Tag Archives: St. Augustine

How Can I Be A Saint, Part 2: Email from a Friend

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It’s always encouraging to know that someone cares.

Since I started this blog, I have become spiritually close to a fellow Catholic who lives overseas. Although “Julia” and I have never met in person, her heart for Christ is so pure and holy that she recently took some time to respond in specific detail to my previous post.

I am honored to share her email with you, dear reader. Whatever sin you’re struggling with at the moment, I pray that God will grant you the faith, grace, and strength necessary to overcome it.

 


 

 

Hi [Topaz], my dearest brother in Christ,

 

I read your new blog post. It was very timely since I’ve been wondering how you were doing and how your Holy Week was. Just a few things I had in mind as I read your concerns:

 

1. Dealing with Sin

Have you thought of emailing Matt Fradd? Or has it ever crossed your mind? I highly suggest emailing him your concerns, struggles and questions, because I am pretty confident he can give some practical advice or insights about the issue [of sexual impurity].

Actually I am suggesting this because I already did it. I emailed him about a question that’s been bugging me for years, and it was related to pornography. And praise God, he replied speedily. I’m really hoping he can help you in whatever way he can and with God’s grace.

 

2. Spiritual Director

I just learned that we as Catholics are in dire need of confessors or spiritual directors who will patiently help us with our struggles. How often do you go to confession? I try to go once a month. It would also be a great help if you could find an accountability partner. Pray and ask God for that person (a male friend or a brother from K of C) who can also guide you in fighting the battle.

But if not, I hope this helps: Try to contact Opus Dei and ask if they have a center near your place. In my own experience, I felt God’s guidance through them. Since I’ve been attending their monthly recollection, I feel that God is there leading my life.

 

3. Continue to Seek God

You ask in your blog “where are they?”, so now I am eagerly telling you to continue seeking… and to never lose hope. Please don’t think that the demons are binding you. We both know that they have nothing else to do but to keep us away from God. So please CONTINUE SEARCHING… and try not to give in to these temptations. Please don’t lose hope.

 

4. Spiritual Reading

Have you heard of this? If not, then let me give you an idea how to go about it. I’ve also learned this from doing the Norms of Piety booklet. It says that allotting 15-20 minutes of spiritual reading daily is a great help to enrich and inspire you spiritually.

You might want to start off with St. Augustine’s books in which he also admitted that he struggled a lot with sins of the flesh. I also just started this habit and I’m currently reading St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life. Even doing this, I must admit, is also a struggle. I believe the devil doesn’t want us to practice this because we are uplifted and encouraged to persevere in sanctifying our lives.

 

5. And, finally, Daily Mass

I’ll probably be struggling with this practice forever… but i know that I should not give up. Here in the Philippines, weekday Masses don’t last an hour since sometimes there’s no choir. So, if I go to noon Mass in our Cathedral, it usually only runs 30mins or so. I hope you can find time to go to Mass even on weekdays — especially if your schedule permits. The reason why I really want to practice this is because the Mass is our great source of grace. We do want that, don’t we? And it’s also one way of showing our love for God, giving praise to Him and listening to Him through the Liturgy of the Word. Right?

 
But if you think it’s really hard or impossible (for now) for you to attend daily Mass, then you can always find a way to make if more convenient for you. Like maybe one day a week excluding Sunday… I guess you just have to put a little more extra effort into fighting this battle. And the tricky part is how not to give up the fight and how to sustain yourself in not giving up. I think it all depends on that. We should also realize that we can never perfect all these things on our own. And we probably will not, but it’s still not an excuse not to try. Because, along the way, I’m pretty sure something wonderful is waiting, and something beautiful will happen. Let’s never cease to believe and have faith.

 

Your Sister in Christ,

[Julia]

~t


A Drug Called Pornography

As a flesh-and-blood male, pornography is something that I struggle with — even as a faithful Catholic. So many times, I feel like St. Paul must have felt. I plead with God to take away this load of bricks from my shoulders, but He gives me the same response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Huh?! What the heck does that mean, anyway?  Why don’t you speak in simple, straightforward English, Lord? Because I’m an idiot and I need for you to be clear. I want answers, darn it!

Then I’m reminded of that final epic chapter in Job where God does indeed answer Job’s complaints about Him. So, maybe I’m better off with the enigmatic response that St. Paul received.

There are some good resources out there for men and women who struggle with purity and pornography.

Yes, women, too.

I always thought that porn addiction was a problem that only men encountered.  That is not true. According to a 2013 study by Covenant Eyes, 20% of all Christian women (and 50% of all Christian men) are addicted to pornography.

To any non-believers reading this: Please do not hate on us and call us hypocrites. Yes, viewing porn is not very “Christ-like.” Duh. I’m not making excuses, but it is extremely difficult to resist the temptations of the world.

I will be the first to tell you: I am no better than any non-Christian. Shoot, I can probably name numerous atheists who do better at holding to good morals than I do.

But we Christians need to keep striving to imitate Christ and to get this stuff out of our lives.

Why, “Topaz”? You crusading, holier-than-thou prick? What’s wrong with a little porn? It’s natural. We’re human after all, and it helps jump-start my sex life with my spouse or significant other.

Dudes, ladies, I ain’t here to condemn you. When God looks down from heaven, he see all of us as sinners. I’m no better than anyone else reading this measly little blog.

And I mean that.

Oh, how I would love to tell you about my life before I got serious about practicing my faith. Heck, if I were to tell you about some of the stuff I struggle with at the present when I fall into sin, you would stop visiting this blog right away.

Yes, I’m rambling; I tend to do that when I get emotional about an issue. Please forgive me.

Anyway, here are just a few stats from that study over at Covenant Eyes:

88% of scenes in porn films contain acts of physical aggression, and 49% of scenes contain verbal aggression.

9 out of 10 boys were exposed to pornography before the age of 18.

The first exposure to pornography among men is 12 years old.

71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents.

28% of 16-17 year olds have been unintentionally exposed to porn online.

6 out of 10 girls were exposed to pornography before the age of 18.

15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography.

32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online.

39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online.

83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online.

51% of male and 32% of female students first viewed porn before their teenage years (12 and younger).

70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with PTSD.

56% of divorce cases involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

There are awesome resources at XXXchurch that include accountability groups via videoconferencing, accountability software, and other stuff. Unfortunately, the guys at XXXchurch take a lot of flak from Christians for the name of their site. I say, hey, whatever gets peoples’ attention. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” (Jesus)

These aforementioned sites are Protestant (hey, we’re all on the same team).  A good Catholic resource can be found here.

OK, to change gears a little bit: Last week was my monthly Knights of Columbus council meeting. It was the first meeting in which I attended as an officer since the new fraternal year began July 1. (Proof that there is a God! Just a few years ago, there was no way that I would ever have been nominated and elected as an officer in a Catholic fraternal order.)

I brought up the topic of accountability partners because I haven’t seen anything like that at my parish. The typical pew-warmer tends to be lazy (hence the term pew-warmer), so I took it upon myself to initiate the idea. Again, this is something so unlike me; not only am I a pew-warmer, but I’m a wallflower as well.

Anyway, as I was afraid of, I received a pretty indifferent response from the general members as well as from the other officers. Dejected, I vowed to go to the parish priest and ask him for advice on how to initiate this much-needed accountability program.

Little did I know, though, that my fellow Knights were too hesitant and embarrassed to voice approval in front of everyone else. After the meeting had finished, several Knights approached me and opened up about their personal struggles with pornography and masturbation.

I was vaguely aware of the hall becoming empty as I chatted with brothers about their issues as well as mine. However, sitting in a corner of the hall, in semi-darkness, was a very prominent member. What was he doing? He usually had to rush out directly after the meetings because of his busy schedule.

After I had finished speaking with the last brother, it was only the prominent guy and me remaining in the hall. “Do you have a partner yet? I could use one. I look at porn,” he said, avoiding eye contact.

Oh. My. Goodness.

This was someone who I barely spoke to because his time seemed reserved for the “important” people. For him to wait and humbly admit this to me in an empty K of C hall really blew me away. “I’ve got your number. Can I text you?” I asked.

“Sure. That’ll work.”

I went home that night to my little prayer closet — they’re not just for Evangelicals anymore  — and just sat before the crucifix, electrified and humbled. Electrified because God was using a mental, introverted fool like me, and humbled because some of the most important men in my council and parish were now looking to me for a way out of their spiritual bondage.

St. Augustine, pray for us!

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

~topaz