Monday, October 31, 2011

One Hand, One Heart

We Must Love as God Loves

In marriage, and in looking for that someone to spend our lives together in marriage, we must love as God loves.

He who would be first will be last. If love is all about you, making you happy, then it is destined to fail. Love must be selflessly turned outward, and not selfishly focused inward, to succeed and bear fruit. True happiness in love is paradoxical because it is obtained, not by seeking happiness for yourself first, but by denying yourself, by not concerning yourself with what you may or may not receive in return. Unhappiness and insecurity are destroyed by deciding to keep loving no matter what, even if and when the other is unfaithful and rejects you. Because of love, even suffering and pain can be transformed to joy. Because of love, even death can be overcome.

Furthermore, we can see that, by consciously willing and seeking what is best for the other, love does not seek to use or exploit the other for our pleasure, but instead seeks the good of the other, including the good which is truth, namely, the truth of the other as a “person” and not as a thing to be used for our amusement, a subject and not an object, an end in his or herself, and not merely a means to an end.

Love affirms the truth and value of the other as a “person.” Love considers, treats, and chooses to respect the other as a “person” and not merely as a thing or object to be utilized for our amusement, as an end in and of his or herself, not merely as a means to an end, and as a moral equal, not as inferior, subordinate or subservient. One who treats another as merely the means to an end, such as personal pleasure, does violence to the very essence of the other as a person.

We must love as God loves. God does not love us because are so incredibly pretty or because we are sexy or funny or smart or because we have money and power and fame - most of us are and have none of these things. And yet, He still loves us, unconditionally, unearned, undeserved, for ourselves, as we are. He loves, He gives - fully and completely, to the extent of giving His life.

We must love as God loves, and God will not use a person as a means to an end, even if that end is good. He loves us and respects us as persons. That is the love we should try to emulate.

The more that you are disposed to love, the better you are able to love and find love in male-female and other interpersonal relationships. The more that you have a loving inner disposition, the more potential mates you will encounter. With true love in the heart, the universe of possible mates grows. The more you are disposed to love, the more you will be able to see the good qualities in others. These others become more physically attractive, more intelligent, more humorous, more enjoyable. However, the more you are turned inward, seeking to satisfy yourself, complaining that there are no good men or women out there, the more trouble you will have finding them. A perfect Christian, embracing love perfectly, should be able to be united to anyone and be attracted to them, and desire them, and want to be with them, because they have love, and they see in the other the image of Christ.

We must learn to see and embrace other truths. We must recognize the truth that our passions and urges are extremely powerful, and that if we do not learn to control our passions and urges, and to subordinate them to our will, then they are going to control us.

In addition to seeing and recognizing the truth that the other is a “person,” we must see and recognize the truth of what kind of person he or she is. We must learn about the real other – the other as he or she actually is -- not an imagined other or an other as we want them to be. We must also recognize the truth of who we are, namely, a person as well, and we must love ourselves, so that we do not exploit ourselves or join in our own exploitation and objectification by another. If someone wants you merely as a means, then he does not really want you at all because, if not you, then someone else will suffice.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

An Outline of the Sacrament of Matrimony

Matrimony – as it was “in the beginning” and the blessing of Jesus at Cana
  • a Sacrament is (i) an outward visible sign (ii) instituted by Christ (iii) to convey the invisible reality of sacramental and sanctifying grace, so that we might be redeemed and sanctified

  • the “outward sign” is composed of the matter (e.g. water) and form (words) together with the right and proper intention of the minister, that is, celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church

  • Marriage is the primordial sacrament – "All the sacraments of the new covenant find in a certain sense their prototype in marriage" – Pope John Paul II
    • the entirety of Salvation History can be seen as a kind of spousal relationship between God and mankind
  • at the Creation, God said that it is not good for Man to be alone

  • Man, male and female, is not merely a social creature, but a spousal creature made in the image of the Triune God, who is a loving communion of persons in one being

  • God made us to love and be loved and, in creating man and woman for each other, He gave us the ability to share in His creative power, telling us to be fruitful and multiply

  • in Matrimony, a man and woman are two made one in a communion of persons by Christ through the power of the Spirit of Love, and spouses should love each other as Christ loves the Church

  • the Sacrament is conferred upon the giving of matrimonial consent, that is, when a man and a woman manifest the will to give themselves to each other irrevocably in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love

  • such matrimonial consent is sealed by God, and the Sacrament establishes a perpetual and exclusive bond between the spouses

  • this communion of persons in marriage is not only unitive, such that it is indissoluble, but fruitful and procreative, just as the love between Christ and His Bride, the Church, is unitive, fruitful, and procreative

  • a special grace is conferred to give the husband and wife the ability to maintain their union in accord with the original divine plan, even in the face of threats to the unity and fruitfulness of marriage

  • the ministers of Matrimony are the man and woman to be married, with the priest receiving that consent in the name of the Church and giving her blessing to the union

  • Canon Law and Marriage

    The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility. From a valid marriage there arises between the spouses a bond which by its nature is perpetual and exclusive. Moreover, a special sacrament strengthens and, as it were, consecrates the spouses in a Christian marriage for the duties and dignity of their state. The consent of the parties, legitimately manifested between persons qualified by divine law and canon law, makes marriage; no human power is able to supply this consent. The competence of civil authority concerns merely civil effects of a sacramental marriage. Matrimonial consent is an act of the will by which a man and a woman mutually give and accept each other through an irrevocable covenant in order to establish marriage. (Can. 1055-57, 1059; Can. 1134)

    Pursuant canon law, before a marriage is celebrated, it must be evident that nothing stands in the way of its valid and licit celebration. Thus, pastors should ensure that the Christian faithful are instructed about the meaning of Christian marriage and about the function of Christian spouses and parents, and there should be personal preparation prior to entering marriage, which disposes the spouses to the holiness and duties of their new state. (Can. 1063, 1066)

    For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must be at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation. However, error concerning the unity or indissolubility or sacramental dignity of marriage does not vitiate matrimonial consent provided that such error does not determine the will. The internal consent of the mind is presumed to conform to the words and signs used in celebrating the marriage. A marriage which was initially invalid because of a defect of consent is convalidated if the party who did not consent later gives valid consent, provided that the consent given by the other party perseveres. The renewal of consent must be a new act of the will concerning the marriage which the renewing party knows or thinks was null from the beginning. (Can. 1096, 1099, 1101; Can. 1157, 1159)

    Because valid consent is essential to the making of a marriage, a person is deemed to lack the capacity to contract marriage if he or she lacks the sufficient use of reason, is not able to assume the essential obligations of marriage for causes of a psychic nature, or suffers from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted. Also, the marriage contract is invalid when one is deceived by malice, perpetrated to obtain consent, concerning some quality of the other partner which by its very nature can gravely disturb the partnership of conjugal life, or if it is entered into because of force or grave fear from without, even if unintentionally inflicted, so that a person is compelled to choose marriage in order to be free from it. (Can. 1095, 1098, 1103)

    With certain exceptions, marriages are valid under canon law only when contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses. The person who assists at a marriage is understood to be only that person who is present, asks for the manifestation of the consent of the contracting parties, and receives it in the name of the Church. (Can. 1108)

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    The Jeweller's Shop

    Movie Review
    by Steven D. Greydanus
    National Catholic Register
    As a young man living under Nazi occupation in Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, co-founded an underground cultural resistance movement called the Rhapsodic Theatre. Wojtyla remained to some extent involved with the group for three decades, even as he went on to the priesthood and the episcopacy.

    In 1960, then-Archbishop Wojtyla published two very different works on a topic close to the heart of his thought. The first was Love and Responsibility, his great treatise on love and personhood. The other was The Jeweler’s Shop, a three-act play published under a pseudonym in a Polish periodical.

    Subtitled "A Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Passing on Occasion into a Drama," the play’s "meditative" quality is evident in its unusual form. . . . Each of the three acts focuses of one of three couples. In Act One, "The Signals," we meet Teresa and Andrew, a young couple engaged to be married. Act Two, "The Bridegroom," depicts a marriage grown cold and loveless, that of Anna and Stefan. In Act Three, "The Children," the son of Teresa and Andrew, Christopher, falls in love with the daughter of Anna and Stefan, Monica.

    Michael Anderson’s film, praised by John Paul II as "the best possible film based on my play," doesn’t try to capture or evoke the play’s unusual dramatic form. Instead, it extrapolates the events in the lives of these six characters into into a loosely structured drama spanning two decades and two continents. The story is propelled by ordinary (though sometimes philosophically elevated) dialogue, and a mysterious character in the play, Adam, becomes a simple priest — a rather Wojtyla-like priest, actually, who takes the young people of his parish on nature hikes in the mountains.

    Not everything in the play has been reduced to mundane realism. In particular, the mysterious jeweler’s shop remains a place of mystery, seeming to exist on a boundary between time and eternity. (In fact, because of the way the film locates its events in Poland and Canada, the jeweler’s shop mysteriously follows the characters back and forth across the globe!) The jeweler himself (Burt Lancaster), who sells each of the couples their wedding rings, implies in his first lines that he isn’t what he appears; and when Anna one night tries to return her wedding ring, there are a couple of moments of magical realism highlighting the indissolubility of matrimony. . . .

    The story doesn’t shy away from the obstacles and difficulties entailed by the commitment of matrimony: doubt, fear, insecurity, and ego are all explored. Monica, the daughter of Anna and Stefan, is scarred by her parents’ crumbled relationship ("Do all marriages turn out like yours?" she asks her father at one point). Christopher tries to assure her that their relationship will be different — but this only prompts her to wonder what her father said to her mother all those years ago to win her.

    Christopher himself, meanwhile, faces self-doubt and uncertainty for other reasons: His father died before he was born, and he has no concrete idea of what a man should be. Yet his parents’ love, cut short though it was, had a permanence and fidelity that even now inspires him to pursue his beloved with hope, if not always with grace.

    The Jeweller’s Shop faces the obstacles, but ultimately affirms that, in spite of all difficulties, love remains the vocation of the person and the hope of the future ("The future depends on love"). As translator Boleslaw Taborsky writes in the introduction to his translation of the play, "There are no easy solutions, there is no happy ending. But there is hope, if only we can reach out of ourselves, see the true face of the other person, and hear the signals of a Love that transcends us. To this state of mind and heart we are invited but not browbeaten." The film also invites us to this state of mind and heart.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Coming Soon: The Jeweller's Shop

    Concluding our three-part Fall 2011 season, Cinema Catechism is pleased to present The Jeweller's Shop: A Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Passing on Occasion into a Drama, on Thursday, November 3, 2011, together with catechesis and discussion on the theme of Marriage and Family: Nature and Sacrament.

    The movie was adapted from the three-act play by Karol Wojtyla (Blessed Pope John Paul II) and it stars Burt Lancaster, Ben Cross, and Olivia Hussey, who is well-known in Christian film for having beautifully portrayed both the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mother Teresa. The Pope praised the production as "the best possible film based on my play."

    Appropriately subtitled a "Meditation," the contemplative style of The Jeweller's Shop explores the mysterious inner landscape of personal hopes and fears, loves and longings, and it challenges us to reflect upon love and the relationship between man and woman in marriage. Concerning the unusual and challenging style of The Jeweller's Shop, Boleslaw Taborsky, who translated the play from Polish into English, explains
    "The Jeweler's Shop seems to me a significant link between the future Pope John Paul II's writings on ethics (Love and Responsibility among them) on the one hand, and his poetry on the other. It combines the elements of a treatise with rich poetic imagery and inner dramatic development. It is the work of a man in whom unbending principles are connected with boundless forbearance and understanding for people. Here, too, out of the chaos created by our human loves, hates and weaknesses, he gently points the way in the right direction."
    The story focuses on three couples:
    (1) Teresa and Andrej are happily planning their wedding when they meet a mysterious jeweler who tells them about the true significance of the rings as symbols of love and everlasting unity. Sadly though, Andrej dies in the war before their son is born.
    (2) Anna and Stefan began their life together with high hopes, but they later live together as strangers, the marriage having grown cold and loveless. But when Anna tries to sell her wedding ring and the mystical jeweler places it in the scales, he tells her that her ring by itself has no weight, it is incomplete without the ring of her husband.
    (3) Christopher and Monica are their respective children who meet and decide to marry. Monica, seeing her parent's troubled marriage, has doubt, fear, and insecurity. Christopher is hopeful and tries to reassure her, but he too has his concerns -- his father having died before he was born, he knows what a good husband and father should be only through that part of Andrej that lived on in Teresa.

    Besides the jeweler, there is another who touches the lives of these couples, Adam, who in the play is a rather mysterious character, like the jeweler, but in the movie is cast as a priest. Adam speaks of the eternity of love and man's need to be filled with love and God.

    And that is the ultimate message of the story -- that although life is not always easy, there is hope, a hope that overcomes the hardships and difficulties of life, and that hope is to be found in love. Love too can be a challenge, but genuine love is, by its very nature, transformative and creative, bringing forth new life. "The future depends on love."

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    The 13th Day of October

    The 13th Day (2009)
    a film by Ian and Dominic Higgins
    In a world torn apart by persecution, war and oppression, 3 children were chosen to offer a message of hope to the world.

    Based on the memoirs of the oldest Seer, Lucia Santos, and many thousands of independent eye-witness accounts, The 13th Day dramatizes the TRUE story of three young shepherds who experienced six interactive apparitions with a “Lady from Heaven” between May and October 1917, which culminated into the final prophesized Miracle. . . .

    Stylistically beautiful and technically innovative, writer-directors Ian & Dominic Higgins use state-of-the-art digital effects to create stunning images of the visions and the final miracle that have never before been fully realized on screen.

    Shot on location in Portugal and in the UK, 13th Day Films worked with a cast of over 250 to re-create the scenes of the 70,000 strong crowds, and 3 Portuguese children play the iconic roles of the Seers.

    Witness the greatest miracle of the 20th Century, and experience the incredible, emotionally-charged and often harrowing world of three young children whose choice to remain loyal to their beliefs, even in the face of death, would inspire thousands.

    Fatima for Today

    Today, Cinema Catechism and the Church celebrate the final appearence of Our Lady of Fatima to the humble shepherd children Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta.

    The Mission of Fatima Continues

    On October 13, 1917, a reported 70,000 people were present for the "Miracle of the Sun" outside the small town of Fatima, Portugal, where a radiant Lady in white had appeared to three humble shepherd children. The Lady had spoken of the war then raging in Europe (World War I) and had warned of an even greater war to follow (World War II), and she asked that people pray for the conversion of Russia to prevent its errors (e.g. Communism) from being spread throughout the world. A third "secret" involved the suffering and shooting of a "bishop in white," who has since been interpreted as being the pope.

    The world wars are over, the Soviet Union is no more, and Eastern Europe is free. Pope John Paul II was in fact shot on May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first apparition, and he suffered greatly before his death. Now that so much of the prophetic message of Our Lady has come to fruition, does that mean that Fatima is now relegated to the past? Are those events and the message of Our Lady of Fatima now merely a historical curiosity? Or perhaps we ought to ask: What really is The Message of Fatima?
    We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: "Where is your brother Abel . . . Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!" (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end... In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: "Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?" (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).

    At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.
    --Pope Benedict XVI, Fatima, May 13, 2010

    What is The Message of Fatima? What is the ultimate message given to us, the ultimate meaning?

    There is great hardship and suffering in the world. Yet, we do not despair because Jesus came to save us from death and destruction. We have hope. Not the "hope" of wishes and grasping at straws, but of trustworthy confidence and assured expectation of salvation. (Spe Salvi) But Jesus asks for our help in the work of salvation, which comes through the Cross. We are called to, among other things, pray for others, make a gift of self in love to others, and to help Him carry the Cross, taking upon ourselves what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ and suffering with Him. (Col 1:24).

    The ultimate message of Fatima is this: Humanity will necessarily suffer great hardship in this world, but God has not abandoned us. The Lady in white, clothed as with the sun, asks us to help her Son in the work of salvation, including prayer, penance, and redemptive suffering, not merely for ourselves, but for the salvation of others, for their conversion away from sin to embracing holiness. The faithful will suffer and even be hated and persecuted, but all this is beatitude (Mt. 5:3-10). In the end, notwithstanding all of the great evils that are thrust upon us, her Immaculate Heart will triumph.
    The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world — because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time.

    The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise. (Theological Commentary on Fatima, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)
    Evil will not have the last say, the good will prevail. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain." (Rev. 21:1-8)

    Ultimately, The Message of Fatima is hope.


    Here is a really interesting documentary from Italy on Fatima --


    See also -
    --Timeline of the Events of Fatima
    --Theological Commentary on Fatima by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
    --Church Teaching on Marian Apparitions and Other Private Revelations
    --Beatification of Francisco and Jacinta and the Message of Fatima
    --The Truth of Sin and Suffering, and Our Helping Jesus in the Work of Salvation
    --Other Source Material on Fatima

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    "All vocations involve some form of being 'wedded' to another"

    Dating is to Marriage what Seminary is to Priesthood
    Rev. Brian Bashista, Director of the Office of Vocations
    Arlington Catholic Herald, June 10, 2009
    Our ultimate goal in life is to get to heaven, to become a saint. This call or invitation by God to be united with Him and one another forever in paradise is a universal call. However the way we live out this universal call is not universal. It varies according to the specific purpose or mission for which God has created each of us. This mission, simply put, is our vocation. . . .

    Christ has called us all by name, our first name in fact, at our baptism to share His life, to share His mission of salvation. Therefore we all have a vocation. We are all called in some way to play a role in salvation history for love of Christ and His people. All vocations are therefore rooted in love because they are rooted in Christ. This love is sacrificial and self-less, in other words, it is Christ-like and other-directed. . . .

    A vocation begins with Christ’s total gift of Himself to us and is then realized in our response to His gift, namely our total gift of ourselves to Him for the sake of others. . . . Love is not chosen, it is discovered and responded to. Properly speaking, someone does not choose another to marry but discovers, with the other, a mutually shared Christ-centered love that eventually leads to an invitation to enter sacramental marital love. The same is true for priesthood—one does not choose to become a priest, they discover with and through the Church, Christ’s invitation to be one of His priests. . . .

    All vocations involve some form of being “wedded” to another. This union involves the offering of mutual love and support which then is open to bringing forth new life. For most men this wedded life will be freely entered into with a wife through the beautiful sacrament of marriage and the openness to father children through the order of nature. For other men, those who are called to be priests, this wedded life will be freely entered into with a “Supernatural Wife,” the Church -- his Spiritual Bride with whom he will father new sacramental life or supernatural children through the order of grace. It is vital that we discover our vocations. Our fulfillment, our blessedness, our salvation, and more importantly the salvation of others depend upon our acceptance of the mission, the vocation that Christ invites us to embrace. . . .

    Once someone has sensed that God might be calling them to this vocation or the other, they must act upon these inspirations. Rather than resist the promptings they should move toward and act upon them. They should place these thoughts before the “other” to see if they are mutually shared. . . . It is as unrealistic for someone to be certain they will marry someone before they date them as it is for someone to be certain they are called to the priesthood before they enter the seminary. Dating is to marriage what seminary is to priesthood. Both are a type of courtship that leads to the discovery of where someone is truly called, or not called. . . . This discovery or discernment is a process of getting to know the other and responding positively to the love Christ is calling them to share. . . .
    Fr. Bashista is the director of the Office of Vocations, Diocese of Arlington.
    He can be reached at

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Marriage and Family: the Priesthood

    Recent years have seen many people complain, again and again, "why can't we have married priests?"

    In fact, as noted below, in the celibate priesthood, the priest does have a spouse, and we call him "Father" for good reason.

    Pastores Dabo Vobis
    Blessed Pope John Paul II
    March 25, 1992
    22. The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church. . . . In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ's spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest's life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ's spousal love. . .

    29. “This perfect continence for love of the kingdom of heaven has always been held in high esteem by the Church as a sign and stimulus of love, and as a singular source of spiritual fertility in the world." (Lumen Gentium 42) In virginity and celibacy, chastity retains its original meaning, that is, of human sexuality lived as a genuine sign of and precious service to the love of communion and gift of self to others. This meaning is fully found in virginity which makes evident, even in the renunciation of marriage, the "nuptial meaning" of the body through a communion and a personal gift to Jesus Christ and his Church which prefigures and anticipates the perfect and final communion and self - giving of the world to come: "In virginity or celibacy, the human being is awaiting, also in a bodily way, the eschatological marriage of Christ with the Church, giving himself or herself completely to the Church in the hope that Christ may give himself to the Church in the full truth of eternal life." (Familiaris Consortio 98)

    Sacramentum Caritatis
    Pope Benedict XVI
    February 22, 2007
    24. The Synod Fathers wished to emphasize that the ministerial priesthood, through ordination, calls for complete configuration to Christ. . . . This choice on the part of the priest expresses in a special way the dedication which conforms him to Christ and his exclusive offering of himself for the Kingdom of God. . . . It is not sufficient to understand priestly celibacy in purely functional terms. Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ's own way of life. This choice has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride. . . .

    Spousal Receptivity to the Lord

    Vita Consecreta
    Blessed Pope John Paul II
    Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
    March 25, 1996
    3. In effect, the consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it "manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling"and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse. . . . The consecrated life may experience further changes in its historical forms, but there will be no change in the substance of a choice which finds expression in a radical gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family. This certainty, which has inspired countless individuals in the course of the centuries, continues to reassure the Christian people, for they know that they can draw from the contribution of these generous souls powerful support on their journey towards the heavenly home. . . .

    7. It is a source of joy and hope to witness in our time a new flowering of the ancient Order of Virgins, known in Christian communities ever since apostolic times. Consecrated by the diocesan Bishop, these women acquire a particular link with the Church, which they are commited to serve while remaining in the world. Either alone or in association with others, they constitute a special eschatological image of the Heavenly Bride and of the life to come, when the Church will at last fully live her love for Christ the Bridegroom. . . .

    21. The deepest meaning of the evangelical counsels is revealed when they are viewed in relation to the Holy Trinity, the source of holiness. They are in fact an expression of the love of the Son for the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. By practising the evangelical counsels, the consecrated person lives with particular intensity the Trinitarian and Christological dimension which marks the whole of Christian life.

    The chastity of celibates and virgins, as a manifestation of dedication to God with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-34), is a reflection of the infinite love which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love "poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5), which evokes a response of total love for God and the brethren. Poverty proclaims that God is man's only real treasure. When poverty is lived according to the example of Christ who, "though he was rich ... became poor" (2 Cor 8:9), it becomes an expression of that total gift of self which the three Divine Persons make to one another. . . .

    34. In the consecrated life, particular importance attaches to the spousal meaning, which recalls the Church's duty to be completely and exclusively devoted to her Spouse, from whom she receives every good thing. This spousal dimension, which is part of all consecrated life, has a particular meaning for women, who find therein their feminine identity and as it were discover the special genius of their relationship with the Lord. . . .

    In Mary, the aspect of spousal receptivity is particularly clear; it is under this aspect that the Church, through her perfect virginal life, brings divine life to fruition within herself. The consecrated life has always been seen primarily in terms of Mary — Virgin and Bride. This virginal love is the source of a particular fruitfulness which fosters the birth and growth of divine life in people's hearts. Following in the footsteps of Mary, the New Eve, consecrated persons express their spiritual fruitfulness by becoming receptive to the Word, in order to contribute to the growth of a new humanity by their unconditional dedication and their living witness.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    The Spousal Relationship with the Lord in Religious Life

    Verbi Sponsa
    Instruction on the Contemplative Life and on the Enclosure of Nuns
    Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
    Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
    May 13, 1999
    1. The Church as Bride of the Word shows forth in an exemplary way in those dedicated to a wholly contemplative life the mystery of her exclusive union with God. For this reason the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata presents the vocation and mission of cloistered nuns as “a sign of the exclusive union of the Church as Bride with her Lord, whom she loves above all things,” showing how they are a unique grace and precious gift within the mystery of the Church's holiness. . . .

    Cloistered nuns see themselves especially in the Virgin Mary, Bride and Mother, figure of the Church; and sharing the blessedness of those who believe (cf. Lk 1:45; 11:28), they echo her “Yes” and her loving adoration of the Word of life, becoming with her the living “memory” of the Church's spousal love (cf. Lk 2:19, 51). . .

    4. The history of God's relationship to humanity is a history of spousal love, prepared for in the Old Testament and celebrated in the fullness of time.

    Divine Revelation uses the nuptial image to describe the intimate and indissoluble link between God and his people (cf. Hos 1-2; Is 54:4-8; 62:4-5; Jer 2:2; Ezek 16; 2 Cor 11:2; Rom 11:29).

    The Son of God presents himself as the Bridegroom-Messiah (cf. Mt 9:15; 25:1), come to seal the marriage of God with humanity, in a wondrous exchange of love, which begins in the Incarnation, comes to its summit of self-offering in the Passion and is for ever given as gift in the Eucharist.

    The Lord Jesus pours into human hearts his love and the love of the Father, enabling them to respond fully, through the gift of the Holy Spirit who never ceases to cry out with the Bride: “Come!” (Rev 22:17). This fullness of grace and holiness is realized in “the Bride of the Lamb ... coming down out of heaven, from God, shining with the glory of God” (Rev 21:9-10).

    The nuptial dimension belongs to the whole Church, but consecrated life is a vivid image of it, since it more clearly expresses the impulse towards the Bridegroom.

    In a still more significant and radical way, the mystery of the exclusive union of the Church as Bride with the Lord is expressed in the vocation of cloistered nuns, precisely because their life is entirely dedicated to God, loved above all else, in a ceaseless straining towards the heavenly Jerusalem and in anticipation of the eschatological Church confirmed in the possession and contemplation of God. Their life is a reminder to all Christian people of the fundamental vocation of everyone to come to God; and it is a foreshadowing of the goal towards which the entire community of the Church journeys, in order to live forever as the Bride of the Lamb. . . .

    Nuns moreover, by their very nature as women, show forth more powerfully the mystery of the Church as “the Spotless Bride of the Spotless Lamb”, rediscovering themselves individually in the spousal dimension of the wholly contemplative vocation.

    The monastic life of women has therefore a special capacity to embody the nuptial relationship with Christ and be a living sign of it: was it not in a woman, the Virgin Mary, that the heavenly mystery of the Church was accomplished? . . .

    7. “The pilgrim Church is by her very nature missionary”; therefore mission is also essential to Institutes of contemplative life. Cloistered nuns fulfil that mission by dwelling at the missionary heart of the Church, by means of constant prayer, the oblation of self and the offering of the sacrifice of praise.

    Their life thus becomes a mysterious source of apostolic fruitfulness and blessing for the Christian community and for the whole world.

    It is charity, poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), which makes nuns co-workers of the truth (cf. 3 Jn v. 8), participants in Christ's work of Redemption (cf. Col 1:24), and through their vital union with the other members of the Mystical Body makes their lives fruitful, wholly directed to the pursuit of charity, for the good of all.

    Saint John of the Cross writes that “truly a crumb of pure love is more precious in the Lord's sight and of greater benefit to the Church than all the other works together.” In the wonderment of her splendid intuition, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus declares: “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was ablaze with love. I understood that Love alone enabled the Church's members to act . . . Yes, I found my place in the Church . . . at the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love.”

    The insight of the Saint of Lisieux is the conviction of the Church, repeatedly voiced by the Magisterium: “The Church is deeply aware and, without hesitation she forcefully proclaims, that there is an intimate connection between prayer and the spreading of the Kingdom of God, between prayer and the conversion of hearts, between prayer and the fruitful reception of the saving and uplifting Gospel message.” . . .

    As a reflection and radiation of their contemplative life, nuns offer to the Christian community and to the world of today, more than ever in need of true spiritual values, a silent proclamation of the mystery of God and a humble witness to it, thus keeping prophecy alive in the nuptial heart of the Church. . . .

    Living in and by the Lord's presence, nuns are a particular foreshadowing of the eschatological Church immutable in its possession and contemplation of God; they “visibly represent the goal towards which the entire community of the Church travels. ‘Eager to act and yet devoted to contemplation,’ the Church advances down the paths of time with her eyes fixed on the future restoration of all things in Christ.”

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Adoramus Te

    All of us here at Cinema Catechism and our sister blog Vita Nostra in Ecclesia are pleased to welcome Adoramus Te, the blog of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, to the world of the blogosphere!

    May you be a light of love and truth to a world sorely in need of it, and may the Lord bless and keep you always.

    St. Thérèse, Expert in the Science of Love

    St. Thérèse of Lisieux
    Pope Benedict XVI
    General Audience, April 6, 2011
    Today I would like to talk to you about St Thérèse of Lisieux, Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, who lived in this world for only 24 years, at the end of the 19th century. . . My beloved Predecessor described her as an “expert in the scientia amoris” Thérèse expressed this science, in which she saw the whole truth of the faith shine out in love, mainly in the story of her life, published a year after her death with the title The Story of a Soul. . . .

    Thérèse was born on 2 January 1873 in Alençon, a city in Normandy, in France. She was the last daughter of Louis and Zélie Martin, a married couple and exemplary parents, who were beatified together on 19 October 2008. They had nine children, four of whom died at a tender age. Five daughters were left, who all became religious.. . . At the age of 14, Thérèse became ever closer, with great faith, to the Crucified Jesus. She took to heart the apparently desperate case of a criminal sentenced to death who was impenitent. “I wanted at all costs to prevent him from going to hell”, the Saint wrote, convinced that her prayers would put him in touch with the redeeming Blood of Jesus. It was her first and fundamental experience of spiritual motherhood. . . .

    In November 1887, Thérèse went on pilgrimage to Rome with her father and her sister Céline. The culminating moment for her was the Audience with Pope Leo XIII, whom she asked for permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux when she was only just 15. A year later her wish was granted. She became a Carmelite, “to save souls and to pray for priests.” . . .

    Her name as a religious — Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face — expresses the program of her whole life in communion with the central Mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption. . . .

    For Thérèse, being a religious meant being a bride of Jesus and a mother of souls. On the same day, the Saint wrote a prayer which expressed the entire orientation of her life: she asked Jesus for the gift of his infinite Love, to be the smallest, and above all she asked for the salvation of all human being: “That no soul may be damned today.” . . .

    [In 1896 began] her passion in profound union with the Passion of Jesus. It was the passion of her body, with the illness that led to her death through great suffering, but it was especially the passion of the soul, with a very painful trial of faith. With Mary beside the Cross of Jesus, Thérèse then lived the most heroic faith, as a light in the darkness that invaded her soul. The Carmelite was aware that she was living this great trial for the salvation of all the atheists of the modern world, whom she called “brothers.”

    She then lived fraternal love even more intensely: for the sisters of her community, for her two spiritual missionary brothers, for the priests and for all people, especially the most distant. She truly became a “universal sister”! . . . In this context of suffering, living the greatest love in the smallest things of daily life, the Saint brought to fulfillment her vocation to be Love in the heart of the Church. . . .

    “Trust and Love” are therefore the final point of the account of her life, two words, like beacons, that illumined the whole of her journey to holiness, to be able to guide others on the same “little way of trust and love,” of spiritual childhood.

    Trust, like that of the child who abandons himself in God’s hands, inseparable from the strong, radical commitment of true love, which is the total gift of self forever, as the Saint says, contemplating Mary: “Loving is giving all, and giving oneself” (Why I love thee, Mary, P 54/22). Thus Thérèse points out to us all that Christian life consists in living to the full the grace of Baptism in the total gift of self to the Love of the Father, in order to live like Christ, in the fire of the Holy Spirit, his same love for all the others.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Marriage and Family: St. Thérèse and the Vocation to Love

    This season of Cinema Catechism, we are exploring the theme of Marriage and Family, and the film for October is Miracle of St. Thérèse.

    St. Thérèse?? OK, I can see what Thérèse Martin has to do with the family part -- she came from a very devout and pious Catholic family, her parents are both beatified, her four surviving siblings all went on to become nuns. But Thérèse was a cloistered nun, what does she have to do with marriage?

    Quite a lot actually. True, she did not enter into a earthly human marriage with a man, but she did have a spouse. She loved with a spousal love in a spousal relationship. And to understand that, we must first understand the idea of "marriage as primordial sacrament," in the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

    A "sacrament" is an outward visible sign of a mystical nonvisible reality. And in the marriage of man and woman, we see the primary model for God's plan for humanity.

    Indeed, there is a spousal meaning revealed in the human body, as shown both in natural observation of the human body and as explained in the opening chapters of Genesis. "Man," male and female, made in the image of the Trinity, is by "his" nature a social being, made for relationship. It is not good that man should be alone -- in solitude, he is missing an essential element, he is incomplete. Man is made for relationship; hence he (singular) is made both male and female (plural). Thus, it is not just any relationship man is made for, where they (plural) are male and female (plural), but he is specifically oriented toward a spousal relationship, a loving communion of persons become one that is fruitful, just as the Trinity is a loving communion of three persons in one divine being who is procreative. Again, in the human marriage of man and woman, we see the primary model for God's plan for humanity.

    In scripture, in the story of Salvation History, we can plainly see God's relationship with humanity in general, and Israel in particular, described in spousal terms. The Annunciation to Mary has often been described as a kind of marriage proposal by God to her, with Mary saying "yes" on behalf of all mankind. The first miracle Jesus performed was at a wedding, and many of His parables involved marital imagery. Jesus is, of course, the Bridegroom, having taken as His virginal Bride, the Church. And in the eschatology of the Book of Revelation, life after the resurrection of the body is described in the spousal terms of the wedding banquet of the Lamb. So, marriage is clearly the model by which to understand God's plan for us.

    There is a spousal meaning to the human body, every human body. Since we all have a human body, we are all made for a "spousal" relationship of some sort, we are made to love and be loved in that pure and complete fullness of love that is both unitive and procreative, that involves a communion of persons that bears many fruits. This might manifest itself in the human marriage of the flesh, the marriage of a male and female, especially in the Sacrament of Matrimony, resulting in physical children. But it also manifests itself in the spousal relationship that a priest has, in the manner of Jesus, with His Bride, the Church, whereby, in that virginal marriage, there is a loving communion of persons that is fruitful, that results in spiritual children. Likewise, this spousal relationship might manifest itself in a spiritual marriage with Jesus, as we see with Sister Thérèse and other consecrated women religious.

    But what about the rest of us? Those who are still "single," who have yet to discern their vocation (marriage or religious life) or who have discerned that they are called to marriage, but, for some reason, it has not happened? Or what about those with a same-sex attraction?

    Single people have a vocation too, but it is not a vocation to solitude. It is not good that man should be alone -- in solitude, he is missing an essential element, he is incomplete. Each of these single people also has a spousal meaning in his or her very body. They too are called to that vocation which is the primary vocation of all -- the vocation to love. They too are called to love and be loved in a relationship of pure and complete love, the fullness of love with the Lord that is communion with Him and is fruitful. So, if they cannot enter into a human marriage, for whatever reason -- if, for example, they have not found anyone who wants to marry them or because they are same-sex attracted -- they are still called to a relationship of spousal love. If they wish to be true to the person that are made to be, even if they do not pursue the consecrated religious life, they should still seek to love the Lord and His Bride as a spouse loves his or her beloved, fully and completely, in a dynamic and fruitful loving communion of persons.

    The Story of a Soul
    St. Thérèse of Lisieux
    Chapter 8
    On the morning of September 8, peace swept over me and I made my vows in that “peace which surpasseth all understanding.” I demanded innumerable favours. I felt that I was really a queen and I made full use of my title to ask the King for every kind of benefit for His ungrateful subjects. I forgot no one. I wanted every sinner to be converted that day and for purgatory to be emptied. . . .

    It was the Nativity of Mary. What a beautiful feast on which to become the Spouse of Jesus! It was the little new-born Holy Virgin who presented her little Flower to the little Jesus. Everything was little on that day except for the graces I received and the joyful peace I felt as I gazed at the stars in the evening sky and thought that I should soon ascend to heaven and be united with my divine Spouse in eternal happiness.

    On September 24, I took the veil. . . . Eight days after I took the veil, our cousin, Jeanne Guérin, married Doctor La Néele. Some time later, as we were talking in the parlour, she told me of all the care she lavished on her husband. Her words stirred me and I said to myself: “It’s not going to be said that a woman will do more for her husband, a mere mortal, than I will do for my beloved Jesus.” I was filled with fresh ardour and made greater efforts than ever to see that all I did was pleasing to the King of kings who had chosen me as His bride.

    When I saw the letter announcing Jeanne’s marriage, I amused myself by composing an invitation which I read to the novices to make them realize what had struck me so forcibly: how trifling are the pleasures of an earthly union compared to the glory of being the bride of Jesus.
    Creator of Heaven and Earth
    Supreme Sovereign of the Universe
    Queen of the Court of Heaven
    Announce to you the Spiritual Marriage of their august Son
    Little Thérèse Martin
    now Princess and Lady of the Kingdoms of the Childhood of Jesus and His Passion, given to her as a dowry by her divine Spouse from which she holds her titles of nobility OF THE CHILD JESUS and OF THE HOLY FACE.

    It was not possible to invite you to the wedding feast held on the Mountain of Carmel, September 8, 1890, as only the heavenly Court was admitted, but you are nevertheless invited to the At Home tomorrow, the Day of Eternity when Jesus, the Son of God, will come in the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead in the full splendor of His majesty.

    The hour being uncertain, you are asked to hold yourself in readiness and to watch.

    Chapter 11
    When I awoke from [a certain] dream, I believed and I knew that heaven exists and that souls dwell there who love me and look upon me as their child. . . .

    O my Beloved! This grace was only the prelude of the greater ones You wished to shower on me. Let me recall them to You, and forgive me if I talk nonsense in trying to tell You again about those hopes and desires of mine which are almost limitless ... forgive me and heal my soul by granting it what it wants. It should be enough for me, Jesus, to be Your spouse, to be a Carmelite and, by union with You, to be the mother of souls. Yet I long for other vocations: I want to be a warrior, a priest, an apostle, a doctor of the Church, a martyr. ... I would like to perform the most heroic deeds. I feel I have the courage of a Crusader. I should like to die on the battlefield in defence of the Church.. . .

    Like the prophets and the doctors of the Church, I should like to enlighten souls. I should like to wander through the world, preaching Your Name and raising Your glorious Cross in pagan lands. But it would not be enough to have only one field of mission work. I should not be satisfied unless I preached the Gospel in every quarter of the globe . . . I should like to have been [a missionary] from the creation of the world and to continue as one till the end of time. But, above all, I long to be a martyr. From my childhood I have dreamt of martyrdom, and it is a dream which has grown more and more real in my little cell in Carmel. . . . My Jesus, fling open that book of life in which are set down the deeds of every saint. I want to perform them all for You!

    Now what can You say to all my silliness? Is there anywhere in the world a tinier, weaker soul than mine? Yet just because I am so weak, You have granted my little, childish desires and now You will grant those desires of mine which are far vaster than the universe. These desires caused me a real martyrdom, and so one day I opened the epistles of St. Paul to try to find some cure for my sufferings. . . . [I read,] “Be zealous for the better gifts. And I show unto you a yet more excellent way.” The apostle explains how even all the most perfect gifts are nothing without love and that charity is the most excellent way of going safely to God. I had found peace at last. . . .

    Charity gave me the key to my vocation. . . . I realized that love includes all vocations, that love is all things, and that, because it is eternal, it embraces every time and place.

    Swept by an ecstatic joy, I cried: “Jesus, my love! At last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love! I have found my place in the bosom of the Church and it is You, Lord, who has given it me. In the heart of the Church, who is my Mother, I will be love. So I shall be everything and so my dreams will be fulfilled.” . . . How brightly this beacon of love burns! And I know how to reach it and how to make its flames my own.

    I am only a weak and helpless child, yet it is my very weakness which has made me daring enough to offer myself to You, Jesus, as the victim of Your love. . . . My heart has no desire for riches or glory, even the glory of heaven. That glory belongs by right to my brothers – the angels and the saints. . . . But what I demand is love. I care now about one thing only – to love You, my Jesus! Great deeds are forbidden me, I cannot preach the Gospel nor shed my blood – but what does it matter? My brothers toil instead of me and I, a little child, well, I keep close by the throne of God, and I love for those who fight. Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Well, I will scatter flowers, perfuming the divine Throne with their fragrances, and I’ll sweetly sing my hymn of love. Yes, my Beloved, that is how I’ll spend my short life. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers, and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and doing the least of actions for love. I wish both to suffer and to find joy through love. Thus will I scatter my flowers.


    Also, you may find of interest the blog Sponsa Christi, a young consecrated virgin reflects on her vocation.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Love in little things

    Letter to St. Thérèse
    Albino Cardinal Luciani (Pope John Paul the First)
    Love in little things. Often this is the only kind possible. I never had the chance to jump into a river to save a drowning man; I have been very often asked to lend something, to write letters, to give simple and easy instructions. I have never met a mad dog; instead I have met some irritating flies and mosquitoes. I have never had persecutors beat me but many people disturb me with noises in the street, with the volume of the television turned up too high or unfortunately with making noise in drinking soup. To help, however, one can not take it amiss, to be understanding; to remain calm and smiling (as much as possible) in such occasions is to love one’s neighbor without rhetoric in a practical way.