How to Walk Away From a Fight With Your Child

Kids argue with their parents all the time and, in many cases, it’s tolerable and normal. But when your child becomes disrespectful, starts to yell or swear, or becomes irate and won’t calm down, you need to disengage. You need to walk away and refuse to discuss things further with your child until he or she can discuss things respectfully.

Indeed, turning around and walking away from an argument or a fight with your child is one of the most effective ways as a parent to put an end to a fight.

But what should you do when your child won’t let you walk away? What if your child follows you to your room and won’t let you disengage from the fight? What if your child is relentless?

Why Kids Try To Prolong the Argument

Disengaging and refusing to argue is one of the best ways to stop power struggles and arguments. But many kids—particularly defiant, oppositional ones—will follow their parents around, prolonging the argument. Why do they do this? Don’t they hate the fighting as much as you do?

When you walk away or stop participating in an argument, you send your child the message that you’re in control. Though they aren’t consciously aware of all of this, they feel the power shift from them to you. You control the situation when you walk away. You win when you walk away—and they don’t want you to win.

So they try to pull you back into the argument to regain control—to ensure that you don’t win. They will try almost anything to keep it going, whether it’s calling you names, throwing things, punching a hole in the wall, or slamming a door.

If they can do something that gets you to react, they feel a whole lot better. And in many cases, they know that if they push all the right buttons, you just might give in to get relief from the torment.

The key is to know how to prevent your child from dragging you back into the fight. Here are some tips to do just that.

When Your Child Follows You Into Your Room to Continue the Argument

Here’s the trick: once you walk away, say no more. Lock the door if you have to and ride out the storm. Even if your child is screaming outside your door or pounding on it with all their might, ignore them.

Do whatever you can to cope until they’ve calmed down.

The second you turn that doorknob to tell them to stop, you’ve given them what they wanted. So put on some headphones, turn up the TV, read a book, knit. Do whatever you have to do to focus your attention away from your child’s behavior.

If they damage something or call you foul names while they’re pounding on your door, give them consequences afterward, when they’ve calmed down. And stick to the consequences.

In other words, ignore their attempts to pull you in when you’re disengaging from them, but hold them accountable for anything they damage (or rules they break) later.

When Your Child Trashes Her Room to Get Your Attention Back

If your child goes to her room and starts to throw things around or screams at the top of her lungs about what a jerk you are or how much she hates you, let her.

If she breaks something of her own, that’s a natural consequence she should face. She will have to buy a replacement on her own. If she makes a mess of the room, she will have to clean it up when things calm down. If she damages the walls, she will have to pay for the repair.

As a rule, it’s most effective to focus on controlling your behavior and emotions rather than your child’s because here’s the truth: you don’t control your child’s behavior, so don’t try to. The best you can do is hold her accountable for her actions.

How to End Phone and Text Message Arguments

If the argument is over the phone or via text message, tell your child that you’re done with the discussion and you will not reply anymore. Then, follow through. Turn the phone off and get involved with something else. You can finish talking later when things are calm again.

If she keeps sending messages, just ignore them. You don’t even have to read them. And try not to be shocked or take personally the things she says. Just know that an irate teen may say anything to drag you back into the fight—to regain control. Don’t take the bait.

How to End Arguments When You’re Driving

The car is one of the most difficult places to get into an argument with your child. The first rule is, pull over if you can. You may not be able to walk away, but you might be able to step outside the car to get some fresh air if it’s safe to do so.

Tell your child you’re not going to continue until they calm down because it’s not safe for you to drive while they’re verbally abusing you or being disruptive. Then, find something to do that will help you cope—your smartphone is perfect in these situations. Read the news, listen to some music, or read this article again!

When You Can’t Walk Away Because You’re Busy

Let’s say, for example, that you‘re cooking dinner and you really can’t walk away. Focus your attention on the task at hand, not your child. Avoid eye contact and ignore any comments he makes under his breath.

Find some sort of mental task to occupy your mind, such as counting or singing a song to yourself in your head. If you have a relatively compliant child who will go to his room when asked, you can tell him to do so. But if your child is defiant, he will probably refuse.

If you can’t make him go to his room, the best alternative is to ignore him. Don’t give his behavior any power. Control what you can—and that’s you.

When Your Child Blocks or Clings to You

Being blocked or clung to is perhaps the most difficult situation to find yourself in when you try to walk away from a fight. If this happens, stay calm, use a normal tone of voice, and tell your child this behavior is not okay.

Then tell them to go do something else to calm down. They’re probably going to continuing their blocking and clinging—at least at first. Remain calm and wait it out. Yes, this might mean that you literally stand there and wait for some time.

Prepare for Pentecost by Growing in Devotion to the Holy Spirit

For many followers of Christ, there is an understanding, love and prayer that we offer to Jesus. He points us to the Father and consequently we pray the Our Father, as sons and daughters of the Father should pray.

However, for more than a few of us the Holy Spirit, who indeed is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, remains nebulous, mysterious, and in a real sense unknown. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to strive for a more clear and penetrating understanding of the “Sweet Guest of the soul.”  (Sequence prayer for Pentecost)

Following logic and reason, unless we capture a more profound comprehension of the Holy Spirit, His presence, power and action in our lives will be inhibited, if not paralyzed. Friends long to get acquainted with each other, yearn to spend quality time with each other, so as to appreciate this mutual bond of friendship and rejoice in the successes and weep at the failures in the reality of friendship. So in a parallel sense is our bond of relationship with the Holy Spirit.

In fact, with respect to our relationship with the Trinity, we have a different relationship with each Person. Once baptized we become sons/daughters of God the Father and brothers/sisters to Jesus Christ our Elder Brother. However, with respect to the Holy Spirit, He becomes our Intimate Friend. This bond and depth of Friendship depends on one element: our docility and openness to the Holy Spirit or our lack of it.

With great joy and enthusiasm, let us delve into the infinite riches in getting to know the Holy Spirit better. This deep union with Him will result in the opening of a new vista or horizon in our spiritual life. Indeed He will shine light in our minds and ignite a fire in our hearts transforming us into, in the words of Saint Paul, new creatures in Christ.

This succinct but substantial treatment will serve as a short, mini-catechesis on the Person, the Power, the Presence and the Interior Peace that are all communicated to the soul enamored with the Holy Spirit, the Sweet Guest of the Soul.

The Problem in Recognizing Our Sins

We build skyscrapers, split the atom, design computers, and send men to the moon, but the most difficult and most important task remains undone, namely acknowledging our personal sins.  Pride, the most deceptive of the Seven Deadly Sins, creates the illusion that we are better than we are and therefore renders critical self-examination unnecessary.“ I don’t want criticism,” insisted Mussolini, “I want applause.”

How can those who favor abortion acknowledge its iniquity? Abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.  It is robbing that human being of ever knowing love, liberty, or life.  It is an evil of such enormity that it is too painful to acknowledge and much easier to repress. The self-justification of an evil must close itself off from self-realization. As a consequence, the person who represses his complicity in evil acts must war against anyone who seeks to liberate him from his delusions. Nothing is more horrifying to a person than the sudden realization of his repressed iniquities.

The story of King David offers us the first of four examples concerning individuals who could not acknowledge their sins, but through the grace of God and the help of others, experienced an epiphany which led to their conversions and to a far better life. David, despite his many wives and concubines, lusted after Bathsheba, arranged the death of her husband, and took her for his wife.  He had adjusted to his iniquities and remained unrepentant. God, however, sent Nathan to him who spoke of a rich man who had “very many flocks and herds” and a poor man who had “but one little ewe lamb. When a traveler arrived, the rich man refused to offer one of his flock, but took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for him. Infuriated by this tale, David, said, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die.” Then, Nathan said to David, “You are the man.”  It was a painful moment of self-realization for David.  “I have sinned against the Lord,” said David, in an act of contrition. God was forgiving, but David did not escape punishment (2 Samuel, 12).

Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul, was on his way to Damascus seeking to imprison whatever Christians he might encounter. Suddenly a brilliant flash of light from heaven struck him, knocking him to the ground.  He heard the voice of Jesus speak to him: “Saul. Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus,” He replied, “whom you are persecuting.”  Saul was blinded by the light, but after three days of fasting and praying, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see again. But Saul, now Paul and later St. Paul, saw things in a different light. He could now recognize his former sins and the redeeming power of Christ (9: 1-19). He was liberated from the darkness of his sins and entered the light of Truth.

Aurelius Augustinus, by his own admission, was the most learned and the most dissolute student at the University of Carthage.  Lust of the flesh had been his undoing.  He was in his garden one day and in an agitated state.  He was reading the Letters of St. Paul when he heard a child’s voice saying “tolle legetolle lege” (take up and read).  What Augustine read was a turning point in his life and led to his baptism.  He opened the Bible at random and his eyes fell on Romans 13:13–14 which read: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Augustine abandoned his own sensuous ways and became a Christian, a bishop and a saint.

Ebenezer Scrooge is the central character of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic, A Christmas Carol.  His sin was that of avarice, more specifically described in the story as miserliness. He thought of nothing other than how much money he could save. He cared little for his employees and less for their families. In a harrowing sequence of events, he is visited by Jacob Marley, his former partner, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. He is finally awakened to the fact that his miserliness is the cause of his misery and that life is to be enjoyed and happily shared with others. His conversion was a full 180 degrees. Early in the tale, he declared that  “If I had my way, every idiot who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips, would be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Merry Christmas? Bah humbug!” By the end of the story, he says “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

The examples from the Old Testament (King David), the New Testament (St. Paul), the Fourth Century (St. Augustine), and from the world of literature (Ebenezer Scrooge) offer hope to those who have difficulty coming to terms with their own sins. Conversions, with the help of God and good friends, are possible.  Several doctors who performed abortions finally recognized the horror of that they were doing and became pro-life Christians. Sins need not be a permanent feature of one’s character. Grace is available and hope is always on the horizon.

What Are Mental Wellbeing and Mental Health?

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Alicia Nortje, Ph.D.  28-02-2022

List of Mental Disorders

Definition of mental health

The terms ‘mental wellbeing’ and ‘mental health’ are important concepts that are difficult to define.

The World Health Organization (2004) defines mental health in the following way:

  • It is a state of wellbeing,
  • in which the individual realizes their abilities,
  • can cope with the normal stresses of life,
  • can work productively and fruitfully, and
  • can contribute to their community.

Other terms that might be used in the literature include positive mental health, mental capital, and wellbeing, which can be psychological, mental, or subjective (de Cates, Stranges, Blake, & Weich, 2015).

Challenges to the definition of mental health

There are some challenges to the definition of mental health and what it means to be mentally healthy (de Cates et al., 2015; Fusar-Poli et al., 2020).

Mental health is framed as part of a larger set of behaviors that result in a healthy, happy, and meaningful existence (World Health Organization, 2004). Together with physiological health, mental health is considered part of the broader concept of health. However, the determinants of physical health and psychological health are different.

Specifically, to be physically healthy typically implies the absence of illness (Fusar-Poli et al., 2020). The World Health Organization (2004) states that mental health is not limited to the absence of mental illnesses or diseases. For example, just because an MRI scan shows that there are no abscesses or tumors present, it doesn’t imply that someone is mentally healthy.

These two concepts – mental wellbeing and mental illness – are not dependent on each other (de Cates et al., 2015). This implies that patients can present with mental illness and also have high levels of mental wellbeing.

At one point, mental health was considered a collection of symptoms of positive feelings and positive functioning (Keyes, 2002). Keyes (2002) argued that mental health could be measured on a continuum: one end anchored with the presence of mental disorders, and the other, with mental wellbeing.

However, subsequent research now considers mental wellbeing as a separate concept from mental illness and mental distress (see the discussion in de Cates et al., 2015).

For example, patients may experience mental distress in response to stressful events. However, their distress can be considered a normal reaction and a healthy coping mechanism. An example of this is a patient who is grieving. Feelings of grief and possibly depression are normal responses to loss.

Definitions of mental health are also influenced by social, cultural, and historical variables (de Cates et al., 2015). Here are two examples:

  1. Cultures that value independence and autonomy may have different concepts of mental health compared to cultures that favor behavior that benefits the community.
  2. The understanding of mental health and the factors that affect it is influenced by time and societal changes. For example, burnout has been recognized as an occupational phenomenon that arises from poorly managed work stress.

    However, ‘occupational stress’ didn’t exist as a psychological construct before the 40-hour workweek was introduced. In this instance, the concept of occupational stress came into existence when work hours became more structured, and the concept of an ‘occupation’ was born (Weber & Jaekel-Reinhard, 2000).

Tips To Help In Meditating On The Word Of God

the word of god

After Moses died, Joshua was to become the new leader for the Israelites, so God instructed Joshua on his new responsibilities. He said, in part, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Meditating on God’s Word (the Book of the Law) is certainly a biblical concept, and even a command from God (cf. Psalm 1:1–6; 1 Timothy 4:13, 16; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:19–21; Hebrews 4:12; Philippians 4:8). In Deuteronomy 6:6, God tells all the Israelites, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” He then goes on to detail ways to keep His words on their hearts. Deuteronomy 6:6–9 is a good template to follow when looking for ways to meditate on God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children.” This calls to mind a familiar Latin proverb—Docendo discimus, which means, “By teaching, we learn.” Anyone who has taught knows that we learn much more about a subject if we must understand it well enough to explain it to someone else. In instructing His people to teach His Word to their children, God was not only ensuring that the next generation would know His Word, but also ensuring that the people would study and learn His Word for themselves. One practical way to help you meditate on God’s Word is to agree to teach what you are learning from it to someone else.

Deuteronomy 6:7 goes on to say, “. . . and shall talk of them when you sit in your house.” Discussing God’s Word with others in the comfort of our own homes is a great way to keep His Word in the forefront of our minds. It can be done over a meal, while washing dishes, or while folding laundry together. God’s Word should be a regular topic of discussion inside our homes.

Deuteronomy 6:7 continues, “. . . and when you walk by the way.” God’s Word is not to be confined only to discussions within our homes, but also while we are out and about. We can talk about His Word with anyone we meet, and we can even meditate on God’s Word while we travel. Listening to Bible verses set to music while in the car or listening to a dramatic reading of the Bible while working out are other ways to meditate on God’s Word while “on the way.”

Deuteronomy 6:7 ends by saying, “. . . and when you lie down, and when you rise,” which echoes God’s command to Joshua to “meditate on it day and night.” This example of spending time both in the morning and at night communing with God and studying His Word is seen elsewhere in Scripture, too. Ezra read the Law to the people “from early morning until midday” (Nehemiah 8:3). The psalmist in Psalm 119:147–148 says, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.” Jesus Himself rose “very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). And Paul, when teaching the gospel in Troas, “prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). Setting aside time at the beginning and end of each day to read, think about, discuss, or meditate on God’s Word is an important practice.

Deuteronomy 6:8 says, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” God asked His people to have physical markers reminding them of His Word. For us today, that might be a piece of jewelry that reminds us of Scripture or something that brings His Word to mind any time we see it.

God’s instructions to the Israelites end with, “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9). Displaying Scripture in our houses is a great way to keep God’s Word on our minds. Sticky notes posted on the bathroom mirror, above the kitchen sink, or on the dashboard of the car are easy ways to be reminded of different verses. Some people choose more permanent, artistic displays of Scripture to place in their homes, perhaps above the fireplace or in the dining room. Either way, having God’s Word printed and displayed before our eyes will help us to meditate on it.

Later in Deuteronomy, God gave instructions for the men who would rule over Israel. He said, “[The king] shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law . . . And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them” (Deuteronomy 17:18–19). Another way to help us meditate on God’s Word is to handwrite passages of Scripture, copying them directly from the Bible. Because we have to slow down to copy a passage, we’re more likely to notice details from Scripture we would otherwise miss by simply reading the text. Writing by hand has also been proven to boost our ability to comprehend new ideas and retain the information.

This passage not only mentions copying Scripture, but also reading “in it all the days of his life.” Regularly reading Scripture is another important practice. When we read Scripture we should be good observers, asking the questions “who?”, “what?”, “when?”, “where?”, and “how?”. Making a chart to answer these questions can help us slow down and really understand what is in a particular passage of Scripture. Looking for repeated words or phrases helps us know what ideas are being emphasized. And noticing key words like “therefore” or “so that” can reveal the reasons or explanations of why Scripture says what it says.

Another way to meditate on God’s Word and engage with it while reading is to place emphasis on each different word in the verse. For instance, Psalm 23:1 begins, “The LORD is my shepherd.” Emphasizing “THE LORD is my shepherd” would draw our mind to think on the singularity of who God is. Then emphasizing “The LORD is my shepherd” might draw our minds to think about submitting to God as our Lord and Master or to remember how He revealed Himself as the self-existent, personal LORD Yahweh to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Emphasizing “The LORD IS my shepherd” might remind us that God is, has been, and always will be present in our lives. Emphasizing “The LORD is MY shepherd” might lead us to ask if we really have allowed God to be in intimate relationship with us personally. And finally, emphasizing “The LORD is my SHEPHERD” could lead us to study what shepherds did in biblical times, how they cared for their sheep, and what that says about how God cares for us.

A similar practice called lectio divina has you read aloud or listen to Scripture being read aloud three times. The first time, you simply listen to get a feel for what the passage says. The second time, you listen for a word or phrase that stands out to you. And the third time, you ask God to reveal what He wants you to understand about the word or phrase that stood out to you. Basically, any practice that slows our reading of Scripture, asks questions of the text, and engages our minds with the Word of God is a practice that would help us meditate on God’s Word.

We can follow God’s instructions in Deuteronomy 6 for ways to keep His words in our hearts and His instructions in Deuteronomy 17 to learn and know His Word. By using these practices, we can say with the psalmist, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (Psalm 119:15–16).

Abortion is the Real Assault on Women

However joyous the faithful may be over the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion suggesting it will overturn Roe v. Wade, this highly contentious news serves to heighten tensions in an already deeply-divided America. Pro-life Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs. Churches and pregnancy centers have been vandalized and set on fire. Abortion advocates have interrupted Masses, chanting the message, “Without abortion women can’t be free.”

Their provocative statement is a falsely empowering lie that, tragically, even some pro-life Christians believe. Rhetoric insisting that abortion is a woman’s right is embedded in our cultural consciousness, so much so that many are reluctant to condemn abortion even when they recognize the dignity of the fetus. This is where much of the dialogue on this issue remains gridlocked. Abortion is almost always painted as a conflict between the good of the mother and the good of the fetus. It is time we changed the conversation.

Far from being a basic “right,” abortion is deeply damaging to women; it is not the means to a level playing field that its avid supporters believe it to be. This faulty perception relies on decades of accepting a poor societal “solution” to the “problem” of women’s fertility. In addition to doing women serious physical and psychological harm, abortion contributes to a society that is less hospitable to women, not more so. Contrary to widespread misperception, abortion does not expand options for women; it has brought us merely the illusion of “choice.” Abortion is not an equalizer but an assault on women, a poison that masks the ailment but is slowly killing the patient.

In the United States today, women are woefully uninformed about the realities of abortion. By their own accounts, 84 percent of women who have had abortions felt they did not receive adequate counseling prior to the procedure; and 64 percent felt pressured to have an abortion. When women do receive in-depth counseling about potential side effects and risks, only 33 percent choose abortion, as opposed to the 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s patients who choose the procedure. The implications? When informed about the health risks of abortion, the majority of women choose another option.

A view that is truly pro-choice and not merely pro-abortion is one that supports the disclosure of information about the risks associated with abortion. In order to make truly free decisions, women need all the information.

Tragically, they aren’t likely to get it from organizations like Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), both of which publicly declare abortion to be without risks. Their declarations grossly exaggerate the supposed “safety” of the procedure and fail to account for the spectrum of afflictions women can and do experience as a result of abortion.

Studies show a great deal of risk associated with abortion across the spectrum of women’s health and fertility. For example, one study revealed a 44 percent increase in risk for breast cancer after a single abortion, rising to 76-89 percent after multiple abortions. Complications from abortion can include scarring, Asherman’s Syndrome, and incompetent cervix, both of which can result in difficulty carrying future pregnancies to term.

Damage from abortion is not limited to the women who procure them; it can also affect their future children. Studies point to an increased chance of preterm birth of 25-27 percent that rises to 51-62 percent after multiple abortions, with a 71 percent higher chance of a very early preterm birth prior to 26 weeks.

In addition to the health risks, abortion can carry serious psychological consequences for women. Although the American Psychological Association (APA) officially denies the existence of mental health risks associated with abortion, their own research shows a strong correlation to that effect. Another study found an 81 percent incidence of mental health problems in women who had undergone abortion, 10 percent of which was directly attributable to abortion.

Anecdotal evidence supports the idea that abortion causes long-term trauma, as evidenced by the existence of Project Rachel and similar ministries whose charism is to aid in the healing of women who deeply regret choosing abortion.

The suppression of information regarding abortion’s risks in service of expanding access to the procedure runs contrary to the ultimate good of women. While this point might fall on deaf ears at Planned Parenthood and other organizations with a vested financial interest in the perpetuation of abortion on demand, this information is vital to the women who will potentially be harmed by abortion, as well as to those who genuinely seek women’s advancement in good faith.

As many are coming to realize, abortion is not a panacea for women’s inequality. Far from it. Reliance on abortion limits rather than expands options for women. As Gloria Purvis points out, abortion is “integral to upholding systems that oppress women.”

As I argue in Chapter 4 of Reclaiming Motherhood from a Culture Gone Mad, abortion and contraception are coercive technologies. Their widespread use contributes to the structuring of society in such a way that it becomes increasingly difficult to opt out of its use. Fewer children and fewer families result in a society that is less hospitable to families. The less society feels its collective responsibility toward our children, the less likely we are to see policies that support the needs of families.

And reproductive coercion influencing women to forgo motherhood is expanding. Because maternity leave and medical coverage for dependents come with added costs, corporate policies often encourage women to delay or forgo childbearing. Tech companies have even begun offering coverage for egg freezing, a “benefit” that supposedly offers women greater reproductive choice (despite the implied coercive message that women who take their careers seriously ought to delay motherhood in order to establish themselves). Never mind that egg freezing is itself risky, and delays in childbearing age correlate with increased maternal health risks and infertility.

Instead of fighting for the freedom of women to be women—whose fertility and desire for motherhood are integral parts of their identity—abortion advocates insist that our liberty can only be found by muting our fertility and forcing our healthy bodies to mimic those of men. If the single path to freedom in our society is one that requires the stamping out of uniquely feminine abilities, then the problem lies with society and not with women’s bodies. As Leah Jacobson writes, “Rather than elevating culture to appreciate and support women’s bodies, we settled for a culture that says our bodies are for sexual pleasure only, making the right to alter, suppress, and destroy our fertile, life-giving female bodies the supreme ‘women’s right.’”

How can such a narrow view of women’s “rights” account for the needs of those who choose motherhood?

The answer: it doesn’t. If it did, support and funding for women’s childbearing “choices” would not be so asymmetrically skewed in favor of those who choose abortion over those who choose motherhood and carrying to term.

In the state of California, where abortion is nearly as accessible as fast food at a drive-through window, the need for a proposed $61 million in additional abortion funding in the governor’s budget seems dubious. Where is the funding for those who pursue motherhood? In a San Diego Tribune op-ed, women asked: “Where are the recommendations to address the millions of missing housing units, the unaffordable childcare situation, the inadequate prenatal care many women receive, the deadly maternal mortality rate compared to the rest of the developed world, or the dismal state of women’s preventive care?” As Gloria Purvis observes, “When you have this asymmetrical emphasis on funding and marketing towards abortion, that’s not freedom to me. That’s coercion.”

These coercive effects are magnified for women living in poverty, for whom state funding provides easy access to abortion and relatively little support for carrying to term. For women grappling with the realities of poverty, lack of affordable housing, and domestic violence, the idea of having a “choice” feels distant indeed.

“Without abortion, women can’t be free.” An emotionally compelling statement, to be sure. But is there any logical weight to it? Are American women free to choose when they have sex and with whom? If so, it seems that self-restraint is an obvious alternative path to freedom that these protestors hadn’t considered. If not, there is a gravely serious issue we need to address, one that abortion does nothing to solve.

Weak Men Create Hard Times?

strong man

A quote from G. Michael Hopf’s novel Those Who Remain is making the social media rounds for the simple reason that it is obviously true: “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”

So, what is to be done about this obvious truth? The Jekyll and Hyde nature of culture has been referred to as the swing of the pendulum. Given the four self-evident cultural phases, as outlined by Hopf, that cultural stir seems to be much more of a vicious circle than a pendulum.

If the truth of this is something that most of us can readily recognize, while knowing that, historically, these cultural cycles have often been murderously catastrophic, shouldn’t the avoidance of this be paramount in our minds? After two millennia of Christianity, shouldn’t the Church have a formula for avoiding this?

The simple fact is that the Church does indeed have a formula for avoiding this, but in our day, to paraphrase Christ, its light seems to have been relegated to a place under a very thick, heavy bushel basket.

Most of us make a minimal effort at spiritual exercise every Lent, but for the rest of the year it seems that we never cease feasting on Easter candy. What I’m talking about, of course, is our lack of self-denial. Strong men and women don’t stay strong by self-pampering. We always want to reward ourselves. Those who have suffered and fought through hard times always want to thoroughly enjoy the good times they have enabled. We easily forget that nothing would have been gained without the hand of God. We too readily set aside any concern about our weaknesses and concupiscence.

To put it simply, most of us live without regimen; that is, without a lifestyle plan for maintaining spiritual strength. No military force is successful without a regimen. In fact, a military unit may be referred to as a regiment. What is your spiritual regimen?

We Americans are, collectively, the fattest we’ve ever been. It doesn’t seem that most of us have much of a regimen when it comes to eating, drinking, and exercise. And before discussing spiritual regimens, what about all of that eating, drinking, and sitting around? Can we say that these excesses are without a spiritual downside? We think of gluttony as the sin of eating and drinking to excess, but what about eating and drinking like unrestrained children, that is, eating and drinking only things that give us a pleasure fix without regard to health? Is that not a form of gluttony?

If we are not setting an example of any kind of physical regimen to our children, what is the likelihood that we are doing so in the spiritual realm? I would say it is very low. And what about in the area of sexuality? St. Paul advised his spiritual children who were married: “Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer…” which implies that, as married couples, we actually have a prayer life. I think that for most of us, without a plan and time set aside—without a regimen—prayer seldom happens.

So, what about that vicious circle? What are we doing to keep ourselves from going soft? Catholics used to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in a solidarity of remembrance of the Lord’s Passion and death on Good Friday. What are we doing for that remembrance now? Are we spiritually tough? Are we raising spiritually tough children or weak men and women who will create bad times?

Failure to embrace self-discipline invariably becomes its own bleak reward. That is to say that God respects our freedom because without it we’re not truly human, and His respect for our freedom must allow us to fail or freedom is a lie. So it is that we are the only ones who can end the vicious circle, and it can only be accomplished by hard spiritual work—by creating our own “hard times.”

And what exactly is spiritual work, or perhaps more correctly, a spiritual workout? It is anything that has potential to make us holy, which simply means to be made more like our Father in Heaven. It is the work of striving for perfection, the same goal as a serious effort in any pursuit. The attainment of spiritual strength operates under the same set of rules as attaining physical strength. The first order of any self-improvement is to strengthen one’s resolve. Effort in any arena will fail without resolve, the most basic ingredient of success.

I use the word arena very purposefully, as its etymology refers broadly to a sandy place but more specifically to a fighting arena. Attaining holiness is, in many respects, a battle against our own concupiscence, that is, against our tendency to always seek selfish pleasure above all other pursuits. I use the qualifier “in many respects” because it is certainly possible to conquer one’s drive for pleasure for less than holy reasons, for example, for very puritanical reasons; that is, to simply gain the attention and praise of others.

Some historians suggest that, in the Middle Ages, as much as one-third of all adults in Catholic Europe had chosen monastic life: one third of all adults practicing self-denial to the exclusion of sex and wealth and dedicated to a life of prayer and obedience. I have no delusions of the Middle Ages being perfect, or of there being no corrupt monasteries, but there were certainly cultural practices and personal holiness that we would do well to emulate. Monasticism has all but perished in current times, and it has left a gaping spiritual void. In a culture that promotes an extremely low birthrate, where are the parents who are going to promote the monastic life to their children?

Long story short, where are the prayer warriors? Who will step up to the plate to end the vicious circle? Who among us is preparing their children for the battle that is raging around us?

What are the weapons that are available? You know what they are. Let’s make a list. My non-Catholic readers will forgive this very Catholic list and will find similar means within their own traditions.

Sunday Mass is a given, but how about daily Mass? Daily Mass may not be a possibility for everyone, but it is available to a lot more of us than are currently availing ourselves.

Reading Scripture. The contemplation of Scripture cannot be overestimated. It is the stuff of sainthood.

Eucharistic adoration. Spending time with the Lord is priceless. It’s an opportunity to shut off the noise that engulfs our lives and just listen with our hearts.

A daily examination of conscience and an act of contrition. If a spiritual regimen has an absolute bare minimum, this would be it.

Reconciliation. This powerful sacrament fuels a myriad of virtues, outstanding among them, humility—so much grace channeled into so powerful a virtue. It is the singular grace that will flood our examinations of conscience with the sunshine of Truth.

Morning offering. I’m reminded here of the daily regimen practiced in my career. Every morning started with pouring through my Franklin day planner, noting the times of meetings and setting goals and expectations for the day. Similarly, making a morning offering prayer is the perfect time for the reciprocal of your evening examination of conscience—it’s an opportunity to prepare or review your day’s battle plan for avoiding sin and pleasing God.

The Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. For me these are best accomplished when on a walk or lying in bed unable to sleep. (In the latter case, the Rosary often goes incomplete. But we’re in good company, as St. Thérèse admitted to usually falling asleep during her evening Rosary.) Contemplation of the mysteries of Christ’s life is the best medicine for the soul.

Abstinence. This is a broad term. It can refer to abstinence from meat on Friday in remembrance of our Lord’s sacrifice, a long-standing Church tradition, or it can mean abstaining from anything as a means of self-denial, a tempering of the will. Sacrifice makes us strong.

Fasting. This may not be possible for some whose livelihood requires heavy physical labor, which is not so many of us in our industrialized world, but for the rest of us this is a formidable weapon of self-denial—a win/win for both body and soul.

Virginity. If there is a single weapon that will save future marriages, it is virginity. Maintaining virginity requires unyielding self-discipline and diligence. By and large, virgins who marry virgins don’t divorce. It’s a simple fact of life, one that nearly no one is talking about. You were born a jackpot winner. No state lottery could give you a greater prize than the one you were born with. Your virginity is the greatest, most romantic gift you could ever give to your mate; and as a monastic or holy single person, it is the greatest gift you can give to your Creator. Purity of one’s state in life is the beginning of perfection.

Obedience. This is a tough one. The toughest. What military unit functions without it? What battles are won with a brigade of ne’er-do-well, disobedient slackers? If we allow our children to disobey, we are destroying their future and the future of humanity. And how about our spouses? We promised to obey them. Did no one explain to us that it would be a sacrifice? The toughest sacrifice? And how about obedience to Church teaching—to biblical teaching? Are we creating our own soft Church? Soft on this, that, or the other thing? —don’t pretend you don’t know the list.

Doritos for the Eucharist?

It’s true: the Church has the power to change the form and matter of sacraments. So does this mean we may someday receive Doritos and Pepsi at Mass?

Doritos Flamin Hot Nacho Chips Are A Thing And Are Here To Stay—Is The Snack World Ready?

One of the crowning moments in my life was during the ritual of crowning, when I heard my priest chant three times, “The servant of God, Michael, is crowned in marriage for the servant of God, Stacy, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” It was in this moment that I was given over to my wife to a life of sacramental union.

As important as these words are to the sacrament of marriage in the Byzantine Catholic Church, it is likely something most Latin Rite Catholics have not heard of. This is because the sacrament of marriage, like some of the other sacraments, is celebrated with great diversity in the Catholic Church.

The differences are especially seen when someone compares the minister of the sacrament in the Roman Rite to the Byzantine Rite. In the Roman Rite, the current Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) notes that the spouses are the ministers, who confer the grace of the sacrament upon one another (1623), whereas an older version of the Catechism notes that in the Byzantine Rite, “the priest or bishop” confers the sacrament upon the spouses (1623).

The difference in the minister of the sacrament in these two traditions raises many questions. For example, how can the Church have two different ministers in two different rites for the same sacrament if Christ instituted the sacraments, as the Council of Trent proclaimed?

To make matters even more complicated, the Catholic Church has altered conditions for the validity of this sacrament—formerly recognizing secret marriages as valid, whereas after the Council of Trent’s twenty-fourth session, clandestine marriages are considered invalid. The council explicitly states,

Although it is not to be doubted that clandestine marriages made with the free consent of the contracting parties are valid and true marriages . . . the holy Church of God has for very just reasons at all times detested and forbidden them. . . . Since the Church . . . cannot correct this evil unless a more efficacious remedy is applied, therefore . . . in the future . . . those who shall attempt to contract marriage otherwise than in the presence of the parish priest or of another priest authorized by the parish priest or by the ordinary and in the presence of two or three witnesses, the holy council renders absolutely incapable of thus contracting marriage and declares such contracts invalid and null.

This means the Church openly added a condition for validity to a sacrament that had not been previously there!

Fr. John W. O’Malley shares this interpretation of Trent:

In actual fact, however, the council made changes that were innovations, not simply a burnishing of past laws. The decree Tametsi is the clearest example of such innovations. It stipulated that henceforth the church would consider no marriage valid unless witnessed by a priest.

To top it off, Pope Paul VI altered the form and matter of anointing of the sick. In his apostolic constitution on the sacrament, the pope changed the formula used to administer the sacrament and expanded the matter to include oils other than olive oil.

With changes to the minister of a sacrament, impositions of additional requirements for validity, and alterations to the matter and form of a sacrament, someone may wonder where the line is drawn! Is everything up for grabs? Can the Church change the matter of the Eucharist from bread and wine to Doritos and Pepsi, for example? Lastly, how can the Church determine different sacramental standards for different rites?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first define a couple of terms. Professor and Theologian Dr. Lawrence Feingold offers an excellent summary of form and matter:

The sacramental sign is composed of (a) sensible elements and/or gestures, and (b) a formula of words that further determines the meaning of the sensible elements (p. 134).

In fine, the sensible element is the matter, and the meaning given to the matter is the form. For example, in the sacrament of baptism for the Roman Rite, the matter is water, and the form is “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1240). Whereas in the Eastern liturgies, the matter is water, but the form is “The servant of God, N., is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (ibid). In both cases, the substantial meaning added to the matter is the same.

The good news is there is a method to the madness of “changing sacraments.” First, let’s note in what way Christ instituted the seven sacraments. Feingold rightly observes that the Council of Trent teaches that Christ instituted all seven sacraments, but he did not specify their particular matter and form in every case (p. 106). This means that the Church has been given considerable power over the administration of the sacraments. This is why Pope Pius XII says, in the context of the Church adding requirements for sacramental validity, “Everyone knows that the Church has the power to change and abrogate what she herself has established.” Where did the Church get this power? The Council of Trent answers,

It [the council] furthermore declares, that this power has ever been in the Church, that, in the dispensation of the sacraments, their substance being untouched, it may ordain, or change, what things soever it may judge most expedient, for the profit of those who receive, or for the veneration of the said sacraments, according to the difference of circumstances, times, and places.

Some may wonder how far this power extends. In other words, at what point does this power given to the Church run out?

Feingold offers an answer: “if a sacramental form is so changed that it no longer signifies the substantial meaning, purpose, or effects of the sacrament, then it will cease to be valid” (p. 169).

This is one of the reasons why the sacrament of the Eucharist cannot be changed to use Doritos and Pepsi. In this case, the body and blood of Christ are no longer signified by the signs of chips and soda, which means that the substantial meaning has been lost. Moreover, though Christ gave the Church significant power to alter the sacraments in certain cases, he personally determined the matter and form of the sacrament of the Eucharist on the night in which he was betrayed. This means, even if Doritos and Pepsi do not alter the meaning of the sacrament, the church does not have the authority to undo what Christ has determined.

To answer the final question, about the sacramental diversity among the various rites, this is how the Church can account for different conditions for validity in different rites: it has the authority from Christ to determine how and when a sacrament can be conferred, with a few exceptions, as noted above. For this reason, the Church, which is the steward of the “mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1), is most certainly able to alter various aspects of the sacraments when it sees fit.