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.

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)