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A Dialogue on Marriage: Part Three

Posted Jan. 23, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Dialogue-Part-ThreeThis is Part Three of a Six-Part series on the question, “What is Marriage?” Please check out parts one and two before this!

Socrates: So Bob, have you had a chance to think about what we talked about last time?
Bob: Yes, I have, and I realized that you are missing a really important fact.
Socrates:  I am?
Bob: Yes. You are presenting the ideal. I’m talking about what’s real. There are a lot of children who, for lots of reasons, can’t be raised by their biological mother and father.
Socrates:  I know that.
Bob: Well if that’s true, then it means that we have to accept the reality of the situation and try to do something good for the child, even if it is not ideal.
Socrates:  You’re right. What are you proposing?
Bob: One of the ways we can help children is by allowing a same-sex couple to adopt them, thus creating a family.
Socrates:  That’s a bit of a leap, isn’t it?
Bob: What do you mean?
Socrates:  I mean that you looked compassionately at a tragic situation that many children find themselves in, and then jumped to a “solution” that doesn’t actually meet the need that they are experiencing.
Bob: I’m sorry; I still don’t quite follow you.
Socrates:  Let’s say that a child is born to a mother and a father, who are both subsequently killed in a car accident. There is no other family, and the child is placed under the care of the state. That seems like the worst thing that can happen to the child, right?
Bob: Right. Even losing just one parent is terribly traumatic for a child.
Socrates:  Exactly. So what has the child lost, when his or her parent dies?
Bob: The child has lost the real-life connection to and support of his or her mother and father; a relationship that should have guided the child into adulthood.
Socrates:  Right. Like we talked about last time, a child would miss not just the functions that a mom and dad serve; he or she would miss the relationship to a person of each sex who relate to the child in a unique way, as well as the chance to observe the mom and dad relating to each other.
Bob: Yes, that’s right.
Socrates:  Can you see how your solution—allowing two persons of the same sex to adopt—does not solve this problem?
Bob: You mean because the child will still be missing either a mom or a dad?
Socrates:  Precisely.
Bob: I guess you’re right, but the child is still missing his or her own mom and dad, no matter what adoptive situation comes up. I don’t think it’s that big of a difference to the child whether he or she is adopted by a man and a woman or two people of the same sex, as long as the child is loved.
Socrates:  It is true that an adopted child usually loses a real-life connection to their biological parents (at least most of the time) and that’s sad, no matter what happens next.
Bob: Adoption is always a response to a non-ideal situation—to a need or a deprivation experienced. Is that what you mean?
Socrates: Yes. But when the child is adopted by a married mother and father, he or she will still be given a concrete and living relationship with both a mom and a dad. They will still experience those different relationships and be able to observe the relationship between the parents as a model.
Bob: But there are plenty of children who are adopted or being raised by single parents who do just fine .
Socrates:  The question of single parenthood is an interesting one and actually distinct from the question of adoption by two persons of the same sex. Perhaps we can take it up again at another time.

FAQ: Why is a child meant to have both a father and a mother?

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Evangelii Gaudium, Marriage and Family

Posted Jan. 20, 2015 by DOM 1 comment

 

EG series temp-01Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason. This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

A Church Which Goes Forth
God calls His people to go forth, to proclaim the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. We do not go as slaves in drudgery, but as Jesus’ friends in joy and peace. “The Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy” (no. 21). A soul set free by Christ is enlivened by the Holy Spirit to proclaim His message; we see this all over the Gospels, from the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) to the man born blind (John 9).

In one of his homilies, the Holy Father noted, “The great Paul VI said that you cannot advance the Gospel with sad, hopeless, discouraged Christians. You cannot… Often Christians behave as if they were going to a funeral procession rather than to praise God, no? And this joy comes from praise…” We are called to be people of praise, and thus of joy. Our joy should be catching.

Pope Francis continues, “An evangelizing community gets involved in word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others” (no. 24). Where is this seen the most? In the family.

Family as the domestic Church, rooted in the Sacrament of Marriage, is a primary evangelizing community. In this two-become-one-flesh relationship, each of the spouses in a sense evangelizes the other, but as a communion, the two together evangelize their family. Think first of the way that moms and dads love their children. Is there any better example of an evangelizing community?

1. It bridges distances: The distance between generations is bridged by the love of parents for their children, and for their children’s children, and so forth. Wisdom is passed on, guidance offered.

2. It is willing to abase itself: Any parent could offer numerous stories of times where they have humbly submitted to their lack of control over their child’s behavior. Parents who refuse to take credit for their children’s good behavior, talents or abilities, but instead are content to allow their child to shine.

3. It embraces human life: Children are lovingly welcomed into the family by a mother and a father. Whether through conception, adoption, foster care, or even simple hospitality, the home of a husband and wife is open to others.

4. It touches the suffering flesh of Christ in others: Before any other experience of human care and compassion, the infant receives all he or she needs from mother and father. From the first cold to broken bones, to even mental illness or addiction, parents are the first responders to the suffering of their children.

And as for taking on “the smell of the sheep” (no. 24) … need any more be said?

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A Dialogue on Marriage: Part One

Posted Jan. 19, 2015 by DOM 6 comments

Dialogue-Part-One-no-rainbowWhat is Marriage?

All of the talk about marriage hinges on this question; often, when we ask it simply and directly, the answer is halting, hesitant, and surprising.  When we ask a question like this, we should try to approach it with genuine curiosity and a willingness to try to figure out the truth.  Socrates, for one, was always asking questions in order to help others come to understanding. So let’s try approaching marriage with this form of philosophical questioning in mind.

Socrates: What is marriage?
Bob: It’s when you love someone and commit to live together and have a family.
Socrates: A man loves his mother, lives with her and is family with her: is that a marriage?Bob: No, no—marriage is when you love someone you’re not related to, and then you choose to become related.
Socrates:  Like adopting a child?
Bob: No, not like adoption.  The person you love is another adult.
Socrates:  What do you mean by love?
Bob: A close, intimate relationship whereby you desire to unite with the other person completely; you share a home with that person; you want to have a family together.
Socrates:  Oh, then you must mean a man and a woman.
Bob: No, I didn’t say that. A man and a man could do the same thing.
Socrates:  How?
Bob: Two men or two women could love each other just like a man and a woman can.  They can care for the other person before themselves, share deep communication, and adopt children together.
Socrates: Oh I thought you said that they unite “completely” and that they have a family “together.”
Bob: I did.
Socrates: But two men or two women cannot physically unite completely; it is impossible.  Likewise, they cannot have children because they do not have the capacity.
Bob: Don’t be so crass.  The two people can express their love sexually, that’s all I meant.
Socrates:  But that’s not what you said. You said that married people unite completely. Now you’re saying that they only unite mostly—financially, socially. In which case, I’m not sure why that relationship should be considered special compared to other relationships. You can unite that way with many people; there’s no reason for friendship to be exclusive. Also, what about two sisters living together and taking care of a younger sibling with special needs? Are they married?
Bob: No, the point is that there are two adults in a sexual relationship who commit to live together and have a family together.
Socrates: Oh, so what’s crucial for marriage, you say, is that the two people are in a sexual relationship of some committed kind, though not a kind that necessarily brings about a union of their bodies. How do they have a family, by the way?
Bob: Often, one of the two people has children from another relationship.
Socrates:  From a relationship with someone from the other sex…
Bob: Yes. Or the couple can adopt. Or they can go through the process of third-party reproduction.
Socrates:  In which case, the child would not have a parent of one sex or the other.
Bob: All a child needs is two people who love them.  It doesn’t matter what sex they are.
Socrates:  But you would agree that every child has a biological mother and father, correct?Bob: Yes, I agree with that. That’s a simple fact.
Socrates: Are a father and a mother exactly the same? Are they interchangeable?Bob: Well…no, not exactly.  They do seem to interact with children differently and there is more research out there now (http://www.paulraeburn.com/books/do-fathers-matter/) showing how important fathers are to the development of children.
Socrates: (Silence)
Bob: Okay, I will think about this more. But I don’t think parenting qualities or skills is the issue. Let’s talk about that next time.

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World Meeting of Families 2015 Catechesis Series

Posted Nov. 6, 2014 by DOM 2 comments

The USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth is excited about the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) being held in Philadelphia in September 2015.  We are presenting a series of short articles focused on the WMOF Catechesis Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive and its implications for our daily lives. We will follow the timing suggested by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by exploring one theme each month leading up to the World Meeting.

Introduction
Sara Perla, Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

The WMF Catechesis begins with a quote from Pope St. John Paul II’s first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis.  It begins with one of those classic pull-outs: “Man cannot live without love.” It is so simple, deceivingly so, and striking. Man cannot live without love. Why not? This must mean that every person in the world is loved. Pope Benedict XVI echoed this when he said, “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” Pope Francis tweeted: “The love of God is not generic. God looks with love upon every man and woman, calling them by name.” This forms the basis for all of our discussions about the family, the place in which we are brought into being. We are loved; not only by our parents but most fundamentally by God. We have come into this world not for anyone else’s sake, but for our own. We are loved, because we are.

On a subjective and experiential level, though, we also need to know love. As Pope St. John Paul II continues, “He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

I have been pretty spoiled in love. My parents raised me and my brother in a loving home where they went on date nights and allowed us a lot of freedom to explore our own interests. Even when I went through the teenage years of confusion and angst, slamming doors and crying on my bed, I never doubted that my parents loved me. As an adult I can see that this fact is not one I should take for granted. It is a gift that my life was never “incomprehensible” or “senseless” because of simple things my parents did to show their love for me. My mom would pick me up from school with chicken nuggets that I could munch on the way home, and my dad would take off work to come to school assemblies when I was going to sing.  Pope Francis told the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals in February: “We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family.”  I’m thankful that my parents showed me this plan in action. “Man cannot live without love.”

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Cardinal George on “A Tale of Two Churches”

Posted Sep. 9, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Cardinal George reflects in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s newspaper on the way that the current American culture requires us to choose between our faith and full civic participation, since the dominant ideology has become like a religion.

He writes: “Swimming against the tide… means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers…. the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”

The Cardinal also points out that, “American civil law has done much to weaken and destroy what is the basic unit of every human society, the family. With the weakening of the internal restraints that healthy family life teaches, the State will need to impose more and more external restraints on everyone’s activities.”

Thanks to the Cardinal who has such a gift for seeing and guiding us! Let’s pray for him and all our bishops!

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Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act

Posted Aug. 1, 2014 by DOM 1 comment

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Yesterday, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R- Wyo.) and Representative Mike Kelly (R- Pa) introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act. This Act is meant to protect organizations who provide child welfare services, such as foster care and adoption, when they have convictions that a child should only be placed with a married mother and father.  Currently, a number of organizations are unable to be of service because of their beliefs about marriage.

Three USCCB Chairmen (Archbishops Cordileone, Lori, and Wenski) gave their support to this bill, noting that, “Indeed, women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose from a diversity of adoption agencies, including those that share the parents’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference also indicated their support for the Bill, noting, “In 2012, Catholic Charities helped complete over 3,000 adoptions and foster care placements, including permanent homes for over 1,600 special needs or “hard-to-place” children. By allowing a diversity of providers through the Inclusion Act, we will be putting the needs of children first and also protecting the religious liberty of long-serving child welfare providers.”

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Friday Fast: June 13, 2014

Posted Jun. 16, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

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Intention: We pray for all men, that they may joyfully discover and live their spiritual fatherhood.

Reflection: St. Joseph was a “just man”: truly Mary’s husband and a spiritual father to Christ.  On Father’s day this year, let us contemplate the spiritual dimension of fatherhood.  The Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, enables men to generate life not only physically, but also spiritually: by guiding, protecting, and modeling lives of virtue for others.

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

Posted Jun. 16, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:10-12)

He includes those in the beatitude whose will is ready to suffer all things for Christ, who is our righteousness. For these then also is the kingdom preserved, for they are in the contempt of this world poor in spirit. (St. Hilary of Poitiers)

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It may seem to be extreme, for us who work to uphold the true meaning of marriage to think of ourselves as “persecuted,” especially in the sense that we say the early Christians were persecuted. And indeed, playing the martyr does not get one very far with those whom one perceives to be doing the persecuting. Even if there is some element of truth in it, it’s a dangerous and tricky thing to speak and behave as if one is the victim of vicious persecution.

This claim needs to be carefully articulated: it’s certainly the case that religious liberty is being superseded in various ways today in the name of equality and fairness and “civil rights”—and people on both sides of the marriage debate have readily acknowledged this fact. But the early Christians were put to death for confessing their faith in Jesus Christ. This is a different sort of thing than experiencing various forms of social injustice which are certainly wrong but are also non-lethal.

But the comparison, careful as we must be in making it, is not totally devoid of value. It’s not helpful to portray ourselves as living martyrs in response to the many trials Christians have undergone, are undergoing, and will undergo because of various government infractions or in response to the attempt to change the very definition of the fundamental institution which is the heart and foundation of the family, the “basic cell of society” (as St. John Paul II often called it); but it is helpful to see how the early Christians lived even in the midst of their own persecutions.

PullOutBeatitude9Our Christian tradition is full of inspiring stories of holy patience in the face of intense persecution and suffering, of courageous martyrdom, and even of humor. (St. Lawrence, burned alive on a grill in 258, famously quipped as he was tortured, “You may turn me over, I’m done on this side.”) But St. Hilary of Poitiers, who died in 368 and thus knew well the gruesome details of the persecutions inflicted on the Christians who went before him, beautifully sums up the attitude of those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: they are “poor in spirit.” By referring this last beatitude back to the first, he implies that all of the beatitudes, like the virtues, go together: where one is found, the others may be found too. The early Christians were able to submit to persecution and even to martyrdom, and survive it, thanks to the grace of God which enabled them to live according to the Beatitudes, to live lives completely oriented towards God.

For us, then, who are not being nailed to crosses, burned alive, stoned to death, beheaded, shot full of arrows, skinned alive, or hacked to death, but who do endure various difficulties and trials of our own for upholding the truth about marriage—and for those in our midst who themselves experience same-sex attractions and struggle to approach Christian perfection through the chastity to which they are called—the early Christians can serve as models: since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

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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 8 of 9)

Posted Jun. 11, 2014 by DOM 1 comment

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Mt 5:9)

The blessedness of the peacemakers is the reward of adoption, “they shall be called the sons of God.” For God is our common parent, and no other way can we pass into His family than by living in brotherly love together. (St. Hilary of Poitiers)

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The implication here is clear: those who make peace will be called sons of God, and those who don’t, won’t. But it’s worth asking, what is meant by “peace” here? In what does this peace consist?

In his book on the Beatitudes, the Dominican theologian Servais Pinckaers considers the various meanings of peace in the Bible and then distinguishes two different kinds of peace, cowardly peace and noble peace:

Cowardly peace is filled with fear. It avoids struggle and danger and shows lassitude in the face of effort and commitment. It is external and is established by means of concession, evasion, and compromise. It is peace at any price, without moral cost. The man of cowardly peace is incapable of simply saying yes or no, taking a clear stand and sticking to it, and assuming responsibility to the end. Under the pretext of dialogue, and for lack of courage, he always delays his decisions.

Pinckaers uses fairly strong words here, but his point remains: this kind of peace is called peace in the same way that simply not hating someone is called love. It simply doesn’t convey what the full meaning of the word is meant to convey. About the other kind of peace, noble peace, he writes:

What I call a noble peace is that high ideal which gives meaning and richness to human life. It calls for personal commitment and a clear response to the appeal of truth, justice, and generous love. In contrast with the false prophets of facile spontaneity and endless dialogue, the man of noble peace does not draw back from renunciations and sacrifices. He has been touched interiorly by the strong and sweet ray of a new peace which draws him to the heights and gathers his energies together to sustain him in the upward climb. This peace exists in us, therefore, and above us. It is a peace more powerful than the forces of war which stir in our hearts and in the world. It is a rich peace, invigorating us and rewarding all our efforts.

PullOutBeatitude8This, Pinckaers says, is the true Scriptural sense of what peace is. When we pray for peace on earth, what we often mean is the mere absence of unnecessary violence—a good thing, to be sure; but what we ought to mean is this notion of full flourishing of the life of man.

This peace should pervade our whole lives, including our dealings with those who disagree even vehemently. Clearly, noble peace belongs to the virtuous man. Those who live with and strive for noble peace (and emphatically not those who tend merely to cowardly peace) seem to be the ones who will be called children of God.

St. Hilary’s insight above is moving, and true: we pass into God’s family by living in brotherly love together. This must not be taken to exclude those who disagree with us. We come yet again to the Gospel notion of charity towards all, loving God in our fellow man.

* The quotes above are 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), 156-57.

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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 7 of 9)

Posted Jun. 9, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8)

This seeing God is the reward of faith; to which end our hearts are made pure by faith. (St. Augustine)

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St. Augustine connects this beatitude with the virtue of faith. This may at first seem odd until we think of the connection between faith and sight: Pope Francis began his first encyclical by writing that those “who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets” (Lumen Fidei 1); St. Paul writes that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7); before raising Lazarus, Jesus tells Martha, “if you would believe you would see the glory of God” (Jn 11:40).

The link, then, between purity of heart and the sight of God, is faith. As Catholics, we believe that faith in God implies faith in the Church and in her teachings; this raises some important questions: How can we understand the phenomenon of Catholics who support the notion of marriage between two persons of the same sex, and how can we respond to those who say, “Well, I’m Catholic, and I think it’s fine”?

PullOutBeatitude7It’s important not to make a judgment about the state of anyone else’s relationship with God. (This is actually what Pope Francis meant when he famously said, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him?”—it’s not for us to determine whether someone does or doesn’t have a thriving relationship with God.) Purity of heart entails a certain childlike innocence; we should therefore, like children, assume the good intentions of our fellow man. We would do well to abide by the words of St. Paul in this regard: the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5).

But perhaps this seems somewhat unsatisfactory. And perhaps it should; for this is not the end of the story. We ought not convince ourselves or others that a Catholic who supports the notion of marriage between two persons of the same sex is a belligerent rebel who has no regard for beauty, truth, or goodness and who certainly does not know the Father in any meaningful way. But we also ought not sit idly by while our brother or sister in Christ continues in his/her ignorance of the fullness of the Gospel and of the Church’s beautiful and robust teaching about the nature and goodness of marriage; one of the seven spiritual works of mercy is to instruct the ignorant (and “ignorance” here doesn’t mean a willful act of ignoring something, it just means a lack of knowledge). This work of instruction, just as everything else in our lives, must be done in all charity.

How do we go about this instruction? First of all, with a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith. But what about more concrete ways? Arguments strictly from authority, e.g., “So-and-so says so, so it’s so”, are rarely effective, even if they’re true. We can also argue directly from divine revelation, but it may be that even some of our fellow Catholics may be resistant to such arguments. But with this particular issue (and many others) we can also argue simply from reason, in this case from human nature. But we should at the same time be attentive to the fact that arguments from reason alone regarding matters that have also been revealed aren’t always effective either. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas provides five logically solid demonstrations from reason alone for the existence of God, the famous “Five Ways”—yet there are many who follow the logic of the arguments to the conclusion that God exists and still don’t go to church.

PullOutBeatitude7no2This is one way in which we can see that faith and reason work together: arguments from revelation alone can come across as unfounded dogmatic assertions, while arguments from reason alone can fail to effect a discernable change in the lives of those with whom we speak. When we begin to see that faith and reason each influence each other, it becomes clear that they are “like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves” (St. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, introduction). It is purity of heart that allows us to live in the light of faith, unencumbered by the darkness of error and sin; let us pray that we and all of our brothers and sisters in the Lord may come to the full knowledge of the truth, which saves us and sets us free.

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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.