The attack on marriage is really an attack on the human person, and his dignity, for the devil seeks to pervert our true purpose, to pervert God's holy design. For many of us, we cannot march in protests or write dozens of letters or call numerous times to urge legislators to vote for the Truth. But one thing we can all do is pray and fast. We have designated one day each week to fast for these intentions:

1. That marriage may be preserved, promoted, and understood as God's plan for creation.

2. For all marriages that they may reflect the love of the Trinity.

3. For broken marriages that Christ bring healing and conversion to the spouses' souls.

4. For those who are married, for the sanctification of their marriage and their spouse. For those who are single, for their future spouse and vocation.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hail, Full of Grace

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JMJ




Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!  During the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation at the Easter Vigil, the priest gloriously sings, "Oh happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer."  Might it be said, that we can also give praise to God that the sin of Adam, the sin of Eve gave us so great a mother as Mary?


We hear the oft-repeated phrase that "Mary is the new Eve"; what Eve lost for mankind through her pride and disobedience, Mary gained for mankind through her humility and obedience.  Her purity and innocence were maintained from her conception, not by a heavenly decree but by a free and natural choice.  Natural in the sense that God did not violate Mary's nature and free will by allowing her to be conceived without original sin; she was still human and was as free as Eve was in the garden to choose between good and evil.  The fact that Mary freely chose God should not make her untouchable for us; in fact, in should be precisely because she chose God that she can be so near and dear to us.  


How many of us have thought of Adam and Eve, wondering why they allowed sin into the world, knowing that our daily temptations, the world's many sufferings, would disappear if sin had not entered the world?  We can easily understand why they gave into temptation as we have so often done, but do we desire to continually relate ourselves to them because of this fault?  Instead, we should  relate and gravitate to Mary. Whereas we see our demise and failings in Adam & Eve, we see our hope and inherent goodness in Mary.  Her fiat is the choice we desire to make, but think we lack the courage to do so on so many occasions. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales advises that if one wishes to be acquire a certain virtue, he should act as if he already mastered that very virtue.  A priest once commented that we should not look to the saints to see their faults, but rather look to them to see their virtues.  Mary's Immaculate Conception and embodiment of virtue should not turn us away from her but rather turn us toward her.  


Mary's Immaculate Conception reveals to us that we are not condemned to act as Adam & Eve, condemned to live a life of misery outside of the gates of Paradise.  Rather, we are called to act as Christ and His Mother, to live a life of joy, called to live in eternal happiness, in Paradise with God forever.


I'll close with a link to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and a beautiful prayer by St. Louis de Montfort:

"O most loving Jesus, deign to let me pour forth my gratitude before Thee, for the grace Thou hast bestowed upon me in giving me to Thy holy Mother through the devotion of Holy Bondage, that she may be my advocate in the presence of Thy majesty and my support in my extreme misery.

Alas, O Lord! I am so wretched that without this dear Mother I should be certainly lost. Yes, Mary is necessary for me at Thy side and everywhere that she may appease Thy just wrath, because I have so often offended Thee; that she may save me from the eternal punishment of Thy justice, which I deserve; that she may contemplate Thee, speak to Thee, pray to Thee, approach Thee and please Thee; that she may help me to save my soul and the souls of others; in short, Mary is necessary for me that I may always do Thy holy will and seek Thy greater glory in all things.
Ah, would that I could proclaim throughout the whole world the mercy that Thou hast shown to me ! Would that everyone might know I should be already damned, were it not for Mary! Would that I might offer worthy thanksgiving for so great a blessing! Mary is in me.
Oh, what a treasure! Oh, what a consolation! And shall I not be entirely hers? Oh, what ingratitude! My dear Saviour, send me death rather than such a calamity, for I would rather die than live without belonging entirely to Mary. With St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the Cross, I have taken her a thousand times for my own and as many times have given myself to her; but if I have not yet done it as Thou, dear Jesus, dost wish, I now renew this offering as Thou dost desire me to renew it.
And if Thou seest in my soul or my body anything that does not belong to this august Princess, I pray Thee to take it and cast it far from me, for whatever in me does not belong to Mary is unworthy of Thee.
O Holy Spirit, grant me all these graces. Plant in my soul the Tree of true Life, which is Mary; cultivate it and tend it so that it may grow and blossom and bring forth the fruit of life in abundance.
O Holy Spirit, give me great devotion to Mary, Thy faithful spouse; give me great confidence in her maternal heart and an abiding refuge in her mercy, so that by her Thou mayest truly form in me Jesus Christ, great and mighty, unto the fullness of His perfect age. Amen."


Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 2nd Fast


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JMJ
" . . . 'We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary arc the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth.  The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family - that sanctuary of love and cradle of life.'
"How much the family of today can learn from this! 'The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride.' This being the case, it is in the Holy Family, the original 'Church in miniature (Ecclesia domestica),' that every Christian family must be reflected. 'Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families.'" 
(Redemptoris Custos, Apostolic Exhortation of Blessed John Paul II, 1989)
It is easy to mediate on the life of the Holy Family during the Advent and Christmas seasons, but we should be careful not to romanticize it.  Often there are two temptations in regards to our meditation: we can either place them so far above us that we forget their human nature, trials and sufferings or we can remove the footstool completely, dropping them down to our level and forget their sublime existence.  The Holy Family is not an unattainable model, and by giving into these temptations one neglects the opportunity to imitate their many virtues. 


If the root of all sin is pride than the root of all virtue is humility, and subsequently obedience.  How many occasions of sin would be avoided if these virtues were practiced more often?  Christ, Himself, in choosing to be born into a family, allowed the world to believe He was the son of a carpenter: 
 "St. Ambrose writes that Our Lord preferred his origin to be doubted (and that people should take him to be the son of Joseph) rather than to have the purity of his mother questioned.  St. John of Avila says that Our Lord 'did not want the lips of men to speak of her having a son without a husband. He preferred that they esteem him the son of an unworthy man. . . rather than to doubt the good name of his sacred mother." 
One of the reasons marriage was held in such high esteem in Jewish society was that it was known that the Messiah would be born of man; therefore, Mary's vow of virginity revealed her surpassing humility.  She was so humble that she did not allow herself the opportunity of becoming the Mother of the Messiah.  St. Joseph did not want to take Mary as his wife, not out of suspected guilt on Mary's part ("He believed it was more possible for a woman to conceive without a man than for Mary to commit a sin." ) but out of great humility on his part for he did believe the words she spoke to him concerning the conception of Christ and was fearful to take the spouse of the Holy Spirit for his bride.


The great humility of the Holy Family laid the foundation for the perfect harmony they enjoyed with one another.  They surely not only sacrificed for the good of each other, denying their own physical and emotional needs constantly, but anticipated and sought to satisfy the needs of the other members.  There was and is great love in the Holy Family!  One can imagine a quiet home, abounding with joy in the midst of three united hearts, all working for the good of the family.  In his excerpted quote, the Pope speaks of a "sanctuary of love", a place where all are reverenced as men made in the image and likeness of God, as fellow children of God, fellow heirs to the Kingdom.


The fruit of the third Joyful mystery of the Rosary, the birth of Christ, is poverty. During our fast tomorrow, let us strive to be poor in spirit, detached from all that is earthly and attached to all that is heavenly.  And let us attach ourselves to the model of the Holy Family making our homes a "sanctuary of love and cradle of life".




(After Blessed John Paul II's quote, both subsequent quotes were taken from Joseph of Nazareth by Frederico Suarez)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent

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JMJ

Happy Advent!  What a joyful time of year this is!  Advent is a time of great expectancy as we joyfully await the coming of Christ, the Messiah.  Because we know Christ has already come it can be easy to forget the over aching thirst that our ancestors had for the long-awaited coming of the Savior.  Just as in recent times, every age believes it is the one when Christ will come a Second Time, so too, it must have been that every age since the Fall, since a Messiah was first promised, that men believed it was in their time the Christ would come.  But we too should cultivate this longing in our hearts for though the Second Coming and the end of the world may not occur during our lifetime, our own ends are already certain and we "do not know the day nor the hour".  So how can we best prepare to receive Christ in our hearts?  The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great:  (*note, the tenth month refers to December as this was before the new calendar)
". . . Since the season of the year and the custom of devotion advises, dearly beloved, we announce to you with pastoral solicitude that the fast of the tenth month is to be celebrated, by which, for the plentiful harvest of all fruits, a libation of continence is most fittingly offered to God, their donor.
For what can be more efficacious than fasting, by the practice which we draw near to God, and, resisting the devil, overcome seductive vices?  For fasting has always been food for the strong. (*emphasis mine)
Moreover, from abstinence proceed chaste thoughts, rational desires, and sound counsels; and by voluntary afflictions the flesh dies to its concupiscences and the spirit is renewed in strength.
But because the salvation of our souls is not acquired by fasting alone, let us supplement our fasting with works of mercy towards the poor.  Let us spend for virtue what we subtracted from pleasure.  Let the abstinence of the one fasting be food for the poor.  Let us be zealous for the defense of widows, for the assistance of orphans, for the consolation of those who mourn, for the peace of dissenters.  Let the stranger be taken in, the oppressed helped, the naked clothed, the sick cared for, so that whoever of us shall have his good works as a sacrifice of such piety to God, the Author of all good things, may deserve to receive the reward of the heavenly kingdom from the same God. . . "
Fasting complemented by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy will help us to "prepare the way of the Lord" by purging our hearts of all desires contrary to the desire for Our Lord.  The Beatitude says, "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God"; we are capable of adoring the Babe in the Manger when we recognize that He is God.  One of the ten principal virtues of Mary, according to St. Louis de Montfort, is her "surpassing purity".  Mary was the first to adore the baby Jesus not only because of carrying Him in her womb but also because she was so completely pure of heart- so detached from all earthly desires- that could see and know it was God Himself.  The saints could recognize Christ easily in the Eucharist, and in others because of their great purity of heart.  During this holy season, we should strive to purify our desires, detaching ourselves from the world, and attaching our hearts to the humble stable in Bethlehem.


In addition to our spiritual preparation, there are many practical aids in helping ourselves and our families enter into the holy season.  Click this link to learn more about some great Advent and Christmas traditions.


Have a holy Advent!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Daycare for All

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JMJ


I'm a bit late on this post as I saw this last week, but Nancy Pelosi recently told the Washington Post that she wants to do for “for child care what we did for health-care reform” .  It's important to remember that Pelosi was the one that pushed through Obamacare.  After Scott Brown was elected to fill Teddy Kennedy's old seat, the Democrats did not have the votes in the Senate to approve the House bill and Rahm Emmanuel, Obama's chief-of-staff, advised Obama to abandon the plan.  Pelosi urged him not to and promised to ram the Senate bill through the House so that the Senate would not have to vote again.  Obamacare is a huge misnomer; it should be Pelosicare.


Even though Pelosi is out of the Speaker's chair, no one should underestimate her influence.  The same Washington Post article noted that she has raised millions of dollars since the last election, determined to put herself and the Democrats back in power.


And now, Pelosi wants to extend the government's reach into the childcare business:
"Of the need for child-care legislation, she says, “I could never get a babysitter — have five kids in six years and no one wants to come to your house. . . . And everywhere I go, women say the same thing” about how hard it is to find the kind of reliable care that would make their family lives calmer and work lives more productive. When it comes to “unleashing women” in a way that would boost the economy, she says, “this is a missing link.”
Subsidizing childcare would only further add to the breakdown of the family.  Many women who might have tended towards staying at home would now gravitate toward the workforce if given the availability of free daycare.  The pressure on mothers to leave the home and go to work would increase dramatically. Whereas now, many women might have part-time jobs but only to help out temporarily, if national childcare become a reality those part-time jobs could become full-time, that is, become a career. The three components of the family (Father, Mother, children) would spend more time apart than together.  Not only that, but family childcare (when a grandparent, or other relative helps out) would decrease as well so that children would not even be spending that time apart with an extended member of the family.  


Some conservatives will only focus on the part about our taxes going towards another entitlement program.  However, it's important to keep our eyes on the real problem, and the motivating factor behind this.  George Weigel noted, in his autobiography about Blessed John Paul II, that in Communist Poland, both parents were required to work by design so that the government could have the children all day in school and in other programs.  The breakdown of the family was necessary for socialism to succeed because in a socialist country the most important entity is the state, not the family.  Unnaturally divorced from one's own parents, at young ages, the government was able to indoctrinate children and teach them a starkly different value system from their parents.  It is not beyond the realm of possibility that this could happen in the United States with something as innocuous sounding as "free childcare".  Indoctrination is already taking place in the public schools, is there any doubt it would happen at the infant and toddler level as well?  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An "Unnatural" Leader

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JMJ

An extremely interesting and thought provoking interview.  It is with Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and the Birth Control Movement and is from over fifty years ago.  The whole interview is interesting but it is almost 30 minutes long so I encourage you to watch at least the last ten minutes starting at 18:04.






The interviewer is very direct with Sanger, pointing out discrepancies between her current answers and previous quotes.  It is obvious she is irritated by this line of questioning, and more than once fails to remember a quote (even one from earlier in the week).  It is painfully similar to current Planned Parenthood executives and cheerleaders who publicly pretend to be positive influences on the community and indifferent to their opposition, all the while use their allies to force their destructive agenda.  


One of the interviewer's questions is about taxpayers funding the dissemination of contraception, which is amazing considering the year this was filmed (1957).  A revealing moment comes when she is asked if she believes in sin.  Her answer:
"I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world--that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they're born. That to me is the greatest sin -- that people can -- can commit."
The interviewer presses her with questions of specifying sin, to which she replies:
"Well, I naturally think murder, whether it's a sin or not, is a terrible act."
It is also terrible when you are stuck in traffic for 10 hours, but that is not a sin.  Conveniently and persistently denying the existence of sin callouses one's conscience and allows him to live a life free of consequence.  But it is just that, a non-consequential life that does nothing to move him to his intended end.


It is important to note that when given the Church's opposition to birth control on grounds of natural law, Sanger refuses to believe in such a thing.  There is no objective Truth in her mind, no law written on our hearts.  Actually, she ironically attacks the Church's position as "unnatural".  What could be more unnatural than a woman denying her innermost instinct to be a mother?  Whether biological or spiritual, every woman's body has been made to be fruitful.  And yet, because so many women are pumping the pill into their bodies for 5, 10, 15, even 20 straight years they no longer know what it means to be a woman.


Birth control has deeply wounded woman, and has utterly decimated marriages.  We cannot fully promote a culture of life until we recognize these truths.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Les Miserables

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JMJ

David Brooks wrote an interesting commentary on the Penn State situation.  (Its about as theological as the NY Times can be, which isn't saying much. ) He writes how many people like to believe that would have acted differently if they were in the same position as Joe Paterno or the Athletic Director or the man who witnessed the abuse.  He points to both studies and historical examples like the Holocaust to prove the point that many "good" people have witnessed crimes and have failed to intervene.  (Read Brooks' whole article here.)  

Brooks points to the relativist reality that many have created for themselves apart from a moral value system rooted in the Truth.  He then reminds his readers that people's "failings" used to have a specific name:
"In centuries past, people built moral systems that acknowledged this weakness. These systems emphasized our sinfulness. They reminded people of the evil within themselves. Life was seen as an inner struggle against the selfish forces inside. These vocabularies made people aware of how their weaknesses manifested themselves and how to exercise discipline over them. These systems gave people categories with which to process savagery and scripts to follow when they confronted it. They helped people make moral judgments and hold people responsible amidst our frailties."
But the absence of objective Truth, leads people point to other ambiguous sources for a heinous crime:
"We live in a society oriented around our inner wonderfulness. So when something atrocious happens, people look for some artificial, outside force that must have caused it — like the culture of college football, or some other favorite bogey. People look for laws that can be changed so it never happens again."
Sin has existed since the beginning of time, but the main difference between now and centuries past is that people then acknowledged it as sin. Sexual abuse is not "wrong" like saying two plus two equals five. Sexual abuse is wrong because it is sinful.  Failing to correctly label immoral behavior diminishes its gravity.  It is important to reintroduce this into our everyday vocabulary.  Saying an action is sinful makes it personal, and definitive. It provides the root and the solution of the problem.  It also allows us to condemn a situation while acknowledging and perfecting our own weaknesses.   The definition of sin from the Compendium of the Catechism is:
"Sin is 'a word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal Law' (Saint Augustine). It is an offense against God in disobedience to His love.  It wounds human nature and injures human solidarity.  Christ in his passion fully revealed the seriousness of sin and overcame it with his mercy."
 Acknowledging an action as sinful reveals that, that action has wounded the soul of the perpetrator, the victim, the whole body of Christ, and God Himself.  Some sins more obviously reveal their offenses than other ones.  We may realize that our sin offends God, but do we remember that it also wounds our own souls and the souls of others. Imagine how a small wound, like a paper cut or mouth ulcer, affects one's whole body; just in the same way, the sins of one person affect the whole Body of Christ. On the flip side, our sacrifices and sufferings can help to heal the whole body as well.


Many deceive themselves of their sin because they live in willful ignorance, knowing that if they recognize sin, they must change their lives.
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1Jn 1:8-9)
Recognizing that offense has occurred will lead to recognition that reparation must be made and mercy obtained.  All of which cannot not help but lead us and others to the One who took on our sin and obtained God's mercy for us.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

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JMJ

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
We have heard this excerpted quote from the Declaration of Independence so many times that we may have forgotten the magnitude of this statement and the way our present society eschews it though its laws and practices. There is a full frontal assault going on right now. The deaths of over 50 million unborn babies reveals the obvious attack on the right to life in our country.  The government's intrusion into church matters, parental rights, and healthcare decisions hamper our liberty.  Here are a few examples:
  • The government recently argued a case in front of the Supreme Court that it had the right, via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to decide if a pastor of a Church should be reinstated.
  • New York has recently mandated comprehensive "sex-ed" for their public schools, with "community groups such as Planned Parenthood" teaching it.
  • Nurses at a New Jersey hospital are filing a legal suit for forcing them to choose between their jobs or assisting with an abortion.  
  • Catholic entities and employers will soon be forced to provide contraception coverage in their insurance packages, which will result in dropping them altogether.
And what about the third right, the pursuit of happiness? What is the pursuit of happiness, if not the striving to reach eternal and true happiness in heaven?  Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, said in his book, The Spirit of Liturgy:
"When morality and law do not originate in a God-ward perspective, they degrade man, because they rob him of his highest measure and his highest capacity, deprive him of any vision of the infinite and eternal.  This seeming liberation subjects him to the dictatorship of the ruling majority, to shifting human standards, which inevitably end up doing him violence." (p.18-19)  
 We were made to "know, love and serve God in this world so as to happy with Him in the next." A government that encroaches upon liberties, and denies basic truths, deprive men from not only pursuing true happiness but also deny him the opportunity to understanding what that happiness is.  If he is not truly free to live out his natural calling, to seek His Maker and understand why he was made, he will not be able to experience the joys of knowing that an eternity of beatitude awaits him. 



Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 4th Fast

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JMJ
"There can be no doubt that if we wish to emerge intact from the present crisis, society must be rebuilt on a more durable foundation, that is to say, more in conformity with the law of Christ, the first source of every true civilization.  It is no less certain that if we wish to attain such a goal we must begin to making families Christian again, many of which have forgotten the practice of the Gospel, the love it demands and the peace it brings.
 . . . peaceful and well-orded family life makes for good relationships and good citizens.  No one knows this better than those who strive to expel God from society and throw it into turmoil, who spare no effort to deny the family the observance or even the remembrance of divine law, who extol divorce and free love, and who impede the providential task entrusted to parents with respect to their children, instilling in husbands and wives a dread of the physical fatigue and moral responsibilities which accompany the glorious burden of a large family." (Dear Newlyweds, p.45, Venerable Pope Pius XII)
This quote- though delivered in a talk at the end of 1940, in the middle of World War II- could have easily been given today. We pray for peace in the world, but we must first have peace and order in our own homes.  Order that is centered on Christ, peace that flows from Christ.  An army remains in a country after it has won the victory to maintain order and ensure peace.  Christ has won the victory for us, but we must, with the help of His grace, work for the peace.  Our sacrifices not only help others but ourselves as well, and in helping ourselves we are aiding in the peace of the whole family (our own and the family of the Church).  We must fast and sacrifice to discipline our passions, our desires.  Sacrifice tempers souls' passions; it softens our hardened hearts, allowing them to be more open to listening for and accepting God's will.


Living in a militantly secular society that openly persecutes Christian families, clergy, and religious is the reality we face.  When we face persecution and insults, lets remember the words of St. Paul:
"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of the wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph. 6: 12-17)
 Let our love for Christ, our hope for heaven permeate our sacrifices tomorrow and every day.  God bless you!




      

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls Day

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JMJ


Today is the feast of All Souls.  As I mentioned two days ago, there are many souls in purgatory longing for the joys of heaven but the only way of getting there is through Masses being said and prayers being offered.  In his first pastoral letter Bishop John Carroll, the first bishop of the United States, was very blunt when decrying the neglect of many persons in praying for the holy souls:
"On this occasion, I cannot forbear mentioning an abuse, or rather a prevalent neglect and indifference with respect to your departed parents and relations. 
When death has removed them from your sight, you seem to forget that doctrine of your divine religion which ought to call forth all your tenderness: I mean the doctrine, that it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. How different is your behaviour, when such events happen, from that of your Catholic brethren all over the world? Their sensibility is not confined to the unprofitable tears and lamentations of a few days, their faith follows their deceased friends into the mansions of another life, and enkindles all their charity. They procure prayers and sacrifices to be offered to God for the repose of their souls. The exercises of charity to the poor, and all the works of mercy and religion are employed for their relief, as long as there remains a reasonable ground to fear, that they may want it. Thus St. Augustine testified his sensibility, after the death of his holy mother Monica; thus, as Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and other primitive fathers teach us, children expressed their duty and veneration for their parents; and surviving Christian spouses for them, to whom they had been united by the ties and duties of a virtuous marriage. 
When it pleases God to call your friends out of this world, do you, my dear brethren, give such proofs of your affection for them? You attend them to the grave; you shed over it a few tears; and there is the term of your care and solicitude. If a charitable priest offer up to the throne of mercy, for their sake, the blood of the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, he does it, generally unsolicited and unthanked by you. You make no sacrifices of interest or enjoyments to charity and religion, that the deceased may find speedy mercy, and an anticipated enjoyment of everlasting bliss. I earnestly beseech you, to deserve no longer this reproach on your charity and sensibility. Follow your departed brethren into the regions of eternity, with your prayers, and all the assistance, which is suggested by the principles of faith and piety. Let the great sacrifice of propitiation be offered for all, who die in the unity of the Catholic Church, and in due submission to her wholesome precepts. " 
The bishop is quite clear that we cannot call ourselves true friends if we do not continue to pray for others after death.  It is imperative to pray for them every day, and have Masses said for the repose of their souls.  Besides the common prayer said for the souls (May the souls of the faithfully departed, rest in peace. Amen.) we can also pray the prayer of St. Gertrude (Christ promised to free 1,000 souls from purgatory each time it is said) :
"Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."
Another great practice is to pray for the souls every time we pass a cemetery.  Praying for the souls is a spiritual work of mercy, but is also a constant reminder of our own mortality and our true home in heaven.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Saints Day

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JMJ


Happy Feast of All Saints!  Today is a truly glorious day.  Here is a beautiful sermon by St. Bernard, taken from the Divine Office for today:
"Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honours when their heavenly Father honours them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.
Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.
When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory. Until then we see him, not as he is, but as he became for our sake. He is our head, crowned, not with glory, but with the thorns of our sins. As members of that head, crowned with thorns, we should be ashamed to live in luxury; his purple robes are a mockery rather than an honour. When Christ comes again, his death shall no longer be proclaimed, and we shall know that we also have died, and that our life is hidden with him. The glorious head of the Church will appear and his glorified members will shine in splendour with him, when he forms this lowly body anew into such glory as belongs to himself, its head.
Therefore, we should aim at attaining this glory with a wholehearted and prudent desire. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession."

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallows Eve

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JMJ


Happy All Hallows Eve!  There is a great article posted today by a Dominican priest about Halloween, giving the history of the day and its Catholic roots. I always thought that the ghouls and ghosts were modern inventions but apparently not:
"It seems Irish Catholic peasants wondered about the unfortunate souls in hell. After all, if the souls in hell are left out when we celebrate those in heaven and purgatory (All Saints Day and All Souls Day), they might be unhappy enough to cause trouble. So it became customary to bang pots and pans on All Hallows Even to let the damned know they were not forgotten. . . .
And the tradition of dressing up actually came from the French:
 ". . .  this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. Late medieval Europe was hit by repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague — the Black Death — and she lost about half her population. It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife. More Masses were said on All Souls’ Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality.  We know these representations as the "Dance Macabre" or "Dance of Death," which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people — popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. — into the tomb.  Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls’ Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life. "
 Read the rest of the article here to found out how the two traditions eventually intermingled and how trick-or-treating came into the mix.


There is an ongoing controversy as to whether we, as Christians, should participate in a day that the culture uses to promote the occult.  Indeed the emphasis on the day has become similar to Christmas (in the commercial sense) with the seasonal costume stores set up like Christmas shops, and decorations on the lawns.  Yet many Catholics have found a great way to bring it back to it Christian roots by emphasizing the feast of All Saints Day. By dressing as and learning about the saints, children get excited about the faith through the lives of these inspiring men and women.  We can also take it as a tool of evangelization if we go throughout our neighborhoods trick-or-treating as the saints, being little lights for Christ. 


We can go one step further by reminding ourselves, our children, and our friends that November is the month of All Souls.  The souls are helpless without our prayers, and many are just waiting to be released from purgatory so they can enjoy eternal happiness in heaven.  Pray for the souls you knew and those who have no one to pray for them.  Have a holy day!


Update: As regards to Guy Fawkes Day (which was mentioned in the linked article), it is important to point out the following:  the author of the article failed to point out that this day of "celebration" in England has been historically marked by acts of violence against Catholics.   Raucous crowds often gathered to burn the pope in effigy.  Though the anti-Catholic nature and rhetoric have been toned down, its still important to note its origins.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Encouraging Signs in the Fight for Life

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JMJ

Everyday we are seeing more encouraging signs in the fight for life.  Thomas Peters, over at Catholicvote, reports that a new Arizona law has already produced a drop in abortion rates.  This law did not even restrict abortion: it requires parental consent for a minor, legally bounds providers to give women accurate information about the abortion and other choices, enforces a 24 hour waiting period, and requires a licensed doctor to perform the abortions.

This law, of course, caused an uproar among the abortion lobby and Planned Parenthood community, just as in Virginia, when AG Ken Cuccinelli required clinics to go by the same regulations as hospitals.  Nothing should surprise us any longer about the abortion community's responses to common-sense laws.  These laws do not even address the personhood of the baby in the womb, and yet are still attacked.  Why?  Because even though they might not be revealing the whole truth, they are leading people to the truth and NOW and Planned Parenthood and NARAL must know that when people get a piece of it, they are going to eventually look for the whole of it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Real Life Love Story

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JMJ


Marriage may be under attack from all sides, but there are still many who hold a high regard for it.  A couple in Iowa, who were married 72 years, died yesterday holding hands in the hospital.  Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Gordon died at 3:38 p.m. holding hands with his wife as the family they built surrounded them.
'It was really strange, they were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn't figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going,' said Dennis Yeager. 'But we were like, he isn't breathing. How does he still have a heart beat? The nurse checked and said that's because they were holding hands and it's going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up.'
'They were still getting her heartbeat through him,' said Donna Sheets. 
At 4:48 p.m., exactly one hour after Gordon died, Norma passed too. "
 In the movie, Shenandoah Valley, a young man asks to marry Jimmy Stewart's daughter.  Jimmy Stewart asks him, "Do you like her?" His reply is,"Yes, I love her."  Bu then, Stewart's character agains poses the question, "I did not asked if you loved her, but if you liked her?"  Marriage is a beautiful vocation but it can only be truly enjoyed by both spouses when their love transcends the initial excitement and passion. How wonderful it is when it deepens to an enduring friendship!  It is a cliche to say our spouse is our best friend, but it should be an aim of all marriages to be each other's closest companion.  So many great saints experienced this strong bond of friendship both within and outside of marriage: Clare and Francis, Benedict and Scholastica, Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal are examples of those lived outside of it.  Even though "at the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels of heaven." (Mt. 22: 30)   I do know that there will be friendship in heaven. Praise God for the love He has given to us to have and share with others! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No Greater Love. . .

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JMJ


Fortunately, it has become rarer that women die in childbirth due to the tremendous advances in medicine over the past fifty years or so.  However, it is sometimes still the case that a woman must choose between her own life and her unborn child's.  A brave, single mother in Oklahoma recently made the ultimate sacrifice for her little girl, Dottie Mae.  Read about it here.


The story not only proves the strength of love but family as well.  The woman, Stacie Crimm, was unmarried but this did not deter her resolve to bring her child into this world.  She asked her brother to care for her infant if she did not survive.  And he and his wife are now raising Dottie Mae with their four children.  Would her decision have been different if she was not close with her brother?  Perhaps, but hopefully not.  It is obvious, though that close family ties both support and encourage life-affirming decisions.


Monday, October 17, 2011

No Men Allowed




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JMJ

 Bill Bennet has an excellent article today in reference to the disturbing subject of the decline of men (or what some would call a "crisis of maturity"). It's a short but compelling read.

It does look like a lot of young men today appear to be stuck in their adolescent years, whether it's seen in their decision to delay marriage,  refusal to get a serious job (or at least put themselves on a career path), or remain dependent on their parents long after college.  Troubling symptoms of this "crisis of maturity" include: a near-addiction to technological stimulation (internet, TV, video games), drinking, and, in some cases, struggling to converse about anything other than sports or pop-culture. 

Sadly, this problem is not relegated to the secular sphere alone.  Despite a renewal of faith in young adult Christian communities, many Christian men remain unwilling to commit to a vocation.  The intellect may be more tuned in some men, but the lack of maturity - and putting off one's calling (another "vocations crisis" so to speak) persists.

The truth is the Feminist Movement  (via contraception and abortion) not only deeply wounded women by divorcing the natural desire to be a mother, but it also divorced men away from their natural desire to father and take responsibility. 

Men can be strong and virtuous. The heralded knights of medieval times not only displayed heroic actions but heroic virtue as well.  We can cultivate virtue by encouraging responsibility: responsibility for actions, trusting boys and men to first take charge of themselves (physically, mentally, morally) and then trusting them to care for others.  

 Women love to be in control, and allow their men to take a back seat.  As a woman to other women: let's allow them to drive the car again. And men, don't wait for women to hand you the keys, take them from her and take some responsibility.

As an aside, one organization with a long and proud track record of producing men who are strong in character and leadership is the Boy Scouts of America.  This is their Oath:

 On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country;
To obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.




And what is the Scout Law? "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent."  Qualities we all like to see in the men we love, no?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 7th Fast

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JMJ

"But a rosary, dear sons and daughters, also means that the mysteries of your future will not always consist of joy alone; they will sometimes bring providential suffering as well.  It is the law of every human life, as every stem of roses, that flowers are mixed with thorns. . . As you have received and will receive joys - those of today and those of tomorrow- with loving gratitude and wise moderation, so too you will receive in a spirit of faith and submission the sorrowful mysteries of the future, when their hour comes.  Mysteries? This is the name which man frequently gives to grief, for although he does not usually seek a justification for joys, he seeks blindly on the other hand for the causes of his misfortunes, and his suffering is twice as great when he cannot discover the reason here on earth.  The Virgin of the Rosary, who is also the Virgin standing on Calvary, will teach you to stay erect under the Cross, however dark its shadow may be, so that from the example of this "Sorrowful Mother" and "Queen of Martyrs" you may understand that the designs of God are infinitely beyond the comprehension of men, and even though they may break our hearts, they are inspired by the most tender love for our souls." 
(Dear Newlyweds, pp.262-263, Pope Pius XII) 

Marriage and life are full of many joys and sufferings.  We are given foretastes of heaven in the midst of our joys, truly feeling His presence and gladly praising God for his many blessings.  But in the midst of sorrow, we can forget sometimes that God is still with us. But also, we are with God.  If we turn our hearts towards Him, we can see Christ on the Cross, and be with Him, comforting Him as He comforts us.  And we do not need to wait for great sorrows or tragedies to happen, to comfort our dear Lord on the Cross.  The fruit of the fifth sorrowful mystery is perseverance.  Most of our sufferings are our daily sacrifices, the drudgery of the office or the home can be our mini Calvary.  But if we persevere with selfless love on Calvary, we can climb to its heights of True Love.  God always revealed Himself on a Mountain: to Moses on Sinai, to Elijah on Horeb, to Peter, James, and John on Tabor.  He now reveals himself on Calvary to us in the ultimate act of love.  As we fast today, lets remember Ps. 126: “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.”  

And, on this feast of the Holy Rosary and in this month dedicated to Our Lady, lets place our hearts and our families under her mantle! 

"My Kingdom is not of this Earth"

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JMJ


Another reminder today that are government is run by men.  While speaking at a fundraiser last night, President Obama bantered back and forth with an audience member, joking about the new HHS regulation that will force all private insurance companies to pay for contraception. (When the audience member shouted,"Darn right" in response to Obama's mentioning the regulation, the President shouted back,"Darn tooting") The religious exemption clause is so narrow, that I doubt any camel could fit through its eye.  In fact, the Bishops have said that not even Jesus would qualify.  We need to remember that contraception is one of, if not the, root cause of the breakdown of the family, and this promotion and coercion by the government can lead us down the road to the Chinese coercive culture of death.


So what should we do?  We can try to influence our legislatures by writing and calling, but we can also continue to live in life-affirming ways.  Like the early Christians, we live in a very pagan culture that muddles morality and seems blind to objective truths.  But the faith blossomed, not because of the preaching of the pastors, but because of the witness of the martyrs: in their deaths, but also in their lives.  Only those who were baptized could attend Holy Mass because of the dangers of persecution, so others must have come to the faith through the lives of their Christian neighbors.  We too can do this!  "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)