May. 17, 2013
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)
- 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
Apr. 28, 2013
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
Mar. 24, 2013
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.
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.”
Jan. 4, 2013
**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)
Sep. 2, 2012
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)
Jul. 26, 2012
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!
- Novena to St. Joachim and St. Anne from the USCCB: “Saints Anne and Joachim are powerful intercessors for all married couples, expectant mothers and married couples who are having difficulty conceiving, as well as all who have grown old.”
- Novena to St. Ann from EWTN
- Prayer to St. Joachim from About.com (Catholicism)
Jun. 22, 2012
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.)
- 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!
Jun. 10, 2012
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
May. 27, 2012
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