7 Things Charting Taught Me c/o Cassie Wilson

Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Method are typically associated with married couples trying to achieve or avoid pregnancy…. but fertility awareness encompasses more than pregnancy achievement/avoidance. It’s a refreshing, holistic, reverent way to view the body of a woman and the way it is designed.

Cassie Wilson, a young adult Catholic, shares what she has learned through charting her cycles and diving deeper into the understanding of her feminine genius. Click here to read about what she learned.

You can follow her on twitter @cassiedrajw

Marriage, the Church and the Eucharist by Rebecca Barclay

From the beginning of the book of Genesis to the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation, God chose to use the imagery of marriage to show us the relationship He desires to have with His people. Because the human person has been created as a body-soul unity, God uses the physical realities to reveal to us the deeper meaning behind spiritual realities. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” Romans 1:19-20.

I would like to write specifically about the relation between Marriage, the Church and the Eucharist (the Eucharist according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church). This is an inexhaustible subject and all the time in the world would not be enough to penetrate into the depths of this great Mystery.

Like I said, marriage is what God chose to reveal to us the type of relationship He wants with us. So we must begin by asking what is marriage and what does the word of God show us about marriage? Marriage was established ‘in the beginning’ when man was created:
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:18-24

In this passage we are given the ‘steps’ of marriage: “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” From this verse we can see 3 chronological steps that occur in the ‘process’ of marriage. The first is a man leaves his father and his mother. The leaving of one’s father and mother shows that there is a certain type of commitment that must take place. Adam did not have a father or a mother, and so this verse has been given for all those after Adam—to us. In the spousal love between a man and a woman there must be a commitment. This committed love is an essential part of spousal love. Leaving one’s own family signifies the commitment to a new family, a new beginning, new life. The second step is ‘cleaves to his wife.’ This is the marriage ceremony. At the marriage ceremony the spouses cleave to each other. They commit themselves to each other by the total and complete gift of self. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The spouses seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives” (paragraph 1621). The third step is “and they become one flesh.” It is only once there has been the act of commitment and the offering of self, that a man and woman ‘become one flesh’ in the marital embrace. The marital embrace is the consummation of this love. From this moment on, each time the couple again embrace each other in the marital embrace, it is a renewal of their wedding vows. The marital embrace is a re-presentation of the total and complete gift of self offered at the wedding ceremony and fulfilled in the “becoming of one flesh.” It makes present again the offering of the bodies. The union that takes place between the man and woman in the bodies signifies the total and complete gift of self to the other.

And this is the type of relationship God desires to have with us. And Jesus Christ, taking the image that God Himself has given us, brought about and fulfilled the marital union between God and His people. He did this through the Incarnation, His Passion and Cross, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Coming down from Heaven, God is now God-with-us. In Jesus Christ, humanity has been wed to a divine Person and now God is with us. Jesus, leaving his Father, became man for us. And 33 years later, He also left his Mother Mary, for us. Can you imagine the dialogue between Christ and Mary before He left for Jerusalem? The trust that Mary had, knowing that her Son has been destined for “the rise and fall of many” and to be a “sign of contradiction” (Luke 2:33). The depths of Jesus’ love for us, to leave his home, his friends, his family, to embark on a journey of suffering, pain and sin, and death—for us. He who knew not sin came to know sin, for us. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see the free consent and commitment of Christ to us, as He prays only for the Father’s will to be done. Here is the beginning of the wedding ‘process’, the process of total self-giving. Jesus, choosing to give himself to us, unites His will to the Father’s and “moves towards the wedding day and ceremony”. The process of total self-giving reaches its fulfillment on the Cross. When all that could be given had been given, God said “it is consummated”—it is finished. Whenever a man and woman have made this commitment, given themselves to each other, and when the two have become one, God says “it is consummated.” The process of the total giving of self has been finished when the two become one.

When Christ “slept the sleep of death” on the Cross, God brought forth from His side the Church. And this is signified by the blood and water which gushed forth from the pierced heart of Jesus. The water represents the waters of baptism, by which one enters into the Church. And the blood represents the blood of Christ, the blood of the Eucharist, through which we are able to receive Christ’s total gift of self. By Christ’s total gift of self on the Cross, man is able to receive Christ so that the “two may become one.”

Every time a husband and wife become one again through the marital embrace this is what is happening: the husband and wife are making present again the gift of themselves and the gift of their bodies (signifying their total gift) that they presented to God and to each other on their wedding day. Every time the husband and wife become one flesh, the bridegroom gives himself completely to the bride—to be received by the bride; and the bride is completely open to receiving the bridegroom. When the wife receives the husband into her body, she is receiving his love and his very life into her. And he is implanting the very seeds of life which could very well grow until a life is fully formed in her. The two, husband and wife, have become one, and very often bring forth another, a child. The two have become one have become three…it is here that the family of man most fully mirrors the family of God.

And how does this happen between Christ and His Church? “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church…” (Ephesians 5:31-32). This is where the heart of the Mass, the Eucharistic celebration, comes into play.

Mass is re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. It is not a re-sacrificing—the sacrifice is not repeated, rather the celebration of the sacrifice is repeated. That is why it is said that a priest celebrates Mass. During Mass, the priest, along with the whole Church (this includes all the members of the body of Christ, not simply the ones present), brings before the Father the sacrifice of Christ that was made 2000 years ago. The priest presents again to the Father the gift of self that Christ made years ago. The Eucharistic celebration is a re-presentation of a past event and this re-presentation makes present the event being recalled—Christ’s gift, our “wedding day”. Each time we receive Jesus Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity) in the Eucharist, the two become one. The bridegroom, Christ, gives himself completely to his bride and the bride is completely open to receiving the bridegroom. The bridegroom gives to us His life and His love. Christ himself said “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day…” (John 6:54). Christ, through the Eucharist, plants the seeds of eternal life in us.

Cardinal Dolan: The Witness of Marriage

Enjoy this delightful, joyful and sincere address given by our very own Cardinal Dolan to the Knights of Columbus in Anaheim. Que viva Cristo Rey!

States Dinner Address Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Archbishop of New York President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Anaheim, California, August 7, 2012

Supreme Knight and Mrs. Anderson; Past Supreme Knight and Mrs. Dechant; my brother knights and beloved wives;

My brother cardinals; Bishop Brown, Archbishop Viganó, my brother bishops, priests, and deacons; our consecrated women and men religious; seminarians, guests, friends one and all . . .

Que viva Cristo Rey!

To anyone who claims the Church is lackluster;

To anyone who thinks the Church has lost the dare given us by Jesus to “cast out to the deep!”

To anyone who doubts the solidarity between God’s people and His priests and bishops;

To anyone who contends that Catholics are beaten down by constant attacks on faith, the Church, our values, and our God-given freedom of religion . . .

I say, “Let them come to the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus!”

As we anticipate the Year of Faith, I thank you, brother knights, for 130 years of vibrant, salt-of-the-earth-light-to-the-world Catholic witness!

As we prepare for the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome on the New Evangelization, I congratulate you, brother knights, for taking that ball and running with it, in the same missionary spirit that characterized Christopher Columbus.

It’s good to be in California; they love us here in Anaheim. Heads up, though: one of the bell boys here at the hotel did complain to me that we knights don’t tip that well. “We love these Knights of Columbus,” he said, “but, they arrive with the Ten Commandments and a ten dollar bill . . . and leave without breaking either!”

Carl, thanks for giving me the “honeymoon suite.” I was a bit surprised. Let me assure you that’s the first time that’s ever happened!

I am reminded of the story told by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Seems as if he, too, was offered the “honeymoon suite” at a hotel where he was to give a talk. It was in a southern city, at that time unfamiliar with Catholics. As Archbishop Sheen was leaving his honeymoon suite for supper, the housekeeping attendant asked if she could turn down the bed, and the archbishop told her he would appreciate such service. When he returned later that evening, sure enough, the bed was turned down, and there was a mint on both pillows. On one side of the bed was the archbishop’s pajamas laid out; on the other, apparently for Mrs. Sheen, was his beautiful lace alb he wore for Mass!

Which brings me to my topic: Marriage.

Usually, at this State’s Dinner, thousands of our knights look up in admiration to this dais, the head table, to this “crimson tide” of bishops and cardinals.

Tonight, I’m going to literally “turn the tables” as we up here look out with awe, admiration, and deep appreciation upon you, our knights and their wives, united in marriage.

For this evening, I want to salute marriage. . . and it would be tough to find anyone who has done more to defend, strengthen, and promote marriage than you, Knights of Columbus, and your cherished wives and families. In fact, as you are aware, one of the driving motives of the Venerable Father Michael McGivney in founding the Knights was to assist men better fulfill their vocation as husbands and dads.

We Catholics are hopeless romantics, you know, when it comes to married love . . .

Against all odds, we still believe that, when a man and woman vow that they’ll love and honor each other, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part,” they really do mean it;

We still hold fast to the teaching of the Bible that God so esteems marriage that He compared His personal, passionate, eternal love for Israel to that between a husband and a wife; that Saint Paul tells us that the love of Jesus for us, His Church, is just like that of a groom for His bride;

We still have in our gut the Church’s timeless “Valentine’s Day card,” that the love between a husband and a wife has the same characteristics as does that of God for us: it is faithful; it is forever; it brings about new life in children.

We are such hopeless romantics that we contend the best way to get a hint of how God loves us now, and in eternity, is to look at how you, married couples, love one another. “The love of a man and woman is made holy in the sacrament of marriage, and becomes the mirror of your everlasting love . . . ,” chants the Preface in the Nuptial Mass.

You see why we, mostly celibates up here, look out upon you married couples with awe? We gaze out now at thousands of icons, reflections, mirrors of the way God loves us.

Now, you are, we are, the first to acknowledge that this romantic, poetic, lofty, divine lustre of marriage can at times be tarnished a bit in the day-in-day-out challenges of lifelong, life-giving, faithful love.

For example, I recently had the golden jubilee of a wonderful couple I’ve known for decades.

“What’s the secret to the success of your fifty years of marriage? I asked Pat.

“Well, you know Eileen and I are both of Irish background, so, for our 25th anniversary, I took her back to Ireland.”

“Pat, how thoughtful,” I remarked.

“Yeah and then, for our 50th, I went back to get her! There’s the key to our success!”

Tension, trial, temptation, turmoil – – they come indeed, but – – just as Jesus worked His first miracle, at the request of His blessed Mother, for a newly married couple at Cana by turning water into wine – – so does Jesus transform those choppy waters of tension, trial, temptation, and turmoil, into a vintage wine of tried-and-true-trust in marriage.

So, brother knights and wives, I thank you for being such metaphors of God’s love; and I exhort you, please, to continue, now, more than ever, to be so. Why, now more than ever! Let me give you a few reasons.

When I was Archbishop of Milwaukee, at an archdiocesan pastoral council meeting, we were discussing ways to increase vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life . . . yet another project, by the way, you Knights have vigorously promoted.

Well, Jan Ruidl, one of the members, commented:

“Archbishop Dolan, in talking about an increase in vocations for priests, sisters, and brothers, I think you’re barking-up-the-wrong-tree!”

Uh-oh, here it comes, I thought, buckling my bullet-proof vest, figuring Jan would begin arguing for an end to celibacy or to the male-only-priesthood.

But Jan continued:…

Please read the rest at the Knights of Columbus website.

A Knight Worth Waiting For by Shaina Colucci

To Begin…

Tangled

I may or may not be listening to the Tangled soundtrack as I write this…and I may or may not be listening to the same song from that soundtrack over and over again…I could (and have in fact) gush(ed) endlessly about how this Disney movie contains the essential elements of Christian anthropology and Catholic teaching – including but not limited to: original solitude, original unity, authentic masculinity, the beauty of the feminine genius, the relationship between suffering and love, the call to die to ourselves, the fruitfulness that can only be born of self gift, etc, etc. The main characters – Rapunzel and Eugene “Flynn Rider”Fitzherbert – have an absolute dignity about them as they allow love to awaken them to the true, the good and the beautiful – to the ache in every human heart (Redemptor Hominis 10, Gaudium et Spes 24, Familiaris Consortio 11*). My favorite line comes at the very end – Eugene observes: “At last, Rapunzel was home and she finally had a real family. She was a princess worth waiting for. Beloved by all, she led her kingdom with all the grace and wisdom that her parents did before her.” Of all the wonderful topics this movie inspires, I want to focus on authentic masculinity – specifically – modifying the words of Eugene, I shall write about “a knight worth waiting for.”

I used to have a long list of the qualities I believed a guy needed to have to be worthy of respect (I wanted a Eucharist-loving, guitar-playing, Knight of Columbus, song-writing, sports-loving, rugged, foreign, cleans up well but also can rock a beard, empathetic, generous, solid man…). I have slightly adapted this list to:

  • A man of deep, abiding faith
  • A man of integrity
  • A man who embodies authentic masculinity*

*If he could be all these three and also leave me in stitches with his sense of humor, that would be awesome, or as some might say, phenomenal.

Though Flynn Rider does come to embody these qualities, I’d like to turn to three other examples from popular culture of authentic masculinity…

1. The Fighter – James Braddock in Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man

Though Tangled certainly gave this movie a run for its money, it maintains its position as my #1 favorite movie. How is it possible that a girl could love a movie centered around boxing and blood? Because fighting and bleeding is part of life – and James Braddock willingly does this for his family. He knows what he’s fighting for; he willingly and with an endearing joy sacrifices his body (boxing and working on the docks with a broken hand), his dignity (returning to his former colleagues to beg for money so that he can keep his promise to his children that they will stay together as a family no matter what) and his passion (focusing his strength on being a good husband and father). I can’t think of a more Christ-like figure, nor one who so embodies the call of men outlined in Ephesians 5 in any other movie – and the best part – it’s all based on a real man. 

the Incredibles

2. The Hero – Mr. Incredible (Bob Parr) in The Incredibles

I’m not usually one to go for buff blonds, but Mr. Incredible has a place in my heart. Though he gets caught up in the usual temptations left to men by original sin (compensating pride, misdirected hankerings for reckless adventure and leadership that excludes others), he gets it. He gets that his wife and family are the greatest adventure and gift. Sometimes that adventure includes loving his family by willingly sitting in a 4 x 4 cubicle thriving on Dunkin Donuts coffee with a micro-managing boss. Sometimes it means risking his life to save his family from the grips of a fallen world. Regardless, he approaches his mission with courage, integrity and humble strength.

3. The Family Man – George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life

I think men such as “It’s A Wonderful Life’s” George Bailey too often get overlooked or cast aside in conversations about authentic masculinity. Could that be because it’s no longer cool to be a husband and father who continuously puts others first, sacrificing the dreams of his heart to help bring to fruition the dreams of others? We live in a culture used to having it all – the perfect job, beautiful wife, well-behaved 1.5 child/ren, etc, etc. Father Walter J. Ong, in “Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality and Consciousness,” writes: “The typical self-giving of men is the performance of valiant exploits for others, women and other men.” George Bailey – though he is not traversing Middle Earth like Aragorn, nor challenging the tyrannical English like William Wallace – is absolutely living out his authentic masculinity as he fights for a more just and loving society.

In Conclusion…

To all my brother knights out there, I thank God for you and I leave you with these words reminding you that your authentic masculinity is caught up in the fact that you are made for relationship, “It is not good for man to be alone and his home and his fruitfulness are in woman, his glory.” – Hans Urs von Balthasar. Whether you are called to be married to a beautiful princess here on earth or to the most perfect woman of all – Holy Mother Church – I pray for you and the battles you most surely will face. Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

*“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.” –RH 10

“Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” – GS 24

“God created man in His own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love… Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” – FC 11