An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


The Annunciation and Freedom

Posted Mar. 25, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38).”

Today we celebrate that great event when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary and asked her to be the Mother of God. The Annunciation is a huge solemnity in the Church because it commemorates that moment when God took on human flesh. This day exemplifies God’s love for us in so many ways. All throughout the Old Testament we read about examples when God’s love was rejected by His people. Time and time again, He offered opportunities to accept His love, all the while, allowing His people to choose Him freely (or not choose Him as was often the case). Mary’s fiat or “yes” is celebrated because unlike anyone in history before her, she was completely and unreservedly open to God’s will in her life.

The event of the Annunciation teaches us a great deal about freedom. Often times, when we think of freedom, we see it as the ability to choose between “a” or “b,” without any pressure or influence to choose either one. We often believe that such an influence would be considered an infringement on our freedom. But when we look closer, this view of freedom is devoid of all truth. It assumes there is no difference between the options “a” and “b” and that the only good is the ability to choose. It never considers what is being chosen.

Authentic freedom, on the other hand, is shaped by truth. In the words of John Paul II, “Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom.” Apart from truth, freedom cannot exist. Take for example persons considered “free” to “express their sexuality” through the use of pornography, a medium that completely disregards the truth of human dignity and what human sexuality is made for. Through this addicting “expression,” a person can quickly become a slave to the sin of pornography. Contrarily, we are most free when we are living according to the truth of our existence.  Because she had never been touched by the stain of sin, Mary was completely free to embrace the will of God. She was completely free to live the life she was made to live.

Another lie society tells us is that our ability to choose is simply that, our choice. No one else needs to be involved and no one else should matter. We are autonomous, self-determining individuals, so the theory goes. The Annunciation shows us this is not the case. Mary’s willingness to participate in the event of the Incarnation has affected all of history. All of creation waited in anticipation of Mary’s “Yes.” We are all sharers in the benefit of Mary’s decision to choose the will of God. No choice we make is ever merely personal because we are all connected through our common humanity.

Finally, the Annunciation shows us that we can never truly separate faith and life. This is sometimes difficult to accept, especially within a culture that emphasizes the importance and necessity of separating “Church and state.” Today, it is considered normal to be “personally opposed” to something, but okay with it happening in the public realm. Our Catholic faith is different, however. There is no distinction between the public and private realm when it comes to living out our faith. Everything we do, whether it be eating, sleeping, talking or reading, should be done with an eye to who we are as created beings and why God made us. The Incarnation shows us that the physical matters. Salvation history occurs within history, it is a physical event.

There is a poem by Rev. John Duffy, C.S.s.R. which describes Mary’s first awakening after the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. In describing Mary, the poem explains “She was the Mother of the wandering Word, little and terrifying in her laboring womb. And nothing would again be casual and small, but everything with light invested (italics mine).” The Incarnation displays for us how involved God is in our daily lives. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).” He is not some distant God who creates us and leaves us to figure things out on our own. Instead, God is invested in our lives at every moment. He holds us in being through love, in love, and for love. As John Paul II explained, “man 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 (Redemptor Hominis, no 10).” So nothing we do should be separated from this realization that God is Love and desires each of us to be united with Him in Love. When we realize this, “nothing [will] again be casual and small.”


Friday Fast: March 21

Posted Mar. 20, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Intention: We pray for all fathers, that through the example of St. Joseph, they may fully embrace their vocation and accept the privilege and responsibility of caring for their children as St. Joseph cared for Jesus.

Reflection: On Wednesday, we celebrated the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Guardian of the Redeemer,” John Paul II referred to St. Joseph as “the guardian and cooperator in the providential mystery of God (no 14).” He explained that together with Mary, Joseph was the first guardian of Christ: “St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood (no 8).”

It is interesting to note that St. Joseph’s fatherhood and specific role in the plan of salvation would not have been possible apart from his marriage to Mary: “Joseph’s fatherhood – a relationship that places him as close as possible to Christ…comes to pass through marriage to Mary, that is, through the family (no 7).” Let us pray that every husband and wife will be brought closer to Christ through their marriage to one another.

A further reflection on St. Joseph’s participation in the plan of salvation can be found here.

Did You Know? Pope Francis has a deep devotion to St. Joseph. Last year, he chose the Solemnity of St. Joseph as the date for his inaugural Mass. A sign of Pope Francis’ devotion to this Saint can be seen on his coat of arms. Next to the star representing Mary is the spikenard flower, which is often used to represent St. Joseph.


Solemnity of St. Joseph

Posted Mar. 18, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Among Saint Joseph’s many titles such as “mirror of patience”, “lover of poverty”, “terror of demons”, “pillar of families”, a particularly interesting one is “the guardian of the mystery of God.” In his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, John Paul II emphasized the importance of this title and the role St. Joseph was given to play in God’s plan of salvation.

Joseph was one of the first to share in the mystery of the Incarnation with Mary. This “sharing” was in a real way an actual participation in Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation. In taking Mary as his wife instead of divorcing her, “what Joseph did united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God the very thing that she had already accepted at the Annunciation (no 4).” Mary and Joseph were one in their desire to follow the Will of God. In a particular way, Joseph silently and courageously took upon himself the many sufferings that Jesus and Mary would bear over the years. Whether by accepting the mysterious nature of Mary’s pregnancy, making the long journey to Bethlehem with no place to stay, and later escaping into Egypt to save Jesus’ life, Joseph fully embraced the supreme honor and responsibility of caring for Mary and Jesus.

It is important to note that Joseph’s fatherhood is tied to his marriage with Mary. In fact, “Joseph’s marriage to Mary is the juridical basis of his fatherhood (no 7).” God chose to have His only Son enter the world in a family. In the beginning of the Old Testament, we are told of a married couple, Adam and Eve, through whom “the source of evil was unleashed on the world (no 7).” It seems fitting therefore, that God would desire to bring salvation to the world through the marriage of Mary and Joseph. In this way, “the savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family – that sanctuary of love and cradle of life (no 7).”

Through Christ’s being born into and growing up in a family, we see the importance placed upon marriage and the family within salvation history. Each family today is given the opportunity to imitate the Holy Family and therefore participate in salvation history in a distinct way. Each family is a “domestic Church” where, as Pope Francis explained, “we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children (Evangelii Gaudium, no 66).” Each family is also given the opportunity to ask St. Joseph to guard and protect them as he guarded and protected Mary and Jesus. Let us never hesitate to ask this powerful saint to intercede on behalf of our families. St. Joseph, pray for us!

March 19, 2014


Friday Prayer on the Feast of All Saints Day

Posted Nov. 7, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Intention: We remember the saints and martyrs who were servants of the Lord during their earthly lives and ask that they pray for us to one day join them in heaven.

Reflection: The Solemnity of All Saints is a feast in the Catholic Church that was originally instituted to honor the Christian martyrs of the late Roman Empire.

Although we often associate martyrdom with events of the past, violent persecution of Christians is still happening at an alarming rate in modern times in many countries. Therefore, in praying for the martyrs of ages past, let us also pray for suffering Christians around the world who continue to be persecuted in this day and age for following Christ.cemetery

Did You Know? Many families make it a tradition on All Saints’ Day to gather at a local cemetery and decorate the graves with flowers or wreaths in anticipation of All Souls’ Day, which occurs on November 2. Catholics in many countries honor and pray for the departed souls who may have no one to pray for them.

*Note on fasting: On the Solemnity of All Saints, we honor all of the saints and continue to join in prayer for the building up of a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty.  Since this feast day is a solemnity, it is not appropriate to fast on All Saints’ Day.



Friday Fast: for those facing religious persecution

Posted Aug. 8, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Click here for printable version.

Intention: For the intercession of the saints to fortify and encourage all those facing religious persecution.

Reflection: Today we celebrate the feast of St. Edith Stein, who was born into a Jewish family in 1891 in what is now Wroclaw, Poland. During her studies in philosophy, she encountered the writings of the great Carmelite mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, who inspired her conversion to Catholicism in 1922. In 1933, she joined the Carmelite Order, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Edith faced significant adversity during her early years in religious life. Recognizing the risk she presented to her fellow sisters during World War II because of her Jewish background, Edith left for Holland and entered the Carmel of Echt. Edith, however, was captured by Nazis and later taken to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chambers on August 9, 1942.

St. Edith Stein stands as a profound witness for all who seek to live for the truth. Let us recall her words spoken just a few days before her death: “If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.” We pray ardently for the grace to stand courageously in the face of religious persecution.

Did you know? Last year, Pope Benedict XVI told the diplomatic corps that even in today’s time, “In many countries, Christians are deprived of fundamental rights…; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes. At times they are forced to leave the countries they have helped to build because of persistent tensions and policies which frequently relegate them to being second-class spectators of national life.”  Read more about current threats to international religious freedom.



Friday Fast: Pray for greater friendship with Jesus

Posted Aug. 1, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Click here for printable version.

Intention: That we may become better friends with Jesus, and that our friendship with Him would help us to reflect His love for everyone.

Reflection: When we look at our society, we see a great deal of suffering, injustice, and heartache. We see people of inestimable worth who are looked down on or rejected because of their disabilities. We see women facing unexpected pregnancies who feel trapped and as though there is no life-affirming support for both them and their children. We see elderly men and women who fear that they are a burden.

Yet we know that “the LORD is close to the brokenhearted” (Ps 34:19). And we know that He invites us to help Him show all people His love. We might feel intimidated and overwhelmed because we don’t know how to respond to the great need we see, but He will show us.

Let us draw close to Jesus, spending time with Him and listening to His voice. Let us ask for help seeing Him in those around us and loving them with His heart: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

Did you know? Today is the feast day of St. Peter Julian Eymard (called the “Apostle of the Eucharist”): “Belong entirely to God through love, entirely to your neighbor through a gracious charity, entirely to the divine Eucharist by the offering and sacrifice of your whole self. Bear with yourself in the patience of our Lord.” (See also: “A Holy Hour for Life: Prayers Before the Blessed Sacrament for the Gospel of Life”).



Friday Fast: For grandparents

Posted Jul. 26, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Click here for printable version.

Intention: For grandparents, that they may be cherished by their families as they continue to witness to fidelity, love, and sacrifice.

Reflection: Today is the feast day of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said that grandparents are “witnesses of a personal and community history” that continues “to live on in their memories and in their wisdom.”

More quotes from Benedict’s talk on grandparents:

“Who does not remember their grandparents? Who can forget their presence and their witness by the domestic hearth? How many of us bear their names as a sign of continuity and gratitude!”

“May grandparents return to being a living presence in the family, in the Church and in society. With regard to the family, may grandparents continue to be witnesses of unity, of values founded on fidelity and of a unique love that gives rise to faith and the joy of living.”

“In the face of the crisis of the family, might it not be possible to set out anew precisely from the presence and witness of these people – grandparents – whose values and projects are more resilient?”

Did you know? The next video in the Marriage: Unique for a Reason series is a Spanish-language video called “El Matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida” (“Marriage: Made for Love and Life”). In the video, grandparents Hector and Rosa, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary, gently help their grandson Miguel and his girlfriend Maria see the beauty of lifelong married love between a husband and wife. Go here to watch a trailer of “El Matrimonio” (with a dual-language script).



Sunday Pope Quote: Bl. John Paul II on Marriage and the Trinity

Posted May. 26, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Sunday, May 26 is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. In his 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, Bl. John Paul II wrote about the likeness between the Trinity and human persons.

Bl. John Paul II: God, who allows himself to be known by human beings through Christ, is the unity of the Trinity: unity in communion. In this way new light is also thrown on man’s image and likeness to God, spoken of in the book of Genesis. [link] The fact that man “created as man and woman” is the image of God means not only that each of them individually is like God, as a rational and free being. It also means that man and woman, created as a “unity of the two” in their common humanity, are called to live in a communion of love, and in this way to mirror in the world the communion of love that is in God, through which the Three Persons love each other in the intimate mystery of the one divine life.

Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 7 (italics original, bold added)


Friday Fast: Pray for religious freedom, and the courage to live our faith at all times

Posted May. 17, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

Printable version

Intention: As we approach the feast of Pentecost, we pray for the Church and that our faith might not be simply a private matter, but rather that the Holy Spirit will help us witness to Christ in all areas of our lives.

Reflection: As faithful Catholics, the beliefs that we profess in Church on Sunday carry over into our personal and professional lives. Christ invites us into loving relationship with Him, and His love infuses our actions, helping us to love Him in return by following His commandments in our daily lives. However, the proposed HHS “contraceptive mandate,”  in effect, attempts to restrict the practice of our faith to the private sphere. As explained by the USCCB general counsel, the mandate’s current definition of “religious employer” (a definition used to determine which employers are exempted from the mandate) excludes “a wide array of employers that are undeniably religious,” including organizations that “contribute most visibly to the common good through the provision of health, educational, and social services,” such as Catholic schools and hospitals. Telling faith-based organizations that they are not “religious enough” to qualify for an exemption to the contraceptive mandate is a violation of religious freedom.

As we approach the feast of Pentecost, let us ardently pray to Christ to send forth His Spirit so that we will be filled with His peace and strength to live our faith at all times.

Did you know? “This year’s Fortnight [for Freedom] occurs just weeks before August 1, when the administration’s mandate coercing us to violate our deeply-held beliefs will be enforced against most religious non-profits. During the Fortnight the Supreme Court’s decisions on the definition of marriage will likely be handed down as well. Those decisions could have a profound impact on religious freedom for generations to come.” Archbishop William E. Lori, News Release (May 13, 2013)



Sunday Pope Quote: Bl. John Paul II on St. Gianna Molla

Posted Apr. 28, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today, April 28, is the feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a married saint whom we profiled earlier in our married saints series. In honor of St. Gianna’s feast day, today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from the 2004 mass in which Bl. John Paul II canonized St. Gianna along with five others.

Bl. Pope John Paul II: “Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love. In a letter to her future husband a few days before their marriage, she wrote: ‘Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women’.

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.

Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call!”

Homily at the Canonization of Six New Saints (May 16, 2004), emphasis added

All Sunday Pope Quotes


Sunday Pope Quote: Francis on St. Joseph as Husband and Father

Posted Mar. 24, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Pope Francis 2

Pope Francis celebrated his inauguration mass on the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19). His whole homily is worth reading, but here is some of what he had to say about St. Joseph as protector of Jesus and Mary:

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.

Pope Francis: Homily at the Mass for the inauguration of the Pontificate 19 March 2013 (emphasis added)

Please pray for the pope as he begins his Petrine ministry.


Friday Fast for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty (#3)

Posted Feb. 22, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Quick links:

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.”



Sunday Pope Quote: Holy Family Edition

Posted Jan. 4, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

**Whoops! This post was meant to be shared on December 30th, the feast of the Holy Family. Sorry about that. Nonetheless, it’s a lovely reflection for any day.

Today is the feast of the Holy Family. It’s also the first day that Catholics are invited to participate in a special Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty as part of the bishops’ Call to Prayer movement. Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from Bl. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio and is a reflection about the connection between the Holy Family and every family.

Bl. John Paul II: And now, at the end of my pastoral message, which is intended to draw everyone’s attention to the demanding yet fascinating roles of the Christian family, I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families – indeed, all the families in the world – to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.

Familiaris Consortio, no. 86 (bold added)


Sunday Pope Quote: Pope Benedict on St. John the Baptist and the 'martyrdom' of daily fidelity

Posted Sep. 2, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is from an address given by the Holy Father just a few days ago – Wednesday, August 29, the feast of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. While he doesn’t mention marriage directly, his words speak to those who have uncompromisingly witnessed to the truth of marriage, and have suffered ridicule or worse for it. Keep in mind, too, that St. John the Baptist’s martyrdom was because of his witness to the sanctity of marriage! St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

Pope Benedict XVI: “Celebrating the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist also reminds us – Christians in our own times – that we cannot give into compromise when it comes to our love for Christ, for his Word, for his Truth. The Truth is the Truth; there is no compromise. The Christian life requires, as it were, the ‘martyrdom’ of daily fidelity to the Gospel; the courage, that is, to allow Christ to increase in us and to direct our thoughts and actions.”

– Address given August 29, 2012 (Zenit translation)


Married Saints: St. Joachim & St. Anne

Posted Jul. 26, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

Today is the feast day of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the married couple traditionally honored as the parents of Mary, which makes them the grandparents of Jesus.

Grandparents and the Incarnation

How wonderful that Jesus has grandparents! St. Joachim and St. Anne remind us of the mystery of the Incarnation: God truly became man and entered into a human family that included not only his mother Mary and father Joseph but their parents, and their parents, and their parents, all the way back to Adam (and Eve) at the dawn of creation, according to St. Luke’s chronology (Luke 3:23-38). Like all of us, Jesus was born into a web of relationships, the “cradle of life and love” that is the family (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, no. 40).

The burden of infertility

However, becoming grandparents – or even parents – must have seemed like a far-off dream for much of Joachim and Anne’s married life. Tradition holds that these saints struggled with infertility and were childless for decades. Like other barren couples in Scripture (eg. Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah), sterility was a great burden to Joachim and Anne and even a hindrance to their participation in community life. A story told of St. Joachim relates that he wanted to offer sacrifice in the temple but was turned away because of his childlessness. He retreated into the mountains to air his grievance with God, and during this time both he and his wife received an angelic prophecy of Anne’s pregnancy. We can picture her thanking God in the same words used by Hannah when she became a mother:

“My heart exults in the Lord,
my horn is exalted in my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in my victory.
. . .
The barren wife bears seven sons,
while the mother of many languishes.”
– 1 Samuel 2: 1, 5

Their steadfast faith during the trial of infertility explains why they are often invoked by married couples struggling to conceive a child.

A model for parents

Tradition depicts St. Joachim and St. Anne as loving and dedicated parents to their daughter, Mary. Artwork often shows Mary on her mother’s lap, learning how to read. It is no stretch to imagine that St. Joachim and St. Anne laid the groundwork for Mary’s faith, preparing her to answer one day to the angel Gabriel “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word.”

A model for marriage

Finally, St. Joachim and St. Anne are a particularly special married couple for the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project, seeing how they are the couple featured in the Marriage: Unique for a Reason logo and artwork. As the website says:

Saints Joachim and Anne are the father and mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the fruit of their marriage. By a singular grace of God in view of the merits of Jesus, she was preserved from all stain of Original Sin from the moment of her conception. Thus it is in the context of married life and conjugal love that Mary is prepared to receive the Divine Logos, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is the Logos, the “Reason” at the heart of all reason and truth, including the truth of marriage. The marriage between Joachim and Anne is a significant witness to why marriage is “unique for a reason.”

St. Joachim and St. Anne are the patron saints of grandparents and infertile couples.

St. Joachim and St. Anne, pray for us!

Prayer Resources



Fortnight for Freedom, Day 2: St. Thomas More, Married Saint and Hero of Religious Liberty

Posted Jun. 22, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

Picture of St. Thomas More

England has no lack of married saints, or saints that were martyred for defending religious liberty. Earlier, we profiled St. Philip Howard, one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. And today, on the second day of the Fortnight for Freedom, we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas More, husband, father, and martyr under King Henry VIII in 1535. (Today is also the feast day of St. John Fisher, a bishop also martyred in 1535, but here we confine ourselves to married saints.)

The basics:

  • Born February 7, 1478, in London
  • Married Jane Colt in 1505; she died in 1511
  • Married Alice Middleton in 1511
  • Father of four children
  • Imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534
  • Executed by beheading on July 6, 1535
  • Canonized May 19, 1935 by Pius XI

The Fortnight for Freedom began yesterday, on the vigil of today’s feast day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. The timing is intentional. Both men faced suffering, imprisonment, and ultimately death because of their allegiance to their faith.

The contours of St. Thomas More’s life are familiar to many, thanks in large part to the 1966 movie A Man for All Seasons. Born into a well situated family, St. Thomas was educated at Oxford University and, after a period of discerning the religious life, became a lawyer and married Jane Colt, daughter of a country nobleman. The two lived an exceptionally happy marriage and welcomed four children into their family, but their life together on earth was cut short with Jane’s death at the age of twenty-two. For the sake of the children, St. Thomas remarried quickly and his new wife, Alice Middleton, proved to be a more than capable stepmother and household manager. St. Thomas grew to love Alice as well, and in his epitaph wrote, “This one [Jane] so lived with me, and the other one [Alice] now so liveth, that it is doubtful whether this or the other were dearer to me” (as quoted by Ferdinand Holbock in Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries, 323).

Difficulties began to besiege St. Thomas in 1522. The current ruler of England, King Henry VIII, was seeking to annul his marriage with his wife Catherine and marry a lady-in-waiting by the name of Anne Boleyn. Catherine, the widow of King Henry’s brother, had borne a number of children, but each died at birth or shortly thereafter, with the exception of Princess Mary. Seeking an heir to the throne, King Henry petitioned Rome in vain to grant him an annulment.

Enter Thomas More. As a well-respected lawyer, St. Thomas was asked by the King for counsel in the “Great Matter” of his desire for an annulment. After reflection and consultation, St. Thomas replied that his opinion was with the pope – the marriage was valid and could not be annulled. This was not the answer King Henry was hoping to hear. And yet not long after, the King appointed St. Thomas to the weighty position of Lord Chancellor, promising him that his conscience in the matter of the marriage would be respected.

Unfortunately for St. Thomas, his stance became a very lonely one, and the King’s promise of protection began to seem very thin. In short order, leading English lords petitioned Rome to change its decision on the marriage; the bishops (save St. John Fisher) officially broke with Rome; Archbishop Cranmer declared the King’s marriage to Catherine annulled; and in 1533 King Henry’s new bride Anne Boleyn was declared Queen of England. St. Thomas declined to attend the coronation.

Finally, events came to a head for St. Thomas. In March 1534 a law was passed that declared potential heirs only the offspring of King Henry and his new wife Anne. The law also declared the King’s marriage to Catherine invalid and blatantly rejected papal authority. All citizens of England – including Thomas More – were obliged to assent to the so-called Succession Oath. On April 13, St. Thomas appeared before the archbishop of Canterbury and refused to take the oath, saying that he could not swear to it without imperiling his eternal soul. The former lord chancellor of England was then thrown into the Tower of London.

There St. Thomas languished, besieged by constant visitors trying to elicit a treasonous statement against the King of England, now declared the head of the newly formed Church of England. All attempts were unsuccessful. Finally, on the basis of false testimony from one Master Rich, St. Thomas was convicted guilty and sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered. King Henry altered this punishment to beheading, and on July 6, 1535, St. Thomas More was martyred.

A faithful husband and father, and a faithful witness to the indissolubility of marriage against immense political pressure, St. Thomas stands as a model for husbands, fathers, lawyers, and all those seeking to preserve the precious right of religious liberty.

Prayer Resource: St. Thomas More holy card from Fortnight for Freedom

Patron of: lawyers, politicians

St. Thomas More, pray for us!


Source of picture

Read More
Tags: Tags: ,


Sunday Pope Quote: Corpus Christi edition

Posted Jun. 10, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, or the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, a feast universally instituted by Pope Urban IV in 1264. St. Thomas Aquinas composed the office – or prayers – for this feast day, which includes the words for the well-known hymns Pange Lingua and Panis Angelicus. (n.b. In some areas of the world, such as Rome, Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday following Most Holy Trinity Sunday.)

Today’s Pope Quote is from Bl. John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem. Here the Holy Father speaks about the connection between marriage and the Eucharist, something we’ve highlighted before in the Sunday Pope Quotes.

Bl. John Paul II: We find ourselves at the very heart of the Paschal Mystery, which completely reveals the spousal love of God. Christ is the Bridegroom because “he has given himself”: his body has been “given”, his blood has been “poured out” (cf. Lk 22:19-20). In this way “he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). The “sincere gift” contained in the Sacrifice of the Cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love. As the Redeemer of the world, Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our Redemption. It is the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride. The Eucharist makes present and realizes anew in a sacramental manner the redemptive act of Christ, who “creates” the Church, his body. Christ is united with this “body” as the bridegroom with the bride. All this is contained in the Letter to the Ephesians. The perennial “unity of the two” that exists between man and woman from the very “beginning” is introduced into this “great mystery” of Christ and of the Church.

Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 26

All Sunday Pope Quotes


Sunday Pope Quote: Pentecost Edition

Posted May. 27, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Happy Feast of Pentecost! Today the Church commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. This might come as a surprise, but Bl. John Paul II had quite a lot to say about the Holy Spirit in his talks on the “theology of the body.” Today’s Sunday Pope Quote, then, is a passage from TOB about piety, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Bl. John Paul II: “The Holy Spirit, who according to the Apostle’s words [St. Paul] enters into the human body as into his own ‘temple,’ dwells there and works with his spiritual gifts. Among these gifts, known to the history of spirituality as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (see Isa 11:2), the one most congenial to the virtue of purity seems to be the gift of ‘piety’ (eusebeia; donum pietatis). If purity disposes man to ‘keep his own body with holiness and reverence,’ as we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, piety as a gift of the Holy Spirit seems to serve purity in a particular way by making the human subject sensitive to the dignity that belongs to the human body in virtue of the mystery of creation and redemption. Thanks to the gift of piety, Paul’s words ‘Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…and that you do not belong to yourselves?’ (1 Cor 6:19) take on the convincing power of an experience and become a living and lived truth in actions. They also open fuller access to the experience of the spousal meaning of the body and of the freedom of the gift connected with it, in which the deep face of purity and its organic link with love reveals itself.”

Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006), no. 57.2


Easter Sunday: He is risen!

Posted Apr. 8, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Today, Easter Sunday, Christians around the world celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and His victory over death.

Today we share with you a reflection on Easter by Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage:

Easter season time of coming to life

In his column, Bishop Cordileone writes about the maternal nature of the Church:

“The Church gives birth to new children for God’s kingdom at the baptismal font; she nourishes them with the food of the Eucharist and by teaching them the truth of Christ; she comes to their aid when they are ill spiritually or physically through the healing grace of the sacraments; she trains them in the school of virtue so that they may develop the capacity for love and happiness.” Read more

A very blessed and happy Easter to all of our readers!


Holy Saturday: The mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell

Posted Apr. 7, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today is Holy Saturday, when we recall the mystery of Christ’s lying in the tomb and his descent into hell (see CCC, nos. 624-37). Even in the Lord’s death, the consequence of the full outpouring of his life (his gift of self) for our salvation and for the glory of the Father, the Lord was at work to bring about life (see CCC, nos. 634-35).

On this day we are invited also to recall the mystery of Baptism, a “nuptial mystery” (CCC, no. 1617), which many will be experiencing tonight in the Easter Vigil. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (as quoted in CCC, no. 628).