Unholy Vs Holy
Addiction to porn led him to hate sexuality and God, but one night everything changed. Discover the salvific journey of Simon Carrington on breaking out of pornography
I was very blessed to be raised in a Catholic home as the third born among six children. My Dad was a great spiritual leader. He led evening prayer at home and recited the Rosary every night before we went to bed. We went to St Margaret Mary’s parish, Merrylands on Sundays, serving on the altar and in the choir. So overall, God was central to my life.
Craving for More
When I was 15 years old, my grandmother passed away. I really missed her and would cry every night for months afterwards. The deep loneliness and pain that set in, led me to seek something that was going to make me feel loved.
That’s when I began to seek out pornography. The more I watched, the more I craved. Slowly, my faith began to weaken. In School, I was still having fun, playing sports, and going to Church. Outwardly I was doing everything right as just part of the routine—going to Mass, praying the Rosary etcetera, but inside my faith was dying. My heart was elsewhere because I was living in sin. Although I was going to Confession, it was more out of fear of Hell than love of God.
On a visit to a family friend, I discovered a stash of porn magazines right next to the toilet. I will never forget picking up the first one and flipping through the whole magazine. It was the first real, physical and tangible porn I had ever seen. I felt so many emotions rushing through—excitement that this was the answer to the emptiness I felt, but also deep shame. This seemed to be the “food” that would satisfy the ache in my heart for love. I walked out of that bathroom a different person from that day. It was then that I subconsciously turned my back on God. I chose pornography and a life of impurity over Him.
After that experience, I began buying porn magazines. Since I went to the gym every day, I found a crack in the wall there to store all these porn magazines. Every time I went to the gym, I would begin and end the session by going to the stash of magazines and flipping through for 20 or 30 minutes. That became my life for years. I became so obsessed by pornography that I almost lost my job taking toilet breaks every hour to look at porn. It took up every spare moment I had.
I tried listening to different Catholic speakers and reading books on chastity and sexuality. I realized that all of them stated that sexuality was a gift from God, but I couldn’t understand this. The only thing sexuality brought me was pain and emptiness. To me, my sexuality was the furthest thing from a gift from God. It was a beast that was dragging me into Hell!
I began to hate my sexuality and hate God. It became a poison in my heart. When my family prayed the Rosary, I could not say a Holy Mary. I was almost never in a state of grace. I went to Mass for months at a time without receiving the Eucharist. Even if I went to Confession after Mass, I could never seem to last until the next day. There was no love in my heart. When my mum would hug me I would tense up like a rock. I didn’t know how to receive love and affection. On the outside, I was always friendly and happy, but on the inside I was empty and dead.
I remember coming into my room one day after just viewing pornography and I saw the crucifix on my wall. In a moment of anger I said to Jesus on the Cross, “How do you expect me to believe that sexuality is a gift from you? It is causing me so much pain and emptiness. You are a liar!” I leapt up onto my bunk bed and snatched the crucifix off the wall and smashed it over my knee. Looking at the smashed crucifix I blurted out in rage, “I hate you! You are a liar.” I then threw the crucifix in my bin.
When My Jaw Hit the Floor
Then one day, Mum told me to go to a chastity talk by Jason Evert with my older brother. I told her politely that I didn’t want to go, but thanks anyway. When she asked me again, I blurted out, “Mum, love isn’t real. I don’t believe in love!” Mum simply said, “You’re going!” That night I went reluctantly.
I remember being amazed at how Jason spoke that night. One line changed my life. He said, “Porn is the surest way to shoot your future marriage in the head.”
As soon as he said this, I realized that if I didn’t change my ways, I would be harming the woman I married because I didn’t know how to treat her properly. All the desires I once had for marriage resurfaced in me. I really did want love and marriage more than anything, but I had buried that desire with sexual sin.
I got a chance that night to speak to Jason personally and the advice he gave changed my life. He said, “Look, there’s love in your heart and there’s all these temptations to lust. Whichever you choose to feed more will grow stronger and eventually overpower the other. Until now you have been feeding lust more than love, it’s time to start feeding love.”
I knew God had touched me that night, and I decided I need a clean-start Confession. I booked a priest in for Confession and warned him it would be a long one! I made a general Confession that took about an hour and a half. I confessed every sexual sin I could possibly remember, the names of the porn stars I had watched, the number of times, the amount of hours and for how many years. I felt like a new man walking out of Confession that night.
A Beautiful Discovery
There began the third stage of change in my life. Though I still struggled with those sins of sexual impurity, I was in a constant fight. Little by little, I was able to experience greater freedom from sexual sin, and felt God calling me to begin really learning what His plan for human sexuality was, and start sharing it with others.
I encountered speakers who unpacked Saint John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” and in the course of reading I was struck by this powerful thought: My body and every other body is a sacrament of God. I realized that I was the image of God and so was every woman. When I began to see every single person through this lens as a living sacrament of God, it became so much harder for me to use them sexually. If ever I were to lust after someone especially through masturbation and pornography, I would have to dehumanize them in my mind and in my heart. Armed with this new way of viewing myself and other women, I was empowered by the graces received from daily Mass and regular Confession to make a huge transformation.
I began to look at every woman not for sexual pleasure but truly as a beautiful sacrament of God. I was so on fire with this new message that I wanted to share it with everyone I possibly could. At that time I was working as a fitness trainer at a gym, but I felt that God was calling me to leave that environment and serve Him more directly. I wasn’t sure where I was heading, but doors began to open. I got plugged into youth ministry and started working for Parousia Media, packing and posting faith resources. While I was working, I would listen to faith talks all day, learning my faith in a powerful way. I started speaking as a youth minister to high school students almost every weekend, and I fell in love with evangelizing.
Love Like Never Before
One day, a lady reached out to my office, looking for somebody who could speak to some young adults about chastity, and especially pornography. Out of nowhere, I told her that I would do it. I shared my testimony that night, and the response was very encouraging. By word of mouth, more and more people came to know me and my story and invitations to speak began rolling in.
In the past 10 years I have given over 600 talks to over 30,000 people on the virtue of chastity, pure dating and the Theology of the Body. Through this ministry, I met my wife, Madeleine and we have been blessed with three children. God led us on a journey together to launch Fire Up Ministries, with a mission to invite every person to experience the love they always dreamed of!
At this point in my life, I am blessed to experience a level of sexual freedom that I never had before. Whenever I thank God for where I am now, I recall the days when I was really struggling in this area. There were times when I felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel and cried out to God, “Is purity possible?” It seemed hopeless, and I thought I was doomed to live like this forever. But although there were dark patches in my life which I thought would never pass, God never stopped loving me. He worked with me patiently and gently. I am still on that journey, and God is still healing me every day.
“He had some really dark moments carrying the Cross of sexual sin, but when he took it to Christ and surrendered it to Him—Christ was able to free him. Simon had a real encounter with mercy and experienced deep healing in Christ. It was from that place of mercy and healing that he has been able to bring the joy, love and above all that hope to others who are going though similar struggles with sexuality. As I would watch Simon minister to so many people, I am constantly in awe of how he radiates the love of Christ to all of them.”
—Madeleine Carrington (Simon’s Wife)
Simon Carrington co-founded Fire Up Ministries with his wife, Madeleine. They live in Sydney, Australia with their three beautiful children. This article is based on the testimony he shared in the Shalom World program “Jesus My Savior”. To watch the episode visit: shalomworld.org/show/jesus-my-savior
Jan 12, 2023
Jan 12, 2023
Overwhelmed by the uncertainties in life? Take heart. I was once there too—but Jesus showed me a way through
I was thirty-something, strolling through downtown in the dress I loved, an airy sky-blue print. Its shape flattered me I thought, so I wore it often. Without warning I suddenly glimpsed my reflection in a store window. Revolted, I tried to suck in my gut. It wouldn’t suck. It had nowhere to go. Bulges everywhere. Beneath the hem, my legs were hams. I loathed myself.
My eating and weight were skyrocketing out of control; and beyond that, my entire life was a train wreck. Divorce had recently shredded my brief marriage. Externally I pretended everything was fine, but inside I was shattered.
Isolating behind walls of fat, I shared my anguish with no one. To numb my pain, I drank alcohol, worked, and ate—excessively. Successive dieting attempts only plummeted me into another cycle of obsession, self-pity, and compulsive binging.
And, beneath all that rubble, spiritual problems festered. I still called myself Catholic, but I lived like an atheist. To me, God was ‘up there’ all right, but far away and caring nothing about my miseries. Why should I trust Him in the slightest? I showed up at Sunday Mass only when visiting my parents, to deceive them into believing I practiced faithfully. In truth, I bulldozed through my days with no thought of God and went ahead doing whatever I pleased.
But the chilling memory of my reflection in that window haunted me. A new restlessness gripped my soul. Change was needed, but what? I had no idea. Nor did I have any idea that God Himself was moving in that moment, beginning to expose the ache in my heart with His gentle fingers.
Contending with Goliath
A woman at work expressed discouragement about her eating and weight, and we connected. One day she mentioned a twelve-step group she’d begun attending. The group asserted that because disordered eating is related to our emotional and spiritual lives, losing weight and keeping it off needs to address these components as well. This integrated approach appealed to me. Despite my scorn for groups, I tried some meetings. Soon hooked, I attended regularly, and though I rarely spoke up in the meetings, afterwards I would experiment with some of the ideas I heard. This approach worked somewhat, and after a few months I was elated when my weight began to drop. However—though I admitted this to no one—I was contending with a vicious Goliath, one which threatened to destroy my progress.
While at work each day, I followed a food plan that allowed me to eat moderately and to minimize temptations. But by 5:00 p.m. each day I was famished. I’d rush home and fly into a rampage, stuffing my face nonstop until I collapsed into bed. Powerless over this beast, and terrified that pounds would soon be piling on, I was disgusted with myself. What was I to do? I hadn’t a clue. The bleak pattern dragged on, and hopelessness gripped me.
An Idea Popped Up
Then unexpectedly the most outlandish thought popped into my head. Instead of going straight home from work, I could hit the 5:15 p.m. Mass. That would at least postpone my binge and reduce its duration by one hour. At first this idea seemed pathetic. Wasn’t it stop-gap and preposterous? But, with no other options in sight, desperation prompted me to try it. Soon I was attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion daily.
My one goal was to reduce my binging. Apparently, that was enough for Jesus. Truly present in His Body and Blood, He was waiting for me there, and glad to have me back. Only much later did I realize that He had an agenda in all this too: one unfathomably higher, wider, and deeper than my own. He knew precisely what I needed and how to provide it.
With tender care, he used my despair to draw my faltering feet onto solid ground and began what would be a lengthy process of healing my heart and connecting it with his own. At Mass each day, feeding me His very own Body and Blood, He began to remedy my ills, bathe me in supernatural graces, radiate light into my darkness, and equip me to combat evils that threatened me.
Freedom at Last
His Eucharistic graces ignited and invigorated me, and I upped my program participation to a new level. Earlier I had dabbled; now I jumped in with both feet, and as the days passed, I found two gifts which proved to be indispensable: a supportive community that stuck with me through good days and bad, and an arsenal of practical strategies. Without these, I would have lost heart and given up. But instead—over a long period, as I learned to let Jesus be for me the Savior He had died to be, as my twelve-step friendships enriched and strengthened me, and as I employed the tools and wisdom I was given, I found freedom from my disordered eating and a stable and lasting recovery plan which continues to this day.
In this process, faith that was once only in my head shifted to my heart, and my false image of a remote uncaring God crumbled to smithereens. Jesus, Blessed Savior who continues to draw me closer to Himself, turned so much of my bitter into sweet. To this day, as I cooperate, He continues to transform other pits and waste lands that prevent me from flourishing.
What about you? What impossible hurdles are you facing today?
Whether you are troubled about your eating, anguished about a loved one who has left the faith, or crushed by other burdens, take heart. Embrace Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and in adoration. He is waiting for you. Bring your ache, your bitterness, your messes to Him. He yearns to come to your aid just as He rescued me in all my distress. No problem is too great or too little to bring to Him.
By: Margaret Ann Stimatz
Dec 31, 2022
Dec 31, 2022
Q – Why is it that only men can become priests? Doesn’t that discriminate against women?
A – A body has many parts, each of which has a unique role to play. An ear cannot be a foot, nor should an eye desire to become a hand. For the whole body to function well, each part has a critical role to play.
Similarly in the Body of Christ (the Church), there are many different and beautiful complementary roles to play! Not every person is called to be a priest, but all are called to be saints in their own specific vocation.
The priesthood has been reserved to men for several reasons. First, Jesus Himself chose only men to be His Apostles. This is not just due to the culture of the times, as some have claimed. Jesus often broke cultural norms in His relationships with women—He bantered with the Samaritan woman, He welcomed women into His entourage, He chose them to be the first to witness the Resurrection. Jesus bestowed a remarkable dignity and honor upon women, treating them asequals—but He did not choose them for the unique role of Apostle. Even His own mother Mary, who was holier and more loyal than all of the other Apostles, was not selected as an Apostle. The Apostleswere the first bishops, and all priests and bishops can trace their spiritual lineage to the Apostles.
A second reason is because when a priest celebrates the Sacraments, he is standing “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ). A priest does not say, “This is Christ’s Body”—no, he says, “This is MY Body”. He does not say “Christ absolves you” but rather, “I absolve you.” It makes me tremble, as a priest, to take these words of Christ as my own! But as the priest stands in the person of Christ the Bridegroom, giving of himself to His Bride (the Church), it is fitting that a priest be a male.
A final reason is because of the order of creation. We first see God create rocks and stars and other inanimate objects. No big deal. Then God creates plants—we have life! Then God creates animals—life that moves and is conscious! Then God creates man—life that is in His image and likeness! But God is not yet finished. The highpoint of His creation is woman—the perfect reflection of God’s beauty, tenderness, and love. Only a woman can bring forth life as God does; a woman is created to be relational, as God loves relationship. So, one can state that woman is the pinnacle of God’s creation.
The vocation of priesthood is centered around service and laying down one’s life for the flock. Therefore,it would not be appropriate for womento serve men, but rather for men to serve women. Men are created to defend, protect, and provide for others—the priesthood is one way in which he lives out that calling, as he defends and protects souls from the Evil One, and provides for the Church through the Sacraments. A priest should be laying down his life for the souls entrusted to his care!
It is a modern error to think that leadership equals power and oppression. Because of original sin, we often see people abuse leadership roles, but in the Kingdom of God, to lead is to serve. In this light, priesthood is a calling to sacrifice, to imitate Christ even to the Cross. It is a uniquely masculine role.
Thisin no way means that women are second-class citizens in the Church! Rather, their calling is equal but different. Many heroic women have given their lives for Christ as martyrs, virgins, consecrated religious, missionaries, leaders—in a uniquely feminine way, bearing spiritual life, nurturing relationships, uniting themselves to Christ the Bridegroom.
What a beautiful thing it is to have such a wide variety of different but complementary vocations in the Church!
By: Father Joseph Gill
Nov 10, 2022
Nov 10, 2022
At a very young age Keith Kelly began drinking and experimenting with drugs. He led a dangerous lifestyle until one black night he saw the eyes of evil staring at him
Growing up was quite difficult for me and my siblings as my father was an alcoholic and my relationship with him was just non-existent. We all responded to dad’s alcoholism in different ways. My way was to suppress anger and frustration at our situation. To cope with these feelings, I began drinking at a very young age and went on to experiment with drugs. I became very rebellious against all forms of authority, so I had regular conflicts with the law enforcement in Westport and got expelled from secondary school.
During that time I started to feel a dark presence around me quite regularly. At the beginning I didn’t really know what was going on. I had an innate sense that this was something demonic or evil, but wasn’t able to fully articulate it. I then began to have episodes at night: waking up paralysed and dripping with sweat. I could feel a dark presence in my room which was very frightening. I felt suffocated by this presence and battled to be free of it. One night I woke up everyone by incessantly screaming.
Word by Word
All these demonic manifestations culminated in a very scary incident one night in my bathroom when I looked in the mirror and saw the devil inside me. It is very hard to put into words what I saw. It was a really hideous and beastly form of myself. I could hear him saying, ‘Your life is finished, your life is over, now I have you… I’m gonna destroy you.’ I heard voices regularly and there were a lot of threats being directed against me.
These strange experiences often reduced me to tears of desperation. One day, God gave me the grace to fall to my knees. Though I didn’t know who God was or what faith was about, I had learned the Our Father, and Hail Mary when I attended a Catholic school. So I just started praying the Our Father word by word. There’s always a temptation for prayers to become mechanical and disconnected from the heart. That day I meant every word of that prayer and it was truly a cry to God the Father. I called to Him with all my heart, begging Him to please deliver me.
Halfway through the Our Father, I felt another presence in the room…the presence of God, the presence of my Lord and God, the presence of my Heavenly Father. His presence physically removed this evil presence from my bedroom. I remember just lying on the ground, weeping in gratitude and I knew with certainty from that moment that God was truly my father. A divine peace swept over me that was so tangible, I could feel it. I’ve never felt anything similar to it since. I just lay there and wept with relief and joy.
Years later in my walk with God I learned that the Our Father is a deliverance prayer. It ends with ‘..deliver us from evil. Amen’ and this prayer is in the official exorcism ritual of the Church. The ‘Our Father’ is prayed to deliver the victim from possession or demonic manifestations. I didn’t know this at the time. From that moment when I was 16 or 17, I started praying for help. Every night, I would pray a few prayers asking for help to give up the drugs, to stop drinking, and to get my life back in order because I had a court case coming up. I was charged with 11 offenses and my solicitor was very frank, “You’re looking at a prison sentence.”
During that time my father actually became sober. He was able to conquer his alcohol addiction through the Alcoholics Anonymous program. To help facilitate his recovery, he had a sponsor, Jim Brown who had escaped alcohol addiction after a deep faith experience. Since then he was taking groups of people to Medjugorje. My father asked Jim to bring me to Medjugorje. Jim told my dad to start praying a decade of the Rosary for me every night . Though Jim was hesitant because he knew I had a bad name, he gave me a chance.
We went during the 2005 Easter season but I was just drinking, looking for girls, not really kind of participating in any of the activities. On the third day, I climbed the hill which is allegedly the place where Mary first appeared to the six visionaries. Lot of people have strong conversion experiences up there, but I didn’t know this at the time. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I had an encounter with the living God. I was given the gift of faith. I suddenly had no doubts. I knew that God existed and I fell in love with Our Lady. I felt unconditionally loved for who I was, so I came down that mountain as a different person.
Someone in the group said to me years later, “You were different when you came down from that mountain, you were able to maintain eye contact, you were free and comfortable with yourself. You seemed more joyful without that heavy heartedness.” She noticed a transformation in me. I came back to the sacraments on the eve of the Divine Mercy Sunday, the day St John Paul II died, I was like the prodigal son, coming back to God, the father.
Two weeks after coming back from Medjugorje, I had that court case. I had just turned 18 which meant that I had to go on stand and defend myself. So it was quite intimidating. There were three guards, two detectives, the superintendent, the judge, my parents, my solicitor and a couple of journalists. Whenever I opened my mouth to tell my story, the guards would interrupt saying, “This guy is an absolute menace to society, he needs to be locked up, he’s very disruptive and we’ve had multiple incidents with him.” They kept interrupting me, so I couldn’t get into any rhythm. I was very nervous but there were a lot of people praying for me.
Suddenly the unexpected happened. The judge, Mary Devons pointed at the guards and told them, “I’ve had enough. Get out of my courtroom”. They were completely stunned. After they left, she just turned to me and said, “Right, just tell me your story.” I simply told her about how I went to this place called Medjugorje and about my experiences there. Tears sprang to my eyes as I declared with sincerity, “I just really believe God’s going to change my life around.” She looked me in the eye and said, “I’m going to give you a second chance.” I was given a suspended sentence, 200 hours of community service and a nine o’clock curfew for a year. That was it! That was the lifeline I needed and I took it.
Looking back, and spiritually analyzing what had happened, I feel that God was my judge. It was He who saw the sincerity in my heart and intervened. Judge Mary Devons was just the instrument of His mercy. It was powerful. That was my deliverance. And I never looked back. I realized that my life was a gift and everyone’s life is a gift. We haven’t done anything to warrant our existence. God has gratuitously given it to us.
I began to delve deeper into my faith, studying the Bible and reading the lives of Saints. In 2000, I started taking groups of young people to Medjugorje. Recently, I heard a priest answer the question, “What’s the sign of conversion?” He replied that it’s the desire to evangelize. If you have had an encounter with the living God, you can’t keep it to yourself but share it. And I wanted to share it as I was set on fire with love of God. And that for me is a real gift.
Faith is a response to the self revelation of God and not only the self revelation of God, the God who died for us, who purchased us with his own blood. I want to reciprocate that love, which God expressed for me, on the Cross.
There’s a scripture that has always spoken to my heart. “Seek first, the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will be added unto you.” So if you put God first, everything else will fall into place. We cannot outdo God in generosity. That’s my experience of God. If you give God a millimeter, He will give you the universe. So whatever we give God, like the loaves and the fishes, He’ll multiply it. You can’t outdo Him in generosity.
Often, young people have got this preconceived idea that following God equates to giving up everything so life turns dull and boring. But it’s just the opposite. Saint Augustine says, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek him the greatest adventure and to find him the greatest human achievement.” So it’s an adventure. My walk with God has just been this incredible adventure. So don’t be afraid to respond to God’s initiative.
Aug 29, 2022
Aug 29, 2022
What does the Bible think about our current cultural fascination with finding our own voices, setting our own agenda, doing things according to our own lights? (By the way, if you doubt that this attitude is dominant today, I would invite you to watch practically any movie, listen to practically any popular song, or read practically anyone’s latest blog or Facebook posting). Is the Bible for or against this ego-dramatic approach to life? Might I suggest we look at the close of the book of Judges, a text marked by enough murder, mayhem, and miscreancy to put Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino to shame.
After the death of Samson, the last of the judges of Israel, the tribes, we are told, drifted into disunity and commenced to manifest shocking violence to one another. The most remarkable and frankly sickening story, again in a book filled with such stories, concerns the outrage at Gibeah. We hear of a man from Ephraim in the north who had taken a concubine from Bethlehem in the south. When the woman escaped and returned home, the man came after her and took her back into his possession. He then set out with her and came to the town of Gibeah. We are told that “scoundrels” from the city that night surrounded the house. Exactly duplicating the infamous tale from the book of Genesis, the mob shouted to the owner of the place: “Bring out the man who has come into your house, so that we may get intimate with him.” With astonishing moral turpitude, the owner of the abode replied, “Do not commit this terrible crime. Instead, let me bring out my virgin daughter and this man’s concubine. Humiliate them or do whatever you want; but against him do not commit such a terrible crime.” At that, they shoved the concubine outside, and the men, we are blithely informed, “raped her and abused her all night until morning.”
Utterly indifferent to her suffering and humiliation, the man placed her, next morning, on his beast of burden and commenced the journey to Ephraim. When he arrived home, “he got a knife and took hold of the body of the woman, cut her up into twelve pieces, which he then sent throughout the territory of Israel. Was she dead when he found her that morning? Did she die on the way? Did he kill her? We’re not told, which only adds to the horror of the narrative. When the gruesome message was received across the nation of Israel, the elders assembled an army and attacked the city of Gibeah, effecting a general slaughter of the people.
Now, why do I rehearse this awful tale? Though there is a good deal of competition for the distinction, I believe that this gruesome and cruel episode represents the low point of human behavior described in the Bible. We have cruelty, crude physical violence, utter disregard of human dignity, sexual immorality, rape, cooperation with sexual abuse of the worst kind, murder, mutilation, and genocide. As an aside, I am always slightly amused when some Christians primly criticize me for watching, and in some cases recommending, films in which violence and immorality are on vivid display. I wonder, “Have they ever even read the Bible?” If the Bible were depicted honestly in film, the movie would receive at least an “R” rating. One of the great virtues of the Scriptures is that they are brutally honest about human beings and the myriad ways that we go wrong, the thousands of bad paths down which we walk.
Another virtue of the Bible is that its authors know precisely where all this dysfunction comes from. The book of Judges clearly indicates that the moral chaos it describes is a function of the disappearance of anything like moral leadership among the people. When the judges faded away, the law was no longer taught and enforced, and hence the people wandered into appalling behavior. Rudderless and without a captain, the ship simply smashes into the rocks. The final line of the book of Judges sums up the spiritual situation: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own sight.” I would not interpret this necessarily as an endorsement of kings in the political sense, but rather of leadership in the moral sense. A healthy society needs leaders—political, economic, cultural, religious, etc.—who are animated by a keen sense of objective moral value, who have risen above mere subjective self-interest. The scriptural authors knew that the strident assertion of one’s own private prerogatives, so on display today, is fundamentally adolescent and morally catastrophic for any human community. This is why the heroes of the Bible are never those who “find themselves,” but rather those who heed the voice of God and remain obedient to the mission that God has given them. Mind you, as is often the case, the Bible trades in exaggeration and overstatement in order to get our attention, similar to the method employed by Flannery O’Connor in her macabre stories. So the almost cartoonish violence displayed in Judges is meant as a warning to a society such as ours that is increasingly losing its moral bearings: you might not be there yet, but this is where the road that you have embarked upon is leading you. Next time you find yourself wondering why the world is in such a precarious state, call to mind the final lines of the book of Judges: “Everyone did what was right in their own sight.”
By: Bishop Robert Barron
Jun 29, 2022
Jun 29, 2022
I like to watch old movies. Over the past several months, I’ve watched (or re-visited) a number of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, some screwball comedies from the thirties and forties, and a couple of film-noir classics. Last week, over the course of three evenings, I managed to get through the three hours and forty minutes (yes, you read that correctly) of the Charlton Heston version of the Ten Commandments from 1956. With delight, I took in the still marvelous technicolor, the over-the-top costumes, the wonderfully corny faux-Shakespearean dialogue, and the hammy acting that is, one might say, so bad that it’s good. But what especially struck me was the sheer length of the film. Knowing that it required a rather extraordinary act of attention on the part of its audience, it is astonishing to remember that it was wildly popular, easily the most successful movie of its time. It is estimated that, adjusted for inflation, it earned a box office of roughly two billion dollars. Would moviegoers today, I wondered, ever be able to muster the patience required to make a film like the Ten Commandments equally popular today? I think the question answers itself.
The coming together of daunting length and popularity then put me in mind of a number of other examples of this combination from cultural history. In the nineteenth-century, the novels of Charles Dickens were so sought after that ordinary Londoners waited in long lines for chapters as they were published in serial form. And let’s face it: not a lot happens in Dickens novels, by which I mean very few things blow up; there are no alien invasions; no snappy one-liners uttered by the heroes before they blow away the bad guys. For the most part, they consist of lengthy conversations among fascinating and quirky characters. Much the same can be said of the novels and stories of Dostoevsky. Though there is indeed a murder and a police investigation at the heart of the plot of The Brothers Karamazov, for the vast majority of that famous novel, Dostoevsky arranges various characters in drawing rooms for pages and pages and pages of dialogue on matters political, cultural, and religious. During that same period, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a series of debates on the vexed issue of slavery in America. They spoke for hours at a time—and in an intellectually elevated manner. If you doubt me, look up the texts online. Their audiences were not cultural elites or students of political philosophy, but rather ordinary Illinois farmers, who stood in the mud, gave their full attention, and strained to hear the orators’ unamplified voices. Could you even begin to imagine an American crowd today willing to stand for a comparable length of time and listen to complex presentations on public policy—and for that matter, could you imagine any American politician willing or able to speak at Lincolnian length and depth? Once again, the questions answer themselves.
Why this look back at modes and styles of communication from another age? Because by contrast ours seem so impoverished! I certainly understand the value of social media and I readily use them in my evangelical work, but at the same time, I am acutely aware of how they have lessened our attention span and capacity for sophisticated conversation and real advance toward the truth. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and especially Twitter specialize in flashy headlines, misleading titles, simplistic characterizations of an opponent’s position, sound bites in place of arguments, and mean-spirited rhetoric. Just dip into the comment boxes on any of these sites, and you’ll immediately see what I mean.
A favorite technique on social media is to take a phrase or even a single word of a person’s argument, wrench it out of context, give it the worst possible interpretation, and then splash one’s outrage all over the internet. Everything has to be fast, easily digested, simple to understand, black and white—because we have to get clicks on our site, and it’s a dog-eat-dog world. What worries me is that an entire generation has come of age conditioned by this mode of communication and hence is largely incapable of summoning the patience and attention required for intelligent engagement of complex issues. I noticed this, by the way, in my nearly twenty years of teaching in the seminary. Over those two decades, it became increasingly difficult to get my students to read, say, a hundred pages of St. Augustine’s Confessions or of Plato’s Republic. Especially in more recent years, they would say, “Father, I just can’t concentrate that long.” Well, the auditors of the Lincoln-Douglas debates could, and so could the readers of Dickens, and so even could those who sat through The Ten Commandments sixty-some years ago.
So as not to end on a down note, permit me to draw your attention to what I consider a real sign of hope. In just the last couple of years, there has been a trend in the direction of long-form podcasts that are attracting huge audiences of young people. Joe Rogan, who hosts one of the most popular shows in the country, speaks to his guests for upwards of three hours, and he gets millions of views. In the past year, I have appeared on two podcasts with Jordan Peterson, each one in excess of two hours and featuring pretty high-level discourse and both has reached just shy of one million views.
Perhaps we’re turning a corner. Perhaps young people have tired of vituperative sound bites and superficial pseudo-intellectualism. To encourage this trend, I would like to invite all of you to use much less social media—and maybe pick up The Brothers Karamazov.
By: Bishop Robert Barron
May 18, 2022
May 18, 2022
Before you fly away from your humdrum life into another romantic vampire story, consider this...
As such, you can imagine that I am very fond of romance. A lot of us are. I am also single. Not being a hideous goblin (no girl is), I could get a boyfriend easily enough. The question is: what are my standards?
I am a soldier of Christ and willing to fight to defend the truth. An important part of this truth is Christian marriage and sexuality. This topic is scorned by society at large, hence my lack of male companionship. If I am going to date, my minimum requirement is respect for my faith and boundaries. This is hard to find, but I’m not lowering my standards. I’ll tell you why.
Forgive my bluntness. Girls my age are turned into easily- accessible entertainment for any male with eyes. In the name of empowerment, women are told to “dress how they want”. Translation: dress in the way those creepy guys on the street like. Virginity is a shameful secret. Any who dare suggest a sense of the sacred around women, marriage, or sex are evil misogynists. Poor female minors, enslaved by self-respect and safety.
One useful tool for turning women into commodities, products, or slaves is young adult fiction. Every time I open a YA book, I see this:
“McKayla is just an ordinary, plain girl with flawless skin and hair. Except she has a dark, mysterious past. ~insert stereotype. Evil or negligent parents are preferable.~ Then she meets... Brad. He’s dark, brooding, and impossibly hot (of course). What will happen, and will their mysterious connection win out against all odds?!”
Next, you get to watch McKayla describe Brad in agonizing detail every three pages. She inevitably gets mixed up with him. He’s an assassin, a vampire, or preferably both. McKayla gets sucked into a dangerous relationship. Vampire cults are encouraged. Brad will attack her, pressure her, and attempt a seduction. He will go through periods of cruelty, the silent treatment, and possessiveness, interspersed with passionate statements about his love for her. Because of this passion, our heroine will gladly cut out every healthy influence in her life, following her “true love” like a lamb to the slaughter.
Something about this feels just the tiniest bit off, doesn’t it? No? Is it only me who thinks it’s a romanticization of abuse?
Alas, I am not exaggerating or joking. Here’s a paraphrase of a random page from a teen novel I picked up: “I couldn’t quite forget that he had tried to stab me with a knife ten minutes ago, but I couldn’t take my eyes off how hot Jason looked in those white jeans. His hair was... his muscles were...” Etc., etc., etc., another uncomfortably detailed ogling of our darling attempted murderer.
I started the next book at the beginning. Page one was from the perspective of a male vampire prostitute. A girl comes and gives him money. She bares her throat for him to bite. He begins rubbing her thighs and pretending to groan in excitement. I close the book.
Finally, in a very popular YA novel, the male lead breaks into the girl’s house and watches her sleep. Oh, how romantic!
Books like this groom young women to be the slaves and tools of evil men. Nothing is sadder than a young girl staying with a man who abuses her because he “loves” her. She thinks she can change him, or worse, sees nothing wrong at all. In a way, these men really are vampires. They will drain a girl of her self-respect, her virginity, and anything else they convince her to fork over. They leave their victims sucked dry in the dust.
Where does this start? What makes women believe the lies? The shameless and evil romanticism attached to abuse, seen in the media, in movies, in the teen section of the most innocent public library. There isn’t even any bad logic in it, just malice.
Marriage and sexuality are created by God and built on love. Love is built on respect, self-sacrifice, and honesty. Marriage is a union of equals, not a predator-prey relationship. Here’s a hint: this should be obvious.
Still not convinced of the damage this attitude causes? Well, no hard feelings. I mean, I’m just a teenager watching this happen. Who can we ask about this? Hey, what about Mom and Grandma? They’re pretty experienced... oh wait. Everyone knows that no one born before the 2000’s can have anything useful to say on this (or any) topic. Of course today’s youth know better than to honour their father and mother. My bad.
Alright, No more complaining. This shouldn’t be all problems and no solutions. We can still make progress in the right direction. The world might be dark, but luckily for us, the light of Christ is easier to see in the dark anyway. We, as Christians, need to fight for the concept of true love. It still exists. My parents show it. When you see an eighty-year-old couple still holding hands, remember. When you go to a wedding, remember. When you see a couple choosing children over wealth, remember. And hey, girls like me—Christian teenagers who just can’t seem to find a partner who will respect you! Don’t give up. Don’t settle for a dark, brooding guy who’ll suck you dry. Look for true love, cheesy as it might seem. It’s real. We have it every Sunday in the Eucharist. We deserve this self-respect. We deserve a partner willing to honor Christ and see Christ in us. It will be worth it.
And quit reading those vampire novels.
Apr 13, 2022
Apr 13, 2022
Question: Is it true that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation? What about all those who do not believe in Him, like some of my family members? Can they be saved?
Indeed, Jesus makes some bold claims about who He is. He says that He is “THE way, THE truth, THE life”—not just one way among many or one path to life. He goes on to say that “no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).
As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior of the world. Anyone who is saved finds salvation in and through Jesus—His death and resurrection, which took away the sins of the world and reconciled us to the Father; and through our faith in Him, which allows us to access His merits and mercy. Salvation is through Jesus alone—not Buddha, not Mohammed, not any other great spiritual leader.
But does this mean that only Christians go to Heaven? That depends on whether or not someone has heard the Gospel. If someone has never heard the Name of Jesus, then they can be saved, since God has placed on every human heart a “capax Dei” (a capacity for God) and natural law (the innate sense of right and wrong written on our hearts). Someone who has never heard the Gospel preached is not culpable for their ignorance of Jesus, and by seeking God as best as they know how and by following natural law, they can be granted the grace of salvation.
But if someone has heard about Jesus and chooses to reject Him, then they have chosen to reject the salvation that He has won for them. Sometimes people choose not to follow Jesus because their family would reject them, or they would have to give up a sinful lifestyle, or their pride does not allow them to acknowledge their need for a Savior. How sad it would be to turn away from the incredible gift of salvation that Christ desires to give each of us!
With that said, we recognize that we cannot judge any individual soul’s salvation. Perhaps someone heard the Gospel but it was distorted; maybe all they know about Jesus comes from The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live; maybe they are scandalized by the bad behavior of Christians and thus are unable to accept Christ. A famous—if possibly apocryphal—story of Gandhi tells of the great Hindu leader’s admiration for Christianity. He loved to read the Gospels and relished the wisdom contained therein. But when he was asked, “Why do you not convert and become Christian, as you evidently believe in Christ?” he famously responded, “Ah, I love your Christ, but you Christians are so unlike Him!” It was the poor example of Christians that prevented this great leader from becoming one himself!
So, to sum up the answer: God, in ways known to Him alone, can save those who have never heard of the Gospel—or perhaps have not heard it preached or lived well. However, those who have heard the Gospel but reject it have turned away from the gift of salvation.
Knowing that souls hang in the balance, we who know the Lord are given the critical task of evangelization! We must pray for our non-believing friends and family members, witness to them with our joy and our love, and be able to give them “reasons for our hope” (1 Peter 3:15). Perhaps our words or our deeds will bring a soul from darkness into the saving light of faith!
By: Father Joseph Gill
Dec 31, 2021
Dec 31, 2021
A special interview with Dr. Thomas D. Jones who went on four separate shuttle missions with NASA. On one of those missions, he was actually able to take the Eucharist with him!
Tell us about what it was like to be out in space looking out at the stars and back at the Earth. How did that impact your faith in Jesus?
To realize my professional dream of flying in space, which every astronaut hopes for, I had to wait for almost 30 years. So my first flight was the realization of a childhood dream. Gazing out at this immense view of the cosmos surrounding our home planet, gave me a chance to think about why I was there. It was such an emotional experience to truly see the incredible beauty of the universe, and our home planet in all its lovely variety— really breathtaking. I just felt so thankful to God for the chance to be there physically—overwhelmed by His grace and Presence.
You are known as one of the astronauts who was able to bring the Eucharist into space. For all of us who are believers, that is just so inspiring. Could you share that whole experience?
It was certainly amazing to all of us who participated. One can't go anywhere as remote as space and forget about your spiritual life. It is faith that helped me succeed on Earth and this is the same faith that I was counting on to help me succeed in space. On my first flight in 1994, aboard the shuttle, Endeavour, there were two other Catholic astronauts. When we got together to prepare for the 11 day mission, we talked about how wonderful it would be to take the Eucharist with us into space. So, because Kevin Chilton, our pilot on the flight, was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, we were able to receive permission from our pastor to bring the Blessed Sacrament with us.
Every moment of the eleven-day-flight was tightly scheduled, but our Catholic commander, Sid Gutierrez, was able to find a spot about seven days in, when we were comfortable with how the mission was going, for a ten-minute Communion service. So, on that Sunday—our second Sunday in space— we took a pause from all the business of the mission to spend ten minutes alone in the cockpit with the God who had made this all possible, and share Holy Communion with Him. Indeed, it was a recognition that we could never have reached that point without His presence among us. It was really satisfying to bring our faith-life into space and to know that He was there, physically, with us.
Have you ever found it difficult to bring Science and Faith together? Could you elaborate on the relationship between science and faith?
Throughout my professional career, I have known many scientists who are spiritual, and they have their own faith practices. Right here in northern Virginia, I have met several Catholic scientists and engineers in my own church who share a strong faith. They believe in God’s Creation, and in the biblical inspiration of how we understand the universe.
I think most people have some spiritual elements in their lives. I have known astronauts who are not formally religious, but they were all moved by the spiritual experience of space travel. So I have found that most people are open to what the universe and the natural world around us reveal in terms of how we understand Creation. Scientists are so curious, like all humans, about the nature of the universe and what we can learn about it.
To me, this is a sign that science and spirituality go hand in hand. Our curiosity and interest in nature and how it functions, how the universe is put together and how it was created—that curiosity was given to us because we're made in the likeness of God. That's part of His personality imparted to us. So I think that this search for the truth about the natural world is a part of our innate nature as human beings.
I believe that the quest for knowledge is something that gives God a lot of pleasure—to see the creatures that He has made seeking out the secrets of how He has put the universe together. Mind you, He's not trying to keep it a secret. He just wants it to be unveiled through our own efforts, ingenuity and curiosity. So, to me, there's not a lot of conflict between Science and Nature and Spirituality. I think that people trying to separate them are attempting to split human nature into a rational half and a spiritual half. Of course, that can’t be done. A person is one human being whose nature can't be separated.
On your space missions you were accomplishing, in many ways, the epitome of human achievement. Doing something really great, and yet encountering something so much greater in magnitude—the glory and the majesty of God's creation… What was it like to have accomplished so much, while still recognizing your own smallness compared to God?
To me it all crystallized on my last mission. I was helping build the space station, doing three space walks to install a science lab called Destiny. Near the end of my last spacewalk, I was out on the very front end of the space station. Since I was ahead of our work schedule, NASA’s Mission Control let me hang out for about five minutes out there. By holding on to the front of the space station with my fingertips, I was able to rotate around so I could see the immensity of space surrounding me.
I looked down at the Earth, 220 miles straight down past my boots to the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. I was floating there looking out to the horizon—a thousand miles away--and then the endless, black sky up above my head.
About 100 feet above me, the space station glowed like gold with sunlight reflected from its solar panels, as we silently fell around the world together. This amazing view was so incredibly beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. I was overwhelmed by this feeling, ‘Here I am, a highly trained astronaut on this space station, cruising around the Earth, yet I’m just a puny human being compared to this vast cosmos out there.’
God pulled the curtain back a little bit for me, letting me see that magnificent vastness in a personal way. I felt, “Yes, you're very special because you're getting to see this view”, but was reminded of how insignificant we all are in the vast universe which God has created. Feeling important and being humbled at the same time was a gift from God. It literally brought tears to my eyes as I thanked the Lord, thrilled to be sharing this view with Him. Very few humans ever have the experience and privilege of seeing Earth from that perspective, and it was all thanks to Him.
There’s a lot of confusion in the world right now…a lot of darkness and suffering; but when you look at the world either from that very unique vantage point that you had in Space, or now in your current state of life, what's giving you hope?
I think what inspires me is that we've been given very curious minds by God. We've got this innate curiosity and that's made us problem solvers and explorers. So, even with all the challenges we are beset by today, whether it's a pandemic, or the threat of war, or feeding seven billion people around the world, we've got the skills that we've been given and we're called to put them to good use in order to solve these problems. There is a vast universe out there, full of resources. It challenges us, but if we look beyond our home world into the solar system and the universe, there are a lot of things that we can make use of.
Vast material resources on the Moon and nearby asteroids can supplement those we find on Earth. There's a colossal supply of solar energy which could be harvested from space and beamed down to the world to help supply everybody with the power and electricity that they need to succeed. We've got the ability to ward off rogue asteroids that have often struck Earth, and because we've got space skills and the minds to develop a way to defend our planet, we can prevent these most terrible of natural disasters. So, we don't have to go the way of the dinosaurs if we use the skills that we've acquired and put ourselves to the task.
We live in a world that encourages us to use our curiosity and intelligence to solve these problems. So I’m very optimistic that by applying our skills and the technology we develop, we can stay ahead of all these challenges. Look at the vaccine that we developed just this year to fight the virus. That's a mark of what we can do when we put our minds to something, whether it's putting a man on the Moon or sending the first woman to Mars. I think we're in good shape for the future as well.
ARTICLE is based on the special interview given by Dr. Thomas D.Jones for the Shalom World program “Glory to God.” To watch the episode visit: shalomworld.org/episode/an-astronauts-faith-drthomas-d-jones
By: Dr. Thomas D Jones
Dec 10, 2021
Dec 10, 2021
Question: I am starting to wonder if I will ever be married. I can’t fi nd a good boyfriend who is faithful to Christ. How can I find a good future spouse—and how will I know that he is “the one”?
In my work with youth and young adults, I find this to be a common struggle: how to find a good, faith-filled spouse in today’s world. I always laugh because at my young adult group, all the girls complain to me, “There are no good guys who I want to date!” Then the guys complain, “There are no good girls who I want to date!” Sometimes I feel like I should just be the matchmaker and put them together!
The best piece of dating advice I ever heard was from a priest who said, “Start running after Jesus. Once you’ve been running after Jesus for a while, look around and see who’s running with you. Those are the people you should date.” In other words, pursue Christ first—and seek a spouse who is also pursuing Christ first.
But where do you find such a spouse? Not at the bar, usually—but many cities have wonderful Catholic young adult groups where you can meet other people who are serious about Christ and serious about finding a spouse. Get involved, because I guarantee you will find others who are discerning marriage and looking just like you.
If you don’t have a local Catholic young adult group, you could either start one or seek out other young adults by volunteering at your parish or other charitable locations. Any young adult who volunteers their time is likely to have their priorities in the right order!
Catholic online dating sites can also be fruitful places to find a spouse. My sister met her husband on CatholicMatch.com, and I know many other young people who have found similar success online. When online, just be honest about who you are, and make sure that you have the same values as the other person (not everyone on Catholic dating sites is seriously Catholic—some may be more “culturally” Catholic than authentically Catholic and serious about the Lord).
A good relationship requires that the couple share similar values (faith, money, children, family), that they enjoy being together and enjoy similar activities, and, of course, that they are attracted to each other. If these things are present—and you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in the relationship—then you should know that this is “the one”! I do not believe that God has created only one “soul-mate” for each of us; rather, there are probably many individuals with whom someone could be compatible and happy. If you feel peaceful in the relationship, if it is centered on Christ, if you love being with each other and your personalities and interests jibe, then you’ve probably found the person God is calling you to marry! God doesn’t usually put up “signs” that say, “This Is the Person You Should Marry!” Rather, the signs God gives are the compatibility in your relationship and your desire to help each other get to Heaven!
By: Father Joseph Gill
Nov 03, 2021
Nov 03, 2021
Prepare to be transformed as Kim Zember recounts how she freed herself from a homosexual lifestyle
I was born and raised in a devout Catholic family with two older brothers in Southern California. I grew up knowing God and His love.
Until eighth grade I went to a Catholic school where I was protected by God’s grace, but I struggled against it. I wanted to be like everybody else. Unfortunately, my parents heeded my pleas to transfer to a public high school where I treated people badly so I could get the attention I craved. I knew that the Lord had created me for greater things—to help others, but I was bored and I kept my eyes on myself.
Riddled with Guilt
In my senior year, I felt an attraction to a girl at school. I still don't know where that desire came from. I didn't have any sexual abuse in my life or any bitterness towards men. I started pursuing her ardently in a conniving, self-seeking way, wooing her into a romantic relationship. One night, when we were both drunk, I succeeded in breaking through to achieve the physical relationship that I thought I wanted. If only someone had stopped me in that moment before we connected in a way we were never meant to, and told me where this would take me.
I hungered for more, just like when I eat a brownie, I want more, even though it’s not good for me and leaves me feeling sick. But she knew there was something wrong about what we’d done, felt riddled with guilt and didn’t even want to talk about it. I also knew that it was wrong, so I hid my relationships with women by dating guys, not because the Church said it was wrong, or because I cared about what people would say, but because a still, small voice within me was crying out to be heard, “I have better for you Kim.”
Sadly, I suppressed that inner voice, drowning it out by chasing women and money as my career in real estate took off. On the surface, it looked like I was doing well, making lots of money and dating a series of guys. But it was all built on lies. I dated a girl for almost two years, but nobody knew. I lied to everyone. I was becoming another person. I was one person with my girlfriend and another person with them. I was a chameleon with whoever I was around.
The biggest draw for me was the emotional intimacy I experienced with women, not the physical relationship. They understood me; I understood them. I had always felt a desire to help people, especially if something was broken inside them. I never knew until later that it was a gift. But Satan wants to twist your special gift for his own purposes because he creates nothing.
He twists and distorts everything, especially the goodness and gifts of God. That affection that God gave me for women was meant to be used to build healthy friendships, to support each other. But Satan twisted that when I crossed a line and expressed that affection in an inappropriate physical way. Every relationship that I was in became twisted and unhealthy. Although they were amazing people and I was able to help them in some important ways, like getting off drugs, I was hurting them in much deeper ways.
I went to see a Catholic counselor, shared everything with him and he affirmed that I was gay. I could never accept that, but he told me that I didn’t understand Scripture. My ears loved hearing it, but I never had peace with that because I knew that wasn’t true, although I accepted it because it meant that I could do whatever I wanted.
At 23, I was dating a wonderful Christian guy. My heart was drawn to him and his love for the Lord, so when he told me that he loved me, I should have been ecstatic. Instead, I got furiously angry, because I knew what was going on inside me and my secret relationship with this girl. How could a guy who was so connected with God love me? How could someone who was so spiritually motivated, love someone who was so materially motivated? When I questioned him, he simply said, “I love your heart, but if you want to know your heart, you need to ask God to show you.” I was dumbstruck. I went into my room and cried out from the depth of my heart, “God show me my heart”. I didn’t expect God to answer right away, but I felt myself lifted up into a scene from my life that I had totally forgotten. I saw myself in 7th grade, listening, enthralled, to a priest speak about his mission in Africa. I grabbed my mother’s arm and told her, “I want to go to Africa.” Although she reminded me of how much I hated dirt and flies and discomfort, I wouldn’t quit, so we went up to see the priest afterwards. He listened attentively, then hugged me, saying, “If the Lord ever wants you in Africa, He will take you, just keep praying”. Although l had no memory of this, my mother later confirmed it.
I felt my heart exploding inside. I called my boyfriend and announced, “I'm going to Africa!” The Lord spoke and I ran. He showed me what I was created for. All that passion could be poured out and have a massive effect on other people. I saw kids who had lost their parents, who weren't eating. When you hug that kid, and you get lice from that kid or contract their skin rashes—those are truly gifts. These children truly transformed me and opened my heart.
The Lord says that if you want to find me, look among the destitute, the widow, the orphan, the poor, the imprisoned. I came back from Ethiopia with my heart alive and beating. I gave up my career earning $200,000 per year, sold my house, my car and everything I had. I moved back to Ethiopia with the guy who had opened my heart to all this. Before we got married, I confessed everything I'd done and he said, “If you want to be with women then you could choose that, but if you want to be with me, then choose me” and I chose him.
On the night of my wedding I got on my knees and said “Lord I will never cheat on this man with a woman” and I meant it with everything I had. What I didn't understand was that I didn't have the strength to do that on my own. I needed my Savior’s help. I wasn't immersed in His Word. I was just going through the motions. It’s good to develop good habits by going through the motions like brushing your teeth and saying your prayers, or dragging yourself or your children to Mass because you’re engraining good things, but it’s just a beginning.
Just a year after we married, when we returned from Africa, I cheated on my husband with a married woman. We both left our husbands and ended up divorced. This started a rapid downward spiral in my life. Things began to get worse when she wanted to have a baby. That's where I drew the line because I knew that a baby needed a father and I didn’t want to play God, so we broke up. For another two years, I had a series of relationships with women, but I felt more broken with everyone. I was breaking my own heart and breaking other people.
My family loved me through all this, but they never condoned my actions. They always affirmed what God has made me to be and called me to higher things. It wasn’t hateful. It’s what I needed. They always reminded me that I was made and created for more. When they realized that inviting my girlfriends to join in family functions was affirming my lifestyle, they made the hard decision to say they couldn’t do that anymore, I felt angry, accusing them of being judgmental, and withdrew for a while, but they were the ones who were still there for me no matter what.
Power of Surrender
When my latest girlfriend cheated on me and I felt at my lowest ebb, I turned back to God in tears, praying, “Lord, I surrender. I trust that You are God and I am NOT. If You show me that You have better plans than me, then I will serve You for the rest of my days.”
That night, my friend, Daniel took me to a prayer meeting with an African preacher, but when I noticed how beautiful the pianist was, I had to cover my eyes to avoid temptation because I didn't want to see anything but God. When they called people forth for prayer, I went up with my friends, but kept my eyes tightly shut. As we reached the head of the line, I was stunned to hear the preacher blasting Daniel as if he knew all his faults. I had never experienced prophecy and I was afraid of what he would say about me for everyone to hear.
Next moment, the preacher started declaring victory over my life in the name of Jesus Christ. He declared, “You have surrendered your life to Him and finally you have given it all. You will live for Him in everything.” He spoke the words that I had cried out to God in offering my surrender, the redirection that I had begged from Him. I knew that it was God Almighty speaking to me through him.
All these years I have been able to sustain in God’s grace and my spiritual life has completely transformed. The key to walking in freedom is to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Having a deeper intimacy with Him through Daily Mass in Holy Communion, daily time with Scriptures, frequent confession, Adoration, Praise and Worship music, going to Catholic conferences and being in Christian community have all helped in my walk with Christ. As I began to do more and more of all these, I found myself doing less and less of the other things, which helped me to grow in the Spirit and out of my flesh. For me everything fell in place as I grew in personal relationship with Jesus. Surely He leads us all out of darkness and into His perfect light!
I hope that my brokenness can bring hope to anyone who needs encouragement to stand in the truth of God because what God has said will always be better than our own opinion. Let God continue to be God. Listen to Him when He speaks of His plans for males and females and relationships. He showed us what love is on the Cross. Love is sacrifice. My life is not my own. He is calling me into a deeper relationship with Him every day.