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by Luiz Sérgio Solimeo

 

In 1917 at Fatima, Portugal, Mary Most Holy came to ask a sinful world to pray, specially the Rosary, to do penance and to amend its ways. In the last apparition of October 13, her last words to humanity were: “Let them offend Our Lord no more for He is already much offended.”  In this plea, a mother’s heart begs reprieve for her son who is God, the creator of heaven and earth, the giver and upholder of the Law.  Fatima was a prophetic message that foresaw a world increasingly bent on breaking natural and divine law. It is thus inspiring and heartening to read of a bishop who, courageously and intelligently countering the present assault on marriage and children, picks up his pastoral pen and, defining true commitment, defends love and life from the moment of sacred conception.

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No one doubts that the family is going through a crisis today that shakes the very foundations of our society. But few have the lucidity and courage to denounce generalized contraception as a major cause undermining the institution of marriage.

 

A false concept of love

Most Reverend James D. ConleyMost Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, has done just this. In his March 25, 2014 pastoral letter titled The Language of Love - A letter to the Catholic families and healthcare providers of the Diocese of Lincoln,1] he calls out this evil as the overlooked cause of the family crisis. 

With simple and intelligent arguments, he shows how the contraceptive mentality undermines marriage’s very foundation—the generous mutual love of the spouses willing to beget children, which are seen as blessings from God. By avoiding children, a couple selfishly closes in on itself and their mutual love often ends up withering, giving rise to temptations of divorce.

This is due above all to the false concept of love that prevails nowadays:

We live in a world short on love. Today, love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things, and comfort, and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.

True love accepts self-sacrifice

True love is something different. It is a sacrificial self-offering that participates in the love of Jesus Christ and in His Passion and Death on the Cross:

Love—real love—is about sacrifice, and redemption, and hope….

Sacrifice is the language of love. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who poured out his life for us on the cross. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of the Christian life, sharing in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. And love is spoken in the sacrifice of parents, and pastors, and friends.

An anti-childbearing culture

When this true concept of love and a proper understanding of the role of sacrifice are absent, children are considered to be a marriage’s burden and hindrance, instead of its blessing and crowning:

There is no true happiness in sin. Today, our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception… Our culture often teaches us that children are more a burden than a gift—that families impede our freedom and diminish our finances. We live in a world where large families are the objects of spectacle and derision, instead of the ordinary consequence of a loving marriage entrusted to God’s providence. But children should not be feared as a threat or a burden, but rather seen as a sign of hope for the future.

Quoting his predecessor, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin (+1995), the Bishop of Lincoln shows that there is no happiness in sin and exhorts contracepting couples to abandon the practice:

To expect to find happiness in sin is to look for good in evil. … Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage. I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life.

God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession

The Bishop of Lincoln shows how Catholic doctors are morally bound not to prescribe contraceptives to their patients since contraception is not a medical treatment. And, he recommends:

If you have used or supported contraception, I pray that you will stop, and that you will avail yourself of God’s tender mercy by making a good heartfelt confession.

While recognizing the licitness of Natural Family Planning periodical abstention, Bishop Conley warns that this practice can sometimes lead to an anti-childbearing mindset and the loss of confidence in Divine Providence.

We thank Bishop Conley for his wise and timely magisterium on an issue that usually receives little emphasis from our shepherds, though crucial for the proper defense of the sacred institutions of marriage and the family, and the survival of society.

 


 1. Any emphases are ours.

 

 

 

DAILY QUOTE for November 18, 2018

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics, than many compli...

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November 18

 

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics,
than many compliant with the enemies of the Church
and conformed to the foes of our Faith.

St. Peter Canisius


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SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

During the French Revolution, the Sisters of the Visitation...

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St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Born on August 29, 1769 in the French city of Grenoble, Rose Philippine was baptized in the Church of St. Louis. She was educated at the Convent of the Visitation of Ste. Marie d'en Haut and, against her father’s wishes, became a novice there when she was eighteen years old. However, the French Revolution caused much disruption for the nuns, and when the Sisters of the Visitation were expelled from their convents, Rose returned home.

She cared for the sick and the poor, helped fugitive priests, visited prisons, and taught children. Some time after the Revolution ended, she unsuccessfully tried to reestablish the Visitation community, and ultimately gave the convent to St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and joined the Order. When the Bishop of New Orleans, William Du Bourg, requested nuns for his thriving diocese in Louisiana, Rose and four other nuns made the trip to America in 1818.

Rose and the nuns were sent to Missouri, pioneers of the New World. There, as well in neighboring states, they established multiple schools, built a convent, an orphanage, a mission school for Indian girls, a boarding academy and a novitiate for her Order. However, the strenuous and difficult regime of work for her apostolate took its toll on her body. She died in St. Charles, Missouri in 1852 after spending more than 30 years as a pioneer in the evangelization of the New World. She was canonized in 1988. Rose was truly devoted to God, and prayed in her every spare moment. Because of this, the Indians began to call her “Quah-kah-ka-num-ad,” or "Woman-Who-Prays-Always."

WEEKLY STORY

The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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