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The U.S. Bishops are encouraging the faithful to pray and fast for the renewal of a culture of life and marriage and for protection of religious liberty. In particular, Catholics are invited to make a pledge to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays. Below are suggested intentions and reflections for each Friday fast.
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Intention: Let us pray that families everywhere may become living reflections of God's love.
Reflection: In his Letter to Families, Pope John Paul II wrote, "The divine 'We' is the eternal pattern of the human 'we'" (no. 6). What this means is that marriage and the family have a unique ability to reflect God.God is a communion of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is not a solitary being, but a divine "We." The family, too, is a communion of persons, a "we." The love exchanged between family members – husband, wife, children, older and younger generations - is an image of God's love. Pope John Paul II invited all families to truly "become what [they] are," a reflection of Divine Love to those around us.As we enter into Advent, let us reflect on ways in which we can each share Christ's love with our family members and, together with our family, how we can share Christ's love with the world.
Did You Know?Last month, during the World Family Day, Pope Francis reflected on the joy of living as a Christian family. In his homily, he explained that the family "is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society."The Extraordinary Synod next year will discuss the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of the new evangelization.
Intention: Let us pray that the right to religious liberty may be honored and upheld so that all may be able to worship and follow God freely.
Reflection: On Sunday November 24, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, which reminds us that no earthly power can override man's desire and freedom to worship the Creator. As Christians, we believe in this right and in every person's intrinsic yearning to seek and worship God in all things and above all else.
In 1925, Pope Pius XI wrote in his encyclical Quas Primas, which instituted the Feast of Christ the King, that "Christ reign[s] 'in the hearts of men,' both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind."
In the core document Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty, the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty "urge[d] that the Solemnity of Christ the King—a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty—be a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad."Did You Know?Last week, at the conclusion of their fall General Assembly, the U.S. bishops unanimously issued a "Special Message" on the HHS mandate.They stated, "As the government's implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom." Go to the USCCB website to learn more about the bishops' work to preserve religious freedom.
Intention: May birthparents placing their children with adoptive families receive abundant support.
Reflection: Under challenging circumstances, some parents expecting a baby may discern that choosing what's best for their child means generously placing him or her with an adoptive mother and father. That selfless, courageous decision is far from easy, so it's vital that we give birthparents our support.
As Cardinal O'Malley encouraged us, "Obviously, we must never abandon our commitment to the unborn child, a precious human being made in the image and likeness of God.But we must learn to focus more on the woman in crisis.We must listen with empathy to be able to communicate the Gospel of Life" (Homily, Opening Mass of the 2013 National Prayer Vigil for Life).
Remembering our own adoption as children of God through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5), let us support those who may be considering adoption – both those we know personally in our own lives and those whom we may not have even met.Did You Know? November is National Adoption Month! In "The Blessing of 'Unanswered Prayers': An Adoption Story," MaryPat St. Jean shares her family's experience of welcoming four adopted children into their home.
Intention: For all engaged couples – that they may recognize the high calling of their unique vocation to love one another as Christ loves the Church.
Reflection: As Catholics, we believe that the marriage of one man and one woman is not a temporary contract or something that can be ended if a husband or wife "falls out of love."Instead, the bond of marriage is all-encompassing. It involves the husband and wife making a vow that is indissoluble, that is, unbreakable. On their wedding day, the bride and groom promise to be committed to one another not only in that moment, but in every moment for the rest of their lives. The nature of love implies totality. "It is impossible for two young people to reach the point of sincerely saying 'I love you' without adding, implicitly or explicitly, 'forever.'"1
In this way, husband and wife are able to participate in Trinitarian love, which is eternal.
1 Angelo Cardinal Scola, The Nuptial Mystery, 267.
Did You Know? During his recent address to young people in Assisi, Pope Francis encouraged men and women to be open to the vocation of marriage. He explained that marriage is "the vocation to form one flesh and one life from two, male and female," that it is rooted "in God himself," and that "by this gift, and by the certainty of this call, you can continue on assured; you have nothing to fear; you can face everything together! "
*Note on fasting: On the Solemnity of All Saints, we honor all of the saints and continue to join in prayer for the building up of a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty.Since this feast day is a solemnity, it is not appropriate to fast on All Saints' Day.
Intention: We remember the saints and martyrs who were servants of the Lord during their earthly lives and ask that they pray for us to one day join them in heaven.
Reflection: The Solemnity of All Saints is a feast in the Catholic Church that was originally instituted to honor the Christian martyrs of the late Roman Empire.
Although we often associate
martyrdom with events of the past, violent persecution of Christians is still
happening at an alarming rate in modern times in many countries. Therefore, in
praying for the martyrs of ages past, let us also pray for suffering Christians
around the world who continue to be persecuted in this day
and age for following Christ.
the protection of every unborn child – that each one may be lovingly welcomed
and cherished by all.
Reflection: Because this intention is so broad-reaching, we may feel a sense of distance when we pray for the protection of every unborn child.
So let us pause for a moment to recall the children in our own lives - the color of their eyes, the sound of their giggles, and their excited expressions when they open much-wanted presents.
Remembering the incredible gift that these and all children are, we pray also for each expectant mother, that she may be supported by those around her in making life-affirming choices for both herself and her child.
Did you know? A baby's heart begins to beat at 21 or 22 days, and can be detected on ultrasound.
Intention: For members of our families and communities who suffer from illness, that the Lord would heal them and assure them of His presence
Reflection: Today we pray for those who are ill. Physical sickness is a reminder of our human frailty and mortality, and it can be hard to cope with. Enduring a prolonged illness is very difficult, both for the sick person and for caregivers. Illness can greatly impact a marriage, asking that husband and wife love each other "in sickness," as they promised on their wedding day.
Our faith assures us that sickness does not diminish a person's worth or dignity. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his message for the 17th World Day of the Sick, "It is necessary to assert vigorously the absolute and supreme dignity of every human life…Human life is beautiful and should be lived to the full, even when it is weak and enveloped in the mystery of suffering."
Today, consider praying for or visiting family members, friends, or neighbors who are sick, especially those enduring a long illness. Visiting the sick is a corporal work of mercy. It is a concrete way we can build up a culture of life.
Did you know? Today is the feast day of St. Luke, whom Scripture and Tradition identify as a physician (see Col. 4:14). Recognizing the dignity of those who are sick, the Church has advocated for compassionate care for the sick and dying and against euthanasia. The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is a powerful expression of Christ's care for the sick in body and soul.
Intention: Let us pray that everyone may recognize the importance of laws upholding conscience protection.
Reflection: Recognizing each person as a unique gift from God created with dignity and freedom, it is only fitting that we be given the freedom to worship God as creator and to live according to our faith. In Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council Fathers explained that the foundation of the principle of religious freedom is rooted in the dignity of the human person, who is endowed with reason and free will, and is therefore able to take responsibility for his or her actions. Pope Francis recently affirmed that "[w]e must promote religious liberty for all people. Every man and woman must be free to profess his or her faith, whatever it may be. Why? Because that man and that woman are children of God."
Did you know? Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Lori addressed the importance of "preserving religious freedom and the right of conscience for all who take part in our health care system." In their recent letter to Congress, they outlined the importance of laws that protect this right in healthcare and stated that government cannot mandate the purchase of healthcare if it means violating one's conscience.
each of us have the courage to open our hearts to life.
Reflection: "Only a tender, compassionate love that seeks to serve those most in need, whatever the personal cost, is strong enough to overcome a culture of death and to build a civilization of love. Let us open our hearts and reflect on how God might be calling each of us to witness the sacredness of human life and assist in pro-life efforts. We may be called to help parents welcome their unborn child as a miracle of God's creation, to visit the elderly or aid those who are sick and suffering, to pray and fast for life, to advocate to our elected officials, or to assist educational efforts in our parishes." (2013 Respect Life Sunday Statement, Cardinal O'Malley, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities)
Did you know? This Sunday, October 6 is Respect Life Sunday. It marks the beginning of Respect Life Month, which is celebrated each October (the month which is also traditionally recognized as the Month of the Holy Rosary). Check out these pro-life rosary prayer intentions, and learn more about the Call to Prayer by watching a 90-second video.
married couples and families who are struggling financially or living in
poverty – that God would provide for their needs and increase their trust in
Reflection: Marriage matters to society. When a bride and groom become husband and wife on their wedding day, a new family is formed. Each family is an interdependent mini-society, born from the communion of husband and wife. As Bl. John Paul II said, the family is a "cradle of life and love." It is the place where we learn to love and be loved.
For good reason, then, marriage and the family play a key role in Catholic social teaching (see ch. 5). The Church's interest in marriage is not limited to religious concerns because marriage is not just a religious reality; it has major social implications, too. The Church's concern for the poor overlaps with her concern for marriage because family breakdown has economic implications. For example, sadly, single mothers and their children are more likely to suffer from economic hardship.
Because marriage impacts each and every person in society, the Church strives to promote, strengthen, and defend marriage and the family. We pray today for all families who are struggling financially, that they would know the peace of the Lord.
Did you know? Today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul. Born in France in 1580, St. Vincent was renowned for his work with the poor and sick. He founded both the Congregation of the Mission (known commonly as the Vincentians) and the Daughters of Charity. St. Vincent's holy life inspired Bl. Frederic Ozanam to found the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which now serves the poor in 148 countries.
Christians and other minorities in Syria, Egypt, and throughout the world--that
they would be protected from violence and persecution.
Reflection: In Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council dogmatic constitution on the Church, the Council Fathers wrote that "[a]ll the members [of the Church] ought to be molded in the likeness of Him, until Christ be formed in them. For this reason we, who have been made to conform with Him, who have died with Him and risen with Him, are taken up into the mysteries of His life, until we will reign together with Him. On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified" (no. 7).
Let us remember that we are pilgrims on a journey to reach our ultimate fulfillment in Christ. As Christians, we are called to bear the cross of Christ, and in suffering with Him, we will gain eternal life.
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
Did you know? Today is the feast of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, who were martyred in Korea in the mid-19th century. St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was sentenced to death after attempting to bring French missionaries from China into Korea, and he was beheaded on September 16, 1846. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II during the Holy Father's visit to Korea in 1984.
Intention: For lasting peace in Syria, the Middle East, and the entire world - that all human life may be respected and cherished.
Reflection: On September 1st, Pope Francis made a special plea for "fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world."
He proclaimed September 7th as the particular day of prayer and fasting, but during the comments he also prayed, "Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace" (emphasis added).
During the September 7th vigil in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis explained that "when man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the [center], when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God's place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict."
Let us dedicate ourselves to praying for peace and living in a way that helps to build up a culture of peace in which every human life is respected and cherished.
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!Did you know? A 90 second video about the Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty was just released. Check it out, and share it with your friends!
Click here for a printable version. (en español)
Intention: For those who struggle with pornography use or addiction: that through the help of Christ and wise counselors they may be freed to live a chaste life.
Reflection: In his 2006 pastoral letter about pornography, Bishop Paul Loverde (Arlington) wrote, "In my forty years as a priest, I have seen the evil of pornography spread like a plague throughout our culture." Indeed, the instant availability of Internet pornography, fueled by the multi-billion dollar pornography industry, has created an urgent pastoral challenge.
The claim that pornography use has no victims is false. In addition to the harms caused to those involved in the pornography industry and those who struggle with pornography use, pornography severely damages marriages and families. As the U.S. bishops said in their 2009 pastoral letter on marriage, "Using pornography can quickly become an addiction that erodes trust and intimacy between husband and wife."
And because pornography use distorts a person's perception of beauty, the human person, and sexuality, it can stunt young persons' growth in the virtues needed to live loving, self-giving marriages.
Today we pray and fast for men and women who struggle with pornography use or addiction. We pray that through receiving competent help, they are restored to the freedom of a chaste life lived in authentic loving relationships with others.
Did you know? Researchers now recognize that pornography use can be a real addiction, created by dependence on powerful neurochemicals that are released in the brain when a person views pornography. As with any addiction, quitting may require more than just will-power. See this article from For Your Marriage for advice on overcoming pornography use and addiction. And for marriages affected by pornography, see "How to strengthen your marriage after porn addiction"
Intention: For those who provide aid in times of tragedy – that they may help all
those in need, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Reflection: The months of June to November are fraught with peril for those who fear the devastating effects of hurricanes. Just last year, Hurricane Sandy left in its wake damages totaling over $68 billion in 24 states.
Without reservation, we offer our hearts and prayers to those who suffer from natural disasters. Hurricane Sandy destroyed homes and lives. The storm damaged every type of building, regardless of the building's purpose. Unfortunately, adding insult to injury, in Sandy's aftermath, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides financial assistance to a wide array of nonprofit institutions, has excluded aid for houses of worship. This discrimination against religious institutions stems from a flawed interpretation of the separation of church and state.
Today, let us not only pray for the safety of all who are facing threats from natural disasters but also for those who provide aid in times of tragedy – that they may help all those in need, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Did you know? On July 29, Archbishop William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, and Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, hailed the introduction of a Senate bill, S. 1274, the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013. This bill would ensure fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to receive aid from FEMA.
Intention: For any woman who has been pressured to have an abortion - that she may know the Lord's tender healing love.
Reflection: "I was
pressured into the abortions by
members who told me that I was not
stable and incapable of being able to care for a baby… I am in a state of total
sadness and regret for what I have done. I want to cry but the tears will not
Although we may not always see the fruit, prayer and fasting are incredibly powerful ways that we can support women who are suffering. Let us pray that they may know the powerful love of God, who cares so deeply and tenderly for them and their children. Let us pray that they may know that they do not have to suffer alone.
Did You Know? It's normal to
grieve a pregnancy loss, including the loss of a child by abortion. It can form
a hole in one's heart, a hole so deep that sometimes it seems nothing can fill
Project Rachel is the Catholic Church's healing ministry to those who have been involved in abortion. If you or someone you know is suffering after abortion, confidential non-judgmental help is available.
Intention: For husbands and wives experiencing difficulties in
their marriage - that the Lord would strengthen their love for each other as a
sign of His love for the world.
Reflection: On their wedding day, a husband and wife promise to be true to each other "in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health" (Rite of Marriage #25). Sure enough, the bad times come. Every married couple encounters times when loving their spouse isn't so easy, or when outside difficulties put strain on the relationship.
As Pope Francis reminded the youth in Brazil, saying "yes" forever to one's spouse is a revolutionary act! Not knowing what tomorrow will bring, husbands and wives can rely on the grace of the sacrament they received on their wedding day.
And married couples can take heart that their "yes" to each other, even when it is difficult to say, bears much fruit in the world. Pope Benedict XVI called marriage "a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today… The union of a man and a woman, their becoming 'one flesh' in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence."
Did you know? The Church offers much assistance to husbands
and wives who are experiencing marital difficulties. For example, the USCCB
website For Your Marriage has advice and articles
from experts about a number of obstacles that married
couples face, including addictions, disillusionment, infidelity,
and pornography. The website also has a list of organizations that provide support
for troubled marriages.
See also the pamphlet "Finding
Help When Your Marriage Is In Trouble."
Intention: For the intercession of the saints to
fortify and encourage all those facing religious persecution.
Reflection:Today we celebrate the feast of St. Edith Stein, who was born into a Jewish family in 1891 in what is now Wroclaw, Poland. During her studies in philosophy, she encountered the writings of the great Carmelite mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, who inspired her conversion to Catholicism in 1922. In 1933, she joined the Carmelite Order, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Edith faced significant adversity during her early years in religious life. Recognizing the risk she presented to her fellow sisters during World War II because of her Jewish background, Edith left for Holland and entered the Carmel of Echt. Edith, however, was captured by Nazis and later taken to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chambers on August 9, 1942.
St. Edith Stein stands as a profound witness for all who seek to live for the truth. Let us recall her words spoken just a few days before her death: "If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed." We pray ardently for the grace to stand courageously in the face of religious persecution.
Did you know? Last year, Pope Benedict XVI told the diplomatic corps that even in today's time, "In many countries, Christians are deprived of fundamental rights…; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes. At times they are forced to leave the countries they have helped to build because of persistent tensions and policies which frequently relegate them to being second-class spectators of national life."Read more about current threats to international religious freedom.
we may become better friends with Jesus, and that our friendship with Him would
help us to reflect His love for everyone.
Reflection: When we look at our society, we see a great deal of suffering, injustice, and heartache. We see people of inestimable worth who are looked down on or rejected because of their disabilities. We see women facing unexpected pregnancies who feel trapped and as though there is no life-affirming support for both them and their children. We see elderly men and women who fear that they are a burden.
Yet we know that "the LORD is close to the brokenhearted" (Ps 34:19). And we know that He invites us to help Him show all people His love. We might feel intimidated and overwhelmed because we don't know how to respond to the great need we see, but He will show us.
Let us draw close to Jesus, spending time with Him and listening to His voice. Let us ask for help seeing Him in those around us and loving them with His heart: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Mt 25:40).
NABRE © 2010 CCD. Used with permission.
Did you know? Today is the feast day of St. Peter Julian Eymard (called the "Apostle of the Eucharist"): "Belong entirely to God through love, entirely to your neighbor through a gracious charity, entirely to the divine Eucharist by the offering and sacrifice of your whole self. Bear with yourself in the patience of our Lord." (See also: "A Holy Hour for Life: Prayers Before the Blessed Sacrament for the Gospel of Life").
grandparents, that they may be cherished by their families as they continue to
witness to fidelity, love, and sacrifice.
Reflection: Today is the feast day of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said that grandparents are "witnesses of a personal and community history" that continues "to live on in their memories and in their wisdom."
More quotes from Benedict's talk on grandparents:
"Who does not remember their grandparents? Who can forget their presence and their witness by the domestic hearth? How many of us bear their names as a sign of continuity and gratitude!"
"May grandparents return to being a living presence in the family, in the Church and in society. With regard to the family, may grandparents continue to be witnesses of unity, of values founded on fidelity and of a unique love that gives rise to faith and the joy of living."
"In the face of the crisis of the family, might it not be possible to set out anew precisely from the presence and witness of these people – grandparents – whose values and projects are more resilient?"
Did you know? The next video in the Marriage: Unique for a Reason series is a Spanish-language video called "El Matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida" ("Marriage: Made for Love and Life"). In the video, grandparents Hector and Rosa, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary, gently help their grandson Miguel and his girlfriend Maria see the beauty of lifelong married love between a husband and wife. Go here to watch a trailer of "El Matrimonio" (with a dual-language script).
us pray especially for our lawmakers and judges that they be granted
the wisdom to define and interpret law correctly and the strength to be
vigilant in defending the innocent.
Reflection: It is often easy to assume that experiences in Christ's life
do not mirror our own. Yet, there are remarkable parallels between His
life and ours that can provide wisdom and strength to handle our present
In today's gospel reading, we read of Christ's apostles, who were hungry and began to eat heads of grain on the Sabbath. Some Pharisees, eager to accuse Christ, questioned whether the law allowed His disciples to eat on the Sabbath. In response, Christ examines their understanding of Scripture. He defends his beloved disciples, proclaiming their 'innocence' in accord with the 'mercy' of God.
This Scripture passage is significant because it demonstrates that even in Christ's time, there were those who, for their own purposes, sought to interpret the law narrowly or even manipulate it. We are faced with the same struggles today, especially in the context of the fight for religious freedom.
Let us pray therefore, especially for our lawmakers and judges, and all who seek to protect and promote the common good, that Christ will grant them the wisdom to define and interpret law correctly and the strength to be vigilant in defending the innocent.
Did you know? The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule on its mandate requiring insurance coverage for contraceptives and sterilization. While the government has delayed enforcement on certain non-profits by five months, the rule does not appear to eliminate "the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts." Cardinal Timothy Dolan stated, "We are concerned as pastors with the freedom of the Church as a whole—not just for the full range of its institutional forms, but also for the faithful in their daily lives—to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ." Read more from the USCCB news release.
Intention: For married couples whose hearts ache to welcome a(nother) child into their family: that they may find refuge in Jesus' Sacred Heart, and that His love would fill their hearts and flow to others through them.
Reflection: As our lives unfold, we may find that they look quite different than we expected, and it may seem as though God does not hear our heart's requests. Times like this can be very painful. But let us recognize that in the midst of the heartache and confusion, there is an invitation.
There is an invitation to run into the arms of the Father as His little child and entrust to Him our fears and disappointments, as well as our hopes and desires. There is an invitation to stop, look and listen: to stop for a moment, to look at our desires more deeply, and to listen to what the Lord may be telling us through them. There is an invitation to surrender everything to Him, plunge deeply into His heart, and allow Him into ours.
Let us draw close to the One who loves us so tenderly and ask that our hearts may be open to see His presence in our lives and that we may trust in His loving care for us.
Did you know? Read the stories of three married couples who have faced the ache of infertility, and learn more about resources for effective and morally sound ways to treat the causes of infertility in "Hope for Married Couples Who Want to Have a Child."
this First Friday, ever mindful of Christ's infinite love for humanity, we pray
and fast for the protection of religious freedom for all people of faith.
Reflection: In today's gospel reading, we encounter another example of the totality of Christ's love, as exemplified through Christ's words to the Pharisees who had questioned His interactions with tax collectors and sinners. Christ, ever unconcerned with public opinion, tells the Pharisees, "Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Mt 9:13).
In the current struggle for religious freedom, let us be mindful of the totality of Christ's love.The freedom to embrace that expansive love, and to act in response to it, is both a right that belongs to all people and something that we must act vigilantly to protect. Indeed, just this week, a religious coalition of many leaders of other denominations and faiths joined together to sign a statement supporting religious freedom.
Thus, on this First Friday, we would be well served to take to heart the words of our Holy Father: "We must promote religious liberty for all people. Every man and woman must be free to profess his or her faith… Why? Because that man and that woman are children of God."
Did you know? On Tuesday of this week, over 100 prominent national religious leaders and scholars joined Archbishop William Lori, Chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee, in signing an open letter called Standing Together for Religious Freedom.The letter calls on the Administration and Congress to respect conscience rights and religious freedom in light of the coercive HHS mandate.
Intention: For the courage to keep witnessing to the truth and beauty of marriage, the lifelong, fruitful union of one man and one woman.
Reflection: St. John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrated on Monday June 24, was a martyr for truth and justice, particularly the truth about marriage. He was put in jail, and ultimately executed, because he rebuked Herod for marrying his brother's wife, Herodias (see Mt 14:3-12 and Mk 6:17-29). St. John the Baptist's defense of marriage cost him his head.
In his Angelus address on Sunday, June 23, Pope Francis said of the saint, "He died for the sake of the truth, when he denounced the adultery of King Herod and Herodias. How many people pay dearly for their commitment to truth!"
Today, standing up for the counter-cultural truth of marriage as the lifelong, fruitful union of a man and a woman can be difficult and lonely. But Christ is always with us and asks us to be witnesses of His loving truth, which is worth defending, no matter what the cost. As our Holy Father exhorted the crowd, "Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so."
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
Did you know? On Wednesday of this week, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California's Proposition 8. In a statement, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone called Wednesday "a tragic day for marriage and our nation." They said, "Now is the time to redouble our efforts" in witnessing to the truth of marriage.
Learn more about Proposition 8 and DOMA from this backgrounder.
we may recognize each person we encounter as created in God's image and that
our interactions with them might reflect the welcoming love and mercy of Christ
for each person.
Reflection: At the June 16 Mass celebrating the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), written by Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis closed his homily with the words, "Let us ask Mary, Mother of Life, to help us receive and bear constant witness to the 'Gospel of Life'."
His use of the word "constant" is striking and invites us to consider more deeply what it means to be pro-life. Attending events like a Holy Hour for Life or the National Prayer Vigil for Life are special moments when we can join together in a visible way in requesting the Lord's protection of human life, but we simply cannot spend every moment of our life participating in these events.
However, we can ask for the grace to live our lives in a way that constantly bears witness to the incredible dignity of each person as created by God in His image and likeness. We can respond to the invitation of the Holy Father to "say 'Yes' to the God who is love, life and freedom, and who never disappoints"!
Did you know? Today is the first day of the Fortnight for Freedom! Join the Facebook event or visit www.fortnight4freedom.org to learn more and get involved! Check out the new video on the Fortnight home page and look on the Diocesan Activities page to find out what dioceses in your area are doing. Get prayers for religious liberty and fact sheets about domestic /international issues too!
Intention: For fathers, that their attentive care for their children may reflect God the Father's unending love. And for those who grieve the absence of their earthly father, that God the Father may comfort them.
Reflection: In a January 30, 2013 audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the meaning of God as Father. He acknowledged that "it is not always easy to talk about fatherhood" in a world where many children grow up without a reliable or loving father. For them, "imagining God as a father becomes problematic."
And yet God has revealed Himself in Scripture, and most fully in the Person of Jesus, as "a Father who never abandons his children, a loving Father who supports, helps, welcomes, pardons and saves with a faithfulness that surpasses by far that of men and women, opening onto dimensions of eternity."
Men who are fathers receive the high calling of reflecting God's fatherhood to their children. Faithful, loving fatherhood is a precious gift, and Father's Day is an opportunity to thank fathers for their irreplaceable presence. For those who lack an earthly father's love, Pope Benedict reminds us that "the love of God the Father never fails, he does not tire of us; it is a love that gives to the end, even to the sacrifice of his Son."
Did You Know? Fathers are irreplaceable. By loving their wives, fathers model for their children healthy male-female relations. Fathers teach their sons how to be men and teach their daughters to expect respect from men.
The importance of fathers to children is one reason why the Church defends marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Every child deserves the best chance of being raised by his/her mother and father together. By uniting a man and a woman for life, marriage creates a "sanctuary of life" where children can receive the love and care of both father and mother together.
Note on fasting: Because June 7 was the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, it was not appropriate to fast. However, we continued to join in prayer for the building up of a culture of life, marriage and religious liberty.
Intention: On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,aHeart which has loved men so much, we ask Christ to help us love our Church and country courageously, for the glory of God.
Reflection: In just two weeks, the 2013 Fortnight for Freedom will begin on June 21 and last until July 4. Part of the Bishops' "Call to Prayer" initiative, the Fortnight for Freedom is a two-week period of prayer and action that seeks to address many current challenges to religious liberty. These include the potential legal redefinition of marriage by Supreme Court rulings in late June and the HHS contraceptive mandate, which has a deadline of August 1, 2013 for compliance by religious organizations.
On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we recall the words of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence: "God grant that religious liberty may be preserved in these states to the end of time, and that all who believe in the religion of Christ may practice the leading principle of charity, the basis of every other virtue."Today, we fervently ask from Christ's Sacred Heart an infilling of this "leading principle of charity" within ourselves, and we pray that throughout the Fortnight for Freedom and beyond, we will love our Church and our country courageously, for the glory of God.
Did you know? In a letter to the United Nations last week, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN,wrote, "In some Western countries where historically the Christian presence has been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services."
To learn about current domestic and international threats to our religious freedom, check out the Fortnight for Freedom fact sheets.
engaged couples, that their time of preparation for marriage may be richly
blessed as they prepare to give themselves fully and irrevocably to each other
as a sign of Christ's love for His Church.
Reflection: In September 2011, Pope Benedict XVI gave the following pieces of advice to engaged couples in Ancona, Italy:
"As engaged couples, you find yourselves living a unique season that opens you to the wonder of the encounter and enables you to discover the beauty of existence and of being precious to someone, of being able to say to each other: you are important to me. Live this journey intensely, gradually and truthfully. Do not give up following a high ideal of love, a reflection and testimony of God's love!"
"Dear friends, all human love is a sign of the eternal Love that created us and whose grace sanctifies the decision made by a man and a woman to give each other reciprocal life in marriage. Live the period of your engagement in the trusting expectation of this gift."
"Fidelity, indissolubility and the transmission of life are the pillars of every family, the true common good, a precious patrimony of society as a whole. From now on found your journey towards marriage on these pillars and witness to this among your peers, too: such a service is precious!"
Did you know? As the summer "wedding season" begins, take a look at the many resources on the USCCB website For Your Marriage for engaged couples: blessings and prayers for engaged couples, 10 tips for planning a Catholic wedding, FAQs for engaged couples, and a directory of marriage preparation resources. These are great pages to share with family and friends who are tying the knot this summer!
Intention: For the conversion of all who support abortion, that Christ's love may open their hearts to the truth and that, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they may experience the depths of God's healing mercy and forgiveness.
Reflection:Although we may understand intellectually what abortion is, after 40 years since its legalization, we may start to become numb to its reality. However, the recent convictions of the Philadelphia abortion provider, Kermit Gosnell, for the killing of three babies who were born alive, manifested in yet another vivid way the horrific details of the abortion culture that confronts the Gospel of Life. These children remind us of the urgent necessity to promote and defend the sanctity of all human life.
We can do this by being witnesses of Christ's love to all those who support abortion and by praying for their conversions. We must strive to imitate the absolute character of God's longing and love for each of them, which can then evoke the conversion that each needs. Remembering the conversions of St. Paul and Mary Magdalene, which show us that with God all things are possible and that no one is beyond the reach of His mercy and forgiveness, let us pray for every heart to be opened, reconciled, and united with the Lord.
Did you know? In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, today is a special day of prayer and penance in reparation for the crimes against the sacredness of human life, especially in the womb. It is also the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. Join in prayerful solidarity with the faithful in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as they unite their prayers and penances with the same intentions for the Church in China.
Intention: As we approach the feast of Pentecost, we pray for the Church and that our faith might not be simply a private matter, but rather that the Holy Spirit will help us witness to Christ in all areas of our lives.
Reflection: As faithful Catholics, the beliefs that we profess in Church on Sunday carry over into our personal and professional lives. Christ invites us into loving relationship with Him, and His love infuses our actions, helping us to love Him in return by following His commandments in our daily lives. However, the proposed HHS "contraceptive mandate," in effect, attempts to restrict the practice of our faith to the private sphere. As explained by the USCCB general counsel, the mandate's current definition of "religious employer" (a definition used to determine which employers are exempted from the mandate) excludes "a wide array of employers that are undeniably religious," including organizations that "contribute most visibly to the common good through the provision of health, educational, and social services," such as Catholic schools and hospitals. Telling faith-based organizations that they are not "religious enough" to qualify for an exemption to the contraceptive mandate is a violation of religious freedom.
we approach the feast of Pentecost, let us ardently pray to Christ to send
forth His Spirit so that we will be filled with His peace and strength to live our
faith at all times.
Did you know?"This year's Fortnight [for Freedom] occurs just weeks before August 1, when the administration's mandate coercing us to violate our deeply-held beliefs will be enforced against most religious non-profits. During the Fortnight the Supreme Court's decisions on the definition of marriage will likely be handed down as well. Those decisions could have a profound impact on religious freedom for generations to come." Archbishop William E. Lori, News Release (May 13, 2013)
Intention: For mothers: that they may discover the depths of love through their gift of themselves to their children, and in so doing, serve as a witness of the love to which we are all called.
Reflection: In his Letter to Families, Pope Blessed John Paul II reminds us that we can’t “fully find [ourselves] exceptthrough a sincere gift of self" (no. 11, quoting Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, no. 24). The self-sacrifice of a mother’s care for her child reveals the continuous gift of self that love entails and invites others to follow her example. There is no doubt that “love is demanding,” as Bl. John Paul II said. However, "this is precisely the source of its beauty: by the very fact that it is demanding, it builds up the true good of man and allows it to radiate to others."
We must keep our eyes fixed on Christ, who helps us to see the people in our lives through his eyes and love them with his heart. As we celebrate this Mother’s Day, remembering our own mothers’ gift of life to us, let us take seriously our own call to self-sacrificial love, allowing that love to radiate to others.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
Bl. John Paul II, pray for us!
Did you know? We've all heard it said that our hearts become bigger the more we love, but did you know that during pregnancy, a mother's heart actually physically increases in size? (See: Health on the Net Foundation and British Journal of Radiology). Also, read more about how we can follow the most perfect example of motherhood in the newest Life Issues Forum column, "Mary, Pro-Life Inspiration."
the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, that they would respect the authentic
meaning of marriage by upholding California's Proposition 8.
Reflection: The following are key quotes from the USCCB amicus brief in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry, about California's Proposition 8, which is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Given both the unique capacity for reproduction and unique value of homes with a mother and father, it is reasonable for a State to treat the union of one man and one woman as having a public value that is absent from other intimate interpersonal relationships" (p. 2).
"Redefining marriage…not only threatens principles of federalism and separation of powers, but would have a widespread adverse impact on other constitutional rights, such as the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, and association" (p. 4).
"If the meaning of marriage is so malleable and indeterminate as to embrace all 'lifelong and committed' relationships, then marriage simply collapses as a coherent legal category" (p. 14-15).
"A law is not constitutionally impermissible because it overlaps with a religious teaching" (p. 20).
Did you know? California's Proposition 8 is the marriage referendum approved by California voters in 2008. It defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the California State constitution. Proposition 8 was challenged as being unconstitutional and is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, with a ruling expected in June. The USCCB urges the Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8 (see January 2013 amicus brief). A negative ruling could mean that marriage would be redefined nationwide.
Intention: For all mothers and fathers facing a poor prenatal diagnosis or unexpected parenthood; that they may know the Lord's deep love for them and their child and trust in His providential care.
Reflection: There are times in our lives when the path is unclear and the future uncertain. We may not know what lies beyond the present moment, and we may feel frightened and anxious. However, we are not alone. Each of us is deeply loved and cherished by the Father, and we can trust in His care for us, knowing that He pays close attention to our lives: "Not one [sparrow] falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Mt 10:29-31). Recognizing the Lord's love, we can trust that the path on which He leads us is one that leads to our ultimate happiness – even if the path looks different from what we expect. Let us therefore run to our Blessed Mother and ask, as Pope Francis did in a tweet earlier this week, for her aid in helping us know and follow the voice of Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Did you know? The following is the optional closing prayer of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy: "Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself."
Resources are available at the end of this article for those facing poor prenatal diagnoses. If you or someone you know is facing a crisis pregnancy, call 800-712-HELP (4357) or text "HELPLINE" to 313131 for free, confidential help.
Intention: Today, we pray for the approval of laws which will protect health care professionals from being forced to violate their consciences.
Reflection: In today's first reading from Acts 9:1-20, we are reminded again of Saul's fervent persecution of the early Christians, those disciples of the Lord "who belonged to the Way." While Saul's persecutions occurred over 2,000 years ago, the persecution of Christians occurs even today. Currently, government agencies are trying to coerce many Christians, including devout Catholics, into violating their consciences.But it is important to remember that we are not alone.Earlier this spring, Rep. Diane Black and other members of Congress introduced H.R. 940, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act. A press conference gave many medical professionals the chance to tell their personal stories of persecution or attempts to force them to violate their consciences.
Please join with us in prayer today, especially in union with the early Christians, for health care professionals who are being or who have already been coerced into violating their consciences. We pray for their fortitude and ask that they are blessed with the knowledge that they are not alone in this fight.
Did you know? There are now 127 House co-sponsors of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act. Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, welcomed the bill's introduction: "While federal laws are on the books protecting conscience rights in health care, this Act would make such protection truly effective. This overdue measure is especially needed in light of new challenges to conscience rights arising from the federal health care reform act."
For more information, see Archbishop Lori's letter on the importance of conscience rights.
the justices of the Supreme Court, that they would respect the authentic
meaning of marriage by upholding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Reflection: The following are key quotes from the USCCB amicus brief in the case United States v. Windsor, about the Defense of Marriage Act, which is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court.
"There is no fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex" (p. 2).
"For well over a century, this Court has held that marriage is a fundamental right, but those decisions, which expressly reference the link between marriage and procreation, make clear that by 'marriage,' the Court means the union of one man and one woman" (pp. 8-9).
"If this Court were to conclude that the Constitution requires a redefinition of marriage to include persons in same-sex relationships...it is unclear where the logical stopping point would be. This Court will ultimately be asked why other interpersonal relationships are not entitled to similar inclusion, and why other 'barriers' to marriage (such as those posed by youth, kinship, or multiplicity of parties) should not also have to be struck down as inconsistent with this redefinition" (p. 20).
Did you know? The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was passed in 1996 with strong bipartisan support. DOMA defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law, and ensures that states will not be forced to recognize so-called same-sex "marriages" enacted in other states. The part of DOMA that defines marriage is currently under review by the Supreme Court, with a decision expected by June. The USCCB urges the Supreme Court to uphold DOMA (see amicus brief).
Note on fasting: In these days of the Easter Octave, we rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and continue to join in prayer for the building up of a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty. Since each day of the Easter Octave is observed as a solemnity, it is not appropriate to fast on Easter Friday.
Intention: For all who grieve the loss of a child through abortion: that they may discover the depths of God's merciful love for them and seek his forgiveness, healing and peace.
(Visit www.hopeafterabortion.org for information on the Church's healing ministry to those who have been involved in abortion.)
I thank you for the mercy you have shown in forgiving my sins and for the peace that comes from being reconciled with you and with your Church.
O God, you are faithful, and you never abandon those who hope in you. I know that my redemption from sin and death has been purchased at the cost of your Son's blood. In return for this priceless gift, I resolve today to renew my trust in your unfailing mercy.
In times of doubt, when painful memories of past sins threaten to destroy the peace you have given, let the power of your Holy Spirit cast out all self-condemnation and give me greater confidence in your word of pardon.
Teach me to encourage others so they, too, may seek your tender compassion and come to know your peace, which nothing can take away.
I pray this in the name of Jesus, your Son, in whom you have restored me to life.
(Text from "Trust in God's Mercy" prayer card, Item 9913 in the 2012 Pro-life Catalog)
Did you know? This Sunday (April 7) is Divine Mercy Sunday. In the 1930s, Jesus chose a Polish nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, to receive private revelations concerning Divine Mercy. The revelations were recorded in her Diary, among which was the request that a Feast of Mercy (Divine Mercy Sunday) be observed.
Intention: For the strength to stand with Christ and conduct our personal and professional lives according to our religious convictions.
Reflection: In today's Gospel reading, Christ says, "For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate replies, "What is truth?" In today's culture, it can be difficult to recognize truth. The question, "What is truth?" is used by many to justify various actions or inactions. Christ, however, makes clear that those who belong to truth listen to His voice.
Archbishop Charles Chaput stated in his
homily for the Fortnight for Freedom closing Mass last year, "We need to
speak out, not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love,
but … for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of
God. We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in word, but also in deed."
On this Good Friday, let us ardently pray to Christ our Savior for the
courage and strength to express our religious convictions—to be unafraid to
witness to the truth.
Did you know? Our call to witness to the truth continues! In February 2013, the Obama administration issued a "proposed rule" providing revisions to the HHS contraceptive and sterilization mandate. Last week, the USCCB filed public comments stating that the mandate continues to be "an unprecedented … violation of religious liberty by the federal government" and must be changed. Click here to file your own comments, which are due April 8!
all who will march in the March for Marriage on Tuesday, or join spiritually
from a distance, that they may witness boldly to the truth of marriage as the
union of one man and one woman.
Reflection: If you need a good reason to attend the March for Marriage, here's one: When Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he encouraged the Catholic faithful to participate in a march for marriage! The Argentinean legislature was then considering a bill that would redefine marriage to include two men or two women. In a letter to Carmelite nuns in Argentina, then-Cardinal Bergoglio said about the marriage debate, "At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God." (Original Spanish here.)
In closing, the future Pope Francis wrote, "We look to Saint Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus and ask that they fervently defend the family in Argentina at this particular time." Following our Holy Father's example, let us entreat the Holy Family to defend marriage and the family in the United States!
Did you know? On Tuesday, March 26, a March for Marriage will take place in our nation's capital to show citizens' support for upholding marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Information about the March can be found at the March for Marriage website. Those who cannot participate in person are encouraged to participate spiritually by offering prayers and fasting on March 26.
Intention: For all who help to build a Culture of Life: that even in the midst of trials, the Lord would strengthen their faith and help them know His saving power.
Reflection: We may sometimes find ourselves tempted to feel discouraged when it appears as though evil has defeated good, but today's readings remind us that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and that He is bigger than any challenges we face. He is with us not only in our joys, but also in our pain. Even within our suffering we find the opportunity to grow in an awareness of who we are as His creation: we are His children, utterly and completely dependent on Him, and in this there is great freedom. So let us lay our burdens at the foot of the Cross, recognizing that even when it "appears" as though evil has triumphed, Easter Sunday always follows Good Friday (even if it doesn't look as we might expect)!
Did you know? Angels are powerful and invisible spiritual beings tasked with doing God's work; this includes assisting our efforts to spread the truth about the dignity of human life. No matter the time or the place, we can pray to the angels for their help in protecting life and illuminating the minds of those involved in efforts against life. (Read more in this Life Issues Forum article, "Angelic Assistance").
Intention: For all people of faith who fight to preserve
religious freedom, that the Lord will strengthen their resolve to hold firm in
Reflection: Religious freedom is a fundamental right not only for Catholics and Christians but for all human persons. In the U.S., freedom of religion is an inalienable constitutional right that protects citizens and institutions from government interference with the exercise of their religious beliefs. However, freedom of religion does not arise solely or originally from the U.S. Constitution. Rather, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared in Dignitatis Humanae(the Declaration on Religious Freedom), "the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person" (DH, 2).
Because men and women are created with reason and free will, they "are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it" (DH, 1). Thus, the U.S. Constitution simply secures the right that inherently belongs to each person by virtue of his or her personhood. The fact that religious freedom is rooted in the dignity of the human person reminds us that we are praying and fasting not for an abstract concept called religious freedom, but for the full dignity of all men and women, created to seek the truth and hold fast to it.Did you know? A bill titled the "Health Care Conscience Rights Act" was just introduced in the House earlier this week by Rep. Diane Black.The bill would protect Americans' First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the HHS mandate.The bill would also protect institutions and individuals from forced participation in abortion. Click here to take action to support H.R. 940!
Intention: For the justices of the Supreme Court, that when they consider two marriage-related cases later this month, they would uphold the authentic meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, a good in itself and for all of society.
Reflection: Catholic Social Teaching is clear that marriage and the family are essential to the common good: "The family, the natural community in which human social nature is experienced, makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the good of society" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 213). The family, "born of the intimate communion of life and love founded on the marriage between one man and one woman," is indeed "the first and vital cell of society" (no. 211). The importance of marriage and the family to the common good is why the Church works tirelessly to enact laws that recognize and support marriage's authentic meaning as the union of one man and one woman. According to the Compendium, society and state institutions are called "to guarantee and foster the genuine identity of family life and to avoid and fight all that alters or wounds it" (no. 252).
Did you know? Beginning this month, the Supreme Court will consider two marriage-related cases: United States v. Windsor, about the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and Hollingsworth v. Perry, about California's Proposition 8. Depending on how the Court rules, there could be ramifications for marriage laws throughout the country. Oral arguments for the cases begin March 26, the same day as a March for Marriage to show support for upholding the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. A ruling on both cases is expected from the court by June.
the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the selection of the next Holy Father: that
the next pope may be granted wisdom and strength in leading the faithful into
deeper relationship with Christ, that through our own continual conversion, we
may witness to the sanctity of all human life through our words and actions.
Reflection: Today is the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. In today's Gospel reading, Jesus names Peter the rock and foundation of his Church and declares that "the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." As we await the transition of a new pope, the successor of St. Peter, let us pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance, trusting in the Lord's Providence, and thankful for the pastoral care of Pope Benedict XVI over the last eight years. He has consistently presented the invitation of Christ to each of us as to an ever deeper and more personal friendship with Himself, a friendship which is transformative: "Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ's love and, accordingly, under the influence of that love… they are profoundly open to loving their neighbor in concrete ways. This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord, who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity into God's love" (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2013). Let us then continue our Lenten journey faithfully, responding to the Lord's tender love and allowing Him to transform us, that we may bring His light to the world, witnessing to the sanctity of each human life.
Did you know? Pope Benedict XVI recently linked respect for life with peace: "The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life."
Intention: For our President, legislators, judges, and all in service to the common good, that through the gift of heavenly wisdom they may work to uphold religious freedom and conscience protection for all.
Reflection: In the face of powerful cultural trends which promote a "freedom of choice," we need to remember that true freedom is a gift that has been paid for by the blood of Christ. Of the many freedoms given by Christ to His people, the freedom of religion is the most cherished of American freedoms. Just last year, Pope Benedict XVI reminded the U.S. bishops of the need for "an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity… with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church's participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society."
As we begin Lent, let us reflect with gratitude on the priceless gift of freedom. Paid for by His blood, it is our gift from Him, and we must work together to protect it. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Mother of Hope, unify our efforts in this time of prayer and sacrifice so that together we can build a civilization of love.
Did you know? The freedom of Catholic institutions like hospitals, charities, and universities to adhere to Catholic moral teaching in their health plans is still under threat. Plus, business owners and individuals with moral or religious objections to the Health & Human Services (HHS) sterilization, contraception, and abortifacient mandate receive no conscience protection. See the Bishops' statement on the new rule proposed by HHS on February 1, 2013 by clicking here.
a greater reverence for the gift of marriage and family in our nation and for
the healing of those suffering from troubled or broken marriages, especially
children. (Written by Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Chairman of
USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth)
7-14 is National Marriage
Week, a collaborative effort to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the
divorce rate, and build a stronger culture of marriage. In an address
to Latin American and Caribbean bishops in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI lauded
precisely this kind of marriage-building initiative: "No effort is therefore
wasted in promoting anything that can help to ensure that each family, founded
on the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, accomplishes its mission
of being a living cell of society, a nursery of virtues, a school of
constructive and peaceful coexistence, an instrument of harmony and a
privileged environment in which human life is welcomed and protected, joyfully
and responsibly, from its beginning until its natural end."
Did you know? Strong
marriages and families benefit society in numerous ways. A USCCB review of
research on the benefits generated from families rooted in marriage can be
found here: "Marriage
and the Family in the United States: Resources for Society."
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