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 4, 2014

December 5th Fast


"When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."  So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them." (Lk. 2:15-20)
In forgetting the meaning of Christmas, most have forgotten the reality of the Incarnation: that God came down from heaven and became man.  He came to redeem men, but also to live among them, to be one of them.  

During His time on earth, Our Lord taught us much about the importance of being present to others.   His Love for man did not start at the preaching of His Gospel message in the beginning of His ministry; rather, it revealed itself in the joy of the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth, in the hymn of praise in Mary's Magnificat, in the wonder witnessed by the shepherds in Bethlehem, in the beauty and majesty beheld by the Magi.  Indeed, while we know little about the majority of His Life on earth (the thirty years of His Hidden Life) we do know that He was constantly present to Mary and St. Joseph.  It should not surprise us then that two hearts were nevermore so united as those blessed hearts of Our Lady and Our Lord.

Yet, there were two other hearts that were closely united as well in that little home at Nazareth: Joseph's and Mary's.   Theirs was a complete trust that stemmed first from their unshakable faith in God, and second, from their confident trust in one another.  Mary was secure in her love for Joseph shown by her openness to sharing Gabriel's message with him; Joseph, likewise, was secure in his love for Mary, protecting her and the Child by his firm belief in the messages of the angels.  In the home at Nazareth, their loving presence provided the firm foundation for the Son of God to grow "in wisdom and grace."  

In a healthy marriage, one's love is secure and confident.  It is constantly nurtured and attended to because the peace of the family depends on it.  The marital relationship remains primary even after the birth of children, for it is from this stable foundation that harmony in the home rests.  It requires patience and presence.  To strengthen a marriage, each spouse learns to be physically, mentally and emotionally present to the other.  

It is in being with the other, that we learn about the other.  Just as the simple and sincere  sought out Our Lord in the stillness and solitude, so too, one must push aside all noise and distractions in seeking out Our Lord in others.  This Advent and Christmas season, give of your presence and rejoice in the love of Our Savior and those He has given to you.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

November 7th Fast

"I will hide from people's eyes whatever good I am able to do so that God Himself may be my reward.  I will be like a tiny violet hidden in the grass, which does not hurt the foot that treads on it, but diffuses its fragrance and, forgetting itself completely, tries to please the person who has crushed it underfoot.  This is very difficult for human nature but God's grace comes to one's aid."  (Diary of St. Faustina, No. 255)
One of the greatest saints of modern times, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, spent her days hidden in a monastery, unconcerned about the attentions of others and instead quietly sought her heavenly reward by the small acts of love she performed each day unbeknownst to her Carmelite sisters.  When told by the novices in her care that her Little Way was too simple and easy, she quickly noted that though it was simple, easy it was not.  She was keenly aware of the  mighty struggles that took place within her to to perform these selfless acts that when unnoticed, but supremely confidant in the the path she was treading.

It is easy to imagine oneself as a magnanimous benefactor who would gladly give away his money in anonymity; giving to those in need eagerly and willingly.  And yet, in his every day life, he may feel burdened by the with apparent cross of anonymity when it comes to his good works and selfless acts.  For those especially dear to him, he performs innumerable sacrifices each day but is slighted if the recognition he believes he deserves is not immediately forthcoming.  It is then that one must accept that a true sacrifice is a selfl-denying act that seeks no comfort, physical or emotional, to soften the hardship incurred.

The saints desired no adulation, and were content to live humbly and obscurely on earth if only to share in His glory in Heaven.  If Faith informs us that Heaven is complete happiness then surely it must make us realize that any trifle reward on this earth is nothing in comparison to that of Eternity.

Remember that your sacrifices are not separate and singular.  They are joined with others to strengthen the Body of Christ.  In family life, the spouses' gifts of self together solidify the bond that unites them, and the love that draws them closer.  Be content knowing that doing God's will each moment of each day will bring peace to your home and everlasting joy in Heaven.  

"[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from heavenly Father.  When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (Mt. 6: 1-2)


Thursday, October 2, 2014

October 3 Fast

"Finally, when people say the Rosary together it is far more formidable to the devil than one said privately, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him.  He can often overcome the prayer of an individual, but if this prayer is joined to other Christians, the devil has much more trouble in getting the best of it.  It is very easy to break a single stick, but if you join it to others to make a bundle it cannot be broken.  "In union there is strength." Soldiers join together in an army to overcome their enemies; wicked people often get together for parties of debauchery and dancing, and evil spirits join forces in order to make us lose our souls.  So why, then, should not Christians join forces to have Jesus Christ present with them when they pray, to appease Almighty God's anger, to draw down His grace and mercy on us, and to frustrate and overcome the devil and his angels more forcefully? 
 (The Secret of the Rosary, 46th Rose, St. Louis deMontfort)
The family is facing a fierce onslaught from the forces of the evil.  The questions arises, then, how best to combat it?  
"The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin. . . If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary.  Let not even one day pass with saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors." (Pope Pius XI)
Many complain of having no time on their hands today; their busy schedule and mounting workloads make it nearly impossible for communal prayer.  Perhaps they can make time to pray alone or before meals but gathering the family together is too arduous an undertaking.  The family rosary can become a lovely ideal rather than a concrete reality.  It is seen not as a necessity but rather a luxury.  One may say, "But the rosary does not take 15 minutes, but more like thirty or forty-five minutes once everyone is settled and so forth.  It's just not worth the effort."  And yet, how many absentmindedly pass thirty or forty-five minutes on the internet?  Yes, the family rosary does take effort and discipline; anything meritorious always does.  Sacrifice and inconvenience is often involved.  But, if it is a priority, then one always finds the time for it just as he always finds the time to eat.

St. Padre Pio famously referred to his rosary as his weapon.  Is anyone so naive to think that he is without need of the same weapon in battle?  The pioneers never considered entering an unknown frontier without a loaded gun; should we not arm ourselves and families as much as possible for the deadly attacks that are sure to come?  In the Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis deMontfort said:
"If priests and religious have an obligation to meditate upon the truths of our holy religion in order to live their vocation worthily, the same obligation, then, is just as much incumbent upon the laity - because of the fact that every day they meet with spiritual dangers which might make them lose their souls.  Therefore they should arm themselves with the frequent meditation on the life, virtues and sufferings of Our Blessed Lord which are so beautifully contained in the . . . mysteries of the Holy Rosary."

 In 1830, the Blessed Mother appeared to a French novice, Saint Catherine Laboure, in three apparitions.  In these, she displayed her complete and total maternal care for Catherine and every man.  In the first, the Blessed Mother sat on a chair in the chapel while Catherine affectionately rested her hands on Our Lady's knees and spoke to her for two hours.  The second and third visions have become famous as the ones in which Our Lady commissioned the Miraculous Medal.  As Catherine saw brilliant rays issuing forth from Mary's hands she heard their explanation:
"These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them.  The gems from which the rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask."
The first intimate encounter shows Our Blessed Mother's sensitive solicitude and gentle nature.  She is not a far-off queen, but one who is among her people, who desires to help them, to bring them to the King. Her later appearances to Catherine reveal how eager she is distribute God's graces to those who seek them, and how saddened she is to know how many do not even think to ask.  The servants at the feast in Cana knew who to ask, and were granted their petition because of the trust they placed in Mary's intercession.  Let us too go to her, the Morning Star who leads us to the Eternal Son.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September 5 Fast


"Like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
 A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace."
(Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
There lies a great difficulty in retaining one's former fervor when he begins to live out his vocation.  He recalls a time when no task was too great to be performed for his beloved.  New found excitement squelched fatigue and eagerness to please trumped any selfish thoughts that may have arisen.

Unfortunately the physical and mental tolls of each day threaten to dampen one's zeal quickly once the courtship has ended.  The realities of married or parish or community life soon set in, and the beloved is lost among the jungle of endless duties.  One continuously gives to others all day, feeling quite exhausted as a result.  The words of St. Paul ring a familiar tune: "For I am already being poured out like a libation. . . " (2 Tim 4:6).  But then, the time  with one's beloved is at hand and the question arises: "Will this be a moment of great joy or another time to burdened by a want?  Does one see his beloved now as just another person who is ready to lay another burden on his shoulders?  Or does he see his beloved as he always has from the first, a treasure to bought no matter the cost.  In doing the latter he follows the advice given in the Imitation of Christ:
"A considerate lover regards not so much the gift of Him who loves him, as the love of the Giver."
Love is an act of the will not of the emotions.  Passing passions cannot excuse the refusal to offer a sacrificial gift of oneself.  It takes great courage to give these little self-denying gifts with a smile and not with a sigh.  But how important they are!  It is an easy trap to fall into, to believe that because the other understands our stresses, and knows of our love, a person need not do more to express that love when the day has taken its toll.  Yet, sureties of love are always necessary in any relationship to maintain and strengthen its foundations.  Do not allow your love to grow cold with fatigue but keep it warm with the fire of sacrifice.  Perhaps the sacrifice may not only be in giving but in not receiving what one desires.  Let not your heart grow weary! God will fill the void when necessary.  When one serves another, he serves Christ; when he empties himself out, he is filled by His Love and Grace.

When one has a servant's heart, he does not see others taking what is his (time, energy) but instead freely gives what has been freely given to him. To thus live one's life takes patience, perseverance and endurance but it brings only peace and a greater desire to love more fully.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

August 1 Fast

"You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it.  I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy towards your neighbor: the first- by deed, the second- by word, the third- by prayer.  In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me.  By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy."  (Diary of St. Faustina, No. 742)
Our Savior appeared to St. Faustina to remind us of His tender mercy, but also to exhort us to follow Him in His example.  Family life provides ample opportunity to exhibit and practice the virtue of mercy.  In the domestic church, all are striving to be saints, but none have reached their potential yet.  And so, great patience, a complement to the virtue of mercy, must be shown while forgiving the faults of others and overlooking their weaknesses.  The enemy of marriage wants to plant resentment in our hearts by assigning motives to the one we are frustrated with. When a couple is first in love, all manner of excuses may be provided to explain the other's behavior but curiously none can be found later on after marriage.  Pride takes precedence; suddenly one is more apt to excuse himself or others rather than pardon his spouse.

One of today's key advertising phrases is :"it will make your life easier."  Ingrained with this mentality, we tend to think that it is all about making my life easier; why don't others do something to lighten my burden?  Perhaps, one might think instead of how he can do more to lighten the burden of others.  In our consumer and capitalist mentality, we believe that work/service done should be paid in kind.  One may think he is owed something for his many labors of the day: where is my reward? where is my thanks? where is my time off?  
Leisure and quiet are vitally important to the health of soul and body, and all need time to rest.  Yet, one will only find misery if he is constantly tallying the number of tasks he has done, and the subsequent "reward" (in whatever form) he deserves.  One must be cautious of this self-absorbed mentality where everything relates to him, and not to God or others.  
Marriage (and friendship), is not a contract, but a covenant.  

Blessed Mother Teresa famously said:
And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people, and, in fact to do good to them.  This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts.  Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.
A true love is a merciful one.  It hurts because one must give of his own reserve; he must take away something from himself (time, energy, money, rest) and give it to another.  It patterns itself after the Crucified Love of Christ: when justice and condemnation is deserved, mercy and forgiveness are freely given.  When frustration and resentment feel appropriate, patience and compassion overcome.

A certain condemned man struggled down the streets of Jerusalem, surrounded by a riotous crowd heaping its merciless anger upon the sorrowful man.  But then, a woman appeared, and seeing his anguish, she cared not for herself- the taunts she may endure, the physical brutality the soldiers could display on her intrusion- but only for the Suffering Servant.  If she was concerned only for her present cares, her unfulfilled needs, perhaps she would have missed the man who was so in need of that tender mercy He spoke of so often.  But she was not; it was His comfort, not her own that she sought.  May, we too, seek the same for others.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 4th Fast

"Nowadays it is sometimes held, though wrongly, that freedom is an end in itself, that each human being is free when he makes use of freedom as he wishes, and that this must be our aim in the lives of individuals and societies. In reality, freedom is a great gift only when we know how to use it consciously for everything that is our true good. Christ teaches us that the best use of freedom is charity, which takes concrete form in self-giving and in service. For this "freedom Christ has set us free" and ever continues to set us free." 
(Redemptor Hominis, The Redeemer of Man, St. John Paul II, 1979)
God gave mankind the great gift of free will when He created the world: the freedom to choose beauty, goodness, and Truth.  After sin entered the world through the abuse of this gift, God restored humanity sending His Son to redeem our freedom.  As St. Paul says:
"We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. . . Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires.  And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your body to God as weapons of righteousness.  For sin is not to have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.    (Romans 6:6, 12-14)
 Freedom means the strength to control our passions, the courage to confront our faults, and the humility to recognize our total dependence on God and constant need for His grace to persevere.  Perhaps one remembers the time when he learned that true freedom does not equate to licentiousness.  He felt the chains of sin and worldly standards lifted and realized he was not condemned to a miserable material existence, but instead was free to live a peaceful and happy life because he is called and is capable of greatness.

But, after awhile, the old tempter comes slinking back attempting to douse the flame of zeal with a cold splash of indolence. Pressures mount, stresses abound, and one looks to objects, or old vices, to bring comfort, relieve anxiety, or provide a little lift.  The passions are no longer controlled and channelled for sanctifying purposes.  Noise drowns out the silence needed for recollection; impetuosity replaces thoughtfulness, and excuses cloak the need to reclaim the right use of freedom.   

Yet, what is the goal of our life, what should our freedom be used for: our comfort or our sanctification?  Is my time for myself or for Him?  This is not to suggest that those who live in the world should act as if they live in a monastery, but instead be aware that all that we do together, or that we do individually should be directed to His purposes, His plan.  When one indulges his own whims, or constantly seeks his own comfort, he unknowingly starts to build a small wall between himself and others (be it his spouse, children, friends, etc.)  In isolation, there is no sanctification; the marital and religious vocation depend on the gift of self, not the the gratification of self.  But St. Paul offers us hope still:
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Of course not!  . . . But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching which you were entrusted.  Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. . . For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:15, 17-18, 23)
Christ has freed us!  We can be like Him, He has given us the grace to do it!  Let us reflect today on the gift of our freedom, and ask God humbly to show us how best to use it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

June 6 Fast

"My heart had expected reproach and misery. And I looked for the one that would grieve together with me, and there was none: and I sought one that would console me, and I found none." (Ps 68:21)
June is the month of the Sacred Heart; a time to ponder the depth and greatness of Our Lord's love and mercy.  Father Michael Gaitley, in his book 33 Days to Morning Glory, noted that Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was particularly drawn to the above Scripture verse that is used for the Offertory on the Feast of the Sacred Heart.  She responded to our thirsting Lord:
"Tell Jesus, "I will be the one."  I will comfort, encourage, and love Him. . . Be with Jesus.  He prayed and prayed, and then He went to look for consolation, but there was none. . . I always write that sentence, "I looked for one to comfort Me, but I found no one."  Then I write, "Be the one." So now you be that one.  Try to be the one to share with Him, to comfort Him, to console Him.  So let us ask Our Lady to help us understand."
How can we comfort Our Lord? By loving Him with the same pure, unadulterated love that issued forth from His Sacred Heart on the cross.  A love that is satisfied with the wellbeing of the other, a love that is given freely without expecting gratitude in return.  That is an easy love to read and dream about, but one much more difficult to put into practice.  It is a love that takes perseverance and patience, a love that must fight through fatigue and frustration, disappointment and despair just as Our Lord did on the way to Calvary.  

A young mother rushes to the aid of her newborn babe at the slightest cry; she attends to his every need without hesitating and first considering the cost it entails.  Her maternal heart selflessly forgoes small pleasures, and even necessities, in order to console her dependent child at any given moment of the day.

Someone who has emerged from the infant stage may no longer be dependent for physical necessities, but will always be crying out for love.  A person thirsting for love, and comfort is as helpless as the babe crying out for his mother.  Yes, our duties are numerous, but above all our duty is to love.  Our task in this life is to love.  In this we can imitate the example of the Most Merciful Mother, whose maternal heart aches to comfort those Her Son died to save.  Like her, let us seek out those, especially within our family, whose hearts yearn for our love, who yearn for His merciful love.

Friday, May 2, 2014

May 2nd Fast

"Particularly today, the Christian family has a special vocation to witness to the paschal covenant of Christ by constantly radiating the joy of love and the certainty of the hope for which it must give an account: 'The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the Kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come.'" 
(Familiaris Consortio, No. 52, St. John Paul II)
Traditionally, Christians have been a people of hope - the martyrs clung to it in times of persecution but people also held to it in peaceful periods as well.  Faithful followers of Christ were cherished the gift of hope in part because of the constant suffering that daily attended their lives and reminded them of the passing nature of this world and the blessed eternity that awaited.  Yet, in our present age, suffering has been limited due to incredible medical, agricultural, and technological advances.  

Hope is often forgotten or neglected because it has been deemed unnecessary by those who desire a narrow focus on the pleasures to be sought and easily enjoyed in this world.  As such, it can be difficult to retain it in the midst of such intense pressure, but let it not be so! 

The Catechism defines hope as:
". . . the theological virtue by which we desire the Kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit."   (CCC, No. 1817)
The virtue of hope responds to the aspirations to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps men from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude.  Buoyed by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity. (CCC, No. 1818)
 Christian spouses have a duty to be a witness to the hope of the Resurrection, that is, the reality and joy of eternal life.  Each should seek to lift the other up, being attentive to another's fragile heart, for a sensitive soul in a tempest may turn to despair if not "buoyed by hope."  Hope should animate and excite us, prompting us to discernment: what will bring us closer to heaven?  If we have our hearts anchored in heaven, though our lives lead us from here to there, our hope will remain firm and steadfast in the midst of any storm, great or small.

During this month of May, let us especially turn to Mary, Our Lady of Hope.  She, whose heart was pierced by the sword on Calvary, still clung ardently to the hope of the Resurrection.  Though all was not explained to her, she alone, believed His Word.  She will fortify us, encourage us, and lift us up in times of distress. Just as she supported the early Church so she too will help us in our fragile faith.  Let us be unafraid as she was, and place our trust in her Son.
In this way you saw the growing power of hostility and rejection which built up around Jesus until the hour of the Cross, when you had to look upon the Saviour of the world, the heir of David, the Son of God dying like a failure, exposed to mockery, between criminals. Then you received the word of Jesus: “Woman, behold, your Son!” (Jn 19:26). From the Cross you received a new mission. From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. 
Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose? At that moment, deep down, you probably listened again to the word spoken by the angel in answer to your fear at the time of the Annunciation: “Do not be afraid, Mary!” (Lk 1:30). How many times had the Lord, your Son, said the same thing to his disciples: do not be afraid! In your heart, you heard this word again during the night of Golgotha. Before the hour of his betrayal he had said to his disciples: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn16:33). “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27). “Do not be afraid, Mary!” 
In that hour at Nazareth the angel had also said to you: “Of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:33). Could it have ended before it began? No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus's own word, you became the mother of believers. In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning.  (Spe Salvi, No. 50, Pope Benedict XVI)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 4th, First Friday Fast


"Unhappily, we are apt to think the very least suffering is too much, because we are lovers with our lips rather than our heart, while a true lover of Christ can never have enough of His cross. . .  We open the door when He comes to us as the spouse in the canticles, crowned with lilies, but when He wears His garment of ignominy or His blood-stained robe of which the prophet speaks, we are struck with dread, and would be tempted to shut out our blessed Spouse of Blood, although He is covered with it but to save us. . . This is because we love ourselves much more than we love Him.

We are never strong enough to bear our cross, it is the cross which carries us, nor so weak as to be unable to bear it, since the weakest become strong by its virtue. . . He is the Divine Physician who pays His patient, and gives a great recompense for the smallest pains, tho' we owe these pains to His justice. . . It is God alone we must look at in all that befalls us, small or great, and be persuaded that men and devils combined can do nothing ever so small but what He permits, and He permits no pain or trial whatever to befall us, but for the exercise of our virtue and His glory." (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)

Family life abounds with joys and beautiful moments, but it also laden with sorrows and heavy crosses.  It is especially in these latter times when the prophecy of Isaiah should come to mind:
". . .He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not."  (Isaiah 53:2-3)
It is a difficult thing indeed to accept the cross; it goes against human nature to desire to suffer.  Christ took two names when He came to earth- Emmanuel and Jesus.  The former meaning "God with us" and the latter "God saves".  Christ came to earth to be with us, to live among us and experience our joys and our sorrows, and to teach us that through those sorrows we can be saved.  

As He endured the terrible blows at the pillar, He suffered along with faithful spouses and  innocent children who endure the consequences of the sins of the flesh.  As He sat silently, feeling the piercing thorns, hearing the mocking laughter, being badgered by the many blows and spittle of the soldiers, He suffered along with men who would be belittled by those exercising power over them, men who endure the many humiliations that attend the role as provider.  As He slowly plodded the path up Calvary hill, He suffered along with parents and spouses who must patiently, month after month, year after year, care for a sick or difficult to understand loved one.  As He hung on the Cross, and gave away His closest companion, His dear Mother, He suffered the loneliness that so many feel as widows, as abandoned spouses, as those who feel unloved.

Christ, as the Man of Sorrows, did not only suffer for the sins of men but also suffered to experience the pain, the anguish, the loneliness that so many would endure.  Persecutors often mocked the martyrs saying, "Where is your God now?" to which they would silently reply, "He is with me, suffering as I am."  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 21st Fast

"These are the reasons why men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph. Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity. The noble of birth will [l]earn of Joseph how to guard their dignity even in misfortune; the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods most to be desired and won at the price of their labour. As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their particular imitation. " (Quamquam Pluries, On Devotion to St. Joseph, Pope Leo XIII, 1889)

Though there are many virtues that St. Joseph exemplifies, one which brilliantly shines forth is his desire for holiness.  His eagerness to do the will of God is not only evident in His prompt obedience to the messages of the angel, but also in his closeness to Jesus and Mary.  It is easy to think that anyone would have been happy to gaze at the Face of God each day and to serve His Mother.  Yet, it took a great amount of humility to be in the constant presence of God.  Joseph accepted his weaknesses as a man, but did not fall on them as a crutch and readily sought to learn from Mary and Her Son.  

St. Joseph is without pretense; living in the home of Nazareth, he was not found with a defensive attitude or insecure manner.  Rather, he possessed a peaceful spirit and true humility, recognizing his necessary role as head of the Holy Family.  Joseph had found the greatest of treasures in his adopted Son, and perfect wife, and protected them both with utmost care.  We would do well to heed the example of Joseph, eagerly seeking to be near all that is good and holy, and jealously guarding the great treasure that is our family life and marriage from anything that may even slightly taint them.
"We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary arc the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth. The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family - that sanctuary of love and cradle of life." (Redemptoris Custos, No. 7, 1989, Bl. John Paul II)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March 14th Fast

"When I look into the future, I am frightened
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me,
As the future may never enter my soul at all. 
It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct, or add to the past
For neither sages nor prophets could to that
And so, what the past embraced I must entrust to God. 
O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of Your omnipotence. 
And so, trusting in your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering You each day this heart
Burning with love for Your greater glory." 
(Diary of St. Faustina, Para. 2)

The Prince of Darkness seeks to upset the followers of the Prince of Peace by disturbing the peace of their hearts, and consequently their homes.  Anxious thoughts constantly creep into one's mind, creating havoc.  Yet, anxiety is caused not only by a fear of suffering but also a distrust in the grace and mercy of God.  The vulnerability which comes with a situation out of one's control is a source of grief and distress.  By forgetting to yoke oneself to Christ through prayer and trust, one finds himself burdened with a heavy cross, bereft of comfort or consolation.

Too often the Psalmist describes our weakness:
"I said to myself in my good fortune:Nothing will ever disturb me.Your favor had set me on a mountain fastness,then you hid your face and I was put to confusion."  (Ps. 30: 6-7)
We are like Peter, happy to walk on water when it is calm but soon terrified when any tempest arises.   And sometimes, it need not be the storm itself but only the prospect of one which plants seeds of fear.  It is then, we must become like little children who confidently depend upon their parents.  Little babes come into this world completely vulnerable, and so completely trusting.  Perhaps if we recognize the still vulnerable state we are in, it might be easier to trust and so have peace.  

Living a life of gratitude helps one meditate on the awesomeness of God's mercy, and recollect the many instances of His providential protection.  We remember that we have nothing by right but only by mercy; that we are adopted children of God.  Trusting in His Mercy we must trust in His Way.  And so we must learn His Way: of self-denial, self-abandonment.  We must remember the words of Christ to the rich young man: "Go and sell all that you have and come and follow Me."  To abandon oneself to Christ means to detach oneself from material riches but also personal weaknesses and fears.  Let us learn to say the beautiful prayer of Divine Mercy many, many times: Jesus I trust in You!

Friday, March 7, 2014

March 7th, First Friday Fast

". . . The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison to the amphitheatre joyfully as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear. Perpetua went along with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a wife of Christ, putting down everyone's stare by her own intense gaze. With them also was Felicitas, glad that she had safely given birth so that now she could fight the beasts, going from one blood bath to another, from the midwife to the gladiator, ready to wash after childbirth in a second baptism.
They were then led up to the gates and the men were forced to put on the robes of priests of Saturn, the women the dress of the priestesses of Ceres. But the noble Perpetua strenuously resisted this to the end.
'We came to this of our own free will, that our freedom should not be violated. We agreed to pledge our lives provided that we would do no such thing. You agreed with us to do this.'
Even injustice recognized justice. The military tribune agreed. They were to be brought into the arena just as they were. Perpetua then began to sing a psalm: she was already treading on the head of the Egyptian. Revocatus, Saturninus, and Saturus began to warn the on looking mob. Then when they came within sight of Hilarianus, they suggested by their motions and gestures: 'You have condemned us, but God will condemn you' was what they were saying.
At this the crowds became enraged and demanded that they be scourged before a line of gladiators. And they rejoiced at this that they had obtained a share in the Lord's sufferings.
. . .There Perpetua was held up by a man named Rusticus who was at the time a catechumen and kept close to her. She awoke from a kind of sleep (so absorbed had she been in ecstasy in the Spirit) and she began to look about her. Then to the amazement of all she said: 'When are we going to be thrown to that heifer or whatever it is?'When told that this had already happened, she refused to believe it until she noticed the marks of her rough experience on her person and her dress. Then she called for her brother and spoke to him together with the catechumens and said: 'You must all stand fast in the faith and love one another, and do not be weakened by what we have gone through.'

. . .Ah, most valiant and blessed martyrs! Truly are you called and chosen for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord! And any man who exalts, honours, and worships his glory should read for the consolation of the Church these new deeds of heroism which are no less significant than the tales of old. For these new manifestations of virtue will bear witness to one and the same Spirit who still operates, and to God the Father almighty, to his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom is splendour and immeasurable power for all the ages. Amen."
(The Martyrdom of SS. Felicity & Perpetua, from the Acts of the Christian Martyrs)

While awaiting execution, the Japanese martyr, St. Paul Miki, spoke to the onlookers:
“As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. . ."
 What is the Christian way? It is the way of Christ, the way of the Cross.  The Church teaches that there are two types of martyrdom: red and white, the former pertaining to a bloody death endured due to persecution, the latter pertaining to the daily martyrdom of living a life in communion with Christ.  

Though a Christian would never believe that a red martyr's death was unnecessary suffering, he might be tempted to think a white martyr experiences senseless suffering because his crown of glory is so far from being won.  Especially in our time, when we are so accustomed to immediacy, it can be a difficult and arduous task to patiently suffer each day.

The words of St. Faustina can give great encouragement to those who can grow weary:
"O life so dull and monotonous, how many treasures you contain!  When I look at everything with the eyes of faith, no two hours are alike, and the dullness and monotony disapear.  The grace, which is given me in this hour will not be repeated in the next.  It may be given me again, but it will not be the same grace.  Time goes on, never to return again.  Whatever is enclosed in it will never change; it seals with a seal for eternity.

Our Lord said to not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but those who can kill the soul.  To faithfully live our vocation takes much courage, prayer, sacrifice and above all, grace- which can be so readily attained through living a sacramental life.  If we desire heaven, there is no other way.  The martyrs for marriage are not just those scourged and skewered in the public eye, but also those who faithfully live their vows, those who live the sign of contradiction: the sign of the Cross.

We must choose martyrdom each day.  As the red martyrs refused to deny their faith in the public square we must refuse to deny it in the private of our homes.  As their fidelity was rewarded, so ours will be as well.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fenruary 28th Fast


“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shalt not kill’ ... But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to council” (v. 21-22). In this way, Jesus reminds us that words can kill! When we say that a person has the tongue of a snake, what does that mean? That their words kill! Not only is it wrong to take the life of another, but it is also wrong to bestow the poison of anger upon him, strike him with slander, and speak ill of him. 
This brings us to gossip: gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person! It is so terrible to gossip! At first it may seem like a nice thing, even amusing, like enjoying a candy. But in the end, it fills the heart with bitterness, and even poisons us. What I am telling you is true, I am convinced that if each one of us decided to avoid gossiping, we would eventually become holy! What a beautiful path that is! Do we want to become holy? Yes or no? Do we want to be attached to the habit of gossip? Yes or no? So we agree then: no gossiping! Jesus offers the perfection of love to those who follow him: love is the only measure that has no measure, to move past judgements." 
(Pope Francis, Sunday Angelus Message, February 16, 2014)
 In times gone by, duels and feuds often settled disputes between factions and families.  Now, we no longer slay with the sword, but with the tongue.  Gossip is used in various ways: sometimes to avenge, other times to prop up one's pride, still other times it can be used as jocular banter, and frequently it is used as filler rather than accepting an awkward silence in conversation.  Advancement in technology has widened the "broad way".  Constant communication demands constant vigilance.  Voyeurism which is an inverted form of gossip can lead to either passing judgment or making unhealthy comparisons, which may cast doubt and anxiety in fragile or even healthy relationships. 

The constant judgment of others so permeates our thoughts and words, that we often do not recognize its presence.  We may temper it for a time, but still keep the poison in the medicine cabinet to be taken out in times of laziness, anger or pride.

Why the persistent need to analyze another's motives?  Why the curious and idle desire to spend time talking, thinking or reading about others?  The devil well knows the strong resistance to industry or discipline, meekness, and humility- antidotes to the weaknesses that prompt gossip.  He perverts our perspective on gossip, making us believe it can relieve our stress, lighten our hearts, or give us confidence in the way we are living.  He particularly preys on us when we are striving to live a righteous life, but our just cause does not give license to uncharitable thoughts, or unmerciful comments.

If others were privy to our conversations, or time on the Internet, would they be shocked to learn we were Christian?  If they could see into our hearts when we pass judgment on our spouse, would they surprised that we made a solemn vow to honor them?  Would they see our self-rightesouness or our self-reflection?  But wait.  There is One who does see.  And as the Pope says, He offers us His remedies of silence and charity:
"Jesus offers the perfection of love to those who follow him: love is the only measure that has no measure, to move past judgements."
During the upcoming season of Lent, the Church encourages us to learn the practice of fasting from innocuous pleasures in order to discipline our bodies; but more importantly, to prompt us, as the body and soul are connected, to learn to deny ourselves from sinful pleasures to discipline our souls.


Friday, February 7, 2014

February 7th, First Friday Fast

"Why are we not saints? Why is there so little progress in perfection, or rather, why are so many tepid, heavy, discouraged, and going along more like slaves in a workhouse than children in their own home and the house of their Father? Why? Because we do no watch over our interior, do not watch over the impulse of nature and grace in our actions, nor avoid the occasions of the habitual faults we live in when it is in our power, or keep a good guard on ourselves when it is not.  Frequent indulgence of useless thoughts, inconsiderate words, expressions of natural feelings and changes of temper, all stand at variance with our sweet interior life, and stop the operation of divine grace, too often indeed to grieving the divine Spirit and sending Him away."  (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)

God created man to live in communion.  He said,"It is not good for man to be alone" and so He created a suitable partner, woman, for him.  But when original sin entered the world, division and distrust threatened this communion.  Man was now tempted to be alone, apart from others, and more detrimentally, apart from God.  Since the Fall, the devil has constantly fashioned new distractions and temptations to isolate man, as he knows it is easier to conquer him when he is alone.  

The business of life, the constant din of society propels one to seek solace in solitude.  Yet it must be solitude with God, not excluding Him.  The hermits in the desert sought separation from society but communion with Him.  It is can be difficult to maintain an interior life, but it is necessary so as to use its fruits in nourishing our souls, which are dependent upon the graces to strengthen our resolves against the battles of the day.

 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton said, "Our love of God is always opposed by our self-love."  One is tempted to indulge his emotions through intemperance, self-righteousness, and the like believing that he deserves some slack, or some credit, that if he is not to be praised from other quarters, he can at least win praise from himself.  Relief from fatigue is not done in accordance with God's ways, and so brings irritation not respite.  It is a good reminder that when we say 'yes' to ourselves, we say 'no' to God.  And to so to build a strong and healthy interior life, one must learn to often say no, even when it is something that is not detrimental to the soul.  At another time Mother Seton noted the dangers that come to a soul that does not practice mortification:
"How should we live an interior life until some of our natural rubbish is removed? How walk valiantly with Our Savior, dragging our foolish attachments after us, and ready to faint if the least weight of His cross presses on us? The less sensible we are of our misery the greater our evil is, for an immortified soul cannot bear to hear the truth nor to be reproved even for its evident faults; so it remains buried in its darkness, and the enemy tries to double its blindness, while, sick and weak, it scarcely struggles against its imperfections, much less thinks of entering the sanctuary of our interior life."
Our inward retreat will help us in our vocations as it guides our decisions, and lightens our burdens.  The light of Christ will reveal our failings but encourage us in our weakness.  

Friday, January 31, 2014

January 31st Fast


"My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.
I give you as a model the charity of Paul which he showed to his new converts. They often reduced him to tears and entreaties when he found them lacking docility and even opposing his loving efforts.
See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.
This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.
They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.
There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.
In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty."
(From a letter of Saint John Bosco, used for the Office of Readings)

Patience is a virtue long sought after by most, and hopelessly despaired of by others. Far less than one of the romantic virtues, it is also one of the hidden ones, practiced daily and witnessed by few if any.  And yet, perhaps it is so difficult to attain because it must be practiced so often.  Patience requires a temperate attitude, something that is frequently thought unnecessary in today's society.  It necessitates a sacrifice of the emotions, and a discipline of the will.  

It is not only cultivated in a gentle heart, but in an attentive one as well.  It would be a mistake to think one who has a nonchalant personality was a person who automatically possessed patience: far from it.  Patience is not performed in isolation, nor does it stem from indulgence.  Christ showed great patience towards his apostles, but never indifference.  Whereas others would dread the exertions necessary to engage others, He gently and patiently was attentive to all for He sought the love of all.  He did not seek to simply deal with crowds; instead desiring to enter into communion with each individual He encountered.

Living a life of patience may seem burdensome if one understands it to mean that he must rely on his own strength and endurance.  It might appear impossible if he gives into despair when he inevitably gives vent to frustrations from time to time.  "But with God, all things are possible."  We need only say,"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief."  Like all the virtues, it requires of us to not only ask for the grace to perform the virtue, but also ask for the desire for it. When we recall our good God's patience with us, it might help us to be patient with others.