Culture

I have a class on global cultures, specifically focusing on Ireland. We have to write a page a week, and I decided to post some of this weeks thoughts. Enjoy!

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            The more that I learn about any culture, the more I realize and am fascinated by the fact that each culture is just made up of ordinary people. People that together make up the human race; all having the same desires and fears, and yet the environment that they live in changes how they pursue what they desire and turn away from what they fear. The change in culture is really that change of path of one way that they seek to satisfy the basic desires of happiness and fulfillment to something another way; in this case, a way that others in the world have already sought. This desire is to create in us a thirst for God and His life, but because of our sinful nature, we are distracted and think that pleasures are equal to happiness.

            In my understanding of what I’ll call “the old Irish way”, the Catholic faith was the single most deciding factor in the way a person acted. The family was important, because it was the place that you could show and practice the love that brought happiness. Communities came together, worshiped together, and therefore lived and learned to love together. However, somewhere along the line the understanding of what it really meant to be Catholic got lost, and so no longer gave the sense of fulfillment and happiness that a healthy relationship with God gives. Instead, well meaning souls rejected the effort of learning to know God, and therefore had a more difficult time in loving and serving Him. While serving Him was still a priority, without knowledge and love to give them energy, the service became empty and repressive.

            Therefore, the Irish people began to become dissatisfied with the way they were—and while still valuing the effects of the Faith, they saw the alluring effects of modern consumerism. The shift changed from valuing their Faith most highly to valuing the economy most highly. While it was not completely noticeable at first, it continued slipping in and now each person is a slave to their wants under the guise of moving up in globalization and modernity.

            This rejection of the core of the Catholic Faith has and will continue to impact Irish culture. In the video, they mentioned that there is a shortage of organ donors, so they want to pass legislation that states that a persons organs will be donated unless they have explicitly made their intentions know otherwise. This is a horrible thing; it degrades the human person by not recognizing the dignity that each one has. In organ donation, it is necessary to take the organs while the person still has the potentiality of life. It is impossible to take a vital organ that is no longer working, place it in a person that is alive, and expect it to work; the organ must have the potential to work in order to do any good in the body of the person who receives it. Therefore, with organ donation the life of a person is shortened; by passing such legislation, they will be denying the dignity of each person that has not taken a firm stance, and submitting them to the wants of another person. This also gives less incentive to keep those who are seriously ill (on life support) alive any longer, because their bodies can be of use to others. This just creates a very slippery slope, desensitizing society to the value of any persons life.

            Ireland is in the same struggle as the rest of the civilized world to be the same and different; yet as all countries need to discover, constantly striving after individualism and consumerism does not bring unity or diversity in a good way. Desiring happiness and fulfillment can not be fully achieved in this world, but by ordering our lives instead of becoming animals whose rationality serves passing pleasures we can better achieve true happiness and fulfillment in the dignity of every person.

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Never change

Once in awhile, a small comment I receive keeps my thoughts occupied for a long time. I received one such comment today. Someone at work told me “you always look so elegant…don’t change. Some homeschoolers, after they graduate, think that they have to change and ‘get with the times’. Never change.” Although I may not always wear the same clothes, do my hair the same way, have the youthful appearance that I have now, I think there is a deeper point.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that (paraphrasing) “when you meet someone after many years and they say, ‘my, how you have changed!’ – there is something that remains the same. If there was not, they would not recognize you at all.” That something that remains the same, is the core of the personality that God has given each of us as humans. Father Kentenich often admonished us to “remain genuine”.

This is not to say that we can not grow and mature. We just have the task to always remain genuine to the person that God created us to be! It is so easy to get caught up in following the crowd…and then we lose God – and in losing God, we lose ourselves. The best way to find ourselves is to find God. If we ask and listen, He will show us the proper expression of our personality. Although it may not always be pleasant, we will have the “pendulum security” (another expression of Fr. Kentenich) of being held firm even as life swings us from one extreme to the other.

Lately I have often been wondering how the impressions of California will affect me. I am trying to not only prepare physically for leaving, but also prepare spiritually. I believe that I have a strong personality, and God has blessed me with many graces…but how do I prepare for the unknown, prepare for the temptations, sorrow, sacrifices and dicipline that will be necessary? I have only lived with my family, and for as long as I remember, I have lived in semi-rural areas. I have only had to live with other people for limited amounts of time (retreats, camps, pilgrimage, etc.).  If I don’t want to encounter certain people and/or situations, it is simple – I minimize my contact with them! Although I see them sometimes, there is always plenty to do at home and with family. I have been blessed with the opportunity to avoid much of the “junk” that assails the average person.

Although I generally do not have to deal with popular culture on a daily basis, I often feel the many effects of societies sinful undercurrent. My family is not perfect by any account, and is not untouched by worldly ideas. My circumstances are not picture perfect, the people I associate with are not all saints. Very few people I know share my ideals; some ignore them, some scoff at them, some are indifferent. But somehow our Blessed Mother has chosen me for herself, has protected me, and has formed me past anything I can take credit for. In this I find confidence that everything will turn out fine…I will never change…I will remain genuine.

Temptation

Temptation is one of those constant obstacles that we must face and overcome throughout our entire life…

First of all, what exactly is temptation? It is the enticement by the devil to disorder our nature, and lead us away from God. The devil recognizes our desires for a good, and he makes an empty promise that evil will fill such a desire. It often provides an empty pleasure, but nothing more than that…and it slowly but surely makes it harder to give up that pleasure, however empty it is. As I wrote in my article Society…independence…God : “As our world seeks pleasure rather than the Source of pleasures, it is ruining itself. It seems as though we are picking the blossoms off of the tree, and then wondering why the tree never bears fruit! We grab things from the outside, taking momentary delight in them – and yet never seek the true source from whence it comes. Some seek money, some seek power, some seek bodily gratification, some seek comfort, some seek laziness, and all become slaves to pleasure.”

There are many kinds of temptations: but all are a denial to use our human nature and free will in the way that God wishes, and so we have to pay the consequences. When we do things against God’s natural plan for us, we become slaves to our nature, and further disordered. This is why it is so necessary to avoid and resist temptations! And we, personally, are not the only ones who “pay the consequences” … our actions have an effect on society as a whole. As humans, as societal beings – if we submit to becoming weaker, we are also submitting to the weakening of society. We have to remember that life and all it’s “features” are a gift, not a right. We must “obey the directions of the manufacturer”. For example, if someone gave you a lawn mower to use, you wouldn’t trim hedges with it…while it might cut the bushes, you are also more in danger of hurting yourself and anyone who is near – not to mention the probability of ruining the mower.

What are the “directions of the manufacturer”? The purpose of a lawn mower is to mow grass…what is our purpose? We are told in basic Catechism: “Why did God make us?” “God made us to know, love, and serve Him in this world, and be forever happy with Him in the next.” God is Love, and He loved us so much that He wants our love in return; He gave us the blessed ability to love Him in return. In knowing God, we love Him. And if we know and love Him, we will strive to serve Him according to His “plan in time” for our lives.

In order to truly enjoy natural pleasures, we need to use them in their correct context. The pleasure we receive from eating is ruined when we gorge ourselves; the purpose of eating is to sustain life, and so we feel sick if we eat too much. Sexual pleasure was made for the context of marriage, where man and woman are participants in God’s creativity through communal love; to use it out of that context may bring empty pleasure, but no more. Possesions are a “good” that God has given us – but it can be a means of our destruction if we become avaricious. And so on…

The more I think about temptation, the more I feel ill-qualified to write about it. There are many examples to look to in the lives of the saints: St. Augustine had to flee his former way of life in order to gain purity…St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Joseph Moscati had to overcome the temptation to discouragement…and the list goes on. Keep in mind that the saints are humans who have attained the crown of sanctity: they give us examples for our lives. We can find comfort in their weakness and strength! Comfort in their weakness – they also had temptations, failings, struggles, suffering; comfort in their strength of their love of God. Through love they were able to rise after each fall; without love (and without Love) it would be difficult…no, it would be impossible…to have risen to such union [with God]. Temptation is not a sin unless it has been willingly encouraged; sinning is the giving into temptation. And yet if we fail, we have a most merciful God who always wants to welcome us back and reconcile us to Himself and to His Church. We are all united in Christ, so when one person is weak, it affects the entire body; but as part of the same body, we can also draw from each other’s strength.

The road is long and hard, but “as long as we keep our face to the Light on the Cross, we will not see the shadows”. Avoid temptation, do not seek it! Keep your eyes focused on Christ, ever moving forward; and that faith and trust will lead you through. May God give us strength!

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Here is part of a sermon by St. Francis De Sales: Temptation . I strongly suggest that you read it, there are many things that he explains so much better than I. 🙂

United in Christ,
Lisa