Monday, September 21, 2009

Choosing and Paying for College

Today, we're taking a little break from the usual Q&A to bring you a special announcement.

If you're starting to think about college then you'll want to check out Catholic Colleges Month. It's hosted by Homeschool Connections but is open to everyone, teens and parents, who want to know more about choosing and paying for college.

This is a series of free webinars on college topics from How to Pay for College Without Breaking the Bank to meet & greets with several great Catholic colleges and more.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dealing With My Parent's Divorce

Q: My parents are getting a divorce, and everything they do feels like a choice between the two of them. I know they both caused this, but everything just feels so wrong. I am really scared that they might not get an annulment. What should I do? I don't want my parents to be divorced, but I especially don't want them to be divorced and their marriage not annulled. Our family is breaking, and I can't hear what God wants for my family. Please tell me how I might be able to talk to God during this time of turmoil.

A: As children of God, it is usually best if we approach Him just as that, a child. God is all loving, all just, and all merciful; He will listen to your prayers, and though He may not do precisely what you ask for, He knows that what you are really praying for is the best possible outcome in such circumstances as the ones you are in. If we come before Him humbly and wanting to accept His will, we can pray sincerely.

Tell God of what you are feeling and of what you want for yourself and your parents. He will listen to you; you are His child.

I’ve often had periods where I can’t feel God’s presence or hear what His will is; I’m sure everyone has experienced something similar at one point or another in their lives. This isn’t a bad thing, though! In fact, it is a blessing, as Jesus tells us in John 20:29:
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Also, I would strongly recommend praying to the following saints and asking them to offer their own prayers for your family, especially your parents. St. John Francis Regis, the patron saint of marriage, St. Gengulf, the patron saint of unhappy marriages, and St. Monica, the patron saint of married women. All of these wonderful saints will be more than willing to help you and your family. The Holy Family would also be happy to pray for you; all you have to do is ask. Mary and Joseph were the holiest married couple.

If you can, I’d recommend talking to a priest – your pastor, maybe, or another priest whom you trust – and ask for his advice on the matter. Priests are here to help guide us, so I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of that. He could tell you more about the possibilities of an annulment and the process as well, along with giving you spiritual help.

I wish you and your family the best and you'll be in my prayers. God bless!

~ Rain

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Twilight and Catholic Girls

Today's question comes not from a fellow teen but a youth minister.

Q: I have several teens addicted to the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers and I noticed some behavioral changes away from modesty and purity attitudes. First, I asked them to help me understand the allure of the books and the response I received was that they liked how Edward was so protective of Bella and that they were chaste until marriage. Another response I received was that the eroticism was consensual but they didn’t take it all the way so it was a lesson in self-restraint. This prompted me to do more research on the subject and to learn what I could without actually reading the books. I fear the eroticism will lead me to a near occasion of sin so I don't wish to read them myself. I am a youth minister and I fear these kids are being lead into a false sense of love and relationships through these books. Since I have recently seen pictures of one of my girls on Facebook with her name inserted into the erotic passages of the books she is reading, I have become more concerned. Do you have any suggestions?

About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how potent that part might be—that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
-- Bella Swan: Twilight
Being a 16-year-old girl, I myself have read the Twilight Saga: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. This saga has gotten so popular; it’s to the point that if you’re a girl and haven’t read them, people wonder where you’ve been. And, I must confess, that’s one of the only reasons I continued to read the following installments after the first book—so that I wouldn’t be left out when I heard my friends talking about Edward Cullen (vampire), Bella Swan (human), and Jacob Black (werewolf), the love triangle in the Saga.

I did enjoy reading these books, though, I must say. The plot of the story— “good” vampire boy meets shy, awkward human girl—is very intriguing, and I’ve always loved vampire stories, like Dracula and The Historian. There are also a few redeeming qualities in the Saga. Stephenie Meyer, being a Mormon, did put a lot of moralistic points of view into the books, such as: saving sex till marriage, a pro-life message concerning the unborn (yes, in a saga about vampires!), and Edward’s loathing of being a monster. (In the book, Edward and his family want to be, in a sense, saved from damnation by drinking only the blood of animals, hoping that will win them salvation.)

But while reading these books, it was also very clear to me that Bella and Edward’s relationship was unnatural and unrealistic, and I must say, abusive at times. Basically, Bella is obsessive, and Edward is possessive (which, unfortunately, most girls translate into “protective”). Bella’s always raving over Edward’s body and how he’s like a “god”; Edward’s drawn to Bella’s seductive scent and her blood, and watches her every move, even to the point of watching her in her sleep. Sounds like the common, abusive relationships we have today, minus the vampire aspect, doesn’t it?

In the end, Bella’s obsession with Edward starts to look appealing over a healthy, normal relationship, and it’s a struggle to keep your mind and heart clear. That being said, I’m not surprised that Christian girls are being lead astray by these books. If I hadn’t already been enlightened by the beauty of chastity and God’s amazing role for sex and hadn’t already taken them to heart, it definitely would’ve been even harder for me to keep my focus after reading these books. (It’s hard enough in today’s culture, without reading books like Twilight!)

My advice to you would to have some sort of youth group discussion on Twilight vs. Real Love for girls (unless some guys have the guts to come, too). I’m pretty sure that all the girls would come to that (most obsessed ones take any chance to talk about Edward!). In this discussion, get their thoughts on Twilight again, why they think it’s so good, and if they would want to have a boyfriend like Edward and why. If they give their reasons, then ask how that compares to a godly relationship. Then read Corinthians 13: 4-7, and then replace ‘love’ with Edward, then with Bella. Does Edward fit? Does Bella fit? Finally, replace Jesus’ name and ask them how Edward and Bella’s relationship compares to Jesus’ love for us—the love we should be imitating in our own relationships. Get them thinking. If that part of the discussion goes well, then ask them what the faults of Twilight are. Hopefully they will realize some of them and point them out; then give your thoughts on how that contrasts with real chastity and love. Hopefully then they’ll come to realize their error in thinking, if they hadn’t already realized it.

God bless!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sixteen: Keep My Baby or Give Up for Adoption

Q: My best friend is 16 and about 5 months pregnant. Before, she had her mind set on adoption, but now she wants to keep it. I am strongly against this because I believe it is going to ruin her life as she knows it as well as her future. I know that she needs a lot of support and someone to be there and listen to her, but I don't think I could bare to allow her to keep it. Should I intervene? And if so, how should I do it?

A: As I write this, my four year old sister and three year old brother are getting time-outs for being bad (this time it was a small fight over a toy). They are both adopted, and we have what's called "open adoptions" which means we keep in touch with their birth families (send pictures, even visit sometimes), they both come from different mothers in different cities, but in our state. Before we adopted Rose, my sister, we had a baby boy named Adam for three weeks, and then his birth mother changed her mind and we had to give him back. That was the most heart-breaking thing that I've ever been through, and probably will ever go through.

I realize this probably doesn't mean much to you, but I should tell you right now, there is no way anyone can really know what would be best for your friend and the little child inside of her. Anyone but God, that is. But I urge you to try to see both sides, especially from her point of view. This is going to be maybe the single hardest decision she will ever have to make, and she'll have to live with it for the rest of her life, whether she keeps the baby or decides to adopt.

From the adoption side, I look at my little brother and sister and can't even imagine life without them. They are the most wonderful things that have ever happened to me, even if they get on my nerves sometimes.

But from the mother's side, I look back on those three weeks my family had with Adam, and I wonder: If letting a child you love THAT much go after just three weeks is as hard as it was for me, then how hard must it be after nine months?

I can't tell you that it would be better for the mother to keep the child just as I can't tell you that giving the baby up for adoption would be any better. I don't know what kind of situation your friend is in or if it's a good environment to raise a child in or not. But I can tell you that that baby, that tiny little child, is a miracle, though it may not seem like it.

You say you're worried about your friend's life and your friend's future, but there's another person to add to the equation. We should respect and consider that life as well. I'm sure your friend was well aware that her decision to have sex could possibly result in a child, and in making that decision, she chose to take on the responsibly of her actions. Although, to be fair, there are many teenage mothers out there who have graduated high school, probably even some that have gotten through college. It all depends on how committed the mother is to a good life for both her and her child. It also matters that there are people around(family, the father, close friends) who will help her emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially as well.

What kind of goals does your friend have for her life, her future career, and possible future family? Are her parents supportive of her through this pregnancy? Where is the baby's father in all this? Can she handle the responsibility of someone twice her age? These are some very serious questions that you can ask yourself and her. The answers factor a lot in if it would be wise for her to keep the baby.

So I suppose your answer in a nutshell is this: You can try and explain these things to her and hope and pray she will make the best decision for herself and the child. But the fact remains, this child was made by God for a specific reason, and God's plan beats all in the end.

I hope you have found this helpful, please pass my congratulations on to your friend for her holy gift. My prayers are with you all.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Has Mary Appeared on Earth

Q: We have some real devout Catholic friends who are really into Marian apparitions. Do Catholics have to really believe that Mary appears on earth?

A. You don’t have to pay the least amount of attention to Marian apparitions, even the ones that the Church has proclaimed are authentic and really did happen, and still be a perfectly good Catholic. You aren’t guilty of any sin.

It's not required of you to believe in these apparitions, but it is highly encouraged you do. There is some surprisingly credible evidence that many may (and the Church teaches did) really take place. Some of the most famous Marian apparitions are: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady of Fatima.

During the last Fatima apparition, October 13, 1917, there occurred an incredible phenomenon with 70,000 (and no, that's not a typo) witnesses present, where the sun began to whirl and dance in the sky. The sun then appeared to plunge toward the earth, and in effect vaporized all water, and moisture in the surrounding countryside. The only other thing that could have such an effect would be a nuclear bomb, and you can’t really deny what 70,000 witnesses saw, not with any logical explanation anyway.

Also keep in mind that not all Marian apparitions are authentic. There are many apparitions that the Church has not proclaimed to be genuine.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Catholic Church and Aliens

Q: What does the Church teach about aliens? Could there be people on other planets?

A: There’s not really an answer for this question, because only God knows. The Church doesn’t teach anything about people on other planets. Since God can create anything, it’s certainly possible that He created people on other planets, but nobody can be sure either way.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Catholics and Angels

Q: I was wondering what the Church believes about angels. Do we all really have a guardian angel?

A: Angel is Greek for messenger. The Church teaches that angels are pure spirits, and are far more intelligent than we are, and wield a great deal more power and responsibility (CCC, 330). Of course, angels are not perfect and can make wrong decisions, as shown by Satan and his followers (called demons or fallen angels) who chose to disobey God. Also there are nine different orders of angels: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels. And yes, we do have a guardian angel. Since the seventeenth century, the Catholic Church has celebrated guardian angels every October 2. You can even give your angel a name if you want. For example, I named my angel Sanctus. It’s not actually exactly a common name, but it stuck all the same.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Mom Treats Me Like a Kid

Q: My mom treats me like a kid even though I am 14. I think that she needs to loosen up. She tells me that I can’t wear certain clothes and doesn’t let me wear makeup. Should I put up with it or talk to her?

A: Fourteen is a rough age for many people. With high school comes a lot of new pressures – get good grades, have new experiences, strive for popularity. However, fourteen is also difficult for those of us watching you go through that difficult time. I remember being terrified when my sister went through middle school and into high school, because I hated the idea of seeing her make the mistakes and experience the heartbreaks that I had. Parents are the same way, especially mothers. Fourteen is an interesting age, because you are no longer a child, and yet not quite an adult – you are able to make some decisions on your own, but still rely on your parents for support. As such, you still need to respect their decisions and realize that they may disagree with you for good reasons.

My advice is to talk with your mom (in an adult-like manner, with no screaming or whining), and maybe try to come to some form of compromise over what clothes or makeup you can and cannot wear. Most importantly, listen to her and try to understand where she is coming from. Despite what we think, mothers want nothing but the best for us, so try to keep that in mind. No matter how the conversation ends up, what mom says goes (there’s that Fourth Commandment again), but hopefully by talking it over with her you’ll have a better understanding of why she won’t let you. And who knows, maybe you just might agree!

Maureen D.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tired of Being a Nobody

Q: I’m tired of being a nobody. I want to be cool and popular, but it seems that all the popular kids at school spend way too much time cutting down other people. I don’t want to be cool just by pointing out how uncool everyone else is. So, how do I get noticed without being mean?

A: To be noticed, be especially friendly and self-giving. Have other people notice that there is something different and special about you. Be a positive example, and people will naturally be attracted to you. People will crave your difference. Don’t give in to conformity. Create your own person, and your own standards. That is far more important than popularity.