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, November 30, 2017

December 1st Fast


"Night was falling as they passed within the walls, but there was light enough to see that it was full, full to overflowing.  The better sort had long ago secured all that was to be had in the way of lodging. Poor people like themselves had little chance. Joseph searched diligently everywhere, but to no purpose.  Wherever he saw a door open he hastened towards it; he pointed to Mary and held out his hand with the few coins he had left. But all in vain; everywhere the same answer: 'No room.'
Up and down the streets they wandered that bitter night. No one would take her in. Joseph's tearful eyes looked up into her face. She was utterly worn out, but the smile on her lips told of a peace within that no trouble this world could disturb. What was he to do? It was no use trying anymore. He brushed his sleeve across his eyes and led the ass carefully down the hill again." (Jesus of Nazareth, Mother Mary Loyola)
It is easy to confuse our assumptions about God's will with His actual will for us when it involves an intrinsic good.  One has firm trust in Divine Providence but cannot help clinging to the permanent portrait of what he conceives that to be.  One's faith extends only halfway, for it trusts in God's Providence but not that His grace will be sufficient if His Plan does not align with his own. 

The search for lodging by St. Joseph reveals the Holy Family's model of resignation to God's will.  He knows he cannot provide a fitting place for the Holy Child to be born, and this he humbly accepts, but surely some small comforts, such as protection from the piercing cold, could be found for his beloved wife, and her Son?  Yet, he does not clamor all the more when his will is rejected with each innkeeper's rude slam of the door; instead, he, once more humbly accepts the divine will that God will provide but according to His plan.

In this technological world, the increased capability to control and know things easily threatens to weaken our trust in God's Divine Providence.  One either hesitates to commit because of numerous unknowable variables or is frustrated by unforeseen circumstances. The saints displayed heroic virtue because there is great valiance in accepting the unexpected will of God.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

November 3rd Fast

"Jesus wants me to tell you again, how much love He has for each of you- beyond all you can imagine.  I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus- one on one- you and Jesus alone.  We may spend time in the chapel- but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks on you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus- not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it. . . . 
How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say "I love you"- impossible. . . Our soul needs that as much as the body needs air. . . Not only that He loves you, but even more- He longs for you. He misses you when you don't come close.  He thirsts for you. . . .My children, you don't have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe- You are precious to Him.  Bring all you are suffering to His feet- only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest.  (St. Teresa of Kolkata)

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, one is always struck by the mercy of the father.  Yet more than his generous acts of forgiveness, the deep desire of the father for his son, revealed through the constant vigil he keeps, should gladden the hearts of all who hear.  Exhausted by the trials of life and consumed by endless tasks, one may easily forget the eager gaze of the Beloved, patiently waiting to be turned to.  One may suffer neglect, rejection, humiliation, or ingratitude by those he strives to please; his heart cries out in vain for human approbation and consolation but none does he receive.  It is then, that he must remember that there is One who sees, One who understands, One Who loves him so intimately that He is thirsting for him:
"He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy. When not accepted by others- even by yourself sometimes- He is the one who always accepts you." (ibid)
Our Lord is not a stern judge who hands down arbitrary sentences for past transgressions; He is not a lofty personage, intimate with a chosen few, and distant from most.  No, Christ's love for us is ardent, and consuming: He loves us in loneliness, sorrow, frustration, rejection, confusion.  Too easily one can dismiss the ache in his heart for Him.  Awaken the dormant desire; spend time in front of the Sacrament of Love, pour forth your troubles, and receive the peace you seek.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

October 6th Fast


"Oh, let us love our vocation and strive to persevere in it! Then everything will be all right with us." (Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos)

The call of each vocation is the summons to service, and so to love one's vocation, one must learn to love service.  Long after being swept away by the romantic ideals of a specific vocation, one must resolutely embrace the realties that he encounters each day.  He must allow God to work on his heart so that whereas he formerly took pleasure in receiving the approbation and attentions of others, he now places pride aside and happily humbles himself to fulfill the needs of those dearest to him.  His felicity no longer depends upon his own wants being met, but only in the privilege of serving others, even in the most mundane or unseemly tasks. 

Too often one can hear in a home the familiar phrase-"I am not your servant!" Yet, that is just what we are meant to be.  Our Lord not only became a servant but a slave:
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)
 We can never be truly happy until we discover the contentment that is treasure of a devoted servant.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

September 1st Fast


"Ours is the spirit of the Eucharist- the total gift of self."
(St. Katharine Drexel)
In the Sacrament of Divine Love, Our Lord provides a daily reminder of the self-emptying love of the Cross: "This is my body which will be given up for you."  Christ not only desires men to partake of the heavenly banquet He so generously offers daily at Holy Mass but also summons His disciples to discover the truth about love contained in the sacrifice of the altar: the total gift of self.

The Eucharist is not a saccharine symbol but is the actual flesh and blood of Christ Himself.  So, too, the gift of self cannot be some charming notion bereft of tangible realities.  The great commandment that Christ gave at the Last Supper-"To love one another as I have loved you"- demands not just spiritual assent but bodily as well.  We are called to give our bodies in every act of sacrifice.  

One gives his tired eyes, staring at the screen to make a deadline, to keep his job and provide for his family.  Another gives his ears to patiently listen to the endless questions of a curious toddler. Perhaps another gives her tongue to converse though she wishes to be silent, or to be silent when she wishes to criticize or complain.  Still another gives her hands to clean and keep a welcoming home.  Or it could be that one gives his smile, relinquishing his preference in trivial matters.

The complete and total surrender of our will is the invitation that Our Lord asks of us. Sacrifices will often go unnoticed, deeds will rarely be praised; one must be content to remain hidden as He does in the Sacrament of Love.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

August 4th Fast

"On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful.  Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses. . . We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken; for, whatever we do, the cross holds us tight- we cannot escape from it. What then have we to lose? Why not love our crosses and make use of them to get to heaven?" (St. John Vianney)
One of the consequences that resulted from the Fall was the introduction of fear into the filial relationship between God and man.  Sin ruptured the bond and uncertainty replaced confidence in God's divine providence.  Anxiety is like a stubborn weed that chokes a serene soul and banishes peace from a tranquil heart.  It is such an attractive activity, especially for the restless, because it occupies the mind with ceaseless distractions from the silence of needed prayer.  Anxiety indulges one's selfish tendencies by its narrow focus on how an impending situation will cause that individual to  suffer.  To worry is an easy task because it excites one's imagination, offering innumerable scenarios to be played out, and always that self-pitying that assuages the ego.

However, St. John Vianney said:

" God commands you to pray, He forbids you to worry."
 Rather than endure the emotional exhaustion of worrying, one need only to accept his cross and constantly pray for the perseverance to carry it with love.  Worry eminates from a lack of trust in God, and a lack of confidence in our own gifts to shoulder a particular burden.

One forgets too often that, through Baptism, he has become an adopted child of God.  Our God is not a distant being, indifferent to our fate.  No, He is a father, deeply invested in our lives, deeply desirous for our good, ever so willing to send His graces when we ask for them in prayer.  Crosses will surely come, for we cannot attain heaven without them, but He wants us not to fear the pain and sorrow that accompany them but instead have confidence in the hope of heaven that they promise when endured willingly.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

July 7th Fast


"The greatest grace that a man can have under Heaven is to know how to live well with those among whom he dwells." (Brother Giles, companion to St. Francis)
In her book describing cloistered life, Mother Mary Francis recounted a story about a group of local women who were conjecturing as to the austere penances of their newest neighbors, a monastery of Poor Clare nuns, when one of their group interjected with an astute observation:
"Penances, nothing! If they didn't do anything but stay cooped up in there all their lives, that would be enough."
Certainly, all those subject to communal living can attest to the veracity of this poignant remark.  Man was not created to be a solitary being, and is meant to exist with and for others.  Both monastic and domestic life pose this challenge: to abide with others peacefully.  It requires setting aside personal preferences, relinquishing control, and being content to yield in inconsequential matters so that harmony may reign.  This demands great patience, self-denial, and an abundance of mercy, for peace cannot dwell in an abode where forgiveness is not easily attained.

It does not suffice to simply tolerate another's faults, but all the while allowing the roots of resentment to run deep, eventually producing the bitter fruits of cynicism and judgment.  Rather, it is imperative to love the other in his weakness, being mindful of our own need to grow in the lacking virtue.  St. Teresa of Avila said,"Nothing ever shocks me."

 "The true proof of charity is never to be shocked but only to redouble our efforts to practice the virtue opposed to the fault we have seen." (A Right to Be Merry)
Yet these efforts must not be performed in an ostentatious manner; one must shed the self-soothing habit of seeking moments to subtly broadcast the endless litany of sacrificing deeds he has hitherto compiled.  One who truly loves the other will be determined to hide, not highlight, the other's faults, especially in front of others.  He will strive for the heroic virtue that characterized the saints- silent sanctity.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

June 2nd Fast

"Give not over your attempts to serve God, though you see nothing come of them. Watch and pray, and obey your conscience, though you cannot perceive your own progress in holiness. Go on, and you cannot but go forward; believe it, though you do not see it. Do the duties of your calling, though they are distasteful to you. Educate your children carefully in the good way, though you cannot tell how far God's grace has touched their hearts. Let your life shine before men, and praise God by a consistent life, even though others do not seem to glorify their Father on account of it, or to be benefited by your example." (Blessed John Henry Newman)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May 5th Fast


"But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said,"Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Mt. 12:48-50)

Marriage is one of the vocations of service, and after Our Lord, no one models selfless servitude better than Our Blessed Mother. One can easily excuse himself from admiration for Mary because she cared for God, Himself, and so surely had no difficulties?    Of course Our Lady's life was filled with an abundance of blessings.  What a joy to shelter Christ inside of her for nine months!  What a privilege she enjoyed to nurse him, clothe him, feed him, speak to Him, and just adore and observe Him for thirty years! 

Yet, before Our Lady endured the sacrifice of Her Son on the cross, she first suffered their parting when He began His public ministry.  What pain her pure heart must have felt at their first separation!  She, who had so tenderly cared for all His needs now must share Him with the rest of the world.  Mary shows us that to have a true servant's heart we must be willing to serve in unexpected and uncomfortable ways.  She said, "Yes" to sharing her greatest joy with others.  She said ,"yes" to  being in the background and following at a distance.  She said, "yes" to allowing other women to minister to His needs.  After His Resurrection and Ascension, she said,"Yes" to now serving as Mother of His Apostles, guiding her Son's infant Church. Her Firstborn Son is Divine, but she has had to endure many heartaches with the imperfect sons and daughters that followed.

Our Blessed Mother knew Her Son's voice in all that was asked of her, and though one cannot hear it as distinctly as she, when he is called upon to serve in marriage and family life, he must know that it is the voice of His Savior asking Him to do this.  Many times it will go against our immediate desire, and sometimes it will require extraordinary effort, but He is always there with the supernatural grace to aid us in the daily grind.  We, too, can be models for others close to us if we serve with peaceful acceptance and gentleness.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

April 7th Fast


"Consider the violence with which the executioners stripped Jesus. His inner garments adhered to His torn flesh, and they dragged them off so roughly that the skin came with them. Compassionate your Savior thus cruelly treated, and say to Him:
My innocent Jesus, by the merits of the torment Thou hast felt, help me to strip myself of all affection to things of earth, in order that I may place all my love in Thee, who art so worthy of my love. I love Thee, O Jesus, with my whole heart; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt." (Meditation on the 10th Station by St. Alphonsus Liguori)

Lent is a time to loosen our grip on the things of this earth and fasten our hearts to the things of eternity.  This penitential season not only encourages detachment but also contentment with the necessities of life and gratitude for being given them.  This spirit of contentment and detachment is a great grace that can be gained throughout the year as one faces the challenges of daily living in his vocation.  

God recognizes the weakness of His adopted children, and their tendency to fail, but also knows their great potential to succeed.  And so, knowing his child will not always seek out ways to shed his selfishness, He presents many opportunities each day for a person to choose the other, and say no to self.  In this way, God allows the slow erosion of self to take place, gently encouraging detachment from, once thought of, necessities.  

One can either accept these moments of mortification with resignation or rebuttal.  For though the opportunities will abound, and perhaps a person will still choose the other over himself, if he does not do it generously and joyfully, he has still not learned the true spirit of detachment.  


Thursday, March 2, 2017

March 3rd Fast


"If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well, we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them.  Let us open wide our hearts.  It is joy that invites us. Press forward and fear nothing." (St. Katharine Drexel)
Lents presents the perfect opportunity to purge one's heart of the weeds of selfishness that threaten to choke the budding flowers of virtue.  Christ said,"I came to serve, not to be served," and if one professes Christian discipleship he must desire, and pray for, a servant's heart.  Yet, too often, one thinks,"I am here to serve but I better receive notice and gratitude."

Egocentrism is so entrenched in our being that it often goes unnoticed.  The Tempter expertly deceives man into believing that selfish people are only those self-absorbed narcissists.  The devil frequently reminds a person of the selfless actions he does every day, touting his sacrifices and cleverly enshrining his magnanimous martyrdom in his mind.  This "scorecard" mentality of tallying sacrifices and harboring grievances is hardly the recipe for a heart fashioned after the Savior's Sacred One.

What are the traits, then, of a true servant?  He is prompt, reliable, eager to do his master's bidding, knows how to hold his tongue, and of course, humble.  A servant is not vexed when called unexpectedly, thinking his spare time has been stolen by an intruder; rather, his reply is always prompt , and never reveals any sign of disturbance.  Eager to do his master's bidding, he is never reluctant to perform a task, thinking not of his own inconvenience, but only of the other's happiness.

A servant never uses his tongue to lick his wounds, nor as a vent for his frustration, nor even to solicit notice for a job well done; instead, he accepts the peace that comes with silent servitude and accepts any misunderstandings or criticisms with humble resignation as His Heavenly Master did.

Above all, a servant is content because he loves those he serves, and ardently desires their happiness, not his own comfort.  The day before he died Venerable Solanus Casey said to a friend:

"I looked on my whole life as giving, and I want to give until there is nothing left of me to give.  So I prayed that, when I come to die, I might be perfectly conscious, so that with a deliberate act I can give my last breath to God."
Strong and stable union can only exist when each member desires the good of the other before the satisfaction of himself.  Seize this Lenten retreat with a firm purpose to mold a generous heart and a joyful spirit.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February 3rd Fast

"In short, for God's glory yield to His will completely, and never suppose that you could be serving Him better in any other way; the best way to serve Him is to fall in with His will for us.   
He wants you to serve Him without joy, without feeling, without repugnance and revulsion of spirit.  Such service gives you no satisfaction, but it pleases Him; it is not according to your liking, but according to His.
Imagine that you are never going to be delivered of your anguish: what would you do? You would say to God: I am yours; if my miseries are agreeable to you, give me more and let them last longer.  I have confidence in Our Lord that this is what you would say; then you would stop thinking about the matter, at least you would stop struggling.
Well, do this now, and make friends with your trial, as though the two of you were always to live together.  You will see that when you have stopped taking thought for your deliverance, God will think of it, and when you stop worrying, God will come swiftly your help."   (St. Francis deSales) 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

January 6th Fast


“Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Conversion to God always consists in discovering his mercy, that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind (cf. 1 Cor 13:4) as only the Creator and Father can be; the love to which the ‘God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor 1:3) is faithful to the uttermost consequences in the history of his covenant with man: even to the Cross and to the death and resurrection of the Son. Conversion to God is always the fruit of the ‘rediscovery’ of this Father, who is rich in mercy.” 
(St. John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia)
The advent of a New Year always presents an excellent opportunity for fresh resolutions and the renewed vigor that accompanies them.  Often, healthy living habits are the targeted focus, which, indeed, offer worthy goals.  Yet, as humans, creatures composed of bodies and souls, one must not limit his energies and thoughts to only his physical welfare, but to his spiritual as well.

Usually, a person decides to change course after stepping on a scale or smarting after the cinching sensation of his lately snug wardrobe.  In determining his spiritual health, a person must check the weight of his sins by examining which ones constrict his ability to love God and others.  What vice has become so constant a companion that we are blind to its very existence?  It is imperative to ask Our Lord to identify the weed that threatens the garden that grows in our soul, and then have the humility to hear and accept His answer.  

Then, we must look at the challenge as an arduous but achievable climb.  It will be tempting to claim victory the first moment we overcome an occasion to commit that particular vice, thinking we have quelled our rebellious spirit with one decisive blow.  Not so.  For if we take this approach and fail, which will most certainly happen, then we will think it foolish to have ever begun in the first place and quickly surrender.  Instead, we must be mindful each day of our goal and prayerfully seek to steadily conquer the temptation that is our nemesis.

Our Father in Heaven wants us to succeed and will give us the grace to do so! The call to conversion need not wait for the beginning of Lent.  Let us tackle it with perseverance and ardor.  To have healthier marriages and families, we need to have healthier spouses and children. As St. John Paul II said:
"Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. The kingdom of heaven is for those who are determined to enter it . . . Do not be afraid to be holy! Have the courage and humility to present yourselves to the world determined to be holy, since full, true freedom is born from holiness. This aspiration will help you discover genuine love, untainted by selfish and alienating permissiveness. . ."