Happy Feast of Pentecost! Today the Church commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. This might come as a surprise, but Bl. John Paul II had quite a lot to say about the Holy Spirit in his talks on the “theology of the body.” Today’s Sunday Pope Quote, then, is a passage from TOB about piety, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Bl. John Paul II: “The Holy Spirit, who according to the Apostle’s words [St. Paul] enters into the human body as into his own ‘temple,’ dwells there and works with his spiritual gifts. Among these gifts, known to the history of spirituality as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (see Isa 11:2), the one most congenial to the virtue of purity seems to be the gift of ‘piety’ (eusebeia; donum pietatis). If purity disposes man to ‘keep his own body with holiness and reverence,’ as we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, piety as a gift of the Holy Spirit seems to serve purity in a particular way by making the human subject sensitive to the dignity that belongs to the human body in virtue of the mystery of creation and redemption. Thanks to the gift of piety, Paul’s words ‘Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…and that you do not belong to yourselves?’ (1 Cor 6:19) take on the convincing power of an experience and become a living and lived truth in actions. They also open fuller access to the experience of the spousal meaning of the body and of the freedom of the gift connected with it, in which the deep face of purity and its organic link with love reveals itself.”
Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006), no. 57.2
In his May 18 column for the archdiocesan newspaper The Tidings, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles reflected on the meaning and importance of marriage, especially for children. His words were timed to anticipate the seventh annual World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Milan, Italy from May 30 to June 3, 2012. In his column, Archbishop Gomez made use of an uncommon-sounding concept called “human ecology,” a phrase used by both our current and former popes. The Archbishop writes,
“We need to restore the vital sense of what Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul II before him called the ‘human ecology.’ We need to help our brothers and sisters see that the family rooted in marriage is the natural sanctuary of life and civilization.”
In Pope Benedict’s encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate, the Holy Father explained “human ecology” by describing the “book of nature” as “one and indivisible”: “it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development” (no. 51). In other words, just as “environmental ecology” brings to mind the interconnectedness of all of creation, such that damaging or ruining one aspect affects the whole, the phrase human ecology highlights the organic interconnectedness of the human person in his own identity and lifespan (conception to natural death) as well as his built-in relationship to other persons, particularly to his father and mother, and to creation as a whole.
Archbishop Gomez goes on to highlight the crucial importance that marriage plays in the life of children, who are the “supreme gift” of marriage (Gaudium et Spes, 50):
“Children have a right to grow up in a home with the mother and father who gave them life and who promised to share their lives forever. They have a right to be born in a family founded on marriage. Where they can discover their true identity, dignity and potential. Where they can learn in love the meaning of truth, beauty and goodness.”
Because of the need children have for their own mother and father, whenever possible, the Archbishop laments the fact that “our debates today [about marriage] are focused only on adults and their desires for their relationships. There is very little concern for children.” He goes on saying, “This is sad. Because they will be the ‘subjects’ of all our social experiments. They will bear the consequences of all our new ways of defining what it means to be ‘married’ or to be ‘parents’ or to be a ‘family’.”
Respecting the human ecology inherent in each and every human person, and in the communion of all of us together, means respecting the foundational bonds between father, mother, and child, as well as the importance of marriage as the foundation on which the family is built.
Read Archbishop Gomez’s entire article: “The ‘human ecology’ of marriage and family”
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from the Encyclical Arcanum Divinae (On Catholic Marriage) promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in February of 1880.
“Our wish is rather to speak about that family union of which marriage is the beginning and the foundation. […] God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time. And this union of man and woman, that it might answer more fittingly to the infinite wise counsels of God, even from the beginning manifested chiefly two most excellent properties – deeply sealed, as it were, and signed upon it-namely, unity and perpetuity. From the Gospel we see clearly that this doctrine was declared and openly confirmed by the divine authority of Jesus Christ. He bore witness to the Jews and to His Apostles that marriage, from its institution, should exist between two only, that is, between one man and one woman; that of two they are made, so to say, one flesh; and that the marriage bond is by the will of God so closely and strongly made fast that no man may dissolve it or render it asunder. ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What, therefore, God bath joined together, let no man put asunder.'”(Matt 19:5-6)
– Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum Divinae, no. 5.
Speaking at the commencement ceremony of the Catholic University of America this past Saturday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan encouraged the graduates to live what he called “the Law of the Gift.” As defined by the Son of God, the Cardinal explained, the Law of the Gift means laying down one’s life for one’s friends. And as described by Bl. John Paul II, the law of the gift means that “we are at our best, we are most fully alive and human, when we give away freely and sacrificially our very selves in love for another.”
Cardinal Dolan listed a few examples of what the Law of the Gift looks like in action: a grandmother in New York who was killed by a car after pushing her grandson to safety; Marines who put their life on the line for their country; and pediatric oncologists who care for suffering children day in and day out.
Then, directing his attention to the graduates, the Cardinal highlighted the inner connection between the Law of the Gift and marriage:
“Now, one final thing: You all had a head-start in the learning the Law of the Gift and the importance of faith to sustain it.
“For, see, the Law of the Gift is most poetically exemplified in the lifelong, life-giving, faithful, intimate union of a man and woman in marriage, which then leads to the procreation of new life in babies, so that husband and wife, now father and mother, spend their lives sacrificially loving and giving to those children. That union – that sacred rhythm of man/woman/husband/wife/baby/mother/father – is so essential to the order of the common good that its very definition is ingrained into our interior dictionary, that its protection and flourishing is the aim of enlightened culture.
“And your tutelage in the Law of the Gift, class of 2012, was only refined at this Catholic University, for it began in the most sublime classroom of them all, your home and family, under the most significant of all professors, your mom and dad. Congratulations, parents of our graduates!” (emphasis added)
In honor of Mother’s Day, here are a few quotes from Bl. John Paul II’s apostolic letter On the Dignity of Women (Mulieris Dignitatem) about the unique vocation of motherhood:
Bl. John Paul II: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the mother’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and ‘understands’ with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the ‘beginning’, the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings – not only towards her own child, but every human being – which profoundly marks the woman’s personality.”
. . .
“Motherhood implies from the beginning a special openness to the new person: and this is precisely the woman’s ‘part’. In this openness, in conceiving and giving birth to a child, the woman ‘discovers herself through a sincere gift of self’.”
. . .
“Human parenthood is something shared by both the man and the woman. Even if the woman, out of love for her husband, says: ‘I have given you a child’, her words also mean: ‘This is our child’. Although both of them together are parents of their child, the woman’s motherhood constitutes a special ‘part’ in this shared parenthood, and the most demanding part. Parenthood – even though it belongs to both – is realised much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who ‘pays’ directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared programme of parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman.”
– Bl. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), no. 18
About this series:
Every Sunday, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog will feature a short quote from either our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, or our late Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II (or occasionally another pope). These two men have given the world an immense treasury of wisdom about marriage, love, and the meaning of the human person, all of which are topics integral to the Church’s witness today. Their words are well worth reflecting on, as we have much to learn from these wise successors of St. Peter.
U.S. Bishops Applaud Approval of North Carolina Marriage Amendment in face of President Obama's Recent Comments
USCCB press release, dated May 10, 2012:
- Marriage protection essential to the common good, says Bishop Cordileone
- Cites right of every child to be raised by mother and father
- North Carolina is 30th state to protect marriage via constitutional amendment
WASHINGTON—The decision by the voters of North Carolina to define marriage in a constitutional amendment as the union of one man and one woman “affirms the authentic and timeless meaning of marriage,” said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California. Bishop Cordileone, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), applauded the May 8 decision with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte, North Carolina.
“The success of this amendment demonstrates people’s awareness of the essential role that marriage, as the union of a man and a woman, plays for the common good,” said Bishop Cordileone.“Despite his comments yesterday, I would hope that President Obama would recognize this essential role as well. This is not a partisan issue, but a matter of justice, fairness and equality for the law to uphold every child’s basic right to be welcomed and raised by his or her mother and father together.”
He added, “I extend my gratitude to all of the people in North Carolina who worked tirelessly to make this a reality. The people of North Carolina join millions of other Americans in affirming the importance of marriage in our society.”
North Carolina is the 30th state to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The statements of Bishop Burbidge is available online: www.dioceseofraleigh.org/news/view.aspx?id=1486
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, President of the USCCB, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s public support of marriage redefinition:
“President Obama’s comments today in support of the redefinition of marriage are deeply saddening. As I stated in my public letter to the President on September 20, 2011, the Catholic Bishops stand ready to affirm every positive measure taken by the President and the Administration to strengthen marriage and the family. However, we cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better. Unfortunately, President Obama’s words today are not surprising since they follow upon various actions already taken by his Administration that erode or ignore the unique meaning of marriage. I pray for the President every day, and will continue to pray that he and his Administration act justly to uphold and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. May we all work to promote and protect marriage and by so doing serve the true good of all persons.”
North Carolina Approves Marriage Amendment; Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis Express their Gratitude
“North Carolina voters say ‘I do’ to the marriage amendment,” announced the Charlotte diocesan newspaper today. Yesterday’s vote resulted in a 3 to 2 margin of approval for the following language that will now be part of the state’s constitution:
Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.
Both Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte issued brief statements applauding the outcome:
Bishop Burbidge: I express my sincere gratitude to the people of North Carolina who voted FOR Marriage in the referendum completed today. Passage of the Amendment to the Constitution of our State has now ensured that the definition of marriage, as the faithful and exclusive union of one man and one woman, and one which is open to the gift of children, is in accord with God’s design and in keeping with the very nature of this sacred vocation.
In moving forward, I ask that you join me in praying that whatever divisions may have occurred during this referendum process may be healed by the grace of God and a mutual renewed commitment by all people of good will, so that we may together build a society reflective of the unity that is ours as members of God’s family.
Bishop Jugis: I am pleased that the people of North Carolina voted for marriage. The Church consistently teaches that marriage is created by God as the faithful and exclusive union of one man and one woman, open to the gift of children.
In addition to catechesis on marriage throughout the months leading up to the vote, the bishops of North Carolina had asked that a letter supporting the marriage amendment be read at parishes throughout their dioceses last weekend. The letter read in part:
We are FOR the definition of marriage, because we believe it is a vocation in which God calls couples to faithfully and permanently embrace a fruitful union that is open to the gift of children, a gift that comes from the sexual expression between a man and a woman. The children born of this union have the right to the indispensable place of a father and mother in their lives. Children grow, are loved, nurtured and formed by those whose unique vocation is to be a father and a mother to their child.
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from Bl. John Paul II, in honor of his beatification anniversary earlier this week (May 1). The quote comes from a series of scholarly essays given by John Paul II before he was Pope, so under his baptismal name Karol Wojtyla. Here are present many “seeds” of his later teaching on the theology of the body.
“The category of gift (the disinterested gift of self) takes on special meaning in the marriage covenant. The spouses ‘mutually give themselves to an accept each other’ in a manner proper to the marriage covenant, a manner that presupposes their difference in body and sex and, at the same time, their union in and through this difference. This is a relationship that can be analyzed and interpreted in a variety of ways; the category of gift, however, has a key meaning here. Without it, there would be no way to properly understand and interpret either the marriage relationship as a whole or the acts of conjugal intercourse that are part of this relationship and have a strict causal connection to the emergence of the family.”
. . .
Seeing marriage through the lens of gift “is not an idealistic picture, but a realistic one. The Gospel in a special way demands such realism of us in our appraisal of the marital bond. Man and woman were created as they were (according to the Book of Genesis), different in body and sex, so that through this difference they would be able to make a gift to one another of the specific richness of their respective humanity.”
– Karol Wojtyla (Bl. Pope John Paul II), “The Family as a Community of Persons,” in Person and Community: Selected Essays, trans. Theresa Sandok, OSM (New York: Peter Lang, 1993), p. 324, 325, emphasis original
This coming Tuesday, May 8, voters in North Carolina will have the opportunity to vote for an amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the state Constitution. Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte have encouraged the faithful to support the marriage amendment and have sought to catechize them about the authentic meaning of marriage. For example, we posted earlier about two videos made by Bishop Burbidge Bishop Jugis that explained the importance of the marriage amendment.
In anticipation of the May 8 vote, here are more resources from the bishops of North Carolina:
- AUDIO – Bishop Burbidge Discusses Marriage Amendment on Catholic Weekly
- Bishop Jugis: “In support of marriage”
- Bishop Jugis: “Marriage is not just about two adults”
- Bishop Burbidge: “Reflect seriously, then vote”
Also, for North Carolina readers, there are several events planned to educate the faithful about marriage:
Video source: The Apostleship of Prayer
Each month Pope Benedict XVI chooses two prayer intentions: a general intention and a mission intention. He invites Christians throughout the world to pray with him for these specific needs. For the month of May, the Holy Father’s general intention is for the family:
“…that initiatives which defend and uphold the role of the family may be promoted within society.”
The video above, from the Apostleship of Prayer website, draws on recent addresses by Pope Benedict on the family to explain how important the family is to him. It also points out that May’s liturgical calendar includes a number of married saints, some of which we’ll feature right here on this blog in the coming days.
We invite you to join with us – and Pope Benedict! – this month in praying for the family.
Read more of Pope Benedict’s teachings on marriage and the family.