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Header - Family Tip 17 - Tattoos, to get or not to get? 

By Thomas Ryder

 

At a casual family gathering, my 16-year-old nephew, Michael, sat next to me and said: “Uncle, I want to get a tattoo. What do you think about it?”

I raised my gaze and fixing it on his asked, “Do you want to get a tattoo or are your friends pressuring you to get one?”

Squirming a bit in his seat, he conceded, “Well… I mean…. It’s both.”

I did not press the point and asked, “But, what do you think, Michael? Do you think it is a good thing? Because if you are asking me about it, it seems to me that you consider this a moral issue. And you would be right there.”

“What do you mean by ‘moral’”? he asked.

“‘Moral’ determines if the action you are proposing is good or bad. Morality is the rule or principle that distinguishes good from bad or right from wrong.”

At this point, expressing a little frustration Michael said, “I just want to know if I should get one—yes or no?”

The time had arrived for me to dig in a bit deeper.

“O.K., Michael. Unless you are in a rush, give me five minutes and I will tell you what I think.”

Michael moved to the edge of his seat and gave me a nod. I had his full attention; at least for the next five minutes.

I began, “First of all, you are asking me to tell you what to do and in a way to make a decision for you. But since you are not six years old anymore, you are now 16, I am going to tell you what I think about it, and I am going to ask you to make your own decision.”

Michael acquiesced, proud that I was treating him with adult respect.

I went on, “Tell me something, suppose you and I decided to put our fortunes together and buy a magnificent car. And we don’t go half way with this; we use every penny we have to get our dream car. We both go to the dealer, spend many hours shopping around and finally, after a difficult process of decision-making, come back home with a car. Then, for a few weeks, we enjoy our new car and all its perfections…until, one day, you wake up to find that I had painted the image of a beaver on the hood of the car.”

Tattoos - Image 1Michael’s expression left it clear he would not have liked the idea in the least.

I continued, “You would have probably come up to my room, banged on my door and then punched me. And I, quite honestly, would have done the same if the roles were reversed. Now, imagine what God thinks of the fact that after He gave us this wonderful body that He made—and ‘bought’ at the price of His death and resurrection—we go and tattoo all over it?”

“But is it a sin?” Michael asked with insistence.

I held up my hands, saying, “Now hold on a bit. Keep in mind that God wants us not only to avoid sin, but to actually live in a way that pleases Him. We must live lives as He wishes. Just staying away from breaking rules is not good enough.”

I continued, “Everything God makes is perfect, including our bodies. And let me tell you that He did not plan on us using our bodies as some sort of billboard. Our bodies are, just as the Church teaches us, temples of the Holy Spirit, when we are in the state of grace."

“Now I have a question for you: why do you want a tattoo? What is the reason?”

Michael started to open his mouth, but I kept on going. My five minutes were almost up.

“Again, our Eternally Good God gave us reason so we can decide what is right and what is wrong. So what could be the reason for us to tattoo our bodies other than pressure from others or pressure to conform to the culture? Is pressure alone a good reason for us to do things?”

Michael responded promptly, “Of course not!”

“When God made us, He did it based on His Infinite Wisdom. His Wisdom and reasons for doing things go way beyond our little puny understanding."

“Our bodies should be mirrors of what we have inside. Thus, a good and virtuous person has a certain shine about him and will carry himself and dress in a way that will display to the world what he is inside. The same thing happens the other way around."

“Evil and malicious people eventually look like it. Look, for example, at a bad woman who spends her life as a prostitute selling her body to whomever will pay more in comparison with a woman of virtue who protects her virginity with daring and courage. Their faces will be like night and day.”

Michael interrupted and said, “Uncle, one of the things my friends at school tell me is that there is nothing in Scriptures against it.”

Tattoos - Image 2I smiled. “Is there anything in Scriptures against taking drugs? Does this mean it is okay?

“Along with the Scriptures, God gave us a sense of right and wrong; moral law called natural law is written in our hearts. People without access to the Scriptures are still responsible for doing what is right. God did not mean for the Scriptures to be the sole manual for our behavior. But incidentally you may direct your friends to Leviticus 19:28, where God says…..”

I could see from Michael’s glance at his cell phone that I had gone over my allotted time. Not wanting to be a breaker of bargains, I ended my advice there.

Standing up, I placed my hand over Michael’s shoulder and said to him, “But Michael, you are practically an adult. You have a job, are preparing for college and, if I am not mistaken, you are saving up for your first car. Just think about what we have talked about here today and, then, I encourage you to make your own decision.”

Looking straight into his eyes I asked, “Will you go along with everyone else or will you do what you believe to be right? And that, my dear boy, is the real question.

“Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said: “‘Dead bodies float downstream; it takes live bodies to resist the current.’”

Michael gave me a huge hug and by the unusual tightness with which he held me I left with the impression he had liked our little chat.

That evening I silently prayed to our Good Lord for Michael. “Give him strength, for You alone know what sort of crazy opinions and peer pressure these young people have to fight against these days.”

 


 Image Credits:
© Jonathan Weiss | Dreamstime (sign)
© Vadimgozhda | Dreamstime.com (talking)
©Stocksnapper | Dreamstime (hands)

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 25, 2020

“I will take away not the grace but the feeling of grace...

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May 25

 

“I will take away
not the grace but the feeling of grace.
Though I will seem to leave you
I will be closer to you.”

Our Lord to St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Pope St. Gregory VII

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cri...

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Pope St. Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand in Tuscany, Italy. Little else is known of his early life. Hailed, historically, as one of the greatest of the Church's pontiffs and one of the most remarkable men of all time, his name, Hildebrand, meant “bright flame”. Those who hated him, which were many, interpreted the name as “brand of Hell”.

Hildebrand was a Benedictine monk, for a time living in Cluny, from whence he certainly gleaned the monastery’s ideal of societal reform.

As a cleric, he became chaplain to Pope Gregory VI, and a few years later, under Leo IX was made Cardinal Deacon. A man of outstanding energy and insight, Hildebrand became a power in Rome. It is greatly due to him that the practice of electing popes through a college of cardinals was established.

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cried out for the holy genius who had helped steer the Church for twenty years, “Hildebrand for Pope! Holy Peter wants Hildebrand, the Archdeacon!” Once before the holy monk had eluded the tiara but this time a proper college of cardinals, seconding the popular cry, induced him to accept an honor duly his.

Hildebrand assumed the name Gregory VII, and threw his energy and zeal into a continued reform, especially fighting simony (the sale of ecclesiastical posts) and clerical incontinence.

He confronted Emperor Henry IV head- on about his practice of choosing men for ecclesiastical positions. On meeting with dogged resistance, the pontiff finally had recourse to excommunication which drastically curtailed the proud monarch’s power, ultimately bringing Henry on foot to the Pope at the Castle of Canossa. Because of Henry’s rebellious obstinacy, Pope Gregory saw fit to leave him out in the cold for three days before receiving and reinstating the royal penitent.

But Henry failed to make any true personal reform and alienated his princes who elected another ruler. Still, he later rallied and went as far as electing another Pope, a Clement III, calling down upon himself another sentence of excommunication. He also attacked and entered the Eternal City in 1084, which forced Pope Gregory into exile. Henry had his protégée “pope” crown him Emperor. Ultimately repelled by an army fighting for the true pope, the Emperor Henry left Rome, but complications sent Gregory VII again into exile, this time to die.

His last words before his death were a summary of how he had lived, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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