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, 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.

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 24th Fast

“However, there is a difference between the virtue of humility and abjection, for abjection is lowliness, meanness, and baseness in us although we are not aware of that fact, whereas humility is true knowledge and voluntary acknowledgment of our abjection.  The chief point of such humility consists not only in willingly admitting our abject state but in loving it and delighting in it.  This must not be because of lack of courage and generosity but in order to exalt God’s Majesty all the more and to hold our neighbor in higher esteem than ourselves.  I urge you to do this. . . Many men can easily adapt themselves to evils that bring honor with them but hardly anyone can do so to those that are abject.  You see a devout old hermit covered with rags and shivering with cold.  Everyone honors his tattered habit and sympathizes with his sufferings.  If a poor tradesman, a poor gentlemen, or a poor gentlewoman is in the same condition people laugh and scoff at them.  Thus you see that their poverty is abject poverty. . . One man has cancer in his arm and another on his face; the first has only the disease, while the other suffers contempt, disgrace and abjection along with the disease.  Hence I hold that we must not only love the disease, which is the duty of patience, but we must also embrace the abjection, and this is done by humility.” 

(St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, No. 6)

Humility: ah, that loftiest of virtues and yet so difficult to obtain!  Perhaps, if we did not need to undergo humiliations in order to acquire it, it might become more desirous. Our pride is often the possession we most jealously guard, making sure that nothing pierces the impenetrable wall we set up to surround it.  Like the child who will not cease rebutting a parent’s reprimand in lawyer-like fashion, we too dole out many excuses for our failings.  One is happy to accept a critical comment from another if only the criticizer knows the reason for the failure. 

When one is striving for holiness in life, faithfulness to his vocation, it is so difficult to bear the humiliations that inevitably follow because he is not a faultless being.  He is convinced that if he is not perfect, it is only because of circumstances out of his control, and not of his own doing.  It is precisely because one is so desirous of being industrious, patient, generous, thoughtful, etc.,  that he is so quick to cover his failings with excuses or defensive explanations.

The Life of Our Lord and His Mother give us beautiful examples to meditate on when we inevitably fall into this trap.  When the people said, “Isn’t this the son of the carpenter?’ Christ did not stop to correct them. Instead, He allowed people to believe that He was a sinner who needed baptism.  When the soldiers tortured and taunted Him, He silently received their harsh blows and derisive insults.

One is truly humble when he learns to love and accept the ignominy that comes with the abjection of humiliation. We must learn to be like Our Lady, who silently shared in the scandal of the Cross. To accept responsibility for our failings with silence takes great courage and perseverance.  Yet, it is a laudable goal and one that will bring peace into a marriage and relationship.  It will also deepen trust between one another for when one is honest with oneself, the other is encouraged to trust him more and depend upon his word.  This love for the truth of oneself will come more readily when he loves the Truth Himself.

Friday, January 10, 2014

January 10th Fast

"When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.  And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."  Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise."  Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day."  Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."
. . . So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.  Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days."  Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?"So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me.  I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me."  And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,  "Lazarus, come out!"  The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go."  Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him." (John 11:17-27, 38-45)
As Christians we are taught from our earliest days the power of prayer and the necessity of suffering.  Sorrows accompany every life but the Christian lens allows a person to see the efficaciousness of its acceptance, and subsequent offering of it back to God.  But, what of the power of prayer?   Christ tells us to take up our cross daily and follow Him, but He also encourages perseverance in prayer.  The saints had such great faith that their prayers often had miraculous effects.  

When Lazarus died, Martha did not wait for our Lord to come and console her and Mary but rushed out immediately to Him, entreating Him to work a miracle, confident in His power to do so.  Our Lord often said to those he healed, "Go, your faith has saved you."  Our faith is a beautiful gift that gives us the double-edged sword of perseverance in prayer yet acceptance of God's will.  Both are vital in any vocation.  Crosses will come without being petitioned; these must accepted prayerfully, not begrudgingly.  St. Elizabeth Ann Seton said:
"Faith lifts the staggering soul on one side. Hope supports it on the other. Experience says it must be, and love says - let it be."
We cannot complain away a problem or nag a person into submission; rather God asks us to enter into the abyss of His mercy and prayerfully ask for guidance, understanding, and courage.  Have faith in the power of prayer and sacrifice!  God would not have allowed His Son to suffer son if He did not desire what we ourselves all hope for: eternal salvation for ourselves and our families.