Tag Archives: cross

Lent grooms us for Heaven

I recently heard a Catholic say, “We have enough problems these days – why do we need Lent to suffer even more?” He was serious.

Christine Valentine-Owsi

Today, suffering in any form is disdained and seen as unnecessary and unsophisticated. Even in Church circles, there’s the greatest emphasis on mercy, yet scant notice of God’s justice.

Well, not so fast.

St. Ambrose, 4th-century bishop and doctor of the Church who fought early heresies and faith errors, said: “God is displeased not only with the sinner, but also with him who does not punish sin. For if there were more to punish sin, there would be less sin.”

But today it’s fashionable to let things ride, dispense from penalty, even blame the victim instead of the perpetrator.

This is why modernity has become the perfect breeding ground for liberalism, where ‘freedom of choice’ eclipses right and wrong. Liberalism actually denies natural law – which God has inscribed in our hearts. When crime isn’t consistently punished, or parents won’t oppose kids’ sinful choices, or depravity is rewarded … voila! … we get an amoral society without respect for anyone. Especially for God.

Secular liberals exhibit vapid intolerance for any person or scenario which contradicts their credo. Yet their act-outs – like bullying in public those they dislike; demanding the ‘right’ to eliminate preborn or newborn infants; parading unnatural sexual behavior; even intimidating Christians into a sort of public square practical atheism – are lauded as forward-thinking. Many Catholics unwittingly play into this, and recoil at defending God’s law for fear of losing comrades or comfort.

But Christ Himself gave us the key to lasting friendship with Him: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mat 16:24). He asks for our voluntary self-denial in doing His will, in surrendering what we naturally like – our comfort zones – in order to please Him. The very things He requires of us will separate the sheep from the goats. Our own final judgment by Christ won’t be politically correct, but it will be eternally just.

Catholic teaching says that omission of punishment of sin is a participation in its guilt. God forgives sin, but we must redress offenses to Him before we can be admitted to Heaven. Further, our own mortification before Him shows our willingness to surrender our most precious possession – our self-will.

It is for this purpose that we have the gift of Lent. Our sins – those confessed already – must be expiated before God, easier done now. We each owe a personal debt that’s incomplete in satisfaction. In addition, we must re-orient our interior and exterior demeanor to be properly mortified for Heaven.

The late Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J. explained it this way.

“Only mortified persons are willing to love God in the patient endurance of whatever crosses He sends them. If we are willing to mortify (“cause death to”) our self-will in this world, we shall gain eternal life in the world to come. On these terms, only mortified people will enter Heaven.”

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Why marry in the church?

Today, only 25 percent of those identifying as “Catholic” marry sacramentally in the Catholic Church. And within that segment, many don’t attend Mass, catechize their own children, or embrace spiritual order. Other adult Catholics who were raised in the faith, even married in the Church, concede to their kids skipping the sacrament of Holy Matrimony altogether in favor of indulgent alternatives. Education, comfort and opportunity have brought society a long way. But to where?

Christine Valentine-Owsik

The reason for sheltering marriage under the protective wing of Christ has been largely forgotten. Today, the divorce rate among Catholics is indistinguishable from society at large.

Except in a little nondescript town near Croatia – where there are no marriage breakups. A priest recently relayed their story in a sermon.

“The Cross of Christ has a special place in that town,” he said. “When a Catholic couple there stands at the altar to be married, the priest tells them ‘you have found your cross.’” The couple brings a special crucifix to the ceremony, the priest blesses it, and they keep both their hands upon it. They promise to be faithful to God and the precepts of the Church. They conclude by kissing the cross – not each other. Bringing the same crucifix back to their home, they give it a place of honor from that day on, to remember to go before Jesus for help with any problem.

Catholics have historically approached the sacrament of Holy Matrimony in earnest, vowed to embrace God’s will for their life and its direction, accept children willingly, and persevere through good times and bad. They couldn’t know all that might lie ahead, but they committed and trusted in God’s fortification.

He had good reason to create the First Couple in complementarity – male and female – and to validate their purpose from the beginning. “… male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…’” (Gen 1: 27-28). At the wedding feast of Cana, the bride and groom invited Christ and His mother as honored witnesses – and were helped immediately – even miraculously – in their need before thinking to ask their esteemed Guest for it (John 2: 1-12).

This circles back to why marrying in the Church makes an interminable difference.

If man’s purpose is to align with God, bring others to Him, and live happily with Him in eternity, God will certainly assist spouses along their journey if He’s invited. Numerous studies over recent decades have shown that among the happiest and least-stressed of people are those who pray regularly and practice their Christian faith.

In Catholic faith-practice, Holy Matrimony is vital for a reason. Christ anticipates spouses’ need for His special grace and intervention – for themselves, and in raising their children. Through sacramental marriage, He blesses them. And when each remains faithful to Him, He channels what is needed, in good times and in bad, spiritually and temporally.

The Lord’s is the most important wedding invitation, and His gift is beyond compare.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Editor.