Category Archives: Mariology

Dec 18 – Our Lady of the Expectation

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While no longer celebrated in the Roman calendar, this feast day is a joy, literally, to remember.

Br_Thomas_Davenport_OP
-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP

“One week until Christmas. Decorations are everywhere. Shopping is shifting from hurried to frantic. There are preparations for travel and guests, for parties and feasts. The expectation is palpable.

Even the Church, in her liturgy, has shifted into high gear. The normal flow of Advent, already overflowing with a sense of longing and preparation, was preempted yesterday eight days before Christmas. The gospel readings begin to recount the events immediately preceding the Nativity and the great “O” antiphons place us in the mindset of the Old Testament prophets, using their Messianic imagery to beg the Lord to come. Here too, the expectation is palpable.

Since the seventh century, this day, one week from the feast of the Nativity, has had a particularly heightened link to this anticipation in that it was set aside to honor the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Expectation. It has been some time since the feast of the Annunciation (March 25), which celebrates Mary’s “Fiat” and the coming of the Word of God in the flesh, but we have not yet reached Christmas, which rejoices in His birth and first manifestation to the world. This feast of Our Lady of the Expectation takes the opportunity to contemplate the great longing and anticipation of Advent, in which “all creation is groaning in labor pains,” through the eyes of her who, above all creatures, longed to see the face of Christ, and whose expectation truly was palpable in every fiber of her body.

The bond of mother and child is one of the most powerful and significant human experiences. Physically speaking, the new life depends on the mother for every bodily need and the body of the mother reorients itself, recreates itself, to accept this new life and provide for it. Psychologically, the child’s very first sensations and memories are of the safety and security of its mother’s womb. There is the feeling of warmth and confinement as well as the sound of the mother’s heartbeat and voice. And these feelings of safety and comfort persist in a new way after the child is born. The mother, too, is disposed to love her child whose being and welfare are as present to her mind as they are to her body. This maternal love is a supreme natural image of pure and unconditional love, an image of the love of the Creator for His creation.

All of these insights into motherhood in general apply in the most eminent way to Mary and the Word made flesh, made from her flesh and being formed in her womb for nine months. As great as this natural, maternal bond was, the Fathers of the Church considered Mary’s spiritual union with her Son, her discipleship, as even more important. According to St. Augustine, “She kept truth safe in her mind even better than she kept flesh safe in her womb. Christ is truth, Christ is flesh; Christ as truth was in Mary’s mind, Christ as flesh in Mary’s womb; that which is in the mind is greater than what is carried in the womb.” From the moment of the Annunciation, every aspect of Mary’s humanity, body and soul, was suffused with love for her Son and more and more perfectly united to Him. As His Nativity approached, that love overflowed in a calm yet powerful longing, an expectation, to look on the face of her Son, the Word made flesh.

The word of the Gospel does not simply come forth fully formed from the mouth of preachers without any preparation. To truly be fruitful there must be a period of contemplation, of silent preparation during which the Word takes shape in the preacher’s mind and, more importantly, he is drawn ever closer to the Word. This is especially true of the student brother in formation, whose Dominican life has been conceived in the profession of vows, but has not yet been born, has not yet been made manifest to the world in preaching. This period of waiting can sometimes feel simply busy but not productive. In truth, this formation is meant to be a time of inner growth and activity, laying the foundation for a healthy Dominican life, united to and overflowing with the Word.

While the festivities of Christmas last only a short time, the love that Mary had for her Son, which overflowed in such expectation, did not end at His birth but continued to grow and deepen in new ways. In these last days of Advent, may we unite ourselves to Our Heavenly Mother and ask her to teach us the patience and docility needed to bear Christ in our hearts, trusting that the Word will bear fruit in our lives.”

Sister Maria Philomena, MICM
-by Sister Maria Philomena, MICM

“In Spain, this feast day is Nuestra Senora de la O: Our Lady of the O, the “O” coming from the expression of longing said in the office of the Mozarabic Liturgy. In the Latin Rite, today’s feast comes in the middle of the “O” Antiphons (where we get the words for the hymn Veni, Veni, Emmanuel — in English O Come, O Come Emmanuel).

All this reminded me of a poem combining these ideas that I discovered some years ago when I was doing research for an English Literature class. I found it in the book, I Sing of a Maiden – The Mary Book of Verse, edited by Sister M. Therese of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, Macmillan, 1947. Since the book is out of print, I feel justified in sharing the following with you.

Lady of O
-by James J. Galvin

By the seven stars of her halo
By her seven swords of woe
Oh Holy Spirit anneal my pen
To utter sweet words for the ears of men
In praise of Our Lady of O.

With seven O’s we salute Thee
Each evening as Christmas comes;
We hail thee adazzle with sunset gold
Repeating prophecies new and old
Like salvoes of guns and drums.

O Woman, the Word in Thy keeping
Thy secret from God most High,
Shall soon be whispered over the earth
And men shall listen and leap for mirth
Like stars in the Christmas sky.

O Lady, lone tent in the battle
Where our Leader awaits His time;
Though the day grow darker and Satan scorn
The tide of battle shall veer at morn
When He sallies forth to the cheer of horn
And trumpet and timbrel-chime.

O Stalk on the brink of blossom,
Shooting green through the frosty mire;
The peoples pray for thy Spring to come
And the mighty ones of the earth go dumb
For the Flower of the World’s Desire.

O Tower of Grace untrespassed
Since Eden by God’s decree;
At thine ivory spire and jasper gate
The pining kindred of Adam wait
For the turning of Christ the Key.

O Damsel more welcome than morning
To a world gone blind since the fall;
The stars go pale at Thy sandals’ sound
And skylines glimmer, and men peer round
For a virgin in simplest homespun gowned
With the Sunrise under her shawl.

O milk-and-honey-run Mountain
Whence the crystal Cornerstone
Shall issue unsullied by tool or hand
The Stone that shall fasten each race and land
Together like flesh and bone.

O City ashine on the hill-tops
The nations uplift their eyes
From rainy island and sunken sea
And the ends of the earth they throng to Thee
To dwell in thy Christ-lit skies.

By the seven stars of Thy halo
By Thy seven swords of woe
Forgive us, O Lady, these phrases worn
In praise of Thy season with God unborn
O ineffable Lady of O.”

Love & full of joyous expectation,
Matthew

Oct 7 – Our Lady of the Rosary & Victory & grace of & prayers for a happy death.

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O my Lord and Savior, support me in my last hour by the strong arms of Thy sacraments and the fragrance of thy consolations. Let Thy absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me; and let Thine own body be my food and Thy blood my sprinkling; and let Thy Mother Mary come to me, and my angel whisper peace to me, and Thy glorious saints and my own dear patrons smile on me, that in and through them all I may die as I desire to live, in Thy Church, in Thy faith, and in Thy love. Amen. Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman

O Dearest Lady, sweet Mother mine, watch the hour when my departing soul shall lose its hold on all earthly things, and stand unveiled in the presence of its Creator. Show thyself my tender Mother then, and offer to the Eternal Father the precious blood of thy Son Jesus for my poor soul, that it may, thus purified, be pleasing in His sight. Plead for thy poor child at the moment of his (or her) departure from this world, and say to the heavenly Father: Receive him (her) this day into Thy kingdom! Amen.

Through your help I hope to die a happy death. O my Mother I beg you, by the love you bear my God, to help me at all times, but especially at the last moment of my life. Do not leave me, I beseech you, until you see me safe in Heaven, blessing you and singing your mercies for all eternity. Amen, so I hope, so may it be.St Alphonsus Ligouri

Grant unto us, Lord Jesus, ever to follow the example of Thy holy Family, that in the hour of our death Thy glorious Virgin Mother together with blessed Joseph may come to meet us and we may be worthily received by Thee into everlasting dwellings: Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Lord Jesus, pour into us the spirit of Thy love, that in the hour of our death we may be worthy to vanquish the enemy and attain unto the heavenly crown: Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that in the hour of our death we may be refreshed by Thy holy Sacraments and delivered from all guilt, and so deserve to be received with joy into the arms of Thy mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

hyacinth_grubb
-by Br Hyacinth Grub, OP

“It was not too long ago that I stood in a hospice center praying at the bedside of a friar in his final hours. At one point the social worker on duty came in to offer some surprising advice: leave him be. She told me that some people prefer to die alone, and that they’ll hold on until the room is empty. She described dying as “a wonderful expression of our autonomy.” Our society celebrates autonomy in all its forms, but this advice seemed particularly audacious. Especially because the limits of autonomy are most transparent at the end, when suffering and death strip away our illusions of ultimate power and self-determination.

It’s not that we don’t have a real power to choose, or that our will isn’t free, or that our choices are unimportant. Though, in a certain sense, the many choices we make throughout our lives on earth are really many acts of just one choice: the choice to pursue God or to pursue ourselves. We are continually deciding whether to worship God or ourselves, to follow His will or our own, and, ultimately, whether to accept His gift of Himself (heaven) or reject it (hell). In this way we are faced with the same choice that the angels had, but we decide it differently. For the angels are more noble beings, and when they were created they chose in a single act of the will. We, as men and women living in time and constrained by our physical natures, have to make this choice throughout our lives, in our daily acts. Our choice, and how each of our acts moved us toward it, will be the subject of our particular judgment.

Every act of ours is therefore a movement giving primacy to God’s will or to our own will. And in this sense it could be said that the most autonomous souls, the most independent, are those deepest in hell. Having chosen to reject every help, they have chosen instead to be utterly alone.

To speak of autonomy at someone’s deathbed is a futile grasp at a failing value. But what is proper to speak of, then? It’s not an academic question — we will all be there sooner or later. When we reach our end, facing a fate that seems to be a final defeat, what do we cling to? (For we should cling to something other than ourselves.) We should cling to our Savior and trust in His mercy.

We cling to Jesus and His Mother Mary, and especially to the lifeline that they have given to us in the rosary. Holding onto the rosary, we are pulled out of darkness and into light. Through the rosary we anchor ourselves in the mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection; in those chains of beads we are tangled up within His salvific love, we are bound to His divine life. There is a reason that Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Victory are two names for the same feast day. For in repeating the Hail Mary we repeat the names of Jesus and Mary, and we recall that in the Incarnation God “emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6) We ask Mary to pray for us, now and until the end. We ask her to be with us, and to not leave us to face the sting of death on our own. So that, remembering Christ’s victory over death, we can echo the bold words of St. Paul: “Death, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)

What better way to live and to die than in the rosary, in the continual repetition of those two holy and sweetest names of Jesus and Mary? What better way than by begging, again and again, for Mary’s intercession? So we stayed by our brother’s side in his final moments, praying the rosary when he could not. And in such a way may “the angels lead [us] into paradise,” may the martyrs receive us into the Holy City of our God, with the names of Jesus and Mary sounding in our ears and written on our heart.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 15 – Improperia (The Reproaches), Our Lady of Sorrows

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”
-Luke 2:34-35

And with “Woman behold your son.”  And, “Son, behold your Mother.”  cf Jn 19:26-27, Mary became our mother, and the mother of the Church.

Good Friday is a day of mourning, remembering Christ’s death, and so is not typically a day of songs and hymns. During the Veneration of the Cross, the following Antiphon and verses known as “The Reproaches” (Improperia) are sung. Individual parts are indicated by no. 1 (first choir) and no. 2 (second choir); parts sung by both choirs together are indicated by nos. 1 and 2.

The Reproaches (Improperia)

Antiphon 1 and 2:
We worship You, Lord,
we venerate Your cross,
we praise Your resurrection.
1: Through the cross
You brought joy to the world.
1: (Psalm 66:2)
May God be gracious and bless us;
and let His face shed its light upon us.

Repeat Antiphon by 1 and 2:

The Reproaches:

I.

1 and 2: My people, what have I done to you
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Savior to the cross.

2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!
1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: For forty years I led you
safely through the desert.
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Savior to the cross.

1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave Me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

II.

1: For your sake I scourged your captors
and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: For you I struck down the kings of Canaan.
but you struck my head with a reed.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I raised you to the height of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

Love,
Matthew

Jun 27 – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (Help)

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mother_of_perpetual_help_by_theophilia-d559ghb

Mother of Perpetual Help, Woman of Eternal Hope, your wordless gaze tells us so much about you. Knowing eyes look upon us with tender love. The slight bend of your head reveals such maternal concern. While your left hand supports the Child, your right hand is ready to receive us, too. Just as He feels the beating of your heart, so you encourage us to lead a life of hope and holiness. Just as His sandal will fall on your lap, through your intercession may God pick us up as we stumble and fall. Never let us be parted from you and your Son, Jesus. Lady of love, you invite us to place our hand where His fingers touch yours — near a heart of endless hope — so that we may be united often in prayer here on earth and joined forever with you in heaven. Amen.

Mother of Perpetual Help, your very name inspires confidence. We come before your holy picture in praise and thanksgiving to God seeking your intercession with Jesus, your Son, for all the needs of our lives today. We celebrate your holy motherhood as we proclaim Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer.

You answered when called to be mother of our Lord. Obtain for us the grace to be alive to our baptismal call and especially to embrace the gospel of life and to respect all life on earth.

You wondered as your Son grew in wisdom, knowledge and grace. Intercede for us so that we may welcome the Word of God in our lives and be bearers of the good news to everyone.

You delighted as your Son healed the sick. Intercede for our sick that they may receive good health and that they in their turn may be healers to others.

You enjoyed peace as your Son comforted the afflicted. Intercede for all who suffer so that they may know that we carry their burdens with them and in this way we keep the law of Christ.

You rejoiced as your Son forgave sins. Obtain for us the forgiveness of our sins and lead us to unbind others and set them free.

You suffered at the wounds your Son endured for our salvation. Help us to bind up the broken hearted and to give hope to the down trodden.

You exulted in your Son’s resurrection. Obtain for us the grace to persevere in His way all the days of our life and be granted a place in heaven.

You are the first of all the disciples and saints. We trust in your motherly love and care. Obtain for us all the graces we need to fulfill God’s plan each day in our lives. Amen.

Courage of Single Parents,
Determination of Widows,
Woman of Confidence,
Help of the Worried,
Model for Parents of Teenagers,
Mother of Prisoners,
Lady of Grace,
Hope for the World,
pray for us!!!

Mother of Perpetual Help,
with the greatest confidence
we come before your holy picture
to be inspired by the example of your life.

We think of you at that moment when,
full of faith and trust,
you accepted God’s call
to be the mother of His Son.
Help us, your children,
to accept with joy our own calling in life.

When you learned that your cousin Elizabeth was in need
you immediately went to serve her
and offer your help.
Help us, like you,
to be concerned for others.

We think of you, Mother,
at the foot of the cross.
Your heart must have bled
to see your Son in agony.

But your joy was great
when he rose from the dead,
victorious over the powers of evil.

Mother of Sorrows,
help us through the trials and
disappointments of life.
Help us not to lose heart.

May we share with you and your Son
the joy of having courageously
faced up to all the challenges of life.

Amen.

Thanksgiving Prayer

O Mother of Perpetual Help,
with grateful hearts we join you
in thanking God
for all the wonderful things
he has done for us,
especially for giving us
Jesus, your Son, as our Redeemer.

O God, our Creator,
we thank you for the gift of life
and all the gifts of nature:
our senses and faculties,
our talents and abilities.

We thank you for creating us
in your image and likeness
and for giving us this earth
to use and develop,
to respect and cherish.

Despite our failures,
you continue to show your love for us today
by increasing the life of your Spirit in us
at the Eucharistic table.

Finally, we thank you, loving Father,
for giving us Mary,
the Mother of your Son,
to be our Mother of Perpetual Help.

We are grateful for all the favours
we have received through her intercession.
We pray that those past favours may inspire us
to greater confidence in your loving mercy
and to seek the aid of our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Amen.

Mother of Perpetual Help, today we face so many difficulties. Your picture tells us so much about you. It reminds us to reach out and help those in need. Help us understand that our lives belong to others as much as they belong to us.

Mary, Model of Christian love, we know we cannot heal every ill or solve every problem. But with God’s grace, we intend to do what we can. May we be true witnesses to the world that love for one another really matters. May our daily actions proclaim how fully our lives are modeled after yours, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. you became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as your loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and God’s mercy is from age to age on those who love God. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Oh Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke your powerful name, the protection of the living and the salvation of the dying. Purest Mary, let your name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, Blessed Lady, to rescue me whenever I call on you. In my temptations, in my needs, I will never cease to call on you, ever repeating your sacred name, Mary, Mary. What a consolation, what sweetness, what confidence fills my soul when I utter your sacred name or even only think of yours! I thank the Lord for having given you so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely uttering your name. Let my love for your name prompt me ever to hail you Mother of Perpetual Help.

Prayer for Financial Aid

Realizing, dear Mother Mary,
that thou art our Perpetual Help not only in spiritual but likewise in temporal necessities,
we approach thee with submissive and humble hearts,
because we have a child-like confidence in thy power and goodness,
beseeching thee to assist us in our present financial worry.
Owing to untoward circumstances which have arisen in our lives,
we are in dire want, being unable to meet our honest debts.
We are not asking, dearest Mother for wealth,
if possession of it is not in accordance with the holy will of God;
we merely beg for that assistance which will enable us
to satisfy our pressing obligations.

We believe, dear Mother,
that thou art the Queen of heaven and earth,
and, as such,
the instrument and special dispensation of thy Son Jesus Christ;
that thou hast acquired by virtue of thy wonderful dignity,
a sweet jurisdiction over all creation.

We believe that thou art not only rich and bountiful,
but extremely kind and generous to all thy loving children.
We plead with thee then, dear Mother,
to obtain for us the help we so urgently need in our present financial difficulty.
We thank thee, dear Lady and promise to publish far and wide,
the marvels of thy glorious Picture.
Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jan 1 – Mater Dei

theotokos_moses

-Theotokos, “God-bearer”, icon, 16th century, Moses before the burning bush, notice the Christ seated on His mother’s lap who IS the burning bush of the OT before whom Moses kneels & removes his sandals.

In the few meaningful, thoughtful exchanges I have had with Muslims & Jews regarding the Christian belief, once in Kuwait, where a small Kuwaiti man in local attire held my hand as we walked back to his camera shop, men holding hands and walking is not a sign of erotic attraction but purely of friendship, photos of US Presidents &  Saudi kings walking hand-in-hand, are plenty & current, and then with a rabbi in Chicago, the objection is NOT the Resurrection!  A man rising from the dead, no problem!!!  It is the Incarnation.  That God would have to take a shit, Muslim objection.  Let alone suffer horribly?  Meekly?  At the hands of his enemies?  God?  Is 55:8-9.  Or, a Perfect Man?  Not within the Jewish tradition.  David, the best of Jewish heroes, was a bastard!  Bathsheba was just the cherry on parfait.  Apologies for any interpreted, unintended, vulgar pun.  Read your OT.


-by Br Alan Piper, OP

“Of all the traditional titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary—e.g., “Tower of David,” “Gate of Heaven,” “Queen of Angels”—perhaps the most impressive is “Mother of God.” The transcendent omnipotence of divinity is entrusted to the gentle intimacy of maternity, even to a certain unassuming and gentle young woman. It’s not, of course, that Mary was the source of God as such (the opposite is the case). The meaning of “Mother of God” is that the person to whom she gave birth in human flesh, whom she nursed and raised, was and is God.

But the maternity of Mary is real only if Jesus is also really human, and only if he received his humanity from her. The early Church had to withstand the mistaken idea that God’s dignity cannot allow that the Word’s embodiment and suffering be more than a mere appearance. St. John writes, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn 1:7). In opposition to this error stands the Mother of God. One could apply the phrase “a body you have prepared for me” (Ps 40:6) both to the immaculate Mary and to the body that she was prepared to provide for Jesus. She is the only human being to whom Jesus had an immediate family tie. And she is the only one to whom he bore a true family resemblance. In the face of Mary we perceive something that will be reproduced in the embodied God.

There are a few texts that seem to diminish the importance of Mary’s motherhood but actually further disclose it. Once, when a woman from the crowd cried out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you!,” He corrected her, saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk 11:27-28). The wonderful irony is that no one was more attentive to that word and more obedient to it than the mother of Jesus. What is perhaps her most distinctive utterance comes at the start of her motherhood: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum—”be it done unto me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). In Mary’s obedience and in her meditation on the word, we begin to see the deeper meaning of her familial relation to Jesus: “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21).

Called to be the mother of the Son, Mary came to share by grace in the life of the so-called divine family that is the Trinity. At the scene of the Incarnation, Mary is surrounded by the Holy Trinity: “The Lord is with you,” which arguably refers to the Father; “you will bear the Son of the Most High”; “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Lk 1:28, 32, 35). The Son became man in her, and in the Son Mary came to share by grace in the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). This is the purpose of the Son’s coming: “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman . . . so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). Here Mary’s motherhood is interwoven with her daughtership.

As daughter of God, Mary is the pattern of our own glorification. As mother of God, she is also mother of her Son’s body, the Church. She intercedes for us and continues to give birth to Him in our hearts. This is part of the message of today’s feast. The Church repeats to us what Jesus said to John: “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27).”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 15 – Our Lady of Sorrows

our-lady-of-sorrows

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”   -Lk 2:34-35

justinmarybolgerop

-by Br Justin Mary Bolger, OP

“An old man’s cold prediction of a sword thrust through her heart; a rough journey to Egypt with her newborn; losing her boy on the road from Jerusalem to Nazareth; meeting her bloodied son on the road to Calvary; watching him die; a gratuitous lance in his side; the laying of his lifeless body in a tomb: Mary’s sorrows – at least the seven ones traditionally associated with her which the Church remembers today as the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. There were – no doubt – other sorrows. From the moment Simeon prophesied the sword, it must have lingered in her imagination. Sometimes she felt the blade pierce her, which is why these sorrows are often portrayed as seven daggers in her heart. Other times her eye caught its flash, reminding her that she would not escape unscathed from her son’s destiny. She was playing a part. This sense of looming danger must have been a source of distress for Mary.

In his book called The Lord, Romano Guardini has a chapter called “The Mother” in which he explores another sorrow: that chasm which began to yawn between mother and son upon Jesus responding to his worried parents in the temple: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). We read that Mary does not understand this response, and with good reason. A typical twelve-year-old child would run to his parents’ arms upon being lost for three days. Jesus, even at that age, is already setting out on the path his Father has for him. Despite their closeness, there is a growing gap between Mary and her son. This too must have been a source of sorrow for Mary.

But what does Mary do with these sorrows? How does she respond to pain? She does not lash out at circumstances. Nor does she run away from hardship. The encounter in the Temple is one of the occasions for Mary to ponder in her heart some experience she has. She contemplates the sorrow, just as she ponders joy in other moments in her life (Luke 2:19).

But above all Mary responds to her sorrows as a faithful disciple. She is a disciple of her Son regardless of the circumstances. In fact, Mary is the model disciple. Throughout her life she is with Christ. And she is not merely journeying with Christ because she is his natural mother. Jesus preaches that those who hear and do the word of God are blessed (Luke 8:21). No doubt Jesus had natural affection for his mother and relatives. But to be a true disciple is another order of blessedness. And Mary becomes the exemplar disciple, for, hearing and doing the Word of God, she bears the Word within her. The temporal scope of the seven sorrows reveals this fidelity. The sorrows begin with Jesus as an infant, and end with his burial. And the sorrows are always related to Jesus. They are not disconnected from his mission. They are uniquely caught up with it. And they serve to show a response to sorrow – one of fidelity and discipleship.

We also see that Mary went through human emotions just like anyone. Some pretty heavy emotions too. “Emotional rollercoaster” comes to mind. We can see this by looking at Mary’s sorrows in the context of the Rosary. One of the Joyful Mysteries is the Presentation. This liturgical dedication of Jesus must have been a joy to Mary, and we meditate on it as such. But this joy is tinged with sorrow, for it is here Mary also hears Simeon’s prophecy that she too will suffer. Another joyful mystery is the finding of the Christ child in the temple. But directly before finding Jesus, Mary was in sorrow because she had lost him. And then as Guardini proposes, there was also sorrow in Jesus’ response to Mary. So Mary experienced the full range of emotions. Of course this range exceeds the typical experience: Mary had the joy of bearing Christ and the sorrow of burying him. It’s hard to imagine greater extremes. But still, we have a model in Mary not only for saying yes to God, but in how we respond to sorrow and pain.

No one is exempt from sorrow. By faith and following Christ as a disciple our pain can be redemptive for ourselves and for others. We follow Christ through sorrow just like Mary did because we know ultimately how the story ends. That’s why we can definitively sing at Easter: “Be joyful Mary!” And that’s why we can pray to her in this vale of tears. She has known sorrow like us. And now she knows the joy that comes with Christ’s redemption. She accepted God’s plan for her life, followed Christ on earth, and now lives with him among the Blessed. So then, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 21 – Our Lady of Knock

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Knock

The Irish are an odd tribe.  I have been to Ireland, twice.  Whence landing at Shannon, white religious life size statuary appears roadside as the coach (bus) pulls away from the airport every count of ten.  1, 2, 3,…10.

If you see a ring of stones around a tree, DO NOT TOUCH!!!!! You would be disturbing the “wee people”, whose stone ring that is, which is ALWAYS very bad luck for you and the farmer whose land that is. The farmer is likely to come at you with his shillelagh.  You will get a lump on the head.  Seriously.  But, you will remember, next time.  Or, you haven’t REALLY seen the color GREEN, until you’ve been to Ireland?

“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother.” -Mary D. McCormick, frequently to her six children.  “Young man, get your ass to Mass!” -Robert L. McCormick, upon learning his youngest son’s Mass attendance his first year in college was not regular.  “Is she one of us?” -Mary D. McCormick, inquiring, after long, pregnant pause, upon learning of a dating interest of her sons. “Are you in the state of grace?”-Mary D. McCormick, a secondary telephone greeting used with her children after “Hello?”  Requiescat in pace.

Sixteen hundred years, and counting, I trust, not withstanding recent convulsions in the Irish Church.  If Ireland goes, God help the Church.  He will have to, again.  Not every kind of barbarity and oppression could separate the Irish from their faith, except…from within?  Lk 22:48.  “Judas Iscariot was a bishop.” -Dr. Peter Kreeft.

Due to a very strong devotion of Irish Catholics to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a special exception is made for her name. In Irish, she is known as Muire and no one else may take that name similar to the way the name Jesus is not used in most languages.  This used to be universal, but now variations of the spelling are used, just not Muire.  So, you get Maire or Moire.

On the evening of August 21, 1879 Mary McLoughlin, the housekeeper to the parish priest of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland, was astonished to see the outside south wall of the church bathed in a mysterious light; there were three figures standing in front of the wall, which she mistook for replacements of the stone figures destroyed in a storm. She rushed through the rain to her friend Margaret Byrne’s house.

After a half hour Mary decided to leave and Margaret’s sister Mary agreed to walk home with her. As they passed the church they saw an amazing vision very clearly: Standing out from the gable and to the west of it appeared the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John.

The figure of the Blessed Virgin was life-size, while the others seemed to be neither as large nor as tall. They stood a little away from the gable wall about two feet from the ground. The Virgin was erect with her eyes toward Heaven, and she was wearing a large white cloak hanging in full folds; on her head was a large crown.

Mary Byrne ran to tell her family while Mary McLoughlin gazed at the apparition. Soon a crowd gathered and all saw the apparition. The parish priest, Archdeacon Cavanaugh, did not come out, however, and his absence was a disappointment to the devout villagers. Among the witnesses were Patrick Hill and John Curry. As Patrick later described the scene: ‘The figures were fully rounded, as if they had a body and life. They did not speak but, as we drew near, they retreated a little towards the wall.’ Patrick reported that he got close enough to make out the words in the book held by the figure of St. John.

An old woman named Bridget Trench drew closer to embrace the feet of the Virgin, but the figure seemed always beyond reach. Others out in the fields and some distance away saw a strange light around the church. The vision lasted for about three hours and then faded.

The next day a group of villagers went to see the priest, who accepted their report as genuine; he wrote to the diocesan Bishop of Tuam; then the Church set up a commission to interview a number of the people claiming to witness the apparition. The diocesan hierarchy was not convinced, and some members of the commission ridiculed the visionaries, alleging they were victims of a hoax perpetrated by the local Protestant constable! But the ordinary people were not so skeptical, and the first pilgrimages to Knock began in 1880. Two years later Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto made a visit to the parish and claimed he had been healed by the Virgin of Knock.

In due course many of the witnesses died. But Mary Byrne married, raised six children, living her entire life in Knock. When interviewed again in 1936 at the age of eighty-six, her account did not vary from the first report she gave in 1879.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 16 – Our Lady of Mt Caramel? Caramelites????

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Carmelite-Sisters

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No, Carmel and Carmelites.  The wearing of brown habits does not help dissociate the “homophone”.  I recall, as a child, my mother introducing me to the and giving me a brown scapular.  There is, in any two thousand year old human organization (there aren’t that many…one?), a little “superstition”.  My mother told me, and it generally applies, if you, as a Catholic, die wearing the brown scapular, you go directly to Heaven, do not pass “Go”!  🙂  Now, in salvation theology, this even in my limited training as a catechist is….a little hard to support.  No?  My Sola Fides friends are doing full-body eye rolls right about now!  😀  Be patient with us.  It’s cute.  Don’t have a spell.  Lighten up.  😀

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brown scapular, the decoration is unnecessary, really, although common.  It’s just about a sq in of cloth, joined by two silk ribbons.  You put it over your head with one patch on your chest and one on your back.  It is symbolic of Jesus bearing the Cross.  Sometimes full sized scapulars, habits in general, were made of rough cloth, literally, the wearing of sack cloth, as a penitential practice.  I wore a comfortable white habit & scapular as a Dominican novice.  Comfortable except when not mechanically well handled during Office.  It is sadistic fun to watch other novices when they EPIC FAIL at this or not mechanically well handle the large rosary beads we wear, finger our Office book, and lift the liftable seat of our choir stall with our calves.  No small feat to coordinate this gracefully, especially when new to it, but fun to watch when others EPIC FAIL!  Mea culpa.  🙂

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-by Br Joachim Kenney, OP

“The Blessed Virgin Mary is known to the Church under dozens of different titles. There are titles that describe her attributes, such as “Seat of Wisdom” or “Help of Christians,” which we find in the Litany of Loreto. Then there are titles that refer to her patronage of particular places or peoples, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe or Our Lady of Lourdes. Today the Church celebrates the Mother of God under her patronage of a particular religious order: the Carmelites. But who exactly is Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and what does this title teach us about Mary?

The feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was instituted to commemorate a thirteenth-century apparition of Mary to the English Carmelite St. Simon Stock. The venerable Catholic devotion of wearing the Brown Scapular comes from this apparition and Mary’s words that “This shall be a privilege for you and for all Carmelites: whoever dies clothed in this shall not suffer eternal fire, rather, he shall be saved.”

Carmelite tradition tells us that the Order is descended from the prophet Elijah and his followers, who spent a good deal of their time on Mt. Carmel. “Carmel” is said to mean “garden” or “orchard,” and this mountain was known in the Old Testament as a very beautiful and verdant place. It was used by many for retreat and prayer, as the long tradition of Carmelite hermits attests.

However, it was also on this mountain that Elijah did battle with the prophets of the false god Baal (1 Kings 18). Four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal spent hours calling on their god to come and consume the sacrifice they had prepared, but to no avail. Then Elijah prepared his own sacrifice, prayed to God, and was rewarded by having fire come from heaven to consume the sacrifice. The Israelites were inspired by this to return to the Lord and to quit following the false god, even putting the false prophets to the sword. Then, after Elijah went to the top of Mt. Carmel and prayed, God sent rain for the relief of Israel’s drought-stricken land.

Mary’s connection to the fertile mountain of Carmel highlights her spiritual fertility in bearing a rich produce for the kingdom of heaven. She is described in the traditional Carmelite hymn Flos Carmeli as a vine laden with blossoms: the “Flower of Carmel.” Mary is a vine whose blossoms are the souls that she aids by her patronage and prayers. She waters and nourishes them by obtaining the grace they need to grow and flourish in the spiritual life. The Blessed Mother models for all her children, but especially for Carmelites, what it means to live a quiet life of prayer and interior perfection. She “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart,” as St. Luke says.

Mt. Carmel’s history as a place of spiritual battle also reveals something to us about Mary: namely, that she is willing to fight for the salvation of her children, as manifested in her promise to St. Simon Stock: whatever the manner of vice and sin that someone mires himself in, Mary will aid him in breaking free from it.

It is easy to doubt this. Sin gains a powerful hold over us that at times seems impossible to overcome. However, there are countless stories that exemplify the greater power of Mary in winning out over sin. Pope St. John Paul II explains that wearing the scapular is a simple act that nourishes devotion and makes us “sensitive to the Virgin Mother’s loving presence” in our lives. When we thus become aware of her presence, we are able to allow her to work calmly and quietly in moving us to repentance. Mary intercedes for us and, like the prophet Elijah, calls down the fire of heaven. Her fire, though, is the fire of an all-consuming love for her Son, Jesus Christ. It burns up the bonds of sin and frees us to live as children of God.

It was consideration of the goodness of the Blessed Virgin and the power of her maternal care that moved the eminent Carmelite St. Therese of Lisieux to write: “Mary, if I were the Queen of Heaven and you were Therese, I should want to be Therese that you might be the Queen of Heaven.” Let’s rejoice today then with all Carmelites in giving honor to our Queen and Mother.”

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-Our Lady of Mt Carmel with the Christ child, each holding scapulars.

A Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Our Lady of Mount Carmel

O most beautiful Flower of Mount Carmel, Fruitful Vine, Splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart, to succor me in this necessity; there are none that can withstand your power.

O, show me herein you are my Mother, O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (Repeat 3 times)

Sweet Mother, I place this cause in your hands. (Repeat 3 times)

Love,
Matthew

Regina Caeli – Queen of Heaven, Rejoice!!!

I have to tell a tale on Kelly.  Forgive me, my love.  We joke about this all the time!  🙂  She finds it funny, too!  Not just me.

The first time I said the words “Regina Caeli” to Kelly, she thought I meant a person named Regina, a middle-aged Italian woman, she pictured in her mind.  So it has stuck.  🙂  We also think Rosetta Stone is an angry African-American woman!  🙂  “Oh, Hell no!” -Rosetta Stone.  My mother thought Dot Com was a friend of hers named Dorothy!  Yucks galore!  🙂  The “fun” never ends at our house.  Kelly and I, to the extreme chagrin and dismay of those who love us, have very similar senses of humor.

Regina caeli

V. Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia.
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
V. Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Queen of Heaven

V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
V. Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

In many Christian cultures, the greeting during Eastertide is:  “He is Risen!”  The appropriate response is:  “He is truly Risen!”  In communist bloc countries, during the Cold War, it was amended for safety sake, to become:  “The Comrade is returned!”  Response, “He is truly back!”

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-by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP (Br Humbert received his doctorate in mathematics at Ohio State University prior to entering the order.)

“Throughout this Easter season, one of the most commonly said prayers is the Regina caeli, a plea to Mary, the Mother of God, to rejoice in the Lord’s Resurrection. At our Dominican House of Studies, the prayer replaces both the Angelus, normally prayed at midday to commemorate the Annunciation (the moment at which God the Son took on human flesh), and the Salve Regina (which is our last prayer in the chapel each day). Even now, a month after Easter Sunday, Mary’s role in the mystery of the Resurrection pervades our prayer life. Even the Pope’s midday addresses to the crowds at St. Peter’s Square are called the Regina caeli speeches throughout the fifty days of Easter. Mary’s own assumption, by which she was caught up into Heaven, body and soul, at the end of her life on earth, shows that she has already participated fully in this mystery, having experienced her own resurrection. This raises a curious question, then: if Mary already has a glorified body in Heaven, and constantly looks upon the face of God, leaving nothing to be desired, why are we asking her to be happy?

One can imagine that Easter Sunday morning, how the first disciples to hear of Jesus’ Resurrection from the tomb and see his risen body must have rushed to Mary to tell her the news of great joy: as a hymn version of the prayer says, “Be joyful, Mary, heavenly queen/ Your Son who died was living seen.” Could that be the event that we recall with this frequent prayer?

While not recorded in Scripture, many writers within the tradition, such as St. Ignatius of Loyola, report that the risen Christ appeared to his mother before anyone else. (Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P., relates this in his book The Seven Joys of Mary, whose title refers to a devotion that has taken many forms, including one, called the Franciscan Crown, that developed alongside the Rosary, and the Resurrection appearance is one of the mysteries.) If Jesus is the first to tell Mary about his Resurrection, by directly appearing to her, then the words of Regina caeli are His. That would cover the initial announcement, at least, but the rest would not seem to fit: it would be awkward for Christ to refer to Himself in the third person, after all.

The context of the prayer, and the joy of the Blessed Virgin, therefore must extend beyond the historical event of Jesus’ Resurrection, as momentous as it was. Truly, hearing that her same Son—whom she raised and whom she watched as he was obedient unto death on the Cross—has been transformed to the new life of the glorified body is a cause for celebration! Yet each Christian believer also participates in Jesus’ death and resurrection, through Baptism. For as St. Paul reminds us, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4).

In addition to participating in Jesus’ Resurrection, which causes joy for us and for Mary, we also take part in being Mary’s children spiritually. As she who knew no pains in labor when she gave birth to Christ (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III.35.6) became the mother of the Church through the pain of standing at the foot of the Cross, when Jesus gave her to His beloved disciple (John 19:27), Mary, the mother of all believers, spreads her Paschal joy to all her children. As Cessario says, “Mary’s unspeakable joy at the Resurrection of her Son catches on contagiously, and like the Easter fire spreads rapidly throughout the whole Church.” In asking Mary to rejoice, we ask all of the Church to exult as well.

Thus, every time that we recite or sing the Regina caeli, we share in the joy of the Mother of God and in the joy of the worldwide Church, a joy that flows from not only the Resurrection of Jesus, but also from each soul born of water and the Holy Spirit. And this rejoicing continues, and reaches its perfection, beyond this life. For just as the Dominican chant of the prayer switches from resurrexit (has risen) to jam ascendit (now ascends) at the upcoming feast of the Ascension, so Mary’s happiness, and ours, also stems from Jesus’ entry into the glory of the realm beyond this one, where we hope to follow both him and his mother, body and soul.

In this Easter season, and in Mary’s month of May, let us then ask the Queen of Heaven to “pray for us to God,” as the chant concludes, so that we may rejoice with her and her divine Son for all eternity.”

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-Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,The Immaculate Conception, 1767-68, oil on canvas, Prado Museum, 281 × 155 cm (110.6 × 61 in)

Love,
Matthew

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation

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“You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a Son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the Desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If He should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek Him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

-St Bernard of Clairveaux

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Love,
Matthew