Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mystici Corporis Christi - Pope Pius XII's Encyclical On The Doctrine Of The Mystical Body Of Christ

Pope Pius XII in 1924. His papacy was from 1939-1958.

Pope Pius XII's encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi was issued on the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, June 29, 1943. It is a document that explains the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. It is an invitation to all who are drawn to it by the Holy Spirit to study it; to receive the truths contained within it; and to act upon this knowledge and understanding with the performance of good works. Pope Pius XII deemed it fitting to develop and explain this doctrine with the hope that the entire flock of Christ would, "...draw certain lessons that will make a deeper study of this mystery bear yet richer fruits of perfection and holiness." (11)

If you are new to Church doctrine, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is a doctrine. Doctrine is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, "a set of beliefs or principles held and taught by a religious, political, or other group." With specific reference to the Catholic Church, here is what the Catechism of The Catholic Church states about doctrine and the constitutive element of charity:
The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love. (25)
Thirty six pages printed, there is much one could include in writing about this encyclical, but for the sake of brevity, today's post focuses on some of the fundamental aspects of this doctrine: the origins of this doctrine; certain aspects of the Mystical Body; why the body in fact is mystical; errors that have arisen from an incorrect understanding of this doctrine; and the participation of each member to strengthen and build up the Mystical Body of Christ.

Pope Pius XII explanation on the origin of this doctrine begins at paragraph twelve, with the fall of Adam and the gift of Christ. God created Adam in such an exalted state that he was to hand on to his posterity the heavenly life of divine grace. After Adam's fall, the entire human race was "infected with a hereditary stain," in which it lost its participation in the divine nature. God's love for the world brought with it the gift of His only begotten Son. Christ's crucifixion not only appeased the justice of the Father, but had obtained for all mankind an ineffable flow of graces. It was possible for Christ to impart these graces to mankind directly; but He willed to do so only through a visible Church, that all might cooperate with Him in dispensing the graces of redemption. It is significant to note that the establishment of the Mystical Body was willed by Christ, so that the sacred work of redemption would endure and continue throughout the centuries, in part due to the direct participation of His Body.

Pope Pius XII also noted that the establishment of the Mystical Body by Christ, had been reinforced by the teaching of Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. He cited Saint Paul's letter to the the Colossians, "Christ is the Head of the Body of the Church," (14) as well as Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, Satis Cognitum, who asserted that the "Church is visible because she is a body." (14) 

Further on in the encyclical, Pope Pius XII identified who is included in the Body. The Body consists of the clergy and the laity: those who are of Holy Orders; cloistered in monasteries living a contemplative life; others who are active and living in the world in their apostolates; those in the state of matrimony, single laity and members of lay Catholic groups. He elaborated further on this when he stated:
...only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. "For in one spirit" says the Apostle, "were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free." As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. And therefore, if a man refuse to hear the Church, let him be considered - so the Lord commands - as a heathen and a publican. It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit. (22)
Pope Pius XII clarified that the Mystical Body of Christ is made up of holy individuals, saints and sinners as well. He noted that not every sin, grave as it may be, will sever man from the Mystical Body of Christ. He stated that if members of the Body have lost charity and divine grace through sin, they may not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope; spurred by the promptings of the Holy Spirit to prayer and penance for their sins. Such is not the case with much more serious matters such as schism, heresy or apostasy. 

Christ has provided for His Mystical Body by endowing it with the Sacraments. In so doing, as Pope Pius XII noted, He provided it with an uninterrupted series of graces to sustain it from birth to death, including generous provisions for the social needs of the Church. In particular, Pope Pius XII spotlighted the great importance of the correct religious education of children, in which he stated that without the "Mystical Body would be in grave danger." (20)

Continuing with his explanation of the Body, Pope Pius XII stated that, "Because Christ the Head holds such an eminent position, one must not think that he does not require the help of the Body." (44) Important to note that what ever need our Divine Redeemer has of us, ultimately we must remember His words, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 5:15) We, the Body, must always be cognizant of the fact that all advancement "...of this Mystical Body towards its perfection derives from Christ the Head." (44) 

Pope Pius XII stated very clearly, "Christ has need of His members." (44) As to the specifics why Christ needs His members, he elaborated on this point when he stated that Jesus is represented by the Supreme Pontiff, who in turn must call upon others to share in the solicitude of souls, lest he become overwhelmed by the demands of his pastoral office. Pope Pius XII also stressed that our Saviour does not rule the Church directly in a visible manner, but instead He wills to be helped by the members of his Body, carrying out the work of redemption. The reason for this; Christ willed to be helped by his Body for the "greater glory of His spotless Spouse." (44) Pope Pius XII continued with this explanation when he stated that when Christ died on the Cross, He left the Church with the immense treasury of Redemption. Come time to distribute the graces, not only does Christ share this work of sanctification with His Church, but He wills that in some way it would be due to her action. Pope Pius XII referred to this as a deep mystery: 
...that the salvation of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances which the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ offer for this intention and on the cooperation of pastors of souls and of the faithful, especially of fathers and mothers of families, a cooperation which they must offer to our Divine Savior as though they were His associates. (44)
As to why the Body of Christ should be called Mystical, Pope Pius XII began his explanation at paragraph sixty. So there may be no misunderstanding of what mystical means, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "having a spiritual significance that goes beyond human understanding." Father John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary,  definition of the Church's mystical component is as follows, "The Church is called Mystical because she is a mystery, which God revealed to be true but whose inner essence must be accepted on faith and without full comprehension by the mind." Here is the introduction to the mystical aspect of the Body from Pope Pius XII:
And now, Venerable Brethren, We come to that part of Our explanation in which We desire to make clear why the Body of Christ, which is the Church, should be called mystical. This name, which is used by many early writers, has the sanction of numerous Pontifical documents. There are several reasons why it should be used; for by it we may distinguish the Body of the Church, which is a Society whose Head and Ruler is Christ, from His physical Body, which, born of the Virgin Mother of God, now sits at the right hand of the Father and is hidden under the Eucharistic veils; and, that which is of greater importance in view of modern errors, this name enables us to distinguish it from any other body, whether in the physical or the moral order. (60)
To further clarify the Mystical aspect of the Body, Pope Pius XII compared the Mystical Body to that of a natural body. He stated that in a natural body, "...the principle of unity unites the parts in such a manner that each lacks in its own individual subsistence; on the contrary, in the Mystical Body the mutual union, though intrinsic, links the members by a bond which leaves to each the complete enjoyment of his own personality." (61) He explained further that the different members of the physical body are destined to the good of the whole alone; while the Mystical Body with its many moral associations are directed to the advancement of all and each individual member. He then pointed out the fact that Jesus established the Body and enriched it with the Holy Spirit; for it exists "...for the good of the faithful and for the glory of God and of Jesus Christ whom He sent." (61)

A further comparison was made between a mystical and moral body. Pope Pius XII noted the difference between the two is not slight, but rather considerable and very important. Here is what he stated:
In the moral body the principle of union is nothing else than the common end, and the common cooperation of all under the authority of society for the attainment of that end; whereas in the Mystical Body of which We are speaking, this collaboration is supplemented by another internal principle, which exists effectively in the whole and in each of its parts, and whose excellence is such that of itself it is vastly superior to whatever bonds of union may be found in a physical or moral body. (62)
Pope Pius XII continued to explain that the Church, as a perfect society, is not merely made up of moral and juridical elements and principles; it is far superior to all other human societies. It is superior to all human societies because it surpasses them as grace surpasses nature, as things immortal are above all that can perish. The Church is not found within a natural order, rather the juridical principles upon which the Church rests and is established derive from the divine constitution given to it by Christ. Our Redeemer continues to penetrate and fill every part of the Church's being; He is active within until the end of time as the source of every grace, gift and miraculous power.

With respect to the many errors that have arisen from an incorrect understanding of some aspects of this doctrine, Pope Pius XII included many paragraphs (85-90). Of particular note is the error of "quietism." The error of quietism is one that assumes that the whole spiritual life of Christians and their progress is exclusively the result of the actions of the Holy Spirit; while neglecting the collaboration that is due of each member of the Body. No one should deny the inspirations and role of the Holy Spirit in the Church with each member, but at the same, each member should as Pope Pius XII stated, "...advance eagerly in grace and virtue, that they should strive earnestly to reach the heights of Christian perfection and at the same time to the best of their power should stimulate others to attain the same goal..." (87) He explained that the Holy Spirit will not effect all this unless members of the Body contribute daily with their share of zealous activity. 

Another error that Pope Pius XII warned about is the assertion by some who have given little importance to the frequent confession of venial sins. He explained that although venial sins are forgiven and expiated at daily Mass, the sacrament of reconciliation provides for more rapid progress in virtue. Here is what he stated on the encouragement of frequent confession:
...We will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated. By it genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself. Let those, therefore, among the younger clergy who make light of or lessen esteem for frequent confession realize that what they are doing is alien to the Spirit of Christ and disastrous for the Mystical Body of our Savior... (88)
Participation of each member to strengthen and build up the The Mystical Body of Christ, is specifically mentioned and encouraged at paragraph ninety eight. Pope Pius XII began this paragraph with the love that Christ has for His Body; a love that is to be reciprocated by its members. Of particular note, Pope Pius XII mentioned the Italian Catholic lay group, Catholic Action, which spotlighted the importance of the laity's role in the Body. Pope Pius XII pointed out that as Jesus laboured unceasingly to establish and strengthen the Church, that all of its members should endeavour to do likewise. This encyclical was issued during the middle of World War II, which Pope Pius XII referred to as the "present circumstances," the significance of which he spotlighted by stressing how important it was for everyone to realize the urgent necessity of their energetic zeal in working for the Body

Further aspects of each member's participation in the strengthening and building up of the Body, is included at paragraph one hundred and six. Pope Pius XII stated that we should pray for the Lord to send labourers into His harvest and that our daily prayer should be united in praying to the Lord for all members of the Mystical Body of Christ. He elaborated as to how we can effectively work for the Body; drawing God's graces upon it in the process:
For although our Savior's cruel passion and death merited for His Church an infinite treasure of graces, God's inscrutable providence has decreed that these graces should not be granted to us all at once; but their greater or lesser abundance will depend in no small part on our own good works, which draw down on the souls of men a rain of heavenly gifts freely bestowed by God. These heavenly gifts will surely flow more abundantly if we not only pray fervently to God, especially by participating every day if possible in the Eucharistic Sacrifice; if we not only try to relieve the distress of the needy and of the sick by works of Christian charity, but if we also set our hearts on the good things of eternity rather than on the passing things of this world; if we restrain this mortal body by voluntary mortification, denying it what is forbidden, and by forcing it to do what is hard and distasteful; and finally, if we humbly accept as from God's hands the burdens and sorrows of this present life. Thus, according to the Apostle, "we shall fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ in our flesh for His Body, which is the Church." (106)
In publishing this post today, it is my hope that an increasing number of Catholics will read and study this encyclical and; thus, come to a better understanding of the Body, that is the Church. May it encourage many to strive with a firm resolution to sincerely work to strengthen and build up the Mystical Body of Christ. In so doing, may each one of us be cognizant of each member's role and dignity, to which we have been called by our Head, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. 

May Our Lady Queen of Peace intercede for us.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Ontario College Of Physicians And Surgeons External Consultation - Inappropriate Forum Moderation

Screen shot of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons own forum post

Today's post is an update to my previous post, Professional Obligations and Human Rights - An Anti-Life Policy From Ontario's College of Physicians and Surgeons. If you have not been following the freedom of conscience issue surrounding this policy, I respectfully encourage you to read my previous post. Here is some basic information you need to be aware of. The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons or CPSO has drafted a new policy entitled, Professional Obligations and Human Rights as part of their policy review cycle. It is to replace and build upon the previous 2008 policy, Physicians and The Ontario Human Rights Code. According to the CPSO's web site, this new draft policy has been approved by Council and "...sets out physicians’ existing legal obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), and the College’s expectation that physicians will respect the fundamental rights of those who seek their medical services. The draft policy also sets out the College’s expectations for physicians who limit the health services they provide due to their personal values and beliefs." Part of the CPSO's policy review process includes an external consultation in which the public are invited to provide input in the form of an email, on line survey or forum at the CPSO's web site.

My initial post on the CPSO's policy development was my effort to identify and denounce what was morally wrong with this draft policy, as well as to spotlight the new inclusion of gender ideology language that was never apart of the 2008 policy. Since that initial post, there have been other troubling developments in the form of inappropriate forum moderation and public comments made from the CPSO's past president, Dr. Marc Gabel and its current president, Dr. Carol Leet.

Anyone who is concerned about the sacredness of human life needs to read the draft policy and participate in the CPSO's external consultation. In would be an effective way to put faith into action. To quote scripture, "What good is a faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless." (James 2:17) We all need to defend life, support the freedom of conscience and stand in solidarity with Catholic physicians and surgeons and others of good will.

If you are wondering if I have participated in the CPSO's external consultation, think no further. My forum comment was submitted on January 10, 2015 at 2:55am. It is listed as forum post 80 with the respondent categorization as "Member of The Public." It was a scaled down version of my initial blog post, but it included the main points that identified what was morally wrong and unacceptable. After a few days, I checked it and discovered that it had not been published; its status was "pending." It took approximately ten days before my comment was posted. Clearly there was something about my post that concerned the CPSO and only after they published a moderated version, did that concern become abundantly clear. The CPSO omitted a segment on gender ideology; which was inappropriate considering that it was a new inclusion from the 2008 policy. Below is the gender ideology text in bold that was omitted from my comment: 
...If there is any intention to encourage conscientious Catholic medical students and others of good will to pursue careers as physicians and surgeons in Ontario, then freedom of conscience and moral and religious beliefs must be guaranteed and protected. The college must also illustrate that it recognizes and acknowledges the truth and dignity of the human person. Such an illustration can begin with the removal of the gender ideology wording of "gender expression and gender identity," that are current inclusions at line 39 under the subheading, Human Rights, Discrimination and Access to Care. Such wording does not reflect the truth and reality of the human person. An individual's sex is not determined by desires, perceptions or feelings. A person is either male or female and for anyone to deny this reality and consider themselves contrary to what is biological true, is to give way to delusion and deception. Gender ideology has no place in the policy...
As to why the above noted text was omitted, one can only speculate that it is a function of political correctness, which sadly these days, caters to the homosexual agenda. The college does state at its Posting Guidelines that:
The College reserves the right to refuse to post feedback, in whole or in part, that, in its sole discretion: it deems to be unrelated to the policy or issue under consultation; contains complaints and/or compliments about identifiable physicians; contains personal identifiers and/or other information that may identify a third party; is abusive, obscene, harassing/threatening or otherwise inappropriate; may include defamatory or libelous comments; or does not comply with the College’s Privacy Policy or its Social Media Terms of Use.
Although the college's Posting Guidelines do seem to be fairly reasonable, it does grant the college a "carte blanche" to remove any aspect of a comment that they deem inappropriate for what ever reason. Does the omitted part of my forum post qualify as such? In my view, it does not. The omitted comment deals directly with actual text inclusions of the draft policy, that is in fact part of the deceptive language emanating from gender ideology. I consider the omitted part of my comment an inappropriate moderation of the forum.

In addition to other respondents whose comments have also been "moderated," in a similar like manner, as discovered through my social networking, there is another reason why I consider the forum to have been inappropriately moderated; the college's effort to defend itself against a misquote of its past president, Dr. Marc Gabel. The misquote came from the National Post's Margaret Somerville who in her article, Margaret Somerville: A modest proposal for respecting physicians’ freedom of conscience wrote that Dr. Gabel was reported to have stated, "...physicians unwilling to provide or facilitate abortion for reasons of conscience should not be family physicians..." In response to this misquote, the college posted a reply on its own forum on January 29, 2015 at 4:40pm. The college took the liberty of posting this same reply several times throughout the forum, categorized at times as "Anonymous" and other times as "Organization." The above image published with this post captures that first instance. The CPSO's inappropriate forum moderation was first noted by Sean Murphy of The Protection of Conscience Project, whose article was published by LifeSiteNews. Below is a list of all the instances of this same reply at the CPSO's forum:

  • January, 29, 2015 at 4:40pm Forum Post 225 - As previous mentioned, the college inappropriately posted a comment in its forum, identifying itself as "Organization." 
  • January 30, 2015 at 4:45pm Reply To Forum Post 226 - The college posted the same comment, this time not identifying itself, but listed the respondent as "Anonymous." (screen shot)
  • January 30, 2015 at 4:46pm Reply To Forum Post 169 - The college posted the same comment and again, did not identify itself, but listed the respondent as "Anonymous." (screen shot)
  • February 2, 2015 at 11:31am Changed Respondent Identity - At their reply to forum post 169, the college changed the respondent's identity from "Anonymous" to "Organization." (screen shot)
  • February 2, 2015 at 11:59am Reply To Forum Post 228 - The college posted their comment again, this time as a reply to forum post 228 and identified itself as "Organization." (screen shot)

The Posting Guidelines at the CPSO specifically states that, "The College does not review any content of any feedback for accuracy. The College does not review any references or links in any feedback either for accuracy or with respect to the content of the document referred to or the site linked, and the College is not responsible for any content of any document referred to or site linked." According to these guidelines, it was inappropriate for the CPSO to have published a reply to the misquote at every instance when the National Post's article by Margaret Somerville was referenced in respondents' comments.

In my view, what the CPSO should have done is publish a statement addressing their concerns at their Professional Obligations and Human Rights external consultation page. That statement could have also included the letter by Dr. Carol Leet that was sent to the editor of the National Post. This would have afforded them an opportunity to express their concerns in full about the National Post's article without compromising the integrity of the forum. Another option for the CPSO would have been to create a separate web page under the "external consultations" section of their site and detail the above noted information.

To be fair to both Dr. Gabel and Dr. Carol Leet, the article from the National Post is in need of correction and should be edited and republished as soon as possible. A retraction from Margaret Somerville is in order. This is basic responsible journalism. Regardless of the issues of this draft policy and different points of view and beliefs, Sean Murphy did paraphrase Dr. Marc Gabel in his article, Ethical Cleansing in Ontario. This is what was used by Margaret Somerville as an official quote, which we have learned, is not an accurate one. 

If we take a look at what Dr. Gabel actually did say, there is good reason to be concerned; in essence, his comments amount to what has been misquoted by Margaret Somerville. The source that properly quoted Dr. Gabel comes from an article written by Michael Swan from The Catholic Register entitled, Catholic doctors who reject abortion told to get out of family medicine. Below is what Michael reported:
Catholic doctors who won’t perform abortions or provide abortion referrals should leave family medicine, says an official of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. “It may well be that you would have to think about whether you can practice family medicine as it is defined in Canada and in most of the Western countries,” said Dr. Marc Gabel, chair of the college’s policy working group reviewing “Professional Obligations and Human Rights.”
In addition to the The Catholic Register, comments made by Dr. Gabel have also caught the attention of LifeSiteNews, which published an article on December 19, 2014, by Steve Weatherbe entitled, Doctors who oppose abortion should leave family medicine: Ontario College of PhysiciansIt included further disturbing comments from Dr. Gabel, whose language was intimidating and served as a warning for doctors who do not intend to comply with the policy: 
Dr. Marc Gabel, a Toronto psychotherapist and past president of the college, told LifeSiteNews on Thursday that if his committee’s proposed revision of the college’s “Professional Obligations and Human Rights” is adopted, then if doctors refuse to refer patients to abortionists, or to doctors willing to prescribe contraceptives, they could face disciplinary action.
“If there were a complaint, every complaint is investigated by the complaint committee,” Dr. Gabel said. The complaint committee could deliver a mild private rebuke or turn over the matter to the disciplinary committee, which Gabel chaired for several years.
The draft policy potentially becomes a foundation with which to implement disciplinary penalties and persecute doctors on a professional level. This is further supported by the comments made by Dr. Carol Leet, the CPSO's current president, which was noted in the same LifeSiteNews article:
According to Dr. Carol Leet, the new president of the college, a doctor found guilty of professional misconduct by the disciplinary committee could face anything from remedial instruction to loss of his or her medical licence...Dr. Leet believes that "the religious beliefs of some doctors cannot outweigh the patients’ right to choose” whatever medical service they believe is appropriate. Patients have a right to receive “an effective referral” from any doctor.
Compounding the concerns of this draft policy is the recent Supreme Court of Canada Carter vs. Canada euthanasia decision, making "doctor assisted suicide" legal which is nothing but an exercise in "judicial activism." Is it not fair to assume from the language of the draft policy, that euthanasia if not already, will be considered as an inclusion in the college's "elements of care" or part of "health care services." Such ambiguous language is used by the CPSO with no reference to what exactly they include; they can be found at lines 49, 52, 138, and 156. 

There is much to be concerned about with the Professional Obligations and Human Rights draft policy. At stake are: two fundamental aspects of human rights, the right to life and the right to refuse to take part in committing an injustice; freedom of conscience for physicians and surgeons; the opportunity for Catholic medical students and those of good will to pursue a career as a physician or surgeon; and the opportunity for patients to have a Catholic doctor available who will practice medicine in accord with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

The draft policy demands a proper response by all Catholics and people of good will. Help restore Canada to a "culture of life." Please consider participating in this external consultation which closes on February 20, 2015.

Most importantly of all, pray and fast for a total revamping of this draft policy.

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 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. For Gianna, she considered working in the field of medicine 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 Pope 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 was: 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 fulfil 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 Pope John Paul II noted in Familiaris Consortio, "... their 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.

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, 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.

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 ocassion. They are very busy in Medjugorje and although our reconnections were short lived, it was great to see them again. If you do plan to go on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, I recommend you visit Our Lady of The Sacred Heart Retreat House, it will be time well spent. 

May Our Lady Queen of Peace clear the way to and guide you on your pilgrimage in Medjugorje.

Mir i Dobro (Croatian for Peace and All Good)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

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

Saint Pope 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. Here are a few that come to mind. 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 Pope 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 Saint Pope 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 22nd, 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope John Paul II noted, the moral order, "...by 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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 Pope 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.