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, 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.