By Msgr. Charles Pope, – Many of you are aware that there is an Extraordinary Synod planned in Rome on the family. There is surely no hiding the fact that the family is in real crisis, at least in the modern Western World, if not throughout many other parts as well. We do well to ponder the reasons and roots of this crisis, and develop strategies to begin to address the many problems.
At the recent Bishops Conference Meeting here in America, Cardinal Sean O’Malley made some remarks that I would like to draw upon, even as I make some remarks of my own. Basing my reflections on the Cardinal’s remarks, it would seem that there are at least four fundamental factors that contribute to our current difficulties regarding marriage and family. Lets look at each of them in turn, even if briefly and also interweave the Cardinals remarks.
“F” Number 1
I. Family history - Two critical factors came together very difficult years of the late 1960s which together have had a very destructive effect on Holy Matrimony and the family.
The sexual revolution which began in the late 1950s picked up steam into the 60s and went boldly public in the year 1968, with the so-called “Summer of Love” in places like Haight Ashbury Park in San Francisco, and on many other college campuses and similar places. At that time there were many who boldly shed any pretense of shame or guilt regarding open sexual sin and unchastity. What people used to whisper about as something shocking, was now boldly celebrated by increasing numbers in the culture.
The following year, in 1969 the first no-fault divorce laws began to be passed. Divorce, which until that time had been a difficult and lengthy process in America, now become something that could be accomplished in a matter of weeks.
These two very crucial events began a process which rather dramatically and quickly eroded Matrimony and and the family, such that we are now into the second, and in some cases, third generation of younger people, who have never known a world [of] stable marriages, and two-parent families. Large numbers of young people have never experienced living with both their father and mother for the duration of their formative years. More and more of them have no real models of faithful, stable, traditional marriages to look to. It is very clear, that without these sorts of models, even young people who want to embrace traditional marriage, struggle to do so, lacking any experience how exactly is done.
For all the Church’s attempts at marriage preparation, and pre-Cana classes, without strong family models it is hard to apply whatever might be learned in such classes and formation.
Cardinal O’Malley says, Half of the children born to that demographic [working class families] are born out of wedlock,” a statistic that Cardinal O’Malley said would have been “inconceivable” a few decades ago. 
Indeed, in the African American community which I have largely served, in 1961 (the year of my birth) 80% of Black children were raised in two-parent families, Today that number is 20%. The statistics in the wider culture, as noted, are not much better and continue to drop. The change is nothing short of astonishing.
All of this leads to a dynamic of family history and personal experience that are not promising for traditional Marriage or the family.
“F” Number 2
II. Fornication - In the current cultural setting, following the sexual revolution that came out in the open in 1968, premarital sex, and cohabitation, have become epidemic. This has had a number of deleterious effects on Holy Matrimony and the family.
In the first place it takes away one of the stronger incentives to marriage that existed in the past, namely the desire of sexual intimacy and pleasure. Marriage in the culture of that time provided a context in which sexual intimacy was not only considered legitimate, but also honored and esteemed. Now, with the explosion of promiscuity and with such behavior no longer shunned, Marriage loses one of its draws. Most young people can obtain the sex they desire without the once demanded admission requirements.
Secondly a whole host of social ills accompanies fornication, and cohabitation (once called “shacking up” or living in sin). And these social evils and ills negatively impact Holy Matrimony.
Abortion has exploded on the scene. And whereas in the past a child conceived before marriage would move the couple to the sacred altar, now recourse to abortion, and even more viciously the expectation by men that women should “rid” them of the problem by abortion is the prevailing attitude.
AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, also make people less desirable as marriage partners.
And of course teenage pregnancy, single motherhood, etc, make many women less desirable for or prone to marriage and further the expectation that men should be able to move about sexually without commitment or responsibility.
Cohabitation also “permits” couples to play house, and the unwritten rule is that they can come as go as they please with little social repercussion to them.
Cardinal O’Malley says, The whole notion of family is so undercut by the cohabitation mentality, and these social trends are having a tremendous impact on the working-class communities who were once the backbone of the Church…This shift away from the bearing of children within wedlock is the “biggest threat to marriage. 
God lists fornication as among the sins that exclude one from the Kingdom of Heaven (e.g. Eph 5:3-9; 1 Cor. 6:9-11, inter al). Given the dreadful impact fornication has on Holy Matrimony and the Family, one can see why God takes sins of these sorts seriously. Of course the ones who pay the price for all this adult sexual misconduct, are children.
God links chastity to respect for Marriage, and promiscuity He regards as a dishonoring of Marriage: Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers (Heb 13:4).
“F” Number 3
III. Finances - In this matter Cardinal O’Malley says succinctly: Part of the problems are economic…Our educational system is so expensive, people graduate from college or graduate school facing huge debts. If you have a $150,000 debt when you graduate law school, are you going to marry a girl that has a $130,000 debt and start off your marriage with over a quarter-million dollars’ debt? So people are postponing marriage – are postponing a decision to go into the seminary or religious life – because they’re saddled under this tremendous debts which former generations didn’t have. 
We have discussed and debated on this blog before the notion that college is overrated and obscenely expensive. And for all the talk from the social liberals who dominate faculties and administration in these colleges, they seldom lift a finger to cut the costs of their overrated product. Instead they scold us for not caring enough about the poor and their burdens, while they live quite well off the future income of their students who are increasingly too poor to marry or raise children.
Almost no one among those who lecture us about justice will talk about this.
Student debt is becoming a huge factor in postponing marriage and also vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
“F” Number 4
IV. Formation struggles - Cardinal O’Malley says the Church needs “better marriage preparation” and outreach to help young people recover an understanding of marriage. He says the Church needs to “catechize our young people and instill in them a sense of vocation, and also to help them understand what courtship is about.”
He adds that this becomes even more important for: In combination with the misunderstanding of marriage, lack of attendance at Mass, and the shortcomings in the catechesis of young people, the Church also faces many challenges posed by the secularization of the culture. 
Indeed, the teachings of the Church on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony have been poorly conveyed to God’s people. And for many people, what they do hear [is] unintelligible. For example they may well hear: Marriage is forever, but if it doesn’t work out for you we will get you annulment, and remember, an annulment is NOT a divorce! Or again they may hear that even though Protestants can get married while skydiving with a Justice of the Peace, and it [is] valid, if a Catholic gets married outside the Church, it is invalid. Etc…
People struggle to figure all this out. And while there ARE answers to these puzzlements, they remain difficult obstacles in speaking coherently to people who are poorly catechized and more influenced by the secular world than the Church in this regard.
A chief place for us to begin rebuilding the case for traditional Marriage is resetting the premise of the discussion. Marriage is not first and foremost about what is best and most pleasing to the adults in the equation. Marriage is about children and what is best for them. Marriage is not about the rights of adults per se, it is about what is justly due to children.
Marriage takes its structure and mission as an institution based on the fact that every child deserves and has a birthright to be raised by by a father and mother, who have committed themselves to a stable and loving union, so as to give their child a stable an loving upbringing under the formative influence of both a male and female, that is their own parents.
This, it seems is where we must begin. More on this here: Getting the Marriage Conversation Right. Other things are surely required, but here is a good place to start, right where the modern secular premise goes 180° wrong.
And thus, in these four fundamental factors a perfect storm begins to brew that has severely damaged the understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the Institution of Traditional Marriage. Other factors also influence, but as we prepare to the Extraordinary Synod, Cardinal O’Malley’s remarks help frame a discussion of the problem and a way forward.
Later we can also discuss some of the questions put forward in the working document of the Synod.
|from Courageous Priest|
Now that we have briefly covered the historical origins of Advent, I would like to muse on a curious Advent abstinence. The practices of fasting and abstinence have deep biblical roots.
During Advent, we typically refrain from singing the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo / Glory to God in the Highest" hymn (which is usually sung towards the beginning of Mass). Why?
1) Remember that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Like the Lenten abstinence from the Alleluia this practice can help us to rediscover the purpose and power of the Gloria.
2) After four weeks of this peculiar spiritual starvation we are hungry for that hymn! We finally sing the Gloria on Christmas Eve at Midnight Mass. This can be a powerful moment.
3) The beauty of the decorated Church synthesizes with the profundity of the Gloria as sight and sound unite in giving praise to God. I like to think that all those flowers and Christmas decorations are an artistic expression of that hymn. Now I know why I have eyes, ears and a voice!
4) Finally, we remember again where the Gloria came from. In Luke 2 we read that the Angels sang it to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem on the very night Jesus was born! So when we sing it again at Midnight Mass, we are caught up in a tremendous moment of memory, wonder and worship. Like that choir of Angels so long ago, we give thanks with jubilant joy that Christ is born again - in our hearts that silent, holy night.
+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
We need your help!
December 4, 2013
St. John Damascene
Dear Family of Mary!
"Dear children, with a motherly love and a motherly patience I am looking at your ceaseless wandering and how lost you are. That is why I am with you. I desire to help you to first find and come to know yourself, so that, then, you would be able to recognize and to admit everything that does not permit you to get to know the love of the Heavenly Father, honestly and wholeheartedly. My children, the Father comes to be known through the cross. Therefore, do not reject the cross. Strive to comprehend and accept it with my help. When you will be able to accept the cross you will also understand the love of the Heavenly Father; you will walk with my Son and with me; you will differ from those who have not come to know the love of the Heavenly Father, those who listen to Him but do not understand Him, those who do not walk with Him - who have not come to know Him. I desire for you to come to know the truth of my Son and to be my apostles; that, as children of God, you may rise above the human way of thinking and always, and in everything, seek God's way of thinking, anew. My children, pray and fast that you may be able to recognize all of this which I am seeking of you. Pray for your shepherds and long to come to know the love of your Heavenly Father, in union with them. Thank you." (December 2, 2013)
The first words of this message echo a very poignant Scripture passage, the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Our Lady gives us the mother's point of view, something that is missing from the Scriptural story! She tells us: "Dear children, with a motherly love and a motherly patience I am looking at your ceaseless wandering and how lost you are...." Is this not the state of the Prodigal Son?
And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living... (v. 11-14)
The younger son wandered away from his Father, and wasted his inheritance in loose living. He became lost. Distance from the Father makes us lost, for He is our true goal, our true source, and our real joy! But we may not even know that we need Him, as full of our own selves as we are!
And so she tells us that we need to first get to know ourselves, as we truly are. Our Lady tells us "That is why I am with you. I desire to help you to first find and come to know yourself..." We might ask why we need to know ourselves first. Well, isn't that the exact process that the prodigal son went through. He left his father, wandered away, and then squandered his living, and got himself into a mess:
And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country who sent him into his fields to feed swine. He would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything... (v. 14-16)
This mess was the tool that helped the Prodigal Son begin to know himself. He began to realize that he was nothing without his father. He had no rights, no entitlement, nothing without his father. The citizen he was working for cared nothing for him. He was nobody. And that is the truth of it. We also must learn to know ourselves. We are nothing without our heavenly Father. All that we are and have has come from Him. We are not entitled to it, and of ourselves we have no claim to anything. We are nothing without God.
This is the most fundamental understanding of ourselves! Without the heavenly Father we are nothing, have nothing, deserve nothing, and will become nothing.
As our Mother says: "I desire to help you to first find and come to know yourself, so that, then, you would be able to recognize and to admit everything that does not permit you to get to know the love of the Heavenly Father, honestly and wholeheartedly." She wants us to recognize all that gets in the way of our understanding who we are in relation to the Father. Honestly and wholeheartedly, we need to know that all comes from Him, and all will return to Him, and that we are His creatures. When we know this, there is nothing that can cloud our understanding. Nothing can keep us from loving the Father who made us and who sustains us.
Once we know who we are in relation to the Father we will be able to return to Him, like the Prodigal Son returned to his father:
But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father... (v.17-19)
This son ate humble pie. He rose up in humility! He returned to the Father, ready to be humiliated and chastised, treated as a servant. He knew it was only just. And so he embraced the cross of humiliation in order to return to the father! This is what Our Mother suggests in the message when she says: "My children, the Father comes to be known through the cross. Therefore, do not reject the cross. Strive to comprehend and accept it with my help...." Our Lady encourages us to accept the cross, because it is through the cross that we become humble and ready to receive forgiveness and love from the Father. The cross brings us home to Him.
What happens when we embrace the cross, when we accept our humiliation and our complete dependence of the Father? This is what happened to the Prodigal Son:
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry. (v.20-24)
The Prodigal Son learned to understand the love of his father through his humiliation and return. He saw his father's great love, compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness! He experienced his welcome home as a kind of rebirth! Our Lady tells us: "When you will be able to accept the cross you will also understand the love of the Heavenly Father; you will walk with my Son and with me..." When we accept the cross, we will see our Father running to embrace us, with compassion, and kiss us with tears of joy! We will walk with Jesus and Mary on the way of joy! We will be back in the family!
And so, we are being invited by Mother Mary to find our way home, to rise up and return to our Father's house, where we can humble ourselves before His greatness, and be embraced as His children! In this way we will be bonded to Him in the truth that He is our loving Father, and we are His children who need Him for everything!
In Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
©Mary TV 2013
"Medjugorje is the spiritual center of the world!"
LifeNews.com Pro-Life News Report
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
|For pro-life news updated throughout the day, visit LifeNews.com.|
• Violent Pro-Abortion Mob Attacks Pro-Life People Praying at Catholic Church
• Couple Wins Suit, Doc Didnt Suggest Aborting Baby With Spina Bifida
• 17 Years Ago Courtney Survived an Abortion That Killed Her Twin: I Was Still Alive
• ACLU Sues Catholic Bishops Because Catholic Hospitals Dont Do Abortions
More Pro-Life News
• Family of 6-year-Old Girl With Cancer Loses Coverage After Obamacare
• Notre Dame Sues Obama: We Wont Obey the HHS Mandate
• Of 112 Obamacare Plans for Congress and Staff, 103 Fund Abortions
• Court: Obama Admin Cant Make Family-Run Car Dealership Follow HHS Mandate
• Planned Parenthood Hosts Sex-Themed Spelling Bee to Raise Funds for Abortion
• Abortion Activists Suffer Defeat at UN, Pro-Lifers Stop Pro-Abortion Resolution
• Activists Use Giving Tuesday to Pay for Women to Have Abortions
• Pro-Life Advocates Will Sing Christmas Carols at Abortion Clinics
• Planned Parenthood Official Admits Birth Control Not Lowering Unplanned Pregnancies
• Abortion Doc: Honest Mistake That He Failed to Report Rapes of Teen Girls
• 33,000 Canadian Women Having Abortions This Year Already Had One
• Washington Obamacare Exchange Falsely Claims Health Plans Dont Cover Abortions
• British Govt: Prosecuting Sex-Selection Abortions Not in the Public Interest
Violent Pro-Abortion Mob Attacks Pro-Life People Praying at Catholic Church
A graphic video from Argentina is making the rounds of the Internet today showing violent protests with pro-abortion activists attacking pro-life people praying at a Catholic Church.
The abortion activists attempted to storm the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (John the Baptist) in Argentina late last month.
Couple Wins Suit, Doc Didnt Suggest Aborting Baby With Spina Bifida
A couple in New Zealand have won their case at a federal appeals court because they would have aborted their little girl had they known she had spina bifida. The parents of a child with the condition could win a monetary settlement following the ruling saying they were denied a chance to abort their daughter.
During ultrasounds scans as the pregnancy progressed, doctors missed signs of the birth defect and the couple said that, had the spina bifida been detected, they would have killed their daughter in an abortion. Instead, the little girl was born in 2007 and the couple has been in court even since. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
17 Years Ago Courtney Survived an Abortion That Killed Her Twin: I Was Still Alive
Courtney Halvorson is a senior at Gaston High School in Alabama who enjoys life but she shouldnt be alive. Not because of a drunk driver, or doing drugs, or some other tragic death that claims the life of a young person Courtney shouldnt be alive because she was supposed to have died from an abortion.
When she was 14, this teenage girl found out she was adopted something that shocked her but something that was less shocking than what she found out next. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
ACLU Sues Catholic Bishops Because Catholic Hospitals Dont Do Abortions
The pro-choice manta abortion activists have employed for decades is supposed to mean that people have a choice if they want to get an abortion or participate in one. But pro-choice is truthfully pro-abortion more often than the pro-abortion side cares to admit.
Witness a new lawsuit filed by the ACLU, which is upset that Catholic hospitals dont do abortions. As the Washington Times reports: http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Family of 6-year-Old Girl With Cancer Loses Coverage After Obamacare
The stories of families losing their health insurance now that Obamacare is in place are getting more and more heartbreaking. While liberals talk about taking care of children, what about this little girl, who suffers from cancer and, though no fault of their own, her parents are losing their insurance under Obamacares rules and regulations.
Gee thanks Mr. President. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Notre Dame Sues Obama: We Wont Obey the HHS Mandate
The University of Notre Dame is back in court taking on the Obama administration and its pro-abortion HHS mandate that forces religious companies, organizations, and schools to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs for their employees.
Earlier this year, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit Notre Dame filed against the HHS mandate. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. dismissed the suit, claiming that Notre Dame is sufficiently protected by a very narrowly-drawn religious exemption in the mandate that pro-life legal groups say does not apply to every religious entity. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Of 112 Obamacare Plans for Congress and Staff, 103 Fund Abortions
With a December 9th deadline for Members of Congress and congressional staff to sign up for Obamacare health insurance, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) released new evidence of President Obama violating pro-life laws and providing taxpayer funding for insurance plans that include abortion on demand.
In the run-up to passage of Obamacare, Americans were repeatedly told and reassured by President Obama himself, including in a speech to a joint session of Congress in October 2009, that under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion. Obama even issued the infamous Executive Order that claimed, the Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to newly created health insurance exchanges, said Smith. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Court: Obama Admin Cant Make Family-Run Car Dealership Follow HHS Mandate
Randy Reed Automotive is a family-run automotive group in Missouri that doesnt want to comply with the Obamacare abortion mandate requiring it to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions. . http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Planned Parenthood Hosts Sex-Themed Spelling Bee to Raise Funds for Abortion
Planned Parenthood of New York City is hosting a sex-themed spelling bee. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Abortion Activists Suffer Defeat at UN, Pro-Lifers Stop Pro-Abortion Resolution
Under the inspired leadership of the Holy Sees Nuncio, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the culture of death took a significant stumble at the Third Committee of the UN in New York last week. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Looking for an inspiring and motivating speaker for your pro-life event in 2014? Don't have much to spend on a high-priced speaker costing thousands of dollars? Contact LifeNews at email@example.com about having LifeNews Editor Steven Ertelt speak at your event.
Activists Use Giving Tuesday to Pay for Women to Have Abortions
Today is Giving Tuesday across the country, as Americans come down from their spending binge of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to give back to charitable organizations. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Pro-Life Advocates Will Sing Christmas Carols at Abortion Clinics
Every year the Pro-Life Action League brings the joy and hope of Christmas to the darkness of the abortuary with our Empty Manger Christmas Caroling day. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Planned Parenthood Official Admits Birth Control Not Lowering Unplanned Pregnancies
The Plan B birth control pill is supposed to be a panacea for lowering the number of abortions and unplanned pregnancies so much so that the Obamacare health care law forces religious companies and organizations to pay for such birth control in their employee health insurance plans.. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Abortion Doc: Honest Mistake That He Failed to Report Rapes of Teen Girls
An Indiana abortion practitioner received national attention in September when pro-life groups digging through state records discovered that he failed to file a timely report on the abortion he did on a 13-year-old girl who was victimized by statutory rape.http://www.lifenews.com/
33,000 Canadian Women Having Abortions This Year Already Had One
33,000: the number of Canadian women having abortions this year who have previously had an abortion. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
Washington Obamacare Exchange Falsely Claims Health Plans Dont Cover Abortions
The Obamacare health care exchange in Washington state is coming under fire for misleading state residents about which plans do or do not pay for abortions. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
British Govt: Prosecuting Sex-Selection Abortions Not in the Public Interest
The battle over sex-selection abortion in Great Britain continues unabated and as confusing as ever. http://www.lifenews.com/2013/
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