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Objectionable or exceptional - you choose

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By Melanie Pritchard

Note: Melanie Pritchard is a renowned Catholic chastity speaker. A few years ago she nearly died in childbirth, but underwent a miraculous recovery. Read about her near-death experience here.

August 27, 2012 (MelaniePritchard.org) - One evening in my college dorm room, I saw myself in a mirror and didn’t like the reflection looking back at me. I began college a strong Catholic young woman and four short months later I was looking in a mirror not able to recognize myself. The decisions I made in college were drastically different from those I made in high school. I began wearing revealing clothes, going to parties, dating guys who had nothing to offer me but good looks, and listening to music, reading magazines, watching TV shows and movies that didn’t correspond with my dignity. I didn’t realize that all these little decisions would add up to this moment looking in a mirror hating who I had become, not realizing how I even got there.

I called a mentor and friend and revealed to her my inner longing to find joy again, to find me again. She asked me a question that opened my eyes to what was going on in the culture. She said, “Whose plan are you following for your life?” It was a soul awakening moment because naively I did not realize there were people in our culture who had plans and agenda’s for my life, for my relationships, and for my sexuality.  I remember feeling like a fool not recognizing that there are groups of people who don’t have my best interest in mind whether it is for their selfish, social, or financial gain. After much thought, I made a list of all the things I was allowing to influence me…guys, friends, movies, magazines, music, etc. Then I began to think about the source of those things. I thought, “Who wrote those Cosmo and Glamour articles my friends and I read as if they were the gospel of fashion and relationship success? Who were those musicians singing the songs we danced and listened to? What were their lives like? Were they happily married? Were they joyful and content? Did they come from good families? Did they practice a faith? Who has formed them?”

That was the day I decided that I would no longer let some unknown person sitting in a cubicle in New York writing some article they had to get in on a deadline tell me what was in. I was no longer going to let them tell me how to dress, function in a relationship, or teach me about sex. It was then that I took a look at the culture and saw three plans people are choosing to follow in their relationships, for their sexuality, and in their lives.

Plan 1: People who choose to live morally objectionable lives. They set their own standards. They have several sexual partners, they cheat, hook-up, are addicted to and promote pornography, pre-marital sex, alcohol and drugs. They view sex as just a pleasurable act that should have no boundaries. They are selfish, careless and use people and things for their own fleeting pleasure. They have abandoned God in order to do whatever they want. They object to the idea that there is any real truth. Some might call them moral relativist. They reject the idea of sin and often talk about no rules, no morality, no Heaven and no Hell. It’s a really easy plan to accomplish because it takes no act of virtue, discipline, sacrifice, or act of faith.

Plan 2: People who choose to live “seemingly” morally acceptable lives. They set their own standards and fit God into their life plan when they see fit. They are fine with just being average in their faith and values. They may not have sex before marriage, but they will do everything but that. They wear a cross as jewelry while wearing booty shorts and revealing cleavage shirts. They party hard on Saturday night but do their best to be a regular Mass go-er on Sundays. They live with one foot in the world and one foot in Church, often seeing how far they can push the limits. They desire to have values, but aren’t willing to commit fully to making good choices. They want to go to Heaven, but are willing to settle for Purgatory in order to satisfy their earthly desires. They may try to master some virtues but give up on the ones that are too hard. They can sacrifice, be disciplined, and act in faithful ways, but choose to only when it fits them best. It is a hard and confusing plan to follow because they are living between two opposite worlds often feeling a tug-of-war in their hearts.

Plan 3: People who choose to live morally exceptional lives. These are the people who know they are weak and broken and need God’s strength in order to live exceptionally. They follow God’s standards and believe He is the Way, The Truth and The Life and that He created them in His image and likeness. They believe God created them uniquely masculine or feminine and designed their sexuality for the specific purpose of bonding two people together and allowing them to co-create with God. They believe they and others have value and worth. They believe that choices have consequences and they seek to form their minds to make decisions pleasing to the Lord. They choose to have sex within marriage alone as their sexuality is a gift to be given to one person. They find their worth in God and not in fleeting things. They do what they ought instead of doing what they want, not because it confines them, but because it is what frees them. They seek to serve and be Christ-like and their ultimate goal is to get themselves and others to Heaven. They pray daily, are in relationship with God, they sacrifice on a regular basis, and they seek the Sacraments to help them stay strong. They believe that God allows them to love as He loves which is always exceptional, and His grace is what allows them to live up to His standards. They know they can’t do it on their own. They wake up daily trying to live to their fullest potential knowing they may fail but knowing there is always tomorrow to try again. This is the hardest plan to follow, but the one that brings the most joy and peace.

Reading through the “Plans” you may be asking yourself which one you follow, but I must warn you, one of them is a figment of the follower’s imagination. Revelations 3:15-16 tells us “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”  “Plan 2: ‘Seemingly’ Morally Acceptable” doesn’t really exist because either a person is in a relationship with God allowing Him to set the standard so they can move toward exceptional love or they are in a relationship with sin choosing a morally objectionable life. Sadly the plan I see many follow is a “seemingly morally acceptable” one where they are always in great danger of falling more and more into sin, sadness, and loneliness instead of a life of grace, joy and freedom.

If I were to ask people if they want to live a morally exceptional life, I feel their response will be one underlined in fear. They might say, “I don’t want to be a saint; saints are exceptional!” When what they are really saying is, “I don’t believe in myself enough to live to my full potential.” These were my own thoughts as a freshman in college when I chose to believe I was living a morally acceptable life, only to find myself…lost, doubting my own potential for greatness. Those of us who have believed it possible to live a “morally acceptable” life can tell you it is a constant tug-of-war, sliding into objectionable decisions (sin), but desiring to be exceptional (in relationship with God).

There isn’t a famous athlete or musician in this world who would walk on a field or stage and say, “Today I am NOT going to play to my full potential. I’m NOT going to go out there and give it my best. Today I will settle for third.” No, instead they say, “Today I am going to try to be exceptional. I will try my hardest.”

We have it in us to play, sing, dance, study in exceptional ways, but why is it some of us cringe at the idea of being morally exceptional. We choose passions where we have to make healthy choices, be disciplined in our regiments, and sacrifice, but when it comes to our morality, we don’t know if we are capable.

And, maybe that is just it. When it comes to morality, it is harder, and we just aren’t capable…on our own.

Every day we walk out the door of our homes in a battle: A battle to protect our purity, dignity, chastity and virtue. Peers, billboards, magazines, music, TV shows, movies, books, boyfriends, girlfriends will tempt us, bombard us, and pressure us to make dangerous decisions that may negatively affect our lives. We are in a battlefield. Where is our armor?

Our armor is the sacraments and the Holy Spirit! In addition, making a habit of all the four Cardinal Virtues of prudence (wisdom), justice, fortitude (courage), and temperance (self control) strengthens our armor and prepares us to combat a culture that is getting ever more morally objectionable. A culture which is willing to settle for mediocrity instead of exceptionality! We weren’t created for mediocrity. As Pope Benedict said to a group of young people, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!”

And, those who choose, regardless of how many times they fail, to be morally exceptional, are the game changers! We can change the world with our yes to the Lord, with our yes to being loved rightly, and with our yes to the sacraments. We will change the world by rejecting conformity and inviting Christ in to transform us. We will change the world with our joy.

And, when people ask us whose plan we are following, we can say, “The Maker and Creator Himself. The One who wrote the original plan. The plan that lets you look in a mirror and like what you see. The plan that brings you joy and secures your spot in Heaven for all eternity.”

Remember, God doesn’t need you to change to come to him. If you are far from God or living your faith with one foot in the world and one foot in Church, go to God without changing. If change needs to be made, Christ will inspire it within you. We can’t be morally exceptional on our own; it takes God’s grace. The Holy Spirit is our strength. We must live our lives with intention and choose to live to our fullest and greatest potential, seeking to be exceptional knowing it is God that makes us perfect through His Son.

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” –John 10:10

Reprinted with permission from MelaniePritchard.org

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Julie Ralph

My 7-year-old son found porn on his iPod, even with a filter

Julie Ralph
By Julie Ralph

A few weeks ago an article went viral on my Facebook feed entitled “The Day My 10-Year-Old Discovered Hardcore Porn on his iPhone.”  As one Mom after another shared and commented about how frightening and horrible it was and wondered what do we do to prevent it, I commented on several of those shares (perhaps a little smugly and proudly) that WE had installed an excellent filtering program on all of our devices that even filters YouTube.  I most likely left the impression that WE have no worries in this house, that our kids can watch their iPods and kindles, even those annoying Minecraft how to videos on YouTube, and WE don’t have to worry about them seeing filth. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.

I could have entitled this blog post “The Day My 7-Year-Old Discovered Porn on His iPod” but it might look like I’m trying to one-up that other Mom.  Which I’m not.  Because, trust me, this is one Mom competition I’d rather lose. 

This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.

So YES we have this supposedly great and awesome filter on all of our devices and we pay about $70 a year for it.   Look, I’ve been on my computer trying to shop for a swimsuit at Lands End and the filter blocked me.  Annoying, yes.  But assuring.  I remember thinking wow….if I can’t even get on here and see the tummy-sucking-miracle-fat-hiding-mawmaw-swimsuits, my boys will NEVER be able to discover Victoria or her Secret.   And I’ve been on YouTube trying to see how to quickly defrost CHICKEN breasts, and it blocked several videos AND ads that probably had nothing to do with fowl or a thawing method.  Again I remember thinking, good.  This is really good.  Nothing to worry about.

Then last night happened.

My youngest son was visibly shaken as he was getting ready for bed.  I knew something was wrong when I saw he was wearing his flannel pajamas with the mountain bears printed all over them on one of the hottest August nights this month.   He seemed almost disoriented and I asked him if he was sick as he was trying to quickly crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head.   He then reached over to the bedside table, grabbed his little iPod, and tossed it to me saying he doesn’t deserve it anymore because he is bad.  “I’m bad, so bad….I saw bad things.”  My heart started racing and I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Because I knew where this was going.  Very calmly and quietly I assured him he was not bad and there was nothing in the world he could ever tell me that would make me think he was bad.  “What did you see, sweetheart?” I asked.  After about ten minutes of me coaxing it out of him, with a wobbly still-tiny-smidge-of-baby-left voice he told me he was searching for a word he had heard and he spelled it for me.  T-t-i-s.  (I quickly unscrambled and knew what he meant).  He went on to tell me he searched for this on YouTube (the app is not even on his iPod….he must go through the “filter” app to access it!).   He told me he saw pictures and videos.

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My stomach turned.  I ran through all the “How To” files I’d stored away in my mind.  You know those files….situations you’ve thought about as a Mom and how you’d handle…you file them away for another day.  Usually one you hope will never come.   Turns out I didn’t have a file for this.  Because I honestly thought we had done everything on the front end to keep it from happening. 

I ran my fingers through his hair and pulled him close and started talking to him from my broken heart.  I asked him if he knew what that word meant before he searched for it.  He said no.  I told him it is a very crude and ugly word for something that is not crude and ugly.  I told him what the proper word is and I asked him if he knew why God made them like that on women?  He said no.  I told him it was the miraculous and wonderful way that God made women able to feed their babies.  I told him how every woman who has those is made to feed a baby, and those women in those pictures and videos are either already someone’s Mommy or they will be one day.  And what God meant for a beautiful purpose is twisted and made into something very wrong and ugly by those pictures and videos.

Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.

We continued to talk and then we prayed together and I left him to sleep as I walked back to my room for a sleepless night.  I cried for the ugly, messed up, twisted, and sick world out there that I can’t protect my children from.  I cried for what he had seen that I couldn’t un-see for him.  I cried because I had abdicated MY parenting duties to some stupid computer software that I thought would protect my children.  I cried because I can never get back that bit of innocence he lost way, way too early.  I cried as I went onto YouTube, put in that same search and saw just the thumbnails of what he had to have seen.  I just can’t bring myself to actually click on the videos.  I cried because, when I went in to check on him later, he was curled up with Big Bear in one arm and his little blue and white checked blanket in the other.  He’s still a baby. 

I’m mad now.  And I really hope my anger continues to burn because I need it to fuel my diligence.   I need my guard to be up and to stay up.  This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.  I know there are those who would say I’m being overly dramatic, that I can’t put my children in a bubble, blah blah blah.  I don’t care.  I will do whatever it takes to protect my children until their minds, bodies and emotions are better prepared to grasp, filter, and sort through the warped and ugly parts of our world that are pulling on them.  I will continue to pull back and hold on for dear life.   Don’t do as I did, friends.  Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.  Do as I am doing now.  Uninstall any and all browsers or video apps on your kids’ personal devices and set the restrictions where they can’t install apps anymore without asking you first.   Have one central computer in a public area of your home that they may use, with permission, and still with filter software installed.  But remember that’s not the first line of defense in this war.

You are.

Julie Ralph blogs at Mommy, Esquire, where this piece was originally published.

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Sen. Ted Cruz's wife douses him with water as part of the Ice Bucket challenge for ALS research. Youtube
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Sen. Ted Cruz: Do the ALS challenge, donate to pro-life institute

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By Dustin Siggins

One of the nation's most prominent senators is doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge -- but encouraging donations to a pro-life ALS research institute.

In the last month, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, sponsored by the ALS Association, has raised tens of millions of dollars for research for the disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. However, in mid-August pro-life leaders raised awareness that the Association supports embryonic stem-cell research.

Embryonic stem-cell research includes the destruction of a human embryo, and is thus condemned by pro-life advocates as an abortion. The Association has said it currently has one project that uses embryonic stem cells, funded by an outside donor.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Cruz -- who took the challenge last week -- said that he and his wife "are proud to personally support the John Paul II Medical Research Institute the Home of Give Cures (http://jp2mri.org), which conducts groundbreaking research into curing this terrible disease, without using embryonic stem cells."

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"The JPII Institute respects human life, and is working to improve the lives of all of us," said Cruz. 

The ALS Association has said donors may specify their dollars not be used to fund embryonic stem-cell research. However, critics note that donated funds are fungible, meaning they potentially free up funds the Association can then direct to illicit research.

At least two Catholic dioceses have encouraged Ice Bucket Challenge participants to donate to the JPII Medical Institute.

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7989 West Virginia Drive, Dallas, where Planned Parenthood is working on secretly opening up a new abortion facility. Google Streetview
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Pro-abortion study: Texas will be down to eight abortion clinics by fall

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By Dustin Siggins

A study by a pro-abortion research group shows that Texas will be down from 41 abortion clinics in July 2013 to eight by this fall.

In July, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that six abortion clinics matched the standards required in HB2, which was signed into law 13 months ago. Those standards include requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of clinics at which they work, a standard already in place, and a requirement that all abortion clinics must upgrade their facilities to the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers.

The study estimates that a total of eight clinics will be able to meet the ambulatory standards, including one that will open in the fall. The standards take effect on September 1. According to the study, this means there will be one abortion clinic for every one million Texans who could become pregnant. An infographic from the study shows that the existing clinics will be located on the eastern half of the state, largely near metropolitan areas.

The study's results, published in the peer-reviewed journal Contraception, have abortion supporters outraged. Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check writes, "No legal abortion facilities will operate south or west of San Antonio," and that five of the clinics will be operated by Planned Parenthood.

However, the closure of so many clinics is good news to pro-life activists like Karen Garnett, who heads the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in the Diocese of Dallas.

"The closing of abortion facilities in Texas the last few years has been the result of the owners of the facilities themselves not being willing or able to comply with the higher standards of medical safety" required by the Texas legislature, Garnett told LifeSiteNews. "Pro-life activists and leaders in Dallas (and Texas) have been working vigilantly with the members of the Texas legislature the last few years to pass these sensible laws.  There is much to be said for the power of prayer, particularly through the powerful 40 Days for Life campaign and prayer vigils."

While abortion supporters claim Texas is abandoning pregnant women, Garnett said the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in Dallas has "helped more than 7,500 mothers choose life outside the abortion facilities," but "we don't stop there."

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"Our Project Gabriel Ministry takes the next step. For those mothers needing and desiring spiritual, emotional and material help, we offer Gabriel Angels, who are paired with them in a one-on-one mentoring and support relationship. We also have a Gabriel Resource Coordinator on staff to help them with practical needs as their situations stabilize." Life skills classes, adoption counseling, and partnerships with pregnancy centers are also part of the Diocese's work to help pregnant mothers.

Jor-El Godsey of Heartbeat International said that there are 326 pregnancy help organizations across the state, which outnumber abortion clinics by approximately 40 to 1. He estimated that approximately 120,000 pregnant women have come to care centers in 2014.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which is funded by an anonymous donor, is a five-year effort to "analyze the impact of the measures affecting reproductive health passed by the 82nd and 83rd Texas Legislatures." The project's partners include the University of Texas at Austin’s Population Research Center, the pro-abortion Ibis Reproductive Health, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. One of the project's investigators is Daniel Grossman, whose biography says that "his current research at Ibis includes both clinical and social science studies aimed at improving access to contraception and safe abortion."

The project has also published reports titled "The Public Health Threat of Anti-Abortion Legislation," and "Finding the Twitter Users that Stood With Wendy." The latter examined social media support for gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who briefly became a national figure for her support of late-term abortions in 2013.

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