This page contains various articles and narratives from Ronda, Bob and others. Click the green play button below on any audio piece to listen. Scroll down for the latest entries.
Taming the Lion Within: Five Steps from Anger to Peace.
An audio recording of a talk Dr. Ronda gave some years ago on her book Taming the Lion Within: Five Steps from Anger to Peace.
Here is a wonderful recent talk by Bob Olson:
Holy Church - Bob Olson, November, 2011.
When they asked me to teach tonight, I said what should I teach on and they said the “daily readings.” (Every day in the Catholic Church we have readings from Scripture at Mass and from the Fathers of the Church or the writings of the Saints during other public and private prayer times.) So I said: sounds like a good idea. I looked up the readings for today, November 9th and as you know it is the Feast of Saint John Lateran Basilica (in Rome) So I thought to myself, this could be a challenge. Then I asked the Holy Spirit to give me some inspiration and here goes:
The basilica of St. John Lateran was one of the first churches built by Christians following the early persecutions. It was raised in Rome under the Emperor Constantine and is the first Western Church to have the invocation of the Savior. The Basilica was consecrated by Pope Sylvester on this day in the year 324.
Earlier, the Jews established temples and they were symbols of the presence of God. God already made his presence known in the “Tent Meeting” in the desert. There Moses spoke to the Lord “as to a friend.” The cloud in the shape of a column came to him as a sign of the Almighty’s presence.
In todays “Office of Readings” Saint Caesarius of Arles said: “Today is the birthday of the church, an occasion for celebration and rejoicing. Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as we expect the church to be. Do you wish to find this beautiful basilica immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God too wishes that the light of good works shine in us, so that He who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter the church building, so God wishes to come into your soul, for He promised: “I shall live in them, and I shall walk the corridors of their hearts.” We go into our churches to encounter God. He awaits us there with his real presence in our Tabernacles. Blessed Pope John Paul II teaches: Any church is your house, and the house of God. Value it as a place where we encounter our common Father.”
Let us approach of churches with a great spirit of reverence since there is no place more worthy of respect than the house of God. Let us visit them with the confidence of a person on his way to greet his best friend, Jesus Christ.
The Lord is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist. He is present both in His Divinity and in His most holy Humanity, with His Body and Soul and He hears us and sees us. We can present Him with our deepest desires to love Him more and more each passing day, and entrust to him our preoccupations, our difficulties and our weaknesses. This is the best way to love Him by giving Him all our problems and trust Him to help us. We should cultivate a profound reverence for our churches and oratories since the Lord awaits us there. Eucharistic Adoration (where there is a monstrance with a large host of the Blessed Sacrament in it available on an altar for adoration) has always been a big part of my Christian walk. Early on, I remember sitting in an empty church before the Tabernacle when I heard Jesus say: “I am so glad you are here. I knew you would be here today, even before the earth was made. I’ve been alone all night and you are the first person to visit me today. Your visits are what kept me going on the cross.” I thought to myself, did I hear that right? My visits kept Jesus going on the cross.
Then a few weeks later I was reading St Faustina’s diary and she writes: “During adoration Jesus said to me: “Know that your ardent love and compassion you have for me were a consolation to me in the garden.” (1664)
To Sister Josefa Menendez Jesus said: “The Holy Eucharist is the invention of Love, but how few souls correspond to that love which spends and consumes itself for them.” (Mar 2, 1923)
He also talked to Josefa about how he spent part of a day and night in prison before he died on the cross. He said: “Compare the prison with the Tabernacle…especially with the hearts that receive me. In the prison I spent just part of a day and night, but in the Tabernacle…how many days and nights?” “Oh you who are consecrated to Me, draw near to the Bridegroom of your souls in his prison. If you are desirous of proving your sympathy, open your hearts and let me find a prison within.”
St Therese said: “I long to console thee for ungrateful sinners” in her “Act of Oblation as victim of God’s merciful Love.” One of the best ways to console the Heart of Jesus is visiting him in the Most Blessed Sacrament and here is a prayer for this occasion from Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book “Consoling the Heart of Jesus”: “Lord Jesus, even though my sins are many, I know the mercy of your Heart. I’m sorry I was afraid to go to you. I’m so sorry I left you alone. But look here I am. Please forgive my sins. I’m going to try to do better. Lord, I can’t offer much now except for my weak trust and love. Jesus I do trust in you, and I love you. Praise you Jesus, and thank you for everything, especially what you’re suffering right now out of love for me. I’ve come to be with you, my friend. Don’t be sad. I love you and there is nowhere else I”d rather be than right here, praising you, thanking you, and consoling your broken Heart.”
One final story: A counselor friend of mine told me a story of a patient of his who had decided to commit suicide. But before that, this young man told Jesus that he would come and visit Him in the Tabernacle and if Jesus could show him a person who was in worse shape than him, he would not go through with the suicide. So he sat before Jesus for quite a while before Jesus reminded him of the New York City Police officer who was shot and is completely paralyzed. The young man said: “Oh that was too easy, anyone could of thought of him. You’ll have to do better than that.”
After a few minutes, the young man heard the door open in the back of the chapel and in rolls a wheel chair with the paralyzed police officer in it. The young man rushed to the back and started to weep and the two men fell into eachothers arms weeping. After hearing the young man’s story officer MacDonald said: “I needed that too.”
We all need Jesus, He’s our only hope and don’t you forget it. Happy St John Lateran Feast day.
Talk on Baptism in The Holy Spirit - Bob Olson, September 2011.
A New Way - September 2011.
A New Way is a talk by Dr. Ronda given at the prayer group at St. John’s Church in Middletown, CT. It is about overcoming character defects by check-mating denial in favor of insight, healing and prayer.
(This is a big adventure in the Spirit that Dr. Ronda is trying with different individuals and groups. It is designed to help us get out of denial of negative traits that drive other people crazy!)
1. Pick out one negative trait you would like to improve on such as talking less, being less upset about trivial annoyances, smiling more at family, friends and people at work and Church. If you think you are perfect, ask those closest to you what little thing they wish you would do differently. 2. Collect general and personal insights about the negative and positive of this trait such as a. talking too much vs. listening better; b. upset about trivia vs. overlooking it or working around it; c. grouchy or withdrawn vs. smiling and friendly.
3. Consider what is the pain from past and present that you compensate for through your negative trait. For example, a. About talking too much the pain from the past could be feeling inferior when others dominated conversations in the past, so I want to be the speaker even when it is inappropriate. The present pain would be feeling that if I don’t make the conversation interesting to me I will be slightly bored or feel that everything is meaningless unless discussions of important things take place. b. On upset about trivial annoyances – a past pain would be feeling out of control as a child when parents or siblings did annoying and hurtful things to me. A present pain would be not being able to coerce others to act better concerning daily trivial matters. c. On grouchy or withdrawn vs. smiling, friendly – the past pain would be parental role models of these negative traits. The present pain would be wanting to withdraw after a hard day or before the day gets harder – being grouchy or withdrawn usually keeps others away. 4. Make a promise such as this: God, I truly want to change, not just to please others, but to get closer to you by becoming a more loving person. I realize that Your grace cannot penetrate my denial mechanisms if I justify every negative trait by excuses. (In my, Ronda’s case, well, if I don’t dominate the conversation no one will learn my God-given wisdom!) I accept the sufferings, small and large, that I will have endure in order let your grace operate more in my life with respect to this trait. 5. Write a personal prayer to Jesus to say whenever you are tempted to exercise the specific negative trait you are working on now such as:
a. Jesus, please pour your love into my heart so that feeling happy about myself I can listen to others instead of trying to dominate all conversations. b. Father God, thank you for all the blessings of this day. Help me laugh at this trivial annoyance and get on with the rest of my day without over-reacting . c. Holy Spirit, spouse of the Virgin Mary, show me how to be friendly so that everyone I meet today feel better because they met me, just as I believe people must have felt who met Mary in Nazareth.
(For all of these say a prayer such as this: “I rebuke the spirit of (talkativeness, annoyance at trivia, unfriendliness or whatever you are working on, and lay it at the feet of Jesus to do away with. If you are in a Church with confession, you could make a general confession of any sins you have ever committed related to the negative trait you are working on.)
6. (Optional) Write a journal of your experiences.
7. (Optional but best) Choose a person who sees you often or whom you can call at a set time each day or evening to share victories of grace. One victory a day is a lot if you multiply by 365 days a year! This call should not be analytic, but rather prayerful as in: “Heh, pal, guess what? Today I had lunch with friends and I let someone else dominate the conversation, by asking friendly questions instead of delivering long speeches myself. “ “Gee, Ronda, praise the Lord. Today I smiled at the kids as they went out the door to school instead of muttering – stay out of trouble kids.” “Have a blessed day tomorrow being not Grouchy Dad but Friendly Dad. I’ll be praying for you.
It may seem tiny but could it be worse than being stuck with traits everyone finds difficult but puts up with because they have given up hope we will ever change, grace or not?????
Evanagelization Tools - Bob Olson, September 2011.
On Grieving, by Dr. Ronda - presented at St. Victor's Church, Los Angeles, August 2011.
When the Church Says No! - Talk by Dr. Ronda presented at St. Victor's Church, Los Angeles, August 2011.
Yielding to Tongues Workshop
'Healing the Emotions' - Talk by Dr. Ronda on Healing of the Emotions at Greenville, S.C.
'Mary: Healing Meditations on the Rosary'
You may also want to read the free spiritual book, "Mary: Teach Us How To Live" which is available here.
'God Loves You - Who, Me?' - Bob Olson
A prayer group meeting talk from Bob Olson.
Dr. Ronda's Book on Aging.
Audio talks on Main Ideas.
What Saints say about Heaven - Ronda Chervin
A discussion by Ronda.
St. Ann's on Forgiveness - Bob Olson
A talk from Bob.
(I liked this talk very much given by Barbara Vittoria at St. John’s Church prayer group in Middletown, CT. We don’t have an audio, but I am giving you excerpts from the written version – Ronda )
Love Dissected by Barbara Vittoria
The heart God placed in us has many facets.
“This heart God placed in us has many facets. Like a diamond it reflects love, but also the pain that we’ve experienced in life. Throughout our lives we cannot avoid being hurt, rejected, or abused in some form. We may even come to a point of not loving ourselves. So here we have a perfect heart that God created full of love and, little by little, our circumstances in life start chipping away at it. We can even become indifferent through the pain we’ve endured. This may tend to make us withdraw our head in like a turtle so we won’t have to deal with our pain or like an ostrich, bury our head in the sand so we won’t have to be hurt over and over again.
Now, what has really happened along our life’s journey to injure our heart? When God looks into our heart and dissects it He finds that His perfect love has been invaded! Pain has now entered and is chipping away at it! Where faith and trust dwelled – fear and doubt started creeping in. Where there was love – hatred saw his opportunity and made his move. Where kindness resided – meanness became an unwanted guest and his brother, rudeness, was comfortable enough to move right in with him. In the area rejoicing occupied – jealousy and envy took up residence and humility was slowly being pushed out by pride. Where justice was – injustice shoved him aside. Then the twins, bitterness and resentment took away joy and peace. The scene is now set for unforgiveness and he comfortably settles in and starts taking chunks of our heart. But unforgiveness is never satisfied and is always greedy wanting more and more of our heart. He then births stubbornness who keeps records of all wrong doings. Hope doesn’t feel like he has a chance so discouragement saw his opening and just walked right in.
So, how can we truly love when pain starts chipping away at us? Only in heaven will we find perfect love without pain. Christ’s perfect love of humanity included the painful love He suffered for us on the cross. Can His children ever reach this level of love? Yes, because He understands. Jesus understands our pain because He also was affected by people He loved while on earth.
. . He was betrayed by Judas, He was denied by Peter, He was rejected by His town, relatives and religious leaders, and He was wrongly spoken of and mocked. He was lied about; He was innocent yet condemned to die. He was tortured and eventually crucified and willingly forgave all taking upon His shoulders the cross with our sins and pain. Oh, He understands! This is true love in pain!
Because of the pain God suffered while on earth He knew our perfect heart would come under attack. Our heavenly Father wants to heal our heart and remove all those intruders who have invaded it during our life. It is not God’s will for us to stay in this (condition). God wants us to be an overcomer because Jesus gave us the perfect example by forgiving us on the cross. So, don’t let stubbornness, who likes to keep records for unforgiveness, be a stumbling block in our growth to love.
Love is not a good feeling all the time but a decision. As to when we will love, who we will love, and why we should even love. We must trust God and let Him chip away the pain and defects that affect our heart so His love can start shining once again in us. God sees all the pain inside our heart just like Michelangelo saw David in a block of marble. God wants to be our sculptor and like Michelangelo He wants to start chipping away area’s that the intruders invaded. We must ask God what pieces of our heart needs to be repaired because like the ostrich we still might have our head buried and not want to deal with our pain. If we ask, He will let us know so He can start evicting the invaders. He will not give us a list so long that we will feel overwhelmed or afraid. It is not God’s will either for us to retreat and run away from the necessary healing. The good news is that God sent His Son who is love to mend, heal and fill us once again with hope and love. We can love like God intended if we give the (broken pieces) of our heart to Jesus.
Let’s give our heart condition to the best physician in the world to perform surgery and remove what imperfections have invaded our hearts. The surgeon’s name is “Jesus.” His office is open 24 hrs. a day and no appointment is necessary. All you have to do is ask and He will start the healing process immediately!”
This talk was given by an older MA student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Skip Thompson, in the form of a letter to his adult children Ally and Tommy. April 21, 2011
I am combining several things in this letter for you. One is to again affirm that I am really, really happy with what I am learning here at the Seminary. It is truly thought-provoking, challenging and counter-cultural, simply vital stuff ! My courses address relevant topics to the total human experience with practical insights you won’t find articulated in most popular (deliberately chosen word) academic circles; but it runs circles around them (pun; Ha!). As an orthodox Catholic seminary it embraces the whole history of scholarship developed through the centuries, which under-girds and supports academic enterprise at present. Significantly, our study respects and builds upon the original foundation of higher learning, which is the Church. Holy Apostles Seminary seeks to carry on the centuries-long pursuit of truth which, metaphysicians inform us, is the ultimate mission by which our intellect is ordered.
The major universities have a motto that describes such a “mission” for higher learning. Take for example, Harvard’s, Veritas, Christo et Ecclesiae, which is Latin meaning, Truth, for Christ and the Church. You would hardly guess such “guiding light” these days given the sophistry and speculation that passes for scholarship in most places, but not so here at Holy Apostles. I have often likened this institution to Tolkein’s “Rivendell,” that Elvish house of culture, learning and refuge in his Lord of the Rings.
I also began this letter on a very special day in the history of our family, the anniversary of your grandparents’ marriage, Nana and Bumfrey. They were married on this date, April 12, 1951. If they were still alive it would be their 60th anniversary. If mom and dad hadn’t gotten together, I would not be here and neither would you! Thank God for sex! It works wonderfully and procreates live, eternal human beings. Amazing! Speaking of sex, I was so impressed with some of the material from my Ethics course, I decided to reflect on it further and pass along some of my thoughts to you and get your feedback.
So, I write to you about sex, a topic that is so intensely personal that, ironically, many parents rarely speak (or write) of it with their children, no matter what their age. Yet, the tragedy of it is – everyone else is quite willing to talk to you about sex, although they don’t give a hoot about you.
Given my own demons and battles I failed offer you much guidance in this area, having little guidance given me, other than what I picked up from the culture. This was not a very solid source during the 60’s and 70’s. But, parents like to rationalize their silence by acquiescing to “freedom” and a young person’s initiative to discover things on their own. It is a kind of respect, but it is also unrealistic because no one else affords you such respect. The culture barges right in and blows you over with whatever they think you should know; so much for proper respect. Forgive me please.
But, after all these years, and after many wounds and wanderings of my own, please allow your dear-old-Dad, finally, to give you some insights from the heart and from some sound thinking, because you know I love you and, unlike other voices surrounding us today, I truly have only your highest good in mind.
There is no question that most of the advice on the subject of sex out there is stupid. Our culture, movies and TV use sex in stimulating and enticing ways, and in crass and superficial ways. Some use sex to grab our attention to sell us beer, make-up, and cars, while the pornography industry brazenly seeks to exploit us in much worse ways. Their message is that sex is the ultimate, happy plaything, you need to enjoy. This is true to a point. But then comes the lie, deliberate or not: you need sex your way, anyway, always, and you’re missing out if you don’t. We are told sex is just good plain fun. Well, is it? It’s all good as long as no one gets hurt. Well, what about that hurt?
Consider this: all those talking heads have their agendas and what they are selling is not necessarily for our good. They play with sex, a good thing in itself, to get our attention, affirmation or money. But subconsciously, the sexing up of our culture scandalizes the core of our being and tragically, we’ve gotten used to it. We think immodesty and immorality is normal. We have forgotten how to blush. In other words, we’ve lost our innocence and discarded our purity.
How many times have we heard something like, “You’re entitled to your truth, but it’s not my truth, because there’s no one truth that applies to everyone?” Their message is, keep it to yourself. Why? Assertion of the truth about a matter counters their philosophical belief that there is no objective truth; that there are no absolutes. This is relativism, which can be explained in one word: whatever. Relativism rejects absolute, objective truth and today whatever is the mantra responsible for our culture’s moral confusion. But, while Christians are told to “shove their absolutes,” the cultural relativists assert their own guiding light of right, namely, be nice; be tolerant, as the absolute substitute. But this is itself an absolute position.
The position that there are absolutely no absolutes is logically inconsistent. Nonetheless, ethics are just supposed to bend to their absolutely relative idea of truth according to the dictates of circumstances. Whatever, is the code word that signifies surrender to relativism’s definition of right and wrong. Interestingly, people cannot live as absolute relativists and they know it; they’re more like relative relativists. For example, everyone agrees objectively that murder, robbery and rape are always morally wrong. But when it comes to private morality (like sexual lifestyle), many say that everyone should be free to do whatever they want in their lives, as long as no one is hurt. Thus, in our personal life relativism rules, while socially, some absolute morality rules, namely, never hurt anyone, including their feelings. So, which is controlling?
Here’s the problem: our private and social lives are unavoidably intertwined. Social morality according to the don’t-hurt-anyone principle won’t work if we don’t privately control our personal passions, greed, lust and selfishness. Otherwise, it’s like telling a teenager to drive safely and obey traffic laws, but failing to teach him how to use the brakes or steer the car. The point is we can talk about not hurting anyone, but we will inevitably hurt others if we refuse to observe objective moral truth in our private lives. We cannot live whatever in our private moments and not affect the people around us. As John Dunn penned, “No man is an island.” Our moral obligation extends outward to others, but also to ourselves. So, we also have a duty in a real sense to ourselves not to harm ourselves, that is, to not self-destruct. We must be integrated outward and inward. Therefore, subjective ideas about right and wrong must conform to objective truths, which apply to all people, or else we will hurt others and ourselves.
Conversely, how’s that tolerant, do whatever you want morality working out? We are all witness to the outworking of our culture’s relativistic moral experiment concerning sexual behaviors, which has resulted in increasing incidence of STD’s, sexual “acting out,” divorce, and abortions. The disintegration of our social fabric is evident. Our popular culture should be challenged to look fairly at the case for moral absolutes.
Many might say to me, moral absolutes sound fine for an old guy to follow, or people who aren’t hot, so let’s be realistic: How motivational is being good, really? Well, honestly the answer, is “not much,” unless, you know the One who designed us and why it’s better to be good. And this point begs the answer that has been around since Christ: God, out of pure love created us, including our sexuality, which is an integral part of our full identity. For example, I cannot conceive of Ally or Tom apart from the fact that each of you is either male or female. Furthermore, sexuality is a sacred part of our whole being. Men and women are a body-soul composite, the “crown of creation.”
These days, the inability to see this point stems from an over emphasis on our physical nature and a de-emphasis upon our spiritual nature. The spiritual has become synonymous with the unknowable, (ironically contrary to Harvard’s motto). Spirit has become the realm of speculative religion; some might say the “irrelevantly superstitious.” Thus, it is undeniable that the West has lost a sense of the Sacred, as real, relevant and relational to our lives. Nonetheless, it is a fact experientially and subjectively, that any person by means of their spiritual power, can experience God because God is a person.
Existentially, a being can’t give what a being doesn’t have. We didn’t create ourselves or will ourselves into existence; God created us and He created us personally. The infinite personal God who revealed Himself to us, definitively and truly, is the source of our personal being. The God is not just a culturally subjective invention, or just a whatever-that-works for me or you, relatively speaking. He truly is. Metaphysically speaking, God’s existence is a logical, objective, provable fact, but that I will save for another letter. Universities used to know this.
They also used to know that our identity and destiny emanates from God’s design of us, which He intended to reflect His very image, the Imago Dei. This astounding high calling for mankind is the basis of our individual dignity. The eternal, omnipotent, loving Divinity who created everything in existence creates and invites us each, personally, to enter the blessed experience with Him. God is love and we were created for love. Inasmuch as we reflect Him, we also love. And what does a lover do? A lover gives to the beloved. Our very existence is a pure gift from God.
As Imago Dei reflections of God, we are built to share ourselves like God, as gift. A relation exists between the one who gives and the one who receives. Sex comes from the God who made us, knows us, and loves us intimately. God made sex and knows how it can best be enjoyed. Thus, God made mankind male and female, and designed them to relate with complementary bodies so their gift of self could be given and received. Marriage has allowed the self-gift of man and woman from the beginning. Pope John Paul II called marriage the primordial sacrament.
Our bodies contain both unitive and procreative powers that work physically and spiritually. The unitive power of sex creates in a uniquely strong bond between the husband and wife. The procreative power yields the fruit of bodily self-gift to each other, that is, children. These powers are simply awesome. The sexual powers of our being must be guided in their proper use according to the truth of our design, or else harm will result. That’s not a maybe; abused power always results in harm. Perhaps this is why the church in its warnings against the “sins of the flesh” has sometimes forgotten that it is sin that is bad, not the flesh. So, a skewed message has gone out, that the Church is “anti-body.” Many like to think they know what the Church has to say on the sex subject, that is, just a boring series of “thou shall nots” that are easily ridiculed. So, her moral teachings are shunned as repressive and irrelevant to the full enjoyment of life. Therefore, in an unbridled pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure, many have rebelled against traditional sexual morays. It is difficult to get any traction to hold the horses, and stop to think about the real reasons for Church teachings concerning sex.
The Church teaches that, in the beginning, God created our whole being, spirit, body, including our sex, good. But such powerful good as sex in the human being is higher than in animals. We have a being with an intellect, a rational soul, and the dignity to reflect God’s own image that no other being is given. So it stands to reason we should live differently than as a mere animal, driven by impulses. Let’s use an analogy to try to get a simple perspective on sex. Sex is like a fire. It is a warm, cozy, essential part of our lives when it is tended properly and contained where it belongs, in a hearth, in a home. But when it is allowed to run wild, it burns and destroys things and in many cases there is no recovery to the damage done. Let’s bring this reflection to daily street level. Sexual acts occur in only a few scenarios: the fling (with a friend or otherwise); going steady; the engaged couple; and the married couple.
The occasional fling, or one-night-stand, is sex isolated from love. Sex done in lust or an emotional need is treated as if it were any other physical “need,” like eating or sleeping. Persons use each other, essentially as objects, to satisfy the need. Such sex may euphemistically be called “making love,” but love has nothing to do with it. The union lacks dignity; they are just two solitaries surrendered to the attraction and heat of the moment. Afterward, they remain alone and isolated. Ask the tolerant, sexually liberated relativist to defend such sexual encounters. Is there truly no one being hurt in this scenario? What of the emotional or psychological impact that follows such a tryst? We have consenting adults here, right? That only means the wounds are self-inflicted and just because they are voluntary doesn’t obviate the deep damage that ensues, even though the participants may be ignorant of the harm.
Going-steady sex involves some level of friendship, but what is “going steady?” The sexual self-giving is steady, (for now), but there is no true commitment as in legally married commitment. Like the fling, steady sex is also fire outside of the hearth, only larger! The emotional bond created by the sex act creates intimacy and as more time is spent together, a natural expectation of commitment builds. Without commitment, there is no security to protect the couple’s unity, nor the corresponding dignity each deserves. The risk to one’s spiritual and emotional integrity becomes enormous, especially the woman. But in going steady, the need for formal commitment is negated because, as the saying goes, “why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?” Most of the hurt in young relationships occurs with going-steady-sex because it is not the real thing designed to accommodate sex. As time passes going steady tends to slip into self-deceit and perhaps deliberate deceit. Truly, is there no one being hurt? The answer is obvious. Engaged couple sex is almost universally accepted in our culture. However such social acceptance doesn’t make it objectively right. Mom used to say if everyone jumped off a bridge would that make it okay? Like going steady, the self-giving is physical, but there is still no true commitment. An engagement is not marriage. Ask the question: Is it wrong to break an engagement? No. Breaking an engagement to be married is not nearly the same as a divorce after marriage. An engagement, while hopefully moving toward marriage, still lacks the solid, relationally committed, emotionally stable security that marriage provides. The hearth in the home has to be complete, before the fire of sex can be lit, to safely enjoy its warmth.
Sex during engagement also damages the all-significant element of trust. The greatest gift a husband and wife can give each other is fidelity. Fidelity creates trust. Trust is essential to a healthy marital unity. But, the future unity of the marriage is compromised by pre-marital sex, because it creates a suspicion of potential future infidelity in both spouses. The natural thought process is that if a fiancé can’t control the sexual urge before marriage, how will he or she control it afterward? To be someone’s one and only lover is truly unique and it must be protected from the beginning. Once it is lost it cannot be regained. Is there truly no one being hurt? Actually, all three are hurt, the husband, the wife and the marriage.
Living together before marriage is pretty common, but it suffers, in the same way that going steady and the engaged couple suffers. Living together tends to focus on the sexual gymnastics and house logistics of a relationship and largely ignores the spiritual and emotional aspects, which are critical for a healthy marriage. The living arrangement seems like a smart test-drive of a future spouse. But a trial run betrays a bankrupt view of marriage. Co-habitation is marriage with all the trappings, except, for what a marriage actually is, a legally binding, God sanctioned, commitment. By living together a man and woman treat each other, perhaps not consciously, but as mere commodities nonetheless that can be discarded if things don’t work out. Co-habitation, because it is not marriage per se, allows easier separation when problems arise, and they will.
The co-habitating couple’s staying power is weak. So, it stands to reason that cohabitation leads to higher divorce rates. And indeed studies show that 63% of women whose first relationship was co-habitational eventually separated, compared to only 33% of women who had married first.
So, the Church has a much better handle on life, sex and marriage than most assume. There’s solid rationale for her “rules.” But, unless we decide to turn to God and begin to love Christ “as intensely as we love those who physically and emotionally attract us, we will not have the strength to live in hope, that he will give us the gift of a true love.” In other words, if we have come to see the overwhelming value of life lived with Christ, then we can embrace His rules as tools to keep us out of sin, keep our relationships the best they can be, and keep us from hurting ourselves and others.
We rarely have time to sit back and ponder how to best live life. Life just comes at us it seems. We have one shot at it. So it deserves pondering, planning and deciding the best way to live it. Jesus Christ is the most important person who ever walked the earth. He is a historical fact. His followers weren’t high born, religious or elite. They were common people, and in fact many were among the most despised in their culture. Yet he came upon them in the hardscrabble of their existence and invited them, ready or not, to “follow me.” We have the same chance with our life. God is like the good father who has the best in mind for his children.
Let us also decide to follow him because “He is the way, the truth and the life.” To break this down a bit, we find affirmed by this verse that Jesus invites us to a way of living with Him that is a life-long journey; we can trust Him for the truth about life, right and wrong, good and bad; and since He died for us and rose from the dead, his life is proof of his love for us, his authority to declare the truth, and his power over death. By choosing to follow Him we truly live, forever. That’s enough to think about for now! (Note from Ronda: He plans to write another letter to them about why contraception is wrong, in case you are thinking that contraception changes pre-marital sex from wrong to right.)
This is a talk by M.A. student Jared Silvey, from Holy Apostles College and Seminary, in a class of Dr. Ronda's.
Topic: The application of basic ethical principals to music—with a view to providing some sort of framework which allows one to ethically exercise the act of choosing good music to listen to.
We will proceed by way of both theory and praxis, in other words, to consider in a more abstract manner the relationship of ethics and music, and then to try to relate this to real life situations. Among the questions we will be looking at are the following: Is there such a thing as good music (from an ethical standpoint)? Is there such a thing as bad music? Is some music better than others? First of all, a disclaimer is in order. It is not the purpose of the this talk to run around cherry-picking different genres of music for approval or condemnation. The goal is more general—to give you some things to think about when choosing music to listen to. It is true that I may occasionally pass judgment on certain types of music, but that is not going to be the main focus of this presentation. The basic outline I am going to follow is first to look at the place of music in human history and life. This will help us to better appreciate music’s universality, its connection to human nature, and its effects on human emotions and values. This is important, for once we admit music’s connection with human nature and its impact on emotions and values, then there is no escape from entering into the domain of ethics, for human nature, emotions, and values also fall under the domain of ethics, given their obvious connection to morality. So, it is not that we impose the question of morality onto music; on the contrary, music by its very nature demands an ethical analysis, as difficult and imprecise a task as it may be. So, let us first consider. . . 1. Music in Human History and Life In Human History It goes without saying that music has played an important role in human life in every age, land, and culture. The ancient Egyptians had their gods of music. In the Scriptures we read of the Israelites singing and dancing after they had crossed the red sea to escape Pharaoh’s armies. Greek drama employed choruses. The monasteries of the Middle Ages resounded with the sublime sonorities of Gregorian Chant. In our own day, one only needs to recall the multitudinous millions of people walking around with iPods forever attached to their ears like ticks, in order to realize that music has not let loose, but has pulled tighter on its noose. All of this leads to another point: not only is music universal with regard to human time and space, but it has also made its entry into almost every moment of man’s life. A birthday is proclaimed with the often out of tune, pseudo-melodic strains of song. Funerals are accompanied by everything from Mozart’s Requiem to Country Roads. Sports set a tone for the game with the Star Spangled Banner And, as many students know, there is hardly any better companion for the long hours of homework than those ever amiable earphones. This emphasis on universality is important, for it suggests that there is a close connection between music and human nature. Given that morality is also a part of human nature, this favors the idea that music is governed by objective moral laws. In Human Life So, we see that music has a certain universality in its relation to human history and activities—to the external life of man. But it also exercises a strong influence on the internal life of individual persons as well as societies, specifically in the area of feelings, emotions, ideas, and values. The ancient Chinese thinker Confucius once heard a piece of music which, as related in the Analects of Confucius, caused him to “not notice the taste of the meat he ate.” David played the lyre for Saul in order to calm the king’s troubled heart. Handel experienced a great stream of religious fervor when writing his Hallelujah chorus. And of course we see everywhere around us today music being used as a sexual stimulator and as a sort of aural “drug” to alter one’s state of consciousness. Music strongly reinforces the images that appear on TV and in movies, sometimes playing a more important role in highlighting the goodness or evil of a character than the acting. So, what have we done so far? All of this is a preparation for us to consider music’s relation to morality. Everything we have said points to the following conclusion: Given the universality of music with respect to human experience, including its undeniable effects on human life, emotions, values, behavior, and relationships, we should be able to formulate some basic ethical laws regarding the morality of music, given that emotions, values, behavior, and relationships come under the domain of morality. 2. Some Basic Ethical Principles The foundation and goal of human life is God. This we know clearly from Revelation but the idea of a Supreme Being is also within the grasp of human reason, as the Church clearly teaches. We can, through our natural powers, arrive at some sort of idea about God as our final end. Moreover, I would say that it is possible to Identify this Being with such things as love, goodness, beauty, and truth. Think about it. I think that it is safe to say that many people have had the insight at some point that love, goodness, beauty, and truth are in some way among the goals of life. Consider a young man as he gazes deeply into the face of his beloved, drinking in her beauty and consumed with love for her. It can be said that such moments seem almost to approach an “eternal now” where one is lifted beyond time, and where he senses that he is nearer to the fulfillment of his human life. Or perhaps it is the experience of the transcendent beauty of the liturgy, where one feels that he is already standing at the gate of heaven. The point I am trying to make here is that anyone can arrive at some sense of God as the goal of his life, and at the same time such a person is very likely to have had some moment where he experienced love, goodness, truth, or beauty to such an extent that he realized that these too are somehow connected to his final end. Therefore, I would say that it is within the power of human reason to identify God with love, goodness, beauty, and truth. And of course this is fully in line with our Catholic Faith. The 1st Letter of John says that “God is love.” In the Gospels Jesus states that “No one is good but God alone.” In the Gospel of John he says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” The Psalmist expresses his desire “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord”. All of this points to the conclusion that God, including His love, goodness, beauty, and truth, is our Final End. We are not moving to some ghostly, abstract idea, but to the source and ever-flowing fountain of love, of goodness, of beauty, and of truth. Of course, to arrive at an end one must make use of means, which function as roads to the goal. Now, there are number of kinds of roads. There are smooth, level interstates that get one to the destination quickly and easily, and then there are bumpy roads full of potholes that may wreck the car. To arrive at our end, we should take the road that will allow us to get there securely. Now, since our end is to be caught up in the rapturous fulfillment of love, goodness, beauty, and truth, we should choose the proper means to arrive at this goal. And what means should we choose? Surely not hatred, evil, ugliness, and lies, for these are the very opposite of the end we are seeking. Again, what means should we choose for arriving at the fullness of love, goodness, beauty, and truth? Would not it be to simply lay hold of that which is lovable, good, beautiful, and true, and to conform our actions and thoughts to these ideals, while fleeing their opposites? And not only that, but since all of our actions have some bearing on our end, no aspect of our life should be left untouched. One cannot say “Well, I performed a number of good actions today, so it really doesn’t matter if I listen to this chaotic song.” No. All of our actions must conform to the standards I listed above. Does this sound like non-sense? Remember Truth 2 that we encountered in Thomistic ethics—“All persons desire the good.” As Fr. Wallace wrote—“Whenever we choose to act it is in view of some kind of end, some good that is desired, even if that good is only apparent as in the case of eating an egg we think is fresh but turns out to be spoiled.” So, already in all of our actions we are choosing what seems to us to be good. The challenge comes with learning to choose what is objectively good, as opposed to what merely appears to be good, but which in fact could be harmful. It is similar with love. When a teenage girl has sex with a man she is not married to, it is often because she is seeking love in her life, though objectively speaking the man is giving her a caricature of love. So, we are pursuing these ideals all of the time, but often confuse the mask for the man. 3. Application to Music Since love, goodness, beauty, and truth are our final end, then the means we choose to arrive at that end should be worthy of the goal. This includes our choice of music. As I said above, we cannot exempt music from an ethical analysis, because of its effect on feelings, emotions, values, and relationships, which have an effect on where our journey ends. As means, music should reflect and lead to its end. Music that is hateful, evil, ugly, and false would fail in this mission. Therefore our act of choosing music to enjoy should be informed by the principles of love, goodness, beauty, and truth. Let us take goodness for an example. One of the principles of Thomistic Ethics that we studied is “Do good, avoid evil.” This is a universal principle, extending its range to the whole of man’s actions. It applies likewise to music. Now, at this point one might ask “Is there such a thing as evil music?” I would unhesitatingly answer “Yes!” Just as man in freedom composes himself with his actions into either a doer of good or evil, so too he can take various notes, rhythms, and other elements and compose music that functions as a servant of good or evil. Of course, it can sometimes be a difficult task to determine whether a piece of music can really be called “evil in itself,” or merely inappropriate for certain situations and for certain people. Several possibilities present them: “There is no music that is evil in itself—the problem is in the words,” or “some music is objectively good, some is objectively evil,” or still “the morality of listening to a certain piece of music depends on the situation one is in, as well as the person himself.” Some music is good for certain people, and bad for others.” So, as you see, we are not dealing with mathematics here. But let us briefly consider each possibility. A. There is no music that is evil in itself. This is indeed a statement which could muster a lot of evidence in its support. I disagree with it, although I cannot offer you an exact, fireproof method for separating the wheat from the weeds. However, I will offer the following observations. There are certain types and pieces of music which seem to have written into their very fabric sexual stimulation, drugging effects, etc. Take sex, for example. Listen to some of music that is played at youth concerts, moving the participants to orgy fests. Is this just situational, stemming from the fact that a bunch of youth are all mushed together? Or perhaps the music has been written with the purpose of functioning as a sexual stimulator. In fact, and I know this might be controversial, some people have even written analyses of rock music that identify sexual stimulation as part of rock’s very fabric. Or, what is even more dramatic, the music (and I forget its name) that functions as an aural drug, meant to alter the listeners state of consciousness. And, of course, there is some music which is just plain ugly, which does nothing but create chaos in the soul. Many pieces of so-called “classical music” from the 20th century fall in this category. Some people go to unbelievable lengths to justify the listening to these types of music. They might say “But, my intention in listening to this piece is not to become sexually stimulated.” Good for them! Might as well say “I can look at pornography, because it is not my intent to become sexual stimulated!” So, there is some music which is just plain bad. In contrast, I would say that music that reflects the qualities of love, goodness, beauty, and truth is objectively good, because it conforms itself to those qualities. It is good whether or it is misused. For example, Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli is a piece which could be arguably called “objectively good.” It does not become evil just because it is used for some evil purpose. Just like sex is in itself a good, and does not become evil in itself just because it is misused. This actually leads us into the next possibility, which is . . . The morality of music depends on the situation and the person. Given what we said above, we would say no. However, this position does bring up an important ethical point: although the morality of music itself does not depend on the situation or person, it is true that the use of certain types of good music may be inappropriate for certain types of situations and people. This is where the cardinal virtue of prudence can come in, whereby we analyze situations to determine the best course of action to take. For example, there may be a very nice love song, where a man sings his heart out to his beloved. Fine, but perhaps not the song for a boy and girl who know they don’t to date, but have a strong sexual attraction to each other, to listen to with just the two of them together. Before I conclude, I would like to briefly touch upon the question of whether or not there is some music that is objectively better than others. It seems that more music reflects our last end, the greater it is, & the more worthy to listen to (from an ethical standpoint, not in terms of music theory). The Church already implicitly acknowledges this by outlining what music is most suitable for the Liturgy. So, to conclude I would like to again emphasize that it is important to consider all of our actions from an ethical standpoint, for our choices, even our everyday ones, have some bearing on our moral growth. The secret is to keep the goal in mind, and to orient everything to our final fulfillment in God.
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