!

Many couples have an unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky view of wedded bliss, and spend years searching for the ‘perfect’ spouse.  Currently, men and women are delaying marriage until they are 28-30, as they spend more time pursuing their master’s and doctorate degrees, living unencumbered without children or other major responsibilities.  This leaves them free to lead active social lives and travel the globe seeing the wonders of the world.  Financial success is a priority to these young people, and they want to achieve their goal of a more affluent lifestyle before they delve into married life.  Some elect to skip marriage all together; consequently marriages are at a historic low.

The main purpose of marriage according to the Catholic Church is first and foremost procreation; joining with God to create new life.  Secondly, husband and wife are to support and help each other in all ways, especially to grow in holiness and attain heaven. Throughout their years together, they provide companionship for each other, and give emotional and physical help as well.  Third is to fulfill the innate need for sexual intimacy.  So marriage involves physical intimacy, friendship, support and child-rearing, but many idealize marriage as a means to eke out as much fun and joy as possible.  Of course marriage should be filled with laughter and love, but it is also accompanied by dedication, hard work, sacrifice and selflessness.

Several months ago a letter surfaced that was written by a young woman, Samantha Pugsley who claimed that because of the chastity program at her church, she was brainwashed into believing sex was “sinful and dirty” and that “I would go to Hell if I did it”.  She stated that because she was so traumatized by the program at church, sex after she was married was a horrible, painful experience, that didn’t get any better.  Finally, after two years the bride had a mental breakdown and was unable to have sex; she sought therapy and decided that she couldn’t be both sexually active and “religious” at the same time.  The troubled young woman explained that her trauma “controlled my identity for over a decade, landed me in therapy, and left me a stranger in my own skin. I was so completely ashamed of my body and my sexuality that it made having sex a demoralizing experience.”   She felt “soiled and tarnished”, that she she “wasn’t special anymore” and made the decision to embrace sensuality, and utterly reject her Christian faith.

Obviously this young lady has severe emotional issues, especially when you look at her biography and realize that she is bisexual (and has been since she was a teenager), suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks and writes for a web page that celebrates a bizarre, hedonistic lifestyle, sexual addictions and perversion.  Someone with this much gender confusion and emotional trauma generally has been abused; I have no idea of the extent of other trauma Samantha experienced, but I find it doubtful that a chastity program, no matter how poor or inadequate, could leave this girl so deeply disturbed.

So this confused young woman advises others that it is extremely detrimental to ‘wait’ until marriage.  There is no way of knowing the negative influence her words have had, and the number of women and men who take those words to heart and decide to give away the most precious part of themselves, leaving themselves open to shame, guilt, insecurity, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  Since marriages are taking place even later in life, it is getting even harder to stay chaste while you are single.  Only with supernatural grace can you stay pure before and after marriage; only with God’s mystical grace can you stay ‘in love’ monogamously for decades.  Only with ‘amazing grace’ can you get through the sick times, the financially disastrous times, the times of sorrow, anger, unkind words, and rudeness that happen in any marriage, until ‘death do us part’.  Only with the explosive power of the Holy Spirit can you weather the storms of cancer and job loss, or rebellious or drug addicted teens.

Related articles:

Pope Marries Cohabiting Couples


The Marriage of Jeff and Susan Bridges


On the Primary Purpose of Marriage


Did Pope Francis Push the Envelope


Today is 9/11; on this day 13 years ago the unthinkable happened.  Muslim extremists hijacked four planes, turning two into gigantic fireballs destroying the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  The third was flown directly into our nation’s symbol of security, the Pentagon, causing massive destruction and carnage, injuries and death.  Due to the quick thinking heroes on the last plane, instead of being used as a devastating weapon, the remaining jetliner was driven into the ground in a rural area, where it exploded and killed everyone on board instantly.

Over three thousand people were slaughtered that day; Americans were shocked and stunned at the blatant assault on American soil.  Eager to root out the barbarians responsible for this attack, on October 10, 2002, the House of Representatives passed a resolution authorizing military force, and the Senate gave authorization the next day.  This resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority by both democrats and republicans who desperately wanted to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” (From article Congress Passes Resolution to Invade Iraq below).

“Shock and Awe” was supposed to be quick and easy, but of course the expensive and deadly ‘war on terror’ dragged out for a decade.  The invasion of Iraq was supposed to keep Americans safe, as well as keep the Muslim extremists on the run, which it did for a while.  Its mission was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”  (Congress Passes Resolution to Invade Iraq).  Unfortunately it turned out Hussein had already moved the weapons of mass destruction, most probably to Syria.

Thirteen years later and two trillion dollars later, around 115,000 troops have been killed, about 500,000 veterans have lost limbs, suffered massive concussions or other ghastly injuries, and approximately 460,000 veterans cope with post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies on a daily basis.  And even though we captured Hussein and killed Osama Bin Laden, we don’t seem to have made any further progress in our ‘war on terror’.  Currently seven countries in the Middle East are governed by Muslim extremists, who maintain control through fear, intimidation and barbaric cruelty.

The group of Muslim extremists called “ISIS” is sweeping through the Iraqi town of Mosul forcing Christians and other minorities with “the stark choice to abandon their homes, convert, pay the harsh tax or die”.  In their takeover of Nigeria another terrorist group “ravages villages, kidnap children and burn churches, while across the Middle East Christians are persecuted, denied their civil rights and marginalized by a range of Islamic-based regimes”.  (From article Conquest or Conversion in link below).

But it doesn’t seem to matter how many extremists are driven underground or killed, more pop up like a jack-in-the-box to continue their merciless Jihad of spreading Islam.  The list is endless; Hamas, Al Qaeda, the Taliban,  Fatah al-Islam, Hezballah, Ex Boko Haram and many, many more.  For centuries the Middle East has been a hotbed of conquest and bloodshed, and unwisely Americans have been intervening by arming the ‘rebels’ against the evil terrorists, sending soldiers and air strikes to fight the spreading threat of extremist Islam.  The CIA foolishly picked Bin Laden as the ‘good guy’ and for years sent arms and financial support to his cause.

Our politicians haven’t learned that in the Middle East quite often there is no group that has the moral high ground; quite often BOTH sides are murderous butchers.  With the recent gruesome beheading of two journalists by Islamist extremists, and with the plight of millions of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East, last night President Obama vowed that “America will lead a broad coalition to ‘take out’ ISIS by expanding airstrikes beyond Iraq into Syria, fortifying Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground, drawing on counterterrorism capabilities and continuing humanitarian efforts in the region” (According to the Boston Herald).  Once again America is embroiled in the Middle East snakepit of violence, waging a futile war against Muslim extremists.

Pope John Paul II was raised in Poland and grew up during the time when World War II was raging and Nazi persecution of Christians was fierce and widespread, so he was well aware of the suffering Christians experienced from those determined to stamp out Christianity.  Yet in March, 2003, the Vatican envoy to the White House carried a message from him that the Iraqi invasion was “unjust and illegal”.   The Pope’s representative, Laghi, said “before going to war the United Nations should take into account “the grave consequences of such an armed conflict: the suffering of the people of Iraq and those involved in the military operation, a further instability in the region and a new gulf between Islam and Christianity.”  He said that any war without U.N. approval “is illegal, it is unjust, it’s all you can say.” (from the Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau).

Several years ago a Muslim who converted to Christianity was interviewed and advised that lodging missiles and sending soldiers into the Middle East would never quell the violence, nor would it ever bring peace.  The only way peace will come to the Middle East is through conversion.  “The long term, and only real solution to the problem of radical Islam is conversion to the fullness of the Christian faith. Like everyone else Muslims need to be attracted to the radiant goodness, truth and beauty of Jesus Christ. They must see the radical love that Christ offers and compare it to the radical violence their own extremists offer. How can this happen? It can only  happen through the supernatural intervention of God’s Holy Spirit.”  According  to Evangelical missionary David Garrison “large numbers of Muslims across the world are indeed converting to Christianity as a result of powerful personal experiences.”  He explained that “… tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iranians in the last few decades have come to faith in Jesus Christ and followed him in baptism.” (from Conquest or Conversion).

A spiritual leader as great as Saint John Paul II, who helped President Reagan bring down the Berlin Wall, felt that violence begets violence, and would be useless in fighting Islam extremism.  When you stack up the toll of hundreds of thousands American veterans whose lives have been shattered physically and emotionally from the Iraqi invasion, against the elusive endeavor to quash terrorism, you have to really consider whether the cost has been worth the effort.  My brother was a Viet Nam veteran who was wounded physically and emotionally during his deployment.  The trauma this sensitive soul experienced rendered him mentally unbalanced, subject to flashbacks of those frightful events in Viet Nam.  On February 24, 1991, during Desert Storm, the news showed non-stop images of our soldiers freeing Kuwait.  Those images brought back abhorrent memories that were simply too much to bear, and that evening my brother overdosed on prescription drugs, desperately trying to block those haunting memories, finally committing suicide.  It seems so pointless to send more men and women to the Middle East and subject them to such grim experiences.

It is interesting, but even though President Obama sought out and killed Osama Bin Laden through increased espionage, I haven’t heard anyone suggest this as a means for fighting ISIS.  Nor have I heard anyone suggest  increased scrutiny of immigrants from terrorist nations, or even blockage of entry for these individuals.  We have a gigantic web of government agencies from the National Security Administration, to Homeland Security, to Immigration available with wide resources, so why don’t we tap into these agencies, rather than arm the people we ‘hope’ are the ‘good guys’.  I realize that it is useless to reason with these monsters, but increasing intelligence makes so much more sense than sending more airstrikes, killing innocent people, destroying homes, hospitals and businesses, and fueling the fire of hatred and destructiveness.  And as always, we must pray and fast for the protection of the persecuted Christians, and for the hearts and minds of the terrorists to be open to the light of the Gospel.

Congress Passes Resolution to invade Iraq

Conquest or Conversion


 Iraqi War Unjust

http://www.chron.coUnjust m/news/nation-world/article/Pope-says-war-against-Iraq-will-be-unjust-and-2109326.php

Warped Minds

It is so hard to believe that a woman who has been slapped, punched and knocked down, slamming her head on a handrail and renray rice janay rice presserdered unconscious, and dragged her back to their room, could ‘stand by her man’.  But that is exactly what Janay Palmer did when she posted this on Instagram about the indefinite suspension of her husband, Ray Rice, from the NFL:

“To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his [butt] off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!”

Real love?  Knocking someone unconscious is real love?  Of course we know Janay is furious; after all Rice’s 35 million dollar income is gone.  Gone are the lavish houses, exotic vacations, private jets, expensive sport cars…all gone, just because she got knocked around a little.  Beyond the obvious loss of all their “happiness”, why would a woman stay Stone Mansionwith a man that is abusive to her?

Abuse is way too prevalent; millions of women have been hurt.  I once had an aunt who claimed women must “like the abuse” if they stayed with their abuser.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.  My father was physically abusive toward my mother and older siblings, but thankfully my mother couldn’t stand the alcoholism and violence any more, and left him when I was nine years old.  Many women never break away and stay trapped in the vicious cycle of agony, apologies and fervent promises that it “will never happen again”.  But of course it does.

When my husband and I owned a small cafe, we had a waitress who would occasionally call in sick because her boyfriend would beat her senseless.  We offered to assist her in any way possible to break free, but she simply couldn’t disconnect from their turbulent, codependent relationship.  So why in the world does a woman stay with her abuser?  First, realize that most abusers have severe emotional issues; they suffer from insecurity, wild mood swings, negative self-image, are manipulative and controlling, fear rejection, have problems with anger and rage, and with drugs or alcohol, are excessively jealous, and most come from a family background of violence or abandonment.

Most, but not all abusers are men, and will play mind games with their spouse by constantly belittling them, taunting them that they are ugly and unwanted, criticizing and insulting them, desperately trying to tear down their self-image and isolate them.  When a woman or man lives with someone so emotionally sick, the emotional and physical battery simply wears them down, causing their minds to become warped.

If you are a single young man or woman, before you seriously date someone, get to know them, and their family background.  Was there abuse?  Addictions?  Violence?  Does the person have a violent temper, or rage when something goes wrong?  Take time to get to know the person before you let the relationship get serious.

85% of domestic violence victims are women.Do you have a loved one in your family that is a victim of domestic violence?   Try to get them professional help, financial assistance or anything they need to break free.  But realize the abused person is the only one that can make that decision to end the brutality.  And sadly when someone has been in a long term relationship of abuse, the chaos and daily drama can become addictive and even ‘normal’, making it even harder to escape the volatile relationship.  They simply lose the ability to live calm and peaceful lives.

It can be heartrending when a family member stays locked in an abusive situation.  As painful as it is, try to maintain contact.  After all, the abuser would like nothing more than to isolate them from you.  If your loved one does finally decide to leave their abuser, make sure they get professional help, as this can be a critically dangerous time.  Many abusers threaten to kill their spouse if they leave, and too often that threat IS carried out.  Just four weeks ago one of the ladies in my own church decided to leave her abusive husband, and moved in with her mother.  One morning her maddened husband came in and shot her multiple times, then pulled the trigger on himself, leaving their teenage daughter an orphan.

Of course there is an enormous spiritual element in this kind of explosive violence, and I will refer you to the link below, Antidote to Evil, which I wrote after a neighbor on our street shockingly tried to kill his wife; she was able to escape, but her husband then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

Most abusive relationships are codependent; the rules of codependency are that you “don’t talk, don’t trust and don’t feel'; you NEVER talk about the assaults.  Instead, everyone tiptoes around the huge elephant in the living room and pretends it isn’t there.  So break the rules!  If you are abused, or have a family member suffering, bring it out in the open and talk about it.  Don’t let shame make you keep the violence a ‘dirty little secret’.  Discuss it with your pastor, get professional counseling; tell someone.  Only by letting the light into the darkness can we helped abused men and women break free of those ugly chains!

Related Articles:

Antidote to Evil


The Real Enemy


Domestic Violence


Domestic Violence Facts


Codependent Relationships


Common Sense

Has common sense completely disappeared from our culture?  There seems to be emotional, knee-jerk reactions to anything and everything. The latest tempest in a teapot was a complaint filed by an atheist family against a volunteer coach at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida.  The Head Coach, Kerry Wiggins, is a pastor, and even though he isn’t a chaplain, the atheist family claimed the coach lead the team in prayer when his son, one of the players, was injured on the field.  Heavens to Betsy!  As my mom used to say when she was extremely stressed.

How dare a dad pray for his son out loud after an accident!  Except the team says he didn’t.  They claim they just spontaneously prayed, which certainly wouldn’t surprise me.  Sanford is a midsize town boasting of over a hundred Christian churches, with a fairly large Evangelical population.  Spontaneous prayer when someone is injured is a natural response for an Evangelical, even though nearby Orange County, Florida has banned chaplains from leading students in prayer.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation was outraged and fired off a letter of complaint to the Seminole County School Superintendent, claiming Wiggins was secretly the chaplain of the team, not just Head Coach.  With such extreme reactions to any display of faith, is it any wonder our teens are so lost emotionally, and that suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds.  How shocking that a teen might have to listen to other teens pray, or even GASP!, have to hear the name of Jesus spoken!

The age old question is why can the rights of atheists take precedence and steamroll over the rights of Christians?  The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech in regard to religion, and the ‘free exercise thereof’.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It seems pretty clear neither the coach nor the boys on the high school football team were ‘establishing a religion’, but it does sound as though their ‘free exercise thereof’ was limited.

The Zero Tolerance toward weapons has also been taken to extremes.  Several kindergartners at an elementary school in New Jersey, were playing ‘cops and robbers’ during recess, using their fingers as guns.  For this grievous crime, the children were suspended for three days.  There have been many other instances of children being suspended because of shouting “pow, pow”, or from accidently leaving an empty shotgun shell in their pocket. A butter knife was found in a teen’s car that had fallen out of box being taken to Goodwill, and one little boy brought home a plastic knife from lunch so he could show his mother that he could butter bread.  For their heinous crimes, all of these otherwise well behaved children were disciplined severely, some being placed in alternative schools.

Whenever something tragic occurs, or if there is a problem, there is a tendency to over correct causing what I call the ‘rubber band effect’.  Religious education in the forties and fifties contained a lot of rote memorization. If you asked any child why God created them, the response would be “to love and serve the Lord”.  Did they fully understand what that meant? Probably not, but at least they could articulate an answer.

Currently the majority of children attend public school, and have religious education weekly, or PSR, as it is called in the Atlanta area. Usually the year is shorter than public school, and unfortunately if there is a school holiday that week, PSR classes are cancelled.  Some children don’t attend PSR every year, so there are huge gaps in the religious formation of many children.

Consequently when these Catholic children reach the age for Confirmation, many are absolutely clueless about their faith. Most have no idea what the Trinity is all about, have no concept of the Eucharist, confession, Mary or anything else about their faith. Those that attend Catholic schools have had a much better formation and generally have a far better grasp of their faith.

So what is the answer to restore common sense to a paranoid, politically correct world? The definition from Wikipedia for common sense is “a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things, which is shared by (“common to”) nearly all people, and can be reasonably expected of nearly all people without any need for debate.”

How do we interject rational thinking into a culture that seems to be more divided and polarized by the day, on every issue.  From politics, to the national debt,  to same sex marriage and sex before marriage, to abortion, to the violence the Middle East,  to even whether suicide is a choice, Americans are becoming more fractured than ever.

The virtue ‘good judgment’, also known as prudence, is a cardinal virtue that is formed by good habits and through sanctifying grace.  “As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, “right reason applied to practice.” The emphasis on “right” is important. We cannot simply make a decision and then describe it as a “prudential judgment.”  Prudence requires us to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Thus, as Father Hardon writes, “It is the intellectual virtue whereby a human being recognizes in any matter at hand what is good and what is evil.” If we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact, we are showing our lack of it.”  (From the Blog About Religion).

So apparently in our secular culture we have difficulty in simply discerning between right and wrong! If you are trying to restore prudence and reason to your neighborhood or city, keep praying and don’t give up.  Stand firm and proclaim the truth; teach others how to discern between good and bad, and help them to consider and calculate long term repercussions of an action.  In Luke 14:28 we are warned to be prudent in any undertaking. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

Since prudence can have a supernatural element that comes from grace, we should listen carefully to the opinions of our popes and other spiritual leaders.  On the question of going to war, we should consider the Pope’s pronouncement on whether a war is ‘just’ or ‘unjust’.  We should value the advice of a spiritual leader far more than the opinion of a politician or someone who might profit financially from the war.

Just as on the safety and morality of using the birth control pill; do you listen to the pharmaceutical companies and doctors, who profit substantially from selling the pill?  Or to Hollywood and their message of ‘total sexual freedom’ and the money they make from sexually explicit movies?  Instead, you should give more weight to the Pope, such as when Pope Paul VI warned in 1968 that widespread use of the birth control pill would result in “a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.”  How amazingly prophetic…

In Proverbs 8:12 we are told that wisdom goes hand in hand with prudence.  Refusing to consider the warnings of those whose opinion differs from ours is a sign of imprudence.  Of course the other person may be wrong, but then again, they might be right.  Use prudence to examine the moral character of the person whose judgment is the opposite of yours; are they upright?  Is their judgment generally morally sound?  Have they had good spiritual formation?  Examining these questions can help you gain some ‘common sense’ and practice the virtue of prudence!

Related Articles:

High School Football Team Prayed


Zero Tolerance


About Religion


Pope Paul VI’s Predictions


Over Zealous?

My friends know that I am extremely passionate about my faith, family and beliefs; some consider me over zealous.  In fact Paslm 69:10 describes me to a ‘T’ “Because zeal for your house has consumed me, I am scorned by those who scorn you”.  I initially joined Facebook because of an invitation from the National Right to Life, to stand up and defend the lives of the unborn.  Knowing that I can annoy people, I try to temper my zeal so that I am not so obnoxious.  Some people simply don’t want to hear what I have to say; I have probably been ‘unfriended’ more times than anyone else in the history of Facebook!

God bless all of you patient individuals who have stuck with me in spite of my outspoken rants, whether you agree with me or not.  Your opinions matter, and I am grateful for those spirited conversations.  Better to be passionate and zealous, than lukewarm, as we are warned in Revelation 3:15 “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.”  

Whoa!  That is a bold warning!  So Jesus would rather have you fervent, than apathetic.  Unfortunately apathy is rampant, and it seems most Americans are more concerned about the chances of their baseball team winning the World Series, or their college team winning, than about the problems in the world.  It drives me crazy that so many people just don’t seem to care about their faith, or all that matters is getting promoted or advancing a career.  But I have to realize that everyone’s spiritual journey is their own.  My friend, Debra Kessinger and I inspire and support each other; she is even more passionate than I am!    Yesterday she told me in prayer that Jesus spoke to her and said “this (apathy) was My heaviest burden on the cross during My Passion. ”  Seeing the apathy in the world literally breaks my heart, so it brought me comfort knowing that I am sharing in Christ’s suffering.  Whenever I am discouraged or feel I’m wasting my time, Debra and other friends are there to offer me hope and encouragement.

Today is the feast day of John the Baptist, who was beheaded because he spoke the truth.  Herodias was married to King Herod’s brother, Philip, and John the Baptist brazenly proclaimed “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife”. (Mark 6:17)   Furious, Herodias found her opportunity to silence this bold prophet when her daughter danced for the King.  Delighted, he granted the girl “whatever you wish”; she in turn asked her mom “What shall I ask for?”   And Herodias promptly replied “the head of John the Baptist”.  An executioner quickly brought back John the Baptist’s “head on a platter“.

Many times I have been told that I should be silent, that an issue is none of my business.  I have been called more names than I can count.  I would certainly never tell someone what to do, but I will always stand up for the truth.  Our country is so divided and polarized on so many different issues, from homosexual lifestyles, to abortion, to the economy, to whether women should be ordained priests, to caring for the poor.  There seem to be two sides to every issue.  Beware of ‘false prophets’, those politicians, actors and commentators who claim to know the truth.  Only one will lead you into truth, and that is Jesus, who is “the truth, the light and the way”.  The Holy Spirit promised in John 16:13 that he would “lead you into all truth”.  If you want the truth,  increase your prayer time, study, find confirmation in scripture and most important, be guided by the Church, which is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1st Timoothy 3:15).

So take a moment and pull yourself away from your computer or television screen; forget about the “Dawgs” or “Gators” for a few minutes.  Does it matter that Jesus died on the cross for you, and you alone?  What upsets you the most about the problems in this world?  Some are outraged by our politicians’ propensity to go to unceasing war.  Whichever side you are on, do your research, especially into the problems in the Middle East.  Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Libya have all harbored or been governed by Muslim terrorists such as Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Al Jihad, ISIS and the plethora of such groups.  Invading and trying to subdue any country in this hotbed of Muslim unrest seems to be futile.

Whether your passion is to help the poor and hungry, or education, capital punishment or defending your faith, take time to learn all you can, pray and do what you can to make a difference.  One horrific problem here in Georgia and all over the world is sexual slavery of mostly women and children; tens of thousands of women and children are trapped in this degrading and perverted captivity.

The women are tricked into the promise of passage to America for exorbitant fees, sometimes more than $25,000.00.  The ‘generous’ smugglers offer to loan them the money, and then when they get here, they are forced to work in ‘massage parlors’ until their debt is paid.  The slavers take away the captives’ passports and identification, and then are charge them outrageous fees for ‘room and board’, so their debt is never repaid.  Often threats are made against the slaves’ children or other family back home, coercing them into obedience.  The women are often deliberately sleep deprived, and moved around often, to make them more ‘cooperative’.

And the plight of children is even worse.  Many children that are abused or just mixed up that run away from home gravitate to the big cities.  Here in Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and most large cities, pimps hang out at bus stations ready to ‘help’ these children and young teens into prostitution.  The group StandUp for Kids works hard to reach these kids that slip through the cracks; most won’t go to the police, because the police are obligated to place them in the foster care program, which often is just as bad, with widespread abuse.  It is estimated that around 14,000 children and teens are living in the streets of Atlanta, prey to pimps and perverted adults.

So how in the world in a predominately Christian nation can this type of forced slavery exist?  If American men didn’t create the need, this kind of market couldn’t exist.  I have heard estimates that as many as one of every three girls, and one of every seven boys, has been molested, quite often by a family member.  Several years ago the Atlanta Journal and Constitution had a report about the large number of teachers in the local school systems that are serial child molesters.  Instead of being prosecuted, they are shifted from district to district.

I have learned more than I ever wanted to about child sexual abuse, and one important fact is that rarely does someone molest children, unless they were molested first (from the book Out of the Shadows, by Patrick J. Carnes).  If you have been molested, please, please, please get counseling.  As one brave soul told me “trying to live life normally is like trying to play ball with one arm tied behind your back”.  Being abused really scrambles your brains, causing pain, negative self-image, shame, guilt, addictions, post traumatic stress and gender confusion.  Quite often those who have been molested will be sexually active at a young age, with different partners.

If you regularly look at pornography, please, please get professional counseling and join support groups for sexual addiction.  There is a support group for addicts right at my local church (message me for info).  Go to confession weekly and pray.  When someone is addicted to pornography, the brain is rewired, and it will take more and more perverted and exotic images to get the same rush. Do you think it is a coincidence that virtually all rapists are sexual addicts?  Am I saying that just because you look at pornography you will turn into a child molester or rapist?  Of course not!  I am saying you are playing with an explosive  molotav cocktail.  (See the article below This is Your Brain on Porn).  I have read that sexual addiction is far worse and harder to break free from than cocaine.

So my challenge to men is to stand up and condemn ‘lusting in the heart’, pornography.  If you are Muslim, stand up and condemn the beheading of journalist James Foley, the oppression of women, and the torture, imprisonment and death of those Muslims in the Middle East who convert to Christianity.  If you encounter someone who is pregnant, but not married, give her a baby shower, take her to the Beacon of Hope or other center for unwed moms, and connect her with Catholic Charities or St. Vincent de Paul.  If you meet someone suffering from depression, be a friend and listen to them, encourage them to get counseling, and most of all, pray, pray, pray!!!

If your faith is last on the list or priorities, remember the First Commandment is to give God first place in our lives.  If you are a kindred spirit and passionate like me, God bless you.  If you are apathetic, get up and do something!

Related Articles:

Modern Day Slavery in America

StandUp for Kids


Effects of Sexual Assault


This is Your Brain on Porn


The latest current trend is to boisterously videotape splashing yourself with a bucket of ice cold water, and then challenge others by name to either donate $100.00 to ALS Research, or replicate the dousing and challenge.  Wild and wacky videos have been making the rounds, from the zany lady rapper dousers (my favorite and shown below), to the sexy Old Spice gorgeous hunk, to President George W. Bush, to Lady Gaga, to the Reno City Council, to Kermit the Frog.  Debonair actor Patrick Stewart gave his own twist to the challenge by writing a check, and instead of soaking himself, elegantly used the ice in his glass of Scotch.    One enterprising soul was so caught up in the popular fad that he posted a video of himself, forgetting he was wanted for parole violation.  He was quickly arrested by the local police.

So why has the ice bucket challenge turned into such a craze that it has turned your Facebook newsfeed into a solid stream of frozen water?  I believe the reason so many people are jumping on the icy bandwagon is that it simply feels good to do something that helps others, especially since it is done in such a fun way.  And we all want to be a part of the latest trend, filling the deep seated need to ‘belong’, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Many who ‘douse’ also send a small donation.

I think it is wonderful that donations to ALS Research have risen by 80 million dollars in the last few weeks, but this soggy acrobatic challenge has stirred up quite a bit of controversy.  Some people object to the ALS challenge because of the use of embryonic stem-cell research, which destroys a human life.  Some of these objectors will take the challenge, but ask for donations instead to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.  Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory accepted the chilly challenge and was doused by Catholic school students not once, but four times.  He also made a donation to the JP II Medical Institute.   Another friend took the challenge, but asked for an alternative donation to help an affected family, the Kim family, deal with the emotional and financial toll of living with someone with ALS.  (http://www.kimkimfight.com/donation.html).

Some object to the showmanship of the videos, and others object to the waste of clean water since there is such a vast shortage of clean water in third world countries.  Actor Matt Damon poured toilet water on his head to raise awareness of the lack of clean sanitation systems for 2.4 billion people. My niece, Michelle, had a similar idea to donate bottles of water to a local homeless family. Some wanted to bring attention to their favorite cause, as did my nephew, Johnny, who posted a ‘dry bucket challenge’ for alcohol awareness in honor of his father.

When I was issued the ice bucket challenge by my niece, Shannon, I figured enough ice cubes had already been dumped to sink the Titanic!  Inspired by both of my nieces, I challenged all of my family and friends to help my friend Dave Sloan serve the poor on Sunday, September 14 at 2:00 in Hurt Park, with his group Love and Serve Atlanta.  Although Mother Teresa advises us not to be overly worried about our donations being used in the wrong way, but to be more concerned with giving, I prefer to give donations to charities or groups that have low administrative fees.  I think it is a wise idea to research a charity or group before donating.  Some of my favorites are St. Vincent de Paul, Mustard Seed, Catholic Charities and Love and Serve Atlanta, which have low or non-existent administrative fees.  If you are concerned that the money you donate may be used inappropriately, the web page Charity Navigator, is a great way to easily research administrative fees. (http://www.charitynavigator.org/)

If you are Christian, tithing is extremely important, especially to your own church.  Tithing fulfills the First Commandment to give God first place in your lives.   By tithing you are reminding yourself that God owns everything, and is the source of everything, so giving helps us to be humble.  Tithing also helps us “store up treasure in heaven”; when we give to the Church the money goes to support buildings in which to gather, priests and ministers to guide us spiritually, evangelization and outreach, charities, religious education and a plethora of other ministries.

In the prayer of St. Francis we are told it is ‘in giving that we receive’.  This message is reiterated in Luke 6:38 “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”  If we want God to bless us, then we must be a blessing to others.

Most people have a cause dear to their heart, which is why I challenged friends and family to help the homeless, in honor of my brother, who was a Viet Nam veteran, and was homeless at different times in his life because of his addictions and mental issues.  My nephew, Johnny, gave the challenge to fight alcoholism, in honor of his father and a close friend.  I did have a friend who had ALS, and can attest to the agonizing, debilitating effects of this horrific disease.  ‘Mac’ MacDonald was in deaconite formation when he contracted the deadly disease, but he was far enough along in his studies, that Archbishop David John Francis Donoghue ordained him shortly before his death.  ‘Mac’ was a kind and loving man, and a powerful witness to his Catholic faith, right up until the very end.

My mother died from lung cancer, my dad from prostrate cancer, my mother-in-law from Schleroderma, my father-in-law from heart disease, but I tend to be concerned about giving for any medical ‘research’.  In the book The Truth About the Drug Companies, the author outlines that the National Institute of Health (NIH), which does most of the medical research in universities, allows the universities to patent and license the NIH discoveries.  Most medical research is carried out by the NIH, universities, and small biotech start-up companies, all of which receive royalties from discovery of new drugs.  Almost 77% of new drugs produced today are simply ‘me-to’ drugs, virtually identical to previous drugs, whose patent was about to run out.  When a patent runs out, other companies are free to market the drug, taking away huge profit from the original manufacturer.  The drug Nexium, for reflux, came out right when its predecessor, Prilosec, was about to have its patent run out.  Voila!  Virtually identical, now the pharmaceutical companies could charge $4.00 per ‘purple pill’.  The pharmaceutical companies spend about 2.4 billion on advertising annually; I believe those funds could be better spent on research.  In addition, I feel the pharmaceutical companies practice price gouging, by lying about the amount of research they do, and charging whatever the market will bear.  Even in Congressional hearings it has been difficult to determine the actual amount of ‘research and development’, since the drug companies use a convoluted method involving lost revenue from estimated future drug sales.

But medical research has saved lives and extended the lives of many sick people; if you want to give to medical research, the John Paul II Medical Research Institute is a non-profit organization, and is the most ethical and cost-effective of all research facilities.  The JP Institute is a wonderful alternative to profit driven companies and agencies.  So whether you give to medical research, or give to charities, just be sure and give to whichever cause touches your heart the most.   If you are broke and can’t tithe financially, then practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy outlined in the related link below; pray, teach, give of your time.  The body of Christ is made up of many different personalties, with assorted talents and gifts; use yours to build up the Kingdom of Heaven!

Related Article:

Works Mercy, Works of Prayer


Lady Rapper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUwRqYifFXo


Archduke Ferdinand

A seemingly insignificant assassination of an Archduke in Sarajevo wound up triggering a catastrophic world war.  On June 28, 1914,  Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, were  assassinated in Sarajevo by the Black Hand, a radical Serbian group.  The ringleader, Princip, most likely supplied information from Colonel Dimitrijevic-Apis, head of Serbian intelligence, who feared the Archduke would empower the Empire and block Serbian ambition to expand into Bosnia and Croatia.   Believing the Serbian government to be responsible for the assassination attempt, the Austrian council issued a 10-point ultimatum demanding the suppression of anti-Austrian newspapers, organizations, teachers and officers.  Serbia, with Russian support, rejected the ultimatum.

Outraged at a personal attack against a member of the royal family, and backed by Germany, on July 28, 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia.  On August 1 Germany declared war on Russia, followed by the domino effect of Russia’s ally, France, declaring war on Germany, and vice versa, on August 3.  Germany’s planned invasion of Belgium on August 4, caused Britain to declare war on Germany.  In a few short days most of the major powers in the Western World were involved in cataclysmic World War I.  Eventually Italy and the United States of America were dragged into the fray.

One hundred years later almost to the day, the world still seems to be on the precarious brink of another world war.  Russia, now the Soviet Union, recently invaded and dominated the Ukraine, and a Malayasian jet was shot down a few weeks ago over the Ukraine, with both the Soviet Union and the Ukraine claiming it was the fault of the other.  Israelis and Palestinians, lead by the group known as Hamas, have been firing rockets at each other for three weeks; each claim the other broke the cease-fire.  We seem on the verge of World War III.

Every day we face crossroads; some small, some huge.  Recently there was a severe outbreak of the Ebola virus in Africa, and the CDC decided to fly two infected Americans to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment.    The CDC assures us the Ebola virus will be contained, and there won’t be any ‘significant’ outbreaks.  This particular virus is especially contagious, and over 1,300 Africans have been infected; roughly half have died.  Did the CDC make the right decision?  Many Americans believe the patients should have been treated in Africa, rather than bringing them to the United States, as the deadly virus has the possibility of spreading rapidly in the United States.  Only time will tell if the decision will have disastrous consequences.

King Henry VIII

Granted, the political scene in Europe before World War I was volatile and complex; however, the Austrians and Serbs had no idea their declaration of war would have such far reaching repercussions.  Throughout history minor circumstances has affected millions.  Catherine of Aragon was married to King Henry VIII, and even though they had six children, only one, Queen Mary I, survived.  The King was desperate for a son to succeed him, and in 1527 Henry became enamored of Anne Boleyn, one of the ladies attending Queen Catherine.  He spent the next five years petitioning the Roman Catholic Church for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine, simultaneously romancing Anne Boleyn.  After resisting his overtures for years, Anne finally succumbed and became pregnant in 1532.   The Roman Catholic Church continued to refuse Henry his annulment, so in January, 1533 he married Anne Boleyn.

The Archbishop of Canterbury proclaimed the marriage to Anne to be invalid, and the Church still refused to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine.  Until then, Henry had been devoutly Catholic, but his lust for his mistress and desire for a son became overpowering, and eventually he broke off from the Catholic Church, declaring himself to be head of the new Church of England.  One man’s lust lead to the fracturing of Christianity and the resulting division of millions of Christians.

Throughout our lives we have times when we face a ‘fork in the road’, when we have to make decisions that could be life-changing, or eve world changing.  Walt Disney was fired by his editor at the Kansas City Star, because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”.  If that editor had even a smidgen of vision, Disney could have had an exciting career as a journalist.  Instead the inventor used his energy to create the Disney Empire.  It is almost impossible to imagine a world without quirky Mickey Mouse, adorable Thumper and Bambi, mischievous Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, the irrepressible Mary Poppins and the host of other charming  characters.  The world would be a sad place without the beguiling Disney songs  Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, or I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, or the  mesmerizing new song  Let it Go, from Frozen, which has touched the hearts of millions of children.

At those decisive moments in our life we have two roads to choose. Sometimes the choice should be easy, but sin rears its ugly head, making a mockery of our integrity.  King Henry VIII surely knew as a devout Catholic to honor his marriage vows.  Yet he chose the “broad road that leads to destruction” described in Matthew 7:13 by having an affair with Anne Boleyn.  He compounded that bad decision with greed when he declared himself head of the Church of England, giving himself freedom to marry his mistress, as well as improving his coffers, since he no longer paid  taxes to the Roman Catholic Church.

Sometimes the fork comes in the form of temptation and we have to decide if we will take the  “narrow gate” and make good moral decisions, choosing not to cheat on our taxes, or lie to our boss.  Sometimes the fork in the road is a course of action, such as taking a chance on a new job with better pay, or instead staying with your current employer and comfortable working conditions.  The fork could be the decision to attend a retreat, or it could be financial, such as the decision to keep your older, high mileage vehicle that you own free and clear, or trade it in on a brand spanking new candy apple red convertible with a hefty loan!

The fork in the road may concern your faith; perhaps you have fallen away and you feel a pull to return to the faith of your childhood.  It may concern your health and the decision to take time to eat more nutritiously and exercise.  You may be at the crossroads with a family member or friend caught up in an addiction, trying to decide whether or not to end the destructive relationship.

You may have cancer and are facing the agonizing decision to have surgery, or radiation, or both.  My mother developed lung cancer and agreed to surgery to have the lung removed.  Unfortunately it was a deadly decision, as the cancer had already spread microscopically to the brain.  When the primary tumor in the lung was removed, the brain tumor grew ferociously, and even with radiation she died eight months later.  She probably would have lived several more years if she had chosen not to have surgery.

But it is impossible to know if your decision is the right one or not, and there is no point in fretting over it, like a dog with a bone.  When faced with difficult decisions, St. Faustina would try to discern whether her pride was influencing her, and which decision gave God the most glory.  Even then she would still be faced with indecision, so she would follow the strongest nudge, and ask God to change the course Himself, if she happened to be going in the wrong direction.  She had peace because by surrendering, she practiced humility and allowed God to act more freely in her soul.

No decision is foolproof, and we will fail or make mistakes.  But we can’t let our fear of failure cripple us by making us too cautious.  Remember His promise in Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”   Even if we discerned badly and tragedy results, we can trust that God will bring something good out of the mess we find ourself in, knowing that He can solve any crisis or problem.

When facing tough choices I pray for the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and guidance; I discuss the situation with my family and spiritual director, and then follow the path I believe is God’s will.  But since I can never fully know if my decision is the best one, I ask God to ‘hit me over the head with a two by four’ if I happen to be going in the wrong direction!

So when you face the ‘fork in the road’, pray for discernment with Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; in all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths.”




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Mary's Garden Gifts and Books Store is a Catholic store located in the Sandy Springs/ Norcross area in Georgia. We have a wide selection of gifts for all the sacraments and for any occasion. Come by or give us a call! Through our blog, we bring you thoughts about prayer, faith, scripture, church doctrine and anything else related to the Catholic faith.


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