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Vatican City, Oct 1, 2014 / 04:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Law professors, family advocates and clergy have asked those participating in the upcoming synod of bishops to consider how best to help couples understand and live their marriages, in light of such negative family trends as divorce, cohabitation, and pornography.

More than 40 academics signed the open letter, which has been sent to the Holy Father and to the cardinals and bishops participating in the upcoming Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.

“Men and women need desperately to hear the truth about why they should get married in the first place,” the letter states. “And, once married, why Christ and the Church desire that they should remain faithful to each other throughout their lives on this earth.”

The letter said that men and women need to know that in times of marital difficulty the Church will be “a source of support, not just for individual spouses, but for the marriage itself.”

The synod of bishops will meet in Rome Oct. 5-19, as a preparatory meeting for the 2015 bishops’ synod; it is intended to focus on the pastoral challenges facing the family “in the context of evangelization.”

While much of the media coverage preceding the synod has focused on the question of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, the open letter pointed to a much broader array of marriage and family issues.

Signatories of the letter to the upcoming synod include academics, priests and Catholic speakers, as well as non-Catholics, such as Protestant minister Rick Warren. Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, signed the letter, as did Virginia psychologist Hilary Towers.

Also among the signers are Princeton law professor Robert George; Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See; Notre Dame professor Gerard Bradley; and other academics from Italy, Spain, Chile, Australia, the U.K., and Ireland.

Other signatories are public policy commentators such as Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation; Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute; Mary Eberstadt of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Patrick Fagan of the Family Research Council; and David Quinn of the Iona Institute.

The letter said that the family is, with the Church, “the greatest institutional manifestation of Christ’s love.”

“For those who wish to love as He would have us love, marriage and the family are indispensable, both as vehicles of salvation and as bulwarks of human society.”

The letter suggested that married couples and their children can be evangelized through building “small communities of married couples who support each other unconditionally in their vocations to married life.”

“These communities would provide networks of support grounded in the bonds of faith and family, commitment to lifelong marriage, and responsibility to and for each other.”

The letter cited “dramatic increases” in cohabitation, divorce, and non-marital childbearing in the Americas, Europe and Oceania in recent decades. The U.S. marriage rate is at an all-time low, cohabitation is increasingly acceptable, and more than half of births to U.S. women under age 30 take place outside of marriage, it notes. Close to half of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.

These trends are linked to poverty, especially for women and children. The trends also appear to be evident around the world.

The letter said there are “significant” social costs to pornography and to “no fault” divorce laws that help dissolve marriages, “often against the will of spouses who stand firm in their marital commitment.”

The letter suggested that the Pontifical Council on the Family should respond to the “marriage crisis” by conducting “cross-discipline, longitudinal research” on the role of pornography and “no fault” divorce. Other suggestions included seminary courses covering social science's evidence on the benefits of marriage and the consequences of divorce and cohabitation on society.

Signatories suggested that regular prayers be said for “strong, faithful marriages,” and that more homilies address the spiritual and social value of marriage, and that more work be done to educate Catholics about the influences of both good marriages and divorces on their family and friends.

The letter also said more should be done to encourage and support the reconciliation of separated or divorced spouses. Further, it encouraged support efforts to preserve “what is right and just in existing marriage laws” and to resist “any changes” that would further weaken marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

“To accomplish any of these goals on an international scale would be a great step forward for marriages and families. To accomplish them all may turn the worldwide marriage crisis on its head.”

“With your leadership we will help marriages to succeed and flourish by placing the greatest value on marital commitment - at every level of society, in every corner of the world.”
 

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Cordoba, Spain, Oct 1, 2014 / 02:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With the Synod on the Family just days away, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cautioned against deconstructing the Gospel message to make it artificially easy.

“We can talk a lot about God, and in the end, do so without faith,” warned Cardinal Gerhard Mueller during a Sept. 28 Mass at the cathedral in Cordoba, where he delivered an address on St. John of Avila.

“We can 'deconstruct' the Gospel and Tradition and remake them to the liking of today's world, making their demands easy and accommodating them to the fragile, superficial, immature and post-modern man.”

However, he cautioned, if we were to deprive ourselves “of the chance to confront our lives with the divine Word, we would also lose the chance to enjoy the authentic happiness that Christ brings, who did not come to take away the crosses of life but to make our burden lighter and to encourage us to always do the will of God.”

We encounter the Lord's company “on the road that leads to Easter” and not in a watered-down form of Christianity that makes no demands, he said.

“Only Christ and his love can make the cross of illness, of a job loss, of loneliness and widowhood, of infidelity or the failure of marriage, less burdensome,” the cardinal explained.

He also stressed the importance of defending life, the family and religious freedom.

“The family should be firmly defended as the place and environment in which each person is filled with love and grows in his or efforts and willingness to sacrifice,” he said.

“The duality between man and woman is necessary for the constitution of a marriage and a family, and no child should be deprived of his natural right to have a father and a mother.”

Citing St. John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus Annus, Cardinal Mueller underscored the defense of “the right to life, of which the right of a child to grow up under the heart of a mother is an integral part.”

He noted that “the Christian promotion of the rights of man is clear with regards to the information and construction of a collective conscience, in everything related to the questions of the inviolability of human life, seeking to influence the norms and laws aimed at defending life.”

The Church stands up for the dignity of each person, “as the foundation of life in common for all people of different beliefs,” he said.

“On the basis of natural law, the Church, in close union with other social groups, must confront the State or certain totalitarian ideologies that seek to suppress or eliminate religion or freedom of conscience, as the Second Vatican Council made clear in its Declaration on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae,” the cardinal explained.
 

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On October 1, Catholics around the world honor the life of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, or St. Thérèse of Lisieux on her feast day.  St. Thérèse was born January 2, 1873 in Alençon, France to pious parents, both who have been declared venerable by Pope John Paul II. Her mother died when she was four, leaving her father and elder sisters to raise her. On Christmas Day 1886 St. Thérèse had a profound experience of intimate union with God, which she described as a “complete conversion.â€�  Almost a year later, in a papal audience during a pilgrimage to Rome, in 1887, she asked for and obtained permission from Pope Leo XIII to enter the Carmelite Monastery at the young age of 15. On entering, she devoted herself to living a life of holiness, doing all things with love and childlike trust in God. She struggled with life in the convent, but decided to make an effort to be charitable to all, especially those she didn’t like. She performed little acts of charity always, and little sacrifices not caring how unimportant they seemed.  These acts helped her come to a deeper understanding of her vocation. She wrote in her autobiography that she had always dreamed of being a missionary, an Apostle, a martyr – yet she was a nun in a quiet cloister in France. How could she fulfill these longings? “Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places...in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love...my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!â€� Thérèse offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God on June 9, 1895, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity and the following year, on the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, she noticed the first symptoms of Tuberculosis, the illness which would lead to her death. Thérèse recognized in her illness the mysterious visitation of the divine Spouse and welcomed the suffering as an answer to her offering the previous year.  She also began to undergo a terrible trial of faith which lasted until her death a year and a half later.  “Her last words, ‘My God, I love you,’ are the seal of her life,â€� said Pope John Paul II. Since her death, millions have been inspired by her ‘little way’ of loving God and neighbor. Many miracles have been attributed to her intercession. She had predicted during her earthly life that “My Heaven will be spent doing good on Earth.â€� Saint Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997 - 100 years after her death at the age of 24. She is only the third woman to be so proclaimed, after Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila. St. Thérèse wrote once, 'You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them."
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First Reading - Job 9: 1-12, 14-16
10/1/2014 12:00:00 AM
1 And Job answered, and said: 2 Indeed I know it is so, and that man cannot be justified compared with God. 3 If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one for a thousand. 4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath resisted him, and hath had peace? 5 Who hath removed mountains, and they whom he overthrew in his wrath, knew it not.6 Who shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. 7 Who commandeth tile sun and it riseth not: and shutteth up the stars as it were under a seal: 8 Who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and walketh upon the waves of the sea. 9 Who maketh Arcturus, and Orion, and Hyades, and the inner parts of the south. 10 Who doth things great and incomprehensible, and wonderful, of which there is no number.11 If he come to me, I shall not see him: if he depart I shall not understand. 12 If he examine on a sudden, who shall answer him? or who can say: Why dost thou so? 14 What am I then, that I should answer him, and have words with him? 15 I, who although I should have any just thing, would not answer, but would make supplication to my judge.16 And if he should hear me when I call, I should not believe that he had heard my voice. 
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