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.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 7th Fast

"The family is the domestic Church and must be the first school of prayer. It is in the family that children, from the tenderest age, can learn to perceive the meaning of God, also thanks to the teaching and example of their parents: to live in an atmosphere marked by God’s presence. An authentically Christian education cannot dispense with the experience of prayer. If one does not learn how to pray in the family it will later be difficult to bridge this gap. And so I would like to address to you the invitation to pray together as a family at the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth and thereby really to become of one heart and soul, a true family." 
(General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, Feast of the Holy Family, December 28, 2011)

How often do we hear the phrase: the family is the "domestic church"?  And how often do we really meditate on its meaning?  The Church is not only the People of God but also a sacred space where God is truly present and is reverenced, adored and loved.  The Holy Family is the model for the domestic church. In his General Audience, previously quoted, Pope Benedict recalls the words of one of his predecessors, Pope Paul VI, during his pilgrimage to Nazareth:
“In the first place it teaches us silence. Oh! If only esteem for silence, a wonderful and indispensable spiritual atmosphere, could be reborn within us! Whereas we are deafened by the din, the noise and discordant voices in the frenetic, turbulent life of our time. O silence of Nazareth! Teach us to be steadfast in good thoughts, attentive to our inner life, ready to hear God’s hidden inspiration clearly and the exhortations of true teachers.”
To be a domestic church, our homes and lives must cultivate this "wonderful and indispensable spiritual atmosphere" that encourages meditation, and adoration of our Lord.  Technology and unnecessary activity inhibit our ability to think of God in our daily life, to "ponder all these things" in our hearts as our Blessed Mother so often did.  This cacophony distracts us from becoming "just men" like Saint Joseph:
"A just man, (Psalm 1) tells us is one who maintains living contact with the word of God, who 'delights in the law of the Lord' (v.2).  He is like a tree, planted beside the flowing waters, constantly bringing forth fruit.  The flowing waters, from which he draws nourishment, naturally refer to the living word of God, into which he sinks the roots of his being."*
We cannot allow the anxieties produced by the culture to wreak havoc on the peace of our souls and families.  Prayer must be an essential part of our daily life.  Devotions cannot be done as routine traditions but as acts of love; acts that are woven throughout the day in a spirit of love. We can imagine the happy quietude spent by the Holy Family, the constant self-sacrifice and acts of love done for one another, permeated by the presence of God Himself.  Let us strive to allow Christ to dwell in our hearts and homes by seeking this spirit of quietude.  And let us prepare our homes this Advent to be a domestic church where God is reverenced, adored and loved in our all our thoughts, words and actions.

*Jesus of Nazareth, Vol.III, Pope Benedict XVI

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 2nd Fast

". . .Firmly established by the Lord, the unity of marriage will radiate from the equal personal dignity of wife and husband, a dignity acknowledged by mutual and total love. The constant fulfillment of the duties of this Christian vocation demands notable virtue. For this reason, strengthened by grace for holiness of life, the couple will painstakingly cultivate and pray for steadiness of love, large heartedness and the spirit of sacrifice. 
Authentic conjugal love will be more highly prized, and wholesome public opinion created about it if Christian couples give outstanding witness to faithfulness and harmony in their love, and to their concern for educating their children also, if they do their part in bringing about the needed cultural, psychological and social renewal on behalf of marriage and the family. Especially in the heart of their own families, young people should be aptly and seasonably instructed in the dignity, duty and work of married love."   
(Gaudium et Spes, On the Church in the Modern World, No. 49)
The best antidote to the current marriage malady is for married couples to have good, holy marriages.  Pope Benedict XVI recently said:
"There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization." 
The last thing Christ said to His disciples before leaving this Earth was to "Go out into the whole world, and preach the good news."  Married people are not exempt from this command, and are called to witness to the beauty and truth of their vocation, and their life in Christ for others and for their children.  Christ did not convert a million followers at once.  In the plan of salvation, Christ did not choose to come in the age of social media when he could reach millions by the click of a button.  He gathered just 12 men and sent them out into the world to convert the whole of it.  Marriage is the perfect missionary model.  Just as missionaries attracted their followers by first respecting the dignity of others as precious children of God, so too spouses can attract each other to Christ by daily recognizing and respecting the personal dignity of each other.  This respect and love legitimizes their motives and faith, and it is this respect and love that children see in their parents which attracts them to conversion and zeal for the faith their parents espouse.

Spreading the faith happens on a personal and intimate level.  And since marriage is the most intimate and personal of institutions, spouses must first start evangelizing the faith by living it for one another and for their children.  To repeat what the Second Vatican Council said, 
"The constant fulfillment of the duties of this Christian vocation demands notable virtue. For this reason, strengthened by grace for holiness of life, the couple will painstakingly cultivate and pray for steadiness of love, large heartedness and the spirit of sacrifice."
Marriage is a great calling, and a beautiful vocation.  Let us strive to keep our fast today knowing the nobility of the vocation, and the needed graces to fulfill it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October 5th Fast

"The love, then, of which We are speaking is not that based on the passing lust of the moment nor does it consist in pleasing words only, but in the deep attachment of the heart which is expressed in action, since love is proved by deeds. This outward expression of love in the home demands not only mutual help but must go further; must have as its primary purpose that man and wife help each other day by day in forming and perfecting themselves in the interior life, so that through their partnership in life they may advance ever more and more in virtue, and above all that they may grow in true love toward God and their neighbor, on which indeed 'dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets.'"  (Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii, On Christian Marriage, no. 23, 1930)
Marriage is above all a vocation, a call to holiness, a call to love. Worldly concerns may occupy our day, but heavenly concerns must occupy our heart.  Daily duties should draw spouses to one another, and strengthen the bond of their covenant.  It is a worthy and necessary goal to live in mutual support, both in physical and spiritual needs.  In this way, a husband and wife nurture the "deep attachment of the heart" that is vital to a lasting and loving marriage.  How much stronger a unit the family becomes when there is unity of the heart, the wife, and the head, the husband!  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 7th Fast

"When one reads of the tremendous transformation of souls in the sacrament of Matrimony, one realizes that through them, as well as in a life specifically ascetic and detached, such as in the monastery and the cloister, there can be a fiery and ardent love of God.  There is a story to this effect about St. Marcarius, the Egyptian hermit, who one day in his meditations wondered to what degree of holiness and union with God his solitude and years of fasting and prayer had lifted him.  Falling asleep, he was told by an angel that he had not reached the level of holiness of two women who lived in a nearby town of whom he should learn.  Greatly interested, St. Macarius went to the town and found the women and, to his great astonishment, found that they were married.  He entreated them to tell the secret of their sanctity, but the two women, greatly confused, assured him that there was nothing remarkable about them:  "We are but poor wives amidst worldly cares."   But Macarius pressed his question and asked them how they came to be so holy in the eyes of God.  Their answer was that for fifteen years they had been married to two brothers and had lived together under the same roof, never once quarreling nor permitting a single unpleasant word to pass between them.  Thus did St. Macarius learn that peaceful cohabitation can be even more praiseworthy in the eyes of God than solitary fasting and prayer."  (Three to Get MarriedArchbishop Fulton Sheen)

Blessed John Henry Newman said,
". . . faith at most only makes us a hero, but that love makes a saint; that faith can put us above the world, but that love brings us under God's throne; that faith can make us sober, but love makes us happy."
 What places us apart as Christians?  Is it our belief in dogmas?  Our attachment to devotions?  Secularists can boast of believing in dogmatic ideas, and give over themselves to disciplines.  What must separate us, is our love for Christ.  What must infuse our life, our vocations, is our great love for Him who redeemed us from our sinful state; and likewise, loving others because Christ begged for their life as well. "This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for another." (Jn 13:35)  

Having a holy marriage and raising a holy family is not guaranteed by a singular fidelity to the commandments.  A couple, and a family can only grow in holiness if love permeates the beautiful teachings Christ gave us for family life. Living a vocation solely out of duty will eventually yield dryness, bitterness, and anxiety.  But one lived with love and fidelity will produce a fertile soil that will reap a harvest of lasting fruits: joy, peace, patience, and charity.  Love that is forgiving, humble, obedient, self-denying is not the "love" of the world, it is the love of Christ, and the only love that will bring peace to our homes, and eternal happiness to our families.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August 3rd Fast


" There is cause for rejoicing here.  You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears.  Although you have never seen Him, you love Him, and without seeing you now believe in Him, and rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory because you are achieving faith's goal, your salvation. (1 Peter 1:6-9)
How do we view our lives? Do we take a natural view which tells us to seek pleasure, comfort, security, and to avoid any pain?  It is tempting to immediately deny that we take this perspective but then one recalls how little he denies himself, how much his mind is filled worldly anxieties, and how often he is disappointed and perplexed with the daily frustrations of life.  

We must daily be mindful of our supernatural calling.  All has been given to us with our salvation in mind.  How miserable those must be who believe only this world?  Suffering would be inexplicable if our true was home was not in heaven.  But because it is, we must never despair of the trials, be they great or small, that God sends us.  Each occasion to sacrifice, is an occasion to love; not something to be dreaded, not another thing to be burdened by.  Christ was burdened by our sins, but carried the Cross with the tremendous strength of His Love.  Let us carry out our sacrifices with the strength of our love.  

When we find it difficult, it will be well to be mindful of what is greater worth to us: a small pleasure derived for a moment or the small sacrifice that shows our Lord how much we desire the eternal salvation of ourselves, our spouse, our children, our friends.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 6th Fast


"During the past fifty years, coupled with what was often a weak reaction on the part of decent people, there has been a conspiracy of evil practices, propagating themselves in books and illustrations, in theaters and radio programs, in styles and clubs and on the beaches, trying to work their way into the hearts of the family and society, and doing their worst damage among the youth, even among those of the tenderest years in whom the possession of virtue is a natural inheritance.
Dearly beloved youth, young men and women, who are the special object of the love of Jesus and of us, tell me, are you resolved to resist firmly, with the help of divine grace, against every attempt made to violate your chastity? ...
...Finally, all of you who are intently listening to our words, know that above the unhealthy marshes and filth of the world, stretches an immense heaven of beauty. It is the heaven which fascinated little Maria; the heaven to which she longed to ascend by the only road that leads there, which is, religion, the love of Christ, and the heroic observance of his Commandments." 
(Homily of Pope Pius XII for the Canonization of St. Maria Goretti, June 24, 1950)

Today is the feast of St. Maria Goretti. She was a young girl of twelve who was impoverished in worldly goods but had an abundance of spiritual wealth and strength.  Violently attacked by a lust-filled neighbor, she valiantly fought off her offender, but later died of the fourteen stab wounds inlficted upon her.  She chose the death of her body rather than the death of her soul.

As we fast for marriage today, we should recall this martyr of purity.  It is not just a goal for the youth to preserve their purity and innocence.  There is not one of us today who would say,"I wish I was less innocent; I am glad I was exposed to such and such."  Rather, we say," Why did I read that?  Why did I watch that? What benefit did I gain from losing that small bit of my innocence?"  The devil works in subtle ways, and carefully chips away at our purity and innocence but making us believe we need to know about this or that or that we need to be able to combat evil by knowing about its sources.

But what if we want to preserve purity and innocence in ourselves and our children, we must not just fend off attacks but also actively strengthen our fortresses by enriching our lives with the knowledge of He who is most pure, and most innocent.  As St. Maria Goretti did, we must flee all things that will tarnish our purity, and seek all things that will fortify it. 

Lilies, symbol of purity

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day


Happy 4th of July!  Praise God for the gift His Most Divine Son!  Praise God for the gift of our country!   Today is a day of thanksgiving and celebration, but one for serious reflection as well, especially for us as Christians.  In the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers famously asserted our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Unfortunately, the first two rights have been severely under attack for some time.  The forces behind the war on the unborn, disabled, and elderly seek the erosion of our right to life.  And the recent HHS mandate and healthcare ruling are only the latest offenses in a long line of egregious violations of our right to liberty.  Yet, the third right enumerated in the Declaration, the right to the pursuit of happiness, has not and cannot ever be taken away.  Because the pursuit of happiness does not mean the pursuit of wealth, or comfort, or security.  It means that God has given each man the right to the pursuit of true happiness: eternal beatification in heaven.  And no person, or government can take away this right, this desire that is innate in all of us: to be perfectly happy in the arms of Our Loving God.

During these unsettling times, we must take comfort in Our Lord's exhortation, "Be not afraid!"  Paul in his letter to Romans also give us encouraging words:
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. . .  because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we are ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for patience."  (Rom. 8: 18, 21-25)
 Let us pray for our country today that God's mercy may turn men's hearts back to His ways.  But let us be aware that His merciful hand may use us an instruments for the conversions of others.  Recall the early Christian martyrs and how their witness brought many into the fold.  We must pray for ourselves and our children that we may receive the courage to defend our Lord, and to die rather than deny Him.  Embrace the Hope of Heaven! And remember the words of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former slave who found her true Master, : 
 “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love.  And so my life is good.”

Thursday, May 31, 2012

June 1st Fast


 "Yet, owing to the efforts of the archenemy of mankind, there are persons who, thanklessly casting away so many other blessings of redemption, despise also or utterly ignore the restoration of marriage to its original perfection. It is a reproach to some of the ancients that they showed themselves the enemies of marriage in many ways; but in our own age, much more pernicious is the sin of those who would fain pervert utterly the nature of marriage, perfect though it is, and complete in all its details and parts. The chief reason why they act in this way is because very many, imbued with the maxims of a false philosophy and corrupted in morals, judge nothing so unbearable as submission and obedience; and strive with all their might to bring about that not only individual men, but families, also-indeed, human society itself-may in haughty pride despise the sovereignty of God."  (Arcanum Divinae, On Christian Marriage, no. 16, Pope Leo XIII, 1880)  

The current crisis in marriage has certainly been abetted by elements by our contemporary society, like contraception, and no-fault divorce.  Though these things place great obstacles in marriage, they would not be resorted to unless first there were selfish motives to begin with.  Unless first, man sought to control his own destiny as Adam first did in the garden; as Lucifer did: "Non serviam", "I will not serve."  How often to we hear this false proposition that it is in man's nature to rebel?  Submission and obedience are anachronistic phrases that have no meaning for today.  And yet, man will be submissive to something.  If he is not submissive to God's will, he will be a slave to his own.

 Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.  In contrast to a contract which requires the exchange of goods, a covenant demands the exchanges of persons: a total gift of self.  Yet, one cannot completely give to the other, unless he completely denies himself first.  And in denying himself, he refuses to submit to his own will, and agrees to submit to God's will revealed in the vocation to marriage.  This submission requires a humble and freely given obedience.  A submission that is instinctive; and an obedience that is not burdensome.

It is no surprise that the spouse of the Holy Spirit, readily gave her fiat to God, the Father referring to herself as a servant:
"Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word." (Lk. 1:38)
 She said her yes as quickly, and lovingly as a devoted attendant in the King's chamber would have. Might we do the same?  We may believe that we gladly submit to God's will, but do we submit to our spouse?  To our family's needs?  In our vocations, in our everyday lives, we are called to submit to God's will, but this is revealed through others.  This humble obedience, and willing submission is not a romantic notion but a difficult Truth that must be lived out constantly and consistently.  Tempted in the Garden of Olives, Our Savior Himself struggled:
"Father if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Lk. 22:42)
Yet, through Christ's obedience we are all saved and have the grace to obey as well:
"For as by one's man disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." (Rom. 5:19)
When we live this Truth, when we submit to His will, we acknowledge God's sovereignty over our lives.  We also reveal our trust in His loving plan for us.  God Bless you and be with you in your fast today!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 4th Fast


"Any surrender of oneself to God that does not completely lay aside, from the moment of accepting the divine will, all thought and hope of retracing one's steps is false down to its very roots.  To give oneself to God and at the same time to cherish plans, dreams, or projects, however vaguely or theoretically or dimly, which are outside the way one has chosen, is not to give oneself to God at all.  It is too much like looking back when one has put one's hand to the plough; it is like looking out of the corner of our eye at a future we might have chosen if God had not come to us with His all encompassing demands."
(Fr. Frederico Suarez, Mary of Nazareth, p.53)

     Surrender to our vocation, to the path God has called us to, must be complete and continuous if we are ever to attain happiness and peace.  After hearing the path that God has chosen for her, Mary responded:
"Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.  And the angel departed from her." (Lk.1:38)
It is easy to romanticize the Annunciation, meditating upon Mary's beautiful words of submission, but forgetting the complete abandonment to God's will that those words meant.  The power to control one's life is a desire that stems from the sin of pride.   The surrender of this control is the great gift that emanates from the virtue of humility.  Though this surrender appears to be weak to the worldly, it reveals a great strength and wisdom.  It recognizes the true source of strength and power. By relying solely on God, one knows that His Creator will surely guide Him to what he was created for: eternal happiness. 

Complete surrender is not possible without continuous self-sacrifice and denial.  Mary could not have completely received our Lord in her body without first completely emptying her own self. Father Luis Lorda said in the Virtues of Holiness:
"Self-sacrifice is the fuel one must burn to keep a home warm." (p.63)
 The more we empty our hearts of self-love, the more God will fill them with His Love.  We can then more readily love others with His abundant Love. Our love is tainted by the impurities of selfishness, but His Love is spotless, pure and praiseworthy. Our fast tomorrow must spur us on to sacrificing in other ways, to bring to peace to our hearts and to our homes.   St. Theresa of Avila said:
". . . For this body of ours has one fault: the more you indulge it, the more things it discovers to be essential to it." (The Way of Perfection, 11, 3) 
Nothing can be more essential to our lives, our marriages, our families, than to keep the peace of Christ.  Let us strive ardently to completely surrender to His Love, holding nothing back.  God bless you! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Painful Pleasure


In the movie Toy Story 3, the tyrannical bear, Lotso, who rules the daycare facility, Sunnyside, tells the new toys that daycare is a dream come true because there are no owners, and therefore no heartbreak.  Here is a place where the fun never ends, and the heartbreak never begins.  The toys don't belong to anyone and therefore cannot be hurt by anyone.  Sounds like a familiar line of reasoning, no?

Birth control eradicated the need for commitment in a relationship before relations were had.  Free of commitment, intercourse (and subsequently what people thought was love) became conditional.  There is no ownership, no belonging, and so no heartbreak.  But then there is also no real love.  True love is unconditional, for Love Himself makes no conditions on His love for us.  True love demands a complete gift of self in a covenant where each belongs to the other.  True love expects faithfulness, and so does not fear heartbreak.

The theme of the sexual revolution was "pleasure without pain": get all the highs without any of the lows.  It was an easy sell, and so attracted many eager buyers.  Yet with it came a hefty price tag: "free love" meant an empty life.  The line of the sixties was "peace, love, joy".  Ironic, because a person may be able to experience pleasure without pain, but not peace, love, or joy.  Peace comes from living a life in conformity with God's will, in conformity with the natural law written into our hearts.  Rebellion against this law brings only violence and destruction to the peace of our souls.  To love is to give oneself totally and completely; to pervert our purpose, and to thwart God's design creates a civil war within ourselves.  The peace that resides in the humble soul, produces the joy that illuminates his life.  One who knows how to love is full of joy, full of peace.

Believing in a self-serving love, one allows himself only to love himself.  He never opens his heart to the purifying fires of a self-sacrificing love.  Those fires and trials that purify his heart, draw him closer to the source of Love itself.  People believe that there is pleasure without pain, but ironically pain is all they are left with.  Going from one relationship to another, never fully giving themselves means they never fully receive another, never fully feel the love of another.  One may choose to love; but he also is choosing not to be loved.  And so what happens?  People who have bought this lie are not full of hate, but full of callousness and indifference, the opposite of love.

It is a struggle to love, it is a daily and constant sacrifice to love completely.  But the joy and peace that emanate from this love are everlasting as opposed to the brief pleasure that is derived from a loveless life.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

St. George the Dragon Slayer


Today is the feast of St. George, the dragon-slayer.  Here is brief account of his life from the EWTN library:
"According to the account given us by Metaphrastes, he was born in Cappadocia, of noble Christian parents. After the death of his father he went with his mother into Palestine, she being a native of that country, and having there a considerable estate, which fell to her son George. He was strong and robust in body, and having embraced the profession of a soldier, was made a tribune, or colonel, in the army. By his courage and conduct he was soon preferred to higher stations by the Emperor Diocletian. When that prince waged war against the Christian religion, St. George laid aside the marks of his dignity, threw up his commission and posts, and complained to the emperor himself of his severities and bloody edicts. He was immediately cast into prison, and tried, first by promises, and afterwards put to the question and tortured with great cruelty; but nothing could shake his constancy. The next day he was led through the city and beheaded. Some think him to have been the same illustrious young man who tore down the edicts when they were first fixed up at Nicomedia, as Lactantius relates in his book, On the Death of the Persecutors, and Eusebius in his history. 
The reason why St. George has been regarded as the patron of military men is partly upon the score of his profession, and partly upon the credit of a relation of his appearing to the Christian army in the holy war, before the battle of Antioch. The success of this battle proving fortunate to the Christians, under Godfrey of Bouillon, made the name of St. George more famous in Europe and disposed the military men to implore more particularly his intercession. This devotion was confirmed, as it is said, by an apparition of St. George to our king, Richard I, in his expedition against the Saracens; which vision being declared to the troops, was to them a great encouragement, and they soon after defeated the enemy. 
St. George is usually painted on horseback and tilting at a dragon under his feet; but this representation is no more than an emblematical figure, purporting that by his faith and Christian fortitude he conquered the devil, called the dragon in the Apocalypse."

Considering St. George is the patron saint of England, Brad Birzer (a blogger at Catholicvote) reminded his readers of  a famous English poem written by William Blake and set to music by Hubert Parry, called Jerusalem:
AND did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
It is certain that there are still some in England that seek to build up the "New Jerusalem" (the Kingdom of God) on its land.  Though the Western world, and in particular Europe, is in spiritual and cultural decay, one should never despair because the presence of the good, the true, and the beautiful in our world will never cease and will always point to its Source.  Here is a wonderful example of beauty in England during last year's Royal Wedding when the whole congregation (and onlookers outside) sang this beautiful hymn together.   Hopefully (and probably) there were some that were drawn closer to Christ by the beauty of the words and music.  Here is the short video clip:

Happy Feast Day!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good Friday Fast

". . . And those that passed by derided Him, wagging their heads, and saying, 'Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!'  So also the chief priests mocked Him to one another with the scribes, saying,' He saved others; He cannot save Himself.  Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.' Those who were crucified with Him also reviled Him.' (Mk. 15: 27-32)
Meditating on these scripture verses concerning the crowd that surrounded the Cross, one cannot help but also remember the words from the Presentation in the Temple:
". . . and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His Mother,'Behold this child is set for the fall and the rise of many in Israel and for a sign that shall be contradicted. . ." (Lk. 2:34).
The Cross is the sign of our salvation and yet a sign of contradiction.  The people shout that they will believe if only Christ comes down from the Cross.  Fulton Sheen often said that people will believe in anything but the Cross, but suffering.  Even those that suffer (like the ones who were crucified with Him, and "reviled Him") refuse to believe in its merits.  Christ came to die so that we might have eternal life.  Yet, we must die to ourselves if we are to inherit the victory Christ has already won for us.

Easter Sunday is a beautiful feast, but a hollow one indeed if we do not first live through and experience the Passion and Cross of Good Friday.  The Crucifix must be a powerful reality in our lives; not just a symbol of our faith, but a constant call to a radical vocation.  Sacrificial love cannot be a high ideal, a romantic notion; it must be a way of life for us as Christians.  

The Cross and suffering are realities, whether we choose to embrace them or not.  But by ignoring the Cross, we also refuse the hope that it contains: the hope of salvation.  And the knowledge, and the peace that comes with it, that the Cross is the Way to Heaven, to Eternal Happiness!

Persevere in your fasting and sacrifices, and have a blessed and holy Easter!

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Let my People Go"


We should be especially mindful of the story of Exodus in our current struggle against religious persecution.  Modern theologians have a tendency to focus solely on the Promised Land and the subsequent end of their enslavement as the goal for the Israelites.  Yet, in his excellent book called Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, reminds us that the land was only a necessary part of the ultimate goal of the exodus: the freedom to worship God.  
"God's original command to Pharaoh runs as follows: 'Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.' (Ex. 7:16) These words- 'Let me people go, that they may serve me'- appear four times, with slight variations, in all the meetings of Pharaoh with Moses and Aaron." (Spirit of the Liturgy, Ratzinger, p.15) (emphasis mine)
Pharaoh, like many rulers to follow him, tries many compromises and accommodations with Moses (first telling him to worship God in Egypt, then allowing only the men to go, and finally allowing all to go except the cattle):
"But Moses cannot negotiate about the liturgy with a foreign potentate nor can he subject worship to any form of political compromise. . . the only goal of the Exodus is shown to be worship, which can only take place according to God's measure and therefore eludes the game of political compromise." (Spirit of the Liturgy, p.16)
This sounds all too familiar to us.  As it does to our brethren who live under cruel regimes in other parts of the world.  Just as Pharaoh could not decide for the Israelites how they were to worship God, so goes the same for any government today or in the future. The current administration has purposely changed the phrase "freedom of religion" to "freedom of worship" in public pronouncements.  But I, and many others, are certain that they do not mean the freedom to worship that was given to the Israelites by God in Exodus.  In essence, freedom of religion means that people are at liberty to live their religion in every aspect of their life without hindrance from the state.  In great contrast, freedom to worship means simply that people can say their whispered prayers in bed at night. 

But worshipping God is more than praying to Him in the quiet of our homes.  The Israelites were already worshipping God in their homes when Moses was sent to them by God; God released them from their bondage so they could worship Him with their liturgy and their lives.
"Cult, liturgy. . . is part of this worship, but so too is life according to the will of God; such a life is an indispensable part of true worship. . . Ultimately, it is the very life of man, man himself living righteously, that is the true worship of God, but life only becomes real life when it receives its form from looking toward God." (Spirit of the Liturgy, p.18)
Christ commanded the apostles: "Go out into the whole world and preach the Good News, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Mk. 16:15)  He did not say,"Stay in the Upper Room, say your prayers, and go back to being fishermen."  It is quite ironic that many of the same people who say Christians never act Christ-like, are the same ones who are forcing us against the commands of Christ.  Faith is not put on, on Sunday, and taken off during the week.  If it were, we would be like the Pharisees that Christ spoke of when he said:
"Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'" (Mk.7: 6-7)
To deprive men of the freedom of true worship, the freedom to practice their faith, is a grave injustice.  Again, our current pontiff eloquently elaborates:
"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 capability, deprive him of any vision of the infinite and eternal." (p.19)
When this, or any, government takes away man's freedom of religion, they take away his hope itself.  Man was made to live in happiness with God forever; without true freedom to worship, man is deprived of the hope that points to this beatitude, and so deprived of the moral code that would aid him in reaching this blessed goal.

During this Lent, please continue to fast and pray for an end to persecution, for courageous leaders to arise, and for our families to strengthen and preserve the Faith.

Rallies for Religious Freedom will be held across the nation next Friday, March 23rd.  I encourage you to stand with our fellow Christians in the fight for religious freedom.  Go to this website to find the nearest location:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 2nd Fast

"Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife. " (Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, no. 17)
Though excoriated in his own time for statements such as this, Paul VI acted as no less than a prophet in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae.  Only eleven years after its promulgation China began its draconian one-child policy, enforcing it through forced abortions and sterilizations.  The availability and legality of contraception and abortion has decimated many countries' population growths.  And now it happens to the "freest" nation in the world that the government hands down a dictate forcing every person to pay for coverage of destructive care, thereby encouraging the further breakdown of the family.  It is evident that the desire of secular forces is to stamp out fertility, to stamp out life.  Why?  Because they cannot stand in the Light of Life itself.  The Light that shines brilliantly from each soul created is too much for the forces of evil to endure, and so they seek to eradicate it.

And yet, we know they cannot eradicate this Light, because its source is eternal.  And they cannot eradicate this Light because they cannot triumph over Him who is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life." What a beautiful time Lent is, as we meditate on Our Lord's Passion and Death and Triumph over Evil.  The war was won when Christ rose from the dead that first Easter morning.  Darkness may surround us but it cannot overcome the Light of the Truth.  We must be determined to let the Light of Christ shine forth in our lives, and in our homes.  During our fast today, let us especially focus on accomplishing our tasks, and offering up up any small or large sufferings with great joy.  The tediousness of this day and everyday can only be overcome by joy and patience.  If we wish to make it to Easter Sunday, we must first make the slow way to Calvary.  May God grant you patience and peace this day and during this holy season of Lent!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Grow old for thee but not in front of me


When speaking of the overwhelming disrespect given to the elderly in our society, my father often relates a quip said to him by a colleague who hailed from a Southeast Asian country: "Americans live with their dogs and treat them like people and put out their old people [in nursing homes]; we live with our elders, giving them the utmost respect and eat our dogs."  Though a bit of a grotesque image, it makes the point.  The elderly deserve our respect and attention.  

Why is it, that in the wealthiest country in the world, we have so many nursing homes?  For most of civilization, the elderly lived with their families when they were no longer able to care for themselves.  Grandparents or great aunts and uncles spent quiet time with the children, giving advice, telling stories, loving them faithfully.  Especially in larger families, where perhaps children cannot always receive undivided attention from an adult, the elderly can give the attention and affirmation children need. They no longer could work, but always could love.  Living with younger family in close quarters can be very difficult on both parties, but patience and humility will abound if prayerfully sought.  We can imitate our Lord in this regard for surely Christ, Himself, was very attentive to His grandparents, Anne & Joachim.  

The instances of living with and taking care of family have gradually disappeared for many reasons.  In America, the advent of Social Security was a greater hindrance to the family than most realize.  Paul A. Rahe, professor of History at Hillsdale College, wrote a very interesting piece a few weeks ago which touched upon this subject:
"And [the bishops] welcomed Social Security . . . They did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well-being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They did not stop to think."
Of course, government assistance and abundant wealth have seemingly obscured the obligation and duty to care for one's relatives.  There is a hardly a need to take in an elderly relative when most have the money to pay for assisted living or nursing homes.  But, by not living with the elderly or being around them often, people give in to their most selfish tendencies.  They who were once proud and strong in their youth have become needy and helpless (if not physically yet, at least emotionally).  

Yet there is another, more subtle reason, for inattentiveness to the elderly.  Young and middle-aged people do not want to acknowledge their own immortality, their own humanity.  The fact, that at some point, they too will be old and needy.  There is a very poignant scene in an old movie from the sixties entitled The Trouble with Angels.  (The film is a comedy which makes its more serious moments stand out all the more.)  In the scene, the students are helping out at a Christmas party at a nursing home when the protagonist, Mary, overhears a tearful elderly woman pour out her sorrows to the Mother Superior.  She tells her how her children never visit, and have not asked her to either; she recounts how much she loves them, and how much did for them as children.  This heart-wrenching scene forces Mary to confront the Mother Superior, telling her," I hope I die young. . . " Mary vicariously, albeit briefly, experiences this woman's loneliness, understanding what Mother Theresa deeply understood: "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the greatest poverty."

The United States does not have the extreme material poverty present in most other countries, but it does have an abundance of elderly and lonely people.  It is much easier to care for the poor by giving away clothes, or writing a check.  And this is very important to do, as Christ told us that "to whom much is given, much is expected." (Despite what some believe, I am pretty sure Our Lord meant for us to give to the poor, not the government.)  

But how much harder is it to also make the time to visit a lonely relative?  To pick up the phone and call?  To write a note?  To have someone over for dinner?  To prayerfully consider welcoming a relative to one's home to live?
"For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount" (Luke 6: 32-34)
 Respect for life means reverence for the dignity each individual person in our world, and in our everyday lives.  Let us seek to pay particular attention to those who are do not always receive this most deserved reverence.  It is helpful to remember that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's not about Women's Health


In the recent debate about the HHS mandate, that forces private insurers to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients, the administration and its allies have constantly emphasized that this is about "women's health". While it is important to repeat the mantra that this is about "conscience, not contraception", we should also expose the ridiculousness of this argument.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the UN, lists birth control as a Class I carcinogen.  (Its important to note that the UN is hardly in the business of revealing the cancerous nature of the pill considering it forces underdeveloped countries to accept it, and other forms of birth control, in exchange for humanitarian aid.)

One cannot even say its about women's empowerment.  Ironically, though the Left often argues that the Pill gave women more power by giving them the choice when to have children, it actually enslaved them to men and forced women to relinquish their greatest power: the power and choice to say "no."  Of course, the abuse of women existed since the beginning of time, but never did women consent to it as they do now.  Removing the intended and logical consequence of sexual intercourse (conception) allowed men to never have to accept "no" for an answer.  Women have become powerless (outside and inside marriage), and the curse of Eve continues: ". . he shall rule over you".  (Gen. 3:16)  

Two women (one an author, the other an economist) have written an excellent article over at National Review dissecting this issue further, debunking the myths about empowerment and health and putting forth a logical argument for natural family planning.  I encourage you to read it. (The Pill is Not Good for Women)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beautiful Video and Startling Truth


I happened upon this video today.  It visualizes the journey from conception to birth.  Miraculous and mysterious are the most appropriate and applicable terms for this journey.

In addition, here is an excellent piece by George Weigel from yesterday, entitled "The Libertine Police State".

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 3rd Fast

"Everything has a particular end and obeys a law.  Everything develops toward a predestined end.  God has traced a way for each of us. . .  Both our earthly and eternal happiness depends on following our vocation very carefully." (St. Gianna)
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. . ." (Jer. 1:5)  Since the beginning of time God chose each one of us for greatness: to be with Him forever in eternal happiness.  To attain that end, He has a set a specific path for each one of us to follow.  He sets this path to lead each of us to the source of eternal Love: Himself.  Our vocation is our path; it is our way to heaven.  One must be determined to have his prime focus be on this path.  Nothing should deter him from his purpose: to embrace the life God has given him and to look nowhere else for peace, joy, and happiness.

Before we are called to a vocation, it is common to question the call, and ask ourselves whether we are up to the great task God has set before us.  Even after we enter our vocation, we may struggle some days, frustrated by our own weaknesses.  Yet, God would not have called us to a particular state of life if He did not give us the grace sufficient to live it.  Not only that, as our Creator, He knows us more intimately than any other soul and knows our weaknesses but also knows our strengths.  We must be confident that He has prepared us for our vocation.

In knowing that, we must embrace our vocation whole-heartedly.  The reason for our existence is to "know, love and serve God in this world so as to be happy with Him in the next."  Our vocation is the means and the way to attain our ultimate end.  In this age of self-service rather than self-sacrifice, a time when fidelity is no longer seen as a virtue but as an out-of-date ideal, it is extremely important to "follow our vocation very carefully." God Bless you!

More of the Same


Another interesting article about the emerging war between Church and State.  Despite popular thinking to the contrary, there are people who actually believe and live the Church's teaching on life and are in prominent positions.  From Senator Marco Rubio, a rising political star from Florida:
"Rubio, who opposes abortion rights, told POLITICO that he and his wife personally adhere to the church’s dictates on contraception. (“I can tell you that none of my children were planned,” he said with a chuckle.)" 
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The War Won but the Battles continue


A couple important news stories for today:

First, conservative columnist, and Catholic mother, Michelle Malkin wrote a great piece today about the Obama administration's assault on religious liberty, appropriately entitled "First, they Came for the Catholics."

Second, a great victory for pro-lifers: the Susan G. Komen foundation has defunded Planned Parenthood.  Read the story here.