Tag Archiv: Mass Attendance

Out of Darkness – Part 7

In part 6, I shared about how I was being called to a different vocation than priesthood. In this post, come see how every wound in my past was baptized in the redemption of Jesus Christ.


Discovering God’s plan for humanity

During the summer of 2002, my friend Ellen gave me an audiotape. Thinking it was just another apologetics tape, she told me, “Just listen to it.” When I popped it in, it changed my life forever. It was a presentation by Catholic theologian and author Christopher West who was explaining the Truth about the human person and the gift of sexuality. My jaw hit the floor. I realized this vision of life — this understanding of what it means to be male and female — was everything for which I had been searching!

Light breaking through darkness

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. — Jeremiah 29:11

Saint John Paul the Great’s unveiling of God’s glorious plan for our lives brought about a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I experienced great hope, realizing I was not abandoned in my struggle for sexual purity. On the other, I felt a deep pain because I was so far from where I needed to be and had no plan in place to break free from the chains binding me. It sounded almost surreal: “Could this message be true? Could I really be set free from my lusts?” I could relate intimately to the words of St. Paul, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). My body and soul were crying out, “How long, O Lord?” I had known for a long time that the pixilated images of women would never satisfy the deep ache within me, but merely knowing such information was only one part of the answer. I needed to have a radical heart transplant to be set free to love.

After finishing a very painful experiment of teaching high school theology for a year, I was accepted for the masters program in theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. Little did I know, God had much more in store for me than a degree in theology and catechetics. Among many things, one of the attractions of Franciscan is its world-renowned charismatic prayer events, known as Festivals of Praise. Picture 2,000 people united, praising God in song. At my first service, it became apparent God was beginning His work in me. One of the Scripture verses proclaimed several times that night was Isaiah 43:19: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Through a crack in my stony heart, living waters were beginning to bubble up.

Like many students on campus, I attended daily Mass, where things began getting a little weird — in the best sense of the word. It seemed that the message of virtually every hymn and praise song was directed toward me. God was trying to break through my darkness with His glorious, blinding light to allow me to see the Truth of His deep love for me. He was wooing me as a Bridegroom woos His Bride.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Jesus met me powerfully in the Eucharist. Through the reception of this most Holy Sacrament, I was infused with the love of God in a way I had never previously experienced. Although I had grown in my relationship with God throughout high school and college, He was introducing me to His most personal and intimate love. I was especially moved to thanksgiving and a bit of the dark fog in my soul began to lift.


Coming to know the Father

After one of the daily Masses, on a particular Wednesday, during prayer I felt an intense moment of gratitude for what Jesus was doing with my life. And then it hit me. It was not only Jesus who was moving me to gratitude. It was my Father – not just any father, but God the Father. This was the Father I had longed for. This union with God — my origin and my destiny — was what I had been yearning for in all of those empty pornographic images. The One who I thought had abandoned me had not rejected me; instead, He wanted to hold me close and tell me He loved me. He had always wanted to hold me and tell me I was His own.

Waterfall

I waited, I waited for the Lord.
And He stooped down to me;
He heard my cry.
He drew me from the deadly pit,
From the miry clay
He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm.
– Psalm 40: 2-4.

At that moment, I knew I had a Father, a Father who wanted me more than anything. My Abba1 was calling me to climb into His lap and be held. And it was enough. All the fears I had held inside – all the hurt, all the shame, all the forgiveness I could not bring myself to accept – was washed away by a love that penetrated the deepest core of my being. The floodgates opened and I sobbed like the prodigal son in the arms of his father.


Freedom

Just when I thought my cup was overflowing with too much love, it happened. Boom, boom, boom, boom – my chains hit the floor! I experienced my first tangible, potent sense of freedom. For the first time in my life, I had a genuine experience of freedom from sexual compulsion. Just as St. Augustine was liberated from his bonds of slavery to sin when he read the words of St. Paul, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh,” (see Rom 13:14). I no longer desired to look at sexually explicit images. I had been set free. He had brought me to such beauty pornography failed to contain, namely, Himself. The desire to use women gave way to a desire to serve and love them humbly as my sisters in Christ.

How did this transformation happen? How did it come to be I would be telling this story of my compulsion to pornography? For years, I lived with fear, “Do not ever let anyone find out about this compulsion or you will be ruined.” But I did not have to fear anymore. The destructive vision of myself that had dominated much of my youth gave way to the “new thing” He was doing in my life. The clouds of darkness in my life dissipated and I heard in my heart the voice I had longed to hear, “This is my well-beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” (see Matt 3:17). The Father? Pleased with me? After everything I had done? After all the times I had turned my back on Him – He still wanted me back? Yes, the Father was very pleased with me. At that moment I knew I had a Father and I was His son. After all the years of drinking the slop from the pigs, this prodigal was being called home. He knew where I had been, but that was not important to Him. He wanted all of me, not the masks I presented to others in public.


Satan wants us to think we are not good enough and we can never be worthy of our Father’s love. He wants us to believe if we come from broken homes, if we have run away too many times, then we are through. The Evil One wants to immobilize us and keep us locked in our woundedness. But he is wrong — dead wrong. It is not that we are too bad – we are too good to be left alone. God never tires of us; He cannot get enough of us. That is why the Father sent His Son and that is the only reason why Jesus’ death makes any sense, because God loves us so much that He would rather die than be without us.  

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh – Romans 13:14  From: Die Bekehrung des Herzogs Wilhelm von Aquitanien durch den heiligen Bernhard von Clairvaux

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh – Romans 13:14 
From: Die Bekehrung des Herzogs Wilhelm von Aquitanien durch den heiligen Bernhard von Clairvaux

There are many approaches to fighting attachments to sin, but not all of them will solve the problem. Many strategies are often “sin management”. Unless we attack the root of the issue by allowing the Father to infuse us with His radical grace, we will either continue to struggle or give up because the pain is too much. True, it is good to take precautions and seek assistance, especially in Confession, but the key to being healed from any compulsion lies not in “doing” things, but in coming to know the Father’s love. That is the secret. This is not to detract from the power of the Sacraments; God definitely was preparing my heart to receive His gift of love through these supernatural gifts and does, in fact, give us His love through the Sacraments. However, if we are merely doing things and not opening our hearts to receive His love, we will never be set free from our brokenness. We will never fly with the power of love, but simply limp along in our blindness and shame.

Most of us have sold out to a big, fat lie. We are told to be hard and to avoid our emotions, but the love of our Father is totally different. God’s love is not a sentimental, fluffy, Lifetime-television kind of love. This love goes beyond the hardness of this world and gives us the strength to go on when life seems unbearable. We have to receive this love and know in our hearts that we are loved by our Father. If we are going to complete the work of Christ, we must remember that we can give only what we have first received. Christ was able to walk on water, perform miracles, give us the Eucharist, and stay on the cross because he knew His Father loved Him and He had opened Himself to fully receive that love. There was no question in His mind that His Abba was guiding Him with His Love.

I wish I could say that from that moment on I had no problems with pornography. For about four months, it was true until…

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, as well as to transform our pornified culture, check out Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from Pornography, coming soon. Comment below so you can be notified as to when Redeemed Vision is released.

Steve Pokorny is the founder of freedom-coaching.net, a one-on-one mentoring system devoted to breaking the power of pornified images. If you or someone you care about is hooked on porn, click on the link above to learn how you can be set free.

1  The Greek word used for such an intimate description of God is “Abba,” which can be translated as “Daddy.”

On Thanksgiving, Sundays & Porn

Yes, another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and hopefully you’re done digesting the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed taters, cranberry sauce, beans with bacon (BACON!), gravy, apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, & wide variety of liquids you consumed. I want to reflect a little bit on this reality we call Thanksgiving and connect it to some deeper realities of life.

Historically, the first settlers of America came from Europe in search of religious freedom. The Patuxet Tribe, led by Squanto, befriended the settlers and helped them survive their brutal first winter. After having a very successful harvest, the 50 or so Pilgrims shared their gifts with 90 Native Americans in gratitude for have such plentitude in abundance of what nature’s Creator had provided for them.

This feast Americans celebrate every 4th Thursday in November is a remembrance of that first event is not just about food; it’s to be a further expression of the abundance that we have been given by God. Thanksgiving is about recalling all aspects of our life, recognizing that everything that is given, what we’ve done, or what has been done for/to us, is a gift (even the tragedies have silver linings if we have the eyes to see it). From this copiousness of gifts we are to share with others and do so from a grateful heart. Thanksgiving was never meant to be one day – it should be lived everyday, at every moment of our lives.

I write the above as context for this post. Some years ago, onlineschools.org created a graphic (seen below) with some solid stats about internet pornography.1 While the info is most likely outdated, the general truth behind it stands: porn is a problem. It’s wreaking havoc on all aspects of life, and the porn epidemic has not improved, but gotten exponentially worse.2

Pornography Stats, Thanksgiving, Sunday
“Porn’s not that big a deal.” Really?

What’s fascinating is the last graphic, which states that “The least popular day of the year for viewing pornography is thanksgiving,” and “The most popular day of the week for viewing porn is Sunday.”

Why is this? I think it has everything to do with the nature of the two days.

Regarding Thanksgiving, when we are grateful, it is psychologically impossible to be what I call B.L.H.A.S.T.T.ed3 – Bored, Lonely, Hungry, Angry, Stressed, Tired, Turned On. Are these not the main driving factors of why people seek satisfaction in pornography in the first place?

There are a ton of health benefits4 for living from an attitude of gratitude, from improving mental & physical health to increasing our self-esteem. Most importantly, it can open doors to more relationships, which is exactly what those who seek out pornography are looking for in the first place. They’re trying to seek out a genuinely human need in a way that will never satisfy.

As for Sunday, why is this day of the week reportedly the highest amount of porn use? I think it boils down to 3 reasons:

First, on a practical level, it’s the day before most people have to go back to work. The tensions of the week are beginning to creep up. There’s “nothing to do.” And through the years of being programmed to respond to such stimulus – or lack there of – the person feels impelled to wade into the septic tank of pornography.

Second, because of the splintering of marriage and family life, many of us are incredibly isolated and lonely. It is our father and mother who were supposed to provide for us nurturing and care, as well as help us to develop the ability to express our emotions in a healthy way. Everyone longs to be accepted by those who brought them into this world and to grow up in a home where they can be who they were created to be by God.

When our biological parents are absent physically and/or emotionally during our formative years, there is a tendency to be stunted emotionally. This is certainly manifested in many ways, but most especially in the way we relate to others. The programmed lie that we may begin to believe to be true is that “I am not worthy of love.” Because of the rejection and hurt, walls are built to keep us from forming bonds of communion with others.

Because we are designed to receive and give love, when we don’t find the real deal, we will often sell out for the counterfeits. Porn is one of those counterfeits. Instead of spending our Sundays with our families truly recreating, we choose to be absorbed in a technological jungle that can snare our soul. Instead of being surrounded by real persons where we have the opportunity to establish genuine relationships with those we can share the whole of our lives with, we may choose the many airbrushed and surgically altered bodies who don’t fill us with gratitude, but instead steal our joy.


“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.”  

                                                                               – Blessed Mother Theresa


Third, and most importantly, Sunday is not treated as sacred anymore. Most fill the last day of the weekend with all kinds of noise – shopping, sporting events, empty entertainment, everything but the One that can satisfy the craving for connection. All of this stuff has suffocated our ability to be aware of the transcendent nature of reality, that which speaks to the core of who we are.

Sure, we may go to church, but for many of us its not really the launching point for the week. Instead, just having our butt in the pew for maybe 45 minutes is treated as obligation that must be checked off a list to be seen by others as a “good Christian.” Besides, the game’s on soon, and we need to tailgate beforehand.

At root, too few Christians do not have a living, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ. They simply don’t know Him as the One who knows everything about them and Who wants to be involved deeply with every specific detail of a person’s life. What’s worse, in the Catholic Church, nearly 70% of self-identified Catholics don’t actually believe that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity, Real Presence of God Incarnate.5 70%! This is truly significant, and I think it may shed light on the fact that porn use amongst Catholic males is at the same rate as the general population.

The Solution to being B.L.H.A.S.T.T.ed.

This leads us to three very bare, bold truths. First, the Source and the Summit of the Catholic Faith is the Eucharist. Eucharist literally means “Thanksgiving.”

Second, God is Intimacy and it is Intimacy that we crave, a craving that leaves us vulnerable to every image of pornography that we come in contact with.

Third, it is impossible to be filled, to achieve communion, if we don’t believe that the Lord of Heaven and Earth is willing to come down and reside within and through us, if we will only let Him. The King of Reality gives us these transcendent truths to be practical and applicable in the lives of those who seek Him in every place and time.

So, how do we apply these transcendent truths? Two simple things we need to do:

Eucharist, Thanksgiving,

The Solution to being B.L.H.A.S.T.T.ed

First, we need to partake fully in the Mystery of the Eucharist. Mind. Heart. Body. Soul.

Second, we need to reflect that Thanksgiving, that Communion, that Eucharist in our lives by thanking God for every day, every hour; every time we experience temptations and every time we experience blessings.

These two simple tasks will increase our touches with Intimacy Himself and give us the fulfillment of our deepest craving that no earthly thing can supply.  By coming to rediscover this ever ancient, ever new gift, Love Incarnate will satisfy our every desire. 

What are you grateful for? Leave your comments below.

1Jason Chen, “Finally Some Actual Stats on Internet Porn,” http://gizmodo.com/5552899/finally-some-actual-stats-on-internet-porn, June 1, 2010 [Date Accessed: November 27, 2015].

2 For a recent discussion on this, see: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/pornography/upload/Create-in-Me-a-Clean-Heart-Statement-on-Pornography.pdf, November 2015, [Date Accessed: November 27, 2015].

3Adapted from a list provided by Mark Kastlemann in The Drug of the New Millennium.

4Amy Morin, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round,” http://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/, November 23, 2014 [Date Accessed: November 27, 2015].

5Rev. Kenneth Doyle, “I don’t believe the Eucharist is the body of Christ. Am I going to hell?” http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/02/23/i-dont-believe-the-eucharist-is-the-body-of-christ-am-i-going-to-hell/, February 23, 2015 [Date Accessed November 27, 2015].

Steve Pokorny is the founder of Freedom Coaching, a one-on-one mentoring program designed to break the power of an attraction to lust and pornography. After 12 years of being enslaved, Steve has been granted the grace of freedom and offers a path for others to have their chains broken. He can be reached at steve@freedom-coaching.net.