“what’s your anti-drug?” –> “what’s your apostolate?”

Remember that late 90’s campaign, “what’s your anti-drug?”? On billboards and TV and magazine ads, teens would fill in the blanks on a test form saying what their “anti-drug” was. They would proclaim to the world what passion kept them away from substance abuse.

If one teen boy’s anti-drug was “m|u|s|i|c,” there might be an eye-catching picture of him shredding on a guitar in a garage with his bandmates. Soda cans, not beer bottle, would be popped open and strewn about.

A similar question pertaining to Catholics twenty-somethings is this: “what’s your apostolate?” How do you as a Catholic young adult make Christ your “anti-satan” in this world that is increasingly infiltrated by satan, the father of all lies?What eye-catching image would illustrate how YOU were being a disciple of the Heavenly King?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph no. 863 states:

The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. ‘The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.’ Indeed, we call an apostolate ‘every activity of the Mystical Body’ that aims ‘to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth.

Our apostolate is a particular work God that calls us to by name. Through our apostolate, Jesus Christ sheds grace upon grace on us and we are called to pass on His grace to others.

The pope, bishops, and priests have Apostolic authority to transmit “sanctifying grace” through the 7 sacraments. They are spiritual “commanders” on earth. This sanctifying grace goes to the members of the the Church.

Yet it is through lay people like you and me that non-sacramental “actual grace” is transmitted to non-members of the Church! And O, how powerful! Through our apostolates, we can turn hearts who would have never met Christ to Christ!

We are the “church militant” on earth. We are sheep of Christ the Shepherd, but we are also His soldiers! We are disciples out in the trenches in the real world. Our apostolate is to bring Christ to the world, to this battlefield of the culture of LIFE versus the the culture of death.

The world tells young people to “suck the marrow out of life”– to TAKE from life. But Pope John Paul II tells young people to GIVE life: to give genuine gifts of selves to others and to God in order to find genuine happiness.

You are a disciple of Christ. You are soldier fighting for His culture of LIFE. You are called to win thousands of souls to His cause, to make our generation alive again! How will you re-infuse the LIFE of Christ back into this world, so full of empty promises? What’s your apostolate?

Catholicism: 7 Transforming “Sensual” Sacraments

PART II: Christ as Groom, the Church as Bride, & the “Sensual” 7 Sacraments!

In my last post, I analyzed the following poem and explained why I thought  it reflected genuine feminism and genuine Christian marriage.

“The Guitarist Tunes Up”

1             With what attentive courtesy he bent
2             Over his instrument;
3             Not as a lordly conqueror who could
4             Command both wire and wood,
5             But as a man with a loved woman might,
6             Inquiring with delight
7            What slight essential things she had to say
8             Before they started, he and she, to play.

–Frances Darwin Cornford (d.1960)

…And now for Part II of my analysis!

The powerful yet utterly gentle illustration of love that this poem makes is precisely the way that Christ the Bridegroom loves His Bride, the Church.

Two thousand years ago, Christ the Groom gave His most “genuine gift of self” to His Church, His Bride, by dying for her on a Cross. Today, Christ the Groom gives of Himself to the Church by allowing His very life to enter into and transform His Bride through the seven sacraments.

As a Groom, Christ, the most perfect God made Man, fulfills every need and desire of His Bride — and transforms her– through His sanctifying grace.

Just as Christ Himself was transformed by God the Father, His  “face chang[ing] in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white” (Luke 9:29),  so too does Christ wish to transform His Bride the Church (or more particularly, her members) here on earth!

Christ wishes for His Bride, the Church, to be holy and without blemish: He wishes for all of the members of His Body to enter Heaven, but He does not “command” His love or ever do anything forcefully. Instead, Christ the Groom is a gentle lover. Christ the Groom does not “come, see, and conquer,” but comes, shows that He understands, and asks gently that His faithful accept Him into their very beings.

Christ’s sanctifying grace is powerful, yet He gently knocks on the doors of the hearts His children, that He may hallow them (make them holy) and make them His.

“Actual grace” moves us from outside, pushing us toward Christ. We need actual grace if we are not Baptized, or if we are in the state of mortal sin and we have willingly separated ourselves from Christ and thus lost our sanctifying grace received at Baptism. Actual grace is also what prompts us to repent and be reconciled with God in the Sacrament of Confession.

Yet actual grace is a lesser, external grace. It is only when we allow Christ to enter our lives through the “sanctifying grace” of the sacraments that He is able to flood us with Himself and transform us! It is through the sacraments that He wishes to transfigure our souls to be “dazzling white” just like His soul (Luke 9:29)!

The seven sacraments that Christ the Groom loves His Church, the Bride, through are: Baptism into His Family, Confirmation (a sealing of Baptism), Reception of His Body in the Eucharist, Reconciliation to Himself (a.k.a. Confession), the “Trinity” of Marriage (husband, wife, and Him), Holy Orders (where priests act in His place—after He breathes on them the Holy Spirit), and the Anointing of the Sick (where He performs a final healing of those preparing to enter Heaven).

As St. Augustine stated, the seven sacraments are “outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification”: hence, “sanctifying” grace. Christ Himself is always loving His Bride (us!), cleansing His Bride (us!), and preparing His Bride (us!) to be with Him in Heaven!: He does so by living within us, through giving us His sanctifying grace via these seven sacraments.

Indeed, Christ the Bridegroom ceaselessly desires all of the members of His Bride, the Church, to be in union with Him through these sacraments, that they may be “perfect as [their] Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 ), and prepared for eternal union with Him in Heaven. For Ephesians 5:25-27 reads: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

Christian marriage  transforms the husband and wife into “one flesh” and enables them to grow in holiness by becoming more open vesicles to the Holy Spirit (so open, in fact, that new life –babies!– can be created).

The mystical marriage of Christ the Groom with His Bride the Church enables Her members to also be transformed in holiness and to become true temples of the Holy Spirit (so open, in fact, that it is Christ’s life, via sanctifying grace, that lives in them now). Galatians 2:20 says: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”

Now that’s true Christian transformation.

Moreover, Christ the Groom promises His Bride, the Church, that He will stay with her till the very end: as every Christian marriage should be.This is why Christ left His Body, the Church here on earth, with a protector, a vicar to stand in His place before He returned to His Kingdom: the pope.

Christ Himself said: “And so I say to you, you are Peter (in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke: “Kepha”), and upon this rock (again, in Aramaic, “kepha”) I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The gates of Hell will never prevail against the Catholic Church here on earth because Christ will never leave His Bride, His very Body, alone in evil’s way and to fall into satan’s hands. On the contrary, Christ will protect His Bride by leaving her a vicar (a pope); He will also provide for her until the very end of time through apostolic priesthood.

Christ Himself thrice told St. Peter: “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep” in John 21.

Why? Because by first establishing this Divinely protected papacy, Christ also consequently established the passing on of the authority necessary for all apostolic priests to obtain in order to transmit His grace through the seven sacraments.

Christ the Groom loves His Bride the Church through the seven sacraments, and it is only through papal-seeded apostolic secession (priesthood) that He transmits the authority (invested into priests by the power of the Holy Spirit) to “feed [His] sheep.” Christ’s sanctifying grace — his LIFE within — is transmitted through these priests who receive the sacramental priestly power of the Holy Spirit to act “in persona Christi'” (in the person of Christ– as His representative, like a channel) via the “laying on of hands” (see 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6, etc.).

Just as the man (the guitarist) in this poem is so very sensual and romantic with his wife (the guitar), how very “sensual and romantic” Jesus Christ the Bridegroom is to His Bride, the Catholic Church! The man (the guitarist) in this poem speaks a “language of the body” to his wife (the guitar) that he will always protect her, put her needs first, and provide for her.

Through the papacy and apostolic secession, so too does Christ the Groom always protect His Bride the Church, put her needs first, and provide for her (with his sanctifying grace). And just as sex is “earthly yet divine,” so too is the way Christ touches His Bride, the Church, through the “earthly yet divine” seven sacraments!

Through the sacraments, the Divine, Christ Himself, touches us via the most earthly, outward (even tangible!) signs, such as: the giving of His Spirit in Baptism with water (and the sealing of Baptism in Confirmation with the laying on of hands), the giving of Himself in the Eucharist under the form of bread and wine, the giving of His mercy in Confession via His words of absolution (stated by a priest who acts as His representative), the giving of His ability to create new life (babies!) and to unite two into “one flesh” in Holy Matrimony, the giving of His divine healing in the Anointing of the Sick with holy oil, etc.

These seven sacraments are earthly, yet divine, just as Christ Himself is human yet divine: God made Man!

And, O, how utterly romantic! For it is in humbling Himself in such earthly ways that Jesus Christ offers us sinners His most perfect “genuine gift of self”: His sanctifying grace—by definition, His very LIFE within us—the only merit that we may ever accept from Him (for He accomplished it on the Cross) that has the power to grant us eternal life!

Catholicism: a Feminist Church

The Catholic Church is All for “Feminism”: Upholding the Dignity of Woman

“The Guitarist Tunes Up”

1             With what attentive courtesy he bent
2             Over his instrument;
3             Not as a lordly conqueror who could
4             Command both wire and wood,
5             But as a man with a loved woman might,
6             Inquiring with delight
7            What slight essential things she had to say
8             Before they started, he and she, to play.

Frances Darwin Cornford (d.1960)

When I was 17 years old, I came across this poem. I found it utterly romantic, though I couldn’t quite put it into words why.

To this day, I am still enamored by the imagery of this poem.

Now a 25-year-old young woman who has grown much in her Catholic faith, this time around I think that I understand more as to why.

I think that the poem makes a good illustration about how marriage should be as a sacrament instituted by God. The guitarist in the poem treats his guitar, a metaphorical image of his wife, that he is “tuning” as his most beloved instrument. The guitar is instrumental (pun intended!) and necessary to allow the guitarist fulfill his role as a musician. The guitarist needs his guitar to make music. They are thus inseparable; though two bodies, one.

For just as a guitar is an extension of a true guitarist’s body, so too does the man envision and treat his wife: as an extension of his very body. The “wire and wood” (line 4) that is his wife mirrors what Adam, the first married man on earth, calls Eve, the first bride on earth”: “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24)!

Genesis 2:22-24 reads:
“The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”

Metaphorically, the man “bends over” his wife with “attentive courtesy” (line 1). He does not intend to merely use her like a “lordly conqueror” (line 3) who would “command both wire and wood” (line 4) (her body). Rather, the man tries to serve his woman for her sake first, so that she can then give a “genuine gift of [her]self” back to him (the spousal language of Pope JP2’s “theology of the body”). It is only in this way that true ‘music’– true love!– can be made.

Accordingly, the narrator refers to the guitarist as “a man with a loved woman” (line 5). His wife truly is a beloved prize: she is woman to be cherished, not a mere object to be used!

This ‘cherished’ factor makes Ephesians 5:25-31 come to mind. It reads:
“So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Lastly, in the poem, the man (the guitarist) asks his wife (the guitar) what her needs are, and what she has to say: what she is feeling and thinking. In fact, the guitarist “[inquires] with delight” (line 6)!

Note that the man is not merely happy but delighted to strive to know exactly “what slight essential things she [the guitar] has to say” (line 7) before they can “play” (line 8)– before they can make love together.

The fact that the man listens to the “slight essential things” the woman has to say reflects that he knows that the only way truly to love a woman is not by objectifying her, but by respecting her! He listens to her and tries to understand her thoughts and desires before asking for her love and affection.

This is what I must have found so very utterly romantic when I first read this poem! A real man does not “come, see, and conquer”—something that I had learned from the “hook up” generation all around me. Rather, a real man comes, seeks to understand, and asks gently! A real man gently inquires into a woman’s heart and proves that he truly cares for her. It is only in this way that she can ever let her defenses down and invite him into her very mystery.