Tag Archives: love

Hawaiian saints who embodied heroic love

Waikiki’s St. Augustine Parish in the Diocese of Honolulu, HawaiI, this year is opening a new Damien and Marianne of Molokai Education Center, a $6 million, 5,900-square-foot project spearheaded by Fr. Lane Akiona, St. Augustine’s pastor. It will tell the story of two of the Hawaiian Islands’ most popular saints, St. Damien of Molokai (1840-89) and St. Marianne Cope (1838-1918), with photographs, videos, interactive exhibits, and artifacts.

“Damien and Marianne are important to the Church in Hawaii because they are models for us on how to respond to those in need with charity,” explained Fr. Akiona, who is a member of Damien’s community, the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC), and is from Molokai. “We want people who visit here to know their story.”

The vision of a Damien museum—called an “educational center,” to facilitate the raising of needed funding—began a dozen years ago when Fr. Akiona became pastor and wanted to better share the story of Father Damien in anticipation of his canonization, which occurred in 2009. Damien was born in Belgium, joined the SS.CC community, and volunteered to be a missionary in Hawaii. He was ordained a priest in 1864 in Honolulu’s Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. He worked for a time on the Big Island, and then volunteered to spend the last 16 years of his life caring for the lepers confined to the Kalaupapa and Kalawao regions on the north side of Molokai Island. He eventually contracted and died of the disease in 1889.


Fr. Herman Gomes is provincial superior of Damien’s SS.CC community today and has been a member of the community for more than 40 years. In his extensive studies of the saint’s life, he has marveled at his unshakeable faith in God even after he contracted leprosy and knew a miserable death awaited him. Fr. Gomes said, “Damien saw that it was something God was allowing for his sanctification and his response was ‘Thy will be done.’”

Catholics in the Hawaiian Islands today see him as a committed missionary, and as a “model of faith and a great humanitarian.”

Conditions in the leper colony of Molokai were harsh when he arrived in 1873, Father said, with a few primitive dwellings and a might-makes-right system of governance. Stronger residents could assault weaker ones physically and sexually, Father said, without fear of consequence. Father explained, “What could they do, throw you in jail? In your mind, as you were already permanently confined to the island, you were in jail.”

For the next 16 years, St. Damien helped bring civility, a better standard of living, and the Catholic faith to the settlement, so that “a place of despair” was transformed into one that was “tolerable or even pleasant.”

Marianne was a Sister of St. Francis of Syracuse, New York. She volunteered to come to Molokai with a small group of her sisters, cared for Damien during the final months of his life, and continued his ministry after his death.

Sr. Alicia Damien Lau is a member of Sr. Marianne’s community, which is now known as the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. She first came to the Kalaupapa community in 1965, when patients were still confined there, and still serves the few remaining ones who voluntarily chose to live in the settlement. Sr. Alicia said that when St. Marianne, or “Mother Marianne,” as the surviving patients like to call her, arrived, it was her desire that Kalaupapa be “not a sad but a happy place.” She encouraged the residents to dance, for example, and one of her letters described the residents as “joyful as butterflies.” Sr. Alicia said that she is reminded of this letter when she sees butterflies at St. Marianne’s gravesite at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. She continued, “Marianne cared for the disfigured and the outcast with unconditional love and compassion. Along with Fr. Damien, she made a tremendous contribution to the suffering of the time.”

Sr. Alicia traveled with 11 surviving Kalaupapa patients to Rome for Marianne’s canonization in 2012, the majority of whom had to use wheelchairs. It was also upon Marianne’s canonization that Fr. Akiona decided to include her story, along with Damien’s, in the new educational center.


In addition to Damien and Marianne, Father noted that the center will have a third component, the story of the patients who were once confined to Molokai. Father explained, “It was their illness that prompted Damien and Marianne to respond to them out of Christian charity and compassion. It led to their becoming saints.” 

The artifacts to be on display include St. Damien’s eyeglasses, cane, a pipe given to him by the bishop who ordained him a priest, vestments, and carpentry tools. St. Marianne’s artifacts are in the possession of her community in Syracuse, New York; Fr. Akiona hopes some will be lent to the center for display.

While the exterior of the building has been completed, work is continuing on the displays inside. The center will open this year, although an opening date has not been announced. It will be open six days a week and operated by paid staff and volunteers; visitors will be asked to pay a modest admission charge. The facility will also have a chapel and gift shop. 

Father plans to feature rotating exhibits, so that visitors will have incentive to return again and again. While it is difficult to project the number of visitors who will come, a previous Damien and Marianne Center housed in a nearby store from 2010-13 drew 40,000 annually. It closed because of a rent hike.


The bishop of Honolulu, Most Reverend Larry Silva, wondered why the center wasn’t located near the cathedral at a less expensive location. Waikiki has heavy foot traffic, Father Akiona responded, so a parking lot would not be necessary. Additionally, he said, large numbers of people come to Waikiki, bringing many potential visitors to the center.

Like Fr. Akiona, Bishop Silva has a personal connection to Molokai. His ancestors first came to Hawaii to work in the sugar cane industry in the 1870s; one contracted leprosy and was confined to Kalaupapa. He regularly leads pilgrimage groups to Kalaupapa, which must be accessed either by a 9-passenger airplane, or by foot or mule on a switchback trail up a 2,000-foot cliff. Damienrelated sites which can be visited on Molokai include St. Philomena Church, where Fr. Damien celebrated Mass, St. Joseph Church in Kamalo (outside of the leper colony), which he built, and Damien’s original gravesite. Eight thousand patients were confined in Molokai 1866-1969. The few remaining residents who stay by choice will be allowed to remain until the end of their lives, despite the great expense to operate the site.

Typically, visitors come to Molokai on day trips, but more than once, the bishop said, bad weather has led to the cancellation of flights and groups have had to spend the night on Molokai. Bishop Silva continued, “The people there are always accommodating and help us to make do.”

Fr. Akiona welcomes inquiries by educational organizations interested in partnering with the education center to help him create a “broader story line” of the pair. For additional information, visit https://damienandmarianne.org/

JIM GRAVES is a Legatus magazine guest contributor.

“We Met Through Legatus”

Members of Legatus are many things: leaders, business owners, directors, philanthropists, and at least in two cases, matchmakers.

Henry and Mary Gundling of the Napa Valley Chapter and Jim and Julie Lenahan of the Milwaukee Chapter played matchmakers to their sons who met their future wives at Legatus events. In both cases, it took a bit of gentle persistence, but once the couples met, there was an immediate spark.

Gabe and Catherine Gundling

“My wife, Mary, and I came to know and respect Chuck and Ellen Haas through Legatus,” Henry explained. “We had also met their daughter, Catherine, on several occasions.”

Over the years, he and Mary, and other family and friends had tried to introduce their son Gabe to nice young women. “Apparently, he was too engrossed in building his business and content with his dog’s companionship to care,” Henry said.

One day, Henry and Mary visited the hospital where Catherine worked as a dietician to see a newborn grandchild. “The first person we met as we came into the hospital was Catherine,” Henry said. “She was so kind, friendly, and beautiful! I thought to myself, ‘Okay, one last try.’”

Henry checked with Ellen and Chuck to see if it was okay with them. They had met Gabe a year earlier during a weekend visit at the Gundling’s oceanside house. “We were impressed with his work ethic, sense of morality, and love and loyalty to his dog, Lucy,” Chuck said. “Ellen grilled Gabe about his love life and we had a nice weekend together, not knowing that he would be the future husband to our only daughter.” (They also have two sons.)

It was April of 2017. Catherine was twenty-eight and had recently ended a long-term relationship. Gabe was thirty-six. “I had been busy working on my business,” he admitted. He owns Lake Tahoe Balloons, hot-air balloon rides with five locations in California. By the time he was thirty-three, getting married was on Gabe’s radar, but nothing had worked out.

Catherine knew that Gabe had been given her contact information, but he never called. The reason was that when he learned that Catherine was traveling to South Korea in May for a friend’s wedding and an extended vacation, he decided that the timing was bad.

In June, Catherine’s father was giving a talk at the Legatus meeting about a solar cooking project he started in Uganda. Henry invited Gabe knowing that Catherine would be there. Their parents introduced Gabe and Catherine during the social hour, and they were seated together for dinner. “It was surprisingly easy, and just clicked,” Gabe said. “Catherine was interesting, and she was cute, so I saw potential from the beginning.” “At the end of the evening, we felt encouraged by two things,” Henry said. “Gabe and Catherine were deep in conversation and the last guests to leave the room, and as we were walking to the car Gabe said to me, ‘Chuck is the real deal.’”

The next day, Gabe called to ask Catherine on a date— a five-mile hike with their dogs. Despite the 105-degree heat that day, it went well and ended up at a casual restaurant where their dogs were welcome in the outside seating.

Catherine was immediately interested but unsure if Gabe felt the same until he bought an expresso machine for his house. She had ordered expresso on their first few dates. “That’s when I knew he was serious,” she said. They were married on May 5, 2019 and are expecting their first baby this April.

Gabe believes that his father was not the only matchmaker, but that his late grandmother was also on the job. “She was the matriarch of the family,” Gabe explained. “On the day of her funeral, I was in high school. I asked her to keep track of our family and to someday help me to find a bride.” The day that Gabe and Catherine met at the Legatus event was his grandmother’s birthday.

Jessica and Matt Lenahan

Jim Lenahan was the chapter president in 2014 when Jessica Zignego became the Milwaukee Legatus chapter administrator. She worked with him planning her first event, the annual July picnic. “Jim and Julie were the first Legatus couple I got to know, and we became friends,” Jessica said.

Likewise, they saw Jessica as a friend, but also as a potential daughter-in-law. “She is extremely organized and strong in her faith,” Jim said. “Both my wife and I thought what a great match she would make as our son is very faith filled. I have always felt that a strong faith is the key to any relationship.” Matt, however, had a girlfriend at the time.

The following summer, Matt attended the annual picnic with his parents. He still had a girlfriend, however. Congressman Paul Ryan was speaking at the event and Jessica mistook Matt for one of his staffers when she was passing out name tags.

“He came up to me and said, ‘Hi, I’m Matt Lenahan,’” she recalls. “It surprised me that he was as attractive as he was.” They chatted only briefly since Jessica was busy working. She learned that in addition to working for the family business, Matt was an assistant football coach at a school her brother attended, and he was on the board of the Women’s Care Center pregnancy center.

“I was not expecting any interest on his end,” she said. “I thought he was out of my league.”

Matt had also been taken by surprise when he met Jessica. “My dad tried to play matchmaker before with me and my brother,” Matt said. “I just brushed it off. From the very start he was always talking about Jessica. I didn’t even know much about her other than she was a runner. The first time I met her, I thought she was very beautiful, and I was impressed. I had another picture in my mind. It made me a little nervous.”

Matt attended another Legatus event in October. Unbeknownst to Jessica, he was single now and had gone specifically to see her. They again talked briefly during the social. Matt called a few weeks later using the reason that he was putting together a “Professionals in Action” group to increase awareness at the Women’s Care Center. Jessica would make a good fit.

“At dinner, we talked about everything but the Women’s Care Center,” Jessica said. The relationship took off from there.

“From a very young age, I had prayed to God for the right mate,” Jessica said. “I used to complain to my sister about the type of man I wanted compared to the kind that were out there. She told me that I was unrealistic. Having a strong faith was huge to me. Matt checked off on every single box.”

Matt said of Jessica, “I never met anyone who shared so much in common with me.”

There soon arose potential hurdles, however. Jessica loved the Latin extraordinary form of the Mass and Matt had not been exposed to it. But after eight months of prayer, asking God for guidance, Matt also fell in love with the Latin Mass.

Another issue was that Jessica had leukemia when she was three. It was possible that she would never be able to have children. Matt decided what mattered most was that they loved each other.

“They became engaged in September 2017, and were married a year later on September 1, 2018. On October 4, 2019, they welcomed their precious son Connor James into the world.

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Hearts aflame with selfless service

“God loves a cheerful giver,” writes St. Paul, and so “you will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor 9:8, 11).

Legates often are known for their generous spirits, expressing gratitude for God’s providence through philanthropy and volunteer service. The two Legate families profiled here certainly exemplify this virtue.

The O’Reillys: Lessons from Father

Frank O’Reilly is a builder – one might say a builder of big things. Through his commercial and residential construction firm, the Northern Virginia Legate has built magnificent churches and other Catholic structures throughout the Shenandoah Valley. With his wife of 35 years, Angélique, Frank has built an impressive family of 14 children. And through his spirit of generosity, he has built a striking reputation for philanthropic service to the Catholic Church.

One of seven children, Frank learned the virtue of generosity – and a whole lot more — from his father and mother, Sean and Anne O’Reilly, who emigrated from Ireland in the 1950s.

“My father really was the most profound influence on my life and in most ways is my touchstone for an authentic Christian life,” Frank said. “He taught me that my first vocation is to holiness; secondly, that I have a vocation to a state in life, to marriage, priesthood, religious life or the single life; and finally, that I have an ‘avocation,’ a way to make a living. That order is pretty important, and it puts my business at the service of the other two.”

Frank said he strives to maintain those priorities even though work demands sometimes invert the order.

His father, a medical doctor who did neurological research, “taught us the importance of giving,” he added. His philosophy was inspired by the Parable of the Widow’s Mite: To give from your surplus is justice, but to give from your own need is charity. “My mother says he often borrowed money in order to give it away,” said Frank.

Sean O’Reilly also was a co-founder of Christendom College in Front Royal, VA, and it was as a student there that Frank met Angélique, a fellow history major. After graduation, they married and settled near the college in a house that Frank, who was already dabbling in building homes, owned. Building and real estate was his avocation, he decided, and despite early struggles they persevered.

Children began arriving, and over the years Angélique homeschooled each of them. Among their eight sons and six daughters are eight college graduates, scholar athletes, Irish dance competitors at the national and world levels, and a cancer survivor. Five are Christendom graduates; three study there now. Four are wed, and a seventh grandchild is on the way.

‘Builders of Christendom’

Several Catholic structures O’Reilly built are in Front Royal. They include the headquarters of Human Life International and Seton Home School as well as his own parish church, St. John the Baptist. “Every Mass currently said inside the [Warren] county limits is in a building my company built,” he said.

Then there’s Christendom College, where O’Reilly’s firm, Petrine Construction, has headed building projects for 32 years.

“I began doing Christendom’s buildings in 1987 and have done all major construction projects on a ‘design build team approach’ since then,” Frank said.

Although he is “immensely proud” of his work for Christendom, Frank said he derives the most satisfaction from his many years of unpaid labor in planning the new chapel of Christ the King – which, ironically, will replace the chapel Petrine built for the campus in 1995. “The nave with its Gothic arch bay spacing, length, and wide side aisles has echoes of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney,” where his father was baptized in Ireland, he said.

Beyond building, the O’Reillys participated in Operation Rescue in the 1980s and co-founded the Front Royal Pregnancy Center, where each has served as board chair. “My company donated the original offices,” he recalled. “We would frequently stop to pray if we heard someone was coming in for counseling.”

The O’Reillys were honored when Dr. Warren Carroll, Christendom’s key founder, published his book The Building of Christendom and presented them a copy inscribed “To Frank and Angelique, the real builders of Christendom.”

“It was humbling, a very sweet play on words,” said Frank, “but over the years it really has become clear that is exactly what we are all called to be!”

The Murphys: Our Son, the Missionary

When their son Thomas announced that after graduating college he would commit to a couple years of volunteer campus ministry with Saint Paul’s Outreach, Jupiter (FL) Legates Terry and Mary Murphy were caught a little off guard.

“We were both surprised and a bit conflicted as to whether or not he should have sought his graduate degree first, but it’s hard to argue with someone who wants to spend their time saving souls,” said Mary. “And certainly, there is no shortage of college students who are in need of a supportive community that meets their spiritual needs and provides ample social fellowship.”

In fact, she added, it was their son’s own involvement with the Catholic Student Union at Florida State University that “really put him on the right track.”

Thomas readily admits that despite his solid Catholic upbringing he “left my faith back at home” when he entered FSU. He stopped going to Mass and indulged in drinking, playing video games, and binge-watching Netflix. “Toward the end of my freshman year, I wasn’t in a great place mentally, physically or spiritually, and I wasn’t happy,” he said. Wanting to make some changes, he joined FSU’s Catholic Student Union, a chapter of Saint Paul’s Outreach.

“Over time, this community absolutely changed my life,” Thomas said. “For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who strove to live lives of holiness, all while balancing the normal life and schedule of a college student. Throughout the process, my faith was reinvigorated.”

Deciding to give back, he took on leadership roles in the community that eventually led to his discernment to become a missionary with Saint Paul’s Outreach in order to help students on other campuses renew their own Catholic faith.

Raised to share blessings

In retrospect, the Murphys must take satisfaction in seeing the seeds they had planted bearing fruit.

“Through much hard work and many, many blessings we were fortunate to build a successful business,” said Terry Murphy, who along with Mary runs three companies they established in the marketing and communications arena, “and we wanted to make sure that our children developed a spirit of helping those less fortunate, knowing that hard work and earning money makes it possible to help other people in a significant way.”

They saw this message take root early when their young daughter, Kathryn, asked her friends for donations to a local animal rescue organization in lieu of birthday gifts, which started a recurring tradition of both children turning their annual parties into fundraisers. In eighth grade, Thomas took it upon himself to raise money for a scholarship to honor a beloved history teacher who had died unexpectedly; later, as one who played several instruments, he secured donated music books and partnered with a local nonprofit organization to offer free music lessons to children of families in crisis.

Thomas began his service with St. Paul’s Outreach this fall at Rutgers University, living in a household with another missionary and six male students. “My role in the house is simply to live a life of holiness, to foster a unified sense of brotherhood, and promote the students’ formation to Christian maturity,” he explained He also interacts with other men on campus, forming friendships that may lead them to increase in faith. “The individual men I meet and invest in motivate me to get out of bed in the morning,” Thomas said. “Their souls are worth fighting for!”

Thomas sees himself remaining a missionary “for a while,” but if he discerns a call away from this work he would likely return to school to pursue a graduate degree and a career in his major field of sports management. The Murphys support both his present mission and his future options.

“It has been both interesting and fulfilling to witness Thomas’ evolution into adulthood,” his father said. “We do hope that he returns to school to earn his MBA at some point within the next few years, but for now it is reassuring to know that he is living the Gospel as he prays about his future.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Zeal crucial in passing torch of faith

A Christian is a man to whom Our Lord has given other men. He breaks bread to the poor through our hands, He consoles the sick through our lips, He visits the sorrowful upon our feet, He sees the fields of harvest through our eyes, and He gathers the bundles into His everlasting barns through our toil.

To be worthy of the name Christian, then, means that we, too, must thirst for the spread of the divine love; and if we do not thirst, then we shall never be invited to sit down at the banquet of life.

Crowns shall be given only to the victors, and the chalice of everlasting wine only to those who thirst.

A Catholic who does not strive to spread his Faith is a parasite on the life of the Church; he who is not girding his loins for apostolate is abdicating his seat on the dais of Christianity; he who is not bearing fruit is like a tree cut down on the road, impeding the march of the army of God. He who is not a conquering spirit is a renegade.

The torch of faith has been given to us not to delight our eyes but to enkindle the torches of our fellow men. Unless we burn and are on fire for the divine cause, a glacial invasion will sweep the earth, which will be the end, for “The Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

The measure of our apostolate is the intensity of our love. A human heart loves to talk about the object of his love and loves to hear that object praised.

If we love Our Lord, then we will talk about His holy cause, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt 12: 34). To those who have such love, there is never the excuse of a want of opportunity. Our Lord has told us “the harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few” (Matt 9:37).

To the zealous Christian, every country is a mission country; every banquet room, a Simon’s house, where another Magdalen can be found; every ship, another bark of Peter, from which nets of salvation can be let down; every crowded city street, another Tyre and Sidon, where the whelps that eat the crumbs from the master’s table can be rewarded for their faith; and every cross is a throne where thieves become courtiers.

Excerpt by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, from The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: An Anthology (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2018), from “The Need for Zeal,” pp. 239-40.

The VENERABLE ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN (1895-1979), from El Paso, IL, was auxiliary bishop of New York (1951-66), and bishop of Rochester (1966-69). He began appearing on ABC Television’s Life Is Worth Living in 1952, despite his timeslot competing against Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra. The show enjoyed enormous success, reaching tens of millions of viewers by 1954. His two great loves were the Blessed Mother and The Eucharist; and his cause for canonization was opened in 2002.

Genuine, receptive listening opens people’s hearts

The month of February is dedicated to love, no matter how dreary the weather may be in some places. Annually honoring Saint Valentine’s Day reminds couples to take their relationships seriously. A romantic dinner, kind gestures, love letters, and gifts express one’s love for another. But what couples really crave, in my opinion, is someone who will listen. Not just sit there and say, “yes dear,” but truly listen — with all one’s heart, mind, and soul.

Listening is loving. It’s a lost art today. Even with the most advanced communications technology, we don’t know how to listen as people made in God’s image and likeness.

This month we might take note and give loved ones what they want most: a sense of being heard and loved.

People know me as the “cooking priest,” and may ask, what does listening have to do with food and cooking? Quite a lot, actually. It relates to the ability to discern what another is hungering for and trying to communicate. It’s like the unconditional love parents instinctively have in listening, hearing, and understanding what a crying child is trying to indicate. It’s the love that God has for His children when the scriptures say, “What father, if his son asks for a fish, will instead give him a serpent?” (Luke 11:11).

Let’s consider some simple lessons about listening with the heart:

We sometimes hunger for things that aren’t good for us. Our Good God, a loving listener, will sometimes respond to our requests with a revolting taste, bitter herbs of truth, or a “time out” in order to heal disordered appetites. Do we know how to communicate what we really desire?

Listening to a person isn’t just understanding words, but grasping the totality of the person’s experience. Are we courageous enough to listen without judgment?

When it comes to loving disagreeable spouses or challenging family members, it might require us to ask ourselves, “What is God trying to say to me when I speak to this person who is tough to tolerate?” Do we know the “lesson” God is teaching in such difficult encounters?

Listening isn’t easy. Yet, God listens to us – and truly hears how our hearts, bodies, and souls grumble. Our job is to listen as God does, which requires discernment, faith, and every Christian virtue. This month, give the great gift that God gives – learn to listen to each other, and in so doing, love one another.

LEO PATALINGHUG IV DEI, priest, author, speaker, TV and radio host, founder of Plating Grace and The Table Foundation. Learn more at FatherLeoFeeds.com


Coconut Curry Mussels • Serves 2-3

Fresh, edible mussels will ‘open up’ when properly cooked. Providing the right ingredients and atmosphere can likewise help people open up in healthy conversation.

1 1/2 pound of mussels, cleaned
1 Tbsp butter
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup white wine
2-3 Tbsp yellow curry powder
1 can coconut milk
1 -2 tsp of “fish sauce” (found in the international section of market)
1-2 tsp of soy sauce
2 limes (1 juiced, other cut into wedges)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili pepper (or favorite hot sauce)
2 tsp honey
1-2 Tbsp of Cilantro leaves (or parsley)

Serve with 4-6 pieces of crusty bread, or 1/4 lb. cooked angel hair pasta.

In a large pot, melt butter and sauté onions and garlic. Add wine; cook for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Add yellow curry powder and mix together before adding the coconut milk, fish sauce, the juice of one lime, salt, pepper, and honey. Stir together. Carefully add mussels to pot; mix together, then cover for 2-3 minutes, or until mussels have opened. Stir all together so mussels are coated with the sauce. Plate with extra lime wedges, top with cilantro leaves, and serve with crusty bread or pasta.

How truth regarding Jesus’ birth affects us today

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” — John 3:16

During this wondrous season, while Christians around the world proclaim the most significant event in human history, that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,” its real significance is often missed.

Have you ever stopped to think about the deeper meaning of the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus? His birth was the birth of the most unique Person in history – the incarnation of God Himself, the mingling of God with humanity. As the greatest testimony of His love, the Father has His only Son become man to heal us from everything that separates us from Him – to save us from our sins. In this way, Jesus merits for us the dignity of becoming children of God, allowing us to cry out, Abba Father.

This great love story is retold every year and portrayed in the Christmas creche, which focuses our reflection, contemplation, and gratitude upon the wonder and beauty of our Savior’s birth. It is hard to imagine Christmas without this humble scene and its profound teaching of the heavenly Father’s love for His children.

The origin of the Christmas creche rests with St. Francis of Assisi. It is said that St. Francis lived daily with great joy the wonder and awe of the Incarnation of the Son of God and His blessed and humble birth. The meek saint would often shed tears of heartfelt gratitude, praising the divine Son who took upon Himself our human nature to reveal His Father and to reconcile all things and destroy the power of sin and death forever.

This event is the central moment in human history, which has changed forever our understanding of earthly realities. One reality is how we look upon the sanctity of human life. Jesus’ body was formed in the womb of Mary: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The eternal Son of God came into the world in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, thus blessing the womb of every woman and the precious life of every child. The ministry of Jesus didn’t begin at His birth but at His conception.

Despite this, life at every stage – from conception to natural death – is under siege. We cry and protest for the children who are impeded from being born, for the millions of children born and left to die from hunger and sickness, for the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and the disabled. Yet, amid our weary struggle with these injustices, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the wonder of the Incarnation, its significance, and its power to tranform:

“The action of God, in fact, is not limited to words, indeed we might say he is not content only to speak but is immersed in our history and takes on the fatigue and weight of human life.”

The unapproachable God became approachable and is fully expressed – a God of love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory. If we lose perspective on the essential truths that are bound up in the Incarnation and Nativity of the Lord Jesus, we lose sight of the Gospel and its revealed truth about life, the human person, and our eternal destiny.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International www.hli.org and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along

Jennifer Roback Morse
TAN Books, 420 pages

“The Sexual Revolution has never been a grassroots movement,” writes Jennifer Roback Morse in her latest book. Rather, it was manufactured by liberal elites “justifying their preferred lifestyles, imposing their new morality” by harnessing “the coercive power of the State.” As a result, millions have suffered the effects of this revolution. In her compelling indictment, Morse identifies the Contraceptive Ideology, the Divorce Ideology, and the Gender Ideology as the three fronts that built the Sexual State — and the three fronts the Church and social conservatives must focus our own defense and attacks upon if we are ever to restore love, marriage, and family to their rightful dignity.

Order: Amazon

Furnace of charity melts marital loneliness

In the beginning, God declared it was not good for man to be alone, so he fashioned from his side a helpmate and an equal. She, Woman, the bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh, would become his wife, and the two would “become one flesh” (Gen. 2:18-24). Marriage was God’s original remedy for human loneliness, and since Adam and Eve were married before the Fall, marriage is literally older than sin!

Kevin Vost, Psy.D.

In our time, however, social scientists warn of a looming epidemic of loneliness affecting people of all ages, including married people. In the mid1980s researchers found that one in ten Americans reported he had no one close to confide in, while 20 years later it had risen to one person in four – one quarter of the population has no one close in whom to confide! Now, over one-third of middle-aged and older adults report that they are lonely. While being single or having lost a spouse through death or divorce are risk factors for loneliness, nearly a third of married people report feeling lonely, too. And this can be serious business. Loneliness is a risk factor for chronic disease and decreased life expectancy, roughly equivalent to obesity or smoking. So what has gone awry and how can stronger, holier marriages help stem the tide of loneliness?

Loneliness is defined as a“perceived isolation” at the intimate emotional or the broader social level. The lonely person perceives a significant discrepancy between the relationships he or she desires and those he or she actually has. The lonely person may be alone or feel a lack of connectedness even within a crowd. A wife, for example, may feel emotional closeness to her husband and yet feel lonely at the broader social level if they have just moved to a new city for her husband’s work and she no longer has access to her familiar network of friends, co-workers, or parishioners. The same situation could hold for a husband, as well.

The most serious and tragic kind of marital loneliness, of course, is the emotional isolation that may arise between a husband and wife when one or both feel they are not appreciated or heard by the other. The busyness of modern life brings so many commitments and distractions that many married couples live separate lives within the same four walls. For decades now, excessive television viewing has decreased social connectedness, and social media and smartphones have produced broader networks of “friends” while diverting people’s attention away from those closest to them. Many need to retrain themselves to slow down, limit commitments, turn off computers, and stow cell phones in a drawer to tend to the needs of spouses, and cherish the limited time on earth with them.

St. Paul told us of God’s great gifts of faith, hope and love; that the greatest of them is love (1 Cor. 13:13). St. Thomas Aquinas compared the love of charity to the heat of a powerful furnace. When our hearts burn with the fires of charity, their far-reaching flames serve to warm strangers and even our enemies. But since those closest to the furnace receive the most heat, true charity should begin at home, and be directed most intensely toward the person with whom we are of “of one flesh.”

Let us beseech God that our eyes be opened to the faces of all the lonely people among us, perhaps even the one we wake up to every morning. Let us see the face of Christ in the person with whom He joined us as one flesh in the bonds of matrimony. Then, let’s turn up our furnaces of love to perform simple acts of thoughtfulness and kindness for our spouse daily. It’s possible for every man and wife to feel the heat of loving charity within every home, a heat that will warm the whole family, a heat they will carry out the front door to help warm a cold, lonely world.

KEVIN VOST, PSY.D. has taught psychology at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee and the University of Illinois at Springfield. His most recent book is The Catholic Guide to Loneliness. Kevin and Kathy Vost recently celebrated their 33rd anniversary.

The Great St. Valentine – Martyr for Marriage

As colorful signs of romantic love appear everywhere during the month of February, it is good to ponder the life and legacy of the man for whom Valentine’s Day is named. The Roman Martyrology (3rd Turin edition, Loreto Publications) includes eight different Valentines. Two are listed on February 14, the first being a Roman priest and martyr, the second being a bishop and martyr in Terni, Italy.

Priest, bishop by same name – both beheaded

Neither St. Valentine started a greeting card or boxed chocolate company. To the contrary, the first was a priest and a strong advocate of Christianity under the persecutions of Claudius II. His work with St. Marius to help martyrs—and possibly his officiating at Christian marriages— attracted the attention of Roman authorities, as they tried to make him renounce his faith in Jesus Christ and go along with the pervading beliefs of the day. Their failed attempts were followed by a directive to have the saint beaten with clubs and beheaded. He was buried on the Via Flaminia (an ancient road to Rome across the Apennine Mountains and along the Adriatic Sea) on February 14 around the year 270.

The second St. Valentine (of Terni) is likewise commemorated on February 14, and also died around 270. He is listed in the Roman Martyrology as a bishop imprisoned and beheaded in the middle of the night. Because of the proximity of martyrdom in place and time, it has been suggested that the two Valentines are the same person. According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints (Loreto Publications), most of his relics are preserved in the Basilica of St. Praxedes, in Rome, although churches in Madrid, Spain and Dublin, Ireland claim some as well.

Dedication and devotion, from Italy to America

Pope Julius I is believed to have dedicated a basilica to one or both St. Valentines, and one of the gates of the Aurelian Walls in Rome—Porta del Popolo—had been called Porta Valentini. There is a statue of St. Valentine in the Terni Cathedral today and devotion to him has emigrated across the Atlantic. Although he is certainly not the most common saint to place a parish under the patronage of, there is, for example, a St. Valentine Church in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania.

It is generally believed that the association of St. Valentine— particularly the one of Terni— with romantic love began during the Middle Ages. It is said that birds began to pair up in the middle of February (the 14th), so the custom began for humans to write letters or give gifts to their own mates. St. Valentine’s feast day happened to coincide with that time of year, so he might have become associated with romantic love quite randomly. However, some believe the pagan practice of young people choosing names of those of the opposite gender in the middle of February was redirected by priests who had names of saints chosen instead. This would make St. Valentine and other holy people part of a deliberate replacement (or reiteration) program to encourage devotion to those who had been celebrated more commonly before.

Commercial glitz eclipses religious meaning

Regardless of how St. Valentine became associated with romantic love, it is indisputable that February 14 is now a day when very few people think of the martyr who predates secular society’s popular practices. In a similar way to Christmas, an entire industry has been created around a Catholic day. This is generally lamented by those who wish to see the faith expressed in its purity, but it can also be an opportunity to evangelize.

The next time someone is wished a happy Valentine’s Day, he can reply, “Thanks. Did you know that the day is named after St. Valentine, an early Christian martyr?” It can even be pointed out that the red and pink hearts so commonly seen around February 14 are, for Christians, reminders of the blood of martyrs, whose love for God was so great that not even torture and death could extinguish it. Then it could be explained that such extraordinary love could only be possible through the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was pierced for the sake of every soul in the world.

The transition from romantic love to the self-sacrificing and heroic love of a martyr has been made by Catholics who pray to St. Valentine of Terni as a patron of engaged couples and happy marriages. People in either of these categories (or who know others in either of them) would do well to invoke St. Valentine’s intercession for a pure love that joyfully sacrifices for the sake of the other. While St. Thomas More and St. John the Baptist probably come to mind more quickly as patrons of the sanctity of marriage, the great St. Valentine can be added to that list. Knowing that the love of God surpassed earthly love immeasurably, he willingly gave up all earthly goods (including a favorable reputation in a corrupt society) to give testimony to the eternal charity that triumphantly burns in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. Valentine of Terni and all St. Valentines, pray for us.

TRENT BEATTIE is a freelance writer based in Seattle. He is the author of Fit for Heaven, a book about Catholicism and sports published by Dynamic Catholic in 2015

What God has joined together…

Marriage has its moments of joy, love and happiness, and certainly its crosses. Human weakness, tragedy, and everyday stresses of work, finances, and raising children can strain any marriage. As St. Paul wrote in the first century, where sin is present, grace abounds even more.

Several Legatus couples have learned that lesson firsthand, and see that God has always been there for them, even during their darkest, most challenging times. Their stories underscore Paul’s message
to the Corinthians that “love never dies.”

Ripple effect of unified rediscovery

Mark and Linda Pierce, Cleveland Chapter

Looking back on their early years, Linda Pierce says she and husband Mark had a “fine marriage and a good family.” But it was like a “rudderless ship” with no direction.

“We didn’t have that strong father in the same faith who could guide us,” she said.

Mark, 57, had grown up as son of Methodist and Baptist parents who only took the family to church on Easter, and admits he didn’t have a faith life.

When he and Linda, 56, married 38 years ago, Mark agreed to let Linda raise their children Catholic. He would accompany the family to Sunday Mass and sit in the pews with his arms folded.

“I would be thinking about Catholics going to hell for worshiping statues,” said Mark, who eventually became part of the parish community in volunteering for fish fries and delivering meals.

Seven years into marriage, Mark — after being asked to be a godfather — felt prompted to join his wife’s faith and “unify” the family. Linda sponsored him in RCIA, and together they learned much more about Catholicism.

Mark’s RCIA experience motivated him to read Catholic books, attend Bible studies, and immerse himself further in the faith. His deepening Catholic outlook began to change him on all fronts.

“Our marriage transformed because I had not been treating my wife properly according to God’s laws,” said Mark. He later became more of a servant at home rather than trying to get his own way.

He also changed his business approach from a secular to a faith-based model. As a business and leadership coach, his leadership-development approach is now based on five pillars: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and financial health.

But perhaps the biggest testimony to Mark and Linda’s transformation is their two youngest adult children are practicing Catholics with faithcentered lives. The two oldest children who grew up before Mark’s conversion are not churchgoers, though they’re impressed by what their father has become.

“They tell me, ‘You’re such a different dad,’” said Mark, who with Linda is involved in a diocesan marriage preparation ministry, as well as enrichment retreats for married couples.

Said Mark, “It’s given me a greater sense of purpose.”

Grappling with powers and principalities

Troy and Christy King, Orlando Chapter

When their 8-month-old son Leo died last year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Christy King says God let her see the devil using that tragedy to spiritually shipwreck her family.

“It really ticked me off,” said Christy, 47, who has been married to Troy, 48, a pediatric dentist, for 20 years.

Christy said the family decided to fight back.

“We really stepped up,” she said. “We were already praying together as a family, but much more so now — a lot more family rosaries, and with refocus and redirection. Troy and I began uniting particular sufferings with Christ’s suffering on the cross, which gives them so much power.”

The King family has been through this before. Seven years ago, they’d lost another young son, Dominic, in another apparent case of SIDS.

“We endured the worst thing ever, then we had to do it again,” said Christy, saying she doesn’t know how people can weather a terrible setback without God in their lives.

“With tragedies you either come through stronger, or they destroy your family. That was never an option,” said Christy, who met Troy at a gym. They dated for 10 years before marrying 20 years ago.

The couple has had 18 children, including the two who died in infancy. The older siblings have handled those losses differently, in their own way – some choosing to go to school and lacrosse practice rather than stay home; another took bike rides in his sadness over Leo.

One daughter, who’s now Leo’s godmother, told Christy she is thankful for having a special connection to a young saint in heaven. For Christmas, the family had stockings for the deceased boys, and the children talked about how much Leo would have enjoyed the season. And though the kids miss Leo and Dominic greatly, they’re hopeful to be with them again.

“Some suffering is not always the worst thing,” Christy said.

Vows renewed in forgiveness

Pete and Mimi Peters, Mobile Chapter

Mimi says she wouldn’t wish what happened to her on her worst enemy.

“But my faith deepened because I had to lean so hard on the Lord,” Mimi said.

About 11 years into their marriage in 1991, Pete had an affair and decided he no longer wanted to be married.

“I believed the lie that I could be a better dad if I was with this other person,” Pete said.

The couple’s two children were 2 and 4 years old when they divorced the following year. For the next several years, Mimi — who tried to talk Pete out of divorcing – reordered her life and raised the children. She allowed Pete to remain part of their kids’ lives, and said she learned a lot about herself and her faith.

“I had to look at myself and see how I could change,” Mimi said.

“Mimi always put the best interests of the kids first by allowing me to be a big part of their lives. She showed me what marriage was supposed to be about. It’s a commitment — not about how you feel,” Pete said.

With “a lot of prayer” and the grace of the Holy Spirit, Pete began to realize in the late 1990s he’d made an awful mistake. He was determined to prove to Mimi his sincerity about bringing their family back together.

Mimi and Pete sought counsel from their Christlike pastor.The first time Pete asked to reconcile, Mimi didn’t believe he was ready. In 1998 after he attended a silent retreat, Mimi said Pete apologized and vowed to spend his life making it up to her.

“I knew I’d married a good man, and that he was going to come back around,” Mimi said.

Pete said the couple told their children they were going to reconcile on their daughter’s 13th birthday. Pete said their daughter had included reconciliation in her birthday wish list.

Not long after, the couple renewed their marriage vows in a private Mass followed by a celebration at Mimi’s horse farm, Silver Lining Farm.

“There were so many people who were happy for us because they had seen a miracle,” Pete said.

Today, Pete, 64, and Mimi, 63, counsel other married couples going through rough times. Both their children are devout Catholics married to Catholic spouses. After recently spending the holidays with their children, Pete said it was another reminder that nothing in life would satisfy without his wife and kids.

“I’m not finished learning,” he said. “I now know that I had a hole in my heart and God wasn’t going to fill it until I got where I needed to be with my family.”

Launching a business to reclaim family

Jay and Lucinda Bolding, Omaha Chapter

Friends thought Jay Bolding was having a midlife crisis when he left corporate America in 2006 to start his own business.

But for Bolding, CEO and president of Bold Office Solutions in Omaha, the opportunity to start a company and have his wife, Lucinda, as business partner offered him an opportunity to “reclaim” their relationship.

“For so long, work overshadowed all else, and I wanted to create a family business that would allow us time together,” Jay said. “I knew that by having her with me, she’d add a spiritual touch not only to our culture, but keep me grounded in seeing all we have is a gift from God.”

Lucinda said she was surprised when Jay wanted her involved in the business. Jay said she has helped him to recognize that he needs to pray every day for wisdom, understanding, guidance, and to trust that God has a plan for them, their family and the company.

“As we look back, it certainly was a challenge for us, but we had a strong marriage before and we are stronger in many ways now,” Jay said.

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.