Thursday, April 17, 2014

With Sexual Addictions - The Greatest Virtue Is Humility

In the battle for chastity, strength and courage are often mentioned as powerful weapons. Yet, I believe that humility is the greatest virtue of all. It’s the ability to break down our walls, barriers, and shields in front of Christ – and to allow Him to enter our lives. It’s loving and Trusting the Lord enough so that He can work miracles within our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Here, I always keep in front of me the image of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles. I pray, not so much to be like Christ in this scene, but, to be like Peter. To simply sit still and allow the Lord to care for me; to show me His tender love; and to be willing to accept it. For, oftentimes, when we have been spinning within the grimy pits of addiction, it’s always difficult to let someone else into our shameful world of darkness. But, the only way out – is by welcoming the cleansing waters of Jesus Christ. 

When You Want to Look at Porn or Masturbate – Look for the Cross

“Besides vocal prayer, mental prayer, commonly called meditation, cannot but prove helpful in the practice of chastity. For the Holy Ghost tells us in Holy Write: ‘In all thy works remember the last end and thou shalt never sin’ (Ecclus. 7:40). It would be impossible to mediate on death, judgment, hell, eternity, and still wish to commit sin. And the thought that the pleasure derived from sin is momentary and that punishment will last for ever, should have a restraining influence. Then the Christian soul that meditates on the passion and death of the Redeemer must derive great help to remain pure and chaste. It would seem impossible that those who love Jesus and reflect on His sufferings, sufferings which were caused by our sins, should ever date to crucify ‘again to themselves the Son of God and make Him a mockery.’ (Heb. 6:6).” ~ Taken from: “Discourses on St. Joseph” by Fr. Nicholas O’Rafferty (1951).

For this precise reason, I always keep a crucifix on my desk - right next to the computer. I never remove it, place it in a drawer, or put papers on top of it; it’s always in open sight. And, I do this for a reason, because, oftentimes, when I am working on the computer, especially while researching something on the internet, I may come across something that immediately elicits an erotic response. At this point, two things can happen: the impulse is dealt with and the temptations abated, or the sexual thought and physical reaction is heightened by a continuation of viewing and or dwelling upon impure images or thoughts. By keeping our eyes on the Cross, as if we were actually there – seeing the pain on Christ’s face as the blood drops out of His body, our thoughts will be immersed in a very different set of emotional triggers; then, the pleasurable sensations will cease and we will be joined with the suffering Lord. The cross on the desk, it is a reminder to do just that. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gays, Porn Addicts, and Porn Stars at Jacob’s Well

Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well. It was about the sixth hour.
There cometh a woman of Samaria, to draw water. Jesus saith to her: Give me to drink. For his disciples were gone into the city to buy meats. Then that Samaritan woman saith to him: How dost thou, being a Jew, ask of me to drink, who am a Samaritan woman? For the Jews do not communicate with the Samaritans. Jesus answered, and said to her: If thou didst know the gift of God, and who he is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou perhaps wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith to him: Sir, thou hast nothing wherein to draw, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered, and said to her: Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again; but he that shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever: But the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting.

In The Bible, men and women often met at the well: the servant of Abraham (looking for a wife for Isaac) finds Rebecca there, as did Jacob and Rachel, and Moses and Sephora. It was a place of social interaction, first encounters, and the initial steps leading to courtship. Therefore, the significance of Christ’s conversation with the Samaritan woman is not overlooked by the startled Apostles; nor by the Samaritan woman. Because, in a very real sense, by specifically pointing out the past and present sexual indiscretions of this very worldly woman, Christ is offering Himself as a new bridegroom. Here, the well serves as a metaphor for the pit of sexual dysfunction and constant erotic longings. Yet, the water from the well of homosexuality, porn, and perversity never satisfy the spirit. As someone, like the Samaritan woman, who spent years and years constantly returning to the same old supply, I found that my restless dryness could never be alleviated; until, one day, Christ was waiting for me. When everyone else had counted me out for damned, regarded me as untouchable, and unworthy of help, the Lord talked to me – offered another source of satisfaction – and gave me the choice. Because, as for the Samaritan woman, and for all of us, Christ wants to be the new well from which we draw from: a font of everlasting happiness and peace.

Author’s note: Like the woman at the well, I was caught off guard by the sudden appearance of Christ upon the scene; for, I thought I was just going about my daily business. Yet, Christ saw the fatality and desperation of my heedless ways. He pitied me; therefore, He spoke to me. That is why I was saved; because Christ pitied me. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Losing My Religion During the 1990s Porn-Heyday

Data from the General Social Survey, a widely respected sociological survey carried out by the University of Chicago, that has regularly measured people’s attitudes and demographics since 1972, found that in 1990, about 8% of the U.S. population had no religious preference. By 2010, this percentage had more than doubled to 18%. That’s a difference of about 25 million people, all of whom have somehow lost their religion. What does any of this have to do with pornography?
According to one porn industry watcher: “In the 1980s, its [porn] customers led the adoption of the videotape. Home video, in turn, revolutionized pornography by moving it from dingy theaters to the privacy of suburban living rooms. With the introduction of the DVD, in the late 1990s, the industry may have entered its golden era. Ardent fans not only bought new releases on DVD but also updated their VHS libraries to the new format.” Unfortunately for me, I came of age and went into porn during the late-1980s and early-90s, during the heyday of pornography. But, one doesn’t get into porn with any sort of realistic Christian religious sensibility; by that time, it’s already long gone. The stripping of my religious mind began when I first opened up a “Playboy” magazine. At that moment, the false materiality of porn replaced any need I had to feel the transcendent or the spiritual. I had my god in my hand. The mystery of the Mass or the Life of Jesus was just that – a mystery. What I had was physical and tangible. I could see it. It gave me immediate pleasure and immediate companionship. Later on, I realized that I could make the flat surfaces of the glossy page come to life in the strip clubs, bathhouses, and porn sets of San Francisco. Those places became my new temples.
Over the decade I spent in the pits, I met and befriended countless men and women who joined the new religion of porn. Some, like me, had grown up looking at naked girls and couples having sex in magazines and porn videos, others had maldeveloped in liberal single-parent homes or homes in which both parents worked – leaving them home alone to watch and do whatever they wanted. Many more, again, like myself, felt the full impact of the post 60s-Vatican II penchant for feel-good Jesus-ism and abandonment of moral orthodoxy. Regardless, we were all just completely lost and aimless. We were looking, and, we found something in porn. For the most part, it confirmed our woundedness and it made us feel like we were not alone or that we were not damaged individuals. There was a certain solace in communal sexual perversity, and a hypnotic, almost narcotic, effect associated with watching others act out our sexual hang-ups and secret proclivities. It was a ritualistic display. A throw-back to pagan orgies and bizarre fertility rites. It was sad, but it was all we had. 

Best On-Screen Portrayals of Saint Joseph

After seeing the dismally bad Ignatius Press re-edit of “Mary of Nazareth,” in which we are inflicted with a St. Joseph who violently screams at the Virgin Mary, angrily rips down a house with his bloody hands, and later quips to the Mother of God that the townspeople of Nazareth thinks she has illicitly been with a man, I decided to look for more noble portrayals of the blessed Saint in film. Although these characterizations are all flawed to some degree, I think, for the most part, they captured the spirit and demeanor of the man as related in Holy Scripture and in the writings of the Saints and Church Fathers.

1. Yorgo Voyagis in “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Strong, silent, and dignified. The best portrayal so far in film history.

2. GĂ©rard Tichy in “King of Kings.”
Doesn’t say a whole lot, but neither did the Biblical Joseph; as in this film – he is a stalwart man of action.

3. Laurence Payne in “Ben Hur” (1959).
Has very little screen time, but this actor incredibly makes the best of it. Is solid, unflappable, and resolute.

4. Robert Loggia in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
Again, a bit part in which the actor is quickly able to express the essence of the man: quiet, and faithful, 
but steely determined.

 5. NEST (Animated Stories of the Bible) in “The King is Born.”
The cartoon depiction that is a far better Joseph than all modern-day live-actor interpretations.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Review: Mary of Nazareth

First of all: St. Joseph is very precious to me. May the Lord forgive me, but at one time in my life - he was more important to me than Jesus. This took place because so much of my hurt and alienation stemmed from a severe wound in the misalignment of my masculinity; so much that I desperately needed the strong male influence of Joseph to guide and protect me. Yet, despite my reliance upon him, he still led me right to his foster-son: Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, I am extremely protective of St. Joseph’s reputation and image. Henceforth, when I saw the film “Mary of Nazareth, which is currently being strongly promoted by Ignatius Press, I was horrified by the portrayal of Joseph which seemed to contradict everything I had ever read about him. The main areas of concern that I had were: the depiction of Joseph as completely doubting the words of Mary regarding her virginal conception, his extreme hot-headedness with a tendency to fits of violent anger, and the swirling scandal around Mary in her hometown of Nazareth. As numerous Saints, Church Fathers, and well-renowned Catholic authors have demonstrated, this is disparate to the Faith and Catholic Tradition. The worst scene is when a very heavily pregnant Mary, who was (at the most) away at Elizabeth’s for about 3 months, returns to Nazareth and is greeted with disgusted scowls and finger-pointing; later, after the marriage ceremony, inside their new home, Joseph makes a flip remark to Mary that everyone thinks she has already been with a man - and now they think its his turn; this fictional plot line is made all the worse when, after the adult Christ reads from Scripture, someone yells out “Isn’t this the son of the carpenter,” followed by another heckler shouting “…or the son of who knows who.” This takes place all within the ear-shot of Our Blessed Lady. This is all impossibility.

The Evidence:
“It was needful that Mary be affianced to Joseph, since the vigilance of her betrothed would thus safeguard both her chastity and her public repute. What could more befit the wisdom and dignity of God’s providence? By this providential arrangement there was someone to be entrusted with Heaven’s secrets, the Enemy was kept at bay, and the good name of the Virgin Mother was protected from slander. It is written, ‘Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wishing to expose her to reproach, was minded to put her away privately.’ Being a just man he was rightly unwilling to expose her to reproach; he would not have been a just man had he connived to known guilt, much less had condemned proven innocence…But why did he want to put her away? Here again I ask you to listen, not to opinion, but to the voice of the Fathers. Joseph wanted to put Mary away for the same reason that made Peter seek to put away the Lord, when he said: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Luke 5:8); so, too, the centurion: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof’ (Matt. 8:8). In like manner Joseph, feeling himself to be sinful and unworthy, thought to himself that he could no longer live in familiar companionship with one whose holiness and marvelous destiny filled him with awe.” (pages 58-9; “St. Joseph” By Henri Rondet, S.J., 1956)

“It was the opinion of Origen, St. Remigius, St. Bernard, and many of the Fathers, that St. Joseph never entertained any unhappy suspicion concerning Mary. They were of the opinion that he was enlightened as to what had taken place in her and the dignity to which she had been elevated, but he deemed it presumptuous for him to remain at her side as her husband and act as if he had been the father of Him who was to be born to her.” (page 73; “Discourses on St. Joseph” By Fr. Nicholas O’Rafferty, 1951)

“It was the vocation of Joseph to protect the honor of Mary and of her child, and to support them during the years which preceded the public life of Our Lord.” 
“To summarize, Francis de Sales pictures our Lord as the fruit of the virginal marriage. The marriage protects the honor of our Lord and our Lady, and by reason of it Joseph can be called an intimate co-operator in the circumstances of the Incarnation. In God’s plan he was necessary in order that Jesus might be born of the Virgin Mary within the bonds of the true marriage.” 
“…Jesus was to be born of a virgin who was married. It has been relatively easy to discern in this providence the means of protecting the honor of Mother and of her Son; the fact has been strongly emphasized in Church tradition.” (pages 5; 101; 137; “Joseph and Jesus: A Theological Study of Their Relationship” By Francis L. Filas, S.J., 1952) 

“O just man, who knows how to temper justice with mercy! How worthy thou art to become the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary! ‘Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed’ (Ps. 84:11). Joseph seems to have no doubt of Mary’s innocence. ‘Let it not be imagined that this is merely a pious explanation which owes its origin to an increasing veneration of the Mother of Jesus. It is St. Jerome’s own explanation, and none of the Fathers were so versed in the Scripture as he. ‘How could Joseph be called just,’ he asks, ‘if he concealed his wife’s crime? The truth is that his silence is a witness of Mary’s innocence: for Joseph, knowing her chastity and at the same time astonished at what had taken place, conceals by his silence the mystery which had not been made known to him’ Those critics who are so fond of looking everywhere for stories of virgin birth (parthenogenesis, as it is called) ought to be first to admit that the thought of such a thing would come to the mind of Joseph’” (page 360; “Mary and Joseph” By Fr. Denis O’Shea, 1949)

“The Evangelist says that she ‘abode with her about three months, and then returned to her own house.’” 
“Others would never have supposed that she had conceived by Divine Power, but would have recognized in her condition nothing but the natural fruit of a lawful marriage. Not so her spouse Joseph. He was well acquainted with the inviolable virginity of Mary. He also knew well her unapproachable sanctity. He knew that she lived and angel’s life on earth. What wonder, then, if what he beheld should have suggested to him the thought that possibly she was the destined mother of the Messias, the Virgin foretold by the prophet Isaias, who was to bring forth the Emmanuel! Joseph, we must remember, was deeply versed in the Divine Scriptures, and, according to St. Francis de Sales, was wiser than Solomon. Not he alone, but others far less enlightened than he was were anxiously looking out at that period for the coming of the Redeemer. All knew that he was to be of the tribe of Juda and of the house of David, and all who were familiar with the prophecy of the Isaias must have known that He would be born of a virgin. Moreover, Joseph must have recalled all that had proceeded and accompanied his espousals with Mary; and that which had taken place in the house of Zachary, whom he had heard declaring by the movement of the Holy Ghost that the child miraculously given to him was to go before the face of the Highest, must have been fresh in his memory. Does it not, then, seem most highly probable that all these signs and tokens combined must have brought wonderful evidence to the mind of Joseph concerning the mystery attaching to Mary’s state” And not only must we feel this to be highly probable, but it is even difficult to imagine that it could have been otherwise. A thought which in other men might have awakened feelings of self-complacency, pride, and exultation, in the most humble Joseph caused such confusion, and what we may call dismay, that we may imagine him repeating to himself words such as these: ‘The mother of God my spouse! The Son of the Most High born in my house!’ No, such an honor was not for him.” (pages 187; 194-95; “The Life and Glories of St. Joseph” By Edward Healy Thompson, 1891)

“The first writer to offer an explanation why Christ was born of an espoused virgin was Origin, the third-century pioneer of Scripture study. This was his belief: ‘Lest the external semblance of virginity would reveal sin if the pregnancy of the virgin were noticed, Christ had to be born of a virgin who not only was espoused, but, as Matthew writes, was already entrusted to a husband even though that husband did not know her.”
“Several fathers discerned in the espousal God’s care to safeguard Mary’s honor both as a virgin and as a mother. In the words of St. Ambrose, ‘The Lord preferred that some people should doubt His own origin rather than His mother’s honor. He knew the delicate modesty of the Virgin as well as the insecure reputation of virginal honor.’ That St. Joseph was to be more than the protector of the Blessed Virgin’s honor. He served preeminently as an impeachable witness to certify her virgin birth.” (pages 62-3; “The Man Nearest to Christ” By F.L. Filas, S.J., 1944)

“We state the reasons as given by St. Thomas, and add some explanations as far as they are deemed necessary or helpful. 
‘It was fitting that Christ should be born of an espoused virgin; first, for His own sake, secondly, for His mother’s sake; thirdly, for our sake.
‘I. For the sake of Christ Himself. We can adduce four reasons: the first is that He should not be rejected by unbelievers as an illegitimate child. Wherefore Ambrose says: ‘What blame could be put on the Jews and Herod if they seemed to persecute one born of adultery? To understand the full import of this first reason given by St. Thomas it is sufficient to call to mind how little prepared the Jewish and pagan contemporaries of Christ were to accept with a sincere and humble faith a mystery so singular and wonderful as the virgin birth of the savior. They would certainly have considered Him illegitimate and would have heaped ignominy and obloquy on Him. The wisdom of divine Providence, therefore, chose to cover up the mystery by this marriage as by a veil until the time when, through the miracles of Jesus and especially His resurrection and ascension, Jews and pagans were prepared to open their minds also to the message of the Savior’s mysterious and wonderful entrance into this visible world.” 
“With the shining immaculate purity and holiness of the divine Child, that of His mother is necessarily connected. Therefore to keep her holiness above all suspicion, the marriage with Joseph was provided for. Any taint attaching to the conception and birth of Christ would be utterly irreconcilable with the holiness or providence of God. It would have rendered the hearts of men loath to go along with God’s plan of redemption, might have frustrated it. Moreover the singular love of God for the immaculate Virgin could not permit that her absolute freedom from every sin, that of unchastity above all, could be questioned in any manner whatsoever. This is what St. Ambrose means when he says: ‘The Lord would rather have some people entertain doubts about His origin than about the purity of His mother. For he knew how sensitive was the modesty of the Virgin and how delicate a thing the reputation of a pure woman, and He did not think that the belief in His own origin should be built up at the cost of disgrace to His mother.’” (pages 72; 76; “The Fatherhood of St. Joseph” By Fr. Joseph Mueller, S.J., 1952)

“…we are certain that no public shame was attached to Mary or later to Jesus. In all the pages of the gospel, the hatred of Christ’s enemies manifests itself in all sorts of insults, among them being the charge that Jesus was of lowly origin. They never so much as hint that Jesus might have been conceived in adultery.”
“A very small minority interpreted the doubt in an unfavorable light and attributed to Joseph sentiments of rage, jealousy, incredulity, and revenge. The majority of the commentators discerned exalted nobility of character, deep prudence, and unswerving zeal for justice in Joseph’s conduct.” 
“…it was hardly consonant with Mary’s purity that the guardian and the very witness of her chastity would have ever harbored a definite evil suspicion of her…Therefore, Joseph could not have been convinced that Mary had been unfaithful to him and to God. His perplexity indicates the force of his conviction that our Lady was immaculate.” 
“…Jesus was to be born of a virgin who was married. It has been relatively easy to discern in this providence the means of protecting the honor of Mother and her Son; the fact has been strongly emphasized in Church tradition.” (pages 136; 138; 143-44; 295; “Joseph: The Man Closest to Jesus” By Francis L. Filas, S.J., 1962)

“If God willed that the Incarnate Word should be born of a Virgin, who should be espoused to Joseph, in order that thus both she and her Son should be sheltered from all semblance of scandal, how can we at the very beginning assert that both she and He were subjected to the false suspicions of Joseph? It is a veritable contradiction to fancy that the great Mother of God should have been the object of open distrust when to protect her from this very evil, God directed that she should be united in true matrimony to Joseph!” (pages 68-9; “The Carpenter” By David P. McAstocker, S.J., 1934; 2001 Edition)  

*Author’s note: Concerning the dialogue from the film - I attempted to be as accurate as possible. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gay Men Account for 75% of All Syphilis Cases in the US

Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men accounted for 75% of all U.S. syphilis cases in 2012. Syphilis rates plummeted in the 1990s and people talked of being able to eliminate it, until it made a comeback among gay/bi men, particularly HIV positive men. The CDC reported that, its system of tracking new syphilis infections found that among gay bi and other men who have sex with men, about 40% of syphilis cases in 2011 occurred among HIV positive men. According to “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly,” a gay/bi or other man who has sex with men is 46X more likely to be infected with syphilis than are other men. Syphilis can also interact with HIV infection, causing a spike in viral loads from undetectable to infectious, and possibly reducing the effectiveness of treatment. A syphilis infection can also make an HIV negative man more susceptible to HIV infection.