Growing up with three brothers, I remember a lot of forced apologies being exchanged back and forth between us. My parents would make us say the words before we were actually ready to apologize for (or forgive) whatever nastiness was inflicted that day. But however hurt or angry we were at the moment, there was never a question in our minds about whether we loved one another. We belonged to each other and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Being family and loving one another went hand-in-hand.
Love sees beyond what is broken, rude, selfish, or mean in the other person’s action and reaches out a hand to heal the relationship. By making my brothers and me practice forgiveness in the everyday offenses of life, my parents were leading us to understand mercy: it makes things right between us.
Throughout the Old Testament we see a cycle of betrayal and mercy played out between Israel and the Lord. Over and over, Israel abandons God for their own desires, but the Lord continually draws her back to himself because he chose her and he is faithful to the covenant he made. In the book of Hosea in particular, the relationship of a married couple is used to reveal the steadfastness of God’s love for Israel. No matter what she does, He remains faithful.
A sacramental marriage helps those who witness it to understand God’s fidelity to his people. Indissolubility is a gift of mercy, because it makes the relationship of the couple true to what love is: a complete gift of oneself that can’t be taken back. A person in love does not promise their beloved the next three years; they promise forever! “The gift of indissolubility means that despite the vicissitudes and suffering that come with human failure and sin, the sacramental marriage bond remains an abiding source of mercy, forgiveness, and healing.” To deny the indissolubility of marriage would be an affront against the sacrament of marriage because it would deny the reality of grace and its power to heal and perfect a person.
I came across a beautiful reflection about marriage recently on a blog site. A woman was reflecting on her experience of learning to have mercy on her husband who was struggling with clinical depression. She said, “Through mercy, God taught me to love my husband as we all deserve to be loved—with a love devoid of self, thinking only of the good of the other person.” While her husband was sick, she, “picked up his cross for him, as Jesus does for us, and bore his malaise and withdrawal in loving silence.” By showing mercy rather than demanding justice, the couple was able to maintain peace and goodwill during his illness. Mercy itself is not a cure for depression, but it helped this couple to preserve their relationship in a difficult time. The wife realized that she needed to be kind and selfless, and not seek justice but rather have mercy, and finally when she did that she found, “I no longer cared about justice.”
It can be said of the practice of reconciliation that it “washes away small offenses, but it also protects from great offenses. Pardon confers a habitus of communion.” Mercy towards siblings, in my case, and a husband in the case of the blog contributor is an expression of a disposition toward communion. It is a desire to be united to the other person, even after they have hurt you. A married couple that frequently seeks and offers mercy reinforces their “togetherness” or communion so that when serious trials arise they have already practiced drawing towards one another. The indissoluble bond of marriage not only calls a couple to be merciful toward each other, but indissolubility also reveals God’s own mercy, because when he binds two people together in the sacrament, he gives them the graces they need to live it out.
 There is a new concept about marriage out there these days called a “wed-lease,” which turns marriage into something more like a business contract: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-high-divorce-rate-means-its-time-to-try-wedleases/2013/08/04/f2221c1c-f89e-11e2-b018-5b8251f0c56e_story.html. This is not true to what love is.
 “Ode to Feminine Genius: A Merciful Woman.” Catholic Sistas. Aug. 28, 2014. http://www.catholicsistas.com/2014/08/ode-feminine-genius-merciful-woman/
 Laffitte, J.(2015). The Choice of the Family. New York: Image, p. 143.
Written by the Spring Intern in the Promotion and Defense of Marriage Secretariat.
The Catholic bishops of Australia are rallying against the increasing acceptance of same-sex “marriage” and the pressure to adopt it. Their Pastoral Letter is named “Don’t Mess with Marriage”.
“A pear is not an apple. Same-sex marriage is not the same as a marriage between a man and a woman. The opinions of media personalities, or politicians, or a parliamentary vote can do what they wish, but no matter how much they say it, a pear remains a pear and does not change into an apple. Equally same-sex marriage is not identical with a marriage between a man and a woman. In the Christian tradition marriage has the two aspects of the mutual support and love of a man and a woman, and the openness to procreation, to bearing life. That is what the word “parent” means in its Latin origin, a bearer, a creator, a life-giver. No matter how you use the word “marriage”, a same-sex union does not have the fundamental possibility of parenting. True marriage remains a vowed union between a man and a woman, a commitment for life, to provide a context in which new life might be born. The nature of marriage cannot be altered by the vote of politicians; it is not their area, it is the plan of God for the natural order.”
This past March, Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska gave an address for the “Catholics in the Capitol” annual Legislative Advocacy Day at the Nebraska State Capitol. It is entitled: “Martyrs, Witnesses and Public Life: Catholics at the Capitol”
Here are a few sections from his address that are pertinent to the work of the USCCB in promoting and defending marriage. He says, “The freedom to practice the faith is threatened by aggressive unchecked secularism, which stops at almost nothing to establish what Pope Benedict XVI called the ‘dictatorship of relativism.’ Relativism today is veiled by words like ‘tolerance’ and ‘non-discrimination’ and ‘progressivism.'” Indeed, the truth about marriage is currently being portrayed as bigoted or discriminatory.
Bishop Conley notes, “Today, our lives are not threatened in the state of Nebraska. But our liberties are. But in our state, faithful Christians face threats to their livelihood, to the education of their children, and to their family life.” These will only continue and become more serious as time goes by if we do not have the courage to stand up for our religious freedom now.
He reminds us that it is the call of the laity to bring Christ into the public sphere. “The Second Vatican Council said that your [lay] task is to ‘animate the temporal order’ with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This means that our civil laws should reflect truth: the truth about the dignity of every human person; the truth about the sovereignty of families; the truth about the rights of children, and the disabled, and the elderly.” Catholic laypersons cannot sit on the sidelines on the debate about marriage.
Marriage is part of the common good for society. Bishop Conley notes, “Promoting human dignity is the common good. Promoting the family is the common good. Protecting truth and preserving justice is why we make law.”
And finally, Bishop Conley reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle with demons, “minions of the evil one,” and must fight for the good of all souls, including those who disagree with us. “We need to remember that those who disagree with us are created by God for salvation with him—and we are called to be missionaries to them, in order to invite them to a transformative religious relationship with Jesus Christ.”
On April 2, 2015, the USCCB submitted an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, supporting the right of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The basic arguments of the brief are as follows:
- The Catholic Bishops support the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman out of love, justice, and concern for the common good
- When it uniquely reinforces the union of one man and one woman, the law furthers the interests and well-being of children.
- When it uniquely reinforces the union of one Man and one Woman, the law furthers the interests and well-being of mothers and fathers.
- The legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not based on hatred, bigotry, or “animus” or any other impermissible purpose or classification.
- When it draws distinctions based on conduct rather than status or inclination, the law does not reflect hatred, bigotry, or “animus.”
- When it treats one type of conduct differently from conduct with very different practical consequences, the law does not reflect hatred, bigotry, or “animus.”
- When it reinforces norms that happen to correspond with religious beliefs, the law does not impermissibly endorse religion
- When it declines to specially reinforce a particular relationship between persons, the law does not thereby “ban” that relationship or make it “illegal.”
- A holding that the unique affirmation of man-woman marriage is grounded in hatred, bigotry, or “animus” would needlessly create Church-State conflict for generations to Come.
Check out the press release from the USCCB about the recent rulings on marriage in federal courts. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Cordileone reminds us, “Recent court decisions on marriage in no way deter our efforts to promote the truth about marriage – a truth that no court decision can ever undo.”
Reflection: Tradition holds that Saints Joachim and Anne (whose feast day is July 26th) experienced a long period of infertility before conceiving Mary, the mother of Christ. We remember Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and Hannah, in the book of Samuel, as other examples of faithful people who longed for children. May couples who are struggling with infertility be blessed with hope, peace, and community as they live out their vocation to marriage.
Sometimes, the charting involved in Natural Family Planning can help to identify sources of infertility. It’s NFP Awareness Week, so we encourage you to check it out!
Saints Joachim and Anne, Grandparents of Jesus, pray for us!
The bishops of Colorado joined in a statement after the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case. They say,
“We are hopeful that today’s decision will cast a favorable light on the ongoing non-profit cases still making their way through the legal process. The Church has an obligation to serve, and therefore, it needs the freedom to serve without government coercion of conscience and intrusion into religious beliefs. We encourage all people of good will to continue to pray for the protection of religious freedom in every sector of our society as guaranteed by the first amendment.”
We encourage you to read Bishop Aquila’s pastoral letter on the Family as well.
The SCOTUS has determined not to block Oregon’s same-sex “marriages”.
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.
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!
Intention: We pray for a deeper understanding of what it means to be created male or female.
Reflection: During a recent morning meditation, Pope Francis reflected on the Book of Genesis. “The creation of man and woman is the masterpiece of creation,” the Pope explained. God “did not want for man to be alone: he wanted him to be with his companion, his companion on the journey.”
Here the Bible shows us a very important truth; man and woman are equal, but different. This sexual difference is actually complementary. It is through the existence of woman that we are able to fully appreciate the uniqueness of man and vice versa. An example of this aspect of difference and complementarity can be seen in beautiful paintings where two complementary colors are used. When brought together, the two different colors look more vibrant and unique than they would have looked separately. The same can be said of man and woman. In the words of Blessed John Paul II, “femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity.”
Did You Know? In his Theology of the Body, Blessed John Paul II explained that “man became an image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning.” Through marriage, a husband and wife are able to be a true communion of persons by giving themselves and receiving the other in unselfish love. In this way, a husband and wife have the unique ability to reflect Trinitarian Love.
Reflection: “Pope Francis has observed that ‘religion [cannot] be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life.’ …Every Christian is called to practice charity in a manner corresponding to his or her vocation. Some Catholics, like the Little Sisters of the Poor who run nursing homes for the elderly poor, devote their entire lives to helping others and embrace a vow of poverty themselves” (Archbishop Kurtz).
Yet the HHS mandate compels objecting employers to provide coverage for drugs and devices which are against their consciences and threatens the ministries of the Little Sisters of the Poor and many others.
As this and many other lawsuits progress, let us continue our prayer efforts for the protection of the religious freedom so we may practice charity and live out our faith without penalty.
Did You Know? This Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases brought by families who are seeking protection of their religious freedom.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, shares comments in his op-ed, “Will the Owners of Hobby Lobby Have to Check Their Faith at Their Own Door?”
Intention: Marking the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election this week, we pray that we may follow his humble example and better love “our brethren, especially the weakest and neediest” (Pope Francis, April 24, 2013).
Reflection: A year ago this week, Pope Francis captivated the world almost immediately with his humble simplicity, charisma and warmth. Throughout the past year, he has continued to teach us both by his example and his words, inspiring us to look beyond ourselves and encouraging us to “go in search of the people who are the very flesh of Christ” (Vigil of Pentecost, 2013).
In the message from Pope Francis for last year’s Day of Life, we are reminded that “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live for ever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
Let us ask the Lord how He is calling us to love all of our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and neediest, and follow where He leads.
Did You Know? The Vatican website features an online book of images and quotes from Pope Francis over the last year.
Reflection: Lent is here, and it couldn’t come at a better time! Lent is our way of taking a long loving look at ourselves and our lives and asking, “How can I be more faithful to the Gospel and grow deeper in my relationship with God?” To help us answer this question, the Church asks us to consider prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during this season.
Friday’s Scripture readings focus particularly on fasting. During Lent, we may abstain from various things: sweets, soda, idle conversations, etc. But the prophet Isaiah and Jesus remind us that the things which we abstain from should not be done for themselves alone, but to change our hearts. When we give up something, emptiness is created in our lives. We are called to fill that emptiness with God. Isaiah gives us a clue as to what this looks like in a concrete way: justice, sharing, care for the unwanted and mistreated. What will you give up this Lent and how will this lead you closer to God?
Did You Know? There is a difference between fasting and abstaining. In the Latin Church, fasting means only taking one full meal for that day, with the possibility of two smaller meals that do not equal a full meal. Abstinence is the act of going without something, such as meat from our Fridays during Lent. Click here for more information on fasting and abstinence.
Reflection: In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees approach Jesus to ask if it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. Interestingly, before He explains that divorce is not lawful, Jesus first explains what marriage is – the union of one man and one woman: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Mark 10: 6-8).”
The Church’s teaching on marriage is not founded on statistical data nor merely in upholding tradition, but is rooted in the truth of the human person: men and women are created “in the image of God” as male and female. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they come from the hand of the Creator (no. 1603).” Furthermore, what is truly united can never be separated. This is why the union of a man and woman in marriage is permanent: “So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate (Mark 10: 8-9).”
Did You Know? At the beginning of the Extraordinary Consistory, Pope Francis addressed the College of Cardinals and introduced their topic of discussion. “During these days, we will reflect in particular on the family, which is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.”
Intention: This week, we ask martyrs who have died for Christ to intercede for people around the world who suffer persecution so that they can continue to witness to the faith.
Reflection: Saturday, February 22 marks the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, whom we remember as the first Pope and head of the Roman Catholic Church. St. Peter suffered a martyr’s death, which Origen, a scholar and early Christian theologian, described as follows: “Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.”
The testimony we learn of St. Peter and all Catholic martyrs reminds us to remain ever ardent in our faith even in the face of persecution in the modern world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness unto death.” (CCC, no. 2473) In this way, we follow Christ who came into the world to proclaim the truth.
At a recent U.S. congressional hearing, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the United Nations testified that “flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages in the Middle East even as we meet.” Other speakers at the hearing spoke about violence against Christians in Indonesia, Vietnam, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, Eritrea, and elsewhere. We must continue to pray for those who suffer persecution on account of their faith.
Did You Know? Pope Francis remarked on the Syrian crisis last year, asking for prayers for those killed. He recognized the great courage of those who have kept their faith despite suffering and persecution and said, “To all those who are suffering, I say: Never lose hope! The church is alongside you, accompanies you and supports you.”
Intention: May we accompany women facing crisis pregnancies with the compassionate and merciful love of Christ.
Reflection: In his homily at the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, Cardinal O’Malley said, “The feelings of the woman in the Gospel must be like the young woman caught in a crisis situation of an unwanted pregnancy. She feels overwhelmed, alone, afraid, confused. We must never allow that woman to perceive the Pro-Life movement as a bunch of angry self righteous Pharisees with stones in their hands, looking down on her and judging her. We want the woman to experience the merciful love of Christ. Jesus does not condone the woman’s fall, but He does not condemn her. He invites her to make a new start, to know that she is forgiven and loved. Pope Francis urges us to practice ‘the art of accompaniment’ which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other, in this case, the woman in crisis. This accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian Life.”
Did You Know? Today is Day Seven of 9 Days for Life, but it’s not too late to participate! Join thousands of people across the country praying the U.S. Catholic bishops’ novena for life through a free app, email, text message, and more. http://www.9daysforlife.com
Intention: We pray that we can continue to serve the poor and needy while living out the fullness of our faith.
Reflection: In his exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis urges Catholics and non-Catholics alike to serve the poorest among us. As Christians, we are called to serve Christ by serving and caring for our brothers and sisters. We do this every day in our schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations that seek to alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable.
Read Pope Francis’ recent words regarding Christ’s love for humanity and living out this love in our daily lives.
Archbishop Kurtz, President of the USCCB, has explained how the HHS mandate threatens our ability to serve the poor and vulnerable and how “forcing our ministries to divert funds from serving their neighbors to paying government fines will have real consequences for real people.” Let us pray that the administration, Congress, and the courts will allow us to serve others while living out the fullness of the Catholic faith.
Did You Know? Each year, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the landmark adoption in 1786 of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. The goal of this day is to promote and protect religious expression and to “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.”
Reflection: The anticipation is building! Christmas is almost here. In today’s Gospel, we hear about the annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she will bear a son, and name him Jesus. Mary must have been filled with such anticipation as the birth of her son drew near.
We too are feeling the anticipation of the holiday. Children are getting excited to celebrate as they leave school. We are busy planning meals in anticipation for our guests. In all of this hustle and bustle, how do we find time for prayer? Christ’s presence is always with us, even in the busyness of life. We need only take a few seconds to realize it. As you go out today and this coming weekend in anticipation for Christmas, remember to take Christ with you as you wait in line.Try praying this simple prayer, “Jesus, you are with me.” Even this simple prayer will remind us Christ’s arrival on Christmas. Also, seize a few moments for some quiet time with our Lord.
Did You Know? The “Hail Mary” prayer has its roots in the Bible. The first half of the prayer comes from Lk 1:28, “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you,” and Lk 1:42, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.” The second half is a petition “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”