Family: Imitate Christ in Self-Giving Love

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JPII Giving of Self

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial Feast of St. John Paul II. For John Paul II, the family plays a vital role in establishing a civilization of love and the renewal of Christian culture. Throughout his pontificate, John Paul II emphasized that a new springtime of evangelization would blossom through the family. Living abundantly through Christ’s grace, the family would change the culture and the world.

Man… cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. (Gaudium et Spes, 24)

These words which were proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in the Vatican II encyclical Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on The Church in The Modern World)[1] became the foundation of the writings of Pope St. John Paul II on marriage and family.

In 1960, while Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla published Love and Responsibility. This foundational work dealt with the issue of how we can transform a sexual urge that is fundamentally selfish into something loving and unselfish.

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Marriage: Witness to God’s Faithful Love

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God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love…married couples share in this love…it supports and sustains them, and…by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1648

The faithful love of husband and wife in marriage is a witness to God’s faithful love to His people. You cannot find a more noble task. Or a more impossible one! We are wounded and broken people. We cannot live this kind of love on our own. But God has not left us alone. In the Sacrament of Matrimony, we get grace to love as Christ loved: freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. Continue reading

The Tumbler Called “Family Life”

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Family_Polishing the Rough Edges

If you are like many couples, before you said, “I do,” you had an idyllic view of marriage and family life. You and your spouse were in love and there would never be any friction between you. The PREPARE/ENRICH pre-marital inventory calls this “Idealistic Distortion” or looking through “rose-colored” glasses.

A few weeks or months into marriage, your beloved’s quirky traits that you thought were so cute when you were dating, now are rather annoying. Reality begins to set in and your idyllic view of marriage is now challenged by the tensions of daily living with another person. Marriage is a union of two selfish and wounded people. If you thought that you were entering a perfect marriage, as soon as you entered that union, it was no longer perfect. Along with our virtues, we each bring baggage to the marriage. Continue reading

Jesus is the Answer

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Jesus the Good Shepherd

I am the Good Shepherd

Fr. John Riccardo of ACTS XXIX, an apostolate of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is fond of saying, “The world will find happiness to the extent that it finds Jesus.” We are living in a time of great division, anger, and strife. Cities are being burned to the ground. Civil unrest is rampant. As a culture, we have lost the ability to discuss our differences. Strife, despair, and hopelessness are extracting a terrible toll on our lives. For the first time in 100 years, the life expectancy in the United States has decreased three years in a row. Sociologists says that we are dying “deaths of despair.”

What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.[1] Porta Fidei (Door of Faith), §15

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Do You Have a Heart Condition?

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heart-cath_crop

What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart. Matthew 15:18

Just as a nutritional diet low in saturated fats and exercise is important to the physical health of your heart, so is a regular regiment of prayer, Scripture reading, and reception of the Sacraments important for the spiritual health of your heart. A steady diet high in sodium and saturated fats leads to plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart, leading to heart disease.

The same is true of your spiritual heart. Like plaque, unresolved anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness can severely weaken your spiritual heart, blocking the flow of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness to your spouse and family. This heart disease is at the root of marital strife and can result in the death of a marriage.

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Take Up Your Cross

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Christ on the Cross_Eugène Delacroix_c1835 Christ on the Cross, Eugène Delacroix, c. 1835

Last week, we commemorated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross by urging you to view your spouse as your cross, your path to sanctification. This week, we want to delve into the theology behind the exhortation.

Jesus said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23).

Denying ourselves and taking up our cross entails sacrifice. It means giving up something for the sake of something better. For example, we might give up time that we would have spent taking a nap so that we can read a book to our three-year-old daughter. Or it might mean biting our tongue instead of lashing out at our spouse who has just said something hurtful.

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Feast of the Exultation of the Cross

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ExaltationoftheCross

We should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our resurrection: through him we are saved and made free.[1]

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. This feast is a celebration of God’s greatest work: Christ’s salvific death on the Cross and His Resurrection, through which death was defeated and the gates to Heaven were opened. The cross is the universal image of Christian belief. Today is a time to ponder what Christ accomplished through His horrific Passion. Look upon the wounds of Christ, gaze into His eyes. See the love that He has for you; His willingness to suffer and die so that you may gain eternal life.

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Jesus calls us to follow him by taking up our cross daily. In marriage, your spouse is your cross. Some of you may be snickering in agreement with this statement but this cross is your path to sanctification. As Christ was wounded and died on the cross, marriage binds two wounded individuals in a lifelong covenant. The wounds of your spouse are holy ground. We are called to unite our woundedness and suffering to those of Christ on the cross.

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Book Review – Be Devoted: Restoring Friendship, Passion, and Communion in Your Marriage

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Be Devoted Bob SchuchtsIs there a gap between what you desire for your marriage and reality?

Are you and your spouse locked into an ongoing battle of wills?

Are there recurring unresolved conflicts in your marriage?

Do you want greater intimacy and connection with your spouse?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you need Be Devoted: Restoring Friendship, Passion, and Communion in Your Marriage, by Bob Schuchts. This book is a tremendous resource for all married couples and those contemplating marriage.

Be devoted to one another in love. Romans 12:10

Schuchts explains that “to be devoted is to know true and lasting love.”[1] He gives both synonyms and antonyms to help understand what it means to be devoted.

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Invest in Your Marriage

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Is your marriage witnessing the love of Christ to the world? Do other couples ask how you exude such joy in the midst of the messiness of family life? If not, consider investing in your marriage. What is the balance in your marital piggy bank? Are you running a surplus or are you in deficit spending? An ongoing investment in your own personal healing and in building up your marriage, will yield a joyful and fruitful marital relationship.

We all bring baggage into our marital relationships from our family of origin. We are wounded people. If we have not received healing from these wounds, we operate out of these wounds when we interact with each other. Have you ever over-reacted to a situation in your marriage and later wondered why your response was so inappropriate for the situation? These over-reactions are a good indication that you are being triggered by unresolved emotional wounds from your past.

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Serve Your Family in Humility

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Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet
Ford Madox Brown, c. 1852–6

Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

St. Paul wrote these words to the young church in Ephesus, imploring them to have unity with their Christian sisters and brothers. These words equally apply to family life where the daily grind can lead to impatience and short fuses. To live out these words requires a humble heart. It requires that we give up our right for justice when we have been maligned and ill-treated. It requires humility to respond to an afront with kindness. It requires humility to choose to love even when that love is not returned. It requires humility to serve your spouse, seeking always to be a blessing to them even when they do not desire it,. It requires humility to always choose the path that builds up and does not tear down. It requires humility to be a peacemaker in this most sacred covenant of marriage.

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