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


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

" . . . '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)