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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why I say What I say...




Why I Say What I Say?

As an author of books, workbooks and handbooks for parents, I have been criticized for being too Catholic and conservative. Oddly, we live at a time when both - Being Catholic and Conservative -  are the most contemptible for the public at large. But being odd man out can’t be the reason to change beliefs.  And then along came School Criticized over Sexual Abstinence Talk: but presenter says it wasn’t religious by Jess Baenen reinforcing my worldview.  

Reading the article confirmed two things: I have to stay true to the mission and vision of Fortifying Families of Faith as laid out just 5 + years ago. And it really does not pay to try and preach chastity from a utilitarian vantage point such as avoiding pregnancy and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases. Sex is way more than jus one more merely human thing we do... 

Baenen's article pointed out the humanist attack against the presentation of Jason Evert, Chastity Project -  a very good and successful chastity speaker by the way. The opposing parent(s) had several objections. They opposed subjecting their adolescents to “abstinence talks that have religious aspects” - even though there weren't any such aspects according to many more objective attendees. They also objected to not being informed ahead of time about the talk and its contents even though their students' science, health and biology classes are probably well laced with varying degrees of sex ed without the parents knowing about it. And then there's the discussions in the school hall ways - bet parents don't know what goes on there either! (Principal Gilbertson hinted at this when stating ‘we teach all types of health issues to our kids”.) The opposing parents want assurances that the school won’t endorse similar programs in the future. They want assurances that the public school will avoid presenting religiously biased materials because it is un-constitutional to not separate church and state. Not sure how or where one talk violates that but angry people say things for added measure; and proof of that is their next statement:  "the talk does a disservice to young people." Yet, the paper printed this objection without probing fro the specific types of disservice such a talk does for the adolescents. The statement was declared without minimal back up by facts, data,  points or even additional clarification or opinions. The ambiguity was printed as if his statement was sensible and therefore mattered. Another parent dismissed the principal’s assertion that Evert’s talk was non - religious saying that “they scrub this. It’s very deliberate. Its kind of disguising.” If the talk is scrubbed of all things religious, what is the problem exactly

But that brings me back to my original point. I will continue to avoid scrubbing for the sake of making things more palatable. I also refuse to disguise or obfuscate the truth in order to secure a new speaking engagement or point of sale. But then of course, I have the luxury of being married to a man wherein our combined incomes offer us a very nice lifestyle- so that is easy for me to say. I have always believed that it is the parents’ duty to teach their children about sexuality and morality and if not them, then it’s nobody else’s duty or responsibility. 

I can see why the school gets frustrated with parents doing nothing when it comes to morality - they are the ones seeing the everyday bullying, sexual misconduct, sexting, immodest speech and behavior, etc. Yet, despite billions of dollars being poured into sex education over the last 3 decades, the various social problems it was thought to correct have not been eradicated. In fact, many of them have gotten worse. While teen pregnancy rates are down (not because of virtuous choices) the transmission rates of STI’s have increased dramatically along with single motherhood. So have incidence of mental/emotional issues. And the more the schools do for our children in these personal areas, the less the parents do. How/ When did parents go from feeling it incumbent on them to feed their school children breakfast before sending them off to school to sending them off to school hungry and feeling it is incumbent on the school to provide breakfast. The same goes for sex education and moral development. This also explains why 93% of parents believe that sex education belongs in the school! 

While feeling bad for Jason Evert and the Chastity Project and the Principal who has better things to fight, I have a different take on what needs to be done about adolescent sexual morality. I believe the best path forward is to fortify families by evangelizing/teaching/supporting parents who in turn get  better equipped to do what they ordinarily do best: provide good example, teach, and love their children. While going directly to the children to try to make a difference is tempting, it doesn't work and for a variety of reasons.  First, it undercuts parents who want to take on their rightful role. Second, how and what can the school present that will satisfy everyone? Whose moral values will be inserted into the sex ed? That impossible task alone should alert educators that this is not their fight.  How can one really talk about sex without talking about the explicit and implicit understandings about sexuality?  How can you talk about sex from a purely utilitarian approach when you believe that fundamental to sex is an understanding about authentic love? And Authentic Love was shown by Jesus himself - it is unconditional, free, full, faithful, fruitful and forever. And then talking about these things,  makes the humanists react like they did with  Jason Evert's talk. And thirdly, what difference can an outsider have on children when it is true that:  "setting an example is not the main means of influencing others - it is the only MEANS." (Albert Einstein)  In other words, the home life is what really matters when it comes to life and love.  

Why Wait Until Marriage

Why Wait Until Marriage? 
Linda Kracht

The blogosphere has lit up over this question: Why Wait Until Marriage?  Some suggest that waiting is a waste of time while others suggest that waiting is not only necessary but well worth it. Who’s right? This article will use some of the bloggers’ arguments against waiting against not waiting-  if you know what I mean. 

Why is waiting until marriage the problem? Even sex addicts agree that we live in an over-sexualized world. Victoria’s Secret event of the year is currently advertised non stop. So are the Viagra ads! Funny how, the ads no longer depict men willing to uncloak Erectile Dysfunction. Rather they use seductive females to point out men’s problems a bit more graphically. The ads depict women as practically begging for sex - and I would presume that men love that scenario; however,  thinking more about sex seems to increase their need for Viagra!. Modern Jezebel seems has been unleashed and looking for more action than the men can deliver as she taunts them seductively with: “Who’s got the problem now?” Does anyone else see how odd this juxtaposition is? Perhaps the ads are like the slight of hand magicians who trick us into thinking that what we see is real. That these men and women are real! While making a lot of money from the sham.

But back to the original question - why is waiting until marriage the problem? It’s the problem because the siren call to have sex whenever and with whomever is loud, pervasive and everywhere! The call makes it impossible for all of us to ignore and impossible for many to resist. Porn has moved front and center stage thanks to social media, commercial ads, the movie / TV industries, music videos, and even talk radio, reality TV and let’s not forget the Porn industry itself. 

These entities make waiting until marriage hard to do or not worth it. Therefore it is incumbent to tell the real story and reveal the real tricks! Let’s start there. One of the main reasons why waiting is the problem is that it makes us want to / have to confront Goliath - the modern day sex god. If we fail to fell Goliath, his tyrannical reign will not end. 

Waiting is the problem because few people are intellectually honest enough to question the ruse- they’d rather blame continence. Waiting is the problem because it declares all too loudly that sex is not always good. Waiting is the problem because it’s expectation is that others will also want to wait. It expects to encounter those who agree with the premise that its worth waiting. Those who wait are the problem because they naturally ask friends about their explicit and implicit understandings about sex. The conversation is usually too short and revealing. Those who wait are the problem because of the exercise of virtue rather than vice; this show of virtue and altruism seems to embarrass friends and family alike. 

Those who wait are the problem because they like the gold standard of chastity and charity.  How and when did this standard get so tarnished? Waiting is the problem because it might force us to think about what we wear, what we say, how we say things, who we see, and what we do with friends and their benefits. 

People who wait are the problem because of their continual questioning of those we love so much: advertisers, clothing designers, movie makers, etc. Heck, what right have they to claim the rights to being the prudes on the block? Who do they think they are when they go after the sex giants that we lust after?

Waiting is the problem because it infers that we just really hate sex - even though that isn’t true. At least it certainly seems to give the appearance that we don’t look forward to sex very eagerly. Guess our friends need proof of that before believing us. 

Waiting is a problem because it seems to interject God into sex. What has He got to do with love or life? Aren’t our bodies our own after all?  That said, let me try and take on Goliath with my army of one.

The sexual expression is nothing if it fails to express authentic love. What is authentic love? Who do we learn about it? All of us first learn about authentic love in our home, from our parents and siblings, aunts, uncles, grandpas and grandmas. These people either do a good job of mirroring God and His love or they fail to do so. The love they mirror is one’s first introduction to authentic love. It represents both the natural and the supernatural-  or not. Authentic love is sacrificial. It looks out for the good of others - not self. The sexual expression is an extension of authentic love given to one very special person only. If shared with many, it is not a very unique gift is it? 

This has been my own experience said through the words of much wiser folks than myself: “through a genuine self gift of love, the enjoyment experienced in sexual relations is raised to something higher than the mere consent of two persons engaging in mutual objectification in order to gain pleasure for oneself and give pleasure to the other.” “Our expressions of love should reflect God’s love and our intentions ought to express God’s intentions including and especially our sexual expressions of love. And by imitating Him and striving to align our intentions with His we become equipped to act lovingly over a sustained duration…Both the explicit and implicit meanings of the sexual act make it imperative that the circumstances, conditions, intentions and expressions surrounding it must be moral settings.” 

St Augustine said it best: “We will either love God more and more and self less and less or we will love our self more and more and God less and less.” Waiting until marriage is a sign that we love God more than we love ourselves; not waiting until marriage proves we love ourselves more than we love God. Waiting until marriage is hard for the reasons given above - but it is not even close to being impossible or impractical when we believe that the circumstances, conditions, intentions and expressions matter and that our actions take us closer to God  or  farther away. Yet, even as we move away from God, our hearts will be restless because they fail to rest with Him. (St. Thomas Aquinas). Restless hearts that fail to reflect on the meaning of life will look for love in all the wrong places and think waiting until marriage is a failed notion of the past.
If you are wondering if I think that not waiting until marriage is a sure sign you are going to hell, stop wondering - let me answer that mental question. God does not send anyone to Hell - we land there all on our own - that is one negative of having been given a fully free will. His gift was proof positive that God unconditionally loves and honors all human persons. It’s we who fail to love and honor God’s creation and design with unnecessary attitude, pride, refusal to see it His way while only wanting to talk about my way, my freedom, my interests. Nonetheless, God still loves unconditionally and honors us with more gifts including the grace to wait until marriage if we ask. But there is one catch; we have to stop pretending that we are Creator and He is the creature. 

Waiting until marriage is great because it is proof positive that you believe that sex is excellent when shared with the right person at the right time and the right way. It proves that you have pondered your intentions and motives and have come to an elevated understanding about the explicit and implicit purpose of the sexual act. You are more likely to keep that frame of reference even after marriage as you practice marital chastity refusing to let anything come between you or your beloved.  You want to love freely, fully, faithfully, fruitfully and for forever (within this lifetime). Authentic love grows our capacity to love even more- in better imitation of God’s love.  This type of love  enhances personal wellness - spiritual, physiological, sociological, emotional, and psychological. Blood pressures drop, endorphins are released, and natural hormones are shared binding us for a lifetime. The plan certainly isn’t natural but supernatural. Not one of us could have come up with this idea! Waiting until marriage is proof positive that we desire to love and to be loved authentically in this lifetime and the next. It is the best for our sake. It is best for the sake of the future lives that we touch with and through our love. It is best for society as a whole.

Ultimately we can say that waiting until marriage is not the problem unless you expect to use sex to get love or to use love to get sex.

As for the notion that our bodies are our own - get thinking!  You didn’t create yourself; you can not even specify your own natural eye color, hair color, or height and shape. Some suggest that in time our babies will be designed to suit our specifications; at that time we will be able to pull them out of long black artificial wombs. Even then, the new person doesn’t have the power to clone self! We know our lives are not our own or we would not be concerned when a friend threatens to commit suicide. God placed the moral belief in all peoples - believers or not - that life is precious and not one of us can morally take away someone’s life - even our own! This moral understanding can have only one source: God himself. He breathed  that into us at the moment of conception. He imprinted on us the desire for everlasting love and life. This is proof enough that our bodies and our lives are not our own.

Some suggest that virtue of virginity is used to control others. When did virtue get turned into a vice and when did vice become virtuous? Perhaps the real control over others comes from the Goliath that hopes to get women to think like men. Consider what Michael Kimmel (author of Gender of Desire) admits: “Women’s increase in sexual agency, revolutionary as it has been, has not been accompanied by a decrease in male sexual entitlement nor by a sharp increase in men’s capacity for intimacy and emotional connectedness.” 

And why should anyone expect men to change if women want to become just like them?  Fear not, women really are not becoming like men. If they act like it they are just pretending for utilitarian reasons. Too many of them even after having sex with strangers hold onto the expectation and hope for intimacy in and through relationship with the one they are having sex with. Studies back up that statement! Real women and real men are never going to be about just having sex no matter how many atheistic notions are tossed around by modern Goliath. 

Therefore, I am thoroughly convinced that the entire concept of virginity ( a virtue better called by its real name - Chastity) lovingly limits selfishness and lust - the two agents which effectively destroy love and life. Together they cloud our intellects explicitly and implicitly. They introduce our sense of passions to the possibility of increased sexual agency without consequence to life or love. They are the Trojan horse outfitted in seductive clothing. But Goliath will continue to die alongside the societies that adopted him willy-nilly. 

Lest you missed my point: Waiting until marriage is the Gold Standard because it comes from God Himself who is Love and Life. And each of us who discovers authentic love and happiness in this life will also find it in the next life.

“You will not find true inner peace if something is lacking in your spiritual life. You will always be subject to anxiety and there will always be something too merely human in what you do: attachment to your own will, traces of vanity, self seeking, ambition, narrow mindedness and so on. There can be no deep radical purification of the heart (without faith) and the practice of mental prayer. Otherwise your wisdom and prudence will always remain in the human plane and you will never reach true inner freedom.” Fr. Jacque Philippe.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Mom's Night Out

MY MOM'S NIGHT OUT 



Nearly every girl – big or small – loves to dress up, don beautiful jewelry, get her hair fixed, and look beautiful when she walks a “red carpet” at some point during her lifetime. For most girls, such a procession actually takes place several times even if the rest of the world doesn’t notice! These events are always special enough for the girl!

When was your last 'red carpet event'? Just last week, we witnessed a granddaughter process up the aisle for her First Communion. The event had all the markings of having been honored with VIP status. Teresa certainly felt it - materially and immaterially. And then there is the procession for Confirmation. Every girl dreams about  walking the 'red carpet' at her wedding first on the arm of her father and exiting on the arm of her newly beloved - all the while looking radiant and gorgeous. Let's not forget those other lesser chances to walk the red carpet: Homecoming; Prom, friend’s weddings and other formal events. These also incorporate mini grand marches on  imaginary red carpets. 

The red carpet treatment refers to those special events in which guests are greeted and welcomed graciously by a person or group of persons. It signifies being treated royally; the welcoming helps make the guest feel very important  and that is the source of the acronym:  VIP (very important person).  The red carpet was first introduced in 458 BC by Greek playwright Aeschylus during the performance of Agamemnon? It continues to be used during ceremonial and formal occasions and visits by of heads of state, celebrities, royalty, clergy and even the popes. 

Why red? According to Aeschylus, red was the color assigned and reserved for the deities; thereafter it became associated with royalty and luxury.

On April 29, 2014 the red carpet was rolled out for the premiere of Moms’ Night Out - an event I was fortunate to be invited to attend with daughter Kelly. While the actual movie premiere took place inside the Chinese Theater (where films have been shot) on Hollywood Blvd., the main characters, screen writers, producers, etc. walked the red carpet into the theater. 
  
The red carpet events generate a lot of interest, buzz, and intrigue among everyone on the street! While outsiders are not told when the talent will show up; the premiere is a well orchestrated event by the promoters for the movie. Media is invited to attend and they arrive hours ahead of time staking out their best position along the red carpet. They know where to line up since the red carpet is laid out well ahead of time as well along with publicity backdrops. (See enclosed pictures)  The red carpet doesn’t seem very glamorous due to the industrial fencing positioned to keep media several feet away from stars who emerge onto the carpet from shiny, black limos. Bystanders have little opportunity to get very close to the area or the stars. 

The red runway gives the media what they want: the opportunity to snap photos and shout out questions to the stars as they pass by hoping to get one or  more to stop and chat for a few minutes. Questions shouted out range from interest in what the stars are wearing, to what they are working on next and even personal questions. Responses are instantly posted, tweeted or Instagram-med for a star-struck person's consumption. 

The event bolsters the desired effect: attracting hundreds - if not thousands – of non-participants to the area in hopes of raising interest in the new film that is scheduled for release in theaters everywhere. Having the chance to see a celebrity in person helps to boost the interest among the general public. 


This is how local girl, Kelly Kracht, (behind Patricia Heaton in photo) came to walk the red carpet. But, first things first. 

Last summer Kelly was employed by Carmel Communications, a Catholic PR firm, out of Atlanta, GA when the “boss lady” mentioned that they were going to be promoting a new movie that had yet to be shot. Kelly – intrigued with how movies are made – asked whether she could take time off in order to help make that movie. She thought immersion on the set would help her promote the movie when that became necessary. After mulling over the request, Lisa Wheeler, the boss-lady, agreed that it would be a great opportunity for Kelly, Carmel Communications and the movie makers. Wheeler had a great working relationship with the Erwin brothers (show's producers) due to previous promotions and agreed to the request. What better way to get an inside look at the way movies are made, the talent, the mission of the production company, and the film itself? Wheeler contacted the Erwin brothers and they agreed to bring Kelly on as a set production assistant. So, Kelly drove to Birmingham, Alabama in her brand new Honda to see firsthand how movies are made.  

 Moms’ Night Out was shot over a period of six weeks. During that time, Kelly did everything from controlling traffic, to alerting the talent of their upcoming time for action, to painting actress’ nails, to getting coffee for talent and crew, to allowing her car to be used for some of the shots; to babysitting the younger talent. Kelly loved the work despite the many long, hot nights spent on the set. Most of the shooting took place during the evening/night hours since the movie is about several moms’ night out.  

The work – though rewarding – proved one thing to Kelly. She would not want the life of a film star. It's not the work - though intense! Rather it's the obvious loneliness that sets in when the stars have to spend weeks and months away from family and friends. On top of that, everywhere they go they are  hounded for autographs, photo shots, and interviews. They really have to avoid the public if they want any privacy! Consequently, they seem a bit wary of  new people. They are too used to people wanting something from them. Kelly, though having many opportunities, did not ask for something from the stars. 



During ordinary conversation with them, she learned that that they like their work, they love their families but they do not necessarily enjoy the publicity or the celebrity status. They endure the red carpet in order to secure more work in a highly competitive field. There are only so many movies made in any given year! Female stars also have the added benefit of being loaned a $70 K pair of earrings and/or a $200 K diamond bracelet to wear for the world premiere- every girl loves bling! 

After the filming, everyone went back home to their usual gigs. In this case, Kracht went back to Carmel Communications to promotion of this film and many other works to the Catholic audience. And so this is how Kelly came to walk the red carpet with actress Abbie Cobb – aka Bridgette in Moms’ Night Out. Each PR person is assigned one or more talent  for the purpose of introducing him/her to the media that has waited for their chance to interview a star. 

After the premier was the after party – the invitation only opportunity to take photos and mingle. The food & drink bill had to total more than any wedding we have ever attended but the expenses were part of the movie budget. There was a lot of food to go around that is for sure. 

I had the advantage of being just a spectator with an inside edge. It was exciting to be on the red carpet and to  speak to the talent who stood near by. I also enjoyed catching sight of other actors who came in support of the film along with the stars' families and friends. I had the privilege of meeting the screen writer for Mom's Night Out and her husband and two young children. I also got to chat with an actress from God’s Not Dead who will remain unnamed to protect her desire for anonymity.

Kelly had invited me to the world premiere given its close proximity to Mother’s Day – lucky me. Thank you Kelly! It was great to see her work the professional end of her life with grace and ease while staying grounded to what really matters in life. 

By the way, the movie is good. Of course if I were writing the script, some of the lines would have been different. Hmmm... here's a thought. Maybe I should try and write a movie script to realize just how hard it really is! By the way, information about the movie can be found at   http://momsnightoutmovie.com/ or  http://www.momsnightoutmovie.com/.

One final thought, even though this red carpet event was special, the one that matters most to me lies within my home. As Cardinal Mindszenty once said: The most important person (VIP) on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral – a dwelling for an immortal soul."

So next time you think that life is just not spectacular enough, think again. Count all your blessings. And then imagine, walking  that crystal carpet into heaven while being introduced to the King. That will be the most spectacular enough for all of us. And just think of our VIP status then!