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, 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.