Category Archives: Consistent Ethic of Life

The State is Unnecessary

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-“Progress of the State” quadriga at the base of the capitol dome, St Paul, MN.

-by Marc Barnes

The State is unnecessary for the existence of marriage. As that Venerable Badass, Pope Leo XIII, put it in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, “Man is older than the State and he holds the right of providing for the life of his body prior to the formation of any State.” More directly related to marriage, the selfsame Pontifex sayeth: “No human law can abolish the natural and primitive right of marriage, or in anyway limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage, ordained by God’s authority from the beginning. “Increase and multiply.” Thus we have the family; the “society” of a man’s own household; a society limited indeed in numbers, but a true “society,” anterior to every kind of State or nation, with rights and duties of its own, totally independent of the commonwealth.”

This the heart of a radical Catholic politic, the fierce validation of the family as “totally independent of the commonwealth.” People fall in love, marry, and perpetuate the human comedy through the creation of smaller people, all without giving a single damn about the State. This seems self-evident. But this also means that the argument for the preservation of “traditional marriage” as a necessary institution for contributing progeny to the State is, at best, wonky. I suppose one may make a baby with a mind to the maintenance and health of the commonwealth, but this is an unnecessary addition. One may equally, ethically, naturally, and in affectionate accord with the Patriarchs of the Western Church, say “screw the commonwealth, we’re making a person as a distinct locus of value, lovely in itself, apart from any possible ends,” and proceed thereby.

Within its proper limits, the State does no more than regulate “the civil effects of marriage” (Canon 1016). Which leads to the not-so-shocking conclusion that, to the Catholic, there is no such thing as a “civil marriage” at all — there is only the State regulation of the effects of a sacramental or natural marriage on society. At best then, the State can be a help or a hindrance to natural and sacramental marriages. Currently, it is a hindrance.

Marriage, according to the Church, is an institution directed to several ends. Unity and indissolubility (without which a marriage cannot be said to exist), conjugal fidelity and the generation, nourishment and education of offspring (which are the natural ends of marriage), the signification of Christ’s love for his Church and a remedy against sin, and the mutual help of the spouses.

If we briefly compose a tally, we will find that the State is inadequate in regards to every good the Church claims makes marriage marriage. Against the good of indissolubility, civil marriage proposes divorce, remarriage, and pre-nuptial agreements. Against the good of conjugal faithfulness, civil marriage legalizes and decriminalizes adultery. Against the good of offspring and their education, civil marriage permits contraception, sterilization, abortion — and the public school system. And as far as concerns the strictly sacramental effects of marriage, the State ranges from indifferent, as they should be, to ominous, as when we see the religious criminalized for keeping their marriage-related activities strictly within the bounds of nature and the sacrament.

So the question becomes, what is the responsibility of the married Catholic in a State which is antagonistic to every conceivable end of marriage, long before any discussion of gay marriage? Surely the first step is to repudiate the State, and to live intentionally within a marriage “independent of” a crooked commonwealth; to live a marriage which recognizes the State as unnecessary, insufficient, and finally incapable of establishing, legislating, or sustaining it. By seriously downplaying the bloated and self-appointed importance of the State in matters of marriage, remembering that the fullness of marriage resides in nature and the sacrament, and that no marriage in the universe has ever come from the State — only then can we speak seriously about “fixing” it.”

Love,
Matthew

Deal or No Deal – Marriage or No Marriage

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“Whatever marriage is said to be contracted, either it is so contracted that it really is a true marriage, in which case it carries with it that enduring bond which by divine right is inherent in every true marriage; or it is thought to be contracted without that perpetual bond, and in that case there is no marriage, but an illicit union opposed of its very nature to the divine law, which therefore cannot be entered into or maintained.” (Pius XI, quoting Pius VI, Casti Connubii, 34)

-by Marc Barnes

“The intention of perpetuity, or no marriage at all. Cold, Pope. Real cold.

But what it means is that, insofar as it is the law of the State to allow divorce, remarriage and pre-nuptial agreements, a civil marriage is no marriage at all. If a couple were to take as their inward intention what the State takes as a possibility — that their marriage could be dissolved, children split between them, and provisions made for this event prior to the marriage itself — then they would not, in the eyes of the Church, be married. They would enjoy the pleasures of an illicit union.

I am not arguing, of course, that the majority or even any non-sacramental marriages are illicit unions. I am arguing that, from the Catholic point of view, a couple is required to spiritually reject the very constitution of a civil marriage, to “fill it up” in their intention what is lacking in its legal structure — by committing to stay together. A State marriage is only a marriage if it is, in intention, anarchic; a rebellion against the dismal, defeatist proposition offered by the State, which, devoid of grace, can only ever plan for the worst in man — the inevitable boredom of his marriage and the dissolution of his promises.

If this is true, then the idea of “protecting State marriage” or “preserving the civil institution of marriage” against being altered in its very meaning by an alteration of definition from husband and wife to a sex-blind affair — it seems paltry. Marriage is already, prior to any concerns over the manner in which the sexes constitute its essence, a rebellion against the State. To “save civil marriage” by maintaining it as “one man, one woman” would be to save an institution that the Christian, and indeed, every human looking to make one life out of two people, is called to reject. Any civil marriage, entered into as such, is an illicit union, no matter how stupendously straight or gloriously gay a couple has the pleasure of being.

This, on its own, should be sufficient to call into question the unfortunate position that Catholics, myself included, often take — that of the guardians of traditional marriage. Far from preserving and guarding an institution of the State, the role of the Catholic is to reject the State, question its foundations, and introduce something entirely new — entirely nontraditional. Indeed, it was precisely in rebellion against the human tradition of divorce and remarriage that that Rabbi, Jesus, said: “What God has joined, let no man tear asunder,” and everywhere Christianity spread, it struggled to break the tradition of polygamy, religious prostitution, divorce and remarriage. Christianity, as we will see, murders the all-too-human tradition of solubility with the frightening call to indissolubility.

Of course, one might argue that in preserving marriage as an institution of husband and wife is the preservation of natural law rather than civil law, but it is doubtful to me whether the violation of natural law is best corrected by the State, or, to say it positively, that “things acting in accord with their nature” is a goal achievable through the State — especially when our State codifies all manners of distortions of the nature of marriage long before any discussion of gay marriage. But we’ll get there: To start, I only want to disrupt the Good Traditional Marriage vs. Bad Gay Marriage narrative, to aim towards the possibility of a creative, fruitful separation of civil and sacramental marriage, or rather, towards the acknowledgment that the Catholic and his State haven’t meant the same thing by the word “marriage” for quite some time. There’s some fresh air in this for the Catholic with the lungs for it. In a worldly city gone soggy with the separation of word from meaning, it is good to remember, in a desert-father fueled spirit of repudiation, that we do not do as the world does.”

2 Cor 4:4

Love,
Matthew

Why is Catholic Marriage different?

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In my experience trying to understand Catholic teaching on marriage, the language is more like love poetry than a practical, utilitarian assembling of rights and functions.  See Song of Songs.  WIFM = What’s In It For Me? is definitely NOT the Catholic understanding of the sacrament of marriage, quite the contrary, quite;  even though, culturally, we may use the same word to describe a dramatically different understood reality.  If our current crisis causes this greater clarity to come more fully into focus, grace doth abound.  Rom 5:20.

In this season of marriage ceremony, let us pray for those who take on this most solemn vocation.  I have recently begun attending a secular support group to offer support to divorced men and fathers as they bear the cross of divorce and separation from their children and the torture of the family court system, biased against men.  Please pray for all who suffer this most desperate of crosses, regardless of their sins.


-by A. David Anders, PhD

Catholic teaching on marriage elicits more practical opposition and misunderstanding than perhaps any other Catholic doctrine. When I ask people what is keeping them from full communion with the Catholic church, Catholic teaching and the canon law on marriage rank high on the list.

The reason for the opposition is easily understood.  Christ calls married couples to lifelong fidelity, no matter what. A valid sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved for any reason by any power on earth. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6) This teaching seems so difficult that the apostles themselves could hardly believe it. “If this is the situation between a husband and wife,” they said, “it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)  Christ himself admitted that the teaching was impossible without grace: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.” (Matthew 19:11)

Some Protestant denominations wish to make an exception to this law in cases of adultery or abandonment. They base this exception in the so-called “exception clause” of Matthew 19:9. But St. Paul explains Christ’s teaching very clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:10: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  For this reason, the Church allows for the “separation of bed and board” in cases of abuse and neglect, but in no way countenances the remarriage of those separated while the true spouse is still living.

Why? Why does Christ call Christian couples to such a high standard of fidelity, even to the point of embracing the cross of suffering? The reason is that Christian marriage is no mere human contract. It is a mystical participation in the sacrificial, self-giving love of Christ for his Church. (Ephesians 5) It is a special vocation to holiness, an ecclesial state in the same way that priesthood or religious life is an ecclesial state. Christian marriage participates in the sacramental mission of the Church to bring Christ to the world. St. John Paul II wrote that “Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.” (Familiaris Consortio)

The really glorious news is that God never calls us to a task without giving us the means to accomplish it. For this reason, the sacrament of marriage is accompanied by astonishing graces that are unique to the married state. The Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes) put the matter quite beautifully:

“Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother. For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.”

To be sure, not all married couples experience or enjoy the full benefit of these graces. The increase of sanctifying grace in the sacraments calls forth our willing cooperation. Pope Pius XI explains: “[since] men do not reap the full fruit of the Sacraments . . . unless they cooperate with grace, the grace of matrimony will remain for the most part an unused talent hidden in the field.” (Casti Connubii)

In order to reap the full benefits of sacramental marriage, one must live a sincere, faithful and generous Catholic life. St. John Paul II explains:  “There is no doubt that these conditions must include persistence and patience, humility and strength of mind, filial trust in God and in His grace, and frequent recourse to prayer and to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. Thus strengthened, Christian husbands and wives will be able to keep alive their awareness of the unique influence that the grace of the sacrament of marriage has on every aspect of married life.” (Familiaris Consortio).

Christian marriage is an awesome calling. Like all the sacraments, it is “a mystery,” but a mystery of astonishing fruitfulness. The law on Christian marriage is arduous because the end of Christian marriage is so sublime. Through it we are “caught up into divine love.”  The Council teaches: “Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love.” (Gaudium et Spes)”

“…Thy Kingdom come!  Thy will be done!  On earth, as it is in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

May 1 – St Joseph the Worker, Patron of Men, Husbands, Fathers & the Family

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-“The Dream of St Joseph”, by Anton Raphael Mengs, circa 1773/1774, oil on oak, 114 × 86 cm (44.9 × 33.9 in), Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, Austria

I think a subtitle of this feast should be “The Physical Labor of the Lord”, to celebrate God’s enshrinement, sanctification, participation in holy work:  muscles, mind, sweat, and the dignity and joy of it.  The Talmud states that if someone has a religious question and the rabbi is unavailable, they should consult the carpenter/mason, one who works on walls, windows, doorways and the like.  Joseph and his foster Son’s trade appears to have had some religious authority associated with it.

In thinking of St Joseph, the first characteristic, most precious, and most relevant to today is his obedience.  He was willingly, lovingly obedient to the will of God, all his life.  He never thought of what he should do instead of what God wanted, and when he learned what God wanted, he did it straight away, without question, hesitation, or guarantee.  Mt 1:24.  He had his uncertainties, his doubts, his concerns, his worries, of real practical necessities, but he trusted, in faith, always, and bent to the will of the Father, even when that was most difficult, all of his life.  St Joseph, Obedient Servant of God, pray for us!

Most privileged, even more than all the priests of Jesus Christ to follow, he held, truly, the flesh & bone, body & blood, warm & youthful human body of God in his arms.  He had the extreme privilege to let God, immediately before him, obedient to Joseph as parent, (Oh! The irony!) know He was loved, by word and deed, to wipe His tears, stroke his hair, rub His back, to tickle Him, to remonstrate with Him, and bring forth a smile when anything else was shown, to encourage Him, always.  Blessed Joseph, Most Privileged of Men, pray for us!

I have a growing and burning, maybe you can tell, passion for and devotion to St Joseph.  I think he is a key to renewal of the Church in the modern world.  I do.  Not some fairy tale character, but a masculine man of action, humble enough to realize he was not God nor entitled to anything; risk-taking, intrepid, resourceful, and obedient to the will of God.  I do.  I love St Joseph.  I do.  St Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, pray for us!

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-by Dr. Taylor Marshall

“Where does Joseph sit in heaven? Is he in the front row? Is there anyone ahead of him?…When I was a brand new Catholic; I think I had been Catholic maybe three or four months, I was in confession and I confessed, you know, maybe having a disagreement with my wife or a fight or something like that, or difficulty with the kids and the priest through the screen said, well, you should have a devotion to St. Joseph, which I knew that, and he said, St. Joseph had a wife and he had a child and he can really help you and inspire you.

I ended up leaving that confession and being like, yeah, but Joseph’s wife was sinless and his son was God,  🙂 so I don’t really see how Joseph helps me out there. So, I’m gonna show you how I kind of passed through that way of thinking and I found Joseph to be so helpful. I’m gonna answer all those questions today. But first, before we answer these questions I’m gonna read a passage from Sacred Scripture. It’s my favorite passage about St. Joseph but it never mentions the word Joseph once. You’ve probably read it or heard it in mass dozens of times and you’ve never thought of Joseph, but I’m gonna suggest to you that it is, in fact, about Joseph.

It’s from the Gospel of Matthew 20:20-29:

“Then came to Jesus the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her two sons adorning and asking something of Him. He said to her, “What whilt thou?” She said to Him, “Say that these my two sons may sit, the one at your right hand and the other at thy left in thy kingdom.” And Jesus answering said, “You do not know what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He said to them, “My chalice indeed you shall drink, but to sit on my right or left hand is not mine to give you, but to them for who it is prepared by my Father.”

And the ten having heard it were moved with indignation against the two brothers. But, Jesus called to them and said, “You know that the princes exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you, but whosoever is great among you let him be your minister and he who will be first among you shall be your servant. Even as the son of man has not come to be ministered unto but to minister and to give his life as a ransom for many.” When they went out from Jericho a great multitude followed Him.”

Okay, so the two brothers and the mother come and they want to sit at the right hand and the left hand of Jesus and He says, you can’t have that spot because it’s been reserved or prepared by my Father in Heaven. So, that means that from eternity past, all the way in the mind of God, God had reserved in Heaven two places for two people. One to sit at the right hand and one to sit at the left hand and it wasn’t for the Apostles, for a different two people.

Now, who sits at the right hand of Jesus? Mary, right? We know that Psalm 44/45:9, it’s in the liturgy…

“The daughters of kings have delighted thee in thy glory. The queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing surrounded with variety,” right.

The tradition is, if you see every single Catholic painting and mural all over Europe and the world, the Blessed Mother is on the right hand of Jesus. She’s enthroned on the right hand. It comes from that Psalm; that’s the tradition. Also, in Catholic churches, traditionally, when you’re facing the altar, right, you’ll see that Our Lady is usually on the left hand, and in traditional churches there will be an altar to Our Lady on the left as you’re facing the alter and on the right there’s an altar or a statue to Joseph.

If you think about Jesus being enshrined in the tabernacle on his right hand would be that shrine to Our Lady and on the left would be Joseph, and you can see where I’m going with this. Joseph, we know in scripture that God, the Father, preserved a place on the right and left hand of Jesus Christ and all of us know who’s on the right hand but we never think about that left hand. So, that means that God, the Father, prepared a place on Christ’s left hand in glory forever. So, who gets that spot? Well, it’s pretty obvious, Joseph. In the Catholic tradition it is Joseph. This raises a question. Where does Joseph fit in the Bible? Is he in the Old Testament, is he in the New Testament? He’s right there on the edge. He dies, tradition says, before Jesus died on the cross but he’s there at the nativity of Our Lord so he’s sort of straddling, so where do we place him?  Is he a Saint of the Old Testament like Abraham, Moses, and King David, or is he more of a Saint of the New Testament. Where does he fit? Well, many theologians, Catholic theologians have weighed in on this and they say that Joseph belongs to what’s called the hypostatic order.

So, we’re gonna get a little theological here but don’t worry, this is pretty simple stuff. Christ has two natures. He’s fully God and he’s fully man, so decided at the Council of Chalcedon AD 451…Okay, so he is fully God and fully man. In order for him to be a man He was born of a virgin, our Blessed Mother, Our Lady, right? However, it is necessary in God’s order, the natural order, that children be born in nuclear homes, right, nuclear families, so God saw it fitting that not only would the Son of God be born of the Virgin Mary, He would have to be born to a family.

You can’t just have Mary and the Baby Jesus sleeping outside on park benches, right? They had to be protected. In the first talk today we talked about the role of being a protector of your realm. So, God had to appoint a father figure, a protector, a guardian for Mary, who is the Immaculate Conception, and Jesus Christ, Who is the Son of God.

And so, what this means is that St. Joseph really stands above even the Old and New Testament in this special class, which we call devotionally the Holy Family. The Holy Family. They’re the Old Testament saints, you know, matriarchs, and patriarchs, and they’re the New Testament saints. We all live in the New Testament. The New Testament continues until the end of time, the new covenant, but Jesus, Mary and Joseph stand in a certain sense above it and they are – a priest told me he councils and gives spiritual direction to seminarians and he always reminds the seminarians, he says, when you go into a church, most Catholic churches have the tabernacle and then Mary and Joseph.

He says, always remember that when you’re a priest, when you’re serving in the Church, because it’s not Peter and Paul, it’s Joseph and Mary, and that shows in the Catholic Church the family represented perfectly by the Holy Family has a certain precedence. The priesthood is there to serve and lift up the family, so don’t ever ever be overly impressed with your collar.  You’re there to serve the family.”

“Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God,” -Pope St John Paul II

St Joseph, Most Respectful Lover of Women, pray for us!  St Joseph, Model for all Men, pray for us!  St Joseph, Glorious in Your Gracious Restraint & Self-Control before God and Womanhood, Most Blessed Exemplar of Men, pray for us!

“The Creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; the child of a prince, to a peasant.” -St. Anthony of Padua

Love,
Matthew

Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful, Fruitful Love, A Fountain of Grace

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At 49, I like to kid myself I still possess some modicum of “hipness”.  I was never a hipster, really, to begin with, but, I guess, I teach them and have to try to keep the lectures, at least, mildly interesting?

However, it does come as a shock when current, less-than-attractive fashion is pushed right onto my nose?  🙁  I have recently heard two sermons from campus ministers, who are closer to the battle, per se, than yours truly.  There was so much despair.  It really took my breath away.  So much despair…in general, and particularly about marriage.  🙁  Young people have the meme in their heads, why bother?  Why not just live for myself?  Always?  Why not?  Why bother?  Why go through the pain and the suffering of dating?  The compromises of living with the other gender, whom completely DO NOT GET IT!!!!

My observation is that evil is always directly opposed to good.  You know it’s evil because of this orientation.  Cleverly disguised, well-marketed, slick, shiny, attractive, alluring, but a lie.  Evil is always a lie; he is the father of lies.  Evil NEVER tells you the Truth, that’s how you know it’s evil.  Evil always tells you what you WANT to hear, but you know, in your heart-of-hearts, it is a lie.  Evil HAS a feeling.  It does.  It damnably does.  Evil NEVER entertains, even for a hair-splitting fraction of a second the possibility of the Cross.  Never.  That’s another way it identifies itself.

If, as Catholic theology tells us, sacraments are fountains of grace, what more appropriate means, or motivation does Evil have or need than to dissuade us from the life giving waters of grace?  To be deprived of His Grace is to become the slave of sin and evil.

-from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/marriage/the-meaning-of-catholic-marriage/

-by Alice Von Hildebrand

“In our society, the beauty and greatness of married love has been so obscured that most people now view marriage as a prison: a conventional, boring, legal matter that threatens love and destroys freedom.

“Love is heaven; marriage is hell,” wrote Lord Byron 150 years ago. At the time he could not have foreseen the incredible popularity that his idea would have today.

In our society the beauty and greatness or married love has been so obscured that most people now view marriage as a prison: a conventional, boring, legal matter that threatens love and destroys freedom.

My husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand was just the opposite. Long before he converted to Roman Catholicism, he was convinced that the community of love in marriage is one of the deepest sources of happiness. He saw the grandeur and the beauty of the union of spouses in marriage — symbolized by their physical union which leads in such a mysterious way to the creation of a new human person.

He recognized that love by its very essence longs for infinity and for eternity. Therefore, a person truly in love wants to bind himself forever to his beloved — which is precisely the gift that marriage gives him.

In contrast, love without an unqualified commitment betrays the very essence of love. He who refuses to commit himself (or who break a commitment in order to start another relationship) fools himself. He confuses the excitement of novelty with authentic happiness.

Such affective defeatism — so typical of our age — is a symptom or a severe emotional immaturity which weakens the very foundation of society. It is rooted partly in a misunderstanding of freedom. Many people criticize marriage because they fail to realize that a person also exercises his freedom when he freely binds himself to another in marriage.

These critics of marriage do not see that continuity — and especially faithfulness — is an essential characteristic of a truly great personality: he chooses to remain faithful to what he has seen, even though his vision may later become blurred.

In matters of love and marriage, “hell” does not come from fidelity; it comes from lack of fidelity, which leaves men technically unbound but actually solitary: trapped in a shallow arbitrariness and a stifling subjectivism.

Indeed, contrary to Lord Byron and to popular belief, marriage is the friend and protector of love between man and woman. Marriage gives love the structure, the shelteredness, the climate in which alone it can grow.

Marriage teaches spouses humility, making them realize that the human person is a very poor lover. Much as we long to love and to be loved, we repeatedly fall short and desperately need help. We must bind ourselves through sacred vows so that the bond will grant our love the strength necessary to face the tempest-tossed sea of our human condition.

For no love is free from periods of difficulties. But (as Kierkegaard aptly remarks), because it implies will, commitment, duty, and responsibility, marriage braces spouses to fight to save the precious gift of their love. It gives them the glorious confidence that with God’s help, they will overcome the difficulties and emerge victorious. Thus, by adding a formal element to the material element of love, marriage guarantees the future of love and protects it against the temptations which are bound to arise in human existence.

In a relationship without commitment, the slightest obstacle, the most insignificant difficulty is a valid excuse for separating. Unfortunately, man, who is usually so eager to win a fight over others, shows little or no desire to conquer himself. It is much easier for him to give up a relationship than to fight what Kierkegaard calls “the lassitude which often is wont to follow upon a wish fulfilled.”

Marriage calls each spouse to fight against himself for the sake of his beloved. This is why it has become so unpopular today. People are no longer willing to achieve the greatest of all victories, the victory over self.

To abolish marriage is, Kierkegaard tells us, “self- indulgence.” Only cowards malign marriage. They run from battle, defeated before the struggle even begins. Marriage alone can save love between man and woman and place it above the contingencies of daily flux and moods. Without this bond, there is no reason to wish to transform the dreariness of everyday life into a poetic song.

Sacramental marriage

In Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love, my husband introduced these themes which illuminate the value and importance of natural marriage and show the role that marriage plays in serving faithful love.

At the same time, my husband saw that even in the happiest of natural marriages, mortal man — the creature of a day (as Plato calls him) remains terribly finite and limited. Consequently, every merely natural love is necessarily tragic: it will never achieve the eternal union for which it naturally longs.

But when my husband converted to Catholicism, he discovered a wonderful new dimension of marriage: its sacramental character as a fountain/font of grace. St. Paul illuminated the sublime dignity of sacramental marriage in calling it a “great mystery” comparable to the love of Christ for His Church (Ephesians V: 32). Natural love pales in comparison to the beauty of a love rooted in Christ.
As a sacrament, marriage gives people the supernatural strength necessary to “fight the good fight.” Every victory achieved together over habit, routine, and boredom cements the bonds existing between the spouses and makes their love produce new blossoms.

Also, because it explicitly and sacramentally unites the spouses with the infinite love that Christ has for each one of them, sacramental marriage overcomes the tragic limits of natural marriage and achieves the infinite and eternal character to which every love aspires. It is therefore understandable that after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, my husband (who was already the great knight for natural love) became an ardent knight in defense of the supernatural love found in sacramental marriage. His enthusiasm for the great beauty and mystery of faithful love in marriage led to the writing of this work.

It is therefore understandable that after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, my husband (who was already the great knight for natural love) became an ardent knight in defense of the supernatural love found in sacramental marriage. His enthusiasm for the great beauty and mystery of faithful love in marriage led to the writing of this work.

History of marriage

The preparation of Marriage actually began in 1923 when my husband gave a lecture on marriage at a Congress of the Catholic Academic Association in Ulm, Germany. The lecture was a resounding success.

In the lecture he argued that one should distinguish between the meaning of marriage (i.e., love) and its purpose (i.e., procreation). He portrayed marriage as a community of love, which, according to an admirable divine economy, finds its end in procreation.

Even though official Catholic teaching had until then put an almost exclusive stress on the importance of procreation as the purpose of marriage, the practice of the Church had always implicitly recognized love as the meaning of marriage. She had always approved the marriage of those who, because of age or other impediments, could not enjoy the blessings of children.

But conscious that he was breaking new ground in making so explicit the distinction between the purpose and the meaning of marriage, my husband sought the approval of Church authority. So he turned to His Eminence Cardinal Pacelli, then the Papal Nuncio in Munich. To this future pope (Pius XII), my husband expounded his views, and to his joy, received from the future Pontiff a full endorsement of his position.

Cardinal Pacelli’s approval coupled with the success of the lecture on marriage encouraged my husband to expand and develop the lecture into the small volume which you now have in your hands.

Since its first publication in German, Marriage has been translated into most of the major languages of Europe, where it has never lost popularity. When it was first translated into English during World War II, critics received it very favorably and the book enjoyed great popularity, remaining in print through four editions over fourteen years.

It gives me great joy to greet this new edition, which once again makes Marriage available to English speaking readers after an absence of nearly 30 years.

Especially today, this book — revealing the sublime Christian vocation of marriage — is a must for anyone who is anxious to live worthily this great mystery of love.

Thomas a Kempis tells us that “love is a great thing.”
So is marriage.”

Love,
Matthew

Love: Free, Total, Faithful, Fruitful

Portrait of Happy Family In Park

family

 

family2

Jn 15:2,16

Love is not love if it is not, or lacks the opportunity, to be fruitful.   I know of, at least, two couples, one Catholic, one not, who were expressly told by their physicians it was not possible for them to have children.  And, voila!!!  One dear friend I know laughed in her doctor’s face when told she was pregnant.  The miraculous, blessed humor was on her, gentle reader.  Praise Him!!!  This does happen.  AND, who can debate fruitfulness in love, single or married, is not found in adoption?  🙂

-from http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-morning-homily-marriage-should-reflect-christ-s-fruitful-love-for-his-church

Pope’s Morning Homily: Marriage Should Reflect Christ’s Fruitful Love for His Church
15 Married Couples Join Pope for Mass in Casa Santa Marta

Vatican City, June 02, 2014

Pope Francis celebrated Mass this morning with a group of married couples at various stages in their life’s journey in attendance.

Reflecting on the readings of the day, the focus of the Holy Father’s homily were on the faithfulness, perseverance, and fruitfulness of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church – three characteristics that are also at the heart of Christian marriage.

Fifteen couples, celebrating between 25 and 60 years’ of marriage, were present at the Mass in Casa Santa Marta to give thanks to God for the milestones they’ve reached.

After the readings of the day, Pope Francis spoke about the three pillars of spousal relationship in the Christian vision of things: fidelity, perseverance, fruitfulness. The Holy Father said that Christ, Himself, is the model measure of these, which the Pope called the “three loves of Jesus”: for the Father, for His mother, and for the Church. “Great” is His love for the Church, said Pope Francis, adding, “Jesus married the Church for love.” She is, he said, “His bride: beautiful, holy, a sinner, He loves her all the same.” His way of loving set the three characteristics of this love in relief.

It is a faithful love. It is a persevering love. He never tires of loving his Church. It is a fruitful love. It is a faithful love,” the Pope said. “Jesus is the faithful one. St. Paul , in one of his Letters, says that, if you confess Christ, He will confess you, before the Father; if you deny Christ, He will deny you; even if you are not faithful to Christ, He remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself! Fidelity is the essence of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ love in His Church is faithful. This faithfulness is like a light on marriage. The fidelity of love. Always.”

Always faithful, and also indefatigable in its perseverance – just like the love of Jesus for His Bride.

“Married life must be persevering, because otherwise love cannot go forward,” the Pope continued. “Perseverance in love, in good times and in difficult times, when there are problems: problems with the children, economic problems, problems here, problems there – but love perseveres, presses on, always trying to work things out, to save the family. Persevering: they get up every morning, the man and the woman, and carry the family forward.”

Then the Holy Father discussed the third characteristic: fruitfulness. The love of Jesus, he said, “makes the Church fruitful,” providing her with new children through Baptism, and the Church grows with this spousal fruitfulness.

Love,
Matthew

Clerics are bad at sound bites…

FrBeck

-ole “blue eyes”

1/20/15

COSTELLO: Father Edward Beck, the CNN religion analyst. Welcome, Father.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION ANALYST: Thank you. Good to be here, Carol.

COSTELLO: Can’t wait to talk to you about this.

BECK: Me, too.

COSTELLO: So Damien Thompson from “The Spectator” I thought put it best. He writes, quote, “I know what the Pope means, I think. Contraception and family planning are fine so long as you don’t artificially block procreation. But the subliminal and unintended messages are, A, that Catholics have a reputation for breeding like rabbits, and B, birth control is OK.”

BECK: The church has always taught that birth control is OK. They’ve always said responsible parenthood — if you look at your —

COSTELLO: No, wait. Go back to birth control is OK thing.

BECK: OK. It just can’t be artificial. It has to be natural birth control. As you said, family planning. Rhythm.

I mean, people don’t really understand this. You as a woman understand it, but a woman can only become pregnant six days every month. So if she charts that — through body temperature, secretions, and she has regular menstruation — that means 24 days of the month, sexual intercourse is fine.

COSTELLO: Coming from an Italian family with many members who’ve had many, many children and are very committed Catholics, the rhythm method isn’t so effective.

BECK: No, because they don’t really chart it. They don’t take their temperature. They don’t monitor it. But I mean if you do — I’ve counseled a lot of couples with this, Carol. And when they actually do it, they find it so much better than the artificial because they’re not putting foreign substances into their body. They’re not in some way prohibiting something unnaturally, and the relationship with the spouse can be much more natural. A lot of people like that.

COSTELLO: I’ll be honest with you, because you are a Father and I have to be honest with you — I don’t agree. But I hear you. I do. I hear you.

Is that what the Pope was saying? Or was he sending some subliminal message? Remember what he said about gay people — who am I to judge? So was he sort of doing the same thing with these comments on birth control?

BECK: Yes, but here’s the message. Say natural family planning, which is what you were saying, rhythm, doesn’t work for somebody. So someone comes to me in a confessional and says, Father, like that Filipino woman I’ve had eight kids. I can’t have another one. It’s a health risk. Pastorally, and the Pope said this, you deal with that woman in that situation. You say, for you, this church teaching doesn’t work. You have to do something else.

So the teaching is for the norm but there are always exceptions to the norm. That’s why you deal pastorally with people. He said to his priest in a confessional, in a counseling room, you deal with the person as an individual pastorally. And so the church has always gave some leeway for those situations where the rule cannot apply. And contraception is a perfect example of that. Many people, it doesn’t work for. And so you have to deal with them in a pastoral way.

COSTELLO: Well, let’s go back to the part where Catholics breed like rabbits and have many, many children because, when I was growing up, it was my duty to have children. Get married and have children. That was my duty.

BECK: Well, it’s not so much duty but that you can’t delink sex from procreation. It can’t just be about pleasure; it can’t just be about intimacy. But the natural order says this is how the species propagates. So that if a married couple says, well, you know what, no kids. We just want it about pleasure, about us, the Church teaches, well, that’s not the fullness of God’s intent with regard to sexuality.

So it’s not have eight kids; it’s be open to the possibility of life. That’s responsible sexuality. That links procreation and intimacy and sexuality together. That’s what the Church has always taught, that you just don’t separate it.

COSTELLO: So these remarks of the Pope — nothing new?

BECK: Nothing new except that he’s opened the door to say be responsible with parenthood. Don’t think the church is saying you have to have eight kids. It’s saying how you limit those eight kids is what is important. And, priests, be pastoral with those people for whom those norms and guidelines cannot apply. Make sure that you give them another out.

COSTELLO: Father Beck, thanks so much. I appreciate it.

Ok.  So, now we have “breed like rabbits” to volley in the lexicon, Catholic or otherwise, for a while.  Even the go-to American clerics, the handsome, articulate, popular ones, think Rev. James Martin, SJ, or Rev. Edward Beck, CP, get tongue-tied when trying to explain Catholic moral teaching on birth control, regulation of reproduction, call it what you will.  They let their interlocutors get them tangled in the gruesome details of “rhythm method”, and never seem to get to the glory of marriage.  It’s possible to get the “why” out it really is, in a sound bite.  Watch.

“Christian marriage is the TOTAL-GIFT-OF-SELF, even as Jesus gave Himself for all of humanity, of man and woman.  It’s sacred.  It’s HOLY!!!!  It’s a Sacrament.  Not WIFM = What’s In It For Me?, but how can I offer myself for you, Beloved?  For your good, even prior to my own?  For your salvation?  Even before, perhaps, even instead of mine?  Me for you.  You for me.  Christ for His Church and vice versa. The Church wishes nothing artificial, nothing mechanical, nothing chemical to interfere or deny, implicitly or explicitly, with that gift!”  See, that wasn’t too bad, was it?  No.  Anyone can spit that out in a sound bite.  See.  EZ PZ lemon-squeezee.

from http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/2012/10/23/made-for-life-part-2-you-give-yourself-then-totally-and-completely/

You give yourself, then, totally and completely . . . saying ‘I love you so much, I’m going to give myself to you as a gift, and I am open to whatever that brings and whatever God wants.(divine providence)’” –Katie

Katie is speaking here about the very foundation of what makes marriage “made for life”: the total gift of self between a man and a woman as husband and wife. We have already mentioned this gift of self in marriage, but it deserves some more attention. Indeed, every person is called to a generous and sincere gift of self. [i] But marriage is a unique instance of self-gift. In marriage, husband and wife give not just part of themselves to each other, but give all—their whole person, body and soul. This gift of self in marriage is not something temporary like a loan; it is meant to last for a lifetime. [ii] It is a total, lifelong gift of husband to wife and wife to husband. [iii]

A husband and a wife’s total gift of self in marriage, with its lifelong permanence, makes their bond absolutely unique and different from any other relationship between two people. Although two persons of the same sex can have an authentic and holy friendship, only a man and a woman can pledge themselves to each other in marriage. Through their sexual difference, only a husband and a wife can speak the “language” of married love—total, faithful, and fruitful self-gift [iv]—not only with their words, but also with their bodies. [v]

The couples in Made for Life all bear witness to the fact that the gift of self in marriage, which begins with the spouses, does not end with them. As Pope Paul VI taught, married love is fruitful because “it is not confined wholly to the communion of husband and wife; it also aims to go beyond this to bring new life into being.” [vi] Precisely because husband and wife are “made for each other,” their bond is “made for life,” made for fruitful love and for the adventure of fatherhood and motherhood by being open to the gift of a child.

[i]. See Gaudium et Spes, no. 24: “Man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake . . . [and] can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.”
[ii]. See Letter to Families, no. 11: “The indissolubility of marriage flows in the first place from the very essence of the gift: the gift of one person to another person” (emphasis in original).
[iii]. Letter to Families, no. 11: “When a man and woman in marriage mutually give and receive each other in the unity of ‘one flesh,’ the logic of the sincere gift of self becomes a part of their life.”
[iv]. In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI lists “the characteristic features” of conjugal [married] love as fully human, total, faithful and exclusive until death, and fecund [fruitful] (no. 9). Pope John Paul II expands upon Paul VI’s description of love by reflecting on how a husband and wife “speak” the message of married love through the “language of the body.” He writes, “The human body speaks a ‘language’ of which it is not the author. Its author is man, as male and female, as bridegroom or bride: man with his perennial vocation to the communion of persons” (Catecheses on the theology of the body [TOB], no. 104:7 [emphasis in original]). This means that the language of love is given to men and women, who are then called to “speak” this language truthfully to each other. The body—as male or female—is essential to “speak” the language of love. Pope John Paul II continues, “[The human person] is constituted in such a way from the ‘beginning’ that the deepest words of the spirit – words of love, gift, and faithfulness – call for an appropriate ‘language of the body.’ And without this language, they cannot be fully expressed” (TOB, no. 104:7).
[v]. As we saw in the first video, Made for Each Other, the sexual difference between men and women is not just a flat “biological” reality or an anatomical detail. Instead, it includes the whole person, body and soul, at every level of his or her existence. As Pope John Paul II explained, the body reveals the person. Encountering a living human body is encountering a human person—male or female—who is inseparable from his or her body. See TOB, no. 9:4.
[vi]. Humanae Vitae, no. 9 (translation modified). See also Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, 16: “The transmission of life is a sublime, concrete realization of this radical self-gift between a man and a woman . . . As mutual self-gift, it is at the same time creative self-gift.””

Love,
Matthew

Jan 14 – St Macrina the Elder ( ~270~340 AD), Holy Motherhood, Patron of Widows

“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!” -Mary D. McCormick, oft repeated to her children.

Is 49:15

On January 2, we celebrated the feast of St. Basil the Great, who was a grandchild of today’s saint, St. Macrina. Basil, who was born around 329, came from a family of saints. Macrina, his father’s mother, was one of his favorites. She seems to have raised Basil. As an adult, Basil praised his grandmother for all the good she had done for him. He especially thanked her for having taught him to love the Christian faith from the time he was very small.

Macrina and her husband learned the high price of being true to their Christian beliefs. During one of the Roman persecutions, they were forced into hiding. They found refuge in the forest near their home. Somehow the couple managed to escape their persecutors. They were always hungry and afraid, but they would not give up their faith. Instead, they patiently waited and prayed for the terrible persecution to end. It lasted for seven long years. During that time Macrina and her husband hunted for food. They managed to survive by eating wild vegetation. St. Gregory Nazianzen, who shares St. Basil’s feast day on January 2, is the one who wrote down these few details about St. Basil’s grandparents.

During another persecution, Macrina and her husband had all their property and belongings taken from them. They were left with nothing but their faith and trust in God’s care for them.

St. Macrina lived longer than her husband, but the exact year of each of their deaths is not known. It is believed that Macrina died around 340. Her grandchild, St. Basil, died in 379.

St. Macrina was a loving grandmother. She showed Basil and the rest of her family the beauty of Christianity by really living all that she believed in. We can ask St. Macrina to help us to be strong Christians too.


-by Br Joachim Kenney, OP

“Pope Francis recently gave an address on the importance and the value of motherhood. In one of his concluding statements he noted, “It is they, mothers, who often give the first roots of the faith, the ones that permeate deepest; without them not only would the faithful be lost, but also a good part of the deepest fire of our faith.” One of the saints celebrated today, St. Macrina the Elder, was a mother and grandmother who epitomized what the Holy Father was talking about.

We do not know much about St. Macrina’s life, but she was the mother of at least one and the grandmother of at least four saints. Her son, St. Basil the Elder, fathered a large family and his sons included Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, two of the Cappadocian Fathers who were prominent in the early Church during the Arian controversy. Another son, Peter of Sebaste, and a daughter, Macrina the Younger, also became saints. St. Macrina the Elder is thought to have studied the faith under St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (or perhaps his close disciples), who converted his native Neocaesarea to Christianity. She persevered in the faith and suffered for it during one of the early persecutions of the Church under Emperor Diocletian.

St. Macrina was well equipped, then, to educate her children and grandchildren in the faith, imparting to them its “deepest fire.” St. Basil the Elder died when his children were still young and so Macrina helped raise her grandchildren. She insisted on a solid intellectual formation for them. This of course became a great boon to the Church, as Basil and Gregory used their brilliance and subtlety to help articulate the true doctrine of who Christ is. St. Basil honored his grandmother with these words in defending himself against the slander of certain citizens of Neocaesarea:

“What clearer evidence can there be of my faith, than that I was brought up by my grandmother, blessed woman, who came from you? I mean the celebrated Macrina who taught me the words of the blessed Gregory; which, as far as memory had preserved down to her day, she cherished herself, while she fashioned and formed me, while yet a child, upon the doctrines of piety. And when I gained the capacity of thought, my reason being matured by full age, I travelled over much sea and land, and whomsoever I found walking in the rule of godliness… those I set down as fathers, and made them my soul’s guides in my journey to God. And up to this day, by the grace of Him who has called me in His holy calling to the knowledge of Himself, I know of no doctrine opposed to the sound teaching having sunk into my heart; nor was my soul ever polluted by the ill-famed blasphemy of Arius.”

As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” May St. Macrina and all holy mothers pray for us!”

I contend the love of a mother for her child is, perhaps, as powerful a force in the universe as God.

Prov 31:10-31

Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer for Grandparents

Lord Jesus, you were born of the Virgin Mary, the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne. Look with love on grandparents the world over. Protect them! They are a source of enrichment for families, for the Church and for all of society. Support them! As they grow older, may they continue to be for their families strong pillars of Gospel faith, guardian of noble domestic ideals, living treasuries of sound religious traditions. Make them teachers of wisdom and courage, that they may pass on to future generations the fruits of their mature human and spiritual experience.

Lord Jesus, help families and society to value the presence and roles of grandparents. May they never be ignored or excluded, but always encounter respect and love. Help them to live serenely and to feel welcomed in all the years of life which you give them. Mary, Mother of all the living, keep grandparents constantly in your care, accompany them on their earthly pilgrimage, and by your prayers, grant that all families may one day be reunited in our heavenly homeland, where you await all humanity for the great embrace of life without end.
Amen!!

Love & in thanksgiving for women who fear the Lord,
Matthew

Jan 9 – Sts Julian & Basilissa of Egypt, (d. 319 & 304 AD), Husband & Wife, Martyrs

Basilissa_Julian

-“Christ with Saints Julian and Basilissa, Celsus and Marcionilla”, Pompeo Batoni, 1736-8, currently held in Los Angeles, Getty Museum.  Note they each hold the palm of martyrdom, the palm of victory.  The palm branch is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life.  In particular, the species of palm is known as Phoenix, and has relation to the ever resurrecting from ashes bird of ancient Egypt. 

You know the old catechetical joke! “Johnny/Sally: what are the seven sacraments? Reply: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Extreme Unction, Ordination, and….Martyrdom!!!” Well, that might not be as far from the truth as we might like in this case!

I LOVE married saints!!!!  Julian and Basilissa were married, served the poor, ill, and destitute, during the reign of Diocletian.

While little substantive information is known of the lives of this holy couple, it appears that Julian was forced by his family to marry. To comply with their pressure, Julian selected Basilissa as his spouse, and together, they both pledged to live in celibacy, preserving their chastity before the Lord. Basilissa eventually founded a convent for women, of which she became the superior. Similarly, Julian gathered a large number of monks to himself and served as their spiritual director. Together, the two converted their home into a hospice for those in need, housing approximately 1,000 people at any given time. The sisters and monks provided daily food and care to the ill, poor, and dying, and accepted no money in return. As their hospital was located in Egypt, and many were introduced to the faith through their work, conversions were numerous. As word spread of their heroic and Christian work, they attracted the attention of those who were actively persecuting Christianity.

Saint Basilissa died a holy death after years of Christian persecution, worn out from hard work and constant threats. Before her death, she foretold that her husband would die a martyr. Saint Julian survived for some time, keeping the hospital running, and providing the Lord’s care to all who needed it. Eventually, he was arrested, interrogated, and tortured during the reign of Diocletian and beheaded for refusing to recant his faith. His interrogation and his tortures were accompanied by astonishing prodigies and numerous conversions of his captors and tormentors. Following his burial, numerous miracles were reported at his tomb, including the cure of ten lepers in a single day.

Saints Julian and Basilissa devoted their life to service to the Lord through service to those around them needing the most help. In their hearts grew the flame of Christian love, illuminated for all to see. In their touch, those in need found the healing and redemption of a life in Christ.

Relics of Sts. Anastasius, Celsus, and Julian rest in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame University reliquary chapel, South Bend, Indiana.

Joy & Peace, and special prayers to those called to the vocation of Christian marriage, as the means and vehicle by which they are to work out their salvation.

Love,
Matthew

Mt 9:13 – His Body & Blood are soul medicine; not a weapon, nor a prize which can ever be earned.

soul_medicine

Let God worry about whom is too sick to receive His medicine.  It is His, not ours, fellow invalids and sufferers upon whom He has great mercy, too.  St Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 AD) often called the Eucharist the “Medicine of Immortality”, the food and drink by which one was rendered immortal.

Original article.

“Away from the Church, I rejected God for over ten years and was blissfully ignorant to the abuse I was inflicting on my soul through serious sin.

I thank God that those around me, whether they knew it or not, employed the wisdom of “gradualism” to invite me back to the Church.

In his latest blog post on the topic, Jimmy Akin defines gradualism:

“It is a principle used in Catholic moral and pastoral theology, according to which people should be encouraged to grow closer to God and his plan for our lives in a step-by-step manner rather than expecting to jump from an initial conversion to perfection in a single step.”

“Gradualism” or the “principle of gradualness” are not phrases that have been tossed around for a while. So, it is no wonder that people are skittish at the phrases’ mention and the language being employed at the Synod on the Family.

The fact that the bishops in the Synod on the Family employed this term over and over in their working document points to a growing consensus that the principle of gradualism needs to be applied more effectively in parish life.

This understandably concerns a lot of people.

After the chaos that followed Vatican II, things were just starting to stabilize. People are worried that if the principle of gradualness is interpreted or applied incorrectly then the faithful will be confused, and will think that moral law has somehow changed.

I, however, remain unconcerned for two reasons:

  1. The Church is in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and she will never mislead us—most especially in matters of faith and morals.
  2. Second, when it comes to gradualism, I am “Exhibit A.”
    When I returned to the Church after ten years of being away, I did not walk through the doors and ask to go to confession.

Some people do this, but that was not my story.

When I first walked through the doors of a Catholic Church again, I was still an atheist, living with my boyfriend. One day, with little to do, I walked by a nearby church while Mass was going on inside.
I stayed. I have no idea why I stayed but I stayed.

And I went to Communion.

Perhaps I went out of a habit that was ingrained in me as a child. But when I think back to how I felt, I think the emptiness inside of me was screaming to be filled, and I felt intensely drawn to receive Jesus, like a deer thirsting for running water. Was it right? I have no idea. But at the time if someone had told me that I should not receive because I was in a possible state of mortal sin, I most likely would have walked right out of that church and never returned.

A year later, I was living for several months in Costa Rica. One day I felt a pull to attend Mass. I had no idea why. Before long, I started to go whenever Mass was held in the little rural town. The priest never questioned my fitness to receive Communion. He was always warm, joyful, and open with me, although I am sure he wondered what exactly was going on in my life.

I am thankful for that priest’s stance of respect for where I was at. If he had tried to lay down the law with me, I may have run and stayed away from the Church for another ten years. I was not ready to hear Church law from anyone. I hardly believed in Jesus, let alone the Catholic Church. I did not consider myself Catholic, and I certainly did not accept most of Church teaching on all the hot-button issues.
And yet, I felt drawn every time Mass was held in that little country church.

My story continues, and you can read more of it in my book that is coming out. But suffice it to say that I was attending Mass for an entire year before I went to confession. I don’t make excuses for myself. My soul was not in the proper state to be receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, but it took time for grace to work in me in order for me to realize this. Finally, in the same way I was drawn to Jesus in the Eucharist, one day I felt an overwhelming urge to go to confession.

The rest is history.

I am a product of the principle of gradualness that the bishops are speaking about at the Synod.

As a Church, if we don’t accept the concept of gradualism, we will not be able to successfully invite the countless baptized fallen-away Catholics to sit once again in the pews and receive the sacraments that their souls so desperately need.

Gradualism does not dismiss the law. Gradualism has great respect for the law, but an even greater respect for the people for whom the law was made. For that reason, gradualism believes that in order for a person to fully accept the law, we must give the Holy Spirit time to work in that person’s soul. This means that sometimes we will refrain from telling others about Church laws, and at other times we will refrain from enforcing them, not because the laws are not good or right, but because we want the person to accept what is good and right and that involves a timing we cannot control, that of the Holy Spirit.

This is not playing fast and loose with God’s law, this is mercy…and common sense.”

th

-by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

Love,
Matthew