Monthly Archives: November 2014

Saturday Saints- #41

The saint for today is Saint Nothhelm of Canterbury:

Nothhelm (sometimes Nothelm; died 739) was a medieval Anglo-Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury. A correspondent of both Bede and Boniface, it was Nothhelm who gathered materials from Canterbury for Bede’s historical works. After his appointment to the archbishopric in 735, he attended to ecclesiastical matters, including holding church councils. Although later antiquaries felt that Nothhelm was the author of a number of works, later research has shown them to be authored by others. After his death he was considered a saint.

More about St. Nothhelm can be found at his wiki, located here.

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Against All Advice

Some of my readers/commenters didn’t pay enough attention when reading my latest post, Advice for a Prodigal Daughter, and so commented in ways that exceeded the scope of what I was allowing. I will give them the benefit of this doubt in this matter, and won’t interpret as trolling or anything. Since there is room for critiquing here, I am creating this post to allow those who have problems with my latest post to comment here. This will be free ranging, and nearly unrestricted in what I allow. So if anyone wants to preserve what they said in the previous post, they can re-created their comment(s) here before I delete the unhelpful ones. I will make that final clean-up early tomorrow, just so everyone know how much  time they have.

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Advice For A Prodigal Daughter

A bit of a different post for today. Certainly a break from the one before. Today’s post is a response to an e-mail I received recently,  one which is the latest amongst many that have run along similar lines. It came from a woman who I will refer to as ‘Prodigal Daughter’ throughout this post. I am writing this post for Prodigal Daughter and the other women in her position who e-mail me or have commented her on my blog, asking for help. Also, I want to have a post I can link to in the future when similar questions or concerns are raised.

As a measure of protecting her privacy, I’m going to paraphrase the content of Prodigal Daughter’s e-mail. Brackets are my explanations for things which either weren’t in the original e-mail or had to separated from the original message. Here is the paraphrased e-mail:

Prodigal Daughter began by asking for what I believed was the case about men in general, and not myself in particular.

This was followed by an explanation that she was millennial woman who is presently committed to living a serious Christian life, including biblical submission and a desire for a large family. However, she had sinned sexually in the past with a man. [So N=1.] She indicates that she is fairly good looking.  She hopes to find a God-fearing husband who will lead her future family. While she has turned her life around, she recognizes that she made serious errors in the past [and didn’t seem to excuse them]. She very much detests what she has done, but there is nothing she can do about it.

She acknowledged that a lot of God-fearing men only want a woman who has been chaste throughout her life, and she understands why. Her main question was whether it was a possibility that a God-fearing man could “forgive her past” and choose her as a wife despite her history. Was that wishful thinking on her part, and she was no longer desirable as a wife? [Prodigal Daughter can accept not marrying, if that is what happens, but she really does want a husband.] She sought my honest opinion on what men would think, knowing I couldn’t speak for all of them.

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Before I get into my response, I would like to mention that I want to keep this post about helpful advice and suggestions. This post is intended to have a very specific focus. I will police this thread heavily, so keep that in mind. People can respond to the e-mail or my suggestions, but free-ranging debates that get off-topic will be deleted. Just wanted to be clear about that from the get-go.

One thing that needs to be addressed before responding to Prodigal Daughter’s inquiry is an important prerequisite. This is not directed at Prodigal Daughter but towards women who are in her shoes. They need to honestly ask themselves if they really are ready or capable of fulfilling the duties of a Christian wife. It is essential for women with sexual sins in their past to do some serious self-reflection (although it applies to all kinds of sins and harm in the past too). Sexual sins/history can (and often do) have a serious impact on a woman’s ability to maintain a healthy relationship, especially a lasting one like marriage. I know that some of my readers and plenty of others out there will disagree with this, but I do think that some women end up being so scarred by their past that they cannot (or are unlikely to) overcome it. So all women in this position need to examine themselves and make sure that they are not so damaged. A full post can be written on how to do this and what to look for, but a major warning sign is a sense of disgust or revulsion associated with sex, in whatever form or context. If you [in the general sense] have blocks in place that would interfere with your ability to afford a future husband his conjugal rights, I’m sorry but you should not pursue marriage. At least as long as you have that block.

[Prodigal Daughter has indicated that she doesn’t have this problem. She wants to enjoy sex in a manner pleasing to God and to her future husband. In fact serving her husband in this manner would be a joy to her.]

Having covered that, now to the main topic.

Reading through the e-mail, it looks to me that Prodigal Daughter is looking for the following:

  • A God-fearing man
  • Who is willing to lead her and her family; and
  • One who will overlook her past

Prodigal Daughter, I will be blunt: you will probably have a very difficult time finding the husband you want.

Much of your difficulty, perhaps even most of it, will not be due to your past. Sadly, the general state of the Faith, the Church and marriage in the West these days is so bad that finding a God-fearing husband will be difficult for many Christian woman. Understand that this is a lousy market for Christians who want to marry and follow God’s commands. Whether a woman has been chaste her whole life or not, she will find a dearth of marriageable and marriage-minded Christian men out there. [The even bleaker situation Christian men face is covered well enough elsewhere on my blog.] So understand that the situation is tough irrespective of anything about you personally. [Prodigal Daughter has indicated she has noticed some of this already.]

That is the overall picture. As for the more specific…

First off, it is not a question of a God-fearing man “forgiving” you your past. You didn’t sin against him, at least, not him specifically. It would only be in the general sense of sinning against the church, of which he is a member. Rather, this is about him ignoring or overlooking your past, and either hoping it doesn’t affect your marriage or accepting the consequences that it means for your marriage. Again, this isn’t about forgiveness. We are called to forgive as Christians; but this is about a man evaluating whether or not you would be an acceptable wife. Your past choices will affect your abilities as a wife. Men will be deciding if you are worth the risk that your past entails.

Now, God-fearing men fall into several “camps” as far as a woman’s sexual history is concerned. Some, especially those who have been chaste themselves, won’t ever accept as a wife a woman who hasn’t been chaste. [For the sake of disclosure I should mention that I personally would fall into this camp.] It is tough to get a read of just how many men are in that camp. Others will hesitate about it, with the amount of baggage you have being a determining factor. The more you have, the more likely it will tip the scales against you. Your other attributes will matter here a great deal.  Of course, not all God-fearing men are as “picky”, especially those who have themselves fornicated in the past. What will matter to them will be your recent actions and your present state. There are also those who have been indoctrinated to think that it a woman’s sexual history doesn’t matter or that they are lesser men if they let it affect their judgment. While that can work for you, I would advise you be be careful when dealing with such men. You don’t want to marry a man who will secretly regret his choice or later resent being told to bury his wishes.

With an N (number of premarital sexual partners) of 1, you are in a far better position that many other prodigal daughters out there. Many of the men who would consider marrying a woman with a sexual history will be far more accepting of you with such a low number. They will know you aren’t a slut (a crude word but accurate and useful here). Instead  you are a woman who erred with a single man. Either you did so once and realized your error right away, showing more wisdom than most. Or you stuck with it, and showed an interest in a serious relationship. As sad as it is to say, this is in your favor. Most millennial women have higher N’s than that.

So in sum, there will be some God-fearing men who will not accept you as a wife because of your past. But your history is not so bad as to push away all of them.

Age is another possible hindrance. The older you are, the more restricted your choices. A man might be willing to overlook a certain history in a 20 year old that he wouldn’t for a 30 year old. In addition, men are drawn to youth in women. All else being equal, we will choose the younger woman. In addition, the younger you are, the more time you have to find someone. I would also point out that those men who want a larger family will want to marry a younger wife in particular.  The manosphere likes to throw around certain numbers, 25 years old and 30 years old being the most prominent, as ages past which a woman is not marriageable or worth marrying. I wouldn’t worry about that all that much- the ‘sphere is quite small and women past those ages can and do marry.  But it could always be a factor, so it is important to understand and accept that. Plus it means you shouldn’t waste time- this really does need to be the primary focus of your life right now.

In summary, the older you are/get, the tougher the situation will be.

You have mentioned you are fairly attractive. [Prodigal Daughter has explained she works out daily and eats well. She dresses modestly and attractively, and has her hair long and well groomed.] This will be in your favor, and might ultimately be what helps you find a husband. Men are drawn to beauty as well, and it might help a man decide you are worth the risk. Even when we shouldn’t, men will overlook a lot for a pretty face and a shapely body. Keep taking care of yourself here, this is a chance for you to really stand out. Keeping your weight down and your body-fat percentage in a healthy range gives you a leg up. Just keep in mind your attractiveness is tied to your age, so it will be of less help the more time that passes.

So where am I going with this? Simple- your situation is difficult… but not impossible. Your past counts against you, but your looks will help you out. Your age can help or hurt- it depends on how old you are. But women in your position can and do marry. Even to God-fearing men. So it is not a lost cause.

Here are a few pieces of advice that might help you out:

  • Look at men older than you. Don’t just look at guys within 1-3 years of your age. You need to be looking well past that. Seriously consider men 5 to 10 years older than you. Trust me on this. An older man will appreciate having a younger wife, especially if she is still pretty. He might not care about history as much either, as he will be grateful to have a wife.
  • Look out for men who are recent converts or “prodigal sons.” The men most likely to accept your past failings will be those with a sinful past as well. You will find more of those among those who have recently joined or returned to the church. Widowers, while rare, are a possibility if their wife died young.
  • Be pro-active. Many men are gun-shy about marriage these days. Emphasize your support of, and willingness to engage in, Christian marriage (with biblical submission and everything). Ask around if anyone knows of any men who are looking for a wife. Introduce yourself and be friendly with the unmarried men in church. Talk with your fellow women, find out if any have brothers or cousins who might be interested in marriage.
  • Set realistic expectations. Prince Charming doesn’t exist in real life, and never has. The highest value, most attractive men might not accept you because of your past. Age could also push some away. So be realistic, not picky.

I cannot promise that anything I’ve said will be of any help. Like I said, it will be a hard road, but not an impossible one. However, it is entirely possible that you may never find yourself a husband. Many God-fearing Christian men and women will not be able to find spouses int his day and age. Don’t build up unhealthy expectations or let your anxiety overcome you.

 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

At the same time, remember-

 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

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If any of my readers have any suggestions of their own they would like to, please feel free to do so in the comments. Once again, I would like to keep the comments focused on the topics of this post only, and will be policing them.

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A Singular Problem

The Church has a serious problem as far as marriage is concerned. I think that is pretty clear to all of us. But this problem extends just beyond the institution itself to how it is viewed and approached by singles and by clergy. One of the themes I’ve stressed on this blog is that the Church (the Catholic Church in particular) has done essentially nothing to help young Christians marry, and marry well at that. If anything, the Church has made this task more difficult in recent decades.

All of that is the preface for two links to articles which discuss singleness among Christians. I’m mentioning them in this short post to highlight how even those who realize something is wrong are still blind to what is going on. Sadly, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

MarcusD alerted me to the first article, Single and Catholic, which discusses how the Church needs to be more welcoming to the unmarried. While the author makes some good points, what struck me is the fact that it seemed as though single parents (aka, single moms) ended up dominating the discussion in the article. Nearly everything ended up revolving around them. Perhaps I’m being petty, but as an unmarried Christian man I don’t like the idea of being lumped in with single mothers as being part of the general constituency “single.” I imagine that my fellow sisters in Christ have a similar viewpoint.

[Update: I was taken to task in the comments over this next section, and rightly so. Either I misread what was said, or I explained myself poorly. As a result, I have struck out my commentary, although I left it so that people aren’t completely confused. For a better example of what I was seeing look to the comments, specifically here.]

The second article, which I found thanks to a link provided by Mrs. C, is Why You’re Not Any Less of a Person if You Haven’t Dated Yet. This article’s authoress shows some potential- she rejects the casual dating culture. Yet at the same time she says things like “in no way whatsoever am I saying that dating is bad.” She cannot see the disconnect- how casual dating is just another form of dating, and that if the one is bad then so must the other. Also troubling her her defense of “singleness.” She doesn’t try and define it, or explain why it is a good thing, much less back up her view with Scripture or Tradition. When I read language like that I get the picture that she thinks singleness is good because it is good for her, and it is good for her because she feels good about being single at the moment. There is no introspection, no self-reflection taking place. Certainly she is not considering whether she is called to marriage, and if so, taking serious steps towards it. She rejects the notion that she is “naive, inexperienced, and childlike” and yet she doesn’t take her vocation seriously. Worst of all, this still puts her above most of her peers.

I might have another short post up tomorrow, not sure yet if that will work out. I hope to have a major one done by the end of the week, time permitting.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #48

Today’s post contains several OT passages, along with a part of the Gospel of John, chapter 6. The first passage is from Second Maccabees:

38 Then Judas assembled his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the seventh day was coming on, they purified themselves according to the custom, and kept the sabbath there.

39 On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchres of their ancestors. 40 Then under the tunic of each one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen. 41 So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.

(2 Maccabees 12:38-45)

This passage is, from my understanding, the principle source of the Catholic and Orthodox Tradition of praying for the dead. In the Catholic Church the funeral Mass is set apart from all other types of masses, as it has some unique characteristics to it. This is especially true for Tridentine Masses. And of course, some of the most moving pieces of classical music were written with funeral masses in mind. Mozart’s Requiem is one of the most famous examples of these.

Now I turn to one of my favorite books in the bible, Tobit:

Then Raphael called the two of them privately and said to them, “Bless God and acknowledge him in the presence of all the living for the good things he has done for you. Bless and sing praise to his name. With fitting honor declare to all people the deeds of God. Do not be slow to acknowledge him. It is good to conceal the secret of a king, but to acknowledge and reveal the works of God, and with fitting honor to acknowledge him. Do good and evil will not overtake you. Prayer with fasting is good, but better than both is almsgiving with righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than wealth with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to lay up gold. For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, 10 but those who commit sin and do wrong are their own worst enemies.

(Tobit 12:6-10)

I believe that this passage from the Book of Tobit has been featured before in this series, but reading it again I felt inspired to write about it. Verse 8 reached out to me, as it highlights how God seeks mercy from us more than sacrifice. We love Him best when we love one another. Hence the need to use what has been given to us towards the benefit of our fellow men. And of course, this should be done joyfully with praise to the Lord.

This brings us to the Gospel of John:

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

(John 6:48-58)

As the disciples later exclaim, this teaching is difficult. This was true not only with the original disciples and apostles, but into the early church and beyond. From what I understand, many biblical scholars believe that the reason the Gospel of John is so very different from the synoptic gospels is because it was written with a different, specific purpose in mind. It had a clear theological agenda, if you will. Amongst its purposes was the goal of reaffirming in the Church the divine nature of Jesus from before he was even born. Thus the reminder that in the beginning was the Word, and that Jesus is the Word, and that Word was made flesh. John’s Gospel makes all of this clear, and together with the rest of the New Testament explains how the old sacrifices of the past have been replaced with a new, final sacrifice.  Sadly, the fact that John the Evangelist found it necessary to write his own Gospel demonstrates that even in the early church there were dissenters from its teaching. As Scripture reminds us, there is nothing new under the sun.

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Saturday Saints- #40

Today is the Solemnity of All Saints, or All Saints Day. In honor of this feast day today’s post will feature not one but two saints. Both lived in the same era, and both suffered for the faith. Our first saint is Maximus the Confessor:

Maximus the Confessor (Greek: Μάξιμος ὁ Ὁμολογητής) also known as Maximus the Theologian and Maximus of Constantinople (c. 580 – 13 August 662) was a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar.

In his early life, Maximus was a civil servant, and an aide to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. However, he gave up this life in the political sphere to enter into the monastic life. Maximus had studied diverse schools of philosophy, and certainly what was common for his time, the Platonic dialogues, the works of Aristotle, and numerous later Platonic commentators on Aristotle and Plato, like Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus. When one of his friends began espousing the Christological position known as Monothelitism, Maximus was drawn into the controversy, in which he supported an interpretation of the Chalcedonian formula on the basis of which it was asserted that Jesus had both a human and a divine will. Maximus is venerated in both Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity. His Christological positions eventually resulted in the mutilation of his tongue and right hand, after which he was exiled and died on August 13, 662 in Tsageri, Georgia. However, his theology was upheld by the Third Council of Constantinople and he was venerated as a saint soon after his death. He is almost unique among saints in that he has two feast days: the 13th of August and the 21st of January. His title of Confessor means that he suffered for the Christian faith, but was not directly martyred. The Life of the Virgin its only extant copy is in a Georgian translation, commonly is, albeit mistakenly, attributed to him, and is considered to be one of the earliest complete biographies of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

You can find out more about St. Maximus here, at his wiki.

St. Maximus the Confessor

Our second saint for the day is Pope Martin the First:

Pope Martin I (Latin: Martinus I; died 16 September 655) reigned from 21 July 649 to his death in 655. He was born near Todi, Umbria, in the place now named after him (Pian di San Martino). He succeeded Pope Theodore I on 5 July 649. He was the only pope during the Byzantine Papacy whose election was not approved by a iussio from Constantinople. Martin I was abducted by Emperor Constans II and died at Cherson. He is considered a saint and martyr by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Like Maximus the Confessor, Pope Martin I was targeted by the Byzantine emperor for his denunciation of heresy. Both suffered and died in exile because of their devotion. As we consider the possibility that in the not so distant future we too might have to suffer for the faith, let us keep their examples in mind.

More about his life and trials can be found here, the wiki about him.

Pope Martin I

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