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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

February 1st Fast

"Lay not Thy heart open to every one; but treat of thy affairs with the wise, and such as fear God.  Converse not much with young people and strangers.  Flatter not the rich: neither do thou appear willingly before great personages.  Keep company with humble and plain ones, with the devout and virtuous; and confer with them of those things that may edify.  Be not familiar with any woman; but in general commend all good women to God.  Desire to be familiar to God alone and His angels, and avoid the acquaintance of men.  We must have charity towards all, but familiarity with all is not expedient. . .  "   
(Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis, Ch. VIII) 
At first glance, this excerpt from the Imitation of Christ may appear to only apply to monks living in a monastery.  Yet, as with every chapter in this famous devotional, it provides wise advice for all religious and laymen.  Men are, by nature, social beings and as such desire to be with and around others.  The natural instinct for communion is what draws men to be married and have a family, or to enter into a spiritual marriage (with Christ or the Church).  Ultimately, it is what draws all men to final communion with God in heaven.  But, as with all naturally good inclinations that God has written on our hearts, the devil can pervert this desire by proposing a superficial union with others that does nothing to aid our attempts at holiness, and can only deteriorate the foundations of our family life.

Our age of technology has only worsened this temptation that the devil lays before us.  It induces us to be more open with others about our personal lives than perhaps in the past.  We form superficial attachments, and familiar bonds with others while weakening marital, and familial bonds, and the supernatural bond that is meant to draw us to closer union with God.  But we would be foolish to believe that the internet is the only threat, though a large one nonetheless.  We must be careful not to seek emotional intimacy outside our vocation, to "lay not thy heart open to every one; but to treat of thy affairs with the wise. . ."  Spiritual direction is necessary, and vocational guidance or mentoring is needed at times in our lives, but when we foster a familiarity with others that is unwarranted it can do much to damage our primary relationships, and future ones as well if we have not already entered into a permanent state of life.
"We must have charity towards all, but familiarity with all is not expedient. . ."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 25th Fast

"Like the Psalmist, we too, in our daily prayer as individuals and as a community, praise and bless God our Father, who knitted us together in our mother's womb, and saw and loved us while we were still without form (cf. Ps 139:13, 15-16). We exclaim with overwhelming joy: "I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. You know me through and through" (Ps 139:14). Indeed, "despite its hardships, its hidden mysteries, its suffering and its inevitable frailty, this mortal life is a most beautiful thing, a marvel ever new and moving, an event worthy of being exalted in joy and glory". Moreover, man and his life appear to us not only as one of the greatest marvels of creation: for God has granted to man a dignity which is near to divine (Ps 8:5-6). In every child which is born and in every person who lives or dies we see the image of God's glory. We celebrate this glory in every human being, a sign of the living God, an icon of Jesus Christ."   
(Evangelium Vitae, No. 84, 1994, Blessed Pope John Paul II)
It is a sad discovery when we realize that the fight for preserving life is not about when it begins or ends.  The anti-life crowd acknowledges that it is indeed a life that is being smothered out in abortion, yet they are unmoved because they choose to live in a world where life is not worth living.  Of course,  some may falsely think that they believe their own lives are worth living but it could not truly be the case if they did not think any and all mortal life was worth living.  Deep down in their hearts, people who treat other human beings without their due reverence and dignity will not recognize the dignity God has given them in their own created beings.

How can we touch a culture, how can we touch others who live in such an alternate reality?  We must show them, as Fulton Sheen said, that life is worth living.  Our lives must be full of joy!  Even in the midst of sorrow we can recall that our souls are immortal, and are yearning for the happiness that will be found in our heavenly home.  People who do not believe that each life has a purpose, also do not believe that each life is meant for eternal beatitude.  What a sad and miserable state so many wallow in because they have deprived themselves of this vision, of this reality of hope!  We must be a people of hope, ever pointing our hearts to the consolation that awaits us.  The joyful and loving witness of this hope will do much to lift up others, and our culture.  We should not forget that Christendom was not built upon the foundation of laws but upon the witness and great love of the martyrs and early Christians.
"As part of the spiritual worship acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1), the Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. In this way, our lives will become a genuine and responsible acceptance of the gift of life and a heartfelt song of praise and gratitude to God who has given us this gift. This is already happening in the many different acts of selfless generosity, often humble and hidden, carried out by men and women, children and adults, the young and the old, the healthy and the sick." (Evangelium Vitae, No. 86)
Let us embrace life and praise God each day for the gifts He has given us in it!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 18th Fast

". . . According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. . .  People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. . . The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. . . . From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain."  
(Christmas Address of Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia, 2012)
We must not allow ourselves to be lulled into indolence by the devil concerning the attack on marriage and the family.  The attack on the marital covenant is an attack on man himself.  The complementarity of man and woman is necessary for marriage to survive and thrive.  Opponents of marriage* know this and so want to obscure the duality of the sexes by nullifying their difference completely.

Yet, because God has placed physical (anatomical, emotional, hormonal, etc.) barriers to this desire to eradicate man's nature, the devil encourages his cohorts to take a different path.  Rather than eradicate man's nature, his forces obfuscate it.  Men are thrust into a chaotic state and view their nature as the devil wants them to view every other absolute: as something relative and not definitive.  The goal of the culture of death is to make man dispensable.  He is dispensable because his life is not purposeful, and it is not purposeful because secularists believe no One has created him with a purpose.

But we know that we are not here by chance; we are not who we are by accident.  We do not choose our being, God made each us with a firm purpose in mind.  One's nature is created by a loving Father, who has a definitive design for that person.  As St. Paul said:
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ." (1 Cor. 12:12)
The family of God, and the domestic church will suffer unless its members all live out their natures as God intended.  In our very nature, God gives us the gifts to live out our vocation.  Yet, if we resist this call, we resist Him who made us and thwart a divine design.  It is imperative to resist the prideful temptation to deny or wish away any part of our natures or those we complement as this denies the wisdom and creative genius of God.  The Pope concludes the above excerpt noting the supernatural danger in denying man's being:
"When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defense of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man."
Recognizing the dignity of each man and woman, let us embrace the beautiful nature God has created in us and strive to complement and reverence (not suppress or dominate) the dignity of others.   Our witness is vital so that our children and others may naturally embrace who they are and who they are created and called to be as well.

*I will cease calling it "traditional" marriage as the very word "marriage" can only have one meaning.  Opponents want it labeled "traditional" so as to differentiate between various types.  But their can be only one definition, one relationship that is a marriage.*

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 11th Fast

"So it became clear that the question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human. The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. Can one bind oneself for a lifetime? Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for? Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his “I” ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost."
(Christmas Address of Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia, 2012)

In this beautiful excerpt, the Pope asks if it is in man's nature to be completely faithfully, fully committed to another.  Is man born for himself or for the other?  Many people like to say that from the moment we are born, we are takers; that from the time we are babes, we are selfish creatures only concerned with our own needs.  From the perspective and reality of concupiscence this is true; yet, is it not also true that from the time of our entrance into the world, we are givers?  Babies are indeed helpless, but also selfless; in fact, all they can do is love, and they do it completely and faithfully.  The baby commits himself to his mother from the miracle of conception.  Little children naturally cling to their parents, incapable of any desire to be unfaithful in their filial relationship.

So, if faithfulness is written on our hearts, when does it become so obscured that we forget about it?  Why do we cease to cling to others, and only cling to ourselves?  The Pope recognizes that the cause of this fear to commit, to be faithful, is the fear of suffering.  We know intuitively that completely giving ourselves to another means a total self-denial.  In our culture, we constantly hear that we need "Me Time": time for what I want to do, time to satisfy my needs, my wants.  Blessed John Paul II was once asked,"Holy Father, when do you get some free time? His response was, "All my time is free!"  

Saying yes to a vocation must be a complete commitment: in mind, in body and in spirit.  Not just being faithfully bodily, but just as important, being faithful in our hearts, in our emotions, and in our thoughts as well.  When one pledges his life to another, this means everything he is and everything he will do.  Without a daily discipline, without a constant assent, his commitment will falter and his will eventually waver.  As an athlete devotes all his time and energies to his sport, so we too must devote all our time and energies to our vocation.  It does mean a yes to self-denial, but in denying self-love, we open our hearts to receive the love of others (and God's love through them as well).  As the Pope said:
"Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. "
Man's soul is immortal and so he is made to give himself to something that is immortal: not the desires of the flesh, the indulgences of the moment, which are fleeting and empty but the joys of the soul, which are eternal and full of beatitude.  It satisfies our innermost being to be faithful to God, to our spouses, and to our children.  And this faithfulness, in all aspects of our daily life, will serve as an important sign of contradiction in a world that repudiates the treasure that lies therein.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Call to Arms


In this Year of Faith, amidst the growing persecution of the Church and family life, the Bishops have called the faithful to prayer, penance and sacrifice for the sanctity of life, marriage, and the defense of religious liberty.  Hopefully, you have already heard of this but if not, click here for the link to the bulletin insert, and click here for a further explanation from the Bishops' website.

Since one of the requests from the bishops is to fast and abstain from meat every Friday, I decided to post a reflection each Friday of the month instead of just First Friday.  I encourage you to not only fast from food each Friday, but also from the noise that only adds to our anxieties, and distracts us from our only Hope and Consolation.  Instead, use that time for silence, reading Scripture, or prayer.  Turn to Him, and ask for His mercy during these difficult times:
"Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. . . In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him." (Eccl. 7:10, 14)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 4th Fast

 "I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). . .do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for God. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away . . . There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger  . .  In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us?" 
(Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas Midnight Mass 2012) 
Are our hearts an open door to where God can always enter and dwell?  Or does God need to knock because it is locked, but even then do we open it?  Or perhaps, worse still, are our lives so busy and filled with interminable noise that we never even hear the knock?  As the Holy Father said, "The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have." What are we doing with all this time being saved except filling it with more distractions, with more earthly concerns that push God away from our thoughts and hearts.  And if we push God away, we are pushing away Love itself.  True Love that is generous, self-sacrificing, and above all, humble.  It is no wonder that there is no room for Christ in our hearts because humility cannot dwell where pride abides.

But what is most frightening is that more often than not we do so unconsciously.  More than push God away, we simply ignore any invitation He sends us.  Like the shepherds, "why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us?"  If God's Love does not constantly dwell in our hearts, it will not dwell in our homes.  We must refuse a dwelling place for our wants, our needs, our desires if we are to make a dwelling place for Him.
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life, will lose it, but whoever wishes to lose his life for my sake will find it." (Mt. 16: 24-25)
Do not forget that the cross is not simply the symbol of suffering but the emblem of love.  When we embrace our cross, we embrace the One who died on it, and we embrace Love itself.  Then Love will abide in us and its fruits - charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - will nourish our families and those around us.  It is not enough to learn to live with others, but to learn to love others.  We cannot expect the culture around us to be attracted to the Truth of God's Love if it does not see the fruits of it in our lives and our families.

Let us make room for Christ in our hearts, and welcome Him to dwell in our homes.  Let us strive for interior silence so we can listen for Him in our daily lives, and so we can recognize and greet Him in those we love and those we find hard to love. As Blessed John Paul II so often said, "Open wide the doors to Christ!"