Monday, November 05, 2018

Why does losing a loved one hurt so much?

A loved one dies and we are suddenly plunged into depths of pain and suffering we had no idea existed.... Why does this happen to us? Why does our loving God allow us to endure such agony? How long will it last? Will any good come of it?

Such questions only scratch the surface of all that goes on in our lives when we experience serious losses. What it all means varies considerably, but we can catch clues from just a few key reference points: myself - the other who has died - our relationship to each other - our openness or not to God's presence, action, and love.

Who am I and what has been going on in my life?

Who was this person who has just died and what was happening in their life?

How were we towards one another and what does their death mean to me?

Did either of us make room for God in our own life and in this relationship or not?

BITTER SORROW

When such pain of loss tastes rather bitter, it is often an indication that our God is allowing us to catch a glimpse of something not quite right in this situation, and the bitterness is coming from that matter or issue that was or is wrong.

If in any of the key questions above there has been any selfishness, any sinful or unholy desires, anything evil, or unjust motives or manipulation, or anything at all that was evil, unholy, or selfish; then these realities are quite likely to manifest themselves through a bitter quality in the sense of loss.

As a simple example to illustrate this point, let us say that I cared for an elderly rich person, but because I was in dire financial straits myself, my motivation in caring for this elderly person was tainted by my survival instinct and secret desire for some monetary gain in return for my help. Fear of not receiving anything or not enough could generate a bitterness in my sense of loss.

If this elderly rich person for whom I cared was not a nice person but nasty, angry, even cruel, and by the grace of God I still loved them; then all through the time of my care for them, I could have accumulated a taint of bitterness affecting even what might have been in me a pure motivation to care for them.

If upon the death of the one I had cared for and loved their immediate family were to step in and unceremoniously cast me aside - as though what I had done was irrelevant to them - then this too could render bitter my sense of loss.

As you can see, at any point, any factor of impure motives, or evil intentions, or sinfulness, on the part of any of the parties involved could turn bitter any sense of loss which I might experience after having cared for a person whom I loved and who has now died.

Such bitterness is the kind of experience and feeling that almighty God wants to use in order to draw my attention to those dark factors; so that I might repent of any sin of which I may be guilty, that I might dissociate myself from any dark factor in the motivations of others and pray for them as I would pray even for enemies, and that I might allow the Lord to purify my intentions and my soul in order to become freer to love with a pure heart.

SWEET SORROW

Perhaps one of the sweetest kinds of loss might take place when a beloved elderly person dies - one who had become a pure soul - and you who have been caring for him or her out of love experience deep and intense pain of loss.

In such a case we can easily understand how you, the care givers, would be in pain because the great love you exchanged with that elderly pure soul has come to a temporary end, temporary because one day, in the Lord's good time, you shall be reunited with him or her in the Father's House. The pain may give you pause or bring confusion and doubt, temporarily, but make no mistake. Now you are tasting a glimpse of Heaven... the only difference is that when it is our proper time to enter into the presence of the most Holy Trinity - the Father and Jesus his Son and the Holy Spirit - on that day we will be fully purified of human imperfection, sinfulness, and woundedness - and we will be able to endure the full intensity of the love of God without any pain.

That will be then, but for now, whenever God's love touches us, there can be pain, but it is like the pain caused by a doctor in the process of healing us. The cure often hurts for a while until the infection is completely cleansed and health returns. Remember when you were a girl or boy and you fell and deeply scraped knees and elbows and it hurt like hell? Then the medicine burned like crazy and bandages were applied. They continued to hurt, the wounds, until you got closer to healing. The first sign of healing was that the scabs began to tickle; so you began to pick at them even though your Mom told you not to. If you picked hard enough a scab came off and the wound hurt all over again, and you learned your lesson.

You are right. Your elderly charge was a pure soul. She / He lived long enough and was humble enough to allow God to purify her / him from all life's hurts, faults, and sins, and all that was left was a child-like soul in love with God and with people. She / He accepted to receive love, and did so with such a pure heart, that God's love radiated out from her / him to anyone who came close to her / him with pure intentions.

These wounds which you now suffer are glorious wounds... witnesses of God's forgiving, purifying, and healing love at work in you. All that God expects of you is to be docile, to trust, and to gently accept these sufferings as proof that the Holy Spirit is at work within you, distilling the pure life-giving love of the Father into the deepest recesses of your souls, cleaning out any gunk that may be lurking in those deep dark corners and admitting the pure light of eternity to make everything into light and love.

This is the most perfect form of patience - accepting to endure the pain caused by the purifying love of God, as in this case right now - or accepting to endure the pain which accompanies pure intentions and good actions, or accepting to endure what others cause us to suffer in order to love them. This is the example Jesus gave us when He accepted to endure the suffering we caused Him, and He did so in order to reveal to us the true nature of the pure love that God has for us.

All of this is the manifest action of the lordship of Jesus within you because you have been putting your trust in Him, you have been believing in Him, you have been accepting his call to follow Him and serve Him in others, like the elderly pure soul who just died, and now you are becoming more like Him, the One who wept over ancient Jerusalem because she would not receive his love. You have been giving the Lord Jesus permission to do his work with the Holy Spirit within you - which most of the time goes unnoticed - but on this occasion you feel pain at what the Lord is doing within you, purifying and cleansing. Rejoice and be glad, because this pain is not the kind that comes from hell, but rather the kind that prepares you for Heaven; in fact, it is even now a glimpse of Heaven which is so intense and wonderful that, for now, it hurts, but the hurt will not endure... while the love itself will endure without end.

Please feel free to share these words with whomever you will....

Peace to you and your family.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Evil, pain, suffering - how can these be God's will for us?

One most awesome truth, and at times a little unnerving, is that nothing happens to us except that almighty God permits it.

It is a heresy to think that Satan and the rebellious angels exercise runaway power, as though the Creator had lost control over them. Part of the truth is that angels are not changeable as we are - once they make a decision it is final and forever.

While they work against God's will; God is so almighty that He continually extends his power over all the harm they do in order to bring greater good out of it. It helps us in our reflection to remember that our Creator God sustains in existence the whole universe - with its hundreds of billions of galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars with their countless planets. On a smaller scale, our Creator God sustains each of us and all living things in existence with the breath of life. In a true sense, our every breath is coming to us with vitality from the most Holy Trinity... an awesome and oh so intimate thought.... Into this mind stretching vast scenario enters evil, temptation, sin, pain, and suffering of myriad sorts....

You may not now be suffering anything, dear Reader, or perhaps you are, but it is likely that you have at least at one time suffered. When I who write these thoughts indicate "you", I of course include myself; for we share what we call the human condition. So, whether what has happened to you has simply happened naturally, or whether there came forth any shadows of hell to do you harm, or whether what you suffer is the result of your own human frailty, or a combination of the above; it remains true that God has allowed it to happen and that He fully intends to make use of your suffering to bring about the best for you and for others through you.

It is true for all of us what Saint Paul came to understand as a grace of revelation from the Lord Jesus: what he suffered and what we suffer does indeed complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. The human Jesus has finished suffering and is seated at the right hand of the Father, but because He is also Son of God, He unites to Himself in the Holy Spirit all the baptized until the end of the world; so that mystical Body of Christ of which we are a member lives on and is bringing to completion in each of us personally and in all of us together the life which Jesus Himself lived while on Earth.

This is how it happens that all that we live and endure and love acquires infinite value in the collective Body of Christ, who continues his mission to bring the light of the Father's love and the peace of the Holy Spirit to all of mankind in all places and at all times. This is the beauty, value, and significance of the Church of Jesus and its vast and every expanding collective life on Earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven.

The opportunity we each have at every moment to be aware of these awesome truths, to offer freely and deliberately and generously and confidently to the Father's love our whole hearted consent, and in this way, to allow the Lord Jesus to join us to Himself in an ever increasingly intimate union of mind, heart, body, and soul....

In prayer we visit, as it were, with the three divine Persons of the most Holy Trinity, welcoming them within us and attending to them as we would to the most precious and important guests.... In this way, we renew moment by moment our consent to the Father to bring about in us his most holy will through the action of his beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power, peace, and love of the Holy Spirit.

Peace to you and your family in your ongoing convalescence....

                Pax + Caritas, Fr. Gilles

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

We are never far from God... in fact...

Hello dear Reader. I hope that his reflection finds you well, you and your family, or that whatever was ill may now be recovering.

When coming out of prayer, often my spirit wanders in wondrous regions of our life on Earth.... That which rarely elevates my spirit in the heat of the action during the day, now, admits the light.... Life often complicates our existence, but it is good to remember that we are always in the awesome presence of the Most Holy Trinity.


Our God is ever present and dwelling within us, with the only exception of when we commit grievous sin, in which case we cannot force God to remain with us and become our accomplice in evil. At such times our God is saying to us "Are you done already? Can we go home now?"


Our every breath comes into us from our Creator God... who breathed into Adam his own breath of life (Genesis 2:7)... we are only able to breathe at all because we have within us the breath of life from God, and when our earthly existence comes to an end, God will take back his breath, and our soul will immediately find itself in the awesome and wondrous presence of the most Holy Trinity....

This meeting with God face to face will be more than impressive, or awesome.... The light will be so brilliant that in an instant we will see ourselves in all our truth - even that which at the moment we neither want to see or admit, for good or for ill - and at the same time we will see God in all his splendour of goodness, truth, and beauty....

Only the saints - who let themselves be purified by the trials of life and who finally chose to resist their evil impulses in order to surrender themselves completely to love of neighbor, even love of the enemy - only the saints therefore will be able to endure the intense beauty of God and they will already be entering into Heaven and eternal happiness.

The saints will be able to endure the look of Jesus who, to reveal to humanity the true love of God for us allowed himself to be misunderstood, falsely accused, unjustly condemned, tortured, and put to death. He loves us so much that He allowed himself to be taken like a lamb to demonstrate the behaviour of a love that is pure and true.

As for the rest of us, the contrast between all that God truly is in reality, on the one hand, and our own reality, on the other hand, this contrast will cause us to be unable to endure the full intensity of the love of God... the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will have pity on us and they will allow us to withdraw from this intense light of love to go and finish being purified for loving. This time and space will allow us to detach ourselves from all that is imperfect or undeserving of our attachment for all eternity.... This reflection helps us to understand why it is good and desirable for us to live life as fully as we can and for as long as we can, until our final breath....

Useless it is to seek a premature ending to our distress; for each trouble is an opportunity for us to experience more deeply this purification which we all need in order to become better able to love purely and truly. Tragic is that scenario of those poor folks who, sick or disturbed within themselves, seek a premature ending of their life in an artificially caused death, a death which in truth brings no solution to the enigma of who they are and who they were in the process of becoming; a death which merely makes their existence all the heavier. We trust in the infinite mercy of God revealed to us in Jesus, but still, why short circuit our existence here and now? Let us pray for those poor folks who have given themselves a premature death....

We discover more of the wonder of who our Creator God is when we explore the wonders of the universe or when we explore within ourselves the microscopic universe of life itself. Only in recent decades has it been possible for humanity to look into the complex workings within the life of each living cell. The little machines accomplishing complex tasks there are more ingenious and complex than the most complicated factory built by human beings.


The very fibre of our being is kept in existence by the sheer steadiness of the will of God who wants us to exist, who at the beginning said "Let there be light!"

Peace to you and your family.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

On a Mission... Together!

I have been an active priest in Montreal for over 35 years now. We have done many things, initiated many programs, served many generations of people of all ages. Even at our worst and weakest, God still manages to do good things and to bless people through - and sometimes despite - our efforts.

I find it very encouraging that our Archbishop and his Pastoral Team are calling on all of us to "put our minds and hearts together" before we "put our hands to the plow together", because we are "On a Mission... Together!". So, here are some personal observations and thoughts about those observations.

I think we have often suffered in the past, and I believe we continue to suffer a sense of failure, often, and I believe it is in part because our goal is to "fill the church" again or for the first time.... We keep trying to throw a large net to "catch as many people as possible" all at once. Depending on our parish situation, this impulse to "rope in as many people as possible" may become very desperate indeed. Jesus was motivated and his heart pressed Him, but He was never desperate.

Of course, it is necessary and good that we address large crowds, as we do on the Lord's Day, and as Jesus Himself did in his Sermon on the Mount and before He fed the multitudes with a few loaves or loaves and fishes, or when He taught in the Temple in Jerusalem. This is normal for us - clergy and evangelists - to address large crowds whenever we have them, but it is part of living our faith; as Jesus and his apostles and disciples went to synagogue and to the Temple in Jerusalem.

However, large crowds are not the primary or most effective way of sharing the good news with people. Yes, Jesus did teach large crowds, but He evangelized in a personal way, one person or family at a time. When the Gospels mention people's lives being changed and them deciding on the spot to follow Jesus from that point on, it was usually after an intimate one on one encounter with Jesus. At WYD's when young people were with Saint Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict or now Pope Francis; Jesus is there touching them, but their lives really change when they have a personal encounter with Jesus such as during Confession or encounters with other youth or with adults.

None of our programs or approaches work very well or for very long, in the end, primarily I believe because we keep trying to catch "large bunches of people", whether it is the families who come for sacraments or whomever, without applying ourselves sufficiently to one on one evangelization. We find one on one listening and caring very troublesome and tiring, when we are not convinced it is a waste of our time and energy. People's and families' lives are messy and whenever we get "too close" we find it difficult, unsettling, and distracting us from our many duties and tasks and projects.

We may often be impatient with people who are irritating or troublesome, but Jesus would have welcomed them, listened to them, asked them what they wanted, and then He would have given thanks to his Father before blessing them, and then God the Father always did something marvelous for them, whether it was forgiving their sins or healing or whatever. God the Father touched people through Jesus' caring and loving as He gave the impression that He had all the time in the world for those who came to Him.

Then, when Jesus "breathed on his apostles and disciples" and poured the Holy Spirit into them, He enabled them to do as He had done and showed them how to do. When we were baptized and then confirmed, Jesus also "breathed on us and poured into us his Holy Spirit". However, we may have trouble believing in the reality of the Father's love, in the reality of the Holy Spirit's power, and in the reality of Jesus' trust in us and his commission to us to do as He has done and showed us.

I believe a serious flaw in our thinking and in our approach is that we keep skipping this most basic, fundamental, and essential step; that is, the step that Jesus Himself took, which is one to one evangelization. Jesus walked the roads and streets looking for opportunities to encounter people. As He encountered people, one person at a time, one family at a time, He proclaimed the good news and left them free to respond right away or not; He even left them free to walk away.

We don't want people to walk away, and when they do, we get frustrated and feel a failure or even feel a false kind of guilt based on whatever it was that we thought our goal was.... It doesn't take much to discourage us and we quit or try something else, going from one approach to another, one program to another, one idea to another, one event or activity to another, but we don't value the people, the persons we meet along the way. They come and they go, but we don't let them move us as Jesus allowed them to move Him with compassion for them; as when he wept over them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, or when He wept over Jerusalem for having rejected Him.

Jesus evangelized one person at a time, and He taught his disciples to evangelize one person at a time. That is what God is doing, and we need to "get with the program." What God calls us to do is not Jesus' commission only to clergy, religious, parish or diocesan staff, or key volunteers, but it is Jesus' commission to each and every single baptized and confirmed person and believer.

Of course we will never proclaim this to people if we do not believe it ourselves. We will find it difficult or impossible to practice Jesus' approach if we do not even try. Imagine, though, what it would be like if we did begin to employ Jesus' approach, without fear of failing, leaving people free to walk away if they are not quite ready yet to follow Jesus. If even one tenth of church goers began to do that, parish congregations would double every year or even more frequently....

Peace to you and your family. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.... 

Friday, August 17, 2018

"The gates of hell shall not prevail against it (my Church)" said Jesus to Peter

I received a wonderful grace on retreat this past week at Villa Chateauneuf - Foyers de Charité in Sutton, Québec's Eastern Townships region, where Père Jacques Beaudry c.s.v. gave what the Foyers call "Retraite Fondamentale" all about the sheer magnitude of God's love and the intimate life of spiritual marriage the Son of God initiated with humanity in his Incarnation.

Like many people I had always understood Jesus' reference to the gates of hell when He established Simon as Peter, the rock on which He would build his Church, as meaning that we the Church are under constant attacks from hell and that their very gates are upon us but that those gates would not prevail against the Church.

The Lord gave me finally to understand that, no, it is God himself who is on the offensive against hell and its gates, most potently at the very moment of the Incarnation, and then or course on Calvary, which are Jesus' "1 - 2 punch" against the devil and his rebellious demons.

Our very existence as baptized and confirmed disciples is an offensive against hell; as is our every thought, prayer, word, decision, and action on behalf of faith, hope, love, justice, and mercy for the glory of God. We are part of the army of the Lord of Hosts and the Bride of Christ who follows her Lord in his offensive against the gates of hell, and they shall not prevail against Him!

That is a wonderful answer to share with those who feel under siege by the "minions of hell" with their sexual liberation agendas and lobbies.... This is also very motivating for us to go on accepting to endure the "purifying fire" of rendering our Church more transparent and responsible and bent on the protection of the innocent and the reform of the guilty in the current environment in which human society - after thousands of years of taboo and silence - is finally addressing the issues of sexual and other forms of abuse.

Once again, in a strange and unexpected way, the Church of Jesus Christ is manifest as his "sacrament of salvation" for humanity. We need to keep in mind that before the sex abuse scandals erupted in the Church, sexual and other forms of abuse were heavily taboo in most societies. It was impossible to talk about such things and obtain a fair hearing. First, people were uncomfortable believing allegations about persons they knew, especially familiar persons like close relatives and adults with responsibility over their children.

As we are learning, the vast majority of sexual and other forms of abuse happens in the family, which is the basic "cell" of human society and the first place where children are formed and learn to become "civilized". It is therefore inescapable that whenever there is abuse, it is likely to happen within the family, where distortions of character in the adults are unavoidably cause for suffering in everyone in the family, especially those who are most vulnerable like children, youth, the aged, and the sick and disabled.

God has obviously used his Church, Jesus has used his Bride, like a scalpel to "lance" this terrible boil on the body of the human family. This terrible infection of abuse can now finally be addressed and we are already learning much more than we have ever understood about the human process of maturation and how it happens that there are interruptions of development which distort people with disastrous results like abuse of others around them.

It is becoming known that those who abuse others are almost always troubled souls suffering deep wounds and distortions of personality and character, and when they misbehave and abuse others, it is out of the overflowing of their own misery and suffering. They are sadly passing on the harm that was done to them.

The only way to stop the terrible cycle is the strategy that Jesus introduced. People who behave horribly, for the most part, have never experienced true life-giving love. Their human deficit is in effect a deficiency of development, like a big hole in the ground waiting for a house to be built there. Digging the hole deeper won't show any sign of the house to come, but only actual building materials.

Love is the primary building material composing the human person, and Jesus, being the Son of God, understood that. Our chief challenge is moving beyond the "fortress" attitude of defending ourselves in the jungle attitude of the "survival of the fittest" which is a primary motivator in human affairs, from the economy to culture, and our health, social, and justice systems.

Jesus demonstrated, however, that to commit to practicing universal love is very costly. Those who are motivated by different motives are likely to perceive the "universal lover" as a threat to be eliminated - which is how they dealt with Jesus - or an enemy to be subdued or perverted to adopt their own violent and self-serving ways. Anyone who wants to follow Jesus needs the strength He had from his Father's love and the Holy Spirit in order to remain faithful to the call of universal love to the end.

Matthew reports in chapter 5 verse 43 and following: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Luke reports an even stronger teaching and warning by Jesus to anyone who would listen in Luke chapter 6 verse 27 and following:

27 "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

39 He also told them a parable: "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.

43 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

46 "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. 48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house."

Peace to you, dear reader, and to your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors... the Peace that Jesus offers but which the world can never give or truly understand. It is a peace that comes from God the Creator's confidence in his design and plan for humanity and in his confidence in our ability and willingness to accept his love, to follow his guidance, and to choose wisely.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

To tattoo or not... I feel incomplete....

Dear reader, perhaps you or someone you know feels incomplete.

This is an important discovery, because it is our human condition since the "fall" of the first human beings - whoever they were and however many they were - from the intimate friendship and communion with their and our Creator. Incomplete is what we actually are now without the moment by moment intimate communion with the Holy Spirit and, in this divine person, with the Father and the Son, who is also the human Jesus. This realization has been verified countless times by all the saints.

To tattoo or not to tattoo

Of course, a human person is free to have a tattoo burned into their flesh, but it will add nothing to who they are. In fact, the recent suicide of "Zombie Boy" I think is a sad illustration of this truth that tattoos don't help a person become more complete or more fully who they are. This is so true that to all appearances he could no longer live with himself as tattooed and apparently felt lost without the ability to get back to who he used to be before the tattoos.

All about appearances

How a person appears shows at first glance through what others see and hear, but mostly it radiates from within, from who you really are, and the countless ways in which you give expression to who you are in yourself and who you choose to be for others. All these things evoke in others thoughts and feelings, one way or another, but other people are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, words and behavior just as we are responsible for our own thoughts and feelings, words and actions, and attitudes and behavior.

Discovering and "navigating" the "deep currents" within us

Who you really are is not only all that is within you, all the thoughts, feelings, images and imagination, memories, desires, hopes and fears, and soul / spirit interior movements which are the deep currents within us.... Who you really are is much more....

Have you noticed the deep currents that sometimes rise closer to the surface as a hunger, or a thirst, or an aching need within you? These were built into us by our Creator.... They are a little bit like the "instincts" that guide the Canada geese and all the other amazing migratory birds to fly to their proper destinations, but in us, they orient us to face the beauty and wonder of our Creator and to listen - to hear and give attention to - the whispering of the Holy Spirit deep within. In a sense, just as birds migrate back to the place of their birth, we human beings are drawn back to the "place" of our creation, which is not our mother's womb but the divine being which is our Creator.

Who and what is God, really?

We know from the Jewish Scriptures and from Jesus and all that He said and did that God is a divine being. We don't really know or understand what that really means, but we have to try to talk about it, to understand, because we are fascinated by God. We are told that we are created "in the image and likeness of God"; so by looking at others and looking within ourselves we can see something of what God is like, but not everything. I am a single being that is human and I am a single person, but God is a single being that is divine and not a single person but three persons; so God is - we could say - a community of persons but one being.

In 1996 I was for 6 weeks in Rome for the "Stage de Rome" with 11 other priests. One day we met an Orthodox woman professor who gave us a lecture about the differences between our "western" way of understanding everything and the Orthodox way. Regarding what it means to be human - in the West we understand a human being to be a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, and soul / spirit. The Orthodox take a broader view and understand that in order to be fully human we need to welcome the divine presence of God who is spirit within us and also cooperate with our Creator's plan for our full development towards complete abundance of life.

The Holy Spirit... the One whom native people call "Manitou" or "Great Spirit"

In other words, a human being is indeed a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, and soul / spirit, but is not yet complete without the indwelling presence of God. It is the Holy Spirit who "fills" us with the divine life-giving presence, vitality, and love of the Father and the Son, Jesus. That means then that a human being is a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, soul / spirit, and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

All the saints came to understand through experience that in order to be more complete and to feel more complete we need to avoid anything that might be "repugnant" to this divine being from whom we come and to whom we are returning, and also to try to do all we can that would be pleasing to "them" - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Paul wrote and taught that what this means is that God loves to dwell within us to fill us with all the vitality, love, peace, and joy that we can contain. The only thing God will not do is to participate in anything we do that is not true, not good, not beautiful, or not self-sacrificial or self-giving love / communion.

Ever our Divine companion but never our accomplice in wrong

A simple way I understand this would be to say that when I choose to do something wrong, I cannot force God be stay with me and be my "accomplice". As I move in the direction of doing something wrong or that will not give life or love to anyone, it's as if God "steps outside of me" and patiently waits, is sad for me, and then says "Okay, are you done now, can I come back to be with you again? Can we go home now and be together again?"

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits - lived in the 16th century and is considered to be one of the "reformers" of the Church in answer to the Protestant Reformation. More importantly, he is acknowledged to be the greatest teacher in human history about the "interior life" within us human beings.

Discerning our interior "movements"

He taught and wrote something called the "Rules for the Discernment of Spirits" which helps us to understand what is really going on inside of us all the time, all the apparently confusing "currents" in our interior thoughts, feelings, and dispositions.

In the first two rules out of 14, he teaches basically that when we are about to do something good, true, beautiful, and loving, the Spirit of God encourages and consoles us - which makes us feel good - but the "enemy of humanity" introduces into us contrary feelings and thoughts to obstruct our good intention. On the other hand, when we consider doing something that is not good, not true, not beautiful, and not loving, the enemy of humanity congratulates us, cheers us on, tantalizes us with anticipation of pleasures and rewards, and ultimately to push us off the cliff into self-destruction. Meanwhile, the Spirit of God is the One who tries to hinder and obstruct us, to delay or divert us from actually doing anything that might be self-destructive or harmful to others.

When I consider all the people in my life, and especially those whom I love and are closest to me, I may not agree with all they say or do, but if anything, because of the love with which God loves me, my love for them will only grow with time. I believe it is the same with our parents, siblings, and children, despite at times distressing appearances to the contrary. Our faults often obstruct the light within us from shining out....

Now, dear reader, if you will permit, I will digress.... This is just an overflow from much that I carry in my heart about many things....

Why God and his Church get a "bad rep"

Our faults often obstruct the light within us from shining out.... That is why we Christians, being so imperfect and sinful, give such a "bad reputation" to God and to his Church.... Everyone who is disgusted with such things as sexual abuse by clergy are correct to feel repugnance. It is shocking because they are given trust for their public service, but it is also shocking when parents or other relatives abuse children and youth in their family, and for this reason it is almost impossible to talk about it and the victims are often not believed when they try to complain.

Disgust at the abuse of innocent children and youth by distorted adults

I myself am disgusted by the terrible things done by adults - and most especially by clergy - to children and youth. I feel the pain and have great sympathy for all those who have in any way been abused. The vast majority of sexual and psychological abuse apparently happens within families. When abusers are people who are supposed to be trusted with the care of others, it is even more terrible. Still, it is a sad mistake to treat with equal contempt the 99 others who are pure and devoted because of the 1 twisted and depraved one, just as it would be a sad mistake for a victim to decide never to marry or have a family because of what happened to them.

What is God doing about it?

God is constantly at work invisibly deep within each human being, but is also visibly at work through the life-giving instruments that are all the good human beings who exercise right authority in the forms of justice, health, social services, and loving care. Our Creator pours into human beings all good gifts as the Source form whom all our being and life flows. We are indeed the eyes and ears, the mind and heart, the mouth, feet, and hands of God in this world as we carry out all those good actions and works of mercy that God would want to do in person.

Just as parents rightly take pleasure in allowing their children to try to do things, to make mistakes, and in this way to learn to do things and become competent and graceful in living a good life and caring for others and the world around them; so too God takes pleasure in us developing our life and caring for others and the world around us, acting as agents of truth, goodness, beauty, and love / communion in life.

The big picture - the full extent of God's love means mercy

God our Creator is always at work to give life and healing, especially to those most in need of his tender care. Of course, God takes pleasure as we have just seen in enhancing our own efforts to care for others in need. God is counting on all of us to notice the suffering of victims of abuse and to come to their aid as quickly and as effectively as possible. Victims of abuse need and deserve immediate attention and care; while the abusers need and deserve immediate attention and to be brought to justice. Only by being brought to justice can abusers possibly begin to realize the harm that they have done. Only once they admit the wrong they have done can abusers begin to experience reform and restoration.

As unbelievable and perhaps repugnant as it seems, while He is tenderly caring for all who are victims of abuse and all others of his children who suffer in any way; God even wants to forgive, repair, restore, and heal the abuser. Why? Because in most - if not in all - instances, the abuser was himself or herself abused and was damaged. The likeness of humanity was distorted in them when they became a victim, and they in effect became the harm that was done to them.... God sees the big picture and wants to restore everyone to the fullness of life He has always wanted to give to each and every human being. This means that when a human being is abused, the abuser and the victim are in effect mirror images of the same evil and harm, and God wants to restore them both in a perfect symmetry of healing grace and restoration.

When humans forgive, it is a divine act which sets free

It appears as though the only effective way to freedom and fullness of life for someone who has been abused is to forgive and let it go, not to forget because we cannot forget, but to forgive and let the abuser go. This is not humanly possible, which is why we need that life-giving presence of the living God within us to assure us that we are loved and lovable. God forgives us our faults, and once we finally accept to be loved by God, while also admitting to ourselves our faults and confessing to God our sins; then his perfect forgiveness and love makes us capable of choosing to love others with the same forgiveness and mercy. When we human beings truly forgive another, we are performing what is essentially a divine act.

Why do we need to confess our faults, our sins?

Why do we need to confess our sins to God? Logically, it is because God is our origin and destiny... our life is moment by moment being "poured" into us with every breath and heartbeat by the living God / Creator, who loves us with such a perfect love and respect that it is only right that we make good use of the gift we receive and love God back by loving not only our Creator but also everyone and everything else with the same love with which He loves us.

When we don't admit to ourselves our faults, we are only fooling ourselves and from that point on enclose ourselves within an illusion, and we continue to live our life as a fiction rather than as reality in the real world. When we don't confess our faults and sins to God our Creator, it is an offense against such a great Giver of the gift of who we are and all that we are.

The act of forgiveness can also be a mirror image but of good

Not only does God deserve our confession, but He wants to take the opportunity of our offense to love us even more by restoring our innocence and ability to love perfectly by granting us complete forgiveness and mercy. It is only right and good then that we extend his forgiveness and mercy to those who have offended us.... Once we let our offenders go, we are set free ourselves simultaneously.... In genuine forgiveness and mercy, both the offender and the offended are set free. The offender who is now forgiven remains free to welcome and accept this gift or to persist on his evil and self-destructive path. No one can be forced to accept forgiveness. As it can only be freely given; so too forgiveness can only be freely accepted. When forgiveness is accepted, even the offender is set free.

This means that when a human being truly and genuinely forgives another for their offense, and the offender freely accepts to be forgiven, in that moment the offender and the offended are in effect mirror images of the truth, goodness, beauty, and love / communion that is brought into existence in the act of forgiveness and mercy.

Peace to you, dear reader, to you and your family and all those you love or who count on you in any way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Anthony Bourdain suicide - What? But why?

Good Day,

If you are reading this blog - perhaps for the first time (welcome!) - it's probably because you really enjoyed watching this intrepid globe trotting explorer and adventurer chef and his uniquely human approach to strangers and to the foods and traditions and kitchens of other nations.

Like You, I really enjoyed watching his creative shows, exploration and discoveries, and the human approach he took to people, so respectful and genuinely interested in others; even to the point of advocating for people enduring difficult or unjust working conditions. He was a real "mensch", a true manly man, and a good man.

Media reports seem to agree that Anthony Bourdain "took his own life" or, to be more exact, "put an end to his own life". Out of respect for him, many I think will avoid asking the obvious question: "Why?" It is a very human question to ask, and one that we do ask so very often in our lives.

Why did Tony put a premature end to his life?

I honestly believe there was nothing wrong with the work he did or how he did it. He is reported to have had many reasons to go on living, including a new love interest. So I don't think we could find fault with any of the circumstances of his life. Check out this CNN report on the occasion of his death dated June 8th, 2018.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/08/us/anthony-bourdain-obit/index.html

This CNN piece was respectfully and tastefully written and it recalls how in his youth he took drugs and found himself addicted to heroin but later recovered. I doubt that this old wound would have caused him to now take his life, or rather, put an end to it. He admitted that he could very well have died in that addicted season of his life, perhaps even should have died. Thankfully, he lived and had the satisfaction of having successfully freed himself or gotten free of this addiction.

In its place, he widened his horizons to truly enjoy the good things of life and, better still, to enjoy them in the company of other lively human beings, acquaintances, and friends. It is undoubtedly true that his past remained present to him, but generally when people overcome their trials they emerge stronger, better, for the experience. So why the suicide? Why not confide in someone?

What about God, or faith?

I am a man of faith, but perhaps you may be a woman or man with no interest in faith, any faith, or on the other hand, you may have some degree of interest in faith in a god, or specifically in the supreme Being generally referred to as God. Whether or not faith means anything to you, with all due respect to you and for your own convictions; I invite you to stay with me for a moment as we reflect on our common interest, Anthony Bourdain, his life and his death.

God and religion unfortunately don't enjoy a good reputation....

It is fair to say that "we" people of faith throughout the generations, times, and places - due to our human failings - have given or created a "bad reputation" for God, probably, but most certainly also for his Church. This is true despite the heroines and heroes members of the same Church who did great deeds and left a wonderful legacy to humanity: think of Abraham, Moses. King Solomon, King David, Jesus himself, Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Sienna, Thérèse of Lisieux, Dorothy Day, Catherine Doherty, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Jean Vanier.... That God and religion have a bad rep is, I believe, a great sadness and tragedy.

It is a choice to turn away from God and / or from religion....

There is no escaping the all too human dimensions of the Christian faith in general, and in my case of the Roman Catholic Church in particular. There is no denying the human limits and wrongs at the hands of both leaders and members of our Roman Catholic faith tradition and all other Christian faith traditions. None of them have escaped being identified as "all too human" in their clergy, in their members, in their buildings and institutions. So, sadly I say, many people have turned off or turned away from all that can be summed up as "religion", by their own choice of course, but at least in part due to the aforementioned "bad reputation" attributed to God or to his Church.

I say sadly because unlike other great religions in which human beings try to reach the infinite, in the unique case of the Jewish faith and, by extension (because of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish carpenter who had such a decisive impact on human history) the Christian faith as well - both of these faiths are in existence and continue to draw new adherents to this day because God himself took the initiative to begin revealing himself to humanity and never gave up on us until now. No other religions claim to have such clear revelations from God, or if they do, they don't have as credible and scientifically authenticated independent corroborating evidence as do the Jewish and Christian Sacred Scriptures.

To trust or not to trust in God's love... that is the question.

The one clear message in all of this "divine revelation" as attested in the Jewish and Christian Sacred Scriptures is that God loves us and never gives up offering us a true friendship, a genuine bond of family, perfect selfless love, if only we might be willing to put our trust in him. But there's the rub. Since the dawn of time, human beings stopped trusting in God and preferred to trust in themselves, which is of itself a good thing, but by also turning away from our Creator and the love he offers us, we found ourselves isolated and, in a sense, abandoned. We feel abandoned in some deep human way, without realizing that it is we who have abandoned our Creator God. To modify Shakespeare's word, "To trust or not to trust in God's love... that is the question."

Following rules or becoming friends with God?

Jews and Christians can put a lot of effort in following faithfully the precepts of  their faith and yet still not really know God personally or have any love for him because, quite simply, they have not had any real experience of God's love for them. Saul of Tarsus was a prime example of one who was an exceptionally fervent Jew but who knew the God in whom he believed so little that he did not understand he was working against his God in his enthusiastic and fanatical persecution of disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. He would never have changed had not this same Jesus, risen from the dead, made himself manifest to Saul in a life changing experience of the living God.

Saul had this personal experience of God and realized that Jesus was the Son of God who had accepted to die and then rise from the dead in order to reveal to humanity how far God is willing to go to demonstrate his love for us, for every human being. Saul's encounter with the Risen Christ dramatically changed his life.

It continues to be practically true today that we human beings don't change much until we have a personal experience of the living God and know for certain that we are loved by God. It is also true that this can and does happen in a hidden way. The human being who searches for truth, goodness, and beauty and serves these transcendental values in their own life and in the lives of others become "great hearted" human beings. If they did not know God in this life; they will be pleasantly surprised to realize that they know him after their death for the simple reason that without realizing that they revered God himself, they did so in his transcendental characteristics of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Jesus made this claim when he declared "I am the truth, the way, and the life." (John 14:6) Jesus claimed to be the Son of God who had taken on a human nature in order to make the invisible God visible. Being the Son of God, the living Word of God, Jesus could truly claim to be "the truth". In his goodness and mercy - which he abundantly demonstrated in his treatment of sinners and those who suffered from any ailment or trouble - Jesus showed himself to be "goodness" in person. Jesus claimed to offer life in abundance to all who come to him in faith and to offer himself as food for eternal life. Christians hold to Jesus' claims with faith, believing that he is indeed "the life".

Human beings are saved who change and live like friends of God....

People who discover the love of God for them and are changed by his love and live a life of love for others are like those who have found the transcendental values they desire and who in similar ways put themselves at the service of those values in their neighbor. Then, like Saul who changed his name to Paul, there is nothing we are not willing to do in order to please God and to share the good news of his love with others or to share with others those transcendental values.

The one who makes olympic efforts to follow religious and ritual rules and "do" religion perfectly but without knowing personally the love of God still doesn't get the point; whereas the one who becomes a friend of God is highly motivated to love more perfectly. It is the love that motivates the perfection because perfection can never deserve the love. The point of true religion is - according to the root of the word - to re-tie or re-connect with God and accept the friendship and new life of love which he offers. The one who only follows rules and practices without the experience and love of God is still a slave, who may have hope, but won't realize that hope without God's intervention.

It is good for a human being to stand up in freedom and dignity....

Getting back to our reflection on the life and death of Anthony Bourdain, we can say then that it is essentially a good thing that a human being grows up from youth and develops self-confidence and, by successfully accomplishing many things, further develops self-esteem, and by caring for oneself as well as for others, develops true selfless love of self, the kind of love of self that opens one up to selflessly loving and caring for others in addition to oneself, and in doing so paying attention and giving consideration especially those most helpless and in need.

Opening our spirit to awe and wonder....

What the Creator offers us in no way diminishes our capacity to stand on our own two feet; on the contrary. God never wants us to suspend the use of our reason; in fact, when we employ our reason to its fullest extent, we discover that it is actually quite reasonable to believe in a good and just God. Once we reach this degree of intellectual integrity - as many atheist or agnostic scientists have done - it is a small step to experience personally with awe and wonder the incredibly intelligent design of all that surrounds us, the sheer abundance, goodness, and beauty of the world and universe of which we are an integral part, and to open one's heart as well to make a"leap of faith" to believe that there must be an intelligence which designed Creation and that it is benevolent, that is, wants our ultimate good.

Trust lets a human being put down deep roots....

The moment we begin to trust in God is the very same moment in which our tragic human isolation is broken, and we enter into an experience of connection with God, with others, with all of humanity, with all living things, and with all of Creation, the whole universe.... Knowing that we have come into contact with the meaning and purpose of life in the discovery of truth, goodness, and beauty; a human being breaks through the isolation and loneliness that clings to our human nature like the ball and chain around a prisoner's ankle. Trust in a being greater than ourselves allows human beings to put down deep roots into the soil of reality and to find their a strong anchor for life.

Such an experience of God's love, or alternatively of the trio made up of truth, goodness, and beauty, this life changing spiritual experience dispels the dark depressing shadows of the night that cause many sensitive souls to despair and to hasten their departure from this troubled and often troubling world and bring to a premature end their life in it.

So what about Anthony Bourdain?

So if anything may have caused Anthony Bourdain to put a premature end to his rich and abundant life, I suspect that this phenomenon of human isolation and primordial loneliness may very well have been at work in his spirit. A closer connection with his Creator or, alternatively, the realization that in his life he was approaching, touching, and serving truth, goodness, and beauty, would, I believe, have saved him from allowing himself to be swallowed up in those shadows of isolation and loneliness.

When we look around us at the drama of human existence in the great variation of circumstances and conditions in which human beings find themselves - often despite their best and often heroic efforts - there is no denying how formidable those haunting shadows of isolation and loneliness are; which seem to cause even happily married people to feel lonely in their intimate marriage bed and even cause very lively people to feel lonely in a crowd of close friends and acquaintances.

It is pertinently true in our day as we continue to witness an ever lengthening list of wonderful human beings, as well as others who more manifestly show signs of personal trouble, who have put an end or are putting an end - a premature end - to their life on Earth. Clearly, their continued existence in this life had become unbearable, which explains their drastic action upon their mortal existence. What is so sad and tragic is that none of it has to be this way. It is an illusion that our life is unbearable - even in the most dire of circumstances - as countless heroines and heroes have demonstrated by clinging to life and insisting on making a difference even under acute pain and suffering.

I firmly believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches that in all likelihood those who, in any circumstance, put an end to their own life are undoubtedly suffering some form of dis-ease, a real ailment separating them from their best self, dragging them down into the dark shadows of human isolation, loneliness, and despair.

However it remains true that they are responsible for their own destruction to the extent that they neglected to help themselves or refused the light, love, peace, forgiveness, mercy, and help offered to them within their spirit by the Spirit of the living God who knows each one of us human beings better than we know ourselves, and who knows and loves us on the inside. This is not to be interpreted as taking lightly the issue of suicide... it is very dangerous to risk locking oneself for all eternity in the very darkness of isolation and loneliness from which a suicide is trying to escape!

After all, no human being in their right mind, heart, or spirit would refuse a life rich with abundant access to truth, goodness, and beauty, or would refuse to be the object and recipient of perfect love, unmerited and freely given. Only the darkest and most perverse of human beings would see the face of true and perfect love and would spit at it and send it on its way with curses. Anthony Bourdain showed no such signs of hatred or vindictiveness or railing against life, the world, of God....

Still, we must encourage one another to stay clear of ending our life, but instead, to seek any and all helps to better face our demons and dark emotions such as isolation and loneliness.... We can ask God to help us be more sensitive and alert to such suffering in ourselves as well as in our neighbor and to do all we can to help one another and to appeal to God for his powerful aid, He who loves us so much as he demonstrated in his Son Jesus Christ.

So, dear reader, if the sudden and unexpected death of Anthony Bourdain - or for that matter of anyone known or close to you personally - has affected you, please accept my sympathies for your loss, and my simple assurances of human love and understanding in the midst of our shared human condition; even though we may not know one another.... Though far apart, in God we are never separated, not really, because of his Spirit who brings us together in our common humanity, our common origin in our Creator, and our common destiny in God's eternity.... Those of us who believe that we are all connected in God can pray humble and fervent prayers to the God of all mercy that he may show mercy to Anthony's soul, now that he has for a time left behind his earthly tent which was his mortal body; while we all wait for the resurrection of the dead and the final judgement at the hands of the Divine Mercy itself, our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Not every human relation or attraction need be sexual

It is a good thing and also just that since the civil rights movements in the U.S.A. in the mid-twentieth century other situations of unjust discrimination and twisted relations biased by various forms of prejudice have been brought into the public forum for discussion and remedial action. In the course of various public initiatives to correct unjust treatment of human persons by other individuals, organization, or agencies, much public attention has been drawn to the sufferings of individuals and groups. Our eyes and ears have been flooded with images, sounds, and messages which have tried to raise a positive profile for those deemed to have suffered from prejudice and persecution. That is all to the good.

Unfortunately we human beings not only accomplish what we intend, but all too often we also bring about unintended consequences and undesirable results. What came to be known as the "sexual revolution" of the post WW II era was intended to remove from human sexuality the negative stigma and heavy charges of guilt that in many circles had besmirched the authentic meaning and purpose of human sexuality, making what the Creator made very good and beautiful into something dirty and altogether evil.

In many ways, an in large part thanks to the contribution of Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians, we now have a wonderful body of literature which brings into the public domain all the beauty, meaning, purpose, and power of human sexuality under the identifier of "Theology of the Body" which we owe to Saint Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla. Young people from many and no religious traditions are being drawn to many variations on this theme currently drawing more and more attention. That is all to the good.

However, our society has also produced a culture which tends to give such emphasis to sexual expression that we cannot blame children and youth who acquire the impression that all roads, all situations, and all circumstances must necessarily lead to sexual expression; otherwise they will never be able to live a fully actualized existence or know happiness or fulfillment. This is not reality, and the current situation could not be farther from the truth.

Not every human relation or attraction need become sexual. In fact, the wide gamut of human literature is replete with themes indicating any number of ways human beings inevitably suffer when the life is improperly or inopportunely sexualized. Sex is a little bit like sugar. Most of the time it is best left unused, allowing each food item to manifest its own natural flavor, but when you add sugar, it is likely that each food's natural flavor will be camouflaged and lost. While sugar is pleasant and does bring pleasure, it tends to override all other flavors, as if all other flavors were forbidden.

In that sense, sex is like a bully. A bully suffers from insecurity in his or her sense of identity and is afraid that, upon entering into relations with others, they will discover the bully's inadequacies and faults and reject him or her. The bully's fear of rejection is so great that he or she adopts a policy of defense by aggression, in a desperate bid to preclude rejection through violent intimidation. Bullies tend to be loud and pushy, taking over and then dominating any situation; as though in their presence no one has any right to exist, or be seen or heard, because everyone else is a potential threat.

Human sexuality is indeed a beautiful, wondrous, and powerful dimension of our being, which is all the more reason for it to be surrounded with safeguards. The Creator designed human beings in two distinct but related genders; so that in relating to each other they might come to experience their complementarity and, under the right circumstances, they might come together in marriage and - bearing and raising children - they might build a family. Within this context the full depth of beauty and meaning of human sexuality can be deployed and developed in the service of their mutual love and service, and the power of their mutual gift in sexual union unfolds in a healthy manner at the service of their union and loving service.

No other situation contains all the safeguards to be found in the marriage of one man and one woman; so that the recourse to human sexual expression in all other situations tends to draw attention to itself rather than to the other. Human sexual pleasure qualifies as an intoxicant, and human history clearly shows that people can easily become addicted to and obsessed with sexual pleasure as much as with any alcohol, drug, or other stimulant.

It is normal that children and youth - who are in the difficult and lengthy process of developing their sense of identity as human beings - it is normal I say for children and youth to be drawn or attracted to others - to individuals of both genders - because what is happening is not sexual at all. Rather, they are being drawn and attracted to particular qualities and traits in other people either because they sense they don't have that quality and want it, or don't have it enough and want more, or think they don't have it or that it is insufficiently developed and they want more of it.

By associating in simple human ways and on simple human terms with others whose qualities we emulate, by the mere association and relationship, we slowly or more rapidly acquire for ourselves something of those qualities and traits. It is as though we graft onto ourselves something of the other that we so admire and desire. It would not only be a mistake to prematurely sexualize such relations, but it would be counter productive and it would all too often short circuit the normal human processes of personality and character development.

Take for example a child or youth who loves the color red. That is all to the good, but it would be ridiculous, infantile, and probably violent for that young individual to go around spraying red paint on every stone, plant, animal, and any other object; as if no other color could be allowed to continue to exist. Red, like every other color, is fine whenever and wherever it naturally occurs, and in harmony with all the other colors.

In like manner, all the sensations and pleasure associated with human sexuality are right and good in their proper context, and provided they don't obstruct or short circuit, or overwhelm any of the many other dimensions of human being, identity, living, and experience.

Many cultures over the millennia of human history have developed rites of passage from childhood or adolescence to adulthood. Most if not all of these rites of passage tend to orient human sexuality towards marriage and family life not only for the perpetuation of the species but also for the good of the individual, of the family, and of the greater clan or tribe or nation.

Any other uses of human sexuality tend to draw attention to sexual pleasure for its own sake by drawing attention away from marriage, family, and the sense of common purpose and meaning in the mutual love, service, and caring inherent in any society. When people stop opening themselves up to the service of the common good, they tend to want to draw all things and all people to themselves, and such movements tend to incite divisions, wars, exploitation, conquest, misery, and death.

If human sexual pleasure could actually satisfy the human being - body, mind, heart, psyche, and spirit / soul - then we could understand giving oneself over to it, but there is overwhelming evidence that human sexual pleasure is at best ephemeral, and because it is so fleeting, no amount of it can ever satisfy. On the contrary, the only way human sexual pleasure can truly satisfy is by employing it the way it was meant to be employed in accord with the design inscribed into our DNA by the Creator.

Human sexual pleasure is intended to draw us away from ourselves towards the other, and upon arriving at the other, to lay our life down in loving service to the other. This mutual self-giving is most eloquent, most complete, most powerful, and most fertile between one man and one woman, because between them, they have all they need to build a life together, to create new life, and to achieve their ultimate purpose and meaning.

A married man and woman practice chastity be reserving the gift of their human sexuality for each other, the man primarily by forgetting himself in the giving of pleasure to his wife as he seeks only to delight in her pleasuring, and the woman primarily by accepting to be cherished only by her husband in the receiving of pleasure from his sustained attention to her, associating her pleasure with his giving of himself to her in such a selfless way on his part.

Celibate men - either religious or priests as in the Roman and Eastern Catholic Christian traditions, but also in other Christian traditions such as in the Orthodox churches - as well as celibate women deprive their human sexual attractions and drives of their attention by simply choosing to refocus their attention and energies to the practice of loving service to others and to God in accord with their proper vocation or chosen way of life. Celibates are freed from the intoxicating powers of their human sexuality, for the most part, and enjoy the freedom to apply all this energy to the other dimensions of their human living and existence.

As in the case of people who refrain from the consuming of refined sugars, celibates develop far more refined capacities to enjoy the subtle differences in the natural flavors of the wide range of human experiencing and living.

Children and youth should be protected in their innocence and allowed all the time they need to develop more fully the wide range of human living, experiences, and relating without the overbearing influence of human sexual expression and hormones attendant on all things sexual. They will be better equipped to understand their human sexuality upon having first developed more fully their human personality and character, freely and without the "polluting effects" of premature sexual expression. Let's put the "bully" of sex away and allow "everyone else in the room" freedom to live and breathe and develop fully.