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Evangelii Gaudium: Mary, Mother of Evangelization

Posted Jun. 16, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

marystatueLessons from Evangelii Gaudium #20
Pope 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.

Mary, Mother of Evangelization
Pope Francis ends his apostolic exhortation by turning to Mary, who is our model and our help in evangelization. If we reflect on Christ’s dying words in the Gospel of John, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27), we see that in this most important moment, in “the supreme hour of the new creation,” Christ turns our attention to Mary (no.285). He offers us his mother to be our own, as “an icon of womanhood” to intimately accompany the Church, which includes each one of us (no. 285).

The Holy Father reminds us of the myriad roles that Mary plays in the life of the Church. She is the “handmaid of the Father who sings his praises…the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking gin our lives…the woman whose heart was pierced by a sword…a sign of hope…the missionary who draws near to us…a true mother” (no. 286). In these many ways and more, Mary is with each of us, sharing our history, struggles, and our mission. What a wonderful gift Christ has given us! Her maternal comfort is a wellspring of strength and hope for all who are weary and suffering.

As the one who allowed herself to be completely open to and guided by the Holy Spirit, Mary is our model of perfect faith; she is “the Mother of the Church which evangelizes” (284). She accompanies us as we enter more deeply into the mystery of faith—a journey often riddled with moments of “aridity, darkness, and even fatigue” (no. 287). She herself, Pope Francis tells us, often experienced these things, as she “lived in intimacy with the mystery of her Son, and went forward in her pilgrimage of faith” (no. 287). As we strive to live in that same intimacy, she offers us the comfort of her maternal presence especially through the moments of darkness and uncertainty.

In gratitude for the gift of His mother that Christ gave us, we must keep love and reverence for Mary alive in our homes, without whom “we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization” (no. 284). We must look to her for the form that evangelization should take, especially within our family lives. She has shown us that justice and tenderness, contemplation and work, must always be held together. When we live in this way, looking to our Mother for guidance, our homes with the entire Church can help to open the way “to the birth of a new world” (288).

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Evangelii Gaudium: Intercessory Prayer

Posted Jun. 2, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

20141202cnsbr7063Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #19
Pope 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.

Intercessory Prayer (281-283)
While there are many ways to live out our prayer lives, Pope Francis calls our attention to one particular form of prayer: Intercession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Intercessory prayer as “a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did.” Though he is the “one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men,” we can be united with him in this form of prayer (CCC, 2634).

For a concrete example of intercessory prayer, the Holy Father points us to St. Paul, who shows us that prayer is “full of people” in its concerns (no. 281). Paul tells the Philippians, “I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you…because I hold you in my heart” (Phil 1:4, 7). Authentic intercessory prayer is marked by an attitude of attentiveness and gratitude that recognizes God’s work in the lives of others (no. 282). While intercession can often be misunderstood as “suspicious, negative and despairing,” Pope Francis  teaches instead that, “when evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed from self-absorption,…desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others” (no. 282).

Because Jesus Christ is the true intercessor, our union with Him in prayer is a special way to gain access to the heart of the Father. And yet our prayer must always be offered in humility. When we intercede for others, “God’s heart is touched”—our prayer has true power—and “yet in reality he is always there first” (no.283). Intercessory prayer is not about what we want or what others want; instead it brings to light the love and work of God that is always already present there.

Our homes should be a fruitful place where this prayerful openness, gratitude, and concern for others abides. As a family, foster awareness of the needs of those around you—at work, at school, in the neighborhood, and around the world. Come together to pray for them, holding them in your heart, as St. Paul did. Then be sure to discuss the ways in which you notice God working. This is a wonderful way to unite as a family to Christ, to turn towards others, and to become ever more aware of God’s constant, loving presence.

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Prayer and Encounter: Evangelii Gaudium

Posted May. 27, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #18
Pope 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.

Prayer and Personal Encounter (262-267)
Our call to evangelization flows from the love we have received in our personal encounter with Christ; without this love, our attempts to evangelize would be empty and unconvincing. Unless we fill our lives with “prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervor dies out” (no. 262).  The Holy Father invites us to constantly beg the Lord to open and enliven our hearts by his grace. It is through our dynamic joy from having received His love that we can best relay the gospel message to others.

Pope Francis reminds us that while time set aside for prayer is necessary nourishment for our work, we must not fall into a habit of “individualistic spirituality” that draws us further away from our mission to others. Though we receive anew our life and joy from our daily encounters with the love of Christ, we can’t stop short of turning toward others to give away that same love.

The enthusiasm of our mission is strengthened by our conviction that Christ responds to the deepest longing of our hearts—and that he is likewise the answer to the deepest needs of all people. This conviction must be kept alive through our own understanding “from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to” (no. 266). If we are not personally aware of the presence of Christ in our life and the difference that it makes, if we try to evangelize by our own means, our passion and commitment will be drowned out by our human weakness and complacency.

Like Christ, our greatest motivation is the glory of the Father. If we are to remain vigorous in evangelizing—especially in the face of the many cultural and political obstacles of our world—we must strive for union with Christ, so that we may “seek what he seeks and…love what he loves” (no 267).

We must never let our commitment to work distract us from the ever-deepening encounter with Christ that first called us to serve Him. In order to foster personal awareness of Christ’s presence within family life, set aside time each day for quiet, receptive prayer. Afterwards, come together again in conversation as a family. This simple practice can serve as a model of our call to first receive love from Christ in order to give away that same love to everyone we encounter.

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Friday Intention: June 27

Posted Jun. 26, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

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**Because Friday June 27th is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is not appropriate to fast. However, we are continuing to join in prayer for the building up of a culture of life, marriage and religious liberty.    

Intention: Lord Jesus, on this Solemnity of Your Most Sacred Heart, we offer you our own hearts, imperfect as they are. Grant us the grace to continue to do Your will.

Reflection – It is easy in our fast-paced world to get caught up in the stress and worries of everyday life. Make time today for prayer in which you invite Christ into your heart and ask for his help with the burdens of life. Today on the Solemnity of his Most Sacred Heart, we ask Christ to purify our own hearts and bestow his healing grace upon us.

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Friday Fast: June 6, 2014

Posted Jun. 5, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

fortnight logo

Intention: As we approach Pentecost Sunday, we ask for the Holy Spirit’s protection of our first, most cherished liberty and the grace to stand united in prayer and service during the upcoming Fortnight for Freedom.

Reflection: The Fortnight for Freedom begins on June 21. Let us prepare for this powerful witness by asking the Holy Spirit for a fruitful time of renewal in our country to celebrate the values of life, marriage, and religious liberty. How will you serve during this year’s Fortnight?

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Friday Fast: April 11

Posted Apr. 10, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Intention: We pray for a deeper understanding of what it means to be created male or female.

Reflection: During a recent morning meditation, Pope Francis reflected on the Book of Genesis. “The creation of man and woman is the masterpiece of creation,” the Pope explained. God “did not want for man to be alone: he wanted him to be with his companion, his companion on the journey.”

Here the Bible shows us a very important truth; man and woman are equal, but different. This sexual difference is actually complementary. It is through the existence of woman that we are able to fully appreciate the uniqueness of man and vice versa. An example of this aspect of difference and complementarity can be seen in beautiful paintings where two complementary colors are used. When brought together, the two different colors look more vibrant and unique than they would have looked separately. The same can be said of man and woman. In the words of Blessed John Paul II, “femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity.”

Did You Know? In his Theology of the Body, Blessed John Paul II explained that “man became an image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning.” Through marriage, a husband and wife are able to be a true communion of persons by giving themselves and receiving the other in unselfish love. In this way, a husband and wife have the unique ability to reflect Trinitarian Love.

FYM couple outdoors

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Friday Fast: March 28

Posted Mar. 27, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

fridayfastmarch28 jpgReflection: “Pope Francis has observed that ‘religion [cannot] be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life.’ …Every Christian is called to practice charity in a manner corresponding to his or her vocation. Some Catholics, like the Little Sisters of the Poor who run nursing homes for the elderly poor, devote their entire lives to helping others and embrace a vow of poverty themselves” (Archbishop Kurtz).

Yet the HHS mandate compels objecting employers to provide coverage for drugs and devices which are against their consciences and threatens the ministries of the Little Sisters of the Poor and many others.

As this and many other lawsuits progress, let us continue our prayer efforts for the protection of the religious freedom so we may practice charity and live out our faith without penalty.

Did You Know? This Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases brought by families who are seeking protection of their religious freedom.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, shares comments in his op-ed, “Will the Owners of Hobby Lobby Have to Check Their Faith at Their Own Door?”

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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.

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Friday Fast: March 14

Posted Mar. 13, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

pope francis wyd 2Intention: Marking the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election this week, we pray that we may follow his humble example and better love “our brethren, especially the weakest and neediest” (Pope Francis, April 24, 2013).

Reflection: A year ago this week, Pope Francis captivated the world almost immediately with his humble simplicity, charisma and warmth. Throughout the past year, he has continued to teach us both by his example and his words, inspiring us to look beyond ourselves and encouraging us to “go in search of the people who are the very flesh of Christ” (Vigil of Pentecost, 2013).

In the message from Pope Francis for last year’s Day of Life, we are reminded that “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live for ever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

Let us ask the Lord how He is calling us to love all of our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and neediest, and follow where He leads.

Did You Know? The Vatican website features an online book of images and quotes from Pope Francis over the last year.