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Lincoln, Neb., Sep 19, 2014 / 07:33 am (CNA).- Preparation for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony begins with family life in the home long before a couple has met, said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., and this fact cannot be overlooked in addressing the prevalence of divorce.

“I’ve learned in nearly thirty years of ministry, that no priest can adequately prepare a couple for marriage in the months he spends with them before the wedding,” he said in a Sept. 19 column for CNA. “Real preparation for marriage begins in the home – in the witness of loving and married parents who embrace the holy vocation of family life.”

Although the priest’s duty in counseling a couple seeking marriage in the Church is to help them “embrace the sacrificial call of marriage” and to “reject the lies of the world about false relationships” – namely, contraception, divorce, cohabitation and “trial marriage,” the priest only has a few months with them, whereas a person’s family has years with them.

Formation as a faithful spouse – and formation for any vocation – begins in the home where the child is “taught to believe in the merciful and trustworthy God.”

He noted that many people today come from broken homes where such love is not modeled, making it difficult for a priest to convey the importance and sanctity of marriage in a short amount of time before a couple is married.

“Broken families beget more broken families, broken marriages beget more broken marriage,” Bishop Conley said.

Next month’s Synod of Bishops in Rome will focus on matters of family life. Leading up to the event, much attention has been given in the media and commentaries to the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics.

Bishop Conley said that divorce is a “symptom of the culture of death” and that if we wish to prevent it, the Church needs to address both family life and marriage preparation.

“In short, if we want to overcome the culture of death, we must do it by attacking the problem at the root – by allowing Jesus Christ to heal families.”

Bishop Conley hopes that the upcoming synod will “help families encounter Jesus Christ” no matter what their situation and that it will encourage pastors to examine marriage and family life “as seriously as the Church prepares young men for priesthood, or young men and women for consecrated life.”  

“In the midst of broken families, it is the Church who must shoulder much of the responsibility for preparing couples to embrace the cross of married life,” he said.

Closing with a quote from Pope Francis’ homily at the marriage of 20 couples at the Vatican last week, Bishop Conley reminded readers that families are the “bricks” that make up society.

To read the full column, click here.


Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic CrossFit gym in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, is bringing a whole new meaning to redemptive suffering.

Oversized white boards typical to CrossFit gyms hang on the walls of Divine Mercy Fitness. Not so typical to CrossFit gyms are the prayer intentions scrawled across the board alongside the description of the day's workout.

“You can offer up your suffering during the workout for souls,” explained member Father Brian Larkin.

In addition to its prayer intentions board, other indicators of the gym's Catholic roots include scripture verses along the walls and icons. An image of Divine Mercy serves as a backdrop to exercise equipment. Priests work out alongside laity, and members start each workout with a prayer.

Monsignor Tom Fryar, a member at the gym, described the atmosphere at Divine Mercy Fitness as spiritual and uplifting.

“It's a supporting setting for people to come together and know they're doing something good; not only for themselves, but beyond,” he said.

Divine Mercy Fitness started in 2008 in the house garage of owner Steve Smith. The current location opened in 2009 in an industrial section of southeast Denver. Besides daily classes, Divine Mercy Fitness offers Olympic lifting training, neuromuscular therapy and a “Women on Weights” program tailored for women battling osteoporosis.

Though the gym is open and available for all people, Smith told CNA he has a special outreach to priests and seminarians.

“They do so much work on spiritual formation and education; and a lot of times they don't have the emphasis on their physical bodies,” Smith said. “We all know it's soul, body and mind; and when you leave one out, the others suffer.”

“And so my goal is simply to have a place that is safe, in terms of dress, and is just appropriate for priests to be exposed to – versus (other gyms) where you have a whole bunch of inappropriate things going on.”

Fr. Larkin has been a member at Divine Mercy Fitness since day one, when he was still a seminarian. He told CNA he is grateful to have access to a gym that gives him a good workout without compromising his faith.

“As a Christian, it can be hard to go to the gym sometimes; especially as a priest,” he explained. “It's almost like Divine Mercy is redeeming the workout culture.”

“I love to work out, I think it's really important and I think it makes you happier and healthier. (But) some of the fitness culture – in fact, almost all of it in our country – is broken. It's characterized by vanity and by lust, quite frankly. There can also be a pride that comes with physical fitness.”

Smith's personal goal is to help 100 priests and seminarians get physically fit. So far, he's had more than a dozen.

“The hard part is taking the time to do it,” he said. “We try to convince the priests who have a hard time to really come in.”

Another typical barrier to fitness, and CrossFit in particular, is cost. Membership at Divine Mercy Fitness has an initial fee of $250 for those who are new to the CrossFit movement. After that, membership costs $125 each month for access to the gym three times a week.

But, for priests and seminarians, membership is free. Smith pays out of his own pocket.

“There's no way I could do it without Steve being so generous toward priests and seminarians,” Fr. Larkin said. “That wasn't something we approached him about. It was his initiative and he's being doing it since...they were still running the gym out of their garage.”

“I think the Church is healthier when its priests are healthier, so it's a great service that Steve and his family are giving to priests.”

Msgr. Fryar said he can see the difference in his ministry since he started working out regularly at Divine Mercy Fitness several years ago.

“I've certainly got more energy to carry out my full days,” he explained. “Quite often, I start the day around 5 and hopefully get in bed by 11. Every bit of energy you can have, it all helps.”

Fr. Larkin echoed Msgr. Fryar's comments.

“Working out helps me to be joyful in being a priest,” he said. “It helps me be the man I'm supposed to be to serve my parish.”

Smith is looking for donors to assist in covering membership costs of the priests and seminarians who walk through the doors of Divine Mercy Fitness. Those who are interested can find more information at www.divinemercyfitness.com.



Seeing the Face of Christ in the Poor

Each Sunday, we hear St. Vincent’s name mentioned along with St. Louis and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne during the Eucharistic prayers. St. Louis we know was the King of France. We know St. Rose was a teacher and brought education to all children, especially the Native American Indians. We have heard of St. Vincent and we know he is associated with the poor and that the St. Vincent de Paul Society provides resources to those in need. St. Vincent was involved in the formation of priests and set up missionaries to go out among ordinary people and tell them about Jesus. About 150 years after his death, his missionaries came to the St. Louis area. They asked his intercession on their great mission of reaching out to the people in the wilderness of St. Louis, asking him to be our patron. 

In 1581, St. Vincent de Paul was born to poor farmers. He was the third son and learned how to tend the animals. His father thought this would be good for him, but Vincent was smart and everyone noticed. The neighbors convinced his father to send him to school and let one of his other brothers tend the animals. Therefore, Vincent went away to school. He got along very well and taught others. His teaching ability would become an asset to him and allow him many opportunities to bring others to Christ. Although, he lived almost 500 years ago, St. Vincent had a very interesting life. While making a journey by boat to a new city where he was assigned, St. Vincent was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. After years as a slave, his master decided to help him escape and chose to go with him. St. Vincent’s Christian example would lead his master to repent and return to the Catholic Church. 

The St. Vincent de Paul Chapel at the Cardinal Rigali Center

Everywhere St. Vincent lived and worked the example of his life would bring others to Christ. He was a tutor in a very rich household. He affected the parents of the children he tutored. In the 1500’s, dueling was the answer to any offense. Honor was everything. One day, the father of his students was in church praying before going off to duel. St. Vincent convinced the father that taking another’s life in a duel was cruel and God did not approve. The father amended his ways and followed the example of St. Vincent. The father and mother became St. Vincent’s greatest supporters and after the mother’s death, the father would go on to become a priest. 

This was the effect St. Vincent had on people. People would change their behaviors and amend their ways to live according to the church doctrines and follow the ways of Christ. St. Vincent had no desire to be rich or famous. Although he had influential friends, he was happy to stay working with the poor in every community. In a time when people lived extravagant lives with no regard to how the poor people lived, he would remind them of the vast differences in lifestyles. He found priests to be missionaries and formed Lady’s Charities. While volunteering for these charities, wealthier women would work alongside not so wealthy women to feed and shelter the poor. They founded hospitals and orphanages. Where there was a need, St. Vincent found ways to go to these people and meet them where they were. One day he decided to visit the prisoners who served their sentence rowing the large ships. The inhumane way in which these prisoners were treated saddened and shocked him. He appealed to the ship owners and gained permission to take care of these men. It was difficult work, but St. Vincent managed again to con-vert souls and bring more people to the Church. He said to his followers, “Love makes us see God and nothing else but God in each of those whom we love.” St. Vincent gave his life for others and taught everyone by his exam-ple. 

Each month our Pope has special intentions. He has general and missionary intentions. In September 2012, he asked God to send: “Help for the poorest Churches that Christian communities may have a growing willingness to send missionaries, priests, and lay people along with concrete resources to the poorest Churches.” On September 27, we celebrate St. Vincent de Paul’s feast day. This is an appropriate time to ask God to help the poorest. St. Vincent would approve, he once said, “By mutual support the strong will sustain the weak, and God’s work will be accomplished.” St. Vincent wants everyone to be an example of Christ in the world. To love all people as God loved us. --- Alethea Paradis, M.T.S.


St. Vincent de Paul's Legacy

Jesus said, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12) As Christians we are called by these words of Christ to love and care for one another. The greatest way to outwardly express our love for one another is through charity- by donating our time, talent, and treasures to those in need.

There are many ways to get involved in the Catholic ministries in the Archdiocese of St. Louis that help the poor,
abused, neglected, elderly, disabled and lonely in our community, and one way is through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. 

“Serving Christ’s needy is the first purpose of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.”

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides services in crisis intervention, housing, criminal justice ministry, transportation, and health.

Photo courtesy of svdpstlouis.org

Most parishes have a Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference, which are “chapters” of the Society. To find volunteer opportunities with your parish SVDP conference, you can call your parish office or look at the list of SVDP conferences.

To volunteer or donate to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul call 314.881.6000 or donate online.


Read more about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.



St. Emily de Rodat
9/19/2014 12:00:00 AM
Emily was born in 1787 at Rodez, France.  She was educated at Villefranche, became a teacher at the age of 18 and, realizing that many of the children of the poor were not going to school because they could not afford to, she opened a school for them and taught without charge.   She also began to consider religious life, but after entering three or four congregations for a short time, she realized that she was not called to any of the existing orders.   Emily devoted all of her life to teaching the poor and gathered other young women to help her cope with the rapidly growing numbers of children in her school. These women also gave all their lives to teaching the children and became the nucleus of the Religious Congregation of the Holy Family of Villefranche.   The congregation was devoted to caring for the elderly, prisoners, and orphans, in addition to the schools for the poor. Some of the nuns were also contemplative and spent their time in prayer and adoration.   She died of cancer at Villefranche on September 19, 1852.  At the time of her death Saint Emily de Rodat had opened 38 charitable institutions.    Saint Emily was canonized in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.

First Reading - 1 Cor 15: 12-20
9/19/2014 12:00:00 AM
12 Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. 14 And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up, if the dead rise not again.16 For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. 17 And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep.



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