Letter to a young man on combating six lies

Larry Smith

As a young man, you are embarking on a great adventure, to find your place in the world. Unfortunately, the world will tell you many things along the way, so that it’s difficult to separate the truth from the lies.

Lie #1: Look out for Number One. In pursuing your own needs, you always find yourself longing for more. But when you stop and help someone else — be it a family member or a complete stranger — you will feel true accomplishment because you are fulfilling the design that God placed on your heart. To help people in need — that is the mark of a true man.

Lie #2: Your worth is based on money. Money can be a great blessing or a great burden. Scripture is replete with warnings. “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). Notice the warning is specific to the “love of money.” Money without a foundation of faith and family — and loving God first — is shallow and unfulfilling. Money can’t buy you happiness. The greedy pursuit of it can completely ruin your life.

Lie #3: Whoever dies with the most toys, wins. Use the toys you have to experience the joy of life that God intended you to experience. But if you focus on the toys, and not the people that you’re experiencing it with, you’ll lose sight of your purpose in life. What should be a gift from God can become a set of chains. Because when it comes to toys, you can never have new enough, shiny enough or fast enough. Materialism is a construct of the devil, tempting us to always seek more, more, more of meaningless things. Ask yourself: Do you want to have it all? Or do you want to give it all?

Lie #4: Sow your wild oats. Society says it’s OK to be promiscuous. That’s the legacy of the Sexual Revolution, which has been a wrecking ball through generations, causing much misery, fear, doubt and even death in the form of abortion. You were made for more. When you have sex outside of marriage, you’re committing a mortal sin. Instead, be a virtuous warrior. Listen to the words of St. Dominic: “A man who governs his passions is master of the world.”

Lie #5: Delay marriage as long as possible. Our culture tells us that independence, and the ability to do what you want, is the most important thing. Don’t believe it. When a man says, “I do” to his bride, he takes responsibility for his wife and for the creation of a family. Or, you may be called to be a priest or religious. How will you discern God’s plan for your life?

Lie #6: Prayer is boring because nothing happens. The world throws every conceivable kind of noise at you to prevent you from getting closer to God, from taking time to be with Jesus Christ in prayer and to sit quietly alone in His presence — in adoration. It’s when you finally do that that you begin to truly understand the meaning of life and your purpose in it.

P.S. To women: are you helping men to be men? Husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and male co-workers all need your prayers and intentions to live out their God-given missions.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Visit online
at ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: Forming mind and heart in faith

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“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

People tell me pretty regularly that we should not over-intellectualizing the faith — making the Church simply about ideas, doctrines, and rules. I agree that this can be a problem, but we also have to guard seriously against an opposite problem — emotionalizing and privatizing faith. We are blessed with a reasonable faith that can be studied in harmony with the truth of the natural world. Faith and reason strengthen one another, together leading our minds to conform to the mind of the God who is our Creator and Redeemer. In the midst of a secularism which pits science against the faith, it is important that we form our minds in the truth. Being rooted in the truth of our faith does not lead to abstract ideas, but to an encounter with the living God which sets our hearts on fire with His love.

The Dominicans have a long history of teaching the faith, founded originally to preach to those who had fallen into the dualistic heresy of Albigensian and producing the Common Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas. The papal theologian, who advised the pope, by tradition comes from St. Dominic’s Order. One of the most renown Dominicans teaching in the United States, Father Thomas Joseph White, has recently been called to Rome to teach at the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of the Dominicans. Father White, though a profound scholar, has produced a clear and accessible overview of the Catholic faith.

Father White’s book, The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Catholic University of America Press, 2017) offers a serious overview of the Catholic faith. It is not a scholarly work, but one that does challenge us to enter more deeply into the theological tradition of the Church, flowing from the Bible and Catechism, the Fathers, and especially the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Part of the genius of the book is how it uses the theological tradition to address contemporary concerns such as evolution, sexual ethics, and relativism. The book contains seven major sections—Reason and Revelation, God and Trinity, Creation and the Human Person, Incarnation and Atonement, the Church, Social Doctrine, and the Last Things—as well as a robust epilogue on prayer.

Father White challenges us to “to be an intellectual. . . to seek to see into the depths of reality” (1). As intellectual beings, we have been created in the image of God and are called to enter into his truth and life. Therefore, White reminds us that “every person has to accept risk in truth’s call to us. Even religious indifference is a kind of risk, perhaps the greatest of all, for if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. The mind is reason’s instrument, but the heart its seat” (5). Therefore, the ultimate questions lead the mind into prayerful contemplation of the truth. Theology cannot remain an intellectual enterprise alone, but must lead us to encounter God in prayer: “Prayer is grounded in our natural desire for the truth. When we pray we are trying to find God, to praise him, and to see all things realistically in light of him. In a sense, then, prayer stems from a search for perspective” (288).

Our faith forms us as a whole person and shapes our feelings and desires according to what is highest. Father White rightly points out that “heart and intelligence go together” (49). When it comes to God, intellectual theory is not enough, as he calls us to know him in a “concrete, personal, affective relationship” (48). This does not mean that we can dispense with theology. Quite to the contrary, “we want to get right who God is, and what the mystery of Christ is, so that we can be in living contact with divine love” (42). God speaks to us so that we may come to know him by exercising our minds to know the truth given us through the Church (36).

Knowing God is the work a lifetime and our eternal vocation. We can strengthen our faith by studying theological truths and deepening our capacity to contemplate divine things. Father White’s book will help us all to be theologians, entering into the practice of theology as faith seeking understanding. As we come to know God more, it should lead us to fall in love with him more deeply, strengthening our relationship with him and preparing us to see him face to face.