Faithful families begin with ‘purposeful, persuasive, encouraging’ marriage preparation

By David Cooley.

At the request of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in Rome has prepared a document called “Catechumenal Pathways for Married Life,” which was recently translated into English. This document is an important step for the universal Church in moving toward a marriage preparation process that rises to the challenge of equipping couples with the tools they need to maneuver through modern trials. Additionally, this new approach comes with a recommendation for a process where members of the local Church and parish community continue to walk with newlyweds as they build their life together during the early years of their marriage.

Currently, many young couples spend far more time and effort preparing for their wedding day than they do preparing for their marriage. The consequences of that are often painful and can be disastrous. We can see that today’s “hedonistic mentality, which distorts the beauty and depth of human sexuality; a self-centeredness which makes it difficult to espouse the commitments of married life; a limited understanding of the gift of the Sacrament of Marriage, the meaning of spousal love, and its essence as an authentic vocation” has created a fragile state for marriages in society as a whole, “which puts at stake the personal fulfillment and happiness of a great many lay faithful around the world” (CPMF #3).

A loving response from the Church is to recognize all of this, instruct young couples properly, provide the means for a more thorough and Christ-centered preparation for the sacrament marriage, and accompany them as they begin to live out their life-long vocation.

While it is exciting that the Holy Father is asking dioceses all over the world to develop their own pastoral approach to marriage preparation — an approach that is “purposeful, persuasive, encouraging, and fully oriented toward emphasizing the good and beautiful aspects of married life” (#20) — the development and implementation of such a robust catechumenal model will take some time and a great deal of effort.

One of the first challenges will be changing the hearts and minds of young adults about the importance of the sacrament of marriage and recognizing it as a vocation — a path to holiness that encompasses a person’s entire life. If the prospect of marriage is taken seriously, we can help couples invest the proper amount of time, consider what they need to consider, and reflect on what they need to reflect on before taking sacred vows. I have witnessed too many couples and their families simply looking for the quickest and easiest way of satisfying “bureaucratic” requirements to get married “in the Church.”

Another challenge will be the flexibility needed to allow at least a full 12 months for the catechumenate model. More time will need to be invested in the spiritual preparation for marriage and the building up of the couple’s relationship with Christ. While this will certainly be difficult — asking couples to consider a longer engagement period — it is necessary if we want to see any real change in how people live out married life. Couples coming to the Catholic Church to be married are always coming from many different places on their spiritual journey and we have to meet them wherever they are; but we must challenge them to move closer to Christ and remind them of Bishop Fulton Sheen’s words: “It takes three to get married.”

Before the release of “Catechumenal Pathways,” at the June 2021 Plenary Assembly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved and published a document “Called to the Joy of Love,” which lays out a national pastoral framework for dioceses to start moving forward to better serve and assist couples discerning the sacrament of marriage. These two documents complement and reinforce each other.

Marriage preparation is an issue that should matter to all of us. The future of the family is the future of the Church. We need strong marriages to have strong families. We need strong families to spread the faith. We need families to spread the Gospel and build up the Church if we are going to be any help to the world. Pope John Paul II said, “The future of humanity passes by the way of the family.” It is time to double down on the importance of family life ministry and marriage preparation.

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

Catholic School

Catholic Schools — ‘What are you looking for?’

By David Cooley.

There are three moments from the Gospels that I reflect on often. These are moments when Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them very poignant questions. These three questions from Jesus are meant for all of us and we should return to them often.

The first question is: “Who do you say that I am?” from the Gospel of Mark (8:29).

The world has many opinions and images of Jesus Christ, but it all comes down to what we say about him and how well we really know him and nurture our relationship with him. What place does he have in our hearts and lives? Do we know him and love him so much that we can’t help but spread the Gospel to others?

The second question Jesus asks us is: “Will you also go away?” This is from the Gospel of John (6:67).

It is a sad fact that many people walk away from their Catholic faith. While it is true to say that it is not easy being Catholic these days, it’s also true that it has never been easy. It’s difficult, and so many give up.

I have spoken to a lot of people who have left their faith behind — left the Church — and I have surmised three main reasons why people go. Most of the time they are scandalized by the behavior of others. This is often understandable — think of the sex abuse crisis and other failures of the members of the Body of Christ. Any way you look at it, hypocrisy is a very powerful roadblock for people when they are trying to get to know and have a relationship with God.

Another reason people leave is that their own behaviors drive them away (even if it is on a subconscious level). Usually nobody is harder on us than we are on ourselves. We recognize that we are unable to live up to the life we are called to. We are not conditioned for the great Christian adventure, our faith is weak, and we don’t trust fully in the grace of God. We know we can’t do it, so why even try — it’s impossible, and so we leave.

A final reason people leave is a result of one or many of the “hard teachings.” Common examples are the Eucharist, the dogmas of Mary, the primacy of the pope as the successor of St. Peter, etc. It was the Eucharist that Jesus was teaching about when many walked away from him prompting him to ask the few remaining if they were going to walk away too. Let’s face it, it’s hard to believe that Jesus gives us his body and blood to nourish our souls, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The Catholic Church safeguards the hard teachings of Christ and no matter how much some people want them to change, they never will.

So back to that second question from Jesus. When I am having a hard time handling what I hear in the news about the Catholic Church and I see the failures of all of us who are supposed to be God’s hands and his feet; when I am struggling with my faith, questioning if I really believe, and wondering if all of this is worth it; I can hear Jesus ask me, “Are you going to leave me, too?” On my hardest days my answer is simply the same as Peter’s: “To whom (to where) shall I go?”

The third question comes from the moment in the Gospel of John when Andrew and John first run up to Jesus and he turns to them to say: “What do you seek?” in other translations he says, “What are you looking for?” (1:38).

Believers and non-believers alike can start with this question. What is it that we are looking for? Why are we here? What do we want out of life? Most people will eventually recognize that we are all striving for happiness. But, how can human beings find happiness, everlasting joy? Ultimately, it circles back to that first question: who do you say Jesus is?

So, when it comes to the education of our children, what should we be looking for in a school?

My answer is a school not afraid to explore the big questions of life, such as: Who am I? What is the meaning of life? How am I supposed to live, and why?; a school that recognizes that there is a right and a wrong, good and evil, and that children need to be challenged to live a moral life so that they can flourish and promote the common good; a school where not only is a child allowed to pray — it’s essential. My answer is a thoroughly Catholic school.

When a Catholic school is living up to its name it will help students answer those three straightforward questions from Jesus in a way that enables them to discover who they really are, reach their fullest potential, and bear witness to God’s glory in a world that has been turned upside down. Catholic students need a strong foundation that will help them know and love their Catholic faith, ensuring that they won’t leave Christ when times get tough.

Catholic schools are different from all other schools because faith stands at the center. It is a community of believers striving to know God and live out their faith. A Catholic school adheres faithfully to the teachings of Christ and embraces its mission of bringing the faith to others in service of the Church and the world.

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

John Paul II

John Paul II and the Rhapsodic Theater

By David Cooley.

The Church recently celebrated the feast day of Pope St. John Paul II on Oct. 22, which is the anniversary of the liturgical inauguration of his papacy in 1978. There is a story about John Paul II from when he was young man that I have always found inspiring.

By the time he was 21 years’ old Karol Wojtyła’s entire immediate family was dead, and his country was occupied by Nazis. He and his people were exiled in their own land. Their home was transformed into something unrecognizable and, during that occupation and later the Communist occupation, the Polish people were forced to deny their values and their beloved culture completely.

Karol Wojtyła’s response to this was two-fold. He secretly (since it was against the law) entered the seminary, answering a burning call from the Lord to become a priest, and he helped establish an underground (secret) group called the Rhapsodic Theater. The focus of this group was a “cultural resistance” against those that occupied his homeland.

Through the celebration of beauty and identity, Karol, and his friends — the Rhapsodists — fought to keep Polish history, faith, and tradition alive. Under dire circumstances, they focused on the things that the occupiers couldn’t take away. If they had been caught, they would have been killed, but they were simply willing to risk everything for what they knew was good, true, and beautiful.

There is so much we can learn from that future pope and his Rhapsodic Theater.

It can be disheartening to be a Catholic in the 21st century. Our faith, and really our culture as a whole, is challenged at every turn. The tenants of our faith, the teachings of the Catholic Church, do not mesh well with today’s secular society. Catholics are essentially strangers in a strange land, sojourners away from their true home.

It is our responsibility to preserve our heritage and pass it on for those who come after us. So, what are a few practical things we can do, as Catholics, to keep our culture alive?

First and foremost — we must pray! We need to develop this habit and we need to form others in the habit as well. Make time to pray together as a family, at least before meals and before bedtime. Designate times for family rosaries and Scripture studies. Pray publicly and invite others to join you. Make Mass and the sacrament of penance a priority in your life.

Second, learn Church history. There are so many good resources out there — books, movies, documentaries. We have so much to be proud of and we need to make sure the next generation of Catholics know that. It is time for us to focus on how blessed we are, and how proud we should be to be Catholic.

Third, learn to view the world through the eyes of faith and teach young people this art form. For example, no matter what students are learning in school — literature, math, science, or history — it can be approached through a Catholic worldview. Even the news of the day can be viewed in the context of Salvation history.

Next, never miss the easy teaching moments, especially on holy days and feast days. Halloween is coming up, and I’ll bet a lot of children are excited about that. But do they know what “All Hallows Eve” means? Make sure they know about All Saints Day and All Souls Day and why we have Halloween in the first place. Don’t let the culture tell them that it is an ancient pagan holiday (they’ll do the same thing with Christmas and Easter if you let them). They are wrong — everything revolves around Christ, and we need to point that out again and again. If these celebrations and traditions were strictly pagan, they would have fallen into the dust pile of oblivion a long time ago.

Finally, take time to explore works by Catholic artists, whether visual arts, theater, music, literature, or movies. Here you will find the highest quality of expressions of mankind’s search for the transcendent. And, just as important, we need Catholics today to use their talents in all these fields to create new works for our contemporary and future generations.

These are just a few quick examples, and there are many more. We must focus more on what is in our control and less on what is out of our control.

We must not become discouraged. If young Karl Wojtyła and his friends were able to subvert a totalitarian regime with little more than righteous defiance and powerful words, think of what we can do in our own time and place today. Albeit on a smaller scale, the Rhapsodic Theater did the same thing that the Catholic monasteries did for Western civilization during the so-called dark ages — namely, keep the light of Christ alive. We are all called to do the same thing no matter in what situation we find ourselves. Even though the world will keep trying to snuff them out, people will always be attracted to goodness, truth, and beauty.

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


Catholic schools are designed to teach virtues and form saints

By David Cooley.

The beginning of a new school year is both exciting and overwhelming. There is so much to do, and when there is so much to do it becomes even more important for us to focus on what really matters.

The mission of the Catholic Church is to form disciples for Jesus Christ and our Catholic schools, more than any other system in place, provide a privileged way for countless young people to encounter the Lord. What a tremendous, awesome responsibility we all have!

Catholic schools don’t exist to form engineers, mathematicians, lawyers, athletes, artists, or even good citizens—although those are some positive outcomes for students. Catholic schools exist for nothing less than to create saints.

And what are saints? Simply put, saints are heroes who live virtuous lives in a challenging world despite all the obstacles.

How can Catholic schools, practically speaking, approach such a huge undertaking as forming saints and changing the world? The answer couldn’t be clearer — by primarily focusing on heroic Christian virtues!

No matter where we are, or whether we are teachers or students, principals or parents, coaches, or guidance counselors, the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, and the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity must always be on the forefront of our minds.

Perhaps, these days, we hear a lot about faith, hope, and charity, but not so much about prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. These four Christian virtues have the power to change any atmosphere.

Prudence helps us to recognize our limits but also to discover the concrete means of putting our faith into action. Sometimes when we start something new, we take on too much at first and get burned out too quickly. If we get our priorities straight, center on prayer, and put God first in our lives, everything else should fall into place. Prudence is the virtue that will help us slow down and recognize our need for prayer and the sacred.

Temperance is so important today, for example, when it comes to our relationship with technology. The technology that exists today gives us a lot of power and leaves us with numerous distractions. It also provides a temptation to focus more and more on ourselves and to be less attentive to others. Unfortunately, Technology seems to be taking over many lives and leaving people, especially children, feeling empty and sad.

Temperance, while helping us seek excellence in enjoyable things, calls us to a moderation that protects our interior life and opens a way to contemplation. Today’s world tells us that all suffering must be avoided at all costs, but when pleasures and possessions become an end to themselves, they become idols that turn us away from God. We must limit our wants as best we can and teach young people to do the same. We could all spend a little more time (or a lot more time) in Eucharistic adoration.

Fortitude — Christian Bravery — is so important and will, ultimately, bring people back to God. We must not be afraid to preach and live the Gospel every day. Students in Catholic schools must learn to be the salt of the earth and a sign of contradiction for the world — the Lord did not ask us to avoid having enemies, just to love them. We need less “cool kids”, “influencers”, and “bullies”, and more Christian heroes who stand up for what is good, true, and beautiful.

Founded on their faith in God, students must have the courage to confront the contemptuous laughter and ridicule of those that conform to the ways of the world. They should learn through the examples of their parents and teachers to be brave witnesses, filled with joy and love for the Lord. The strength of Catholics comes from the truth of Christ. We have nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.

Finally, when we talk about justice, first and foremost, we must recognize that it is right and just to worship God, to love Him with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength. Gratitude for our lives, and the blessings in our lives, is the first step in seeking justice. From there we begin to understand what we have been given and what it means to give others—made in the image and likeness of God—their due. We also must come to the realization that not passing on our faith is unjust to others. If we keep the Gospel from those we love, we are doing them a great disservice. We cannot let our own shortcomings and ignorance prevent us from passing on what is ideal.

These are just a few short reflections that barely begin to scratch the surface of the importance of Christian virtues that can serve as a springboard for a blessed school year. Even as the world gets more complicated and confusing, the answers lie in the constant wisdom of the ages.  Students at Catholic schools must be formed to see the world through the eyes of faith. They must be strengthened by the sacraments.

As the world continues to organize itself more and more against God, our Catholic school communities must not be content to just make a little room for Him on the calendar but determine to place Him at the center of everything. That is how others will come to recognize what it is that makes Catholic schools so different, and they will desperately want to be a part of it. Let us be ready to open the doors because we can never have too many saints!

SUMMIT22 — youth and young adults invited to experience the Eucharistic mountain

By David Cooley.

Last year at SUMMIT21 over 200 attendees shared a powerful three-day experience together centered on the Eucharist. This year, teens and young adults, ages 13 to 22, are invited to the state-of-the-art Covington Catholic High School campus, Oct. 7–9, for SUMMIT22.

The weekend retreat (Friday 6:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sunday 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.) is designed to lead young people to Christ through prayer and instruction before the Blessed Sacrament. SUMMIT22 is designed to respond to the call of Pope Francis to prepare young people to live and proclaim the Gospel in a world that desperately needs it.

This past June on Corpus Christi Sunday — the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ — the United States bishops launched a national Eucharistic Revival — a three-year initiative to help God’s people understand the extraordinary gift we have been given in the Eucharist. SUMMIT22 is a perfect and profound way for youth and adults to prayerfully begin this grace-filled time centered around the mystery of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

The Eucharist is the “source and summit of Christian life.” All blessings flow from the Eucharist, and it is a foretaste of heaven – the goal of Christian life. In the Blessed Sacrament Christ is truly Emmanuel — “God with us” — giving us the grace we need to become the saints we are called to be.

Fittingly, a summit is a large gathering of people coming together for a singular purpose, and SUMMIT22 is an assembly of God’s people coming together to pray before the Eucharist and grow in their relationship with Christ. However, a summit is also the highest point of a hill or mountain that one can reach.

In our lives we have “mountain” experiences and “valley” experiences. SUMMIT22 is intended to be a spiritual mountain experience for those who attend. In the Gospel Jesus would often go off to a mountain to separate himself from the crowds and be close to his Father in heaven. SUMMIT22 is an opportunity for young people to separate from everyday life and mundane routines.

There was a time in the Gospel when Jesus did not go to a mountain alone. Jesus brought Peter, James and John to a mountain, where they were given just a glimpse of his glory. Naturally, they wanted to stay there at the summit, but they were called to come down from the mountain and go out to be salt of the earth and light for the world.

Those who attend SUMMIT22 — just as all of those who meet Christ in the Eucharist — are also called to mission. We are called to receive Jesus and then bring him out into world. The Eucharist is both the source of our strength and the summit of our desires.

In years past the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal led this event (formally called YOUTH 2000). This year the diocesan team is excited to welcome the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from Cleveland, Ohio, to help to discover more of the love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. As consecrated women, the sisters extend their Eucharistic Mercedarian spirit of adoration and praise to Jesus in the Eucharist, and filial love and devotion to Our Lady of Mercy, Mother of the Redeemer, all over the world.

Attendees of SUMMIT22 can expect a prayerful experience with music, meditations and Eucharistic adoration. There will be dynamic talks and testimonies, as well as a Catholic expert panel that will entertain any and all questions about the Catholic faith. There will be prayer services, the sacrament of confession and holy Mass, including Mass Saturday evening celebrated by Bishop John Iffert. There will be food, fun, fellowship and more.

In a world full of noise drowning out the call to holiness, and in a landscape that is secular, materialistic and hostile toward Christian values, followers of Christ need a place where they can withdraw from the crowds and focus on what really matters in life. SUMMIT22 is that place. It is never too early or too late to learn to let go of things that are passing away in this world, and hold fast to the things that are eternal.

Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Queen Mother

By David Cooley.

Among the many beautiful Marian feast days of the Church — such as Mary the Mother of God, the Annunciation, the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception — the feast of Mary’s Queenship, established by Pope Pius XII in 1954, often goes by unnoticed. We celebrated recently celebrated the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Aug. 22.

There seems to be a reluctance to apply the title “queen” to the Blessed Virgin. Some seem to think it’s passe, almost a medieval form of praise. On top of that, in America, we are not very familiar or comfortable with kingships and queenships, due to our democratic sensibilities. And the most likely reason for people’s reluctance to claim Mary as our queen is to avoid those misunderstandings among our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters. One of the biggest misconceptions about Catholics is that they worship Mary, as opposed to loving and honoring her. Even among theologians it is argued that the title of “queen” evokes more of a Mariology of privilege rather than a Mariology of service.

However, the nature of Mary’s regality is not only rooted in Scripture (both New and Old Testaments), but also has important theological implications that have been explored throughout Church history.

At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” Christ is king of all creation and Mary is closely associated with her son — her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship.

In the Old Testament we have the fascinating figure of the Queen Mother. In ancient times, the mother of an heir to the throne or of a young king had a great influence in the royal court. In the Davidic kingdom, the mother of the king held an official position in which she shared in her son’s reign and served as an advocate for the people and as a counselor for her son. For us we think of a queen as the wife of a king, but the queen mother of Israel was their most powerful, and therefore preferred, advocate. Her specific place of honor and intercession is dramatically illustrated in 1 Kings 2:13-21.

The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 involves the sign of a queen mother who will conceive and bear the future Davidic King — Immanuel. The queen-mother figure also seems to appear prototypically in Genesis 3:15, which associates a mother and her royal offspring in the context of God’s kingdom.

Applied to Mary, we recognize that she is closely related to Christ’s kingship and her whole being is involved in the spread of his kingdom. In contrast to many historical queen mothers, Mary did not seek the throne for her son because of any personal ambition. Her ministry was one of service, to the point of sacrificing her motherly rights for our sake.

As Queen Mother, Mary never rules in Christ’s stead; she does not command her son, yet it gives him joy to fulfill her wishes. Her authority in the kingdom is authentic but always dependent on the King. (Cf. John 2:5. “Do whatever He tells you.”) Mary’s queenly function consists in interceding on our behalf. It is anchored in her early role as Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the redeemed.

The feast of Mary’s Queenship is celebrated on the octave day of the feast of the Assumption. The coronation of Mary connects to her Assumption into heaven. While the assumption has been the object of dogmatic definition (1950), the coronation of Mary is a traditional devotion. The coronation points to the Marian title of “queen,” known in Christianity since from the beginning of the fourth century.

Her queenship is an an indication of her excellence based primarily on her role as the Mother of Jesus Christ, “Theotokos,” and as “the all holy one” (“panagia”). As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king until the end of time (Matt 28:20), so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth.

The Second Vatican Council, perched on hundreds and hundreds of years of tradition, reaffirmed authoritatively the doctrine of Mary’s queenship: “When her earthly life was over,” she was “exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son.” (Lumen Gentium n. 59)

The coronation of Mary was the outcome of Mary’s journey of discipleship. At the end of her earthly life, she was borne to the Kingdom of her beloved Son (cf. Col 1:13) and received for her faithfulness “the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10; cf. 1 Cor 9:25) This outcome has universal significance because the Blessed Virgin, now having attained fullness of freedom and full communion with Christ, is the icon of the advance of the Church and of all of history and creation, as it moves forward toward becoming “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1; cf. Is 65:17), God’s dwelling, in which “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.” (Rev 21:4; cf. Is 25:8)

Pope St. John Paul II saw the Assumption of Mary into heaven as the ultimate exaltation of the noble “Daughter of Zion,” and he associated her assumption with her established queenly position. He states that Christ raises his mother to be eternally glorified as “Queen of the Universe.” We recognize Christ as the ultimate Davidic king — the realization of everything Israel and the whole world could hope for, ushering in the kingdom of God — and by his side is the Queen Mother. And, just as the Queen Mother found in the Old Testament (cf. Jer 13:18; 1 Kg 2:19), was granted the office of sitting beside her king son and mediating on behalf of the people, the Virgin Mary, our Holy Queen, speaks on our behalf to her Son, our King. In this heavenly role, she serves as a protector to us all.

Mary’s Queenship, like her Son’s kingship, is one of love and service, not pomp and power (John 18:36; Matt 20:20). The roots of Mary’s Queenship are to be found in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, which is a mystery of self-giving, death and resurrection and ascension — the reaching of glory through humility.

Hail, Holy Queen!


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.