“Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! The good of the family is also the good of the Church.” -Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, June 5, 2011
As we journey deeper into the month of October, Respect Life Month, my family awaits the arrival of another miracle of life: Timothy Joseph. I find myself thinking about “life” as time draws near to meet my third son – I have embraced this exercise as I anticipated meeting all of my children.
Some of my reflection has focused on what will this world be like for Timothy. Will he grow up in a world that reflects a culture of death or a world that brings forth a culture of life? Will he encounter a civilization of selfishness and a perverse understanding of freedom or a civilization of love, selfless love for the sake of the other? Will he witness a disdain for life, especially for the most vulnerable and innocent, or will he see the witness of those who have an “openness to life” and therefore an “openness to the future, confidence in the future?”
It seems to me, as I continue to be blessed to serve the Lord through my work in the Church, that so many people are unaware what or who they are created for. They lack an identity. Pope Benedict XVI, in his Message for World Youth Day (2011), sums up our purpose, “Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. … The desire for a more meaningful life is a sign that God created us and that we bear His ‘imprint.’ God is life, and that is why every creature reaches out towards life. Because human beings are made in the image of God, we do this in a unique and special way. We reach out for love, joy and peace.”
There are too many lost souls who do not know their true identity and this lack of knowledge leads to so much of the pain, suffering and misguided attempts at happiness seen in our world today. Respect Life Month gives us an opportunity to refocus and become reenergized as Catholics so we can help the people who cross our paths to come to know their value — to come to know that the Creator of all is loving them into existence each and every moment of their lives. This “education,” rather, this epiphany will help them to grow in respect of all life, to bring forth a culture of life, to embrace a civilization of love and be witnesses to the openness to life.
This is the world that I pray my Timothy Joseph will grow up in during the years ahead. I pray that God will give me the grace to be an instrument in His hands to help build that world.
By Michael Lavigne
“So let my life become a testimony of my Saviour’s grace and love
Oh, this is my heart’s cry–to stand before the Father one day
And hear Him say well done–this is my heart’s cry.”
– Heart’s Cry, Steven Curtis Chapman
This past week Fr. Roger Marot breathed his last on earth. There is no question that the verse above reflected his desires throughout his life. He gave his life to God as a priest and through his priestly ministry strived to help thousands of people to make their lives a testimony to the grace and love of Jesus Christ. I was certainly one of those impacted by his ministry.
I first met Fr. Roger Marot when I attended an 8th grade retreat at the CYO Center that was named after him. I’m confident neither of us were aware as to how God would use him to help me become a disciple, discern my vocation to marriage and work for the Church my entire adult life. And I know that my experience of him is shared by so many other people whose lives were touched by this man of God.
Fr. Marot was not a perfect man. He knew that as well as anyone. But he desperately wanted the people he encountered – at the parish, through CYO and the Marian Association, in every activity he helped lead – to fall in love with Jesus Christ, Mary, the Church, the Eucharist and Reconciliation. There was a constant push from him for excellence in all his work and he expected it from all of us who served with him. Such a demand for excellence for all the souls who we are blessed to serve left a lasting impression on me even to this day. He believed that seeking excellence – in all aspects of ministry – could lead to helping others to encounter the beautiful, the good and the truth that ultimately points to an encounter with Jesus.
The best example of this was his commitment and dedication to the Search retreat. How many people had the opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ and the Church through this weekend? The Search weekend was the beginning of my journey of discipleship on so many levels. I’m sure many of you can say the same.
If you served on a team with Fr. Marot you know first-hand of his expectation of the highest standard possible in the execution of those retreats. So many meetings. So many hours. So many tasks. I loved that about him. It was not always easy – Fr. Marot and I had more than a few disagreements over the years – to work with him. But I worked through such moments, with him, by remembering what he was striving for in all that he did. He wanted the best for God’s children. Shouldn’t we all?
In the work I do today for the Archdiocese of Boston we offer a workshop on forming intentional disciples. One of our sessions reminds participants that in order to form disciples of Jesus Christ we need to engage, equip and send. I’d like to share a few memories of Fr. Marot based on those principles.
It is important that we form relationships with those we are striving to help become disciples. Part of this is meeting people where they are in life. When I went on the Search weekend I did not know any of the other participants or team members. Of course the team members went out of their way to welcome all of us who walked through the front door of the Center on that Friday night. But I distinctly remember the next day as I was playing basketball by myself in the gym during one of the first breaks when Fr. Marot approached and asked if he could shoot around with me. I barely knew him. He broke the ice, which began our long association, and he could really shoot a basketball! He loved people. He loved to laugh. He loved to engage all those God placed into his path of life. Since his passing I have not been surprised to see posts from people who I know – from other states – who encountered Fr. Marot in their lives.
When a person we are evangelizing gives their life to Jesus Christ – becomes a disciple – they need to be equipped for the mission of the Church to do the same for others. As I look back on my journey, especially in my teen years, I was blessed to encounter many adult disciples who helped equip me for mission, but none did so as profoundly as Fr. Marot. While still in high school he asked me to be on Search and Phase II retreat teams. And the experience of being on those teams were mini-boot camps, which began the process of equipping me (and many others) for mission.
He had a particular way of recognizing specific gifts/charisms in others and placing us in the right roles to use those gifts. I remember when he asked me to speak at one of the CYO Conclaves when I was still in high school and very much a neophyte in the faith – in every single sense of the word. Why me? What did he see in me? How can I possibly do what he is asking me to do? But you were never alone. When he asked you to do something he was always there to teach you, to give you books to read (and he always knew who had what book so you had to be sure to get that book back to him!) and coach you all the way until you were prepared for the talk or the particular task he had recruited you to do.
If you were not prepared or equipped it was certainly not his fault. He had a gift for equipping the faithful.
Fr. Marot constantly called people to place their lives in service of the mission of Jesus Christ and His Church. How many disciples were sent into the vineyard by this instrument of God’s grace?
My life – in every imaginable way – is what it is today due to being sent out for mission by the prompting of my mentor and friend, Fr. Marot. It was he who was instrumental in my helping to facilitate retreats at the CYO Center at the age of 18 (too, too young as I look back gratefully). Fr. Marot called me to coordinate the CYO at St. Agatha’s which eventually led, a couple of years later, to my being hired full-time by the next pastor (at Fr. Marot’s prompting and encouragement). Those positions were the foundation of 23 years of working in parishes, schools and dioceses – because of him I have been blessed to wake up every day loving the work that I do.
He was instrumental in praying for me and talking to me constantly about where God was calling me vocationally. I know he really pushed for the vocation to the priesthood, but was just as supportive of my knowing that God was calling me to marriage. Was there anyone more joy-filled about my meeting Lori Degaitas (besides my parents and myself)?!?
Lori just said the other day that he had us married in his mind when he asked us to rector a Search together just weeks into our courtship. And sure enough he would celebrate our wedding Mass about 14 months later. I am so blessed that Fr. Marot was free to be moved by the Holy Spirit to send me out over and over again in my life. I know that many of you had the same experience.Fr. Roger Marot is the holiest and hardest working priest I have personally known in my life. I do not say this lightly as I have been blessed to encounter many holy and hard working priests of Jesus Christ. He helped me to fall in love with Jesus Christ – especially in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. I credit his role as my confessor, for many years in my life, in helping me develop a habit of turning to that sacrament of healing and mercy regularly on my journey. His dedication to all that is beautiful, good and true changed the lives of thousands of us for the better.
My family had a special bond with Fr. Marot (I know we are not the only ones who can say this). For many years he joined us for our family Christmas gatherings, among so many other moments in our family’s history. His absence will be felt by my parents, my siblings and spouses, all our children (who were blessed to be in his presence and are old enough to remember), and myself. I am eternally grateful for the gift Fr. Marot’s life in all of our lives and am hopeful that we will meet again through the grace of God.
Fr. Marot, it is my fervent prayer and hope that you have been able to stand in front of our Father in heaven and hear Him say, “well done good and faithful servant.” This is my heart’s cry.
By Michael Lavigne
Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion!
– Pope Francis, Message for Lent 2016
Pope Francis reminds us not to “waste this season” of Lent which begins today! These days are an opportunity to step away from all that holds us back from participating in our own divinization through the grace of the Triune God. These days are a time to allow God to break us from all that breaks our relationship with Him. These days are a time to cast off the shackles of sin so that we may embrace the call to holiness in our lives.
These days offer us an opportunity to empty ourselves that we might encounter the Face of Mercy. These days can be used to invite others – who are mired in sin, pain, hurt, fear, suffering – to that same encounter with the One who is Mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
My hope is to not waste these days. Will you?
So what will your game plan be for these days of Lent?
Are you taking the road of giving up the same thing that you have for the past 20 years? Are you heading into these days with wild expectations to give up much and take up much only to be frustrated within a week or so? Are you planning on doing anything different at all?
Typically my approach would be a combination of all or some of the above. Usually I would have a very ambitious plan of action and I would set myself up for failure.
I plan on approaching these days very differently this year. My goal is to see each day as an opportunity for deeper conversation and an opportunity to give witness to the Face of Mercy in my encounters with others. Each of these days will be a new time for conversion through the grace of God.
I will be taking these days one day at a time. Forty-seven days to pray, fast, and give. Forty-seven days to encounter and invite. Forty-seven days to allow my Savior, Jesus Christ to make my heart like His.
My hope is to not waste these days. Will you?
By Michael Lavigne
Tomorrow, which is the anniversary of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision, thousands will gather in Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life. Since I was in middle school this date has always caused me to stop and reflect on the gift of life. Such reflection became even more significant for me since my wife and I were blessed with the gift of children beginning almost eleven years ago. Looking at their faces – thinking about the gift of their lives – I am struck by the enormity of the statement that thousands of our brothers and sisters will make by their presence in our nation’s capital tomorrow.
I believe the message, in it’s simplest form, is that we are better than that…we are capable of making decisions which protect the dignity of human life throughout the age spectrum. Abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, child abuse, and any other attack against life – all life – always exemplifies the lowest common denominator of human behavior.
Humans – as rational beings – are better than that. We are capable of seeking and knowing truth, beauty, and goodness. Attacks against the most innocent among us are never based on such standards irregardless of the messaging that is used to mask the destruction that such callous acts typically bring upon the victims. For example, show me the unborn baby, mother or father who believe they are free – truly free – physically, emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually after following the choice of abortion. We are better than that disordered decision and such victims, yes they are all victims, intuitively know this reality.
Throughout his papacy Saint John Paul II reminded all of humanity that, “We are all obligated to care for man.” Caring for another person is not allowing them to settle for the worst of what humanity is capable of doing, but, rather, challenging them to know what what is true, good, and beautiful so that they may live life abundantly as children of God. Also, caring for others obligates us to show them the “face of Mercy” – most perfectly found in Jesus Christ – when they have sinned or have had sin perpetrated upon them. This Year of Mercy gives us a tremendous opportunity to do this in a profound manner!
As crowds gather tomorrow let us remember that we are better than the worst that humanity can do to the innocent among us. We are capable of extraordinary things in service of our brothers and sisters, especially with the grace of the Father of Mercy! Let us pray that everyone will come to know that all humans – from conception to natural death – are created in the image and likeness of God and thereby seek truth, goodness and beauty in their lives.
By Michael Lavigne
“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him… In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.”
– Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy
Tomorrow the Church will begin the celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. From December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016 all of us are called to “constantly contemplate the mystery of mercy” so that we might embrace God’s mercy in our own lives and that we might become people of mercy who seek to draw our brothers and sisters into a relationship with Jesus Christ who “is the face of the Father’s mercy.”
As I daily examine my journey as a disciple, a husband, a father, a friend, and as a servant of Christ’s Church I ask God to illuminate my soul that I might be aware of the times that I fail to love Him as He deserves and others as they deserve. In those moments I hunger for God’s mercy. I want to be healed of my brokenness – of my sin – and desire God’s grace. Thankfully I know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available to me where I can encounter the living Christ who reaches into my life to heal me of my sin and give me the grace that I need to “become a more effective sign of the Father’s action” in my life.
So many of our Catholic brothers and sisters, who desperately need such healing, keep themselves away from this beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation. Some do not feel like God can forgive their sins. Some are scared to approach the Church due to a bad experience in the past or simply because they forgot how to go to Confession. Still others simply need to be invited by an instrument of God’s mercy – by you or I.
Just last week a major newspaper had the headline “God isn’t fixing this” in response to politicians who said they would be praying for the victims of the most recent terrorist attack. How many believe this in their own lives – in regards to their own sinfulness or the baggage that they may be carrying due to the sins others have perpetrated against them? But Catholics believe that God CAN fix “this” – that God can fix anything! And one of the most amazing ways that He can “fix” us – heal us – is through the encounter with His Son Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
My prayer for all of us is that we re-center our lives towards Mercy Himself during this Jubilee year. May God illuminate the sin, pain, fear, doubt in our lives and give us the strength to turn to Jesus to be healed and given the grace to be the face of mercy for those whom we encounter in our lives.
By Michael Lavigne
I haven’t sat down to write a post in a while due to work demands, illness and the complicating process of selling and buying a new home. But I am inspired to write as we draw closer to one of my favorite days of the year!
This week most families in our country will pause on Thanksgiving Day to take stock of all that we have been blessed with in our lives. While it is important for us to express our gratefulness to God every single day, I am no different than most people in recognizing the significance of this cultural practice and using this occasion to spend a little more time reflecting on the blessings from the past months – a little more time to focus on the Giver of all good things – a chance to pour out my heart and say that I am thankful.
This year I am focused on being thankful for the gift of my wife, our marriage and fruits of our love – our children. I am humbled by my wife’s ability to love me selflessly day-in and day-out and her constant example of patience as she daily loves our children. Words cannot express the thanksgiving in my heart for the gift of our marriage – the ups and the downs, the struggles and the joys – all of it is part of this graced journey with our God.
I thank the Creator of all life for the miracles of life (fruits of our sacramental love for one another) that He has given Lori and I in our children. There are so many directions that I could go in following such a thought, so let me simply focus on the thanksgiving I have in my heart each day when I gaze upon their faces – their innocence, their capacity to learn, their child-like faith, their reminding me each evening to stop and…play.
In the moments of peace (and play) I realize the enormity of their lives – the fact that God entrusted these young souls to my wife and I. That they are not objects for our amusement. They are not prizes or possessions. They are gifts and they belong to God. And in accepting these gifts we assume a great responsibility upon which we will be judged. Our vocation – our job if you will – is to model for our children our Catholic faith. We must be passionate in our desire to teach the truths of our faith, model a sacramental life and pass on an awareness of our baptismal call to be disciples of Jesus Christ here on earth.
Finally, I am thankful for the work that I am blessed to participate in each day with a team of disciples who love Jesus Christ, the Church, and the people we are privileged to serve throughout the Archdiocese of Boston. My team and all those we meet along the way challenge me to grow in holiness and inspire me to strive for excellence in all that I do as a disciple of Jesus.
May the celebration of this week be an opportunity for each of us to “count our blessings” each day and remember the One who provides for all of our needs and so often exceeds our expectations in every area of our lives.
From our family to yours may you have blessed Thanksgiving Day!
By Michael Lavigne
Right vs Left. Liberal vs Conservative. Traditionalist vs Progressive. I’m sick of the labels. I’m sick of applying Western political terms to the practice of the Catholic faith. I’m sick of each side – especially the extremes of each side – claiming they own the truth.
The Truth can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ. Risen from the dead. Truly present in the Eucharist. Mercy and Healer in Reconciliation. The Truth handed on to us through the Magisterium of the Church. God made man.
The Evil One wants division, chaos, bickering, noise.
The labels are simply another device that Satan uses to divide the Church. The Evil One wants division, chaos, bickering, noise. He desires it because he knows it keeps us from focusing on the One who creates all that is good. It keeps us from true orthodoxy. It keeps us from brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ. It keeps us sick.
And I’m tired of reading about it, participating in it and seeing the Church ripped apart because of it. As disciples of Jesus Christ we must be better than this type of accusatory labelling. The world needs us to be.
So let’s focus on Truth Himself.
So let’s focus on Truth Himself. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize, which is the Beatific Vision – life with the Triune God for eternity. And let’s work hard, empowered by the grace that is ours through Christ (especially through the Sacraments), to help others grow in holiness and to make disciples of all nations.