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Get into the ring! How this works...

This is easy! Each week on Thursday I post my homily main focus for preaching this coming Sunday. What I am hoping for is a reaction from people in the pews. Does my "focus" connect with your daily life, faith, and experience? Or not? Either affirm the direction I am going in (by giving me an example from your life) or challenge me, ask for clarification! Questions are the best! Reaction rather than reflection is what I'm looking for here. Don't be afraid, get in the ring. Ole!

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 6 Homily

The homily from last Sunday's Mass is in the Library->

Special Note: I will not be preaching on the weekends of 2/13 or 2/20. Stay in the ring!


On this World Marriage Day we celebrate the gift of marriage in our community.  Our parish priests have prayerfully decided to use this occasion to speak about the gift of Holy Matrimony and to focus upon one of the greatest opponents of marriage in our culture: co-habitation.  Co-habitation is a prevalent "social arrangement or choice" that brings together all of the major vices that our world promotes: instability rather than fidelity, relativism rather than truth, radical independence rather than community, practical materialism rather than virtuous spirituality, absolute freedom of choice rather than obedience to the will of God, lack of discipline, and right to privacy rather than the sacredness of life every life. That's what encourages co-habitation.

Co-habitation is "sold" to our young people as "trial marriage".  As a matter of fact, we are often told that only a fool would get stuck in "a relationship" that they haven't tested.  This sounds so reasonable that often innocent couples can falsely believe that if they "like" living together or if it "works" they will be good at being married. An even more corrupt message is at the root of this and that is that our "sexual compatibility" is something that smart people test prior to marriage.  These fundamental tenents of co-habitation are bits of wisdom from the world and they are all mistaken,half-truths, and intentional deceptions (lies), The fact is that co-habitating couples who go on to legally marry get divorced at a rate of 87%!

The truth that we proclaim and believe is that matrimony is a sacred calling that is BEGUN by the GIVING OF SELF completely in the sacrament and the SEALING OF LOVE in the marriage bed.  One cannot practice or prepare for such a graced state in life by living the "lie of co-habitation."  Co-habitation is essentially a falsehood lived everyday in the body. It is a conscious choice NOT to make a permanent commitment, it is an open refusal to live the virtue of chastity, it is a sinful decision NOT to live in communion with Christ and the Church. THAT is what co-habition is. It is not a help to the engaged but a toxic choice for the married. The effect of this practice on marital success is obvious.

 As Catholics we ought not be persuaded by the salesmanship of our co-habitating culture.  "Living together"  or "co-habiting" is not a substitute for marriage, a help to or practice for marriage.  It is marriage's enemy. And we are not seeing it. Let's celebrate God's gift to humankind: commitment, communion, self-sacrifice, life,and love. Matrimony!


This week our local Catholic community is beginning in earnest the 2011 Catholic Charities appeal.  As the bulletin has noted over the past few weeks, the "in pew" portion of this annual appeal will take place on the weekend of February 27th (next week).  I don't think anyone really likes the "in pew" process that we have been using now for four years but it is a proven method for gaining the needed support for the important work of Catholic Charities. I am especially uncomfortable taking time out of the Mass to perform the rudimentary tasks of filling out pledge envelopes.  But we have to do it in obedience to our bishop trusting that it is worth it.  But why do the appeal at all?
This year's appeal is focusing upon the individual lives that are changed, not just helped, by the good works of Catholic Charities in our Diocese.  The Cleveland Catholic Charities operation is the largest such diocesan catholic charity in the world.  We assist over 600,000 individuals throughout our eight counties each year with head start, end-of-life and nursing care, youth and mentally disabled residential care and services, ministry to families, youth, job training, hunger centers and so much more.  Those are not just great numbers, they are individual lives being changed for the better.  This is God's work and we are sharing in it by our support of Catholic Charities. 
Thank you for what you did in last year's appeal.  We surpassed our goal and broke our record.  Thank you again for what you are able to do this year.  We at St. Albert do many good things for the poor; we serve meals downtown, offer medical care in Latin America, provide food and assistance to North Royalton families in need, visit the sick, bury the dead, console the bereaved, etc.  We also contribute to national and international collections throughout the year, especially the annual missionary appeal (remember Fr. Don's African Orphans?).  But there is even greater work to be done in our own local community that we cannot do on our own. The Bishop of Cleveland and the good services of Catholic Charities can do it on our behalf - if they have our support.


melody said...

Father-I am so grateful to you for committing to such an important (and challenging) topic this coming Sunday. Along with contraception, cohabitation has become the "elephant in the living room" in so many of our Catholic communities. Your points are all excellent. Marriage is incredibly beautiful and rich, but it is also very, very challenging...thanks be to God for sacramental graces!! I wish that all young couples in love would have the courage to enter into such an amazing adventure as marriage. Young people are so afraid of the crosses of marriage that they miss out on the Easters. They imagine the ties of love to be a kind of slavery because they don't really understand love.

When I married, I was 19, naive, and hadn't thought out a bit of my future. Some may have seen those things as alarming, but it did allow me to "foolishly" abandon myself to sacrificial love. I didn't have time to be so wise as to over-think the thing. I took a leap and God caught me on a net of grace. Easy? Not at all. Beautiful? You betcha. (And it has helped to have a level-headed groom!)

Praying that the Holy Spirit will guide the words of our good priests and open ears and soften hearts of those who are in need of it.

Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful, it is simply breath taking - this containing description of marriage.

when I was a little girl and well into my teens - this is exactly what I believed marriage to be.. it was MY “fairytale.”

I never forgot it, and. . . eventually came to believe it didn’t exist. . it WAS a fairytale.

At my age now, and what this world continues to become - I am not so sure that I am wrong about it not existing.

I realize how negative this - what I say - may sound – however, I believe one has to be at a certain spiritual ‘level’ or something like that in order to obtain TRUE marriage, at least for me it does – not sure how else to describe it.

. . . that does not exist ‘out here’ for those who seek SPIRITUAL AND BODILY marriage.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Estok's comments are just beautiful and true.
As I am getting closer to my 50 wedding anniversary, I only can tell to all of you that are in love, ready to be married, congratulations, you choose a wonderful and challenging life.
If I tell you that my life with my husband has been easy, I am lying to you, we had and still
we have difficult times together.
What we learned living for so many years together is to tolerate and accept each other
the way God made us. We are different in many ways, particularly in the way we show our love to each other. It used to be at one time that the way I love HAD to be the way he/she had to love me. Big mistake!
We resolve problems by communicating with each other and ask for forgiveness when in need, this can be hard.
sacrificing for each other is a good way to "success".
I agree with Fr. E. Co-habitation "sounds" very rewarding for so many, they can give you many reasons... financial, we have to try if we can live together, we want to see if we can have a satisfying sex life before we married..
What? Well, if you are not my type, see you later.. no commitment, no responsibilities.

Still I remember my wedding preparations, the anticipation of going to sleep with my love for the first time in my wedding night, finally
together, no mama, no papa around!
This moment is blessed indeed.

Final though, Our society put so much emphasis on intimacy during married life, this is only part of it, there are so many other areas to work for, so if your sex life is not so great
my is not either, and here I am happy with my man, asking the Lord to continue blessing us forever.

anon 1 said...

Thank you, Matador, for offering your reflections for us to ponder – even in your absence. I greatly appreciate this extra effort on your part to assist us – and encourage us – in our own reflection about God in our lives and our participation in His work.

I found the Matador’s and my companion bloggers’ comments to be inspirational on the sacrament of marriage. I, too, am married, and like the rest of you find it to be a beautiful vocation – filled with gifts. But as those before me stated, it is not an easy road – and like all vocations, can only be lived to its fullest and its best through the grace of God, which includes support from community. I am inspired that the priests of the parish have “joined forces” on this important topic in their preaching. I truly believe we are “in a battle” in this world of good against evil. Evil is alluring – appealing to human desire. It is not surprising that the evil forces trick us to think we can avoid loneliness and fulfill some bodily desire with something which also thwarts the growth of a sacrament that is foundational to a healthy society. With the help of Catholic teaching defended by our shepherds, and with the support of a strong community, I believe headway is made in fighting the battle.

As to the Catholic Charities Appeal, while I truly appreciate the discomfort with the rudimentary tasks, I appreciate the “pause” it forces me to take in considering the social mission of the Church, and my own part in it. Personally, it helps me take account of my actions – and my pocketbook – making certain that I’m taking concrete steps to practice with my life what I say I believe in my heart.

Unknown said...

Young people today really don't stand a chance! Teen magazines are soft porn. I am horrified for my children to see the headlines on the cover of magazines like Cosmopolitan (once a relatively decent magazine) in the supermarket line. In my Glamour magazine this month, there's an article about a woman who is a virgin at 27, and yes, they think that is newsworthy and weird. So newsworthy in fact, that a NY newspaper put the article entitled "The Last Virgin in NYC" on the cover!! The subject chalks it up to religious guilt and hangups. Then she goes on to say how she lost her virginity and has since had sex with three men. In that same magazine this month, there is another article about choosing to have a baby on your own...without a husband...just because you can. What?? My niece is in college and I am horrified at how she and her friends dress. There is no modesty anymore. Women today are taught that they are "empowered" if they are sexually aggressive towards a man. I even saw a magazine article that said a woman should "wait until the third date until sleeping with a man", like that is "making him wait." Before you write me off as an old lady, I am 41 years old ---- not too far removed from the dating scene. And let me tell you, when I was dating, there wasn't a man alive who would stay with a woman who wouldn't "put out." Even "good Catholic" men who went to church every week expected it. Our society is so messed up and twisted, that the good is presented as weird/bad; and the evil is presented as normal/good.
Let's intensify our prayers for our young people! They don't stand a chance without it.