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By: Thomas O’Neill

How much would you spend to have better communication with your spouse? A few dollars? Maybe a hundred? A coworker of mine once noted that we are often willing to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation, but are hesitant to spend even a small amount of money on improving our relationship with God and with our spouse. Yet, when marriage counselors talk about what makes marriage work, they never tire of banging the same drum — communication, communication, communication. Similarly, when priests counsel us on how to improve our spiritual lives, we hear — pray, pray, pray. Communication is everything.

In a humorous story about this, a wonderful couple I know talked about doing chores together. The husband was putting away the dishes one evening, happily viewing it as a service to his lovely wife.

“Stop!” she said, all of a sudden. “Stop putting the dishes away!”

“Why?” he asked, perplexed.

“I thought you would be happy I was helping out!”

“No, because you hide them all away in the wrong places, and I have to spend double the time just to find the dish I need!”

What sounds like two newlyweds learning the ropes of living together is actually a couple has been married for more than 30 years!

This image of an evening Easter egg hunt searching for dishes is amusing. But it is helpful to note that Retrouvaille – a ministry for troubled marriages looking to improve – makes much the same point. Some of the most poignant exercises during a Retrouvaille weekend ask each spouse to simply write out all of his or her thoughts and feelings, good and bad. When the other spouse reads those secret sentiments, now laid bare, they are often shocked to discover how much they have missed in their own spouse’s life. The beginnings of a marriage “rediscovered” starts with simple communication.

Marriage Communication Workshop flyer

To that end, the Office for Family Life is sponsoring an engaging workshop on communication and prayer on Saturday, November 8 at St. John the Apostle parish in Leesburg. It will feature ever-popular speakers: Art & Laraine Bennett, co-authors of The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse; Sr. Clare Hunter, Director of the Office of Respect Life; and Rev. John Mosimann, pastor of St. John the Apostle parish. The cost is $45 before October 17 and $50 thereafter. Lunch is included. Please visit the website for more information or to register.

What will you invest in your marriage today?

From the Office of Communications

Did you miss the chance to attend Risk Jesus? The first evangelization conference was a wonderful success, attracting 1, 200 people interested in connecting with Christ and our Catholic community here in the Diocese of Arlington. Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Jennifer Fulwiler, Rev. Dwight Longenecker, and Rev. Juan Puigbo were keynote speakers, while Marie Miller performed honest and spiritual music throughout the day.

If you did miss the conference, never fear, we have uploaded a video playlist of the sessions throughout the day. You can hear the conversion experiences of Jennifer and Fr. Longenecker, listen to Fr. Puigbo’s inspiring testimony of perseverance, or hear Bishop Loverde commenting during the Q&A session or leading the prayer during Eucharistic Adoration. Please watch the videos, comment, and share.

By: Deacon Marques Silva

My paternal grandmother converted from Buddhism to Catholicism at the young age of 13. As the story is told, she was passing by St. Theresa’s Church in Honolulu one day and heard the music from within the Church. She walked in, talked to the priest, and was received into the Church after a short period of catechesis. As I think back on my childhood, I have no memory of her ever going to bed without the Sacred Scripture in one hand and a Rosary in the other. She was fiercely loyal to Our Lady and devoured Scripture. Happily, she passed on the fervor of both to me.

Considering October is the Month of the Rosary and October 7 was the Feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, once known as the feast of Our Lady of Victory, which was erected as a universal feast by Pope Clement XI in The_Battle_of_Lepanto_by_Paolo_Veronesehonor of her miraculous intercession and intervention during the Battle of Lepanto, I think that I wouldn’t be alone in saying that the Rosary is one of the most intriguing and distinctively Catholic sacramentals that non-Catholics notice. The Order of Preachers (Dominicans) has long promoted its recitation and the signal graces one may receive through this time-honored devotion.

The Rosary is also known as the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary.[1] It is considered one of “the most excellent prayers to the Mother of God.”[2] In fact, we find in the Congregation for Divine Worship:

“The Roman Pontiffs have repeatedly exhorted the faithful to the frequent recitation of this biblically inspired prayer that is centered on contemplation of the salvific events of Christ’s life, and their close association with his Virgin Mother. The value and efficacy of this prayer have often been attested to by saintly Bishops and those advanced in holiness of life…”[3]

Did you know there are 15 promises attributed to St. Dominic Guzman (my patron) and Bl. Alan de la Roche for those who faithfully pray the Rosary?

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
  4. The Rosary will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire for eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenititude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters of my only Son Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Let’s be honest, the list is pretty cool and deserves consideration. That being said, I love to pray the Rosary because it transports me into the Gospel narrative and allows me to not only consider the mystery that is being presented, but to “relive” the scene with my Lord and Lady. The recitation causes me to slow down and spent quality time with the scriptural mysteries of our faith.

There have been seasons in my life that have made it difficult to pray the Rosary, but I always come back to it in the end. I have found that if you set aside some time to “waste” with Our Lady and commit yourself to praying this ancient prayer, her intercession never disappoints. We could discuss a lot of techniques to pray the Rosary or how to get the most out of it. But the most important best practice to be successful is to just do it! More prayer, less talk. With that…

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary… ora pro nobis.


[1] “Directory on Popular Piety and The Liturgy: Principals and Guidelines.” par. 197. December 2001. Accessed October 7, 2014. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html.

[2] “Regarding indulgences cf. EI,” Aliae concessiones, 17, p. 62. For a commentary on the Ave maria cf. CCC 2676-2677.

[3] Congregation For Divine Worship, Circular Letter Guidelines and proposals for the celebration of the Marian Year, 62.

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

“Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?'” (Jn 6:5)

Philip and the other Apostles must have been frustrated with the situation — perhaps even with our Lord. They were in “a lonely place” (Mt 14:13). It was because of Him that the crowds had followed them out there, seemingly without a thought about provisions. And He had indulged their lack of planning, allowing them to follow, and responding to their desire for teaching and healing. They were sure to grow hungry and the Apostles, known as our Lord’s closest followers, would feel some responsibility. And now Jesus asks the question that the Apostles must have wanted to ask Him: “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

The Evangelist gives us some insight to the purpose of the Lord’s frustrating question. Jesus asks it “to test [Philip], because He Himself knew what he was going to do” (Jn 6:6). But what exactly is the test in this situation? And…how do we pass it?

Giovanni_Lanfranco_-_Miracle_of_the_Bread_and_Fish

“How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” The question brings Philip and, through him, the rest of the Apostles face to face with their own inadequacy. They have no way to answer the need. Philip sees it immediately: “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little” (Jn 6:7). Andrew exacerbates the sense of helplessness with good news that is not good enough: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” (Jn 6:9) The Apostles, practical men with jobs, businesses, and responsibilities, were accustomed to getting things done and meeting the needs of the situation. Now they had to acknowledge their powerlessness.

This, then, is the first part of the “test” — to acknowledge our own limits and inadequacy. At the root of all sin is the ultimate “do it yourself” mentality, the desire to be like God on our own terms (cf. Gen 3:4). We echo that same rebellion, thinking we are in control and sufficient. We have delusions of adequacy. Inevitably, however, we encounter a situation — a difficulty in ourselves, in the family, at work, etc. — that brings our inadequacy into stark relief. Then our Lord’s question — “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” — comes to us. Then we realize that we do not have what it takes, that a particular situation is beyond us to address. Then we must recognize our insufficiency and by so doing grow in humility.

But if we stop there, things seem pretty grim. We have to proceed to the second part of our Lord’s test. Our Lord “knew what He was going to do.” In other words, He asks the question in order to reveal not only Philip’s (and our) inadequacy, but also His own power. In response to the apostolic powerlessness, Jesus works a miracle that does more than merely assist them or compensate for their weakness. He takes their insufficiency itself and, with it, creates an abundance.

So also for us, our weakness is only half of the equation. God’s superabundance is the necessary other half. If He, at times, makes our weakness clear, He does so not to discourage us, but to invite us to trust in Him. The recognition of our weakness ought to lead us to greater trust in His power to accomplish more than we can hope or imagine.

“How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” This question provides the answer to our frustration and despondence in the face of difficulties. Why has God put this before me? Why does He ask this of me? How can I possibly do what He asks? He allows us to face such challenges not so that we can stoically endure or muscle through. It is, rather, so that we can — by way of our inadequacy — learn to trust Him. It is so that we can hand over what little we have and allow Him to create from it an abundance.

This is the sixth of seven posts that will take up some questions of God that satisfy more than the answers of man.

By: Sr. Clare Hunter

What kind of heretic are you? A new Buzzfeed quiz? Though not intentionally, I know I have given incorrect answers about the faith (heretic) because of my lack of knowledge. To be quite honest, there are many teachings of Jesus that I do not fully understand and make me uncomfortable. Actually, I might go so far as to say that I really don’t like them and believe they are “impossible” to follow and comprehend. I am rather disappointed that the sacrament of Confirmation, or even taking religious vows, does not include some kind of pill, or infusion, that gives one complete theological knowledge — oh, and complete compliance to God’s will. Where are those pills to make me holy, brilliant, and sinless?

P8071310So, which Catholic Church teaching don’t you like? Actually, that is not the right question. It is, which teaching of Jesus don’t you like? Reading and re-reading the Gospels has helped me to face that question. It was easy to disagree with my parents, religion teachers, priests and sisters, but when I realized that the teachings held by the Catholic faith were all from Jesus Christ, as the Word of the Father, I realized that God is the One with whom I had to take up my grievances. And so I do. I am merely following in the footsteps of the disciples and apostles who spent most of their time asking Jesus what He was talking about, rejecting His words and, unfortunately, not following His commandments. Is it a sin to question God and complain about His teachings? No. In fact, for many of us, it is the beginning of prayer.

It has been an “exciting” week for the media reporting on the Synod on marriage at the Vatican. With topics including homosexuality, divorce, contraception, cohabitation, abortion, pre-marital sex, and the Catholic Church — it doesn’t get more controversial and emotional than that! Each one of us has been challenged to reflect on these issues and to grow in our understanding of why and how the Catholic Church believes what it does. It is a tremendous opportunity to mature in faith and knowledge and to assess our own need to grow in our personal relationship with God. These issues touch wounds in each of us, and we should remember that they touched the genealogy and followers of Jesus Christ. Our Lord knew very well what He was doing when speaking about such hard teachings. Why else would He bestow such healing looks of love and pity on those gathered around Him?

imagesJesus is very clear with the disciples when they are astonished, shocked, or flatly reject something He says or teaches. Whether they refuse to accept His suffering and death, His teachings on marriage and divorce, or the radical disposing of one’s possessions and family, Our Lord is unwavering. Despite the mass exodus of followers after He tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood for eternal life, He rebukes all and tells them that they cannot do alone what He is teaching. When the disciples question the difficult teachings on discipleship, Jesus declares that “for human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (cf. Mt 19:26, Mk 10:27).

For it to be possible for us to accept the Gospel message, our hearts must be open to God. We know this is not easy. Our fears of sacrifice and suffering, our weaknesses to temptations and plain, old sloth keep us from a disciplined prayer life and moral actions. Yet, in spite of all of this we do desire conversion; it is that little voice in each of us that says “there has to be more than this in life.” We know we are not happy with mediocrity. And on our honest days, we know that, though difficult to live, the teachings of Jesus resonate in our hearts and make sense. How incredible it is that we have a loving God who invites us into a relationship with Him that gives us the happiness we so desire. Yes, this includes obedience to His will and commandments, but we have been promised the abiding presence of His Spirit and the body and blood of the Son to enable us to be faithful sons and daughters. Like any relationship, it takes work and sacrifice on the part of both parties. He has held up to His promise. Now what about our part?

Wouldn’t a conversion, or perfection pill be easier? Yes. But we would probably forget to take it and complain about that, too!

By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

“Habemus papam!” I can still hear the cheering from the crowd which eagerly awaited the emergence of the newly elected pope in St. Peter’s Square. On June 21, 1963, I was a seminarian in Rome studying at the North American College and was blessed to be in that crowded square. When Giovanni Cardinal Montini emerged having taken the name Pope Paul VI, I knew that he, too, embraced the evangelical and missionary zeal of our mutual namesake, St. Paul. I would have the privilege of being in the presence of Pope Paul VI — who is being beatified by Pope Francis on October 19 at the end of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family — two more times: once when he visited us seminarians at our summer villa, and later at a papal audience after my priestly ordination. Though these are fond memories, what has most been impressed upon my mind and heart is Pope Paul VI’s steadfastness in leading the Church through difficult times. For this reason, he has always been a pope for whom I have had a great deal of admiration and respect. His beatification is so timely at this moment in our history!

PaulVIPope Paul VI was elected prior to the second session of the Second Vatican Council, when the Church was experiencing what Pope St. John XIII had called an “aggiornamento,” or an updating. Theologians and clergy at the Council had the task of discerning how the Church could dialogue with the modern world — what aspects of the culture could be embraced by the faithful and which would have to be kept at bay because their integration would threaten the unity of the Faith. As Pope Francis has said, “Faith is ‘one,’ in the first place, because of the oneness of God. Faith is one because it is shared by the whole Church, in which we receive a common gaze. Faith must be professed in all of its purity and integrity,” (“Lumen Fidei,” No. 48).

Much of Pope Paul VI’s pontificate would be directed at answering lingering questions that remained after the Council had ended. Many of those questions had to do with marriage and the family in light of cultural changes that were taking place. Pope Paul VI is undoubtedly most remembered for his forthright teaching about responsible parenthood in his encyclical“Humane Vitae” (1968). Many have read “Humane Vitae” and reduced its message to a “no” from the Church about the licit use of artificial contraception. What they miss, however, is the document’s rich presentation of the biblical understanding of marriage that the Catholic Church has consistently promoted. The characteristics of marriage as designed by God include that it is “fully human,” “a total, personal friendship in which husband and wife share everything,” “faithful and exclusive of all others until death,” and “is ordained toward the procreation and education of children” who are a supreme gift to their parents (No. 9).

To enter into marriage, then, is to enter into a union that God intends to be total, faithful, and fruitful. Responsible parenthood must respect the design that God has for the sexual union which involves openness to life unless there is a grave reason why a couple cannot welcome a child. The Church’s teaching on the sexual union between husband and wife is one that promotes communication, mutual discernment, and a respect for the ability of man and woman together to cooperate in God’s creative work.

Sadly, many people still misunderstand the Church’s presentation of marriage in “Humane Vitae” and characterize it as antiquated and restrictive. The truth, however, is that the Church’s teaching increases a couple’s freedom — freedom to love one another as they have been created by God. In “Lumen Fidei,” Pope Francis explained: “Precisely because all of the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole,” (No. 48). The Church’s teaching on human sexuality, contraception, and marriage are related to all that She professes and teaches. They are a response to the revelation of Jesus Christ about the kind of love for which we are made. For that reason they remain relevant.

I find myself reflecting on the courage of Pope Paul VI these days, as our own culture wrestles with the nature of marriage. Though in our times, the biblical view of marriage may not be understood or popular, it does not for that reason lose its truth or beauty. St. Paul’s bold proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even in difficult times, inspires me as it inspired Pope Paul VI, to share the teaching on marriage in its fullness. It is not coincidental, then, at the end of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, an event during which bishops in communion with the pope are discussing how to best strengthen married love and family life, that Pope Francis will beautify a champion of these realities. I hope you join me in thanksgiving for the witness of Pope Paul VI, a man of God who has taught me to teach the faith with patience, love, and zeal! May he intercede for all of us, especially for married couples and families!

Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.

This column first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

**Editor’s Note: This is the third and final blog post of a series addressing mental health issues by Dr. Frank Moncher, a clinical psychologist with Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington. We hope that this helped educate you on the circumstances behind mental illness and suicide and begin that dialogue within the context of the Catholic community.

By: Dr. Frank Moncher

The Need To Belong
As important as the prior topics of biochemistry, prayer, and pursuing virtuous lives are to addressing the problems of depression and risk of suicide, conquering isolation and loneliness is at the heart of flourishing as a human person. One might think that in Robin Williams’ case, his relationships with his wife and children and millions of adoring fans would meet this need. However, fame and popularity are not the same as attachment and connection.

LonelinessThe human soul longs for a deeper, more intimate sense of belonging. And even when there are family and friends who are ready to assist, for persons suffering from depression, the perception of relationships can be distorted and these loved ones not seen as such. The best prevention for suicidal behavior is healthy relationships, characterized by unconditional warmth, affirmation, and acceptance. This type of relationship provides people with a haven from the stress they experience in their daily lives. Altruism is another way of boosting a person’s gratitude for what they do have in their life, which might go unnoticed amidst the chaos and stress. It also combats isolation, which is rampant but sometimes missed in our world infused with “social networks” and visual communication.

What Can Be Done?
Because a certain stigma persists about seeking mental health treatment, shame can be a huge barrier to getting the help one needs.  Therefore, it is wise for all to be attentive to the needs of those around us should we suspect they are struggling in some serious manner.

Warning signs or symptoms which are a cause for concern include emotional numbness that does not subside, insomnia or recurring nightmares, inability to engage one’s normal routine (e.g., returning to work, caring for one’s children or household), feeling isolated and unable to connect with others, staying busy to avoid feelings, and increased alcohol or drug use, including addictive prescription medication.  More concretely, it is critical to pay attention to any preoccupation with death or talking about suicide, or behavior that can be seen as preparing for dying, such as giving away possessions or putting affairs in order. Sometimes those who are planning suicide seem to feel better once they have decided upon a course of action, because they believe that they have an answer to their problems. This temporary lift in spirits can give those around them the impression that things have improved, even if the tendency toward suicide was known.

Avoiding mention of the problem to protect the person is rarely helpful (though if the person redirects the conversation away from their mental health issue, this should naturally be respected). Acceptance and compassion, along with a prudent appraisal of ways to help (offering practical assistance with shopping, cooking, driving, etc.) can be beneficial. Make a sincere offer of emotional support, whether communicated in a card or letter, by telephone or in person, and give the depressed person permission to talk and then just listen. Let them decide how much they want to share.

There are also numerous organizations that have suicide prevention at the heart of their mission:  to name a few, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (call 1 800-273-8255), the American Association of Suicidology, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

While all of us need others to “pick us up” in times of stress and misfortune, some of us are better at asking for and receiving this assistance than others. For those reading this who may be going through a particularly difficult time, it is vital to find a way to connect with others who can provide you comfort and support. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you to know who is there, waiting to be asked… And for those reading who have begun wondering if some particular friend or family member might be struggling, risk reaching out through an invitation to coffee or to take a walk. Then pray for the right words to say, for patience if a response is not forthcoming, and for the Lord to hold that precious person in the palm of His hand.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

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