Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: A Life of Love and Sacrifice

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla 1922-1962
Today's post is a tribute to the life of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian mother and doctor, who led a faithful and virtuous life; one that was deemed heroic and culminated in the ultimate sacrifice of her life to save her unborn child in 1962.

Saint Gianna's moral courage and certitude is the perfect example to draw from, for those women who are faced with a life threatening pregnancy and is an ideal intercessor to pray to for the miraculous cure of any illness.

For those involved in the pro-life effort, Saint Gianna represents one of "the" saints to choose from to rally behind in any endeavour to end abortion and convert those who are anti-life.

As for Catholic doctors, she is the quintessential medical professional to emulate. Her professional life demonstrated that faith is not to be separated from a career in medicine nor should it be compartmentalized in any way. Rather, as a devout Catholic, Saint Gianna put God first in everything and allowed her Christian faith to permeate every aspect of life. 

What is to be understood about Saint Gianna's ultimate sacrifice is that although it was a heroic decision, it was not the decisive factor and focus that determined her approval for canonization. What it did do is spotlight a faith-filled holy life, drawing the attention of many, some of whom already knew of and experienced her holiness.

More importantly the discovery process for her canonization focused on how she lived her life. This discovery showed that throughout her years, Gianna lived a holy and virtuous life. Together with the approved miracles for her beatification and canonization, it was thus recommended that she be declared a saint.

Gianna was a modern day saint that lived like you and I, but with the goal of reaching eternal salvation. During her life she experienced many sufferings: both of her parents died at a young age within six months of each other; her favourite sister passed away; she lived through the second world war; and she experienced ill health. As a result of living through all this in the light of faith, she was formed into a holy woman. The decision to sacrifice her life to save her baby was an extension of her holiness; a decision that was made without hesitation.

To better understand Saint Gianna's life is to understand how she became a saint. Gianna Beretta Molla was born in 1922, in Magenta, a town in Lombardy close to Milan. She was the tenth of thirteen children, five of whom died in infancy or childhood. From a very young age, Gianna wanted to help those who were suffering. During the war, she organized groups of friends to go help those families whose homes were destroyed by allied bombing. From a very young age she always wanted to help people, a characteristic that animated her entire life. It eventually instilled in her a desire to become a physician whereby she could help people, both in body and soul. Gianna considered working in the field of medicine as part of a "mission." She once thought of joining her brother in Brazil as a medical missionary, but her acceptance that God had another plan for her as a wife and mother, was indicative of her close relationship with God.

During the years of her secondary and university education, she studied diligently. At the age of twenty eight, having earned degrees in medicine and surgery at the University of Pavia, Dr. Beretta opened a clinic in Mesero, near her hometown. She returned to the University of Milan for a specialist's certification in pediatrics in 1952. From that point on, her practice focussed on the care of mothers and their children, the elderly and the poor.

Gianna, her husband Pietro and their three children
Being a skier and mountaineer did not hinder her apostolate and zeal for souls. Saint Gianna put faith into action through generous apostolic works as a member of Catholic Action that involved helping the elderly. She was also a member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, through which she helped the poor and needy.

It was through her involvement in Catholic Action that she met her husband, Pietro Molla, another Catholic Action member, during a Mass for a newly ordained priest. They married on September 25, 1955, at the basilica of Saint Martin in Magenta. Having embraced the vocation of marriage, she wholly dedicated herself to forming a truly Christian family. Three children were born, Pierluigi, Mariolina, and Laura between 1956 to 1959, each time experiencing a difficult pregnancy. 

Doctor Molla's medical practice and charitable activities blossomed together with her family life. In 1961, two months into her fourth pregnancy, a fibrous ovarian tumour was discovered that threatened her life and that of the unborn child. She had three medical options: option one was to remove the uterus and affected ovary which would spare her life, but kill the unborn child; two, remove the tumour alone and terminate the pregnancy which would likely afford her the opportunity to bear more children later; three, remove the tumour while trying to save the pregnancy, a procedure that posed immediate risks to the mother and promised a dangerous delivery. Doctor Beretta told the surgeon to choose the third option. Throughout her remaining seven months of pregnancy, she told both her husband and physicians that if forced to make a decision during the baby's delivery of whether to save the baby or herself, St. Gianna insisted, "Do not hesitate. I insist on it. Save the baby." 

Gianna Beretta Molla entered St. Gerard's Hospital in Monza on Good Friday, April 20,1962, where Gianna Emanuela was born the following day. Not long after the birth of her fourth child, she began to suffer excruciating pain from septic peritonitis. One week later on April 28, 1962, at the age of thirty nine, she passed away. Her last words were, "Jesus, I love you! Jesus, I love you!" It wasn't long before her grave became a place of prayer and pilgrimage. Her cause for beatification was recognized by Pope Paul VI in 1973. The beatification occurred on April 24, 1994, with Gianna Emanuela, herself a doctor, present.

The canonization of Gianna Beretta Molla was approved by Saint John Paul II. The date of her canonization was May 16, 2004, on the sixth Sunday of Easter and was accompanied by the canonization of five other individuals. In attendance were: Gianna's frail ninety one year old husband Pietro Molla, Gianna's children, a grandchild, her surviving siblings, former patients and Elizabeth Acomparini Arcolino, the young Brazilian mother whose fourth pregnancy was miraculously saved through what the Congregation for the Causes of Saints concluded was the intercession of Gianna Beretta Molla. Saint Gianna's feast day is April 28, the day that annually commemorates her death.

There is a fitting symmetry in the fact Saint Gianna was the last of 482 saints canonized by Saint John Paul II, one of the twenty first century's greatest defenders and protectors of life. His efforts to identify and denounce the evil of abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty and all threats to the value and inviolability of human life are well documented. His encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) is considered to be one of the most important Church documents on the subject matter. So relevant and pertinent is this document that the Vatican under Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI established Evangelium Vitae Day, an annual day celebrating life. Gianna's canonization was as George Weigel put it in his book, The End And The Beginning, "...a fitting capstone of John Paul II's quarter century long effort to lift up moral heroism in the defense of life through the examples drawn from the contemporary world." (356) 

During Saint John Paul II's homily for Gianna's canonization and the other five individuals, he made the opening remark, "...True peace is the fruit of Christ's victory over the power of evil, sin and death. Those who follow him faithfully become witnesses and builders of his peace." (1) Saint Gianna's life was one of love and sacrifice, a true Christian witness that was captured in Saint John Paul II's remarks at the end of his homily when he stated:
Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love. In a letter to her future husband a few days before their marriage, she wrote: "Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women". 
Following the example of Christ, who "having loved his own... loved them to the end" (Jn 13: 1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfill themselves. 
Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call! (7)
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla's life is the perfect antidote for those who have been confronted by the anti-life argument that claims it is acceptable for an abortion to take place when it would save the life of the mother. For anyone to accept such a position would be the equivalent of "playing God." As Pope John Paul II noted in Evangelium Vitae, Chapter III - You Shall Not Kill, God's Holy Law, "...Only God is the master of life!" (55) We must always remember that life is sacred and begins from conception and ends at natural death. In the Catechism of The Catholic Church, under the 5th Commandment "Thou Shall Not Kill," it clearly states why life is sacred:
Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. (2258)
To try to rationalize an abortion under any circumstances is to ignore this truth. To do so diminishes the dignity of the human person and ignores the fundamental right of every human being; that is, the right to life. Saint Gianna's sacrifice of her own life was not only a reflection of her respect for the sacredness of human life, but was part of the fulfillment of her vocation as a mother, her total gift of self to her family and to God. It was part of the fulfillment that all married couples are called to by God as a special sharing in His love and power as Creator and Father by, what Saint John Paul II noted in Familiaris Consortio, "... [T]heir free and responsible cooperation in transmitting the gift of human life... (28)

I hope that today's post will help those who are endeavouring to save the unborn from abortions and convert those who are anti-life. May this great saint of our time, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, intercede for you in all your efforts.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Patrick And Nancy Latta in Guatemala, Central America

If you have been following my blog for quite some time or searched through my "Medjugorje" label, you might remember a blog post entitled, The Triumph Medjugorje Movie: A Follow Up where I wrote about the screening of The Triumph movie at AMC Theaters in Toronto, followed by an afternoon retreat that included a talk given by Patrick and Nancy Latta, two Canadians who moved to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina to work for Our Lady. Travelling to different parts of the world providing their testimonials and spreading awareness of the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje is part what their work entails. With today's post I write about their recent speaking engagements in Guatemala, Central America.

Fr. Michael Della Penna with Nancy and Patrick Latta at the Apostolic Nunciature, Guatemala City
Nancy, Father Michael and Patrick at the Apostolic
Nunciature, Guatemala City
My connection to Patrick and Nancy's visit to Guatemala is quite a coincidence. They were invited to speak and help spread the importance of Our Lady's apparitions and messages in Medjugorje by Franciscan Friar and missionary, Father Michael Della Penna, OFM from the Immaculate Conception Province, USA. He currently works as the director of Valley Of The Angels Orphanage, located just twenty five minutes from Guatemala City. The orphanage takes care of the educational, physical and spiritual needs of approximately two hundred children.

Part of my connection to all this also stems from the fact that I happen to be friends with Father Michael, a friendship that was established a little over fifteen years ago. His ministry brought him to Canada where he was located at one of my local parishes and later on at a Franciscan Retreat Center in Caledon, about forty five minutes drive from me. During that time he became my confessor and spiritual director.

Ironically, my connection to and interaction with Fr. Michael did not diminish or end when his ministry took him to Guatemala. Rather it actually increased as I was chosen to get involved and help establish an internet presence for the orphanage. As part of a collaborative effort between Fr. Michael and myself for the orphanage's web site, I went to Guatemala in August'2011. It entailed shooting many photographs, taking notes, talking to people, meeting the children, discussions with Fr. Michael and simply absorbing the peace filled atmosphere of God's presence at the orphanage. The "valley" which is how it is sometimes referred to, is truly a wonderful place to be at. The incredibly beautiful landscape is just one of the signs of God's blessings upon the orphanage. You can view this at the orphanage's Gallery page. 

As for Fr. Michael, his transition as a Franciscan missionary to Latin America has been seamless. Being aware of some of the issues and struggles during the transition time, it is amazing how God has accomplished so many great things through him and the local team he has assembled at the "valley." You can read about the progress over the past few years by viewing the Annual Reports at the orphanage's News page.

One of the more recent positive developments has been the establishment of pilgrimages to Medjugorje. The first pilgrimage, Holy Week Medjugorje is to begin on March 28, 2015. Part of the effort to make the Marian apparitions and messages in Medjugorje better known and understood, included Patrick and Nancy's presence at the orphanage and other select locations throughout Guatemala. The photo below is the church at the orphanage where Patrick and Nancy spoke to the children.

The church at the Valley of the Angels Orphanage in Guatemala
The church at the Valley of the Angels Orphanage, Finca El Pulte, Guatemala, Central America

Patrick and Nancy arrived in Guatemala City on January 10th, and were greeted at the airport by Fr. Michael and a few friends. The following morning, their first full day in Guatemala, began with a Mass at the orphanage celebrated by Fr. Michael followed by a talk given by Nancy that included her handing out Rosaries to the children.

The next day proved to be a very busy one that began with an important morning meeting with the president of Guatemala, Otto Perez and the and vice president, Roxana Baldetti. They attended the first of the year open meeting that included the president's entire cabinet. It was a meeting in which Nancy affirmed the humility of the government appointed representatives by their willingness to listen to their testimonials and the importance of Our Lady in Medjugorje's role in their lives. Nancy had made reference to the daily newspaper which had a picture of the Virgin Mary on the cover and the president's picture on the second page announcing a year of nonviolence. Nancy was grateful for the opportunity to witness to the messages of Medjugorje and Patrick, as usual, did a tremendous job of sharing how one message changed his entire life. After the testimonials, Nancy gave out Rosaries to the president and each individual of the cabinet. After which Fr. Michael gave a blessing to all the delegates.

After leaving the president's palace, Fr. Michael, Patrick and Nancy went to the office of the Papal Nuncio, Nicolas Henry Denis Thevenin where they were graciously received. Their time there involved an exchange of stories and confessions. From the papal nuncio's office, they went to a radio station to be interviewed. The remainder of the day included lunch, a prayer service that included the launching of a rosary made from helium balloons and another talk at San Judas Church. After four days, Patrick and Nancy departed Guatemala and headed home to Medjugorje.

I remarked to Fr. Michael during a Skype session that I recalled vividly how wonderful it was to have experienced that day in Toronto with Patrick and Nancy, that their testimonials coupled with the afternoon prayer program, were spiritually more beneficial than all the retreats I have ever been to combined. He automatically understood the comparison and shared his enthusiasm for their witness. Here is what Father Michael had to say about his own experience in Guatemala:
The central message of course is about how Pat and Nancy's heart changed. It is about Pat believing the message of Mary and allowing grace to transform his and his families life. His story of living each of the messages of reading the Bible, going to mass and confession, praying the rosary and fasting is disarmingly simple and shocking in its results. He humorously relates how his failure as s parent produced children who were copies of him (his daughter divorced twice like him) his advice was to take some money and a new car, head to California and find a new one. After his conversion, he handed each of his four children a rosary and told them it would save their life. Miraculously 6 months later, his alcoholic son called to tell him he was sober. Pat himself was surprised and asked how - only to discover the sons response "when I saw you praying dad, I knew I had to change my life" His new advice to those who would date his daughter can be summed up with one question " where is your rosary" as he believes one of the greatest requests of a would be suitor needs to be a prayerful man as he explains otherwise you could end up with a guy like him. 
For me personally however, I was touched by Pats incredible love for the priesthood and how during his miracle he professes to have received the gift of absolution in confession. He purposely begins his witness by stating he is never seen the blessed virgin Mary and has never had a mystical experience but then goes on to exalt the greatest miracle on earth which are as he says, the priests because they have the power to absolve sinners. Quoting Saint Catherine he says that we are never to judge priests and that our job is to pray for them.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Medjugorje
Patrick and Nancy's retreat house: Our Lady of The Sacred Heart Retreat House in Medjugorje

For several years now, Patrick and Nancy have established a successful retreat house for priests and religious. It is no ordinary retreat house. It literally is a medieval castle, whose perimeter is typically breached by groups of laity who make the castle an include in their pilgrimage itinerary. 

As one who has personally "breached the perimeter," upon arrival I was in awe of the beautiful architecture and landscape. During my own pilgrimage in the Summer'2014, I was able to reconnect with Patrick and Nancy on more than one occasion, but only for brief moments as they are very busy in Medjugorje.

Mir i Dobro (Peace and All Good)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Familiaris Consortio: Saint John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation On The Role Of The Christian Family In The Modern World

Saint John Paul II during the early years of his pontificate, a protector of life and the family

With the Extraordinary Synod of The Family in October'2014, the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September'2015 and the Synod of the Family in Rome in October'2015, it seemed only fitting that with today's post, I begin to write about a new blog label, the Family.

The family is in urgent need of support and protection from the increasing moral disorder in Canadian society, one that seems to have very little regard for its significance as the "first and vital cell of society." It has been directly attacked with abortion, contraception, pornography/pornovision, sterilization,"same sex marriage," gender ideology, euthanasia, immoral laws and graphic sexual education. It doesn't take much time or effort to discover how they have negatively impacted the family.

There are many examples one could cite that illustrate the negative impacts upon the family. What has always been understood and accepted to be the traditional family unit, has become relative to other family arrangements, that no longer consider a man and a woman as the proper spouses. In 2005 Canada legally recognized "same sex marriages." 

It is not uncommon these days to meet couples who instead of entering into the sacrament of marriage prefer cohabitation, either as a trial period or permanent arrangement.

Marital infidelity, according to a pastor from one of my local Catholic parishes, is quite an ongoing problem.

With today's contraceptive mentality, many enter into the conjugal act with the intention of preventing God's creative action of bringing new life into the world. For some, instead of being joyous about the news of a pregnancy, consider such news a negative development and seek to kill the unborn baby in the womb with an abortion.

Many parents are failing to be the "first educators" of their children. Instead of ensuring that their children receive a proper Christian formation, parents allow the values and influences of the world to determine and dominant their children's development.

The federal government has not done enough over the years to build up Canada's future by providing substantial financial incentives to encourage and support families to have children. Add to this its ushering in of a "Culture of Death" that became identifiable in 1969, with the introduction of "therapeutic abortions" in hospitals, followed by the infamous Dr. Henry Morgantaler's 1988, constitutional challenge that made abortion legal and available on demand. These and many other indicators are a telling sign of deep moral crisis in Canada.

Sadly, many people do not truly understand the role of the Christian family in the modern world nor have they ever had a proper lived experience of what is referred to as the "domestic church," a community of life and love, that educates and leads its members to their full human maturity and serves all along the road of life.

If this is the first time you are reading about the family as the "domestic church," it is in reference to the family as a microcosm of the larger Church, the sacrament of God's love, a communion of faith and life. The future of the world and of the Church passes through the familyAs Saint John Paul II has stated in his 1986 homily in Perth, Australia during his apostolic pilgrimage in Asia, "...As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." (4)  

The question remains, how do we effectively support and protect the family? The first thing to understand about all this, is that it is primarily a spiritual battle, one that requires we root our efforts in prayer and fasting. The most powerful forms of prayer are the Eucharist (Mass) and the Rosary. Frequent Mass attendance, daily if possible and offering up the family with each Mass is an effective approach, coupled with a daily recitation of the Rosary. 

The importance of fasting can not be overstated when fighting the spiritual battle. In addressing the apostles who questioned Jesus as to why they could not cast out the demon, Jesus Himself mentioned the spiritual weapons of prayer and fasting as the most effective weapons against the forces of evil. He stated in particular the necessity of fasting that, "some demons cannot be driven out except in this way." (Mark 9:29) 

Our Lady in Medjugorje has reaffirmed this teaching from Jesus, by giving us Her "little stones," two of which are prayer and fastingOur Lady has stated in one of her messages that fasting can stop wars, "The best fast is on bread and water. Through fasting and prayer one can stop wars, one can suspend the natural laws of nature. Works of charity cannot replace fasting. Everyone except the sick, has to fast." (July 21, 1982) The analogy of the "little stones" is in reference to the battle of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) in which God gave little stones to David to hurl at and defeat Goliath. Our Lady has also given us Her "little stones" in our battle to hurl at our Goliath, Satan. It is Satan who strives to destroy God's plan for the family, society and all of humanity. 

The second thing we can do to effectively support and protect the family is to seek and live the truth about the family, which is proposed in the teachings of the Catholic Church. By doing so, we demonstrate by own example how to cooperate with God's plan for humanity, one that is lived in peace and forms part of a community of faithful believers of the Church and in the World.

So what does the Catholic faith teach about the family? In trying to answer this question, I did some research and I was immediately drawn to the writings of St. John Paul II, whose pontificate has produced a few key documents on the subject matter, one of which is Familiaris Consortio. It was issued on the Solemnity of Christ The King, November 22, 1981, and continues to remain relevant today, even more so with the increased attacks on the family since it was issued.

Familiaris Consortio was a thoroughly written document on the subject matter of the familyand invited readers, in particular the laity, to a new level of awareness and understanding on the Christian family and its role in the modern world. Maintaining a continuity with the magisterium of the Catholic Church, with many references to his predecessor Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae vitae and citing from the Second Vatican Council document, Gaudium et spes, one gains a real sense of the historical context with which the Church has addressed the importance of the family in society.

Familiaris Consortio offered help not only to those who were already aware of the value of marriage and the family and sought to live it faithfully, but also for those who were as Saint John Paul II had put it, "... uncertain and anxious and searching for the truth, and to those who are unjustly impeded from living freely their family lives. (1) The Church in issuing this document sought to support, illuminate and assist everyone who wondered about the destiny of marriage and the family.

Familaris Consortio is fifty eight pages printed and demands of the reader, a focussed and dedicated effort to get through what will no doubt be new reading material for many. The reading is not a complex or difficult by any means. For those new to reading on the family, this apostolic exhortation serves as an ideal introduction to the Church's teaching on the subject matter. Familaris Consortio is outlined as follows:
  1. Introduction
  2. Part One - Brights Spots And Shadows For The Family Today
  3. Part Two - The Plan Of God For Marriage And The Family
  4. Part Three - The Role Of The Christian Family
  5. Part Four - Pastoral Care Of The Family: Stages, Structures, Agents And Situations
Due to the volume of information contained in this document, I decided to focus on Part Three - The Role Of The Christian Family, under the subheading of Serving Life. Under the Serving Life section are two subsections: The Transmission of Life and Education. The remainder of this post focusses on these two subsections.

The Transmission of Life

Right from the beginning, Saint John Paul II emphasized how both man and woman are called to cooperate with God in the transmission of life under the subheading, Cooperators in the Love of God the Creator. With man and woman formed in the image and likeness of God, they both are brought to God's perfection in the sharing in His love through the free and responsible cooperation in transmitting the gift of human life. In that cooperation, God has blessed both man and woman to be "fruitful and multiple, and fill the earth and subdue it." (28) He emphasized that the fundamental task of the family is to serve life.

In continuity with the Church's teaching on marriage and the transmission of human life, Saint John Paul II included the reaffirmation made by the synod fathers from the 1980 synod in which they declared:
This Sacred Synod, gathered together with the Successor of Peter in the unity of faith, firmly holds what has been set forth in the Second Vatican Council (cf. Gaudium et spes, 50) and afterwards in the Encyclical Humanae vitae, particularly that love between husband and wife must be fully human, exclusive and open to new life. (29)
Under the subheading the Church's Stand for LifeSaint John Paul II noted the urgency with which the promotion of the true good of men and women must be made, in light of the social and cultural context of that time. It is something that has become even more urgent today with the many societal problems that have accelerated since this document's issue in 1981.

Having Identified the core problem of the absence of God in people's hearts, Saint John Paul II elaborated on how such a reality was evident in the attitudes of many people. What resulted then, which has increased considerably in today's society, was an anti-life attitude. It was illustrated by the skepticism with which people debated whether is was justifiable to bring new life into a cruel world. Add to this the consumer mentality which only sought to acquire an increasing amount of material goods. Others also embraced a contraceptive mentality, which was a complete refusal to cooperate in the transmission of life.

At that time, like today, partly fuelling of the anti-life mentality were the panic based notions by environmentalists who claimed that further population increases were a dangerous demographic reality that would result in reduced quality of life. To this, Saint John Paul II again reaffirmed Church teaching when he declared:
But the Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a splendid gift of God's goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which cast a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: in each human life she sees the splendor of that "Yes," that "Amen," who is Christ Himself.(84) To the "No" which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living "Yes," thus defending the human person and the world from all who plot against and harm life. (30)
Saint John Paul II also made it clear that the Church condemns and considers to be a grave offence against human dignity, all the activities of governments or public authorities which in any way negatively affect the freedom couples' decision about children. Included is any violence by such authorities with respect to contraception, sterilization and abortion. 

At the subheading, Integral Vision of the Human Person and of His or Her Vocation, Saint John Paul II further emphasized the importance of a couple's cooperation in transmission of life when he explained why it is morally wrong to consider contraception. Quoting Pope Paul VI who affirmed the two meanings of the conjugal act, both the unitive and procreative, he noted how his predecessor made it clear that every act should be considered intrinsically immoral that in any way renders procreation impossible.

Saint John Paul II elaborated further when he stated that when couples have recourse to contraception, they separate the two meanings of the conjugal act and become "...arbiters of the divine plan and they manipulate and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of total self giving." (32) The use of contraception does not permit for a time of total reciprocal self giving by husband and wife. He noted that this leads to, "not only a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon in personal totality." (32)

When couples have recourse to periods of infertility, then couples respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of human sexuality. In so doing, Saint John Paul II noted that they act as "ministers of God's plan and they benefit from their sexuality according to the original dynamism of total self giving, without manipulation or alteration." (32) 

Further on, Saint John Paul II spoke about the "absolute necessity for the virtue of chastity and for permanent education in it." (33) For married couples, understanding that family life also requires chaste living, that the dignity of the human being must not be diminished or ignored by impure thoughts, which when they occur reduces the other to a means of self gratification. As Saint John Paul II noted, chastity does not reject human sexuality, but rather represents a spiritual path for defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness. It is only through chaste living that human sexuality can be fully realized.

One of the most relevant subsections that couples and families can learn from today, are the various paragraphs under the subheading, The Moral Progress of Married People. Saint John Paul II noted that it is essential to have the correct understanding of the moral order, its values and norms, especially in light of difficulties that arise in recognizing, accepting and living these norms. Today, we have many examples of such difficulties as noted in the aforementioned "elements of the moral disorder," to which we could easily add: an embolden gay agenda and its propaganda, the indoctrination of sexual immorality in the education system, restrictions on the freedom of conscience, a lack of respect for morality and religious beliefs, anti-life policies, secularism, consumerism and moral relativism.

What is fundamental about the moral order is that it reveals and sets forth the plan of God the Creator. It is for this reason that it in no way can be considered harmful to man or something impersonal. On the contrary, as Saint John Paul II noted, the moral order, " responding to the deepest demands of the human being created by God, it places itself at the service of that person's full humanity with the delicate and binding love whereby God Himself inspires, sustains and guides every creature towards its happiness." (34) Married people are called to live God's wise and loving plan in a responsible manner and unceasingly progress in their moral lives.


One of the most essential roles of Christian families in the world is that of married couples as the first educators of their children. The task of education is one that is, as Saint John Paul II noted, rooted in the primary vocation of married couples. In fulfilling their role, married couples help their children to effectively live their lives. They do this in part by creating an atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that, "...a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children..." (36) As a result, the family becomes the first school of social virtues which every society needs. Saint John Paul II emphasized the important role of married couples when he stated: 
The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others. (36)
Not to be forgotten or overlooked is that essential component, the most basic element of the educational role of parents, that is parental love. It finds its fulfillment in the task of education as it "...completes and perfects its service to life..." (36)

Under the subheading, Educating in the Essential Values of Human Life, Saint John Paul II noted how important it is for all families to educate their children in the essential values of human life. He stated that, "Children must grow up with a correct attitude of freedom with regard to material goods, by adopting a simple and austere life style and being fully convinced that man is more precious for what he is than for what he has." (37)

Also spotlighted was the necessity for children to be enriched with a sense of true justice amongst a society filled with division, tension, individualism and selfishness. What this translates into is for children to be instilled with the sense of respect for personal dignity for each individual and a sense of true love, understood to be a sincere and disinterested service to others, especially the poorest and those most in need. In this way, the family fulfills it roles as a first and fundamental school of social living, a community of love.

The role of parents as educators has a direct connection with both civil and ecclesial communities. With respect to Christian communities, parents must be involved in a level of cooperation with various educational groups and pastors. At the same time, Christian communities must give special attention to both parents and the children with the aim of forming a perfect educating community.

Particularly important and spotlighted by Saint John Paul II was the point made regarding the guarantee for the right of parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith. This entails the State and the Church provide families with all the possible aid to enable them to perform their educational role properly. The correct thinking for both parents and schools with respect to the education of children is: 
...those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God Himself as the first and principal educators of their children and that their right is completely inalienable. But corresponding to their right, parents have a serious duty to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities. (40)
Fruitful married love expresses itself in many ways. One of which is the proper Christian education and formation of children. This is such an important aspect of the family's role in the modern world. It is a role whose value has become ever more important and necessary in today's secular and consumeristic world. It is one that can only begin by putting God first in every aspect of family life, allowing God to guide and protect the family.  

I hope that today's post has strengthened your resolve to support and 
protect the family, and encouraged you to read Familiaris Consortio. All conscientious Catholics need to become more involved with the many issues that are negatively impacting the family. The future of Canadian society and the world is dependent upon it.  

May God bless you and your family.   

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Je Suis Charlie": Showing My Support For And In Solidarity With The People Of France

BBC reporting and captured footage of the Unity March near the Charlie Hebdo offices

My first blog post of the year was certainly not what I had planned to write about, but due to the nature of the terrorist attacks in France this past week, which left seventeen people dead, I felt it was necessary to show my support for and express my solidarity with the people of France. I think it is a fair assumption to make that by now, much of the world has heard about the attacks and has a basic understanding of what had transpired during the three days of absolute shock and horror. If you are not familiar with the details, the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) article, Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror provides an excellent summary of events that unfolded on Wednesday, January 7th and ended on Friday, January 9th.

In response to the drama of the past few days, France prepared a very well organized Unity March that drew between one million to one and half million people. In attendance were people from all walks of life, international visitors and over 40 world leaders such as British Prime Minister, David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. All marched in solidarity for freedom and to honour and respect those fifteen civilians who were killed in the attacks and for the two police officers who died in the line of duty. For everyone's safety, there were 5,500 police officers at the march, including marksmen at roof tops. 

Many countries from the international community held their own rallies in support for and in solidarity with France's Unity March. Here in Canada, marches were organized in Quebec City, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver. In addition, there were similar marches in Toyko, Syndey, Beirut, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Berlin, London, Madrid, Buenos Aires, New York, Washington and Boston.

I spent the better part of the late morning and afternoon watching the Unity March on the BBC and it was quite an impressive and moving display of unity and fearlessness in the face of terrorism. One of the more moving moments was when police marksmen who were positioned at the top of buildings, would salute the crowds below drawing cheers and clapping. This happen several times and it was such a beautiful display of unity. The above photo shows two such police marksmen at the building directly to the reporter's right, at the middle of the building.

Place de la République, the square in Paris where thousands gathered for the Unity March

It was moving to see spontaneous songs erupting in an atmosphere of courtesy and consideration that manifested itself in group activities and individual gestures of peace. One group had several hundred white roses that were passed to everyone amongst themselves which were simultaneously thrown in the air together with cheers. Another example was the giving of a white rose to a French Jewish man from a French Muslim man, which was his personal gesture of peace. The overall loving and peaceful mood of the march was a much needed antidote to the hatred and violence that France experienced this past week.

What started out this past week as a tragic time marked by horror and sadness has ended with peace and unity. Many French people said that this week's events was France's 9/11. Regardless if this ends up being the case, it is my hope that today has marked the beginning of a healing process amongst the people of France. All of the seventeen dead individuals and their families are in my prayer intentions. I also include and would like to pay a special tribute to the slain police officers, who like all police officers must at times place themselves in harm's way, that unfortunately for some will result in death. I hope that France improves support for the police forces in the areas of tactical support, intelligence gathering, protective gear, education and training so that police officers are even better trained and prepared, as much as possible, to more effectively deal with such attacks in the future. 

The Charlie Hebdo Magazine made an error in judgement as to what was proper and ethical to publish. It is incumbent upon all people of good will to make every effort not to offend anyone for any reason. Demographic issues in France are no justification for insulting someone's faith, race or anything else that ignores and diminishes the dignity of the human being. I have never heard of Charlie Hebdo until this week and from my brief research it became clear that this magazine has a history of publishing risky material that offends many people of different backgrounds and religions. I discovered from a fellow blogger, Lea Z. Singh, that the Roman Catholic faith has also been mocked by this magazine. Apparently, in the past cartoons were published depicting nuns masturbating and the Pope wearing a condom. Clearly, this and similar type publications are sure to invoke very negative responses and in some cases, as this week proved to be, very violent ones.

The Charlie Hebdo attack and others that followed this week spotlights the incorrect and unethical use of freedom. Yes, freedom is a must include for a peaceful society, but with freedom comes responsibility. No one of good will can claim under the banner of freedom, that it is right to publish something that knowingly offends a religion, ethnic group, society and country. The legal availability to do so is not a justification. Understanding the importance of ethical guidelines and implementing them helps to ensure that society is peaceful. To do otherwise may result in the opposite which is what France has witnessed these past few days.

Even worse was the violent response against the Charlie Hebdo Magazine. Violence is not the answer and the murder of the Charlie Hebdo employees, those who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, the police officers and the deaths that were the result of this incident's spawning of two other terrorist attacks, are completely unacceptable. As much as I disapprove of the cartoon publications, I in no way condone the murderous actions of these aggressive Muslims who under the banner of Islam acted against the law of the land.

When disputes arise in a civilized society, there are peaceful means by which anyone can have recourse to express objections and seek change for the better, such as article publications, blogs, social networks, radio, internet and television broadcasts and legal challenges. Sadly, those responsible for these attacks have not sought out such peaceful means to communicate their objections, much to their detriment.

Night descended upon the march, but neither the cold nor the night discouraged participants

It is my hope and prayer that freedom will not only be respected and guaranteed, but used responsibly. Having stated that, in support for and in solidarity with the people of France I say, "Je suis Charlie."

God Bless France.