Rural Life Commission Winter Seminar

The Salina Diocese Catholic Rural Life Commission continues to provide spiritual growth information and support to members of the Salina Diocese involved in Agriculture. In the past there were two key events that continue today and those were and are the celebration of Saint Isadore’s Day with blessing of flocks and fields with Mass and a social gathering. The other is the celebration of Rural Life Day when we honor family farms that have been in the family for over 100 years.

These two events move around the Diocese each year to make the attendance easier for all and to allow different Parishes to be highlighted in the celebrations. In 2017 CRL began a third event with the introduction of the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader workshop in Russell, KS. Many of those attending the workshop asked that we continue our focus on items discussed there. We have tried to do that with a late winter seminar each year since that time. Last year the seminar was in Manhattan, KS. This year we are very excited to continue the Late Winter Seminar by hosting it at St. Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church, Russell, KS on March 2, 2019. The event this year will begin with Mass at 9:30 celebrated by Bishop Gerald Vincke and followed by his presentation addressing the spiritual concerns and opportunities in our rural Diocese.

The day will conclude with a lunch served by the CYO students of Russell. This will be a good time to relax and visit with Bishop Vincke and all who have attended. We look forward to seeing you there. In order to have plenty of food and materials we ask that you make your reservation for this event by completing the form below. We look forward to seeing you there.

Please register for this event.

Salina Diocese Rural Commission Winter Seminar Registration.

What Your Family Can Learn from the Holy Family

Catholic Answers

by: Mike Sullivan

Our society seems intent on destroying the family. Marriage is threatened by the plagues of divorce, relativism, and secularization. Same-sex and "de facto" unions have undermined the meaning of marriage, calling into question its very purpose. In fact, divorce is not only common, but it is expected in almost half of today’s marriages. Many children are raised without discipline, and their potential is dashed by abuse or neglect.

But there are examples throughout history of how strong families have formed the true foundation of society. These families have provided correction to society by bringing up new generations of leaders and saints. Think of St. Thomas More, the martyr who lived a life of heroic virtue and who, even after the death of his first wife, taught his children to know and love their faith. Think of the Martins, St. Therese of Lisieux’s family, who also suffered the loss of their mother but went on to lead lives of sanctity.

There are hundreds of other examples. Marriage and family can work. They can provide an opportunity to grow in holiness, strengthen the culture in which we live, overcome the greatest obstacles, and succeed. But the example of the Holy Family best teaches us how to build our own little "Nazareth" and raise saints to serve God and the world.

It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the Holy Family and families today, but reflecting on the roles of Mary as mother, Joseph as father, and Jesus as child gives us a spiritual perspective that can shape our understanding of our own roles in our families.

School of Nazareth

On pilgrimage to Nazareth, Pope Paul VI reflected, "Nazareth is a kind of school. . . . How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth!" He explained that there are three key lessons to learn from Christ’s childhood:

  • It offered silence. "We need this wonderful state of mind," the Pope said, to combat the pressures and noise of the world. 
  • It was "a community of love and sharing." Nazareth serves as "a model of what the family should be . . . beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children—and for this there is no substitute." 
  • It taught discipline. "In Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails" (Office of Readings, Dec. 26).

As Christian parents, we are called to model our own family life after the Holy Family in Nazareth. By shaping our homes in the example of silence, community love, and discipline, we ensure that we are doing our part in creating a nurturing environment in which saints are made

Cherish Silence

Pope Paul VI mentions silence first, for it is in silence that we are trained in prayer. A silent interior life is free of struggles and distraction; it is a life of constancy, whereas the noise of the world is disruptive and distracting. It is in interior silence that we contemplate and have communion with God.

We don’t know much from Scripture about Jesus’ life as a child, but we do know that the Holy Family’s home in Nazareth was a sanctuary from the distractions and influence of the world. Christ’s childhood was a hidden time of formation and preparation for his mission. Preparation in the quiet of Nazareth was so important for Jesus that it represents thirty of his thirty-three years on earth.

Our homes should be sanctuaries from the world. The more negative influences we allow into our homes, the less control we have over what forms the characters of our children. A home marked by silence is a home where the priorities are in order and where there is a focus on the spiritual good of the children.

By fostering silence in the home, we teach our children to avoid distraction. They learn to concentrate better and thus are better able to develop their faith. Bl. Teresa of Calcutta explained the way she and her sisters were aware of God’s will for them. She said, "Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart." In silence, our children will learn to pray and develop a loving relationship with God, with each other, and with us. But this ideal is very difficult to realize.

In Luke’s Gospel, we see several instances of Mary’s "pondering heart." She wasn’t sure what to make of the events unfolding in her life, so she trusted in God’s Providence and considered these things in the silence of her heart (Luke 1:28; 2:19, 51). As parents, we don’t understand many things as we strive to raise our children in accord with God’s will. But if we ponder these questions and lift them up to God in prayer, we will soon understand what he is calling us to do.

In my home, there is very little "silence." Imagine seven children under the age of eleven praying, playing, learning, working, and, occasionally, fighting. But my wife and I try our best to limit outside influences. We don’t watch television, but we do occasionally watch wholesome movies. The children are allowed to listen to music only if it is edifying. Playtime with friends is also limited. We do our best to form a family culture that is focused on the character formation and education of our children.

The time we have to build virtue in our children is short. We must make the best of it. They will leave the home and go about the will of the Father, and they need our nurturing and protection to grow into the saints they are called to be.

Build a Community of Love

Pope Paul VI said that building a "community of love and sharing" is crucial to teaching children the virtues. This community is also necessary to form within children the raw material for selfless, loving relationships with God and their future spouses and children.

Building a community of love and sharing begins with each family member’s willingness to offer himself for the sake of another. Parents are called to be the first examples of self-giving. Our lives are to be ordered to the service of others. Mary understood this. Consider how she dropped everything and traveled to visit her relative Elizabeth. Even though she was pregnant herself, Mary willingly went and served the needs of her elder kinswoman (Luke 1:39–56).

Consider also her suffering as her divine Son was tortured and died on the cross. She always knew that she and her Son would have great sufferings to endure, and she humbly and lovingly embraced her call and remained at his side until his death.

St. Joseph, too, offered an example of total self-surrender when he humbly accepted God’s will in leading his family out of danger into Egypt. They fled as refugees, in poverty, but it was what they had to do to protect the divine Child.

As parents, we must be prepared to drop everything and flee to protect our families. This applies not only to bodily protection but, most importantly, to the protection of their souls. When we perceive a threat to the moral life of our family, we must flee from that threat or root it out of our homes. In a community of love and sharing, we first look after those in our charge and provide a protective environment in which they can develop.

Dare to Discipline

Mary and Joseph educated Jesus, and Joseph taught him to work as a carpenter. We live in a very different time, one in which it is rare for both parents to teach their children by working with them throughout each day. But lessons about hard work and discipline can be learned when parents make the effort to allow their children to help them in their daily tasks at home. By helping their parents, children learn the virtues of diligence, self-discipline, and responsibility, as well as the value of work.

Children will also learn obedience to their parents’ will, a training exercise in obedience to the will of the Father. As St. Luke tells us, even Jesus "was obedient to them," and "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:51–52). Obedience fosters the virtue of humility, which is the foundation of all virtues and, with love, forms the core of holiness. We know that our children are not perfect. Their souls, like our own, have been stained by original sin. This is why discipline is critical in fostering holiness in the family.

The word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina, which means "instruction or knowledge," from discipulus or "disciple." God gave parents the duty to discipline their children, and parents are accountable to God for the souls and the formation of their children. Children cannot learn virtue without the guidance and example of self-giving parents. At times, it is good to offer children choices so that they can learn not only how to think for themselves but about personal accountability. But children should never be permitted to choose something that will put their souls in peril. 

Commit to Prayer

Prayer brings together silence, the family as a community of love and sharing, and discipline—the distinctive features of the Holy Family. It is rooted in interior silence, it is the core of a community of love and sharing, and it gives rise to discipline. If we have a relationship with God, we pray. It’s that simple. In modeling our families after the Holy Family, prayer must be the center of our lives and our greatest priority. If we wish to be holy families, we must pray. A holy family is our greatest weapon against the influences of the world and our most effective way of influencing the world. The Second Vatican Council called the family "the first and vital cell of society" (Apostolicam Actuositatem 11).

Many popes, bishops, and vocations directors have said that a prayerful family is the fertile soil in which vocations to the priesthood and religious life are nurtured. We participate in the building up of the Church in raising holy men and women to go out and labor in the world, bringing Christ’s light to all they touch, and in encouraging our children to explore and be open to a possible religious vocation.

The Holy Family’s life was steeped in Scripture. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55), for instance, shows a thorough knowledge of Scripture. It draws from many books of the Bible and was spontaneously strung together in such a beautiful way that it is clear that Mary had a profound knowledge of the meaning of the words she spoke. Christ, too, quoted Scripture constantly throughout the New Testament.

Daily readings of Scripture and participation in the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours should have a place in Catholic homes. In fact, the Holy See has taught that praying the Liturgy of the Hours helps families to live the life of the Church fully:

It is fitting . . . that the family, as a domestic sanctuary of the Church, should not only offer prayers to God in common but also, according to circumstances, should recite parts of the Liturgy of the Hours in order to be more intimately linked with the Church. (Institutio Generalis de Liturgia Horarum 118)

Embrace the Challenge

In our family, Scripture grounds our children in the faith. The stories from Scripture are imbedded deeply in their minds. As we live through the liturgical year, we make major feast days and holy days special. We try to embrace St. Paul’s words to the Colossians:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)

With so many small children, we find it a challenge to retain their attention when reading Scripture, but we do our best to make up for this by singing songs and praying the rosary. We’ve found that prayerfully reflecting on the mysteries of the rosary teaches our kids to pray and opens their minds to the stories in Scripture.

According to Pope Paul VI, "there is no doubt that . . . the rosary should be considered as one of the best and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited to recite" (Marialis Cultus 54). It can’t be overestimated as a tool for catechesis.

We often invite door-to-door missionaries or Jehovah’s Witnesses to come into our home for discussion. Once we had a couple of young Mormon missionaries to dinner. We prayed together and talked, and after our meal, they sat with the children and talked about Jesus. One of the missionaries asked our four-year-old daughter, Molly, if she loved Jesus. "Oh, yes," she replied, and went on to talk about the life of Jesus. She told how "Jesus’ mommy talked to an angel" and then became "the Mommy of God." She excitedly told how Mary visited Elizabeth, "because she had a baby in her tummy, too, and Mary helped her. Her baby was John the Baptist." Molly went on to tell how Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem, how Simeon told Mary she was going to be sad about Jesus’ death and that "her heart would be pierced by a sword," and how Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple "teaching the teachers."

The Mormon missionaries were amazed. We were amazed. Our four-year-old had just explained the major points of Jesus’ early life with profound clarity and understanding! We realized that the rosary is much more than a prayer: It is a way to drink in the beauty of Scripture that even a four-year-old can understand.

Children learn best from stories and personal experiences. If parents expose their children to stories about the lives of the saints and give them opportunities to experience the beauty of their faith, these formational moments will be deeply etched on their memories. From the stories of the Child Jesus they will learn how to act and how to obey, how to love and how to pray. By creating your own little Nazareth, your family can imbibe the lessons of the Holy Family and become solidly rooted in the virtues that build up both the family and the world.

It is difficult to stay the course in living the Christian life in a world that is so divorced from the simplicity of the Holy Family, but it is not impossible. We are called to be in the world, not of the world. If we hold up the Holy Family as the example for our families, not only will we learn how to live holy lives, but we will begin to change the culture in which we live. Our little Nazareth can be the refreshing and silent sanctuary we seek to enter each day as we work toward our common goal.

The Holy Family: Model for the Modern World

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Our present conference is on the Holy Family, model for the modern world.

If there is one phenomenon that characterizes the modern world, especially the modern western world, it is the breakdown of family life. The most rampant divorce rate of human history, which in some cities in the United States has reached a rate approaching a 100%. One large city, unnamed, recently had a divorce rate of 500%, five divorces for one marriage that year. The national American rate is well over 50% and climbing constantly. European social scientists, who see what’s happening, say America on these conditions cannot survive.

The breakdown of community religious life has contributed to the disintegration of hundreds of once flourishing religious institutes in western society. One religious institute of women 20 years ago with a membership of over 5,000 has 200 left.

The breakdown of once cohesive parochial life, where parishes live together and work together as clusters of united families, is in many countries a fond memory and for some people an outdated anachronism. Yet as the present Holy Father is never tired repeating, the preservation, and on such a large scale the restoration of Christian family life, is necessary for the survival of Christian society. Christianity will survive only where the family either survives or is restored. I couldn’t be giving you a more sober conference than the present one.

With this introduction we go back to our subject, the Holy Family, model for the modern world. We begin by looking as the foundation for our further reflections on the qualities of the Holy Family. If we look closely at the Holy Family as described in the New Testament, we find certain unmistakable qualities that all families, natural and supernatural, in today’s divided world desperately need.

 

Qualities of the Holy Family

First, the members of the Holy Family were brought together by God Himself. It was He who brought Mary and Joseph together in marriage. It was the Holy Spirit who brought the Child Jesus into their company. The Holy Family was created by God.

Second quality: in the Holy Family there was obvious diversity. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were, by all calculation, different persons with different temperaments, different personalities. They were different in the extreme.

Third quality: in spite of their personal diversity, there was family unity. They not only lived together, they prayed together, they worked together and, how important this verb is today, they stayed together as a family.

Fourth quality: their bond of unity was therefore not their equality, because they were not equal. It was charity, genuine charity.

Fifth and last quality: their charity was rooted in their united vision of a common purpose. They had one single goal—to work together as a community for the salvation of the human family.

 

Applying to Ourselves the Qualities of the Holy Family

Now the lessons for us. We are to go over to each of these five qualities of the Holy Family and apply them to ourselves. Each has much to teach us. That as one modern pope after another has been saying, either we re-discover these family virtues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, or we shall further disintegrate as a Christian society. And a divided Christianity is no match for the enemy, who in case no one has told you, is united. Evil people, enemies of Christ and His Church, are united to the teeth.

First quality of the Holy Family relative to all families: all families are born of God. No Christian group of people come together as a society, whether domestic or religious or parochial or, on a world scale, ecclesiastical, except by a special providence of God.

We can say more. Every family comes into existence in order to be a reflection on earth of the Eternal Family, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which constitutes the Holy Trinity. There was from all eternity a divine Holy Family of the three Persons. Hear it! God as God is not a solitary. God as God is a community.

Families on earth are to be created manifestations of the uncreated Family, which is the triune everlasting God. If there is no such thing as chance with God we may be sure that no earthly family is just a happening. Our father and mother didn’t just happen to meet one another and coincidentally happened to marry and by some quirk of fate happened to have us as offspring. No! Every family, I repeat, domestic, religious, parochial or ecclesiastical is the providential creation of God who is Himself the infinite community of the most blessed Trinity.

Second quality: all members of a family are different. I could almost skip the observations I want to make. But let’s get beneath the difference. This difference is part of God’s all wise plan for His children. He makes us different from the moment He creates a different soul for each one of us. And that, by the way, is an article of faith. What’s an article of faith? That each soul is individually, distinctively, therefore differently and uniquely created by the Almighty God at the moment of our conception in our mother’s womb.

Variety in creation is a glorious reflection of the infinity of the all-perfect God. No one creature, no ten thousand times ten thousand creatures, could adequately manifest the ocean of attributes in the all-perfect God. And to further dramatize it as scientists tell us, did you know not even two snowflakes out of the millions that fall on a winter’s night are the same? Did you know that? God wants us to be different. He made us that way.

Third quality: the different members of a family should be united. No less than the three Persons in God are not the same. Father is not the Son. Father and Son are not the Holy Spirit. Yet all form together the one God. So the members of every family should be united. A family ceases to be a family when each person, who is notoriously and for us painfully embarrassingly, different. A family, I repeat, ceases to be a family when each person so different pursues his own interests without reference to or concern for the other members of the family. A family is a family! It is not a mere group or a cluster or a crowd or a chance gathering of different people.

My subway rides in New York, crowded trains, a perfect symbol of different people who happen to be on the same train. Dead silence, except for the screech of the wheels and the deafening noise of the New York subways.

Fourth quality: love is the bond that unites a family. Only love can unite different, even disparate, people. Only love brings them together, keeps them together and enables them to work together as a family. Where this love is missing or weak, the family as family falls apart. This is the verdict of history.

It is the sad verdict of modern history in so many parts of what we still dare call developed countries in western society. Lord, spare us when we dare call other cultures undeveloped because they don’t have steam heat or microwave ovens.

Some years ago, while teaching Jesuit scholastics in theology, one was finishing his course of studies in America and returning to his native India. I asked him, “Joseph, could you tell me what you found most inspiring and most depressing about your four years in the United States?” No problem answering my question. “The most inspiring thing was your liberty. The most depressing thing was your disunity.” So I asked him, “What do you mean? Are the people in India more united than we are?” “Yes, they are. Take family life,” he said. “There are not just small villages, but good size towns where there is not known a single divorce in the memory of a single inhabitant.” Dear God, help save America, the land of liberty, which is becoming the land of disunity.

We know what this love means in practice. It means selfless love, self-giving love, self-abandoning love and in one word, self-sacrificing love, sacrificing personal likes and dislikes for the sake of the common good of the family.

Fifth quality: the foundation of this common love is a common purpose. If only love can unite different people and enable them to live and work together in peace and harmony, then only the common united vision of those who belong to this family gives them existence as a family and sustains them in family life.

When I see by now and I see so many, I hear and read about others, part of my work for the Congregation of Religious. One empty motherhouse after another! One empty house of formation after another! The buildings are there, but the soul is gone. Where people lose a common vision, they lose their basis for a uniting love.

For us Catholics, this common vision is born of faith, if we believe in one God, one Catholic Church, one vicar of Christ on earth, one destiny for the human race, one means of salvation, but we have to believe! Then and only then shall we be united. There is no substitute for a common vision. Based on a unifying faith which unifies by the strongest bond of unity there is the bond of believing that we have the same goal for existence, the same purpose for existence as a family. What an examination of conscience we all have to make to ask ourselves this embarrassing question, how well am I contributing my part to the family to which under God I belong?

 

Closing Prayer

I thought we’d close with the prayer at Mass and in the Divine Office for the feast of the Holy Family. Father, help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love. Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home. Amen. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Merry Christmas

How many syllables does the word Gloria have?  Answer: 18.  Glooooooooooooooooooria!!

During the season of Christmas, beginning on December 25, we reintroduce the Glory to God in the Highest back into the Mass.  We fast from this song of praise in the Mass during Advent to prepare for its proclamation on Christmas night to the shepherds in the fields.  The proclamation dumbfounds the shepherds, “why us?” but in haste set out to Bethlehem to visit their savior.  That kind of meeting with a multitude of Angels would fill your soul with wonder and joy, the song, I’m sure, was sung by the shepherds all the way to Bethlehem.

The Christmas story has become so familiar to us that we often don’t allow it to penetrate our heart.  By the time Christmas day comes, we are even tired of all the Christmas around us that began in the stores after Halloween.  However, like the shepherds, we should be mystified by this appearance of the Angels, “What does this mean?”  When the Gloria is sung at Mass we should rejoice in the song the Angels gave us and our hearts should be lifted up to the Lord! 

Christmas celebrates God breaking into the monotony of our human life so often given over to sorrow, suffering, pain (physical or emotional), or depression.  This moment in time is the realization of God’s desire to redeem us from the woes that confound us.  This moment surpasses all time and is made present to us at every Mass.  When God took on flesh to be born of a woman and be laid in a manger, He also took on bread to be placed in our body.  He resides in our soul in Holy Communion and desires to be born into the world by our words and deeds in the world.  His coming to us is so that we may bring hope to those despairing, joy to those who are in sorrow, comfort to those who suffer, relief to those who are in pain.

St. Irenaeus says, “Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.”  The vision of God is in the Eucharist born to us on the altar through the words of the priest.  When we live in the image and likeness of God, as a gift of self to one another, we are the glory of God and His sons and daughters. 

This Christmas I pray that you may encounter Christ and be able to sing Gloria to God in the Highest with the Angels and as the shepherds did on Christmas and have the vision of God so that you may give the glory to Him who desires you to know Him and love Him. 

Merry Christmas!
- Father Brian J. Lager

Holy Days of Obligation, Or Holy Days of Opportunity

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

Holy days are usually regarded in terms of obligation and imposition. But should they not be considered even more as graced times of opportunity to mark a special mystery of our faith? In recent years, holy days have come in for a good deal of discussion, evaluation and renewal.

As early as the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom was concerned about the celebration of holy days in Constantinople. This Father and Doctor of the Church commented in a homily that "many people celebrate the holy days and know their names: but of their history, meaning and origin they know nothing."

Today, this challenge persists, and needs to be addressed anew. We might respond to the Bishop of Constantinople in the words of our earliest forebears in the faith: How can I know the meaning or history of the holy days and other feasts "unless someone explains it to me" (Acts 8:31).

The comment of St. John Chrysostom and the words of the Acts of the Apostles invite us to do some home-work, and to draw a historical perspective on holy days of obligation, which are really opportunities to celebrate, to renew and to enrich our faith.

What is a holy day of obligation? A simple answer is that a holy day is an important feast of Our Lord, Our Lady or other saints that Catholics are morally obliged to observe by participating in the celebration of the Eucharist and by abstaining from unnecessary servile work. These days are made solemnities, like a Sunday in terms of festivity and observance, because of their special importance and meaning for the universal and/or local Church. In the United States, we observe six holy days each liturgical year. Holy days do vary from one country to another.

Our American Catholic history tells us why these six holy days of obligation have special significance. Why do we observe six of the 10 prescribed by Church law, and why do other countries observe different feasts?

The Code of Canon Law, most recently revised and promulgated in 1983, requires the observance of 10 holy days. However, exceptions can be made by the Holy See in special agreements with the bishops' conferences of various countries. When the 1918 Code became effective, the Church in the United States was permitted to continue observing the six holy days designated by the U.S. bishops at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884.

Sunday is the focus of the entire liturgical year, the day on which we celebrate our salvation in Christ's death and resurrection. We are asked to celebrate a holy day of obligation with the same solemnity as the Lord's Day.

By honoring another mystery of Christ, or by honoring Mary or a saint of local significance, we are celebrating the same as we do on a Sunday, but with a special orientation. In coming together as a community of faith for the celebration of the Eucharist, we declare the importance of the feast in the life of the particular Church. For this reason, parishes are urged to celebrate holy days with all their resources as they do on Sundays. A deeper understanding by pastors and the faithful of the nature and meaning of each holy day helps to elicit a more appreciative celebration and a commitment to excellence for these special occasions.

The history of holy days of obligation in the United States follows the complex origins of Catholicism in our country. The faith was planted in American soil by waves of Catholic immigrants from all corners of the world. The wide variety of ethnic groups brought together different languages and customs. Each lived an expression of Catholicism with its own distinctive cultural impress. The first three countries to bring the Church to America, in the 16th and 17th centuries — England, France and Spain — had a definite impact on the liturgical calendar of the United States. The six holy days we now observe are a distillation of the liturgical calendars followed by the English, French and Spanish colonists.

The first diocese of the new United States of America was established in Baltimore in 1789, the very year that George Washington was inaugurated as the country's first president. Prior to 1783, the American colonies were under the jurisdiction of London and followed the practices of the Catholic Church in England, which then was weakly organized and frequently persecuted by the British government. American Catholics of English origin were observing the same holy days celebrated in Great Britian.

Before 1777, England included 34 holy days of obligation in its liturgical calendar. That year, Pope Pius VI reduced that number to 11.

Considering that Catholics were persecuted in all 13 colonies (even in Maryland, which had been founded by and for English Catholics), how could they celebrate 34 holy days of obligation? Catholics were often dispensed from the obligation, not only because of persecution but also because they were widely scattered and lived far from the churches that existed at that time.

There is yet another aspect of the history of our holy days— the influence of the French and Spanish colonies. With the insertion of parts of New France (Canada) and Mexico into the new republic, the number of American Catholics increased, and with them came customs and feasts different from those of the Anglo-American Catholics. French America and Spanish America gave us the observance of Mary's Immaculate Conception as a holy day of obligation.

This diversity of origins resulted in almost every U.S. diocese following its own calendar of holy days until 1884, even though the Archbishop of Baltimore had repeatedly attempted some measure of uniformity. In 1791, 10 holy days of obligation were specified for the United States. By 1839, that number dropped to eight. However, dioceses of non-English origin — San Francisco (Spanish), Santa Fe (Spanish), New Orleans (French and Spanish), Chicago (French), Detroit (French) and others— continued to observe their own particular holy days before 1884. When the Third Plenary Council met in Baltimore, the bishops approved the uniform calendar of six holy days now observed: Mary, Mother of God; Ascension: Assumption of Mary; All Saints; Immaculate Conception; Christmas. The decision of the bishops was approved by the Holy See in 1885.

American Catholics, and indeed all Christians, are called to demonstrate the overriding importance of God's unconditional love in our lives. How do we line up our priorities regarding God and Mammon?

Christianity is countercultural. The Church invites us in the observance of holy days to make a personal sacrifice that will witness to the centrality of Christ in our lives. Our response to the celebration of holy days in our country will determine whether we bring the message of Christ to the marketplace, or allow the marketplace to stifle Christ. Will we consider holy days as burdensome obligations, or as dynamic opportunities?

Holy Days Of Obligation

After their general annual meeting in 1991, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) of the United States issued the following decree on Dec. 13.

In addition to Sunday, the days to be observed as holy days of obligation in the Latin-rite dioceses of the United States, in conformity with Canon 1246, are as follows:

Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the Solemnity of the Ascension. (In the Diocese of Salina it is transferred to the following Sunday)

Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Nov. 1, the Solemnity of All Saints.

Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Dec. 25, the Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Whenever Jan. 1, Aug. 15 or Nov. 1 falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.

This decree of the NCCB was approved and confirmed by the Holy See and became effective Jan. 1, 1993.

When Being Thankful Is Hard, Remember This

Nicholas LaBanca

As the leaves fall and the days shorten, we may find ourselves more apt to be in the doldrums than we would like. The freedom of summer is long gone. The end of Daylight Savings Time forces us to endure the sad fact that it’s dark out when we wake up for work, and dark already again when we get out of work. It’s understandable if we have trouble finding things to be thankful for during this time of year.

We start getting into a bit of a rut as we hunker down in our homes because of the colder weather. On top of that, many Catholics are feeling deflated, and just mentally exhausted, following a new round of scandals that began with the revelations surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. But despite all these varying factors, we in the United States find ourselves approaching some form of respite from all these concerns.

Believe it or not, I’m referring to something we find outside of the Catholic sphere, and that’s Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day that we find ourselves truly counting our blessings, and it’s a day where things start to feel a little bit brighter despite the constant overcast skies, both figuratively and literally. But it’s also a day that I thank God that I am united to him through his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Set Aside Earthly Cares

If you go to a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy, you’ll hear a wonderful prayer chanted during “The Great Entrance”, which is the beginning of what those in the Latin Rite will call the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The prayer, called the Cherubic Hymn, is said by the entire congregation:

“Let us, who mystically represent the cherubim, and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now set aside all earthly cares.”

 The bolded part is sometimes repeated, really driving home the point that we put aside all other things that may bother us as we prepare to receive our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. Now this isn’t to say that we are rejecting the world or material things as the Gnostics did, but that we set aside the cares that are mentioned in the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:14). When the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around, this short hymn comes to mind as well, and I think what the hymn calls us to do can be applied to this specific time of the year.

Many of us have the day off of work on Thanksgiving. We’re able to sleep in a bit, experience a Saturday in the middle of the week, and really start reflecting on things we wouldn’t be focusing on in the midst of the regular work week. I love being able to have the chance to start the day off with going to Holy Mass. It’s not very often that the opportunity arises to go to Mass on a Thursday morning, so it’s a wonderful chance to take advantage of this time.

Tomorrow Can Worry About Itself

On this federal holiday, we’re encouraged to give thanks for all the positive things that have happened in our lives. But who are we directing that thanks to? Our peers? The one person we absolutely must direct our thanks to is God. We take this day to set aside the things that might be choking up our thoughts. We put aside the things that may be clouding our minds, not allowing us to see the great things that God has done for us in our lives.

When we put aside all the things that aren’t really conducive to a thankful attitude toward God our father, other aspects of our life become clearer as well. Being thankful helps us to not be as worrisome or anxious about things that are out of our control. If we’re thankful for God’s blessings upon us, and we dwell on that, realizing that we trust in our Lord’s ability to provide for us, then that autumn time stupor in which we sometimes find  ourselves starts to vanish. Recall back to our Lord’s words in the Gospel of Matthew, where he tells us as Christians to stop worrying about certain things:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …

“For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Matthew 6:25-26, 32-34).

Thankful Every Day

Thanksgiving is a day when we can “set aside all earthly cares”. We can focus on what great things our Lord has done for us. That anxiety we feel is suspended, as we’re not thinking about tomorrow or the next day. We’re focusing on the delightful time we’re having visiting with family, or the beautifully prepared food that we have received only by God’s grace through his bounty. When this becomes our focus, we don’t need to worry about the things our Lord mentions above.

Of course, we need to be sure that we work for the well-being of ourselves and those entrusted to our care, but by placing our trust in God, first and foremost, we find our anxiety start to drift away more and more. This is something I must work at every day myself, but that’s part of every Christian’s journey to trust more in God. It just so happens that this holiday that all Americans celebrate gives us the opportunity to do so.

Eucharistic Connection

As a Catholic, probably the most interesting thing about Thanksgiving is the Eucharistic connection. It’s literally in the name itself, with the Greek word “eucharistia” literally meaning “giving of thanks, thanksgiving”. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:

“It is called Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification” (CCC 1328).

It’s easy to feel let down and depressed in the wake of all the scandals currently afflicting the Church, but when we focus on the Eucharist, remembering that it is Jesus who gives us life, we can lift up our hearts to our Lord in thanksgiving for allowing us to come to know him through the Catholic Church which he established. Many Catholics are being asked by their family, friends and co-workers why they remain Catholic in the face of everything happening. As many others have stated before, it’s not men that we put our faith in, but in Jesus Christ. If we believe the things he said in Sacred Scripture, and if we believe what has been passed down directly by his apostles through Sacred Tradition, that the Catholic Church is of divine origin, then how can we reject it? How can we reject the Bride without rejecting the Bridegroom? St. Joan of Arc put it very succinctly: 

“About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter” (CCC 795).

Bring the Good News to Loved Ones

The Church is one with Christ, so to say that we’re leaving the Church because some men did not live up to the standards Christ gave us is ridiculous. That may appear blunt, but we have to consider what we would be leaving if we separated ourselves from Christ’s Church. I’m thankful for so much that the Catholic Church does, and it’s this time of the year (especially this year) that I find myself expressly reflecting upon that fact.

It is here in the Catholic Church that I can receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, not a mere symbol, and I am thankful that our Lord is able to give us this great gift of himself. I can’t find that if I leave for a megachurch, or a “just Jesus and me” spirituality. Jesus is head of the Church and we are the body. I need my brothers and sisters to build me up. I need the Eucharist to nourish me. I need the sacrament of confession to restore me and cleanse me. And all these things are given to me by Jesus Christ through his Church. These are the things I am most thankful for and it is why I am still to this day so very thankful to be Catholic.

Remember, in the End God Wins

Despite all the times we want to despair because of what is coming out in the news, we must realize that the Catholic Church is still necessary and that this Church of Jesus Christ still has a great message for the world. It still proclaims the Good News to a world that sorely needs it, and the world can only be transformed by turning to him, and the grace he bestows upon us, through the sacramental life of the Church. Remember that each and every one of us as baptized Catholics are the Church. Again, Christ is the head and we are the members, the Body. We can bring that Good News to our loved ones.

If we’re thankful for something, shouldn’t we share it? Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI surely thinks so. His words should inspire us as we set aside earthly cares to focus more on the very real spiritual realities surrounding us this Thanksgiving:


“[Christ] has transformed the Cross, suffering, and all the evil of the world into ‘thanksgiving.’ And thus, He has transformed life and the world fundamentally and has given us and gives us every day the bread of true life, which surpasses the world thanks to the strength of His love.

“We want to insert ourselves in this ‘thanksgiving’ of the Lord and thus really receive the novelty of life and help in the transubstantiation of the world: that it be not a world of death but of life; a world in which love has conquered death.”

Son of Man

James Seghers and Totus Tuus Ministries

Jesus described himself with the mysterious title “the Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. No one else addressed him with this title. At one level “the Son of Man” captures Jesus’ human nature, because that expression was a Semitic way of identifying the numerous limitations of human nature: “How much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!” (Job 25:6). This title reminds us that in becoming fully human Jesus stripped himself of his glory and emptied himself to be one of us.

Indeed, Jesus goes beyond merely taking on human nature because he fully embraces our humiliation by identifying with sinful men and women. This is evident in the touching way Jesus connects his status as the Son of Man with his mission of redemptive suffering. I will only cite one example, but give you other citations for your reflection:

“The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day” (Mt 17:22-23; See also: Mt 12:40; 17:12; 20:18; Mk 9:31; 10:33; Lk 9:44; 18:31).

Jesus not only identified the Son of Man with “Anointed One” of Daniel 7:13 who is “cut off” [killed] in Daniel 9:26, but he also connected him with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52-53. Humiliation, suffering and death were the necessary prelude to Jesus’ exaltation and enthronement in heaven. After he fully embraced that shame, abasement, and grief of his passion and death, the Risen Christ never again used that title because humanity was redeemed.

St. Paul eloquently captures these ideas in his moving exhortation that we should imitate Jesus’ self-sacrificing humility. Imagine how our marriages and families would be transformed if we followed the Apostle’s urgent counsel!

“Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and become obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8).

There is, however, another important dimension to the title, “Son of Man”, that is worth exploring. It is found in Daniel’s vision:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and is kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14).

Here the Son of Man is presented as a Messianic figure possessing divine qualities. In the Jewish apocryphal writing of 1 Enoch the Son of Man is presented as a powerful king who will come at the end of time to judge humanity. His essential four roles are to judge, to be the Anointed One, to be a Light to the Gentiles, and to be the Righteous One.

Let’s go back to the quotation from Daniel to consider another aspect of its message. It speaks of the Son of Man coming. Where is he coming? Does this passage refer to Jesus’ first coming when he assumed human nature, or does it refer to Jesus’ second coming when he will judge the living and the dead? The answer, I believe, is neither! Daniel makes it clear that the Son of man is coming to the Father, “the Ancient of Days” in paradise where he is “presented before him” (Dan 7:13). Clearly, this is a prophecy of Jesus’ ascension to the Father in glory where he is recognized as the victor over sin and death. Then he is given what is rightfully his, God’s Kingdom.

This understanding also fits Jesus’ reply to the Caiaphas during his trial before the Sanhedrin:

“And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven (Mt 26:63-64).

The Sanhedrin certainly understood Jesus’ meaning:
“Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death’” (Mt 26:65-66).

Jesus’ response raises an interesting question. When did Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven”? Jesus was citing Daniel 7:13-14. The Son of Man’s coming took place in heaven, but Caiaphas is in Jerusalem. So while Christ’s actual coming took place in Paradise, Jesus affirms that members of the Sanhedrin would witness convincing evidence of his coming in power in Jerusalem. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said something quite similar:

“Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Mt 16:28).

Clearly, the event Jesus is alluding to cannot be in the distant future. What we are looking for, then, is a dramatic public event when Jesus comes in judgment that shows his victorious rule. Daniel’s vision gives us the interpretative clue we are searching.

The Son of Man’s depiction as coming “with the clouds of heaven” (Dan 7:13) highlights the purpose of his advent. “The clouds” do not describe unique cloud formations, but the glory cloud, which is a sign of God’s glory, power, and judgment. Isaiah declared:

“The Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence” (Isa 19:1-2).

So it happened that God came in the form of the Assyrian army to judge the false idols of Egypt (Isa 20:1-6). God’s judgment against Egypt came in the form of killing, pillaging, and conquering.

The members of the Sanhedrin fancied themselves as Jesus’ judge, but he will judge them and they will live to experience that judgment. The public event that vindicated the coming of Jesus in victory and judgment was the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Just as God judged Egypt with the Assyrian army and judged Babylon with the conquering Medo-Persians so, too, Christ judged Jerusalem and the Temple with Roman legions.

Jesus predicted that event:
“For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you . . . and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Lk 19:42-44).

Christianity, however, is not a religion without a temple. On the contrary, Jesus is the Temple (Mt 12:6), which was destroyed in death and was gloriously raised in the Resurrection. St. Paul explained that incorporation into the Body of Christ means incorporation into this all holy Temple that is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:19-22). This union is so unique that the bodies of Christians are also God’s tabernacle (1 Cor 6:19).

The Son of Man has come in judgment many times as he did in 70 A.D. Civilizations come and go, so do men. The guaranteed way for any civilization to achieve mere footnote status in history is to reject God by defining good as evil and evil as good. Then a people have racing down the slippery slope of self-destruction. It’s a wise practice to reflect on the wisdom of Psalm 127:1:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

Service − The Fourth Pillar of Parish Stewardship

Msgr. P. James Costigan

In the fifth and final  installment in my series on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship — the 2004 document published by the stewardship office of the Diocese of Wichita — we take an in-depth look at the fourth pillar: service.

Throughout Sacred Scripture, there are numerous references to service. There is the parable of the vigilant and faithful servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, “ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-40). There is the story of the good Samaritan who was moved with compassion to help the victim of a violent robbery (Lk 10: 25-37). And there are several examples of Christ serving those around Him: feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, and even turning water into wine at a wedding banquet.

Why is service a running theme throughout the gospels? Because service is at the root of living in imitation of Christ. Christ served others throughout His life on Earth, and His death on the cross was the ultimate act of service to mankind. And when we serve others, we are not only following in Christ’s footsteps, we are also serving Christ Himself: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

At any stewardship parish, service must be at the heart of everything we do. The parish community is the bastion of service within the Catholic Church, as we serve one another and are also served by our brothers and sisters in Christ. As the Diocese of Wichita’s document, The Pillars of Parish Stewardship, states, “Like a blood family, the parish family stands ready and eager collectively to wrap their arms around their brothers and sisters when they suffer in trial and/or celebrate special events in their lives.”

It is good to recognize the parish community as a place where service is appreciated and can be utilized for the good of the Church. However, it is not enough for us to simply serve other members of our parish family. As disciples of Christ, it is our obligation to serve people in need everywhere they exist — in our families, our greater community, our country, and throughout the world. This can be a challenging concept, as it is often much more comfortable and convenient to serve those who are close to us than it is to reach out to “outsiders.” But, as The Pillars of Parish Stewardship eloquently points out, “Failure to have this understanding leads to a selfish parochialism, which is life draining to a parish stewardship way of life.”

Think of ways that you can serve others around you, both within your own parish family and in the greater community. Parish ministries offer a great place to begin offering your time and talents, but the opportunities for service don’t end there. There are many civic and non-profit organizations that do an immense amount to serve others across the globe and are always looking for volunteers.

Once you serve, you will find that you will reap numerous rewards in return, much like the faithful servants who doubled the talents their master had entrusted to them: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).

Formation — Transformed Through Christ

Msgr. P. James Costigan

“Jesus not only calls people to him but also forms them and sends them out in his service.” — From Stewardship: A Disciple’s ResponseFor my latest in this series on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship, we take a closer look at the second pillar: formation. Formation is the process of studying Christ’s teachings and incorporating them deeply into our lives. It is a lifelong effort by which we “put on Christ” (Rom 13:14) and are “transformed by the renewal of our minds” (Rom 12:2).

Above all, our formation should include studying Scripture and Church teaching. It should also include discussion with other Catholics and honest self-assessment. Its goal is to “discern the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2).

Because formation helps us understand God’s will, it therefore leads naturally to good stewardship. When our minds are transformed through Christ, we become like him; as Christ gave His life for us, so we give our lives to others.

Formation is not just an individual task. Rather, it is a communal responsibility that, when applied, will further help your parish to grow as a stewardship parish. Each one of us has an inherent need to give; to move from “selfishness to selflessness,” as the Diocese of Wichita’s document The Pillars of Parish Stewardship aptly states. Formation is a process of spiritual growth, and it leads to a deeper understanding of loving others as God loves us.

Naturally, then, our Catholic formation should not end upon celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation, or turning 18 years old. Formation is a formidable task that we as Catholics should participate in for the duration of our lives. It involves “education of the mind and conversion of the heart” (The Pillars of Parish Stewardship), and helps us to lead the stewardship way of life rather than just understand it.

Looking to take another step forward in your quest to embrace stewardship as a way of life? Your own formation is a great way to start. You can begin by reading 10 minutes of Sacred Scripture a day, or by studying a chapter of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on a daily basis. Read a biography of your favorite saint for an example of an individual who lived as a disciple of Christ, and use this person as a role model when tending to your daily tasks. Keep an eye on our weekly parish bulletin for faith formation opportunities at the parish. Before long, your commitment to formation will lead you to naturally live the Catholic Faith and understand stewardship in ways that you never imagined before.

Come to Know the Lord Through Prayer

Msgr. P. James Costigan

In the fourth installment in my series on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship — the 2004 document published by the stewardship office of the Diocese of Wichita — we take an in-depth look at the third pillar: prayer.

Along with the Four Pillars of Stewardship, we also make constant reference to the three Ts of stewardship, recognizing that to truly live as a stewardship people we must give God the first fruits of our Time, our Talent, and our Treasure. It is easy for us to see the concrete reality of the latter two. To give God our Talents, we must first recognize with what talents He has blessed us, and then use those talents for His greater glory. On the same token, our money is something concrete, and when we recognize it as a gift from God, we are to give a certain amount back to Him. For many of us, it is easy to understand what it means to give God our talent and our treasure. But what does it mean to give God a portion of our time? This idea is much harder to grasp, and, yet, giving to God the first fruits of our time is just as important as the other two. In fact, if we understand and implement it properly, our stewardship of time will serve as the very foundation from which our stewardship of talent and stewardship of treasure bear fruit.

When we talk about stewardship of time, we are referring to prayer time. Prayer is of the utmost importance in the life of a disciple. Does this mean that in order to be true disciples we should say the Our Father three times a day or pray a daily Rosary? Not particularly. We must not discount the merit of praying such prayers. The Church in her wondrous wisdom has given us certain prayers to help guide our prayer lives. However, a deep life of prayer that is vital for every disciple involves even more.

St. John Chrysostom explains, “You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion … the gift of God’s grace.”  In other words, if we look at prayer as a mere regimen that we must follow everyday, then we do not see to the heart of it. The reality is that prayer will take on different forms for every one of us. One person may have a deep devotion to the Rosary, and in praying it, he is closely united to the Lord, while another person feels deeply connected to Him through constant conversation—in the car on the way to work, before bed at night, or at other hours throughout the day. Meanwhile, for another person, a daily or weekly hour of silence before the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration is the best place for him to offer the Lord his heart. No matter how, exactly, we choose to pray, we must get to the root of it all. To truly give God our time, it must be a gift of ourselves. It must come from the heart and not take the form of mere word repetition. If we offer an Our Father without meditating on the words, it can become simple recitation.

The point of prayer is to get to know the Lord. If we are committed to living as His disciples, we must be on personal terms with Him. The first disciples didn’t know what it meant to pray the Rosary, and until the Lord taught them the Our Father, they couldn’t pray that either. But they were definitely true stewards of their time. They walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, ate meals with Him, and so on. In effect, He was their best friend, and the more they got to know Him, the more they longed to serve Him.

The same holds true for us today. We can walk with Him, talk with Him, and sit with Him just as they did. And He wants us to. In the mind of St. John Chrysostom, there is nothing more worthwhile. “For prayer unites us to God as His companions.”  How can we serve Him if we don’t know Him? Before we can truly be a servant people, we must talk to Him who we wish to serve. Get to know Him, and then, most assuredly we will fall in love with Him, and, undoubtedly, then we will desire nothing more than to serve Him.

Recognize Jesus as your best friend and spend time with Him as such. He who is the Lord, the Creator of the Universe, without whom we would cease to exist, is also our Father, our Brother, and our Friend. Bring Him your cares and concerns, your excitement, your worry, your fears, and your frustrations, and allow Him to comfort you. He is there, and He wants to speak with you.

Hospitality — The Cornerstone of Stewardship

Msgr. P. James Costigan

The dictionary defines “hospitality” as: “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.”

From the standpoint of a Christian worldview, hospitality can be referred to as Christian kindness.

In terms of stewardship, hospitality is an immensely important concept. Remember the “three Ts” of stewardship: time, talent and treasure? Well, there are also “four Ps,” the four pillars of stewardship – hospitality, prayer, formation and service. Interestingly enough, hospitality is mentioned first. Why? Because without hospitality, none of the other pillars will ever take hold.

Hospitality is the cornerstone of stewardship, because it opens the door to a person’s heart and allows them to receive joy, grace and love.

We see the effects of hospitality (and the lack thereof) time and time again throughout the Bible. Christ speaks of hospitality in Matthew’s Gospel when He says, “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me” (25:35). In the Old Testament, the Israelites wander the desert for 40 years in search of hospitable environs. Even the Holy Family spent ample time searching for shelter before the birth of Our Lord.

It is safe to say hospitality is, and most likely has always been, a big deal to people everywhere. Modern-day hotels and hostels often use the image of a pineapple to advertise their special brand of hospitality. There’s no doubt that in ancient times, the distant lights of an inn or tavern struck a chord of hope within weary travelers’ hearts.

Over the years, decades and millenniums, the meaning of the word “hospitality” hasn’t diminished.

For Christians, the presence of hospitality can mean the difference between calling others “guests” and “strangers.” Guests are welcomed with open arms and warm smiles. Strangers aren’t. Guests feel the genuine love present in a hearty “Welcome!” Strangers don’t. Guests often return for second or third visits. Strangers don’t.

At our own parishes, do we find ourselves surrounded by guests, or burdened by strangers?

In many senses, hospitality is a mindset. The same person may be treated as guest at the church down the road, and as a stranger here.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Christ reveals a profound truth about hospitality. “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me…” In other words, “I used to be a stranger, but you fixed that when you welcomed me.” It’s a classic example of before and after. And all it took was a change of heart.

For stewardship to truly take hold within a parish, hospitality must become second nature. When a stranger visits our parish, welcome them as a guest. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll pay us a second visit.

The Four Pillars of Parish Stewardship

Msgr. P. James Costigan

You’ve heard about the three Ts of stewardship – Time, Talent and Treasure. But what about the four Ps?

The three Ts describe the personal gifts we offer to the Church. The four Ps are the “four pillars” of parish stewardship described by the man often referred to as the Father of Catholic Stewardship, Msgr. Thomas McGread. Msgr. McGread is the stewardship director emeritus for the Diocese of Wichita. In 2004, the diocesan stewardship office published an important document called, The Pillars of Parish Stewardship. These pillars are the hallmark of a stewardship parish:  hospitality, prayer, formation, and service. This is something that is near and dear to my own heart and is the theme for this year at my parish, St. Peter the Apostle in Savannah, Ga.  Over the next few months, I will be touching on each of the four pillars with the goal of helping other pastors and lay leaders to implement these important stewardship principles in their own parishes. To get us started on learning more about the Four Pillars, here is a brief overview of each of them with some basic ideas on how we as Disciples of Christ can improve in each area.

Hospitality – Christian Kindness

“When I was a stranger, you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). The Gospel teaches that whenever we welcome the least of our brothers or sisters, we welcome Christ himself. That is why the first mark of a stewardship parish is hospitality. Being friendly is one of the first ways we can be Christ-like toward others.

Modern Catholic parishes are often so large and have so many Masses that many parishioners don’t know one another. To create a sense of community, be sure to smile and greet others as you enter and exit the Church. Let’s try harder than ever to be a welcoming community.

Prayer – A Heart-to-Heart with God

“Do not become so involved in the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord of the work,” a seminary professor once taught. In other words, don’t get so caught up with parish projects and outreach efforts that you forget to draw aside to spend time with God in prayer. Every great saint has taught that prayer is the most essential component in the life of the Christian. Through prayer, we nurture our most important relationship — the one that will last for all eternity.

A healthy prayer life should include communal prayer such as Mass, as well as personal prayer and family prayer. The two biggest obstacles to prayer are lack of time and lack of understanding of how to pray. We have to schedule time for prayer just as we would for an important appointment. And we have to learn how to pray from other people. Many saints have written spiritual books that describe different methods of prayer.

Formation – Continuous Conversion

Pope John Paul II always emphasized ongoing conversion. From childhood through adulthood, our whole life must be a process of drawing closer to God. He never stops calling us forward to learn more and to examine ourselves more deeply.

Very often our society values material things more than interior virtues. But as personal experience shows, when we finally acquire the car or house or “toy” that we wanted so badly, it doesn’t really satisfy. On the other hand, we don’t tend to desire spiritual virtues with the same kind of longing, but when we actually have them, we find them far more rewarding than material things.

Service – Love in Action

“Amen I say to you, whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). This scripture was one of Mother Teresa’s favorites. Each time she picked up a poor and hungry child, she knew she was ministering to Christ. While we may not view ourselves as saints, we too are called to such heroic service right within our own community. As Mother Teresa said, “To be a saint is not the privilege of a few, but the duty of everyone.”

We have many service opportunities right here within our own parish. If you have the willingness to serve and take the initiative to find where you are needed, you’ll find that there is no end to the families and individuals who truly need help. How can you reach out to them in love?

Hospitality Is Biblical – and It's Not Optional

Emily J. Cook

It’s not a coincidence that Jesus did most of his teaching while at table over a meal. Learning at the table would have been natural to him. As a boy, he probably first learned many of the traditions and history of the Jewish people through mealtime prayers and from the celebratory rituals that preceded feasts. Jewish prayers are filled with history and are often mini-catechisms.

Once Jesus began his public ministry, he was often on the road and had to depend on the hospitality of strangers for meals and a place to rest. Not only did he use those meals as an opportunity to teach, but he also used the language of hospitality to describe God and his kingdom.

That hospitality was an important virtue would have been an old idea even in Jesus’ time. The theme of the necessary, yet precarious, relationship between guest and host was a familiar one to the ancient Hebrews as well as to other ancient cultures (see "My Big Fat Greek Welcome"). Hospitality in the ancient world was much more than politeness or friendliness. In an age when inns were few and far between, travelers had to rely upon the hospitality of strangers to aid them in their journeys. Hospitality was also a way to survive in a culture where political boundaries were in constant flux. A traveler might find himself in unfriendly territory all too quickly.

The Israelites were hospitable out of a sense of communal responsibility, out of obedience to the Mosaic law, and because of their desire to please God. Proverbs says even enemies must be given the necessities of survival, because generosity is a reproof to those who lack that virtue: "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you" (Prov. 25:21–22).

In the Beginning
The biblical lessons of hospitality begin in Genesis, at the beginning of salvation history. The stories of Abraham and others illustrate the way a guest should be treated. When three strangers approached his tent, he ran out to greet them and prepared a lavish meal for them. He later learned that they were God’s messengers sent to reveal that his formerly barren wife would bear a son.

Hosts had a sacred obligation to provide food and drink, water to wash their feet, and a place to rest. The guest had an obligation to accept what was offered. The refusal on either part was a serious breach of honor.

The obligations of hospitality also included protecting the guest from harm. The seriousness of this obligation is shown in the story of Lot, who offered his daughters to an angry mob rather than allow guests who "have come under the shelter of my roof" (Gen. 19:8) to be harmed. (Those guests turned out to be messengers from God.) In return, the guest had a solemn obligation not to harm the host. In the ancient world—and still today in some cultures—the sharing of food constituted a covenant of friendship, and one of the most despicable acts would be to eat with someone and then betray him. Knowing that adds another dimension to Judas’s betrayal.

Other stories that illustrate the power and importance of hospitality abound in the Old Testament. For example, Abraham’s servant is so generously received by Rebecca at the well that he recognizes her as the perfect wife for Isaac (Gen. 24). And in the second book of Kings, the prophets Elijah and Elisha repay their hosts by curing their sons. In a gesture of gratitude prefiguring the Eucharist, Elijah blesses his hostess’s grain so that it never runs out (2 Kgs. 4).

The Mosaic law explicated the necessity of hospitality. Having known from their years in slavery in Egypt what it was like to be a foreigner at the mercy of their hosts, the Israelites had a special kinship with strangers, which the laws of Moses reiterated: "You shall not oppress a stranger . . . for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Ex. 23:9). In Leviticus, Christ’s golden rule is prefigured: "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Lev. 19:33–34).

The repetition of the refrain "for you were strangers" reminded the Hebrews to be hospitable out of sympathy and charity, in addition to obedience to the law of God handed down through Moses. They were dependent on God’s assistance when they were in the desert; now they must respond with generosity when others are in trouble.

Other Mosaic laws instructed the community on how strangers who stayed for a length of time should fit into the society. They were to participate in sacrifices and allowed to celebrate feasts. They were welcome to glean the fields. In return, guests were expected to follow the laws of Israel as long as they abided there (cf. Lev. 17:12–13; 18:26; 19:10; Num. 15:16).

Strangers, like the poor, widows, and orphans, should be shown special generosity: God "executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing" (Deut. 10:18). Yet despite these laws requiring generosity toward strangers, there was still a distance to be kept. Marrying a foreigner was frowned upon if not forbidden, and outsiders were not to eat "holy things" (Lev. 22:10, 12).

In the Fullness of Time
That distance was bridged by Christ. In the New Testament, when Paul calls on the early Christians to show hospitality to strangers, he links hospitality to Christ’s commandment to love, which is the New Law. Paul, perhaps thinking of Abraham, writes, "Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb. 13:1–2). Paul’s encouragement of brotherly love implies that the distance between the foreigner and host can be bridged. For the Christian, the stranger is also a brother or a neighbor who represents Christ and who also may be a messenger from God. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Christ broadens the concept of "neighbor" to define it more by actions than by proximity.

This New Law, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, fulfills and perfects the Old Law. It does not add to or abolish the Old Law but "proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure, where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The gospel thus brings the law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity" (CCC 1968).

Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loves deepens the understanding of neighborly love with which the Jews were familiar. Jesus not only says, "Love your neighbor as yourself" but invites us to love as he loves: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12–13). Christ includes even enemies when he says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:44–45).

Christ as Guest and Host
The idea that love of neighbor is an act of sacrificial love adds a new dimension to the virtue of hospitality. Hospitality becomes a means to serve others and Christ in them. Christ lives this humble service by becoming a traveler himself, dependent on the hospitality of both Pharisees and tax collectors alike. He journeys from town to town preaching about true charity, himself a stranger who must be welcomed: "The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Matt. 8:20).

Christ shares much of his wisdom while dining with others. The lesson that he repeats at the table of Zacchaeus is that he has come to heal the afflicted, to eat with the sinners, and to call those who have strayed from God: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Matt. 9:12). He thus reminds us that an essential part of hospitality is ministering to the needs of guests.

Jesus also ties hospitality into his description of who will inherit heaven: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me . . .Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:34–36, 40).

These passages make it clear that in order to be welcomed into heaven, we must welcome and serve others. Time and again, even at the Last Supper, Jesus reminded his disciples that to love means to put others first: "Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all" (Mark 10:44). Many potential followers of Christ turn away because this call to active service requires detachment from material goods, family connections, and physical comforts. We see this in the story of the rich young man (Mark 10:17–22). If we are to follow Christ, we must be willing to put all we have at the service of others. In other words, we must practice hospitality not just out of courtesy or duty—it has to cost us something. As John Paul II said, "Welcoming Christ in our needy brothers and sisters is the condition of being able to meet him face to face and perfectly at the end of our earthly journey" (Homily for the Jubilee of Migrants and Itinerant Workers, June 2, 2000).

Heaven Is a Banquet
Not surprisingly, Jesus describes heaven in terms of hospitality. He says to Peter, "In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:2–4).

And when Jesus says, "Come and follow me" (Matt. 11:28), he is inviting us all to a feast—both the eternal heavenly banquet and the eucharistic feast. In his parables, Jesus describes the heavenly banquet as a marriage feast. The invited guests decline because they are too busy with material cares. In their place, the host has his servants invite the poor, the lame, and the afflicted—those who will appreciate it and be grateful. It is these whom God will invite to the heavenly banquet. "For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). And yet, God is a forgiving host: "Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9).

Jesus elaborates on the forgiving nature of God’s hospitality in the story of the prodigal son. Just as the father welcomes home with open arms the profligate son and sets to rejoicing, God will welcome into heaven those who sin but ask forgiveness. Meanwhile, most of us sympathize with the older son who grumbles over his brother’s reception. We, too, lack gratitude and envy the feast laid for others instead of being humble like the wayward son, aware of his need, and grateful for what little he might receive.

Hospitality and the Eucharist

Ultimately, all of these teachings on hospitality come together in the Eucharist, in which we welcome Christ into our hearts, offering all that we are to him. Like the centurion whose words we echo at every Mass, we do not feel worthy to receive Christ (literally, to have him under our roof), but we need his love and redemption to heal us. Christ invites us to his feast and offers himself as our bread and our home: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (John 6:56).

The early Christians understood the connection between receiving Christ in the Eucharist and sharing hospitality with others. In Acts, we read that "they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . . . Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:42, 46). Their homes truly were domestic churches with doors open to receive others.

Similarly, we must receive Christ in the Eucharist with "glad and generous hearts." The Eucharist is a celebration, and like all good feasts, it requires guests. As in the parable of the marriage feast, Christ prefers the neediest guests. When we offer our needs and shortcomings at his table, Christ the Host offers forgiveness, like the generous master of his parables, and renews grace in our hearts. Mary and Martha of Bethany knew that time spent welcoming Christ allows us to serve others more generously.

Living Christian Hospitality
Our challenge is to share with others the message that Christ’s love cures all ills. Using the example of Christ meeting his disciples on the road to Emmaus, John Paul II links our reception of Christ in the Eucharist with a call to serve others: "Like the disciples of Emmaus, believers, supported by the living presence of the risen Christ, become in turn the traveling companions of their brothers and sisters in trouble, offering them the word that rekindles hospitality in their hearts. With them they break the bread of friendship, brotherhood, and mutual help" (Homily, June 2, 2000). Our response to receiving Christ in the Eucharist is to welcome others in his name.

The early Christians relied on the older Jewish and Gentile conventions of hospitality to find food and lodging while teaching about Christ’s words of welcome. Made pilgrims by their desire to share the gospel and in political exile because of their faith in Christ, the early Christians probably thought often of the Israelites in the desert. The life of a wayfarer would not have been easy. Peter urges the followers of Jesus to behave well so that their actions will evangelize the Gentiles: "Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation" (1 Pet. 2:12). Later, he urges them to remember that love requires serving others: "Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another" (1 Pet. 4:8–9).

Like the early Christians, we must also rely on and offer hospitality as a means of sharing the gospel. By creating a welcoming home, we make the Christian life attractive. With further insight, John Paul II writes, "Welcoming our brothers and sisters with care and willingness must not be limited to extraordinary occasions but must become for all believers a habit of service in their daily lives" (Address to volunteer workers, March 8, 1997).

As believers, we are sustained by the Eucharist to welcome not only strangers but also neighbors and family. Being hospitable means being vulnerable and potentially suffering the pains of living closely with those who most clearly see our faults. In marriage, being hospitable spills into how open we are to life and children. Christian hospitality requires the humility of loving service toward each member of the family, including those with whom it might be difficult to get along. But the rough spots of family life offer the most opportunity for growing in charity and holiness.

Mary Is Our Model
We can also look to Mary for a perfect example of this understanding of hospitality as a call to loving service. After she welcomes Christ in conception, Mary rushes to serve Elizabeth, who receives Mary with open arms, recognizing her holy guest. One can only imagine the companionship and comfort the two provided each other, both of whom had become hostesses in the most intimate way to the infants in their wombs.

Later in Bethlehem, Mary continued to welcome strangers and to share the gift of her child. Although she and Joseph found no lodging for themselves in Bethlehem, Mary received the shepherds and wise men who wanted to welcome Jesus without fussing about her surroundings or fretting about what food to serve. When she and her family had to flee to Egypt, she relied on the generosity of others to shelter her family from Herod’s deadly reach.

The miracle at the wedding feast in Cana further demonstrates Mary’s generous and hospitable heart. She takes pity on the wedding host and asks Jesus to help him. Her sensitivity to the need to continue the wedding feast reflects the importance of communion and feast in the presence of the Bridegroom. And Jesus’ response shows not only his respect for his Mother but also his understanding of the sacred nature of hospitality. When he takes plain water and makes fine wine, he shows us how much he can do even with the little we offer.

Come on In! 
Fortunately, the idea that hospitality is a virtue is being revived. The continuing success of World Youth Day has taught many people about the graces received by welcoming strangers and receiving hospitality. In honor of World Youth Day, private homes, parishes, religious communities, and civil organizations open their doors to pilgrims and strangers in the tradition of ancient cultures welcoming foreign travelers without question. As Pope Benedict XVI remarked in Cologne, "It is a fine thing that on such occasions the virtue of hospitality, which has almost disappeared and is one of man’s original virtues, should be renewed and enable people of all states of life to meet."

So how to be a good host? Jeffrey Tucker offers terrific advice in his article "Catholics Give the Best Parties" in the July-August 2001 issue of Crisis, available at https://www.crisismagazine.com/2001/catholics-give-the-best-parties-3.

We should also keep in mind what John Paul II said: "Only those who have opened their hearts to Christ can offer a hospitality that is never formal or superficial but identified by ‘gentleness’ and ‘reverence’ (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15)."

Our homes and our churches should be places where everyone feels at home. Guests should never feel that they are causing undue extra labor. In short, all that is really needed to be an excellent host is a loving heart, an open ear, and eyes that see Christ in each person who crosses the threshold.

Bishop Vincke: Why I Said Yes

By Most Reverend Gerald L. Vincke 
Bishop, Diocese of Salina

The Church needs to be open, honest and transparent.

On September 13, 2018, I received a phone call from His Eminence, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. After brief pleasantries, he got right to the point. He asked for my permission for Archbishop Theodore McCarrick to reside at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas, to live a life of prayer and penance. Archbishop McCarrick is 88 years old. Cardinal Wuerl already received permission for this arrangement from Father Christopher Popravek, the provincial of the Capuchin Friary in Denver. I said, “yes.”

I realize this decision will be offensive and hurtful to many people. Archbishop McCarrick is, in many ways, at the forefront of the recent firestorm in the Church. Many of us are confused and angry by what Archbishop McCarrick is alleged to have done several decades ago. The Holy See stated on July 28 that Pope Francis “accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.” Please know that I agreed to this arrangement with the understanding that Archbishop McCarrick is excluded from any public appearances and ministry. Our diocese is not incurring any cost in this arrangement.

I believe in justice. Recently, the administrative committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated their support of a full investigation into the allegations surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. The committee has recommended that the investigation be done by lay experts in relevant fields, including law enforcement and social services. Currently, a timeline for that investigation is unknown.

I also believe in mercy. In saying “yes,” I had to reconcile my own feelings of disappointment, anger and even resentment toward Archbishop McCarrick. I had to turn to Christ for guidance. Jesus is rich in mercy. He did not come to give us permission to sin, he came to forgive our sins. We know that Christ has compassion and mercy for all who repent of their sins. The cross is a place of love and mercy. It is not a place of retribution. If our actions do not have mercy, then how can it be of the Church?

Jesus reminds us to “be merciful, just as our Father is merciful.” Many years ago, I received a relic of Saint Maria Goretti, who was canonized in 1950. When Maria was almost 12 years old, she was attacked by a 19-year-old man named Allesandro Serenilli. After she rebuffed his sexual advances, Allessandro stabbed her 14 times. On her deathbed, Maria’s last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.” She forgave her assailant. Yet, there was also justice. Allesandro spent a number of years in prison. During this time, he had a deep conversion and spent the rest of his life in a monastery. I have the relic of Saint Maria Goretti beside the tabernacle in my chapel with a prayer that I say often. The

opening line is “Dear Saint Maria Goretti, your heart was so full of mercy that you gladly forgave your assassin and prayed that he might be saved.” I think Saint Maria Goretti is a saint today because she forgave Allesandro.

Sometimes, it can take a long time to forgive.

At this time, I would like to take the opportunity to say how deeply sorry I am to all the victims of abuse. My heart aches for you and your families. I am unable to comprehend the extent of your suffering. Sadly, many times the victims did not receive an adequate response from the Church regarding the abuse they endured and the life-long pain and suffering that accompanies such evil. As a Church, we are extremely sorry and ask for forgiveness. Because of the courage and perseverance of the victims who came forward, they have become the source of much needed change in our Church and our culture. I pray that this may bring about greater purification and healing for our world.

This is a difficult time for the Church. This purification of the Church by God is painful, but much needed. We need the eyes of faith as we suffer through this. “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey (Lumen Fidei #57).” Jesus is with us as light in the midst of darkness.

We trust that God will bring good out of this situation. Please join me in praying for Archbishop McCarrick as he now leads a life of prayer and penance. Most of all, let us pray for all victims of abuse so they may experience the healing presence of Jesus and the tenderness and compassion of our Blessed Mother. 

 

Archangels and Guardian Angels

Fr. William Saunders

Last week, we began our discussion of angels, examining their role in sacred Scripture and even investigating the nine choirs of angels. This week, we focus our attention on the archangels and the guardian angels. Sacred Scripture identifies by name three angels, who are the great messengers of God — Sts. Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.

They are called archangels because of their important roles in God’s plan. St. Michael, whose name means, “one who is like God,” led the army of angels who cast Satan and the rebellious angels into Hell; at the end of time, he will wield the sword of justice to separate the righteous from the evil (cf. Rv 12:7-10). St. Gabriel, whose name means “strength of God,” announced to Mary that she had been chosen as the Mother of the Savior (cf. Lk 1:26-38). St. Raphael, whose name means “remedy of God,” cured the blind man Tobit (cf. Tb 5).

The angels are also our guardians. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession” (No. 336). St. Basil (d. 379) asserted, “Beside each believer stands an angel protector and shepherd leading him to life” (Adversus Eunomium, III, 1). Most of us at an early age learned the little prayer to our guardian angel:

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and to guide.

Some of the saints were able to see angels, as St. Peter did (Acts 12:1-19), or to see their guardian angel, as St. Pio (Padre Pio) and St. Elizabeth of Hungary did.

Moreover, as Catholics, we remember the important role of St. Michael in defending us against Satan and the powers of evil. Toward the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) had a prophetic vision of the coming century of sorrow and war. In this vision, God gave Satan the choice of one century in which to do his worst work. The devil chose the 20th century. So moved was the Holy Father from this vision that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle! Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

For many years, this prayer was recited at the end of Mass to bring about the fall of communism. All of the faithful should again invoke the aid of St. Michael to combat the great evils we see present in our world — abortion, euthanasia, terrorism, genocide, same-sex marriage and the like.

As members of the Church, we are conscious of the angels in our liturgical practices. At Mass, in the Preface before the Eucharistic Prayer, we join with all of the angels and saints to sing the hymn of praise, “Holy, holy, holy…” In the Eucharistic Prayer I, the priest prays, “Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in Heaven.” In the Final Commendation of the Funeral Liturgy, the priest prays, “May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.” Moreover, we celebrate in our liturgical calendar the Feasts of the Archangels (September 29) and Guardian Angels (October 2).

In our daily prayers and activities, we should be mindful of these servants of God who by His love keep our lives safe from harm and guide us on the path of salvation.

Choirs of Angels

Fr. William Saunders

Q: With all of the talk about angels, the multitude of pictures and books about them, and even the television shows with angels, why don’t we ever hear more about them? Some of these shows make angels seem like fantasy spirits. Too many people have a superficial view of angels. Do we still believe in them?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly affirms, “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition” (no. 328). Given that we do believe in angels, we define them as pure spirits and personal beings with intelligence and free will. They are immortal beings. As the Bible attests, they appear to humans as apparitions with a human form.

Since the fourth century, nine choirs or types of angels are identified in the Bible and have been elaborated upon by various theologians: The first three choirs see and adore God directly. The seraphim, which means “the burning ones,” have the most intense “flaming” love for God and comprehend Him with the greatest clarity. (Interestingly, Lucifer, which means “light bearer,” was one of the seraphim whose beautiful light was changed into darkness.) The cherubim, which means “fullness of wisdom,” contemplate God’s divine providence and plan for His creatures. Lastly, the thrones, symbolizing divine justice and judicial power, contemplate God’s power and justice.

The next three choirs fulfill God’s providential plan for the universe: The dominations or dominions, whose name evokes authority, govern the lesser choirs of angels. The virtues, whose name originally suggested power or strength, implement the orders from the dominations and govern the heavenly bodies. Lastly, the powers confront and fight against any evil forces opposed to God’s providential plan. 

The last three choirs are directly involved in human affairs: The principalities care for earthly principalities, such as nations or cities. The archangels deliver God’s most important messages to mankind, while each angel serves as a guardian for each of us. Although not official dogma, this schema became popular in the Middle Ages in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Hildegard of Bingen and John Scotus Erigina.

Nevertheless, we believe that Almighty God created the angels before the rest of creation. At some point, some angels, led by Lucifer, rebelled against God. These angels made a free choice, radically and irrevocably rejecting God and His rule. Therefore, they were cast into Hell. This event is mentioned, albeit briefly, in several passages of the New Testament: St. Peter wrote, “Did God spare even the angels who sinned? He did not! He held them captive in Tartarus [Hell] — consigned them to pits of darkness, to be guarded until judgment” (1 Pt 2:3). In the Letter of St. Jude we read, “There were angels, too, who did not keep to their own domain, who deserted their dwelling place. These the Lord has kept in perpetual bondage, shrouded in murky darkness against the judgment of the great day. Sodom, Gomorrah and the towns thereabouts indulged in lust, just as those angels did; they practiced unnatural vice. They are set before us to dissuade us, as they undergo a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 6-7). When Jesus spoke of the Last Judgment and the need to serve the least of our brethren, He said to the unrighteous, “Out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). Always remember that these fallen angels — the devil and demons — had been created good, but by their own free will chose to sin and turn away from God.

A key to understanding angels is by looking at what they do. First, angels see, praise and worship God in His divine presence. Jesus said, “See that you never despise one of these little ones. I assure you, their angels in Heaven constantly behold my heavenly Father’s face” (Mt 18:10), a passage which also indicates that each of us has a guardian angel. The Book of Revelation described how the angels surround the throne of God and sing praises (cf Rv 5:11ff, 7:11ff). Moreover, they rejoice over the saved soul of the repentant sinner (Lk 15:10).

Second, “angel” comes from the Greek “angelos” which means “messenger,” which describes their role in interacting with this world. St. Augustine stated that angels were “the mighty ones who do His word, hearkening to the voice of His word.” Throughout sacred Scripture, the angels served as messengers of God, whether delivering an actual message of God’s plan of salvation, rendering justice, or providing strength and comfort. Here are a few examples of their role as messengers in the Old Testament: After the Fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion, the cherubim guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24). Angels protected Lot and his family in Sodom and Gomorrah (Gn 19). The angel stopped Abraham as he was about to offer Isaac in sacrifice (Gn 22). An angel guarded the people on the way to the Promised Land (Ex 23:20). In the New Testament, an angel appeared to the centurion Cornelius and prompted his conversion (Acts 10:1ff); and an angel freed St. Peter from prison (Acts 12:1ff). In all, Hebrews 1:14 captured their role well: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to serve those who are to inherit salvation?”

October: The Month of the Rosary

Pope Francis has asked all Catholics to pray the rosary daily during the month of October, asking Mary and St. Michael the Archangel to intercede for the protection of the Church in a moment of “spiritual turbulence.”

A Sept. 29 statement from the Vatican said that Pope Francis had recently affirmed that prayer “is the weapon against the Great Accuser who ‘goes around the world seeking to accuse.’ Only prayer can defeat him.”

“The Russian mystics and the great saints of all the traditions advised, in moments of spiritual turbulence, to shelter beneath the mantle of the Holy Mother of God,” the statement added.

The pope said that recitation of the rosary would invoke Mary's intercession, placing the Church under her "protective mantle."

The statement also encouraged the prayer of Sub Tuum Praesidium: “We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.”

The pope did not specify the "spiritual turbulence" to which he referred, but did say that prayer could help the Church to become "more aware of the faults, the errors and the abuses committed in the present and in the past, and committed to combating without any hesitation, so that evil may not prevail.”

Pope Francis also encouraged that Catholics end the rosary with the recitation of the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, composed by Pope Leo XII: “Saint Michael Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Hear God Speaking to You

FR. KILLIAN J. HEALY

Many people never listen to God because they are not aware that He speaks to them. Yet, God does speak. One way to live in His presence is to acquire the habit of recognizing His voice when He speaks. If we do not know that God wishes to communicate with us, or the ways He has chosen, then our passage through life will be devoid of the most perfect of guides.

When does God speak to us? He speaks at all times, especially in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God. But it is not a monologue. When we pray, then, we should also listen, because a good conversationalist is also a good listener. We do not pray well when we recite ready-made formulas quickly and distractedly. We act as if God has only to listen to us, and that we have no need to listen to the thoughts and desires that He wishes to communicate to us. He has promised, “If thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and do what is right before Him, and obey His commandments, and keep all His precepts, none of the evils that I laid upon Egypt will I bring upon thee.”

Unfortunately, many of us have never trained ourselves to listen to His voice. But, if we are to know God’s will, we must listen to Him and obey Him when we recognize His commandments.

But how does God speak to us? God is a pure spirit. Unlike man, He has no voice. If He wishes to speak to us, He must use some means outside of Himself, adapted to our nature, by which He can communicate ideas. He may use things we can see and hear in order to stir our imagination, or He may enter directly into our thoughts.

God speaks to you personally
Does God, then, speak to man? How can we ever doubt it? How foolish it is to read all types of books and neglect the word of God! The Scriptures were not meant only for particular groups of people; they were meant for all men at all times. God is eternal; His words are eternal. Although He speaks to all men, He speaks to us personally.

This does not mean that every person should take the Bible and interpret it according to his own fancy. No, the Church alone isthe divinely appointed authority to guide us in the correct interpretation  of the Bible. The Church encourages us to read it, because she knows that the word of God can enter into our minds and that God, in His own mysterious way, can teach the true way of life, the way of love and intimate union with Him.

St. Ignatius of Loyola felt that God was speaking directly to him, when, on his sick bed, he read the words:

“For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”

But, we ask, is this prayer? It is at least the beginning of prayer. We listen to these words of Christ; we ponder over them; they awaken thoughts and desires within us. We begin to believe, to hope, to love. Our will becomes inspired, and we break forth in ardent affections, calling on Christ to help us, begging forgiveness, expressing gratitude, performing little acts of adoration — and surely this is prayer.

We often read of visions, apparitions, and revelations in which God spoke to the saints. St. Paul on the road to Damascus is a classic example. And we read in the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque that, while she was engaged in prayer, Jesus often spoke to her of the devotion to His Sacred Heart.

Such conversations with God are not rare in the lives of the canonized. But must we in our conversation with God await the appearance of Jesus, of some heavenly voice or extraordinary apparition, some heavenly manifestation from God? Absolutely not. It is true that God does single out some chosen souls to whom He speaks directly and who actually experience the divine power working in them, but these are very few; it is not the way that God ordinarily uses. We should not even desire that God speak to us in this extraordinary manner. We should not expect it. Visions and revelations are not necessary for us to grow in deep love for God. We may fall deeply in love with Him and practice faithfully the presence of God, yet never receive any extraordinary manifestations from Him. These are special gifts, and God gives them to whom He wills, and when He wills.

God speaks to your mind and to your heart
Nevertheless, God does speak to all of us without exception in a more direct way than we have yet mentioned. It is a hidden way, by which He enters directly into our thoughts and desires. Our most hidden secrets are not secrets to Him. He comes right into our mind. Our thoughts are not only our thoughts; our desires are not only our desires — they may also be God’s thoughts and desires. We know we can do nothing without God. Even such ordinary things as eating, breathing, and walking cannot be done without the ordinary help that God gives us. But, in this instance, we are presupposing this natural help of God and are referring to a greater and more noble assistance from Him.

Does God help us in a special way to think good thoughts and to desire holy things? He most assuredly does. For we are living in a supernatural order and destined to a supernatural end, the Beatific Vision. To attain this end, God not only gives us the principle of supernatural life, sanctifying grace, but He also gives us actual graces that help us to perform supernatural actions and thus to grow in the grace of God. These actual graces are, especially, the holy thoughts and desires that God creates in us.

God does not have to use external words and signs to attract our attention  and convey ideas to us. He enters our minds directly. He speaks secretly, noiselessly, as befits the Divinity. It is only by faith that we know He is working in us. For example, God once spoke in a special, hidden way to St. Peter, who then confessed Jesus to be the Son of God. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona,” said our Lord. “For flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father in Heaven.”

St. John tells us that we will know all things from the Holy Spirit: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.”St. Paul says that God enters our very thoughts: “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”

God also enters our hearts and inspires us to holy desires. “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening; and the Lord touched her heart to give heed to what was being said by Paul.”

Thus, the Scriptures and the Church tell us that God speaks to us in the silence of our minds and hearts. He speaks to all men, but all men do not hear Him. God speaks to our mind and heart when we kneel to meditate or to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. He enters our mind when the passing things of time excite our thoughts. It is He who gives us holy thoughts to conquer our temptations. It is He who stirs up within us the desire to persevere against all adversaries.

Perhaps we have never realized that God is illuminating our intellect and inspiring our will. Yet He does just that. That is why we are told not to do all the talking in prayer. For, if we continually recite vocal prayers without pausing now and then to think, we will stifle the thoughts and desires that God wishes to excite in us.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux tells us how she listened to the voice of God. “I know and have experienced that ‘the Kingdom of God is within us,’ that our Master has no need of books or teacher to instruct a soul. The Teacher of teachers instructs without sound of words, and though I have never heard Him speak, yet I know He is within me, always guiding and inspiring me; and just when I need them, lights, hitherto unseen, break in upon me. As a rule, it is not during prayer that this happens, but in the midst of my daily duties.”

But we are not only to listen; it would be folly to remain in a state of mental blankness, waiting for God to speak. No, prayer is a loving conversation, and, when the Holy Spirit moves us, it is time to begin our part of the colloquy.

One way, then, to practice the exercise of the presence of God is to listen to God, to be aware that He speaks to us, to be ever conscious that God can use all things to communicate with us.

This article is an excerpt from Fr. Healy’s Awakening Your Soul to Presence of God, which is available from Sophia Institute Press. 

The Holy Eucharist and Holy Matrimony

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

We do not normally associate the Holy Eucharist with the sacrament of matrimony. But we should. Without the Eucharist, there would not be a livable sacrament of matrimony.

What are we saying? We are saying that Christ intended these two sacraments to be related as condition and consequence. The Eucharist is the condition, and matrimony is the supernatural consequence.

Surely this calls for an explanation, and a clear explanation.

Needless to say, this is a most important subject. It is so important that the survival of Christian marriage and the Catholic family depend on it. Am I serious? Yes. The Holy Eucharist is indispensable for living out the supernatural, and therefore humanly impossible, demands that Christ places on those who enter marriage in His name.

My plan is to cover the following areas of this fundamental issue.

  • Christian marriage is a life-long commitment to selfless love.

  • This selfless love is impossible without superhuman strength from God.

  • The principal source of this superhuman strength is the Holy Eucharist.

  • Christian spouses are a living witness to Christ's power to work moral miracles in the world today.

  • The single most important need for Christian marriage is a renewed faith in the Holy Eucharist.

 

Christian Marriage and Selfless Love

Christ instituted the sacrament of marriage in order to restore marriage to its monogamous position before the fall of our first parents.

When some Pharisees came to test Jesus by asking Him: “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any reason,” Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ Therefore now they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:3-6).

But Christ did not stop there. He not only told His followers that marriage is a lifelong commitment that no human authority can dissolve. He further commanded those who call themselves Christians to love one another with such selfless charity as to be willing to die for one another after the example of His own selfless love of dying for us on the Cross.

This is Christian marriage as elevated by Him into the sacrament of Matrimony. It is a lifetime covenant between husband and wife, to remain faithful to each other until death. It is also a lifelong promise, made to God under oath, to love one another with selfless charity, enduring patience, and whole-hearted generosity. Even more, it is a solemn vow to accept the children that God wants to send them and educate their children for eternal life in heaven with God.

Since the time of Christ, there have been many breaks in Christian unity. There have been many departures from the Catholic Church. There have arisen numerous churches, calling themselves Christian. Why the departures? Why? The main single reason has been the unwillingness to accept Christ's teaching on the indissolubility and fruitfulness of Christian marriage, founded on selfless charity.

 

Need for Superhuman Strength

It takes no great intelligence to see that a faithful and fruitful marriage requires superhuman strength. Change the word "superhuman" to ''supernatural" and we begin to see what we are talking about.

Catholic Christianity is unique among the religions of the world, whether ancient as among the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans before Christ, or among the living religions of the human race.

Catholic Christianity is unique in making demands on the morality of its believers that are beyond human nature by itself to live up to. The two hardest demands are the practice of Christian chastity and Christian charity. Combine these two virtues in marriage, and we begin to see why Christian matrimony requires, indeed demands superhuman power from God to remain faithful to for a lifetime.

This is what Christianity is all about: living a superhuman life by means of superhuman grace provided by Christ to those who believe that He is God who became man to enable us to witness to His Name.

That is why Christ elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. He had to, otherwise what He commanded His married followers to do would be an idle dream.

There are certain things that human nature, by itself cannot, and the word is "cannot" do. Like what? Like living for a lifetime in loving married partnership, without being seduced by the selfish sex perversion that surrounds us like the atmosphere we breathe.

 

The Eucharist Provides Superhuman Strength

Entering marriage for believing Catholics is one thing. Living in Christian marriage for a lifetime is something else. That is why Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The moment we say, "Sacrament of the Eucharist," we mean a triple sacrament:

  • The Sacrifice-Sacrament of the Mass.

  • The Communion-Sacrament of Holy Communion, and

  • The Presence-Sacrament of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist to give those who believe in Him the power they need to remain alive in His grace. For married Catholics this means the light and strength they must constantly receive if they are to live out the sublime directives of the Holy Spirit for Christian believers who received the sacrament of matrimony.

They have no choice. The world in which they live is:

  • an adulterous world

  • a contraceptive world

  • a masturbating world

  • a homosexual world

  • a fornicating world

  • an abortive world that murders unborn children in their mothers' wombs.

Not to be deceived by this world, whose prince, Christ tells us, is the devil, Catholic husbands and wives need the light that only Christ can give. He is available with this grace through the Holy Eucharist.

Not to be seduced by this world, master-minded by Satan, Catholic spouses and parents need the courage that only Christ can give. He tells us not to be afraid. Why not? Because, as He says, “Have confidence, I have overcome the world”.

What is He telling married people? He is assuring them that He is still on earth in the Blessed Sacrament; that He is still offering Himself daily on our altars in the Sacrifice of the Mass; that He is literally, physically giving Himself to them in Holy Communion. Why? In order to enable them to do what is humanly beyond their natural intelligence to comprehend and beyond their natural willpower to perform.

Married Catholics have no choice. The psychological pressure from the world, the flesh and the devil is too strong to cope with by themselves.

The Holy Eucharist must remain, if it already is, or become, if it is not, the mainstay of their married lives. This is no option. It is a law of spiritual survival for Catholic marriages and families in every age, and with thunderous emphasis, in our day.

At the turn of the century, Pope St. Pius X identified the first meaning of the section of the Lord's Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread”. The primary meaning of this petition refers to the Eucharist. We are asking God in the Our Father to open the minds and hearts of believers to their need for daily Mass, daily Holy Communion, and some daily praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Why? To provide us with the daily sustenance that our life of grace requires.

I am speaking to proposed Catholics. I am speaking about Catholic marriage. I am speaking to those whose marriage in Christ must be preserved by Christ, nourished by Christ, grow in loving chastity and charity as prescribed by Christ.

Nineteen plus centuries of Catholic-Christianity proves that the Holy Eucharist is absolutely necessary for married Christians to remain faithful to each other, and selfless in their mutual love.

 

Witness to Christ's Power to Work Miracles

If there is one thing that stands out in Christ's visible life in Palestine it is His power to work miracles.

In one chapter after another of the Gospels, Christ performed signs and wonders that testified to His claims to being one with the Father and that, without Him, we can do nothing to reach our eternal destiny.

  • Christ changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee.

  • Christ restored sight to the blind, and speech to the mute.

  • Christ cured paralytics so they could use their limbs.

  • Christ calmed the storm at sea by a single word.

  • Christ even raised Lazarus from the grave. When He told the dead man to “Come forth,” what had been a decaying corpse came out of the tomb as a living human being.

But Christ's greatest miracles were not His power over the physical loss of nature. They were His power to change unbelieving minds to become believers in His word, and unbelieving hearts to become men and women of heroic virtue.

The pagans of the first three centuries A.D. were converted to Christ when they saw Christians practicing chastity and charity.

It was especially the faithful and fruitful love of married Christians that changed pagans into believing Christians and in the process, changed the history of the human race.

Where did the early Christian spouses receive the incredible strength they needed to live in holy, and I mean holy matrimony? Remember, to become a Christian in those times meant to expect martyrdom. Where did married Christians receive the superhuman power to live such superhuman lives? Where? From the Holy Eucharist.

It is not commonly known but should become known that in the early Church Christians heard Mass and received Holy Communion every day. The Holy Eucharist was brought to them in person as they were awaiting martyrdom by fire or the sword, or by being devoured by wild beasts.

We turn to our own day. What Christ did during His visible stay on earth in first century Asia Minor, He has continued doing down the ages by the exercise of His almighty power available in His invisible presence in the Holy Eucharist.

It is the same:

  • Physically same,

  • Historically same,

  • Geographically same,

  • Really same Jesus Christ who worked miracles at the dawn of Christianity, Who is now present in the Blessed Sacrament, offering Himself in the Mass, and received by us in the Holy Eucharist.

What do we conclude from this? Obviously, that married Catholics be witnesses in our day to Christ's power in their lives, as were the Christians who were mangled by lions in the Roman Colosseum, or, like St. Thomas More, were beheaded by order of a lecherous king who discarded his wife in sixteenth century England.

 

The Greatest Need for Married Christians

This brings us to our final reflection. I make bold to say that the single most important need for Christian marriage is a renewed faith in the Holy Eucharist.

There is an outstanding statement in the Gospels about Christ performing miracles. The evangelists tell us that Jesus could not work miracles among some people because of their lack of faith.

Notice what we are saying. We are saying that the Almighty Master of heaven and earth, the Creator of the sun, moon and stars, when He became Man was unable to exercise His omnipotence because of some people's lack of faith. Of course, this means that He could not, because He would not, work miracles where the people refused to submit their minds in humble belief to His Divinity.

Now we turn to our own time and place. Would anyone doubt that in our nation in the last decade of the twentieth century, we need an avalanche of moral miracles to preserve marriage and the family from disintegration by the devious forces let loose in our country today?

Only God can work a miracle, and we need to change the figure, an ocean of miracles in America, as in Canada as in England, and France and Germany and Scandinavia, to mention just a few materially wealthy countries that are in desperate need of Divine Grace where so many are walking in darkness and the shadow of eternal death.

Jesus Christ is the Infinite God who became man. He became man not only to die for us on Calvary. He became man to live with us in the Holy Eucharist.

Catholics living in holy matrimony have a grave responsibility. They are to stir up their faith in this continued presence of Jesus, now on earth, in our cities, in our day.

They are to obtain for themselves and for their contemporaries the power to live their married lives according to the teaching of Jesus Christ. He instituted the sacrament of matrimony to be a constant witness-in an unbelieving world to what only God-become-man can achieve.

This divine power is accessible in the Holy Eucharist to those who have the humility to believe.

 

Prayer

“Lord Jesus, at the Last Supper You gave us Your own commandment to love one another as You have loved us.”

“At the Last Supper, You instituted the Holy Eucharist, in order to give us the grace we need to put this difficult commandment into practice in our lives.”

“Those whom You have joined in Holy Matrimony are to practice this selfless charity day after day, and year after year, until you call them into eternity.”

“They need, how they need, the patience and courage and heroic fortitude to remain faithful to You and to one another in today's Age of Martyrs.”

“Give them, we pray, the light to see that You are with them in the Holy Eucharist, near them by Your Real Presence, and within them in Holy Communion.”

“Inspire them to become Apostles of Charity and Chastity to the married.”

“Eucharistic Lord Jesus, without You we can do nothing. But with You we can restore a broken world to unity in the human family here on earth, as a prelude to our union with You in heaven, in the company of the Divine Family of the Holy Trinity. Amen”.