John the Baptist: An Encounter with Christ from the Womb

A reflection by Mark Hartfiel on the Dobbs decision

 

I can’t think of a more perfect day to uphold the dignity of life than the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. This feast is celebrated each year on the Friday after the second Sunday following Pentecost. In all other years, June 24th is the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. As far as feast days go, this feast is also atypical in nature. In most cases, feast days come on the anniversary of the death of a Saint. As an example, St. John Bosco died on January 31, 1888. Therefore we celebrate and honor his life and death on January 31 each year.

 

There are only three birthdays celebrated by the Church: Jesus (Dec 25), Mary (Sept 8), and John the Baptist (June 24). Why these three? The Church believes this trio was uniquely born without the stain of Original Sin. Of course, Jesus is Jesus. Mary was Immaculately Conceived. A less known teaching includes the belief that Jesus sanctified John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth prior to his birth. This moment came as “Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry … For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:41-44).

 

The presence of Jesus Christ, in the womb of Mary, the first tabernacle, sanctified John in the womb of his mother. Elizabeth, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, makes it very clear that the son inside her womb had joy!

 

It seems to be no coincidence that the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade comes on a feast when we remember a baby in the womb who rejoiced at the presence of a baby in the womb.

 

Let us pray: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, teach us what it is to be a family. John the Baptist, teach us self-sacrificial love. May we pray for everyone affected by this decision: the unborn, all mothers and fathers, the frontline workers promoting life, those in need of healing from past decisions, and all those we disagree with. O Sacred Heart of Jesus – Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy. Amen.

 

Art by: Corby Eisbacher

Into the Heart of St. Joseph

Twenty-four men journeyed to Montreal on May 19th on pilgrimage and retreat to St. Joseph’s Oratory. What they found was much more than the world’s largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph.

 

“We arrived as strangers, we became friends, we left as family” – Joseph G.

 

“I went on this pilgrimage because I needed the entire Holy Family of Nazareth’s help in fulfilling my role as husband and father. And although I didn’t know how a “journey” would bring me closer to Christ — particularly through Saints like St. Joseph and St. André — I was rewarded with the simple miracles we take for granted: that God appears to us disguised as our lives… through simple acts of praying in fellowship with other men seeking or contemplating the lives of common people that we now revere as saints. I learned that journeying “Into the Heart of Saint Joseph” was nothing more than living out — if even just for a weekend — the simple traits of all the Saints: obedience, quiet love, and humility.” – Ted M.

 

“Each time I look at the photos or reflect on the encounters with these men, I can’t help but feel grateful and thankful for this blessed experience. It has made an indelible mark in my memory.”

 

“Twenty-four men of faith immersed themselves in the life of Brother André to understand the will of St. Joseph, ultimately to bring honor and glory to the Holy Family of Nazareth – the foundation of the domestic church. This mountain top experience filled our spiritual tanks and enabled us to stand shoulder to shoulder wearing the breastplate of righteousness, to defend the faith, and be fishers of men!  Ite Ad Joseph. Praise Him!” – Gerald V.

 

May 15 Canonization of Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Blessed Charles de Foucauld and the Presence of God

Blessed Charles de Foucauld is one of four saints studied during the Missionaries to the Family formation year. Applications are being accepted for the next class of missionary couples through the end of May. To find out more and to apply, please visit here.

 

From the Paradisus Dei Prayer Handbook:

Blessed Charles de Foucauld was born into a wealthy family in 1858 in Strasbourg, France. His parents died when he was five. He was adopted by his grandfather, who died when Charles was nineteen. Charles inherited a fortune — but his life spiraled downward. He abandoned the faith and indulged in his passions. He joined the army, but his quarters were filled with the finest cooks … and the prettiest “party girls.” He was disciplined by the army on numerous occasions and placed on leave. His fortune was placed in the hands of a conservator when the courts declared him a “spendthrift.”

Charles needed a change. He accepted a commission to the Sahara Desert. He fell in love with the vastness, silence, and solitude of the desert. At great personal risk, he scouted the entire Sahara. When his reports were published, he became famous and returned to Paris. Despite the sudden fame, money, and women, he longed for the silence and solitude of the desert.

He began a correspondence with a devout cousin, Marie de Bondy. She convinced him to see Fr. Huvelin at St. Augustin Church in Paris. Charles entered the confessional as an atheist and left as a man of God. He left the army and became a monk. His wanderings took him to Nazareth where, at last, he glimpsed the mystery he sought:

 

“I have glimpsed [the life of God] walking the streets of Nazareth.” 

 

“Jesus came to Nazareth, the place of the hidden life, of ordinary life, of family life, of prayer, work, obscurity, silent virtues, practiced with no witnesses other than God, his friends and neighbors. Nazareth, the place where most people lead their lives” (Charles de Foucauld, Essential Writings, p. 28).

Charles came to understand that at Nazareth, Jesus didn’t look or act like God. No miraculous cures or profound teachings. Christ was simply present in the normal events of everyday family life. It was this presence that transformed the home at Nazareth.

This is the mystery of your home. Christ is present in all the details of normal everyday life. He is hidden like at Nazareth, but he is there. Our challenge is to discover his presence and allow it to transform our lives.

 

 

Filming in the Holy Land

Our own Mark Hartfiel is currently on location in the Holy Land filming the next new series for Paradisus Dei: Mysteries of the Rosary. This exciting new project will be filmed and released over four years. The first series contemplating the Sorrowful Mysteries will be available in time for Lent 2023 and embedded in year eight of TMIY.

Each series will contain seven 30-minute episodes. The episodes will include talks filmed on location in the Holy Land and interviews with various scholars, authors, and witnesses to further bolster the message both in the head and in the heart of the viewer.

 

“This is simultaneously the most amazing and humbling thing I’ve ever been a part of. I think the viewers are going to be blown away in awe of the beauty of the film. Our Lady is smiling from Heaven.” – Mark Hartfiel

 

“Listening to Mark’s reflections on the Rosary has awakened in me a renewed appreciation and deeper understanding of the mysteries of the Rosary. To couple these teachings with the backdrop of the Holy Land is an experience we can’t wait to bring to viewers.” – Dan Johnson, Creative Director at 4PM Media.

Rediscover the power of the Rosary in light of Scripture. Learn the art of prayer – how to amplify your prayer life with focused contemplation and weaponize the Rosary with intentionality. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer.

 

 

The Choice Wine Remains Abundant

“I wish everyone could learn this material. It would be a different world.”

Wayne and Michele Klein are Missionaries to the Family currently hosting The Choice Wine at their parish in Naperville, Illinois. They participated in The Choice Wine when it was first launched and are now introducing it to couples from the newly engaged to those married 50 or more years.

A parish new to The Choice Wine in Fredericksburg, Virginia, had more than 275 people attend their first session in February. One of the coordinators shared, “The feedback we received was fantastic! Please keep this ministry in your prayers!!!”

In the eight years since it was filmed live over Valentine’s Day weekend in 2014, The Choice Wine has touched thousands of marriages. We asked couples across the country to share some thoughts on how the program has impacted their marriage…

 

“There are elements of Choice Wine that just get stuck in our heads. The first time we went through the program our kids were still living with us – now one is out on her own and the other is graduating college. The Choice Wine has helped put perspective around the love and fun we have with each other as our lives and marriage evolve. It is great to hear the various talks and be able to say “Hey! Us too!” The greatest element is that it is fun to spend life with my best friend and God is happy for us.” – Deacon Gerald and Michelle

 

“We enjoyed spending time with other couples. The Choice Wine provides good content to discuss handling the difficult situations in marriage and helps us see how important our Catholic faith is in our vocation.” – Al and Angela

 

“We wish we had access to Choice Wine earlier in our marriage. It supported some of the things that we had done as a couple and that was beneficial. But there were things we learned that would have helped us build an even more solid foundation for us and our family in our faith journey.” – Matt and Lisa

 

“I think it helped us as a couple to be much more committed to praying together daily each morning. We enjoyed the feeling of being supported in prayer by other couples and inspired by their experiences of the Holy Spirit working in their lives and marriages.” – Mike and Marcia

 

“We started this partly as a way to do something together and grow as a couple. We encourage other couples to make this a date night.” – Wayne and Michele

 

Kathryn and John are engaged to be married and attending The Choice Wine with Wayne and Michele’s group. “When we saw the flyer, we knew we were meant to attend. When I called Wayne to register we discovered that he had just met my father a few days prior. That was even more proof that we needed to attend The Choice Wine.”

“The program is encouraging us to have some deep conversations we never considered. We are getting to know each other on a deeper level. After small group discussion we often continue the talking about the questions hours after leaving.”

“Steve shared that he promised Shelly to never talk negatively about her to others. We embrace tips like this and adopt them. One couple shared in week 1, ‘When I got married, we became one. That meant that if someone hurt my wife, it hurt me. If something was bad for my wife, it was bad for me.’ I will cherish this advice.” – John and Kathryn

 

What would you say to couples considering attending The Choice Wine?

  • “Go with an open mind, sit back and listen. It is a good opportunity to form lasting friendships.”
  • “Come have fun with us!”
  • “It is a great time to consider the elements of a fun marriage, a marriage that will help you be amazed with each other every day.”
  • “Couples should attend the Choice Wine so they can have an enjoyable night of learning, bonding, fellowship – and wine drinking!”

Surprised & Grateful

Two years ago Roger and Bernadette Peters were trying to plan for the future. They had no idea what God had prepared for them.

 

Rewind the clock six years. The Peters were living in Sugar Land, Texas, as they had for more than a quarter-century. They were deeply involved in their home parish, St. Laurence. The kids were moving out of the home, and Roger was looking at retirement.

Bernadette had this nagging feeling: “God has something next for us, but what? Will we travel? Should we sell the house? Should we retire to Florida?” They entered into prayer, planned some travel, and waited for direction, but, Bernadette shared, “God was not telling us anything.”

Then the pandemic hit and they were literally grounded. They decided to get the house ready to sell. Suddenly, they found a house in Houston and everything fell into place. After six years of praying and wondering where God was leading, they went through three closings in thirty days. Without really intending it they now lived near two of their adult children and had a home that was only a few hundred yards away from their very first place after getting married.

“Leaving St. Laurence was the hardest part of moving. Our family grew up there. Now we were in Houston and had this blank slate,” they shared. The Peters started attending different parishes looking for a new home. “We visited a lot of suburban parishes that looked and felt like St. Laurence. We had this sense that God was pulling us somewhere new.”

 

A friend recommended they try St. Joseph, a 100+-year-old parish in the Sixth Ward of downtown Houston. “We were shocked and surprised to find all of these young adults and young married couples there. It was so different from what we had grown accustomed to. We just fell in love with it.”

They heard about a ministry called Joseph’s Table that served hot breakfast for the many homeless in the community and was run by the young adult group at the parish. They decided to attend. Bernadette met the coordinator and discovered that they primarily did social events but had a hunger for more. She offered, “I’m familiar with some programs, if you gather them together, I can teach.”

The next day they met with Father Victor over lunch to get to know him. Together they planned a Lenten program to offer the young adults. “And they came,” Bernadette said with wonder still evident in her voice. Roger added, “The classes kept getting bigger and bigger. We started with maybe 20 people, and now we get 30-35 on a regular basis. They are telling their friends. Mass attendance is growing.”

 

 

Today the two of them are really embedded in the young adult group at St. Joseph. The couple often stays long after Mass to visit. “We unexpectedly found that our marriage has a profound impact on them,” they explained. They have been asked to be godparents and to go out to lunch or coffee for spiritual and personal advice. Bernadette has even been asked to give spiritual direction.

“We look at each other in amazement and are very grateful to serve at St. Joseph’s. Everything has happened very fast and we realized that when God is ready we better be ready too.”

 

A pair of young adults the Peters met at that very first Joseph’s Table morning were Charles and Tori. They were honored later when the young couple asked them to be their marriage prep sponsors.

“We just had a lot of fun with them. As we went through it they were very honest and opened their hearts to us. We did the same in return. We grew closer together. Together they came to this place where they understood that they wanted to have a deep and strong Catholic marriage and family.”

As a part of the preparation, they were asked, “Why did you choose this couple as your sponsor?” Bernadette was surprised by their answer: “We want to have a marriage like yours.”

“It was humbling, Bernadette shared. “We were honored. At one point you start off by thinking, ‘Our marriage is ours. The two of us.’ Then the kids come and it is you and them, the family. Fr. Peter Towsley told us in our Missionaries to the Family formation that people are watching us closer than we realize. This just validated that for us.”

Reflecting on this, a bit of wonder returned to Bernadette’s voice: “You can’t fake a great marriage.” Roger added, “You never know the kind of impact you are having on people.”

“It is a great marriage. I am very blessed.”

“Me too.”

Becoming Authentic Leaders through Christ

When men become authentic leaders and come to know their calling in Christ, they catch fire. The impact goes out far beyond the parish men’s group.

­
For Pat Masterson, it all started in 2011, when Bob Simi asked him to come to their first session of That Man is You! “He is my best friend. I only showed up because I did not want him to be standing there at 6:00 am all by himself.”

Sixty men showed up. The rest as they say is history. Pat is now the Core Team Leader. The men he has encountered around TMIY and other men’s ministries in the Milwaukee area have had a stunning impact both on his life and the lives of thousands of families.

 

“This picture is out on the lawn in front of St. Bernard’s where we have met for TMIY over the past two summers. Here we hosted a going away party for our Associate Pastor of three years, Father Will Arnold.”

 

“TMIY was a big part of my reversion to the Catholic faith. It really made me reflect on my role as a husband, father, and leader in our community. The founders of our group, Associate Pastor Fr. John Burns and Bob Simi helped guide me to know my faith deeper through authentic friendships built on Christ.”

“We have so many amazing stories of conversion and men going out to serve other men and families. Deacon Peter Rebholz was an early member of our TMIY team that discerned the call the Permanent Diaconate. The list goes on and on.”

­Bob Simi stepped down as Core Team Leader to focus on another ministry he founded: The Ballpark Day of Faith. Families gather each year for Mass and tailgating before a Brewers game.

Pat’s involvement goes beyond his own parish as well. He is also a Regional Leader for Dynamic Men’s Groups as a part of Men of Christ which hosts the largest men’s conference in the US. They encourage parishes to start men’s groups using programs such as TMIY.

After more than 10 years of being together, there are astounding fruits that have come from TMIY. “Our men are amazing and I hope you get to meet them someday.”

Contact Pat if you would to get involved in or learn more about one of these many ministries: ckmensgroup@gmail.com

Missionaries to the Family Are Making an Impact

In 2019, Paradisus Dei launched a new ministry called Missionaries to the Family to help combat the collapse of marriage and family in our culture. It forms modern marriages and families upon the model of the Holy Family at Nazareth. Couples discern this calling for their own family, receive the formation needed to live that life in their own homes, and share what they have learned with other couples and families through intentional, spiritual friendships and accompaniment. After their formation year, they begin their active mission work, which takes place right in their own homes and communities.

The first class of missionary couples completed their formation year and were commissioned in the summer of 2020. The second class will be commissioned this summer. And the third class is now being assembled and will begin formation this August. The first missionary couples have already begun their active mission work, and in spite of the pandemic-restricted environment, they are having an impact! Their work includes leading marriage preparation sessions, leading marriage enrichment efforts, hosting young adult and family small groups in their home, and even leading regional outreach to recruit other missionary couples.

Win and Erinn Vahlkamp belong to St. Laurence in Sugar Land, TX. Their active mission work began with leading a parish marriage enrichment initiative based on content presented in their formation year. After that, the Vahlkamps invited couples to form a small community that meets out of their home. Eight couples continued in that fashion, meeting every other Friday. “Conversations have been remarkably deep. We’ve had to cut ourselves short because they’ve gone so long,” offered Win. Erinn shared, “It feels really great to get to the point to have a small group and develop friendships…just deepening our faith and growing.” Through those spiritual friendships, the group has already provided support for those tough moments of everyday life, most notably when a member lost a parent. “These are groups that care about each other and can be there for each other, build you up, do life together. There is a lack of that. That’s a rare gift,” said Win.

Carlos and Rebecca Carrillo, members of Christ the Redeemer parish in Houston, TX, led a pilot program for couples last October on behalf of the parish. When asked about getting couples involved, Carlos commented, “In our case, it was surprising how well it worked. Six couples accepted right away.” Carlos further spoke of the great need for groups like this. “There is a need to help other couples. Every couple in the group shared that they have no one else to share their faith journey with,” he said. As a result, many of the couples are interested in continuing as a small group, and three new couples expressed a desire to join as well. Carlos summed it up by saying, “People are waiting for that opportunity, particularly as a couple.”

Deacon Richard and Tina Grant are members of Our Lady of Mercy parish in Baton Rouge, LA, where Deacon Grant also serves on staff. The diocese has seven missionary couples actively engaged in mission work with three more scheduled to be commissioned this summer. Reflecting on the impact of their work so far, Deacon Grant said, “We are restarting every ministry again after Covid. These are the people who are going to do them. They will have the full support of the parish.” During the pandemic-related restrictions, the missionary couples were invaluable to the parish in keeping marriage preparation going. They were able to host the engaged couples in their homes. The engaged couples witnessed different Catholic couples and households as they rotated through four missionary couples during the course of marriage preparation. Missionary couples will continue to leverage this model and host newly married couples to experience The Choice Wine: 7 Steps to a Superabundant Marriage. Deacon Grant noted that the missionary couples “…are not only taking more of a leadership role in their own homes, but in the parish. They become more visible. They planted a seed and now the seed is sprouting into other areas of parish life.” He went on to say, “Our pastor is pleasantly surprised when he hears these things the couples are doing.”

These examples highlight the tremendous work being done by just some of couples from the first group of Missionaries to the Family. This fall, couples from the second group will begin their active mission work. The ministry is structured so that additional missionary couples enter into the mission field each year after they complete their formation. When they do so, they can rely on key learnings so far: the need is great, it’s not hard to get started, and the results are so worth the effort. As this ministry grows, it will not only meet the great need that exists but also begin to transform the culture one family at a time.

Please join us in praying for the missionary couples, whether in formation or active mission work. May God bless them abundantly in their calling and their work.

Please visit our website for more information about Missionaries to the Family, or contact us.

Virtual Rosary Each Friday

The Power of 500 Men in Prayer!

An army of men is growing! Every week, over 500 gather virtually from around the globe to pray the Rosary together. It’s powerful. It’s beautiful. We invite you to unite with us in prayer as we fight the good fight of faith!

We invite all TMIY men to join us in praying the Rosary every Friday morning. You do not have to be a member of Amici di Giuseppe to join us.

Join Us on Friday Mornings:

  • Fridays at 6:30 A.M. CENTRAL Time
  • Zoom Meeting Link – CLICK HERE
  • Zoom Meeting ID – 881 4976 0365
  • Phone Dial-In number: 346-248-7799

A New Book Release by Mark Hartfiel

The Hinge of the Hail Mary

Take your prayer life to new heights. Tap into the treasury of graces in heaven. Provide spiritual protection over your family, the Church and the world.

The Hinge of the Hail Mary: The Art of Praying the Rosary, a brand-new release by Mark Hartfiel, helps make an old prayer new. Inspired by the writings of Pope St. John Paul II, Hartfiel offers a profound spiritual framework for praying the Rosary.

“A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered. May this appeal of mine not go unheard!” – Pope St. John Paul II

Rediscover the Rosary and learn how to:

  • Weaponize it with intentionality.
  • Amplify your prayer with focused contemplation.

The Hinge of the Hail Mary is the perfect gift for yourself, family, friends, pastor, deacon or small group. It is especially timely for a world and Church so desperately in need of our prayers.  Click this link to get your copy today. For bulk order discount opportunities (10 or more), please inquire at info@paradisusdei.org.

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