In 61 days, I will no longer have my maiden name, will no longer have to mark “single” on tax forms, and will be the happiest girl in the world. This is because I will marry my best friend at our parish in front of our family and friends, and thus become man and wife. But before we’re retired and sitting together on the porch swing celebrating many years of happy marriage, my fiancé and I have some work to do.
The journey of preparing in mind, body, and soul for the vocation of marriage has been an eventful one. Wedding planning isn’t easy. It has tested our patience and our communication skills. But on that Saturday afternoon 61 days away, when we commit ourselves to each other, we are making a statement. In our profession of vows, we will be showing the people in attendance that Christ is a central part of our lives, and that God is at the center of our relationship. Throughout our ceremony, we are inviting our guests to reflect on God’s love for them and to join us in sharing our faith as the Body of Christ. Sacraments are meant to bring people closer to Christ. Those present will witness this sacrament from wherever they are in their walk of life and faith journey, and hopefully have an encounter with God. We look forward to providing a moment of evangelization as missionary disciples through our marriage.
My fiancé and I have learned a lot from the example of married friends and family who live out their Catholic faith. One couple that recently welcomed an addition to their family has been instrumental in answering questions we’ve had about what happens next and giving us advice throughout our marital preparation. They’ve helped my fiancé and I better understand what it means to be a young and newlywed couple, juggling jobs, obstacles, and life events, and doing it all with faith in God. They and so many others have shown us what it means to live out marriage with love for God and each other. In the Archdiocese of Washington, two other couples have been examples of commitment and love. Ephraim and Sussie, who have been married for 25 years, and Bob and Laurin, who have been married for 75 years, talk about their love stories and how they cherish each other to this day. Couples like these have had to work hard at their marriage through good times and bad—just as we will. Through it all, they keep God at the center of their relationships.
During these next 61 days, I will pray for my future husband, for myself as a wife, and for God’s grace to be present through it all. We will work at our marriage, this is for certain—and it won’t be easy. But with communication, understanding, forgiveness, and prayer, we will make it. During the Pre-Cana course we attended a few months ago, we learned a few things about communication and prayer that I would like to impart to anyone, whether you are in a relationship, have great friendships, or are several years into your marriage. My fiancé helped me create a list of the top ten things that stuck out to us. I hope they help you, too!
For more resources on Marriage and Family, click here.
Questions for Reflection: How can the example of married and engaged couples help those discerning marriage? Are there people in your life that you look to as witnesses of fruitful marriage?
Prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
At the heart of these Lenten pillars, we hear a call to go out and, as Pope Francis reminds us, encounter. In our prayer, we lift up the needs of our global family. Through our fasting, we empty ourselves, giving up something to make room for the needs of another. And in our almsgiving, we pour out our own gifts and resources so as to lift up those who are in need, near and far.
Lent is a time to remember that we are all part of God’s one human family, and that means we have responsibilities to one another. And we come to understand and fulfill those responsibilities by building a culture of encounter.
To build a culture of encounter, we must start from within ourselves, from our personal call to discipleship. God knows our true selves, desiring that we, too, discover the person God has called us to be. Through prayer, we encounter ourselves before God; we see ourselves as God sees us. And we realize that God delights in every member of our human family because God is truly present in each of us.
Jesus reminds us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” To love another, we must come to know our own selves, our own hurts and triumphs, our own joys and challenges. What begins as an interior encounter necessarily goes beyond ourselves, challenging us to live in solidarity with people we may never meet. How can we hope to go to the margins, to accompany those who are most vulnerable and in need, if we haven’t properly wrestled with our own vulnerability, our own need? Only then can we recognize that each person we encounter can share with us some unique insight about our world, about ourselves and, ultimately, about our God.
We meet Jesus in the desert, a time of introspection and discernment before he begins his ministry. What has he gone there to accomplish? Luke tells us that Jesus “was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” There he fasts and prays—and the Enemy takes that opportunity to tempt Christ with those temptations we each encounter daily: material comfort, honor, and pride.
Jesus responded by trusting in God, by emptying himself of pride and power and ultimately rejecting the invitations of the Enemy.
We, too, can better understand where we are broken and turning away from whom we are called to be by following Jesus’ example and encountering ourselves through prayer and fasting. We may not go into a desert for forty days, but we can and should take the forty-day invitation of Lent as an opportunity to reorient our lives, examining how we are living in relationship with God and our neighbors.
That might mean coming to terms with troubling or disappointing truths. Can we, like Jesus, radically reject the offering of power, of influence? We all want glory, praise, a pat on the shoulder, but as Jesus turned away from the Enemy’s offering, so too must we. And then, where do we turn? We go to the margins with humility and compassion. Only by encountering ourselves can we then encounter our neighbors and build up that culture of encounter.
This Lent, let us commit ourselves to encounter one another anew, to encounter Christ anew. Let us commit ourselves to giving more readily and more freely—whether of our time, our resources, or our finances. Let us commit to forty days of transformation, ready to encounter Jesus in the desert, and to commit to bearing whatever fruits that encounter sows.
Continue reflecting with CRS Rice Bowl by downloading their app or visiting their “Stations of the Cross Digital Retreats” page.
I distinctly remember at the Baptisms of both of my goddaughters the moment where the priest poured water over their heads and uttered the words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” On both occasions, I choked back tears, in awe of the reality of spiritual childhood and the life of grace that is ours for the taking.
The Church places the feast of the Baptism of our Lord precisely at the end of the Christmas season – the same joy that was found in Bethlehem as God became a baby is experienced a few decades later as John the Baptist baptizes his cousin in the Jordan River. The Gospel of Matthew tells us, “a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’" Pope Emeritus Benedict, in his 2013 homily on the Baptism of the Lord elaborates on this and says,
“The heavens are also opened above your children and God says: these are my children, children in whom I am well pleased. Inserted into this relationship and liberated from original sin, they become living members of the one body that is the Church and are enabled to live their vocation to holiness in fullness, so as to be able to inherit eternal life, obtained for us by Jesus’ Resurrection.”
As Catholics, we believe that Baptism leaves an indelible mark on our soul – that we are really, truly changed the moment the water is poured over our heads and those sacred words are said. Not only are we freed from original sin, we are forever claimed for Christ and made beloved sons and daughters of God the most high. To be baptized is not just something that happens when we are a baby, it is a promise that is to be lived each and every day, and a call that requires a response from us.
What does that response look like? A life lived in and for Christ should change us, our hearts, and those around us for the better. Our daily actions should reflect our Christian identities - from the way we treat others, to constantly seeking the Lord in prayer - Baptism is a commitment to a way of life. It’s also a commitment to community – a commitment to showing up through life’s ups and downs for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s amazing to think about – through our Baptism, we become living members of the one body that is the Church. In essence, we are promised at our Baptism that we will never, ever walk alone. As members of the Body of Christ, we can continually turn to each other for friendship and support and the Church for the fullness of the sacramental life.
This feast day reminds us that our most important identity is always as beloved sons and daughters – He has claimed, chosen, and called each one of us. Just as I experienced unspeakable joy at my sweet goddaughters Baptisms, our Father in Heaven rejoices each time we remember that we are first - before anything else - His children.
August 27th marks the feast of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. St. Monica spent seventeen years praying for the conversion of her son, whose reputation for hedonism and religious skepticism preceded him. St. Monica is said to have wept for her son Augustine every night. Her devotion to him is an example of what it means to love unconditionally, even when it hurts. As a new mother, I have spent many hours reflecting on the mystery of unconditional love and have recorded some of my thoughts below. Let us turn to St. Monica when our hearts are weak and we need help loving as God calls us to love. St. Monica, pray for us.
“This is my body, which will be given for you” (Luke 22:19).
Christ’s words at the Last Supper never fully resonated with me until I became a mother. From the moment of her conception, I gave up my body to my daughter. Baby books, friends, and other women warned me of the physical tolls of pregnancy--the aches and pains, the nausea, the swollen feet, the labor--but I was unprepared for the physical sacrifices afterward. My body is not my own. It is at service to a squirmy, snorty, sweaty being who doesn’t even realize how needy she is. And yet, this physical sacrifice is good and necessary. It has helped me to remember that God wants all of us. Not just our souls and intellects, but our bodies too.
I am an intellectual person by nature and often use my love of study to learn about God. But learning about God and knowing God are not the same thing. Just like reading about how to ride a bike and actually climbing up on the seat are not the same. It is easy for me to pick up another historical commentary on the gospels and feel like I am improving my relationship with God. It’s hard to deny myself a second cup of coffee. It’s hard to place my phone in another room and walk away. It’s hard to lower myself onto my knees to pray, or even to sustain prayer for longer than a minute. These bodily actions are hard because they require sacrifice. And yet, I suspect the sacrifices I make for God are more important to him than whether I know if Jesus was born in cave or a wooden stable.
Motherhood, too, is a bodily commitment and one that can be difficult to embrace with joy. I sacrifice my body in a small way every time I stop what I am doing to nurse my baby, or to get down on my knees and engage her in yet another game of “rub the belly, rub the belly”. Yet, as I commit to these physical tasks, I hope I also die to self a little more each day. With each physical act, with each twinge between the shoulder blades, I remind myself, that--in a much bigger way--this is what Jesus did for me on the cross.
Ironically, it actually was a book that helped me to understand the beauty of bodily sacrifice. No, it wasn’t the Bible, or Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia, it was The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. The gist of the story is that a tree continues to give and give to a boy throughout the boy's life to make him happy. First she gives him her apples so the boy can sell them for pocket money, then she gives him her branches so that he can build a house, then her trunk so that he can build a canoe. Eventually the tree is reduced to a stump and the boy hasn’t visited her in years. And yet the refrain after each gift is, “And the tree was happy.” By the end of the book, my husband found me lying on my back crying while my daughter kicked her feet unconcernedly next to me. Our conversation went as follows:
“I told you not to read that book!”
“It’s just so stupid! The boy is so ungrateful! The tree gave him everything and he never even said thank you. She literally let him cut down her trunk for him. It’s not fair.”
“Would you do that for Elizabeth?”
My answer was immediate. If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s what it means to love unconditionally. And the craziest part is that my bodily sacrifices to Elizabeth don’t even compare to Christ’s sacrifice for me.
Truly, to be loved by Christ is a humbling thing.
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“Are you junior Knights of Columbus?” This was the question posed to me by an elderly woman during my freshman year of college as I joined my brother knights for 8am Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception adjacent to The Catholic University of America’s (CUA) campus. It was a Friday morning, and of course I loathed getting out of bed. However, I had made a commitment and I wanted to follow through as best I could.
Some of the upperclassmen knights that were with me answered politely back, “No, ma’am, we’re just regular knights.” She smiled and wished us well, clearly happy to see young men going to Church. Back then, our council membership was small, but we had big aspirations. All of the guys that I joined the Knights with had the same idea in mind. Here we were, embarking on a new chapter of our life. We wanted our faith to be enriched and strengthened. We wanted to serve the community and neediest among us. We wanted to find friends who would support us in our endeavors.
The Knights of Columbus are a 1.9 million member Catholic fraternal organization. Founded in 1882 by the Venerable Servant of God Fr. Michael J. McGivney, the order is founded on the principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. Originally formed to provide financial assistance to members and their families, the order today continues to do so through its insurance program, which funds its charitable works. The Knights of Columbus are organized into local councils, often housed within parishes, and are governed internationally by a supreme council headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut – where the order was founded.
As the Knights of Columbus meet this week in Toronto, Canada for their Supreme Convention – their international convention during which they elect officers, pass resolutions, and report on membership, etc.—I wanted to share my story of the impact this organization has had on my life.
Growing up, I always wanted to get involved in extracurricular activities at school and within my community. I joined the student council, led clubs, and served as a counselor to other students. When I arrived at college, things were no different. The CUA council of the Knights of Columbus was the first group I joined. It soon became apparent to me that I had found just what I needed – what I had been looking for as a new college student. This group would help me realize that my faith should not just be important - but it should be the cornerstone of my being.
As a knight, I have grown in fraternity with my brothers. I have been able to serve my community through charitable fundraisers and service opportunities. I have supported veterans and active-duty military – something that the order encourages no matter which country a council is in. I have been able to instill in others the characteristics of true chivalry. Because of the Knights of Columbus, I have become a better Catholic and a better man.
I would encourage any Catholic male to think about joining this organization. A similar organization for women is the The Catholic Daughters of the Americas. If you are already a knight, I would encourage you to stay involved and help to recruit others. As our chaplain is fond of saying, “What you give to the council, you will get back one hundredfold.” I cannot endorse this statement enough.
Let me leave you with a few lines from a song that we sing at the end of our council meetings:
We have a mission great
True to our Church and State
Onward we move
We dry the mourner's tear
The tired heart we cheer
Faith in our works appear,
Upheld by Love.
These few lines, I think, embody just what it means to be a Knight of Columbus.
“Love is…the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 11).
Mankind was created in the image and likeness of God in order to love and to be loved. This divine vocation is made possible by the Father’s love for us: we love because we were first loved (cf. 1 Jn 4:10). In October of 2014 and 2015, bishops from around the world met at the request of Pope Francis to discuss human love, specifically in the context of marriage and family. The themes touched upon included "the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization" as well as "the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world." After two years of discussion, reflection, prayer, and deliberation, the Holy Father compiled the ideas gathered from the synods into a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
Using both poetic and approachable prose, Pope Francis shared with the Church his insight into the joy and dignity of human love—writing on topics such as the Church’s teaching on marriage and family, the education of children, and pastoral strategies for marriage preparation. On July 12th, Center Director Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. used the wisdom found in Amoris Laetitia to present on its pastoral implications for marriage preparation using Facebook Live. You can view his presentation here.
Below are nine quotes and lessons from this historic document that are especially pertinent to couples preparing for marriage and those preparing couples for marriage. I invite you to spend some time reading these quotes, reflecting on them, and implementing the truths they contain into your understanding of marriage and marriage preparation.
1. Marriage Preparation begins at birth
Marriage preparation begins from birth – we are born into families, grow up in the context of family, and are surrounded by families throughout our lives. For this reason, Pope Francis says that “Learning to love someone does not happen automatically.” It is a lifelong process which we must choose to grow in each day.
2. Quality of content over quantity.
As couples gather together to prepare for marriage, Pope Francis recommends that we do not overwhelm them with every single resource from the Catholic Church. Since the time of marriage preparation is usually brief, the Holy Father recommends sharing quality information—such as the fundamental aspects of marriage, church teaching, and a basic understanding of the kerygma, or story of salvation. Marriage preparation should be comprehensive, but it cannot be exhaustive or total. Be prudent and intentional about the quality and quantity of information you are sharing.
3. Highlight prayer as an essential part of marriage.
Prayer is fundamental not only to the Christian life, but to any vocation. For the lifelong commitment of marriage to succeed, it must be rooted in the daily prayer of husband and wife. This prayer has two dimensions: personal and communal. Personal time of prayer and reflection ensures that each spouse is growing in their relationship with Christ, while prayer as a couple unifies the spouses, improves their communication with one another, and grounds their relationship in Christ. When both personal and communal prayer are alive within a marriage, the relationship of husband and wife is being revitalized and strengthened in such a way that can reflect the love of the Trinity and pour out into society as a whole.
4. Marriage is a life-long commitment.
Sacraments and major life events should be celebrated in a way outside of our ordinary day-to-day life. Marriage is no different. We are, in fact, celebrating something beautiful and life-changing. However, we should not let ourselves be carried away by the details of planning the “perfect wedding day.” Pope Francis advises couples not to get too invested in the consumption of material goods or the planning of the wedding day itself, inviting them instead to focus on rooting their relationship in Christ, the sacraments, and prayer.
5. Marriage is more than the wedding ceremony.
Marriage preparation encompasses much more than a formal program, retreat, class, or a weekend geared to meet a checklist for the church. Formal marriage preparation should help couples discover the dignity of the married vocation and set their sights on the life they will make together as “one.” The ceremony is not “the end of the road,” as Pope Francis states, but a necessary part of the sacrament. We are called to help couples see the wedding ceremony as a launchpad moving them forward in their life-long calling. We are furthermore called to give couples the tools and strategies for successfully working through trials and difficult moments together.
6. Marriage is “total.”
The Catholic Church affirms marriage as an indissoluble union grounded in fidelity, fruitfulness, freedom, and totality. Marriage is not simply a convenient relationship, a partnership with someone who makes you happy, or a public display of love—though it can comprise all of those things. The Church understands that marriage is a sacrament administered by man and wife, witnessed by the Church community, and blessed by God. It is a serious but heroic, joyful, and sanctifying undertaking “until death do us part.”
7. Give couples the tools they need to detect danger signals in their relationships and respond constructively.
Preparation for marriage should be filled with joy. However, it is still a time of preparation. Each relationship will have moments of unity and conflict. A couple may agree on issues like raising children or budgeting, while disagreeing on how to spend free time or how to best communicate. It is important for each couple to be aware of any sources of woundedness or conflict in their relationship before the wedding day in order to work on constructive practices for moving forward.
8. Explain the significance behind the liturgical celebration and the meaning of each of its signs.
While we are not called to get “wrapped up” in the wedding day, we are called to dispose ourselves to the profound significance of the liturgical celebration of marriage. Marriage is a sacrament. To enter into this sacrament is of vast significance. For this reason, it is important to learn more about and understand the meaning behind the signs used in the liturgical celebration – the rings, the white dress, the vows, etc. Let us help couples preparing for marriage enter into the wonder of the sacrament through the richness of the liturgical celebrations of the church.
9. Help couples preparing for marriage discover or rediscover the dignity and beauty of marriage.
It’s tempting to be disheartened by the lack of successful marriages we see in the world around us. Marriages can be overwhelmingly broken, destructive, or lifeless. This is not part of God’s original plan for marriage, and Pope Francis wants to encourage engaged couples to discover or rediscover the dignity and beauty of marriage as a liberating, sanctifying, unconditional relationship in which each spouse is loved and affirmed. How can you support married couples or those planning on getting married? How can you change the marriage narrative to better reflect God’s plan?
For more resources on Marriage and Family, please click here.
On Sunday, we celebrate fathers. When I was young, my three siblings and I would use this day to thank our dad by giving him a few things he loved. We would let him sleep-in, make a full breakfast (sometimes corn muffins with icing writing) with a new “#1 Dad” mug each year, give him the cards we had made, go to Church as a family, pray the Memorare prayer to St. Joseph, and then leave him to fall asleep watching the NASCAR race on the couch (and not even change the channel while he was sleeping). It was a great day to make my dad feel appreciated. Since I moved away from home, I still try to celebrate Father’s Day by sending a card or two, giving my dad a phone call, and keeping in touch. Most importantly, I have realized that my dad has taught me three important lessons about life: to always keep your head up, that family will always be there for you, and that a Catholic should live in service to the community and with faith in God. In thinking about my dad’s example, I can’t help but feel that his life also modeled that of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.
I’m pretty optimistic, and I get it from my dad. He has a thing about quoting movies. Some of his favorite lines are Dory’s “Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo and The Lion King’s “Hakuna Matata.” During challenging times in my family, silly reminders like these helped teach my siblings and me about perseverance and keeping a smile on our faces. Even now, I use these phrases as mottos and words to live by, and have been able to pass along a similar optimism to the students I teach and my own friends.
My dad also taught me about love and support with family. He was the one to encourage my siblings and me to be nice to each other, reminding us, “You’re going to want to keep in touch with each other, because one day you might actually be able to stand one another.” Turns out, he was right. Three of the four of us live in Washington, D.C. and appreciate each others’ company more than ever. St. Joseph also modeled a steadfast commitment to family, even in the midst of hardship. He remained loyal to Mary in their betrothal after finding out she was with child; he guided the expectant Mary into Bethlehem and took care of her despite not finding room at an inn; and Joseph led the Holy Family into Egypt for safety as a result of the persecution implemented by King Herod.
The final lesson to consider is my dad’s faith and devotion to the Gospel. When I was young, he would start the day by praying with the family through a passage in either the New Testament or the Psalms and say an “Our Father” together before leaving to teach for the day. My dad has always been big on service and helping others, too. He was the one to initiate the Kirby’s into parish hospitality and we began to run a monthly “coffee hour” where we would serve coffee and doughnuts to our fellow parishioners. Around this same time, he also became a city councilor to further help the community.
Through his faith and commitment to service, my dad reminds me of St. Joseph. My dad’s continued positivity, the prioritization of our family in his life, and his life of faith and service model the life of the foster father of Jesus. The Memorare of St Joseph was prayed on Father’s Day in my house growing up:
“Remember, O most pure spouse of the Virgin Mary, my beloved Patron, that never it has been heard that anyone invoked your patronage and sought our aid without being comforted. Inspired by this confidence I come to you and fervently commend myself to you. Despise not my petition, O dearest foster father of our redeemer, but accept it graciously. Amen.”
St. Joseph, patron of fathers and workers, was a humble man who said “yes” to God. After finding out that his betrothed was pregnant with God’s son, St. Joseph continued to protect and care for his family, knowing that there would be hardships and danger in the future. Although not much is written about St. Joseph besides what is in the Gospels, he is remembered for his commitment to Mary and Jesus and his simply-humble nature. As we celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, we can remember St. Joseph in prayer and thank him for his respectful obedience in service to God’s plan in our lives though faith, service, and focus on the family.
Why have I lost contact with my good friend from school?
A few weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing how friendships can wax and wane, and from that conversation came the topic of marriage and dating. My friend recommended the book, “Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility.” The first chapter focused on three kinds of friendship, which I wanted to share since it applies to every person we interact with daily.
According to John Paul II’s personalist principle, “…a person must not be merely the means to an end for another person” (9). Meaning, we shouldn’t treat people as just a way for us to achieve our own purposes. Once we begin to use the people in our lives as objects for our own purposes or enjoyment, we do “violence to the very essence of the other” (9).
Why do we not commit when a friend asks if we want to hang out later in the week? We want to be available in case something more enjoyable comes later, so we don’t give our friend a definitive “yes” or “no”. We keep this friend as a “back up,” which is both hurtful to our friend and harmful to our relationship with them. Once this utilitarian attitude is adopted, we reduce the people in our lives to an object for our enjoyment. There is no foundation for a relationship if we are only with friends as long as they are advantageous to us in some way (12).
Aristotle stated there are three kinds of friendship based on three different types of affection that bonds people. The first friendship is of utility. Friendship is based on benefit or quid pro quo. Many work relationships tend to be in this category. The second friendship is pleasantness, where friendship is based on the amount of pleasure gained from the relationship. The friend is the cause of some pleasure to us, and is mostly about having fun together. Aristotle says these two types of friendships do not represent friendship to its fullest because when usefulness or good times leave (such as coworkers or friends moving) the friendship often ends (13).
The third form of friendship is virtuous. Two friends are united in the pursuit of a common goal for a moral, good life, and not self-interest. In a virtuous friendship, the individuals are committed to pursing something that goes beyond their own self-interests. This friendship is more concerned about what is best for the other person in pursuing a virtuous life.
John Paul II says, “the only way two human persons can avoid using each other is to relate in pursuit of a common good” (15). In our friendships and relationships, it is tempting to want others to do as we ask, conforming to our plans, schedules, preferences, and desires. For example, a friend may ask us to look over an application for a job, but we would rather watch TV. John Paul II states that, “when two different people consciously choose a common aim his puts them on a footing of equality, and preludes the possibility that one of them might be subordinated to the other” (16-17).
In this “do what you want, when you want it” culture, I’ve caught myself in the spirit of utilitarianism, particularly when I am stressed or very busy. I’ve also found myself on the receiving end of someone in the spirit of utilitarianism, and it’s often led to the friendship not lasting. How have you noticed or even experienced the spirit of utilitarianism in relationships?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few truly virtuous friendships. There are a few college friends where I cannot go too long without catching up over Skype, text, and phone calls. I find that we share catch up time equally, constantly asking each other questions instead of self-centered updates devoid of inquiry for the other person’s life. We share struggles and achievements of our spiritual life as well as obstacles we face. We pick up right where we left off and it’s like we’d just seen each other yesterday.
Have you experienced a virtuous friendship? What made it different from other relationships that were “useful” or “pleasant”?
As one last final thought, imagine a world where each of us treated everyone we encounter by using the personalist principle. Imagine how much more of a caring and virtuous environment we’d live in. While it is a struggle, we can strive for this each day.
Dana Edwards is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. She currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida where she works as a Digital Strategist, and volunteers as a lector and with communication outreach at her local parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
I have been taught lectio divina in the past, which I practiced fervently at one time and set aside as I pursued other spiritual interests. Lectio divina, though, has never been put together for me quite the way Fr. Chris Hayden (a New Testament scholar, author, and a priest in the Diocese of Ferns, Ireland) was able to do when I recently attended his seminar “Praying the Scriptures.” As a result, I have refreshed my own spiritual life and have reincorporated lectio divina into my spiritual repertoire. My point here is not to relay new facts but (as Fr. Chris would say) to rehearse what we already know – to cement who we are as a people who want to pray, who want to grow in the spiritual life.
Lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) was not something new to Christians but flowed out of the Hebrew method of studying the Scriptures, haggadah, or learning by the heart: “The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (Deut 30:14). While many Church Fathers stressed the prayerful reading of the scriptures, Origen is credited with the first use of the term “lectio divina” in the 3rd century: “While you attend to this lectio divina, seek aright and with unwavering faith in God the hidden sense which is present in most passages of the divine Scriptures” (Epistle to Gregory 4). Traditionally, lectio divina is a Benedictine practice of praying the scriptures that consists of reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating God’s Word in order to grow in our relationship with God. Saint Benedict first established it as a Monastic practice in the 6thcentury in which the four parts were not so much steps but rather moments prompted by the Holy Spirit. During the 12th century, the Carthusians formalized a scholastic approach (“the Monk’s Ladder”) of lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation/reflecting), oratio(prayer/responding), and contemplatio (contemplation/resting).
We distinguish lectio divina from reading the Bible for enlightenment or encouragement, which we may do individually or together as in a Bible study group, and from praying the scriptures in common. Lectio divina is a practice that uses thoughts, images, insights, and inner silence to enter into a conversation with God. There are varying approaches to lectio divina, but in reality, simplicity is at the heart of the practice. After Vatican II and the document Dei Verbum that encouraged lay people and priests to use lectio divina, there has been a resurgence in its exercise. When we read Scripture, we should be doing so not just as an intellectual activity but also as a means of gathering its intention and meaning for our lives. Lectio divina will transform you for transformation is at its core – whether you realize that transformation consciously or not, and whether you reflect that transformation visibly or not.
To appreciate fully lectio divina, we must understand prayer as a relationship between God and ourselves. Through prayer, we enter into the abiding relationship of unconditional love of the Holy Trinity. Three key underpinnings of our prayer life should be humility, heart, and listening. In prayer, we enter into humility, deflating our egos, realizing we are not God. Our humility helps us discern the true self from the false self. We continue to pray in order to break open our hearts to God, to realize what is going on inside ourselves for the heart of prayer is not what we get but rather what we become. We all know we should be receptive to God heeding the advice of Eli to Samuel, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:1-10), but many of us might prefer to tell God in prayer, “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking!” As anyone who has been successful with Christian meditation or contemplative prayer will attest, we need to make time and spaces for silence so we can listen.
What should we do, though, if our prayers seem to be unanswered? Fr. Chris offers five guides or reasons to continue in prayer (he admits, certainly, there is not just five, but I find the five he presented crucial) even when our prayer life seems to be in a drought:
Because we have the Bible, the living Word of God, our spirituality is not a set of speculations. The Bible is our story – our metanarrative. Our metanarrative unites all of our individual stories into a collective under the overarching theme of God’s eternal love. We find today that the separate designations of yours and mine drive our society; today’s society is certainly no metanarrative, no uniting of us all. Within the Biblical texts, however, we find our collective and individual stories in which we participate along with Christ in the Trinitarian love. We can break our metanarrative into four acts: Act I: The beginning; Act II: The Fall; Act III: Redemption; and Act IV: Fulfillment. Our story begins with life (the “Tree of Life” in Genesis) and ends with life (the “New Order” in Revelations as found in Christ.) We find ourselves living in the drama between Acts II and III, that constant struggle of our lives that tugs between our disobedience and our obedience as we reach for that time of fulfillment.
With this acceptance of the Bible as our metanarrative and our understanding of prayer, especially the reasons for continuing in prayer when our prayer life is dry, we can appreciate the power of praying the scriptures to transform our lives. Lectio divinabecomes, in reality, so simple.
Fr. Chris told me not to give him credit, but I must at least thank him for traveling to Great Falls, Montana, for sharing his joy of the faith, and for his stimulating way of presenting prayer, scripture, and the ancient art of lectio divina that inspired me to take a fresh look at how I pray the scriptures. I hope I have given him due credit by relaying the simplicity of lectio divina and its importance in helping us live out our shared metanarrative of God’s love.
With Fr. Chris’ inspiration, I renew myself to the simplicity of lectio divina, enhancing my spiritual life, and I pray: God help us live our story, our metanarrative, as we pray for our transformation in You, our destination.
Fawn Waranauskas teaches in the Catholic Catechesis Certificate Program for Saint Joseph’s College Online.
This blog post was first published on May 27th on the St. Joseph’s College of Maine Theology Faculty Blog. Click here to learn more about our cooperative alliance with St. Joseph’s College Online
This past weekend, I had the honor of attending a beautiful wedding for a couple I have known since my freshman year in college. The two had a lovely Mass followed by a fun reception, and many college-friends and family were there to celebrate them. These two were not the first couple I’ve seen get married this year, and they won’t be the last - in fact, I have 4 more to attend in the next year already! It all got me thinking about how these men and women are such amazing examples of love and devotion for those of us around them.
As millennial Catholics, we have many people to influence us or to learn from, especially in this digital age of constant communication. Our peers who are getting married set a new model for us to follow. These peers are examples of commitment and true love, and are models for us as we discern our own vocation in life. Sometimes, it seems like “everyone” is getting married, and it’s “cool” to have a perfectly Pinterest-ed wedding. We also get pressure from others who note that “It’s that time in your life”. But, there is so much more to the sacrament of marriage than having a trendy reception in a fancy venue. The example of love that we see from those around us can help us look deeper at the love that we, too have with others.
Marriage at any age is a testament to the selflessness and devotion that one person gives to someone else. In the midst of a culture built on so much focus on the individual, it is joyful and inspiring to me for to see so many people devote themselves to another person and to God through the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. But it doesn’t stop there! People who are not married, engaged, or still dating still also can follow the example of love given to them by their peers by focusing on their love of God and strengthening their bond and relationship with Him. The single life can be even more of a beautiful and fruitful time for those who serve the Lord. It is a time to build a stronger prayer life, spiritual life, and overall well-being. Discerning the will of God has always been a struggle for people, for instance in Romans 12: 1-2, 9-13, Saint Paul asks the Romans to be selfless and good in their daily lives, his letter still speaks to us today, saying:
"I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. […] Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.”
Millennials like myself are always trying to change things and improve on the old, so this should be an easy task for us: build-on and improve our prayer life and relationships with God. Let us try to find a new and more invigorating way of serving God and others! While many are called to marriage when they answer their own vocation call, others may try a path of holy orders or religious life to improve their personal relationship with God, and still more may just remain open to God’s will for them in their lives each day.
Krissy Kirby is a teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
Have you ever sat behind a family in church who don’t realize their child is tearing out hymnal pages silently? That was me when I was young. My brother would bring a whole container of Cheerios and still end up chewing the wooden pew, and my sister would constantly be passed back and forth to Mom and Dad until she either fell asleep or stopped chattering. Families who bring young children to church are establishing a foundation on which their faith can be encouraged throughout their lives. Interestingly enough, all three of us are now grown-up, moved away from home, and are regular attendees at Mass. Our commitment to faith and the Gospels has never ceased, but only grown into what it is today.
Soon we celebrate an important day in the liturgical year…the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time! Not what you were expecting me to say, right? As we listen to the Gospel at Mass each week, our hearts journey alongside Christ’s teachings and we parallel these teachings to our own day-to-day lives. We often forget that Jesus’ miracles and most famous parables occur during Ordinary Time! Surely, there is no coincidence that during these weeks of Ordinary Time, when Jesus is teaching his disciples, he is also teaching us. As we hear in this week’s Gospel of Mark, “The people were astonished at his teaching” (Mk 1:22). Just as those who heard Christ’s teaching firsthand, so shall we open our hearts and hear him, too! The Catechism teaches us that Sundays are the “principle day for the celebration of the Eucharist because it is the day of the Resurrection. (CCC 1193). Throughout the liturgical year we come together on Sundays to celebrate the paschal mystery, that is the death and Resurrection of Christ. Ordinary Time is an important part of the celebration of this paschal mystery.
Ordinary Time can often be understood as time between the two holiday seasons. This period can be viewed as Christmas is over and Lent has not begun. There are two times during the Liturgical year. First is the time between Christmas and Lent, which begins at the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord and lasts until Ash Wednesday. The second instance of Ordinary time begins the Monday following Pentecost and lasts until Advent. Ordinary is taken from the word, ordinal which literally means “counted numbers.” Many Catholics think of Ordinary Time as boring, usual, or “ordinary” Sundays instead of numerically arranged Sundays. Through the efforts of the New Evangelization, it is necessary to demonstrate to others the significance of weekly Mass, especially during Ordinary Time, to enhance our knowledge and message of the Gospels. Ordinary Time is a chance for Catholics to cultivate our understanding of Christ’s mission of love, and try our very best to be more like Him every day.
So this Sunday, on the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, focus on the message of the Gospel and the relevance of the Word in your life. Coming to church on a Sunday that is not for Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter is not easy task for some people or families. If you see a family with young children in church this weekend, say a short prayer for those parents. It is not easy to take small children to Mass on a non-school-day, so a short prayer or an understanding smile might make it all worth their while. With your better understanding of the liturgical year, you too can let others know that Ordinary Time is not the boring-bunch-of-green Sundays, but a chance to grow closer to God and your neighbor. Now, if they ask you about the time between Christmas and Easter or Easter and Christmas you can respond with, “There is nothing ordinary about it!”
Krissy Kirby is a teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
This week (January 18-25) is the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We are invited to pray for the unity of the Christian Family. Celebrated for more than 100 years, unity is more than just an ideal, for the Christian it is an obligation to be carried out in prayer and in shared commitment to building the kingdom of God.
The roots of praying for unity are fixed in Jesus’ prayer, near the time of his death, “… so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21). The Catholic Church’s participation in ecumenical endeavors took new shape in the Second Vatican’s Council’s commitment to build stronger ties across Christian communities. Building on the work of the Council, St. John Paul II called the church to make unity an exercise of spiritual ecumenism, noting that the disunity of Christians weakens the credibility of the Gospel.
In an address to the church in Oceania he reflected “In the work of ecumenism, it is essential that Catholics be more knowledgeable about the Church’s doctrine, her tradition and history, so that in understanding their faith more deeply they will be better able to engage in ecumenical dialogue and cooperation. There is a need too for ‘spiritual ecumenism’, by which is meant an ecumenism of prayer and conversion of heart. Ecumenical prayer will lead to a sharing of life and service where Christians do as much together as is possible at this time. ‘Spiritual ecumenism’ can also lead to doctrinal dialogue or its consolidation where it already exists” (Ecclesia in Oceania, 23).
This reflection of St. John Paul echoes in the theme for this year’s celebration which is “Give me a drink.” Taken from John’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42), it emphasizes the importance of encountering one another in dialogue and celebrating that all Christians drink from the common well of the life-giving waters of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. In our encounter with Christians, in our dialogue, in our shared ministry of charity we learn the richness of one another’s tradition and we more easily see ourselves through the eyes of Jesus; who we are and who we can become. In the Decree on Ecumenism, written at the Second Vatican Council, the unity that can be found in Christ magnifies the invitation of this year’s celebration to drink of the water Our Lord has to offer.
Before the whole world let all Christians confess their faith in the triune God, one and three in the incarnate Son of God, our Redeemer and Lord. United in their efforts, and with mutual respect, let them bear witness to our common hope which does not play us false. In these days when cooperation in social matters is so widespread, all men without exception are called to work together, with much greater reason all those who believe in God, but most of all, all Christians in that they bear the name of Christ. Cooperation among Christians vividly expresses the relationship which in fact already unites them, and it sets in clearer relief the features of Christ the Servant….All believers in Christ can, through this cooperation, be led to acquire a better knowledge and appreciation of one another, and so pave the way to Christian unity.
Decree on Ecumenism, 12
Susan Timoney is the Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington and teaches spirituality for Saint Joseph’s College Online. She is also an adviser to the Catholic Apostolate Center.
If you would like to know more about Christian Unity, please see our resource page!
Have you ever wanted to start over? “My diet starts on Monday...” “My New Year’s Resolution of not drinking soda failed, so I’ll give it up for Lent in a couple of months...” “I’ll start not hitting the snooze button on the first of the month.”
A fresh start... Our society always seems to be longing for a “fresh start.” There’s a sense of pride and victory when we can commit to a new beginning. But why is it so difficult to remember that as Christians, by virtue of our baptism, we are called to a fresh start each day with Christ?
Our first reading today reminds us that we are members of the Body of Christ our baptism. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body… and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The vocation we receive in baptism is not to lay dormant in our hearts; rather, it is a vocation that we should choose to live out each day. When we choose to intentionally live out the promises of our baptism, we are renewed by its waters and are given a “fresh start” to live as the Christians we long to be.
In Christ’s love, it is never too late for a new beginning. We see this in today’s Gospel reading, when Jesus brings the only son of a widow back from the dead. And do you know what his call to new life was? Jesus said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” (Luke 7:14). This is our call, too! Jesus says this to our hearts, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” “Young woman, I tell you, arise!” The fulfillment of our call is the way we live out the radical nature of our baptism. The Christian life is not easy, but that is why we are called each new day to “arise” and fulfill the promises of our baptism, “[serving] the Lord with gladness” (Psalms 100:2).
What are you going to do today as Jesus calls you to “arise?” This is your fresh start. It may not seem like the perfect day to begin anew, but as Christians we know that today–this ordinary day–has been given to us by God and we are being called to “arise!” You have been called, you have been chosen. So “arise,” my friend, and let this new day be a new offering to our Lord.
We can begin this fresh start by praying a Renewal of our Baptismal Promises, that explicitly remind us of our call as Christians. Please join me in praying this today.
The Renewal of Baptismal Promises
Taken from the Roman Missal, Third Typical Edition
Do you renounce Satan? I do.
And all his works? I do.
And all his empty show? I do.
Do you believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth? I do.
Do you believe in Jesus Chris, his only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered death and was buried,
rose again from the dead
and is seated at the right hand of the Father? I do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and live everlasting? I do.
And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who was given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit
and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins,
keep us by his grace,
in Christ Jesus our Lord,
for eternal life. Amen.
Alyce Anderson is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Secondary Mathematics and Special Education while teaching at a local school in Washington, DC.
A major contention that many people – both young and old – have with the Church is that it is an institution of “Thou Shalt Nots” and other moral imperatives that have little or no relevance in the modern world. In essence, the Church is seen as little more than an outdated social services agency, or even worse, a dismal and ahistorical museum perpetuating a false sense of reality. This emerging perception of the Church parallels a larger cultural shift from the acceptance of objective truth toward a secular relativism.
In a recent address to a group of U.S. bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit, Pope Benedict XVI proposed that the Church’s response to this “eroded” perception of reality is one of the greatest “spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.” Because of the Catholic Apostolate Center’s commitment to being an instrument of the new evangelization, this bears much significance on the direction of our work. But what impact does – or should – this emerging situation have on our daily lives?
In the words of the Holy Father, “the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering”. As Catholics, we are called to uphold the perceptive vision of reality that has been gifted to us by the Holy Spirit through Divine Revelation. It is only through upholding this vision that we can ever hope to accurately understand our place in the world around us and “the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God.”
As Catholics, we are beneficiaries of an astonishing intellectual legacy that was developed over the course of two millennia by scholars who examined these mysteries through the complimentary lenses of faith and reason. Contrary to popular opinion, the Church’s moral teaching is not merely a hodge-podge of archaic prohibitions, but a doctrine that is congruent with the logical nature of reality and informed by Divine Revelation. As the Pope explained in his address, the moral teaching of the Church “is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a ‘language’ which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.”
If we are to succeed in being apostles of the New Evangelization, then one of our most critical objectives should be to proclaim the beauty, consistency, and relevance of the Church’s moral teaching, without which we would be left with an incomplete view of our own humanity. Informed by this teaching, it is also important that we serve as prophets in the public sphere of these truths. As Pope Benedict XVI emphasized, “it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.” Even more pertinent to the work of the Catholic Apostolate Center, the Holy Father went on to say that “the preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.”
Blessed John XXIII was once quoted as saying the following: “We are not on earth to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.” The New Evangelization is not concerned with re-presenting a forgotten memory from the past, but with re-proposing the living and eternal truth of Jesus Christ that continues to sustain His Church. The Church’s moral teaching is just one part of this truth, but as the Holy Father makes clear, it is an essential part to humanity’s self-understanding.
Brett Garland is a Collaborator with the Catholic Apostolate Center.
Audio of the Holy Father’s address available here.
CNS Report about the Holy Father's address.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2012.
We celebrate Pentecost on June 8th, 50 days after Easter, to commemorate the Holy Spirit’s descent on Christ’s disciples after His Ascension. We are, in many ways, celebrating the birthday [E1] of the Church and our individual commitments to God.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to share our faith, to have the ability to open our hearts in understanding one another and God’s message. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord), we become fully alive in our personal relationship with God so we can give better witness to His message. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “…the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity” (CCC 738).
We can use Pentecost as an opportunity to make our faith our own while sharing God’s word. By utilizing our individual talents and volunteering in some aspect of our church, we strengthen our faith and build community.
I remember wanting to be an altar server after receiving my first Holy Communion in second grade. I began altar serving and continued to do so until I received Confirmation. Serving during the Mass allowed me, as a young girl, to better understand my Catholic faith. My parents remember me saying how I enjoyed altar serving because I had to pay attention (and stay awake) during 8 a.m. Sunday Mass. Assisting the priest on the altar, I began to fully understand and celebrate the Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist every Sunday. I attended Catholic school and was able to make connections between Religion class and weekly Mass by serving during church service. Once confirmed, I continued to volunteer in my church as a lector as well as taught religion education to grade school children. Actively participating in my church allowed me to fully engage in my Catholic faith and grow spiritually.
No matter our age, the Catholic Church encourages us to be active participants in Mass and in our Church. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can come to discover where the Church needs us and how we can best share the time, talent, and treasure God has given us. My parish hosts a ministry fair each year, which gives parishioners an opportunity to see other ministries within the Church and where we can best serve God and our community.
Pentecost allows us to renew ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis asks us in his daily Mass homily on May 19th this year to question ourselves: “What kind of heart do we have? … Is my heart fixed upon everyday gods or is it a heart fixed on the Holy Spirit?” It is easy for us to get wrapped up in life’s habitual tasks at home, work, with family, colleagues, etc. Pope Francis encourages us that the Holy Spirit “gives us strength, gives us the steadiness to be able to move forward in life in the midst of many events.”
Dana Edwards is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. She currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida where she volunteers as a lector and with communication outreach at her local parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church.