Intention: Let us pray that the gift of motherhood may be better understood and appreciated within our culture today.
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.”
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!
Archbishop Cordileone: “You cannot be consistently pro-life without being pro-marriage: the two go together”
On Saturday, January 25th, thousands of people came together in San Francisco to witness to the sacredness and dignity of the human person, marking the 10th anniversary of the West Coast Walk for Life. Before the Walk, nearly 4,000 people met for mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, where Archbishop Cordileone explained that the defense of life and defense of marriage movements go hand-in-hand. “You cannot be consistently pro-life without being pro-marriage: the two go together.” He explained further, “The pro-life movement is about more than saving the life of the baby. It’s about giving that baby all the care, love and nurturing he or she needs to grow up happy and healthy and to achieve his or her total potential in life…It’s especially about connecting that baby to where he or she came from: the mother and the father. And that, my friends, is the whole point of marriage: to connect husbands and wives to each other and to any children they bring into the world. There is no other institution that does that, that connects children to their mother and father. Marriage is primarily about the children, not the adults…”
Archbishop Cordileone continued, “My young people: your elders in the pro-life movement have stayed the course during some very hostile and dark times, and now the pro-life movement is stronger than it ever has been. Now it is your turn. It is this wider picture of the pro-life movement that is now the critical issue of the moment and, yes, I won’t hesitate to say it: it is under attack. Yes, marriage is under attack, but not just recently; this has been going on in our society for a very long time now, actually, for at least as long as the abortion-rights movement has been in existence. And it stands to reason, as both are manifestations of what Pope Francis so often refers to as the ‘throw away’ culture. A baby in the womb is thrown away because at least one of the two people who brought that baby into the world has thrown the other away, has rejected the other as someone worthy of commitment, self-surrender, and unconditional love. This is what marriage is and is for: not a privileged social status, not a government recognition of people’s love life, not a special relationship one stays in as long as one is deriving some immediate benefit from it, but a self-surrender of husband and wife to each other for the sake of the children they bring into the world – just like Christ and the Church, as St. Paul teaches us.
“Now the same contempt, accusations and name-calling are being hurled at those who stand for the truth of marriage as were hurled against those who stood for life a generation and two ago. But we cannot allow ourselves to be shamed into silence. The truth needs a voice, and you, my dear young people, are that voice for the next generation. And your voice must be heard so that – just as you now understand the harm that abortion does to women despite the lies perpetrated by the abortion industry – so future generations will understand that the natural truth of marriage benefits everyone and discriminates against no one; no one is harmed and everyone benefits when government enshrines in the law the right of everyone to have a mother and a father. But prepare yourselves: it will require heroic virtue, for there is a lot of reverse bullying going on these days.” (Bold added)
For Archbishop Cordileone’s full homily, click here.
This Sunday is Respect Life Sunday. We invite you to fast and pray tomorrow as part of the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty.
The suggested fasting intention for Friday, October 4 is that each of us may have the courage to open our hearts to life.
- Learn about the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty
- Sign the pledge to fast on Fridays for life, marriage, and religious liberty
- Join the Call to Prayer Facebook event
Today is the March for Life in Washington, DC. Today thousands upon thousands of young people, old people, men, women, and children will take to the streets of our nation’s capitol in support of protecting human life at every stage from conception to natural death.
In honor of the continuing efforts to foster a culture of life and civilization of love, over the next few days we’ll showcase five quotes that highlight the role of marriage and the family in protecting and nurturing human life. Both Bl. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken eloquently of the connection between marriage and life, and it is a theme woven through Catholic social teaching.
These quotes certainly aren’t all the Church has to say on the subject! But they were selected because they make crystal clear the important vocation that married couples and families have in advancing a culture of life. Supporting marriage between one man and one woman is a pro-life thing to do!
Quote #1: Bl. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 92
“As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to new life, parents recognize that the child, ‘as the fruit of their mutual gift of love, is, in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift which flows from them.’”
Quote #2: Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 231
“The family founded on marriage is truly the sanctuary of life, ‘the place in which life – the gift of God – can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth.’ Its role in promoting and building the culture of life against ‘the possibility of a destructive “anti-civilization,” as so many present trends and situations confirm,’ is decisive and irreplaceable.”
Quote #3: Pope Benedict XVI, Address (Feb. 9, 2008)
“God entrusts to women and men, according to their respective capacities, a specific vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. Here I am thinking of the family, a community of love open to life, the fundamental cell of society. In it the woman and the man, thanks to the gift of maternity and paternity, together carry out an irreplaceable role in regard to life. Children from their conception have the right to be able to count on their father and mother to take care of them and to accompany their growth.”
Quote #4: Bl. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 37
“The family is the first and fundamental school of social living: As a community of love, it finds in self-giving the law that guides it and makes it grow. The self-giving that inspires the love of husband and wife for each other is the model and norm for the self-giving that must be practiced in the relationships between brothers and sisters and the different generations living together in the family. And the communion and sharing that are part of everyday life in the home at times of joy and at times of difficulty are the most concrete and effective pedagogy for the active, responsible and fruitful inclusion of the children in the wider horizon of society.”
Quote #5: Pope Benedict XVI, Address (Sept. 22, 2012)
“The commitment to respecting life in all its phases from conception to natural death…is, in fact, interwoven with respecting marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman and, in its turn, as the foundation for the community of family life.”
October is Respect Life month. This time each year, the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-life Activities releases a series of pamphlets, bulletin inserts, posters, and more that highlight various life issues. This year, one of the pamphlets focuses on marriage:
Written by professor Helen Alvaré, the pamphlet draws its title from Bl. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus: “It is necessary to go back to seeing the family as the sanctuary of life. The family is indeed sacred: it is the place in which life – the gift of God – can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed” (no. 39).
In the pamphlet, professor Alvaré gives a basic catechesis on marriage, noting that the esteem with which the Christian faith views marriage, as a sacrament of Christ’s love for his Church, runs counter to a calculated or utilitarian view (what’s in it for me?). She also notes that while our society is becoming more and more forgetful of the essential meaning of marriage (man and woman together for life and open to children), the Catholic “model” of marriage, with self-donation at its heart, continues to “work,” meaning that it provides joy, stability, and purpose to men and women and their children.
The pamphlet ends with a description of marriage as “a grand calling, a dramatic part of existence”: “Marriage is not just one choice among many in a person’s life. It is not a mere contract with another person, more or less lasting, for an exchange of love and good times. . . . Catholics hold that marriage is a vocation, a ‘call.’ It is a way of life that offers continual opportunities to be in loving service to the other. . . .It is both a splendid reality and serious business.”
Marriage is indeed the sanctuary of life, a sanctuary worth upholding and defending.
- Read “Life Matters: Marriage, The Sanctuary of Life“
- En Espanol: Lee “La vida importa: Matrimonio, santuario de vida”
- All 2012 Respect Life pamphlets
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from Bl. John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. It draws an important connection between life and marriage and uses a phrase we’ve visited before: “human ecology“.
Bl. Pope John Paul II: “The first and fundamental structure for “human ecology” is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person. Here we mean the family founded on marriage, in which the mutual gift of self by husband and wife creates an environment in which children can be born and develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny.
. . .
It is necessary to go back to seeing the family as the sanctuary of life. The family is indeed sacred: it is the place in which life — the gift of God — can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life.
- Centesimus Annus, no. 39, bold emphasis added
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from a recent address of Pope Benedict XVI, given February 24th to the scientists and members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who were convening for their 18th general assembly with the topic “The diagnosis and treatment of infertility.” While the topic of infertility and moral responses to it fall beyond the purview of Marriage: Unique for a Reason, the comments given by the Holy Father address a point very much at home here: the unique beauty and dignity of the gift of human life, a gift that springs from the intimate communion of man and woman.
Pope Benedict XVI: “The human and Christian dignity of procreation, in fact, does not consist in a ‘product,’ but in its connection with the conjugal act, the expression of the love of the husband and wife, of their union that is not only biological but also spiritual. The instruction ‘Donum vitae’ reminds us in this regard, that by its ‘intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman’ (n. 126).”
“The union of the man and woman in that community of life that is matrimony constitutes the only dignified ‘place’ in which a new human being, which is always a gift, may be called into existence.”
“I would like again to remind the spouses who experience infertility that their vocation to marriage is not frustrated because of this. The husband and wife, because of their baptismal and matrimonial vocations themselves, are always called to work together with God in creating a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that cannot be impeded by any organic condition. Therefore, where science cannot find an answer, the answer that brings light comes from Christ.”
Address to Pontifical Academy for Life, Rome, February 24, 2012 (Zenit translation)