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 3, 2015

December 4th Fast

"Beloved Kate, I will take you then, for my pattern, and try to please Him as you please me.  To grieve with a like tenderness when I displease Him, to obey and mind His voice as you do mine.  To do my works neatly and exactly as you do yours, grieve to lose sight of Him for a moment, fly with joy to meet Him, fear He should go and leave me even when I sleep - this is the lesson of love you set me.  And when I have seemed to be angry, without petulance or obstinacy you silently and steadily try to accomplish my wish.  I will say,'Dearest Lord, give me grace to copy well this lovely image of my duty to Thee.' 
(St. Elizabeth Ann Seton writing about her daughter, Katherine)
 In meditating on the Nativity scene, one is struck by many beautiful thoughts: above all, that God would not only become man to save us, but that He would enter the world as a helpless infant in doing so.  Less we should ignore this essential lesson, Our Lord constantly reminds us in the Gospels that "unless [we] become as little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God."

We are all born with concupiscence, the tendency to sin, and any person who has been around a two year old will certainly not exempt children from this state.  Yet, though a child is not born a saint, he does possess a radiant innocence that provokes awe.  It is this innocence, if guarded properly, that allows a child to have the virtues that men should desire most: humility, mercy, patience, simplicity, sincerity, honesty, obedience, generosity and joyfulness.          

Most men have in some harsh way been tainted by the world and have lost their earlier innocence.  Their speech is no longer sweet but now laced with the bitterness of cynicism and gossip.  Their self, so often indulged quickly, bristles at the suggestion of patience.  Their heart, hurt and wounded, holds tightly to grudges.  Fears and anxieties prevent the trustfulness they once had in God and others.  Difficulties and drudgery drown their joy.

Yet, all is not lost, we can become little once more!  Christ comes to rejuvenate our hearts, to lift the burden from our souls!   He does not wait to grow to be a man to teach us how to become saints.  He begins His Father's work immediately in the manger in Bethlehem, revealing that these childlike virtues are not just a lovely ideal, but a reachable reality.   Let us pray for the perseverance and patience to become like children again.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

November 6th Fast

"You know, Mother, that I have always wanted to be a saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by.  Instead of being discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires.  I can, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness.  It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with all my imperfections.  But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new. 
We are now living in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs, for, in the homes of the rich, an elevator has replaced these very successfully.  I wanted to find an elevator which would take raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection." (The Story of a Soul, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face)

Self-help books, and now blogs, have long enjoyed popularity in modern society.  Their staying power emanates from the natural and good desire of every human being to better himself for his good and those around him.  One is on the constant search, looking for an exact answer, a foolproof method, that will guarantee a desirous outcome to life's most pressing problems.  In essence, we are looking for the shortcut to peace and happiness because an arduous climb is none too appealing.

St. Thérèse recognized this desire for an "elevator [to heaven]" because she herself had it. Her Little Way is so perfect because it can be traveled in every vocation and in every state of life.  Yet, though it is simple, it is not easy.  Why?  Because it is not just saying yes to God once, it is saying yes, a thousand times a day.  A large piece of marble cannot be sculpted into a beautiful statue with just one tremendous blow.  Rather, it must be carefully and tediously chiseled until a perfect figure emerges.  Similarly, a soul can not be perfected in one single act of bravery.  Instead, it takes thousands of self-denials each day to chip away at the rough rock of our self-will so that the beauty within might shine forth. 

Thérèse knew that she did not need to seek out suffering, but only accept the little inconveniences and annoyances that came her way each day. She sought to perform little acts of love by denying the urge to indulge even a small want, and relinquishing the right to simple comforts.  In speaking to his brother bishops, St. Charles Borromeo once said:
"I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. One . . . may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish . . . to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer . . . "
Self-denial, prayer, patience and perseverance must be the companions of one's daily struggle; otherwise, any desires to increase in love for God and others will remain romantic ideals and not exterior realties. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

October 2nd Fast

"Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them.  Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind.  In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ."  (Ephesians 4:29-32)

It is a beautiful truth that men and women are equal in dignity for they are both made in the image and likeness of God.  This entails a relationship built on the mutual admiration for the gifts and responsibilities that God has bestowed on each. Men and women must not only recognize their differences, but more importantly, when husband and wife, they must discover the differences that are unique to their spouse.  One should rejoice and commend the other's strengths, and encourage and be patient with the other's weaknesses.  Show gratitude for the good and quickly forgive and forget the bad.

In marriage, and every friendship, respect for the other must be taken seriously less it become a romantic notion, a lofty ideal that is talked about but never practiced.  Spouses are called to get one another to heaven; in this, one must gently lead, not continually browbeat.   One must be careful not to cut away at the confidence of his spouse only to add to his own pride and self-satisfaction at being the presumed moral superior in any situation. Condescension and criticism must never replace compassion and encouragement.  A noble soul lifts others up by his joy and patience.  When he forgives, it is complete; he is never patronizing toward the other, and never makes another feel inferior.

Let us follow the exhortation of St. Paul, and encourage one another in holiness, with hearts full of  mercy and humility.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September 4th Fast

"In the same way, do not hope for many joys here below, otherwise you would have too many disappointments.  For myself, I know by experience what to think of earthly joys.  If I did not hope for the joys of Heaven, I should be very unhappy.  Pray with confidence to the Mother of Mercies; she will come to our help with the goodness and sweetness of the tenderest of mothers."  
(Letter of Bl. Zélie Martin, mother of St. Therese, June 25, 1877)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church points to Paul's letter to the Hebrews in its definition of Faith:
"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
One's faith must shape who he is and who he strives to be.  It must inform the decisions of his day, and infuse his whole being.  His faith tells him that he is not long for this world, and must not let the numerous frustrations of the day blur his vision of Paradise.  Those difficulties need not be frustrations but instead illuminations: little lights that allow him to recall the plan for holiness: to deny himself and take up his cross daily.  His day must start with, not just the knowledge that he must deny himself, but the actual desire to sacrifice his will; the desire to sacrifice his pride, his opinions, his timeline, his pleasures, his comfort.

Crucifixes adorn the walls of many a Christian home.  They are meant as a daily reminder of the price of our redemption and our need to live our lives as one of thanksgiving for this incredible and inestimable gift God has given to us.  Yet, they also serve as a reminder that the Son came from heaven, not just to open its gates, but to show us that His path is the only way to Paradise.  He cannot come down from the Cross to be with us; we must go up to the Cross to be with Him.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

July 3 Fast

"Be patient not only with regard to the big, chief part of the afflictions that may come to you but also as to things accompanying them and accidental circumstances.  Many people would be ready to accept evils provided they were not inconvenienced by them.  'I wouldn't be bothered by poverty,' one man says,'if it didn't keep me from helping my friends, educating my children and living respectfully as I would like.'  'It wouldn't bother me,' another says,'If people didn't think it was my own fault.' Another would be willing to suffer patiently false reports about him, provided no one believed his detractor.  Others are willing to endure part of the evil, so they think, but not the whole of it. "
(St. Francis deSales, Introduction the Devout Life, Part III, No.3)

It is a consequence of The Fall that man seeks to run from responsibility for his actions.  When God asked Adam and Eve if they had eaten of the forbidden fruit they immediately placed blamed on another for their sin.  Man is loathe to accept ownership of his faults and constantly accuses others or circumstances themselves for his various failings.  Due to this inclination, he finds difficulty in correcting them or, at least, having the desire to do so because he will not admit it is in his power to change his behavior.

Often, one may find himself saying, "I would be more patient with my children if only they were not so little and so close in age"; "I would forgive my spouse if only he had not done something so hurtful,"; or, "I would be more joyful if only I didn't have to work with exasperating people all day."  Well, of course it would be easy to practice virtue if others cooperated so amicably! But then, that would not require too much effort.  To be a saint demands hard work, indeed.

Virtue does not wait for a convenient time to be practiced.  Like an athlete who gains the upper hand on an opponent by additional training, even when he is tired or sore, so, too, a person can only really increase the strength of his character by practicing virtue when  the circumstances are the most trying.

When men and women are first placed on the road to canonization they are given the title,"Venerable" after their lives have been thoroughly examined to reveal they have displayed "heroic virtue."  To be a saint is to be a hero in the supernatural life.  

What distinguishes the Christian spouse from others?  It is that he not only fulfills the demands of his vocation but does so with a servant's heart.  He learns to be patient even when he is stressed and tired; he is joyful even when he feels like being irritable; merciful when he feels like holding a grudge; helpful when he feels like being lazy.  He knows a marriage and family cannot survive on self-serving excuses, only on selfless actions.  And he also knows that God has given him the necessary graces to perform these heroic deeds.  It will do to always remember these words written by Father Thomas Dubay in his Prayer Primer:
"The best thing husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, can do for each other and for their children is to become saints, men and women of burning prayer." (emphasis mine)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

June 5 Fast

"As Pope Paul VI observed, 'contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he listens to teachers it is because they are witnesses'. In the Church, the treasure of the family has been entrusted first and foremost to witnesses: to those fathers and mothers, sons and daughters who through the family have discovered the path of their human and Christian vocation, the dimension of the "inner man" (Eph 3:16) of which the Apostle speaks, and thus have attained holiness. The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families. The Council recalled that holiness is the vocation of all the baptized. In our age, as in the past, there is no lack of witnesses to the "gospel of the family", even if they are not well known or have not been proclaimed saints by the Church. The Year of the Family is the appropriate occasion to bring about an increased awareness of their existence and their great number." (Letter to Families, St. John Paul II, 1994)
When reading the lives of the Martyrs one is struck by the great joy that contemporaries observed in those courageous Christians who were condemned to cruel torture for their fidelity to Christ.  From the Acts of SS. Felicity and Perpetua:
"The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison to the amphitheater joyfully as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear."
The Romans not only admired the Christians' incredible fortitude but more importantly were impressed by the hope that strengthened them as they awaited their crown of martyrdom.  Hope is not just an optimistic outlook; it is a gift from God and a trust in His promise of eternal life.  In his encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI said,"One who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life."

Living with hope does not mean ignoring the reality of the present culture; rather, it means not allowing an oppressive milieu to cloud our vision so much that we no longer clearly see that joy that await us, the future happiness that should animate our daily lives. Cynicism and bitterness cannot be the barnacles of our vessels.  Our lives, our families must instead be buoyed by our hope in Christ so that when everyone else is sinking in the storm, our barque will stand as a sign to others that, as St. Josephine Bakhita said,
"I am definitely loved and whatever happens to me - I am awaited by Love."
We have been born into this time for a purpose.  We have been blessed with the baptism of the Holy Spirit for a reason: "[To] go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."  This is not an option but an obligation.  Our marriages, our families must be witnesses to the faithful and merciful love of God.  We must not despair for lack of eloquent teachers or for the minority of witnesses.  It does no good to continually curse the darkness.  Rather, let us live our lives with true joy and take to heart the message of St. John Paul II:
"To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family unit needs to make these forces their own so that. . . the family will be 'strong with the strength of God"."


Thursday, April 30, 2015

May 1st Fast

"Do not say it is impossible for me to influence others.  If you are a Christian it is impossible for this not to happen.  Things found in nature cannot be denied; so here, for it is a question of the nature of a Christian.   Do not insult God.  If you say that a Christian cannot help others, you have insulted God and called Him a liar.  It is easier for the sun not to give warmth or shine than for the Christian not to shed his light. . . . The light of a Christian cannot escape notice.  So a bright lamp cannot be hidden." (St. John Chrysostom)
One can easily get discouraged by the current culture that is not only opposed to the inherent dignity of human life and God's plan for it, but does not even have space for common sense and reason anymore. Each news story beings fresh worries and anxiety for the future.  How can we promote a culture of truth, of beauty, of goodness when we are almost forced into silence?

Silence.  How unused to it we are!  How ironic that we have have lost the ability to communicate when we  have all the means of communication available.  The early Christians certainly faced a predicament even more dire than our own, and yet they had no Roman Senators to plead their case, no wireless mediums to defend their cause; in fact, their most prominent leaders were daily being martyred.  They could not take to the pages of the Roman Sentinel to articulate their position nor march in droves to win others to their side.  How is it that they succeeded?  Through sacrifice and silent witness.

The early Church had no other means but their lives to propagate the Faith, and pass it down to the next generation.  Their martyrdoms were the culmination of lives given wholly to Christ.  Their age was just as dominated by supreme selfishness, and so the antidote they offered was self-sacrifice: first, in their families, and then, often, in the arena.

The Christian family must and can bring joy to a society steeped in selfishness, and therefore drowning in depression.  In Lumen Gentium, one of the documents of Vatican II, the Church stated:
"In connection with the prophetic function is that state of life which is sanctified by a special sacrament obviously of great importance, namely, married and family life. For where Christianity pervades the entire mode of family life, and gradually transforms it, one will find there both the practice and an excellent school of the lay apostolate. In such a home husbands and wives find their proper vocation in being witnesses of the faith and love of Christ to one another and to their children. The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the Kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come. Thus by its example and its witness it accuses the world of sin and enlightens those who seek the truth."
Promoting a culture of life begins in deed, and leads to The Word Made Flesh.  We are Children of the Light; let us live our lives accordingly.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Good Friday Fast

"We must have confidence, not in spite of our miseries, but because of them, since it is misery which attracts mercy.  Oh, this word, mercy- misericordia- "miseris cor dare," a Heart which gives Itself to the miserable, a Heart which nourishes Itself on miseries by consuming them. Meditate on this word."
(I Believe in Love, Father Jean C.J. d' Elbee)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 6th Fast


"Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.'
The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'" (Lk. 10:38-42)

Our vocations are given to us as God's chosen path for us to sanctity.  But, what does it mean to be saints? A saint is someone who enjoys eternal happiness while beholding the face of God forever in Heaven.  Wanting us to desire this reality, He sets before us the path in life where we can best see Him in others and so learn to love and yearn for Him here on earth.  Yet, what if we are too busy to take notice? Perhaps, we have become too attached to the things of this world to appreciate the beauty that gives us a foretaste of the next?

In his book, Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait, Father Leo Maasburg noted one of the quiet ways Bl. Mother Teresa practiced charity:
"When she turned to speak to someone, she concentrated on them completely.  It was as if she and that person with their questions and concerns, were the only people there."
What a wonderful challenge this presents!  The "gift of self" often referenced by St. John Paul II is not simply a general term applied in an overall vocational sense.  No, it is a phrase that is meant to be lived daily, moment by moment, with each person we encounter.  
 How frequently does one fail to make the effort to put aside mental or material distractions for the- often short- time they are in a loved one's presence.  What does this say to the other?  Distractions take on different forms but can easily be justified by one reason or another.  Yet simply because technology or our mental faculties allow us to multi-task does not mean we always should.  

To turn one's whole heart and mind to another expresses the value we place on their importance in our life and the love and respect we have for them.  Blessed Mother Teresa once said:
"Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well."
In a culture where soundbites rule and moments are captured on phones, it certainly goes against the grain to take in the whole of a moment, and not be satisfied with a piecemeal approach.  Yet, what joy there is when one learns to patiently and lovingly attend to the other!  What great peace comes, when we refuse to be rushed, and can fully enjoy the other without the voices of restlessness and anxiety that perpetually tell us we are wasting time and must busy ourselves with something else.   Like Mary, who constantly "pondered these things and kept them in her heart," let us too learn to patiently ponder the hidden beauty that lies waiting to be discovered in those closest to us; a beauty that foretells of the infinite beauty that is awaiting us in Eternity.