Family Reflections Journal


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Seton Hall University Grad School of Theology, Immaculate Conception Seminary and the Catholic Center for Family Spirituality present "Family Reflections\'" This journal is a spiritual journey dedicated to families in honor of Dr. William Toth

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Family Reflections Journal

  1. 1. 1 catholic center for family Spirituality Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology Seton hall unIVerSIty Family Reflections This publication is dedicated to the memory of Deacon William J. Toth, Ph.D. 1940-2008 I m m ac u late conc e pt I on Se mI na ry School of t heol ogy
  2. 2. 2 catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  3. 3. 3 catholic center for family Spirituality presents Family Reflections k Editor-in-Chief Stephen B. Kass Associate Editors Dianne M. Traflet Eilish R. Harrington Assistant Editors Kristine Hudak Kathleen M. Childers Matthew Higgins Director of the Catholic Center for Family Spirituality Andrew E. Saunders Public Relations and Marketing Department Christine Aromando Lorraine Joyce Designer James Goodwin k I m m acu lat e conc e pt I on Se mI na r y School of t heol ogy
  4. 4. 4 Table of Contents Introduction 6 Stephen B. Kass, m.S., m.a.t. Foreword 8 reverend monsignor robert f. coleman, J.c.D. Deacon William Toth, Ph.D.: 10 A Review of a Well-Spent Academic Life reverend John f. russell, o.carm., S.t.D. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours Together 12 Kathleen toth Deacon William Toth, Ph.D.: A Eulogy 16 Dianne m. traflet, J.D., S.t.D. “Building Bridges” 21 Reflections from Vatican II on the Catholic Priest and his Relationship to the Family Steven Smith, ph.D. William J. Toth: “I Want What He Has!” 33 Jennifer Burgoyne Reflections to Accompany a Rosary Novena 34 for a Couple Preparing for Marriage Dianne m. traflet, J.D., S.t.D. The “Yes” Man 40 michele carr The Gift of Self Through Marriage 42 lesa rossmann, m.a.t. Valentine to a Little Girl 52 Karen Boushelle catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  5. 5. 5 Covenantal and Vocational Aspects of Marriage 56 Stephen B. Kass, m.S., m.a.t. Family Spirituality as a Transformation of Love 62 mario coccia, m.a.t., S.t.l. Learning Latin 68 lt. Joseph toth, uSn, Jag “You Always Hurt the One You Love:” 70 Reconciliation and the Family reverend monsignor Joseph r. chapel, S.t.D. Seeing Things as They Are 76 reverend Stephen toth, m.Div. The “Goods” of Marriage 78 Stephen nakrosis, m.a.t. Breaking Bread Together 86 William toth, Jr. How Papal Teachings on Erotic Love 88 and Theology of the Body are Applied Through the Virtue of Modesty reverend W. Jerome Bracken, c.p., ph.D. A Letter to My Father 101 regina Wackerman One Family, One Marine, One Lord of All 103 andrew e. Saunders, m.a., m.a.t. The Man Who Was Sunday 108 capt. michael toth, uSmc I m m ac u lat e conc e ptI on Se mI na r y School of t heol ogy
  6. 6. 6 Introduction By Stephen B. Kass, m.S., m.a.t. mirrors are peculiar gadgets. Some people love them, while others avoid them at all costs. one truth, however, is universal – and that is that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of god (gen. 1:27). as members of the same human family, we must remember that the reflections staring back at us in the mirror are the closest images and representation of god on the face of the earth. In fact, theologians such as St. augustine used the love and relationships that bind a human family as a reflection of the vast, inef- fable mystery that resides within the persons of the Blessed trinity, who are in eternal relation to one another. christians have received the gift of belonging to a unique and special family. this is a family that is not based on Dna, but on common spiritual genes. I have no brothers, sis- ters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles or cousins, and my wife and I never were able to have children. When I was asked to be the editor of Family Reflections, I initially found it to be a bit daunting and ironic. Dr. William toth, the man to whose name and memory this volume is dedicated, was associate professor of christian ethics at Immaculate concep- tion Seminary School of theology, a deacon, a husband and a father of eight children. the apparent dichotomy between Dr. toth’s experiences of family and mine were stag- gering. In many ways, I didn’t feel particularly qualified to be involved in this project and its emphasis on the spirituality of the family given my relatively limited experience with family dynamics. however, during the past several months, I have discovered that my family and Dr. toth’s family might have more in common than I initially suspected. In reading the articles from Dr. toth’s family and the articles by the other authors, it became clear that unconditional love is the common thread braided into the fabric of family life. the number of people in a family is not as important as the love and faith that solidify and bind the relationships among its members. Jesus told his disciples, “’Whenever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am with them.’” (matt. 18:20 naB) this statement from our lord reminds us that his love is the origin and basis of all family life and relationships. last names are not as important as recognizing that we all are beloved children of the same god Who calls out to each of us by name to love and serve him. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  7. 7. IntroDuctIon 7 this journal contains an array of articles with distinct tones, by a variety of authors. the reflections written by Dr. toth’s family provide insight into the man to whose memory this volume is dedicated. the remaining compositions, written by faculty, staff and alum- ni of Immaculate conception Seminary School of theology, offer spiritual, theological and scholarly perspectives on various dimensions of the spirituality of family life. the variety of pieces is intended to appeal to a broad audience. the photographs in this jour- nal were taken by young people ages 13 to 24 who were among the winners of our photo contest, “Images of god in my family life.” the title of this journal, Family Reflections, was chosen not only because this volume offers reflections on the family, but because the family is a reflection of god’s love. I pray that the contents of this journal will offer some insight into the family life of Dr. toth and become a mirror through which readers can gaze upon the divine image that is present in their own families. Dr. William Toth I m mac u lat e conc e pt I on Se mIna r y School of t heol ogy
  8. 8. 8 Foreword By reverend monsignor robert f. coleman, J.c.D. on the advent of the Seminary’s sesquicentennial, we continue to be inspired, guided and protected by the Blessed Virgin mary as we continue our mission of forming priests for service in the church. Despite changes in culture and the religious climate in our country and society, the Seminary has remained firm in its founding vision, principles and goals. as our Seminary motto proclaims, the priests who complete our formation program will go forth to be “Dispensers of the mysteries of god,” offering people visible signs of god’s infinite mercy and compassion. the Seminary also continues to focus on educating the laity, to enable as many people as possible to have an impact on the life of the church and the world. the creation of the Institute for christian Spirituality in 2005 and the catholic center for family Spirituality in 2008 has expanded the Seminary’s diverse programs and has offered new opportuni- ties, particularly for lay students, to experience the best academic offerings in systematic, moral and pastoral theology. today, numerous lay alumni are devoting their energies to bringing about the manifestation of god’s Kingdom on earth and sharing the divine life of the gospel with an increasingly secular society. It has been nearly 30 years since pope John paul II issued his apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio. In this document, the holy father reminds the faithful that every christian family is a reflection of the “church in miniature.” this serves to awaken the notion that “church” is not necessarily limited to a physical structure. church includes people who gather together to profess their faith and proclaim their love for god. the family is a mirror of the church because it serves to remind people that relationships are at the heart of our faith. the love that binds the persons of the Blessed trinity is reflec- tive of the love that binds christ to his church and the members of a family together. ours is not a church of individuals, but a family of believers who are unified through a common baptism. here at the Seminary, we have established our own family. the priests, seminarians, fac- ulty, staff, clergy and lay people who comprise our beloved institution come from diverse catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  9. 9. foreWorD 9 cultural and ethnic backgrounds. however, as St. paul states in his letter to the galatians, “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 cor. 12:13). our Seminary fam- ily reflects the diverse nature of christ’s family – a family that is bound by the blood that was shed on calvary for the common salvation of man. It is only fitting, that this volume is dedicated to the memory of an important member of our Seminary family – Deacon William J. toth, ph.D. Bill toth was a member of the Seminary family for nearly 20 years. his untimely death in 2008 was a shock to us all. he was a pivotal member of the Seminary community, the archdiocese of newark and a beloved husband and father who is missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Bill will be remembered always for his love and thirst for god. throughout so many years, he shared this love with others as he lovingly brought many to drink from the well of eternal life. my hope is that this volume will help readers to learn more about the man who was an integral part of our Seminary family and grow closer to god, Who is fully present in their own families as well. Reverend Monsignor Robert Coleman is Rector and Dean of Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, where he also teaches Canon Law. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1978 and holds a J.C.D. from the Pon- tifical Gregorian University. Monsignor Coleman served as vice-rector/business manager of Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology from 1996 to 2000, and, in 2000, he was appointed Rector and Dean. In 2005, Monsignor Coleman was elevated to the rank of Prelate of Honor. Bill Toth and his Family I m mac u late conc e ptI on Se mIna ry School of t heol ogy
  10. 10. 10 Deacon William Toth, Ph.D.: Review of a Well-Spent Academic Life By reverend John f. russell, o.carm., S.t.D. I first met Bill when he was a student for the m.a. in theology at Immaculate conception Seminary School of theology, located at the time in mahwah, new Jersey. he was indus- trious, enthusiastic, read everything recommended and showed a strong interest in social justice, the theology of work and employer-employee relationships. When Bill moved on to pursue a doctoral degree at union theological Seminary in new york, he pursued his great interest in social ethics. I attended his doctoral defense at union and learned that one of his readers was the eminent scholar and labor activist monsignor george higgins. Bill’s research was received with approval and enthusiasm by his dissertation board. Bill was hired by the School of theology, as I remember, not only because of his expertise in social ethics but also because of the strength of his christian witness. Bill was a de- voted family man, and his wife, Kathy, provided all the encouragement and affirmation he needed. at the Seminary, Bill displayed enormous energy. his classes provided detailed coverage of material in fundamental moral theology, christian social teaching and, later, in the sacrament of christian marriage. he worked with both the Stillman School of Business and Seton hall university School of law in initiating interdisciplinary courses. Bill was named as a respondent for the International Symposium on the 40th anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, sponsored by the peace and Justice commission, held in rome from march 16-18, 2005. Deacon Bill toth was in demand as a speaker, focusing in particular on issues in the work environment and on justice and peace. he served as chair of the peace and Justice commission of the archdiocese of newark. It simply amazes me how he was able to accomplish so much. he was focused and kept abreast of the literature in his areas of interest. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  11. 11. Deacon WIllIam toth, ph.D.: reVIeW of a Well-Spent acaDemIc lIfe 11 one of Bill’s wonderful contributions to scholarship was producing course syllabi which contained exhaustive bibliographies. his familiarity with church documents related to his field created a great resource for study, reflection and scholarly writing. Bill’s contri- butions to committee work were always to the point and thoughtful. Since his death, we have found it necessary to divide his work among several staff because his coverage of course work was so vast and comprehensive; we continue to miss his wonderful and helpful presence. Reverend John Russell, O.Carm., is Professor of Christian Spirituality at Im- maculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, where he also serves as Assistant Spiritual Director. Father Russell teaches Christian Anthropology and a variety of courses in Christian and Carmelite spirituality. He has been a Car- melite friar since 1953, and received his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of America. Bill Toth speaking at Immaculate Conception Seminary. I m mac u late conc e ptI on Se mIna ry School of t heol ogy
  12. 12. 12 Praying the Liturgy of the Hours Together By Kathleen toth Bill and I began to pray the liturgy of the hours when he was accepted into the perma- nent Diaconate. his thinking at the time was that since he was going to be praying it every day, perhaps I should as well. I was happy to be included. We began very casually, without particular ceremony or ritual. We prayed the office of the readings and morning prayer while we drank our morning coffee. We each prayed silently to ourselves and Bill an- swered my questions about where to place the ribbons for the daily readings. he showed me how to make the sign of the cross on my lips at the opening (“lord, open my lips.”) and to make the sign of the cross at the beginning of the Benedictus. We often stopped to marvel at a beautiful line in the psalms or to discuss the second reading in the office of the readings. he particularly liked the documents from the Second Vatican council and frequently would explain to me the significance of the particular passage that had been selected. at that time, we still had children in the house, so there were often interruptions either to run someone to the train, or to answer the telephone. In a natural and relaxed way, we continued our prayers. one day, Bill said to me, “the liturgy of the hours really is meant to be said aloud and in community. Why don’t we pray together, saying the psalms aloud, alternating stanzas and readings?” We were becoming more formal as well (as our home also was becoming quieter) so that the interruptions were fewer. We were not as nonchalant in our attitude. We began to plan the night before when we would pray. If Bill had an early class, we de- termined when he was going to leave and planned to get up earlier so that we had time for our prayers. We started adding our own intercessions at the end of the intercessions in morning prayer. We prayed for events of the day; we prayed for each of our children by name. If there was a line of Scripture that struck one of us, we would write it on a post-it note and put it some- where we could re-read it during the day. hence, it was on a Saturday morning in January 2008 that both of us were struck by a line from Deuteronomy. at that time, I was writing the invitations for my daughter’s wedding scheduled for february 23. I was fretting about various details in the wedding plans. Bill was impatient with my fretting. Why not be catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  13. 13. prayIng the lIturgy of the hourS together 13 grateful for god’s blessing of this magnificent celebration? When I came home later in the day, Bill was eager to show me the line taken, in part, from Deuteronomy chapter 16 that he had printed up on letter-sized pieces of paper and taped to the refrigerator -- plus three or so other places where he knew I would look: Since the lord, your god, has blessed you In all your crops and in all your undertakings, you shall do naught but make merry. When he died suddenly a week later, I understood well that this was his last instruc- tion to me. It was consistent with his attitude in our entire marriage: god invites us to participate in the banquet that he has prepared for us. every wedding, every birth, every Baptism, every opportunity to participate in the creative activity of god in this world is a participation in that banquet. Indeed, just the other day, more than a year later, I read in the second reading which is from St. athanasius: If we follow christ closely we shall be allowed, even on this earth, to stand as it were on the threshold of the heavenly Jerusalem, and enjoy the contemplation of that everlasting feast1 In those first days and weeks after Bill died, I was very grateful for the habit we had de- veloped of saying the liturgy of the hours each morning. In the sorrow and confusion of those first weeks, I knew what to do when I first rose. the psalms were a source of com- fort and direction. the morning of the first day, I read, “In the day of my trouble I shall call upon you, for you will answer me” (ps. 86:7 naS). I continued the habit of writing meaningful verses on post-it-notes and re-reading them during the day. “god makes a home for the lonely” (ps. 68:6 naS). I start the day with the liturgy of the hours in the early hours of darkness before the sun rises. the liturgy of the hours points to the liturgy of the mass, which is the great sacrament of the church. each day when I attend mass I meet our eucharistic Savior. as Saint edith Stein said: “every day is received from his hand and laid back therein; that the day’s hap- penings are deliberated with him.”2 as the day continues and the morning’s courage fades, the lord is present in every church in the tabernacle, waiting to give rest and redirection to the soul. the rosary can be said wherever one is. Its consolations are known to those who suffer. When I pray the rosary, I sense that our lady is putting her armor on me. Indeed, I have marveled in the past year at the treasure of prayer that the church offers to those who mourn. the power in the ordinary prayer of the church is available through- I m mac u late conc e ptI on Se mIna ry School of t heol ogy
  14. 14. 14 Kathleen toth out the day to each one of us, providing deep sources of grace and strength. We can start the day with the liturgy of the hours at whatever time we rise. from the moment of rising to the hour of bedtime, the liturgy of the hours can be reached for in a moment of need. the mass is also available at different times throughout the day in various loca- tions nearby. the Blessed lord is waiting in churches and chapels all over the world for visits from those souls who need face to face conversation with him in the hours of the late afternoon, the same hours of our lord’s passion and death, or in the evening, when darkness descends and the soul is often desolate. the lord can be visited even in the wee hours of the night where perpetual eucharistic adoration is available. the rosary gives to those who pray it reverently and attentively an opportunity to meditate on the life of christ from the vantage point of their own lives. In the last year, I have said the Sorrowful mysteries often in an attempt to attach my own suffering to those of christ. In times of suffering, all of these ordinary, daily prayers of the church offer a great hope that joy will return. as St. francis de Sales said: By the means of the continued practice of prayer the sacraments and confidence in god our strength will return and we will live a healthful and happy life.3 Kathleen Toth is the widow of Dr. William Toth. She has eight children, eleven grandchildren and lives in Wyckoff, New Jersey. noteS 1. “from an easter letter by Saint athanasius,” Saints_Works_A/Athanasius_On_the_Incarnation_of_the_Word.htm (accessed october 20, 2009). 2. edith Stein, Essays on Woman, trans. freda m. oben (Washington, D.c.: IcS publications, 1996), 125. 3. St. francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, trans. and ed. John K. ryan (new york: Image Books, Doubleday, 1989), 244. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  15. 15. 15 “God Grant Me Serenity” by Melissa DaSilva St. Benedict, Newark, NJ Benedictine Academy my picture consists of my mother sitting and praying. I chose this picture because it shows a religious side to her. I am grateful that god has given me something so beautiful that I treasure so much, be- cause without her help and guidance I wouldn’t be able to accomplish the many things that I have. god put her here to be my mother because he knew that she would do many things for me and love me unconditionally. this is why I am proud to say: thank you, god, for this wonderful person you have put in my life to help me through my times. I love you mom! I m m ac u lat e conc e ptI on Se mI na r y School of t heol ogy
  16. 16. 16 Deacon William Toth, Ph.D.: A Eulogy By Dianne m. traflet, J.D., S.t.D. Bill toth knew how to craft a perfect sentence, one that was both informative and inspir- ing with well-chosen and well-placed words, conveying just the right tone and rhythm. my favorite line consisted of a mere two words offered with a grin and a twinkle in his eyes: “good stuff!” yes, Bill certainly could be more eloquent, but these words still conveyed rich meaning. When he first learned, for example, about an idea for a new encyclopedia devoted to catholic Social thought, he nodded and smiled in appreciation, giving his endorsement: “good stuff!” Invariably, this was Bill’s way of promising that a project or a conversation had just begun; there would be more to say on the matter—stay tuned! It was little surprise, then, that in the months following his endorsement, he would write 13 articles for the encyclopedia, including such topics as refugee policy, preferential option for the poor, theology of work, the free market economy, and the role of the laity. Bill just seemed to know it all, yet he never was a “know-it-all.” Bill could have written numerous books on a wide-range of subjects, but I particularly would have liked a spin-off of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a book he knew almost verbatim. Bill’s book could have been titled, The Seven Habits of Highly Virtuous People, and it could have been autobiographical, but, of course, he was far too humble for that. his holy habits? pray, love, listen, read, share, appreciate, and introduce—all words that paint a portrait of a learned man with a generous heart, a man of many words, as well as a man of his word—a person to be trusted. What Bill wrote about, he enjoyed speaking about even more. he spoke with authority, excitement, often at top speed, as if he couldn’t wait to tell you a piece of information, as if it were the missing piece of a grand puzzle. there always was a sense of adventure; he didn’t want to go it alone; he wanted to share the unearthed treasure, and the fun of finding and beholding it. In one of his last e-mails to me, after I had confessed that I was tempted to plagiarize him, he wrote, “Steal everything from me. no problem.” on another occasion, he offered to give me his class notes —“It’s yours—it’s for everyone.” “good stuff ” needed to be shared. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  17. 17. Deacon WIllIam toth, ph.D.: a eulogy 17 Bill delivered countless lectures, homilies, and presentations, enjoying searching, discov- ering, and sharing information. But, it was not in the lecture hall that many of us will most remember Bill, but at a table, sitting back, conversing, relishing the camaraderie (“good stuff ”) more than even a gourmet meal. he was blessed with the gift of conver- sation, quite unlike the “gift of gab.” It was the type that prompted us to pause later in awe. With so many interests, talents, hobbies, and passions, Bill moved effortlessly in the world of ideas, quoting songs, movies, books, and articles. he moved even more effortlessly and gracefully in the world of individuals—young, el- derly, all ages, and at different stages of the spiritual journey. Bill wanted to know their story, and give moral support where needed. he spoke from his heart to their hearts. his words were often offerings of compassion. I once overheard him assuring a suffering friend, “you’re surrounded by love.” his expression and tone of voice reflected supreme kindness, without even a hint of condescension or awkwardness, just a matter of fact, hitting the perfect note of love. those of us who were privileged to know Bill realized that he could speak authentically about love because he, too, was surrounded by love—certainly a loving family and a wide circle of friends, and also by love himself. this explains why he never tired of repeating certain key words: god, family, prayer, and love. these were his heart’s great passions— four words that defined his life. Bill loved his family dearly, often speaking about his wife, Kathy, with tender admiration, convinced that she was a precious gift from god. he also spoke about each of his eight children with deep affection and understandable pride, pointing to individual talents, gifts, and personalities. But, there was something unique and humble about Bill’s father- ly pride. he was edified by each child—each one’s love, faith, and virtue. each daughter and each son inspired him. he credited his wife and children with teaching him more about the practice of faith. he absolutely enjoyed and cherished conversations at the dinner table with his family. he loved to hear them all speak about their relationships, commitments, and spiritual lives. he listened with eager attention and a sense of joy. perhaps this is a key to his prayer life, too; he truly knew, to the core of his being, how to converse with god, as if he were speaking and listening to a dear friend. how he loved to pray! he and Kathy would pray together every morning, and he continued to pray throughout the day. he often took time during the workday to pray at the university or Seminary chapels. he prayed at the beginning of meals and the beginning of class, always with his head reverently bowed. approximately 10 years ago, I assisted Bill in organizing a major conference at the Semi- nary. I remember my panic at the eleventh hour when I realized that Bill hadn’t yet writ- I m m ac u lat e conc e ptI on Se mI na r y School of t heol ogy
  18. 18. 18 DIanne m. traflet ten his opening speech. I directed him to his office to type; yet, he walked to the chapel to pray. I must have looked quite aghast, for he turned to me and assured me that he knew what he was doing. I should have known. I’ll never forget watching Bill, a little while later, walking down the steps from the Seminary chapel; he looked almost radiant. “I’ve got my speech,” he said, grinning confidently. he calmly walked to his office, typed his talk, a beautiful introduction to a wonderful conference. Bill always loved introductions. he thoroughly enjoyed introducing us to good topics, good books, and even more so, good people: “have you met…?” “I’d like you to meet….” “this is….” he just relished helping people make connections. ultimately, Bill did more than introduce us; he gave us opportunities to be friends. mostly, he desired to introduce us to god. he wanted to help us to become intimate friends with god, and as he did so, we sensed he was introducing us to his Divine friend. he wanted, with every fiber of his being, to share that friendship with us, and to help us meet him on every road we travel. a year before he died, Bill drove a group of colleagues to a Seminary function in another part of the state. the car ride was lengthy, but not boring, with conversations (sometimes simultaneous) spanning various topics and interrupted with laughter. I sat all the way in the back of his van, and now and then, would ask teasingly: “are we there yet?” I really didn’t want an answer and certainly not a positive one. I wanted the journey to con- tinue. that’s the way it was with conversations with Bill; they were always adventures that seemed to have more introductions than conclusions. that’s what makes a final good-bye all the more difficult. But, pondering his example, life, and legacy, we’ve been given some great directions on how to keep the conversation going, and how to find our way to our eternal home. What a gift from someone who cared deeply about our journey and our destination. more than a map, more than words, we have been given an image of an inspiring life brimming with “good stuff ” that will continue to be shared, discussed, and stolen— compliments of a friend. Dr. Dianne Traflet is Associate Dean, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and the founder and Co-director of the Institute for Christian Spirituality at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology. In collaboration with, and under the guidance of Dr. Toth, she created the Catholic Center for Family Spirituality. reprinted with permission by The Catholic Social Science Review: Vol 13 (2008): 347-349. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  19. 19. 19 “God’s Love from Age to Age” by Christine Miller Our Lady of the Mount, Warren, NJ Koinonia Academy my name is christine miller and I am in a family of 11 children. my parents have raised me as a catholic, but two people who have had a major impact on my catholic faith are my grandparents, frank and rose helfrich. they are two very holy people whom I admire and look up to as role mod- els. my grandparents are always there for me and show the love of god to me by encouraging me in all that I do and helping me to deepen my relationship with god. they have been married for 56 years and are a great example of a strong, holy marriage. they show the love of god not only to me and my family, but also to all those they come in contact with. this picture of my grandparents with my 17-year-old brother, Joe, was taken at his high school graduation dinner last week from the catholic school my family attends, Koinonia academy. this picture is just one of the many examples where my grandparents have shown god’s love to my fam- ily by supporting us. although they have seven children, (one of whom is a catholic priest) and 35 grandchildren, they show each person in my family unique love, which only comes from god. my grandparents show god’s love to me by helping me to work as hard as I can to be the person god wants me to be. I m m ac u late conc e pt I on Se mI na ry School of t heol ogy
  20. 20. 20 “God’s Presence on the Ice” by Stefan Misko St. Jude, Blairstown, NJ Kolbe Academy Home School many people have heard the proverb: “the family that prays together stays together.” But what is also true is “the family that plays together stays together” and “stays together with god.” for it is god who desires the family to remain whole and tries to keep it so. to younger siblings, memories of their older brothers and sisters sacrificing their time and some- times much more than that, in order to do something special for them, are memories that they will always treasure. But this self-sacrificing love within a family does not only hold together the family but also brings them closer to god. for how could god not be present where charity and sacrifice towards one another are found? that is why I believe that when my family is together, whether it be while hiking, playing board games, or, as in my picture, skating on the ice, god can be seen among us…. It is through such shared experiences as these that the bonds of love are strengthened among us, and god’s fatherly love is made evident in our lives. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  21. 21. 21 “Building Bridges” Reflections from Vatican II on the Catholic Priest and his Relationship to the Family By Steven c. Smith, ph.D. for many american catholics today, there seems to be something of a disconnect be- tween the life of the priest and the life of their own family. In my own experience, this seems to be the case not only among catholics who are not fully participating in the church but even among many regulars at mass. too often, we hurry to mass, interact- ing with our priest only through our responses in the mass itself, concluding with the exchange, “Go in peace / Thanks be to God.” Soon, we find ourselves filing out as quickly as we entered, and are on our way. on the way in and out of mass, we may greet our priest with a “good morning, father,” “great homily,” or another such nicety. too often, our verbal interactions are brief affairs — and any further thoughts about our priest are more or less nonexistent. In short, it can feel at times as though we and our priests simply inhabit different worlds: worlds that briefly coincide and then move again in opposite directions, back to the parish rectory and to the family living room. to be sure, many of us are cognizant of the many blessings of our priests with respect to our own families: they preside at mass and offer Jesus on the altar; they hear confessions, baptize our children and run our neighborhood parish or catholic school; they are avail- able on a moment’s notice when a crisis happens; and they witness our weddings and offer final blessings on our souls. yet, if we’re honest, many of us will not set aside any thought of our own parish priest (or priests in general) until the next Sunday, and then, it is only a passing thought. this brief essay is an opportunity to re-examine our relationship with our priests. Specifi- cally, two questions are raised at the outset: first, how are we to understand our relationship to our priests? and second, how might we appreciate the human and spiritual connections that do exist between the family and the priest? Understanding Our Relationship to Our Priests to answer the first question, we will turn primarily to some of the documents from Vati- can II that provide theological clarity and keen human insight on the matter. at Vatican II, the council reminded us that “christ is the light of the nations”1 and taught us that I m mac u lat e conc e pt I on Se mInary School of t heol ogy
  22. 22. 22 SteVen c. SmIth since the church is “like a sacrament”2 before the entire human race, there exists a “very closely knit union” between god and the church on the one hand and the church and the world on the other.3 this means, among other things, that the church plays a decisive mediating role be- tween god and the world. We could say that the universal church is, according to Vatican II, a “bridge” between god and humanity, between christ and the world – proclaiming his truth and bringing his mercy to a world with so many needs. the church is indeed that sign of love between god and the world, as are all of her mem- bers. certainly, the pope and the bishops, as successors to the apostles themselves, are crucial pillars in this bridge. In a different sense, as Vatican II rightly emphasized, all of us as baptized believers, as “the people of god,” are part of this bridge as well: this bridge between god and man is a living work that we all partake in, fully and actively.4 another document from Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis (“on the mission and life of priests”), reminds us that “there is no member who does not have a part in the mission of the whole Body; but each one ought to hallow Jesus in his heart, and in the spirit of prophecy bear witness to Jesus.”5 this means that we are all part of christ’s mystical body.6 though we have a distinct role from that of our bishops, all of us as members of the church join with them in this “supernatural bridge building.” We all have been given important gifts from god, and we are called to share them with the world as best as we are able. this is true whether we serve in some sort of official and more visible role (e.g., as a deacon or extraordinary minister at mass) or in countless ways that often are less visible, such as in the clean-up work of a busy parent, the patience of a catholic school teacher or the attentive presence to a friend in need. While we rightly esteem and fully support the apostolic work of our bishops and remind ourselves that each of us plays a role as a support brace in this “supernatural bridge,” we must never forget the seminal role of our priests. at mass, and out in the everyday places in the world, catholic priests are the most visible pillars in this bridge, solemnly entrusted by the bishops to multiply god’s work in the world, proclaiming and teaching the gospel, administering the Sacraments and shepherding the flock. Since the priest ministers in a special way to catholic families, the priest and the fam- ily share a special and intimate bond. think for a moment of two parents preparing to baptize their newborn daughter. they joyfully wrap her in fresh white clothes and bring her to the priest. the priest brings the grace of the sacrament to her, in persona Christi. the holy Spirit operates in and through the priest, and the daughter of the parents is blessed with divine life as the priest welcomes her lovingly into the church. later, as the child grows, perhaps another priest will hear her first confession, and another will offer her catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  23. 23. “BuIlDIng BrIDgeS” 23 the Body and Blood of the lord himself at her first communion. If she marries, perhaps another will serve as the official witness at her wedding. yet another priest will bring the sacraments to her children, hear her confessions and share in her highs and lows of life, as she raises her family. eventually, many years later, perhaps another priest will anoint her head with oil during the final days of a terminal illness, and yet another priest may preside at the mass before her christian burial. later that same day, the same priest who saw this daughter of the church pass into the loving hands of the father may get a phone call from a young married couple asking if he would baptize their baby boy – and the beautiful cycle continues. throughout our lives, our priests create a bridge between us, our families and god him- self. this is particularly visible in their sacramental work, but in all of their actions, our priests are the hands and feet of christ, offering his love, his forgiveness and his pres- ence to our families. let us never take for granted the special role god has for our priests in laying down their lives as bridges between the lord and our families. Building this bridge between god and our families on behalf of christ is an awesome responsibility and one that no priest takes lightly. Indeed, the cycle of family life that the priest participates in — from cradle to grave — is extraordinary in itself. yet, if we reflect on this dynamic between our priests and our families for a moment longer, we may make several deeper connections as well and grasp some additional ways that they serve as bridges between god and the world. first, our priests unite us as members of one family, and not merely as moms and dads or as sons and daughters, but as “brothers and sisters” in his family. through our baptism, we are united with christ7 and with all who seek him and belong to him: those whom we know (like our own family members) as well as those whom we do not yet know but with whom we are indeed members of one family, in the communion of saints.8 this is especially true when we partake of the eucharist: we are “one bread, one body”9 – the Body of christ. may we better appreciate the special instrument, our priest, among us as we renew our family bonds in the holy eucharist.10 our priests join us together as one body, and connected with the bishops, “share the authority by which christ builds up and sanctifies his body.”11 Second, that young baptized girl, welcomed into the church by the priest (or deacon) is herself an instrument of grace and a “pillar” in the bridge between god and the world. as she grows in faith in the lord and throughout the various stages of life, she not only is ministered to, but through her ongoing conversion, she brings the light of christ to others: into her living room, her workplace and all of her relationships. Behind the many bridges that she will build through her own actions, stand the many priests who have ministered to her, strengthening her for this work. I m m ac u lat e conc e ptI on Se mI na r y School of t heol ogy
  24. 24. 24 SteVen c. SmIth How Might We Better Appreciate the Human and Spiritual Connections that Exist Between the Family and the Priest? certainly, there are a number of possible answers. We can try to “hurry less” in and out of mass and even make time to get to know our priests better. perhaps we can invite them to a family gathering, or more simply, treat them to lunch and spend time in conversa- tion with them. We can show our gratitude in many other ways: in our respect at mass, through small acts of kindness and by remembering them frequently in our prayers. In the remainder of this essay, one more connection is raised between our priests and our families. at first, it may seem to some like an unlikely connection and a peculiar suggestion. however, after careful reflection, we may come to see it as the most profound connection between our priests and our marriages and families. What exactly is this all-important connection? Priestly celibacy. today, priestly celibacy often is sadly misunderstood and even scorned.12 after the abuse scandals, some critics and angry individuals proposed that priestly celibacy be “done away with,” as if it were some sort of abnormality or “suppression” of sexuality. We can empathize with the pain of those who were violated and certainly understand the anger. yet priestly celibacy is not the problem; in fact, it is part of the solution. priestly celibacy is a precious and timeless gift to the church, a “brilliant jewel,”13 that has “retained its value undiminished even in our time when the outlook of men and the state of the world have undergone such profound changes.”14 our priests minister to us out of the gift of celibacy. of all of the promises a priest makes at ordination (e.g., obedience to the bishop and the church, simplicity of life), this is the one that most distinguishes them from the laity. But at the same time, it is what unites us and our families with them most profoundly. priestly celibacy is a great gift to the church! as Vatican II reminded us, “the whole priestly mission is dedicated to the service of a new humanity which christ, the victor over death, has aroused through his Spirit in the world and which has its origin not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of god.”15 priesthood is not something “created by the church,” but it is ordained by christ himself,16 is a gift to the church from the holy Spirit and is from the will of god himself. the gift of celibacy is not for their sake but for the sake of the union between christ and his church. Some specific points of connection now are offered with respect to our celibate priests and our families. In order to deepen our understanding of this great gift and better ap- preciate the purpose of priestly celibacy in the life of the priest and in the life of our own families, we turn again to Vatican II, as well as to the thoughts of John paul II. 1) Priestly Celibacy: A Great Gift of Service. first, as Vatican II taught us, celibacy al- lows our priests to “adhere to [god] more easily with an undivided heart.”17 all of us are catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  25. 25. “BuIlDIng BrIDgeS” 25 called to surrender our whole self to god. yet, as a pillar in the bridge between christ and his church, this “complete surrender” of the priest to christ is designed by god to strengthen and purify his commitment to god. this single-mindedness of our priests not only allows them to serve god more readily but also exemplifies for us that we can go “further up and further in” in our own relationships with god. may we thank god for the ongoing work of surrender in the lives of celibate priests and for the immense gift to the church: for the presence of the church across the world, but also as it plays out locally, in our own parishes and with our families. thus, Vatican II is reminding us that priestly celibacy allows our priests to “dedicate themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of god and men” and to “more expeditiously minister to his Kingdom and the work of heavenly regeneration.”18 as a professor of Sacred Scripture at mount St. mary’s Seminary, I have the privilege of training future priests as they prepare to serve the world. I am amazed at the busy life of a seminarian: up at dawn to pray the liturgy of the hours, then to daily mass, then off to a battery of intense classes. there is hard work, intellectually speaking, yet there are many other demands in the daily life of seminarians beyond that of study. Seminarians, like all of us, are called to grow in holiness. as future priests, however, they are to hold up their lives before god with greater accountability, seeking to grow not only in their “spiritual lives” but as integrated human persons. this involves painstaking work, spiritual direc- tion and ongoing interaction with a formation team. In addition to this intense pruning, there are many hours of pastoral service and sacrifice — and all of this while they are still seminarians. these demands upon seminarians only multiply once they are ordained as priests and become immersed in the daily routine at their busy parishes. this gift of celibacy allows our priests to serve the Bride they are espoused to through christ, namely us, the members of his church. 2) Priestly Celibacy: A Sign of Life to Come. priestly celibacy offers an all-important gift to the church and to our families: it reminds us of what we hope for as christians. as Vatican II reminded us so eloquently, celibate priests offer us “a living sign of the world to come, by a faith and charity already made present, in which the children of the resurrec- tion neither marry nor take wives.”19 how is this so? Simply put, celibacy is not a “sup- pression of sexuality”; rather, it is a total gift of the whole person — heart, soul, mind and yes, sexuality, over to God. In the promise of celibacy, the priest professes his total surrender to god and his will. christ is the great Bridegroom who loves his Bride, the church, and gives his whole self up for her20 so that he might present her to himself “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle”21 so that she is “holy and blameless.”22 Just as christ is espoused to the Bride and gives his whole self for her, so also the priest, in his vow of celibacy, im- ages christ as Bridegroom, surrendering his whole self for the sake of his love, the Bride. the celibate priest does not “withhold” his sexuality; he gives it over fully to the purposes of god — offering it in all of its goodness for an even greater goodness: that the church I m m ac u lat e conc e ptI on Se mI na r y School of t heol ogy
  26. 26. 26 SteVen c. SmIth would be present before the true Bridegroom, Jesus, in all of her splendor. and how does this Bride become this? through renunciation, conversion and seeking god. the priest forsakes physical marriage – which is good and marvelous in its own right – for this greater good, namely, the spiritual marriage of the Bride and the Bridegroom. the path to “splendor” is hard and requires constant effort, trust and cooperation with the holy Spirit. It is a daily struggle in which all of us are engaged. the priest surrenders himself fully to god, so that through the priest, the true Bridegroom lovingly guides his Bride closer and closer to him. this is the mystery of celibacy: as the priest opens himself up fully to the love of god, the Bride whom he serves with loving devotion is able to open herself more fully to the love of god, to come closer and closer to the promise he has given us: to be made present before the lord, holy and blameless. to be sure, our vocation as married persons is also a sign that points to heaven. god the father loves the Son and gives his whole self to him; the Son returns that love completely to the father, and the fruit of that union is the gift of the holy Spirit to the church. as hus- bands and wives, we are called to “love as god loves,”23 – freely, fully and unconditionally – giving our whole self to the other. this “gift of self to the other” is the sign of god’s own self-giving love in the life of the trinity. as John paul II wrote, this “freedom of the gift” of ourselves to each other in marriage is what reveals our true meaning, our true dignity.24 yet the celibate priest is a special kind of living sign to all of us. our priests make present the life of the resurrection through their celibate bond with the church. they remind us that marriage, as beautiful and holy as it is, is not itself the end. In their spousal union to the church, they are an imminent sign of god’s presence as we await the true Bride- groom. marriage, though it is a great gift from god – and is itself a powerful sign of the love of god in this world – is not the end. as the apostle paul wrote, the goal of life is truly that “God may be all in all” (1 cor. 15:28 naB). this is an experience and a hope beyond any words. and our celibate priests in the here and now are the living signs of what we hope for and anticipate: life with god. their celibacy meets us, even confronts us, in the distractions and busyness of everyday life and shouts out joyfully to us, “there is more to this life… there is heaven!” our priests are “father” but not only so; they are also “Spouse” – wedded to christ’s church, for his glory. as such, our priests are witnesses to our families of this blessed hope – of the reunion of the Bride and the Bridegroom through the redemption won for us by christ on the cross. this reality points us and our families towards heavenly hope that awaits us. and precisely because of this, as St. cyprian wrote, our priests are a “subject of joy” in the here and now. thus far, we have reflected on two important truths given to us by Vatican II: specifically, that priestly celibacy is a great gift of service to the church and that it is a powerful sign catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  27. 27. “BuIlDIng BrIDgeS” 27 of our christian hope. now we turn to one final point of connection between the celibate priest and our families. 3) Priestly Celibacy: A Tremendous Example. as we have just seen, the priest reflects the love of christ for his Bride. In essence, he becomes the bridegroom for the sake of the Bride; the priest is wedded to the church. this action on the part of the priest, of giving over his whole self for the church, is not only a “future hope,” it simultaneously represents a pow- erful example for families in general and, more particularly, married couples. marriage requires a total gift of self to the other: love is not offered “until further notice.”25 as the catechism states, married love is to be characterized by a total self-giving of the husband to the wife and the wife to the husband: conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter — appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically christian values.26 this “deep personal unity” of married couples that the catechism speaks of is dependent upon three essential qualities: indissolubility, faithfulness and openness to fertility (and marital chastity). let us reflect on this passage from the catechism and on how the priest is an example in the love between a man and a woman in marriage, particularly in regard to marital chastity. Since the man and the woman have become “one flesh”27 in their conjugal union, they are to make themselves as gifts to the other in total fidelity: “the intimate union of mar- riage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidel- ity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.”28 clearly, one of the hardest dimensions of the catholic wedding ceremony for many cou- ples today is seen in the question, “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” yet, as a recent statement by the uSccB well summarizes, any act of contraception harms the unity of the two persons: When married couples deliberately act to suppress fertility, however, sexual in- tercourse is no longer fully marital intercourse. It is something less powerful and intimate, something more ‘casual.’ Suppressing fertility by using contraception denies part of the inherent meaning of married sexuality and does harm to the I m mac u lat e conc e pt I on Se mIna r y School of t heol ogy
  28. 28. 28 SteVen c. SmIth couple’s unity. the total giving of oneself, body and soul, to one’s beloved is no time to say: ‘I give you everything I am — except….’ the church’s teaching is not only about observing a rule but about preserving that total, mutual gift of two persons in its integrity.”29 We are called in our marriage vows to be open to life and open to the gift of children in every act of sexuality.30 marriage is by its very definition ordered to the procreation and education of children31 since the “procreative” element (i.e., children) and the “unitive” el- ement (i.e., the mutual bonding of the spouses) of the marriage act cannot be broken.32 Since marriage involves this giving over of the whole self to the other, we are called not simply to observe a rule but to preserve this “great mystery:”33 that marriage is a “total, mutual gift of two persons.”34 this means that as couples, we must integrate the two through the practice of marital chastity. We must reflect on the meaning of sexuality in order to fully appreciate who we are to each other in marriage. In our conjugal unions, we “speak” with our bodies, saying to one another, “I love you freely and totally and give myself to you without reservation and without barriers.” as the bishops’ statement rightly puts it, to hold back any part of ourselves in an act of contraception is to say to the other, “I give you everything I am — except.…”35 here, we can begin to see the connection and the example of the celibate priest to our marriages: the celibate priest surrenders himself for the good of the Spouse, offering up his whole self, including his body, for the good of the other. Similarly, as husbands and wives, we are called to surrender all of ourselves to each other, for the good of our spouse. It is true that as priests and married persons, we have distinct vocations. yet we are both called to sanctify our bodies for the sake of the other: for the church, for our spouse. We are both called to make sacrifices and to see the virtue of marital chastity.36 the priest is called to a life of continence and purification in keeping with his vow of celibacy. In so doing, he unites his desires with those of christ, giving them over in an act of sacrificial love for the Bride. Similarly, married couples are called to a life of sacrificial love and yes, to periodic abstinence. In the process, married couples are faced with a question: “Will we love and respect each other enough that we will abstain from intercourse if in this season god is not calling us to have more children?” In this way, holy priests exemplify in their vow of celibacy an even greater resolve and self- surrender to god. think about it: while we are called to respect each other as husbands and wives in observing times of abstinence, the priest’s call is one that is perpetual and con- tinual. he understands that this sincere and intense gift is for the good of the Bride, that she continues to grow in holiness. our priests exemplify in their vocation what we are likewise called to in marriage: self-donation for the good of our spouse and the glory of god. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  29. 29. “BuIlDIng BrIDgeS” 29 Conclusion may we never take our priests for granted as they minister to our families and see their celibacy as a great gift of service to the church and our families, as a powerful sign of our christian hope in the world to come and lastly, as a beautiful example of self-gift for our marriages and families. as our priests live out their ministries to our families, may we always remember that their celibacy is not a “utilitarian” function but a divine gift and living witness of our hope in christ. as St. cyprian said: [priests] are the flower of the church, the beauty and ornament of spiritual grace, a subject of joy, a perfect and unsullied homage of praise and honor, the image of god corresponding to the sanctity of the lord, the most illustri- ous portion of christ’s flock. In them the glorious fecundity of our mother, the church, finds expression and she rejoices; the more the number of [priests] increases, the greater is this mother’s joy.37 Do we think of the role of our priests in our lives with such wonder? With joy and gladness? Do we remember them and pray for them? our own priests – each with his own gifts, each with his personal strengths and limitations – ought to be for us a cause of great joy and celebration: their work is a great service on our behalf; they are living signs of god’s eternal promises to us; and they are examples of holiness and joy for all marriages and families today. reflecting on these connections between our priests and our families ought to strengthen our resolve to live out our mission as a family and to build the “civilization of love.”38 as John paul II wrote: the family finds in the plan of god the creator and redeemer not only its iden- tity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do. the role that god calls the family to perform in history derives from what the family is; its role represents the dynamic and existential development of what it is. each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored, and that specifies both its dignity and its responsibility: family, become what you are.39 In the end, all of this will increase our prayers for priestly vocations. as St. cyprian wrote, as the number of priests increases, the church’s joy ought to multiply! this is why Vatican II calls all of us to be united with our priests, and in a sense, to receive their special call- ing, if only in our hearts: “this holy synod asks not only priests but all the faithful that they might receive this precious gift of priestly celibacy in their hearts and ask of god that he will always bestow this gift upon his church.”40 What a statement and a challenge! We are to be so united with the mission of our priests that we ourselves as catholic families ought to pray to receive their gift of celibacy into our own hearts, to embrace it as if it were our own! moreover, the challenge for us is this: that as Vatican II taught us, we I m mac u late conc e ptI on Se mIna ry School of t heol ogy
  30. 30. 30 SteVen c. SmIth would continually pray for god to pour out this great gift upon our church. It may be true that for some of us there is something of a disconnect between the life of the priest and our own families. But what would it look like if catholic families across our land thought of and interacted with our priests as Vatican II taught us to? What would it look like if catholic families across our land prayed for our priests – and for future vocations? and what impact might all of this have not only on our church, but on the watching world? let us seek not only to “understand” all of these things in a deeper and more profound way but to have them change us and our families, for the glory of god. A Prayer for Priests by St. thérèse of lisieux: O Jesus, eternal Priest, keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart, where none may touch them. Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Your Sacred Body. Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with your Precious Blood. Keep pure and unearthly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood. Let Your holy love surround them and shield them from the world’s contagion. Bless their labors with abundant fruit and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.41 Dr. Steven C. Smith is Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland and Adjunct Professor at Immacu- late Conception Seminary School of Theology. Dr. Smith completed his Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christianity at Loyola University of Chicago. Prior to his work at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, he served in the Family Life / Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York, where he led Marriage Preparation classes for thousands of engaged couples. Dr. Smith and his wife, Elizabeth, live in rural Maryland, along with their two children. noteS 1. Second Vatican council, Dogmatic constitution on the church, Lumen Gentium, 1. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. 1 cor. 12:13; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1268 – 9. 5. Second Vatican council, Decree on the ministry and life of priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2. 6. Ibid. cf. matt. 3:16; lk. 4:18; acts 4:27, 10:38. 7. cf. rom. 3:3-8. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  31. 31. “BuIlDIng BrIDgeS” 31 8. cf. CCC, 954-57. 9. 1 cor. 10:17. 10. CCC, 1369 – 72. 11. Ibid. 12. cf. paul VI, encyclical, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 3 – 5. 13. Ibid, 1. 14. Ibid. 15. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16; cf. John 1:13. 16. pius XII, encyclical, Mediator Dei, 39.; cf. heb. 10:14; rev. 1:6; 1 pet. 2:5, 9. 17. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16. 18. Ibid. 19. Ibid. 20. eph. 5:25; cf. John 15:13. 21. eph. 5:27. 22. Ibid. 23. John 13:34. 24. “pope John paul II’s theology of the Body,” Body.pdf (accessed october 20, 2009). 25. CCC, 1643. 26. Ibid. 27. gen. 2:24. 28. CCC, 1646. 29. Married Love and the Gift of Life (Washington, D.c.: uSccB publishing, 2006), 3. 30. paul VI, encyclical, Humane Vitae, 12. “the church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic rela- tionship to the procreation of human life.” 31. CCC, 1652. 32. Humane Vitae, 11. 33. cf. eph. 5:32. 34. Ibid. 35. Married Love and the Gift of Life, 3. 36. CCC, 1832. 37. “Sacra Virginitas,” (accessed august 22, 2009). 38. John paul II, Letter to Families, 13. 39. John paul II, apostolic exhortation, Familaris Consortio, 17. 40. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16. 41. archdiocese of new york, “prayer for priests,” year-for-priests/prayers (accessed august 22, 2009). I m m ac u late conc e pt I on Se mI na ry School of t heol ogy
  32. 32. 32 “Fireside Chat” by Katie Andreski St. John the Baptist de La Salle, North Wilkesboro, NC Seton Hall University my family is a close-knit bunch—with 11 of us living in the same house it’s hard not to be. there are no other words to describe my parents than living saints...we put them through so much! face it, with nine youngsters running around somebody is bound to break a vase or color all over the walls. yet, in the midst of all the noise, confusion and chaos we’re able to hold onto that thing which connects us at the core—love. John the evangelist tells us in his letter that god is love (1 John 4:8). often we’ll look to foreign or uncommon experiences and proclaim them as “love-filled,” because they’re not everyday occurrences. But how often do we recognize his love in the realm of our complacency? this comfort-zone is often the defining factor of our home lives. therefore, I have concluded that god’s love and beauty must be present in my family with great intensity…. looking closer at this photo, I began to see that the light reflecting from virtually all angles is visually comparable to the love god has for us as a family. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  33. 33. 33 William J. Toth: “I Want What He Has!” By Jennifer Burgoyne my father lived his life in a way that defied classification. he was reverent, but certainly not overtly pious. he loved the high church, the latin mass, the pomp and glory. and yet he loved movies with car chases and, dare I say, inappropriate language and slapstick comedy. he loved country music, fast food, his family, and his church. he loved his wife more than all of that. What he left me, his oldest daughter, was a desire to live life to its fullest: to embrace the bad parts, to be courageous and real; to admit, in a moment of weakness, that I don’t have all the answers. one of his favorite quotes when I was a teenager was, “Don’t take yourself too seriously, nobody else does.” as my husband and I embark on raising our four children, the mysteries that we reflect on are: how much can we give them that will last? What can we do to encourage our chil- dren to love the faith, to love god and grow to be faithful catholics? of course, we take them to mass each week. We have prepared them for the sacraments. But at some point, they will look to their parents and decide if that’s the kind of life that they want. my dad had the kind of life that I want. his love of god defined him. It made him who he was. there was no formula, no magic pill that he took other than that he was faithful — faithful to the end. a few months before he passed away, we were sitting in the kitchen discussing a current event of the day. We were talking about a famous person who had money, fame, a beauti- ful wife and family, yet succumbed to despair, drug addiction and bankruptcy. my dad said something to me that I will never forget: “only god can bring you happiness and contentment. all else will lead to despair. I’ve tried some of them and nothing worked but god.” thanks, Dad. Jennifer Burgoyne, Dr. William Toth’s daughter, lives in Glen Rock, NJ, with her husband, John, and their four children. I m m ac u late conc e pt I on Se mI na ry School of t heol ogy
  34. 34. 34 Reflections to Accompany a Rosary Novena for a Couple Preparing for Marriage By Dianne m. traflet, J.D., S.t.D. Joyful Mysteries: 1st, 5th, and 9th Days The Annunciation (luke 1:26-35) Mary gives her fiat to the Angel’s invitation to be the Mother of the Son of God. lord, may this couple give their “yes” to life, and to god’s will in all circumstances and challenges of their daily lives. as they grow in love for one another, may they also draw ever nearer to you and your mother. The Visitation (luke 1:39-56) Carrying Divine life within her, Mary visits Elizabeth, Zechariah, and their unborn child, John. From the darkness of his mother’s womb, John recognizes the Son of God within Mary, and leaps for joy. lord, may this couple know the joy of parenthood. may, they, too, in their own unique ways, carry you close to their hearts, carry your life and love, and reflect your presence (even in darkness) to their families, friends, and all those whom they may encounter. The Birth of Our Lord (matt. 1:18-25) When Mary gives birth to Jesus, she and her husband, Joseph, gaze together into the face of the Son of God. lord, may this couple learn to gaze together on your face—praying with one another and for one another, and learning to see the image and likeness of god in each other and in their neighbor. may they one day experience the grace of holding a newborn in their arms as they recognize god’s creative love in their lives. The Presentation in the Temple (luke 2:22-40) Mary and Joseph follow the law, and present their Son in the Temple. In witnessing Anna and Sim- catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  35. 35. reflectIonS to accompany a roSary noVena 35 eon gazing into their Son’s face, they know their Son has a mission beyond the confines of their im- mediate family. Simeon proclaims that Christ will be “a Light to the revelation of the Gentiles.” lord, may this couple always know and appreciate your light and love, and may their love radiate beyond their home, helping others to experience your salvific presence. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple (luke 2:41-52) After Mary and Joseph search for Jesus for three days, they find Him in the Temple, amazing the teachers with His wisdom. Mary cries: “Your father and I have sought you with sorrow.” Jesus responds to his parents’ concern by asking: “Did you not know that I had to be about my father’s business?” He then returns to his parents’ home where he “grew in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and man.” lord, may this couple always seek you, as they strive to deepen their relationship with you, your father and the holy Spirit. may, they, too, learn to be “about their father’s business.” may their relationship with you help their children someday, and all those entrusted to their care, to grow “in wisdom, in stature and in favor with god and man.” Sorrowful Mysteries: 2nd and 6th Days The Agony in the Garden (luke 22-39-46) Jesus weeps in the Garden, as he cries out, “Lord, if it is your will, let this cup pass me by, but not my will but your will be done.” During Jesus’ agony, He is comforted by an angel. lord, in the trials and challenges that this couple may face in their long years together, may they follow your example and ask the father if he would take away their sorrow, but only if it be his will. In seeking to fulfill god’s will, may they know the comfort of his ministering angels. The Scourging at the Pillar (matt. 27:15-26) Jesus is brutally scourged by the soldiers who do not recognize that they are torturing the Son of God, the Prince of Peace. Jesus’ precious body is ripped apart, and his blood falls to the ground as He endures each blow. lord, may this couple know the great sacrificial love that you have for them, for their families, and for us all. may this realization help them to draw closer to your heart, and to sacrifice generously and lovingly for each other and for others. The Crowning with Thorns (matt. 27:31) Jesus is stripped of his garments, and clothed with a scarlet robe. He is spat upon, and crowned with thorns, as the soldiers mock: “Hail, King of the Jews.” I m mac u late conc e ptI on Se mIna ry School of t heol ogy
  36. 36. 36 DIanne m. traflet lord, may this couple’s lives be clothed with respect and kindness. In recognizing you as King, may they realize their own royal dignity and that of their neighbor; may their ac- tions help to build your Kingdom. The Carrying of the Cross (luke 23:26-32) As Jesus carries His Cross, he is helped by Simon of Cyrene, a stranger forced by a soldier to share Jesus’ burden. Jesus falls three times, and each time, He is able to stand up again, and continue to Golgotha. lord, may this couple see and appreciate your courage in fulfilling the father’s will. may they know the true meaning of christian courage—that great courage that flows from the heart and perseveres in suffering. may they lovingly help each other to carry the various crosses of daily life, and may they accept help from friends and strangers alike, recogniz- ing in their kindness your loving hand. The Crucifixion (lk. 23:33-43; Jn. 19:25-27; mk. 15:33-39) From the Cross, Jesus forgives his persecutors, assures a repentant criminal of his place in heaven, and gives us His mother. After suffering unquenchable thirst, and the darkness of desolation, He abandons Himself to His Father, and breathes His last. lord, may this couple gaze upon your wounds, and ponder your words from the cross, realizing the vast ocean of your mercy. close to your merciful heart, may they love with your love and forgive with your forgiveness. may they come to rely on your mother as their mother, seeking her intercession, relying on her help, and imitating her virtues. Glorious Mysteries: 3rd and 7th Days The Resurrection (matt. 28:1-10) Three days after the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary visit the tomb of Jesus. There, they see an angel who declares that Jesus has risen from the dead. The angel commissions them to share the news with the disciples. lord, may this couple live with great joy and enthusiasm, spreading the good news in word and example: you are alive! The Ascension (matt. 28:16-20) At the Mount of Olives, the disciples are assured by Jesus: “…and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Jesus then is lifted up in a cloud until the disciples no longer could see him. lord, may this couple recognize your abiding presence in their marriage, in their family life, and in the joys and sorrows of everyday life. When they have a difficult time know- catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  37. 37. reflectIonS to accompany a roSary noVena 37 ing your presence, may they, like the disciples, pray together seeking you in hope and perseverance. The Descent of the Holy Spirit (acts 2:1-17) In the form of fiery tongues, the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ’s followers gathered in the Cenacle. The disciples then are able to speak and to hear in languages they had not known, proph- esying to those assembled outside the house from various countries. Thousands of people hear the disciples’ words, believe, and are baptized. lord, may this couple grow closer to the holy Spirit, be animated by the Spirit’s gifts, and guided by the truth. may their lives of faith, their witness of love and their words of truth bring people the good news in such a way as to move their hearts to draw closer to your heart. Assumption of Mary Mary is taken up to heaven, her body incorrupt. In heaven, she intercedes for us, as she interceded for the bride and groom at Cana. lord, may this couple realize that just as mary interceded for the couple at cana, so, too, does she wish to intercede for them. She desires their happiness and wishes to deepen their relationship with you, where they may experience your immeasurable and uncon- ditional love. The Coronation of Mary God the Father crowns Mary, honoring her as Queen of Heaven. lord, may this couple come to know mary as Queen mother who exercises her royalty in a maternal way, gently encouraging them to draw closer to you. may their faith, like the disciples, grow deeper because of her maternal presence as they take her words at cana to heart: “Do whatever he tells you.” Mysteries of Light: 4th and 8th Days The Baptism of Jesus (matt. 3:17) When Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan, a voice from heaven declares: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” lord, may this couple realize their baptismal identity and vocation as children of god. In knowing that they are part of god’s family, may they strive to please the father in all their responsibilities, in home and in the world. may they draw close to their neighbors, recognizing in them their spiritual brothers and sisters. I m mac u lat e conc e pt I on Se mIna r y School of t heol ogy
  38. 38. 38 DIanne m. traflet The Wedding of Cana (John 2:1-12) Mary, Jesus and His disciples are invited to a wedding at Cana in Galilee. During the celebration, Mary advises her Son that all the wine has been consumed. Jesus replies, “Woman, what does this have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary turns to the servants and instructs, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus tells the servants to fill six jars with water. After they do, Jesus directs them to draw some out, and bring it to the master of the banquet. The master tastes the water that had turned to wine, and realizes that the best has been saved until last. Jesus performs this first miracle, and the disciples grow in their faith. lord, may this couple celebrate their love as a gift from you. may they invite you to their wedding, to their married lives, to their families, and to all their celebrations, recognizing that you rejoice at their love. as they witness to your miraculous work in their lives, may they together grow in their faith, embarking on a spiritual adventure of faith and love. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (mk. 1:15; mk. 2:3-13; lk. 7:47-48; Jn. 20:22-23) In proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom, Jesus calls for conversion, repentance, and belief in the good news. lord, may this couple’s journey of love be a spiritual journey towards you, one that in- spires them to delve deeply into the mystery of your merciful love. may their experience of your mercy help them to forgive each other, and to have recourse to the Sacrament of rec- onciliation. may each step of their journey bring them ever closer to your Sacred heart. The Transfiguration (luke 9:28-35) On a mountain top, Jesus begins to pray in the presence of three of his disciples. Suddenly, his face changes, and his clothes are illuminated. Moses and EIijah appear and speak to Jesus. Peter, awakening from sleep, sees Jesus and two men, and declares: “Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us build three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Then, a cloud descends upon all of them, and a voice from the cloud, instructs: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.” lord, may this couple discern the voice of god, reminding them to listen to you. as they do so, may they realize the beautiful divine calling of their marital love. In their lives together and in their homes, may they lead lives that echo peter’s words: “lord, it is good for us to be here.” The Institution of the Eucharist (mk. 14:22-25; Jn. 13:1) “While they were eating, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to his dis- ciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many,’ he said to them.” catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  39. 39. reflectIonS to accompany a roSary noVena 39 lord, may this couple lead eucharistic lives, appreciating and relying on the Sacrament of love as they seek to live and embrace your great love for them. may the eucharist nourish them with your life, and ignite a flame of pure love within their hearts that inspires every day of their married lives. A similar novena was created, and prayed, by the author for Catherine Phelan and Edward Cunning as they prepared for their wedding day, November 1, 2008. This is now dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Cunning, as they celebrate their first anniversary. I m mac u lat e conc e pt I on Se mIna r y School of t heol ogy
  40. 40. 40 The “Yes” Man By michele carr It’s no coincidence that I was inspired to write this reflection on the day of the big yeS, the divine handshake, the holy family Kick-off, none other than the feast of the annun- ciation. on that day, an otherwise ordinary woman on an otherwise ordinary day said “yes.” yes to the mystery, yes to the father, yes to the lord Jesus christ. my father, William toth, was a person of infinite “yes-es.” even the slightest possibility of a divine collaboration, big or small, wetted his appetite like a juicy t-bone steak hot off the grill. While some may limit the realm of divine collaboration to church matters or theologi- cal pursuits, my father’s imagination had no such boundaries. every moment held his beck- oning to say “yes.” yes to the good; yes to connect people; yes to bring peace; yes to serve. his declarations were followed by action and results. grace seemed to come easily to my father. In his book, Outliers, malcolm gladwell explains that to become a master of anything, practitioners must put in at least 10,000 hours of practice. hours of lessons, application, refinements, tweaking, the same shot, over and over again. then, one day, just seconds before the buzzer, that same shot, for the thousandth time -- SWooSh! all net! Victory! the crowd goes wild. “he’s a natural, a prodigy,” they say, shaking their heads in disbe- lief. What the crowd never sees are the hours of tedious and solitary practice that their hero endured to “receive” such a prodigious reward, with such grace. my father was a high performer. he always delivered. he’d show up, calm and cool in his Brooks Brothers’ sweater and khaki dress pants, and he casually would knock out the audience with his homily, lesson plan or lecture. he made it seem so easy. Back at home, we knew the real reason why my father was blessed with such grace. he worked hard at it! he put in his 10,000 hours. his entire life seemed a quiet but determined practice to live his commandments. he said “yes” so that he could experience this invisible god and discover and master the service for which he was created. only god knew that service. now in heaven, my father knows, too. If I had to guess, I’d say that my father’s willingness to say “yes,” followed by his 10,000 hours of practice, brought the mystery of the trinity to life in him, in our family and in all the lives he touched. catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  41. 41. the “yeS” man 41 on the night my father died, I took a walk down my block in hoboken to try to grasp the magnitude of the news. I looked up at the clear dark sky and I thought to myself, “Wow, he finally did it.” he worked his whole life to be prepared for this moment. he took that final shot and SWooSh, all net! I could practically hear the celestial crowd going wild, “yeS, he did it! What a life!” he was blessed, so we are blessed. thanks, Dad, for saying “yes” to us and for all your hard work. you mastered your craft. now you finally can get some rest! Michele Carr, Dr. William Toth’s daughter, lives in New York City with her hus- band, John. They are expecting their first child in November 2009. I m mac u late conc e ptI on Se mIna ry School of t heol ogy
  42. 42. 42 The Gift of Self Through Marriage By lesa rossmann, m.a.t. The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. mary called herself the “handmaid of the lord” (lk 1:38). through obedience to the Word of god she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of nazareth. putting herself at god’s service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love. precisely through this service mary was able to experience in her life a mys- terious, but authentic “reign.” It is not by chance that she is invoked as “Queen of heaven and earth.” the entire community of believers thus invokes her; many nations and peoples call upon her as their “Queen.” For her, “to reign” is to serve! Her service is “to reign”!1 the most important aspect of pope John paul II’s Theology of the Body that I have been able to put into practical use in mothering four young children is the gift I have made of myself to my husband and my children. It is in mary’s gift of herself to god by saying “yes” that she was able to embrace more fully the transcendent bond that she had with her Son, our Savior, Jesus christ. there is such an incredible paradox that presents itself in the reciprocity of self-possession and self-donation. mary, in her innocence, possessed a splendor that is known only to those with an understanding of what true holiness means. In marriage, the knowledge of self and the giving of self from one to the other is an example of communion as was first understood from the beginning of time. In the conception, birth and rearing of children, we come to understand, in a profound way, what it means to die to self in order to give life to another. for me, I began to understand what it meant to offer myself as gift to another within the context of marriage. It also is through marriage that I have been able to make a gift of myself to my children. finally, the message of the ultimate trinitarian love and the love expressed within the holy fam- ily has taught me how my own family can share in the gifts we have to give to one another in order to help us grow in our faith and love of god. a few days before my wedding, I presented my husband with a poem I had written to him, called “god’s Words:” catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty
  43. 43. the gIft of Self through marrIage 43 As a little girl I knelt before You, Lord, my hands folded in prayer. You told me You would always love me. You told me You would never leave me. You told me faith would show me the way. Was it Your words, God, that inspired me to find the one who would love me for all of my life? Was it Your words, God, that roused me to believe That I could give myself to another and love in return? Today, I have discovered these are his words, God. His words when he reads the gospel with those all-knowing nuances that make him so ethereal to me. Today, I have discovered these are his words, God. His words that make me feel so special, that I am like no other in this world to him. These are his words when he speaks of my lips as if they were made out of rose petals, “so delicate, so sweet.” These are his words when he speaks of my face as if it were etched with Michelangelo’s paint, “so exquisite, so unique.” Oh God, if only I could express my love for him at every moment, the way You have always expressed Your love for me. Oh God, if only we could live each day as if it were the first in the eyes of this holy union. Today, I kneel before You, Lord, my hands folded in prayer. Yes, You have loved me, And through You, I have learned to love another. my first understanding of offering myself to another, as a gift, came through marriage. the question “can you see christ in that person?” needs to be asked at every moment in marriage. “can I see christ in my spouse?” after all, that was god’s original inten- tion. “god created man in his own image, in the image of god he created him; male and female he created them” (gen. 1:27 naSB). as we were all made in his image and likeness, god has willed for us the same kind of dignity that was meant for all human- kind. therefore, nothing outside of true married conjugal love between husband and wife could be considered dignified by god. god has implanted the highest sacredness in human sexuality and it is with great responsibility that we are all called to carry out the will of god. pope paul VI speaks of heroic virtue in his encyclical Humanae Vitae and puts I m m ac u lat e conc e ptI on Se mI na r y School of t heol ogy
  44. 44. 44 leSa roSSmann the moral challenge of marital chastity in the context of “endurance.” pope John paul II’s The Theology of the Body repositions heroic virtue as a way of living a life of sexual love that can fit into the iconography of marriage. the challenge is to live out our embodi- ment as male and female — to live sexual love — so that sexual love in marriage becomes the most illuminating possible icon of self-giving. pope John paul II makes it clear that self-donation is the only way to true fulfillment and happiness in marriage, and this has become the standard by which I try to live my life. It was nearly 10 years ago that my husband, charlie, and I were married before the “eyes” of god and all present whom we loved and admired. never in my life, until now, would I have thought that scripture taken from the Song of Songs could rouse the passions of my lover and spouse. “you have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. how delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! how much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice! your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. the fragrance of your garments is like that of lebanon” (Song of Sol. 4:9-11 naSB). In the Song of Songs, the lover’s reference to his beloved is “sister.” In The Theology of the Body, pope John paul II states that the lover uses the word “sister” because he wants to validate her personhood. In other words, he recognizes her common humanity and wants to uphold her human dignity. as pope John paul II explains, “the fact that in this approach that female ‘I’ is revealed for her groom as ‘sister’--and that precisely as both sister and bride — has a special eloquence.”2 In his book Theology of the Body Explained, christopher West writes, “It reveals that he sees her not as a thing to be appropriated, but as a person to be loved.”3 this is what John paul II characterizes as the “fraternal” theme of “mutual entrustment.”4 In christopher West’s Naked Without Shame commentary, he states that lovers need to recognize each other as brother and sister, before they are able to properly love one an- other as husband and wife.5 It is precisely this idea of sister and brother that has allowed charlie and me to know what it means to be truly loving. through the grace of god, we have discovered what it means to respect each other and love not just as lovers but as friends. In a class I took with Dr. toth, he explained that the word “intimacy” is derived from the latin word intima, meaning “sacred ground.” When I heard this, I realized and appreciated how the gift of marriage is truly a transcendental experience. In other words, intimacy is not just an experience of one-fleshedness but also an experience of transcen- dence. charlie and I have been able to share in an experience of god not only with our bodies but with our minds, hearts and souls. for us, a one-flesh union has become an act of sacred prayer, which is not only a gift to each other but has become an act of self- giving to god. In the Song of Songs, the lover recognizes that his beloved is created “for her own sake.” catholIc center for famIly SpIrItualIty