"To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year," these words of Pope Benedict XVI, from his letter Porta Fidei, reflected his goal in proclaiming the Year of Faith which began October 11, 2012, the 50th Anniversary of opening of the Second Vatican Council, and ended on November 24, 2013.
In many ways we are experiencing a cultural crisis of faith. There are so many different voices speaking to us that it can be difficult to sort through all of the baloney to find something of substance, something true. Sometimes we look at the successes of human ingenuity and think that we no longer need God. Sometimes we look at horrors and atrocities, genocide, abortion, starvation, and corruption, and wonder where God has gone.
"I love you, LORD, my strength, LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold!" -- Psalm 18:2-3
The philosopher Kierkegaard said that faith is jumping into the black unknown, but Catholic philosopher, Dr. Peter Kreeft, adds to this. He said that faith is jumping into the unknown and trusting that someone will catch you. The above quote from Psalm 18 reflects our belief that God will take always take care of us. In the midst of the uncertainty of our lives, of suffering, and of doubt the Lord God is the rock on which we stand.
You see, faith is not just a set of beliefs that we hold. Faith is a relationship with a person, with God, and He is inviting us to grow into a deeper relationship with Himself, to learn what He has told us about Himself through the Scriptures and through the Church, and to grow in our trust and love for Him, because He is our rock, our fortress, and our salvation.
First, we are asked to learn about the faith by reading the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Do not merely read them, but read them slowly and prayerfully, reflecting on the truths they contain. The amount that you understand is more important than the amount that you read.
Then, we are encouraged to put that knowledge into action. Pope Benedict writes, "By their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us." Our thoughts, words and actions should be infused with the faith which we believe so we can be a witness to our brothers and sisters in the world, strengthening them through our witness and in turn being strengthened by their witness.
Finally, we are called to celebrate the faith that we have received through the Sacraments, especially through the Mass. In the Mass we proclaim, "The Mystery of Faith," and respond, "We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again." We have received the faith from Jesus Christ and our faith leads us back to Him through His Cross.
I encourage all of you to read the Bible and learn more about the faith individually and as families, but we also have faith formation events at Church:
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. – Exodus 20:16
The eighth commandment, against lying, is fundamental to Christian morality, even though it, along with the commandment against using the Lord’s name in vain, is often overlooked. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6), and as St. Paul said, “God is true; and every man is a liar, as it is written, That thou mayest be justified in thy words, and mayest overcome when thou art judged” (Rm. 3:4). If God is truth, then we must seek the truth in order to seek God, and in finding God we find the truth. Therefore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation, and hypocrisy” (CCC 2468).
There are many offenses against the truth. The Church defines lying as speaking a falsehood with the intention to deceive (CCC 2482). We might lie to get ourselves out of trouble, to benefit ourselves, to harm or to help someone else, to prevent an awkward situation, or to spare someone’s feelings. There are several particular sins that fall under lying or deceit. Perjury is a particularly grave offense against the truth because it is lying under oath and interferes with the exercise of justice in society. Detraction and calumny are lying about someone to damage or destroy their reputation, which is an offense against the dignity of the person. However, flattering someone falsely is also a form of lying, and it is especially grave when it is done to temp someone to sin. Boasting or bragging about oneself can be another form of lying, as can caricature, when they are done with the intention to deceive.
There are other ways to deceive someone other than speaking a falsehood; we can also act to deceive someone, and this could also be considered lying. Lying is at least a venial sin, but it can become more grave, even a mortal sin, when it undermines justice and charity. Lying to save someone’s feelings is a sin, but it isn’t as serious as lying to cause harm to someone else. The purpose of speech and of language is to communicate truth, so lying is a misuse of speech and is disordered, it “does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgement and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart he fabric of social relationships” (CCC 2486).
Those who struggle with lying and dishonesty can work to grow in the virtue of truthfulness. They ought to pray, even daily, and ask God for help in growing in that virtue. They can also consider the harmful effects of lying, which can motivate them to tell the truth. They can also consider that lying makes the entire spiritual life more difficult, because it separates us from God Himself, who is Truth, it harms our neighbor, and it covers up other sins, making it more difficult to avoid them. God, in His mercy, wants all of us to know the truth of His mercy. Through confession and reconciliation we can be forgiven of our sins, including sins of lying, and be strengthened by God’s grace.
Question: What are the 12 days of Christmas?
We all know the famous song about the 12 Days of Christmas, and the better one about the 12 Yats of Christmas, but what are the 12 days of Christmas? Early in the Church there were disagreements about the date of Jesus’ birth. Some believed it was in March, some during June or July, but most people settled on either December 25 or January 6. Therefore, both of these days became important feast days related to the birth of Christ. On December 25 we celebrate Christmas and on January 6 we celebrate Epiphany, which is the revelation, or making known, of the birth of Christ by the Magi. Since there are 12 days in between Christmas and Epiphany, with Epiphany being on the 13th day, we traditionally celebrate Christmas for all 12 of those days. Therefore, the 12 days of Christmas don’t end on December 25, they begin on December 25.
Question: Who were the Magi?
In the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we read about people who visit Jesus after he was born. The Bible calls them magoi, singular magos, which we normally translate as wise men. It doesn’t call them kings, like in the popular song “We Three Kings,” but that idea might have started because of the expensive gifts that they bring, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Similarly, we normally think of three wise men, or three kings, but the Bible doesn’t say that there were three of them, only that they brought three gifts. The Bible says that they came from the east, but it doesn’t specify exactly where they came from. The Magi originally referred to a group in Persia, where Turkey is located now, who performed religious rites and rituals in the Persian religion as well as practicing astronomy and astrology, which would explain how they saw the star and knew what it meant. This makes a good case for Persia, but the word “magi” was used for similar people in other areas as well, so we can’t be sure exactly where they came from. What we do know is that the coming of the magi to worship Jesus was a sign that people from other gentile nations would also recognize Jesus and come to worship God as well.
Question: Since Christmas isn’t in the Bible, why do we celebrate it?
Even though we don’t know for sure when Jesus was born, we celebrate his birth on December 25 because it’s good to set aside special dates to celebrate important things, and the birth of Jesus Christ is one of the most important things that have ever happened in human history. The idea of celebrating important things at a certain time comes from our Jewish heritage. In the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament, the Lord gives Israel certain times to celebrate special feast days to remember the Passover and other events that show God’s love and care for them. We still celebrate Passover and Pentecost, which were originally Jewish, Old Testament feasts, but we celebrate them in the Christian context. Therefore, it made sense to most of the early Christians to choose a date to celebrate the birth of Jesus as well. So, Christmas may not be specifically in the Bible, but it is inspired by a Biblical world view and fully supported by the Church.
Question: Is Christmas based on a pagan festival?
You may have heard that Christmas is just a Christian version of the Roman pagan festival of the Unconquerable Sun, Sol Invictus, or Saturnalia, which celebrated the god Saturn, but this is not supported by good historical research. Saturnalia was celebrated on December 17, and later extended until December 23, but it was over before December 25, so there doesn’t seem to be any connection. As for Sol Invictus, the first reference we have to the birth of Jesus being on December 25 is by St. Hippolytus of Rome writing around the year 204 AD. However, the first reference we have to the feast of Sol Invictus being on December 25 is in a work called the Chronography of A.D. 354, which was written nearly 150 years after the first reference to December 25 as the birth of Christ. In fact, the cult of Sol Invictus doesn’t seem to have been very popular in Rome until the reign of Aurelius from 270-275 AD, also after the above date. However, even if it does turn out to be true, it would do nothing to undermine the Christian faith in Jesus as the true Son of God and Light of the world.
Once a month I’ll write an article answering a question from a parishioner on the Church, the Mass and sacraments, the Bible, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, spiritual theology, or anything related to Christianity. Either write your question down and put it in the collection basket, or email me at email@example.com.
Since yesterday was the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, here are some great quotes on Motherhood:
“As all men died through one, because that one sinned, so the whole female race transgressed, because the woman was in the transgression. Let her not however grieve. God has given her no small consolation, that of childbearing. And if it be said that this is of nature, so is that also of nature; for not only that which is of nature has been granted, but also the bringing up of children. If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety; that is, if after childbearing, they keep them in charity and purity. By these means they will have no small reward on their account, because they have trained up wrestlers for the service of Christ. By holiness he means good life, modesty, and sobriety.”
~ St. John Chrysostom
“Listen, and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little child; do not be troubled or weighted down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?"
~ Our Lady of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego
“[A] mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.”
~ Emily Dickinson
“Hear this, you fathers and mothers, that your bringing up of children shall not lose its reward. This also he says, as he proceeds, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children. Among other commendations he reckons this one, for it is no light praise to devote to God those children which are given them of God. For if the basis, the foundation which they lay be good, great will be their reward; as great, if they neglect it, will be their punishment (1 Timothy 5:10).”
~ St. John Chrysostom
“An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.”
~ Spanish Proverb
“This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and cultics, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.”
~ Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 62
As we celebrate Christmas on Saturday and the Feast of the Holy Family on Sunday we should recall how strange the story of the Incarnation is. God Himself came down to earth, the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary, and the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, was united to a human nature in the person of Jesus of Nazareth through the hypostatic union, and He, God and man, was the Christ. This same Jesus Christ revealed Himself as the Son of God during His public ministry, and He eventually gave His life in atonement for sin and for the salvation of the world. Therefore both the creche, the scene of His birth, and the Cross are signs of the self-emptying of God and His sacrificial love for the world.
In the incarnation God condescended to become one of us. The word condescension is usually a pejorative meant as an insult, because it means that someone who feels they are superior to others stoops down to their level. God, however, truly is superior to us. God is uncreated while we are created. He is infinite and we are finite. He is the Creator and we are creatures. Therefore, St. Paul says, “For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man” (Philippians 2:5-7). Jesus Christ became one of us for our benefit, not for His. In emptying Himself Jesus didn’t stop being God, rather He took on the nature of a man. He condescended to become a creature, to develop and mature in the natural way, to be obedient to Mary and Joseph, and to follow the laws of men.
St. Paul continues after the quote above, “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth” (Phil 2:8-10). Jesus’ entire earthly life is an example of God’s love for us, and His greatest act of love is His death on the Cross. The humility of Jesus is that He didn’t take advantage of His Divine prerogative, even though He truly is God, but that His Divine love led Him to the Cross.
The love of God is not merely sentimental. Sentimental means marked or governed by feeling, sensibility, or emotional idealism, and love can certainly provoke emotion, very strong emotion. However, the love of God, and the type of love He desires us to show, is governed by reason, not emotion. It is concerned primarily with doing good for other, not making them feel good, and it has real consequences for our lives.
So, as we celebrate Christmas this weekend and for the next few weeks, we’ll celebrate with a lot of sentimentality. We’ll gather with family, put up lights and decorations, participate in family traditions and customs, and exchange gifts. Let us also remember that Christmas is a celebration of the love of God, which lead Him to become one of us, to live with us, and to give His life for us in the torturous death of the Cross. May the love of God also have a real and lasting effect in our lives leading to repentance, conversion, and growth in holiness.
Fr. Bryan Recommends
Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World
I’ve recently found a Catholic podcast, called Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World, that I’m enjoying a lot, and I wanted to share it with you all. Podcasts are basically audio recordings that you can download and play on your computer or smart phone through various websites and apps. Jimmy Akin is a Catholic apologist who explains and defends the Catholic faith; you may have heard him on Catholic radio, 690 AM, on Catholic Answers Live. He’s also written a number of books and has a blog. What I didn’t know is that he’s also interested in pop culture, science fiction, and various kinds of mysteries. In the Mysterious World podcast, Jimmy Akin, with host Dom Bettinelli, explores ancient mysteries, folk tales, urban legends, crimes, conspiracies, and the supernatural and what both reason and faith have to say about them. He looks at what we know about these mysteries, what is claimed about them, and the replies that sceptics make to those claims, as well as what, if anything, the Catholic faith has to say about them.
Some of the mysteries they’ve explored include hypnosis, the Roswell incident and UFO sightings, King Tut, the assassination of JFK, and ghosts. They also explore specifically religious topics like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Resurrection of the Lord, and the Lost Gospels. Since we’re close to Christmas, you may want to start by checking out some of his Christmas specials. In 2018 they talked about the proposed dates of Jesus’ birth, including what historians, the Bible, and the Fathers of the Church say about it. In 2019 they talked about the Magi, the three wise men who came to worship the Lord after His birth, who were magi and how did they know to come look for Jesus. You may also be interested in his episodes on reincarnation, Our Lady of Akita (a reported Marian apparition to a Japanese religious sister), Our Lady of Fatima, and the Knights Templar.
Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World podcast is produced by Star Quest Production Network, which is a Catholic non-profit that seeks to evangelize and expose people to the faith by exploring the faith and modern culture. They also have podcasts on Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, science and technology, American Catholic History, and more. The only one I’ve listened to, and so can personally recommend, is Mysterious World, but I figured some of you may be interested in these other topics. You can find these shows at sqpn.com.
Thou shalt not steal. – Exodus 20:15
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2401, says, “The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world’s goods to God and to fraternal charity.”
There are many detailed consequences of the prohibition of theft in the seventh commandment, as there are with each of the commandments. One breaks this commandment by unjustly taking something that belongs to someone else, which is what we normally mean by theft or robbery. Another way that someone can steal from another is by unjustly withholding something that belongs to someone else, for example, if your neighbor loans you their lawnmower and you refuse to return it. One indirectly breaks the commandment against stealing by unjustly damaging or destroying someone’s property, for example by slashing their car tire, because this deprives them of the use of their property.
In each of these cases, and there may be others that I didn’t think of, I was careful to say “unjustly taking,” “unjustly withholding,” and “unjustly damaging.” That it is unjust is part of the definition, because we can think of instances where someone can be justified in doing each of those things. For example, you are justified in taking the property of another person if the court orders them to give it to you in a trial or lawsuit. You are justified in withholding someone’s property if you have good reason to believe they will use it to commit a crime. You are justified in damaging someone’s property if you have to do so to help them, as firefighters do when they use the jaws of life to cut out someone trapped in their car.
We have to think carefully about moral issues like this, because we’re very good at fooling ourselves to excuse our sins. I might say that it’s not actually theft for me to scam you out of your money, because you gave it to me and I didn’t take it, but reasonable people would conclude that tricking someone out of their money is a type of taking it and is, therefore, theft. I can also excuse my sin of theft by saying that you don’t have a right to your property, maybe because I don’t believe in the right to private property at all or because I think you don’t deserve something that you have. Since we can find reasons to justify these types of actions, we have to be honest with ourselves about our motivations. Why am I really doing this?
How can I fight against temptations to sins of stealing, greed, and theft? The three things that help us fight these temptations are prayer, avoiding the near occasion of sin, and acts of generosity. Prayer is the first and best defense against sin and temptation. Prayer is an act of humility in admitting our struggles and weaknesses and asking for God’s help. Prayer opens us to grace which God uses to help us grow in holiness. Prayer teaches us to reflect on God and the mysteries of God and on ourselves and our motivations, so that we can grow in the likeness of Christ. We can also fight this temptation by avoiding the near occasion of it. The near occasion means the situation or circumstances where we’re able to commit the sin. If I avoid the near occasion then it will be harder for me to fall into the sin and less likely that I’ll be tempted to it in the first place. Finally, we can practice generosity. If greed is the primary motivation for stealing, then we need to strengthen the virtue that is opposed to greed, which is generosity. When I feal tempted to steal, then I should commit and act of generosity instead. As St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 28, “He that stole, let him now steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need.”
There are two seasons of preparation in the Church calendar: Lent and Advent. During Lent we prepare for the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In the Mass we cover the statues, remove Holy Water from the fonts, stop singing the Gloria and stop saying Alleluia. At home we fast by giving things up, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We also give alms by doing extra good works and setting money aside for the poor. During Advent we’re supposed to be preparing for the birth of the Lord, but what do we actually do to prepare? We wear purple at Mass and we shop for Christmas presents. Aside from that? Not much. As a Church parish let’s spiritually prepare for the birth of the Lord this Christmas through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
What prayers can help us prepare for the Nativity? First, pray the O Antiphons. These are antiphons that are used in Mass from December 17 to Christmas that give different titles of Jesus Christ. We can meditate on these antiphons and ask ourselves who Christ is in our lives. You can also take time to read the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels. They can be found in Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2, and John 1:1-28. Another good thing would be to participate in our 40 Hours Devotion, which is 40 hours (really 43) of continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After all, what better way is there to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh than to spend time in the presence of the Most Holy Body of the Lord?
We aren’t officially required to fast during the season of Lent now, but traditionally there were several days of fasting on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the feast of St. Lucy of Syracuse on December 13. They were called Ember Days, and this year they would fall on December 15, 17, and 18. Fridays are also special days of fasting and abstinence in memory of the death of our Lord on a Friday. We sacrifice things on those days to unite ourselves to the Cross of our Lord and to teach ourselves to prefer God to all things. We may not be going to as many parties as normal this year, so we have an opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Christ by sacrificing something on Fridays and Ember Days of Advent.
Finally, prayer and fasting are useless if they don’t lead to a growth in charity. There are so many opportunities to give during the Christmas season, and we should take advantage of them. You can give at OLOL either through the Angel Tree or by giving directly to the St. Anthony Boxes in Church, or you can give through any of the many good charities out there. Don’t just give money, though; make a point to do good things for the people around you during this time, especially when they won’t know about it. As the Lord said, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you” (Mt 6:3-4).
Question: Where did Advent come from?
We have evidence of the time before Christmas being a particular time of spiritual preparation dating back to the Council of Saragossa in 380 AD. By the end of the sixth century the season began to take shape as a time of fasting and prayer in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Pope St. Gregory the Great established the time of Advent in the form we still use today, fixing it at four weeks and composing prayers and antiphons to be used specifically during this time.
Question: Why do you wear pink on the third week of Advent?
There are various liturgical colors for different seasons and celebrations during the year, but the color pink (technically “rose”) is only used twice during the year, and one of those times is during Advent. The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, which means Rejoice Sunday. It comes from the first prayer of that Mass, “Gaudete in Domino semper. Rejoice in the Lord always,” which is a direct quote from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians chapter 4, verse 4. The idea is that we are supposed to rejoice at being close the celebration of Christmas. The color pink symbolizes this joy because it is a lighter color than purple, which represents repentance, but not the full gold of Christmas. We rejoice, but we’re still in a mode of repentance.
Question: What are we supposed to do during Advent?
Remember that Advent is supposed to be a time of spiritual preparation for Christmas, and we prepare through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. You can pray during Advent by reading the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels (Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1:1-2:40) and considering what the birth of the Son of God means for the world and for you. Another tradition Advent prayer is the “O Antiphons,” which should be familiar because of the song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
You can fast by abstaining from meat, or some other food, on Fridays of Advent, which the Church asks us to do in Canon 1251 of the Code of Canon Law, “Abstinence from mean, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.” This is binding on all Catholics who are at least 14 years old.
You can give alms by donating to Church, to the St. Anthony box, or to other charities. We say that Christmas is the season of giving, as God gave us His greatest gift at Christmas, His Son, but we can start giving already during Advent.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Once a month I’ll write an article answering a question from a parishioner on the Church, the Mass and sacraments, the Bible, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, spiritual theology, or anything related to Christianity. Either write your question down and put it in the collection basket, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thou shalt not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28
Like the other commandments, the sixth applies to an entire area of human life. It names, as the specific prohibition, the sin of adultery, which is betrayal of the marital bond, but it also extends to other acts in this area of life. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord makes it clear that we are called to a higher standard in this area of life. We ought not to aim for the minimum, but to strive for virtue even in how we think of other people.
Reflecting on the marriage vows can help us to better understand the Church’s teachings in this area. In their vows a husband and wife promise fidelity to one another for the rest of their lives, not merely in this moment or until I don’t feel like it any more. They promise to be faithful to one another “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health” and “to love and honor” one another “all the days of my life,” or “to love and cherish until death do us part.” They each promise a generous, self-giving, fruitful love to one another for the rest of their lives and in each moment in between, and they are called to live out that promise.
The physical expression of that promise is the marital act, in which the marriage is consummated. The marital act is an expression of the total gift of self. That is simply what the act means, and taking it out of the context of marriage is inherently dishonest. It amounts to making a promise of total love and commitment that we don’t really mean or intend to keep.
The call to chastity is a call to respecting the dignity of every person by not using anyone as an object for our own gratification, even just in our thoughts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Charity is the form of all the virtues. Under its influence, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness to his neighbor of God’s fidelity and loving kindness. The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality. Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all” (CCC 2346-47). That is, chastity allows us to enter into true friendship and witness to the selfless love of Christ, because it frees us to work for the good of others and not to worry about what they can do for us.
“Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (CCC 2339). How do we develop the virtue of chastity and grow in the discipline of self-mastery? First, stay close to the Blessed Mother. Mary, the Mother of God, is our greatest advocate in learning to imitate Christ. Praying the rosary daily and other Marian devotions is one of the best things we can do to grow in chastity. Second, practice custody of the eyes, which is the discipline of avoiding those things that can lead to temptation, both in the world and in media. Finally, practice seeing Christ in every person and treating everyone as a brother or sister. Each one of us is created in the image and likeness of Christ, and everyone is either our brother or sister in Christ or potentially so, and Jesus Christ calls on us to “love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.