Sin is the cause of endless misery today – and yet, most suffering from despondency never attribute it to immorality. Why would they? Most don’t practice faith in Christ, and of those who do, many no longer hear straight talk about sin. Catholic clarity is hard to come by now, and “right” and “wrong” seem relative. But when you hear a good shepherd who’s fearless in imparting Catholic teaching – even facets which cause squirming and discomfort – you don’t forget him. And you don’t soon forget his message.
All around us people are harried, confused, and rattled … by viruses, scandals, elections, traffic, jobs, weather, stocks, you name it. There’s no shortage of legitimate ‘concerns’ apart from God’s. People have vacations to plan, budgets to review, wardrobes to update, social calendars to coordinate. Incessant angst, impatience, and competitiveness are part of the grind … yet the utter purpose of life gets totally forgotten.
But here’s a simple truth: when we love and worship God properly first, His laws and teachings come naturally – and in turn, He keeps us under His protection. We’re happier. But if we rebuff Him, we slide down the cool slope of sin, degree by degree – rationalizing it, seeing it as necessary, losing our horror of it. Before we know it, we’re okay with just about anything the world serves up – and we think we’re content – but we’re fighting an inner anxiety we can’t escape.
I remember that day in my life over 25 years ago. We were new in town, and a local priest invited me to a class he was teaching on the popes through history, and their key writings. His engaging homilies had gotten my attention in church, so I thought he’d be an interesting teacher. I was about to get the lesson of my life.
I was late to the first evening’s class, working for a large pharmaceutical client and finishing a project that afternoon. I hurried in still in my suit, and looked around seeing mothers feeding their babies, and a few veiled women holding rosaries. I wondered if I was in the wrong place. The priest motioned me to a seat in front of him. They were finishing up opening prayers – which I didn’t recognize.
Then the night’s papal-encyclical handout came around, called Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI. Huh, never heard of it.
Well, no matter. I was soon frozen by Father’s elucidations – on related sins, purpose of marriage, rearing children, birth control, bioethical issues, lots of stunning stuff. My eyeballs veered left and right, to see if others were as shocked. Everyone seemed fine except me. This was Catholic teaching? Since when? I was sweating, angry, and anxious for the coffee break so I could leave.
Running into our house, I grabbed the dusty Catechism and looked up the citations. It was all there. I’d never heard it.
But I had no excuse anymore. That weekend, I made the hardest Confession of my life, and it reset my course forever.
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.