Humanae Vitae 25a: To Christian Couples

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

This section, which we’ll cover in two posts, is addressed directly to Catholic couples:

25. And now We turn in a special way to Our own sons and daughters, to those most of all whom God calls to serve Him in the state of marriage. While the Church does indeed hand on to her children the inviolable conditions laid down by God’s law, she is also the herald of salvation and through the sacraments she flings wide open the channels of grace through which (the person) is made a new creature responding in charity and true freedom to the design of his Creator and Savior, experiencing too the sweetness of the yoke of Christ. (See Mt 11. 30) In humble obedience then to her voice, let Christian husbands and wives be mindful of their vocation to the Christian life, a vocation which, deriving from their Baptism, has been confirmed anew and made more explicit by the Sacrament of Matrimony. For by this sacrament they are strengthened and, one might almost say, consecrated to the faithful fulfillment of their duties.

I think one might definitely say “consecrated.”

Thus will they realize to the full their calling and bear witness as becomes them, to Christ before the world. (See Gaudium et Spes 48; Lumen Gentium 35, 40-41) For the Lord has entrusted to them the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God’s love, God who is the Author of human life.

A significant thought. Part of the mission of marriage is to unite with Christ and his mission of spreading and preaching the Gospel. More emphasis there would be most helpful, I think. All too often, the focus of marriage catechesis is inward, on the couple and on their family. A sacramental generativity should also be facing outward, and able to spread the witness of love and commitment to the benefit of others.

We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the lives of Christian married couples. For them, as indeed for every one of us, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.” (Mt 7. 14; see Heb 12. 11) Nevertheless it is precisely the hope of that life which, like a brightly burning torch, lights up their journey, as, strong in spirit, they strive to live “sober, upright and godly lives in this world,” (See Ti 2. 12) knowing for sure that “the form of this world is passing away.” (See 1 Cor 7. 31)

Jesus would certainly acknowledge these difficulties. I believe he would address them with confidence in people, and with mercy ready at hand. What do you think?

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Misericordiae Vultus 24d: Turning to Saints

head of ChristSaint Faustina comes to mind as the modern saint most associated with mercy:

Our prayer also extends to the saints and blessed ones who made divine mercy their mission in life. I am especially thinking of the great apostle of mercy, Saint Faustina Kowalska. May she, who was called to enter the depths of divine mercy, intercede for us and obtain for us the grace of living and walking always according to the mercy of God and with an unwavering trust in his love.

Can you think of others? I would probably place Francis de Sales pretty highly in the coming year’s observance. What about your favorite saints?

The highlighted text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.

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In Between

Fr Francis X. Clooney has a thoughtful essay at America‘s blog. Living in and serving an academic community, I can certainly relate. Our students had their finals last week, and with summer term beginning tomorrow, the city and campus have had a quiet in-between time.

Some of our students have had a wonderful year; a few have suffered too much, and may not finish their work.

I was thinking of a young friend who has struggled with an injury piled on top of a change in her major field of study and has had to bow out two semesters in a row. Suffered too much? Yes, I can say that, too about this student, and perhaps a few others.

The young miss is also in between: out of high school and not yet in college. What will her future hold, I wonder. Suffering, I am sure. Most all students and young adults I know suffer in some way. Many of them long for some direction and not knowing which way to travel. Vocation and career and the sometimes mixed-up considerations that move people to a job or a life’s mission. This person who is loved, or maybe someone in the future who might be loved a bit more. And this in-between we see more in churches: how will faith be lived as an adult believer?

Fr Clooney’s conclusion sits well with me:

In-between holiness: perhaps this is the best we can hope for, much of the time. In all the in-between moments of our personal lives and work, in our divided society and amidst the growing pains of our Church, we can know this: Jesus, once and future lord of our lives, prays that we be protected, be holy, be on mission. He may have left and not yet returned, but the blessing stays on. And this, we are assured, is a joy that cannot be taken from us: “I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” (John 17.13)

In essence, we are on pilgrimage whether we recognize it or not. Home and settlement is a fleeting thing.

In my city, it seems like academic breaks are in-between, but in the larger picture, they are little blips in a much larger in-between for young adults. Between family of origin and family of choice, between childhood and workplace, there is a huge gulf. Most of our students do not settle in the university city after graduation–though a few seem to stave off a big geographical step. I live in a community in-between: not quite Iowa farming, and not quite a big city; the students are not quite children but not quite adults either; there is a search for knowledge at the same time many subjects and information is considered to be settled.

In-between holiness? Yes, that seems the best.

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PS 26: Covering Images During Lent

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check the full document Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet.

Bishops’ conferences determine if images of Christ and the saints may be covered:

26. The practice of covering the crosses and images in the church may be observed, if the episcopal conference should so decide. The crosses are to be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday. Images are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. (Roman Missal, rubric Saturday of the fourth week of Lent.)


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Free At Last!

Brittany senior yearWordPress didn’t like the file name of the graduation announcement, so here’s the text that went out with this picture of the young miss:

You’d be laughing too if you were graduating from high school. May 17th 2015.

I get a rare Sunday off to spend with family, friends, and especially my high-school-graduated daughter.


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No Dread, No Fear

At a job interview last month, one of the committee asked me for one-word answers to two final questions. What can you offer us, he asked. The other question was, “What can we offer you?” I don’t know what put it into my mind, but I said, “Trust.”

Why would I say that?

When I was reviewing some material on the Spiritual Exercises earlier today, I ran across some suggested Scripture passages for the theme of trust. Trust in God, of course. What do you make of the Israelites blanching at the prospect of invading Palestine, and God’s response:

Have no dread or fear of them.
The Lord your God, who goes before you,
is the one who will fight for you,
just as he did for you in Egypt
before your very eyes,
and in the wilderness,
where you saw how the Lord your God carried you,
just as one carries a child,
all the way that you travelled
until you reached this place. (Deut 1:29b-31)

It seems difficult enough to trust someone we can see, touch, and love. Even after twenty years of marriage, I still find myself looking over my shoulder on one or two small points now and then. I’m sure the young miss thinks the same way of her parents. How can we put our trust in an unseen God?

Consider also “this place” at which the Israelites have arrived: the doorstep of an already-occupied country. Why couldn’t the Promised Land have been empty and ready for settlement?

Often when we turn to God, we find ourselves in an untenable place: perched on the edge of death or disaster. God carried us all this way just to be dropped on our bottoms in the middle of trouble? Any hands for “No thanks!”?

Trust involves remembering. Can we conduct a remembrance of the good times? Are we in the habit of conducting a Daily Examen, especially mindful of that second step? After the stillness, the quieting down, it is time to be thankful. My suspicion is that Saint Ignatius has a carefully constructed activity in the everyday examination of one’s life. Quiet down from the clamor of life. Chill in the face of fear and dread.

When crisis hits, that would likely not be the optimal time to begin a practice of gratitude. In fact, a spiritual neophyte may well slap anyone talking such nonsense.

The key seems to be the cultivation of stillness, gratitude, and internal honesty. When we have taken the time with that–and it might take forty years–then I think the believer is more prepared to trust. To see how God has carried us, has gone to battle for us, and will do so again.

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Misericordiae Vultus 24abc: Turning to Mary

head of ChristOf course, the Blessed Mother features in the thinking of Pope Francis. Indeed after the title of “Queen,” we address her second as “Mother of Mercy” in the Salve Regina.

24. My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness. No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of his love.

Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary, from the outset, was prepared by the love of God to be the Ark of the Covenant between God and man. She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus. Her hymn of praise, sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth, was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends from “generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). We too were included in those prophetic words of the Virgin Mary. This will be a source of comfort and strength to us as we cross the threshold of the Holy Year to experience the fruits of divine mercy.

At the foot of the cross, Mary, together with John, the disciple of love, witnessed the words of forgiveness spoken by Jesus. This supreme expression of mercy towards those who crucified him show us the point to which the mercy of God can reach. Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception. Let us address her in the words of the Salve Regina, a prayer ever ancient and new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes towards us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son Jesus.

Mary’s life is steeped in the mercy of God. I have little other comment here. The highlighted text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.

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