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A new pathway to peace.

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For many years have I used the Rosary to meditate on the life of Our Lord, particularly during Lent and during the months of November- The month of the Rosary, and in May – The month of Our Lady.

Until ten days ago I hadn’t experienced the intense consolation one receives from meditating on the different parts of Christ’s life. I’d always listened to those who have only praise for this method of prayer, feeling at a loose end because I didn’t feel the same way. Ten days ago we received a call from South Africa to say that my mother was on her deathbed. I had been praying the Rosary during November, so when I thought immediately of praying the Rosary  I assumed it was just a knee-jerk reaction to pick up the beads again. I could not have been more wrong.

I lit a candle and earnestly prayed the Joyful Mystery: -

1. The Annunciation of the Lord to Mary

2. The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

3. The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ

4. The Presentation of our Lord

5. Finding Jesus in the Temple at age 12

I prayed the Creed with an intensity I had never known before. I prayed about my Faith. About what I believe from the depths of my being. It took on a new meaning for me. While in prayer I began to feel a deep sense of hope, as I grasped the enormity of what God has done for me, and more importantly, for my mother at this critical juncture of her life on earth. God sent His only Son for our Salvation, in order for us to have Life after death.

And so  each day since then have I prayed the Rosary and received much consolation and reassurance in return. Read here to learn how to pray the Rosary if you haven’t done so before.

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Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared– whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima — she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ.

Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ “not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done.”
The great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: “The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love.

Humanae Vitae: Day 31 A Great work

We’ve finally arrived at the concluding paragraph of this great encyclical: 

A Great Work

31. Venerable brothers, beloved sons, all men of good will, great indeed is the work of education, of progress and of charity to which We now summon all of you. And this We do relying on the unshakable teaching of the Church, which teaching Peter’s successor together with his brothers in the Catholic episcopate faithfully guards and interprets. And We are convinced that this truly great work will bring blessings both on the world and on the Church. For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. On this great work, on all of you and especially on married couples, We implore from the God of all holiness and pity an abundance of heavenly grace as a pledge of which We gladly bestow Our apostolic blessing.

Given at St. Peter’s, Rome, on the 25th day of July, the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of Our pontificate.

PAUL VI

“Man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature”.  Amen.  That is why this is the work of the whole Church and why Pope Paul VI called on all groups of individuals to witness to and defend God’s plan for marriage and the family.  God knew what He was doing when He created man and woman, marriage, sex, and the family.  Abortion, contraception, same-sex “marriages” – all of these things are contrary to God’s design and great troubles come when we ignore God’s will.  Therefore, the Church has an obligation to teach God’s plan for marriage to the world and to defend marriage and the family against all attacks.  The Church must be guaranteed the freedom to do this.  The well-being of the human race depends on it.

Signature of Pope Paul VI

Humanae Vitae: Day 30 To Bishops

To Bishops

30. And now as We come to the end of this encyclical letter, We turn Our mind to you, reverently and lovingly, beloved and venerable brothers in the episcopate, with whom We share more closely the care of the spiritual good of the People of God. For We invite all of you, We implore you, to give a lead to your priests who assist you in the sacred ministry, and to the faithful of your dioceses, and to devote yourselves with all zeal and without delay to safeguarding the holiness of marriage, in order to guide married life to its full human and Christian perfectionConsider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time. As you well know, it calls for concerted pastoral action in every field of human diligence, economic, cultural and social. If simultaneous progress is made in these various fields, then the intimate life of parents and children in the family will be rendered not only more tolerable, but easier and more joyful. And life together in human society will be enriched with fraternal charity and made more stable with true peace when God’s design which He conceived for the world is faithfully followed.

Bishops, in being zealous in their own defense of the sanctity of both marriage and life, make themselves a shining example for both priests and laity.  This is “one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time” because the well-being of families and society as a whole depends on the faithful following of God’s plan for marriage.

Humanae Vitae: Day 28 Priests

To Priests

28. And now, beloved sons, you who are priests, you who in virtue of your sacred office act as counselors and spiritual leaders both of individual men and women and of families—We turn to you filled with great confidence. For it is your principal duty—We are speaking especially to you who teach moral theology—to spell outclearly and completely the Church’s teaching on marriage. In the performance of your ministry you must be the first to give an example of that sincere obedience, inward as well as outward, which is due to the magisterium of the Church. For, as you know, the pastors of the Church enjoy a special light of the Holy Spirit in teaching the truth (Lumen Gentium, n. 25).  And this, rather than the arguments they put forward, is why you are bound to such obedience. Nor will it escape you that if men’s peace of soul and the unity of the Christian people are to be preserved, then it is of the utmost importance that in moral as well as in dogmatic theology all should obey the magisterium of the Church and should speak as with one voice. Therefore We make Our own the anxious words of the great Apostle Paul and with all Our heart We renew Our appeal to you: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor 1. 10).

A priest is a servant of the Truth, and Jesus Himself is the Truth.  And so, “whether in season or out of season, convenient or inconvenient”, priests are called to preach the Truth.  We are also called to be compassionate just as Jesus is compassionate toward us.

The mistake that some make is in thinking that preaching about abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage” is somehow not compassionate (or not “pastoral”).  But truth and compassion are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, to fail to preach the truth is to fail in compassion.  Why?  Because we are convinced by our Lord’s words to us when He says that the truth will set you free (cf. Jn 8:32).  If truth is what sets people free, then we priests must preach the truth whether it makes us popular or unpopular, liked or hated.  We priests have an obligation to preach the truth so that our culture may be free from the Culture of Death.  Nothing will change if we priests do not do our job.

There are, of course, certain obstacles that priests run into when trying to be faithful to their call.  So please pray for bishops and priests that we may all have the courage and the grace to persevere no matter the consequences.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae: Day 27 Doctors and Nurses

To Doctors and Nurses

27. Likewise we hold in the highest esteem those doctors and members of the nursing profession who, in the exercise of their calling, endeavor to fulfill the demands of their Christian vocation before any merely human interest. Let them therefore continue constant in their resolution always to support those lines of action which accord with faith and with right reason. And let them strive to win agreement and support for these policies among their professional colleagues. Moreover, they should regard it as an essential part of their skill to make themselves fully proficient in this difficult field of medical knowledge. For then, when married couples ask for their advice, they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them in the proper direction. Married couples have a right to expect this much from them.

Obviously, doctors and nurses should never advise anyone to do anything that is contrary to the Gospel of Life, but Christian doctors and nurses should also be well-informed about the life issues.  They should know about those things that are contrary to the Gospel of Life, but they should also be able to direct couples who likewise want to be faithful to God’s plan for marriage.  They should know why In Vitro Fertilization, even if it done with good intentions, is by its nature contrary to the Gospel of Life and is therefore gravely sinful.  They should know about things such as Natural Family Planning so that they can help couples to understand it and its benefits.

Humanae Vitae: Day 25

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To Christian 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 man 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 (cf. 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. Thus will they realize to the full their calling and bear witness as becomes them, to Christ before the world.  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.

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” (cf. Mt 7:14; 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,” (Ti 2:12) knowing for sure that “the form of this world is passing away” (cf. 1 Cor 7:31).

Again, the Church is aware the the vocation to marriage has its challenges.  Every vocation has its challenges – that’s part of being a disciple who is called to pick up his cross and follow the example of the Lord.  But the sacraments of baptism and matrimony give husbands and wives the strength that they need to live their vocation faithfully, and if they cooperate with these graces and strive to live faithfully, they will receive the crown of eternal life in the end.

Recourse to God

For this reason husbands and wives should take up the burden appointed to them, willingly, in the strength of faith and of that hope which “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).  Then let them implore the help of God with unremitting prayer and, most of all, let them draw grace and charity from that unfailing fount which is the Eucharist. If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.  In this way, for sure, they will be able to reach that perfection of married life which the Apostle sets out in these words: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. . . Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church. . . This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:25, 28-29, 32-33).

So what is it that will allow married couples to persevere in their vocation? Prayer, the Eucharist, and – if they should succumb to human weakness – Confession.  Most importantly, Paul VI makes it clear that what God asks of married couples through the teachings of the Church is possible.  Married couples must be encouraged to believe that.  As St. Paul says, it takes great sacrifice.  But just as Christ’s offering of Himself gave life to the world, the sacrifices of husbands and wives to each other will bring life into their marriage and their family.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae: Day 24

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To Scientists

24. Our next appeal is to men of science. These can “considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family and also peace of conscience, if by pooling their efforts they strive to elucidate more thoroughly the conditions favorable to a proper regulation of births.”  It is supremely desirable, and this was also the mind of Pius XII, that medical science should by the study of natural rhythms succeed in determining a sufficiently secure basis for the chaste limitation of offspring.  In this way scientists, especially those who are Catholics, will by their research establish the truth of the Church’s claim that “there can be no contradiction between two divine laws—that which governs the transmitting of life and that which governs the fostering of married love.”

Paul VI continues to turn his attention to various groups of people and their role in safeguarding the dignity of human life.  Paragraph 24 is his address to scientists.

In these paragraphs, you get a sense of Paul VI trying to shepherd his flock helping them to understand their importance in safeguarding human life.  But his concern is also with their own spiritual well-being.  Scientists in particular are capapble of great contributions to the welfare of marriage and the family, but also (as we’ve seen all to often) great harm.

Many people have the mistaken notion that the Church is against science, and that is completely false.  The Church, in fact, has always been a supporter of science in its role of discovering (not creating) the truth and in understanding what God has created.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#159) says this about faith and science:

“Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth” (Dei Filius 4). “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are” (Gaudium et Spes 36.1).

Humane Vitae: Day 23

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Here, Paul VI turns his attention to various groups of people beginning in paragraph 23 with “rulers of nations”:

Appeal to Public Authorities

23. And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations. To you most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. You can contribute so much to the preservation of morals. We beg of you, never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined. The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God. For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded.

Seeking True Solutions

We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter, especially in the developing countries. In fact, We had in mind the justifiable anxieties which weigh upon them when We published Our encyclical letter Populorum Progressio. But now We join Our voice to that of Our predecessor John XXIII of venerable memory, and We make Our own his words: “No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man’s essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values” (See Mater et Magistra).  No one can, without being grossly unfair, make divine Providence responsible for what clearly seems to be the result of misguided governmental policies, of an insufficient sense of social justice, of a selfish accumulation of material goods, and finally of a culpable failure to undertake those initiatives and responsibilities which would raise the standard of living of peoples and their children (Populorum progressio, nos. 48-55).  If only all governments which were able would do what some are already doing so nobly, and bestir themselves to renew their efforts and their undertakings! There must be no relaxation in the programs of mutual aid between all the branches of the great human family. Here We believe an almost limitless field lies open for the activities of the great international institutions.

In addressing these various groups, Paul VI always brings us back to the universal call to holiness, that each person has the obligation to fulfill God’s will and Law by protecting the dignity of each human person.  Once again, the Church recognizes that there are challenges, but nevertheless, the well-being of each person and of society at large depends on the adherence to God’s Law.

With respect to government, it has “the responsibility of safeguarding the common good”.  The policies and laws of government need to be set up in such a way that families (the primary unit in the state) can freely follow God’s plan for marriage and family.  In this way, families can thrive, and when families thrive, society thrives.

Humane Vitae: Day 21

 

 

Value of Self-Discipline

21. The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings. For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities. And finally, it confers upon parents a deeper and more effective influence in the education of their children. As their children grow up, they develop a right sense of values and achieve a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers.

An appropriate subject to think about especially during Holy Week. Self-denial is at the heart of the spiritual life. As human beings, we were made with passions, and those passions are not sinful in themselves. However, we have to learn how to control those passions so that they don’t control us. It is self-denial that strengthens the spirit so that we can begin to control them.

This is a large part of what makes our Lenten practices so important. We don’t give up things just for the sake of giving up things. Nor do we deny ourselves just for the sake of denying ourselves. Sacrifices are meant to bring about a greater good, and it is that greater good that gives meaning.

That’s why there is a kind chastity that is proper to married couples. In being able to discipline themselves, husbands and wives can grow in their understanding of each other which strengthens the marital bond: “far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, [self-discipline] transforms it by giving it a more truly human character.” Paragraph 21 explains some of the fruits that come about when husband and wife are able to master this self-discipline.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humane Vitae: Day 19

 

Paragraph 19 begins the third section of the encyclical which is titled, “Pastoral Directives”:

19. Our words would not be an adequate expression of the thought and solicitude of the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples, if, after having recalled men to the observance and respect of the divine law regarding matrimony, they did not also support mankind in the honest regulation of birth amid the difficult conditions which today afflict families and peoples. The Church, in fact, cannot act differently toward men than did the Redeemer. She knows their weaknesses, she has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the law. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and guided by the Spirit of God (See Romans 8).

For several centuries, all Christian denominations condemned the use of contraception. It wasn’t until the 1930s when at the Lambeth Conference, communities began to break from this teaching one by one. The culture in general followed suit.  The Catholic Church remained steadfast in this teaching.

Even so, there were some within the Church who wanted the Catholic Church to revise her teaching against contraception. Some took it upon themselves to teach something different.  Chaos followed, and even today we are still dealing with its effects.  But here in paragraph 19, Paul VI says that the Church must hold to the Truth.

“She [the Church] cannot do otherwise than teach the law”.  The role of the Church is to be both mother and teacher (Mater et Magister), and in fulfilling this role, she teaches the Truth: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).  It is the Truth of Jesus Christ that gives life to the world.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

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