Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary(Click here for readings)
The preview to the forthcoming 50 Shades of Grey movie premiered on the Today Show Thursday morning at 8AM. This movie, based on a book of the same title, glamorizes sexual domination and sadomasochism while romanticizing abusive relationships and sociopathic behavior. Ironically, the preview debuted during National NFP Awareness Week, a week that the Church sets aside each year to “celebrate and reverence God's vision of human sexuality." The actual movie is set to be released in theaters in February 2015, just in time for another Catholic celebration, St. Valentine’s Day.
The Devil in Grey I would sooner have The Lord take my vision than to willingly subject myself to such a pathetic degradation of love and intimacy. Yet my social media pages have been flooded with links to the movie trailer and excited status updates from friends who are completely mesmerized by “Mr. Grey”. The enemy is obviously trying to sow lust in the hearts of many with this movie. He wants nothing more than to move us away from the light of God and into the grey area where just about anything goes, especially our hearts. Moral relativism lives in the grey area – so do most lukewarm Christians. When you don’t pick a side, the enemy will pick one for you. If you are not firmly rooted in Christ the enemy will destroy you, little by little, from the inside out. This is what is happening to Christians who say they are against porn but see no problem with books and movies like 50 Shades.
Feminism v. the Feminine Genius I have long struggled to define what it means to be a feminist. I am very weary to identity myself as one. Far too many feminists believe that it is degrading for a woman to submit to the authority of her husband, to want a lot of kids (like, more than 2.5), or to be "just" a stay at home mom. Religious sisters and nuns are also often mocked by feminists who do not understand the freedom that is bestowed upon those who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are blind to the beauty of a life given totally to Christ.
Rather, these women believe that they have found their independence in being used as an object for sexual gratification and using others as such. They cannot see the truth that Saint John Paul II speaks of in his Letter to Women which identifies our Blessed Mother Mary as the “highest expression of the feminine genius”. She was made Queen of Heaven and earth because of her obedience and desire to do the will of God. For her, “to reign is to serve”. This is what true feminine strength is rooted in – sacrificial love.
Total Gift of Self A vocation to religious, consecrated, or married life is the total, irrevocable gift of self to another. Love invites us to come out of ourselves but unlike lust, does not force or coerce. We have to choose to respond to the Lord’s invitation out of our own free will. If we do not, we will only be cheating ourselves out of authentic love. St. Therese of Lisieux put it this way, “Love consumes us only in the measure of our self-surrender.” Through prayer and discernment we must learn to hear God’s voice and answer out of love.
The Holy Spirit guides us in all these things, yet I think parents also have a much deeper impact on discernment and vocations than they realize. Saint Joachim and St. Anne, whom we honor today, are a beautiful example of how parents can nurture a vocation. They must have been very prayerful and devout people for they are often shown in paintings reading scripture with Mary. They always pointed her towards the Lord just as she always points us toward her Son. Mary’s fiat and her loyalty to God in her vocation as a wife and mother were surely impacted by the faith she learned from her parents.
Saint John Paul II also had wonderful parents who instructed him in the faith. In the book Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, he recalls attending daily Mass, reading scripture, and praying the liturgy of the hours with his father, but also said that he never dreamed of becoming a priest much less a pope. It wasn’t until many years later that John Paul realized he had been greatly affected by simply witnessing the devoutness of his father’s prayer life.
“Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church. We never spoke about a vocation to the priesthood, but his example was in a way my first seminary.” – St. John Paul II
On another occasion, the day after his mother’s funeral, John Paul’s father took him and his older brother on a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine and reminded them that the Blessed Virgin Mary would always look after them and protect them until they could be reunited with their mother in Heaven. This one act of faith planted a seed of Marian devotion in John Paul’s heart that would eventually change the whole world when he became pope and declared “Totus Tuus” as his motto.
Good seed and bad seed are being planted every day, especially in the hearts of young people whom St. John Paul II greatly loved. The enemy continues to try to sow weeds to entangle their souls and suffocate their faith. But parents have a huge role to play in this battle between good and evil. Homes should be sanctuaries – domestic churches – places where kids can learn the faith not just from a book but by the witness of their parents’ lives. Movies and the media would have you believe that parents don’t have much of an impact on their children’s lives or that the only impact they can have is a negative one, but that is simply a lie from the pit of hell.
If anything, we can all take a lesson from St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. She too led a devout and prayerful life in spite of many difficulties, and eventually her troubled son underwent a deep and profound conversion because of her prayers. She may have been discouraged more times than not, but she never ceased to pray. It’s hard to pray with a broken heart, but it is the surest way to become a saint and to raise one!
Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, pray for us!!
This mediation was written by Stephanie Juarez. For more of her writings please visit her blog Lover of the Light.