You Can Conquer Addiction to Lust

The Cord of St. Joseph
The Cord of St. Joseph

I hate the word pornography. It’s vile.

Everything associated with it is vile. Sometimes at work I hear my colleagues (who are predominantly male) joke around about “porn” or “porn stars,” quips which always draw knowing laughs…except from me. Laughing about pornography is like laughing about heroin. There’s nothing funny about something that enslaves people to sin and causes pain to them and their loved ones.

But I am here to tell you something wonderful today: you can overcome addiction to pornography. I can honestly tell you this because I have done so, and I was once as addicted as any man.

The Battle Does Not End This Side of Heaven

Before I share more with you, I should qualify what I just said by adding that I still face temptations to lust on a regular basis.

It’s just that now I have the virtue to overcome the temptation and choose chastity over lust. But I am conscious of my own weakness and know that if I toy with temptation, it could overcome me again and cause me to fall to sin, so I am always vigilant. Some saints in the Church were given special graces by God to not even be tempted to lust–St. Joseph and St. Thomas come to mind–but most of us have not been given such extraordinary measures and must be prepared daily to face temptation.

There was no one day when I realized I had overcome habitual lust and sexual addiction. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, I kept fighting the battle, availing myself of everything I could to help me live chastely: I put pictures of Our Lady around my computer, went to daily Mass and adoration whenever I could, studied the Theology of the Body, did accountability groups with close friends of mine, wore the Cord of St. Joseph, prayed novenas to St. Maria Goretti and St. Therese, and went to Confession after I fell to temptation.

Some people say this or that measure “doesn’t work,” but different things work for different people. I say, take the shotgun approach: use everything you can and find what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try something that could help.

One verse that gave me great encouragement during my struggle to overcome pornography addiction was 1 Cor. 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

How reassuring to know that, even when temptation felt beyond my power to overcome, God promises to give the grace to overcome it. I only have to accept that grace.

Secret to Success: Keep Fighting the Battle

It took me years of praying, attending Mass, and receiving the sacraments to overcome my addiction. The fact is that lustful vice was deeply ingrained, an evil habit that had worn itself into my heart like a rut in the road. I had to work and pray hard on the opposite virtue of chastity to form a good habit in myself, one that would make it possible for me to avoid falling into the rut of vice again. Though it took a long time, that eventually happened, by the grace of God, and the feeling of being free from the slavery to sin was indescribable. No longer was I controlled by twisted desires, but instead I was under the aegis of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of power, of love, and of self-mastery.

For those of you who are still struggling with this sin, know that I sympathize. I know how hopeless it can feel, like you will never overcome it. But you can. Because God is faithful. The one critical component to victory is simply to not give up, no matter how many times you fall. Ask God for forgiveness, and try again. And again, and again, as long as it takes. Even when you “know” that you will fall again, get up and do your best, with His help. He knows us, knows our weakness, and also knows that through this fight, we will become the manly saints that He created us to be.

Please feel free to share anything that has helped you in growing in purity and avoiding lust.

Every English Mass Should Be Like the Anglican Ordinariate’s

We traveled to Houston this weekend and went to Holy Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham, a church in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

I was delighted when Pope Emeritus Benedict established the Anglican Ordinariate years ago, but I had never gone to one of its churches. Until Sunday.

True Anglo-Catholicism

The parish is beautiful. It is like an acre of England has been cut out and dropped in Houston. The church itself looks like a classic Anglican (originally Catholic!) church.

2012014032walsingham-crThe language of the liturgy is English, but the phrasing and words used are elegant, dignified, and mellifluous.

They have a great organ and accompanied it with traditional English hymns, sung very well. Much of the Mass was sung or chanted.

The Order of the Mass for the Anglican Ordinariate is what the English Mass should be: traditional, yet in the vernacular; accessible, yet reverent.

We’ve been to the Extraordinary Form (Latin) multiple times, and of course to the normal Ordinary Form (English) thousands of times, and the Ordinariate Mass captures the best of each Form in its own unique style.

What We Lost As English Catholics

In studying for many years the history of the Protestant Reformation, I have slowly realized the devastating loss that we as English-speaking Catholics have suffered due to King Henry VIII and the Anglican Protestant usurpation of Catholic England.

I know that sounds extreme, but it is the candid truth.

christmas-2014-olw-houston-3We should have had five hundred years of English Catholic music, culture, and life, but instead Catholics were hunted down and killed and the Church went underground there for a long time.

So Pope Emeritus Benedict showed great wisdom and brilliance in establishing the Anglican Ordinariate. He realized what we had lost, and he saw a way to retrieve some part of it, all while building a bridge to Anglicans (including Episcopalians) who have grown appalled at the fall of the Anglican Communion into unsalvagable heterodoxy.

He established the Ordinariate to include a reverent Mass, in English, of the Roman Rite, that also includes aspects of authentic Anglican patrimony. The result is a breath of fresh air: the accessibility of our English language with the reverence and tradition of the Extraordinary Form.

Regarding the lost English Catholic culture, most of the songs we sang were written by Anglican Protestants from the 17th through 19th centuries. One we sung lamented the “schisms and heresies” that wounded the Church. No doubt the original composer didn’t realize that his own Anglican community was in schism from the Church.

A New Via Media

Many Anglican Protestants believe their Communion to be a middle way between Protestantism and Catholicism. Sadly, it’s not the case.

Anglicanism is firmly Protestant, even though it retains some Catholic aspects (deacon-priest-bishop, a liturgy, etc.).

The Anglican Ordinariate is a via into full communion for Anglicans, and I think it can be a via media between the Ordinary Form and the Extraodinary Form.

OurLadyOfWalsinghamChurchI find it perplexing that two main options for Mass exist: an Ordinary Form English Mass with banal music and little reverence (clapping, slovenly dress, chatter and gum chewing, etc.), and a solemn, ethereal Extraordinary Form High Mass that is quite beautiful and reverent, but where it is difficult to follow what is going on.

A via media between those options is the Anglican Ordinariate’s liturgy. I see it as more like what the (Second Vatican) Council Fathers intended when they opened up the Liturgy to the vernacular. (For more on this, I recommend Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis.) The closest thing to it currently would probably be the Extraordinary Form Low Mass, which we’ve found to be quite warm and accessible when we’ve gone to daily Mass.

Distrusting Catholics Who Love Tradition

Many Catholics, including various priests and bishops, distrust anyone who seems like a “traditional Catholic.” That moniker has such a broad meaning that it render it unhelpful, but the stigma remains.

I conjecture that that distrust is why most bishops do not encourage the Extraordinary Form in their dioceses. In our diocese we have the Extraordinary Form celebrated at the Cathedral in the afternoon on Sundays. Blessedly, some priests in our diocese are learning the Extraodinary Form on their own and have celebrated it. Also, on the occasion that a seminarian from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is ordained and is from our area, that priest will often celebrate a daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form at our parish.

I also conjecture that the same sort of mistrustful feeling toward traditional Catholics is applied to the Anglican Ordinariate. I eyeballed the number of Anglican Ordinariate parishes in the United States and it can’t be more than 40 or so. Less than one per state! I don’t think we have even one Anglican Ordinariate parish in our diocese of over 100 parishes.

But why shouldn’t we have one? Or many? It would draw thousands of Anglicans to convert to Catholicism, and provide a haven for Catholics desiring more traditional liturgy. At Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston it was clear that many families drove long distances to come each week to the Sunday Mass.

Something Is Different Here!

You walk into Our Lady of Walsingham and know that you are in a different place, a consecrated place, a place set aside for holy use.

Yet the people have cheerful demeanors. They are peaceful and happy. It is not a stifled, stilted, or rigidly legalistic mood. The music is sacred and solemn, yet beautiful.

Many women are wearing veils. Because they want to. People are generally dressed in nicer clothes–not because they are richer–but because they know they are coming to a holy place and should dress appropriately.

They have an altar rail, which makes for reverent yet efficient reception of the Holy Eucharist. The best of both worlds. People receive on the tongue from ordained hands by intinction.

I’m not the pope, nor a bishop, nor a priest, nor even a deacon. I’m just a lay Catholic who wants his children to be immersed in authentic Catholic culture: liturgy, music, language, literature, dress, education, life. The liturgy is a key part of that. I would be ecstatic if the Anglican Ordinariate was brought into our diocese.

I think it would work wonders and be a seed planted that would sprout into new life, just as has happened with the Extraordinary Form in our diocese. Let us be not afraid to embrace our own patrimony and heritage! Let’s rediscover the beauty of our Faith, in particular of our Anglo-Catholic roots as English speakers, roots that go back over 1400 years.

I only wish that I had been Anglican so I could petition for the establishment of the Ordinariate in my diocese! However it works, let’s make it happen. God bless.

A Great Way to Pray More With Your Children

We pray with our children everyday, but we have often found it difficult to pray with them beyond very simple ideas for short periods of time.

So recently when we decided to do another 33-day consecration to Jesus through Mary, we were delighted to discover a new book specifically directed at doing the consecration with children.

jesu1We used this new book–33 Day Family Consecration: A Guide for Parents to Total Consecration to Jesus Through Maryand it transformed our family prayer time in wonderful ways.

Though our children are only 3 and 5 years old, we were able to read the daily consecration reflection and have a discussion with them about the theological words and concepts, which are presented in basic enough ways to not go completely over their heads.

Allen Hebert, the author of the consecration, describes what the book is for:

This resource is designed to enable you as parents to lead your entire family through 33 days of preparation for total consecration to Jesus through Mary.

This book provides assistance for parents to make the daily prayers, scripture readings and reflections in Fr. Nathan Cromly’s Totus Tuus: A Contemplative Approach to Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary accessible to each member of their family. 33 days of simplified reflections that match the daily readings in Totus Tuus are provided, along with questions to encourage family discussion and improve the understanding of the daily topics.

These reflections are designed for ages 7 and up. For those families with younger children, we offer the 33 Day Family Consecration Coloring Book, with coloring pages that correspond to the major theme of each day of the consecration.

The coloring book is itself a great activity for young children, with well done illustrations. And though Allen says ages 7 and up, parents with younger children like us can simplify some of the language and in places summarize the reflections to help their children comprehend them.

The biggest benefit we received from using this consecration companion was praying for longer periods of time with our children, in a structured way, and having discussions that helped them understand more of our Faith. They can grasp much more than I sometimes think they can.

Do check out the consecration book, available on kindle and paperback!