Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Love and Sexuality - An introduction to Theology of the Body

If sex is wrong, why did God create it? This is the question that Pope John Paul II treated in his Theology of the Body which he delivered in public addresses between 1979 and 1984. The pope saw a great need in contemporary society to understand the experience of humanity with sexuality and to give the Christian answer to the question.

In fact, the Roman world in which Christ lived was very nuch similar to our contemporary world. Divorce was common; Marriage was not common; Roman men preferred to stay single and enjoy a non-committed life. Evils such as abortion and infanticide were everywhere as was homosexual "life style". In the midst of these moral diseases, Christ referred to Genesis and declared that "what God has joined together let no man put asunder."

The pope, following Christ, takes us back to “the beginning” as narrated in Genesis. We discover, there, 4 experiences of man: Original Solitude; Original Unity; Original Nakedness; and Original Sin. In Genesis 2, we see how God after creating everything went on to perfect his creation: Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

Original Solitude: First, the positive element: man was alone with God. God walked in the garden and spoke with man. Man enjoyed a unique relationship with God - a relation that is different from animals relation with God. This uniqueness is based on the fact that the human is created "in the image of God." Second, the negative aspect: Man was not perfect. God brought all creatures to man. Man gave each animal a name. In the Old Testament language, this means that man had power over all creatures. But still man was not satisfied with animals. This original experience, the pope calls it Original Solitude.
Original Unity: Since man was not fulfilled by his loneliness, God put him into deep sleep and made a woman from man’s flesh and brought her to him. Man saw the woman and said "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." The woman is different from the man. She complements him. Man at last finds his perfection in this partner who is made from his body. The pope calls the experience of this relationship, Original Unity. Original Unity: It expresses love and intimacy between man and woman. It is here that the man-woman relationship reflects and mirrors the eternal relationship in God of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a "relatedness" or "relationship" of persons who subsist eternally in love. Here more than ever we find the meaning that they are created in the image and likeness of God. The masculine and feminine attributes are meant to distinguish the man and the woman, yet unite them. We notice that there are differences between men and women, not only physically, but also psychologically. Women have strong abilities in making relationships. Sexually, a woman relates the sexual act to feelings towards her partner more than to merely his physical attractiveness. Men on the other hand, like to achieve results. Sexually, a man often takes the initiative in intercourse. So Adam is attracted to Eve not only physically but also psychologically. He "cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."
Original Nakedness: We read "And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed." In their original state, Adam and Eve had no barriers between them in their communication and life. They were free as children experience freedom. There is a lot of talk today about freedom. However what we mean is choice, not freedom. I choose to go to work, and do my shopping. These are choices that we make every day. But freedom is deeper than mere choice. The experience is particularly strong when we do not "follow the crowd" and lose our freedom. Freedom means surrender to love and trust. This is the experience that little children have - they just trust everyone around them. This is why they can run naked. Christ invited his disciples to be like children in order to enter heaven. Original nakedness is the expression of true freedom. And only true freedom can beget true love. In freedom, one lets go of his own life in love for the other (human), and the "Other" (God). Freedom is a sign of the mature person. The more we love the more we become free. What did the writer of Genesis mean by “ashamed”? What is shame? According to author Roger Scruton, there is such a thing as "moral shame" and such a thing as "sexual shame." Moral shame is my experience when I do something wrong and somebody else discovers my wrongdoing. Sexual shame is different. If I perform a sexual act that I know is wrong, then I may experience sexual shame. Scruton says that sexual shame arises "from the thought that we are being judged as a body, a mechanism, an object." Shame then can protect us from getting involved in wrong sexual acts.
Original Sin: Original Sin, as we all know, is an act of pride and mistrust. It is a wound that we carry in our souls and bodies. We are good, not evil, but since the Fall, we find evil attractive (concupiscence). We can avoid evil with much inner struggle. This is the experience of great saints too like St. Paul himself (Romans 7). How does Original Sin affect us? Contrary to Original Solitude, we find it hard to experience God. Some people doubt his existence. Contrary to Original Unity, we find it hard to get along with each other and accept each other for who we are. Contrary to Original Nakedness, we find it hard to do good things - We easily lose freedom and try to control our own lives: "This is my life and I will do with it whatever I want."

Redemption: Christ, the Word of God, enters human history and becomes one of us to redeem fallen humanity from the consequences of Original Sin, and to restore to it the 3 positive original experiences, i.e. Original Solitude, Original Unity, and Original Nakedness. How is redemption possible in the Theology of the Body? From Original Solitude, we learn that the human body is symbolic. The word Symbolic comes from a Greek word that means "to be thrown together." We know from the experience of Original Solitude that it had a positive and a negative aspect. Positively: Although Adam was part of creation, he sensed that he had a unique relationship with the creator, and that he was essentially different from, and superior to the other creatures. Negatively, Adam was unable to find another body-person like him. He was solitary, alone. From these two aspects or dimensions, we learn that we are made of matter like animals -this is the visible dimension. However, we have an invisible dimension. We can communicate with God. Like God we have thoughts- we know that we know. These two dimensions are distinct in man but not separate. The human body is, therefore, more than just matter. It points to the spiritual, and the intellect. Unlike animals, humans live in a world of symbols expressed in language. For humans, the senses have physical and spiritual meanings. The sense of touch for example helps us do our duties. We would not be able to drive a car without it. But note how it is used in communicating love. People who love each other touch each other, hug each other, and kiss each other. Unlike animal bodies which simply make present the animal body, the human body makes present the whole person. The world of symbols we live in is confirmed by Original Solitude. From all the creatures, Adam could not find another body like his. He could form a partnership only with Eve. Only Eve`s body was symbolic. From the experience of Original Unity, we learn that the human body is nuptial. When Adam saw Eve, he felt he could be one with her. She was different and he realized her body complemented his. In fact a man’s body is more muscular than a woman’s body. There are also the sexual differences. The man enters the woman in sexual intercourse, and she receives him in her body. And they become “one flesh.” This is why John Paul II says the human body is nuptial. The human body, according to him, is meant for love. Sex involves caressing, touching and communicating love in words. It is again an act in the world of symbols. John Paul II concludes that the human body has a language. Sex is a unique form of language. Sex speaks a sensual language but also speaks a language of love. From the experience of Original Nakedness, we know that the human body, before the Fall, was free. Original Nakedness is symbolic of freedom which is the basis of true love. Without freedom a man and woman could not give nor accept the gift of love. However, every human body is affected by Original Sin. The most radical effect and consequence of Original Sin is the experience of death. But God is a God of life. “God did not make death and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist” says the Biblical Book of Wisdom. In addition to death, Original Sin causes disordered sexual desires. The man sees the woman as a sexual object, and she sees him too as a sexual object. Sin can make it hard to see how the human body is symbolic. Today, our culture promotes an image of sex as body momentary pleasure. We see this in TV, the internet, magazines and mainly in the huge industry of pornography.

From the experience of loving Jesus Christ, we start to know that the human body is redeemed. His body died on the cross to renew ours. God, who is totally beyond our sight, is now visible to us. As creation is God's act to pour out the Trinity's eternal self-emptying love, the Incarnation culminating in Christ's bodily death and Resurrection, is God's loving act to restore humanity to its original image - In Eastern Christian terminology, it is called "Divinization of Man." "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." says the opening verse of the Gospel attributed to John the Apostle. Words, if spoken sincerely, proceed from within one person and reach the heart of another person. A word is from heart to heart. "But what if a word were actually a person?" Asks Anthony Percy in his volume "The Theology of the Body made simple" And his answer is "Yes...This would be a word-person. Jesus is this person...He is the word spoken by the Father to us." We receive the word of God through two ways: Scripture and the Sacraments, but especially in the Eucharist.

Let's briefly mention a few contemporary questions with sex. Divorce, premarital sex and pornography. They are rampant in our society, so how do we deal with them? First: Marriage is a covenant. How do we understand a covenant? Take for example the Old Testament stories of covenants. God commits his very life for his people, and the people in turn, commit themselves to God. Go back to the beginning in Genesis. On seeing the woman, the man undertakes a huge change in his life. He clings to the woman. The man and the woman form “one flesh.” i.e. they form a covenant – each gives the other not something, but everything - The whole person. The same sexual act takes place in marriage. When a man and woman have intercourse in marriage, God is there. It is a sacred act. It is indissoluble. This is why all marriage whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim is indissoluble in the eyes of the Church. However, the Christian marriage is a sacrament in which the man and the woman participate in the New Covenant established by Christ. Not only it cannot be dissolved if entered in properly, but also is a participation in God’s very life. True love is not mere feelings - It is commitment and enduring sacrifice more than mere feelings. It is being one flesh as Adam and Eve experienced their Original Unity. John Paul II says that man becomes the image of God not so much in solitude as in communion. Moreover, the sexual act invites God: It is unitive and procreative. Man and woman participate with God in creation. Their love being fruitful participates in creation and in bringing up children - It mirrors the Trinity "a communion of love." Because God is within the other, marriage may be called a voyage of discovery of the infinite. The word “enthusiasm” comes from two Greek words en (within) and theo (God) and so means the “god-within” When a person is really enthusiastic, it seems as though there is a God-within inspiring that person. The married couple can face each other with the enthusiasm of love as they embark on the discovery of God within each other. Contrary to the culture of death pervasive in this society, the Church proposes a culture of life and a "civilization of love" as expressed by Pope Paul VI. In divorce, we destroy the commitment of love and harm its fruit, our children. Recent studies have shown that children of divorce are more confused and prone to problems in their marriage than children of faithful marriage. This leads us to the discussion about premarital sex. Sex does not belong only to the physical senses. Rather, sex belongs to the world of symbol, communication and love. Nor can sex be reduced to an experiment. It is meant for life-long relationship between one man and one woman. Sex is the seal on a relationship, not its beginning. When a man and a woman experiment with sex outside of permanent marriage, they can confuse lust for love. The giving of one’s body to another is always something of a lie, unless it is part of the total giving and commitment of all of oneself forever. Premarital sex and adultery (seeking sexual gratification of a married person outside marriage) are wrong because, in varying degrees, they contain this lie. Adultery also hurts the spouse whose spouse is involved in the sexual act and promotes a masked polygamy. The solution to premarital sex is to consider what God does (he loves) and gives (dignity). In this deepest of all relationships, man should not go the cheap way but consider that the woman he loves is equal and equally blessed by God's love who gave her dignity as a child. Man better abstain from sex that makes her an object of his desire, and wait until they are married to express that love as an eternal gift of self and exclusive to her and fruitful as God's creation of us was so fruitful. The fruit is yet another dignity called a child. And in fact the family they build will resemble the family of God (man and woman beget a fruit of their love that is full of life and not only passing emotion.) True Love Waits is a message that has attracted today many youths in North America. How about pornography? “Pornography focuses only on the visible and erotic.” writes Percy. It reduces the human person to an object and excludes the invisible dimension of the human person. Notice too that in pornography we destroy the symbolic and nuptial experiences of the human body. In our contemporary society, many people have become isolated rather than experiencing the community. Both husband and wife work all day that by the time they are back from the office, they are both exhausted and hardly communicate. In this context of isolation, it is easy to turn to pornography or extra-marital sexual affairs as a shallow substitute for real sexual fulfillment. The solution to pornography’s slavery is to go back to the beginning: Original Nakedness. No following of “the crowd” and nurturing of mutual love between husband and wife. Original Solitude; Original Unity; Original Nakedness; and New Life in Christ. Four experiences that Pope John Paul II invites the world to experience and live.
George Farahat October 2008
Theology of the Body made simple, by Anthony Percy, published by Pauline Books, 2005·
Marriage, Divorce and Nullity, by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, published by Dave Communications, copyright (c) 1984 ·
Theology of the Body,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why Our Youths Are Not Getting Married Today

This is the question that many families in our high-tech world are asking themselves today. Is it fair to say that we have taught our kids that it is OK to live only for their pleasures? If so, how did this happen in families that were raised within a religious atmosphere? How did this happen to families that used to attend Mass every Sunday? Actually the question goes far beyond this. It begs more questions that would take us back to survey decades of decline in the Western Christian civilization. Let me list only a few points: First, we have gone from a social-based culture to an individual-based culture. We can hardly find a house that does not have at least one computer with electronic games and internet access for surfing the web to find and download new games. All of us, young and old, have transformed our culture from a social-based to an individual-based culture. Add to that the fact of peer imitation or peer pressure in school and work, and you will see a magnificent tireless generation of pleasure-going individuals. Welcome to the age of the electronic touch...the age of isolated bodies. Indeed, we still have in this society a dimension of interactions. However, the time we spend on interaction through the electronic media is vastly larger than the time we spend on bodily interaction. The time we spend to talk and laugh in a meeting has been replaced by time we spend to talk by email and over the internet. And this did not happen overnight. It started some 50 years ago with the telephone and television, video recording and then with the computer and other network devices which slowly took over our communication. Today wireless cell/mobile phones have invaded the market of the entire civilized world. And we are seeing the merging of high-tech technologies where videos and television networks are brought together in an ever more sophisticated digital communication scheme. Second, there has been a tremendous change in the social fabric since the advent of the feminist movement, with slogans for the emancipation of every woman from man’s control. The two World Wars particularly brought about social upheaval in the West. Many women went to work in order to make up for the losses of men in the War. Many families were downgraded to single parents because of the continuing loss of lives in the War. And leaving home to go to work meant a change for the woman, whether wife, mother or daughter, not only financially, but also psychologically. She was no longer at the centre of the home but rather assisting in the office, factory or shop. In urban cities, this new pattern of life became dominant. Slowly women gained their independence from men and, at least in the white collar class, they sought career advancement as much as men did. The effect of this social change was a change of roles inside the family. Women no longer need to be protected by their men – They are their equal now. Sixty years later, we see today men taking paternity leave from work to care for their young children rather than women doing it. Legal advances were gained for women to support the social changes. The right to choice is a very well known term for women seeking abortion. All Western countries have legalized abortion. The feminist war for the liberation of every woman would not abate until woman is recognized equal to man in every country. As we all know, many youths are afraid of going into a marriage that may end up in divorce and court, where the spouse demands half the assets that the husband owns/half his income. Third: Financing marriage. This is a definite factor in today’s family building. I know from my own experience that in our society we can no longer live at an acceptable standard of living without having both spouses working and earning income. In Canada, where my family lives, the average family income in the middle class is about $70,000 or less per year. Many young families are hardly able to keep up with the increasing cost of living requirements. The wedding night party itself is another expensive adventure. It costs today no less than 40,000 dollars if 200-300 people are invited. Where will the young graduates find that much money? The newly married couples have to pay off the loan they had to borrow for starting a new life. They remain in debt for many years The economic factor. In the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, economists speculated that there will be one superpower in the world – The United States. The triumph of free market capitalism manifested itself in what is called “globalization.” The triumph of the free market ideology has spread everywhere and caused untold miseries to many middle-class families thus almost eclipsing society into two layers: a very small minority of very rich people and a large majority of poor people. In the developing world, under the influence of the IMF and the World Bank, many governments were forced to remove their subsidies of food items to their people, thus increasing the size of the poor class. In a nutshell the world looks more inverted into a rich north controlling all resources of a poor south. Over a period of two decades globalization proved to be a nightmare for small businesses. Fierce competition brought some benefits for a few multinationals but eroded the industrial strength of other giants such as GM and Ford. A number of giants such as IBM were forced to outsource labour and move their manufacturing facilities to China and India whose economies seem to be rising at the moment. Much remains to be seen as large investors and speculators continue to shake the stock market. As recent as last week The Economist reported that Europe is undergoing a recession. North America with the turmoil of the financial markets is already in a recession. How do we expect our 20-30 years old young people to take a decision for a new life-commitment when they see their financial prospects getting worse? This is also part of their dilemma. Fourth, the sixties and seventies of the past century witnessed the “sexual revolution.” Exemplified by the Beatles music band in England, the sexual revolution took on everywhere in Western Europe and North America. The now-famous Woodstock Experiment galvanized many young males and females to live free of any social control. At around the same time, the pill for artificial birth control was out to give women full control over their bodies. Condemned by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 “Humanae Vitae,” artificial birth control spread out of control. The pope was criticized by many clergy and lay people alike for his pronouncement. A hurricane of anti-Catholic sentiments filled homes, universities, workplaces and even many liberal Catholic institutes. The tide could not be turned. The United Nations went even further declaring in 1993 that overpopulation must be curbed by forcing artificial birth control in every underdeveloped country. Today, many governments in the Western world not only encourage free sexual intercourse at an early age but also order condoms and pills in schools. One recent statistics indicate that some 70% of teenagers aged 17 have already had at least one sexual intercourse in some North American schools. Moreover, it has become fashionable to display nudity in the marketplace, in television ads, and on the internet. Pornography has become one of the most flourishing industries in the world. Half a century after the “sexual revolution,” the traditional family values have been trampled upon in many homes. Politicians and law makers in North America and Western Europe today do not dare to oppose the lobbying groups for introducing and legalizing same-sex marriage. Canada (where I live) prides itself on being one of the first nations ever to make same-sex marriage into law. Our teenagers are taught in school that their individual freedom is the most important right they have. This is carried out also at discussions in public higher education colleges and universities. A few years ago, the Canadian Association of University Teachers is alleged to have fired a professor in Alberta who dared to teach that homosexuality is not natural. How did the sexual revolution infect our generation “the Baby Boomers”? How did it infect the new “Generation X”? How is it infecting “Generation Y” now? So many questions but little answers. However, in the bigger picture, generations since the 1950s have progressively abandoned the moral family values we hold dear in the 2000 years old Christian tradition, thanks in part to the sexual revolution. Fifth, there has been a great departure from anything called “Absolute” to everything called “Relative.” Thanks to Friedrich Nietzsche, postmodernism has now transformed contemporary rational thought into accepting the notion that there is no such thing as absolute moral value based on the Judeo-Christian ethics. According to postmodernism, every human creature is free to think that his or her way of moral life is as good as anyone else. I can follow the moral values of my own tradition and think it is right but it does not mean that I can apply it to any other human being values. You can have your own “truth” as much as I have my “truth.” In the final analysis, it is a global village that we live in. Christians made an error by trying to convert the native people to Christianity. In this context, the world does not need Christianity and for that matter it does not really need any religion. It is not coincidental that the rise of atheism in modern philosophy has now been reflected in such best selling writings, so popular among our young ones, as Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion” and Christopher Hitchens’ “God is Not Great.” The West has for many centuries learned to speak of “Reason” –reflected in works by such giants as Plato, Augustine, Aristotle, and Aquinas. In his address at the University of Regensburg (September 2006), Pope Benedict XVI attempted to recover a synthesis between reason and modernity for postmodern humanity. Rather than trying to understand his thought, the media quickly attacked his address considering it an insult to Islam only because he dared to mention a sentence from a 14th century debate on reason between the Byzantine emperor and a Muslim scholar. Even the greatest moral authority in the world should not dare raise any questions against the triumphant postmodernists! Are we supposed to be silent when any criticism is raised against Christianity and critical of any concerns raised against other religions? How far has our society declined? How much of its roots and identity has it lost? When we try to understand why our youths are in a dilemma today, we must ask these questions. Sixth, Since the early seventies of the past century a new phenomenon has become popular in Canada. It is called “Multiculturalism.” Canada prides itself about its tolerance policy of every culture that incarnates itself on its soil. This policy of encouraging multiple cultures to co-exist and flourish, as opposed to the “melting pot” concept adopted in the United States, has done much good for the country but no less harm for the young generation. In Toronto, considered the centre of its economy, some 50% of its inhabitants are ethnic or new immigrants. Many immigrants in recent decades have come from Muslim, Chinese and Indian cultures to settle in Canada. They are hard workers but they bring with them their own social values. Much of their social values are well integrated into Canadian social values. However, some particularly Islamic traditions are not open to integrate – Consider, for example, the Islamic law of polygamy. This law is foreign to Christian monogamy still prevailing in Western society. If a young Muslim man marries a young Christian woman, according to which tradition are they going to raise their children? Does he have a right to get married to another woman while he is still married to his first wife? Another difficulty stems from the different ways women dress in Islamic countries as opposed to Western countries? Muslim cultural presence in Europe has caused much friction in the past few years particularly in secular France. In the years since the infamous 9/11 attack, some Fundamentalist Muslim organizations have threatened to bomb Western countries. This year Pope Benedict XVI repeated his plea to Muslim governments to stop persecution of Christian minorities in their countries. His reply to the Muslim Ulamaa (scholars) who wanted a dialogue with the Vatican was polite but unequivocal - Reciprocity in practice: If you wish to have a dialogue it must start with reciprocity of freedom of worship to the freedom you enjoy in the West. Seventh: Selfishness and love – How did we bring up children? What did we teach them by example? What saints did we talk to them about? What Scriptures did we teach them? What moral values did we implant in their little minds when they were young? How many times did we pray with them? What did we teach them about courage? And above all how do they perceive love? What is love? Christian faith is based on one thing only: Love and Truth. Love, as Christ meant it, is rooted in the Old Testament too. God loves his people and rescues them from Pharoe (Genesis). He cares for them even when they rebel against him (Hosea). Even if a mother forgets her infant, God said to his people that he never forgets them. Christ takes this stance further and teaches “Love your enemies” (See Matthew). All his acts are based on love. He heals people, feeds them, and brings them back to life because he loves them. But his love is not a mere feeling – It is an act. Act of service, forgiveness, and self-emptying to the last breath and to death. He is the one who tells the Canaanite that he has no business to do with her but still heals her daughter. He is the one who tells Thomas who doubted him to still put his finger in the wounds. God knelt before man, said Maurice Zundel. God actually died for man. The great Augustine in the 5th century tried to explain the mystery of God. God could not remain forever alone because He is Love and if He is Love he must love another. If not, then his love is closed upon itself and is not true love. This would be, in some way, the definition of hell. So this eternal old lonely king begets his image which is the Son. He looks at the image and loves his image to the point that his love explodes. He empties himself of his divinity and gives it all to his begotten Son. The Son who is also Love receives this limitless divinity and in love and in gratitude for his Father he returns this love with equal and eternal love. This binding Love between the Father and the Son is so unlimited and so selfless that it is the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son (or through the Son). The eternal dynamic essence of the Triune God is Love ( I will stop here otherwise we will be doing theology). This is true love. So when I say to my wife: I love you, I do not really mean it unless I mean that she could replace me and that I could die for her life. When we teach our children about love, we must show them that love is above all a real sacrifice. This sacrifice is much more important than our feelings that change all the time. A mother who gets up at night to feed her crying baby does not necessarily have the feeling at that moment-she would rather go back to sleep. True love, again, is an act of the will. True love is a commitment. It does not exclude feelings but it is more than mere feelings and sentiments. Now we can put our fingers on the wounds of the young people today. I will start with the last point: selfishness and love, because it is the kernel of any relationship. What defines a person truly is being in a relationship i.e. relatedness. In fact you will see this truth in nature itself. The Large Hadron Collider experiment which some 9,000 scientists are running today in Europe, to find the “God Particle” and the emergence of the Big Bang, is only a witness to relatedness that exists in the cosmos at a very deep level between subatomic photons, which do not have a personality. Yet all existence, whether material or spiritual, point to relatedness as the ultimate reality (God) whose imprint is there everywhere in spite of evil and suffering. So the first step is for all people of good will to embrace Christianity. Of course this cannot happen overnight. It requires our martyrdom and suffering for many others, the way that St. Faustina showed and Blessed Mother Teresa exemplified. When St. Athanasius, the great Doctor of the Church in the 4th century, was told “Athanasius: the world is all against you”, he replied “And I am against the world.” He was exiled 5 times for his witness! There is no escape from suffering. However, suffering is only a temporary “participation in Christ’s redemptive suffering” as John Paul II prescribed it. Embracing Christianity means becoming another Christ-like as St. Francis of Assisi was. It means that, in every home, the father and mother will take good care of their children, and they will love them, and they will train them in accepting loss, and they will show them by example how a man and a woman who are married must love each other everyday. It means that each family will spend time together, will enjoy time together, and will accept suffering together. Families must be remolded in the Christian spirit. I have no doubt that this is the beginning of the recovery, because the Spirit of God is there to build the house. Second, Once the families are on the right track, the Church is rebuilt in the community with the assistance of the bishops and priests. In every diocese, the parish must become a centre for parishioners to meet after the Eucharist. The church is not a building. It is the People of God as Vatican II reminds us. The old and the young will go to church weekly not only on Sunday for Mass but on other days as well for children catechism, youth religious study, young adult religious lectures, and family Bible studies. In this atmosphere, the young will grow together, young men will also get acquainted with young women and vice versa. Volunteers from lay people in each parish will help teenagers with free instructions in school studies. Rich parishes can help the less fortunate ones financially since all are working together. Third, the Church needs to regain its voice in legal, economic and political establishments. Highly educated Christians are to engage the political establishment. Christian lawyers are to defend the Christian moral values in order to reverse the existing abortion law, same-sex marriage law, and legalize laws prohibiting pornography. Christian politicians are to promote Christian moral values and abide by the law of God when it is threatened in the public debate and democratic society. Christian financial organizations and economic think tanks are to do everything they can to help people live a moral life without need for financial assistance. This does not mean that governments do not have a responsibility to take care of the needy and the less fortunate. The government is mandated to provide medical care, home care, employment assistance and financial assistance to all citizens. On the eve of the triumph of free-market capitalism over socialism, Pope John Paul II proposed his Third Way and reminded the rich North of the need to redistribute the resources of the planet to the poor South and the underdeveloped countries in Africa and Asia. Today we are reminded more than ever of this need as the international food crisis calls for powerful nations efforts to increase their assistance to the world’s poor in Africa and Asia. Fourth, Christians must always respect the dignity of every human being: old, young, infant, or pre-born. This is one of the few gains that humanity made in recent times against fascism and communism. “The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1700). The collective Christian conscience of many centuries attests to the importance of freedom properly understood. Freedom presupposes dignity as much as slavery presupposes tyranny. It is not freedom to impose on others what one wills but to freely build the other. And by building the other, one builds society. Here we find the answer to fundamentalism whether Christian, Muslim or any other religion. Atheism itself is another religion that in many ways belongs to fundamentalism. Recall for that matter how much suffering did atheist communism in Eastern Europe inflict on people. René Girard spoke about what he calls mimetic rivalry that infuses enmity and violence not only between neighbours in the same neighbourhood, but also between nations in the world. Violence caused by fundamentalism increases enmity in a vicious cycle. And the only cure is the love and dignity that Christ taught the nations. However, respect of the other should not compromise my faith and moral values. In today’s Global Village it is urgently required that Christendom awake, a term used by Aidan Nichols in his vigorous re-energizing of the Church in culture. In his monumental book “Christianity among Other Religions” (2006), Roch Kereszty shows eloquently the need for dialogue with world religions in the “new evangelization” called for by Vatican II while at the same time defending the credibility of Catholic Christian faith. Our youths are the Church of tomorrow. This is precisely what motivated the creation of the World Youth Day by John Paul the Great, to use Richard John Neuhaus term. The Church needs the youths to stay young. Let us work to keep her young. There will definitely be much more and better opinions about how to help our youths build their new selves, their families, their church, their society and the world. My only humble desire is to have them start and continue this journey by the power of the one who said “I am the Resurrection, the Truth, and the Life``. George Farahat, October 2008

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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