The Family as Participation in Trinitarian Life

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(I am working on two pieces for the weekend. One is a description of the sweep of what the world will look like during the height of the Storm and things to watch for. The second is a brief explanation of what a monetary system is, so that you may better understand what you are seeing unfold.

For now, I put up this transcript of remarks I made at our first prayer meeting a week and a half ago. There is a video of it, but because of the size of the files, I am working with my son to set up a Youtube Account and just link to that from this site rather than eat up space here.)

Many of you here have children or grandchildren at home. I raised two children on my own from the time they were two and three years old. I miss those days of fantastic exuberance, days when my mind, body and spirit were fully occupied with caring for them and making our household a joyful one. I consider it among the highest forms of prayer, certainly the form that most fully engages all your faculties – and is consumed with loving care for another. Fortunately, the Catholic faith offers an abundance of wonderful devotions for us once we are deprived of this fuller font of prayer. It does not engage all our faculties as does family life…but we have to make do as we can in the different stages of life.

Our Christian God is not just a personality, but a community of persons with one will. We know that man is made in God’s own image. As it is written in Genesis, “…in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen 1:27) If we are made in God’s own image, He has given us a portion of His dignity – and surely we reach our highest level of joy when we share in His nature. But what is the fundamental nature of God?

Love processes from the Father through the Son…and goes forth from the Holy Spirit to create. All that is…is the result of this love that constantly flows through the persons of Trinity. God’s fundamental nature is as Loving Creator. If we are made in His image, that means that at our deepest level, we are made to participate in creation with Him.

Now the world has gotten this wrong…particularly since the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment got many things right – but it has been a disaster for mankind because it got its very foundation wrong…and if the foundation is flawed, the structure cannot stand. The Enlightenment envisioned man’s fundamental nature as that of consumer – a complicated animal that, when his needs for food, shelter and companionship are met should be content. It planned to give him everything but dignity – the royal dignity of the Divine Imprint on his soul. It did not acknowledge man’s fundamental nature as creator, reserving that function to a small elite which would cater to his every need…as if the great mass of men were merely a pack of quarrelsome dogs. It is why the centuries since the beginning of the Enlightenment have seen more people murdered and butchered in service to utopian schemes every few decades than were killed in all the religious wars of history combined.

Think of your own life. Except when you are joyfully playing with your family, the only time you fully re-enter the seamless joy of childhood is when you are lost in the work you love. Whatever you do, whether you are an artist, a writer, an architect, a bricklayer, a homemaker…you have a vocation, whether it is what you are paid for or not – and in your vocation you participate with God in the very act of creation, living the fundamental nature, the royal dignity, with which He endowed you.

Family All Together At Christmas Dinner

Now think about how you interact with your family. Does anyone dream of their children growing up to live on welfare…or to get whatever they want through a career as a thief? You don’t think of your children in terms of what they are going to get, but of what they will be. You dream of the things they will create, the families they will start, the hopes they will live. As you see their unique little personalities begin to form and reveal themselves – God’s unique imprint in them, you envision how they will use their unique personality to make the world a little better. Is there anyone here who cares for their children, who loves their babies just to feel good about yourself and how noble you are? Of course you don’t. In your love for your children is a shadow of God’s love for each of us. You love them because they ARE…and because their souls have been given, for a time, into your care. What a joy it is to participate as witness and guide in the growth of a soul! It is one of the greatest privileges God gives us.

If someone in your family is in trouble, is hurting, has suffered a tragedy or a setback, you don’t help them to show how noble you are – or as if they are a benighted child of a lesser god. You help, you comfort, you console them as a loving brother or sister – for you know them by their name; you know what they love, what their strengths, what their flaws are. You love them for their quirks, for their kindness, even for their flaws…for the person is your brother, your sister, your mother….never reduced to a file or a case number. You love them with a love God has implanted within you, a love which knows them and calls them by their name.

We tell ourselves that we must help the less fortunate. In the telling, we both flatter and deceive ourselves. Christian charity, simple love, can never be a condescension of the greater to the lesser. The truth is that we are all the less fortunate, burdened down by the weight of original sin. We are to care for each other as loving brothers and sisters. When we do that, drawing from the life-giving water that is Christ, we build up our brothers even as we are built up by those same brothers. We live solidarity and strengthen the social fabric that binds us one to another. We mirror, in the little way we can, God’s love for us.

Family-Meal-Time

Apart from God, social work is nothing more than animal husbandry. Why should the dignity of so many of God’s children be broken on the altar of social work to feed the self-absorbed hunger of a few who are desperate to feel good about themselves?

Almost four years ago, I departed on a walking pilgrimage across this great land of ours. Over the course of a year and a half I walked 32-hundred miles, sleeping in the woods…often under bridges when it rained… My first night out I met a young couple with a little daughter, a couple who gave me a ride for a few miles. They were saving up to get the electricity turned on in the trailer they had just put a deposit on, so they could move out of his mother’s house. We talked about what I was doing and their hopes for the future. When they dropped me off, the husband tried to slip me a five-dollar-bill to help me on my way. Knowing what they were saving for, I declined. I will never forget the hurt on his face when I did that…I robbed him of his dignity…his dignity as a creator, a philanthropist cooperating with God. I never made that mistake again…always gratefully accepting the spontaneous generosity of those who sought to support me on my way.

Do you think there is ever any vanity in the love that processes amongst the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Does the Father ever try to lord His generosity over the Son, or the Son over the Father? Of course not! God is love. When we give well, we receive acknowledgment from the recipient that we are participating with God in the act of creation, itself. When we receive well, we give acknowledgment to our benefactor that he is participating with God in the act of creation, itself. So we receive as we give and give as we receive – and so long as we do both well and fully, we participate in the Trinitarian interior life of God, Himself.

I found all across this country that people are good, with noble instincts…wanting to reach out to each other. I had a couple of gang-bangers in Baton Rouge pull up to me alongside the road, hand me a sack, then take off before I could acknowledge them. In that sack were various snacks, juice boxes and little cakes they had obviously gotten from a convenience store. Something moved their deep generosity upon seeing me trudging along, though they did not want anyone noticing it. Wouldn’t want to mess up their reputations as hard cases – but God saw their spontaneous kindness.

One of the incidents that most sticks in my mind came in San Antonio. I met a cheerful homeless woman, somewhere between 25 and 30 years old, I think. She started chatting with me and invited me to share a quart of beer with her. I told her I would have a swig, but I didn’t have much stomach for it otherwise, but I would be glad to sit and talk a while. Her boyfriend was in jail for something…he was going to get out in two more months, and she lived in the streets while waiting for him. We chatted about what I was doing and she was utterly charmed. When it was time for me to get moving, I got up, hugged her, and asked her to pray for me, for it was often hard out there. To my astonishment, she burst into tears, wailing piteously. I asked what I had said to offend her. As she got herself under control, she said I had done nothing – but that though many had said they would pray for her, none had ever asked her to pray for them. Did I really think her prayers would mean anything? I told her I needed them – and God always hears the cry of His children.

I have thought about that a lot…I don’t know that my offering to pray for her would have moved her, but my asking her to pray for me made her truly feel the presence of God. By treating her, without even thinking of it, with the dignity she was given as a daughter of the Living God, I helped restore and recall to her some of that dignity.

When we love in family, we do not seek what we can gain, but the good of those we love. When you change the dirty diapers, wash the clothes, tell the bedtime stories, wipe the runny noses, dry the tears, you are not trying to elevate your status, but simply to love those you claim as your own in love. It is a participation in the interior life of the Trinity itself.

In the 12th Chapter of Matthew and the 8th Chapter of Luke, Jesus is confronted with people who tell Him that His mother and brethren are looking for Him. Jesus responds that His mother and His brethren are those who do His Father’s will. This is NOT a rejection of His natural family. Rather, Jesus is teaching us how to love. He is expanding the definition of who our family is. Who is our family? Whoever will accept it. How are we to love those we encounter? Like family, for when we do, we love as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love…and we participate and strengthen and add to the bonds of solidarity that is the Creative Force of God, Himself, which sustains the entire universe.

So today, at this prayer meeting, we receive the love of God. We receive it that we may go forth and give what we have received. And in the giving, we receive again.

The world has become a cynical place. But if you scratch the surface of a cynic, you will almost always find a disillusioned idealist looking for a reason to believe. I call upon everyone here to go forth and be that reason. Do it simply by loving your neighbor as your family, as yourself. For when you do, you enter a little into the interior life of the Trinity, itself.

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
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44 Responses to The Family as Participation in Trinitarian Life

  1. Very uplifting article Charlie thank you

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  2. the phoenix says:

    There are some of us who identify with Joseph of the Coat of Many Colors. I pray for my family every day.

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  3. Marki says:

    Thank you Charlie, I really, really, really needed to hear this today!

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  4. Bobby says:

    Charlie – what you have just written could have been written by Pope Francis himself.

    The reason why Pope Francis is misunderstood by some is that he explains the Catholic faith expressed as the religion of the heart and like him you have illustrated so perfectly the genius of the Catholic faith. It is so, so important that the faith drops one foot from the head to the heart!

    This is the challenge of the era that we are faced with. We have to have a heart like the Sacred Heart of Jesus burning with love for our neighbour. There is a great exchange needed. In effect we need a heart transplant for we need to take on the Heart of Christ and let Him love through us.

    Thankyou for the encouraging teaching.

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  5. Sue says:

    Charlie,
    The family you describe, and the ideals it upholds, is a beautiful representation of what ought to be. Light years away from the family I grew up in, and the one I created on my own. So many of us are so wounded, so wrapped up in our own pain that we are blind and senseless to the needs of others, filled with an emptiness that threatens to eat us alive, from the inside out. And so the cycle goes, generation to generation, person to person. I am, of late, in a 12-step program, and working on the 4th step, a “moral inventory” which is actually a thorough examination of conscience. There is a grace to this, painful though it may be, in that one sees the profound need to forgive, and be forgiven if we are to have any peace with God or ourselves. The funny thing is, that although I am Catholic, and go to confession frequently, this program forces me to look at myself in a way that no other examination of conscience process has. Although I am not finished, God has shown me things about myself that in 48 years I had never known, or even suspected. I guess He knows when we are ready to listen, finally.

    I have a lot to learn, like how to love without strings attached. I think if you don’t have a clear concept of what real and unconditional love is, you have a hard time with the notion that God is Love. For myself, I have kind of put it on God some of the stuff I grew up with, that love is “earned” by act or refraining from acting, by being whatever someone else wants, etc. etc. Naturally, this leads to despair. And as far as I can tell, going forward, I have to stop wallowing in self, waiting to be filled, and get out there and serve, “for it is in giving that we receive”. I count myself as lucky, as my course is well mapped, there are but 12 “next right steps”! Please pray for me, so I stay on the path! Thanks to all of you here, you are a life line for me many times! Sue

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    • charliej373 says:

      Hey Sue, you add an important dimension here. Of course, there are more than a few dysfunctional families out there, particularly these days. Something I used to say frequently back when I was in my 20s to friends who would get caught up in ugly squabbles was that, “There are a lot of cruel jerks in this world and you are very limited in what you can do about that. But what you have complete control over is whether you are going to be one of them. The choice you make will flow down to many generations beyond you.”

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    • Marki says:

      Sue, can I suggest this book: The Healing of Families
      How to Pray Effectively for Those Stubborn Personal and Familial Problems
      By Fr. Yozefu B. Ssemakula (Fr. Joseph)
      I know, I know, another self-help book, but this one was really good. My husband and I read and re-read it and were fortunate to attend a seminar with Fr. Joe. After doing the prayer service at the back of the book and all the steps, we saw many changes in ourselves, our marriage and family relationships. I got a lot of healing from this. It is hard for me to explain everything eloquently but some of changes were a profound feeling of closeness to the Lord and a new love and burning desire for adoration which was not a part of me at all before and much more. Fr. Joe supports his information with scripture and addressed many common misconceptions on God the Father and our sufferings and so-called “punishment”. Of course we still have our ups and downs and problems but things really changed for the better after. I can identify a lot with your comments and also attended 12 step for a time. God bless you Sue and I am praying for you.

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      • Pam says:

        Marki, thank you for mentioning Fr Joe’s healing of families book and ministry. Many of the posts here lately have really reflected the lovely desires of people’s hearts to change and grow closer to Jesus but the pain in their families seems to prevent them from growing in the spiritual life. It has been on my heart to say something about this wonderful ministry. I ordered the book last year from Spirit Daily and attended a three day retreat with Fr Joe. It was truly one of the most profoundly life changing event for me and the healing effects are still showing up in my extended family. I felt The Lord place it on my heart to say something here about him but I asked Him for a confirmation and he gave me two! Thank you Charlie for this beautiful site.

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      • donna269 says:

        excellent book….went to his retreat this past year…..break the cycle.

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      • vparisi says:

        I just attended a spiritual warfare conference by Sue Brinkman of Women of Grace and someone was talking about this book. I just ordered it-looking forward to it.

        Blessings,

        Val

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    • donna269 says:

      Hi Sue:
      I also am in a 12 step program and after 15 years, my family is reaping incredible graces from my sobriety. Breaking the cycle is the most important thing. I can tell you many need to be in recovery, but many are not. What a grace to be given this road map of how to live. The spiritual foundation of the 12 step program is incredible. It has also taught me how to accept everybody as my brother. We come from different faiths, backgrounds, and socioeconomic places but we are like passengers on a lifeboat….united…..from steerage to first class. I never realized having the disease of addiction would become my greatest asset. God has become primary in my life. Also, this program has forced me to see God as my daddy…..instead of a vengeful, spiteful power waiting to smite it at every turn. My vision of my God is that of a little girl crawling up on God’s lap and putting my head on His shoulder. He loves me like a loving daddy…..Aren’t we so blessed?

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      • Sue says:

        Thank you Donna, for your candor. I kind of felt like I was sticking my neck out posting about being in recovery, as though it made me a second class citizen here, the sinner among saints. Clearly, there are many here who are very close to the Lord, and I am grateful for them, as I reap the benefits of their insights. However, given my situation, it is easy to feel like a party crasher whose lack of invitation is self-evident. Marki and all who seconded her recommendation, thank you for suggesting the book, it sounds like just what I need! Thank you all!

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        • charliej373 says:

          Ha Sue! This is no country club for saints…it is a rehab center for sinners.

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          • donna269 says:

            Absolutely….c’mon Sue….you had heard this before…..Religion is for people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have been there already and are afraid to go back…..I am grateful for the spirituality 12 steps has given me…..I am making my metamorphosis in my spirituality getting closer and closer to God…..God bless you!

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    • Marti says:

      Sue, CONGRATULATIONS! Everyday is now ‘the next right step’–just like the rest of us, but you have so much more now to offer our Lord for others and especially those you love and those for whom you wish to make reparation; of course especially for those still in addiction or those suffering from the addiction of others. THIS IS GOD’S GIFT TO YOU—-to sanctify you and get you into Heaven. Don’t forget that. Sobriety is God’s gift to you!! You CAN walk that walk, with His grace, just like he held you up all these years. You ARE worthy. You are wonderfully made and He has a mission for you that He hand picked before you were born. The course is indeed well mapped out from those who have gone before you, but your path will be an immersion into knowing, loving and serving God and His Church. Patron Saints of Addiction are : St. Martin, St. Monica and Venerable Matt Talbot. PRAY FOR US! I will pray for you Sue, please pray for my sister who is also named Sue. She hasn’t come to her knees yet….

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  6. Matthew says:

    Charlie:
    Your definition of “family” sounds very much like what people on the LGBTQ side of things present as family. “Family is what we say it is and away with the need for a father and mother and the antiquated notion of biological children.” How do you distinguish? I know you don’t mean it this way. If everything is “family” than what is family?
    Thanks in advance for any clarification.
    Matthew

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    • charliej373 says:

      Well, gosh, Matthew, perhaps in your next prayer to the Lord you could helpfully inform Him that what He says in Matthew 12 and Mark 8 sounds suspiciously like what the LGBTQ groups are saying – and that He might want to explain Himself.

      Bluntly, the gay groups are not the only anti-Christian groups who use the forms of authentic Christian theological imperatives in an effort to try to rob them of their substance. If we are to abandon Christian formulations, including those begun by Christ, Himself, just because anti-Christian bigots try to pervert those formulations to undermine the faith, then they have already won.

      You often sharpen what I write, Matthew, but in this case in the critical paragraph, I start with Jesus’ definition of what is a proper definition of family and then elaborate on it. And in other pieces I have written here, I have been very adamant that a person’s first duty is to those who it has pleased God to put directly in their care – in short, their natural family. Now perhaps I am wrong…I have misread it before, but I would bet you are the only person reading this that got from it that I define family in the same – or nearly the same – way as the gay lobby does, in an effort to destroy the whole concept of family. I have made it clear that the natural family is the pattern for how we should all care for each other – it is the beginning. They make it clear that the family is irrelevant, a patriarchal vestige. I think maybe you overanalyzed this one.

      But if your confusion is widespread, my trusty readers will, I am sure, tell me so.

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      • Matthew says:

        Charlie:
        I am sorry I gave offense. It was a sincere question.
        I was in fact looking for pointers as to how to make the distinction when friends and family say what you said but mean something different.
        Again, my apologies.
        Matthew

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        • charliej373 says:

          Oh dear, Matthew, you did NOT give offense. Maybe you zig while I zag. I thought you were giving me a bit of a pointed, but tongue-in-cheek, question so I responded with a pointed, but tongue-in-cheek answer. I was chuckling a bit as I responded.

          The key is in Jesus’ words…”whoever does the will of my Father…” Let me think on that – and in the future, I will be more reticent in assuming you are giving a pointed, tongue-in-cheek objection.

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          • Matthew says:

            More on my context: I have two friends, guys, who are “married” in a few states. They plan to hire a surrogate and have a child. They say they love each other and want to have kids. Given my contact with these two friends I know that “family” is used to designate some who also is SSA. (as in “He’s family”.)
            I also try to teach theology to high school boys. Every time the issue of same-sex attraction is addressed their response is always “well they love and care about each other.” Several years ago I had a twenty-minute argument with a student who was convinced that the desire of two lesbians to create a child in the lab was morally equivalent to a husband and wife conceiving a child in the marital act. He really seemed unable to grasp the difference between “child as manufactured product” versus “child as gift of self-giving love”.
            The problem seems to be perhaps that you and I understand the expansion of the definition of family to be solidly rooted in the biological definition while others set up the expanded definition as a contradiction of the biological definition. Hey didn’t somebody famous use that expression “hermeneutic of continuity” versus “hermeneutic of rupture”??
            PS: I can sometimes be overly sensitive.

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          • charliej373 says:

            I appreciate that context. And I will keep in mind that you teach theology. One of my priests (the one, in fact, who monitors this site to keep me on the straight and narrow) is a theologian/philosopher. He has translated several books of dense theology from Spanish into English for a large religious publisher – and has been at work on something for some years that I think is destined to be a master work, but it won’t be for the general public, I don’t think…very dense and detailed. He sometimes challenges me with something that seems so picayune that I think he is joking. In the early days, I would occasionally laugh out loud when he was posing a very serious question. I learned, it is how his theologian’s mind works…going through fine distinctions is very critical to the type of work he does, so he is utterly serious. I learned to take it utterly serious right from the start – then tease him after we have worked it through.

            An example: when I had told him that the rescue will come at the hands of Our Lady the Immaculate Conception, he objected that what I have described is the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart and wanted me to correct myself. I asked him, tongue-in-cheek, if the Immaculate Conception could have anything other than an Immaculate Heart. He chuckled a bit and said he supposed that whatever form Our Lady came in, it is always with an Immaculate Heart. But while we joked on it, his objection was serious. So I will be more careful to treat your queries as a theologian’s queries, for the fine distinctions there are absolutely critical.

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        • charliej373 says:

          Okay, let me try again. First, I start with the family as God instituted it, mirroring His own internal Trinitarian life, as the foundation. Then I expand it from there as the model for how we are all to care for each other, certainly offering an expanded definition of family, but building brick by brick on the solid foundation of God’s intention. It adds layers of meaning to the central foundation, which is the Trinity, itself – then man, who is made in God’s own image and finds the fullest expression of that truth in natural family life – then mankind, made up of families made in God’s own image which, when using that as the starting point, becomes fully the family of God.

          While using similar words, the gay lobby has a very different strategy. They seek to blast the foundational definition of family out of existence, then re-define it to mean whatever they want it to mean. That makes the term family utterly meaningless.

          My formulation builds upon a solid foundation; theirs seeks to destroy that foundation entirely in order to substitute their will for God’s. You can call anything a family that you want to; but if it is not a real family, it can’t give you real shelter. The gay position is a sort of rhetorical gamesmanship, seeking to convince people that a horse chestnut is actually a chestnut horse. they may be able to sell that notion to the unwary, but you still won’t be able to ride a horse chestnut.

          And forgive me. My son, in particular and a few very close friends like to prod me sometimes. The fellow, Al Salvi, whose sons’ article on the Crusades appeared here last week, used to love to cross-examine me like the trial attorney he is until he had me snorting and huffing. I asked him why he always did that once – and he said he liked the answers I gave when there was blood in my eye and smoke coming out of my nostrils the best…so he pressed until he got the “best.” Plus, he was highly amused by watching me get worked up. You gave me no offense. I was just reacting as I would to one of those two. Sorry I gave you offense.

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          • Matthew says:

            Thanks, Charlie! I know from personal experience that e-mail can be a difficult medium in which to convey light-heartedness. And for my part I wish I took teasing better.
            Oremus pro invicem!

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  7. Mark says:

    A year or so ago, I was driving some elderly ladies to the shrine of our Lady of Good Help near Green Bay, Wisonsin. On the trip, gay marriage was brought up, because it was being voted on in the Minnesota state elections. Some had signs around town that read “vote for Yes for the marriage ammendment’. I made a comment that the Church needs to do more to defeat this agenda of the gay mafia to push its sinfullness on display. One of the old ladies raised her voice and said, “well they are made in the image and likeness of God too”. I replied that being made in God’s image and likeness means that you have a mind to think with and a will to choose with as does God and the angels. Her voice got even louder when she replied ‘who told you that’! I replied, it is what Pope John Paul II wrote on in his letter on the ‘theology of the body’.

    Well needless to say, this lady and her sister who are in their 80’s did not seem to care to discuss much after this and the trip became longer. What threw me a curve was that these were ladies who go to daily Mass, pray the rosary and have the outward appearance of fidelity to the Church. Yet, they had no problem with gay marraige or gay activity, as they had bought the lie of false tolerance. Seriously, sometimes I try hard to find 5 people I know, outside of my own family, who believe and adhere to all of what Holy Mother Church teaches and it is darn near impossible today. Family life in today’s world is one of the hardest things to do. There is so many things to distract from God. So much perverted thinking, so much relativsim and so much false compassion. JMJ, pray for us.

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  8. SD says:

    In regards to gay marriage I heard the most plausible answer in my opinion as to why it is so widely embraced by many Christians. The reason was given by a priest on Catholic radio; he said that when we as a society accepted birth control as a natural part of family planning we redefined marriage as being a contract of convenience (I don’t remember his exact words) and that it was no longer an institution in which the man and woman were very dependent on each other to create a family structure to support and nurture all the children that God might bless them with. Now, anyone could decide how many children they wanted and tailor their lives according to their own will. Thus, why shouldn’t marriage be about individual preference and convenience. So, the Catholic church is right again! Truly, I thought they were a little archaic in their thinking until I heard this priest.

    Charlie, I really think there are so many very good social workers who are not all trying to feel special while comprising the dignity of others. It is wrong to paint with such broad strokes. Many caring people enter the noble profession of Social Work to express their love and compassionate hearts in very effective and lasting ways. Sometimes the best sermon is the one without words; it can be seen in the twinkle in their eyes, their smile and the genuine warmth in which they treat their fellow travelers. Sometimes, the less afflicted desire to reach out to the more afflicted and it is God’s way. He says to comfort others with the same comfort you have been given. The only person I know who has a poor view of Social Workers is Ann Ryand. I was a social worker and and I know that God used me to bring life into dark places and I am VERY grateful for that time in my life.

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    • charliej373 says:

      Well, SD, I certainly will say that a good therapist or social worker is indeed worth their weight in gold. During her adolescence, my daughter had some serious delinquency issues and I dealt with a host of them. Two were flat-out wonderful, helped me to maintain my sanity during a terrible period. But the overwhelming majority, I would sit down with and quickly realize they had not even read three pages into the case file. All but those two assumed it was a case of neglect or abuse – and I would ask them if they even had the case file with them. On Page 1 it noted this was a delinquency petition – and there was no neglect or abuse involved. I got quietly involved in helping others later navigate through the system – and it was uniformly a disaster, usually making things worse for poor folks. It left me with a very jaded view of the profession – which, admittedly, I viewed askance before from my work in government and media.

      But I did note that social work that is unconnected to God is a vanity. Back in the early 90s, when I was doing radio, there were studies showing that the only programs that had proved effective in dealing with juvenile delinquents were faith-based programs. And the weren’t just a little better, but a LOT better. And yet I heard from many in the profession that it didn’t matter that it worked; we could not have religion tainting these things. While I was walking, homeless people would tell me about places to go to get a meal or assistance – and they always would recommend the religious spots. But they would warn me away from the government run programs – for they just wanted to run your life.

      I am not negative about the concept of social work – but it has become a toxic wasteland in this country. A good one is worth their weight in gold. But finding a good one is like coming upon a rose growing in a dump site: both striking and rare. But I have no doubt that God used you to bring light to many. The very fact that you acknowledge God as the source tells that you cared about others rather than your own self-actualization.

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      • SD says:

        Charlie,

        Thank you so much for sharing about your daughter and your experience. I too had serious delinquency issues in my adolescence. I had the dubious honor of being the first person to go to treatment in my HS. That was in 1984. I was emotionally abused, but my mother having been a Viet Nam widow, I think, got a lot of sympathy. Anyways, I had to pray and beg for help. You walked your child through. You carried a heavy cross, despising the unfair shame and looking towards the hope; a healthy daughter.

        Like

        • charliej373 says:

          Funny thing, SD, some of the people who get into the worst delinquency issues often end up being the best counselors. I have a brother who struggled for decades with alcohol and drugs and was several times incarcerated for a lengthy period (no violence, just the drugs, alcohol and con games). About five years ago, he really started working his sobriety – and oh, how it touches me that now he is a wonderful help to others who struggle. I think of St. Teresa of Avila who said that for those who have a noble purpose, it is good to have gone astray for a time in order to gain experience. I would bet your delinquency issues made you a better social worker.

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    • vicardwm says:

      SD, I think that priest was basically right on. The acceptance of birth control meant that marriage was now just about two people who wanted to mutually pleasure each other. Children now became an optional part of the arrangement instead of a, if not THE, core purpose of marriage. So, if children are just an extra accessory, and the core of marriage is being “in love” and mutually pleasuring each other sexually, then why can’t gays do that too?

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      • charliej373 says:

        Scott Hahn writes extensively of the unfolding of Scripture as the unveiling of Covenant. His understanding of Covenant is rich and full – unlike those impoverished definitions that treat it merely as a contract. Marriage, he insists, is fully Covenantal, involving a full giving of self and a participation in God’s family. His book, Rome Sweet Home gives a magnificent opening to the fullness of that concept. Written in 1993, it did not touch on “gay marriage,” but I think it is a marvelous place to start in contemplating this subject and speaking clearly on it.

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        • Kati says:

          The Hahns have been a great blessing to the Church. Mrs. Kimberly Hahn actually found her way into the Church by studying birth control from the perspective of the Sacred Scriptures. It was a topic of great interest to me in the 70’s as I had been told by my doctor that it would be very dangerous to become pregnant again (after the birth of the 5th child). I honestly did not understand at that time why the Church taught against it. Thanks to a fantastic RN who headed who headed the Family Life area of our diocese in those days, I was able to finally trust that God knew exactly why this was best for me. Hubby and I repented, got rid of all artificial blocks to God’s will and that was the end of contraception for us. It was somewhat scary at first but God gave the grace to trust Him more and more. ūüėČ
          We now understand how beguiling the enemy is and how he has worked against life in all aspects of our culture for some time now…twisting and misshaping the truth by dressing it up as good. What lies! Mark Mallet’s post today shows the ugly end result of that…which we are beginning to now face dead on (pun intended)! Isn’t it interesting that he posted it on October 13th?

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          • Kati says:

            OOps…Should have been : Thanks to a fantastic RN who headed the Family Life area of our diocese in those days, I was able to finally trust that God knew exactly why this was best for me.

            Like

  9. SD says:

    I just want to add that I am equally grateful I don’t have to work in Social Work at this time in my life. It is very draining; case loads can be high and Social Workers are not paid very well. It is amazing that they often work as many years in the field as they do.

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      I certainly second that, SD. The very best, with the very best intentions, if they work for a gov’t program, are utterly overwhelmed right now.

      Like

    • Bob says:

      I am in social work and work diagnosing alcoholics and drug addicts. I am aware of the temptation some days to see the next person I must see as another “case” especially when the day is busy and the paperwork needs to be done. The most I can do is point people to God a bit sometimes and I am planning to have a picture on my wall of a person sinking in quicksand with a rope hanging above within their reach. And my hope is that them seeing the picture of the rope and the person sinking may make them receptive to my question of “What is the rope offered to you which offers you hope?”
      I suppose the two most difficult problems I face are those days in which I have not taken time to pray properly or enough and the corrosive effect of a secular culture in which we must measure our sharing of faith or spiritual hope lest we offend the secular mindset.
      So pray for me on this please!
      Thanks Bob

      Like

      • charliej373 says:

        Thank you, Bob…and keep it up. Stay faithful. It is terribly difficult dealing with a secular world that is hostile to faith, while keeping that faith and sharing hope. Those who live it well are genuine spiritual heroes. Be a hero!

        Like

  10. Kris says:

    You know Charlie, I have a funny story to tell. I am a mother with three kids. My oldest is a 24 year old women and when she began driving, we told her, never , never , never pick up a hitch hiker. I will still tell her that out of safety and my own sense of protection for my daughter. So funny I was driving into town and on the road was a women, probably about 50ish, hitch hiking. It was a cold day. So without thinking, I picked her up. Turns out she had knee surgery recently and had a huge swollen knee. She had walked about 6 miles from her dwelling (turned out to be a half way house) to see her boyfriend who was living in a cabin without heat. He was an alcoholic. She had recently settled some issues with a probation officer and was not really supposed to be with an alcoholic boyfriend. (It is amazing what we learn about someone in a 20 minute drive). I took her to her half way house and dropped her off. she was very grateful for the help and said she really should not have walked so far on her newly fixed knee. As I dropped her off I told her to be safe and she said she would. I chuckled because all I could say after the event was how odd it was for me to do such a thing. I am not usually that un-cautious. But I did not chastise myself after ward as I really felt the Holy Spirit just guided me to do that. It turned out fine and I would be very cautious in the future about repeating this behavior. But for that moment, I was really glad I could help someone and just believed the HOly Spirit let me step outside of my comfort zone. I suspect that we could all have more of these types of encounters that would take us out of our comfort zones.

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      You do get some interesting tales in a 20-minute drive. In the rural areas I walked through, when I would finally see a café and go in, if it was crowded, people would all want to know what I was doing (I carried the big pack and was obviously walking). After chatting, I would invariably have many people tell me how they had seen me at such and such a place Рand now wished they had picked me up and given me a lift. I always told the women who were driving alone that they had made the right choice Рthat, sure, I was a nice fella, but there were a lot of scary people out there (and I had met a few!) so they should not even think of risking it unless they had someone else in the car with them. But yeah, it is very good to get outside your comfort zone from time to time.

      Like

  11. So very true. Those of us who too often descend into cynical ranting (and I am the worst offender), are really just revealing our lukewarmness in reaching out; for when that is done, the harvest is always plentiful. Though mired in such sin and error, most people do want to be good. I see this most often on the poorest streets.

    Like

  12. I enjoyed reading this Charlie. Thank you, friend. Think of you and check here often.

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      Yay, Jane. I used to go to school with her. We were in band together…and I would sometimes carry her French Horn case for her. I used to have great conversations with her wonderful Mom whenever I went over.

      Like

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