“Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)
By Vicki Burbach (one of the contributors on the R.C. Spiritual Direction blog)
Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages two to thirteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the Catholic Spiritual Direction book club so she could embark with likeminded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written.
A few months ago, I was at a cookout at my sister’s house. She and I were sitting at the kitchen table talking about books we’d read when she jumped up and ran to grab a book called 50 Shades of Grey. “I’ve heard this is a GREAT read,” she told me as she laid it in front of me. She proceeded to explain that she’d seen tons of recommendations for it on Facebook. “Everybody’s talking about it,” she said. She had just bought the book, but encouraged me to read it first. Thankfully for both of us, a friend of my sister’s walked in from the back yard just as I was going to take the book. “Oh, I don’t think you want to read that,” she warned. My sister and I looked at her. “Why?” we asked simultaneously. Let’s just say after her brief description of the erotic book, I was blushing and my sister was embarrassed to have recommended it to me. She laughed nervously and we joked about the value of Facebook recommendations.
Despite it’s lurid nature, or more aptly because of it, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has sold over 20 million copies. In fact, books from this series account for 20% of adult fiction sold this year. This is the world in which we’re trying to teach our children about purity.
Yes. Purity. Amidst dresses that stop above the thigh, tops that stop below the…well, Below. Purity. Amidst shows like Dancing with the Stars, movies like Magic Mike and books like 50 Shades of Grey. Need I say anything about the cesspool that lurks just fingertips away thanks to our highly regarded “information” age?
As a mother, I don’t believe I’ve faced such a daunting task. We try. This past spring my husband taught Theology of the Body for Middle Schoolers in our home for my sons and three other boys. The information was invaluable. But due to the overwhelming number of opposing messages they receive from the culture on a daily basis, it feels like we used a gallon bucket to fend off an ocean. Our 13-year-old has recently discovered girls. And he is comparing notes. Those he took in the spring with things he hears (and sees) daily from “the rest of the world.”
But before I pass judgement on the “rest of the world,” what about me? As a Christian, I complain a lot about the culture, but do I REALLY walk the talk?
Case in point: We watch very little TV in our home. But when my husband returned from a business trip and told me about a TV show called HOUSE (he had seen it on the plane), we ran to the local video store to rent Season 1. We were both attracted to and repulsed by Gregory House’s humor, intelligence and quirky personality. We watched several seasons, despite the fact that there were very disturbing moral problems with the show. We discussed how angry we were with the writers for using twisted story lines, but we kept watching. My children know that we liked that show. They also know we wouldn’t let them see it. What kind of message are we sending – do as we say, but not as we do?
Another Case in Point: My sons have been asking lately whether they can watch Jerry Maguire, a movie we have owned for many years – purchased way before our kids were old enough to ask questions. I always thought it was a pretty good movie, if you ignore the extra-marital relationships. But can I do that? Can I judge a movie as “pretty good” WITHOUT taking those issues into account?
And Yet A Third Case in Point: In the car I’ve been allowing my kids to listen to Top 40 music. When there is a song that is questionable, I turn it off. But outside of the rap, which I can’t stomach, several of their songs have grown on me. Unfortunately, I had an eye-opening experience last week. My husband called to tell me that my six year old was singing rather unseemly lyrics around the house. The other kids had assured him that Mom liked the song. Well, when they reminded me of the tune, I had to admit that I’d danced right along with them in the car. Unfortunately, I “ignored” the line about “stripping down to dirty socks.” What was I thinking?!
In my defense, family entertainment in our home is usually dominated by DVDs of Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy and Little House on the Prairie, if we watch TV at all. But when it comes to purity, I am constantly trying to walk a tightrope between the person I was years ago (i.e. the movies, music, books I enjoyed), and the person I am now. Like a sentimental girl who caresses love letters from her old boyfriend, I find it difficult to let those old memories go. I’ve been walking another tightrope as well. Searching for a balance between chastising the current culture and trying to live and guide my children through it. With all these tightropes, it’s only a matter of time before I fall flat on my face!
What about you? Do you find it difficult to be “in the world” but not “of the world”? How do you stay pure?
“First of all we pray for purity of mind, a clear understanding of doctrine which is a gift of the intellect; then modesty of body. O Mary, you see what a scandal of shameless nakedness of men and women we have around us, profaning the churches, the squares and the ways of the city, for the corruption of innocent youth and the perversion of our people, with the threat of terrible punishment to follow.
Thirdly, we beg for holiness of life, because this is what matters most on earth and in heaven; finally, brotherly love, that is the peaceful agreement among citizens which is the secret of prosperity, the perfection of Christianity and an inexhaustible source of joy and peace.” – From the prayer The Glory of Mary, “Journal of a Soul”, p. 386-387.
It is very hard to live a pure life today, but not impossible. ‘Impurity’ surrounds us, visually and audibly, wherever we turn. We need to find, and stay connected to other like-minded people who can confirm us on our journey of Faith. Searching for the right sort of music, books, films, activities etc. too, are necessary for ourselves and our children to get us on the right path!
They are like pointers, → ‘This way to Heaven’ →