Pope Leo XIII on Marriage and Family

Pope Leo XIII Library of Congress

Pope Leo XIII
Library of Congress

Pope Leo XIII provided some important teachings in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum (“of new things” or “condition of labor”) on the natural origin of marriage and family life, an area in which he warns civil government intrusion would be “a great and pernicious error.”  His warnings are particularly germane to recent governmental attempts to redefine marriage and family life as something other than that ordained by God.

“No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: ‘Increase and multiply.’  Hence we have the family, the ‘society’ of a man’s house – a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.” (Paragraph 12)

“A family, no less than a State, is, as We have said, a true society, governed by an authority peculiar to itself, that is to say, by the authority of the father. Provided, therefore, the limits which are prescribed by the very purposes for which it exists be not transgressed, the family has at least equal rights with the State in the choice and pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty. We say, ‘at least equal rights’; for, inasmuch as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature. If the citizens, if the families on entering into association and fellowship, were to experience hindrance in a commonwealth instead of help, and were to find their rights attacked instead of being upheld, society would rightly be an object of detestation rather than of desire.” (Paragraph 13)

“The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.”  (Paragraph 14)

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Benefits of Faith

Fra Angelico Wikimedia Commons

Fra Angelico
Wikimedia Commons

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that faith confers four benefits, faith: unites the soul with God; introduces the soul to eternal life; guides the present life; and helps overcome temptation.

The soul is wedded to God through faith, for “I will espouse you in faithfulness” (Hosea 2:20).  A soul lacking faith is not acceptable to the Lord, “for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), “[a]nd without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 10:6).

Knowledge of God is obtained through faith and eternal life is achieved through knowing God, for “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Faith teaches what is necessary to live life rightly, by “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).  Faith also teaches that there is another life to in addition to this, for “if Christ has not been raised, then … [our] faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Faith helps to overcome temptations from the Devil to disobey God.  However, we can “resist him, firm in [our] faith” (1 Peter 5:9).  Faith can also help to overcome temptations of the world knowing that greater riches lie beyond this world: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).  Furthermore, faith helps to overcome temptations of the flesh by “putting on the shield of faith” in all things (Ephesians 6:16). 

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How Do the Righteous Live

The Prophet Habakkuk Wikimedia Commons

The Prophet Habakkuk
Wikimedia Commons

The Old and New Testaments teach that the righteous person lives by faith, freely committing their entire self to God, seeking only to know and do God’s will.

God’s reply to the plea of the Old Testament Prophet Habakkuk is, “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4b).   And, in the New Testament the author of Hebrews teaches that God states, “my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38).

It is through a total surrendering of self to God, desiring only to know and do His will that a righteous life is lived.   Righteousness is not achieved in a singular act of surrendering to the Lord.  Rather, righteous is achieved through series of daily actions of surrendering self to God, to know and do God’s will.  The righteous entrust their state in life, each event in the life, their entire being to the Lord.  Eternal salvation is achieved through a life lived in faith.

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Catholic Spirituality Blogs – 2013 Frankie Award

CSBN-BadgeCatholic Spirituality Blogs Network has postings from twenty bloggers, follow this link to Catholic Spirituality Blogs — 2013 Frankie Award and vote for your favorite.   I have read all twenty.  Hope you find them as enjoyable as I did.

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Live the Faith

Jan Luyken etching Wikimedia Commons

Jan Luyken etching
Wikimedia Commons

Faith is more than a personal relationship with God; faith is a personal relationship with God and His people.

Jesus preached a faith where “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:34-39, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-28) And where is our neighbor to be found?  Our neighbor is found in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-36).

As Jesus indicated, “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:40)  The inability of Israel and Judah to follow these two commandments was part of God’s indictment against them (see for example Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Joel and Micah), which, in part, lead to their exile.

These two commandments have been and will continue to be fundamental to a relationship with God.  For this reason faith is not only a relationship with God, it is a relationship with God and His people.

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Out of Evil God Brings Forth Good

St. Peter Martyr Altarpiece Fra Angelico Wikimedia Commons

St. Peter Martyr Altarpiece
Fra Angelico
Wikimedia Commons

A portion of life, to a greater or lesser extent, consists of stress and discomfort, misery and disappointment.  Some argue and posit that the present of these, which they construe as evils, within our life proves there is no God.

The presence of evil is one of two objections St. Thomas Aquinas presents in his Suma Theologica (I:2:3) against the existence of God.  The objection being, if God is all goodness any evil would be contrary to His infinite goodness.  St. Thomas rebuts the objection with an argument from St. Augustine (Enchiridion): “If evil and sin spoiled the plan of God, He would clearly not be omnipotent, would not be God. But if He is so powerful that He can make even fit into the working out of His design, then the whole objection falls.  Out of evil He brings forth good.”

The story of salvation history is the story of God bring forth good from evil: Joseph saving his brothers after they sold him into slavery; Israel being brought from Egypt back to the promised land; and Christ conquering sin and death through his passion and dead on the cross.

So, in the stress and discomforts of life, preserve with faith, hope and charity.  God’s power, love, and grace conquer and reign over the miseries and disappoints of life.

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In Silence

St Margaret Mary Alacoque Giaquito Corrado Wikimedia Commons

St Margaret Mary Alacoque
Giaquito Corrado
Wikimedia Commons

To pray in silence is one of my favorite forms of prayer.   Silently, I place myself in the presence of Lord.  I may sit or knell.  Typically, my eyes are closed, so as not to be distracted.

In stillness, I empty myself and desire only to be in His presence.  Before Him I place my heart, my fears, and that I am and am not.  Unbound by the inadequacy of my words, we embrace, to feel the presence of the other.

He may silently comfort me with His love and grace.  Or, He may whisper ever so softly and draw me in conversation.

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Cultural Pork

Maccbees Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes an event will linger with me throughout the day, into the next.  Yesterday, I had such an event.  It was the Old Testament reading at mass, 2 Maccabees.

The passage was about a prominent scribe, Eleazar, who Syrians agents were trying to force to eat pork.  The Syrians were occupying Israel, and decreed Israel abandon her Jewish culture and adapt the culture of the Greeks.  The agents presented Eleazar with face saving ways.  For example, Eleazar could provide the meat himself, so that it would only appear like he ate pork.  But Elearzar declined.  He realized that such an appearance would present scandal, particularly to the young.  The passage is included below for those who would like to read it in its entirety.

Each of us will be presented with situations to eat the pork of the culture.  Will we like Eleazar decline to partake of the cultural pork?  Will our actions present scandal, or not?

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes, a man advanced in age and of noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork. But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement, he went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture, spitting out the meat as they should do who have the courage to reject food unlawful to taste even for love of life. Those in charge of that unlawful sacrifice took the man aside, because of their long acquaintance with him, and privately urged him to bring his own provisions that he could legitimately eat, and only to pretend to eat the sacrificial meat prescribed by the king. Thus he would escape death, and be treated kindly because of his old friendship with them. But he made up his mind in a noble manner, worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age, the merited distinction of his gray hair, and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood. Above all loyal to the holy laws given by God, he swiftly declared, “Send me to Hades!  “At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many of the young would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion.  If I dissemble to gain a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I would bring defilement and dishonor on my old age.  Even if, for the time being, I avoid human punishment, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hand of the Almighty.   Therefore, by bravely giving up life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.”

He spoke thus, and went immediately to the instrument of torture. Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed, now became hostile toward him because what he had said seemed to them utter madness.   When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned, saying: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.” This is how he died, leaving in his death a model of nobility and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation. 2 Maccabees 6:18-31

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To Prophetic Redux

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The pattern of the prophetic messages of the Old Testament was: covenant has been broken, better repent; no repentance, prepare for judgment; and, after judgment, restoration and hope.   Culturally, are we in this cycle?  If we are, where are we in the cycle?

Culturally, God is being excluded from all aspects of the culture.  God’s truth is perceived as lies, his love as hate, and the hope he offers as nonexistent.  The culture has broken covenant with God.

But, a covenantal remnant remains.   Can the remnant hold the cultural covenant together?  Can it secure repentance for the culture?  If it cannot, judgment will surely come.

Like the prodigal son, judgment will come not from the father, but from the actions of the son.  The judgment on the culture will be a culturally dark period devoid of truth, charity, and hope. The father longingly hopes for the return of his son (his people) and the restoration of his fatherly relationship.  A forgiving, merciful and generous father awaits the return of his son.

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To Family Life

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The activities of family life can be overwhelming.   Man was created not to be overwhelmed by family life, but to be overwhelmed by God’s love and to embrace family life in union with God.

God instituted the family as a domestic church to reflect his covenantal relationship, to be co-creative with him, and to drawn all to him.  These are the critical aspects of family life.

To the domestic church God bequeathed, through the marital union, the ability to be co-creative in union with him and bring new life into the world.  To shun this co-reactive aspect of the marital union is to shun God, his creation, and his love for mankind.  The covenantal relationship of the marital union makes no sense if the co-creative aspect of the marital union is absent.

The heart of God’s domestic church is catechesis.   The domestic church is to catechize within, with each family member responsible for catechizing the others.  Each within the domestic church has a responsibility to draw others within the family closer to God.  Furthermore, the domestic church is to catechize, though the way they conduct their family life, those who come in contact with them, thereby bearing witness of God’s love to others.

These are the critical aspects of family life; other aspects are important and should be attended to, but should not overwhelm nor hinder the covenantal, co-creative, and catechetical nature of family life.  To avoid being overwhelmed and remain focused on these critical aspects, time should be taken to worship and pray as a family.  Likewise, individually time should be spent in prayer and silence with God to discern individual callings to serve others within your domestic church.

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