Families, Your Work Awaits You!

The World Meeting of Families 2015 was a gift to families at a time when the truth of the worth and value of the Catholic ideal of family is under siege.  It was an invitation to all families to be heartened, to be strengthened, and to live the mission that is theirs. There is no one untouched by painful rifts and challenges to the traditional nuclear family. Each of us needs the solace and hope that was imparted by gathering and sharing on the mission of the family. We are called to learn what it means to be a strong Christian family, and what is meant by the mission of that role.

With the WMOF the Church invited all to explore the beauty and profound meaning she upholds as well as to deepen their understanding of the integral mission of the family.  God placed the family at the center of creation and He places each one of us in the family, our first school where we learn crucial lessons of relationship. As Helen Alvare put it, “The way of freedom is the way of interdependent love…we are always in relationship; even alone, we are in relationship (with God)… God, in God’s SELF, is not alone! He is three: three Persons in a constant, never ending relationship of love.”  In the family we are thrust into relationship with others we might not have chosen, and it is in the family that we learn to give every other person what Pope Benedict has called “the look of love they crave.”

It is where we are taught to be, in the Image of God, priests, prophets and kings. Bishop Barron, in the opening Keynote talk, spoke about the adventure, the command, the mission of the Christian to be “on the march.” We must be the ones to bring “right praise” to the world. As priests, we must bear the Image of God out to the world. If we keep our worship to ourselves, we are not fulfilling our mission; we cannot allow religion to become privatized like a hobby. As prophets, we take not the freedom of indifference, but the freedom for excellence, and proclaim the law that leads us to perfection. The popular, newly ordained bishop used an analogy of playing golf; one cannot just be handed a club and told to play however feels right. One must learn the precision, the laws of the sport, that” makes excellence possible, and then effortless.” Bishop Barron agreed that the Church does have “an extravagant demand,” but that it is exquisitely counterbalanced with “an extravagant mercy.” We must be like the king who is on the march, bringing his army to conquer his enemy at their very gates. Calling to mind the phrase “the gates of hell shall not prevail,” the bishop advised his listeners that we bring the Lord; it is we who are on the march, and the gates of hell, which we are setting out to conquer, has us to fear!  We must go forth and sanctify the world! As Archbishop Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said at the Opening Ceremony of the World Meeting of Families, “Strong families mean strong societies…your work awaits you!”

 

Nancy Arey

October 7, 2015

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Reflections on Experiencing the World Meeting of Families

What a glorious experience it was to attend the World Meeting of Families, culminating with the Festival of Families and the Papal Mass!  A logistical and physical challenge for me, I consider that it was truly a pilgrimage of love.  I was especially gladdened that three of my children were not only able to attend with me, but were enthusiastic about participating in the congress and were emphatic about attending the Papal events together.

Upon arrival at the Philadelphia Convention Center to register on the first day, we encountered a profusion of people pressing to queue up for their badges and materials. Overwhelming but cheerfully controlled, the lines wound through the atrium. Amazingly, in the crush of the crowd, I was greeted by an old friend with whom I was hoping to plan to meet up. My children and I made our way out to a hallway where we found seats and could eat our bagged lunch and watch the passersby. What an uplifting, joyful parade we witnessed: beautiful groups of sisters, many priests and seminarians, and communities and families from many countries passed by with smiling faces lit.

A spectacle formed in front of us, which we watched with amused interest. Like a pop star surrounded by his fans, newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, who is founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and a popular evangelist for Catholicism, was crowded from our view by the gathered white-habited sisters around him, until they suddenly all knelt for his blessing.  Over the following days, as we hurried to and fro in the huge venue, and outside on the streets of Center City, it was inspiring to see the many priests and religious present.

Our family joined with many others to celebrate the exciting opening ceremony, which moved a number of us to tears amid the cheers. My (barely) teen daughter was thrilled to be able to mingle into the Youth Congress, making new friends and participating in fun activities on her own, safe in the protected environment provided, while my older children and I heard inspiring talks by Bishop Barron, Helen Alvare and others. It was energizing to sit among thousands of people, all moved to joy and applauding agreement with the Truths of our Faith. The World Meeting of Families was not limited to Catholic promoters of Christian family values. Pastor Rick Warren joined Cardinal Sean O’Malley for one rousing keynote address on the Joy of the Gospel of Life. http://www.catholictv.com/shows/world-meeting-of-families has many of the talks available for viewing.

A huge exhibit hall was filled with booths supporting Catholic family life. We received piles of literature and samples, and at the booth of the Society of St. Gianna Molla, we were able to greet the daughter of the saint. “Staying after” one evening, we attended a Prolife Symposium and were treated to speakers like Father Frank Pavone, prolife priest extraordinaire and Dr. Alveda King, niece of MLK, Jr. We took part in painting a mural which will be recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was wonderful to bump into some friendly faces from our own parish a few times, as well as to share moments with strangers from far flung places. I had attempted to plan ahead to attend every talk and participate in every activity available, but this truly was an impossibility. I am so glad that we managed to make time to seek out and visit the marble casting of Michelangelo’s Pieta, and the fascinating Verbum Domini II exhibit of ancient Bible artifacts. We also made certain to visit the Adoration chapel several times and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The treks to Eakins Oval on Saturday for the Festival of Families and on Sunday for the Mass were long and taxing, but joyful. The energy of the crowds gathering to see our Holy Father was palpable and infectious. There was a camaraderie among us as we squeezed ever closer together as the day went on. Immense love for the Pope welled up and was expressed in cheers as he drew near on the procession route. What a grace it was to catch a glimpse of the Vicar of Christ! We hung on his every word as he addressed the unsurpassed crowds gathered. Our Holy Father warmed and inspired our hearts with his encouraging words for living our mission of love in the family, and as always, he humbly asked us not to forget to pray for him.

Attending Mass celebrated by Pope Francis with such a huge crowd was emotionally overwhelming. Praying together, one prayer in many tongues, was deeply moving. I marveled at the reverent and orderly movement of thousands of people receiving Holy Communion. When we were sent forth, filled to the brim with love and joy, we meandered with the crowds in the general direction of the one PATCO station open to NJ. We stopped by the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. We enjoyed the clusters of groups who walked along singing hymns. We shared the train ride back with an exhilarated group of youth who had traveled from Ohio, and whose bus was parked near our car. They offered extra sandwiches; my daughter offered a helping hand to a woman with a burden. Everyone was living the common spirit of hearts lifted in love and mercy for one another. It was beautiful and still brings a tear to my eye.

I pray that this vibrant spirit that was so much expressed and made visible will continue to permeate the relationships that we share with one another in our own families and with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. I am so grateful to have attended the World Meeting of Families and been present for the visit of our Holy Father, a moment of sublime grace in my family’s life.

Nancy Arey

October 11, 2015

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Solemnity

With great prescience, Pope Pius XI, as recently at 1925, established the original feast of Christ the King as an antidote to cultural and nationalist battles against religion. Knowing what the Church was facing, he offered a sign of hope for Christians, and a reminder of the supremacy of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. The culture of our era has raised secularism to the status of a religion, in direct opposition to Catholic culture. The whims of the state have supplanted the natural law, instilled in each of us by God, as the new height of authority. Those who dare to express or exercise their Christian religious beliefs are mocked, subjugated, even persecuted. The Judeo Christian values which once formed the foundation of a fair society are now denigrated. The shaky foundation upon which today’s society is built is like sand, shifting by the caprice of materialistic, secular forces. Authority has been diminished by the lack of integrity of those in authority, who have cast God out of the public realm.

Secularism believes that good can be done without reference to or inspiration from God. Jesus is Truth and Love, and it is only through Him that truth and love abound. In his encyclical, Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI points to the doctrine of Jesus’ kingship that is evident throughout Scripture. It was his aim that all nations and people would recognize that Jesus is to reign over all, that obedience is due to Him in all things. He established the feast to draw the attention of nations to the foundation that is Jesus Christ, to His ultimate authority over individuals, families, and societies, indeed, the whole universe. He also wished to see that the Church would be left free to practice all that she preaches, unimpeded by the state, free of the anticlericalism that permeates public life.

As Pope Pius XI stated, it is only when everyone recognizes that all authority is given by and through Our Lord that authority will have a solid foundation and the ability to govern righteously and peacefully. Christ must reign in our minds, our wills, our hearts, and over our bodies, that we may submit ourselves to and believe all He teaches through His Church, obey Him in all things, love Him above all things, and serve Him in all ways. The solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, is an opportunity to proclaim Our Lord’s reign throughout the world. It gives us great hope for achieving the Christian ideal, and great help in working towards the perfection and the sanctification to which Christ, Our King calls us all. This year, the solemnity falls on November 23, the date of the execution of Blessed Miguel Pro. May the words that he proclaimed as he was martyred for the Faith be ever on our own lips: Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!

*note: this was written last year, 2014. This year the solemnity falls on and supplants the feast of St. Cecilia, November 22, 2015.

 

Nancy Arey

November 15, 2014

Pray for Your Dead

V.Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

R. And let the perpetual light shine upon them.

And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Most of us are touched by the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. It is one of the inescapable four last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell. We grieve the loss, mourn the passing of the loved one, but frequently in this era, we extol the one who has died, and promptly enshrine them in heaven. In this confused era, it is even often said that they become guardian angels to those they have left behind! This is an error, and one which is grossly uncharitable to the dead whose judgment found them not quite pure enough to enter eternal life in God’s presence. Yet.

Our life here on earth is fleeting, though it may seem interminable and full of suffering at times. In that suffering we are tested, and shaped. We make choices in every moment that bring us closer to or further from our King. Ever ready to draw us closer to Himself, He allows our free will, and we often use it to turn away. When the time comes, as it does for each of us, to face Him and be judged, some of us are not in that state of purity that is ready for Heaven. While in a state of grace, and having confessed all mortal sins, the soul is assured of final salvation, but is not yet perfectly prepared for the presence of God. In His unfathomable mercy, God allows a soul to enter into a state of purification, known as purgatory. This is a gift we must not ignore.  Souls in purgatory are dependent upon the intercession of the community of saints, including those souls who are living now. US. They are waiting, longing for our prayers!

The Church is ever mindful of the suffering souls in purgatory.  They are remembered in every Mass with the words in the Eucharistic Prayers for the faithful departed. Those who have gone before us depend upon us to offer sacrifice and prayers for them, to remember them at Holy Mass, and to assist in their release. It is especially valuable to have Masses said with the expressed intention of the repose of the soul for whom we pray.

To presume to know that our loved one is already in Heaven, or to share platitudes such as “Oh, she was such a good person, and now you have a guardian angel in heaven to watch over you…!”  is to neglect our Christian duty to pray for the dead. We actually might be the cause of our loved one spending a lengthy time in purgatory, simply for want of our prayers. Some forgotten souls have been granted the ability to come before a living soul to beseech the necessary intercession. There is a small museum in Rome which houses artifacts bearing marks left by souls who have been visitors to living souls, to beg prayers and consolations. A number of saints were visited by suffering souls imploring their prayers, or by jubilant souls offering thanks for their offerings which brought them release from purgatory.

Through the month of November, we remember the souls in Purgatory in a special way, but we should remember and pray for our dead always. They are no longer able to pray for themselves. They long for us to relieve their suffering. When a soul is released from the suffering that is due for remission of past confessed sins, and gains Heaven because of your prayers and sacrifices, their gratitude is so great that you are assured of their efficacious prayers for you from Heaven!

We do not become angels upon our death. God created a guardian angel for each of us eternal souls. Her guardian angel took St. Faustina Kowalska to see Purgatory. She saw them suffering in flames, and asked her guardian angel what their greatest torment was.  The reply? Their great longing for God tormented them most. Our foolish ignorance and neglect stands between the suffering soul and the beatific vision. When we console ourselves with our own presumption of our loved one’s presence in Heaven, we deny them the very place they most desire.  We prolong their suffering!

Saint Monica begged her son, St. Augustine to remember her always at the altar of the Lord (at Mass).   Teach your families not to place you in Heaven upon your death; teach them the great need many souls have for expiation of their sins, even after death has taken them in the state of grace. Remind them to have Masses said for the repose of the souls of their beloved dead. NO one knows the state of a soul, but God. Leave the judgment to Him, and pray unceasingly for their salvation, their sainthood.

Pope Francis Steers the Barque of Saint Peter to Mercy

Jesus established His Church with St. Peter at her head, and exclaimed that the gates of hell would never prevail against her. (Matt 16:18) To Peter, and to his successors, our Lord gave the keys to the kingdom, and the profound responsibility of guiding the Church through the rough waters that will seek to toss her to and fro. Salvation is given to the whole world, by His blood and through the Church that Christ established. Pope Francis is the current successor to St. Peter, and he faithfully guides the Barque of Peter, the Church, through the storms that assail her from every direction in these days. The forthrightness of Pope Francis causes some dismay, especially when the media transmits his words with a lack of comprehension of his motives, his methods and his message of mercy. But there is no need for dismay: only delight.

Pope Francis has a disarming way of humbling himself and calling all of humanity to a similar humility. He seeks to bring the Barque of St. Peter right up to the people and have them embark. He is working to remove any obstacle that might prevent a soul from approaching the boundless mercy of God. To that end, the Pope has recently written a letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who is in charge of the preparations for the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy; outlining several points which he believes are necessary to ensuring that every faithful believer will be able to participate fully in this gift of grace. Pope Francis is considering every outlier who might believe that gift is withheld from them. By doing so, he is drawing all of us safely together onto the Barque, and steering us straight towards our Merciful Lord. He writes, “The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.”

Pope Francis gives the usual conditions for obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.   “As a sign of the deep desire for true conversion,” one must make a “brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door” during the year long Jubilee, which will commence when the Holy Doors are opened on December 8, 2015. The Holy Doors are of the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, but the Pope also designates every Cathedral as well as any churches which a Bishop may designate, but he goes even further than that. With compassion towards the sick, the elderly, the imprisoned, the Holy Father insists that their obstacles themselves can be the Holy Door for them. The homebound can receive the indulgence by participation in the sacraments however it is possible for them. For those who are incarcerated, he suggests that they direct their thoughts to the Father every time they “cross the threshold of their cell” as signifying their Holy Door. The Pope exhorts all to practice the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, and thus receive the Jubilee Indulgence, and promises that by this means, no one is excluded! Even the dead are to be remembered in the Sacrifice of Holy Eucharist, bringing them to the mercy of God.

Two special situations were given explicit directives. The separation of those who have procured an abortion is to be mercifully resolved in the Sacrament of Reconciliation with any priest. This is not something new, as the media might have falsely projected. Pope Francis is simply publicizing what is most often already done, especially in the United States. Also, in the matter of the illicit Fraternity of St. Pius X, whose Bishops are excommunicated, the faithful who are absolved by a priest of the Fraternity are in fact validly and licitly absolved, and our Holy Father writes that he trusts that solutions will come about soon, which will return to full communion those priests and superiors of the Fraternity of St. Pius X.

Pope Francis wants every soul carried in the blessed Barque to berth in the port of mercy. Do not neglect this open invitation by the representative of Christ on earth (and bring a friend)!

Nancy Arey

September 9, 2015

St. Rita, Patron Saint of the Impossible

One of the most widely venerated saints, and one of four patrons of impossible causes, is St. Rita of Cascia. A fourteenth century Italian woman, Rita’s life was tragic in many ways, but full of miraculous interventions which often were the fruits of her own obedience, prayers and trust. She is a model of patient suffering and active intercession.

Why is St. Rita a patron of impossible causes? Her life story gives us a clue. Although Rita was attracted to the Augustinian religious life at an early age, she was obedient to her parents who had arranged a marriage for her. Married at a very young age, she bore twin sons and patiently endured her husband’s mean temperedness. Rita was a peacemaker and her kindness served to convert her husband, Paolo. When Rita’s husband was killed violently, her sons, as was customary in those days, plotted to avenge his murder. Rita pointed to the Crucified Lord, reminding them of how He forgave. She begged God not to allow her sons to commit the sin of murder. Both died young, of natural causes and after being reconciled with God, without carrying out any plan of revenge.

Bereft, but glad of the grace she was given to know her sons were taken from the world rather than committing sin, Rita was free to pursue entrance into the convent, but was turned away at first, because of her association with the warring factions of her family. Rita set out to bring peace to the families, and was successful in obtaining an end to the feud. Again, Rita placed all her trust in God’s Will, and through prayer and faithfulness, she was eventually welcomed into the Augustinian convent. There, Rita lived a holy life of prayer and meditation upon the suffering of the Crucified One. Rita was given a stigmata wound on the forehead, in union with Jesus’ suffering of the crown of thorns.

St. Rita suffered illness which kept her bedridden in her later years. A visiting cousin asked if she could bring anything to Rita, and was dismayed by Rita’s request for a blooming rose from her old home garden. Since the season was icy winter, her cousin knew this would be an impossible request to fill, but she went to the garden, so that she could say she had tried. There, she found a single, fully bloomed red rose on a withered bush, and she carefully carried it back to the holy nun, knowing it was sent from God. Roses are blessed and distributed on St. Rita’s feast day of May 22 at many of the shrines which venerate her. In these days of such strife, we should invoke the peacemaker saint of impossible causes, St. Rita. The National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia is in Philadelphia, and is a pilgrimage site of great efficacy.

Nancy Arey

May 4, 2015

The Marian Dogmas

statuemary

Dogmas are truths which have been revealed by God and which have been presented as truths to the faithful by the teaching authority of the Church. A Catholic must not deny or doubt that which has been proclaimed as Catholic Dogma. To do so is considered heresy. The Church takes great care to present dogma with precision. It is developed through study of God’s Word in Scripture as well as Tradition (the teachings passed on through apostolic succession). There are four Marian dogmas. Each describes and defines an attribute of Mary.

The first dogma is that Mary is the Mother of God. The Church derives her beliefs about Mary through her beliefs about Jesus. Holy Scripture calls Mary the mother of Jesus. We know that Jesus, Who was conceived as her son by the Holy Spirit, is God. When Mary went to her cousin, before the birth of our Lord, Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary, calling her “the mother of my Lord.” Thus, Mary is Theotokos: “Mother of God.”

We believe in the second dogma which teaches that Mary was ever virgin. As the Catechism tells us, quoting a document from the Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, even Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” Often, critics will point to occasions in the Gospels which mention brothers of Jesus; however we know that this term refers to close relatives, but not actual siblings of Jesus. The church has always taught that Mary and Joseph had a holy and spiritual union of hearts, but that Mary remained always the handmaid of the Lord. Mary’s perpetual virginity is a “sign….of her undivided gift of herself to God’s will.” (CCC 506)

The Immaculate Conception was proclaimed dogma fairly recently, in 1854, but this privilege of hers has been understood throughout history. The angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the phrase “full of grace.”(Lk 1:28) God, Who is not bound to linear time, allowed Mary’s fiat to be the cause of her own salvation through the merits of her Son. In this way, He prepared the only suitable Mother for His Son, one who was untainted by sin from the first moment of her own conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. The Immaculate Conception is not to be confused with the virgin conception of Our Lord. It describes a singular privilege granted to Mary.

The fourth Marian dogma is one which we celebrate on August 15, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Given that Mary was preserved from Original Sin through the anticipated sacrifice of her Son, Mary’s earthly body was not to undergo corruption at the end of her earthly life. As Mary proclaimed in her Magnificat, “all generations will call (her) blessed.” (Lk 1:48) Her body was taken up along with her soul into Heaven to rejoin her Son. There she intercedes for her children, all of us, who were given into her care by Jesus from the cross. As taught in Lumen gentium, quoted in our Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”

The favor which God has consistently poured out upon Mary, the honor which her Son, Jesus, perfect man that He is, bestows upon her, and the bond which links her forever to the Holy Spirit inspire the faithful to complete devotion to Our Lady, and hope in her, and she leads us always back to the Trinity.

Nancy Arey

August 11, 2015