Wednesday, April 10, 2019
A month long immersion from mid-December to mid-January encompassed me in our rich traditions of both West and East for Advent and the Christmas Season, from the days of decorating, baking, praying, singing, and hearing "Donkey Bells" to the awe and wonder of celebrating the Nativity of the Son of God in Bethlehem at the Liturgy of the Hours, at daily Mass, at the occasional Divine Liturgy, at festive meals, and family after-dinner recitals....
Now it is the end of the Season of Lent with penitential prayers, fasting, penance, personal reflection, and acts of repentance; as we prepare for Holy Week and walking with the Lord Jesus into his Passion, Death, and Resurrection....
It was my birthday yesterday and it was delightful to be included by the "kitchen crew" with 2 others also born on this day, a staff worker and a guest, in the singing of "Happy Birthday".... In the afternoon there was a moment of "holy hilarity" when first one "birthday baby" was prayed for at the prayers of the faithful, then a second, and then... a pregnant moment of silence... broken by the presiding priest who mentioned the third, me... and there was a spontaneous eruption of blessed laughter.... Then in the evening, the brother priests sharing Vianney House Priests' Guesthouse broke out the snacks and they helped me give thanks to God for the gift of my life....
"O Lord how good it is for us to be here...." "How good it is for brothers to live and pray together... it is like the oil flowing down from the head of Aaron onto his beard and the collar of his robes...."
Saturday, March 02, 2019
A lot has been happening, has it not?
These days for members of the Roman Catholic Church - both laity and clergy - it is like going to the surgeon with an infected boil to have it lanced under the scalpel. It has been hurting for a long time, but for various reasons we found it difficult to have it taken care of, and now that we are "under the knife", it hurts a little more unless there is some anesthetic applied, and then all manner of awful looking and terrible smelling infectious material comes spurting out.... It's unpleasant but necessary. It's long overdue and it has to be done, it has to be done cleanly, and it has to be done thoroughly.
So too with any harm done to anyone in the past until this moment by any member of our Church... it certainly has to be done, done well, and as soon as possible. Meanwhile those who have suffered and are probably still suffering need proper attention and care; for our God fully intends for them to have life and have it in abundance as He does for all his human children. God also wants the guilty to be tried, properly judged, punished, and hopefully somehow redeemed. Jesus died for every human being without distinction; which is why Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies and to do good to those who have harmed us. There is no other way to be true children of our Father in heaven, who causes his sun to shine and his rain to fall on the good and the bad alike.
So there is a lot of smoke in the air obscuring our vision of all that is going on. We hear rumors that some of our clergy, perhaps even some of our bishops, may have been "plants" planned long ago by the then U.S.S.R. with the intention that they enter seminary somewhere, get ordained priests, perhaps progress even into the ranks of the bishops, and from there wreak all kinds of havoc in the Church and in society as "agents of chaos". Such a scenario might explain at least in some cases how ordained priests or bishops could do some of the harm of which they are being found guilty.
Still, it wouldn't explain all of the cases of abuse or of neglect of proper and prompt leadership. There are undoubtedly perpetrators who were simply twisted, damaged, and perhaps themselves victims of abuse. There have undoubtedly been negligent bishops who were poorly advised or who didn't get sufficiently updated on the latest discoveries in psychology and psychiatry. What seemed like good leadership in the 1950's was no longer adequate in the 1970's and each subsequent decade brought rapid advances in those medical fields which radically changed our understanding of these behaviors, the seriousness of their consequences, and our knowledge of what constitutes proper and timely response and responsible leadership.
Much good has finally resulted from the firm, consistent, and unrelenting leadership of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis with regard to these pressing and vital issues. Our Church leadership is attending with increasing competence and timeliness to these problems with priority attention being given to any who have suffered abuse, and simultaneously stopping in their tracks any others who may be guilty of abuse; so that they can be prevented from hurting anyone else.
The speed with which these reforms are implemented varies with each diocese, in which the ultimate authority rests with the bishop. The Bishop of Rome is the "first among equal brothers" and exercises an authority of influence more than of judicial authority. He can suspend and even laicize a bishop, but the case must be justified and well documented, which is often difficult to do. That is why collaboration with secular authorities in society is now being such a help and support. We all need to see this being done expeditiously and well. The dignity of the human person demands it; the goodness and justice of God demands it; the truth and beauty of our faith demands it; the good of souls and the progress of the Gospel in the world and the building up of our Church demands it. We all demand it on behalf of the innocent and vulnerable and for our own peace of mind and heart.
And what of homophobia?
I don't know about you, dear reader, but I for one have had it with the way this term is brandied about as a club with which to beat into silence anyone who may disagree with the latest absurd demands being made by any fringe group of individuals trying to push some new agenda down the throats of everyone else in civil society. Well, to any who would accuse me of "homophobia", the only answer I have for them is "Homophobia Schmobophobia!" This term is for the most part as absurd as is the readiness of some to use it as a club to be applied to anyone or their reputation who disagrees with the latest declaration and demands of people who may identify with the latest edition of the "LGBTQ-5C-XKM--GU-K-FM-N-JGI-O-R8-6-84-57..." lobby.
I may not "like" or "savor" the specific sexual practices of those who self-identify as "homo" or any other related term. It is my right as a human being not to "like" or "savor" or "not to find delightful" such practices, but that doesn't mean that I'm afraid of them or of those people. I may find it unfortunate that some people choose to identify their whole existence only on the flimsy basis of what is being called "sexual orientation", even though there are psychiatrists and psychotherapists who find that such inclinations may actually change.
I don't like curry much, but that doesn't mean that I'm afraid of it. It's just that when I walk through a food court and the pungent smell of curry fills my nostrils, by body reacts in the direction of nausea which would make me sick were I to stay there for too much longer. So I don't especially like curry, but I'm not afraid of it. Nor do I like being stung by bees or wasps, but not being allergic, I don't live in fear of them either. I truly believe that there are very few people actually afraid of other people who self identify as "homo" something or other.
However, I do believe that no one likes being bullied or forced into accepting anything against their will. You want to eat curry, fine. Just don't try to force me to eat it or like it. To each his own. It would be normal for people to have an aversion for and in time even a fear of anyone who behaves as a bully. Nor do I like to see adults pushing a self-serving agenda who then try to indoctrinate children or youth or to apply labels to them and convince them that they are "locked in" to a particular lifestyle or "way of being human". Such tactics are nothing more than abuse of the innocence of the young.
What is a human being, a human person?
This is especially true of anyone who is not yet fully in adulthood. Classic psychology has firmly established through observation and clinical analysis that human beings are not fully developed until sometime between 18 and mid-twenties. We spend the rest of our lives developing, but once we are adults, we basically have all we need for life. Before then, especially in adolescence, we are still developing our physical limbs and organs, our psyche and all its faculties, our mind and the brain itself, not to mention the pulling of it all together in the emerging personality and character. It is harmful to apply any labels to human beings at any time, but especially in childhood and youth, when all our human attributes are in flux and development and not yet "set" firmly.
The so-called "gay lobby" started out almost a half century ago as a "liberation movement", riding the coat tails of the black freedom movement in the USA at the time. Any sensible person would agree that it is not right, that is is unjust and at times even a crime for anyone to harass, persecute, or in any way harm another simply because they are "different". In that sense, many gains were made by and for those who self identify as "homo" or any other related term. They can walk about, chat, and live their lives as freely as anyone else in society, and that is as it should be.
Where this whole "gay lobby" goes off the rails, it seems, is where certain members or agencies within this minority want to turn society upside down in such a way that "their way" becomes the norm or accepted as the normal way of being human, and the way of everyone else would be treated as the minority or as the optional or alternative way. Now that is really going too far, and the "gay lobby" is beginning to experience "push back" from the rest of society.
The bullies won't want to treat with anyone about the issues or about their behavior because they simply want what they want just because they want it, and they don't want anyone to be allowed to want anything different from what they want. They want to have the prominence and they don't want anyone else to have a different view or in any way to deprive them of the prominence they seek. That's pretty much what happened in Nazi Germany in the early 1930's. Anyone who expressed a view different from the one being "pushed" by the brown shirts was beaten with a club, literally. That's how it started, but then the people succumbed to their fears and elected to remain silent.
So this is simply a declaration from one obscure individual to the "gay lobby": "Homophobia Schmobophobia!" I'm not afraid of you... I just don't like your sexual practices, but instead I acknowledge as beautiful what the Creator designed when He created human beings as "male and female" intending them to be a couple to bring forth children together. Apparently we don't all see beauty in the same places, but that is also what it means to be human. We are different.
Whatever your situation may be, may you and your loved ones be at peace in the knowledge that God loves each and every human being He has created. You are beautiful and you have great dignity simply because you are a human being, not because of any label you may have been convinced to apply to yourself. Whatever feelings you may have from time to time, whatever may be your experience of human sexuality or of sexual inclinations or feelings, these do not define who you are.
What is our origin and our destiny as human beings?
What defines who you are is that you are human and one to whom the Creator has given life to live in abundance now and to continue this life in eternity. God loves you so that you might know within yourself directly from God - by his Holy Spirit - that God loves you, and that you may be filled with his love and come to love Him in return; for only then will your heart be filled to satisfaction, once you close the circle and make a return of love to the One who has loved you first in giving you life. The model of this new paradigm of human existence is Jesus of Nazareth, known as the Christ, the Anointed One, the One who died and rose again from the dead, the One who will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the One sent by the Father to the Earth to reveal to humanity that our origin and our destiny are both in God our Creator, the first One we will meet at the very instant that our soul, our spirit, leaves this body behind temporarily and enters into the awesome presence of God.
Although this coming into the radiant presence and life-giving love of God seems so attractive and desirable, it is not a good idea to "hasten the day" by seeking a premature end to our mortal existence on this Earth. Why is that? It is because the radiance of who God is as the Source of all life and love is so bright and intense, that it will be impossible to endure that full intensity unless we are already "perfectly in sync" with the reality of God Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a single divine Being but a Trinity of divine Persons living in such intense communion of love that this love is the "fountain" from which flows all that exists in the Universe.
God knows that we are not ready yet to "face Him", and in his kindness, mercy, and patience, gives us "lots of room" in this mortal life on Earth to "find our way" and to allow Him to make use of all the trials, troubles, temptations, joys, and sorrows of this life to "purify" the intentions of our heart, to strengthen our will, and to bring us willingly and generously into living a life that is kind, patient, forgiving, merciful, and indulgent; just as God is with us. God alone knows when will be the opportune moment for us to leave this life and pass into eternity. We need to trust in God's wisdom and love and do our best to know and to do his will, to follow his guidance along the paths of life, and to live in peace and love with all our fellow human beings.
May God's peace be with you and your loved ones now and forever....
Monday, February 18, 2019
God is constantly at work in his Creation and in the lives of his human creatures. The Creator has revealed his intentions through inspired words and writings we call the Sacred Scriptures of the Holy Bible. God's intention manifestly is that human beings should come to know God as their Creator, as their origin and destiny, because He offers human beings a relationship of friendship based in freedom and love.
Regardless of whether a human person has any religion or no religion, God our Creator is at work and "speaks" to the depths of spirit which exist in each and every human being. For this reason it is possible for any human being to notice the "inner promptings" of the living God within them, and paying attention to these inspirations, to discern a "word" or "call" from God.
The story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis is an inspired story showing how from the very beginning human beings enjoyed a close friendship with God but how it was lost when they turned away from God in preference of unsubstantiated "words from a stranger" and of their own "opinions". The story of Noah tells how God began to call human beings back to friendship with him. The story of Abraham tells how God began to form a family or tribe for himself of people who would put their faith in him. The story of Moses tells how God developed this tribe into a whole people, a whole nation of people who would believe in him and follow his ways.
What Jesus has accomplished for humanity
Jesus was fully human, but being also the Son of God, He transcends time and has come to call humanity into a much closer relationship with God, far surpassing even what human beings first enjoyed with God on the morning of their creation. To be very specific, Jesus offers to every human being who would believe in him, to be baptized by water and the Holy Spirit and then to come and follow him. All those who accepted Jesus' offer and were baptized were joined to him in the love of God the Father, forming a new and living "corporate body" of all the baptized with Jesus at their head in the power of the Holy Spirit.
At this point it will be useful to review briefly what God has been doing in his Church and for humanity on Earth since the time of Jesus. This reply may a little longer than you expected, but I hope that it will bring light to dark places and help you to understand what God is doing in your life and to discern what the Lord is asking of you.
Jesus Christ revealed to humanity who God really is. Jesus confirmed what God had previously revealed to Adam and Eve, to Noah and his family, to Abraham and his family, and then to the people of Israel through Moses, namely, that God is one and there is no other god.
Jesus further revealed that God is not only One, but God is a divine being who is a community of 3 divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father sent his divine Son to Earth to take flesh by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary of Nazareth. After she gave him birth in Bethlehem with the assistance of her husband Joseph, his parents protected and raised Jesus until the day when He began his public ministry, which after only a few years, led to his passion, death, and resurrection, which He freely accepted to endure in order to reveal fully to humanity for all time the full depth, meaning, and purpose of God's loving will for us.
When a human being believes in Jesus, that He is the Son of God sent to save us, and in faith accepts Jesus as the Saviour of all but also as my personal Saviour and Lord; then my faith as it were gives God permission to pour his divine life, the life of the Trinity, into me, and the life of God flowing in me transforms me. Because I still have my free will, this divine transformation will proceed more quickly or more slowly as I open up entirely to God with complete trust every part of my life.
God is a Holy Trinity
God has always wanted his human children to share his divine life in eternity beginning even now while we are still living and breathing on Earth. The Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - have from the beginning created the universe so that human beings might have a home from which we could come to know God and would freely choose to give to God and to our neighbors a "return of love". God is our Creator and knows that our life will only achieve its full purpose, meaning, truth, goodness, beauty, fruitfulness, and fulfillment in a life of love that is lived freely and deliberately in the image of God, the Holy Trinity, which is a divine community of love - one divine being in three divine persons perfectly united in an eternal communion of love. It is God's will that our life on Earth should reflect the life that is in God.
The Spirit of the living God, the Holy Spirit, manifests the power of the Holy Trinity to create and give life, and the action of the Holy Spirit takes place when the Father utters a Word to manifest his holy will, and the Son is that living Word of the Father. The Father has a will for us, the Son expresses that will in himself in a living Word, and the Holy Spirit brings about the effect intended by that will of the Father and word of the Son.
What happens to us when we hear God speak in our soul and we respond
The Holy Trinity finds us and touches at any time and wherever we may be. As soon as we respond, the Holy Spirit already begins to pour the life, vitality, peace, love, and joy of the Holy Trinity into our life, our body, mind, heart, and soul....
Water Baptism in the will of God for his work of salvation within humanity
Water baptism is a further step in our response to almighty God speaking to us and calling us to enter more deeply into the life of the Holy Trinity. Jesus revealed the will of the Father to his disciples just before his ascension into heaven, as recorded by the evangelist Matthew in chapter 28 verses 16-20.
The Commissioning of the Disciples
16 "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Since that very day, the apostles and other disciples went out and did as Jesus commanded them to do: Go - make disciples - baptizing them - teaching them to obey.
The result is all the Christian churches and traditions on the Earth today.
A brief history of how the Holy Spirit developed the Church which Jesus founded
Initially there were only 5 great churches differentiated by the language and culture of each: the Jerusalem Church spoke Hebrew - the Rome Church spoke Latin - the Constantinople Church spoke Greek - the Alexandria Church in Egypt spoke Coptic - the Antioch Church in Turkey spoke Aramaic, the language of Jesus and his family.
Now the life, growth, and development of the Church Jesus founded has always been and will always be a kind of "dance" or relationship between the Holy Trinity and the living human members of the Church and her pastors, leaders, and members. God has given us free will and He fully respects our free will, which means that God gives us plenty of room to make mistakes and to learn from them. Only in this way can our response to God's advances and invitations and calls be true and authentic, and done in complete freedom and generosity in faith, in hope, and in love.
For these reasons, the history of Jesus' Church on Earth looks rather "messy" with lots of divisions, restorations, reforms, and all the problems we come to recognize as all too human.
From these original 5 churches we developed into the Western and Eastern Christian Churches. By the year 1000 AD there was the Roman or Latin Church which we call Roman Catholic today. It is the oldest continually existing Christian Church in the West, along with the Churches of Constantinople and Alexandria or Coptic in the East.
In the 16th century, there was need of reform - in every generation the Church of Jesus is in need of reform because it is composed of human beings who are never finished living a life of conversion and repentance in order to more perfectly follow Jesus - and some people wanting reform found it wasn't happening fast enough; so they initiated reforms on their own, which came to be known as the Protestant Reformation, which produced the Anglican Church in England, Presbyterian Church in Scotland, Calvinist Church in Switzerland, Lutheran Church in Germany, which in their turn led to the forming of more and more "denominations". These are the Christian Churches of the Western World.
In the Eastern World, the Churches were more specifically national or ethnic, with the language of worship being the language proper to that Church and nation: Greek in the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece and some neighboring countries, Aramaic in the Chaldean Orthodox Church in what is now Iraq, Coptic in the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, Ukrainian in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Russian in the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, Maronite in the Maronite Orthodox Church in Lebanon where the common language now is Lebanese, Melkite in the Melkite Orthodox Church in Palestine where the common language now is Arabic, and so on.
In 1054 there was a misunderstanding and disagreement between East and West, between Constantinople and Rome, and that separation is in our day being slowly healed and unity is slowly being restored. Some of the Orthodox local churches led by their bishop didn't want to wait; so they independently sought to reunite with Rome and they came to be known as no longer Orthodox but Eastern Rite Churches, such as Ukrainian Catholic, Melkite Catholic, Coptic Catholic and so on.
Water Baptism in the all the Christian Churches
In all these Christian Churches and traditions, Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit has always been practiced and continues to be practiced today; for the simple reason that Jesus commanded us to do it and the Apostles and other disciples did so and taught others to do so.
They soon learned, as they were taught by the Holy Spirit, to remember Jesus' teaching that Baptism is given by God through water and the words Jesus gave for Baptism "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" and also through the powerful action of the Holy Spirit who confers the life of the Holy Trinity to the baptized soul.
What difference does Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit make?
Before Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit, the soul is capable of perceiving within itself the "voice" of God whispering within it by the Holy Spirit, guiding the soul to Jesus Christ who alone reveals the Father to us; as Jesus taught.
Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples, and once people hear the Good News and respond to it by beginning to follow Jesus as his disciples; then the Lord wants them to be baptized by water and the Holy Spirit so that they can be joined and united to Christ as our Head in the mystical body of all the baptized who become one with Jesus in the love of the Father.
The Baptism by water - whether by immersion in water completely or in part or by simple aspersion or sprinkling - is a saving action by almighty God the Holy Trinity when it is accompanied by the words given by Jesus: "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" with the intention of doing what Jesus commanded us to do.
The moment of Baptism is a beginning of the action God is taking to save the baptized soul by removing it from the empire of the enemy of God and humanity, the rebellious angel the devil (which means "adversary") - Satan (which means "accuser") and Lucifer (which means "light bearer") - and bringing the soul under the lordship and saving grace of Jesus (which means "God saves") Christ (which means "anointed one").
The moment of Baptism is a timeless and eternal moment of God's presence and saving action in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit which frees the soul from the influence of the devil, cleanses the soul of all personal sin from the past until the present moment, repairs in the soul the damaging effects of the original sin and rebellion of the first human beings represented by Adam and Eve, unites the soul to the life and love and union of the Holy Trinity and to all the other baptized souls of all time, and gives the soul strength to undertake its life long journey of faith in the steps of Jesus who lived a life of faithful obedience to his Father's holy will in order for the soul in communion with Jesus to make of its life on Earth a gift of love for others - even enemies - and a gift of worship to God. While Baptism integrates a soul into Christ, the soul remains free to turn away from God, to rebel, to fall into sin, but also to repent, to come back to God, to welcome God's grace, and to commit itself to living and dying as Jesus lived and died and then rose again and ascended into heaven.
How to go about preparing for Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit
Because God has willed for the Church of Jesus to be very human, Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit not only makes one Christian, but it also makes one a Christian belonging to a particular Church tradition. I was baptized in a Roman Catholic Church and so I became a Roman Catholic Christian and learned to follow Jesus Christ from all the riches of teaching and practice God has given to the Roman Catholic Church and Tradition.
One who is baptized in a Greek Orthodox Church becomes a Greek Orthodox Christian, and so on with each and every Christian Church and Tradition.
So a soul must listen to the Holy Spirit and discern to which Church and Tradition the Holy Spirit is prompting, inviting, calling that soul to go. So a person seeks and finds a Church locally within that Christian Tradition and asks about Baptism.
Christian Initiation in the Roman Catholic Tradition
In the Roman Catholic Church, one is initiated into the faith in 3 steps: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist and Communion.
In Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit God introduces the soul into the life of the most Holy Trinity with all the benefits and effects described above.
In Confirmation by Holy Chrism - a perfumed pure olive oil consecrated by the Bishop the week before Easter each year - God fills the soul with the power of the Holy Spirit and the life and love of the Holy Trinity to strengthen the soul and enrich it with supernatural gifts to enable the soul to truly begin to live the life of a disciple of Jesus in the midst of the world which is for the most part trapped in error and darkness and sin under the dominion of the evil one.
In Holy Communion at the Holy Eucharist - which is the ritual celebration of Jesus' Last Supper - Jesus nourishes the soul of the baptized and confirmed soul with his own "Body and Blood" which is a share in his own divine life which He as divine Son has with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Much as a mother gives of her own life to her baby nourishing at her breasts; so does Jesus give of his own divine life to those who receive with faith his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
An adult who is initiated into the Roman Catholic faith, Church, and Tradition receives all three mysterious divine actions or sacraments at the same celebration and is baptized by water and the Holy Spirit, then confirmed in the Holy Spirit, and then receives Jesus' Body and Blood in Holy Communion. One is baptized only once in a lifetime, and one is confirmed only once, but one is called by Jesus to eat his Body and drink his Blood every Sunday at Sunday worship at Holy Mass.
When parents have their infants baptized, these must grow and learn and prepare for Confirmation and Holy Communion. For example, I was baptized the day after I was born, and then I was confirmed on day and received Jesus in Holy Communion the next day when I was 8 years old.
Jesus knew that we are weak; so He provided opportunity for us to come back to Him if we sin after we have been baptized. This sacramental action of Jesus in his Church is called the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation or Confession.
Penance - a grace God gives to strengthen the soul to repent, to turn away from sin and to turn back to God
Reconciliation - the grace God gives to reconcile to Himself and to his Church the soul that has separated itself from God and his Church through sin and rebellion
Confession - this is the action whereby a sinner, one who is baptized, confesses his sins to a priest who gives him absolution - through the words of the priest it is Jesus himself who forgives the penitent and reconciles him to himself and to the Father and to the Church.
Dear Brother or Sister in our common humanity, I will be happy to enter into dialogue with you and do my best to answer any questions you may have.
God's peace to you and your family, in the Name of + Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Lord, in the saving power of the Holy Spirit.
Pax + Caritas, Fr. Gilles
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Our times are certainly not boring when new situations seem to frequently come along that are not only unexpected but even surprising; when they are not shocking or disturbing! What we are looking at here is gender dysphoria as a serious condition, but also general confusion regarding thoughts, feelings, and issues around gender identity that often have nothing at all to do with dysphoric states or medical or psychiatric conditions.
It appears that human beings have always experienced confusion about many things, as well as different types of dysphoria, such as those relating to hormonal conditions or to emotional states or mood. Who would have guessed or predicted decades ago, though, that today some people would experience gender dysphoria or confusion regarding their gender?
We owe great sympathy, and all the understanding and compassion we can muster, to anyone who suffers from a genuine condition of dysphoria regarding their gender. Such a condition would have caused a person to suffer real symptoms in their mind, body, psyche (thoughts and emotions), heart, yes, and even in their soul, because we human beings are all together one complete and whole being, with every part connected to every other part. As a human person we breathe, feel, think, decide, act, and behave as one single living entity called human of the "Homo Sapiens Sapiens" kind.
A truly serious condition simply won't go away and will generally be diagnosed and confirmed by one or more competent medical and psychiatric doctors. It is not our intention here to discuss the merits of the various approaches or treatments available to those who suffer such conditions.
As a Christian, though, I would like to indicate our strong conviction that God our Creator never stops caring for us, loving us, watching over us, guiding us, or leading us, in every situation and under every condition in which we may find ourselves at any given time. God does have a plan and design for our collective and individual lives, and it is always for our welfare and not our woe.
Anyone can come to a personal knowledge and experience of the living God through faith, which is our capacity to accept on trust something as true that we cannot personally verify or prove to be true. We fly in planes on faith, trusting that there is a pilot flying the plane and further that he or she will fly us safely to our destination and land us safely there. We make hundreds of big or small acts of ordinary commonplace faith and trust every day; otherwise we would be unable to leave home.
The God in whom we believe is sovereign over all of his Creation, over the visible universe and all the invisible realm in his eternity. All power and authority are his, and all wisdom and love; so He doesn't need our counsel or opinion, nor does He need our consent or permission; even though most of the time He does wait for us to say yes, because what God seeks is a true relationship of love and not any kind of subservience. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Matthew 9:13
The woman said to her something along these lines. She completely understood the girl because when she was her age she felt exactly the same. Then she gave that experience a name: she said
"We call that being a "tomboy'. That's when a girl doesn't feel 'girly' like those other girls who look all sweet and pretty and gentle and love to get together in a circle with their dolls. I was more at ease hanging around with the boys and joining them in boys' games."Then she continued to tell the girl that being a human female, being a girl and later a woman, isn't only being one way or style or category of girl or woman, because there are many kinds or styles or ways of being a girl or a woman, and they're all okay, as long as you are doing the best to become the person you are meant to be, as long as you live as fully as you can - trying to decide, say, and do what is good, and trying to avoid deciding, saying, or doing what is bad or harmful.
Then she went on to talk to the little girl about what is really special and amazing about being a girl or a woman, that is, a female human being. You have within you all that you need in order to give life. If you get married, you and your husband can love each other and you, as a woman, can conceive a whole new human person within you, and carry that life within you like in a nest or cradle, and love that little life for 9 months until it is time to bring it into the world to live its own life by giving it birth. That is what our mom did for us and you, as a girl, have the capacity to do it yourself and give life to one or more children of your own.
The woman reported that the girl was so grateful to hear these things - because no one had ever said anything like that to her before - and she felt very relieved to hear that there was nothing wrong with her because she felt more comfortable hanging out with boys rather than with girls. She said that she was beginning to realize that she could calm down about her feelings and that it was possible to find ways to better understand how she felt.
For a boy to think he needs to be changed into a girl just because inside he "feels more like" a girl or for a girl to think she needs to be changed into a boy just because inside she "feels more like a boy is to treat ourselves, our lives, our beings as though we were just one more piece of technology. So if there's a "problem", the thinking goes, all we have to do is "fix it".
A car is a car is a car... and a computer is a computer is a computer... they and so many other things we find convenient are pieces of technology. They are what they are and they don't stop being what they are. A car doesn't become a PC and a PC doesn't go off flying into the stratosphere. When they break down, the problem has to be diagnosed and the solution has to be specific to the exact problem.
Unlike other living beings, we human beings have an incredible capacity for self-awareness and for self-understanding. More than that, we don't need to try to figure ourselves out only on our own, but we can learn a lot about ourselves from listening to the experience and acquired wisdom of others.
In addition to that, those who do believe in the Creator God can also benefit from what God has said to people in the past and what He has revealed to us about Himself and also about us, our life, our world, and what is happening in our lives and in our world.
- Our time in the womb - from conception to birth
- Our "second birth" - Baptism - when God gives us a share in the divine life of the Trinity
- Our initial stage of human development from birth to adulthood - around 18 years of age
- Adulthood - from around 18 to the end of our mortal life at the moment of death
- Our "first death" - the period, long or short, leading to the dying of our body
- The "second death" (Rev 21:8) to be avoided - where one chooses eternal rejection of God
- Eternal life - (Rev 21:1-7) - where the elect, the just, enter in with God after the trials of Earth
Here is a brief glimpse of the many complex developments that happen within each of us from birth until around 18 years of age, when, in our western culture, we approach the threshold of adulthood. In other cultures, the timing of this roughly 18-year process could vary a little, but keep in mind that much of these stages are natural developments that keep pace with our overall development in body, mind, psyche / heart, will, conscience, and soul.
- 0 - 1 year - the BODY IDENTITY - we learn to connect to the world through our skin - all over our body - and our mouth. We naturally develop an "organ mode" around our mouth, simply "preferring" one which remains our preference for life; which means we need to make an effort to use the "other mode" whenever it is needed. The two modes are : (1) active / captative or (2) passive / receptive. The active person spontaneously "goes out to get" what they want or need; while the passive person "simply waits for what they need to come to them". You can see how we need both in order to get by in life, but it is useful to know what our preference is; that way we know we need to make efforts to do it the other way.
- 1 - 2.5 years - IDENTITY of the DOER - A lot happens between the first year and the mysterious period around 2 and a half. We start to move around - crawling, moving on our bum, and in time we learn to walk - we learn to talk and communicate, we learn potty training, we learn how things are done in our family, we learn about rules and respecting others, but mostly, we learn to manipulate things and how do do things, not very well at first, but we can't get enough of trying to do things. Once again, we naturally develop a second "organ mode", only this time it is around our anal sphincter, that circular muscle that acts like a valve to keep in or to release the stool. Just like last time, we come to "prefer" one which will remain our preference for life. Once again, this means we need to make an effort to use the "other mode" whenever it is needed. The two modes are : (1) eliminative or (2) retentive. What is really fascinating is how this later develops and spreads to everything in our life: money, things, relationships... just about everything... so we would prefer to "hold onto" those things, or we would prefer to "let them go". For example, some people find it easy to spend money but hard to save, or vice versa, easy to save but hard to spend. You get the idea.
- 2.5 - 3 years - INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY - This is the truly fascinating and mysterious moment when we suddenly developed an awareness of being "me" and "I". The little boy or girl starts saying "Me do it." "I want to do it." It doesn't matter whether or not they can actually do it, because what is going on here is the emergence of an "I", a "Me", a unique individual who is now conscious of being an autonomous individual. That is why it is so precious for parents to realize that this is really a wonderful thing, though at times frustrating, when the little child flexes its "individuality power" to say "No." Parents have to find creative ways to continue to socialize their child, to "win their consent" to do what they need to do in order to be part of this family and in order to continue to learn the things they need to do and the behaviours they need to learn in order to function and develop well. By now, children develop a knack for asking "embarrassing" or difficult questions. Parents can be reassured simply by asking their child to say more about their question and what it is they really want to know. One simple example: "Where do I come from?" This may simply mean what country our family comes from due to a question put in kindergarten or at church, and may not be at all about sex.
- 3 - 6 years - PSYCHOSEXUAL IDENTITY (GENDER IDENTITY) - Reliable research which has been confirmed time and again in peer reviewed literature has mapped out what goes on during all of these six stages of human development. Current new "designer trends" are causing a lot of confusion around these developments, but mostly what people are talking about are "how they feel" or "how they think they feel" about themselves or about these things. What follows is what we can reliably understand about what is naturally going on at this stage of human development over a period of around 3 years. The child, who is now an autonomous person, an "I", begins to develop greater complexity and depth in their interior sense of who they are. They are now more capable (brain development) and more motivated (psyche) of more complex connections with the world around them. They notice for the first time (this is not really conscious, but rather subconscious, but nevertheless very real and powerful) that they have two parents, one each of two distinct genders or kinds (this is the optimal situation). So what happens is that the child develops a desire to "shine" in the eyes of their opposite gender parent, because it is the difference which attracts them, which would seem to make them more "complete". At the same time, they notice that the other parent is of their same gender, and sort of "in the way" - as in "2 is good but 3 is a crowd". The same gender parent becomes an enemy or competitor, which is the classic cause of nightmares. Psychotherapy has discovered that what helps parents quickly resolve the nightmares is for the same gender parent to bring the nightmare troubled child back to their own bed. That way, a greater connection and intimacy of friendship develops with the same gender parent and the "monster goes away". It is important for both parents to affirm the child to understand and embrace its own natural gender as it is inscribed in their body, that is, in accord with their genitals. This is the third "organ mode" that is actually inscribed in our body. For believers, we understand this to be the Creator's way of putting "order" in our nature. The "Institut de Formation Humaine Intégrale de Montréal" teaches that the organ mode for males is "Instrusive" and for females is "Inclusive" which is very much the way the genitals themselves are designed to funtion. This is why males are therefore "naturally" intrusive and females inclusive; when the person is comfortable with and embraces their own gender mode. For the rest of our lives it is then easier to approach life in this mode and requires effort to employ the "other" mode whenever it is useful or desirable to do so. Those who don't embrace their gender mode but "prefer" the other mode find it never quite fits the way their own would. When children below six years of age "explore" each other's body, nakedness, or intimate parts, it is more about curiosity and perhaps imitation of what they see in the adult world, but it cannot be about sex, which won't become a reality for them until puberty. It is a grave wrong for adults to meddle and intrude in the innocence of young children to impose their adult sex ideologies. When little children are adversely affected or disturbed by the intimate behavior of adults - which they should not normally witness - then care must be taken to help them preserve their innocence. They will have plenty of time to examine these things once they are older and more capable. If by the age of 3 parents have not yet begun to help their children understand their emotions, then it would be high time to do this. It will be much easier for them to explore the complex issues around gender, sexuality, fertility, dating, marriage, chastity, and so on, if we begin by helping them to understand their own emotions, those of others, and all about friendship and civil relations in society.
- 6-12 years - PSYCHOSOCIAL IDENTITY - When life unfolds simply and naturally without undue interference of distortion from the environment or society, little boys congregate with other boys, and little girls with other girls. Yes, the "tomboy girls" will want to hang out with boys and the "girly boys" will want to hang out with girls, which simply indicates preferences of temperament, and is no indication of a rejection of their own gender as such. During these six years, boys and girls learn to relate to others of their gender and to accept many variations of preference and style or ways of being a boy or girl. They learn to cooperate, to lead, to follow, to contribute, to argue, to make up, and many other dimensions of human relations. They learn to share what they know, what they can do, and to learn from others. The sky is literally the limit. Regarding any kind of intimacy - whether emotional or sexual - children at this stage normally react with an emphatic "Yuck!" which is for them quite normal. They are no interested in those things. However, when children during this period are adversely affected or disturbed by the intimate behavior of adults - which they should not normally witness - then care must be taken to help them preserve their innocence. They will have plenty of time to examine these things once they are older and more capable. By the age of 6 is a very good and interesting time for parents to help their children understand their emotions, and what will help parents best is all the work they are willing to do to understand their own emotions as well as those of their spouse. It will be much easier for them to explore the complex issues around gender, sexuality, fertility, dating, marriage, chastity, all the new issues around social and gender "engineering" and so on, if we begin by helping them to understand their own emotions, those of others, and all about friendship and civil relations in society.
- 12-18 years - the IDENTITY OF SELF - These final six years are a time of great change, including the upheaval of puberty with all the changes that come about, a time of greater socializing, of socializing with members of the other gender - at first generally in groups and after a few years in smaller groups and, in time, in couples. This period is also a time that begins the integration of all the developments at the previous five stages of development into the beginnings of a cohesive sense of the SELF. All the work that parents will have done earlier to help their children understand their own emotions and those of others will now help these young adolescents to know themselves, to be at greater peace within themselves, to have a good sense of who they are and be able to withstand the undue and at times aggressive attitudes and influences of others, including the bullies. Children who have learned young that pain is as normal a part of life as pleasure are more likely to go through these difficult and challenging times with greater personal clarity, stability, and serenity. They will even attract their peers who will find them to be a source of strength and encouragement.
Perhaps by now you can begin to see the sheer complexity and fluidity in the development of the human person, and just how many years it actually takes (minimum of 18) to go through all the profound processes of emergence and development of the interior dimensions of a human being.
To go off drawing hasty conclusions and slapping "labels" (homosexual, lesbian, wrong gender, or any other such artificial category unrelated to the uniqueness of this individual at this particular point in their development) prematurely on young people who have not yet gone through their initial period of human development is to do them violence, and perhaps the worst form of violence at that.
God our Creator has such profound respect for us, for our unique individuality, for our free will, for our fragile sense of self; that He does not interfere or intrude rudely into our lives, but leaves us free to find our own way. We should have enough respect for others to try to treat them with the same respect and kindness with which God treats us.
Above all, we must resist all the "social engineers", all those people pushing ideologies of all sorts, trying to impose labels and categories on people that do violence to them by convincing them to abandon or ignore their great complexity, their great depth, their great fluidity as human beings on a journey of life-long development into the best person that we can possibly become....
Peace to you and your families....