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.”
Reflection: On Sunday November 24, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, which reminds us that no earthly power can override man’s desire and freedom to worship the Creator. As Christians, we believe in this right and in every person’s intrinsic yearning to seek and worship God in all things and above all else.
In 1925, Pope Pius XI wrote in his encyclical Quas Primas, which instituted the Feast of Christ the King, that “Christ reign[s] ‘in the hearts of men,’ both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind.”
In the core document Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty, the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty “urge[d] that the Solemnity of Christ the King—a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty—be a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.”
Did You Know? Last week, at the conclusion of their fall General Assembly, the U.S. bishops unanimously issued a “Special Message” on the HHS mandate.They stated, “As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom.” Go to the USCCB website to learn more about the bishops’ work to preserve religious freedom.