23 Great Movies to Inspire Sacrifice

They say that visual images can become powerful conduits of change. Maybe a few great movies can set the stage. Rev us up. Inspire our wills to engage in something greater than ourselves. And if not, well, at least we’ll have enjoyed two hours of great entertainment!


Sacrifice is about giving of oneself for another.  Whether that other is God, country, family, mankind or even some worthy cause, there is something so powerful about such a visible and even painful act of love.

In our world, sacrifice is difficult to offer. Perhaps because of all the entitlements we enjoy (Have we become weak in our consumption?), or perhaps because relativism reigns and love has become so intertwined with our fleeting emotions that it is no longer construed as worthy of sacrifice.

Whatever the reason, the world is sorely in need of an increase. Could a little inspiration spur us on? They say that visual images can become powerful conduits of change. Maybe a few great movies can set the stage. Rev us up. Inspire our wills to engage in something greater than ourselves. A few heroic examples may just inspire in us the courage, discipline or the will to stand tall.

And if not, well, we’ll have enjoyed two hours of great entertainment!

A couple of notes about the list: First, I know there are plenty of saint stories that demonstrate heroic sacrifice; but I opted to include two of my absolute favorites. And frankly, I’m sure there are plenty I’ve never seen, so I’m not even going to try to pretend to be an expert here! The same is true for war movies. I included a few; but I’m sure there are many more that you could add to my list.

Additionally, I did not include any movies about sacrifice for one’s own benefit. For example, one of our favorite movies is Rudy; but as inspirational it is, every ounce of sweat Rudy spills is in pursuit of his life’s dream of playing football for Notre Dame. While his goal is laudable, it is not a sacrifice for someone or something outside of himself. And all those other great “sport” movies? I felt the same about them – although my husband and son both declared that they are all about sacrificing for the good of the team. Maybe, but if I were to include all the inspirational movies about athletes, this list would be virtually infinite.

Most important to note: This list is simply meant to be a conversation starter. I am definitely not a movie guru! If you think of any greats that are missing, please comment and add them to the list!

For God

(OK. The first two movies are about God’s sacrifice for us; but I couldn’t think of a catchy title for that category.)

  1. The Passion (2004) – No explanation necessary. His Passion says it all.
  2. The Gospel of John (2003) – Masterful work of art depicting the entire Gospel with no additions.
  3. Mary of Nazareth (2014) – This movie walks with Mary through the life of Christ; most notable is her great joy, despite all that she must suffer. Everything she is and everything she has (including her Son), she offers to God.
  4. A Man for All Seasons (1966) – Amazing demonstration of courage in the face of great pressure to conform to the will of an earthly king.

For Country

  1. Les Miserables (2012) – This arguably could be listed under family as well – Jean Valjean’s sacrifice for Fantine and her daughter are so integral to the movie that they take center stage at his death. But with the huge overtones of sacrifice for love of country and the score that highlights that aspect of the movie, I opted to list it here. This has to be my all-time favorite movie. I could watch it over and over and never tire – especially of the final scene.
  2. The Patriot (2000) – I’ve heard that this movie is not at all historically accurate; but there must be some element of truth to the grueling nature of the sacrifices offered by early Americans. We saw this movie for the first time only recently, and while it was violent, I definitely found it inspirational.
  3. Air Force One (1997) – Don’t we all dream of a Commander in Chief who would be so courageous and honorable?! And who doesn’t love Harrison Ford as a hero?! I could have included his others here as well – Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Now that I think about it, perhaps the Star Wars series should have been on my list too.
  4. Casablanca (1942) – Great classic and one of the most quoted movies ever! When I was younger, I always wondered why in the world this movie ends as it does. Now I know – sacrifice – and I love the movie all the more.
  5. We Were Soldiers (2002) – Mel Gibson is such an honorable and prayerful leader in this movie. This is one war movie that demonstrates the sacrifice of both our men in uniform and their wives who held down the forts at home, never knowing when or if their husbands would return.
  6. For Greater Glory (2012) – This one shows how saints are made.
  7. Braveheart (1995) – Confession – I haven’t actually seen this movie. But I’ve heard about it forever and it’s on my short list. Ask me after this weekend and I’ll let you know whether I think it lives up to its reputation.
  8. Red Dawn (Chris Hemsworth)(2012) – Or you could watch the first version from 1984 with Patrick Swayze. – The concept of this movie is a little frightening these days considering the state of the world.

For Family

  1. It’s  a Wonderful Life (1947) – Love, love, love it! Sadly, I have actually met people who haven’t seen it. What better way to demonstrate the power of a single life?!
  2. Cinderella Man (2005) – Next to Les Miserables, this is my absolute favorite movie! What a wonderful depiction of a beautiful marriage and a devoted father.
  3. Life is Beautiful (1998) – My husband saw this on accident midway through one night and had no idea what it was called; but he assured me it was one the best movies he’d seen. We did the research and rented it right away. To have such a positive outlook in such horrendous circumstances for the sake of one’s son – I only wish I demonstrated such joy and optimism in the wake of something as minor as a spilled glass of milk!
  4. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2006) – Greatest movie ever about perseverance in a difficult marriage. Despite alcohol abuse and irresponsibility, this marriage survives – efforts were not not 50/50, but 100/0 for many years. I loved this woman’s example of joy and determination.
  5. Bella (2007) – Choose life.
  6. Pinocchio (1940) – Yes, it’s a children’s movie. But I am reading the book to my little ones right now (again) and this is such a biblical book! Gepetto is quite a father (Jesus?). And through his sacrifice, Pinocchio (who represents you and me) learns what it means to love (i.e sacrifice).

For Mankind

  1. Mother Teresa (Olivia Hussey) (2006) – No explanation necessary.
  2. Schindler’s List (1993) – Here we have an opportunist who learns the value of human life – and then sacrifices to protect it.
  3. The Bells of Saint Mary’s (1945) – While there are other plot lines, the entire movie showcases the conversion of Mr. Bogardus, a selfish business man who becomes an extravagant giver.
  4. Amazing Grace (2007) – The amazing story behind the abolition of slavery in Great Britain.
  5. No More Baths (1998) – Our family has loved this movie for years.  Essentially it’s about a group of kids who find an unusual way to stand together and make a difference.

The Gift of Sacrifice

This is God’s gift to us. The opportunity to unite our sufferings, our frustrations, our inconveniences, to His in Love. Throughout our lives as Children of God, we are offered an infinite number of “rungs” which to climb upon the ladder of the Cross. When taken in love, the result is beautiful, both in Heaven and on earth.

“Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

We speak often of the gift of redemption that Christ offers us via His death on the cross. But through His Passion and death, He gives us another gift as well. One that we often overlook. He offersSabatini_santi crucifixion us an opportunity to experience first-hand that “greater love” of which He speaks. Not through His sacrifice. But through our own.

Of all the imaginable plans for redemption that one could have conceived, it seems the one God chose is most peculiar. After all, His only Son didn’t come into the public realm until His 30th year, he surrounded Himself with devoted friends, walked with them, talked with them, and confided in them over the course of three years, only to allow leaders of the day to mock Him, scourge Him, strip Him of His dignity, nail Him to a cross in a most humiliating way and leave Him to hang for three hours until he breathed his last.

What about that makes sense? As a Protestant, I must admit I didn’t ask very many questions. I just accepted that He died, so I didn’t have to.

But after spending some time contemplating the cross, I began to think I wasn’t seeing the whole picture. I began asking. Thankfully, our Faith offers answers. And they are more profound and beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

My greatest question had to do with His manner of death. We understand that Christ redeemed us from the absolute misery and degradation of sin. But why in this way – through a humiliatingly public and  torturous death which reached its climax atop a mountain, upon a crude and rugged cross?

Why did Christ have to make redemption such a profound and gruesome process?

Most likely His goal was to give us an example to follow:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).

With those six little words, “even as I have loved you,” Christ gives us everything.

By virtue of His cross, Christ re-opened the gates of heaven. Gates that had been closed for thousands of years as a consequence of the first sin. He demonstrated for us the power of that cross. And He calls us to follow his example:

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25),

This is that narrow gate about which we hear so often (Matthew 7:13).

Love is not a a pile of sentimental poems or a confetti of rose petals streaming from the heavens.

In reality, love looks a lot like suffering. It can be painful. It can be heart wrenching.

Indeed, love is a sacrifice.

A sacrifice first wrought by Christ, who came to show us The Way.

According to Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week,

He has truly gone right to the end, to the very limit and even beyond that limit. He has accomplished the utter fullness of love – he has given himself.

First Christ defined love.

And then He asked us to practice it.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 36-39).

For God, love = sacrifice.

And what is a sacrifice, but suffering, wrapped in a beautiful package and offered as pure gift?

Through our participation in the Body of Christ, we have the opportunity to unite our suffering with His, as we truly are One Body – this is not mere concept and symbolism. Rather, the very gift of Self that Christ has given us is the grace that helps us to love as He has loved. As Paul explains, through our participation in The Body, we have the privilege of participating in redemption:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church….(Colossians 1:24)

Paul  bids us to offer ourselves as well, to worship God through our own participation in this new concept of sacrifice that Jesus has introduced by the cross:

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(Romans 12:1).

Benedict XVI expounds on this concept of sacrifice:

…it means the offering of one’s whole existence that must be penetrated by the word and must become a gift to God. Paul, who places so much emphasis on the impossibility of justification on the basis of one’s own morality, is doubtless presupposing that this new form of Christian worship, in which Christians themselves are the “living and holy sacrifice”, is possible only through sharing in the incarnate love of Jesus Christ, a love that conquers all our insufficiency through the power of his holiness…

…the greatness of Christ’s love is revealed precisely in the fact that he takes us up into himself in all our wretchedness, into his living and holy sacrifice, so that we truly become “his body.”

Later, he concludes,

In living out the Gospel and in suffering for it, the Church, under the guidance of the apostolic preaching has learned to understand the mystery of the Cross more and more, even though ultimately it is a mystery that defies analysis in terms of our rational formulae. The darkness and irrationality of sin and the holiness of God, too dazzling for our eyes, come together in the Cross, transcending our power of understanding. And yet in the message of the New Testament, and in the proof of that message in the lives of the saints, the great mystery has become radiant light.

This is God’s gift to us. The opportunity to unite our sufferings, our frustrations, our inconveniences, to His in Love. For the good of ourselves; for the good of the body of Christ, that is, the Church.

Throughout our lives as Children of God, we are offered an infinite number of “rungs” upon which to climb as we progress up the ladder of the Cross. When we ascend in love, the result is beautiful, both in Heaven and on earth.

When you look at a crucifix today, thank God for the gift of sacrifice.

And ask for the grace to answer His call.

Seven Words for Seven Days: Meditations and Sacrifices for Holy Week

Why not make this Holy Week the greatest one yet? Don’t worry. You needn’t drop everything and spend the week in a monastery (lovely thought, but not practical for most of us). Instead, spend some time meditating on the seven last words of Christ. Easter is seven days from now – just enough time to contemplate each. But if you read this later in the week, begin wherever you find yourself. In the interest of space, my words are few, meant only to inspire further contemplation on The Word.

We have come to the last stretch of Lent. Now we begin our journey through Holy Week, the most sacred week of the year, culminating in the magnificent celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

it is finishedSo how fruitful has your Lent been thus far? Have you taken this time to repent of your sins and wring your soul of all its wretched ugliness? Have you purified your intentions, discarded your attachment to the material and focused your eyes on the goal of heaven? Have you taken additional time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving?  For some additional spiritual reading? Or do you sit on the cusp of Holy Week wishing you’d given just a bit more of yourself over the past several weeks?

Often we begin our Lenten journey with great intentions, full of courage regarding the road ahead. We are determined to tackle that narrow path. We seek God’s grace and we truly believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). We set our sights far before us, planning to thrust off the world and claim our inheritance as children of God. But as the journey takes its toll, temptations stand tall and our view of heaven is obstructed once again. Earthly commitments tend to get in the way, and our resolve fades as the days grow long and the light at the end looms dim.

But Holy Week is a new beginning. Regardless of how we’ve faired in the desert, Christ asks us to walk with Him as He makes his way through Jerusalem and enters into His paschal mystery. What a privilege to solemnly unite ourselves to His Way for the final trek of his journey.

Why not make this Holy Week the greatest one yet? Don’t worry. You needn’t drop everything and spend the week in a monastery (lovely thought, but not practical for most of us). Instead, spend some time meditating on the seven last words of Christ. Easter is seven days from now – just enough time to contemplate each. But if you read this later in the week, begin wherever you find yourself. In the interest of space, my words are few, meant only to inspire further contemplation on The Word.

Sunday: “Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” — Luke 23:24

Like Christ, who forgave the most evil of actions and actually prayed for His persecutors, take some time today to pray for someone who has persecuted you. Perhaps you don’t hold a grudge on the surface; but somewhere deep in your heart have you hardened yourself toward someone who just keeps on pushing – your spouse? Your teenager? Your best friend? Today is the day to release those who continue to sin toward you.

Action: Consider all the sins you’ve committed. Acknowledge that you would be lost without Christ’s grace. Go to Confession if at all possible; and regardless, pray an Act of Contrition. Then offer a penance today by denying yourself one of your favorite daily habits.

Monday: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” —Luke 23:43

Remember that Christ showed mercy to even the most lost of souls. Extend yourself to someone who does not deserve it. And remember that before God, we are not more deserving than the lowest of the low who stands before us. We must love like Christ loves, that (like the good thief on the cross), we, too, might join Him in Paradise.

Action: Contemplate heaven. Think of your absolute favorite thing on this earth; and then consider it as nothing compared to the eternal joy of our Heavenly Father’s house. For others – pray for the poor souls in Purgatory. Consider adding the Saint Gertrude Prayer to your daily routine. For yourself or for a loved one – take the steps necessary today to obtain a plenary indulgence.

Tuesday: Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “This is your mother.” — John 19:26-27

Mary is your mother. Just stop and inhale that thought for a moment. The Mother of God is your mother too! And just as your earthly mother desires only what’s best for you, your heavenly mother desires only to unite you to her Son, and will do whatever it takes to lead you to Him.

Action: Pray the rosary today. Contemplate the Sorrowful mysteries and spend time thinking both of Christ’s suffering for us, and also of the Sorrows of Mary that are part and parcel of her perfect motherhood.

Wednesday: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34

Sometimes we feel completely abandoned by God. But even in your darkest hour, you can rest assured that “the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). There is no greater obedience than that which stems from trust. And we have God’s word that we can trust Him, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Action: Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet today. If you haven’t already done so, consider making it part of your daily routine, . For a great discussion on God’s gift of Divine Mercy and how it is playing itself out in our world today, read The Second Greatest Story Ever Told by Father Michael Gaitley.

Thursday: I thirst. — John 19:28

As Blessed Mother Teresa often said, Christ’s greatest thirst is for souls. He doesn’t long for just any soul. He longs for your soul. He desires nothing more than to be united with you forever in His heavenly kingdom. And the most beautiful part? At your innermost core, you long to quench His thirst, for “As the heart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God” (Psalms 42:1). Christ longs for us. We long for Him. A perfect match, disparaged only by the brokenness and obscurity of sin.

Action: When Mother Teresa was young, the very poor would knock on her family’s door asking for food. Her mother used to say, “Teresa, go and make a sandwich for Jesus.” Quench His thirst as did Blessed Mother Teresa. Today, offer your time, talent and or treasure to serve the poorest of the poor in your community. Also, deny yourself a meal today and offer your sacrifice for the poor among us. Do not simply give. Give with absolute joy and thanksgiving, recognizing those whom you serve for who they are – Christ, in your midst.

Friday: They put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished;” and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit. Gospel of John 19:29-30

Oh, the thousands of pages that have been written to analyze these three words. Yes. It is finished. At the most simple level, His job is complete. We have been redeemed. Now, the question – as we force ourselves to contemplate his blood-soaked body, hanging helplessly upon the cross –  How are we going to respond to His gift?

Action: Attend The Stations of the Cross today, on this, the saddest and yet most beautiful day of the year. The Bible tells us that “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Is there someone you would like to bring back to Christ? In addition to your Lenten fast, offer a particularly difficult sacrifice today for that person’s soul. Whether it be giving up coffee, complaining, or something else that reminds you of your sacrifice several times today, you will never regret offering such a loving gift. God hears your prayers and will not leave you alone. Elisabeth Leseur spent years offering prayers and sacrifices for the conversion of her atheist husband, even offering her life in the end. Her sacrifices were rewarded when her husband became a practicing Catholic, and then a Dominican priest.

Saturday: Jesus cried out in a loud voice,  “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Gospel of Luke 23:46

At the end of your earthly life, we, too, will commend our spirits into God’s hands. It should be our greatest desire to do this with peace and joy, rather than fear and trepidation. Choosing daily to unite our wills to God’s, will bring great comfort, for we will never be unsure about what to expect when our time comes.

In handing your life over to God, you can be confident that upon your death, you will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:23). For you, Easter Sunday will be a reminder of the Hope that gives us the power to trust without fear.

Action: Spend an hour in adoration today. Contemplate His will. Know that in your sacrifice, you are uniting yourself to Him. Prepare yourself for the Resurrection that is to come, and think of the joy that will surpass all words when, upon leaving this earthly life, you find yourself in the arms of your Heavenly Father.

The root of all good works is the hope of the resurrection; for the expectation of the reward  [moves] the soul to good works. – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem


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The BEST Thing You Can do For Your Children

As Christians, we are called to
be Christ to the world. Where is that calling more important than at the center of our own world, in our own home, with the person closest to us?

There are arguably a lot of things you can and should do for your children. You should teach them about God. You should teach them to be kind to others. You should make sure marriage paintingthey get a great education, teach them to be independent, endow them with a great work ethic, teach them how to manage money…and the list goes on and on.

But the absolute best thing you can do for your children?

Love your spouse.

And loving your spouse is not a nice, feel good phrase. It means sacrifice. Loving your spouse literally means laying down your life for your spouse day after day, for the rest of your life, as Christ laid down His life for you.

As Servant of God, Father Flanagan once said,

Isn’t sacrifice the real measure of love? Genuine love in married life comes only to two people who are mutually and supremely unselfish.

There is no greater gift you can give to your children.

That’s right. Love your husband even if he tends to be insensitive and careless. Love your wife, even if she can be controlling and a bit of a nag.

Love is a decision. It is an action. It is not merely an emotion.

Love is not about a bitter martyrdom. It’s not about actions that rest only on the surface while we allow our hearts to harden and rot on the inside. Love is about reframing our thoughts toward the good of another. If anything, it is a martyrdom of grace and generosity – of extreme care and consideration that pours forth from heart, mind and soul.

We must always assume the best, always give the benefit of the doubt, always go the extra mile. Not only to be kind, but to think kindly.

As Bishop Robert Barron has said many times,

“Love is to will the good of the other as other.”

Love is not about me. It is not about my feelings. It is about my spouse. God has ordained me as a wife for one purpose. That is, to help my husband get to heaven. And by virtue of that union, together it is our calling to lead our children there as well.

As Christians, we are called to be Christ to the world. Where is that calling more important than at the center of our own world, in our own home, with the person closest to us? The one with whom we are united as one until we reach the end of our earthly journey?

There is a great line in the movie The Sound of Music, shortly after Captain von Trapp and Maria are married, when Max, a close family relative, tries to get Maria to change the captain’s mind about allowing his children to sing in a festival. While Maria supports the idea, her husband has just made it clear to Max that he is absolutely against it. Her answer?

“Max, I can’t ask him to be less than he is.”

Consider the beauty in that simple statement. Her response is not, I will talk with him. It is not, Sometimes he can be so stubborn. It is not a roll of the eyes. Her simple statement implies a solemn belief that God rests in the soul of her husband and that he is good.

Words to keep in mind when we are tempted to question our spouse’s actions or opinions.

What does all this love, honor and respect do for your children? It teaches them that love is an act of the will, rather than a fleeting emotion. When they see you treat your husband, your wife (their father, their mother) with great kindness in all circumstances, with respect no matter your mood, with great deference regardless of the demands of others, they learn that love is an act of the will. This enables them to learn to pay little heed to their fleeting passions and be mindful of using their own wills to love.

When they witness the love of Christ through the unwavering devotion of their parents –  from their earliest days as they soak in the world, through adolescence, when they begin to question your decisions, and into adulthood when they begin to realize that life can present great challenges and complex choices – they will have built a foundation that will carry them through every storm. They will know their place in the world and will feel secure.

I know there are so many illustrations of this kind of love; but I’ll leave you with a personal example that has inspired me greatly over the years.

My husband was one of nine children. He grew up on a dairy farm in Northeast Nebraska, in a small farmhouse with four bedrooms, one bathroom and one corded telephone. There was a lot of work. And there was a lot of love. While they were growing up, a simple little plaque hung on a wall in the living room. It read,

The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

My husband’s father did just that.

And the nine children who witnessed their parents’ relationship?

They have tried to follow suit.

In a world where 50% of marriages end in divorce, by God’s grace, all nine of their children are still married – to their first and only spouse. The longest marriage has lasted over 30 years and the shortest just under 20.

The example of love witnessed by these nine children has given them more than all the riches in the world could have possibly provided them. And by extension, that example has flowed through to enrich 36 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren as well.

Of course, I’m sure my in-laws would attest that they were not perfect. Even great relationships falter. As human beings, we will fall again and again. But through the grace of God we can seek forgiveness and begin anew. Marriage is about mercy. It is about perseverance.  It is about a commitment to the pursuit of the good.

Regardless of the missteps and the mistakes, loving your spouse is still undoubtedly the BEST thing you can do for your children.

When I converted to the Catholic Church, my husband went through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) with me. In one of the early sessions, the priest asked each of us to tell him what picture came to mind when we thought of God. My husband immediately said, “My parents.” 

His answer gets to the heart of the matter. By loving our spouse through good times and bad, we become a picture of Christ they will carry in their hearts forever. We enable them to invite Him into their lives with open arms, because He is as familiar to them as the love they witnessed between their parents day in and day out. And when the thought of Christ becomes as warm and comfortable as coming home, how can they not want to spend the rest of eternity with Him?


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A House Upon the Sand – When We Refuse to Promote the Common Good

If we are to survive as a nation, we must stop trying to redefine the rock that is the family, and once again build a culture that promotes this sacred institution.

Seventeen years ago I worked for a nonprofit that sought to promote the virtues of marriage and its incalculable bearing upon the common good. After a year of campaigning familyfor a cause which I believed to be one of the most significant if not the most significant in our nation’s history, I stepped out in order to focus my time and energy on my own marriage and on the amazing fruit of that relationship, which at the time was about 20 inches long and wrapped in a soft but tiny blue receiving blanket. Unbeknownst to that precious little bundle, the two hearts of this husband and wife were now intricately bound with his own and he would carry them with him for the rest of our lives.

This is what family is about. Two become one, and that one can become three.   Or, in our case after 21 years, eight. But like the Blessed Trinity, while we are three (or four or eight, or thirteen), we are still one. By virtue of the sacrament of marriage and the blessing of parenthood, families are a single unit, each individual part of which serves to help every other part, that the whole may one day attain heaven.

Ultimately, family is about sacrifice. Something that must be promoted in today’s world.

Few can describe the beauty and purpose of family life as eloquently as did Pope [Saint] John Paul II, in his encyclical, Familiaris Consortio:

Christian marriage, like the other sacraments, “whose purpose is to sanctify people, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God,” is in itself a liturgical action glorifying God in Jesus Christ and in the church. By celebrating it, Christian spouses profess their gratitude to God for the sublime gift bestowed on them of being able to live in their married and family lives the very love of God for people and that of the Lord Jesus for the church, his bride.

Just as husbands and wives receive from the sacrament the gift and responsibility of translating into daily living the sanctification bestowed on them, so the same sacrament confers on them the grace and moral obligation of transforming their whole lives into a “spiritual sacrifice” (#56).

God has given us a magnificent gift – the family is the foundation of all of society. Solid families build strong  neighborhoods. Strong neighborhoods come together as proactive communities. Proactive communities make up productive towns, uniting to form sovereign states in our case, which then come together to share their values beneath the umbrella of a great nation.

This all works very well.

Until the foundation crumbles.

As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live. – Pope John Paul II

In the case of our own nation, the cracks are visible; but rather than fixing the foundation, we are busy re-plastering and re-painting all the residual damage.

Daily we hear about problem after problem, each calling for serious solutions. Crime rates are on the rise and gun violence is increasing, as are random violence, poverty, dismal education scores, drug abuse and availability, the divide between the rich and the poor, the number of children born to single parents, the strain on social services,  and more.

As a nation, we are desperate to find solutions to each of these problems. And the solution most promoted is legislation. We decrease sentencing so that fewer crimes result in jail time. We attempt to restrict guns so that criminals cannot commit crimes. We hear about police brutality, a need for additional aid to the poor, increased spending on education, a redistribution of wealth, more counseling and free daycare for single parents. The answer to every proposal that has been tried and failed is to spend MORE money and give MORE consideration!!!  And yet, we have been increasing funding in each of these areas for decades now.

To no avail.


Because there is no amount of money that will solve any of these problems. Simply put, a lack of legislation is not the problem. In fact, legislation actually contributes to the problem, to the extent that it demeans the institution of the family.

That’s right.

We have been destroying the very foundation of our nation by destroying the institution the family – an institution grounded in strong marriages, which we have thrown to the wolves of self-satisfaction and worldly fulfillment.

We have become a house built on sand. And a house built on sand is bound to fall.

The family has been chiseled away to an unrecognizable version of its former self. We are now standing on the quicksand of relativism, individualism and self-determination. We are being sucked under by political correctness and a refusal to make judgements that promote the common good.

And yet, those judgements must be made. God designed the family perfectly. We redefine it to our detriment. Every child needs a father and mother; and, despite efforts to ignore the obvious, all social science evidence points to that simple fact.

As a society, we have a moral obligation to promote the good.

Divorce and single-parent families increase the chances that children will have significant problems throughout life. Children of divorce are more likely to get addicted to cigarettes, drugs or alcohol,  commit crimes and struggle with reduced performance in school . They often suffer from lower high school and college graduation rates compared to their married-parent counterparts and are significantly more likely to grow up in poverty. Girls growing up with a single-parent are more likely to become pregnant while in high school. And the trend continues to further generations, as children of divorce are more likely to divorce themselves. (Interestingly enough, a single-parent home as the result of the death of a parent does not have the same damaging affects.)

The most comprehensive examination of the complex and long-lasting effects of divorce on children was conducted by Dr. Judith Wallerstein, who tracked 100 victims of divorce over the course of 25 years to thoroughly evaluate its longitudinal affects on their lives. The dramatic results can be read in her book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.

In addition to the fact that divorce often has a negative effect on children, there is also evidence to demonstrate that divorce is contagious. According to Pew Research, we are 75% more likely to get a divorce if we have a friend that gets a divorce.

And when we do divorce, and months or years later find a mate whom we believe to be our true love? We may be fooling ourselves. Second marriages have a 67-80% chance of ending in divorce.

This is a spiraling cycle that has spun out of control. Let no one quote to you statistics that tout decreasing divorce rates. Because we’re also dealing with a generation full of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbirth, which in turn lead to all the same results discussed above.

No where is this information refuted. Instead, it is ignored because it flies in the face of the political agenda of the day. The widespread mindset that promotes following our own hearts; doing what makes us “happy.” Unfortunately, that mindset doesn’t even serve adults in the long run, as more often than not, divorce does not lead to increased happiness.

If we are to survive as a nation, we must stop trying to redefine the rock that is the family, and once again build a culture that  promotes this sacred institution.

There is a lot we can do to promote the common good as a society. Of course, our greatest impact on our children will come from the lives we lead in our own homes. But with the entire culture seeking to destroy our best efforts, that has become uphill battle. Combined with our own efforts, messages from every level must promote the common good.

We must be able to say that marriage is good, cohabitation and sex before marriage are bad. Commitment is good. Selfishness is bad. Feelings are fleeting. True love is a verb.

The greatest power of the presidency is the bully pulpit. The greatest power of the media is to inform on the facts – not a twisted, politically correct version that fits the mantra of the day. The greatest power of Hollywood is to persuade through the use of illustration. The greatest power in our communities, in our churches, in our schools and, most importantly, in our homes, is the example set and any spoken word that pays homage to the good.

For years, we have subtly desecrated the notion of the two-parent family through each and every one of those mediums. Here is just one example from Hollywood.  Mrs. Doubtfire– an unbelievably celebrated movie – was so funny that perhaps you didn’t even notice how it attempted to redefine the institution of the family:

There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. Some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. Some live in separate homes and neighbourhoods in different areas of the country. They may not see each other for days, weeks, months or even years at a time. But if there’s love, dear, those are the ties that bind. And you’ll have a family in your heart for ever.

Very subtle; very sly; one message among many.

You may defend Mrs. Doubtfire by arguing this message is true. After all, we must support children who are not so blessed to have a father and mother. They should be validated rather than suffer some stigma because their parents are divorced, or perhaps never married. Let me first say that those children are not fooled. As a child who grew up with divorced parents, all the messages in the world would not have convinced me that having my dad live somewhere else was just as “good” as having him live with the rest of us. You can offer all the platitudes you like, but kids know  when they are getting the short end of the stick.

For adults on the other hand…the message subtly validates what are no doubt complex and difficult decisions. And it as no doubt reassured countless parents who find themselves in unhappy marriages.

Mrs. Doubtfire came out over 20 years ago. And the messages that we have received since that time – from just about every direction – have only served to further deteriorate this sacred institution. There have been exceptions. But those exceptions are too few and far between.

It’s time we call foul. We must say NO to all efforts that attempt to legislate symptoms rather than dealing with the problem. We need to make clear that while, yes, there are all sorts of different families, the one that God ordained is the one that best promotes the common good.

Until we do, we will continue to build our house upon the sand.


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It’s Better to Light One Candle than to Curse the Darkness!

Do you ever wonder what you can do in a world of darkness? Light a candle! One way to do this is to join the Christopher Movement – a movement founded over 60 years ago (by The Greatest Generation) to spread truth throughout the culture!

Have you ever heard of the Christopher Movement? Founded by Father James Keller in 1945, it was established in effort to encourage all men and women with Judeo-You can change the worldChristian values to visibly engage themselves in the world in order to preserve the truths that were readily accepted at the founding of our great nation. Specifically, Father Keller encouraged people to seek positions in teaching, government, writing, labor, social services and other areas that directly impacted others. I’m sure today that list would include scientists, doctors, nurses, actors, directors and all those involved in the media, whether news or entertainment.

Here is a fabulous video with Father Keller, Jack Benny, Bob Hope and more. In it they discuss the importance of the Declaration of Independence, its foundation on Almighty God, and the need to promote Truth, particularly in the face of efforts to subvert it. This video gets to the heart of the Christopher movement and should be shared with anyone who is concerned for the future of our country. The falsehoods spread in past eras sound hauntingly similar to the lies being spread today. But we should take up the motto of The Christophers:

 “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

The Christophers still exist – I’m sure I’ve seen some of their pamphlets –  but I knew nothing of the great purpose of their founding. Interestingly, I have heard Father Morris talk about his book, Light in the Darkness, but had no idea that it was about the teachings of Father Keller. Here Father Morris briefly explains the background of The Christophers and discusses his recent book, which I will be reading ASAP.


I started this blog because I believe the future of this country depends on a resurgence in the willingness to sacrifice for our personal sanctification, for our families, for our communities, and for our country. Father Keller clearly recognized a great danger to our country in the realm of ideas. May each of us pick up the torch today and continue to fight the good fight!


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Lent – Where the Body Meets the Soul

Have you given anything up this Lent?

It seems everywhere I turn this year, I have found recommendations about “doing” things for Lent. I’ve seen flyers taped to church doors, I’ve received videos from Catholic chocolateapostolates, and I’ve heard discussions via Catholic radio. They don’t suggest that we not attempt a physical discipline; but while they encourage us to engage in spiritual reading, help the poor, perform the corporal and spiritual works for mercy or spend more time in prayer, they say virtually nothing about restraining our appetites in any way.

This “do something positive” trend seems to have increased in recent years. But while  the above suggestions are all laudable activities, we should remind ourselves that the saints would not have separated living out their faith in a positive way from disciplining themselves via abstinence, fasting and mortification. In fact, they considered the spiritual life to be deeply connected with the physical. They recognized that when we lack discipline in our physical lives, our spiritual lives suffer.

Here are just a few comments from the saints on physical discipline (or a lack thereof) and its relationship with the soul:

Do you not know that fasting can master concupiscence, lift up the soul, confirm it in the paths of virtue, and prepare a fine reward for the Christian? -Saint Hedwig of Silesia

Irrational feeding darkens the soul and makes it unfit for spiritual experiences. – St. Thomas Aquinas

As long as a single passion reigns in our hearts, though all the others should have been overcome, the soul will never enjoy peace. – St. Joseph Calasanctius

It is almost certain that excess in eating is the cause of almost all the diseases of the body, but its effects on the soul are even more disastrous. – St. Alphonsus Liguori

The more we indulge ourselves in soft living and pampered bodies, the more rebellious they will become against the spirit. – St. Rita of Cascia

Yes, of course we should engage in activities that help others or increase our spiritual knowledge and time with Christ. But we shouldn’t allow those things to excuse us from taming our passions and appetites.

Unfortunately, many times we allow our sacrifices to become ends in themselves. Perhaps this explains the “upswing” in recommendations for other Lenten activities. After all, things like prayer, spiritual reading, or even practicing works of mercy  directly impact our relationship with The Lord, whereas giving up cake could seem like a random and inconsequential activity. But the fact is that our faith is not either…or; it should be both…and.

We will not have a fruitful Lent just because we declare that we are “giving up _____.” Rather we should remember that those physical sacrifices are not ends in themselves. The end of all discipline must be love. We give up chocolate, – or whatever else – to remind ourselves that this world is fleeting. It is an expression of love that we lavish on Our Lord, passionately declaring that this television set, this candy bar, this ice cream, this cake, these cookies – any and all things which we enjoy in this life – are but nothing compared to Him.

This is the time of year when, as individuals united with the entire Church, we encourage ourselves to walk through the fires of discipline and denial for Our Beloved! This is our time in the desert. This is when, by God’s grace, we face the temptation of X, and we declare,

Man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Father’s mouth. – Matthew 4:4.

It is when we look over all creation and remind ourselves,

You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. – Matthew 4:10

There is great power in knowing that by Gods’ grace we can be in control. That our appetites do not rule us. Provided we always keep in mind the ultimate end of self-control:

The purpose of asceticism, self-denial and mortification is the growth in charity or love of God. Christian self-denial is not based on the idea that the world, or the flesh are intrinsically wicked, but on the conviction that God is intrinsically good. – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

We release the chains of this world so we can bind ourselves more closely to Christ. Doing so will help us to live our faith more fully. God’s grace helps us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked or visit the imprisoned. And that grace flows abundantly when one of His children demonstrates a commitment to God, the Father, in heaven over the material gods of the earth.

So – What have you given up this Lent? There’s still time…


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Lord, Teach Me to Love

DDivine Heart of Jesus save us. Sacred Heart of Jesus, be my loveear Lord,

This morning in prayer I was contemplating your Sacred Heart.  I thought about Saint Margaret Mary and how you told her of your great love for us and your desire to be loved.  How you ask that we make reparation for all those who don’t love you.  Those who take you for granted even as they call themselves Christians.

I thought of your great desire for love and sacrifices.  In a passion of prayer, my heart was full to overflowing. I threw myself at your feet and promised that I would love you. That I would do anything to make up for those who have failed you.

But immediately I was struck by a paralyzing realization.

I am the one who has failed you. I am the one who has turned my back on you. I am the one who has taken you for granted.  I am the one for whom you seek reparation.

I am not the cure; I am the disease!

It occurred to me that I, who long to love you above all things, don’t even know how to love.

Through divine inspiration, you defined love for us in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient

...but I am not patient.

Love is kind

…but I can be unkind.

Love is not jealous

…but as I look around, I find it difficult not to compare myself to others and succumb to jealousy when I come up short.

Love is not pompous; Love is not inflated

…but too often I find myself full of pride.

Love is not rude

…but I can be rude.

Love does not seek its own interests

…but my interests are all too often on my mind.

Love is not quick-tempered

...how often do I lose my temper?

Love does not brood over injury

…but I brood. And brood. And brood.

Love bears all things

…but I am so weak.

Love believes all things

…but too often I live in fear and doubt.

Love hopes all things

…how many times have I felt helpless and hopeless?

Loves endures all things

…but I have been known to argue and complain.


Who am I to offer my devotion to you?

Love is sacrifice. And sacrifice calls me to give of myself. In this, I hesitate. I want to let go; to give. But I continue to hold on. Hold on to what? To my desires. My goals. My preferences. My plans. My time. Each time I reach out, I am quick to pull back. I know that, like you, I must crucify myself in order to truly love. But even in small things, I often find the cross too painful to bear.

Saint Paul instructed us,

…Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God… —Romans 12:1

But crawling up on that altar is soooo hard.

Thankfully, he also told us what we must do to take this difficult step:

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your  mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12:2

I have a long way to go before I break the shackles of this world. But in this I am not hopeless.  I know that if I ask, You will give me the grace to know You, to love You and to serve You.  To sacrifice for you.

Please help me to climb up on that altar.

Teach me to be patient and kind.  To avoid jealousy, pompousness, pride, selfishness, a quick-temper and please replace my brooding nature with one of great joy!  Help me to bear all things, hope all things and to endure all things.

Lord, teach me to love.

*Image borrowed from Holy Card Heaven


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