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Archbishop Chaput on Catholic Witness and the March for Marriage

Posted May. 30, 2014 by DOM 2 comments

Archbishop Chaput has a column today about Catholic witness and the march for marriage.

He reminds us that: “Our task as believers is to live and to witness what we know to be true — and to do it without rancor or disrespect for those who believe differently.”  Chaput notes that, “The Christian faith is personal but never private. It always has a community dimension. It always has public obligations.”

He urges participation in the March for Marriage: “Cultures change when people change. And people change through the word and witness of other people. This is a moment to show our support for the nature of the family and the integrity of marriage as foundation stones of our life as a nation. Please make every effort this year to join the March for Marriage.”

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Friday Fast: May 30, 2014

Posted May. 29, 2014 by DOM 1 comment

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Intention: We pray that through their marriage, a husband and wife will reflect the love that God Himself is.

Reflection: In a recent Wednesday audience reflection, Pope Francis spoke about the Sacrament of Marriage: “When a man and woman celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony, God as it were ‘is mirrored’ in them; he impresses in them his own features and the indelible character of his love. … Indeed, God is a communion too: the three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live eternally in perfect unity.” As a communion of persons, the family reflects the Persons of the Trinity (in a limited way). Although there is not gender in God, there is unity and difference. This unity and difference in God is imaged through the sexual difference of man and woman.

Through their bodies, a husband and wife are able to express marital love. This unique expression would not be possible apart from their existence as male and female. In the words of St. John Paul II, “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine.” In this way, the body is sacramental because a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality.

Did You Know?: The second March for Marriage will be held in Washington, D.C. on June 19, 2014. This year’s march will be an important opportunity to promote and defend the beauty of marriage as the unique two-in-one-flesh communion of husband and wife. For more information on this event, visit www.marriagemarch.org.

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The Beatitudes, Marriage, and Family (Part 4 of 9)

Posted May. 28, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Mt 5:5)

As by the gentleness of our minds Christ dwells in us, we also shall be clothed with the glory of His renewed body. (St. Hilary of Poitiers)

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We tend to think of meekness as simply another word for wimpiness, or at best a sort of extreme humility (“extreme” in the pejorative, fanatical sense). But this is not quite the sense of it. Instead, perhaps it’s better characterized as a slowness to anger, a kind of self-control. As the Dominican theologian Servais Pinckaers (d. 2008) put it:

We all know the force we have to exert over ourselves when we feel our anger rising or when we are stung to envy or jealousy or seized by any passion, if we want to preserve a modicum of calm, self-control and meekness with regard to another person and remain reasonable and fair. Far from being associated with weakness, true meekness is rather the outcome of a long struggle against the disordered violence of our feelings, failings, and fears. In such instances meekness implies tremendous inner strength and merits the praise of the Book of Proverbs: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (16:32).

So meekness is not mere passivity or weakness, but maintaining a profound calm and control over our feelings and knee-jerk reactions; St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) says that meekness “restrains the onslaught of anger” (Summa Theologiae II-II, 157, 1). Where is this virtue better learned than in the family?

PullOutBeatitude4It’s no secret that spouses can irritate us, siblings can annoy us, and children can just plain exasperate us. It’s meekness that keeps us from snapping back angrily with unkind words or actions. As with many virtues, we learn it by doing it—so the very family members who most try us also give us some of the best opportunities to learn how to be meek.

Husbands and wives can live with this meekness towards each other too: difficult though this may sometimes be, ultimately this virtue helps in living out what the real meaning of marriage calls for: giving of oneself.

Of course, giving of oneself is at the very heart of marriage and is in fact indispensable to it: marriage is a total gift of self of a man to a woman and a woman to a man. By its very nature, love is fruitful; the total gift of self that should pervade the whole of a marriage is given expression in the conjugal act, which alone is able to bring forth the fruit of a new life—a sexual act between two men or two women is not able to bring forth this fruit, so a total gift of self cannot be given. (This is also one of the main reasons that we are called to refrain from using contraception. Contraception is neither open to life nor truly unitive; likewise, sexual acts between two members of the same sex are neither open to life nor truly unitive. Since neither of these is able to involve a total gift of self, neither of these is an adequate expression of the authentic meaning of marriage.)

Returning to meekness, then, the husband and wife who cultivate the virtue of meekness towards each other are thereby enabled to love each other more fully and perfectly. By doing precisely this, they become better able to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which [they] have been called” (Eph 4:1), namely, marital happiness leading at last to eternal beatitude.

* The quote above is taken from Servais Pinckaers, O.P., The Pursuit of Happiness—God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes, trans. Sr. Mary Thomas Noble, O.P. (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2011), 61.

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This series is a guest contribution by a Dominican student brother who has been fulfilling his pastoral ministry assignment by serving as an intern at the USCCB’s Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.

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The Beatitudes, Marriage, and Family (Part 3 of 9)

Posted May. 26, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Mt 5:4)

God’s mercies are always greater than our troubles. (St. John Chrysostom)

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One is almost tempted to think that this promise of comfort somehow doesn’t cut it, doesn’t reach the extent and the weight of the mourning. For when we think of someone mourning, we think of grief, tears, lamentations, deep sorrow. And indeed, some of the greatest sufferings in our lives involve our marriages and families: arguments, illnesses, difficult relationships, and deaths. We not only experience our own sufferings, but often we experience even more intensely the sufferings of our loved ones. In the face of our anguish, what does it even mean to be comforted anyway?

PullOutBeatitude3As it happens, Scripture talks about comfort all the time. St. Paul writes: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor 1:3-4); Isaiah writes: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins (Is 40:1); St. John writes: And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you (Jn 14:16).

The word “Counselor” in John’s Gospel may also be translated “Advocate,” “Helper,” “Paraclete” (which is simply the Englishification, if you will, of the Greek word), or even “Comforter.” At any rate, in each of these passages it’s the same word (parakaleō) being used over and over again.

PullOutBeatitude3no2But let’s look a little closer: in 2 Corinthians, the comfort is said to come from the Father, who is “the God of all comfort”; in Isaiah, the coming comfort is the Incarnation, when the very Word of God takes human flesh to redeem us—it is Christ who brings the comfort of redemption to a people afflicted by sin (here the word almost seems too weak!); and in John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit is the great Comforter who comes to dwell within us. It is therefore not at all a stretch to say that the comfort with which those who mourn will be comforted is God himself.

This is good news for marriages and families. It’s already been mentioned that some of life’s greatest mourning happens in our married and/or family life, but sometimes spouses and families seem incapable of adequately consoling our sorrow. But we learn from Scripture that those who mourn are comforted with the very life of the Trinity, a comfort that reaches to the deepest depths of our being and raises us up to the heights of beatitude.

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This series is a guest contribution by a Dominican student brother who has been fulfilling his pastoral ministry assignment by serving as an intern at the USCCB’s Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.

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USCCB Media Release on OR and PA Marriage Decisions

Posted May. 22, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

The USCCB sent out this media release in response to the Oregon and Pennsylvania rulings this week.  

An excerpt: “Children deserve a mother and a father, and marriage is the only institution that unites children to their own moms and dads,” the Archbishop said. “We need policies and laws that encourage strong, permanent and faithful marriages, and that help young people marry before having children.”

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The Beatitudes, Marriage, and Family (Part 2 of 9)

Posted May. 21, 2014 by DOM 1 comment

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)

The proud seek an earthly kingdom, of the humble only is the kingdom of Heaven. (St. Augustine)

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This first Beatitude is for the “poor in spirit,” to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs. St. Augustine says that the kingdom of heaven belongs only to the humble. So there must be some connection between poverty of spirit and humility; the two are bound together.

So just what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Notice that Christ connects poverty with a kingdom—an unusual juxtaposition! We do not often think of the poor man as someone who owns a kingdom. But here Christ speaks of a poverty that is spiritual, not material, and a kingdom that is heavenly, not earthly. Poverty always involves some lack. In the course of our lives, it can take a great number of forms, each involving a lack of some kind: suffering, loneliness, old age, illness, etc.

PullOutBeatitude2But everyone deals with these things—so is everyone poor? Well, in some way, yes. But spiritual poverty is a particular kind of poverty, in which we all share by our nature: before the richness and bounty of God, we are all beggars. Here we can make sense of St. Augustine’s comment on humility. The man who is truly poor in spirit recognizes his lowliness and poverty before God, and this is humility. It has been said that true humility is not excessive self-abasement but seeing things as they really are. The ability to see one’s own poverty before God is no exception.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recently said that everyone who calls himself Christian must be “the last in the opinion of the world.” What could be poorer or humbler than this? We Christians are called to humility and poverty of spirit, virtues which have always been met with opposition and animosity from the world (it’s no secret that the world generally tends to look down on the poor). We who uphold the truth about marriage—namely, that it can only be a union of one man and one woman—frequently experience this opposition and animosity. In this way we can see that there is a certain poverty about defending truth, because we do not defend a truth that comes from ourselves, and a certain humility about defending truth, because it requires us to see things as they really are.

What of family? How can we live a poverty of spirit in our family lives? As I mentioned, the various lacks in our lives indicate our poverty—but spiritual poverty is a special kind of lack. The man who is poor in spirit, recognizing his status as a beggar before God, offers his entire self to God for God’s sake. In both marriage and family life, this involves an offering of self. By spending ourselves for our spouses and family members out of charity, we offer ourselves also to God, the author of marriage and family. In this way we become poor and humble, and better prepare ourselves to receive the gift God most wants to give us: himself.

PullOutBeatitude2no2This notion of self-gift, both ours and God’s, is worth exploring further. We speak of Christ as the true Bridegroom and of the Church as his Bride—this goes all the way back to St. Paul’s beautiful and theologically rich words about marriage in the letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33). St. Paul himself says that the union between husband and wife and its relation to the union between Christ and the Church is a great mystery: “great,” not just in the sense of “difficult to understand,” but in the sense of “awe-inspiring” and even “life-giving”—the only other place St. Paul talks about a “great mystery” is in reference to the Incarnation, when God himself came among us as a man (cf. 1 Tim 3:16). So it’s striking that he speaks of the great mystery of Christ’s union with the Church in almost the same breath as the union between husband and wife. Indeed, not only does the union of marriage through self-gift serve as an image of the union of Christ with the Church through his perfect self-gift; marriage is given to mankind as a means for husband and wife to participate in this union with our Lord: marriage raises us to God.

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This series is a guest contribution by a Dominican student brother who has been fulfilling his pastoral ministry assignment by serving as an intern at the USCCB’s Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.

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March for Marriage 2014

Posted May. 21, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Every Child Meme

The second March for Marriage will be held in Washington, D.C. on June 19, 2014. This is a great opportunity to visibly and powerfully demonstrate your support of the true definition of marriage as a unique bond between a man and a woman.

The March begins with a Rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the grounds of the Capitol before going to the Supreme Court.  Archbishop Cordileone is one of the featured speakers.

The details for the event, including information about the “virtual march”, lobbying, and the gala that evening are available at www.marriagemarch.org.

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The Beatitudes, Marriage, and Family (Part 1 of 9)

Posted May. 19, 2014 by DOM 1 comment

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: . . .
(Mt 5:1-2)

Whoever will take the trouble to examine with a pious and sober spirit, will find in this sermon a perfect code of the Christian life as far as relates to the conduct of daily life. (St. Augustine)

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The Beatitudes are the beginning of the first recorded public preaching of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. Just a few verses before this, we read about how Jesus began his ministry: he heard that John was arrested, left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum in Galilee, and there began to preach. After calling the first disciples, he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them (4:23-24). The crowds were there because they had heard Jesus’ preaching, they had seen his ability to heal diseases and infirmities, and they wanted more, they yearned for more.

Their longing for him did not go unnoticed; upon seeing them, he went up on the mountain, sat down, opened his mouth, and taught them. St. Remigius of Auxerre (d. 908) tells us that “[w]herever it is said that the Lord opened His mouth, we may know how great things are to follow.” Great things, indeed—the Beatitudes are among the most sublime teachings of our Lord. As St. Augustine (d. 430) said, “Whoever will take the trouble to examine with a pious and sober spirit, will find in this sermon a perfect code of the Christian life as far as relates to the conduct of daily life.”

PullOutBeatitude1As the Lord spoke great things to the crowds gathered around him on the mountain, so today he continues to speak great things to us—God is not silent. The Word, spoken forth from all eternity (cf. Jn 1), speaks to the hearts of men. The Psalms are full of this beautiful image of the Lord speaking to our hearts: I will hear what the Lord God speaks; / he speaks of peace for his people and his faithful / and those who turn their hearts to him (Ps 85:9). When he speaks, he reveals himself to man—and he reveals man to himself (cf. Gaudium et Spes 22).

We learn who we are as adopted sons of God (cf. 1 John 3:1-2)—sons and daughters in the Son—when this divine voice speaks to our hearts, when we hear his Word, who is Christ, the revelation of the Father. God, who adopts us to be his own children, is the same God who made us, created us—and he created us male and female. This shouldn’t be overlooked: it is significant for who man is that he was created in this way, because God’s actions are never meaningless.

PullOutBeatitude1no2But can the Beatitudes really teach us something about having been created male and female, about marriage, about our conjugal relationships? Why, yes they can: for as St. Augustine (d. 428) says, we “find in this sermon a perfect code of the Christian life as far as relates to the conduct of daily life.” Indeed, Pope Francis has spoken about this several times, pointing out that in “proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life”; he has also made the Beatitudes the theme for World Youth Day 2014-16. The Beatitudes tell us how to live on earth—including in our marriages and family lives—so that we may live forever in heaven. (In fact, one way we can see this connection is by noticing that the Beatitudes are one of the options for the Gospel reading in the Rite of Marriage, and they are also the Gospel reading for All Saints’ Day, when we celebrate that God is wonderful in his saints.) In this series, then, we will see in the Beatitudes a sure guide for promoting, preserving, and living the authentic meaning of marriage and family, and thus coming closer on earth to the eternal happiness of heaven.

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This series is a guest contribution by a Dominican student brother who has been fulfilling his pastoral ministry assignment by serving as an intern at the USCCB’s Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.

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Friday Fast: May 16th, 2014

Posted May. 15, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

May 16 Meme

Intention: Lord, help us always to follow the Gospel call to serve “the least of these.”

Reflection: The Fortnight for Freedom is coming next month (June 21 – July 4).  The two-week celebration will focus on the theme, “Freedom to Serve,” emphasizing the link between religious liberty and service to the poor and vulnerable.

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As Catholics, we believe that the gift of our faith is to share the light of Christ with all people. The teaching of our Catholic faith “obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land” and around the world.  This includes the freedom to serve with Christian love and humility all those around us and share the teachings of our Lord.  In loving him more, honoring him steadfastly and serving him as disciples, we naturally serve others in the same way.

In a recent homily, Pope Francis emphasized charity as the “greatest act of holiness [that] relates to the flesh of our brother and the flesh of Jesus Christ.”

Did You Know?: The USCCB has prayer resources for the Fortnight for Freedom, including a Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty.  You can pray for religious freedom at home, school, work, or in your parish!  You can also attend special Masses to celebrate the Fortnight; if you are not able to travel to Baltimore or Washington, DC, the Masses will be televised nationally, so check your local listings!

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Friday Fast: May 9

Posted May. 9, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Intention: Let us pray that the gift of motherhood may be better understood and appreciated within our culture today.

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Reflection: It is very fitting that we celebrate Mother’s Day during the month dedicated to the most perfect mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. A mother plays an irreplaceable role in a child’s life. Without our mothers, we would not have been born and therefore would not have the capacity to live out our Catholic faith. In the words of St. John Paul II, “it is precisely those born of earthly mothers…who receive from the Son of God the power to become ‘children of God’ (Jn 1:12)…The history of every human being passes through the threshold of a woman’s motherhood (no 19).”

It is interesting to note that the Church is sometimes referred to as a mother. Just as a mother gives life to her children, so also the Church “brings forth to a new and immortal life the sons who are born to her in baptism (Lumen Gentium, no 64).” Mary, the most perfect mother, is the archetype, or model for the Church because of her unfailing belief and obedience to God’s will. “The Church indeed, contemplating [Mary’s] hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father’s will, by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother (LG, no 64).”

Did You Know? In 1965, Pope Paul VI wrote an Encyclical entitled “Mense Maio” (Month of May). In this document, he explained that “Since Mary is rightly to be regarded as the way by which we are led to Christ, the person who encounters Mary cannot help but encounter Christ likewise.”

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Friday Fast: May 2, 2014

Posted May. 2, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

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Intention: Recalling Mary’s “yes,” may we each pray for a deeper openness to life and to all that God gives us.

Reflection: May is known as the month of Mary! There are many reasons to honor Our Lady, but perhaps one of the most basic is her fiat—her “let it be” in response to God’s will. Mary’s total receptivity is a perfect example of the openness to God we are all called to embrace.

On the Feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis reminded us that “salvation cannot be bought and sold; it is given as a gift, it is free.” Thus, “since it cannot be bought, in order for this salvation to enter into us we need a humble heart, a docile heart, an obedient heart like Mary’s.”

Through Mary we encounter Christ, who expressed God’s great love for each of us through the sacrifice of his life on the Cross in total obedience to the Father. Through the example of Christ and Mary we can see that the freedom of salvation lies in perfect obedience and receptivity to God.

Did You Know?  May is a special opportunity to grow in Marian devotion which leads us closer to Christ. Check out these pro-life rosary prayer intentions!

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