Remember “Shacking up”?

I don’t eavesdrop.  I think it’s rude.  But when you’re in a restaurant and the people at the next table speak loudly enough for everyone in the place to hear, it’s hard to ignore them.  The loud-talkers in question were two young women, maybe late twenties or early thirties.  One of them had just broken up with her live-in boyfriend.

This is the part where I hate to make myself seem like an old codger, but I remember when that particular living arrangement was called “shacking up” and those who chose that lifestyle tended to keep it to themselves, not broadcast it for strangers to hear.  It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago.

Here’s the thing, the jilted party, we’ll call her Ann for the sake of brevity, was very upset that her former roommate/lover had dumped her.  She couldn’t understand how he could just up and walk away.  But, isn’t that the nature of the unmarried relationship?  Other than a few pieces of furniture, there is no commitment.  In fact, studies show that roughly 50% of people living in sin never get married.  [Note:  You don’t hear the term “living in sin” very often anymore and my using it might offend some.  Maybe, if we called it what it is more often, it might not be thought of as just another lifestyle.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin.]

So, our friend Ann shouldn’t have been so shocked.  Her lifestyle choice has no more chance of success than a coin toss.  But wait, there’s more!  Of the cohabitators who do finally tie the knot, more than 3/4 of those marriages fail.  In other words, the chances of Ann’s little premarital love nest developing into a life-long relationship are around 1 in 10.

Sadly, this isn’t the picture portrayed in TV and movies.  From their standpoint, it’s all fun and games.  The process goes like this:

Meet a guy; jump into bed; move in together; fall in love (maybe); have a baby or two; get married.  If you doubt any of this, check out CBS’ line-up of sit coms.  Is it any wonder that talking about cohabitation is no longer taboo.  You would be surprised how many couples approach me for marriage preparation with both parties giving the same address.  You would also be surprised at how shocked they are when I suggest that this might be a problem.

On the other hand, how much do we discourage this particular variety of sin when the test we give them to determine their compatibility includes a special section for “cohabiting couples”?  I guess I’m ranting here because I’m the guy who’s charged with convincing them that what they’re doing is wrong even when everyone else (often including their parents) is telling them it’s OK.  I end up looking like the bad guy.

I believe we clergy, given the privilege of preaching the Gospel have let our people down.  When was the last time you heard a homily on this subject.  [Hint:  The last time I preached on extramarital sex, two couples who heard the homily decided to get married.]  So I guess I’ll keep preaching about it and counseling engaged couples on it, and one-by-one, maybe make a difference.

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The Unemployment Lie

This may not seem like a religious post, but bear with me and I think I can tie it all together at the end.

According to government statistics the unemployment rate at the end of April was 8.1%  This compares to 7.9% in January, 2009.  You may recall that in February, 2009 the current administration passed the so-called Economic Stimulus Plan at a cost of a cool $787 BILLION.  That’s a lot of money that we didn’t have.  But, we were promised a dramatic decrease in unemployment as this money was pumped into “shovel ready” projects.  As it turns out, the economy has actually lost over a million jobs since the stimulus was enacted.

The sad part of all this is that the “official” numbers are a lie.  When you take into account the people who have stopped looking for a job the unemployment is much higher than 8.1%, possibly as much as 20 points higher.  Then there are the underemployed.  Stories of college degreed management types working at Wal Mart abound.  The former six-figure manager working for minimum wage with no benefits at Wally World is considered to be employed by the government.

When I was “retired” by my employer of almost thirty years, I didn’t apply for unemployment.  Therefor I was never officially “unemployed”.  I had no job, but that didn’t matter.  Eventually I took a job working for the Church.  I make about 10% of what I made at my peak.  That’s a lot of money that doesn’t get recycled back into the economy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my job andSocial Security and investment income are enough to live a good lifestyle.  But we’re talking jobs here, and from a purely economic standpoint, I’m very much underemployed.

Here’s another example, not of someone in his twilight years, but at the beginning of his career.  This young man is 33 years old and has a master’s degree.  His full-time job is in retail which he doesn’t like but which provides him with health insurance.  His other job, the one he went to college for six plus years to earn is as an adjunct professor at the university where he obtained his degree.  The key word there is adjunct.  An adjunct works part-time, for part-time wages, and has no benefits and no tenure.  Universities love adjuncts for just that reason.  They are much less expensive and can be let go at the school’s whim.

You may wonder why this young man doesn’t just get a full-time teaching position somewhere else.  The answer is that most universities today demand that full time faculty have a PhD.  Why?  One, it’s a good excuse to not give a full time job to people like our young friend.  Two, you government, you know, the one that can’t keep track of how many people are out of work, that government has programs for funding higher education that make it virtually impossible for most schools to hire full time professors who only have a Master’s Degree.

Oh, and did I mention that this young man has thousands of dollars in student loans that he can’t pay off because he can’t land a full time job.  It’s no wonder that so many young people give up and end up wasting their education and defaulting on their loans.  Society made them a promise.  You spend thousands of dollars on an education and we’ll make sure you have a job using the knowledge that you gain in college.  Now society(and the banks and the government) are demanding that they pay up even though the jobs never materialized.

Another example is a young woman, age 26, who also has a Master’s Degree.  She’s been out of school for over a year and is working as a waitress.  She’s also buried under a mountain of debt.  She probably has slightly better odds of getting a job in her chosen field.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) she makes decent money as a waitress which helps her pay her student loans.  When she’s offered a job in her chosen field, how easy will it be for her to give up her waitressing gig?  That remains to be seen.

I read an article just the other day that said students graduating in 2012 will actually be better off than their older counterparts.  See, this class started school after the recession started.  They may be better prepared for the economy that’s facing them after graduation, because they knew it was coming.  No one changed the rules on them like they did to our two young friends above.  They knew going in that they would need different skills to survive in this economy.

I said I’d tie this into religion.  Here goes.  Just this past Sunday Jesus told us in our Gospel that we must love one another as He loves us and that greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.  There are thousands (millions?) of people in America that need our help.  If you’re in a position to hire, don’t look at these kids as just numbers.  They’re human beings and they’re the future of our country.

If you’re not in a position to hire anyone, then think carefully before you vote.  You may have a nice job but you never know when it might be jerked out from under you (I didn’t).  What we’re doing now isn’t working.  Study the issues and vote accordingly.

If you’re in academia, use your influence to encourage your school to stop taking advantage of the very people who borrowed thousands of dollars for your product.  They deserve better than a part time position with no benefits.  What’s happening today is a disgrace!

Last, but certainly not least, pray for our neighbors who are either unemployed or underemployed.  I can’t imagine how they go on facing rejection after rejection; disappointment after disappointment.  Pray that God gives them the strength and the perseverance to go on.  Pray that the people responsible for managing the economy will actually do their jobs, or pray that in November they may all be looking for jobs.

Our generation has made a real mess of things but with God’s help, we can right the ship and help our sons and daughters have the life we want them to have.

Mother’s Day

6th Sunday of Easter

I believe that today’s Gospel is a Cliff Notes summary of everything we need to know to be faithful Christians.  All Jesus’ talks, all His miracles, all His parables, come down to what Jesus tells us today.

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”  Think about that.  We know, through the doctrine of the trinity, that God and Jesus are one and the same; Father and Son.  They share an intimate and infinite love.  Here’s Jesus telling us that His love for us is the same.  God the Father and God the Son love us as much as they love one another, and themselves.

But, and this is important, If we want to remain in His love, we must keep His commandments.  In other words, we can lose His love if we don’t do what He tells us.  Then, rather than give us a laundry list of things we have to do, He says, “THIS is my commandment:  love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

That’s it!  All we have to do is love one another.  But you and I both know that some people are more lovable than others.  Sometimes loving one another can be a HUGE challenge.  But this love that Jesus asks us to have for each other means a very specific thing.  In spite of what the 70’s movie said, love DOES NOT mean never having to say you’re sorry.  According to Father Robert Barron, love means willing good for the other person as another person.  In other words, love doesn’t mean hoping that you win the lottery so you can share your winnings with me.  Love means hoping you win the lottery only because I want you to be happy.  Love also means that I’m not jealous of your good fortune.

Today being Mother’s Day, it’s natural to compare God’s love to a mother’s love.  The mother’s love is unconditional, just like God’s love.  But there’s one thing missing.  On a purely physical level, a baby knows that she has an attachment to her mom.  But a baby doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to understand what that means.  Dogs and cats relate to their mothers just like we do.  Love between a mother and her offspring is a natural thing.  The difference between us and the animals is that as that human baby grows physically and emotionally, she begins to appreciate what this special connection means.  But, it’s a slow process.  It has it’s ups and downs.  I have four grandchildren.  Three of them from one set of parents.  Those three are two, four, and five years old.  Love means something very different to each one.  As they grow and mature, their ability to love will grow and mature.  (Until they get to be teenagers, then they’ll likely to hate their parents, but that’s just a phase.  They usually grow out of it.)  Unfortunately, for many of us, we don’t really appreciate our mom’s love entirely until they’re gone.

I think we approach God’s love in the same way.  When we’re little we know that God loves us.  How?  Because grownups tell us so.  I went to Grandparents’ Day Friday at my five-year-old granddaughter’s school.  One of the songs they sang was

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Down in my heart to stay
And I’m so happy

So very happy

I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart

Down in my heart”

Five, six, and seven-year-olds know they love Jesus and that He loves them in a very basic, simple way.  As we grow older, we understand more of what that means.  Unfortunately, we also make it more complicated.  Remember, Jesus calls us to have a child-like faith.

Let’s get back to moms for a minute.  Jesus said that no one has greater love than to lay down their lives for their friends.  We see that in Jesus as He died on the cross to save us from our sins.  But mothers lay down their lives for their children every day.  All of you moms can testify that once you gave birth, your life was never the same again.  Some changes were small.  Some were huge.  But nothing is ever the same. 

 

 

There’s a reason why men don’t have babies.  We couldn’t handle it.  A mother’s love lets her do the impossible on a daily basis.

Today as we celebrate our moms, and all those women in our lives who fill the role of mothers, it’s good to reflect on what Jesus tells us today.  A mother’s love is the closest we humans can come to perfect love.  Our mothers’ love teaches us how to love as Jesus loves.

We are our mothers’ flesh and blood the same way we’re Jesus’ flesh and blood.  We’re about to celebrate Jesus’ love for us by receiving His actual Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  In a real way we celebrate His love and our mothers’ love with every breath we take.  When He said “love one another as I have loved you” He was telling us all we need to know.  “Honor you father AND your mother” is one of the Ten Comandments.

Jesus spoke these words just before He gave up His life for us.  They were some of His last words before the crucifixion.  The Gospel ends with Him saying, “This I command you: love one another.”  It’s not a suggestion.  It’s not something that would be nice for us to do.  It’s His commandment.  “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”

This monologue is the sum total of everything that Jesus taught in His earthly ministry.  This is the message that He wants us to remember.  Never forget that the whole point of His becoming a man was to teach us this one thing.  And, as we celebrate a day dedicated to our mothers, if we want an example of what that love looks like, all we have to do is think about our mothers’ example.  Remember, Jesus’ last act before He gave up His life on the cross was to give us His Mother, the most perfect example of a mother’s love in all human history.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Yet Another Obamanation

May 9, 2012

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following statement:

President Obama’s comments today in support of the redefinition of marriage are deeply saddening. As I stated in my public letter to the President on September 20, 2011, the Catholic Bishops stand ready to affirm every positive measure taken by the President and the Administration to strengthen marriage and the family. However, we cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better. Unfortunately, President Obama’s words today are not surprising since they follow upon various actions already taken by his Administration that erode or ignore the unique meaning of marriage. I pray for the President every day, and will continue to pray that he and his Administration act justly to uphold and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. May we all work to promote and protect marriage and by so doing serve the true good of all persons.

I present this without comment because I think the Cardinal said all that needs to be said.