Freedom of Speech

In this season of Pentecost, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit has been sent to give us the wisdom to take the message of Christ to the world. As Christians, the right to practice our faith is important, however with that right comes a responsibility. Even if the world allows us to say whatever we want, as Christians, we need to be guided by the Holy Spirit and discern how we say things and when we choose to say them. In this season of Pentecost we can reflect on the fruits of the Holy Spirit and use them to guide our speech.

Love

St Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that we can do many things, but if they are done without love, they are pointless.

“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Christian preaching is worthless without love. It is our love which will inspire others to Christ, not our judgement. Condemnation of people is not going to bring people to Christ. God transforms in love, not in fear.

Joy

Christianity is not going to be attractive if the people in it are morally outraged, full of self-righteousness, judgmental, fearful and closed up on themselves. We must resist anger and the language of moral decline. The joy of the Gospel is for everyone and no one is excluded.

Peace

Peace comes from relying on God. We need to avoid getting caught up in anxiety for the future, of losing our rights and way of life. Christians trust God to provide for them. From the beginning the central message to Adam and Eve was that God in his divine glory had given them choice. He gives us the choice to choose Him. Many did not believe Jesus was the Messiah because they expected someone who would come and overthrow the present kingdom, the government of the time. Jesus consistently taught that his Kingdom was not the kingdom of this world.  He resisted temptation in the wilderness when Satan showed him all the kingdoms of earth and offered them to him to rule.  Jesus did not come with armies or rule by forcing his views, morals and doctrines on anyone. He came in peace.

Patience

What is the point of saying to someone who does not share your Christian views – Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore? The truth is many people don’t believe in Christian marriage and they have not done so in a long time. What is the point of telling people they are going to hell when they don’t even believe in hell? God has allowed us all the freedom to choose. Patience requires us to have a knowledge of our own imperfections and our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness and to accept that others have a right to examine their own imperfections and make their own choices.

Kindness

Our actions are in the spotlight right now, including how we speak and how we treat people. Kindness is the willingness to give to others beyond what we owe them, even if we don’t agree with them.

Goodness

Avoid evil yourself and embrace what is right. People are only going to be attracted to something that they see is working. They need to be inspired by the way you live your life in Christ. If you are living your own life as a true Christian and you are loving both your neighbour and strangers, people are going to be attracted to that.

Perseverance

Do not be easily provoked. We are witnessing amongst a section of our Christian community a growing fear about the world. We are witnessing knee jerk reactions. Don’t fear the secular world and the things happening in it, rather remember that everything is an opportunity to bring Christ into the midst.

Mildness

Christ Himself, said “I am gentle and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). Don’t let anger and rashness cause you to say things you will regret. Take your time, be gentle and forgiving rather than angry. Be gracious rather than vengeful. Do not insist on always having your own way and choose your moments carefully. The need to win the argument in the short-term can lead to us actually losing it in the long run. A discussion that descends into argument, debate and personal attacks will not bring anyone to Christ. Listening to and understanding the other person’s view, even if you don’t agree with it, is the key to unlocking what it is you need to say to that person in that moment. There are times when it is actually prudent to say nothing. The need to have the last word in this moment may cause hurt and drive people away forever. Think beyond the need to win and be patient.

Faith

Faith requires us to live our lives in accordance with God’s will at all times. As Pope Francis has warned, be careful of turning the faith into an ideology because when we do:

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

Modesty

Being modest means humbling yourself and being just as powerless as God. Modesty requires us to resist the temptation to coerce, rather it allows us to slowly unveil the beauty and the truth of things without imposing them.

Self-Control

We need to exercise moderation in all things. We must be prudent about when and how we speak and not provoke others to anger. Self-control sometimes requires us not to speak at all, but rather listen. Listening will often lead us to improving ourselves.

Chastity

We are not called to simply indulge in our physical desires and succumb to what we need to say in that moment. If you are speaking about Christ, start by speaking about who Christ is and that he came for all of our salvation. He came to heal, forgive and free us. Don’t start by telling people Christ came to condemn them. Don’t indulge in your own self-righteousness, be prepared to listen and allow the Spirit to work through you to properly discern the right time to speak and the right words to say.

Saint Timothy and Mora – May 3

Saint Timothy and Mora, a married couple who suffered persecution for their faith.

Timothy, a deacon from Upper Egypt was charged with possession of Christian books, the emperor ordered to be confiscated and burned. Timothy was tortured and this resulted in his loss of his eyesight. Timothy gave thanks to God for the torture and remained faithful. His wife Mora was also brought in and to be tortured. Mora also endured the suffering with joy and also thanked God. Seeing the great faith the couple had, the governor Arian ordered them both to be crucified. They hung on crosses facing one another for ten days.

Saint Moura is well venerated in the Maronite Church. Several churches have been dedicated to the Martyr in Lebanon, including a monastery in Ehden. It is in this monastery that the Lebanese Maronite Order was founded in 1694 by three Maronite young men from Aleppo, Syria under the patronage of Patriarch Estephan El Douaihy.

On this feast, we pray for married couples, may their union be strengthened by your love. Guide them in their struggles and protect them from things that may divide their marriage. Bringing them together in your name, may Saint Timothy and Mora be an example of a good Christian marriage, trusting one another in even the toughest trials they face.

Christina Maksisi

How to manage conflict in marriage this Christmas

When I was initially thinking for a title for this article I had considered, “Avoiding Conflict in Marriage this Christmas.” The advertising around this time of year conjures up images of families around a very calm and joyful table. For those of us who have been married for a while now, we know Christmas can inevitably throw up conflict in marriage and while avoiding it may be impossible, we can all learn to deal with it better. 

Where are we going to spend Christmas day? Why at your parents and not mine? 

Why does you sister have to be so difficult? 

Why can’t your family be more accommodating and why do they have to buy the children such expensive gifts, they know we can’t afford to buy their kids those presents. 

I hate how your family  ….. (drinks too much, swears [insert a myriad of other things here])

Why don’t you just speak to your siblings and see what they are organising?

My brother drives me insane! 

These simple lines will resonate in some form with many couples. As we begin to navigate planning the days of the Christmas season, it is also a time of year when work is crazier, we have more events to attend, the kids are on holidays, money is tight and time is even tighter. All this adds another layer of stress.

The anxiety and conflict may be inevitable, but the key is how we respond and deal with the conflict when it arises. Here are some tips

  1. Change the way you respond because it may be impossible to change others. You can control how you react and respond to different people and situations, but you may have no control over how others do.
  2. Don’t expect your spouse to be able to change their own family’s behaviour. In most instances they can’t. Discuss, as a couple, strategies about how to deal with the conflict situation and behaviour when they arise. 
  3. Limit the time you spend with people who trigger you and when it happens take a break even if it’s just five minutes to take a breather outside. 
  4. Eliminate sources of unnecessary stress. Do you really need to shop for this seasons Christmas furnishing trends or attend that Christmas event?
  5. Agree as a couple to calm yourself beforehand. Plan a walk on Christmas morning before going to Christmas lunch so that you are calm to deal with any dysfunction of family that comes your way. 
  6. Be aware of childhood issues that may be triggering you. It may be that you only experienced seeing your parent’s in conflict in the lead up to Christmas every year.  Be aware of it and break the cycle. You don’t have to do things the way your parents did them. Change the way you communicate with your spouse. Agree you are going to speak calmly, rationally and take a walk if things are getting heated, but do not avoid your spouse so that you can avoid the discussion. 
  7. Planning does not have to become a yelling match that descends into accusations and blame. You can break the mould and find ways to plan rationally without attacks. If you have an issue don’t wait until chaos descends to raise it – ‘remember at Easter when your sister called me fat?’ Waiting until Christmas and in the middle of a disagreement to raise something that has been brewing up inside you for months is not helpful.  
  8. Don’t avoid the planning simply to avoid conflict. Procrastination and lack of planning will eventually lead to chaos. Nothing is going to magically plan itself.
  9. Learn from conflict. Understand when and where the conflicts occur and how you have dealt with it. Reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t.
  10. It is ok to miss things. You don’t have to attend every single-family function planned. Shuffling your family to four different places on Christmas day is exhausting.  Plan to rotate between Christmas Eve and Christmas lunch each year and if your extended family won’t work with you or accommodate, you can miss the food and just turn up for a visit. It is nice to get the whole extended family together but when it does not happen you will soon realise it is not the end of the world.
  11. Focus on your own well-being. As a couple participate in a gratitude exercise in the lead up to Christmas. Take some time each day as a couple to share with each other one thing you are thankful for in your lives. Focusing on the good things in your life will lift your mood and help ease anxiety.  
  12. Consider participating in the Maronite Christmas fast in the lead up to Christmas. It begins on 15 December. Abstain from alcohol, video games, swearing or social media if they are impacting negatively on your life.  Distance yourself from those addictions or they will only make things worse in your marriage.
  13. Don’t concern yourself with what others have and you don’t. Trying to keep up with the Jones’s will only add more stress to your life and you probably won’t be able to anyway. Spend within your means because blowing the budget now will cause immense stress in the days after Christmas.
  14. This one should be first, but we have saved the best for last. Bring Christ back into Christmas and into your marriage. Remember Christ is truly the reason for the season.  Go to mass, engage with the Christmas novena and fast, read scripture together, make time for prayer together. Place icons and candles and burn incense in the home and in your bedroom. Build your own family rituals, do a rosary walk, help someone in need, visit a lonely neighbour. Most importantly, as a couple build the manger in your heart for Christ to lay in. Forgive each other, go to confession and bask in the love that Christ has bound you together in.

Theresa Simon