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 1, 2016

December 2nd Fast


"While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her first born Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn." (Lk. 2: 6-7)

The great mystery of our Faith is that God chose to become Man to die for our sins and to reopen the gates of heaven.  If one sincerely adheres to this truth, then the manner in which Christ entered the world must truly astound him.  Far from the picturesque tableau that is permanently etched into one's mind, the night of the first Christmas was certainly bereft of any sentimentality.  Here was an omnipotent majesty, deliberately being born into abject poverty.  

Choosing privation over comfort, He did not even allow himself the consolation of nestling upon the warm breast of His tender mother, but elected, instead, to rest his newborn head on the jagged points of the manger straw.  For from the first moments of His earthly life, Our Lord forsook, not only His desires but His basic needs, in order to give Himself to others.  He lay there, in the bitter cold, defenseless against the barbs of the biting wind so that the humble shepherds could adore the Savior that loved them to the point of suffering with them.  

His entire life was marked with sacrifice, not of begrudging duty, but one of joyful surrender.  How providential it is that He is born into a family, the very community that must be marked by sacrificial love if it is to thrive!  This denying of self comes more easily if it is voluntarily practiced through fasting, and accepting of small privations and inconveniences.  It is not virtuous to do something when it comes naturally or when we are forced to, but rather when it is difficult and unnecessary.  Our Lord's tremendous love for us is revealed in the fact that He freely chose the Cross.  One, too, can show his love for others by patiently accepting daily disruptions and freely choosing to serve, rather than be served.    

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November 4 Fast

"The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual.  . . The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction. " (Novo Millenio Ineunte, St. John Paul II)

What are we living for?  What is our life's ambition?  There must and need be only one answer: to be a saint.  If we yearn for heaven, then this is only pathway leading to it. This purpose must inform all that one does; it must direct his thoughts, words, and actions.  It gives us pause, and should prompt us to pray, before we impetuously proceed.  When first arising, does one dread the inevitable burdens which will be thrust upon him throughout the day? Or rather, does he see his day as one that offers numerous opportunities to practice the many virtues needed to reach his ultimate destination- heaven.  Does one grumble in those difficult moments or does he think to thank God that He affords him many occasions to chink away at the hardness of his heart.

The vocation to sanctity is shared by all the baptized and God generously calls each person to a specific vocation to attain this goal.  In marriage, a man is not only given his wife so that he may become a saint, but equally important, he is given to her so that she may become a saint.  The same truth holds for his children as well.  
The frigidity of selfishness melts away in the fiery zeal of those- united in the same pursuit, joyously compete in their sacrificial acts for the other.  In aspiring to holiness, one patterns his whole life, and puts his whole being into achieving his goal.  He, of course, will fall often in this quest, but being mindful of Mother Theresa's saying that a "saint is a sinner who keeps trying", he will not only persevere, but will also lift those around him to the same noble pursuit.   

Thursday, October 6, 2016

October 7th Fast

"The din of the factory, the pressure of office business, the exhausting routine of conducting classes become less irritating and distressing.  They have made room in their hearts for God, and with His presence come peace and quiet. Senses dead to the world's discordant din are better able to recognize the divine Voice when it whispers in their hearts. . . It is possible to achieve this recollected interior silence, wherein one hears the Word; but, we repeat, it is very difficult. The noisy nervous world ceaselessly conspires to disturb the silent cloister of the heart and drown out the whisperings of the Eternal Word." (My Beloved, Mother Catherine Thomas)
We live in a world bombarded by noise.  Yet, how much of that is voluntarily allowed?  One readily gives access to numerous forms of cacophony so frequently that he is simply inured to the perpetual din and ceases to dwell comfortably in silence.  Previously, adults strove to correct children's impatient, self-centered propensities.  Presently, though, it is many adults who have regressed to their former restless and childish selves, no longer capable of abiding a moment without their senses being entertained.  St. Edith Stein aptly described this agitated state:
 ". . .the mind is occupied with many things; so much so that one thing is always crowding on another in a constant state of movement and of tumult and uproar."
 Today, it is not merely the silence of sound that is scorned, but more often, it is the "silence of the eyes and imagination", as one Carmelite Mother Superior taught her spiritual daughters.  Oftentimes unnoticed, there can grow an insatiable desire to litter one's environment with the bluster of constant chatter or endless images or uninterrupted background noise.  Some may fear silence, and so welcome the incessant tumult to drown the clamoring of a long neglected conscience.  Others are so accustomed to the din they are unaware of its perpetual presence.  

True beauty and peace are found in the quietude of creation, and will no longer be appreciated or even noticed if one continues to perish in the tempestuous waves of noise.  It is not just nature's beauty one neglects, but more importantly, the divine beauty hidden in those souls entrusted to him.  When one retreats into the solitude of self, surrounded by the fortified walls of discordance, he is unable to thoughtfully observe others and anticipate their needs.

Though one may be very much in the world, he can still seek to perpetuate a silent milieu in his heart. In so doing, his soul will awaken to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the unspoken needs of those nearest him. Let us strive to welcome silence into our lives and so seek to serve Him, who was born on a silent night, in those He gave to us.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 2nd Fast

"Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired."
(St. Teresa of Calcutta)
In his letter to the Hebrews St. Paul says that:
". .  we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin."
In subjecting Himself to human nature Christ subjected Himself to human weakness, notably fatigue. Demands were constantly being put upon Our Lord by the crowds who followed Him; even when He sought to go off by Himself, the crowds persisted in seeking Him.  Yet, though the Gospels may mention that Our Lord was tired, they never state that He was weary of being bothered. His love was inexhaustible.

In daily living, one can easily become tired: physically, mentally, or emotionally.  Fatigue and exhaustion are common complaints following strenuous efforts to provide for one's family.  Or perhaps it is the frustrations of dealing with an obdurate child or a colicky newborn that allows weariness to creep in.  Or maybe it is the emotional strain of a tragic situation that drains one's energy.

One grows tired of patiently carrying his cross, and feels that he has loved his family in so many unseen ways, and unnoticed sacrifices.  It is tempting to resent any extra demands- little as they may be- placed upon him.  But here is when true heroism must shine forth.  Rather than begrudging more pleadings to be loved by those around him, he must selflessly embrace these extra opportunities, even though they may come at a great cost to his own personal comfort.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

August 5th Fast


Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up a mountain to pray.  While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.  And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.  As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  But he did not know what he was saying.  While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.  Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.  They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. (Lk 9: 28B-36)

One's life is often filled with numerous joys: brief foretastes of the beauty of Paradise.  Like Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, one firmly clings to Our Lord in these moments of profound happiness.  It is easy to be like the three apostles on Tabor not wishing to descend from the glories that delight to the drudgeries that await below.  Yet, Christ gently reminds us that those rewards cannot be attained without the toil of self-sacrifice, and the sweat of patient endurance.  

The cross cannot be avoided but must be accepted.  To refuse it would be to reject the very faith that one professes to follow so devoutly.  It is important to be mindful that Christ saved his harshest rebuke for the leader of His apostles, not when Peter denied him but when he denied the cross:
"From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.  Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, 'God forbid, Lord!  No such then shall ever happen to you." 'He turned and said to Peter,'Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are not thinking as God does but as human beings do.'  Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'"  (Mt 16:21-25)
But Christ does not abandon one as in a desert, bereft of comforts in the midst of difficulties.  Knowing the endurance needed to persevere through trials, He readily supplies us with consolations.  These are the reserves to be drawn upon to strengthen our resolve. When the cross feels too burdensome, and the sacrifice required appears to exact too heavy a payment, one must return to his treasure of consolations to remind him of God's great love, and then allow these merciful glimpses of heavenly beauty to spur him onward.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

July 1st Fast

"The Son of God had announced to his disciples that they would never be at peace on this earth.  The only way to win this great combat is union with God. . . The only true rock for the baptized is prayer and the encounter with Jesus Christ.  Men whose strength is in prayer are unsinkable."
(Cardinal Robert Sarah, God or Nothing)
In Rumer Godden's book, In this House of Brede, the nuns at a Benedictine monastery are unexpectedly presented with a burdensome debt load.  In a quandary as to the resolution to this financial conundrum, one of the nuns regrettably states that selling part of the monastery grounds is the only feasible solution.  The Abbess reluctantly concedes to this proposal despite the strong objections from an older sister who reminds her fellow Benedictines that they must place their trust in prayer, for are not their lives dedicated to this ever flowing fountain of grace?  She is patronized but not heeded; yet, she is vindicated in the end when it is not the practical plan that saves the monastery but a miraculous discovery that brings the nuns the necessary amount to erase their debt.

What does one do when confronted with tragic news, an undesirable situation, or even just a daily annoyance that perpetually piques his inner abode? After practical possibilities are exhausted, where does he put his energies?  Sometimes one plays the victim who is maligned by unfair circumstances, he licks his wounds by complaining or excusing irritable behavior.  Perhaps, he finds relief from his frustrations by indulging in impatient or even angry outbursts.  Or, it could be that constant chatter and thinly veiled gossip serves as his release.  Other times, he seeks solace in mindless activity, relying on technology to help desensitize his anxious heart.

One bemoans a particular evil in the world or a source of sorrow in his personal life but instead of running to his heavenly Father to plead for resolution, he allows angst to morph into purposeless anxiety that only causes more pain and brings no peace.  Yet, nothing is gained by the continual clatter of the tongue, nor the bitter thoughts that the brooder allows to marinate in his mind.  

Our fast-paced and noise-filled world does not place a high value on patience so it unsurprisingly scoffs at the importance of prayer and quietude.  Prayer and fasting appear fruitless because they do not frequently yield quick results.  They are antithetical to the immediacy of our comfort-seeking society.  However, it is precisely this contradiction that makes them the antidote to the ills we face.  One must not retreat to noise and pleasures to drown out worries that plague him; rather, he must seek refuge and solace in the solitude of prayer and the patient practice of penance.

In the play, A Man for All Seasons, Cardinal Wolsey pointedly asks Sir Thomas More what he is going to do about the fact that Henry VIII needs a son for an heir, (insinuating that More must agree that a divorce is necessary for this desired outcome).  More replies that he prays for it daily, to which Wolsey cynically responds,"Are you going to pray for a miracle?" More readily assents,"There are precedents."

"Sometimes, in front of happenings in the world, our nation or even the Church, the results of our prayer might tempt us to become discouraged. Like Sisyphus in the Greek myth: condemned to roll a large boulder uphill, only to see it roll down again as soon as he had reached the top. Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est encourages us : 'People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone.'" (Cardinal Sarah)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Feast of the Sacred Heart Fast


"Petty tyrannies of egoism. While true love leads to a noble and lofty identity of interests, self-love, on the other hand, makes this conformity consist in the complete submission and subordination of one party to the particular tastes or dislikes of the other.  Yet self-love takes such little notice of this that if it wishes to make a gift or give pleasure, it will consult its own personal preferences rather than the tastes of the person to be pleased. An exchange of views which broaden the horizons of both parties gives way to arguments when the peremptory decrees of tyrannical self-love are quickly imposed. Yet, in the beginning, the scratch seems to be of no importance.  The humility of the Heart of Jesus teaches you to dominate that pride which seeks always to prevail, even in minor disagreements, whereas to give in would be considerable victory over egoism." (Pope Pius XII)
The unity of the family, founded on the stable union of the spouses is essential to its strength against the constant attacks from the Evil One who strives to destroy and divide all that God has joined together.  The devil is constantly seeking to place obstacles between spouses; to create tension and foment dissension.  

The easiest and most effective means that he uses is to quickly assuage one's ego when his pride is slightly wounded.  One thinks that the Deceiver only uses base appeals to tempt a man to sin, but many times he cleverly pads one's pride with a deluge of thoughts of his own sacrifices, denials, etc. to direct his love to self rather than to the other.  One begrudges his abundant yieldings, and, in so doing, distances himself from his loved one.  Clinging stubbornly to one's own desires placates his pride, but it only entrenches division in a relationship.

How can one fight against this attachment to self?  By first understanding that to surrender to God's will shows true courage while obstinately cleaving to self-love is really only cowardice.  True love mirrors the love of the Sacred Heart.  No matter how many times Our Lord was inconvenienced, interrupted in prayer and solitude, bombarded with requests, and later showered with insults, and tortures, He never tired of serving those He loved.  True love is inexhaustible; it does not number the sacrifices made, because every situation is approached, not with the thought of, "How can this be accomplished with the least inconvenience to myself?" but rather, "How can this be done with the greatest patience and love for the other?"  

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

May 6th Fast


"When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold, your son.'  Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into His home.'"
Our dear, heavenly mother was one of the greatest gifts Our Lord gave us.   Unfortunately, one frequently forgets about Mary by relegating her to an unreachable shelf, like a lifeless statue that is admired, but can never be truly loved.   Christ did not give us a distant, and lofty lady, but a sincere, and merciful woman. Certainly she is a heavenly queen; yet, she is also very much an earthly mother. 

It is easy to paint a romantic picture in our minds of the Holy Family, and therefore dismiss any understanding Mary might have for the problems in our lives.  Yet, she dealt with joys and sorrows just as we do.  She endured the insecurity, and instability that follows a sudden move when they left Bethlehem for Egypt.  Our Lady knew the fatigue of a long day, doing the daily chores that required much physical effort.  She daily practiced patience in being obedient to God's will for she accepted what she didn't always understand, and did not try to suit situations to her own preferences and plans. 

She felt the uncertainty of what the future portended for her innocent Son in a world full of evil men.  Mary knew the love of a wife for her husband, she shared his trials and triumphs, and deeply felt the loss of her beloved spouse when Joseph died.  She shared the humiliations of her Son, not just on Good Friday, but throughout His ministry when he was mocked and misunderstood for His teaching.  She endured the infidelities of her Son's closest companions as keenly as He did, himself.  Our Lady suffered greatly with Our Lord during His Passion, rejoiced at His Resurrection, and longed once again for Him when they separated at His Ascension. 

No, our Mother is not an untouchable Queen set to be an idol before us, but a real, flesh and blood woman given to us to cherish and take solace from.  She is the noble woman who goes among her people. As the Litany of Loreto so beautifully says, she is the:
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians
Mary wants to share the secret to her glory: it is the joy of knowing and being with Jesus.  She was a perfect disciple, not only because she was immaculately conceived, but because she had a servant's heart like her Son.  She desired to do God's will always, to give herself to others first, and now she gives herself to us.  Our Blessed Lady is indeed a gentle woman with a compassionate heart, she desires our love, as any mother does, and longs to bring us to eternal happiness with her Son.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

April 1 Fast


"'It is better,' says St. Augustine writing to Profuturus,' to deny entrance to the just and reasonable anger than to admit it, no matter how small it is.  Once let in, it is driven out again only with difficulty.  It comes in as a little twig and in less than no time it grows big and becomes a beam.' If anger can only gain the night on us and if the sun sets on it, which the apostle forbids, it turns into hatred, from which we have hardly any way of ridding ourselves.  It is nourished by a thousand pretexts; there never was an angry man who thought his anger unjust." 
(Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, No. 8, St. Francis de Sales)
The day opens many entryways for anger to infiltrate the soul- little annoyances with a spouse, frustrations with children, problems at work, etc.  As with anything, the devil perverts a virtue to trick us into a vice.  One's objective sense of justice is muddled when mixed with his pride, and anger creeps into his soul because he feels that he has been rightly wronged by another person, or circumstance.  

Sometimes, anger is not even seen for what it is because it does not appear as a passionate tirade, only as a bitter grudge that ones refuses to let go.  A hidden anger is worse than a passionate one because it cannot be as easily corrected since the person does not recognize it.  He is so used to this constant companion that he is unaware it is even there.  Complaints, harbored resentment, cynical comments, and a deep-seated feeling of injustice are some of the barnacles that attach themselves to the grudge he holds. But one must remember that the saying, "you can't take it with you," does not only apply to the material, but the spiritual as well.  

So, what is to be done?  St. Francis de Sales exhorted his followers to first call upon Christ, just as the apostles did during the storm at sea, when these temptations arise.  It certainly is helpful as well to recognize the occasions for when this can occur by quickly praying for the grace to overcome.  Just as with any vice one finds difficult in detaching from, the contrary virtue must be consciously and continually practiced in order to root up the evil that lies therein.  The great Bishop of Geneva provides more excellent advice: 

". . . we must repair our anger instantly by a contrary act of meekness.  Fresh wounds are quickest healed, as the saying goes.  Again, when your mind is tranquil and without cause for anger, build up a stock of meekness and mildness.  Speak all your words and do all your actions, whether little or great, in the mildest way you can.  Call to mind that just as the Spouse in the Canticle of Canticles not only has honey on her lips but at the end of her tongue, . . . that is to say, the whole interior of our soul."
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said,"Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth." To be gentle and sincere takes great effort, perseverance and discipline.  But, above all, it takes tremendous love: true love that wills the good and happiness of the other above the temporary comfort of oneself.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

March 4 Fast

"Often in my desire to work for others I find my hands tied, something hinders my charitable designs, some hostile influence renders me powerless. My prayers seem to avail nothing, my kind acts are rejected, I seem to do the wrong thing when I am trying to do my best. In such cases I must not grieve. I am only treading in my Master's steps."
(St. Katharine Drexel)
How easy it is to get discouraged when striving for sanctity!  How disheartening it can be when one feels his efforts are misunderstood or overlooked by those he most wishes to please! It is at these times when one must remember that he is called to be a servant like Our Blessed Lord.  A servant who acts out of love and devotion, not self-interest and the desire for praise.  Someone's efforts that are overlooked by those whom he desires to please and make happy can easily feel wounded and spurned.  When others find only fault with the imperfect result and neglect to see the great love in the intention, sorrow and resentment can sometimes find a home in the faithful servant's heart.  It is then we can think of Our dear Savior- so often misunderstood, so often abandoned- and have peace that we can suffer humiliations as He did. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

February 5th Fast

"For the mercy we receive from the Father is not given solely for our benefit, but for the good of all, by transforming us into instruments, missionaries of mercy. By being such missionaries, we come to experience more deeply the gift of mercy in our own lives. May we take seriously our call to be Christians, to live as believers, so that the Gospel may touch the hearts of all people and open them to the gift of God’s love."
(Pope Francis, Jubilee Audience, January 30, 2016) 
From the beginning of time, after the Fall of Man when God promised a Redeemer, His message has been one of mercy.  Christ has pleaded with us throughout history to know Him as the God of Mercy.  As one matures, he often reflects on the merciful hand of God throughout his life.  It was not enough that Christ died once to open the gates of heaven, but He chooses to constantly intervene in our lives, even when we do not know to ask for it, to save us from a certain evil seeking to ensnare us.

Just as Christ desired the first apostles to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth, He wants us to know that this message of merciful love is at the foundation of the Gospel and is meant to be preached far and wide.  We are not meant to keep this treasure for ourselves, but to share it with others by the way we live our daily life.  What better way to live the message of mercy than in the cenacle of family?  A place that abounds with opportunities for forgiveness, and encouragement.  This coming time of Lent, and the Jubilee Year of Mercy should prompt one for further contemplation on the great gift of mercy, and how he is sharing it with those closest to him.

The daily grind easily breeds frustration which in turn fosters impatience and resentment.  But it need not be so.  One must be pray for a merciful heart and a joyful spirit.  When we learn to deny ourselves the comfort of sensual desires in food, drink, audio/visual, etc., we discipline our will to say no to other immediate impulses like anger, cynicism, defensiveness, etc.  It is in this way, that we train our will to grow in the virtues most necessary for living a holy life, a selfless life that is more concerned for the needs of others than that of ourselves.  Not only that, but we learn to let go of our own wounds and offenses in order to have peace in our marriages and in our homes.  Did not Christ bear much more in order to reconcile us to the Father?

Pray to be a "missionary of mercy" in the family this Lent and this year.