Faith, pop culture, and headline reflections from Fr. Mike Schmitz.
Why Married Couples Must Be Open to Children
Do you have any “expectations” when you think about marriage?
A lot of us probably think of marriage as broadly the same thing: two people coming together in love to spend the rest of their lives together. But when we start to dive into the specifics of that idea, it’s important to recognize what expectations are of the world, and which are of God.
One of these expectations could be the willingness to have kids. The Church teaches, however, that in the case of sacramental marriage, it is asked and even expected of the couple that they be open to life throughout their marriage. This is why the priest performing the ceremony and marriage prep asks the couple if they are freely, fruitfully, fully, and faithfully entering the sacrament with their spouse.
Unfortunately, our world often tells us that marriage doesn’t need to be open to life. People will even sometimes say it’s selfish and reckless to bring children into a world that is so broken. But the truth of the matter is that a marriage can’t be sacramental without an openness to life, and that’s a big deal.
Children are the purpose of marriage. It’s the one relationship where people have kids. Now, of course, people have sex outside of marriage that could result in kids, but we recognize that the act of sex is best placed in the context of a commited, lifelong relationship, such as marriage. Because of this, an openness to children must be present in a relationship for that couple to pursue a sacramental marriage. It’s a gift of self to another, ordered towards the procreation and education of children.
Now, what about couples who can’t have kids, or are past the age of childbearing? Those marriages are no less sacramental than the ones that have children, so long as they’re still open to the procreation of children. It’s the orientation towards the task of procreation that’s important, not the achievement of it.
Bottom line is, sacramental marriage is a gift of self towards another, totally, fruitfully, fully, and faithfully. Without an openness to life and the procreation of children, this gift of self is not full, and therefore does not hold the ability to be a sacrament of God. It’s an essential part of God’s plan for romantic intimacy, and must be separated from whatever “expectations” the world may have for marriage.
Why You Can’t Put Your Faith in People
Have you ever been shaken by a scandal in the Church?
It’s hard not to have been, especially amidst scandals on a major scale or ones involving people we’ve looked up to and loved. When these things come to light, it’s common for people to start to blame the Church, and—sometimes—to leave their faith. If we feel the need to reexamine our belief in God and the Church because of something someone else did, maybe our faith should have been in God and not a person who’s broken just like us.
We’re incredibly blessed to have such a vast community of Christian believers in our world who strive towards the way of Christ and in many ways dedicate their lives to the service of others. But just because they’re followers of Christ doesn’t mean they’re perfect. As humans we have a natural inclination towards sin that we’ve inherited from the first sin of Adam. And it’s important that we see this for what it is, because if we put our faith in anyone other than our Creator, we put our faith in someone that can’t satisfy our hearts.
Let’s ask God to help us build a stronger relationship with him so that always look to the foundation of the Church and the faithfulness of God instead of putting our hope in the ways of man.
Why Are We So Divided Right Now?
Is it just us, or does the world seem a bit divided right now?
Human beings were not only created with a unique purpose, but also created to live in community. However, there are two things that can disrupt this call: division and distraction. Why these two? Well, distractions are things that take us away from a given task or goal, taking us away from living with a purpose. Likewise, division takes away from living in community with those around us.
The twentieth century brought with it innumerable inventions of distraction: things like television, radio, computers, etc. All of these products are great innovations that have moved us forward in our abilities to create community and showcase our unique strengths, but they’ve also put distraction at our fingertips.
It’s not just technology that has caused distractions either. We can become distracted by virtually anything: chores, work, leisurely activities. But when we’re distracted, we’re held back from the task at hand, and the ongoing task for all of us is to live in community, and live with purpose.
What does that mean for something like politics? Well, if you’re American, you basically have two political responsibilities as an American citizen: educate yourself well on the politics in your country, and vote whenever elections come around. Anything other than those two tasks are distractions from the purpose of politics.
When it comes to division, our country has definitely had its fair share. So how do we fight against this division that seems to be splitting our country? Through conversation and through kindness. We’re called to be united in community with those around us, so much so that Jesus refers to them as our brothers and sisters. Division won’t be conquered easily, but if we’re willing to converse, listen, and treat each other with kindness, we can get a couple strides closer to the community God desires for us.
Which Is Better? The Rosary vs. The Chaplet
“What if I don’t have time to pray both The Rosary and The Divine Mercy Chaplet?”
Deciding how to spend your time in prayer can be difficult, especially when you’re deciding between two powerhouse prayers like The Rosary and The Chaplet. Let’s look at each of them.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy was gifted to Saint Faustina during a vision of Jesus. In this vision, he listed 14 promises (https://www.divinemercy.org/elements-...) to those who pray the chaplet. In the chaplet, the prayers revolve around the concepts of mercy and holiness for the whole world, and reflect the prayers and promises we make during the Mass. It’s an extremely powerful prayer for not only our own souls, but the sanctification of the world.
On the other hand, we have The Rosary, which is an act of love toward the Mother of Jesus, who was given to us at the crucifixion. This prayer has been recommended countless times by almost every saint who’s ever lived—and by Mary herself in several apparitions! The Rosary is a reflection on not only Mary’s life, but the life and miracles of Jesus as well. It allows us to enter into those moments with Jesus, the apostles, and Mary by way of meditation.
So, should we spend time in prayer on The Chaplet—which probably takes about 5-10 minutes—or on The Rosary, which will take maybe 20-30 minutes?
Why not both?
If you don’t feel like you have enough time for prayer, that’s worth looking into. The reality is, you don’t have to pray The Rosary every day, and you don’t have to pray The Chaplet every day. But why not pray both as much as you can? These prayers are gifts God has given every willing Christian, and they are pathways to Heaven. So why not?
Is It Ever Okay to Give Up?
You may have seen the movie Rudy. Its eponymous protagonist is a not-so-athletic college football player who spent years taking hits and practicing with his team, only to see a few moments on the field. Those short moments, however, left him with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and pride, knowing that he committed to something and saw it through, even when it seemed hopeless.
The question: is that always the right approach? Maybe if Rudy had dedicated that time to learning something he was naturally better at, he could have become an expert in his field. The choice Rudy made was made out of passion: he loved the game to the point of dedicating his college career to it, and not caring if the outcome wasn’t what he had expected.
But what about bigger dreams? The dream of getting married, having kids, getting into a certain religious order, entering into a certain profession? Is there ever a point where you just have to give it up?
There are a few things it’s never okay to give up. It’s never okay to give up hope itself. Hope is trust in the Lord extended into the future, knowing that he will always be with you in whatever circumstances you find yourself in. It’s also never okay to give up faith, God’s promises, or life itself.
However, it is okay—and sometimes wise—to reevaluate certain outcomes, and realize that maybe it’s time to adjust your expectations. How do you know when to do that? When reality makes it obvious.
For Rudy, that might have meant recognizing that he wasn’t going to be a starter on his football team. It’s still okay for him to want to be a part of the team in some way, and maybe get playing time one day, but reality must be acknowledged and accepted in these situations, or else we risk chasing empty expectations.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams, or that you can’t do anything: it just means you can’t do everything. Maybe your dream is to have a family, but you and your spouse can’t get pregnant. You might not be able to conceive, but you can still adopt, or be a foster parent. Accepting the reality of your current situation means having a dream, realizing it’s place in your life, and then asking, “Okay God, now what do you want me to do?”
The outcome may not be what you had expected or planned, but if it’s with the Lord, it will still be good. And once we accept this reality, we will start to see that the real work is being done in our character, and that’s the power of trying. It may not make you the kind of person you had planned to be, but it will make you the kind of person that God wants you to be.
The Real Answer to Why God Allows Suffering
Playing a video game called Injustice helps Fr. Mike explain the real answer to why God allows suffering.
In Injustice, Superman becomes a totalitarian dictator in his attempt to try and eliminate evil. Batman tries to tell him, in trying to eliminate evil he has ceased to do good, because without the freedom to choose evil, we don’t really have the freedom to choose good either.
Couldn’t God do better than Superman though? Couldn’t he just fix everything by bringing us back to the Garden of Eden? Anyone who is a parent knows that doesn’t work because God’s children—us—would just mess up again.
So what does God actually do? He doesn’t eliminate evil. He draws close to us in the midst of evil. He suffers a painful death. He descends to the depths of hell. He doesn’t take away suffering. He transforms it and redeems it by entering into it. This led St. Paul to say:
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).
St. John Paul II said in suffering we receive a sliver of the Cross. Our suffering matters because Christ’s suffering matters and we are his body. All we have to do is tell God to use our suffering. Nothing given to God is ever wasted, so give it to God.