These August Women: The Witness of St. Jane Frances de Chantal

augustdefinitionWho can’t help but smile at such a sweet moment as the one from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves? As the little men prepare to leave home for work, they file off, each receiving a kiss on the forehead from the gentle princess. Thinking he can make the most of this scenario, the silliest of the seven, Dopey, after being kissed, bolts again and again to the end of the line, hoping Snow White will fail to notice. She does notice, but kisses him just the same.

A similar image is drawn from the life of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, whose feast we celebrate August 12.

Hagiographers have recounted the story of St. Jane’s generosity in bestowing alms on the poor. Handing out food at her doorstep, Jane would never refuse those who came for more—even if it meant they had circled the house to reenter the line! When asked how she could permit this, Jane compared herself to the poor, repeatedly begging for God’s grace again and again. If He never turned her down, how could she fail to emulate God’s generosity?

JaneDeChantalSt. Jane is remembered by the Church for her service to the poor, her friendships with St. Francis de Sales and St. Vincent de Paul (both served as her spiritual director at different times), and as the foundress of the Visitation Order.  Her deep spirituality is revealed in many letters exchanged with St. Francis, but her goodness and humor shine through as well.

A model for all lay women, St. Jane reminds us today that our energy is well spent directed toward the good of others. Her remarkable list of achievements pales when considered in the light of her loving witness of charity.

With her example in mind, may we too bestow the love of Christ on all we meet, and in particular the poor and forgotten.

 

Catholics and Conscience

From CUF founder H. Lyman Stebbins:

I feel that my conscience tells me that I must do God’s will. I as a Roman Catholic find that God’s will is shown to me by my teaching Church in those areas where my teaching Church does show it to me. Of course there are lots of areas–like coming to a press conference this morning–I didn’t call up Rome to find out if I should come or not. But there are lots of areas where they do solemnly tell me this is right and that is wrong; and when what I believe to be the voice of God tells me that, then I believe that is right and this is wrong. So that my conscience and the formal teaching of the Church are the same thing, the Church forms my conscience. Now, if there comes along somebody who says, ‘I’m a Catholic, but my conscience tells me something that is in opposition to what the Catholic Church teaches,’ I’m at a loss to know in what sense he is a Catholic, because it seems to me to be of the very essence of Catholicism to accept the Holy Roman Church as the authority of God.

To become a member of Catholics United for the Faith, visit our website.

Why Write a Book for Catholics About Pornography Addiction?

Because there’s a great need for one.

While there are no definitive studies on pornography use among Catholics, my clinical experience is that it is no different than any other denomination. Christianity Today conducted a study among their readers and found that pornography was a problem in 47% of families. Other studies have found that for about 50% of men pornography is a problem and about 10% are addicted to it. Women aren’t immune either. About a third of all visitors to pornographic websites are female and almost 20% of all pornography addicts are women.

The lesson to be learned here is that no one is immune to pornography use or addiction. The daily emergence of newer technology and portable electronic devices has made it more and more easy to obtain pornography. People need to be aware that pornography is an addictive substance. Today it is the preferred drug of choice for five reasons. I call these the “Five A’s of Pornography:”

It’s Affordable: Unlike drugs and alcohol, pornography is free. Just log onto the Internet and you can find all the porn you want without paying anything.

It’s Accessible: Thanks to portable electronic devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and e-readers, pornography is just a click away.

It’s Anonymous: It’s easy to hide porn use. Unlike drug or alcohol use, there are no visible signs for pornography use.

It’s Accepted: In today’s culture, pornography use is acceptable, especially among high school and college age youth. Many will openly talk about their favorite porn sites and porn stars. The mass media and porn industry have also succeeded in making it acceptable by dubbing it “adult entertainment.”

It’s Aggressive: Unlike alcohol that has to go through the blood stream before it affects the brain, pornography use affects the brain immediately providing instant gratification. Some even call it the new crack cocaine!

We all need to be aware of how easily we can be drawn into pornography use and addiction. It’s a drug that needs to be avoided at all costs!

To learn more, visit my website and check out Integrity Restored: Helping Catholics Win the Battle Against Pornography

Dr. Peter Kleponis, Ph.D., sheds light on the pervasive pornography epidemic in his new book Integrity Restored. The book will be available soon from Emmaus Road Publishing. 

These August Women: “Other Things are Expected of Us in this World”

augustdefinitionThroughout the month, this Lay Witness web exclusive series will take a look at several female saints whose feasts are celebrated in August.

I can’t hold it against them.  The friends I visited in a remote farming community were shaped by their local culture. Every farmer drives a rig. Every son labors on his father’s farm. And the women don’t work.

Sure there were a few female schoolteachers, mostly unmarried, but they tended to live with their families and were viewed as valuable contributors to their small town. It was a rather quaint town at that, and I didn’t object to the social structure that has been in place since the first German and Dutch settlers staked their homesteads nearly one hundred and fifty years ago.

But I stuck out like a sore thumb.

“Why waste your money on a college education? All you end up with is a hefty student loan to pay off.”

“If a women is to work, it should be with her family, or for family friends—like our school teachers do!”

I could handle the flack, knowing my stay was only for a few weeks, but all the bristly comments from these hard working, salt-of-the-earth folks were provocative.

As much as this town with a population of 900 has remained, in many ways, nonplussed by the general trends of American society, the Church repeatedly acknowledges that we live in an ever-changing world, and the faithful must address the ebb and flow of shifting human experiences, bringing the Light of Christ with us.

As a working women, my presence jostled the longstanding norm in this particular locale—but the Church, and in particular our most recent Popes, have spoken with fatherly authority on the role of women in the modern world.

But can a woman have an authentic vocation to work outside the home? Saint John Paul II, noting the changing world the Church finds herself in the midst of, wrote: “We can face these changes correctly and adequately only if we go back to the foundations which are to be found in Christ,” (Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 28).

Edith Stein, near age 30.

Edith Stein, near age 30.

Behold the Woman

Many women have, in fidelity to Christ, answered a call to work in the world and as such have given expression to what John Paul II called the feminine genius.

One woman in particular, whose feast is celebrated on August 9, has made a singular contribution to the Church’s understanding of the female identity and mission—both through her life’s example and her work exploring the nature of woman: Saint Edith Stein, a twentieth century philosopher, convert from Judaism, Carmelite religious, and martyr.

Having studied with the Edmund Husserl, originator of phenomenology (a branch of philosophy that takes personal experience into account in the study of reality and consciousness), Stein’s intense desire to know Truth led her to not only to become a philosopher but also to Christ and the Catholic Church.

“During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion,” Stein wrote, “I thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one’s mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world.”

Stein reflected, “The deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to `get beyond himself’ in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it.”

Because she dedicated herself to her studies and her work, because she “went beyond herself,” Edith Stein had the opportunity to delve deeply into the study of the spiritual and ontological nature of women (See her “Essays on Woman”). While her writings probe deeply into what is distinct about the feminine soul, the practical implications that can be gleaned from her philosophical studies are useful for all women of today.

Yes, a woman’s soul is ordered toward union with a man, and from that union the woman’s potential is actualized in the fullest expression of femininity: motherhood. But Stein also recognized that because of her gifts, and on account of her state in life, a woman is often called to make contributions beyond family life.

As an educator, Stein was given the responsibility of teaching many young women, Inevitably, her embrace of this vocation made a profound impact on the lives of her students—as is expected when a vocation is lived out joyously and with purpose. Later, as a religious, Stein embraced the call to martyrdom when she accepted the Cross and was gassed at Auschwitz along with “her people,” the persecuted Jews.

The Work of a Woman

Looking to Christ, who is the Truth, Saint Edith Stein discerned how she was best able to use her feminine genius for the service of others.

On their own, Saint Edith Stein’s writings provide a daunting challenge: to seek to understand why and how women are called to live out their feminine vocation.

But her life’s example raises the bar even higher.

Whether a woman finds herself raising children and faithfully serving her husband, serving the Church through consecrated life, or like me, working professionally, she can look to Saint Edith Stein, who vigorously pursued God’s calling for her life, and be edified and encouraged in the struggles of living out the call to holiness.

With Saint Edith Stein’s help, and the univocal support of Catholic teaching, I can see that I’m not the aberration and oddity the good country people may have thought. Nothing could be more normal than living out the vocation God has given, whatever it may be.

It is primarily through our vocations—not only as mothers, but teachers, lawyers, editors, doctors, and caretakers—that the feminine presence leads other souls to Christ.

Saint Edith Stein, pray for us!

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Thank you for your generous support of Catholics United for the Faith!

The Mystery of Light ‘Par Excellence’

In 2002, St. John Paul II proposed the addition of a new set of mysteries to the traditional three sets (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious). In his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary), John Paul introduced the Mysteries of Light. Among those mysteries of the life of Christ is the feast we celebrate today: The Transfiguration of Our Lord.

Read here the Holy Father’s teaching on the Mysteries of Light, or Luminous Mysteries, from Rosarium Virginis Mariae:

transfigurationblogThe Mysteries of Light

Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom.

In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments–“luminous” mysteries–during this phase of Christ’s life, I think that the following can be fittingly singled out:

  • His Baptism in the Jordan,
  • His self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana,
  • His proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion,
  • His Transfiguration, and finally,
  • His institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery.

Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus. The Baptism in the Jordan is first of all a mystery of light. Here, as Christ descends into the waters, the innocent one who became “sin” for our sake (cf. 2Cor 5:21), the heavens open wide and the voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son (cf. Mt 3:17 and parallels), while the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out.

Another mystery of light is the first of the signs, given at Cana (cf. Jn 2:1- 12), when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers.

Another mystery of light is the preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk 7:47- 48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. Jn 20:22-23).

The mystery of light par excellence is the Transfiguration, traditionally believed to have taken place on Mount Tabor. The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to “listen to him” (cf. Lk 9:35 and parallels) and to prepare to experience with him the agony of the Passion, so as to come with him to the joy of the Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit.

A final mystery of light is the institution of the Eucharist, in which Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies “to the end” his love for humanity (Jn 13:1), for whose salvation he will offer himself in sacrifice.

In these mysteries, apart from the miracle at Cana, the presence of Mary remains in the background. The Gospels make only the briefest reference to her occasional presence at one moment or other during the preaching of Jesus (cf. Mk 3:31-5; Jn 2:12), and they give no indication that she was present at the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Yet the role she assumed at Cana in some way accompanies Christ throughout his ministry. The revelation made directly by the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan and echoed by John the Baptist is placed upon Mary’s lips at Cana, and it becomes the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church of every age: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). This counsel is a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ’s public ministry and it forms the Marian foundation of all the “mysteries of light”.

Read the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae in full at Vatican.va.

 

Visit Rome with CUF!

romehousetopsCatholics United for the Faith is sponsoring a pilgrimage to Rome, October 2-9, 2014.

Join CUF and tour guide Mike Aquilina as we experience

  • the Sunday Angelus with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square
  • Private Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with Cardinal Raymond Burke
  • a tour of ancient Rome, including the Coliseum
  • beautiful Churches, including St. Agnes, St. Augustine, St. Clement, and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
  • and the Catacombs of St. Callistus

Trip fare includes air transportation from Pittsburgh, PA, motorcoach transportation in Rome, continental breakfast and dinner daily at guest house, six nights lodging at Casa Bacciarini, tickets to a general papal audience, stops at selected churches and sites, and airport transfers in Rome.

For more information, contact Wendt Touring, Inc. at 1-877-565-8687.

The Audacity of a Believer: On the Memorial of St. Martha

marthaMany of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”—John 11:19-22

Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, often gets a bad rap for having been much concerned with food prep and housework when Christ came to visit.

But on the feast of this earliest of Christians, the Gospel draws our attention to a more admirable trait than her hospitality: her unwavering faith in God.

In John 11, we read that Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, has died. The Lord waits four days to return to Bethany, two days after Lazarus has been interred. Not waiting for Him to enter the house, the Gospel tells us Martha went out to meet Christ.

Her greeting, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” carries not a hint of accusation or resentment; instead a fervent belief in the power of God emboldens Martha. In response, Christ tells Martha her brother will rise again.

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, through he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

Martha believes.

For most of us, it takes far less than the death of a loved one to weaken our faith in Christ.  How many of us, facing bitter disappointments or uncontrollable circumstances, can pray as Martha prayed, with perfect detachment: “Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

July 23 – Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden

At age seven Bridget received a vision of being crowned by the Blessed Mother. At ten, her mother brought her to a mission at a nearby church, where the priest preached about the sufferings of Jesus. This made a deep impression on her. That night she suddenly woke up and saw Jesus crucified. When she asked who had done this to Him, He replied, “Those who hate Me and forget My love.” From that day on, she focused her prayers on the sufferings of Christ, a practice which often moved her to tears.

The holy and selfless lives of her parents and their intense prayer life created within Bridget a strong spiritual disposition. She desired to enter the convent, but her father wanted her to marry and chose for her a husband. Despite her initial unwillingness, Bridget’s spiritual director advised her to obey her father and marry. At age fourteen, the incredibly beautiful Bridget married the devout Ulf (“Wolf” in English), Prince of Nercia. Ulf was eighteen.

Excerpted from Fr. T. G. Morrow’s book Who’s Who in Heaven. For ordering information, visit our website.