Category Archives: Family Life

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

motherhood-collective

“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

Dec 22 – Bl Jacopone da Todi, OFM, (ca. 1230 – 1306) – “Crazy Jim”, Early Dramatist of Gospel themes…, Author of “Stabat Mater”

I LOVE BEING MARRIED!!!!  Let me repeat, I love being married!!!  It requires I grow everyday.  That’s definitely not a comment about Kelly.  It is infinitely a comment about me.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, Kelly.  Thank you for saying “yes” or “sure”, or whatever it was.  Thank you for being Mrs. McCormick.  Thank you for being Mara’s “Omi”.  I love you very much.  You know how I feel.

Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna.  His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle, or hairshirt, she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life.

He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order. Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or “Crazy Jim,” by his former associates. The name became dear to him.  On another occasion, he appeared at a wedding in his brother’s house, tarred and feathered from head to toe.

After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor. Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular.

Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, “Fraticelli”, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two brothers, the Colonnas, cardinals of the Church, and Pope Celestine V. Interestingly, Celestive resigned before action could be taken.  These two cardinals, though, along with the King of France, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII, who opposed the more ascetic approach.  During the struggle that followed, Jacopone publicized the Spirituals’ cause by writing verses highly critical of their opponents, the Pope included.  A battle between the two factions ensued, ending in the siege of Palestrina.

At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later in 1303, having been specifically excluded from the Jubilee Year of 1300 by papal bull.  He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping “because Love is not loved.” During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, Stabat Mater.

On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed “Sister Death” with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, he has been venerated as a saint.  He is praised in Dante’s Paradiso.


-The Piazza del Popolo in Todi, where Jacopone crawled around on one occasion, wearing a saddle.

Some of his poetry,

From “Love That Is Silent”:

Love, silent as the night,
Who not one word wilt say,
That none may know Thee right!
0 Love that lies concealed,
Through heat and storm and cold,
That none may guess nor read
Thy secrets manifold;
Lest thieves should soon grow bold
To steal away thy treasure,
Snatch it and take to flight
Deep-hid, thy secret fires
More ardently shall glow;
And he who screens thee close,
Thy fiercest heat shall know.

From “The God-Madness”:

“What happens to the drop of wine
That you pour into the sea?

Does it remain itself, unchanged?
It is as if it never existed.
So it is with the soul: Love drinks it in,
It is united with Truth,
Its old nature fades away,
It is no longer master of itself.

The soul wills and yet does not will:
Its will belongs to Another.
It has eyes only for this beauty;
It no longer seeks to possess, as was its wont–
It lacks the strength to possess such sweetness.
The base of this highest of peaks
Is founded on nichil,
Shaped nothingness, made one with the Lord.”

From “The Soul’s Over-Ardent Love”:

Love, that art Charity,
Why has Thou hurt me so?
My heart is smote in two,
And burns with ardent love,
Glowing and flaming; refuge finding none,
My heart is fettered fast, it cannot flee;
It is consumed, like wax set in the sun;
Living, yet dying, swooning passionately,
It prays for strength a little way to run,
Yet in this furnace must it bide and be:
Where am I led, ah me!

I once could speak, but now my lips are dumb;
My eyes are blind, although I once could see:
In this abyss my soul is stark and numb,
Silent I speak; cling, yet am held by Thee:
Falling, I rise; I go, and yet I come;
Pursue, and am pursued; I am bound yet free;
O Love that whelmeth me!
Maddened I cry:
“Why must I die,
They fiery strength to prove?”

Love, Love, of naught but Love my tongue can sing,
Thy wounded Hand hath pierced my heart so deep:
Love, Love, with Thee made one, to Thee I cling,
Upon Thy breast, let me sleep;
Love, Love, with Love my heart is perishing;
Love, like an Eagle snatching me Thy sleep,
For Thee I swoon, I weep,
Love, let me be,
By courtesy,
Thine own in death. . .

From “Rapture Divine”:

When the mind’s very being is gone,
Sunk in a conscious sleep,
In a rapture divine and deep,
Itself in the Godhead lost:
It is conquered, ravished, and won!
Set in Eternity’s sweep,
Gazing back on the steep,
Knowing not how it was crossed –
To a new world now it is tossed,
Drawn from its former state,
To another, measureless, great,
Where Love is drowned in the Sea.

The Stabat Mater

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had pass’d.

Oh, how sad and sore distress’d
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole-begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
Whelm’d in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?

Bruis’d, derided, curs’d, defil’d,
She beheld her tender child
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with thine accord.

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ our Lord.

Holy Mother! pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourn’d for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine.

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swoon’d
In His very blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defense,
Be Thy cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.

Amen.

-Blessed Jacopone da Todi


-tomb of Bl Jacopone da Todi

Epitaph:  “Here lie the bones of Blessed Jacopone dei Benedetti da Todi, Friar Minor, who, having gone mad with love of Christ, by a new artifice deceived the world and took Heaven by violence.”

Blessed Nativity.

Love,
Matthew

St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

Cuzco School St Joseph

-Cuzco School, Peru, “Saint Joseph and the Christ Child”, late 17th-18th century. Oil on canvas, 43 x 32 1/8in. (109.2 x 81.6cm), Brooklyn Museum

In the Litany of St Joseph, one the titles of honor given to him is Terror of Demons.  Due to his unshakeable faith, his assiduous perseverance, his admirable purity and his exceptional humility, and given the nobility and grandeur of his vocation – the protection, sustenance and care of the Blessed Mother and Our Lord Jesus Christ, as head of the Holy Family – we can expect that God also endowed him with an equally proportional grace to carry out such a lofty mission in life. And certainly we can picture him as a sublime icon of manliness and a pillar of strength that would sow terrible fear among the powers of darkness given his noble task.  Would God allow/accept anything less for the earthly foster-father of His Son?

In Catholic iconography, St Joseph is pictured holding a staff from which a white lily grows.  This is due to Catholic hagiography which states from reliable, albeit non-scriptural, sources near to the period, when the holy priest Simeon gathered all the young men of Jerusalem from the house of David at the temple to choose who would be the rightful spouse of Our Lady, he was inspired by God to give each man a dry rod. After a period of prayer asking for the manifestation of the Divine Will, pure white lilies – the symbol of purity – blossomed from St. Joseph’s staff and a white dove, most pure and brilliant, hovered over his head giving Simeon the sign that he was the chosen one.

Hence, St. Joseph is the epitome of a pure man: pure in thought, pure in heart; pure in body and soul – destined to be the most chaste spouse of Mary Most Holy conceived without sin. In face of such sublime purity and holiness, it would not be farfetched to believe that the ugly, filthy infernal spirits would cower in petrified fear in his presence.

I have a special intention I am entrusting to St Joseph, in addition to so much I have already entrusted to him.  Pray for me!  St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

Love,
Matthew

Father’s Day – bringing it all home….

Being-a-father-Bringring.com_

A man’s wedding vows…

“V:  Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?

R:  We have.

V:  Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?

R:  We will.

V:  Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?

R:  We will.

V:  Since it is your intention to enter into marriage, join your right hands, and declare your consent before God and His Church.

R:  I, Matthew, take you, Kelly, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

BrEdmundMcCullough-160x160
-by Br. Edmund McCullough, OP

“Long ago, in the days before direct deposit, Mom had to hope that on payday Dad would bring his whole paycheck home and not cash it at the bar on the way back from work. He and Mom would then sit down at the table and budget for the rest of the month. The kids needed new shoes, Catholic school tuition had to be paid, and so forth. It was important that Dad brought all the money home.

Now, I concede that things have changed in the last fifty years. Banks now offer direct deposit so most of us don’t even see our paycheck. Not as many bars or packaged goods stores cash paychecks anymore, and most families have two incomes. However, the principle still holds. Men are truly husbands and fathers when they bring it all home. And the “all” is not merely monetary.

A husband and father’s whole world lies within the four walls of his home. He brings home, not simply money, but all his attention, affection, and energy. He has a narrowness in the best sense of the word, what Chesterton calls a “truly local patriotism.”

The good father that sees this clearly is a realist. He sees facts: “I’m married to this one woman for as long as we live.” And “This is my child. I’m responsible for him for at least the next 18 years—probably more.”

But this narrowness is a beautiful reality, not a tragic one. The vows he made in marriage will focus his energy. Without them, he would risk drifting without any objective. It is because our feelings change—we ride stormy seas on a rolling main—that we make wedding vows. But sometimes daydreams settle in and the realist changes philosophies. He thinks, “If only I could have some independence. Wasn’t it great when I didn’t have to answer to anyone?” He starts to think that life has become cramped. He sympathizes with George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. He has given up all that for this? He faces pressure at work and mopey teenagers at home. He is not receiving the affirmation and respect he thinks he deserves from his wife. He starts to panic and think about how things could have been different. He ponders all those opportunities he gave up, all those other lives he could have lived.

That’s when a husband and father is tempted not to “bring it all home.” He is tempted to divert a bit more of himself to his co-workers or his old buddies. But if he’s wise, he goes back to basics. His world is here, right in front of him. All those other lives he could have lived aren’t real. His co-workers will change. His buddies have their own marriages. He can think to himself, “I didn’t sign on for this” (whatever “this” might be), but the circumstances of life don’t ask our permission.

If he retains his focus, his kids will come around to the same perspective that Mark Twain describes so accurately: “When I was at 18, my father was the dumbest man I’d ever met. When I was 21, I was amazed at how much he had learned in just three years.” With his wife, there are ups and downs. When two people live together for 50+ years, there are going to be disagreements, occasionally serious ones. But if he brings it all home, he will find that on the other side of such narrowness is a profound breadth and depth of life not accessible to those who divide their love.”

Love,
Matthew

Feast of the Holy Family

christ-discovered-in-the-temple-1342.jpg!Blog

-“Christ Discovered in the Temple”, 1342, Simone Martini, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK, this is my most FAV pic of the Holy Family!!!!  Ain’t NOBODY happy here!!!!  🙂

With all the debate and pronouncements regarding the modern “definitions” of marriage & family, moral theology issues, etc., in my bewilderment and dismay, the only comfort I have found, the only thing that brings peace and makes sense, is to deepen my devotion to the Holy Family.  Join me, please.

(The morning offering prayer is a traditional Catholic prayer, this one adapted for fathers.)

Morning Offering Prayer of a Father:

“O My Jesus, I offer this day to You…
All my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings…
And, through You, I make this offering to our Father in heaven.

Be with me through this whole day in all its particulars,
And assist me that it may become a worthy offering in every way.

Be close to me in all I think and say and do.
Direct Your Spirit to speak to me…
And help me listen attentively when He does speak…

So that, in my response,
Your thoughts may become more surely my thoughts,
And Your ways may become my ways;
So that my judgments may accord with Your judgments,
And that the sentiments of my heart may be most like Your own Most Sacred Heart;

So that my conversation with others
May be the conversation I may ask You to share with us,
And that my works may be works I ask You to approve.

Help me to have the practical wisdom to look to Your Mother
From time to time throughout the day
And invite her to pray with me –
Realizing her concern that I be in all things faithful to You
And that Your graces be fruitful in me
To form me after the perfect fatherhood of God.

May I know the continued grace to work with You in all I do,
And not merely for You…
So that my day may become a perfect offering…

Lived with You and in You and through You,
To be presented to our Father in joy and love.

Amen.”

Good St Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, Patron of Husbands and of Fathers, Faithful Servant, Entrusted Guardian & Protector of our Lord: I, too, have been highly favored and blessed, entrusted with the care of soul and body of this Daughter of God as my life’s vocation.  With you as my exemplar, ask your foster Son to grant me the graces always to faithfully fulfill my Christian duty as a husband and father until my own death.

O, Good St Joseph, in thanksgiving and rejoicing for this great joy and honor God has bestowed upon me – to participate with Him as co-Creator of Life, I beg you to come to my assistance and pray for me!  Be my constant advocate before the Throne of God in all my necessities and trials!  Amen.

Collect: O God, Who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of Your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray for us!

Love,
Matthew, Kelly & Mara

The Fifth Joyful Mystery – Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple & Family Life!

Recently, our dear friends Victoria & Dennis were married and paid me the deep compliment of having a noticeable role in their nuptials.  I could not be more humbled and flattered.  As a thank you, Victoria & Dennis sent Kelly and I a lovely box set of cards, each one depicting one of the mysteries of the Rosary.  You may recall we are all in a monthly rosary group here in the city (Chicago).

My most favorite card is for the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary – Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple.  When I looked at the artwork of Simone Martini (1284-1344), I loved it!  Nobody is happy in this picture!  Mary’s not happy.  Joseph’s not happy.  Jesus is not happy.

We have the benefit of knowledge of events before and after this time and can safely know there is still love.  Not so much the love that feels good, although we can be sure there is some of that too, as part of the human experience, but the love both of parents for child and savior for the world. The love which sacrifices all for the explicit benefit of the beloved.

BXVI’s first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” – “God is Love” clearly illustrates the contrast between the radically different definitions of the word “love” that  God and the Church means, and the WIFM – “What’s in it for Me”, this better make me feel good/better than I already do love secular culture so casually and indiscriminately throws around.  Same word – two VERY different meanings.  As “Deus Caritas Est” attempts to point out, and what Kelly and I try to keep as the theme when we facilitate pre-cana, “Love is more than a feeling.”

Family life is NOT EASY.  Kelly and I are about to embark on that journey (marriage, April 8, 2006) so many married saints (and I mean that most liberally in relation to the technical definition) have travelled before.  To imagine there will not be crosses, is to deceive oneself.  To mean and to say “Thy will be done!  Thy Kingdom come!” is to trust, profoundly.  As always, we ask for and are grateful for your prayers, your love, and your friendship.

I loved this painting and, once again, thought I would tempt fate in sharing it with you.

Love,
Matthew

Father’s Day – acts of love & grace…

Germany, Bavaria, Munich, Son (2-3 Years) kissing his father, smiling

BrJosephAnthonyKress-160x160
-by Br. Joseph-Anthony Kress, O.P.

“The summer before I entered religious life my cousin gave birth to her first child, Owen. Later that summer the proud mother hosted a party at which the main pastime was holding baby Owen. As everyone took his or her turn with the newborn, I noticed something astonishing: all of the men held him in precisely the same way, and all of the women in another.

As my sisters, my aunt, and my cousin held Owen, I noticed that each held him in both of her arms, allowing him to lie horizontally on his back. When it came time for the men to hold him, we took a different approach: we each held Owen in a vertical posture, with his body parallel to our own and having him rest on our chest. Without exception, each of the men instinctively held Owen in this position.

As I reflected on this event, I realized that the manner in which a man holds a child manifests something about his role as a father. A man holds an infant in a way that raises the child up to his own perspective. A father does this as if to say, “Son, you are now a part of this world. I will teach you how to navigate its paths.”

A father is responsible for much more than providing food and shelter, for he also has a vital role in educating children in the faith and how to live uprightly in the world.  The Second Vatican council states explicitly that “the active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation” (Gaudium et Spes 52:1).  This “active presence” of the father begins with his leading of the family. If the father is a leader in the home, then the Catechism’s statement, “the home is the first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment,” has particular import for men (CCC 1657).

In order to navigate the paths of human life one has to address the totality of the human person. Human flourishing is accomplished only when the body and soul are integrated, and not separated. A man is not more authentically masculine when he focuses only on the physical things of the world. Rather, he denies part of his masculinity because he ignores part of his humanity. A man neglects one of his primary roles as a father if he fails to teach his children the importance of the spiritual life. This does not mean that he must be a spiritual master and write brilliant theological treatises. But what he is called to do is to witness to the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ, and love as Christ loves (cf. Ephesians 5:25).

Even if a man tries to distract himself from this task it still remains as an intrinsic part of who he is. It is so innate in him that the very
manner in which he holds a child testifies to it. The task of leading the family, or the domestic church as the Catechism calls it (CCC 1655), has been entrusted to men. Again, the home is the “first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment.” In other words, it is the foundation on which society is built. If a father desires to have an effect on the world and make it a better place for his family, he must be a man devoted to the spiritual and human development of each member of his “domestic church.” He cannot give what he does not have, and he cannot teach what he does not know. Thus, he must be a man who is firm in his own faith in Jesus Christ.

We learn from the Divine Teacher how to teach those around us. The greatest act of teaching was the crucifixion on Mount Calvary, when He taught us what an act of love looks like. Christ gave His life for us so that we may have life eternal, and our efforts to imitate His act of love can be manifest in the most menial of our daily tasks. The constant changing of diapers, driving the kids to soccer practice, cooking dinner, working long hours at the office, setting time aside for prayer, or even simply laying an infant tenderly in his bed, can be transformed by grace into acts of love.

Acts of love are not reserved to things that are difficult; they may also be the joyous things in our life: playing catch, attending Mass, family vacations, or a well-executed surprise anniversary party. The love that animates these acts is the same that was poured forth from the cross. Our faith is not empty and it surely is not the mere uttering of creedal statements. When the spiritual is joined with the physical, the fullness of the human person is engaged, and faith is shown to be authentic. As the Letter to James says, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:17).”

Love,
Matthew