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 12, 2013

December 13th Fast

"The young man said to him, "All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?"  Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect,  go, sell what you have and give to poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."  When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."  When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, "Who then can be saved?"  Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible."  (Matthew 19:20-26)
 The "gift of self" is a beautiful phrase, used often by Blessed John Paul II, to describe our ultimate calling as men and women.  But standing in awe of beautiful phrases is quite easy compared to actually living those words each day.  Our Lord calls each of His disciples to a spirit of detachment and one might say that its severity varies contingent on the vocation of the one he has called.  Yet, though those called to the supernatural vocations will physically detach themselves from more material items, all are called to loosen their hold on whatever they believe is their own, including comfort, time and security.

It is a natural inclination to seek one's comfort, to relish the precious moments of serenity afforded to him on a given day.  But perhaps there are occasions when those times are not readily available; does one grasp for them then?  Pushing aside others' needs to seek out his own?  Or does he accept that his gift of self, was a total and continuous gift, a daily denial not just a romantic notion.  When Christ said, "leave all that you have and follow me," He did not promise that there would be rest stops at specific intervals along the way. Why?  Because we carry with us that which sustains:
". . . whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
When we offer up our days to the Lord, we also recognize that He directs the happenings of the day: more or less he may ask of us, but always to follow Him, to abandon ourselves to Him in each moment as Our Lady and St. Joseph did from even before the time He was born.  May we follow their example of abandonment and detachment, seeking only to attach ourselves to that which leads us to true happiness in heaven.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 6th Fast

"And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon."  But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us."  He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But the woman came and did him homage, saying, "Lord, help me."He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."  She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish." (Matthew 15:21-28)
In his autobiography, Father Patrick Peyton, the Rosary priest who promoted family prayer, recalled a story about the first time he tried to acquire radio time for his message of the family rosary.  He was concerned because the only time allotted to him was restricted to a nondenominational message, and was fearful that Our Lady would not be pleased with his efforts.  A priest friend encouraged him, and told him that Our Lady would be pleased with whatever was given her, even it be only the crumbs.  She would shower her graces through the tiniest opening, for someone who deems herself "God's lowly servant" can fit through even the smallest of spaces.

There are many times in life and marriage, that one must be content with the crumbs. God providentially provides occasions of consolation, and immense joy, times that are meant to be treasured and stored to prepare and strengthen one for the moments they must be satisfied with less.  One must learn to be grateful for what he is given, and not be exasperated at the lack thereof.  Just as he savors the last few bites of a delectable meal, so too he must savor the consolations, small though they may be, that come to him in his daily life.

To pick the scraps off the floor, the crumbs that fall from the table, one must stoop, lowering himself to the ground, humbling himself in the process and acknowledging by his action that he is not great to accept anything so little.  Pride, too often, prevents this, fueling one's annoyance that the scraps are all that is left for him today.

During the Advent season we can remember that Christ, Himself, was content with the "scraps".  He, who could have had any consolation willingly left the place of eternal consolation to be with us.  The Holy Family endured numerous hardships and yet were satisfied with the peace and presence of Christ. Let us too pray that peace reigns in our homes through joyful acceptance.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22nd Fast


" Therefore you have the duty to preserve the child and yourself from everything that might jeopardize your honest Christian way of life and that of your children, from everything that could obscure or weaken your faith and theirs, or becloud the purity and brightness and freshness of your soul and theirs."
(Pope Pius XII, April 14, 1943)

When a man and woman marry, they pledge their lives and their love to one another, promising to to be faithful in their thoughts, their hearts, and their actions.  When first found, a love is jealously guarded, and nothing deters one from doing his utmost to ensure his sweetheart is not only loved but cherished and protected from any threatening or corrupting influences. Sometimes, though, one neglects to fortify the walls that were first set up to protect their precious treasure.  They forget that to protect their love, their marriage, their very salvation, each spouse must first protect himself.

We often think of the innocence of children, and earnestly seek to preserve these delicate flowers.  But in addition, we should not forget the innocence of our own souls, first made white in the waters of Baptism.  Age should mature us but not deceive us into believing that the gradual lost of our innocence is inevitable.  Pope Pius XII noted the difficult but necessary process:
" Nature, like the soil, must be worked with the sweat of the brow; one must toil incessantly to weed and uproot evil inclinations and vicious seeds to combat harmful influences. . . "
Blessed John Paul II noted in his Theology of the Body that Adam failed to protect Eve from the serpent.  Yet, Eve also failed to protect Adam from Satan's cunning as well, by doing the work of the devil for him.  They each contributed to the discord that entered their marriage by their false assumption that no harm could come to them, and their false confidence that if it should they could easily recognize and ward it off.  

A man and woman are each given guardianship over the precious treasure that is the soul of their spouse.  To exercise this responsibility properly, they must first recognize it, and humbly ask for the wisdom to discern how to perform their task.  Just as exposing a flower to a harsh climate will cause it to struggle, so too, exposing a spouse to unnecessary temptation will hurt it in its efforts to grow.

Two examples can inspire us to a renewed zeal in our role as protectors.  Saint Cecilia, whose feast is today, had her virtue protected first by her guardian angel and then by her husband St. Valerian after his Baptism.  We would do well to also look to the example of the Blessed Mother, whose innocence was entrusted first to the priests of the Temple, then to St. Joseph, and finally to St. John.  How each must have worked diligently to protect her!  How we might do the same; to protect the other, and to protect ourselves.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 15th Fast

". . . Because as yet thou lovest thyself too inordinately, therefore thou art afraid to resign thyself wholly to the will of others.  And yet, what great matter is it, if thou, who art but dust and nothing, subject thyself to a man for God's sake, when I, the Almighty and the Most High, who created all things out of nothing, humbly subjected Myself to man for thy sake?  I became of all men the most humble and the most abject, that thou mightest overcome thy pride with My humility. . . Learn to humble thyself. . . Learn to break thine own wishes, and to yield to thyself to all subjection. . ." 
(Imitation of Christ, Book No. 2, Ch. XIII)
Two oxen, though they are yoked, cannot carry a load very far if they fail to walk in unison.  In the same way, though a couple may be yoked in the bonds of marriage, their ability to move onward to the goal of heaven will be hampered if both spouses do not learn to yield to the other when their wills are at variance.  Yet, even more than this- as the above observation is a rather obvious assessment of the marital vocation- each spouse must learn to trust the other.  Seeing prudence and prayer in place, one should lovingly and obediently subject themselves to the others' thoughtful judgment.  A person may recall that Christ not only called him or her to the married state, but also gave them a specific helpmate.

Pride can too easily worm its way into one's heart, sometimes even making one think he is doing God's will when really he is clinging to his own.  Through the eyes of pride, marriage may appear to be the path to heaven because of the patient endurance of the weaknesses of others; however, through the eyes of humility, we see that it is actually through the strengths and gifts of the other, that one can more easily grow in holiness.

Our dear mother, Mary, was the perfect mother and spouse.  Her example shows a complete trust in God, and in His providential designs.  Twice in her life, she was given to the care of others, and not those immaculately conceived like herself: first to Saint Joseph, and secondly, to Saint John.  She, who was a superior being, willingly subjected herself following the model of her Son who subjected Himself.  May we too learn the humility of the Son and His Mother, and be thankful for the providential designs of the Father who loves us so.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

November 8th Fast

"We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced.  I do not think the wide circle of American Society, or the wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully.  We are now facing the final confrontation between the church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist.  This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence.  It is therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously. . . 
We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ.  With your and my prayers, it is possible to mitigate the coming tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because only thus can the Church be effectively renewed.  How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from the shedding of blood?  This time, too, it will not be otherwise.  We must be strong and prepared and trust in Christ and in His Holy Mother and be very, very assiduous in praying the holy Rosary." 
(Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, November 9, 1976)
From a a political or secular viewpoint, times are uncertain and ever changing, but we know that Christ never changes, nor does His plan for us.  It is important to engage in the world, but in doing so we cannot anchor our hearts to it.  God allows us to feel the insecurity of the world in order to instill in us a greater dependence on Him.

He has given us a pathway to heaven, and the greater the difficulties that come with it, the more abundant the graces He disposes to us. It is folly to anxiously or angrily think about the future days ahead.  It gives God more glory and will draw more people to Him if they instead perform their daily duties with an obedient spirit and a joyful heart.

Our world is in sore need of evangelization, too many live in misery without even realizing it.  Faithful families can and will be the quiet light that draws them out of the darkness.  The wolves may circle the sheepfold, but the Shepherd stands watch ready to guard His sheep from attack.  We must not be fearful of the attacks or temptations to come, but rather through prayer and penance, prepare ourselves for any trials that will arise.

Our Blessed Lady knew from the moment Simeon spoke to her in the Temple that a "sword would pierce her heart", that she would suffer greatly because of the suffering of Her Son.  And yet, though she kept the prophecy in her heart, pondering its meaning, she did not wait anxiously for the coming day, constantly wondering when it would come and dreading the time of its arrival.  Rather, she lived a life of prayer and sacrifice, ever faithful to her vocation as wife and mother. And when the day came for Her Son's "hour", she, herself, started Him on the path to His Passion asking Him to work His first miracle in Cana.  She abandoned herself to God's mercy throughout her life and her trust in Him was firm, formed on the solid foundation of prayer.  Let us turn to her in times of temptation or uncertainty, imploring her assistance and asking her to help us trust in God and have the courage necessary to triumph over trials.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

November 1st Fast, Feast of All Saints


"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."  (St. Bernard)
In the married or religious vocation, one may feel that he has given up so much already, sacrificed so willingly, that he clings all the more to some vice or weakness just for the sake of believing himself in possession of something that is his, even it is a weakness.  Perhaps one thinks, "I have given up all this for others; I have suffered such and such for others; can I just stop for a while, can I be content with saying no for once? How much more will He ask of me?"  And it is then, the one hears Him say," I ask you to do nothing more than what I did myself."
Sanctity is a struggle, an arduous battle that cannot be won in a day.  No one is born a saint, they must become one.  To believe that sanctity is genetic is to excuse one's refusal to fight harder.  St. Peter writes in his first letter: 
"Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is a prowling lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in the faith." (1 Peter 5:8-9a)
 How often it happens that through frustration and fatigue our former zeal slowly melts away.  When the goal of sainthood becomes a romantic notion rather than a reachable reality, one must turn to those who have gone before him.  The saints are there to encourage and not to condemn.  They ardently desire our company in their blessed state and earnestly seek to help us in any way they can.

If one is set to travel on an unfamiliar  road he usually seeks the counsel of another who has previously traveled the way before; he would be foolish to navigate it without any assistance.  In a similar way, one must turn to those who have faced similar struggles, triumphed over temptations, and successfully walked the narrow road to heaven.  The saints offer their friendship, their assistance and their love most willingly.  Let us truly cherish these kindred spirits, and strive to imitate their holy example.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 25th Fast

"God was pleased all through my life to surround me with love, and the first memories I have are stamped with smiles and the most tender caresses. . . With a nature such as my own, had I been reared by parents without virtue or even if I had been spoiled. . . I would have been become very bad and perhaps have ever been lost.  . . Having nothing but good example around me, I naturally wanted to follow it."
(Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul)
As Christians our greatest hope, our constant prayer, is to have our spouses, our children, our family members with us together in heaven.   Yet sometimes, in our earnest desire to bring others to Christ we forget working on our own relationship with Him first.  Many of the saints became saints because of the prayers, and vigilant care that their parents gave them.  They were attracted to the Faith, not by their parents' powerful preaching but by their patient love.

A holy couple is one that inspires one another, and those around them by their selfless love and quiet ways.  Peace reigns in a family where there are no clamors for admiration or attention when duty demands sacrifice.  All go about their duty in a joyful rhythm, looking to serve rather than be served, looking to express gratitude rather than grasping for it.  Yet, if joy is to radiate, it must first permeate our interior lives.  In the bustle and busyness of the day, in the demands and duties of daily life, we must return to the innermost place in our hearts and be close to Him that has called us to this life.  We must allow His light to shine brightly and not allow it to be dimmed by the incessant noises and distractions the world offers to us.

If we wish others to follow Him, we must first be near to Him ourselves.  If He has embraced the cross, so must we.  If He has trust in His heavenly Father, so must we.
When temptations arise, we can retreat to that place in our hearts and ask for the courage to stand athwart them.  When frustrations and anxieties threaten to disturb our serenity, Our Lord will be there to calm our fears.

In his most recent General Audience, the Holy Father encouraged his listeners to be like Mary, "united to Christ, in a steadfast relationship with Him."  Of His mother, He spoke, "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."    Let us, too, maintain a consistent and strong relationship with Christ, and so bring others closer to Him as well.  We can only form disciples if we first learn to truly love and know the Master who formed us first.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 18th Fast

"Bless the Lord O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your diseases,  
Who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
 Who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed  like the eagle's . . ."
(Psalm 103: 1-5)
One performs duties willingly, exercises little heroic and sacrificial acts but is sometimes not satisfied with the peace and knowledge that come with doing God's will.  It is not enough to receive the blessing of God, rather he hopes that his labors are acknowledged by the praise of men.  He is easily wounded by the ingratitude of others, and is tempted to feel slighted by the lack of admiration.

We, who can feel so hurt by others overlooking our sacrifices, fail to remember the One who is most wounded by ingratitude.  He, who hung so silently on the cross never once says," Look at me and what I am doing for you" or "Do you not see how I suffer for you?"  And yet, Our Lord would be justified in his demand for thanks.  Of course, God is all-just but is also all merciful; a virtue that we must imitate so it can be shown to us as well: 
Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy.
When we are tempted to harbor resentment for small slights  or yearn for recognition of countless sacrifices; we should instead kneel in the interior of our hearts, fall prostrate at the foot of the Cross, and give thanks for the eternal salvation He has gained for us.  Too often, getting caught up in the tediums of the day we can become like the nine lepers in the Gospel story who forgot to thank Our Lord after they had been healed.

A stubborn pride prevents a humble and grateful heart.  A heart that is firstly grateful to God for the blessings bestowed upon it but also grateful to others for the sacrifices they have made.  Pride has a narrow focus that denies a peripheral view.  When humility is practiced, one forgets himself - his desires, the denial of his needs - and instead sees the sacrifices of his spouse, the little gifts of love from his children.  Now, he is no longer burdened by thoughts of recognition, but rather is bolstered and renewed by acknowledging and participating with the sacrificial love of his family as a whole.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October 11th Fast


"As a prayer for peace, the Rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary. . . The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God. . . Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of his most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on."
(Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 2002, Bl. Pope John Paul II)
Many of the saints have noted that the soul flies up to God on two wings: prayer and sacrifice.  One could easily say the nature of family life lends itself to sacrifice, that God offers many opportunities for self-denial, and sacrificial love throughout the day.  Yet, it appears, at first, that the other wing of the soul - prayer - is left languishing for want of opportunity to exercise its capability.  But that will only occur if we allow it.  Prayer must be a priority if we are to persevere in our vocation.  And not only personal prayer, but just as importantly, family prayer.  

Just as a priest forms disciples of his parishioners, so do parents form disciples of their children for Christ. But How will they know this Master whom we wish them to follow?  How can we ourselves come to know Him?  We can learn as we learned when we ourselves were children, at the knee of our Mother.  No one knows Him more intimately than His Blessed Mother, and no one more ardently desires us to love Him than she.  Saying the rosary is not just a fulfillment of a spiritual duty; it is a time to bring ourselves and children to Mary, so she can bring us to Jesus.  Sometimes, like little children, we wander off giving heed to the various appealing distractions, but she holds our hand firmly and gently as a mother does in a crowded place, securely keeping us close to the Fruit of her womb.  Bishop Hugh Boyle, former archbishop of Pittsburg once said:
"No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary. Either he will give up the sin or he will give up the Rosary."   
Our Blessed Mother wants peace in our hearts and in our homes.  The easiest path to do that is have before us the very picture of family living in the Holy Family of Nazareth.  Blessed John XXIII said that, "the Rosary is a school for learning Christian perfection."  May we always strive to imitate this perfect model.
"There is no surer means of calling down God's blessing upon the family than the daily recitation of the Rosary."      (Pope Pius XII)             

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October 4th Fast

"Where there is charity and wisdom there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility there is neither anger nor worry.  Where there is poverty and joy there is neither cupidity nor avarice. Where there is quiet and meditation there is neither solicitude nor dissipation. Where there is the fear of the Lord to guard the house the enemy cannot find a way to enter. Where there is mercy and discretion there is neither superfluity nor hard-heartedness."
(From the Admonitions of St. Francis of Assisi)

When we gaze upon the cross, we see the heart of our dear Savior, His love poured out for us.  And as we look upon Him we should recall His words during the Agony that preceded His Passion: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will."  We hear the words of St. Paul echo in our hearts: ". . . He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross."  Mary, as His first and greatest disciple, understood resignation of will completely: ". . . let it be done unto me according to thy word." Sometimes, we put so much energy into fighting others, or fighting the world, or things we cannot control, that there is no fight left for that which is most important: the battle for our soul, the fight to train our will.  One finds it easier to yield to His desires rather than yielding to the power of His grace to overcome them.

Self-sacrifice is the lifeblood of a healthy vocation, but less it become a romantic notion, one must be aware that though it is not a natural inclination, it is an attainable one.  It requires discipline of one's own will and conformity to the will of God.  How often does one pray for patience, for humility, for courage to trust in the Lord, for generosity of spirit, etc., only to be surprised when God gives him plentiful opportunities to practice it?  He not only gives us these moments each day, but also gives us the grace to triumph over the temptations that inevitably lie in wait.  During these times, we must surrender to the grace he supplies, not continue on the willful path, trusting in ourselves to win the battle rather than trusting in Our Lord.  It is a difficult task indeed to yield; one would rather hold tightly to his entrenched will than embrace the Cross of Christ.  And so, instead of relinquishing the moment to the flame of one's passions, he must allow the living and sanctifying water of Christ's grace to quench the fire and restore peace to his soul.
". . .but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jn 4:14)
Peace and joy do not simply happen upon a home; they can only make a dwelling where true sacrificial love is present.  Unity of hearts  and oneness of spirit exists when the impediments caused by clinging to self-will are removed.  Let us guard our hearts so "that the enemy cannot find a way to enter" instead of guarding our wills, our own self-interest so that God's grace has no place to reside.

Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20th Fast

 "When the Christian religion is reflected and repudiated, marriage sinks of necessity into the slavery of man's vicious nature and vile passions, and finds but little protection in the help of natural goodness. A very torrent of evil has flowed from this source, not only into private families, but also into States. For, the salutary fear of God being removed, and there being no longer that refreshment in toil which is nowhere more abounding than in the Christian religion, it very often happens, as indeed is natural, that the mutual services and duties of marriage seem almost unbearable; and thus very many yearn for the loosening of the tie which they believe to be woven by human law and of their own will, whenever incompatibility of temper, or quarrels, or the violation of the marriage vow, or mutual consent, or other reasons induce them to think that it would be well to be set free."
(Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum, On Christian Marriage, 1880)

In today's secularly suffocating atmosphere, it is easy to forget that marriage is a vocation, not a lifestyle choice.  Yes, it is a natural calling, but a calling all the same.  A woman is called by God to be a wife and mother; a man is called by God to be a husband and father.  They are chosen for one another, and they give their assent to His proposal.

But with a mind burdened by earthly cares and anxieties it oftentimes happens that one fails to remember this.  A culture of no-fault divorce and militant secularism invites him to believe that he has chosen this life.  He is tempted to conform his situation to his wants and likes, rather than conforming himself to God's plan in His marriage.  He resents the sacrifices he is constantly asked to make, and neglects to place His trust in God.  Yet though his heart may have first drawn him to family life,  God was the one who stirred it.  

Our Father in Heaven has such great love for us, such an unimaginable desire for us to be happy with Him,  that He specifically chose us for our particular vocation. We must have confidence in the call He sent, and have courage to accept the refinement that our souls will pass through because of it.  When the marital vocation is seen as the the divine call it is, one can learn to be "refreshed in the toil" of his labors, rather than feeling burdened by the drudgery of his duties.  
"If, then, we consider the end of the divine institution of marriage, we shall see very clearly that God intended it to be a most fruitful source of individual benefit and of public welfare, Not only, in strict truth, was marriage instituted for the propagation of the human race, but also that the lives of husbands and wives might be made better and happier. This comes about in many ways: by their lightening each other's burdens through mutual help; by constant and faithful love; by having all their possessions in common; and by the heavenly grace which flows from the sacrament. Marriage also can do much for the good of families, for, so long as it is conformable to nature and in accordance with the counsels of God, it has power to strengthen union of heart in the parents; to secure the holy education of children; to temper the authority of the father by the example of the divine authority; to render children obedient to their parents. . ."  (Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum, 1880)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

September 13th Fast

"On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.  When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."  And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come."  His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."  Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.  He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now."  This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. " (Jn. 2:1-12)
Married couples should take great solace in that Christ performed His first miracle at a celebration of the marital covenant.  As God the Father ordained the union of man and woman at the beginning of time, so God the Son sanctified their union at the new beginning in the re-established order of grace.

The exhaustion of the wine supply should be a familiar quandary to those in the marital or religious vocation.  There are periods in life when one is literally spent: his energy lost, his zeal wavering, his perseverance nowhere to be found, and his courage empty.  But, he must take heart!  It is in those moments of discouragement and fatigue that we must turn to our Mother and she, seeing our needs, turns to her Son and says," they have no more wine."  When we come to Him in humility, and say, "Lord, I have nothing left" then God looks down upon us with His tender heart, and mercifully grants us the graces we need to go forward.  Our thirsting souls and weary hearts hear the precious words that will guide and comfort us, "Do whatever He tells you."  And when we do thus, Christ fills us anew with His bountiful gifts.

This childlike trust in Him, to fill our jars when they are found wanting takes great faith and dependence on God.  In his recent encyclical, Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis said:
"Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness." (No. 53)
 In humbly recognizing our weaknesses and inadequacies we acknowledge Christ's strength to overcome them.  St. Ignatius Loyola wrote a beautiful and simple prayer to reflect this:
"Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will.  All that I have and cherish you have given me.  I surrender it all to be guided by your will.  Your grace and your love are wealth enough for me.  Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more.
We must turn to Him, asking Him to pattern our hearts after His selfless, generous, patient, and merciful Sacred Heart.  In this way, our love for one another will grow and our a vocation will bear fruit even in the midst of trial and exhaustion.  When a couple's love is founded in His, formed by His, strengthened by His, and directed at ultimately attaining His, then it will fulfill and sustain them.

Friday, September 6, 2013

September 6th Fast

"And they said to Him, 'The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.  And Jesus said to them,' Can make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast in those days." (Lk. 5:33-35)
There is no question that we live in a time of great turmoil and seemingly unparalleled vice.  Seen and unseen forces aggressively erode the foundation of society: marriage and man's dignity as a child of God.  And so, our greatest recourse is prayer and fasting.  If one is to call himself a Christian, desiring salvation for himself, his family, the world, these means are not an option, they are a necessity. If one were a commander, sending his soldiers into battle, would he send them without a helmet, without a sword, allow them to stand defenseless before a powerful foe?  This certainly would be absurd, but how often do we enter the battle or place our spouses, children, friends, relations in an untenable position by refusing ourselves the means to combat the evil forces and temptations that lie in wait?

An army does not build it self up in one night and so too, we can not fortify ourselves or others in one day.  It must be done deliberately and slowly, consistently and frequently.  Denial of self must be a daily discipline, and in this way it will become a habitual practice.  Are these not what the virtues are, simply good habits practiced and performed?  And God, in His goodness, offers many opportunities to sacrifice each day, even asking us to sacrifice choosing what we sacrifice.  St. Francis de Sales says:
""It is, I believe, a greater virtue to eat without preference what is put before you and in the order it is put before you, whether you like it or dislike it, than always to choose the worst.  Although this latter way of life seems more austere, the former demands more resignation for by it we renounce not only our taste but our choice as well."
We are aware that in heaven the angels and saints live in perfect accordance with God's will.  And so, if we are to desire that perfect beatitude we must too learn resignation, even and especially when we sacrifice and fast.  Pride cannot enter into fasting or prayer less its efficaciousness is lost.  Saint Francis de Sales later says:  
"So also, to be cured of our vices, it is good indeed to mortify the flesh but it is still more necessary to cleanse our affections and purge our hearts." 
So then, let us resolve to persevere in prayer, to make courageous small sacrificial acts, and so do as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians:
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (Eph. 6:11)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 30th Fast

"The second creation account emphasizes that both sexes are necessary for God's plan.  Having created Adam, God says, 'It is not good for the man to be alone' (GN 2:18). So God creates a helpmate who is suitable for him and matches him. 'Helpmate' (ezer) is a word reserved in the Bible not for inferiors but most often for God Himself, who is Israel's 'helper'.  Indeed, after God creates all of the animals and brings them to Adam to name, it becomes clear that none of them is the 'suitable partner for man'.(Gn. 2:20)" 
("Love and Life in the Divine Plan," Pastoral Letter of the USCCB, November, 2009)
 In the play, "The Jeweler's Shop" written by Father Karoly Wojtyla, when one of the characters proposes to his fiancé he asks her to be "his helpmate".   Christian couples know that they are meant to help one another get to heaven, but often forget the small ways this can be done everyday.  Spouses are meant to live their lives in unity, not just physically, but spiritually and materially.  Material, not in the secular sense, but in the practical everyday sense.  Because of secular pressures to redefine marriage and gender roles, Christians can be tempted to push back against this tide by rigidly defining the duties of a husband and wife: the wife is solely relegated to all things related to the home, and the husband solely relegated to all things related to outside of it.  

As life gets busier and more children come, there is a tendency to dig in further so as not to upset the balance between home and work life.  Pride prevents each spouse from sharing concerns, decisions or responsibilities because each believes he must do it alone and not burden the other with a load in addition to his present duties.  But this is where unintended error, and subsequent resentment can occur.  Burdens pile up, and resentment creeps in, to the point that when help is finally asked for, it is done in a rude manner, and the other spouse, with sincere ignorance, is left only to feel guilty because he was unaware of the challenges the other was facing alone.  We strive to mirror the courage and industry of the saints, but an important part of this must be to remember that the saints, above all, had humility.  Our Lord, Himself, modeled this perfectly as He did not shoulder the burden of the cross alone, but rather humbly accepted the assistance of Simon of Cyrene.  We must, too, humbly ask the assistance of our helpmate.  By refusing to do so, we not only commit the sin of pride, but we also deprive the other of an occasion of charity, not allowing them the opportunity to grow in holiness themselves.

There was once a player who was extremely distraught after missing the game-winning shot.  Thinking himself solely responsible for the loss of the game, the coach said to him: "If you had made the shot, would you have thought that you alone were the reason the team won?" After replying in the negative, the coach then replied, "And so why would you think that by missing it, you alone are the reason the team lost?" So too, we can not expect to win the game by ourselves; we must rely on God's grace and others to gain eternal happiness in heaven, and lasting peace for our families on earth.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 16th Fast

"Thus it is not enough to give to everyone who asks; I must even anticipate their desires, appear to be very much obliged and honored to render service, and if anyone takes something which is for my use, I must not appear sorry about this but happy at being relieved of it. . . I am very far from practicing what I understand, and still the desire alone I have of doing it gives me peace."  (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul)
It may appear that it would take a lifetime to know the needs of another.  Perhaps this is true in the sense that no one but God Himself has full knowledge of any one man.  Yet, most would admit that they can quickly discern the needs of their spouse; what does not come so easily is to yield one's own will in order to fulfill those needs.  When one enters into a loving relationship, he desires to determine the necessary actions to make the other happy.  Once this is accomplished, he sets about doing it; unfortunately, he discovers along the way that these actions are not without cost.  He realizes he will have to make payments out of those reserves that are so very dear to him: his time, his energy, his emotional and physical needs.  

Through experience he understands that marriage is not a contract, a quid pro quo, where one exchanges goods evenly and fairly; instead, it is a covenant where lives are pledged, and souls are bound. Rather than waiting for a request, or a need to arise, one learns to anticipate the other's desire and, even if it is with difficulty, gladly fulfills it.  A man does not give because he will receive in return; in fact, he knows that his goal must be to give without any gain to himself.  And yet, as Saint Thérèse notes:
"Oh yes! The reward is great, even on this earth; in this way it is only the first step that costs anything.  To lend without hoping for anything appears to be difficult to nature; one would prefer to give, for a thing given no longer belongs to one."
The reward that one gains from this complete gift of self is the peace that presides in his marriage and family.  It is an arduous road to trod, the path of self-denial, but it is the straight and narrow way which brings tranquility and joy to the home.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

August 9th Fast

"I also, would like to be a saint but I don't know where to begin.  There's so much to do that I limit myself to the desire.  I often say, "My God, how I would like to be a saint!" Then, I don't do the work! Though it's high time I started. . ." 
(Letter from Bl. Zélie Martin to her daughter Pauline, Feb. 26, 1876)
The witnesses of holy people are so necessary to our spiritual formation because their lives reveal the possibility of progress.  Their humility shines forth, and makes them accessible to us in a way that encourages and strengthens our resolve.  In another letter to her daughter Pauline, Blessed Zélie, the mother of St. Thérèse, exemplifies this:
"I want to become a saint, and that won't be easy.  There's a lot of wood to chop and all the wood is as hard as rock.  It would have been better if I tried earlier, while it was less difficult. Oh well, better late than never!"
The struggle for sanctity can be an arduous undertaking.  One becomes discouraged when his efforts to grow in virtue seemingly fail and he thinks it impossible to ever overcome his weaknesses.   How disheartening it can be when he finds himself examining his conscience only to be confessing the same sins over and over again!  And yet, this admission of repeated faults is itself a wonderful sign of the root of all virtues: humility.

God has created us to be perfect, but He did not create us as perfect already, and so in His wonderful mercy, He looks lovingly on us as we strive, in all earnestness, to be good and holy.  He is our Father, and looks on His with a tender love.  He sees the progress we make, the sacrifices we offer, and though we may fall, He is not there to knock us back down, but rather to pick us back up.  He forgives us when we fail, and cherishes us as He sees how hard we try to smooth the rough edges of our souls. When fatigue or anguish prompt us to despair, let us be like St. John at the Last Supper and rest on the bosom of our Lord.  Let us remember that others fought too, and eventually won the victory.  

It is good to remember the Gospel story of the loaves and fishes when we believe our offerings are too meager.  After the Apostles noted that the people should be sent away, Christ replied:
 "They need not go away, you give them something to eat. They said to him,'We have only five loaves and two fish.' and He said to them,'Bring them here to me.' Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. (Mt. 14:16-18)
Christ worked a miracle, but not of nothing.  Though only God can truly create something out of nothing, our Lord chose to use man's offerings to show His power.  In the same way, God cannot change our lives if we have nothing to offer Him; but through His grace, He can miraculously convert our poor offerings into something noble and resplendent.  God loves us and desires, even more than we do, our eternal happiness; therefore, He is eager to do all He can to help us when our desires coincide with His own.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 2nd Fast


". . . I feel called to the Priesthood and to the Apostolate—I would be a Martyr, a Doctor of the Church. I should like to accomplish the most heroic deeds. . .

My eyes fell on the 12th and 13th chapters of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. I read that all cannot become Apostles, Prophets, and Doctors; that the Church is composed of different members; that the eye cannot also be the hand. The answer was clear, but it did not fulfill my desires, or give to me the peace I sought. . .

Without being discouraged I read on, and found comfort in this counsel: "Be zealous for the better gifts. And I show unto you a yet more excellent way." The Apostle then explains how all perfect gifts are nothing without Love, that Charity is the most excellent way of going surely to God. At last I had found rest. . .
I understood that love embraces all vocations, that it is all things, and that it reaches out through all the ages, and to the uttermost limits of the earth, because it is eternal.  Then, beside myself with joy, I cried out: "O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love! "
(St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul)

 In striving to lead a holy life we can often get distracted by the vexing problem of constant comparison.    Whether this leads to pride or jealousy is of no consequence as both are equally damaging to our soul and our vocation.  God has given each man certain graces and gifts, pertaining to his particular calling.  If a man begins to compare his life, it may lead to complacency or despair.  He may feel that he is far above the rest and need not do any more than others in his state in life, or he may give in to despair believing that it is useless to strive for perfection when he falls so short of it, and others seemingly attain it. But less we become disheartened when these most frustrating and natural proposals pop into our mind, we should look to the saints for their witness when comparisons creep into our thoughts.

One of the most beautiful attributes that is apparent in all the saints is their obvious simplicity.  They understood their uniqueness, and therefore accepted their task most readily, knowing it could be done by no one else.  They only compared themselves to others when looking to grow in holiness, and for no other reason.  They were certain of their particular call, and confident in the grace they would receive to fulfill it.

Yet, what led to the peace that resided in the souls of the saints was their great love.  It cannot be overstated that love cloaked their every deed.  They could not bring themselves to jealous or envious thoughts because, as Blessed Mother Teresa said, "all [was] for Jesus."  Whether crosses were given or blessings poured forth, it was no matter, all was done for the love of Christ.  And because they loved Him, they loved all those that He loved: every person they encountered, sinner and saint.  They did not think whether one deserved less or more, for they knew themselves they we all deserve nothing, and yet have been given the chance at the most important thing: eternal happiness.

When we must swat away the distractions that constantly cloud our minds, let us do as St. Francis de Sales suggested and make Acts of Love to God.  Let us rejoice in His blessings for others, let us be grateful for the blessings He has given us, and let us above all love Him in the vocation He has called us to.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 26th Fast


"How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. 
They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God's church and partake of God's Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other's company; they never bring sorrow to each other's hearts. 
Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not." 
(Tertullian, Letter to His Wife, ca. 202 A.D.)
The unitive nature of the marital bond brings about its procreative nature in the fullest sense.  A couple's fruitfulness is not based on its biological fecundity, but on their sacramental unity.  A husband and wife stand before God as one on their wedding day, and henceforth they must come to God as one in their prayer, in their sacrifice, in their works of mercy.  Their strength as a couple will ever increase or continually diminish, as they strive for this unity or deviate from the path towards it.

The devil is fully aware of the powerful strength of this bond and so constantly seeks to divide and conquer each spouse on his own.  His ways are so cunning and his deceit so subtle that he easily introduces friction into a marriage.  He encourages spouses to lead separate lives, if not in deed than in thought; ones that are parallel but never intersecting.

Yet this is where our faith is so very vital to the wellbeing of marriages.  God has not only given couples abundant graces, but also abundant opportunity to grow in virtue as a couple together.  Family life offers ample opportunities for a couple to approach our Lord together through prayer, works and sacrifice.  These three things done together lead to an interior unity which is much greater and more fruitful than a physical one.  For we witness from the supernatural unions of the saints with Christ and His Church, that much fruit comes from a marriage that is free from any impediments, any tangential distractions.  The great harvest of souls that the saints produced is witness to the great unity of hearts that was theirs: their heart and His Most Sacred Heart.

How truly tremendous is the vocation of Christian matrimony!  How many more souls can be brought into His kingdom by the fruitful union of the spouses: the souls of children, but just as importantly, the souls of the spouses.