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Header - Family Tip 17 - Tattoos, to get or not to get? 

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.”

Tattoos - Image 1Michael’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.”

Tattoos - Image 2I 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)

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 14, 2020

You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or...

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July 14

 

You cannot be
half a saint;
you must be a whole saint
or no saint at all.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Kateri stood before the church until it opened at four o’c...

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St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Tekakwitha, baptized Kateri, “The Lily of the Mohawks” was born in 1656 near the town of Auriesville, New York, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior, and a captured, Christian Algonquin woman, Tagaskouita.

Between 1661 and 1663 a small pox epidemic afflicted Kateri’s tribe. Both her parents and her brother died, and though also contracting the disease, she survived though her face was left scared and her eyesight affected. She was adopted by a paternal aunt and her husband, a chief.

At seventeen the young Mohawk girl turned down an offer of marriage, and though pressed, still refused.

Under the influence of missionary priests introduced into her tribe after the Mohawks were defeated by the French, Kateri converted to Catholicism at eighteen, and was baptized when twenty. Members of her tribe were hostile to her by reason of her Faith, but she persevered.

The Jesuit missionaries described Tekakwitha as a modest girl who covered most of her head with a blanket because of her scars.

In 1677 Kateri moved to the new Christian colony of Indians in Canada under the direction of Jesuit fathers where she found peace. There, she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penance and the care of the sick and the aged.

Every morning, even in the bitterest cold, young Kateri stood before the church until it opened at four o’clock. Once inside, she attended every Mass, her greatest devotions being the Eucharist and Christ Crucified. She undertook severe penances, seeking to mortify her flesh so as to help her soul reach union with her beloved God.

In the Lent of 1680 friends noticed that Kateri was failing. She died on Wednesday of Holy Week around three o’clock. Her last words were, “Jesus, I love You.”

As she lay still in death, those around her noticed that her scars had disappeared and her face was white and beautiful.

Pope Benedict XVI canonized Kateri Tekakwitha on October 21, 2012.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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