Friday, October 30, 2009

Marriage is a Sacrament

This weekend, I will have the privilege to witness the convalidation of the marriage of my long-time business partner and friend (he is really like my brother) and his wife of 23 years. We have known each other for a long time and I feel I had a part in his discovery and conversion to the Catholic faith (he was baptized a Catholic but rarely attended church as a child). Soon after he joined the Church, his wife followed.

One thing they never did was have the marriage convalidated by the Catholic Church. This sacrament somehow got placed on the back burner. Many people would tell them "what for", they are married and the Church cannot change that. But as a couple they began to see the significance of having their marriage blessed by the Church.

Marriage is sacrament. It is a bond between a man and woman that is being witnessed by the community and the Church. That act will sanctify their marriage and welcome the intersession of the holy spirit in their life and relationship.

It also sends a message to their children. Their children will learn that God is present in the relationship and in the family. It teaches them about a commitment that lasts a lifetime, even when things are not going well. It teaches them that when life gets tough, as a family, you can turn to God for strength. That strength and help may come from the larger Church community. I cannot count the times when I have seen couples struggling in their lives and find the support they need within our Church Community. That support can be from food and clothes to watching the kids and helping them find jobs.

But it all begins in the family unit and a marriage that we acknowledge as something that belongs to God as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Other Side

Yesterday I had an encounter that I was not expecting. I was talking with a contractor and as usual in the deep south we made small talk first (an old custom that irritates many people from other parts of the country). As we were talking, we learned that I knew a family that lived in their neighborhood. When I mentioned the family's name, the contractors face suddenly went ashen. It turns out that they had been involved in an accident that resulted in the death of my friend's 7 year old son (he was on a bicycle). For the next 30 minutes they spoke about the hurt; how it felt like it happened yesterday; and the feeling that they cannot forgive themselves for the incident. The most surprising event to them was the forgiveness that they received from our friends (how can they forgive us for being involved in the death of their son). I did my best to listen to their story and explain that supernatural forgiveness that they received from our friends.

I have talked on many occasions with our friends about their loss and how the sting never goes away (nor should it). However, I have never thought about the loss in the context of others involved in the accident. Although no one cannot compare the grief of a parent, even after ten years, the feeling for them is still raw and very real. They also need compassion and forgiveness, even when they are the last people anyone thinks of in those situations.

I do not believe in chance encounters like this one. I feel these people still needed affirmation that they are good people. I hope I helped them along that path.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pilgrimage to Rome Part 2

During our visit to Rome, we visited the four major Basilicas in the city. Other than Saint Peters, we went to St Paul Outside the Wall, St John Lateran and St Mary Major.

St Paul Outside the Wall is south of the center of Rome. The initial basilica was built soon after Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 (Edict of Milan). The location is considered the place where St Paul was beheaded and buried.

St Paul Outside the Wall

This is also the Church where there is a portrait of every Pope. I have heard "end-of-times" theorist say that the last days will come when the Church runs out of room and many were saying that there were only two places left. Well, I counted and there is room for 13 more portraits. These people not only promote bad theology; they also cannot add. I guess people will say anything to sell a book.

Pope Benedict XVI - St Paul Outside the Wall

There is also a chapel to St Stephen. The chapel has a wonderful statue and portraits of St Stephen on both sides. I took this opportunity the pray for each of my brothers in formation and ask St Stephen to pray for us.

St Stephens Chapel - St Paul Outside the Wall

St John Lateran was the official residence of the Pope for most of the last 1,700 years and was the first property that Constantine gave to the Church. Next door to the Church is where the Holy Stairs are located. The Holy Stairs are, reportedly, the steps up to Pontius Pilate's home in Jerusalem and the stairs that Christ walked up before the crucifixion. Today, pilgrims go up the stairs on their knees.

St John Lateran

St Mary Major was the first church built in honor of Mary, the mother of God. St Jerome, a Doctor of the Church and the first person to translate the Bible into Latin, is buried there.

St Mary Major

I will have more later.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pilgrimage to Rome Part 1

On our first day in Rome, Karen and I were walking to the Pantheon and came across a church that we were told us was a must see (St Maria supra Minerva). This church sits on the location of a former temple to the goddess Minerva. Inside is a statue, by Michelangelo, of Jesus and the cross. It is considered one of his great works. The loin cloth was a later addition (which is another story).

In the same church is a crypt for St Catherine of Siena, which is under the altar. Her remains are here as well as in Siena. Karen was happy to see her since St Catherine is her patron saint.

Just outside of the church is a monument by Bernini. Reportedly, he did not like a wealthy Roman that lived just outside of the church. Bernini situated the monument, which is of an elephant, so that this was that gentleman's view each time he left his home.

One thing I did learned in Rome; do not get on the bad side of the local artists:)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back from Rome

We just had a wonderful trip to Rome, Italy this past week. It was beyond my expectations. I will post later on some of our experiences.