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, 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.