Category Archives: Mariology

Sep 8 – Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


-“The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, by Giotto, in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy (circa 1305 AD)

I was privileged in my volunteer work with hospice to sit vigil this morning with Frederick “Fred” J. from 4am to 8am, my preferred shift. My new friend Fred is 89, an orphan, no family, and one female friend. I said my Lauds/Morning Office for him and with him this morning. I am blessed. This was the hymn for Morning Office today.

Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the Heav’nly Way!
Mary the Root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the Rose-Tree, Christ the Rose Blood-red!
Mary the Font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the Chalice, Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the Temple, Christ the Temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored!
Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the Mother, Christ the Mother’s Son.
Both ever blest while endless ages run.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Mary, my Mother, teach me to live hidden with you in the shadow of God.

MEDITATION

The liturgy enthusiastically celebrates Mary’s Nativity and makes it one of the most appealing feasts of Marian devotion. We sing in today’s Office: “Thy Nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, brings joy to the whole world, because from you came forth the Sun of Justice, Christ, our God.” Mary’s birth is a prelude to the birth of Jesus because it is the initial point of the realization of the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God for the salvation of mankind. How could the birthday of the Mother of the Redeemer pass unnoticed in the hearts of the redeemed? The Mother proclaims the Son, making it known that He is about to come, that the divine promises, made centuries before, are to be fulfilled. The birth of Mary is the dawn of our redemption; her appearance projects a new light over all the human race: a light of innocence, of purity, of grace, a resplendent presage of the great light which will inundate the world when Christ, “lux mundi,” the Light of the World, appears. Mary, preserved from sin in anticipation of Christ’s merits, not only announces that the Redemption is at hand, but she bears the firstfruits of it within herself; she is the first one redeemed by her divine Son. Through her, all-pure and full of grace, the Blessed Trinity at last fixes on earth a look of complacency, finding in her alone a creature in whom the infinite beauty of the Godhead can be reflected.

The birth of Jesus excepted, no other was so important in God’s eyes or so fruitful for the good of humanity, as was the birth of Mary. Yet it has remained in complete obscurity. There is no mention of it in Sacred Scriptures and when we look for the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel, we find only what refers to Joseph; we find nothing explicit about Mary’s ancestry except the allusion to her descent from David. Our Lady’s origin is wrapped in silence, as was her whole life. Thus, her birth speaks to us of humility. The more we desire to grow in God’s eyes, the more we should hide ourselves from the eyes of creatures. The more we wish to do great things for God, the more we should labor in silence and obscurity.

COLLOQUY

“When I feel myself tossed about in the sea of this world amidst storms and tempests, I keep my eyes fixed on you, O Mary, shining star, lest I be swallowed up by the waves.

“When the winds of temptation arise, when I dash against the reefs of tribulations, I raise my eyes to you and call upon you, O Mary. When I am agitated by the billows of pride, ambition, slander or jealousy, I look to you and I invoke you, O Mary; when anger or avarice or the seductions of the flesh rock the fragile little barque of my soul, I always look to you, O Mary. And if I am troubled by the enormity of my sins, troubled in conscience, frightened at the severity of judgment, and if I should feel myself engulfed in sadness or drawn into the abyss of despair, again I raise my eyes to you, always calling on you, O Mary.

“In dangers, in difficulties, in doubts, I will always think of you, O Mary, I will always call on you. May your name, O Virgin Mary, be always on my lips and never leave my heart; in order that I may obtain the help of your prayers, grant that I may never lose sight of the example of your life. Following you, O Mary, I shall not go astray, thinking of you I shall not err, if you support me I shall not fall, if you protect me I shall have nothing to fear, if you accompany me I shall not grow weary, if you look upon me with favor, I shall reach the port” (cf. St. Bernard).

Love,
Matthew

Mary?

“A few months before I was received into the Catholic Church, my family experienced a crisis. I was in high school when my mother told me she had been diagnosed with a large tumor in her abdomen. She didn’t know how much longer she had to live, and my dad wasn’t in the best position to take care of me and my siblings.

I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, so I told my mom, “I need to just go to Church to process all of this.” She had the left the Church a long time before, but understood it was important to me, so she nodded in approval. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and started walking to the church.

As I knelt in that dark, empty church, my hands were clasped tight and my eyes watched the candles by the altar flicker. I just kept asking God for everything to be okay. Then I saw a statue of Mary. I took a deep breath and prayed:

“Hail Mary Full of grace the Lord is with you, blessed are you among woman and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Devotion to Mary was the last hurdle I faced coming into the Catholic Church. At first, I feared that Catholics went overboard when it came to Mary and turned her into a rival goddess who took away glory from Christ. But the more I read Scripture the more I saw that Mary didn’t take people away from Christ, she led people to him.

Mater Dei:  The Mother of God

The most important title the Church gives to Mary is also the one that explains why Mary matters so much to Catholics—theotokos. This Greek word means “God-bearer,” but it is usually translated into English as “the Mother of God.” Mary is praised above all of God’s other creatures because she has the most intimate relationship with God. She gave birth to God, nursed God, taught him about life, followed him throughout his ministry, and was at the foot of the cross when Jesus, the God-man, died.

At this point some people might say, “Mary didn’t give birth to God, she gave birth to Jesus.” Yes, but is Jesus God? Calling Mary the Mother of God doesn’t mean that she created the Trinity or that Mary existed before God existed. Being a mother means conceiving and giving birth to a person. God is a Trinity of three divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One of those persons, the Son, became man and had a mother (Gal. 4:4). It logically follows that this woman, or Mary, is the Mother of God.

Mothers don’t give birth to “natures” or “humanity,” they give birth to persons. The person Mary gave birth to was the divine second person of the Trinity, God the Son, Whom she and Joseph named Jesus. Even Protestants understand that Mary should be praised in this way. Timothy George says, “Evangelicals can and should join the church catholic in celebrating the Virgin Mary as the mother of God, the God-bearer.” Martin Luther eloquently said, “Men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God.”

Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption

The Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus’ miraculous virginal conception in Mary’s womb.

Instead, the term means that Mary herself was conceived without the stain of original sin.

The normal means to be freed from original sin is through baptism, but God is free to give His grace to whomever He chooses. He knew from all eternity that Mary would say yes to being the mother of His Son, so when she was conceived, God gave Mary an abundant gift of grace. In Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel says to Mary “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” The Greek word that is translated “full of grace” refers to having grace as an enduring, complete quality of a person.

But doesn’t the Bible say all people have sinned (Rom 3:10)? If that’s true, then how could Mary have been immaculately conceived?

First, that passage refers to the truth that both Jews and non-Jews are sinners and need Christ. In Romans 9:11, Paul says that before Isaac and Esau were born they had done neither good nor bad. Millions of human beings die in infancy, long before they reach the age of moral accountability, and thus have never committed a personal sin.

But aren’t all humans born with original sin? No, because Jesus was human and he was born without original sin. If we say that Jesus is the exception because He is God, or the new Adam Whose obedience undid the crime of the first Adam, then we have room for another exception: Mary, the Mother of God and the “new Eve,” whose obedience to God undid the curse brought about by the old Eve. In the second century, St. Irenaeus said, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith”

Finally, God demonstrated His surpassing love for His mother by taking her body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. In the Old Testament, God assumed, or took, the prophet Elijah’s body and soul into heaven before he died (2 Kings 2:11). The Church teaches that Mary was also assumed into heaven, and Revelation 12:1 describes a woman in heaven clothed with the sun who gives birth to the Messiah. She appears right after a vision of the Ark of the Covenant, which carried God’s word written on stone tablets. It would be fitting if this woman were Mary, for she is the Ark of the New Covenant, who carried within her body the word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

“All Generations Will Call Me Blessed”

As I knelt in that darkened church and prayed the Hail Mary over and over again, I more clearly saw that Catholics weren’t turning Mary into a God. The reason Mary is “full of grace,” “blessed,” “Holy,” and the “Mother of God” is because her son is Jesus Christ. (It’s amazing that, for the rest of time, God the Son will not only have a human face and body, but will bear a physical resemblance to a human woman who lived around 2,000 years ago.) The only thing Catholics were “guilty of” was recognizing the awesome role Mary played in the history of humanity. In Luke 1:48, Mary herself says “all generations will call me blessed; for the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.”

Speaking of awesome mothers, a few weeks after my mom told me about her diagnosis she was released from the hospital. I was nervous until she gave me the news: the tumor was benign. It ended up being the size of a basketball, but it was benign. I prayed to God, “Thank you for letting me have my mom for a little longer,” and to His mother I prayed, “Please lead me and my whole family closer to your son, Jesus Christ.””

Love,
Matthew

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“After presenting positive proofs for the Assumption of Mary, one always has to be ready for the biblical and historical arguments often used against it. Here is one common objection and how to answer it.

Objection: No one has ascended to heaven.

No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man (John 3:13).

This text is usually cited by the Christian or quasi-Christian sects that deny the natural immortality of the soul, e.g., Seventh-day Adventists, Christadelphians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Iglesia Ni Cristo; however, some Fundamentalists use it, too. Here St. John was writing at a time likely long after Mary had ended her earthly life. So if he said that “no one has ascended into heaven,” the argument goes, that would include Mary.

There are at least four reasons why this text does not contradict the Assumption of Mary:

1. John was quoting words our Lord had spoken around A.D. 30. At that time Mary was still alive on earth.

2. Jesus could not have been saying that no one will ever be taken into heaven except him. If that’s the case, then what’s all this Christianity stuff about? You know, heaven and all?

3. One could also interpret John 3:13 as referring to Christ’s unique Ascension to heaven. The key here would be the word ascended. Mary did not ascend;she was assumed. Jesus ascended by his own divine power as he prophesied he would be in John 2:19–21: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up . . . he spoke of the temple of his body.” Mary was powerless to raise herself; she had to be assumed into heaven.In a similar way, all of the elect will be assumed into heaven, so to speak,at the time of the resurrection of the body, as opposed to Christ, who alone ascended into heaven.

4. There are a couple of nuances in this text that many miss. According to St. Irenaeus in the second century John wrote his Gospel with an emphasis on demonstrating the errors of the fathers of Gnosticism and the heresiarch Cerinthusin in particular, who—among his many errors—denied the divinity of Christ. Thus, in quoting these word from Jesus he intended to demonstrate that “the Son of man descended” from heaven as the “only begotten Son,” a divine person, sharing his Father’s nature.In other words “the Son of man” is the same person who was eternally with the Father in heaven and who descended to the earth in the Incarnation.

Moreover, his point was that even while Christ walked the earth with his disciples in Galilee he was in possession of heaven, experiencing the beatific vision, as true God and true man.

His human body would not be glorified until after the Resurrection, but, according to John, Christ could already “see” the Father while on earth. Thus, while we human beings must “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), Christ did not have “faith;” he had the “sight” of God that brings about “knowledge.” Thus, Pope Pius XII would declare:

For hardly was [Christ] conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when he began to enjoy the Beatific Vision.

Consequently, Jesus, in his human nature, had already “ascended into” or possessed heaven—the beatific vision being the essence of what heaven is—even from his mother’s womb. Because he was and is both God and man, he could say that he had already “ascended” to heaven precisely because as God “he” had brought about this great mystery by his own power. Our Lord’s words, and therefore, it was purely spiritual, not material. “And therefore to indicate that he is said to have come down in this way, because he assumed a [human] nature, he said, the Son of man came down, i.e., insofar as he become Son of man” in the Incarnation.”

“O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and Mother of men, we believe with all the fervor of our faith in your triumphal Assumption, both body and soul, into heaven, where you are acclaimed as Queen by all the choirs of angels and all the legions of the saints. And we unite with them to praise and bless the Lord who has exalted you above all other pure creatures, and to offer you the tribute of our devotion and our love.

“We know that your gaze, which on earth watched over the humble and suffering humanity of Jesus, in heaven is filled with the vision of that humanity glorified, and with the vision of uncreated Wisdom; the joy of your soul in the direct contemplation of the adorable Trinity causes your heart to throb with overwhelming tenderness. We, poor sinners, weighed down by a body which hinders the flight of the soul, beg you to purify our hearts, so that while we remain here below, we may learn to love God and God alone in the beauty of His creatures.

“We trust that your merciful eyes may deign to look down upon our miseries and our sorrows, upon our struggles and our weaknesses; that your countenance may smile upon our joys and our victories; that you may hear the voice of Jesus saying to you of each one of us, as He once said to you of His beloved disciple: ‘Behold thy son.’ And we, who call upon you as our Mother, take you, like John, as the guide, strength, and consolation of our mortal life.

“And from this earth over which we tread as pilgrims, comforted by our faith in the future resurrection, we look to you, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. Draw us onward by the gentleness of your voice, so that one day, after our exile, you may show us Jesus, the Blessed Fruit of your womb, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary” (-Venerable Pope Pius XII).

Love,
Matthew

Jun 27 – Prayer for one’s children to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Virgin Mother, my Mother, come to the aid of my children!

May your blessing accompany them, guard them, and defend them. May it encourage them, sustain them in every difficulty, and in every place.

When they go off to work or to play, when they move from place to place, at every step they take, Virgin Mother, my Mother, watch over them.

When they face challenges and suffering, when the Evil One tries to seduce them with the attractions of pleasure, of violence, of temptation, of bad example, Virgin Mother, my Mother, watch over them.

Virgin Mother, watch over them and preserve them from every evil.

When they approach the Sacred Banquet to be fed with the Bread of Angels, with the Word that was made flesh in your womb, Virgin Mother, my Mother, bless my children.

When at night they prepare to rest so as to rise again with new energy, watch over their slumber and make each new day a step toward their eternal Homeland.

Virgin Mother, my Mother, bless my children, descend over them, in the day and in the night, in moments of joy and moments of sadness, in health and in sickness, in life and in death.

Bring them to live with you forever in eternity. Amen.

Love & comfort, praying always for your needs and intentions,
Matthew

May 31 – Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae;
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus,
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
Sucepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae,
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semeni ejus in saecula.

“Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” -Lk 1:43

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.

He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of His servant Israel
for He remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

(-Lk 1:46-55)

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O my Mother, most holy Virgin Mary, be always my model, my support, and my guide.

MEDITATION

“And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Judah.”
These words are from today’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-47).

Mary, in the exquisite delicacy of her charity, has such a profound sense of the needs of others, that as soon as she hears of them, she acts spontaneously and decisively to bring help. Having learned from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin was about to become a mother, she goes immediately to offer her humble services.

If we consider the difficulty of traveling in those days, when the poor, such as Mary, had to go on foot over difficult roads, or at best, by means of some rude conveyance, and also the fact that Mary remained three months with Elizabeth, we can readily understand that she had to face many hardships in performing this act of charity. However, she was in no way disturbed: charity urged her, making her wholly forgetful of herself, for as St. Paul says: “Charity seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). How many times, perhaps, have you omitted an act of kindness, not to spare yourself a hard journey, but only to avoid a little trouble. Think how uncharitable you are and how slow to help others. Look at Mary, and see how much you can learn from her!

Charity makes Mary forget not only her hardships but also her own dignity, which was greater than that given to any other creature. Elizabeth is advanced in years, but Mary is the Mother of God; Elizabeth is about to give birth to a man, but Mary will give birth to the Son of God. Nevertheless, before her cousin as before the Angel, Mary continues to look upon herself as the humble handmaid of the Lord, and nothing more. Precisely because she considers herself a handmaid, she comports herself as such, even in respect to her neighbor. In your case, perhaps, although you know how to humble yourself before God and recognize your lack of perfection in the secrecy of your heart, it displeases you to appear imperfect before your neighbor, and you quickly resent being treated as such. Are you not anxious to have your dignity, education, and ability recognized, as well as the more or less honorable offices or charges which have been entrusted to you? Your dignity is a mere nothing, and yet you are so jealous of it. Mary’s dignity approaches the infinite, yet she considers herself and behaves as if she were the least of all creatures.

COLLOQUY

“O Mary, how great is your humility when you hasten to serve others! If it is true that he who humbles himself will be exalted, who will be more exalted than you who have humbled yourself so much?

When Elizabeth caught sight of you she was astonished and exclaimed: ‘Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?’ But I am still more astonished to see that you, as well as your Son, came not to be served, but to serve…. It was for this purpose that you went to Elizabeth, you the Queen, to the servant, the Mother of God to the mother of the Precursor, you who would give birth to the Son of God, to her who would bring forth a mere man.

But your profound humility in no way lessened your magnanimity; the greatness of your soul was not opposed to your humility. You, so small in your own eyes, were so magnanimous in your faith, in your hope in the Most High, that you never doubted His promises, and firmly believed that you would become the Mother of the Son of God. Humility did not make you fainthearted; magnanimity did not make you proud, but these two virtues were perfectly combined in you!

O Mary, you cannot give me a share in your great privileges as Mother of God; these belong to you alone! But you want me to share in your virtues, giving me examples of them in yourself. If, then, sincere humility, magnanimous faith, and delicate, sympathetic charity are lacking in me, how can I excuse myself? O Mary, O Mother of mercy, you who are full of grace, nourish us, your poor little ones, with your virtues!” (cf. St. Bernard).”

Love,
Matthew

Mary’s humility…

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Mary, humblest of all creatures, make me humble of heart.

MEDITATION

St. Bernard says: “It is not hard to be humble in a hidden life, but to remain so in the midst of honors is a truly rare and beautiful virtue.” The Blessed Virgin was certainly the woman whom God honored most highly, whom He raised above all other creatures; yet no creature was so humble and lowly as she. A holy rivalry seemed to exist between Mary and God; the higher God elevated her, the lowlier she became in her humility. The Angel called her “full of grace,” and Mary “was troubled” (Luke 1:28, 29). According to St. Alphonsus’ explanation, “Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise, and desired that God only be praised.” The Angel revealed to her the sublime mission which was to be entrusted to her by the Most High, and Mary declared herself “the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). Her thoughts did not linger over the immense honor that would be hers as the woman chosen from all women to be the Mother of the Son of God; but, she contemplated in wonder the great mystery of a God who willed to become incarnate in the womb of a poor creature. If God wished to descend so far as to give Himself to her as a Son, to what depths should not His little handmaid abase herself? The more she understood the grandeur of the mystery, the immensity of the divine gift, the more she humbled herself, submerging herself in her nothingness. Her attitude was the same when Elizabeth greeted her, “Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:42). Those words did not astonish her, for she was already the Mother of God; yet she remained steadfast in her profound humility. She attributed everything to God whose mercies she sang, acknowledging the condescension with which He had “regarded the humility of His handmaid” (Luke 1:48). That God had performed great works in her she knew and acknowledged, but instead of boasting about them, she directed everything to His glory. With reason St. Bernardine exclaims: “As no other creature, after the Son of God, has been raised in dignity and grace equal to Mary, so neither has anyone descended so deep into the abyss of humility.” Behold the effect that graces and divine favors should produce in us: an increase of humility, a greater awareness of our nothingness.

COLLOQUY

“O Virgin! glorious stem, to what sublime height do you raise your corolla? Straight to Him who is seated on the throne, to the God of Majesty. I do not wonder since you are so deeply rooted in humility. Hail, Mary, full of grace! You are truly full of grace, for you are pleasing to God, to the angels, and to men: to men, by your maternity; to the angels, by your virginity; to God, by your humility. It is by your humility that you attract the glance of God, of Him who regards the humble, but looks at the proud from afar. As Satan’s eyes are fixed on the proud, so God’s eyes are on the lowly” (St. Bernard).

O Mother most humble, make me humble so that God will deign to turn His eyes toward me. There is nothing in my soul to attract Him, nothing sublime, nothing worthy of His complacency, nothing truly good or virtuous; whatever good there is, is so mixed with wretchedness, so weak and deficient that it is not even worthy to be called good. What, then, can attract Your grace to my poor soul, O Lord? “Where will you look, but on him who is poor and humble, and contrite of heart?” (cf. Isaiah 66,2). O Lord, grant that I may be humble; make me humble, through the merits of Your most humble Mother.

“O Mary, had you not been humble, the Holy Spirit would not have come upon you, and you would not have become the Mother of God …” (cf. St. Bernard). Similarly, if I am not humble, God will not give me His grace, the Holy Spirit will not come to me, and my life will be sterile, unfruitful. Grant, then, O Holy Virgin, that your humility, which is so pleasing to God, may obtain pardon for my pride, and a truly humble heart.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Under your protection I take refuge, O Mary; be the guide and model of my interior life.

MEDITATION

Month of May, month of Mary! The heart of every Christian turns spontaneously toward his heavenly Mother, with a desire to live in closer intimacy with her and to strengthen the sweet ties which bind him to her. It is a great comfort on our spiritual way, which is often fatiguing and bristling with difficulties, to meet the gentle presence of a mother. One is so at ease near one’s mother. With her, everything becomes easier; the weary, discouraged heart, disturbed by storms, finds new hope and strength, and continues the journey with fresh courage.

“If the winds of temptation arise,” sings St. Bernard, “if you run into the reefs of trials, look to the star, call upon Mary. In danger, sorrow, or perplexity, think of Mary, call upon Mary.”

There are times when the hard road of the “nothing” frightens us, miserable as we are; and then, more than ever, we need her help, the help of our Mother. The Blessed Virgin Mary has, before us, trodden the straight and narrow path which leads to sanctity; before us she has carried the cross, before us she has known the ascents of the spirit through suffering. Sometimes, perhaps, we do not dare to look at Jesus the God-Man, Who because of His divinity seems too far above us; but near Him is Mary, His Mother and our Mother, a privileged creature surely, yet a creature like ourselves, and therefore a model more accessible for our weakness.

Mary comes to meet us during this month, to take us by the hand, to initiate us into the secret of her interior life, which must become the model and norm of our own.

COLLOQUY

“O my soul, do you fear to approach God? He has given you Jesus as Mediator. Is there anything that such a Son could not obtain from His Father? The Father who loves Him will answer Him, because of the love He bears Him. But do you yet hesitate to approach Him? He made Himself your brother, your companion, and in everything, sin excepted, He willed to undergo all the humiliations of human nature, just to compassionate your miseries. Mary has given you this brother. But His divine Majesty still awes you, perhaps; for, although He is man, He does not cease to be God. Do you want an advocate with Him? Have recourse to Mary. Mary is a pure creature, pure not only because she is free from sin, but also because of her unique human nature. I am sure, O Mary, that your prayers will be heard because of the respect you deserve; your Son will certainly hear you because you are His Mother, and the Father will hear His Son. This is why my confidence is unshakable; this is the reason for all my hope! O Blessed Virgin, the Angel declared that ‘you have found grace before God.’ You will always find grace, and I need only grace; I ask for nothing else” (cf. St. Bernard).

“Draw me after you, O Virgin Mary, that I may run in the odor of your ointments. Draw me, for I am held back by the weight of my sins and the malice of your enemies. Since no one comes to your Son unless he is drawn by the Father, I dare to say that no one, so to speak, comes to Him if you do not draw him by your prayers. You teach true wisdom, you beg grace for sinners, you are their advocate, you promise glory to those who honor you, because you are the treasury of grace. You have found grace with God, O most sweet Virgin, you who have been preserved from original sin, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have conceived the Son of God. You have been given all these graces, O most humble Mary, not only for yourself, but also for us, so that you may be able to help us in all our necessities” (cf. Ven. Raymond Jourdain).”

Love,
Matthew

Mar 25 – Handmaid of the Lord


-“Annunciation” by El Greco, c. 1590–1603, Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Japan

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Mary, you who called yourself the handmaid of the Lord, teach me how to consecrate all my strength and life to His service.

MEDITATION

All the splendors—divine filiation, participation in divine life, intimate relations with the Trinity—which grace produces in our souls are realized in Mary with a prominence, a force, a realism, wholly singular. If, for example, every soul in the state of grace is an adopted child of God and a temple of the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin is so, par excellence and in the most complete manner, because the Triune God communicated Himself to her in the highest degree possible for a simple creature, to such a degree that Mary’s dignity, according to St. Thomas, touches “the threshold of the infinite” (cf. Summa Theologica Ia, q. 25, a. 6, ad 4). This can easily be understood when we think that, from all eternity, Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of His Son. As the Incarnation of the Word was the first work of the mind of God, in view of which everything was created, so also Mary, who was to have such a great part in this work, was foreseen and chosen by God before all other creatures. It is fitting that the words of Sacred Scripture are applied to her: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning” (Proverbs 8:22).

When Adam, deprived of the state of grace, was driven out of Paradise, only one ray of hope illumined the darkness of fallen humanity: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman,” God said to the serpent, “and … she shall crush thy head” (Genesis 3:15). Here Mary appears on the horizon as the beloved Daughter of God, as she who will never be, for a single moment, a slave of the devil; as she who will always be spotless and immaculate, belonging wholly to God: as the Daughter whom the Most High will always look upon with sovereign complacency, and whom He will introduce into the circle of His divine Family by bonds of the closest intimacy with each of the three divine Persons: Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Incarnate Word, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

COLLOQUY

O Mary, all pure and all holy, Paradise of God, His beloved Daughter, chosen by Him from all eternity to be the Mother of His only Son, preserved by Him from every shadow of sin, enriched by Him with all graces … how great and how beautiful you are, O Mary! “You are all beautiful, O Mary, and there is no stain of sin in you. You are the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the honor of our people” (Tota Pulchra).

The Most High has always looked upon you with complacency and He willed to give Himself to you in a unique way. “The Lord is with you, O Mary! God the Father is with you, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Triune and One God. God the Father, whose noble Daughter you are; God the Son, whose most worthy Mother you are; God the Holy Spirit, whose gracious Spouse you are. You are truly the Daughter of the sovereign, eternal God, the Mother of sovereign Truth, the Spouse of sovereign Goodness, the handmaid of the sovereign Trinity” (cf. Conrad of Saxony). But from all these titles, you choose the last, the humblest, and the lowest, and call yourself the handmaid of the Lord.

“Oh! how sublime is your humility, which never yields to the seductions of glory, and in glory knows no pride. You were chosen to become the Mother of God, and you call yourself servant! O Blessed Lady, how were you able to unite in your heart such a humble idea of yourself, with so much purity and innocence, and especially such plenitude of grace? O Blessed Lady, whence comes such humility? Truly, because of this virtue, you have merited to be looked upon by God with extraordinary love; and you have merited to charm the King with your beauty, and to draw the eternal Son from the bosom of the Father” (cf. St. Bernard).

O Mary, you proclaimed yourself to be the handmaid of the Lord, and you have truly lived as such, always humbly submissive to His will, always ready to respond to His call and invitation. Who more than you could say with Jesus: “My meat is to do the will of My Father” (cf. John 4:34)? O Mary, sweet Daughter of the heavenly Father, impress upon my heart a little of your docility, a little of your love for God’s holy will, in order that I may serve Him less unworthily.”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 31 – St Catherine Laboure’, DC, (1806-1876), Marian visionary, “Catechism in your pocket”

Catherine Laboure icon
Catherine Laboure icon

I remember, as a teenager, our local parish in Stone Harbor, NJ, St Paul’s, would always host a Miraculous Medal Mission in the Summer months. The town was packed with vacationers seeking the pleasures of the beach and sun and sea, and a quaint little, quiet town on the Jersey shore. The crowd was never standing room only but certainly more than would have been there in the Winter!! Just right. Just right. For quiet, for reflection, in the languid months of Summer, to reflect on the Blessed Mother, and her “fiat/yes”. “Ecce Ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum…I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”

Zoe’ Laboure’ was born in the Burgundy region of France to Pierre Labouré, a farmer, and Louise Madeleine Gontard, the ninth of 11 living children. Catherine’s mother died on October 9, 1815, when Zoe’ was just nine years old. It is said that after her mother’s funeral, Catherine picked up a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and kissed it saying, “Now you will be my mother.”

She was extremely devout, of a somewhat romantic nature, given to visions and intuitive insights. As a young woman, she became a member of the nursing order founded by Saint Vincent de Paul. She chose the Daughters of Charity after a dream about St. Vincent De Paul. She took the religious name Catherine.

In April 1830, the remains of St. Vincent de Paul were translated to the Vincentian church in Paris. The solemnities included a novena. On three successive evenings, upon returning from the church to the Rue du Bac, Catherine reportedly experienced in the convent chapel, a vision of what she took to be the heart of St. Vincent above a shrine containing a relic of bone from his right arm. Each time the heart appeared a different color, white, red, and crimson. She interpreted this to mean that the Vincentian communities would prosper, and that there would be a change of government. The convent chaplain advised her to forget the matter.

Catherine stated that on July 19, 1830, the eve of the feast of St. Vincent, she woke up after hearing the voice of a child calling her to the chapel, where she heard the Virgin Mary say to her, “God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.”

On November 27, 1830, Catherine reported that the Blessed Mother returned to her during evening meditations. She displayed herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe, rays of light came out of her hands in the direction of a globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” As Catherine watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary underneath. Asked why some of the rays of light did not reach the Earth, Mary reportedly replied “Those are the graces for which people forget to ask.” Catherine then heard Mary ask her to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions. “All who wear them will receive great graces.”

Catherine did so, and after two years’ worth of investigation and observation of Catherine’s normal daily behavior, the priest took the information to his archbishop without revealing Catherine’s identity. The request was approved and the design of the medallions was commissioned through French goldsmith Adrien Vachette. They proved to be exceedingly popular. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had not yet been officially promulgated, but the medal with its “conceived without sin” slogan was influential in popular approval of the idea. Pope John Paul II used a slight variation of the reverse image as his coat of arms, a plain cross with an M in the lower right quadrant of the shield.

Sister Catherine spent the next forty years caring for the aged and infirm. For this she is called the patroness of seniors. She died on December 31, 1876 at the age of seventy. Her body is encased in glass beneath the side altar at 140 Rue du Bac, Paris.

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Catherine Labouré’s cause for sainthood was declared upon discovering her body was incorrupt, which currently lies in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. She was beatified on May 28, 1933 by Pope Pius XI and canonized on July 27, 1947 by Pope Pius XII.

Her feast day is observed on November 28 according to the liturgical calendar of the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Paris. She is listed in the Martyrologium Romanum for December 31.

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-by Br Ignatius Weiss, OP

““The Blessed Virgin is waiting for you,” the child whispered.

St. Catherine Labouré, a novice in the Daughters of Charity, was gently woken from her sleep by a small, luminous child beckoning her to follow him to the chapel. It was nearly midnight.

“The Blessed Virgin is coming; here she is,” the child said as Catherine heard the swishing of silk. There she was, the Mother of God.

This nocturnal journey to the chapel in mid-July would be the first of three apparitions where Our Lady would appear to the young Catherine over the course of 6 months. During the second appearance, the Blessed Virgin asked her to have a medal struck of the image she displayed before her, and she began explaining the meaning of the figures to be portrayed.

“These rays are a symbol of the graces that I pour out on those who ask them of me.”

This medal was originally known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but it earned its current name for the many miracles and conversions that came to be associated with this sacramental. This token is not Catholic jewelry; it is an occasion for grace and truth.

“All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it suspended around the neck. Graces will be showered on all who wear it with confidence.”

The Miraculous Medal is a sacramental that uses words and images to increase our devotion to the Immaculate Queen of Heaven, and its symbols can explain the Church’s teachings on the Blessed Virgin. In a way, the Miraculous Medal is an “infographic” designed by heavenly artists.

Here’s an infographic about this Marian devotion.

miraculous-medal-infographic

Love,
Matthew

Aug 15 – Why the Assumption matters to you

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-Titian’s, Assunta, 1516-18

HowardAvila
-by Dr. Peter Howard, STD

“The perfection of all virtues and gifts of God is beatitude. In other words, the more perfect virtue and use of the gifts of God are, the more perfect is one’s happiness. And there is no greater happiness than to see God. That is why it is called the beatific vision and is the final grace that God gives those who are pure of heart: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8).

The Solemnity of the Assumption is both a declaration of victory and an invitation to hope! It is a declaration of victory because the Mother of Our Lord was the first to receive the full reward of the saints: salvation and the gift of her glorified body. What the souls of the just will receive at the final judgment, the Mother of the Savior has already received. Why?

Humanity Perfected

As Pope Pius XII pointed out in his Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, in which he proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, Mary’s Assumption into heaven was the most fitting gift to Mary that corresponded to her unique privileges, most especially her Immaculate Conception by which Mary was created with the fullness of grace. Having never succumbed to temptation and sin, Mary lived what truly was a perfect life.

How did she do it? Mary being full of grace does not mean that Mary possessed some superhuman nature. She shared the same humanity we possess. Her physical senses were no different than ours. We read of her Divine Son:

For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15-16)

Since Mary is the perfect disciple of the Redeemer as much as she is His Immaculate Mother, we can say that Mary, as the Mother and model of the Church, “in every respect” was “tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hence, she is no ethereal model. Mary, like her Divine Son, went to battle against the same temptations that every Christian born of her must engage.

Purity of Heart

How did Mary triumph over these temptations? “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” The Church both in its teaching and through the lives of its saints, especially Our Blessed Mother, has affirmed that for one who sees the face of God, it is impossible to sin, for we behold our greatest Good. And while we cannot behold the face of God in the fullness of its glory, Jesus in this Beatitude tells us that we can begin to experience this beholding of God’s face even now through grace. And the specific way we do it is by having a pure heart.

It is no wonder then that the Feast of the Assumption is tied directly to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the feast that celebrates Mary’s perfect purity: She is the Immaculate one – or as St. Maximiliam Kolbe called her, the Immaculata.

The Feast of the Assumption celebrates, therefore, the great triumph of Mary over sin through her purity of heart! Victory is also ours and so is the glory that God wishes to give such souls who persevere in living a pure life. Hence, this Feast is an invitation to hope! It can be done by asking for and fostering the grace of purity in our hearts. Otherwise, Jesus would not have made this one of the Beatitudes, which represent the heart of the Good News.

Our Hope

So, wherever we are in our walk with Christ, let us never forget that what will always keep us on the path to seeing the full glory of God, is purity of heart. And this is impossible without purity of the senses. To that end, let us guard what we allow into our souls by guarding our senses and seeing to it that, if we have fallen off the narrow path of purity, we run to the wellsprings of Divine Mercy that await us in the Sacrament of Confession. How much clearer can we see God after this incredibly awesome sacrament! How much it helps us with clarity in all aspects of our life!

As we reflect on this great mystery of Mary’s Assumption, let us joyfully thank God for the gifts He has given our Mother and for her triumph. She is “one of our own.” And as our Mother who has walked the walk, she now wishes to lavishly pour the same graces of purity upon us. May we beg for them every day because, like Mary, we want to be at the peak of the mountain where we see the full light of the sun while the storms rage beneath us. And when dark times come upon us and the light of the sun seems obscured, let us remember the encouraging and hopeful words of Venerable Fulton Sheen:

“God, Who made the sun, also made the moon. The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun. The moon would be only a burnt-out cinder floating in the immensity of space were it not for the sun. All its light is reflected from the sun. The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing. With Him, she is the Mother of Men. On dark nights we are grateful for the moon; when we see it shining, we know there must be a sun. So in this dark night of the world when men turn their backs on Him Who is the Light of the World, we look to Mary to guide their feet while we await the sunrise.” -Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love, Chapter 5

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Dr. Peter Howard presently lives in Aspen, Colorado, with his wife, Chantal, and four children. Dr. Howard is a professor of Theology at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. In 2015, Peter and his wife, Chantal, founded HeroicFamilies.com. He is also a Catholic videographer (MEDIAtrix.tv), author and national Catholic speaker who has spoken at the 2012 Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, Kansas; the United States Air Force Academy; parish retreats and on Catholic radio programs. He also taught me my “Saints: from Anthony to Bernard of Clairvaux” class at the Avila Institute.

Love,
Matthew