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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.”

Michael’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.”

I 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)

 

 

DAILY QUOTE for January 16, 2019

If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer...

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January 16

 

If you really want to love Jesus, first
learn to suffer, because
suffering teaches you to love.

St. Gemma Galgani


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SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Honoratus of Arles

Although their father objected and placed obstacles before t...

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St. Honoratus of Arles

Honoratus was born into a patrician Roman family that had settled in Gaul, present-day France. As a young man, he renounced paganism and won his elder brother Venantius over to Christ.

Although their father objected and placed obstacles before them, the two brothers decided to leave the world. Under the tutelage of the hermit St. Caprasius they sailed from Marseilles with the intention of leading a secluded life in a Grecian desert.

In Greece, illness struck and Venantius died in peace. Also ill, Honoratus was obliged to return to Gaul with his instructor. At first, he lived as a hermit in the mountains near Fréjus.  Later, he settled on the island of Lérins off the southern coast of France. Followed by others, he founded a monastery on the island about the year 400. The monastic community is active to this day. St. Patrick, the great apostle of Ireland is said to have studied at Lérins.

In 426 Honoratus was pressed upon to accept the bishopric of Arles, where he reestablished Catholic orthodoxy, challenged by the Arian heresy. He died three years later exhausted from his apostolic labors.
The island of Lérins, today the island of Saint Honorat just south of Cannes, is home to Cistercian monks who live in a majestic monastery and produce fine wines and liqueurs which are well-known throughout the world.

WEEKLY STORY

Mary and the Muslim

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

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

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

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