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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at Saint Jude Syro-Malabar Church in Centreville.

I treasure a small icon given to me as a gift, depicting Saints Peter and Paul embracing one another. Their embrace reveals their unity or one-ness of faith in the Lord Jesus and of love for Him and His Church. Indeed, they were one, yet very diverse in their temperaments, talents and roles of service within the Church. Nonetheless, each one — Saint Peter and Saint Paul — is clearly a model for us to imitate as we travel together, disciples of Christ Jesus united in faith and in love.

Cavalier d'Arpino - Madonna and Child with Sts. Peter and PaulSaint Peter was — and is — the source of unity within the Community of Christ’s Disciples, the Church. He is the source of unity in faith. When Jesus Christ asked His disciples at Caesarea Philippi: “But who do you say that I am?”, it was Peter alone who professed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Authentic disciples of Jesus Christ are united fundamentally by their profession of this same act of faith: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Very Son of the Living God.”

Saint Peter is also the source of unity in leadership within the Church. In response to his profession of faith, the Lord Jesus clearly announced: “… and so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” By these words, the Lord Jesus appointed and confirmed Saint Peter to be the visible head of the Church, His Vicar on earth, the first among equals within the College of Apostles.

This role of leadership has continued down through the centuries; each successor of Saint Peter, the one who is the Bishop of Rome, the one we call “Holy Father” or “Pope”: he is the visible sign of unity in leadership within the Church Universal. Authentic disciples of Jesus Christ are united fundamentally by their communion with Saint Peter’s successor.

Saint Peter is likewise the source of unity among all Christ’s disciples: forming as they do the Universal Church as well as forming a particular diocesan Church. This unity is achieved through the union of each diocesan Church with the Church of Rome and all the other diocesan Churches. Every Eucharistic Prayer expresses this communion when it directly and clearly prays for unity between Francis our Pope and Paul our Bishop, by the members of the Arlington Diocese, or Jacob our Bishop, by the members of your Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago.

Saint Paul was — and is — the icon of evangelization. Persecutor of Christians turned convert, Saint Paul was irresistibly drawn to Jesus Christ and became passionately in love with Him. This conversion and deeply personal union with Jesus within the Community of the Disciples impelled Saint Paul to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to everyone and to the farthest bounds of his world. Yes, Saint Paul was passionate, zealous, determined, on fire with love for God and others, on fire to evangelize! And he remained so to the end, as we heard again in today’s second reading: “I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”

So, what lessons can we learn from Saints Peter and Paul?

(1) Saint Peter: Are we united by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Each day, through countless circumstances we are being asked: “Who do you say that I, Jesus Christ, am?” What is our real response? Our actions tell us! Are we united with the leadership within the Church? With our Holy Father, and with our proper bishop? Their style or approach in accidentals does not really matter. Are we listening to their teaching about faith and morals? Are we seeking to foster unity in faith by our concrete witness in daily life? Do we give to the Lord and to His chosen representatives our “obedience of faith”?

(2) Saint Paul: Are we daily seeking to be turned towards Jesus Christ more fully, to be converted, to be re-evangelized? Do we experience the joy of the Gospel, a joy rooted in our daily encounter with Jesus Christ? Are we eager to share the love of Jesus Christ and His message of hope and life with others? In a word, are we heralds and protagonists of the New Evangelization, our hearts on fire?

As members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, and this local visible expression, the Saint Jude Catholic Church here in Centreville, are you on fire to proclaim by your daily witness: “You are Christ, the Son of the Living God” and to invite everyone to come to know and love Jesus within the Community of His Disciples, the Church?

One final lesson to be learned. We are in the midst of the United States Bishops’ third Fortnight for Freedom, an extended period, from June 21 through July 4, for us to pray, to become more informed, to dialogue, and to witness for the cause of religious freedom, here in our own country and beyond. The freedom of religion is the first freedom. When the answer to the question “Who am I?” is “a disciple of Jesus Christ,” then every other action of ours flows from that identity. If I am not free to answer God’s call to love fully as Christ’s disciples, then all my other freedoms lose their meaning. Why have free speech if we cannot speak in praise of God? Why have freedom of association if we cannot gather as two or three and have Christ present among us?

It is our first freedom not simply as Catholics, but also as Americans. It is our first freedom because it comes first in our Bill of Rights — the guarantee of our freedom from an established state church and our freedom to exercise our religion without state interference. It is our first freedom as Americans because it was the reason why the first settlers came from England, so that they might be free to practice their beliefs free from the threat of oppression and governmental coercion.

At the same time, we can never allow our rights — even our right to freely worship — to become merely a political club by which we beat back our political or ideological enemies. We have rights in freedom because we have duties in love. Freedom of religion is not rooted merely in some sense of personal spiritual fulfillment. It flows from the duties we have as children of God to respond to His providence.

We serve our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends, our community and country best when we exemplify Christ the obedient Son who carries out the will of the Father. Our country is stronger and our people better when Christians are free to be images of Christ to the world, in our faith in God and our charity towards others. We know that our religious freedom is not some selfish design to fulfill our own plans, but our generous response to the love we have received from God. And so we insist on our rights in liberty not simply for our own sake, but for our neighbors and for the generations to follow. This is freedom’s ideal — that we are free to pursue the truly good, and so to serve the common good. This is why the theme for this year’s Fortnight for Freedom is “Freedom to Serve.” Please make your voices known in upholding and defending religious freedom.

Yes, the icon of Saints Peter and Paul is much more than a beautiful image of these two saints embracing each other in the unity of faith and love, although it is that in a very concrete way. The icon is the call and challenge to imitate Saints Peter and Paul, surrendering in faith to Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior; proclaiming Christ to everyone; and upholding and defending religious freedom. It is fundamentally and ultimately to live what we believe, not only in the private sector of religious worship, but also in the public square of concrete witness and involvement — for the common good and the salvation of the world!

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

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By: Mark Herrmann, Chancellor of the Diocese of Arlington

Practicing law in Virginia, in the course of mundane legal research, one occasionally runs across a historical gem. Reprinted below, from the 1855 case of Commonwealth v. Cronin (2 Va. Cir. 488), is the statement read into the court record by a Richmond priest, Fr. John Theeling, explaining his refusal to testify about matters disclosed to him in the confession of a dying woman:

Confessional“It is due to this honorable Court to state briefly my reasons for not answering the question proposed by the Counsel for the defense and to hesitate to do so, would argue a contempt for the majesty of the law and the dignity of this Court, the dispenser of the law.  Were I asked any question which I could answer from knowledge obtained in my civil capacity or as a private individual and citizen, I should not for a moment hesitate, nay more, I would consider it my duty, to lay before this honorable Court all the evidence I was in possession of, being mindful of the precept of the apostle, ‘Let every soul be subject to higher powers, for there is no power but from God and those that are ordained of God; therefore he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation,’ Rom. 13, chap. 1 and 2, v.  But if required to answer any question in the quality of a Catholic Minister of the sacrament of penance, when I believe God himself has imposed an inviolable and eternal secrecy, I am bound to be silent, although instant death were to be the penalty of my refusal.  The question proposed by the counsel for the defense affects me in the latter capacity and hence I must decline to answer it.  Whilst in so doing, I must respectfully disclaim any intention of contempt or disrespect directly or indirectly to this honorable Court.  Is a Catholic priest ever justified under any circumstances in revealing the secrets of the sacramental confession?  I answer, No. That no power on earth civil or ecclesiastical, spiritual or temporal can ever, under any circumstances, dispense with this perpetual obligation of secrecy, so that were pope Pius the IX in this Court, and if I can suppose for a moment, he should so far abuse his sacred authority and in the plenitude of that authority, as my first spiritual superior on earth, should request, admonish and command me to answer the question proposed, my answer would be to him what it was to the prisoner’s counsel.

“I can say nothing about the matter.  The law which prohibits me from revealing what I learn in the sacramental confession, Catholics believe to be divine and emanates from our Lord himself.  It is a tenet of the Catholic Church, that Christ instituted seven sacraments, neither more nor less. Con. Florent. in Decret’s ad Armenos. Con. Trident., Sess. 7, Can 1.

“It is also an article of Catholic faith that penance is one of those sacraments instituted by Christ for the remission of sins committed after baptism. Con. Trident., Sess. 14, Can. 1.

“And that sacramental confession forms an essential and component part of this sacrament.  Further, that the obligation of secrecy is especially connected with the divine institution of confession.  For if it would be lawful to a catholic priest in any case to reveal what was certified to him in confession, the divine precept of confession would become merely nugatory, and there is no person who would be willing to disclose to a priest an occult sin, which could be made public and blacken his fair name.  Such a revelation, if permitted, would be destructive of the divine precept of confession.

“But as we cannot suppose that Christ, the eternal Wisdom of the eternal Father, would pull down with one hand what he had erected with the other, and as we Catholics believe he instituted sacramental confession; and for the practice of confession, secrecy is absolutely necessary, we conclude that inviolable secrecy is commanded by our Lord in the obligation of confessing our sins.  If then, I were so forgetful of the solemn obligations not arising simply from ecclesiastical but from the divine law, not from man but directly from God – as to answer the question proposed, I should be forever degraded, rendered infamous in the eye of the Catholic church, shunned by every Catholic, and I believe by every honorable man; no matter how far his religious opinions and mine might differ.  Shunned and rendered infamous as a sacrilegious wretch, who had trampled on his most holy and solemn obligations and violated the sacred laws of nature, of his God and of man.  I would be forever deposed from the sacred ministry and where the Canon law forms part of the civil law, be condemned to perpetual imprisonment in a monastery, there to repent during my life the horrid crime I would have committed. 4 Con. Lateran., Can. 21.  But what is still more than all, I would violate the dictates of my conscience, that stubborn monitor whose voice would forever whisper to my soul black and dire sacrilege.  I might endeavor to smother its cry, but all my attempts would only add strength to its terrible reproaches and warnings.  You have committed sacrilege of the deepest dye – sacrilege to be punished forever, by the eternal vengeance of a just and offended Deity.  I have endeavored thus to state my reasons as clearly as I could for not answering the question proposed.  I thank this honorable Court for the kind and patient hearing which it has extended to me.  Whatever may be its decision, I shall receive it with respect.”

The judge in the case, the Hon. John A. Meredith, ruled that Father Theeling did not have to answer the question.

Mark Herrmann is the Chancellor and General Counsel of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

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By: Natalie Plumb

I hesitate to call anything “normal.” But some things simply are. We are all different, but we are all sinners. We are all unique Children of God, but we all fall. The same is true with prayer.

Bulleted lists and “three simple steps” are corny, but I think this most important of building blocks to our faith merits a “formula of difficulties” if what you need is a jump start, a pick-me-up from the rut of dryness, doubt or discernment.

360_mother_teresa_0820Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended a fantastic set of prayer talks led by seminarian Matthew Fish at Epiphany Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Washington. From those talks, I took a lot. From it, in coming weeks, what I hope to share with you most is a particular set of periods we all go through in prayer. I’ll seek to break them down, and apply them to my life (which shouldn’t prove too difficult). This will be as much a relieving exercise for me as it is vulnerable. Hopefully through that, it will be revealing to you in your prayer life, giving you relief if you are struggling, and hope if you are on the brink of despair.

So here goes…

I quite possibly never recovered fully from my “honeymoon with God.” I used to kneel every day in front of my bedroom window, and just talk to my Savior. I had a true relationship with Him. I never missed a night in front of that window, looking up at the sky, and for the star that I just knew was winking at me.

Distractions of the world consumed me starting sometime in high school, and they became stronger in college. My prayer life began to dwindle because I “wasn’t feeling anything.” I started to crave the consolation of prayer desperately. And in a lot of ways I still do.

Prayer can make us feel good. Prayer can give us sensations of euphoria. It can give us satisfaction. Essentially what we begin to fall in love with after a while, until God inserts change, is “what we want” out of prayer (read: prayer is not a substitute for happy gas), even without giving us “what we need.” So that’s when God begins to pull away. He says, Come closer, my Child.

In reality, dryness in prayer is a call for you to deeper holiness, and deeper sacrifice of time, thought, body, and mind.

If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, take consolation…basically, you’ve progressed in your prayer life so far that God wants you to graduate to the next level, and to take it up a notch.

When life has you on your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray. If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, and the feedback you think you “need,” remember that God knows exactly what and how much you actually need, and abandon yourself to His Divine Providence. If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, take consolation in the fact that you’ve hit a bump in the road – basically, you’ve progressed in your prayer life so far that God wants you to graduate to the next level, and to take it up a notch. So don’t give up. Pray through the storm.

Here’s a short and sweet example of a prayer I might say (often enough), in times when I’m dry, and I feel as if I’m receiving little consolation and feedback from my Father:

Dearest Jesus,

You hold my heart. You have it close to You. I want to proclaim Your name to all the earth. But my lips are dry. My heart feels stale. My body aches for some sort of sign that I am still being held by You.

I will pray through this. I cannot fail. You are Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

When I am down, I am in no better position than to pray. I need periods of dryness so that I can see that consolations are only Yours to give.

Help me to face this period of dryness with the humility and the fierce strength of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Amen.

In coming weeks, I’ll discuss doubt in prayer and discernment. Mother Teresa, pray for us!

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.

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From the Office of Communications

 

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

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Asking for forgiveness, Pope Francis told abuse survivors that “despicable actions” caused by clergy have been hidden for too long and had been “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

“There is no place in the church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not,” and to hold all bishops accountable for protecting young people, the pope said during a special early morning Mass for six survivors of abuse by clergy. The Mass and private meetings held later with each individual took place in the Domus Sanctae Marthae — the pope’s residence and a Vatican guesthouse where the survivors also stayed.

Pope FrancisIn a lengthy, off-the-cuff homily in Spanish July 7, the pope thanked the men and women — two each from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany, for coming to the Vatican to meet with him. The Vatican provided its own translations of the unscripted homily.

The pope praised their courage for speaking out about their abuse, saying that telling the truth “was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the church.”

The pope said the scandal of abuse caused him “deep pain and suffering. So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

He called sex abuse a “crime and grave sin,” that was made even worse when carried out by clergy.

“This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors” violated the innocence of children and their own vocation to God, he said.

“It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of concupiscence,” the pope said.

The pope asked God “for the grace to weep, the grace for the church to weep and make reparations for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons” and left life-long scars.

He told the men and women sitting in the pews that God loved them and he prayed that “the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed.”

In an effort to help the abuse survivors heal, the pope met individually with each one, accompanied by a loved one or family member and a translator, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told journalists.

The pope spent a total of three hours and twenty minutes in closed-door talks with each person, showing the rest of the church that the path of healing is through dialogue and truly listening to victims, Father Lombardi said.

The Jesuit priest said the men and women were visibly moved by the Mass and meetings and had “felt listened to,” and that the encounter was “something positive on their journey” of healing.

The length and nature of the pope’s very first meeting with abuse survivors represent “a sign, a model, an example” for the rest of the church, that “listening is needed” along with tangible efforts for understanding and reconciliation, he said.

Responding to critics that the July 7 meeting and Mass were ineffectual and part of a publicity stunt, Father Lombardi said that if people had been able to see, as he had, the reactions of the men and women who took part in the private gathering, “it was clear that it was absolutely not a public relations event.”

The raw emotion on people’s faces, including the pope’s, as well as his strongly worded homily, all showed the effort had been about “a dialogue with a pastor and father who tries to understand deeply” the wrongs that have been committed and the need “to be honest about reality,” the Vatican spokesman said.

It was the first time Pope Francis met directly with a group of victims of clerical abuse, following a tradition begun by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who met with victims for the first time as pope in 2008 during a visit to Washington, D.C. The retired pope subsequently met with other victims during his pastoral visits to Sydney, Malta, Great Britain and Germany.

Pope Francis had told reporters in May that he would be meeting with a group of survivors of abuse from various countries and would celebrate a private Mass with them. The pope had asked Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston — the head of a new Vatican commission on protecting minors — to help organize the encounter.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which the pope established in December, met July 6 at the Vatican, and its members, including Cardinal O’Malley, were also present at the July 7 Mass.

The commission, which currently has eight members, including a survivor of clerical sex abuse, mental health professionals and experts in civil and church law, is tasked with laying out a pastoral approach to helping victims and preventing abuse.

 

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By: Natalie Plumb

We celebrated a tremendous victory on Monday when the Supreme Court decided in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects closely held, private for-profit corporations from being forced to comply with the HHS mandate under Obamacare. The mandate would force these corporations to provide insurance coverage of abortifacient drugs and devices, regardless of the owners’ religious conscience, and despite their faith that forbids complicity in abortion. For cogent Catholic responses to this, read this articlethis article, this article and this article.

HobbyLobby

I must not be the first to notice that, in the midst of this grand decision, we are also in the midst of the Fortnight for Freedom, “a time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power — St. Thomas More, the Patron of the Diocese of Arlington, St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.”

Today, on July 4, we celebrate our Independence Day. That means freedom. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom of religion. As the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Thank you, Supreme Court, for upholding those roots and those rights. But, as Bishop Loverde stressed in his column, never stop praying; never quit fighting! The battle has only just begun.

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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

**EDITOR’S NOTE: This column originally ran in the Arlington Catholic Herald (view it here). It serves as a reminder to us to continue praying for religious liberty, especially since the Diocese of Arlington will be celebrating the Fortnight for Freedom tomorrow, June 28, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Herndon. For more information, please see the Facebook event at on.fb.me/1lPC1PF. **

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More – Patron Saint of the Diocese of Arlington

Freedom to Serve is the theme for the third annual “Fortnight for Freedom,” June 21–July 4. I join my brother bishops in urging you to participate in this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action devoted to upholding religious freedom at home and abroad.

What does it mean to be truly free? Who or what can make us free? For whom are we seeking freedom this Fortnight? I suggest three emphases that can illuminate the meaning and significance of authentic religious freedom: truthfulness, heroic witness in Christ, and vigilance.

The Gospel of John relates that as Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he was harassed by those who resisted the truth that He was revealing. Jesus assured those who believed in h
im: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:32). Truth is not simply factual data. It is essential because it expresses what is in accord with the nature of persons, things, and actions as they really are. Jesus did not hesitate to tell the truth in love and chose to identify Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

In his series of audiences on Theology of the Body, Saint John Paul II explained how the opening chapter of Genesis celebrates the splendor of a free creation and the original design of God for human happiness. He describes what occurred when those at the fountainhead of humanity sinned, violating their relationship with God and one another. The effects reverberated throughout the world. Fundamentally, all sin is deceptive, seeming to promise happiness while undermining what is genuinely truthful and good. As Genesis relates, Adam and Eve, in their unhappy shame for what they had done, tried to lie even to God!

Whenever there is an attempt to subvert the truth about the reality of God, or the meaning of life and creation, freedom is lost. Respect for the true nature of people and things gives way to domination and the struggle to control people and events by force and legal fiats. Of ourselves, we cannot achieve or maintain freedom. We have just completed an intensified liturgical celebration of our Redemption in Jesus Christ and have sacramentally experienced how Christ, “the Way, the Truth and the life,” has indeed set us free.

The martyrs, and all who live a heroic witness to the truth in the midst of a world disfigured by sin, inspire and assist us as we enter the Fortnight for Freedom, which does not come without cost. We are accompanied by those who have been willing to suffer, even die, for the truths in Christ that make us free. Saint Paul encouraged the Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1).

How privileged we are to have Saint Thomas More the principal patron of our diocese! Under duress, he remained faithful to the truth of divine and ecclesial realities rather than yield to the force of an earthly king. Although condemned to death, Thomas More, like Christ, was truly free and faithful. After his sufferings in the Tower of London, Thomas joked with the man assigned to be his executioner, who would drop the sharp-edged blade on his neck. In a later age, the poet Paul Claudel, would honor such inner freedom in his admonition: “To mount the cross laughing.”

A third way to increase understanding of religious freedom is accurate knowledge of dangers to religious liberty in our nation and throughout the world. In a word — vigilance. Laws, mandates, and judges’ decisions are requiring actions that violate the truth of the human person and override principles of moral responsibility. For example, institutions and agencies that provide health care, serve immigrants, or enable the adoption of children are threatened with severe penalties or closure for refusing to perform services that violate the truths of sexuality and marriage. Business owners seeking exemptions from governmental directives that violate their consciences are facing crippling fines. Protecting religious freedom to be of service to others, especially to those who are in most need, without losing moral integrity, is urgently needed.

And so, as we once again mark these ongoing challenges with a Fortnight for Freedom, I urge you to participate in a tangible way, to inform yourselves, to advocate, to pray and to sacrifice. This is no small matter because our ability as Catholics to participate in civil society as full citizens is threatened, with directs impacts on the vital works of charity the Church performs. I am marking the Fortnight in a particular way on June 28th from 9 a.m. to noon at St. Joseph’s Church in Herndon, as I host a diocesan event explaining clearly our concerns regarding religious liberty and providing for intercessory prayer. Speakers include Catholic University of America President John H. Garvey in what promises to be an informative and meaningful gathering, and I urge you to join me if at all possible. We must be free to serve others as Jesus Christ has mandated us to do!

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

It is a strange and scary thing when civil authorities write to a bishop and tell him how to live his faith and mission. Do not let the issue of homosexuality or the politically charged same-sex marriage agenda blind you to what is really going on here. The letter written to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone by California government leaders and various gay activists and religious groups, as well as a letter from U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, telling him not to attend the second annual March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., on June 19, 2014, was about a group telling a man how he should act as a Catholic Archbishop.

So how should we feel about government officials deciding what acceptable Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Nancy Pelosi-x400Catholic behavior should be? In fact, some of the signers of the letter portray themselves as faithful, devout Catholics, yet they do not agree with Catholic Church teachings. Predictably, they use Pope Francis, wrenching his words “Who am I to judge?” to mean “Anything goes!”  Ironically, this does not seem to apply to Archbishop Cordileone attending the March for Marriage. Who are they to judge his attendance? The very Pope they attempt to use as a rhetorical weapon, only four years ago fought against politicians in Argentina just like them!

Let’s be honest: We all try to separate our actions from our person.  We are all pretty convinced that just because we “haven’t killed anybody,” our lies, infidelities, selfishness, and inactive faith life aren’t so bad. We are “good people,” even spiritual. But following the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Ten Commandments seem, quite frankly, just too hard, rather optional really. Sometimes being Catholic can be downright embarrassing, especially when you do not agree with the truths of God’s law, or you don’t even know what they are. Without sound catechesis and an active prayer and sacramental life, attempting to live as a Catholic in the public square can be difficult. Pretty quickly, truth becomes relative. At times even hostile. We want our faith, without the truth it teaches. It is the American “right” that comes with the privatization of religion. Catholics have bought into the rhetoric: I’m Catholic, but my faith isn’t part of my public life. Wasn’t that the great demand made of President John Kennedy? And certainly many, if not most, of our Catholic politicians now live by this construct.

In the letter written to Archbishop Cordileone, the authors quoted Pope Francis, saying: “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” What they failed to include were the strong words of then Cardinal Bergoglio, who adamantly fought against same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010, stating:

“In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts….let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”[1]

Archbishop Cordileone is, in fact, doing exactly what Pope Francis would ask him to do; what, in fact, he himself did: act like a Catholic Archbishop. In his response to the letter urging that he not attend the March for Marriage, the Archbishop of San Francisco teaches us what that means:

“I appreciate your affirmation of my Church’s teaching—not unique to our religion, but a truth accessible to anyone of good will—on the intrinsic human dignity of all people, irrespective of their stage and condition in life.  That principle requires us to respect and protect each and every member of the human family, from the precious child in the womb to the frail elderly person nearing death.  It also requires me, as a bishop, to proclaim the truth—the whole truth—about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing. I must do that in season and out of season, even when truths that it is my duty to uphold and teach are unpopular, including especially the truth about marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. That is what will be doing on June 19th.”[2]

On Thursday, many Catholics, and those of other faiths, will be joining him in voicing the importance of marriage and family, and the right for a child to have a mother and a father. Incidentally, the Italian name Cordileone means “heart of the lion.”  So how should we feel about government officials attempting to decide what acceptable Catholic behavior should be? Fortunately, the good archbishop answers the question for us. The Archbishop courageously imitates the “Lion of Judah,” Jesus Christ Himself, in presenting timeless essential truth, based in true love and charity.

Please see Bishop Paul Loverde’s statement in support of Archbishop Cordileone here.


[1] National Catholic Register. (2010, July 8). Retrieved from http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/cardinal_bergoglio_hits_out_at_same-sex_marriage#ixzz34v0Jfjn6 

[2] Archdiocese of San Francisco. (2014, June 16). Retrieved from http://www.sfarchdiocese.org/about-us/archbishop-cordileone/homilies-writings-and-statements/?search=march%20for%20marriage&C=940&I=4035

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By: Deacon Marques Silva

Images are compact carriers of meaning. They have the ability to communicate volumes of information with a glance and, at times, provide hours of fruitful meditation with just a little informed reflection. Signs and symbols are a tool to bridge the learning gap which, during various parts of history, was important –the prince and pauper are suddenly both able to learn regardless of education.

Artists over the centuries have used many symbols and images to communicate and teach us about our faith. Many of these great masters have used natural symbols, illustrations from Sacred Scripture, and, at times, they have redeemed and Christianized ancient mythological symbols.

Since it is May, I thought we could consider three fruit (actually two and a nut) used in art to symbolize our Lady and some of her attributes.

Take the pomegranate. We may remember our Classic Greek and its connection with Persephone and Hades (Since she ate six seeds, Botticelli - Madonna with PomegranatePersephone live in the Underworld for six months, fall and winter, and then above ground for six months, spring and summer). This image of fruitfulness was redeemed most notably by Sandro Botticelli (Madonna of the Pomegranate, c. 1497) and Leonardo da Vinci (Madonna and Child with a Pomegranate, c. 1475/1480). Traditionally in Christian art, it continues to be a symbol for both the Church and the Blessed Virgin Mary expressing her fruitfulness and unity with the Will of God because of the close-knit structure of the fruit.

Then there is the pear which was “rarely used except in paintings of the Renaissance and Baroque periods”. It symbolizes the fruit of her womb. Typically, it is combined with other fruit and flowers in images of Our Lady. Albrecht Dürer, in his Madonna of the Pear, c. 1512, was an exception when he painted Our Lord holding a slice of pear in his infant hands.

We also cannot forget the almond which in art symbolizes divine favor while also suggesting the protection of valuables by virtue of its strong shell. In Judaism, almond blossoms were the model for the cups on the Menorah. Sacred Scripture seems to prefigure Our Lady in Numbers 17: 1-8 and thus attached this symbol to her in art. For a number of centuries, the almond shape itself appeared in artwork as the halo or nimbus around the head of Virgin Mary, as in Raphael’s Virgin and Child also known as the Bridgewater Madonna. You might also consider the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the almond shape  Mandorla that surrounds her completely.

Summertime always seems to offer families the most excellent excuse to go on vacation and visit museums. Perhaps this summer, you could visit the National Gallery of Art (For those in the D.C. Metropolitan area) and see if you can spot the various symbols for Our Lady in the Christian artwork. I provided you with three examples of fruits but there are many more – especially if you start considering flowers. Looking for more resources? Check out the following websites: Signs and Symbols and Fish Eaters – Christian Symbols.

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By: Rev. Paul Scalia

The origins of Mother’s Day seem to have been entirely secular.  And it is always at risk of being overwhelmed by commercialization (if it has not been already).  Nevertheless, we should appreciate the importance of such a day and welcome the opportunity to honor and thank our mothers.  Further, we should situate the day within our faith and welcome the opportunity to honor Mary as Mother.

MarianAnd perhaps the first thing to appreciate is that Mary really is our Mother.  This title is not a fiction…or even a title!  It is a real relationship.  Still, most Catholics probably think of Mary as mother only by analogy — she cares for us as a mother cares for her children, as if she were our mother.  Traditionally it is said that she is our Mother in the order of grace — which to modern ears might as well mean in a make believe world. In fact, when we call her Mother we mean it literally. Just as our mothers cooperated with God’s action in bringing about our natural life, so Mary cooperated with God in bringing about our supernatural life.

The concept of Mary as our Mother is one of the most tender and pleasing in our faith.  It has inspired some of the most beautiful writings, prayers, songs and works of art.  But as is always the case with popular and childlike devotions, it rests on solid theological doctrinal foundations.  Let us not think that speaking of Mary as “Mother” is a weak, childish, or saccharine devotion (no matter how saccharine some may make it seem!).  Such devotion both rests on and guards important truths of our faith.

First, the primacy of grace.  We cannot speak of Mary as Mother without turning our attention to the reality of grace.  She is our Mother only because by grace we are one with her Son. Reborn in Jesus Christ we are children of His Father (Sons in the Son, as the hymn has it) — and of His Mother as well.  In the order of grace does not mean make-believe or fictional.  Grace — that divine assistance that brings us rebirth, adorns the soul with virtues, and brings us to the glory of heaven — is more real than anything else we find in the so-called “real world.”  Strange creatures that we are, with one foot in this world and the other in heaven, we live in two “orders.”  We have what God has made us by nature (man, woman, body, soul, intellect, will, etc.).  We have also what He has made us by His grace: children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature.  To venerate her as Mother — Mother of Divine Grace — means to pay attention to the primacy of grace in our lives.

Second, the Incarnation.  The grace that gives life to our souls comes to us only through the sacred humanity of our Lord.  His human nature is the instrument by which He wins for us every grace.  And He only has that human nature — that instrument of grace — by way of Mary’s motherhood.  In becoming His mother, by bestowing upon Him a human nature, she by extension becomes Mother to all reborn by His grace.  Our devotion to Mary as Mother guards and enhances our love for His sacred humanity.

Third, the Crucifixion. It was on the Cross that our Lord offered the sacrifice of His life and fulfilled the purpose of the Incarnation.  It was on the Cross that He won every grace for us.  It is there, at the source of supernatural life, that Mary unites her will to His.  She is not a bystander but a cooperator.  She had surrendered her humanity so that He could come into the world as man.  Now she assents to the final purpose of His coming: to offer Himself on the Cross.  There she is given to us as Mother: “Woman, behold you son…Behold your mother” (Jn 19:26-27).  Devotion to Mary as Mother should bring us closer to the Cross, where alone we learn the price of our salvation and the extent of God’s love.

That great Marian priest, Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort teaches that Mary destroys all heresies in the world.  But we should not think that she does so by force.  Ever our Mother — more a mother than a queen, as Saint Therese says — she raises us in the faith to be free and immune from heresy.  Devotions, such as that to Mary as Mother, introduce strong solid doctrine into our hearts and minds by way of simple, endearing, childlike means.  This devotion protects us from many errors.  But more importantly, it binds us closer to saving truths, and to the gentle power of Mary, our Mother.

Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us.

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By: Erin Kisley

Have you ever heard the words, “You May Now Kiss the Cross,” at a wedding? If you’re not living in Siroki-Brijeg, Herzegovina, there’s a decent chance that your answer is no. These words are part of a beautiful Croatian marriage tradition from this village that is slowly making its way throughout Europe and to the United States.[1]

CalcuttaHerald…A tradition that, while neither of us claims a Croatian heritage, Joe and I have decided to incorporate into our nuptials.

On our wedding day (shameless countdown update: we are 10 weeks away!), Joe and I will bring a crucifix with us to the altar. Our priest will bless it as I place my right hand on the crucifix and Joe places his hand over mine. He will cover our hands with his stole as we declare our vows to be faithful to one another. Then, together, we kiss the greatest image of love, the Cross.

While this probably makes us sound much holier than we are, the truth is, you don’t have to be up for canonization to acknowledge a reality that drives many modern couples apart: suffering. It’s no secret that we live in a culture that finds every excuse to avoid it. The wounds of financial strain, infertility, infidelity and bad days are made “better” by credit cards, in vitro fertilization, divorce and the like.

Yet, if we desire to experience the fullness of love and the true meaning of marriage, we will see our crosses as the means of getting ourselves and our families to Heaven. For it is the cross that helps us to grow in maturity, self-discipline and true charity. This powerful Croatian tradition reminds us that if the bride and groom abandon their cross, they are essentially abandoning Jesus and His plan for their lives.

After the ceremony (and the photos, reception and goodbyes), we will bring the crucifix back and give it a place of honor in our home. It will become the focal point of our family. When misfortune or conflict arise, with faith, we will seek help there, before the Cross. We’ll get on our knees and in front of Jesus will weep our tears, pour out our hearts, and seek the help of Him who died for us.

Isn’t this beautiful? Did I mention that Siroki-Brijeg has no recorded divorces? Not one.  Coincidence? I think not.

In his recently issued pastoral letter on artificial contraception, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb., writes: “We live in a world short on love. Today love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things and comfort and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.”

I ask: In whom can we find a greater example of love and meaning than Our Jesus, crucified?


[1] Loveoffering.com, 2002.

 

This is the ninth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

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