Tag Archives: love

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.


Love bears all things … and never ends

Don Neyer was a shy young man in his early 20s when he spotted the pretty teller at the bank in downtown Cincinnati where he made his business deposits.

Her name then was Phyllis Holthaus. The year was 1952. Neyer worked nearby and finally one day got the courage to ask her out.

They hit it off.

A 63-year tapestry

“It was obvious that I liked her, and she liked me. We also liked each other’s value systems,” Don, 87, recalled during a recent interview. Two months after their first date, they were engaged. Seven months later, they were married.

Sixty-three years passed before Don and Phyllis were separated. On July 2, 2016, Phyllis died after suffering from an aggressive form of dementia for the last 10 years of her life. By the end, the illness had robbed Phyllis of her ability to speak and understand conversations.

But her love and concern for Don never wavered.

“She’d smile whenever she saw me,” Don said. “She’d give me a kiss. She was very emotionally involved. She may not have been able to talk, but she communicated with her eyes and with her expressions.”

Caregiving and prayer giving

About five and a half years ago, Don and Phyllis Neyer moved into Twin Lakes, a senior living community in Montgomery, Ohio. Not too long after that, with her disease rapidly progressing, Phyllis had to be moved into a specialized care unit.

But Don never left her side. For the last three and a half years of her life, Don would be alongside his wife everyday to make sure she was properly cared for. He fed her, bathed her, brushed her hair, and performed any task he could to ensure she was taken care of.

Every night, Don would say some prayers as Phyllis closed her eyes and listened before going to sleep. Don said caring for his wife was never a chore.

“It wasn’t difficult at all,” Don said. “I was happy to be with her.”

Don’s steadfast devotion to Phyllis moved many of the Twin Lakes staff. His example inspired the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio to name Don as its Caregiver of the Year in 2016.

“I think Christ came to give us two words: Love all and serve all. And if you’re working for the good of others, as opposed to working for the good of yourself, you feel good about what you’re doing,” said Don, a charter member of Legatus’ Cincinnati Chapter.

Jim Mayer, the executive director at Twin Lakes, said Don was “the pinnacle” of a true caregiver.

True partner

“He was the real definition of a spouse who was there for better or for worse,” Mayer said. “He cared for her. He was there for her every day.” Don would escort his wife in her wheelchair down the hallways of her building. Every Wednesday, he accompanied her to Mass and would hold up the missalette so Phyllis could see it during the liturgy.

“I feel she’s happy now in Heaven,” Don said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors in the United States dies from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. As the national population of people over age 65 increases, the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to soar.

Don said he began noticing the early signs of Phyllis’ dementia about 12 years ago, when she began forgetting some things and having difficulty making routine decisions. She used to enjoy daily walks with a friend, but if someone she didn’t know came along, she would want to go home because she could not follow the conversation.

“She stopped talking on the phone about 10 years ago,” Don said. “It was a progressive disease, but the last five years of her life it was just very severe.”

Phyllis’ dementia left her unable to understand when their youngest son died of a brain tumor about two and a half years ago. Don recalled breaking down in tears after receiving a phone call shortly after their son died. Phyllis saw Don crying and rubbed his arm in sympathy.

Family generosity … and her Notebook

Don and Phyllis raised eight children. The house was always bustling with activity, but Don and Phyllis made it a priority to eat dinner as a family and to instill Catholic values into their kids.

Phyllis was the more patient parent, teaching their kids how to ride bicycles even though she never learned to ride herself.

“She’d run alongside them, encouraging them. She was just very calm about things, and I’ve always been hyper about things,” said Don, who a few months ago found a notebook that Phyllis saved in which she kept a detailed journal of the family’s daily activities over a 17-year period.

“Her whole life was wrapped around me and our kids,” Don said. “She was very family oriented, and she would spend all of her waking hours doing what she could for the benefit of her family.”

Don and Phyllis enjoyed playing bridge with friends. On weekends, they would go to their lakeside cottage outside Cincinnati to spend time together. For several years, they also enjoyed their monthly date nights at their chapter’s Legatus meetings.

When Phyllis died, Don said all the activities and committees that he is involved with at Twin Lakes helped him to grieve. He became really emotional when a granddaughter got married last December on the day before what would have been Phyllis’ 85th birthday.

“Then it really begins to hit you,” Don said.

Still putting gifts to work

Mayer, the executive director of Twin Lakes, said Don is involved in several of the community’s committees and initiatives, including a $50 million construction project. That task is a good fit for Don, who ran his family’s construction business for several decades before retiring in 1994.

“He’s the best construction manager in the world who is not paid,” Mayer said. “It’s like having a free consultant on staff.”

Showing that an octogenarian can be up to date on technology, Don will often take out an iPhone to schedule appointments and update his calendar. Mayer said he is always prepared for committee meetings.

“I feel like we’re cheating him by not paying him. He’s such a good guy,” said Mayer, who joked that other Twin Lakes staff members, when faced with difficult choices, will ask themselves, “What would Don Neyer do?”

“Because he always does the right thing,” Mayer said. “Don helps, assists and cares about everyone; the infirm, those with dementia, the well-informed, the affluent, the poor. I’m blessed that he lives here at Twin Lakes.”

Fruitful branches, everlasting comfort

Don said he tries to keep busy while also keeping in regular contact with his family. Collectively, Don and Phyllis have 32 grandchildren and 16 grandchildren. Several of Don and Phyllis’ children have been married for more than 20 or 30 years.

Don does not hesitate to say Phyllis was the love of his life.

“She had a wonderful value system, and I loved her for that,” Don said. “I loved her for everything she had. She was a wonderful person. I was very blessed.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Love and sacrifice

Jesus taught that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He proved this point by laying down his own life for every human being who ever lived.

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

The cross shows that true love is selfless; it seeks the good of the other first. Paul explained Christ’s teaching: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests” (1 Cor 13:4-5).

Blessed Mother Teresa went further: “Love, to be real, it must cost — it must hurt — it must empty us of self.”

In our day, there is no greater example of selfless and sacrificial love than in the men and women who protect our liberty here in the United States and throughout the Western world. Millions have freely given their lives to secure our independence from tyranny — and 1.3 million Americans currently serve in the armed forces.

In this issue, we salute four men who served us in the U.S. Army. (Click here for a related link.) While their experiences differ, their passion for service and the Catholic faith is a powerful witness. Two went on to become generals, one was wounded in battle, and the other helped clear minefields in war zones.

While most of us will never have the opportunity to serve in the armed forces, we are nonetheless called to a sacrificial love. And sacrificial love starts at home. Men are called to lay down their lives in service to their wives and children. Women are called to the same. Cardinal Raymond Burke said in a recent interview that “there is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage.”

We live in an upside-down world where certain evils are considered good and many good things — like traditional marriage and large, faithful Catholic families — are considered offensive. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4).

This is our world, and if we hope to turn the tide of the Culture of Death we must love in a pure and countercultural way. The early Church overcame massive persecution and changed the world forever by being a living witness to the sacrificial love of Our Lord. We can do the same if we abandon ourselves to Jesus Christ. There is no other way.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Ending lives or perfecting love

They will die anyway. It will put them out of their misery. I wouldn’t want to live like that. These are common phrases in defense of physician-assisted suicide. The typical justification for a doctor helping a patient kill himself is that a continued existence would be miserable and full of suffering.

One frequently hears, “We treat our animals better than we do our fellow human beings” or “We are willing to watch our mother writhe in pain, and yet we don’t think twice about putting down our suffering cat.”

These are serious misunderstandings of Christ’s mandate that we love one another as he loves us. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount includes a series of rather difficult moral injunctions. He says, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Mt 5:41). This injunction is filling out what Christ himself says is the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37-39). What would this love look like to those who are approaching death and experiencing the suffering that characterizes the dying process?

It is important to keep in mind that persons who are dying often do suffer — and some horribly. We all desire for people to die in peace. This is what compassionate care demands. But it is equally important to note that we cannot eliminate the pain by getting rid of the one experiencing the pain. Those who espouse assisted suicide are clearly opting to get rid of suffering by ending the life of the sufferer. As Catholics, we know there is another way that Christ himself charted out.

To return to St. Matthew, what does it mean to “walk with a friend for another two miles”? You first walk with the friend one mile to accommodate what they have asked. You then go with them another two, totaling three miles. Saint Augustine entertains the idea that in walking for double what is asked for, one is completing love. Augustine suggests that the number three in Scripture indicates perfection. By doing double what the person has asked, we perfect love.

This is the attitude we should take in our care for the dying. Our love is complete only in doing that which exceeds what they have asked for. It is typical that for many moral “dilemmas,” the hardest route is usually the one which accords with love. Compassionate care for the dying, ministry to the family and simply being present with the patient, “walking with her double what she has asked,” respects the human dignity of the dying and constitutes the perfection of our love. When we walk with the dying, we take away loneliness and spiritual suffering and give witness, by our very actions, to the resurrection. For if we lead lives transfigured by grace, we give hope for the resurrection as well.

The “arguments” in favor of physician-assisted suicide are that it allows the patient to end his or her suffering. Since ending one’s suffering is seen as a good thing, assisted suicide is proposed as a good thing. This style of argument is woefully inadequate: It proposes that human suffering has no value, and it wrongly presumes that one has the right to end one’s own life.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful letter to the Church called Salvifici Doloris (On the Meaning of Human Suffering) in which he identifies a “supernatural” quality to human suffering by rooting it in the divine mystery of the redemption of the world.

He states that “suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is as deep as man himself, precisely because it manifests in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: It is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense ‘destined’ to go beyond himself.”

How can human suffering have a transcendent dimension? Because in suffering we are united most closely with the Man of Sorrows, Jesus Christ. And as St. Paul stated of his own suffering: “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24).

No one wants to see a loved one suffer, but with the eyes of faith one can see, not an absence of God’s love, but his love at its most profound and mysterious level. To state that suffering is an evil to be destroyed by taking the life of the one suffering is to rob a person of their most intimate moments with our Lord as he prepares them to join him in eternity. To take one’s own life or the life of another is to reject God’s sovereignty over life and to refuse his love, which we are assured of to the very end of our lives.

Stephen Napier is a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. He serves on the University of Pennsylvania’s Institutional Review Board.