Within the course of salvation history there have been many questions about the work of Christ and the role of the human freedom, or free will. There has been no shortage of theories. Church history shows that there have been many heresies from those trying find a synthesis between the two.
There seem to be two extremes when it comes to this issue—those who think that Christ will save us no matter what we do after coming to faith and those who think that one must continually work to attain salvation (Pelagianism).
The Catholic Definition of Freedom
Saint Pope John Paul II wrote two encyclicals titled Redemptor Hominis and Redemptoris Missio that deal with this important issue.
The Pope reaffirms the teaching of Christ in John 14:6 that He is the way and the truth. He echoes the words of God is creation where he saw the things that he created as good. The work of Christ is expressed as an act of love, and a love that the Father had from the beginning with creation. It was through this act of love that man was restored and made whole. Regarding this Pope John Paul II writes, “He and he alone also satisfied that fatherhood of God and that love which man in a way rejected by breaking the first Covenant and the later covenants that God again and again offered to man” (Redemptor Hominis Para 9). Man is unable to enter into relationship with God unless it is through Christ (Redemptoris Missio Para 5). What Christ did for man was the greatest act of love that ever done. It is one that our feeble minds can barely start to fathom freedom!
The Pope firmly establishes that it is Christ who is the only way and is the source of our salvation. The work of Christ on the cross was an act of love that echoes back to the point of creation, and he reconciles man to himself. How about human freedom? The freedom of man is a source of controversy for many.
Our lives as lack meaning if we do not have love. We were made to love and live in communion with each other. Through His life, death, and resurrection Christ has shown us what love is. This love changes the lives of the apostles, and they passed that on and it changed the world.
Freedom to Choose Life
God offers this newness of life to every man, but man has the freedom to reject it. In this regard Pope John Paul II writes, “Faith demands a free adherence on the part of man, but at the same time faith must also be offered to him” (Redemptoris Missio Para 8). Freedom is not the ultimate end as the world teaches it to be. Freedom is the choice to do as we ought to.
Freedom is only a gift if one knows how to use it for everything that is true good (Redemptor Hominis Para 21). When we encounter Him that is truth we can either accept of deny what he says. He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NRSV).
Once we reach this realization Christ calls us to a higher standard of living. We are bound to regulate of lives with this truth, and we have the freedom to do so or not (Redemptoris Missio Para 8).
Human freedom is a part of the redemption. By his work on the cross, Christ redeems us by an act of love. We are called to love others and do what Christ commands of us.
John Paul II. Redemptor Hominis 1979 Web. Accessed September 9, 2019.
John Paul II. Redemptoris Missio 1990. Web. Accessed September 9, 2019.
About our guest blogger:
William is aconvert to the Catholic faith. Before entering the churchhewas ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary. William liveswith his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults. Check out hiswebsite/blog atwilliamhemsworth.comfor more great and informativeCatholic content!
Since the advent of the Internet an explosion of information has been accessible to a majority of the world. Social media and the invention of the smart phone only continued the ability to learn new information quicker and at an earlier age.
As a dad to four children I am both excited and terrified of the new advancements technology will afford humanity in the next few decades. Technology by itself is neutral. Its implementation can be used for good or evil. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1656, “In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica (domestic church).” Faith starts in the home.
During the Baptismal rite, Catholic parents pledge to teach their children in the faith. In the minutes after the ceremony, it is easy for parents to feel empowered and emboldened by the Holy. “Nothing can phase us. We has the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us (and our child)!” I thought as I held my oldest son after his Baptism. I felt invincible as a dad. It took less than a week for the Enemy to take advantage of my pride. Sending us temptation after temptation the Devil seeks to wear us down. His goal is to get us to a state of despair.
Life gets busy, messy, stressful, frustrating, hopeless at times, and tons of other inconveniences bombard us daily. It is definitely easy to lose sight and forget about the Baptismal vows we made before God and the Church. I struggle at least every month. On the worst months, I feel the strain almost daily. Recently, I switched to working the night shift. While this schedule has blessed me with the ability to stay home with the younger kids and take the older children to school, the result is less time as an entire family fully together at once.
Fortunately, the Labor Day Weekend provided our family to spend quality time. My wife suggested that I write about the ways we have developed to maintain our church at home despite our schedule. This post will center on five specific and simple ways to build your domestic church with little time.
St. John Vianney once said, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” If we expect our kids to brush their teeth and wash their faces before school, why should we not also expect them (and ourselves) to wash their souls with morning prayer. My parents were not superbly theological in their articulation about the faith.
In hindsight, I realized they actions and prayer life made a big impact on me. Every morning on the drive to school my mom (in elementary school) and my dad (in high school) would lead us in a daily morning prayer consisting of an Our Father, Hail Mary, and various other prayers at times. This simple practice to begin the day was instrumental in build our church at home. My wife and I adopted this practice now.
Playtime can be Prayer Time
According to Genesis 2:3, God rested after completion of creation. Certainly the creator of the Universe would not tire, it is important because God “rested” as a means to show humanity the importance of taking time away from work. Some days I am too tired to play with my kids. But it is an importance duty as a parent. Play is equally as important as working. “Dad! I want you to play a game or outside with me,” my kids constantly tell me.
St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life wrote, “We must needs occasionally relax the mind, and the body requires some recreation also” (Part III, no 31). Throwing the frisbee with my wife the other day and watching my kids play at the playground had a sacramental quality to it. I felt drawn closer into the Mystery of God’s grace as I calmed my anxious mind through the playful activities of the weekend. The Doctor of the Church lists out good and moral playful activities, all still relevant today. Francis charts out the following:
Walking, harmless games, music, instrumental or vocal, field sports, etc., are such entirely lawful recreations that they need no rules beyond those of ordinary discretion, which keep every thing within due limits of time, place, and degree. So again games of skill, which exercise and strengthen body or mind, such as tennis, rackets, running at the ring, chess, and the like, are in themselves both lawful and good.
Look to Your Family’s Patron Saint(s)
Another simple way to grow your church at home is to reflect on your family’s patron saints. Your family’s patrons could be either the saints that you, your spouse, and your are named after or it could be a particular saint you learned about later in life. For example, if your family enjoys camping in the summer look to Saint Pope John Paul II as your role model.
My family’s patron saints are Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerad of Majella. We also ask for help from the Blessed Virgin Mary and specifically are close to Our Lady Undoer of Knots devotion. Sometimes the “can’t man” or pessimistic attitude invades our house. Mary helps to undo our knots (nots) and turns them into “yeses”.
Celebrate your children’s and spouse’s saints feast days by making food specific to the nationality of that saint. Read a bedtime story about that saint’s life or print off pictures of your patron saint as a coloring activity. If you are super pinched for time that day, simply reflect on the life of that saint throughout the day.
Patience is a Virtue
A fourth reason to develop your domestic church is to exercise the virtue of patience. It is easy to tell yourself to be patient, but it is super challenging to implement on some days! Jesus told his disciples and us in Matthew 7:7, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” If you are running low on patience ask Him. You will receive it. Ask. Ask. Ask. Your children may challenge your belief in that verse, but please know your struggles for the day will day—eventually!
Getting the kids ready for bed is the most challenging part for us. My wife tells me that she constantly prays the Rosary to help prevent her was losing her cool. Mary is an effective intercessor. Mary always will intercede for us and draw us close to Her Son for aid.
The last strategy to implement to similar to the first—end your day with prayer. Nightly prayer as an entire family may not be feasible daily depending on your schedule. Because I work the overnight shift throughout the week, I can only pray with my wife and kids twice a week.
Frequency is not as important as consistency. I aim to consistently pray as a family even though it is only a couple times a week. Praying a decade of the Rosary or listening to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy sung are two ways my family likes to end the day.
Family that Prays Together Stay Together
As corny as the saying is families that nurture a consistent prayer life do stay together. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:21)—so should you for your family’s sake and for the sake of the Church. Saint John Paul the Great declared, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Serve God, your family, and the world use the time you have to foster the domestic church!
“Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord,” proclaimed the late Polish pope, John Paul II in his encyclical letter TheSplendor of Truth. Promulgated over twenty years ago, this writing can still act as a guidepost for every Christian, both clergy and laity alike, for moral living. Now more than ever, modern man, in a world where moral relativism and ignorance of objective truths abound, needs the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit channeled through the Catholic Church. The Splendor of Truth delineates the Church’s rich moral teaching and sheds light on the underlying assumptions of those dissenting from the Magisterium’s authority.
I will examine three points− one from each chapter. The moral duty charged to all Christians will be looked at first, followed by a survey of the Church’s stance on conscience. And finally, the need for modern-day martyrs in the face of moral relativism will be addressed.
Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?
The initial chapter of TheSplendor of Truth centers on the content from the interaction of a rich young man and Jesus in Matthew 19. Here the young man begins his conversation with Jesus with a query: “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” At face value this question seemed sincere for it concerned one of the utmost important issues a person must contemplate. As the late pope tersely put it, “It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life. To ascertain the difference between good and evil people need to turn toward Christ who provides the answer. Too many times in the modern world humans seek answers to life’s hardest questions in fleeting, temporal sources such as political systems or New-Age philosophies rather than turning to God.
God is the Greatest Good
To truly live out the moral life, one must understand that an objective good does in fact exist− God. Responding to the young rich man, Jesus proclaims, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Since the ultimate good exists as God himself, it logically follows that only He can provide answers to the question about what is good in life. Not leaving man in the dark, God sheds light on moral matters by granting humans the ability to find out through reason alone the natural law. Article 12 of The Splendor of Truth mentions that God by creating man, ordered him to the good and have an innate desire for wisdom.
Due to original sin, God had to act in history to initiate his saving plan for humanity. Citing again from the encyclical, the Polish pope states, “The gift of the Decalogue was a promise and a sign of the New Covenant, in which the law would be written in a new and definitive way upon the human heart (cf Jer 31:31-34), replacing the law of sin which had disfigured that heart (cf Jer 17:1).” In other words, a strong connection is made between morality and adherence to the commandments. However, the Church, and ultimately God, does not call for a sterile, drone-like obedience, but rather a total commitment to the law through faith in Christ.
Role of the Conscience
Along with being aware of God as the supreme good and knowing that the Decalogue serves as the parameters for the moral life, a proper understanding of conscience and its connection to objective truths will enhance the Christian’s need to adhere to the Church Magisterium regarding faith and morals.
John Paul II begins his section on Conscience and Truth by saying, “The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law is most deeply lived out in the ‘heart’ of the person, in his moral conscience.” According to Church Tradition, conscience and natural law are not in tension with one another. Instead, conscience communicates moral responsibility in light of the natural law. Simply put, conscience aids man in following the natural law− for it is the “witness of God himself”.
Necessity for Proper Formation of the Conscience
Nevertheless, conscience as a human function trying to pick up God’s voice and will is not exempt from error in judgment. The Second Vatican Council succinctly states, “not infrequently conscience can be mistaken as result of invincible [inculpable] ignorance.” In fact forming a proper conscience and developing virtuous habits takes time. This requires constant conversion. The pope declares that the Church and Her Magisterium greatly aid Christians in the formation of their conscience. Not an arbitrary authority, John Paul II speaks of the Church as “putting herself always and only at the service of conscience, helping it to avoid being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine proposed by human deceit.”
If every Catholic-Christian took the pope’s message to heart on the Magisterium’s role pertaining to faith and morals laity confusion and dissent on hot-buttons issues like abortion and gay marriage, particularly during election years, would decline. Only through obedience to Christ’s authority in the Church via the conscience does man attain true freedom.
Call to Marytrdom
The best way to combat moral relativism pervading modern society today is not through polemical rhetoric or violence but for Christians to step up as martyrs for the truth. In the third chapter of The Splendor of Truth, the Roman Pontiff calls martyrdom, “the exaltation of the inviolable holiness of God’s law.” He then maps out several examples of people in the Old and New Testament who testified to God’s power through their witness. John the Baptist and Stephen, the first Christian to die for his faith, both laid down their lives in testifying to the Messiah’s teaching. And they also suffered immensely unjust and painful deaths similar to Christ’s death on the Cross.
John Paul II finally points out that the first generation Church, which experienced intense persecutions from Roman emperors, also flourished in holiness due to the witness of saint-martyrs. This leads to his main point, that such witness is a remarkable sign of the holiness of the Church.
The witness of martyrs provides a beacon of light to help illuminate others moral compasses especially in a world with a muddled-up perception of what is truly good and just. “This witness makes an extraordinarily valuable contribution to warding off, in civil society and within the ecclesial communities themselves, a headlong plunge into the most dangerous crisis which can afflict man: the confusion between good and evil,” declares John Paul II. Oftentimes, people can be turned off by an exclusively scare-tactical, fire and brimstone approach to morality. Instilling fear and prodding them with a stick may work short-term, but many people tend to revert back to their old ways without sincere conversion. The witness of martyrs offers a better panacea for moral ambiguity.
An Ugly Term Today?
Modern man likes to shy away from the term “martyr” in part due to the moral duty and responsibility charged to those people who stand as a “sign of contradiction” to the 21st century way of life. The late pope clearly states that, “Although martyrdom represents the high point of the witness to moral truth, and one to which relatively few people are called, there is nonetheless a consistent witness which all Christians must daily be ready to make, even at the cost of suffering and grave sacrifice.” Now in being a witness for the faith necessarily involves sacrifice on some level, albeit not always to the point of a physical and tortuous demise.
Nevertheless, daily sacrifice will lead to a kind of death− a death to sin. Summing up his section on the Christian’s response to morality, the Polish pope explicitly says, “The voice of conscience has always clearly recalled that there are truths and moral values for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life.”
Role of the Church in the 21st Century
To conclude, written over twenty years ago, the encyclical The Splendor of Truth still sheds a ray of light on the moral life of the Church. This document provide an answer to the confusion of the modern world—the teaching of Jesus Christ, safeguarded by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church!
Just like the rich young man in Matthew’s gospel who questioned Jesus about how he can attain salvation the human race, in a society pervaded by moral laxity and ambiguity, must turn to God in order to ascertain what is truly morally good and just. The second point discussed from this moral treatise regarding conscience is important because a proper understanding of it will lead laity to a better appreciation of the Magisterium’s role in helping to form their conscience. John Paul II also mentioned that a properly formed Christian conscience will be able to determine how to act morally in line with natural law. And finally, the high point of the moral life consists of when a person is willing to die for the faith as a martyr. Restating the bishop of Rome, “Martyrdom is an outstanding sign of the holiness of the Church.”
A careful and meditative reading of The Splendor of Truth will hopefully enhance a Christian’s love for the Church and a better following of Christ’s law.
May 13th, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the Marian Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. I am participated in a 33-day Marian consecration which culminated on the Feast of Fatima. Because of the honor Catholics bestow towards Mary, it is important to dispel common misunderstandings non-Catholics may have about the Blessed Mother of Jesus.
According to 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself.” It seems clear-cut that any reaching out to Mary for help and mediation is to be frowned upon to prevent falling into heresy!
Honor NOT Worship
This article outlines a few explanations from both Scripture and Tradition to describe the Catholic approach to Mary. Catholics HONOR, but NOT WORSHIP Mary! First, we will look at biblical evidence. Next, we look at the Second Vatican II document on the Church [Lumen Gentium]. Lastly, we will analyze some thoughts about Mary from the St. Pope John Paul II.
Biblical background on Mary’s Mediation
Before I mention the key passage about Mary’s intercessory action I want to highlight her vow of total obedience to God first. In Luke the angel greeted Mary with these words, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). The original Greek is Chaire, Kecharitomene which translated to “Hail, full of grace”. Catholics interprets the phrase full of grace to refer to Mary being conceived without sin. Having this preliminary understanding of Mary, let us look at a strong example regarding her mediation to help humankind.
The wedding at Cana in the beginning of John’s gospel is Jesus’ first public miracle. Here Mary displays her role as a mediator and advocate when she urges Jesus to perform the miracle of changing the water into wine. According to the fourth gospel. “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine” (John 2:3). Catholics honor towards Mary is not because she is a god but because of her close connection to God! John 2:5 is evidence that Mary’s end purpose is obedience and submission to God when she expresses to the wedding servers, “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you.”
Testimony of Tradition
Along with the evidence from the New Testament, we will look briefly at what the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium and Pope John Paul II tells us about Mary as a mediator. According to Lumen Gentium 60,
There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, “for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all”.(298) The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.
It is also appropriate to mention that it is not a coincidence that the content of the final chapter of this council document being relating to Mary. The last major section of the chapter mentions Mary as the sign of created hope and solace to the wandering people of God. Mary is not the end. Rather, she is a signpost pointing Christians to Christ! (Lumen Gentium 68).
Witness of JPII
Finally, I want us to examine St. John Paul II’s Marian devotion. The polish pope focuses on the maternal mediation of Mary in his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater. To start off, John Paul II acknowledges hat there is only one mediator Jesus. In union with Tradition the pope states, “The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as “a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself (Redemptoris Mater 38). Mary is the first and greatest apostle of God. God entrusted Himself to her before anyone else (Redemptoris Mater 39).
John Paul II also says, “After her Son’s departure, her motherhood remains in the Church as maternal mediation: interceding for all her children, the Mother cooperates in the saving work of her Son, the Redeemer of the world (Redemptoris Mater 40). The key word in this quote is cooperates. Mary is not equal to God, but she does COOPERATE with God and in the mediation of Jesus Christ!
Disclaimer: All my readers who hated math in elementary and high school please bear with me as I promise the mathematics I am proposing today is less confusing than long division and solving a geometric proof! For math aficionados hopefully you enjoy this post as much as you enjoy the following math jokes:
How do you stay warm in an empty room? Go into the corner where it is always 90 degrees.
There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t.
“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves,” John Paul II declared in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor. I reflect on this quote more than any other from the Polish pope’s papal writings. Throughout my life I felt a pendulum swing between the scientific and spiritual sides of my being. Instead of embracing unity between this two sides, I fall into the error of viewing faith and reason in an unnatural mule-like state.
Imbalance leads to lack of joy, despair, and doubt. Today, I allowed a one-sidedness to creep up on my and grasp my being. Being a perfectionist, my rational pursuit for excellence at work sowed the seeds to restlessness and anxiety. Any little mistake I made remained with me for some time. I struggled with healthy self-esteem during my periods of pure rationalism.
The danger of reducing all knowledge to reason is that a loss of wonder occurs. During the periods where I exhibit control over all areas of my life [work, home, leisure time, etc] ironically instead of acquiring long-term control and freedom, I only gain a fleeting control that seems to escape my grasp as soon as it arrived.
It’s Not Rocket Science!
I stumbled upon the apropos wisdom of G.K. Chesterton on my dilemma. Instead of reflecting inward the great Englishmen declared, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought.” When I am grateful I am happier. I find this to be true in my life experiences. Oftentimes, after a difficult day at work, home, or both I try to take a short inventory at the end of the day of where I typically failed and how I could succeed. Only through the addition of gratitude to my attitude am I able to subtract the worries of the world from the next day. Strangely enough, I discovered that the mathematics of thanksgiving does not necessarily follow the standard rules of elementary arithmetic.
The rest of the Chesterton quote from above goes as such, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” My conscience [and rational] effort to focus on being more thankful is not sufficient to a happy and joyful life. Thanksgiving needs to be multiplied with wonder. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 1299, “The bishop invokes the outpouring of the Spirit in these words:
‘All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by water and the Holy Spirit
you freed your sons and daughters from sin
and gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to be their helper and guide.
Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of right judgment and courage,
the spirit of knowledge and reverence.
Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.113′”
Power of Amazement
Notice that the final gift of the Holy Spirit conferred is wonder and awe. Amazement at the splendor of God’s being and even his created works is a grace. As a child seeing the world through the lens of wonder was easy. I had the dependence on my parents [and God] that things would work out. Jesus spoke of the importance of child-like faith in Matthew 18:1-5:
At that time the disciples* approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”2He called a child over, placed it in their midst,3b and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,* you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.4c Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.5* And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
The Son of God is not meaning that we should don a gullible faith in God–that is an immature understanding of his words. What Jesus means is that our relationship with God should be that of a father-son/daughter bond.As an adopted son of God I am called to ask for and freely choose to rely on God for dependence during trying times in my life. As previously stated, there is a balance that needs to be struck between human reason and faith in Our Heavenly Father.
Orderly Wonder of Joy
Aristotle wrote, “The mathematical sciences particularly exhibit order, symmetry, and limitation; and these are the greatest forms of the beautiful.” There is a true beauty in the overall structure of the created universe. I also believe that God allowed human freedom and intellect to possess the ability to develop and discover math and science to uncover the mysteries of the world. More authentic usage of our rational capabilities along with recognizing our limitations allows for a person to be both grateful for the created order and marvel at God’s majestic masterpiece. I will leave you with a homework problem below: [DON’T WORRY IT WILL BE AN OPEN NOTE QUIZ I ONLY ASK YOU SEEK TO TRY TO IMPLEMENT THIS EQUATION IN YOUR LIFE!!]
Your Daily Challenge
***Gratitude +Wonder= Subtraction of Worry and Multiplication of Joy***
To be honest, I never really thought much about my Polish heritage until a couple of years ago. Two momentous events sparked my interested: the reading of a biography of John Paul II and discovering my favorite lawn game Polish horseshoes. I have now come to realize that the game’s namesake is a misnomer and has no origin from Poland at all. I unknowingly created the poles to mirror Poland’s flag—white on the top half and red on the bottom half! Fun fact: Can you name the two nations whose flag is the inverse of Poland’s flag [red on top and white on the bottom]? If not that is alright, I will provide the answer at the end of today’s post!
John Paul the Great!
The second reason I got intrigued more and more about Poland is after reading Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert. After finishing this biography I felt a closer connection to the great saint. In fact, the grace I experienced in reading this book and through the intercession of St. John Paul II were instrumental in helping me get through one of my darkest valleys of desolation I ever experienced. I highly recommend this biography and any of the Polish pope’s writings for summer reading.
According to Accordions
Finally, I will describe my connection to third “possibly Polish thing”—accordions. My mother actually owns an accordion. She occasionally playing when I was growing up. Now that I have children of my own, I am blessed to see her lug out the dusty accordion box and play a quick tune for my kids. It is on my mom’s side of the family where I have Polish ancestry. I hope to one day have both the time and the energy to do some genealogical research and create a family tree especially in relation to my Polish descent.
Until then, I urge you all to learn more about the sanctity housed in the great nation of Poland over the course of the last century. Both St. Maria Faustina and St. John Paul II were born in this Eastern European country. And I almost forgot the answer to today’s trivia question above is Indonesia and Monaco!
News from the past weekend exhibited just how much division and separation exist in the world. A Buzzfeed story about a group of Covington Catholic High School students taunting a Native American leader Nathan Phillips displayed only part of the entire picture. Things taken out of context and contentious headlines incite quick reactions and rash judgments. I am not writing today to provide an opinion on which of the parties involved were right or wrong. I am not a judge–by trade or by ontology. The title of True Judge is resolved for God alone.
What I do know for absolute certainty is that unity is preferred over division. Through dialogue, patience, and perspective taking greater consensus will be reached over arguments both large and small. Why does discord exist? Why do people of various creeds, nationalities, races, and backgrounds fight? The simple answer is due to fallen human nature. Because of Original Sin, humanity disharmony entered the world. Can society provide unity? Can governments legislate unity? No, granted some bills may help promote unity, but such sinister division, tension, and strife is a matter of the human heart.
Unity begins in the domestic family unit, but not merely the civil family structure. Instead only through the sacrament of marriage is true unity able to be fostered between husbands and wives and between siblings. According to Saint Pope John Paul the Great, “[Speaking of marriage and family] In this entire world there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, Unity and Community. There is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery.” In fact, the first miracle in the Public Ministry of Jesus occurred at a wedding feast. Changing the water into wine helped save the newlyweds from a stressful bind, but more importantly Jesus demonstrated the importance of the institution of marriage.
Since the birth of our fourth children in late December, my wife and I experienced both intense unity, but also some division. Although this may come as a newsflash, most likely not, newborn babies tend to not sleep very well at night! Our daughter is not different. Successive days from minimal or less than minimal sleep limits the capacity for my wife and I’s patience. Without the aid of God, my marriage would be fruitless and joyless. This is not an indictment on my wife, but rather myself. In my natural state, I am not the most gracious or joyous person. However, through the sacramental graces received in matrimony God provides couples the grace to increase in unity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church backs up this point as well,
By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.”147 This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children (CCC 1641).
Authentic unity only can occur if the human heart is healed from the destructive effects of sin. Legislation and social media awareness can only go so far in promoting unity. Baptism is the doorway to the supernatural and unitive life of grace. That is only the beginning holiness begins in the home. Please pray for married couples and their children to be open to receive the graces to love more tenderly, increase their patience, and capacity to forgive!
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” —Saint John Paul the Great