Get Serious!

A Survival Guide For Serious Catholics

Father James Farfaglia is a featured priest on our website from time to time and his new book is now available for purchase.  The book takes an in depth look and lays out concrete plans on surviving this pagan culture with our family and souls in tact.

Father Farfaglia’s insightful book on spiritual development covers a wide terrain and could just as easily been called “True Catholic Life.”  It is for the young.  It is for non-Catholics.  It is for the devout.  In short, Get Serious! is a book for everyone serious about a deeper relationship with God. -Michael H. Brown -editor of Spirit Daily and author of more than twenty books.

Father JamesFarfaglia’s new book entitled “Get Serious! A Survival Guide For Serious Catholics,” is a must read for all those trying to grow in holiness in an ever more hostile culture.  The book is a how-to-guide for deepening one’s relationship God, and learning how to “fight the good fight.”  Father James’ straight forward approach will make you pause and reflect on your own life, and hopefully encourage you to make the necessary changes so that you will be prepared to do battle in the days ahead. -Jeff Gares- Co-founder of Courageous Priest.com.

To purchase Get Serious! A Survival Guide For Serious Catholics, click here:

On This Rock!

I Will Build My Church!

A homily by Father James Farfaglia @ donotbediscouraged.com

Our Times Provide Countless Opportunities To Be Heroically Faithful

This Sunday’s gospel passage directs our gaze to Rome, the center of Catholicism.  As Catholics, our identity, meaning and direction only have fulfillment in so far as we are united to the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of the Church.   The challenging times that we live in provides countless opportunities to be heroically faithful to the Magisterium of the Church.

In order to continue his work on earth and lead all peoples to eternal salvation, Jesus established one visible and hierarchical Church.  It is very clear from the continual preparation of the Jewish people in the Old Testament and then with the precise act of Jesus in Cesarea Philippi, that God willed to found one Church as a visible, hierarchical, living and continuing authority, to teach, govern and sanctify in his name.  It is no less clear that Jesus appointed the Apostle Simon the fisherman as the visible head of his Church. Even as he conferred the authority, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter; i.e. rock.  The name Peter had never existed prior to this divine event in Cesarea Philippi.

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16: 17-19).

“Peter” Means Rock

Throughout biblical history, when God called someone for a particular mission, he usually changed the name of the person called.  The changed name denoted the mission of the particular individual and a change in that person’s destiny.

Abram was given the name Abraham, a name that means the father of many nations (Genesis 17: 5).  John the Baptist was not named Zechariah, but rather John, meaning Yahweh is gracious (Luke 1: 13). The angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to name her son Jesus which means Savior (Luke 1: 32).  Jesus gave Peter a new name.  That name was Peter.  The name Peter had never existed before Jesus gave him this new name.  Peter means rock. When Jesus said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church,” the words this rock refer to Peter.

Many people argue that the use of the word rock does not refer to Peter at all.  They point out that in the Greek text Petros (Peter) is a masculine noun and that petra (rock) is a feminine noun.  Therefore the two rocks do not match up.

The original Gospel of Matthew was written in Aramaic, a language that does not make a distinction between petros and petra.  In Aramaic, the word for rock is kepha.  In the original Aramaic kepha is used the same way twice.  Your are kepha and on this kepha I will build my Church.   Since the Greek word for rock, petra, is feminine, it would have been inappropriate for the Greek translator of the Aramaic text to give Peter, Petros, a feminine name.  Thus the distinction between Petros and petra.

When studying Scripture it is also important to consider the writings of the Fathers of the early Church.   Not one, including those who spoke Greek, ever had a problem with this understanding of Peter as the head of the Church.

We Must Stand Steadfast And Hold To The Truth In This Difficult Time

Trials and tribulations will always be a part of the Church because it is not merely a human entity.  The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and Satan will continue to attack it until the Second Coming.  Perhaps history will judge our age as presenting the most formidable challenges the Catholic Church has had to face, although it is true that there have been other dramatic moments in the history of the Church.

The Catholic Church is the only institution in human history that has continually survived its own problems and failures.  As G.K. Chesterton once said, this is true, “because it has a God who knew his way out of the grave.”  Jesus assures us of his continual presence and protection: “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18).

Rather than becoming discouraged, angry, or even rebellious during a difficult time in history, we must stand fast through prayer and fidelity. We must always pray for our Church and always trust that God will deliver us from all evil.  The words that Thomas Paine wrote in 1776 are equally true today as they were then: “These are times that try men’s souls.”

Every Member Of The Church Is Obligated To Obey Every Teaching Of The Church

Unity in the Catholic Church is damaged when Catholics, be they clergy or lay people, deviate from the deposit of faith, either through an unhealthy attachment to the past or a detrimental deviation, in the name of progress, from authentic Church teaching and discipline.  Both postures tear away at the garment of unity.

Every member of the Church is obligated to obey every teaching of the Church.  Matters regarding faith, morals and discipline are not subject to personal interpretation.  Even Canon Law and liturgical norms are not guidelines.  The Church is very clear that no one has the authority to deviate from Church teaching and discipline, nor does anyone have individual authority to introduce novelties for the sake of novelty into the liturgy. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, chapter 1, #’s 24-25).

In reality, there are no conservative Catholics or liberal Catholics.  Conservative and liberal are two ambiguous political adjectives that do not apply to Catholicism.  The Church is a communion. Unity is nurtured by our mature assent of mind and will, as an act of love, to the Church of Jesus Christ.  Unity means that we are in step with the Church, integrating our entire being with the beauty of its rich heritage and its exciting future.

Today, Catholics Openly Reject the Authority Of the Pope

We live in a moment of history when many openly defy the authority of the Pope. We need to persevere, at times under very difficult circumstances, in the exciting adventure of fidelity.  With God’s help and the maternal protection of Mary, the Mother of the Church, we can repeat the sounding words of St. Paul at the end of our earthly existence:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 3: 7).

Many years ago when I was in high school and college, I too did a lot of discussing and debating.  I too had many religious opinions, many of which were erroneous and unfounded.  I debated other issues than the hot-button issues of today; nevertheless, I too struggled with obedience or disobedience to the Pope.

Thankfully, through the patient and loving guidance of a college professor who became a true life-long friend, I was able to openly search for the truth through deep prayer and sincere study, and I found it.  I know that this truth is Jesus and all that his Catholic Church teaches.  I love this truth very much and I will never leave it behind again, even if I have to stand alone with the Pope, whoever he may be.

So, I truly do understand all of the debate, all of the discussion and even all of the anger.  I have been there and I have left all of that behind only to find profound joy, peace and freedom in the Church that I have given my entire life to.

We Must Begin Again By Being True Disciples, Obedient To The Holy Father

The only solution for the problems that we face as a Church in America is to get back to basics and rediscover the same Jesus that Peter encountered.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 17).

We must begin again by truly living as disciples of the Lord and living the gospels with renewed authenticity.   Many of our problems are rooted in a spirit that is not Christian.  A faith lived like the early Church will enliven our parishes and simplify the way we do things as a Church.  In this way, we can become more efficacious in our service to our brothers and sisters, especially to those most in need.

True Christianity, not programs and fundraising techniques, will liberate us from ambition, worldliness and scandals.

St. Joseph: Model Of A True Man!

All Catholic Men Should Have A Devotion To St. Joseph!

St. Joseph Is The Model Of A True Catholic Man

Father James Farfaglia-As men we are bombarded with role models that are contrary to what every Catholic man should be.  The brute, the macho, the Playboy, the jock, the effeminate or the indifferent imbecile are negative models presented to us through television and movies.

Saint Joseph presents to us the true model of the authentic, mature and coherent Catholic man, husband and father.

As I wrote in my book Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Family Life and Sexuality, to be a real father does not simply mean that you show up to your kids’ ball game or recital.  No, fatherhood is much more than this.

The Father Must Be The Spiritual Leader of the Family

First of all, not only is a father the guardian, protector and provider of his family, a father also must be the spiritual leader of his family.  Too many times men leave spirituality and religious instruction for their wives to handle.  Children need to see that their fathers do indeed pray.

More and more families are making it a part of their lives to attend Mass every day.  This may not always be possible, but it is certainly something to strive for.  In the evening, it is a very laudable practice for the entire family to come together after dinner and pray the Rosary.  But, this means, that the family must have dinner as a family every night.

The father should direct and lead this nightly effort, although he may ask his wife or children to lead some of the decades.  At the end of the Rosary, the father should conclude with some form of night prayer, after which he should once again embrace and kiss his children, and give them each his blessing as father and spiritual leader of the home.

Sunday worship is of primordial importance for a family.  Sunday Mass needs to be the priority of each Sunday.

The Father Must Take An ActiveRole In His Children’s Education

Along with the father as spiritual leader of his family, he also has to be, along with his wife, the primary educator of his children.  Too many parents think that the local school takes care of everything.  Educating children is a vital task for parents, and the father plays an important task in this as well.

Education does not simply mean getting good academic grades at school.  Yes, a good report card is important, but I am referring to something much more demanding and much more complete than just a good report card.

Both mother and father have a shared responsibility in the education and formation of their children.  A father must not be seen merely as the provider.  Both mother and father have an equal responsibility in the raising of their children. When it comes to the raising of children, always remember that mother and father complement one another.

It is very important that Catholic men have a filial devotion to Saint Joseph.  Contemplating his life and his virtues will guide men how to be real Catholic men.

Sorry about missing St. Joseph’s Feast Day with this post.

How Do We Conquer Worry and Anxiety?

By Growing Closer To God Through Prayer And The Sacraments!

Father James Farfaglia – Life is filled with many difficulties and challenges that cause us to worry. Each day we are confronted with many events that may cause us to become apprehensive.  This Sunday’s Gospel narrative gives us a clear teaching on how we are to handle worry.

What Is Worry?

What is worry?  The dictionary says that when we worry, we torment ourselves with disturbing thoughts.  According to the National Institutes of Health, one in three adults has occasional insomnia, and one in ten adults has chronic sleeplessness.  Experts are concerned about the ever increasing consumption of sleeping pills by many Americans.  The remedy for worry is for all of us to trust in God.

In this Sunday’s gospel passage we hear these consoling words:  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.”

We Must Experience God In The Silence Of Our Hearts

In the silence of our hearts, filled with faith, we experience the presence of God.  We contemplate him in the beauty of the sunrise, the power of the wind, the majesty of the ocean, the voice of the Scriptures, the presence of the Eucharist and each encounter with our neighbor.  St. Augustine once said that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.

We experience God through our life of prayer.  Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is a continual being in love because God is real.  God is personal.   No matter what might be going on in our lives, we must always pray and pray daily. Prayer is the air that we breathe.

One of the greatest challenges that we encounter is our inability to see and to listen to God.  We can be caught up in the distractions of daily life that prevent us from really encountering God. Our busy lives require refreshing times of prayer throughout the day.

A serious life of prayer is very important for the times in which we live. The traditional structures of support that have made our lives comfortable and easy are presently engulfed in confusion, but transformation is slowly taking place.

In Our Time, God Is Calling Us To Detachment And Moving Us Away From Created Things

God is moving us away from clinging to things, people and institutions. He is calling us to detachment, to the desert, to the journey into the night of naked faith.  He is calling us to cling to him and only him.  This journey is difficult, frightening at times and even risky.  But, those who embark upon the journey will be transformed into living witnesses of the God of love.

However, without a serious spiritual life, anxiety and fear will overwhelm us. If we are a people who live truly spiritual lives, we will be filled with peace and joy no matter what may be going on around us. And this is so, because we will always be able to trust God.

St. Teresa of Avila, the famous Spanish mystic, once wrote: “Let nothing trouble you.  Let nothing frighten you.  Everything passes.  God never changes.  Patience obtains all.  Whoever has God, wants for nothing.  God alone is enough.”

St. Teresa provides us profound words of wisdom for our present times.  The staggering number of prescription drugs available for the many forms of uneasiness and tension illustrates that many of our contemporaries suffer deep inner turmoil.

It is true that we are experiencing profound challenges: wars, continual threats of terrorism, problems within our Catholic Church, the rapidly accelerating unraveling of moral decency in our society, an uncertain economy and the terrible wounds caused by the dismantling of family life.  Nevertheless, challenges such as these should remind us that we must always trust in God who is always with us.

Again, let us turn to the words of this Sunday’s gospel narrative:  “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Prayer Cannot Simply Be Based Upon Need.

But let us be convinced that prayer cannot be simply based upon need.   God is not a soft drink machine.  Nor is God a candy store.  Some day suffering will knock on our door and we may not be spiritually equipped to handle the difficulties of life.  But why do we have to come to God through suffering?  Is not that the hard way to learn how to love and to trust?

Our lack of dependence upon God is rooted in a lack of trust.  Trust is rooted in faith which is a gift.  If your faith is weak, ask God to give you more faith.

Incorporate The Following Practices Into Your Lives

Over and over again, I have been urging all of you to incorporate into your lives four practices that are so basic for anyone who wants to be a serious Catholic: contemplative prayer, daily Mass or a prolonged visit before the Blessed Sacrament, daily Rosary and the frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession. These four things will allow you to trust God and they will provide you with the interior peace that all seek.

What are the practical steps that we can take in order to incorporate into our busy lives a serious spiritual life?

First of all, we need balance in our lives. When was the last time that we enjoyed dinner with family and friends, or turned off our cell phone and refrained from checking our email at every moment? Excessive work and travel, excessive involvement in sports and entertainment are tearing us apart.

Secondly, a serious spiritual life requires the capacity to be alone.  It is difficult to be alone in our contemporary society.  Even when we are alone, the noise of our own worries and fears drown out the silence of God’s voice.  Many people are incapable of being alone and they immediately feel an obsession to talk with someone on a cell phone or check their email.

We all need moments of solitude.  Spending a quiet time before the Eucharist, reading the Scriptures during a peaceful moment at home, taking tranquil walks through the woods or along the beach all are necessary for our soul.  In order to be with God, we must develop the ability to be alone with ourselves.

Thirdly, we need order in our lives. Working out daily schedules for the entire family by setting   realistic priorities and minimizing extra-curricular activities for the children are steps that we can take.  Early to bed and early to rise is a wise principle which is still valid today.

Father James Farfaglia: Marriage Is Forever!

Even In Our Hedonistic Culture Which Continually Attacks The Foundations Of Traditional Marriage!

Father James Farfaglia-“You have heard that it was said,You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5: 27-28).  These words spoken by our Lord provide an excellent opportunity for us to reflect upon the Sacrament of Marriage.

The Sacrament of Marriage represents a lifelong commitment on the part of the spouses.  For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part; marriage is forever.

Increasingly the dominant American culture has intensified the barrage against marriage. Every day millions of living rooms are inundated with the lustful images depicted in soap operas, situation comedies, movies, talk shows and music videos. Magazines extol immoral lifestyles. Weekly tabloids play up the scandalous sexual proclivities of   film, sports and television celebrities.

This onslaught against marriage has been relentless, seemingly working toward discrediting the notion of Christian marriage as an institution and cornerstone of society.

It is very easy for married couples to become discouraged and overwhelmed.  For this reason I wrote a book for men which has helped thousands of men around the world to see the beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage and it has given them the practical tools to live a faithful, successful and joyful marriage.

Since there is so much confusion about marriage even among Catholics, it is important that we remember some basics facts about marriage as a sacrament.

What Circumstances Can Make A Marriage Invalid?

1) A man and a woman living together under the same roof, unmarried and engaging in sexual intimacy are committing fornication, a mortal sin.

2) Parents who tolerate this promiscuity in their homes also commit a mortal sin.

3) A civil marriage between two Catholics or between a Catholic and a Protestant is not a marriage.  This may be a sin of fornication or adultery depending on the circumstances.

4) A divorced Catholic spouse who enters into a new marriage civilly before receiving an annulment commits adultery.  He or she needs to wait for the annulment before entering into a new marriage.

5) When a divorced Catholic spouse seeking an annulment does not wait for the annulment process to be completed and enters into a new marriage in any Protestant church, this too is adultery.  The divorced spouse is still married.

6) A Catholic who marries in a Protestant church without the proper dispensation from the bishop of the diocese enters into an invalid marriage.

7) A marriage between homosexual partners is not a marriage.

A Guide To Handling The Above Cases

In all of the cases stated above, those living in any of these irregular situations cannot receive Holy Communion until they reconcile their lives with God.   Reconciliation can take place in the following manner:

Case #1 – The couple will first need to split up, confess their sin and receive absolution; and then marry in the Church. If they really love one another, they will be more concerned about the salvation of their souls.

Case #2 – The parents who have been tolerating this situation of sexual intimacy before marriage need to become more demanding and urge the couple to split up and marry in the Church.  The parents need to go to Confession.

Case #3 – If no previous marriage exists, couples in these circumstances must go to Confession and then contract a valid marriage in the Catholic Church.

Cases # 4 and #5 – Before these individuals can go to Confession and receive Communion, they will need to obtain an annulment.  If there are no dependent children living in the household, they should split up until they have obtained the annulment.  If there are dependent children in the home, the couple should avoid sexual intimacy by separating or by living in separate rooms until they have obtained the annulment.  By living in a state of celibacy, they can then approach the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.

Case #6 – Those having attempted marriage in this manner need to have the marriage validated and blessed by a Catholic priest.

Case #7 –Ceremonies of this sort can never be marriages. Catholics must never attend these ceremonies because they give rise to scandal.

Moral Relativism And Hedonism Has Contributed To Great Confusion Among Catholics

Aside from all of the confusion caused by moral relativism and hedonism, more Catholics in recent decades have become confused by the alarming number of annulments being granted to Catholics on what many regard as slender or insufficient grounds.

An annulment is not a Catholic divorce, as some mistakenly believe. A valid marriage signifies the full and free consent of a man and woman to live together in Holy Matrimony for the rest of their lives.  An annulment means that an impediment exists which has hindered the full and free consent of those contracting marriage.

Many Catholic priests agree with my experience, that in the majority of cases, the large number of failed marriages has resulted from the couples having  been insufficiently prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage in the first place. True, many couples do marry for the wrong reasons; however, parishes in many parts of the country have been negligent in providing thorough and caring marriage preparation for engaged couples.

Chastity Is The Best Preparation For Marriage

Still, the best preparation for marriage is Christian chastity.  It is this virtue of chastity that helps a married couple to remain faithful to one another. But, if young people are not being sufficiently challenged to cultivate this virtue, we may be marrying many who have developed profound sexual addictions through a promiscuous life style; and these addictions in and of themselves will not allow for the necessary full and free consent to take place.

Whether clergy or concerned lay people, we need to take the time to help young people live chastely in a very difficult world.  Encouraging them to develop a rich Eucharistic life, to use the Sacrament of Confession frequently, to practice devotion to Mary and to avail themselves of on-going spiritual direction, all these are the proven ways by which we can help strengthen young people to live out their relationship with Jesus and each other.

The Church must not capitulate to the clamors of the secular world.  By the holiness of their lives, both the clergy and married couples can be a wonderful help to those who are called to the Sacrament of Marriage.

Fidelity Is The Path In Which One Finds Personal Joy and Peace

For those who are already married, mutual fidelity is the path that provides personal joy and peace.  However, subject as we are to the effects of Original Sin, we are all fallen creatures of flesh and blood, and it is normal that fidelity can prove a struggle. For married couples a daily renewal of their personal commitment to their spouses, a well disciplined spiritual life and a realistic acceptance of their own personal limitations will provide the lasting strength to remain faithful until death.

As a priest, I have always delighted in the exuberant joy of young couples as they marry and then bring their first child to the parish to be baptized.  I have always admired those elderly couples, who after the many years of happiness and patience, still faithfully wear their wedding rings by now embedded in the worn and wrinkled fingers that have been tried by the adversities of life.

The Church Always Welcomes Those Who Suffer In Difficult Marital Situations

Finally, although the Catholic Church upholds the indissolubility of marriage, the Church always welcomes her children who are divorced and separated.  Those who suffer from difficult marital situations are always welcomed as living members of Christ’s Church.  Even in those situations where individuals may not be able to participate fully in the Eucharist, the doors of the Catholic Church remain open to all, welcoming all to be living members of the family of God.

No matter how difficult a personal history or situation may be, there is always a solution for those who are open to doing God’s will. And all those who are entrusted with the pastoral care of souls must be kind, patient, compassionate, understanding and willing to spend a lot of time ministering to all those who seek their loving care.

This weekend many will be celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day.  The annual celebration of this beautiful day provides married couples to renew their love for each other.  This feast day also provides young people who preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage to live a profoundly chaste love.  Again, as I explained in my book, chastity is the antidote to lust.  Lust is a distortion of love.  Chastity is true love.

Contraception: Gateway To The Culture Of Death!

Abortion Will Not Stop Until Catholics Understand That Contraception Is Intrinsically Evil!

Father James Farfaglia-Most people are appalled by the continuous slaughter of innocent children through the horrible scourge of abortion.  Abortion is a manifestation of an anti-child, contraceptive mentality that has gripped most Americans.  Contraception is the gateway to the culture of death.

Should We Be Surprised By The Continuing Devaluing Of Human Life?

The massive loss of innocent human life that took place on September 11 shocked the nation.  This loss of innocent human life was tragic.  Nevertheless, another tragedy with even greater consequences continues on a daily basis. More than 52,704,727 children have been murdered through abortion since January 22, 1973.

Should we be surprised at the seemingly endless accounts of murders, bombings and wars throughout the world that fill the media each day?  If we can kill inside of the womb, what is to keep us from killing outside of the womb?

There have been more babies killed by abortion since Roe v Wade than people killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and both Iraq wars combined.   An average of 150 convicted murderers, proven guilty, are killed by the death penalty in Texas every year. 90,000 innocent babies are killed in Texas every year by abortion.

Since 1973 there have been over 50 million abortions in the U.S. alone.

Consider the estimated populations of some of our major U.S. cities: New York – 8,143,197; Los Angeles – 3,844,829; Chicago – 2,842,518; and Houston – 2,016,582.  Are we not destroying our work force and the base for Social Security?

Is Anyone Listening To The Holy Father?

Very few are paying attention to what Pope Benedict XVI told the College of Cardinals in an end of the year speech with these dramatic words:  “For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defense of such structures seem doomed to failure” (December 20, 2010).

Abortion Is Only A Symptom, Not The Root The Problem!

As horrendous as abortion is, it is really only a symptom of a much greater problem.  In their 2001 revision of the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities “A Campaign in Support of Life”, the United States Catholic Bishops speak of the connection between abortion and contraception when they write: “It is noteworthy that as acceptance and use of contraception have increased in our society, so have acceptance and use of abortion. Couples who unintentionally conceive a child while using contraception are far more likely to resort to abortion than others. Tragically, our society has fallen into a mentality that views children as a burden and invites many to consider abortion as a ‘backup’ to contraceptive failure. This is most obvious in efforts to promote as ‘emergency contraception’ drugs that really act as early abortifacients.”

As I wrote in my book “Man to Man: a Real Priest speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life,” prior to 1930 every Christian denomination agreed in their opposition to contraception.  Today, the Catholic Church stands alone.   However, even though the Catholic Church affirms that contraception is intrinsically evil, the majority of Catholics in America completely rejects and ignores the Church’s teaching on procreation.

Why Does The Catholic Church Teach That Contraception Is Intrinsically Evil?

Why does the Catholic Church affirm that artificial birth control is intrinsically evil?  The reason is founded on this principle: every marital act must keep together “the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act” (Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 12).

This fundamental principle contained in Humanae Vitae is true because the nature of sexual intercourse, which is both life-giving (pro-creative) and love-giving (unitive), reflects the plan of God for marriage.  A man and a woman must not intervene to separate their fertility from their bodily union. To do so is to disrupt the plan of God for marriage, sexuality and married love.   Therefore, the Church’s teaching is not only affirmed by Divine law, but by natural law as well.

Sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation.  God’s gift of sex must not be abused by frustrating its natural end—procreation.

However, this does not mean that married couples only have sexual intercourse when they want to conceive a child.  Mutual love or the good of the spouses, one of the three purposes of marriage, indicates that sex is good, sex is holy and that the sexual union between the spouses enhances, in a very deep way, the intimate love between husband and wife.  Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that the three purposes of marriage: the good of the spouses, the procreation of children and the education of children, are equal and form one single entity.  The first purpose of marriage is not superior to the other two.

What Is The Morally Acceptable Way To Regulate Births?

The Catholic Church continues to affirm that every conjugal act must be open to the transmission of life.  The Catholic Church continues to affirm that all forms of  contraception are intrinsically evil. However, the Catholic Church does teach that there is a moral or ethical way to regulate births. The moral way to regulate the procreation of children is through the use of Natural Family Planning.

Humanae Vitae explains this clearly with these words:  “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which we have just explained” (Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 16).

Why Is The World Sexually Out Of Control?

We all know that the world is sexually out of control.  The wide acceptance and use of contraception have  caused the present day chaos.  Pope Paul VI said that it would happen when he wrote, “Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection” (Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 17).

Abortion in America could end tomorrow if the Catholic Church in America were to  take a militant and united stand against abortion.  But, it can only take a militant and firm stand in favor of the unborn,  if  the Church were to affirm in practice, and not only in words, that contraception is intrinsically evil.

Humility Allows Us To Live Before God As We Really Are.

Humility Makes Us Aware Of Our Need For God’s Mercy!

Father James Farfaglia-What is sin? Man calls it an accident; God calls it an abomination. Man calls it a defect; God calls it a disease. Man calls it an error; God calls it an enmity. Man calls it a liberty; God calls it lawlessness. Man calls it a trifle; God calls it a tragedy. Man calls it a mistake; God calls it madness. Man calls it a weakness; God calls it willfulness.

But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner’” (Luke 18: 12-13).

The virtue of humility permits us to live before God as we truly are. We are sinful creatures.  The first step in our relationship with God is that we understand and acknowledge that we are sinful creatures.
Peter knelt before Jesus and said “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.”  Mary Magdalen wept at the feet of Jesus and dried her tears with her hair.  The Roman centurion told Jesus that he was not worthy that he should enter his home. The recognition of our own sinfulness allows us to experience the mercy of God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a concise definition of sin. “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law” (CCC #1849).

Scripture tells us that actual sin is classified as either a mortal sin or a venial sin. “There is a sin that leads to death…” (1 John 5:16). “Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not all sin leads to death” (1John 5:17).

Mortal sin is forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance. All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession…” (CCC #1456).

However, it must be understood that the frequent confession of our venial sins is also essential for our continued spiritual growth and development.

Just like all the other sacraments of the Church, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession.  The Church has always understood the Scriptural reference for the Sacrament of Confession to be John 20: 22-23: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained”.

It is necessary to go to Confession on a regular basis.  Confession makes perfect sense when we accept ourselves as we are.  Only the humble live in the truth, and only the humble understand the need that they have for God in their lives.

The acceptance of our own sinfulness also allows us to understand that salvation is not a guaranteed reality.  We can end up losing our souls in hell. We have to struggle every day to be faithful, and we need to use the means that the Church gives us in order to persevere in the life of grace.

The Pharisee in this Sunday’s gospel narrative did not go to the temple to pray.  He wanted to tell God how good he was.  His pride did not allow him to recognize his own sinfulness. The tax collector, on the other hand, acknowledged that he had sinned.  His humility allowed him to live in the truth.

Father James Farfaglia: Without Repentence…

Hell Is A Real Consequence For Our Selfish Actions.

Father James Farfaglia —Many times people become quite offended when priests preach about the reality of hell.  A number of years ago during another parish assignment, I gave a very clear teaching on the existence of hell.  One parishioner suggested that it was not productive to talk about negative things at Mass.  He thought that I was actually frightening people.  He said that it was enough for good people to simply focus their attention on doing good projects that would benefit the local community.  I kindly explained to my parishioner that the Gospel is very clear that we need always to love our neighbor and to promote works of charity and social justice for the good of the community. But, the Gospel is also clear that all of our acts do have eternal consequences and that our good acts have true meaning only in the light of eternity.

The teachings of Jesus on the existence of hell are clear.  If we deny the existence of hell or fail to talk about it from our pulpits or in our catechism classes, then we are denying an essential part of Christianity.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire’. The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (#1035).

In his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II is asked by his interviewer, Vitorrio Messori, if the Catholic Church still believes in the existence of hell and why so many pulpits and classrooms are silent on the subject.  The Holy Father answers the question by affirming the teaching of the Catholic Church on the existence of hell and goes on to say that preachers, catechists and teachers “no longer have the courage to preach the threat of hell” (176). Moreover, the Pope goes on to say that “perhaps even those who listen to them have stopped being afraid of hell” (176).

“In fact, people of our time have become insensitive to the Last Things.  On the one hand, secularization and secularism promote this insensitivity and lead to a consumer mentality oriented toward the enjoyment of earthly goods.  On the other hand, the ‘hells on earth’ created in this century which is now drawing to a close have also contributed to this insensitivity.  After the experience of concentration camps, gulags, bombings, not to mention natural catastrophes, can man possibly expect anything worse from this world, an even greater amount of humiliation and contempt?  In a word, hell?” (176).

The reality of hell and the possibility of eternal condemnation constitute for us a daily call to conversion. The sin of the rich man in this Sunday’s gospel narrative proceeded from his gross self-indulgence and self-absorption.  Therefore, let us all repent of our own sins and believe in the gospel.

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