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By: Natalie Plumb

Miss #RiskJesus with Bishop Paul Loverde, Jennifer Fulwiler, Dwight LongeneckerMarie Miller and Fr. Juan Puigbó? See what you missed in under 3 minutes!

Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s Take on Risk Jesus ’14 …

Keynote Speakers’ Take on Risk Jesus ’14…

We also have a new photo album and podcasts from the evening!

Visit our website for more info.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

By: Maria Luisa Aliaga and Thérèse Bermpohl

Many of you have most likely heard about Gabriel Project, the diocesan-based office that provides material, monetary and spiritual support for pregnant women and families in need. But how many of you are familiar with the mothers, and families who come looking for our help?

giving_gabriel

The mothers who come to Gabriel Project hail from all walks of life. Some are married. Many are not. Some have money, but no support structure — no family or friends in the area to help them. However most are poor. They have nowhere else to turn, and are unbelievably grateful when they hear the words from the Gabriel Project Coordinator: “We can help you with material support and all your prenatal care. More than that, though, we can connect you with a Gabriel Project angel (volunteer) to accompany you along the way.”

Anna* is one such mother. When she found out last winter that she was pregnant with her fourth child, she was ecstatic. Her three little girls had been pestering her and her husband for a little brother and they finally got their wish. Their joy, however, quickly gave way to concern when just 10 weeks into her pregnancy, Anna began to experience pain. She rushed to the emergency room and the doctor, fearing that she might not be able to carry the baby to term, suggested an abortion. Faithful Anna and her husband flatly refused.

Life

Distraught, without insurance, and not knowing what to do, Anna and her husband contacted Gabriel Project at the suggestion of her parish priest. Even with the support of Gabriel Project, though, their family’s anxiety was far from over. Anna’s doctors at Tepeyac Family Center diagnosed her baby boy with two possible deformities: Down Syndrome and an intestinal problem that would require immediate surgery after his birth.

The diagnosis provoked more talk of abortion from Anna’s family and friends, but again Anna and her husband reasserted their intent to keep their baby – their gift from God – no matter what. To make matters worse, in her seventh month Anna was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

When all was said and done, Gabriel Project was blessed to be able to assist Anna and her family in a myriad of ways. Gabriel Project provided them with prenatal funding, an interpreter for each of her doctor’s appointments, funding for much needed diabetes classes, as well as money for all of Anna’s medications. One of the parishes involved with Gabriel Project invited Anna to “Christmas in July” where she received baby clothes and other items. Finally, the Gabriel Project Coordinator was able to put Anna in touch with Leticia Velasquez, author of A Special Mother Is Born, a book about life as the mother of a little girl with Down Syndrome.

Anna’s baby arrived this August by cesarean section. He weighed 6 pounds and was baptized by Fr. Juan Puigbó on the day of his birth. He did have to undergo surgery on his intestines, but by the grace of God he had none of the other physical deformities he was diagnosed with. He is still recovering at the hospital.

A grateful Anna wrote: “Thanks to Gabriel Project for all your support and prayers. I do not know what would have happened without your help and support for my family. I pray that you will continue receiving many blessings and that our Lord will continue providing you more help. I am so grateful to be part of your ministry. God bless you for being so generous. You will always be in my heart and in my prayers.”

As we approach the annual Gift for Life campaign that supports Gabriel Project, we wish to thank the parishioners of the Diocese of Arlington for your generosity. We will never know this side of heaven all the good you have done.

Connect with Gabriel Project Arlington on Facebook!


*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the mother.

By: Rev. Jason Weber

The Campo Stare

Morning-AssemblyI had heard about the ‘Campo Stare,’ but it was only last week that I actually experienced it. I was at a small village tucked deep in the rolling hills. It was September 8, the birthday of Mary Mother of God. I was teaching the children from the local school about Mary being Jesus’ mother and trying to teach them a song. I asked the children to repeat after me the first words of the song. Some of them did. Some others maintained a shockingly blank stare on their faces as though they had shut down, not knowing how to handle this new stimulus.

The parish of Bánica serves roughly 16 population centers. Pedro Santana, the parish of St. Joseph, serves more than 40 campos (villages). Ten of these campos are very remote and a few of them are quite disconnected from the rest of the world. It is in some of the more remote areas that we sometimes see the ‘Campo Stare.’ Fr. O’Hare and I theorize that it is from a lack of basic development as small children. Regrettably the culture here looks down upon weakness and upon children (there are, of course, exceptions), so the lack of attention and the lack of basic toys such as blocks or simple puzzles may contribute to a rather surprising inability to respond to basic stimulation such as words.

2ChildreninSchoolIt is truly a small segment of the population that is like this, but from this small piece of information one can surmise to a certain extent how poor the education system is in the Dominican Republic. It is consistently rated by the Peace Corps as one of the worst education systems in the world — often times worse than countries that are more impoverished. Seeing this level of education, I almost always bring coloring paper and crayons and connect the lesson that I’m teaching with the image that they are coloring. This is not as necessary in Bánica or Pedro Santana, but it seems to be a good way to begin to reach the children in the campos. For the poorer campos, I’ll start by bringing a little ball and begin by tossing it one to another in a circle. I’m hoping that a little physical activity, as simple as it may be, may help to jog their minds as well.

But don’t let me leave you with this grave problem alone! There are beautiful families and children who are learning a great deal, as well. The principal of our school, for example, is the father of three little boys. The other day I was praying in the church, and he came strolling in with one of the little boys, hand in hand. They went up to the sanctuary, knelt to pray, then brought some flowers that could be used for the flower arrangement in front of the altar. His name is Hecfredes and he is truly an attentive father who is patiently teaching his children and raising them to the light of Christ.

There is, in the parish school, a little girl who is handicapped. Her classmates are learning to look after her and a little band of children walk her home each day. By caring for Maria, the children are learning to care for those who are weaker than they are and to see the struggles of others as opportunities to love.

The ‘Campo Stare,’ the problems with education in the country, and folks like Hecfredes and Maria, reveal the importance of the parish school that forms part of the Bánica Mission.

Vocabulary

Road. Yes, that is a road. Some of the campos are only accessible by truck or motorcycle. I think you would need to carry the motorcycle across this one! Thanks to the generosity of donors and folks of the diocese, we do have a good pick-up truck geared up for roads like this one.

3Road

Custard Apple. This fruit has a custard-like consistency around the seeds inside. Quite tasty and rather unique with its scaly looking skin.

4Custard-Apple

Prayer Intentions

1) The successful beginning of a radio program.

2) That we can begin all day schooling very soon. Currently grades K-4 come from 8 a.m. to noon and grades 5-8 (plus pre-K) have class from 2 to 6 p.m. Most schools in the area are half-day. We are waiting for administrative details to be worked out, some final regulatory details to be taken care of, and the promised money from the government to be received (money from the government does not come with strings attached, unlike in the U.S.).

5Truck

School is in session now and the year has gotten off to a good start. The work is cranking up as we begin catechesis sessions, sports, youth ministry, and more. If you have any questions regarding the mission, please feel free to send me an email. Other folks may have similar questions, and I can include them in the next newsletter. Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Fr. Jason Weber continues the chronicle of his adventures as a missionary in Bánica. This blog was originally posted on the Bánica Mission website. Don’t miss Fr. Keith O’Hare and Andrew Lane’s appearance on EWTN’s Life on the Rock, November 7 at 8 p.m., discussing their new film portraying work at the Bánica Mission, Along the Border.

By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Annual Marriage Jubilee Mass, the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington.

One word captures what I am experiencing at this moment in my heart: joy! Yes, joy, delight! Why? To see gathered here in the Cathedral 114 couples celebrating 50 years of marriage and 138 couples celebrating 25 years of marriage, totaling 9,150 years. Each couple here has journeyed together, sharing both times of authentic joy and happiness and times of sorrow and sadness; times of accomplishment and success but also times of disappointment and failure; times of certainty with times of questioning; and long periods of the routine, ordinary and commonplace things of daily life. Yet, through this curious mixture we call human life and, in particular, for our couples, through their journey of married and family life, they have persevered.

MJM Bishop 2Yes, dear Jubilarians, you have renewed countless times your matrimonial consent: that covenant of life and love which you together sealed with the nuptial vows you made before God and the community of His Church. You have persevered because you have tried, of course not perfectly, to be open and receptive to the presence of the Lord Jesus in your lives. Indeed, He is the third partner in your married life and, along with Mary and Joseph, in your family life. These 50 or 25 years have revealed to you that the wine of human love is changed by Jesus at the request of His mother Mary into the wine of transformed love. You are witnesses to the truth contained in today’s Gospel account: Jesus Christ has come to renew all things human, especially marriage and family life by His Presence in the individual lives of couples and in the lives of families because He cannot refuse the request of His mother either at Cana at that wedding feast or now. Saint Francis de Sales observed: “Would to God that His Dear Son were bidden to all weddings as to that of Cana. Truly then the wine of consolation and blessing would never be lacking; if these are often so lacking, it is because too frequently now men summon Adonis instead of our Lord, and Venus instead of our Lady” (cf. Introduction to the Devout Life, par. 3, chapter 38). As you know so well from your personal experience of married life and family life, though so deeply intertwined, these are not realities which are lived effortlessly and without difficulty in our present culture and society. Of course, the ideal of marriage and family which God has in mind remain attainable and actual only with His assistance. I repeat, His transforming grace at work within you has enabled you to live the reality of marriage and family, if not perfectly, yet perseveringly during these 50 or 25 years.

After all, each human person is created to live, not in isolation, but in a life-giving relationship with another, and in marriage understood to be the union of one man with one woman, in a relationship rooted in permanence, fidelity and openMJM Bishopness to new life. In today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis, we are reminded once again through God’s Word that at the dawn of creation, the man was lonely, although surrounded by the beauty of nature and the presence of many friendly animals. So God created a suitable partner for the man, a person equal yet complimentary, the woman, to be his lifelong partner in living the covenant of life and love, a relationship so deep and interpersonal that its ultimate expression in the total giving to each other, not only in mind and heart but also in body, results in the creation of new human life, a child, the living expression of his or her parents’ committed love.

Yes, for these 50 or 25 years, you have not only heard Saint Paul’s advice to the Christians at Ephesus but actually have been seeking to live it. “Live in love, as Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us.” In the end, conjugal or married love is truly the giving of oneself to the other: husband loving his wife as Christ loves the Church, and the wife, responding through her own reciprocal gift of sacrificial love. Saint Francis deSales counseled: “Above all, I would exhort all married couples to seek that mutual love so commended to them by the Holy Spirit in the Bible. It is little to bid you love one another with a mutual love — turtledoves do that; or with human love. … But I say to you in the Apostle’s words: ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church. … wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as unto the Lord. …’”( Ibid.). This word “submit” means returning love in the very way Christ loves us, the very way which Saint Paul instructs husbands to love their wives. Ultimately, husband and wife love one another by giving to each other for the total good of each other.

Dear Jubilarians, of course, you would be the first to confess that you have not loved either one another or your family members perfectly, that you have had to seek forgiveness from God and from one another for these failures to love. But Our God understands the fragility and limitations of human love, however noble it is. As I reminded us earlier, at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus came to the rescue of that newly married couple in trouble. His first miracle, brought about through His Mother’s intervention, was not only the solution of that couple’s imminent embarrassment but also and even more, the sign that in the New Covenant, which He came to establish, married love can be so transformed and strengthened that it is able, precisely through divine grace, to be mutually fulfilling and to enable the family in turn to be fully alive.

Today, we are celebrating, dear Jubilarians, not only your golden and silver wedding anniversaries with gratitude and pride, but also the witness of your married love, the good news of marriage and family life. Together we are proclaiming “the Gospel of the Family.”

MJM Bishop 3Indeed, on this very day, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family has concluded in Rome. The representatives of bishops from throughout the world, in union with the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ, had gathered to discuss new approaches to proclaim truthfully and with profound conviction the “Gospel of the Family,” entrusted to the Church with the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Regrettably, wildly diverse interpretations have been voiced ever since the original draft of the bishops’ interim report was made public, and as a result, so many people are being prematurely elated or dejected.

I repeat what I sent out in my letter to our faithful on Friday. Be at peace and do not let yourselves be disturbed or troubled. The truth about marriage, rooted in the Natural Law and in the Scriptures will not change. What the Church is seeking, in this Extraordianry Synod just concluded, in the many discussions to take place from now through the coming months into the Ordinary Synod scheduled for next October, is to arrive at new ways of expressing the perennial truth regarding marriage and the family and to propose the demands of living the realities more faithfully, more fruitfully and more gracefully. In this way, we can both proclaim and live: “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”

Dear Jubilarians, you have yourselves been endeavoring these past 50 or 25 years to make real the truth that in marriage love is the mission so that the family can live fully alive. We thank you for your untiring efforts, for your persevering witness and for your strengthening presence with in this diocesan church. Our prayers accompany you every day and does our profound affection and love.

See more pictures from the Marriage Jubilee Mass at the Diocese of Arlington’s Office for Family Life’s Facebook page here.

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 homily first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

Changed by Prayer

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:1-11).

Perhaps it is the seemingly rude form of address: Woman. Or the bluntness of the question itself: What have you to do with me? Most likely it is the combination of both that makes this question so shocking. And, granted, a certain shock value is intended. But neither the form of address nor the question should offend. The word “Woman” is used as an honorific, a term of respect — something akin to “my Lady.” The question itself is not a dismissal of His mother’s request, but rather an invitation to consider its implications more deeply.

Changed by Prayer PicAlthough Mary simply states a fact — “They have no wine” — her words carry the weight of a petition. She is clearly interceding, asking Him to do something that only He — not the headwaiter, not the sommelier, not the vintner — can do. This will be the first of His signs, by which He manifests His glory and His disciples believe in Him. This miracle will set into motion His public ministry, lifting the veil from the simple Carpenter of Nazareth and bringing Him to the Cross. And the instigator is His mother and her simple words of intercession.

So Jesus, by His striking but inoffensive question, calls her attention to what this will mean for her personally. Her request will change her, not only the events outside of her. “Woman,” He says, because she will become not only His Mother but also The Woman prophesied in Genesis (cf. Gen 3:15). “What have you to do with me?” He asks, because from this point on she will be not only His mother but also the New Eve to complement Him, the New Adam, in the work of redemption. His miracle will bring her to the foot of the Cross and to hear Him say, “Woman, behold your son.” There she will become not only His mother but Mother of the Church.

Thus, our Lord’s question asks, in effect, Are you willing to be changed? Are you willing to be not just My mother, but also the New Eve, My cooperator in the work of redemption, and  Mother of the Church? She, of course, is undaunted by His question and yields to the work of grace work within her. As always, the Virgin Mary demonstrates in a unique and unrepeatable way what is true for all Christians. In this case, that intercession calls for a personal investment, a willingness to be changed, to be more closely bound to the One to Whom we intercede.

We tend to view intercessory prayer in a mercantile manner: If I spend this amount of time in prayer, say this many rosaries or novenas, then I will get what I ask. Even better, we would like to deposit our request and be on our way. But when we pray for someone, we ourselves have to be invested in that prayer. Otherwise we become like pagans, who “think that they will be heard for their many words” (Mt 6:7). We ourselves have to be willing to be changed, not just the things outside of us. How much of our intercession is blocked or stifled because of our unwillingness to be changed! What an odd prayer of intercession, to beg God’s grace for others, and be unmoved by it ourselves.

Mary intercedes for this nameless couple…and our Lord calls attention to the change to occur in her. What we learn from our Lord’s question is that our prayer of intercession hinges on our union with Him and, even more, on our willingness to be transformed by that union. We cannot pray for a change and then be unwilling to change. As often as we intercede, we — wittingly or not — draw close to the Intercessor, to the one Mediator, Who alone obtains answers to our prayers. And we cannot remain the same in proximity to Him.

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

By: Natalie Plumb

I’ve always considered myself a strong person by nature. I never cry in front of anyone unless it’s a moment appropriate for mourning. I take in all that might happen to me in a given day – literal trauma, or no trauma – and reflect it. I don’t let it penetrate me. I listen to others’ problems or circumstances without judgment or surprise. I project neutrality. More poignantly, I rarely take the caution to “guard my heart,” as our Lord wisely advises in Proverbs 4:23, because I think I’m stronger than what will come my way. I mean…I am, right?

I felt very powerful and right about that. And then tears entered my day at an unexpected moment this week… I wanted to excuse myself for being such a child… I felt like rebuking myself for acting like a baby…

We_Can_Do_It!But why? Is it wrong to cry? Is it wrong to feel perceived as weak (admittedly, an onus we put on ourselves)?

I know that it’s impossible to pretend that everything bounces off of me – that everything is okay, no matter what happens or is said or done, including by myself to myself. But, still, I always try to mitigate that truth. I underestimate the power of emotional stress, which is more powerful than a physical ailment, at times, and is the thing that can quickly drive someone down the path of depression or insanity. Taylor Swift hits the right chord in “Shake It Off,” but only in part. You have to express your pain. You have to release it, acknowledge it, and then let it go.

And so, I ask: What is strength, if it’s not being strong enough to avoid being hurt? What is strength if I can’t desensitize myself to everything hurtful and simply let it “ride”?

I must have the definition of “strength” all backward. Literally.

I was sitting in a chapel, ironically earlier this same week when I unexpectedly found myself in a moment of weakness, flipping through the Bible and various other texts for spiritual inspiration (because I do a terrible job at simply sitting still), when I came across a verse that terrifies me, because it seems so impossible:

“…but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Huh? I thought, unable to fully make sense of what I read. How can I “boast…of my weaknesses”? What’s so “perfect” about “insults” or “constraints”? Instead of desperately skipping on to another passage like I normally would, I thought about it a little longer.

I repeated to myself: “When I am weak, only then am I strong.”

God, what does that mean? I guess I know what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean everything that I assume when I believe that I can make myself strong, without God’s help, and without trust in His goodness…

It doesn’t mean that we must be hard shells that never let a speck of pain influence us.

It doesn’t mean never to cry.

It doesn’t mean not to be influenced by external forces that may hurt you emotionally, spiritually or physically.

Imagine the kind of strength it takes to boast in your weaknesses… If I’m interpreting correctly, God doesn’t want us to try to do that on our own. God wants us to embrace our weaknesses, and turn them over to Him. He makes them strengths. He is in control. He will make us strong.

Now isn’t that yoke a lot less heavy to bear?

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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?

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