Mar. 15, 2013
This week’s intention and reflection:
Intention: For all who help to build a Culture of Life: that even in the midst of trials, the Lord would strengthen their faith and help them know His saving power.
Reflection: We may sometimes find ourselves tempted to feel discouraged when it appears as though evil has defeated good, but today’s readings remind us that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and that He is bigger than any challenges we face. He is with us not only in our joys, but also in our pain. Even within our suffering we find the opportunity to grow in an awareness of who we are as His creation: we are His children, utterly and completely dependent on Him, and in this there is great freedom. So let us lay our burdens at the foot of the Cross, recognizing that even when it “appears” as though evil has triumphed, Easter Sunday always follows Good Friday (even if it doesn’t look as we might expect)!
Did you know? Angels are powerful and invisible spiritual beings tasked with doing God’s work; this includes assisting our efforts to spread the truth about the dignity of human life. No matter the time or the place, we can pray to the angels for their help in protecting life and illuminating the minds of those involved in efforts against life. (Read more in this Life Issues Forum article, “Angelic Assistance”).
- 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
Feb. 22, 2013
- 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
This week’s intention and reflection:
Intention: For the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the selection of the next Holy Father: that the next pope may be granted wisdom and strength in leading the faithful into deeper relationship with Christ, that through our own continual conversion, we may witness to the sanctity of all human life through our words and actions.
Reflection: Today is the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus names Peter the rock and foundation of his Church and declares that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” As we await the transition of a new pope, the successor of St. Peter, let us pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, trusting in the Lord’s Providence, and thankful for the pastoral care of Pope Benedict XVI over the last eight years. He has consistently presented the invitation of Christ to each of us as to an ever deeper and more personal friendship with Himself, a friendship which is transformative: “Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ’s love and, accordingly, under the influence of that love… they are profoundly open to loving their neighbor in concrete ways. This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord, who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity into God’s love” (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2013). Let us then continue our Lenten journey faithfully, responding to the Lord’s tender love and allowing Him to transform us, that we may bring His light to the world, witnessing to the sanctity of each human life.
Did you know? Pope Benedict XVI recently linked respect for life with peace: “The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.”
Breaking News: U.S. Bishops Launch Pastoral Strategy for Rebuilding a Culture of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty
Dec. 6, 2012
The USCCB announced today that the U.S. bishops are calling all of the Catholic faithful to join a nationwide movement of prayer, penance, and sacrifice for the intention of renewing a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty. Set to begin the Sunday after Christmas (Holy Family Sunday), the movement will include monthly holy hours, daily rosaries, prayers of the faithful at Mass, and Friday fasting and abstinence from meat. It will also include a second Fortnight for Freedom in late June and early July 2013. The Fortnight is timed to closely anticipate the August 1, 2013 deadline for Catholic organizations to comply with the unjust HHS mandate, and to offer prayers for potential Supreme Court rulings on marriage in June 2013. Resources for this exciting movement of prayer can be found at www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty. We here at Marriage: Unique for a Reason will also keep you updated.
USCCB News Release (December 6, 2012):
BISHOPS URGE CATHOLICS TO PRAY FOR LIFE, MARRIAGE, RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
- Not another program but part of a movement for life, marriage and religious liberty
- Invitation to ‘prayer and penance,’ Archbishop Cordileone says
- Second Fortnight for Freedom June/July being planned
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Catholic bishops have launched a pastoral strategy addressing critical life, marriage and religious liberty concerns. The five-part strategy or call to prayer was approved by the bishops in November and is set to begin after Christmas. The overall focus is to invite Catholics to pray for rebuilding a culture favorable to life and marriage and for increased protections of religious liberty.
Campaign components include monthly Eucharistic holy hours in cathedrals and parishes, daily family rosary, special Prayers of the Faithful at all Masses, fasting and abstinence on Fridays, and the second observance of a Fortnight for Freedom.
The call to prayer is prompted by the rapid social movements and policy changes currently underway, such as the mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that coerces employers, including heads of religious agencies, to pay for sterilizations, abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives, as well as increased efforts to redefine marriage.
“The pastoral strategy is essentially a call and encouragement to prayer and sacrifice—it’s meant to be simple,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “It’s not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which engages the New Evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith. Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are not only foundational to Catholic social teaching but also fundamental to the good of society,” he said.
Details of the strategy follow:
1. Starting with the Sunday after Christmas (Feast of the Holy Family) and continuing on or near the last Sunday of every month through Christ the King Sunday, November 2013, cathedrals and parishes are encouraged to hold a Eucharistic Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty.
2. Families and individuals are encouraged to pray a daily Rosary, especially for the preservation of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty in the nation.
3. At Sunday and daily Masses, it is encouraged that the Prayers of the Faithful include specific intentions for respect for all human life from conception to natural death, the strengthening of marriage and family life, and the preservation of religious liberty at all levels of government, both at home and abroad.
4. Abstinence from meat and fasting on Fridays are encouraged for the intention of the protection of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, recognizing the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church.
5. The celebration of a second Fortnight for Freedom at the end of June and the beginning of July 2013 is being planned. This Fortnight would emphasize faith and marriage in a particular way in the face of the potential Supreme Court rulings during this time. The Fortnight would also emphasize the need for conscience protection in light of the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, as well as religious freedom concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption, and humanitarian services.
A website with resources from the USCCB is available at: www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty.
“With the challenges this country is facing, it is hoped that this call to prayer and penance will help build awareness among the faithful as well as spiritual stamina and courage for effective witness. We also hope that it will encourage solidarity with all people who are standing for the precious gifts of life, marriage, and religious liberty,” Archbishop Cordileone said.
Oct. 20, 2012
This past Sunday October 14, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore gave the homily at a mass for Life and Liberty at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Archbishop Lori, the chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, addressed an overflowing crowd with powerful words about the gift of life and the importance of religious liberty, our first freedom.
In his homily, the Archbishop made the connection between protecting life and defending marriage. Noting that since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, “over 50 million unborn children have lost their lives through abortion,” he remarked, “Human life is further undermined by the dismantling of the most fundamental unit of society, the family, by seeking to upend marriage as a God-given institution that is unique for a reason, namely, as a relationship of love between one man and one woman.”
Archbishop Lori also drew connections between religious liberty and marriage. He spoke at length about a current severe threat to religious liberty, the so-called “contraceptive mandate” issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, which the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty has fought tirelessly. He then said, “Indeed, many of the secularist threats to religious liberty seem to hinge on the Church’s teaching with regard to the sanctity of human life – whether it’s the Church’s teaching on the immorality of abortion, or the obligation of couples to be open to the gift of new life, or marriage as between one man and one woman, the unique relationship that begets new human life and is meant to be the matrix in which it is nurtured.”
For more on the connection between marriage and religious liberty, go to the Religious Liberty FAQs for more information.
Oct. 14, 2012
Bl. John Paul II: According to the plan of God, marriage is the foundation of the wider community of the family, since the very institution of marriage and conjugal love are ordained to the procreation and education of children, in whom they find their crowning (see GS, 50).
In its most profound reality, love is essentially a gift; and conjugal love, while leading the spouses to the reciprocal “knowledge” which makes them “one flesh,”(Gen 2:24) does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person. Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.
- Familiaris Consortio, no. 14 (emphasis added)
- FAQs on marriage and children
- Bl. Pope John Paul II’s writings on marriage on the Church Teaching page
About this series:
Every Sunday, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog will feature a short quote from our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, our late Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II, or another pope. These 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.
Oct. 12, 2012
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
Sep. 30, 2012
Just last Saturday, September 22nd, Pope Benedict XVI offered beautiful words about marriage and the family to participants in the meeting of the Christian/Centrist Democrat International. In his remarks, the Holy Father connected life and marriage – a perfect statement to share on the eve of October, which is Respect Life month!
Pope Benedict XVI: The commitment to respecting life in all its phases from conception to natural death – and the consequent rejection of procured abortion, euthanasia and any form of eugenics – 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. It is in the family, “founded on marriage and open to life” (Address to the Authorities, Milan, 2 June 2012), that human beings experience sharing, respect and gratuitous love, at the same time receiving – be they children, the sick or the elderly – the solidarity they need. The family, moreover, constitutes the principal and most significant place for the education of the person, thanks to the parents who place themselves at the service of their children in order to draw out (“e-ducere“) the best that is in them. Thus the family, the basic cell of society, is the root which nourishes not only the individual human being, but the very foundations of social coexistence. Blessed John Paul II was right, then, to include among human rights, “the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child’s personality” (Enc. Centesimus annus, 47).
The authentic progress of human society cannot forgo policies aimed at protecting and promoting marriage, and the community that derives therefrom. Adopting such policies is the duty not only of States but of the International Community as a whole, in order to reverse the tendency towards the growing isolation of the person, which is a source of suffering and atrophy for both individuals and for society.
Aug. 11, 2012
On Tuesday, August 7, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York gave an address at the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, in Anaheim, CA. In his talk, peppered with delightful stories (we’ll let you read the one about Archbishop Sheen and the honeymoon suite for yourselves), the Cardinal concentrated on marriage and the beauty of married love.
Some great snippets:
“We Catholics are hopeless romantics, you know, when it comes to married love . . .
“Against all odds, we still believe that, when a man and woman vow that they’ll love and honor each other, ‘for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part,’ they really do mean it;
“We still hold fast to the teaching of the Bible that God so esteems marriage that He compared His personal, passionate, eternal love for Israel to that between a husband and a wife; that Saint Paul tells us that the love of Jesus for us, His Church, is just like that of a groom for His bride;
“We still have in our gut the Church’s timeless ‘Valentine’s Day card,’ that the love between a husband and a wife has the same characteristics as does that of God for us: it is faithful; it is forever; it brings about new life in children.
“We are such hopeless romantics that we contend the best way to get a hint of how God loves us now, and in eternity, is to look at how you, married couples, love one another. ‘The love of a man and woman is made holy in the sacrament of marriage, and becomes the mirror of your everlasting love . . . ,’ chants the Preface in the Nuptial Mass.”
Cardinal Dolan affirmed the importance of vocations not only to the priesthood and consecrated life, but to marriage: “‘For an increase in vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and the Sacrament of Marriage‘ should perhaps become the new phrasing for a prayer of the faithful at every Mass, as we are sobered by the gloomy statistics that only 51% of our young people are approaching that sacrament, a piece of data you all somberly see verified even among your own children and grandchildren.”
And the Cardinal “tipped his zucchetto” to the Knights for their “indefatigable” work in defending marriage from the “well-choreographed, well-oiled crusade to conform marriage to the whims of the day instead of conforming our urges to God’s design, as revealed in the Bible, nature, and reflective reason.”
He closed with a reflection on the importance of marriage and the family for building what modern Popes have called a “civilization of love”: “The most effective guarantee of a civilization of love rather than the survival of the fittest: the culture of life over the culture of death; the law of the gift rather than the law of the ‘get’, solidarity rather than selfishness, is precisely the preservation of traditional marriage and family. When that goes, we all go.”
Cardinal Dolan’s whole speech is worth a read! Find the full version on Zenit here.
Jul. 15, 2012
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
Apr. 28, 2012
Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a 20th century wife, mother, and doctor who sacrificed her life for the sake of her unborn daughter. St. Gianna, pray for us!
- Born October 4, 1922 near Milan, Italy
- Married Pietro Molla on September 24, 1955
- Mother of six children (including two lost before birth): Pierluigi, Mariolina, Laura and Gianna Emanuela
- Died April 28, 1962 in Ponte Nuovo di Magenta, Italy
- Beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994
- Canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 16, 2004
Read St. Gianna’s biography (on the Vatican website).
- A model of discernment: After earning her medical degree in 1949, St. Gianna actively discerned whether God was calling her to join two of her brothers in the mission fields of Brazil, or to marry Pietro Molla, an engineer and fellow member in the charitable group Catholic Action. Gianna sought God’s will in prayer and spiritual direction and eventually, during a pilgrimage to Lourdes on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, it became clear that her vocational call was to marriage and the family. Pietro and Gianna were engaged on Easter Sunday of 1955 and married that September.
- A heroic witness to life: After being blessed with three children (and suffering two miscarriages), St. Gianna was again with child in 1961. Early in the pregnancy, a dangerous cyst was discovered on her uterus. Choosing the route of treatment least dangerous to her unborn child, Gianna underwent a risky and painful surgery to remove the cyst. Thankfully the baby was unharmed, and the pregnancy continued. When it came time for her to give birth, Gianna said to the delivering doctor, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child.” Little Gianna Emanuela was born on April 21, 1962. A week later, her heroic and self-sacrificing mother died at home after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.”
- “Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.” – St. Gianna, in a letter to her future husband a few days before their wedding (as quoted in Bl. John Paul II’s homily at her canonization mass)
- “Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love…Following the example of Christ, who ‘having loved his own…loved them to the end‘ (Jn. 13:1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfill themselves.” – Bl. John Paul II, homily at St. Gianna’s canonization mass
- “A young mother from the diocese of Milan, who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation.” – Pope Paul VI, Angelus, September 23, 1973 (quoted in the Vatican biography; original in Italian)
- “All my mother’s life has been a hymn to life, to joy, to God’s love, to Our Lady, to her family, to her very near, to her beloved husband, my daddy, her beloved children and her dear patients.” – Gianna Emanuela, St. Gianna’s daughter, in a 2011 interview
Patron saint of mothers, physicians, preborn children
Pray: Litany of St. Gianna Beretta Molla