Christmas

The Holy Family: An icon of Catholic life

By Father Conor Kunath.

In the eighth century, the Church was shaken by a controversy that continues to impact her devotional and liturgical life more than a millennium later. This controversy was about the use of images.

The earliest Church had discouraged the veneration of icons because of the Old Testament prohibition against them, but their use and veneration continued to grow. The dispute came to a head in the early part of the eighth century when the Byzantine emperor, Leo III, made the use of icons illegal. This prohibition stirred up occasional, but nonetheless severe, persecutions against those who used them. The controversy raged for more than a century, until an ecumenical council and the Byzantine Empress Theodora brought it to an end in AD 843. As a result, the use of icons and images in the Catholic Church has become an essential part of her devotional life worldwide.

One reason the Church approved the use of images was because of the incarnation: Since Christ, the second person of the Trinity, assumed human flesh, then humanity has the ability to depict God. The human flesh of Christ gives the Church access to a real image of God himself. So then if God has given us an image of himself, it must be acceptable to portray him.

There is an immense beauty in this reasoning, because suddenly Christ’s life becomes even more full of meaning. The human actions that he performs are now charged with theological significance. His attendance at the wedding feast of Cana shows God’s love and design for the institution of marriage. At that same feast Christ miraculously transforms water into wine; this demonstrates that wine, and all of the wonderful gifts that God gives us, are meant to be enjoyed. For these reasons, the life of the Christian is not one of sorrow, but one of immense joy, because the Christian sees, through faith, that all of creation and its beauty is a sort of love letter from God himself. Creation is meant for our enjoyment and pleasure.

Among the most meaningful displays of this theological logic is the Holy Family itself. Think about the situation of the Holy Family. God chooses Mary to be the mother of his only Son, and she gently accepts the offer, but she is already married to a man named Joseph. On account of her pregnancy, he would like to divorce her, but God has Joseph take her into his home.

This is a wonderfully significant series of events. God is, without doubt, the father of the child Jesus. Naturally, because he is God, he could have easily and directly provided for his Son. That is not what he chose to do. Rather, he chose Joseph as the earthly father and protector of Jesus. Choosing Joseph as the earthly father of Jesus shows how crucial the role of the father is in the family, and how critical it is for us, as humans, to have a mother and a father. This choice by God displays the complementarity of the sexes. Mary and Joseph together manifest that original oneness for which God created man and woman, and provide a perfect example of what married life can be.

Even more than just the significance of man and wife, the Holy Family shows the deep meaning of both fertility and virginity. Mary is privileged to be perpetually virginal, but also fertile. God uses her womb as the entry point for his only begotten Son, Jesus, yet she remains a virgin throughout her entire life.

On the one hand, we have Mary as the perfect image of purity, the handmaid of the Lord, who consecrates her physical virginity to God. She is a wonderful example of the glory of virginity.

On the other hand, she is also chosen to be the mother of God. Her virginal womb becomes the dwelling place of the Most High. She, a virgin, is to bear the most consequential pregnancy the world has ever known.

Thus Mary is doubly blessed. Not only does she model for us immaculate virginity and the glory of offering ourselves to God in that way, but she also exemplifies the treasures of motherhood.

Mary also becomes a feminine image of Adam. God took from Adam to make Eve without human procreation, and similarly God used Mary to incarnate Jesus without human procreation. Thus the Holy Family becomes a restored image of the first family recreated through his Son.

The same is likewise true for Joseph. He is given a wife and the role of father, and they are truly his, but his fatherhood is not physical. Joseph is simultaneously a model for both physical and adoptive fathers. Even though Joseph is not the physical father of Jesus, he is no less a father on account of it. He perfectly fulfills his vocation as father and husband.

Additionally, Joseph is a tremendous example for priests, who receive the role of father — husband to the Church and guardian of Christ’s body — but do not enjoy physical fatherhood. Priests’ lives are full of the glories of the familial life, without participating in it physically. They are called to be husbands, fathers and protectors not to their own family, but to holy Mother Church.

Just as the incarnation opened so many theological horizons for the Church, so too does the Holy Family open our minds to the wonders of family life. God greatly blessed the Holy Family in many special ways that make them truly unique in the story of salvation but that does not mean that our own families are not likewise blessed. The Holy Family proves to us that married and familial life is not a burden that some people choose to carry, but rather an immense blessing for those privileged to live it.

God chose a family for His Son to show forth the great blessing that is married life, motherhood, fatherhood and virginity. The image is clear for all to see: God gave us all of these wonderful gifts of married life not as a burden, but as a great joy.

Catholic pro-lifers should relish in the fullest and greatest way possible the mystery and gift that is family life. As the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family this Dec. 26, let us strive to become living icons of family life.

Father Conor Kunath is the promoter for priestly vocations for the Diocese of Covington and chaplain to Notre Dame Academy, Park Hills.

During Year of Family Pope Francis asks faithful to reflect on moving ‘towards a better education of children’

By David Cooley.

The seventh chapter of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia — On Love in the Family” is entitled “Towards a Better Education of Children.” In that segment the Holy Father explores in great detail how adults — especially parents, but also teachers and other role models — influence the moral development of children. Young members of society observe and imitate their older family members, teachers and principals perhaps more than we might like to think. So, whether at home or in a school setting, we must realize that we are all responsible for not only forming young minds but also shaping healthy consciences. We are all parental figures “fostering good habits and a natural inclination to goodness” in our young people (see AL, nn. 263-264).

Parents or guardians are always the primary educators of their children, however, they very often rely on schools and extracurricular activities to ensure the complete basic formation of their children. In school the lessons that are learned at home are validated. “The family is the primary setting for socialization, since it is where we first learn to relate to others, to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another and live as one. The task of education is to make us sense that the world and society are also our home; it trains us how to live together in this greater home,” writes Pope Francis (AL, n. 276).

Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Covington, faces the multifaceted challenges of working toward a better education of children, both as a mother of six and as an administrator. Her first priority in both of these roles is provide the children in her care with the opportunities to become who they were created to be and to, ultimately, get to heaven. She agrees with Bishop Roger Foys that the primary reason for a Catholic school system is to pass on the faith to the next generation, and that is her approach when partnering with principals and teachers.

“One of the things that our schools have to do is make sure that our faith is not just another subject,” Mrs. McGuire said. “Faith has to permeate through everything we do because in order for people to really be engaged in the faith they have to see how it relates to every aspect of life.”

Mrs. McGuire said that all teachers in a Catholic school, no matter what subject they teach officially, are religion teachers because they are role models, standing in the place of Christ and teaching through their interactions and how they respond to questions and situations.

“Even in a math class or a science class, things will come up that pertain to the faith and the teachers need to be ready with an appropriate Christian response.” And, she said, that it is important for them not to miss the many teachable moments that come up during a school day, because those are the lessons that sometimes children remember most.

From a practical standpoint, Mrs. McGuire knows that schools carry a large load of academic responsibilities and they can only do so much. While schools should be reiterating the good things that children learn in home, parents and caregivers must also echo the Gospel message in the home.

“That’s a big challenge,” she said. “How do you help what the children learn in school to carry over into their home?”

Mrs. McGuire said that everything should start with prayer.

“As parents, we have to continue to make sure that children understand how important our faith is. One big thing that families need to do is pray together,” said Mrs. McGuire. “Start the day with prayer, pray before meals, before bed; this helps children stay centered and recognize that they are called to give their entire day to God. Families need to make Mass a priority and understand that Sunday is a day to focus on God and your family.”

 

 

In her own family, Mrs. McGuire makes sure that they all participate in activities together at the parish, such as Stations of the Cross or other ministries. During Advent they light an Advent wreath at their dinner table.

“Any time we can be together with the larger faith community, we try to do that. And, any time we can bring the faith into the house, we try to do that,” she said.

Her husband, Adam, said that faith is the number one priority in their house and guides all of their activities and decisions.

“We pray as a family before we travel and we try to bring the faith into the difficulties and challenges that the children face in life,” Mr. McGuire said.

Mr. McGuire is a police officer, so they both have demanding careers and often find themselves working on different shifts. They depend on each other as a team.

“We are not always home together, but we trust each other and count on each other to take care of things while we are away,” said Mr. McGuire. “That being said, we try to do as much together as possible. We always try to make time for family. We like to hang out outside, play sports and go boating.”

Even though they both work, Mr. and Mrs. McGuire each coach soccer and encourage their children to get involved in activities as much as possible.

Mr. McGuire said that he is very proud of his wife as the superintendent, and he is impressed with the way she leads the schools in the Diocese of Covington. “I’ve always known she was destined for great things. She is very faith-based and education is very important to her,” he said.

When challenged to consider concrete ways teachers can keep their students interested in the faith, Mrs. McGuire didn’t hesitate.

“There are teachers who have started religious clubs. Many of our schools have clubs — like a chess club or sports club — but some have a rosary club, for example. These are ways we can demonstrate to our students that our faith should be an enjoyable part of their lives,” she said.

“We encouraged our classrooms to have a place dedicated to the faith. They might have a prayer corner with books, statues and pictures; things that draw your attention and keep you focused on Christ.”

Mrs. McGuire said that learning to spend quiet time during Eucharistic adoration or journaling can also be very beneficial to young people.

“Students also have busy lives; we need to give them opportunities to have quiet time in order to listen to God,” she said. “Read Scripture out loud and then take time to reflect on or write about it.”

In his concluding section of “Amoris Laetitia,” entitled “Passing on the Faith,” Pope Francis writes, “Handing on the faith presumes that parents [and teachers] themselves genuinely trust God, seek him and sense their need for him, for only in this way does ‘one generation laud your works to another, and declare your mighty acts’ (Ps 144:4) and ‘fathers make known to children your faithfulness’ (Is 38:19).”

David Cooley is the co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

SUMMIT21 – Eucharistic Retreat

By David Cooley.

For 15 years young people in the Diocese of Covington have been able to discover or rediscover their zeal for the Catholic faith at an annual three-day retreat centered on the Eucharist. As the diocese enters a new era, this retreat, formerly called YOUTH 2000, is being rebranded and will be known this year as SUMMIT21. While there will be some differences, one thing will certainly remain the same —participants can expect a unique opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ in a powerful way in the Eucharist.

SUMMIT21 will be held this year Oct. 8–10 at Notre Dame Academy. The diocesan-wide retreat will include daily Mass, the rosary, confession, Eucharistic adoration and dynamic catechesis presented by the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal and diocesan clergy and lay adults. There will also be live music, lay testimonials as well as great food, snacks and social time.

The event runs on Friday, 6:30–10:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; and Sunday 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. On Saturday participants can ask questions to a select panel of clergy and laity. The panelists come well prepared to explain Church teaching on matters large and small — especially on tough issues of faith and morals — with clarity, charity and wit.

Young people growing up in today’s world have a lot to deal with. If you are someone like me, who grew up without the internet, social media, cell phones, on-demand programing, a 24-hour news cycle and a culture hostile to traditional values, it’s hard for us to imagine.

All of this has certainly taken its toll on all of us, but especially our youth. Studies show that, by all accounts, the mental health of youth in the United States (and globally) is worsening. The modern world, with its secular, materialistic landscape is not offering people much in the way of meaning, direction and purpose. Ours is a world of broken dreams, disorder and division. There is not much out there that one can hold onto consistently. More than anything else there is a great hunger for community, beauty and truth.

It is important for all people to be able to center themselves and stay grounded in what really matters. As Catholics, we know that we can only find peace if our lives are centered on Jesus Christ. We find purpose and meaning only when we make of gift of ourselves in service to the Church and to others.

Why SUMMIT21? A summit is the highest point of a hill or mountain, the highest peak you can reach. Providentially, it is also a gathering, a meeting of important people coming together for a particular cause. This retreat, because it is a gathering of God’s people and centered on the Eucharist, can be defined as both. Add the year — 2021 — and you have the name.

The Church tells us that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of Christian life.” This means that, first, our Christian life — the good, the true and the beautiful — flows from the Eucharist. And second, the Eucharist is the summit or high-point to which all of our actions should ultimately be directed. In the Blessed Sacrament Christ is truly Emmanuel — “God with us” — giving us the grace we need to reach that peak we are destined for.

Just as the first disciples were called to come down from the mountain and go out to be salt of the earth and light for the world. Those who meet Christ in the Eucharist — those who attend SUMMIT21 — are also called to mission: to go out, spread the good news and bring healing to those in need. The Eucharist is both the source of our strength and the summit of our desires. Our Christian spirituality is a two-way street. It leads us from the Eucharist as a starting point out into the world of daily life and it eventually takes us back home to the Eucharist after our sojourn in the world.

Regarding the Eucharist, St. Pope Paul VI once wrote, “He is in the midst of us day and night; he dwells in us with the fullness of grace and truth. He raises the level of morals, fosters virtue, comforts the sorrowful, strengthens the weak and stirs up all those who draw near to him to imitate him, so that they may learn from his example to be meek and humble of heart, and to seek not their own interests but those of God.”

Come discover what SUMMIT21 is all about. Register Here.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

Changing the world — It’s a family thing

By Brad Torline.

Salvation came into the world through a family.

Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit before she was married. When St. Joseph discovered what had happened, the two of them almost separated — but God intervened, telling St. Joseph to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife. (Matt 1:18-20)

Why did God do this?

I believe he kept them together because he wanted to enter the world through a family.

In a way, he still wants to enter the world through a family, but this time, through your family.

Every single one of us is called to encounter Christ, to be transformed by him, and to aid him in his work to restore all things. For most of us that will be accomplished in and through our everyday life as a family.

If you are married the primary way God is calling you to cooperate with him in the salvation of the world is through your relationship with your spouse and through your family life.

Many of us are troubled by the state of the world and the culture. Many of us want to do something about the direction our country is headed.

Our good intention — our desire to change the world for the better — often leads us straight into a trap, all-to-often set by the evil one. Worried by large scale problems, we become distracted from or even despair of the “little” role we have been called to play.

We spend all of our time watching the national news, scrolling through social media, arguing online with people we barely know, inventing grandiose plans in our mind for how the world would better if everyone just did this or that.

In the meantime we become distracted from the primary way we could actually be helping the world most — by bettering ourselves and loving those closest to us.

The situation can seem so big, so daunting, so big-scale, that we think playing our small role is useless.

It is not. Priests and religious all across the world are required, as part of their daily prayer, to pray the Magnificat, the beautiful, earth shattering words of Mary: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant … he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.”

God saves the world through “small” people doing “small things” faithfully, every day. For him that’s the name of the game — taking the “ordinary” and doing extraordinary things with it.

So don’t let the devil distract you from the so-called “small” role you have to play. None of us are small. God is using all of us to transform the world in himself.

Rededicate yourself today to living your “ordinary” life, extraordinarily. Pray today. Go to confession this week. Name your sins. Repent of them. Become better.

Cancel that meeting. Go on a date with your spouse, ask them how they are doing, how you can love them better.

Make time for your kids. Talk to them about God. Go to Mass this Sunday as a family.

If you need ideas for small ways to start integrating the faith better into your family life visit CovDio.Org/Family.

Just like Mary and Joseph, if you play your “small” part faithfully, Christ will enter the world through your family and will shake the foundations of everything and make a better future for everyone through your life.

Remember the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

Brad Torline is associate director for the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization, Diocese of Covington, Ky.

Bishop Foys encourages families to evangelize by living a holy life inspired and modeled after the Holy Family

(from left) Father Ryan Maher, vicar general and Cathedral rector and Father Daniel Schomaker, vicar general, during the recessional at the Mass for the Year of the Family.

Laura Keener, Editor.

The recognition of the Year of the Family — a year pronounced by Pope Francis for the Church to focus on the family and conjugal love — was initiated in the Diocese of Covington July 10 as Bishop Roger Foys celebrated a special Year of the Family Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. The diocesan Office of Catechesis and Evangelization is spearheading the efforts for the faithful of the diocese to pray, learn and serve as a family, drawing families closer to each other and to Christ.

Bishop Foys began his homily by inviting those present to think about their childhood and the types of memories their childhood brings.

“I always encourage parents to make good memories for and with your children,” Bishop Foys said, “because when our parents are gone, that’s all we have left.”

“I have happy memories and I hope that your children will have happy memories of their childhood and their growing up and that they will learn from you what really and truly matters,” he said.

Bishop Foys encouraged parents, saying that when he was a pastor it was not uncommon for newly engaged couples to come to him seeking to be married in the Church, even though they had not been practicing the faith for some time. Often, these couples would return to the practice of their faith.

“Even if you might not think that you’re making any difference, trust me, you will make a difference,” he said.

Drawing extensively from Pope Francis’ Angelus address on the Feast of the Holy Family, Dec. 27, 2020, Bishop Foys highlighted the importance of family and how the Holy Family — Jesus, Mary and Joseph — are both a model and inspiration for family life.

“It is good to reflect on the fact that the Son of God wanted to be in need of the warmth of a family, like all children. Precisely for this reason, because it is Jesus’ family, the family of Nazareth is the model family, in which all families of the world can find their sure point of reference and sure inspiration.” Bishop Foys said quoting Pope Francis.

“Children want to belong, they want to be part of something,” Bishop Foys said.

Quoting Pope Francis again, Bishop Foys said, “In imitation of the Holy Family, we are called to rediscover the educational value of the family unit: it requires being founded on the love that always regenerates relationships, opening up horizons of hope.”

“Founded on love — there’s the secret,” Bishop Foys said. “Love can endure anything. It can endure any hardship, any struggle, any difficulty, any injury — within the family, love can conquer any of that.”

At the Angelus address Pope Francis said, “Within the family one can experience sincere communion when it is a house of prayer, when affections are serious, profound, pure, when forgiveness prevails over discord, when the daily harshness of life is softened by mutual tenderness and serene adherence to God’s will. In this way, the family opens itself up to the joy that God gives to all those who know how to give joyfully.”

Bishop Foys said that it breaks his heart to see families divided; to see families at a loved one’s funeral sitting on separate sides of the church because they are not speaking.

“Forgiveness over discord,” Bishop Foys said. “Home should be the place where a son or daughter can come no matter what. The Lord is the one to whom we can come no matter what. The same should be said of the home where the mother and father reflect God’s love, God’s joy, God’s forgiveness.”

Pope Francis acknowledged that it is true that all families quarrel, “but,” he cautioned, “before the end of the day, make peace. And do you know why? Because a cold war, day after day, is extremely dangerous. It does not help.”

Bishop Foys said that the Holy Father offers three very important phrases that all families should hold dear and say to each other often – excuse me, thank you and sorry.

“Excuse me, so as not be intrusive in the life someone,” Bishop Foys said. “Thank you — so much service that we do for one another within the family — always say thank you. Gratitude is the life blood of the noble soul. How much do we take for granted from our families, especially our parents?”

And the hardest one to say, Bishop Foys said, is “I am sorry.” Bishop Foys depicted a dramatic scene from the popular 1970s movie “Love Story” where, after a bitter quarrel, as the leading actor is about to apologize, his girlfriend places her finger on his lips and says the often quoted phrase, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

“Give me a break,” Bishop Foys said. “That’s boloney. Love means being able to say, ‘I am sorry,’ and knowing the beloved will be able to say, ‘I forgive you.’ That’s true love. Being able to say I am sorry, to humble oneself enough — to trust the other enough — to say, ‘I am sorry;’ with the knowledge that the love is so deep from the other — that it is from God — that we will be forgiven.”

Bishop Foys acknowledged that the family and family life is being threatened in the world and in our country — but Christians are not to be discouraged, instead they should have hope and to evangelize the world by living a holy, Christian family life.

“Destroy the family and you destroy a civilization,” Bishop Foys said. “Build up a family in faith and in love and in joy and in trust and you have a strong family, a strong community, a strong city, a strong country, a strong world.

“Today we ask God’s blessings on all families, especially those that are having difficulty — those that are struggling — we ask that they turn to the Lord and find their peace, find their solace, find their joy in the Lord. Families are precious to the Lord, or the Lord God would not have sent his Son to be born into a family. Jesus came to save us from our sins and was born in a family so that he, in his humanity, could experience the love of a mother and a father in a family.”

The Office of Catechesis and Evangelization invites families to visit frequently a newly created webpage www.covdio.org/family. There they will find helpful resources to learn, pray and serve during this Year of the Family.

Grandparents proclaim the Gospel and hand down traditions through their love

In anticipation of the first celebration of Grandparents Day, which the Church will celebrate July 26 this year and on the fourth Sunday of July on the liturgical calendar, Pope Francis, in his May 31 message to grandparents said, “It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance. Because there is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.” (See Pope Francis entire message on page #.)

Up a long and winding gravel driveway, past a still and tranquil pond in southern Campbell County is the home of Jim and Terry Roessler. It’s a welcoming, white country home with a wrap-around porch, an expansive yard with a Mary grotto, all set beneath a canopy of trees. The home exudes peace and love — a concrete expression of the Roessler’s themselves.

The Roessler’s are youthful grandparents and for them proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to their 15 and growing grandchildren, especially passing on the Catholic faith, is essential. Mrs. Roessler notes that she has 18 grandchildren — 15, ages 13 on down, two in heaven and one on the way. For them sharing the faith is experiencing new adventures and is continuing traditions that have been handed down to them. Mrs. Roessler remembers her grandmother wearing a blue ribbon signifying her membership in a Marian group.

“I remember they would go and lead the rosary and attend Mass,” said Mrs. Roessler. She, too, has a devotion to Mary and, her children say, can be regularly found praying the rosary and inviting the family to pray the rosary together.

“I just know they were diligent about praying the rosary, going to Mass, and receiving the sacraments,” said Mr. Roessler about his grandparents.

“Holidays were wonderful,” Mrs. Roessler said about being with her grandparents. “That’s what you did, you had an Easter celebration and you went out and collected Easter eggs and you had a meal together. It’s always about having a meal together and sharing that day. I remember my grandmother always made me and my sister matching Easter outfits.”

Living the faith — living the Gospel of Life — being a witness to Christ’s love with an openness to life, Mr. and Mrs. Roessler said, is the primary role of grandparents. That role, Mrs. Roessler said, has not changed since she was a child, but she believes that role has become more urgent and grandparents have become more focused on that role as the culture becomes more and more secular and values and morals more distorted.

“I feel more of a need to be hands on, to be active in their prayer lives given the culture and passing the faith and the strength to live that faith along to them,” Mrs. Roessler said. “It is just living the faith, but now it’s done with more purpose or more intentionally.”

Like their parents and grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Roessler continue the traditions of holiday celebrations — albeit less the matching outfits — and Sundays are always a celebration.

“Sunday dinners are a big aspect of our lives, we make that a priority no matter what has happened during the week,” said Joanna Roessler, the youngest of the siblings. “We have discussions around the dinner table and the nieces and nephews pick up on that.”

“Grandma and grandpa are living out the faith and they see that — their witness,” said Laura Rousseau, the oldest sibling and mother of five. “Their door has always been open to anyone and everyone who needs help.”

Mrs. Rousseau said that her parents didn’t have a lot when they were growing up, however they were always a friend to others in need — providing groceries and clothing to a neighbor who had even less, opening their home to a neighbor whose house had burned down, welcoming their children’s college friends during the holidays when they couldn’t afford to make the trip home. That attentiveness to others in need continues and is influencing the next generation of Roesslers.

“They are thoughtful and do hard work without being asked and they are always looking to help others especially our family,” said Mrs. Rousseau’s oldest child, Eva, about her grandparents.

Family and faith are paramount for Mr. and Mrs. Roessler and they willingly and joyfully accept the necessary sacrifices to ensure the best for their children and grandchildren. All five of their children have attended a Catholic college — the Franciscan University of Steubenville — and Mrs. Roessler decided to home school the children to ensure their formation in the Catholic faith.

“I guess they could have gone to a secular college, but I hear of so many people that come from good Catholic families that are taught right out of the faith,” she said.

The sacrifice has not gone unappreciated, “My family sacrificed a lot to make sure we went to a good Catholic university. That was a really hard time when we all went to college because financially it took a lot,” said Mrs. Rousseau. “We all married spouses that also believe the faith is important — my mom and dad sacrificed so much for this,” acknowledging the discord she has seen families experience when one or more family member is alienated from the faith.

“Living as an example and my parents just encouraging our lifestyles and their always there to support us in having children and help us to live out the faith, recognizing that all children are a gift from God,” is what Ms. Roessler believes her parents have instilled in her and her siblings and are passing on to the grandchildren. “They are willing to drop whatever they are doing to come and help us and love us where we are needing to be loved,” she said.

“No matter how hard it was they always strived to make sure our family was a unit and together and that the faith was the center of everything that we did,” said Mrs. Rousseau.

Mrs. Roessler teaches CCD at her parish and takes seriously the ministry of teaching students the sacraments. Each year she attends the St. John Bosco conference at Franciscan University so that she can continually learn and grow in the faith. As a couple, the Roessler’s have enjoyed traveling as a way to deepen their faith life — attending World Youth Day in Canada to see St. Pope John Paul II, traveling to Rome and Assisi. Mr. Roessler said that two of their children live out of town — one in Wisconsin and another in Georgia — and they make a point of attending the baptisms and first Communions of their grandchildren, that can also involve some travel.

Mr. Roessler is a man of few words but his support and dedication to his wife, children and grandchildren speaks for him by the way he provides for his family. He said that he nurtures his faith “by going to church and being with family — being with our daughters and son and the grandchildren.”

Mrs. Roessler said that it is her greatest hope that by living the Gospel of life that others will see the joy and gift that children are and choose to open their hearts and homes to the children God would entrust to them — no matter the timing, no matter the ability or disability.

“I wish more people would be open to life and accepting of children they don’t realize how much their missing, how many blessings they are missing,” she said. “I never imagined having five children, certainly not 18 grandchildren, but it’s a joy.”

A reflection on Fatherhood – Year of St. Joseph and Year of the Family

By David Cooley.

This Sunday is Father’s Day. What a wonderful time to lift men up and reflect on what fatherhood really means, especially during this Year of St. Joseph and Year of the Family.

We live in a culture that often ridicules men and tries to make fathers irrelevant, whether through movies and shows, government programs, or the ability to conceive babies outside of a sexual relationship. Moreover, society’s view of men is often shaped by historical patriarchies, individuals who have made terrible mistakes and buzz terms such as “toxic masculinity.” There are many examples we can find to throw fuel on these fires, but it might be more beneficial for us to ask: Is masculinity really the problem or is it a lack of true masculinity? After all, the understanding of what it means to be a man truly culminates in fatherhood (especially spiritual fatherhood), lived out chivalrously as priest, prophet and king.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.3 million children, more than 1 in 4, go to bed each night without a father in the home (Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 2020). This has been a growing problem for a long time and leads to a greater risk of abuse and neglect, poverty, teen pregnancy, behavioral and drug problems and prison time, just to name a few. Children need their dads! Wives need good husbands as partners! It seems to me that if we are going to get through this difficult situation we need to do two main things: hold men accountable and return to them some of the dignity and respect that has been lost in the last 60 years.

In his book, “The God of Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Triune God,” then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope emeritus Benedict XVI), wrote: “The crisis of fatherhood that we are experiencing today is a basic aspect of the crisis that threatens mankind as a whole. Where fatherhood is perceived only as a biological accident on which no genuinely human claims may be based, or the father is seen as a tyrant whose yoke must be thrown off, something in the basic structure of human existence has been damaged.” (p. 29)

Fatherhood, and by extension motherhood and the whole family structure, are under attack. If we constantly tear young boys down with unhealthy messages, feelings of inadequacy and fear will drive out any confidence they might have had. Our culture, in supporting the worship of the self, encourages men to flee from the gift and responsibility of fatherhood in pursuit of their own desires. Fatherless homes have a large impact on children’s understanding of the world, love and of the heavenly Father.

For a man, any man, to live out the fullness of his meaning in life he must discover his vocation to fatherhood. Living out one’s vocation to fatherhood can be bound up in Holy Matrimony, spiritual marriage in the priesthood or religious life, and even single life. After all, we have Church Fathers, Desert Fathers, a Holy Father and even godfathers. We address our priests as spiritual fathers. And, of course, we have our biological fathers and our grandfathers.

Pope Francis has said that fatherhood is about giving life to others. In an address June 15, 2015, he said, “Becoming mothers and fathers really means to be fully realized, because it is to become similar to God.”

This is the cover of the book “St. Joseph, Tender Father: His Life and His Care for Us Today” by Louise Perrotta. (CNS photo/courtesy The Word Among Us Press)

St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus, is the model of fatherhood. A good family man is a provider, protector, nurturer and sponsor. He is happy to play his part off to the side, out of the spotlight, increasingly overshadowed by others, often unheralded and unrecognized. He is not perfect, but he is irreplaceable. He works and fights out of love. He always puts others before himself.

Men are spiritual sons, brothers and husbands first, but the summit of being a man is being a spiritual father. The source of fatherhood is God the Father. Therefore, men, we must hold each other accountable. We should always strive to live holy lives and bring people to Christ, the true face of the Father in Heaven.

The fight to save the family, the building block of human society, is a worthy cause. It’s going to take men and women of courage, integrity and faith. Abraham in Genesis is our father in faith, let’s strive to put our faith in God and “go forth” to the unknown future the same way he did.

Happy Father’s Day!

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

May, Mary, and the ’externals’ of faith

By Brad Torline.

A couple of years ago I posted on Facebook that I was looking for one of those “concrete Mary statues that people put in their yards.” I thought a fallen-away Catholic friend might have one they inherited from their grandmother.

Much to my surprise I ended up with one that had been in my family for at least 70 years.

When I asked about the somewhat comical paint job I found out that the statue had stood for a long time near my great-great aunt’s barn and that my grandpa had been encouraged to paint it several times as a child. I took it home, sanded it down and, following in my grandpa’s footsteps, I painted it — this time white.

A couple of days later it was time to do what I had planned all along. I hauled the 40-or-so pound, concrete statue a half mile up two hills to place it at the highest point on my friend’s 60 acre farm. There she stands today, overlooking the Licking River — “Our Lady of Grant’s Lick,” as we call her.  Those of us who hike those trails regularly will often pick wild flowers to crown her with or to lay at her feet.

Our Lady of Grant’s Lick

Why do Catholics do things like this? The world might say we do it because we are superstitious. Non-Catholic Christians might say we do it because we are idolatrous. The truth is we do it because we believe and because we love.

I’ll not bore you with an exposé on the political and ideological pressures that have, for centuries now, sought to force religion out of the public sphere and into the realm of private and preferably internal expression. The fact still remains — public, external displays of religion are increasingly uncomfortable for people today.

In recent decades we have seen this effect on the Church. How many of the Church’s traditions and external expressions have been lost in the last few generations?

I am frequently reminded that “external expression” does not mean “internal adherence.” I am told that, in the past, the Church had great external displays of the faith but that few people truly held the faith interiorly. I’m also told that, back in “the day,” a lot of people had the faith memorized but didn’t really internalize it. Well, nowadays many people still don’t internally believe the faith, and now they don’t have it memorized anymore either.

People are correct when they say that external acts of faith are superficial and useless if they are not accompanied with internal faith of the heart, but with all my heart I believe we, as a Church, acted unwisely when we removed and lost so much of what made the faith tangible. We are physical beings, after all, called to love God with both bodies and soul.

The tangible traditions and expressions — the so-called “smells and bells” — help make the faith come alive and seem more “real.” They give us physical ways to express our spiritual beliefs and our love.

It is an obvious best practice for elementary school teachers to use tangible activities, coloring pages, toys, etc. to help children learn abstract and difficult topics. When the children come around to understanding those things, do we think their understanding is any less “pure” or meaningful because they came to it by way of physical expressions and activities?

Let’s not fool ourselves. We like to pretend otherwise, but adults are basically children that got bigger, so the same principles apply to us. The faith is difficult, especially today. Let’s not be afraid to help ourselves learn it and internalize it with the aid of outward expressions, traditions and activities.

I think the Church is coming back around to this and we are seeing many traditions return. I encourage you to help out with this project.

It’s May — the month of Mary. What a great place to start. Consider planting a Mary Garden this year. Place a statue of Our Lady in a prominent place. Take your family on a hike to pick flowers for Mary.

It may feel awkward at first because, as discussed above, we are conditioned to be uncomfortable with outwards signs of religious belief. But give it a try — not for superstition’s sake, not to earn any special rewards but for the same reason my Grandpa and I painted our Mary statue — because when you believe in and love someone, it’s only natural to want to express it by doing something for them.

Brad Torline is associate director for the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization, Diocese of Covington, Ky.

Stand in truth, render justice

By David Cooley.

This winter I have had the pleasure of speaking to all the diocesan high school seniors during their senior retreat at St. Anne Retreat Center. It has been a joyful experience and a wonderful learning opportunity for me.

One of the first messages I try to convey to these young adults is the importance of seeking out the truth in today’s world. I tell them it is okay to ask questions, any question, as long as we are willing to put in the time, do the work, to get to an honest answer. Getting to the truth of a matter has always been a challenging prospect (remember Pontius Pilot’s question to Jesus: “What is truth? [Jn 18:38]), but imagine what it is like growing up in the age of the internet and a 24-hour “news” cycle!

Youth are constantly bombarded with messages, coming at them from every angle. They have to sift through so much information every day be it from social media, Netflix, friends, textbooks and, unfortunately, adults who seem to be more interested in indoctrination rather than teaching critical thinking. Most young people these days carry around little computers in their pocket, and spend more time in virtual reality rather than actual reality. And, as they grow up in a secular culture, guess who is usually left out of the picture or at least put on the back burner.

One of the hallmarks of the Judeo-Christian worldview is that God speaks to the world. We don’t hear a voice coming down from the clouds (usually), but he speaks to us through the liturgy, through the Scriptures, through prayer, through sunsets and through other people. God reveals himself to us in more ways than we can even imagine. I guess you could say that there are ordinary means by which God reveals himself as well as extraordinary means. But, of course, it’s all extraordinary; we just simply get used to some things and take them for granted. But, for those who practice gratitude and the art of paying attention every day, the world is packed full of wonderment and there is a still small voice in the midst of the turbulent storm of modern life.

It is possible for God to speak to us in non-subtle ways. On March 16 of this year archeologists announced an incredible discovery in the Judean desert. During an excavation approximately 80 new Dead Sea Scroll fragments were found. These are the first ancient biblical texts to be found in 60 years!

The Dead Sea Scrolls, first unearthed in the immediate aftermath of World War II in the caves near Qumran on the northern shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank, are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts that contain some of the earliest known Jewish religious documents, including biblical texts. Scholarly consensus dates the various scrolls from the last three centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Most of them were found between the years 1946–1956. These newest fragments are believed to have been hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago.

Think about that. These precious texts were hidden sometime between the years 132 and 136 A.D. and waited, preserved in a very dry, dark place, until they were uncovered this year.

Unlike most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written in Hebrew and Aramaic, theses newest fragments contain Greek letters. Scholars have determined that they come from a Greek translation of the Book of the Twelve in Hebrew — what we call the Minor Prophets.

This extraordinary discovery would have been mind-blowing no matter what. However, I was impacted on a completely different and unexpected level when I heard the interpretation of versus found of the largest fragment. They are from the prophet Zechariah and state: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate — declares the Lord.” (Zec 8:16–17)

Those verses stopped me in my tracks. What is a more profound message for young people — in fact our entire world — to hear right now? For the next few days all I could think about was how lies and deceit underpin most of the things that ail our world. In fact, the fall of mankind resulted from a lie spewed from the ancient serpent’s mouth.

Think of all that pain that comes from deception, thievery and false witness. It is no accident that Christ refers to enemies of truth as children of the devil, who “does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him” and is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). When people treat the truth as either unattainable, a joke or only something to be manipulated for a “higher good” we are simply asking for trouble.

Here’s what we can know for sure: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Nothing is more important than that. Truth, light and love are crucial in order for human beings to flourish. In this age of relativism, these verses found on the new Dead Sea Scrolls are not only the Word of God, ancient words of wisdom, but also indispensable advice for everyone alive today.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization

Jesus in Wilderness

A Lenten Reflection – Follow Jesus into the Desert

By David Cooley.

Lent is such a powerful time and if we open ourselves up to the graces of God it can be a time of great spiritual enrichment. Lent is so many things, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers us a concise reflection: “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (CCC, 540)

The mystery of Jesus in the desert is just that — a mystery — but that doesn’t mean revelation hasn’t given us a lot to ponder while reading over these intriguing passages. What is the desert first of all? More to the point, what is it not? Well, it’s not the Garden of Eden!

If Eden was a walled, beautiful garden where all your needs were met and the chaos of the wilderness was kept at bay, then the desert is its direct opposite. In his book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote that by going into the desert Jesus descends “into [all] the perils besetting mankind …” (p. 26).

Jesus had gone to the Jordan to be baptized by John in order to enter into solidarity with us sinners. The first thing the Holy Spirit does is lead him into the desert “to be tempted by the devil” (Matt 4:1). What this means is that the Lord subjected himself to all the risks and threats of human existence (cf. Heb 4:15). Ultimately, Jesus came to battle with the forces of evil and so, in the midst of his sojourn, he is met by the prince of evil himself.

But, before we get to the temptations of Christ, it is good to note that the spiritual implications of going to the desert are not all negative. We are meant to follow Jesus wherever he goes and if he goes into the desert, then we should too. Going to a desolate land, for us, means getting rid of all the noise and distractions that often come between us and God. We must rid our lives of clutter, focus on what is truly important, living simply enough so that we can hear God’s voice and find joy. Sin has a lot of negative consequences, and one of the more minor ones is that it complicates everything in our lives and leaves us trying to hide from God. Going into the desert is all about not hiding from what scares us and seeking God. With paradise lost, it is a place of reconciliation and healing.

Oftentimes, when we face temptation it is something that comes from within. Satan had to approach our Lord from the outside and because of this Scripture is able to give us a glimpse of Jesus’ struggle to stand against all the distortions of his mission. Remember that these temptations and the devil himself are with Jesus every step of the way to Calvary. Pope Benedict points out that the story of the temptations is an “anticipation that condenses into a single expression the struggle that he endured at every step of his mission.” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” p. 27)

In his book, “Life of Christ,” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen calls the temptations of Jesus “three short cuts from the Cross.” It is important to recognize the difference between temptation and sin. Since Jesus had a human nature he had to go through the human experience of withstanding temptation, but being tempted is not the same as giving into temptation. Archbishop Sheen wrote, “The temptations were meant to divert our Lord from his task of salvation through sacrifice. Instead of the Cross as a means of winning souls of men, Satan suggested three short cuts to popularity: an economic one, another based on marvels, and a third, which was political.” (“Life of Christ,” p. 67)

With the first temptation (Matt 4:3), Satan challenges Jesus to turn stones into bread. On the one hand, we can reflect on this as a temptation toward instant physical gratification. The virtue, then, we learn then from Jesus’ response is the importance of self-sacrifice. However, both Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Sheen go further with their interpretation and they see is as a temptation for Jesus to become the savior of the world by ending hunger. “If you solve the people’s physical, material needs they will not be able to resist following you.” To this Jesus answers that we have more than physical needs; we have spiritual needs as well (see Matt 4:4; cf. Deut 8:3).

Perhaps the second temptation to “Throw yourself down” and God will save you (Matt 4:6) is a manifestation of self-idolatry, the temptation to see one’s self as more important, better than others. Or, considering Jesus’ response that we should “not put the Lord, your God, to the test” (Matt 4:7; cf Deut 6:16), we can conclude that Jesus is telling us that God is not subject to our authority. We cannot call on him to prove himself by throwing his promises back in his face; we cannot ask him prove his existence by meeting our needs and satisfying our curiosities. God is not simply a magician or a genie waiting on our beck and call. In either case, Jesus shows us the importance of humility — accepting our place in the universe by recognizing that we do not have the mind of God.

Finally, Jesus is offered all the kingdoms of the world if he would just abandon the Father’s will and serve Satan. The third temptation proposes a short cut to glory, a chance to bypass the Cross and go right to kingship. Who can deny that it is so hard for human beings to resist an easy way out instead of following through with what is right? Satan wanted Christ to turn away from pain and suffering and let the kingdom of the world remain under the power of sin and death.

But, Jesus didn’t come to be Lord of the world, an earthly king; he came to redeem humanity. And the only way to do that was to take upon his shoulders sin and death and carry them to Calvary. There is no crown without the Cross. There is no way to get to the resurrection without the crucifixion.

After the Resurrection Christ says, “All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to me” (Matt 28:18). Only someone who has power in heaven has real, saving power. Power in virtue of his Resurrection presupposes the Cross, his death. The earthly kingdoms that Satan was able to put before the Lord will all pass away, but the glory of Christ — the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love — will never pass away.

The third temptation reminds us that the worship of false idols; the worship of power, politics and the idea that man can create a perfect world without God, is a dangerous proposition that inevitably leads to a tragic downfall. To worship Satan, to serve Satan, means you are a slave to sin. To worship God, to serve God, is true freedom. Jesus, for a third time, quotes Deuteronomy: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matt 4:10; cf. Deut 6:13).

After his 40 days in the desert, when he appeared to be in a weakened state, Satan tried to get Jesus to turn his back on his divine mission. He tried to get him to avoid the Cross and search for “a better way.” Christ is always the model we should follow. Those temptations didn’t make Jesus weaker, they made him stronger. If we follow Jesus into the desert these 40 days of Lent will help us prepare to battle the forces of evil as well.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.