Category Archives: Mariology

The Holy Spirit & Mary

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,

to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father,

and He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”*

And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” -Lk 1:26-35, 38

““Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For He has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is His name.

His mercy is from age to age

to those who fear Him.

He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry He has filled with good things;

the rich He has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel His servant,

remembering His mercy,

according to His promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” – Lk 1:42-55

“This truth has to do with the union between the Holy Spirit and Mary…

What type of union is this [between the Holy Spirit and Mary]? It is above all an interior union, a union of her essence with the “essence” of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, lives in her. This was true from the first instant of her existence. It was always true; it will always be true.

In what does this life of the Spirit in Mary consist? He himself is uncreated Love in her; the Love of the Father and of the Son, the Love by which God loves Himself, the very love of the Most Holy Trinity. He is a fruitful Love, a “Conception.” Among creatures made in God’s image the union brought about by married love is the most intimate of all (see Mt 19:6). In a much more precise, more interior, more essential manner, the Holy Spirit lives in the soul of the Immaculata, in the depths of her very being. He makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity.

This eternal “Immaculate Conception” (which is the Holy Spirit) produces in an immaculate manner divine life itself in the womb (or depths) of Mary’s soul, making her the Immaculate Conception, the human Immaculate Conception. And the virginal womb of Mary’s body is kept sacred for Him; there He conceives in time — because everything that is material occurs in time — the human life of the Man-God.

… If among human beings the wife takes the name of her husband because she belongs to him, is one with him, becomes equal to him and is, with him, the source of new life, with how much greater reason should the name of the Holy Spirit, Who is the divine Immaculate Conception, be used as the name of her in whom He lives as uncreated Love, the principle of life in the whole supernatural order of grace? – St Maximillian Kolbe (1894-1941), Martyr of Charity, Martyr of Auschwitz36

Gaitley, Michael E.. 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration (pp. 39-40). Marian Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

36 H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, OP, Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, trans. Richard Arnandez, FSC (Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1977), p. 4-5.

Pope Paul VI’s Beatification homily for Maximilian Kolbe on October 17, 1971: “No one should disapprove if Blessed Maximilian and the Church together with him show such enthusiasm for the formal veneration of the most Blessed Virgin; this enthusiasm will never be too great considering the merits and the advantages we can derive from such veneration, precisely because a mysterious communion unites Mary to Christ, a communion that is documented convincingly in the New Testament. Never let us think of this as “Mariolatry”; we know that the sun will never be dimmed by the light of the moon; and never will the ministry of salvation entrusted to the Church’s solicitude in particular be impaired, if the Church is faithful to honor in Mary her most exceptional Daughter, and her spiritual Mother.”

Apr 28 – St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716), Priest & Confessor, God Alone!!


-Statue in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Saint Louis de Montfort, Founder Statue by Giacomo Parisini, 1948, in which St Louis tramples the devil who holds a scroll listing the 7 deadly sins.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

When I encounter non-Catholics concerned about the Catholic emphasis on the Blessed Mother, I assure them not to worry they will love her more than Jesus did.

I
La croix dans le mystère
Est voilé pour nous ci-dessous;
Sans grande lumière pour voir,
Qui sa splendeur connaîtra-t-elle?
Seul l’esprit noble
Cette trace secrète élevée;
Et personne ne trouvera le ciel
Qui ne le saisit pas par grâce.
Dieu seul.

The Cross in mystery
Is veiled for us below;
Without great light to see,
Who shall its splendor know?
Alone the lofty mind
Shall this high secret trace;
And none shall heaven find
Who grasps it not by grace.
God Alone.

II
La nature que la croix abhorre;
La raison lui donne un froncement de sourcils;
Le savant l’ignore.
Satan le démolit.
Malgré un art pieux,
Même l’âme fervente
Souvent, cela ne me tient pas à cœur,
Mais joue le rôle du menteur.
Dieu seul.

Nature the Cross abhors;
Reason gives it a frown;
The learned man ignores It.
Satan tears it down.
Despite a pious art,
Even the fervent soul
Oft takes it not to heart,
But plays the liar’s role.
God Alone.

III
L’arbre est essentiel,
Et nous qui connaissons son coût
Doit monter au Calvaire
Ou languir et être perdu.
Comme le dit Saint Augustin
Avec un tollé inquiétant,
Nous sommes tous réprouvés
A moins que Dieu ne nous châtie.
Dieu seul.

Essential is the Tree,
And we who know its cost
Must mount to Calvary
Or languish and be lost.
As Saint Augustine states
With outcry ominous,
We all are reprobates
Unless God chastens us.
God Alone.

IV
Sa nécessité

Une route vers le ciel court:
L’autoroute de la Croix.
C’était le fils royal,
Son chemin vers la vie après la perte.
Et chaque pierre
Qui guide les pieds du pèlerin
Est ciselé juste pour s’adapter
Dans la rue sainte de Sion.
Dieu seul.

Its Necessity

One road to Heaven runs:
The highway of the Cross.
It was the royal Son’s,
His road to life from loss.
And every stone of it
That guides the pilgrim’s feet
Is chiseled fair to fit
In Zion’s holy street.
God Alone.

V
Vain est la victoire
De celui qui, vainqueur
Le monde manque de maîtrise
De soi par la souffrance;
Vain s’il n’a pas Christ,
Tuez le Christ, pour exemplaire,
Ou repousse les sacrifiés
Pour la crainte de blessure et de cicatrice.
Dieu seul.

Vain is the victory
Of him who, conquering
The world, lacks mastery
Of self through suffering;
Vain if he has not Christ,
Slain Christ, for exemplar,
Or spurns the Sacrificed
For dread of wound and scar.
God Alone.

VI
Ses victoires

Croix du Christ, retenant l’enfer,
A vaincu la malédiction d’Eden,
Citadelle de Satan prise d’assaut,
Et a gagné l’univers.
Maintenant à son groupe fidèle
Il donne cette arme brillante
Pour armer le cœur et la main
Contre le mal sprite.
Dieu seul.

Its Victories

Christ’s Cross, restraining Hell,
Has conquered Eden’s curse,
Stormed Satan’s citadel,
And won the universe.
Now to His faithful band
He gives that weapon bright
To arm both heart and hand
Against the evil sprite.
God Alone.

VII
Dans ce signe de bon augure
Tu seras vainqueur,
Dit-il à Constantine,
Qui ce fier Standard portait;
Un augure glorieux,
Dont la valeur prodigieuse
Les dossiers sont tous d’accord
Au paradis et sur terre!
Dieu seul.

In this auspicious Sign
Thou shalt be conqueror,
Said He to Constantine,
Who that proud Standard bore;
A glorious augury,
Of whose prodigious worth
The records all agree
In Heaven and on earth!
God Alone.

VIII
Sa gloire et son mérite

Malgré un sens trompeur
Et le changement inconstant de la raison,
La croix en toute confiance
Nous prenons comme le propre cadeau de la vérité.
Une princesse que nous voyons
En qui, que la foi se confesse,
Nous trouvons toute la charité,
Grâce, sagesse, sainteté.
Dieu seul.

Its Glory and Merit

Despite deceitful sense
And reason’s fickle shift,
The Cross with confidence
We take as Truth’s own gift.
A princess there we see
In whom, let faith confess,
We find all charity,
Grace, wisdom, holiness.
God Alone.

IX
L’amour de Dieu n’a pas pu résister
Une telle beauté ou son appel,
Qui lui a dit de garder un rendez-vous
Avec notre humanité.
Venant sur terre, il a dit:
Ceci, Seigneur, et rien de plus:
Ta croix sauvée enracinée
Ici dans le cœur de mon sein.
Dieu seul.

God’s love could not resist
Such beauty or its plea,
Which bade Him keep a tryst
With our humanity.
Coming to earth, He said:
This, Lord, and nothing more:
Thy saving Cross imbed
Here in My bosom’s core.
God Alone.

X
Il l’a pris, l’a trouvé juste,
Un objet pas honteux
Mais l’honneur, le fait partager
La flamme la plus tendre de son amour.
De l’heure matinale de l’enfance
Son désir gardé en vue
Comme la beauté serait une fleur
La croix de sa joie.
Dieu seul.

He took it, found it fair,
An object not of shame
But honor, made it share
His love’s most tender flame.
From childhood’s morning hour
His longing kept in sight
As beauty would a flower
The Cross of His delight.
God Alone.

XI
Enfin dans sa caresse
Longtemps recherché avec impatience,
Il est mort de tendresse
Et la totalité de l’amour.
Ce cher baptême suprême
Pour lequel son cœur avait pleuré,
La croix est devenue son chrisme,
L’objet de l’amour est indéniable.
Dieu seul.

At last in its caress
Long sought for eagerly,
He died of tenderness
And love’s totality.
That dear supreme baptism
For which His heart had cried,
The Cross became His chrism,
Love’s object undenied.
God Alone.

XII
Le Christ a appelé le pêcheur
Un Satan scandaleux
Quand il grimaça pour scanner
Ce que le Christ porterait pour nous.
La croix du Christ que nous pouvons adorer,
Sa Mère, nous ne pouvons pas.
O mystère et plus!
une merveille au-delà de la pensée!
Dieu seul.

Christ called the Fisherman
A Satan scandalous
When he but winced to scan
What Christ would bear for us.
Christ’s Cross we may adore,
His Mother we may not.
O mystery and more!
a marvel beyond thought!
God Alone.

XIII
Cette croix, maintenant largement dispersée
Sur terre, un jour se lèvera
Transporté, glorifié,
Aux cieux célestes.
Sur une hauteur nuageuse
La croix, brillante,
Doit, par sa vue même,
Jugez à la fois les rapides et les morts.
Dieu seul.

This Cross, now scattered wide
On earth, shall one day rise
Transported, glorified,
To the celestial skies.
Upon a cloudy height
The Cross, full-brillianted,
Shall, by its very sight,
Judge both the quick and dead.
God Alone.

XIV
Vengeance, la croix pleurera
Contre ses ennemis maussades;
Pardon et joie d’en haut
Et la bénédiction pour ceux
D’une fidélité prouvée
Dans la foule immortelle,
Chanter sa victoire
Avec chanson universelle.
Dieu seul.

Revenge, the Cross will cry
Against its sullen foes;
Pardon and joy on high
And blessedness for those
Of proved fidelity
In the immortal throng,
Singing its victory
With universal song.
God Alone.

XV
Dans la vie, les saints aspiraient
Rien que la croix;
«C’était tout ce qu’ils voulaient,
En comptant tout sauf la perte.
Chacun, mécontent
Avec de telles afflictions douloureuses
Comme le châtiment du ciel a envoyé,
Se condamna à plus.
Dieu seul.

In life the Saints aspired
To nothing but the Cross;
‘Twas all that they desired,
Counting all else but loss.
Each one, in discontent
With such afflictions sore
As chastening Heaven sent,
Condemned himself to more.
God Alone.

XVI
Saint-Pierre, en prison,
Il y avait une plus grande gloire
Qu’à Rome, il a gagné
La première chaise du Christ-Vicaire.
Saint André, fidèle, s’écria:
O bonne croix, laisse-moi céder
Pour toi et en toi te cache,
Où la mort dans la vie est scellée.
Dieu seul.

St. Peter, prison-chained,
Had greater glory there
Than when at Rome he gained
The first Christ-Vicar’s chair.
Saint Andrew, faithful, cried:
O good Cross, let me yield
To thee and in thee hide,
Where death in Life is sealed.
God Alone.

XVII
Voyez comment le grand Saint-Paul
Dépeint avec un maigre brillant
Son ravissement mystique,
Mais des gloires à la croix.
Plus admirable encore,
Il est plus riche en mérite,
Derrière son cachot
Que dans son extase.
Dieu seul.

See how the great St. Paul
Depicts with meagre gloss
His rapture mystical,
But glories in the Cross.
More admirable far,
More merit-rich is he,
Behind his dungeon bar
Than in his ecstasy.
God Alone.

XVIII
Ses effets

Sans croix, l’âme
Est lâche et docile;
Comme le feu à un charbon
La croix s’enflamme.
Celui qui n’a pas souffert,
Dans l’ignorance est liée;
Seulement dans le sort dur de la douleur
Est-ce que la sainte sagesse est trouvée.
Dieu seul.

Its Effects

Without a Cross, the soul
Is cowardly and tame;
Like fire to a coal
The Cross sets it aflame.
One who has suffered not,
In ignorance is bound;
Only in pain’s hard lot
Is holy wisdom found.
God Alone.

XIX
Une âme non éprouvée est pauvre
En valeur; nouveau, sans formation,
Avec un destin incertain
Et peu de sagesse a gagné.
O douceur souverain
Que ressentent les affligés
Quand heureux que sa douleur
Aucune consolation humaine ne vole!
Dieu seul.

A soul untried is poor
In value; new, untrained,
With destiny unsure
And little wisdom gained.
O sweetness sovereign
Which the afflicted feels
When pleased that to his pain
No human solace steals!
God Alone.

XX
C’est par la croix seule
La bénédiction de Dieu est conférée,
Et son pardon connu
Dans le mot absolu.
Il veut que tout porte
La marque de ce grand sceau;
Sans cela, rien n’est juste
Pour lui, aucune beauté réelle.
Dieu seul.

‘Tis by the Cross alone
God’s blessing is conferred,
And His forgiveness known
In the absolving word.
He wants all things to bear
The mark of that great seal;
Without it, nought is fair
To Him, no beauty real.
God Alone.

XXI
Partout où la place est donnée
La croix, les choses autrefois profanes
Devenez instinct avec le ciel
Et jeté leur tache.
Sur la poitrine et le front, signe de Dieu,
Porté fièrement pour lui,
Bénira avec Power Divine
Chaque tâche que nous entreprenons.
Dieu seul.

Wherever place is given
The Cross, things once profane
Become instinct with Heaven
And shed away their stain.
On breast and brow, God’s sign,
Worn proudly for His sake,
Will bless with Power Divine
Each task we undertake.
God Alone.

XXII
C’est notre caution,
Notre seule protection,
La pureté blanche de notre espoir,
La perfection de notre âme.
Si précieux est sa valeur
Que les anges apporteraient
L’âme la plus bénie sur terre
Pour partager nos souffrances.
Dieu seul.

It is our surety,
Our one protection,
Our hope’s white purity,
Our soul’s perfection.
So precious is its worth
That Angels fain would bring
The blest soul back to earth
To share our suffering.
God Alone.

XXIII
Ce signe a un tel charme
Que sur l’autel
Le prêtre peut Dieu désarmer
Et tirez-le de son trône.
Au-dessus de l’hôte sacré
Ce signe puissant qu’il joue,
Signale le Saint-Esprit,
Et le Divin obéit.
Dieu seul.

This Sign has such a charm
That at the altar-stone
The priest can God disarm
And draw Him from His throne.
Over the sacred Host
This mighty Sign he plays,
Signals the Holy Ghost,
And the Divine obeys.
God Alone.

XXIV
Avec cet adorable signe
Un parfum est diffusé
Le plus exquis et le plus fin,
Un parfum rarement utilisé.
Le prêtre consacré
Lui fait cette offrande
Comme encens d’Orient,
Rencontrez la couronne du roi du ciel.
Dieu seul.

With this adorable Sign
A fragrance is diffused
Most exquisite and fine,
A perfume rarely used.
The consecrated priest
Makes Him this offering
As incense from the East,
Meet crown for Heaven’s King.
God Alone.

XXV
Sagesse éternelle toujours
Tamise nos pauvres crasses humaines
Pour celui dont le cœur et la volonté
Est digne de la croix,
Cherche toujours un esprit rare
Dont chaque pouls et chaque souffle
Est-ce le courage de supporter
La Croix-Christ jusqu’à la mort.
Dieu seul.

Eternal Wisdom still
Sifts our poor human dross
For one whose heart and will
Is worthy of the Cross,
Still seeks one spirit rare
Whose every pulse and breath
Is fortitude to bear
The Christ-Cross until death.
God Alone.

XXVI
O Croix, laisse-moi me taire;
Dans le discours, je t’abaisse.
Que ma présomption, écrasée,
Son insolence s’efface.
Depuis toi j’ai reçu
Imparfaitement, en partie,
Pardonnez-moi, ami lésé,
Pour mon cœur réticent!
Dieu seul.

O Cross, let me be hushed;
In speech I thee abase.
Let my presumption, crushed,
Its insolence erase.
Since thee I have received
Imperfectly, in part,
Forgive me, friend aggrieved,
For my unwilling heart!
God Alone.

XXVII
Chère Croix, ici en cette heure,
Je m’incline devant toi avec admiration.
Demeurez avec moi au pouvoir
Et enseigne-moi toute ta loi.
Ma princesse, laisse-moi briller
Avec ardeur dans tes bras;
Accorde-moi de savoir chastement
Le secret de tes charmes.
Dieu seul.

Dear Cross, here in this hour,
I bow to thee in awe.
Abide with me in power
And teach me all thy law.
My princess, let me glow
With ardor in thine arms;
Grant me to chastely know
The secret of thy charms.
God Alone.

XXVIII
En te voyant si juste,
J’ai faim de posséder
Ta beauté, mais j’ose
Pas dans mon infidélité.
Viens, maîtresse, par ta volonté
Éveille mon âme faible
Et je te donnerai encore
Un cœur renouvelé et entier.
Dieu seul.

In seeing thee so fair,
I hunger to possess
Thy beauty, but I dare
Not in my faithlessness.
Come, mistress, by thy will
Arouse my feeble soul
And I will give thee still
A heart renewed and whole.
God Alone.

XXIX
Pour la vie je te choisis maintenant,
Mon plaisir, honneur, ami,
Seul objet de mon vœu,
Seule joie à laquelle j’ai tendance.
Par pitié, imprimer, tracer
Vous sur mon coeur,
Mon bras, mon front, mon visage;
Et pas un rougissement ne commencera.
Dieu seul.

For life I choose thee now,
My pleasure, honor, friend,
Sole object of my vow,
Sole joy to which I tend.
For mercy’s sake, print, trace
Yourself upon my heart,
My arm, my forehead, face;
And not one blush will start.
God Alone.

XXX
Je possède avant tout
Je choisis ta pauvreté;
Et pour ma tendresse
Ta douce austérité.
Maintenant sois folle sage
Et toute ta sainte honte
Comme la grandeur à mes yeux,
Ma gloire et ma renommée.
Dieu seul.

Above all I possess
I choose thy poverty;
And for my tenderness
Thy sweet austerity.
Now be thy folly wise
And all thy holy shame
As grandeur in my eyes,
My glory and my fame.
God Alone.

XXXI
Quand, par votre majesté,
Et pour votre gloire,
Tu m’auras vaincu,
Cette conquête que je prendrai
Comme victoire finale,
Bien que digne de ne pas tomber
Sous tes coups, ou sois
Une moquerie pour tous.
Dieu seul.

When, by your majesty,
And for your glory’s sake,
You shall have vanquished me,
That conquest I shall take
As final victory,
Though worthy not to fall
Beneath thy blows, or be
A mockery to all.
God Alone.

-Hymn, Triumph of the Cross by St. Louis de Montfort

God alone.


-by Br Louis Mary Bethea, OP

“Today we also celebrate the great Breton saint, Louis de Montfort. Tall, very strong, stubborn, and with a quick temper…After his seminary studies at St. Sulpice he would begin his missionary life with crushing rejection and resistance. Yet, tromping barefoot from town to town across France, he would be the instrument of great conversion because he trusted in

God alone.

St. Louis embraced the scorn of others, whether it came from a bishop or a supercilious nitwit jeering at him during a mission. Yet he never felt worthy of the mockery that he received: I am not worthy “of being a sign of contradiction to the world.” He attributed the fruits of his labors wholly and rightly to the grace of his Creator. Blossoming from his blessed humility, St. Louis’s famous motto was born:

God alone.

Commonly, when not preaching to the faithful, he would storm the local establishments of ill repute to implore conversions of heart. His frequent companion, Pierre des Bastieres, described one such instance when “one man, furious at this intrusion, drew his sword, and threatened to run him through the body unless he immediately left. […] Completely unperturbed, he looked his assailant straight in the eye and told him that he was very ready to be killed on condition that his murderer would promise to change his way of life. Such courage completely broke the man’s nerve; he trembled so badly that he could scarcely sheathe his sword, and had to grope his way to the door” (The Man Called Montfort, 108). This was the effect of St. Louis because he was a man for

God alone.

St. Louis’s love of Jesus through Mary and his zealous way of life, always yearning for the salvation of souls, stands out as an example to follow, especially when times grow difficult like during our present viral pandemic. Fortified by heavenly consolation, St. Louis was always with the God who dwelt in his heart, enabling his perseverance even to the point of his own demise for the salvation of another…Yet in his humility, St. Louis attributed everything to God, recognizing that God alone was his goal, in God alone is the living bread of life for which man yearns and by which man is saved; he realized that the glory forever belongs to

God alone.”

O most loving Jesus, deign to let me pour forth my gratitude before Thee, for the grace Thou hast bestowed upon me in giving me to Thy holy Mother through the devotion of Holy Bondage, that she may be my advocate in the presence of Thy majesty and my support in my extreme misery.

Alas, O Lord! I am so wretched that without this dear Mother I should be certainly lost. Yes, Mary is necessary for me at Thy side and everywhere that she may appease Thy just wrath, because I have so often offended Thee; that she may save me from the eternal punishment of Thy justice, which I deserve; that she may contemplate Thee, speak to Thee, pray to Thee, approach Thee and please Thee; that she may help me to save my soul and the souls of others; in short, Mary is necessary for me that I may always do Thy holy will and seek Thy greater glory in all things.

Ah, would that I could proclaim throughout the whole world the mercy that Thou hast shown to me ! Would that everyone might know I should be already damned, were it not for Mary! Would that I might offer worthy thanksgiving for so great a blessing! Mary is in me.

Oh, what a treasure! Oh, what a consolation! And shall I not be entirely hers? Oh, what ingratitude! My dear Saviour, send me death rather than such a calamity, for I would rather die than live without belonging entirely to Mary. With St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the Cross, I have taken her a thousand times for my own and as many times have given myself to her; but if I have not yet done it as Thou, dear Jesus, dost wish, I now renew this offering as Thou dost desire me to renew it.

And if Thou seest in my soul or my body anything that does not belong to this august Princess, I pray Thee to take it and cast it far from me, for whatever in me does not belong to Mary is unworthy of Thee.

O Holy Spirit, grant me all these graces. Plant in my soul the Tree of true Life, which is Mary; cultivate it and tend it so that it may grow and blossom and bring forth the fruit of life in abundance.

O Holy Spirit, give me great devotion to Mary, Thy faithful spouse; give me great confidence in her maternal heart and an abiding refuge in her mercy, so that by her Thou mayest truly form in me Jesus Christ, great and mighty, unto the fullness of His perfect age. Amen.

St. Louis de Montfort, pray for us.

Love,
Matthew

Dec 12 – Santa Maria/Our Lady of Guadalupe vs Santa Muerte, Life vs Death

This icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe is in St. Mary Parish in Whiting, Ind. It is the first parish in the Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, to commission an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was painted last year by iconographer Christine Uveges. (CNS photo/Laura Ieraci, Horizons) See GUADALUPE-BYZANTINE-CATHOLICS Dec. 8, 2017.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is THE most visited Catholic shrine in the world.  It is the third most visited sacred place in the world.  On 12 December over nine million pilgrims will visit the Basilica to view the miraculously emblazoned tilma of St Juan Diego.  Mary appears with dark skin, clothed in the imperial blue of Aztec royalty.

“Know for certain, littlest of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of heaven and earth.

I wish and intensely desire that in this place my sanctuary be erected. Here I will demonstrate and exhibit and give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful Mother. The merciful Mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy, and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes.

Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightens you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing: do not let it disturb you…Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you.” – Words of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego, 12 December 1531, in his native Nahuatl language (the language of the Aztec Empire).

Miraculous Attributes of Our Lady of Guadalupe (St Juan Diego’s emblazoned tilma) 

  1. Castilian Roses

St Juan Diego, at the instruction of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was able to gather Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, to prove to Bishop Zumarraga, the verity of the apparition, in December, when flowers do not grow there.

  2. The material of the tilma

The material of the tilma has maintained its chemical and structural integrity for almost 500 years. This is quite remarkable considering that most replicas of tilmas with the same chemical and structural composition last only 15 years before analyzable decomposition.

  3. How the tilma was displayed

For its first 115 years, the tilma was displayed without protective glass and subjected to soot, candle wax, incense, and touching. There is currently no scientific explanation for its physical and chemical longevity.

  4. Does not appear to be painted

Though there are several parts of the cloth which have been painted subsequent to the original image (e.g. the moon underneath the Virgin’s feet, the angel holding the cloth, and the rays coming from the image), the original image of the Virgin herself does not appear to have been painted by an artist.

There is no sketch underneath it, no brush strokes, no corrections, and it appears to have been produced in a single step. These features were identified by Dr. Philip Serna Callahan (biophysicist and NASA consultant) who photographed the image under infrared light.

  5. The pigments used are unidentifiable

Nobel Prize winning biochemist, Richard Kuhn, analyzed a sample of the fabric and concluded that the pigments used were from no known natural source, whether animal, mineral, or vegetable. Given that there were no synthetic pigments in 1531, this enigma remains inexplicable.

  6. The Lack of Decay

Dr. Philip Callahan also noted that the original image on the tilma had not cracked, flaked, or decayed in over 500 years, while the paint and gold leaf had flaked or deteriorated considerably. This phenomenon has still not yet been scientifically explained.

  7. The Eyes on the Image

The eyes of the Virgin have three remarkable qualities that cannot be explained through known technology in 1531—and each would be difficult to replicate with today’s technology of computers, ophthalmologic knowledge, and digital photography:

Engineer, Jose Aste Tonsmann, has amplified an image of the pupils of the Blessed Virgin by 2500 times and can identify not only what appears to be the image of Bishop Zumarraga, but also 13 other individuals in both eyes at different proportions, just as the human eye would reflect an image. It appeared to be a snapshot of the very moment Juan Diego unfurled the tilma before the archbishop.

The images in the pupils also manifest the triple reflection called the Samson-Purkinje effect—which was completely unknown at the time of the image’s formation.

The image in the eyes of the Virgin follow the curvature of the cornea precisely in the way it occurs in a normal human eye.

Dr. Jorge Escalante Padilla a surgical ophthalmologist, considers these reflections to belong to the type which have been described by Cherney on the back surface of the cornea and by Watt & Hess at the center of the lens. Such reflections are very difficult to detect. Dr. Escalante also reported the discovery of small veins on both of the eyelids of the image. In the 1970s, a Japanese optician who was examining the eyes fainted. Upon recovering he stated: “The eyes were alive and looking at him.” [Janet Barber, Latest Scientific Findings on the Images in the Eyes, page 90.] Incredibly, when Our Lady’s eyes are exposed to light, the pupils contract. When the light is withdrawn, they return to a dilated state.

  8. Qualities impossible to replicate

Made primarily of cactus fibers, a tilma was typically of very poor quality and had a rough surface, making it difficult enough to wear, much less to paint a lasting image on it.

Nevertheless, the image remains, and scientists who have studied the image insist there was no technique used beforehand to treat the surface. The surface bearing the image is reportedly like silk to the touch, while the unused portion of the tilma remains coarse.

What’s more, experts in infrared photography, studying the tilma in the late 1970s, determined that there were no brush strokes, as if the image was slapped onto the surface all at once.

Phillip Callahan, a biophysicist at the University of Florida, discovered that the differences in texture and coloration that cause cause Our Lady’s skin to look different up close and far away is impossible to recreate:

“Such a technique would be an impossible accomplishment in human hands. It often occurs in nature, however, in the coloring of bird feathers and butterfly scales, and on the elytra of brightly colored beetles … By slowly backing away from the painting, to a distance where the pigment and surface sculpturing blend together, the overwhelming beauty of the olive-colored Madonna emerges as if by magic.”

This, along with an iridescent quality of slightly changing colors depending on the angle at which a person looks, and the fact that the coloration in the image was determined to have no animal or mineral elements, and synthetic colorings didn’t exist in 1531, provide a lot of seemingly unanswerable questions.

  9. Cannot be disproven

One of the first things skeptics say about the image is that it somehow has to be a forgery or a fraud. Yet in every attempt to replicate the image, while the original never seems to fade, the duplicates have deteriorated over a short time.

Miguel Cabrera, an artist in the mid-18th century who produced three of the best known copies – one for the archbishop, one for the pope, one for himself for later copies – once wrote about the difficulty of recreating the image even on the best surfaces:

“I believe that the most talented and careful painter, if he sets himself to copy this Sacred Image on a canvas of this poor quality, without using sizing, and attempting to imitate the four media employed, would at last after great and wearisome travail, admit that he had not succeeded. And this can be clearly verified in the numerous copies that have been made with the benefit of varnish, on the most carefully prepared canvases, and using only one medium, oil, which offers the greatest facility”;

Adolfo Orozco, a physicist at the National University of Mexico, spoke in 2009 about the remarkable preservation of the tilma compared to its numerous copies.

One copy created in 1789 was painted on a similar surface with the best techniques available at the time, then encased in glass and stored next to the actual tilma.

It looked beautiful when painted, but not eight years passed before the hot and humid climate of Mexico caused the duplicate to fade and fray. It was discarded.

However, Orozco said, no scientific explanation is possible for the fact that, “the original tilma was exposed for approximately 116 years without any kind of protection, receiving all the infrared and ultraviolet radiation from the tens of thousands of candles near it and exposed to the humid and salty air around the temple.”

  10. The tilma has shown characteristics startlingly like a living human body.

In 1979, when Callahan, the Florida biophysicist, was analyzing the tilma using infrared technology, he apparently also discovered that the tilma maintains a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the same as that of a living person.  [Janet Barber,  The Tilma and Its Miraculous Image.]

When Carlos Fernandez del Castillo, a Mexican gynecologist, examined the tilma, he first noticed a four-petaled flower over what was Mary’s womb.

The flower, called the Nahui Ollin by the Aztecs, was a symbol of the sun and a symbol of plenitude.

Upon further examination, Castillo concluded that the dimensions of Our Lady’s body in the image were that of an expectant mother due quite soon. Dec. 9, the day of the unveiling, is barely two weeks from Christmas.

  11. Indestructible

Over the centuries, two separate events had the potential to harm the tilma, one in 1785 and one in 1921.

In 1785, a worker was cleaning the glass encasement of the image when he accidentally spilled strong nitric acid solvent onto a large portion of the image itself.

The image and the rest of the tilma, which should have been eaten away almost instantly by the spill, reportedly self-restored over the next 30 days, and it remains unscathed to this day, aside from small stains on the parts not bearing the image.

In 1921, an anti-clerical activist hid a bomb containing 29 sticks of dynamite in a pot of roses and placed it before the image inside the Basilica at Guadalupe.

When the bomb exploded, the marble altar rail and windows 150 feet shattered. A brass crucifix was twisted and bent out of shape. But the tilma and its glass case remained fully intact.

  12. There is no under-sketch or under-drawing on the image.

Infrared photography has demonstrated that there is no sketching on the image whatsoever. Dr. Philip Callahan, a research biophysicist from the University of Florida explains: “It is inconceivable that an artist in the 16th Century would paint a portrait without first doing a drawing on it.” Making an under-sketch prior to painting a portrait goes back to antiquity. Such an exquisite depiction on textile made from cactus fiber is inexplicable given the lack of sketching.

  13. The stars that appear on the image are astronomically correct.

In 1983 Dr. Juan Homero Hernandez and Fr. Mario Rojas Sánchez discovered that the stars on the image correspond precisely to the constellations of the winter sky on December 12th, 1531. Incredibly, the constellations are shown as viewed from outside the heavens, in other words in reverse. It is as if we have a picture from someone looking at it from outside the universe, it is a snapshot of heaven and earth from the very moment that Juan Diego saw Our Lady.

Also, the constellation Virgo, representing virginal purity, appears over the area of Mary’s heart signifying her immaculate and virginal purity, and the constellation Leo the lion is over her womb. The lion represents Jesus Christ, because Christ is the lion of the tribe of Judah. This emphasizes that Christ the King is present in Mary’s womb. The perfect placement of stars in their various constellations illustrates the infinite intelligence behind the miraculous image.

  14. Mary assumes a different ethnicity depending on one’s vantage point.

It is remarkable that at one distance Our Lady appears to be a Native American, but at another distance she appears of European descent. This miraculous feature is meant to show the unity of the two peoples and the two cultures in light of the true faith of Christ. Mary implored the peoples of the New World to live as one.

Dr. Philip Callahan explains that the image achieves this effect of appearing to be different colors at different distances by a trait that is only seen in nature:

“At a distance of six or seven feet the skin tone becomes what might best be termed Indian olive, grey green in tone, it appears somehow the grey and caked looking white pigment of the face and the hands combines with the rough surface of the un-sized hue, such a technique would be an impossible accomplishment in human hands, it often occurs in nature however, in the coloring of the bird feathers and butterfly scales and on the elytra of brightly colored beetles.”

This change in color at different distances occurring in nature happens on the tilma in a miraculous way. The pigment combines with the rough surface of the cloth to impart alternating colorations. No human artist can duplicate this effect.

  15. Patroness of the Unborn.

Among Our Lady of Guadalupe’s many designations, she is venerated as the patroness of the unborn. The image shows Mary as pregnant with Christ. She is an unmistakable witness to the sanctity of life and the protection of the unborn.

On April 24, 2007, an unusual luminosity in the famed image of Mary at the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City immediately after that city legalized abortion became visible. According to one account: “At the end of the Mass, which was offered for aborted children… While many of the faithful were taking photographs of the tilma of Tepeyac, exposed and venerated in the Basilica… the image of the Virgin began to erase itself, to give place to an intense light which emanated from her abdomen, constituting a brilliant halo having the form of an embryo. Below, centered and enlarged, one can appreciate the location of the light which shone from the stomach of the Virgin and is not a reflection, or [otherwise] an artifact.”

Engineer, Luis Girault, who studied the picture and confirmed the authenticity of the negative, was able to specify that it had not been modified or altered, i.e: by superimposition of another image. He determined that the image does not come from any reflection, but originates from inside Mary. The produced light is very white, pure and intense, different from habitual photographic lights produced by flashes. The light, encircled with a halo, appears to float inside Mary’s abdomen. The halo has the form and measurements of an embryo. If we again examine the picture by making it turn in a sagittal plane, we perceive inside the halo some areas of shade that are characteristic of a human embryo in the maternal womb.”


-Santa Muerte in Aztec dress


-by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers

“In mid-December 1531, an indigenous Mexican man who had converted to Catholicism soon after the arrival of Franciscan missionaries set out to find a priest to hear the deathbed confession of his uncle. In doing so, Juan Diego decided to bypass his ordinary route in favor of one that would allow him to avoid meeting the mysterious lady who had been appearing to him for the past few days asking him to act as her emissary to the local bishop.

His plan didn’t work. The lady appeared again to him. When Juan Diego explained that he was seeking a priest to minister to his dying uncle, she replied, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” She assured him his uncle was cured and gave him signs of her appearance, which the bishop had requested: winter roses and a miraculous image of herself impressed upon Juan Diego’s cloak or tilma.

The Virgin of Guadalupe

During the early years of the Church’s mission in Mexico, there were few conversions among the natives. Christianity was the religion of the Europeans; Our Lady of Guadalupe, though, was one of their own.

Our Lady appeared to a native man, an insignificant widower with little family and no influence, she spoke to him in his native language, she called herself his mother, and she charged him with speaking for her to the religious authorities in Mexico City. In the image of herself on the tilma, Our Lady appears as a native Mexican woman—one of high rank but adorned in symbols of the Aztec culture that had been suppressed by the Spanish. Within ten years of her apparitions to St. Juan Diego, nine million natives poured into the Church. In the centuries that followed, her image became one of the most important and enduring symbols of Mexican identity.

The rise of an “Anti-Virgin”

Recently, a new lady has arrived in Mexico and in US cities along the border, challenging the Virgin of Guadalupe for the devotion of certain segments of the Mexican people. She’s known by many affectionate titles, such as the Bony Lady and the White Sister, but she’s most commonly called Santa Muerte (Saint Death). Santa Muerte is a skeleton, androgynous in appearance but personified as feminine. Often she’s depicted wearing colorful robes and carrying a scythe, which gives her the appearance of a female Grim Reaper.

Devotion to Santa Muerte has exploded in the past few years. R. Andrew Chesnut, a religious studies professor and author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, The Skeleton Saint, estimates that Santa Muerte has gathered between ten to twelve million devotees—roughly the same number of native converts, within a comparable time span, who entered the Church in the decade following the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The dangers of Santa Muerte

To the extent that Santa Muerte is known in the United States, she has usually been seen as a perverse patroness of the drug cartels, but her influence actually is much wider. She’s considered a “folk saint” to those on the margins, a miracle worker for people who have not been well-catechized in their faith or who feel disaffected from the Church for various reasons. One woman who spoke with Chesnut said of Santa Muerte, “She understands us because she is a battle-ax . . . like us.”

Chesnut, initially interested in writing about Our Lady of Guadalupe before turning to Santa Muerte, said that “at first glance [Santa Muerte] seemed to be [Our Lady of Guadalupe’s] antithesis, a sort of anti-Virgin.” But he eventually dismissed this observation, and his book is sympathetic to Santa Muerte and her followers.

The allusion is chillingly apt, though: Santa Muerte is indeed an “anti-Virgin,” and the rise of devotion to her has alarmed bishops in Mexico and the US.

Bishop Michael J. Sis of San Angelo, Texas, said in a statement on his diocesan website:

“We must distinguish true saints from false saints and superstitions. . . . Rather than asking Santa Muerte for protection or favors, we should turn our life over to Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, make a sincere confession, follow God’s commandments, and trust in the grace of God. Catholics and other Christians should get rid of any Santa Muerte statues, candles, or other paraphernalia.

Some clergy have used stronger language than Bishop Sis in their denunciations of Santa Muerte. Fr. Andres Gutierrez of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, told Catholic News Agency, “[Santa Muerte] is literally a demon with another name. . . . That’s what it is.” Fr. Gary Thomas, an exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, California, told CNA, “I have had a number of people who have come to me as users of this practice and found themselves tied to a demon or demonic tribe.”

The battle for hearts

If Santa Muerte is, in fact, a distorted image of the Virgin of Guadalupe—if she is an anti-Virgin—then perhaps one of the keys to challenging devotion to her might be to present the true image of the Blessed Mother to the people she claimed for her own.

Our Lady of Guadalupe presented herself to Juan Diego as a native woman, speaking to him in his own language, arrayed in the symbols of his own culture. Although he protested to her that she should find someone more influential to take her message to the bishop, Our Lady lifted up a seemingly inconsequential man to speak to those in power on her behalf.

Santa Muerte is a skeleton who invites her followers to embrace death as an end in itself. But Our Lady of Guadalupe is shown to be pregnant with her divine Son. She is surrounded by the sun, the moon, and the stars, heavenly symbols that point us to our eternal destiny of union with God.

Santa Muerte is regarded as a miracle worker and is importuned for protection and favors. Our Lady of Guadalupe reminded Juan Diego that he had recourse to her in his troubles, not as an androgynous trickster performing wonders but as a loving mother who occasionally offers physical healing as a means of drawing all of her children to her divine Son, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for every human soul (John 14:6).

Our Lady of Guadalupe has been likened to the woman of Revelation 12, attacked by a dragon who wanted to snatch her child from her as soon as He was born. In that interpretation, Santa Muerte may be just one more means by which the dragon attempts to steal the children of the Virgin. In the end, though, we are assured that he will not succeed:

“The great dragon was thrown down . . . he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Rev. 12:9–10).”

(The name ‘Satan’ comes from the Greek ‘satanas’, the accuser, the slanderer.  The name ‘Devil’ comes from the Greek ‘diabolos’, the divider, the prince of lies.)

Love & life,
Matthew

Dec 8 – Defending the Immaculate Conception


-Immaculate Conception, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1767-1769, oil on canvas, 281 × 155 cm (110.6 × 61 in), in the Museo del Prado, Spain. Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“1. Why does the Church teach that Mary was immaculately conceived? Her conception is never even mentioned in Scripture.

Before presenting the scriptural foundations for the Church’s belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, know that the person who is posing this question to you is probably operating with the three following misconceptions: (1) The doctrine infringes upon the universality of Christ’s redemption and the unique holiness of God. (2) The Church has no scriptural foundation for the teaching. (3) If any doctrine is not in Scripture it must not be true. Any adequate defense of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception is incomplete unless all three of these areas are addressed.

The first issue that you need to cover is sola scriptura—the idea that the Bible is the only rule of faith. One of the reasons why our separated brethren have difficulty accepting certain Marian teachings is that they do not understand the scriptural role of sacred Tradition and the magisterium.

The Catholic Church was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly—guided, as He promised, by the Holy Spirit until the end of the world (see John 14:25, 16:13). The mere fact that the Church teaches that something definitely true is a guarantee that it is true (see Luke 10:16).

Besides historical evidence and the authority of Tradition, several biblical texts can be offered. In Genesis 3:15, God states that there is to be an enmity between the “woman” and the serpent, and this enmity is shared between her seed and its seed. Her seed is the messiah, Who stands in opposition to the seed of the serpent. The mother of the messiah is said to share the same enmity—total opposition—with Satan.

If Mary, “the woman,” had any sin, then she would not be in complete opposition to the devil. Some argue that the “woman” refers to Eve, but this can not be the complete meaning of the text, as Eve is always associated with her collaboration with the serpent, not her opposition to him. Only Mary, the new Eve, fits the description of the woman in Genesis 3:15.

An implicit reference can also be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The phrase “full of grace” is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. This word represents the proper name of the person being addressed by the angel, and it therefore expresses a characteristic quality of Mary. Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning “to fill or endow with grace.” Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates a perfection of grace that is both intensive and extensive.

This means that the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit, and was not only as “full” or strong or complete as possible at any given time, but it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been called “full of grace.”

Over the centuries, the Fathers and doctors of the Church spoke often about the fittingness of the privilege of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The dogma is especially fitting when one examines the honor that was given to the Ark of the Covenant. It contained the manna (bread from heaven), stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (the word of God), and the staff of Aaron (an instrument of Israel’s redemption).

If this box was created with such honor—to carry a stick, some bread, and stone tablets—how much more should Mary be made a worthy dwelling place for God himself? She is the new Ark of the Covenant because she carried the real bread from heaven, the Word of God, and the instrument of our redemption, Jesus’ body.

Some argue that the new ark is not Mary but the body of Jesus. Even if this were the case, it is worth noting that 1 Chronicles 15:14 records that the persons who bore the ark were to be sanctified. There would seem to be no sense in sanctifying men who carried a box and not sanctifying the womb who carried the Holy One himself. After all, wisdom will not dwell “in a body under debt of sin” (Wis. 1:4 [NAB]).

2. If Mary is sinless, doesn’t that make her equal to God?

If this question is posed to you, it opens up a wonderful opportunity to show how the Immaculate Conception of Mary glorifies God.

Many people are under the impression that one is not quite human if he or she is sinless. On the contrary, it is when we sin that we fall short of what it means to be fully human. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are called to love as God loves. This is why Christ fully reveals man to himself, as Vatican II says. He shows us what it means to be perfectly human.

In the beginning, God created no one (neither angel nor human) with sin, and yet no one was equal to God. When Adam and Eve sinned, they acted in a manner that was beneath their dignity as beings made in God’s image and likeness. It was their sin that detracted from the glory of God, not their original sinlessness. God’s goodness is most clear when he sanctifies his creation by entering into it fully with the life of his grace.

This is why the sinless souls in heaven give the most glory to God. The unique glory of the Trinity is manifested most clearly in heaven—where is he surrounded by sinless beings. In their sinlessness, God has made them most fully what he intended for them to be. In Mary’s case, her sinlessness gives the most glory to God, since his work is made perfect in her. She is his masterpiece.

3. How could Mary be sinless if in the words of the Magnificat she said that her soul rejoices in God her savior?

The Church does not hesitate to profess that Mary needed a savior. This should be the first issue to address if this question arises. It was by the grace of God—and not the work of Mary—that she was saved from sin in a most perfect manner. By what is called “preservative redemption,” Mary was preserved from sin at the time of her natural conception. John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb prior to his birth (Luke 1:15), and Mary was sanctified at her conception.

It is no difficulty that Christ distributed the grace of Calvary some forty-five years or so before it happened, just as he bestows it upon us 2,000 years after the fact. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that this gift was given to Mary, making her “redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son” (492). She has more reason to call God her Savior than we do, because he saved her in an even more glorious manner!

God can “save” a person from a sin by forgiving him or by providing him the grace never to fall into that particular sin. An ancient analogy is often useful to explain this: a person can be saved from a pit in two ways; one can fall into it and be brought out, or one can be caught before falling into it. Mankind is saved in the first manner, and Mary in the second. Both are saved from the pit of sin. If Jesus wished to save his mother from the stain of sin, what is to prevent him?

4. How can you reconcile Mary’s sinlessness with Paul’s statement that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?

Though Paul is making a generalization of all humanity, Protestants and Catholics alike would agree that there are exceptions. For example, a child below the age of reason is not capable of committing actual sin. By definition he can’t sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin. This is indicated by Paul later in the epistle to the Romans when he speaks of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they “had done nothing either good or bad” (Rom. 9:11).

Jesus is another significant exception to the rule, having been exempt from actual and original sin (see Heb. 4:15). If Paul’s statement in Romans 3 includes an exception for the new Adam (Jesus), one may argue that an exception for the new Eve (Mary) can also be made.

5. Didn’t the Church just invent the doctrine 150 years ago?

Pope Pius IX officially defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. When Fundamentalists claim that the doctrine was “invented” at this time, they misunderstand both the history of dogmas and what prompts the Church to issue, from time to time, definitive pronouncements regarding faith or morals. They are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it.

Doctrines are defined formally only when there is a controversy that needs to be cleared up or when the magisterium (the Church in its office as teacher; see Matthew 28:18–20, 1 Timothy 3:15, 4:11) thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being drawn to some already existing belief. The definition of the Immaculate Conception was prompted by the latter motive; it did not come about because there were widespread doubts about the doctrine.

In fact, the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine to be officially proclaimed. Pope Pius IX, who was highly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, hoped the definition would inspire others in their devotion to her. By understanding the work that God has done in our Lady, all should have greater appreciation for both him and her. For if one member of the body is honored, all should share in its joy (see 1 Corinthians 12:26).”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 8 – one of God’s many noes


-Immaculate Conception, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1767-1769, oil on canvas, 281 × 155 cm (110.6 × 61 in), in the Museo del Prado, Spain. Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Tim Staples, Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian televangelists. Soon after, Tim joined the Marine Corps.

During his four-year tour, he became involved in ministry with various Assemblies of God communities. Immediately after his tour of duty, Tim enrolled in Jimmy Swaggart Bible College and became a youth minister in an Assembly of God community. During his final year in the Marines, however, Tim met a Marine who really knew his faith and challenged Tim to study Catholicism from Catholic and historical sources. That encounter sparked a two-year search for the truth. Tim was determined to prove Catholicism wrong, but he ended up studying his way to the last place he thought he would ever end up: the Catholic Church!

“In what is among the most simple and beautiful prayers in the Torah, Moses fervently prays for God to dwell “in the midst of” His people. It is a seemingly praiseworthy request, and yet God’s answer is a firm “no.” God’s refusal was not because of any lack of desire on His part; God’s will was always to dwell in the midst of His people. The problem was Israel’s sins.

The Lord said to Moses . . . Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go among you, lest I consume you in the way, for you are a stiff-necked people (Exod. 33:3).

For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, You are a stiff-necked people; if for a moment I should go up among you, I would consume you” (Exod. 33:5).

God says He could have dwelt among them—but He would have destroyed them if He had! And yet in spite of the dire warnings, Moses entreats the Lord anyway, in Exodus 34:9, with this prayer:

If now I have found favor in thy sight, O Lord, let the Lord, I pray thee, go in the midst of us, although it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thy inheritance.

When I said Moses’ petition would not be granted, that was true, but incomplete. It would be more correct to say it would not be granted in his lifetime, or even in the context of the Mosaic Covenant. Because of the sins of Israel, God would only dwell in the Ark of the Covenant made of wood and gold, in the tabernacle in the wilderness, or later on in the temple. However, the God-inspired longing of Moses’ heart would one day be realized. Multiple prophets subsequent to the time of Moses prophesied God would indeed one day dwell in the midst of his people. But this ancient promise would only find its fulfillment in Jesus Christ… and in His mother.

Let us first consider the prophet Isaiah. In the first eight chapters of the book that bears his name, in good prophetic tradition, Isaiah brings a message of stern warning to Israel (and the surrounding nations) because of their abundant sins. But in later chapters we also see the promise of the coming Messiah. For our purpose we’ll focus on chapters eleven and twelve. You’ll want to take note of how many times the inspired author prophesies of that day, which refers to the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord . . . In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples. . . In that day the Lord will extend His hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of His people . . . You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away . . . Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (11:1-2, 10-11; 12:1,6).

The promise of the Lord dwelling in the midst of Israel was just that—a promise for the future.

And we should further note that in Isaiah and elsewhere, “the inhabitant of Zion” is also referred to as “the daughter of Zion,” or even “the virgin daughter of Zion.” For example, in Isaiah 37:22, Isaiah prophesies against Assyria, who had conquered Israel:

[Assyria] despises you, she scorns you—the virgin daughter of Zion; she wags her head behind you—the daughter of Jerusalem (Isa. 37:22; Cf. Jer. 14:17; Lam. 2:13).

In Zephaniah, we find similar language. The Lord chastises Israel resoundingly for its sins, but then promises through the message of the prophet:

“Therefore wait for Me,” says the Lord, “for the day when I arise as a witness . . . On that day you shall not be put to shame . . .) For they shall pasture and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem . . . The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst (3:8, 11, 13-15).

And finally, after urging Israel to repent of their sins, Zechariah also prophesies: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the Lord” (Zech. 2:10).

We now fast-forward to Luke 1:28. When Luke records the greeting of the angel, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” There are two keys to understanding this text in relation to Mary as the fulfillment of the ancient “daughter of Zion” prophecies.

  1. The Greek word for hail is kaire, which can also be translated rejoice. In fact, the New King James Version of the Bible translates it as, “Rejoice, highly favored one!” Because this “new name”—kecharitomene—is in the feminine, we could also translate it as “Rejoice, favored woman.”
  2. The angel does not say “the Lord shall be with you;” he says, “The Lord is with you.”

Could this hearken back to the prophetic “daughter of Zion” prophecies of old? There is really no biblical way around it. The ancient prayer of Moses was definitively answered in and through what was likely to have been about a fifteen year-old young woman named Mary, and in a way beyond the wildest imaginings of the ancient prophets. Because of her “yes,” after all of those centuries in waiting, God would finally dwell “in the midst of his virgin Daughter of Zion.”

Indeed, this verse becomes an excellent example of what Scripture scholars refer to as the polyvalent or multi-layered nature of Scripture. The angel’s greeting not only signals that Mary is “full of grace,” but that she is the true “Daughter of Zion.”

So how does this relate to Mary being free from sin? We saw before that it was the sin of Israel that prevented God from dwelling “in the midst of” “the virgin daughter of Zion.” How fitting for the New Covenant Daughter of Zion—in the midst of whom the Lord would dwell bodily—to be free from all sin. The obstacle that kept God from dwelling in the midst of his people had been eliminated through Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and Mary becomes the archetype of the Church—“holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

On one level, since she was “full of grace” Mary was the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Daughter of Zion even before the Incarnation. And yet, there was more to come. Mary’s fullness of grace had prepared the New Covenant Daughter of Zion for something the Old Covenant people of God could never have fathomed. It was grace that made her fit to be a worthy vessel to bear the King of Glory in her body. The fulfillment of God’s promise would not be complete, then, until Mary conceived Jesus in her womb.

“[Rejoice], full of grace, the Lord is with you! . . . the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called . . . the Son of God” (Luke 1:28-35).

I suppose an entire volume could be written on the significance of these prophecies. But I will conclude our thoughts here with a section from the Catechism and its succinct teaching on the significance of Mary as Daughter of Zion, in whom God promised He would dwell:

The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by His grace. It was fitting that the mother of Him in Whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice” (CCC 722).”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 12 – Most Holy Name of Mary 2


-Battle of Vienna, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“September 12 is the memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary, a liturgical celebration that probably gives many Catholics pause. Honoring the Blessed Mother in the liturgy is nothing new or unique in the Church, but many may ask, why this feast on this day?

The answer lies in a pivotal battle fought in the late seventeenth century between the Cross and the Crescent at the “Gateway to Europe.” A little more than a hundred years after the great Christian victory at Lepanto (October 7, 1571) where Don John’s Holy League warriors prayed a rosary the night before their miraculous victory (remembered liturgically as the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary), Christendom was once more severely threatened by the Ottoman horde. The Turks had solidified their hold on the Balkans since the time of Lepanto and were gaining strength for an attack on imperial Hapsburg territory.

Ottoman treachery

Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (r. 1658–1705) pursued a diplomatic policy of appeasement with the Ottomans, because he was more concerned about his belligerent French neighbor, King Louis XIV. Some of Leopold’s advisors believed the once-mighty Ottoman military was weak and ineffective compared to the strong and large standing army of the Sun King.

Leopold entered into a peace treaty with the Ottoman Turks in 1665 but, fearing the Ottomans might break the treaty, the emperor also entered into defense treaties with other European nations; including Poland, to come to his aid should the Turks invade. The treaty with the Ottomans was set to expire in 1684 but, unbeknownst to Leopold, the Ottomans had decided a year earlier to break the treaty and invade Austria.

At a meeting on August 6, 1682, advisors to the Ottoman sultan, Mehmet IV (r. 1648–1687), persuaded him that the time was right to invade Christian territory. The invasion would commence in 1683 with an army of 100,000 men under the command of the grand vizier Kara Mustapha (1634–1683). Although he was a veteran of numerous military campaigns, Kara Mustapha was not beloved by his troops, since he was known to accept large casualties to accomplish the mission. He lived ostentatiously, with thousands of concubines in his harem and numerous slaves and eunuchs to tend to his needs. He also despised Christians and was looking forward to the campaign.

Kara Mustapha was overly confident of victory and believed his army would capture not only Vienna but even Rome, where he bragged he would stable his horses in St. Peter’s basilica. The Ottoman army crossed the frontier in late June 1683, rampaging and pillaging as they marched.

Polish heroes ride out

As soon as news reached Leopold that the Turks were on the move, he reached out to his allies and begged them to come to the aid of Vienna. Jan Sobieski (r. 1676–1696), the King of Poland and a devout Catholic, responded to his treaty obligations and raised a relief army. He left Warsaw with an army of 20,000 men, mostly cavalry, on the way to Cracow, where the rest of his troops were ordered to assemble.

Along the march, Sobieski stopped to pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Entrusting the success of his military efforts to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, he began his army’s march to Vienna on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 1683. His forces were buoyed by the knowledge that Pope Innocent XI (r. 1676–1689) had granted the Crusading plenary indulgence to all who fought for the defense and relief of Vienna.

The Ottoman army arrived at the city on July 14 and, as was their tradition and custom, arranged their camp around the city in the shape of a crescent. The Viennese defenders fought bravely for a month, but by the end of August and into early September food was scarce in the city and disease was rampant. It was only a matter of time before the Ottoman’s broke into the city.


-King John III Sobieski of Poland, please click on the image for greater detail

The undoing of the Turks

The allied relief army led by Sobieski arrived near Vienna on September 9. Surprisingly, the Turks had not secured the approaches to the city; in fact, they did not even post sentries to warn Kara Mustapha of the approach of the relief army. It was a foolish and deadly mistake by the grand vizier, who had focused solely on the siege of the city. Sobieski developed his battle plan and prepared to attack the Ottomans using the high ground of the Kahlenberg Mountain on the outskirts of Vienna.

The battle began on September 11, and the fighting was intense. The unseasonal heat of the day exhausted soldiers on both sides so that by midday the fighting stopped temporarily. When it resumed, Sobieski sensed the Ottoman line was weak, and he unleashed his famed Winged Hussars for a cavalry charge that demolished Turkish resistance. Polish troops were first into the city and were greeted with cheers and prayers of thanksgiving by the beleaguered defenders.

Sobieski sent a victory message to Pope Innocent XI, who credited the Christian victory over the Ottomans and the salvation of the city to the intercession of the Blessed Mother. As a result, the pope established the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, first celebrated in Spain in the sixteenth century, as a universal memorial for the Church in thanksgiving for the victory at Vienna.

The Ottoman campaign to capture the gateway to Europe and destroy Christendom was a risky operation. Its success would have ensured Ottoman hegemony over Eastern Europe and opened up the approaches to Western Europe. Its failure would begin the decline and ruin of the Islamic empire. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the military genius of the Polish king Jan Sobieski, Christendom was saved.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 15 – Let Heaven receive her Queen

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary completed in 1773 by Charles-Antoine Bridan, Chartres Cathedral.


-by Br Cyril Stola, OP

“Celebrations that commemorate Mary gild the liturgical year. Among others, we remember her Immaculate Conception, her Presentation at the Temple, her fiat at the Annunciation, her Visitation unto Elizabeth, her divine maternity, and, today, her Assumption into heaven. In the Assumption, Mary’s graced life reaches its culmination by ultimate union with the source of grace.

If Adam and Eve had not sinned, the separation of the body and soul at death and the subsequent corruption of the body would be foreign to man. God freed Mary from the stain of that original sin at her conception, thus restoring to her our lost purity. Nonetheless, he did not wish merely to restore us to Eden; he desired to bring us to a higher glory. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of heaven for us, and at the end of time he will restore our bodies in a new creation. Mary gave Jesus his human nature, and he in turn repaid her a hundred-fold by bringing her into heaven to share in his bodily resurrection now. In the words of the preface of today’s Mass, the Assumption is “the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.” It is a foretaste of what is to come to us, and the choirs of angels surely rejoiced exceedingly when their queen entered her home in heaven.

Mary, having borne Christ in her womb and having pondered him in her heart, heard the word of God and kept it during her earthly life. Her perfect obedience to the divine will and the fact that she became the mother of God made Mary the highest of all women, “the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the fairest honor of our race.” (Benedictus Antiphon, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin on Saturday) Through her Assumption, she received the capacity to do the Lord’s will at an even higher level.

By this awe-inspiring gift, Mary now shares Christ’s love for us and can hear the supplication of all. She who traveled to assist her kinswoman Elizabeth during her pregnancy now assists each of us. She who turned the gaze of her son to a newlywed’s lack of wine in Cana now turns his gaze to every family who turns to her. She who stood by the cross of her son now consoles us in our suffering. Today we thank God that he gave us such a mother and placed her in such an exalted place. Mary, queen assumed into heaven, pray for us.”

Love,
Matthew

Myth: Virgin Mary belief from pagan stories

“One stone thrown by the “Christians stole their teachings from paganism” crowd features the Blessed Virgin Mary.

They claim Catholic beliefs about Mary are founded on ancient pagan myths. These attacks usually center on her virginity, the conception and birth of Jesus, and whether the titles “Mother of God” and “Queen of Heaven” have pagan origins. There is even an outlandish claim by the mythicist D.M. Murdock that “the Virgin Mary is, like Jesus Christ, a mythical character, founded upon older goddesses”[emphasis in the original].”

Atheists are not the only ones who attack Marian teachings. Fundamentalist Jack Chick, in his tract “Why Is Mary Crying?” declares that Mary was substituted by the Catholic Church for pagan goddesses. Chick’s tract portrays her standing before God the Father, crying, telling him she is a sinner, and bemoaning Catholics’ “worshipping” her by bowing to her statue.

Chick alleges that Catholic Marian teachings are the work of Satan, who wants to confuse Christians by inducing them to worship a “counterfeit virgin.” So when the Catholic Church was created in the year 300 (according to Chick), under the influence of the Evil One, it created the cult of the Virgin to more easily convert the masses, who were used to worshipping pagan goddesses such as Diana, Aphrodite, Venus, and Isis. This is just one of Chick’s many bizarre theories about the Church.

The supposed similarities between ancient pagan myths and the Christian belief that Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary are greatly exaggerated.

In pagan myths, miraculous conceptions and births always involve mythical gods, not historical persons like Jesus, and their births are either through a sexual encounter or some type of miraculous creation not involving a virgin mother. One oft-cited example of a pagan myth with supposed similarities to the Virgin Birth is that of the Roman god Mithras, who was born not of a virgin, but out of rock. A second example is the Indian god Krishna, who was, as it were, telepathically transmitted from the mind of the god Vasudeva into the womb of the goddess Devaki.

On the surface this appears similar to Jesus’ conception and birth until the full story is revealed that Devaki and Vasudeva had seven previous children!

The early Church recognized the Blessed Mother’s unique role in salvation history, as is evidenced by the writings of the early Church Fathers, who clearly believed in Mary’s virginity, her role as the mother of God, and her exalted status as Queen of Heaven. In the fifth century, however, Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople, questioned those beliefs. An eloquent preacher, on Christmas Day in 428 AD Nestorius gave a homily questioning whether Mary was the mother of God:

They ask whether Mary may be called God-bearer. But has God, then, a mother? . . . Mary did not bear God . . . the creature did not bear the Creator, but the man, who is the instrument of the Godhead. He who was formed in the womb of Mary was not God himself, but God assumed him.

For Nestorius, Mary was the Christotokos (Christ-bearer), the one who bore the “fleshy garment” of Christ, not Theotokos (God-bearer, or Mother of God).

St. Cyril of Alexandria (375-444 AD) took great offense at Nestorius’s teachings and wrote a letter exhorting him to teach the orthodox belief that Mary is the mother of God. When Nestorius refused to turn from his heresy, Cyril wrote letters to the emperor as well as to Pope St. Celestine I (r. 422-432 AD), who confirmed that Nestorius’s teachings were heretical.

In a letter to his monks, Cyril succinctly captured the essence of Nestorius’s heresy and its far-reaching effects if embraced: “I am astonished that the question should ever have been raised as to whether the Holy Virgin should be called the mother of God, for it really amounts to asking, is her son God, or is he not?”

Eventually, at the ecumenical council at Ephesus in 431, Nestorius’s heresy was condemned and he was deposed and excommunicated. The title Mother of God is not borrowed from pagan myth but rather reflects the reality of who Mary’s son is and what the Church has taught about both of them from the beginning.

Those who try to link Marian teachings to pagan myths also look to her title as Queen of Heaven for proof. Protestant critics in particular point to the episode in the book of Jeremiah (Jer. 44:1-17) wherein the prophet warned the Jews living in Egypt to turn from their idolatrous ways. The Jews did not listen, and said they would continue to burn incense to the “queen of heaven,” usually identified as the Assyrian-Babylonian fertility goddess, Ishtar.

These Protestant critics contend that Catholics are like those Jews of old, worshipping a pagan deity by using the same title in reference to Mary. But the use of a title in one setting does not imply acceptance of that title’s connotation in another setting. Queen of Heaven applied to Mary is not rooted in pagan goddesses but in the Davidic kingdom. In that kingdom, the queen was the king’s mother, not his wife (primarily because the Jewish kings were polygamous).

So the title refers to Mary’s royal dignity as mother of the King of Kings. Pope Pius XII taught in his encyclical on Mary as Queen of Heaven that the title was used from the “earliest ages” of the Church, and is deserved by virtue of her share in Jesus’s salvific mission (her Fiat ushers in the Kingdom of God); her role in the economy of salvation (as intercessor and Mediatrix); and her share in Jesus’s royalty (as the Queen Mother of the king).

The Real Story: The Church’s Marian teachings are rooted in Scripture and Tradition; they do not derive from pagan myths. Pagan stories of virgin births, and goddesses referred to as queens or mothers of a god, are not proof that Catholic beliefs about Mary were copied. The Church recognized Mary as the mother of God from its beginnings and when Nestorius questioned that belief in the fifth century it was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431. And Catholics do not worship Mary, as many Protestants believe, but she holds a unique place in salvation history, as her “yes” (…fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. -Lk 1:38) to the Incarnation was essential to God becoming man.”

n.b. Editor: it is important to mention, in pagan myths, there is no consent, rather rapine/deception/disguise. Only in the Annunciation does the Divine God, ask.  Free will is respected. It’s about relationships.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God [Against Heresies, 5:19:1 (c. a.d. 189)].

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary the Mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David [Four Homilies 1 (c. a.d. 256)].

It is our duty to present to God, like sacrifices, all the festivals and hymnal celebrations; and first of all, the Annunciation to the holy Mother of God, that is, the salutation made to her by the angel, ‘‘Hail, thou that art highly favored!’’

St. Methodius of Philippi

While [Simeon] was thus exultant, and rejoicing with exceeding great and holy joy, what had before been spoken of in a figure by the prophet Isaiah, the holy Mother of God now manifestly fulfilled [Oration on Simeon and Anna 7 (c. a.d. 300)].

Hail to you forever, you Virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return… Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man…Therefore we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honors, unceasingly to keep us in remembrance. O Holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate your memory, which will ever live, and never fade away.

St. Peter of Alexandria

[ T]hey came to the church of the most blessed Mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs [The Genuine Acts of Peter of Alexandria (a.d. 305)].

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The Father bears witness from heaven to his Son. The Holy Spirit bears witness, coming down in the form of a dove. The archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing the good tidings to Mary. The Virgin Mother of God bears witness [Catechetical Lectures 10:19 (c. a.d. 350)].

St. Athanasius of Alexandria

The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God [Incarnation of the Word 8 (c. a.d. 365)].

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 4 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

Disappointing News

I completed my RCIA classes. I had finally procured a new pastor for My Father’s House. But when the Easter Vigil was a week away, I was still waiting for an annulment of the marriage to my first husband, whom I had divorced 40 years prior. I received on Monday the call saying that it was granted, and I fully expected to enter the church that Saturday night. However, Father Jim (who was serving in his first pastorate), didn’t quite know what to do with me, since he was waiting for the bishop’s instruction. There was an unresolved question of whether, as the former pastor of an Evangelical church, I needed to completely disassociate myself from that congregation — whose church building is located on the small farm where I live. Since no answer was forthcoming, I was sorely disappointed not to be permitted to enter the Catholic Church at the 2017 Easter Vigil.

It was then that I contacted the Coming Home Network, asking for assistance. Jim Anderson, a pastoral care coordinator, reviewed my situation and said he believed that, as long as the congregation knew I was no longer the pastor, and I refrained from participating in the communion there, he knew of no rule against a former pastor continuing to attend his or her prior church, especially if the ex-pastor’s spouse still attended there. I then wrote a letter to the bishop, stating my cause, and asking him to please allow Father Jim to bring me into the Church. But there was no response.

Time passed, and I grew despondent, feeling rejected and crushed. Never had I wanted anything more in my life, and I felt the blessing was torn from me at the last minute. I stopped attending Mass. After two months, I contacted Jim Anderson again, and he suggested that I see another priest for a second opinion.

Finally I am Catholic!

At the end of August, I met with Father Bernie at Holy Cross Catholic parish in Palmetto, FL. He was a seasoned priest and agreed with Jim Anderson’s assessment. He was happy to baptize me (as I had no certificates, photos, or other first-hand proof of my baptism as a baby), and on October 6, 2017, at the Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary, I was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist for the first time. I was content to wait for the 2018 Easter Vigil to be confirmed. I regard both events as the two most important days of my life. Unfortunately, my husband, by now quite upset that I continued to be serious about entering the Catholic Church, refused to be present at either event.

I spent a year at Holy Cross, where I joined the Legion of Mary and played the flute at the Saturday Mass. Additionally, since the first statue I painted had turned out beautifully, I continued to paint concrete statues of Mary, and gave them away to different people in both parishes. (To date, I have painted 13 statues of Mary and eight statues of different saints.)

On October 6, 2018, again on the day of Our Lady of the Rosary, I returned to my initial Catholic parish, St. Frances Cabrini in Parrish, FL, and the first priest I had ever met, Father Jim. That is where I currently attend.

My journey is ongoing, and not without heartache, family upheaval, and occasionally wavering faith. But my Catholic family continually upholds me in prayer. Some of my sisters in the Legion of Mary have been my strongest lifeline in the face of unexpected and emotionally painful trials, which threatened to derail me from following my new Catholic Faith.

But there is absolutely no turning back. When Jesus calls — or sends Mary to bring someone to where He wants that person to be — truly, how can we refuse to go?

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last and the last will be first.” – Mark 10:29-31 NAB

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 3 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

The Honeymoon’s Over!

“On Christmas day 2016, after the morning service, our worship leader pulled me aside to let me know that he was very unhappy with the new statue of Mary. I already had angel statues surrounding the chapel, but Mary was just too much for him.

He asked, “What kind of church are we?” “We’re non-denominational evangelical,” I replied. “But are we Catholic now? If I thought this was a Catholic church, I never would have come here. I’ll give you two weeks’ notice to find another music leader if we leave.” Wow! I never saw this coming.

His wife was waiting in their car, and I went to speak to her. She was fuming. I’d never seen her angry before. Through the open car window, she went into a full-on rant: “I was Catholic for many years, but I never prayed the Rosary! Then I got saved and took off all my jewelry, and I’m free! I’m free!” (She was yelling now.) “That’s why I don’t let any of my children wear jewelry!”

“You’re not free,” I replied, “You’re in Pentecostal legalism.” The meaning was completely lost on her, but her husband smiled and nodded. What shocked me most was that this lady was one of the parents who had provided permission to give her children rosaries. And she had asked me for an NAB Bible for herself when I handed them out to the youth. Now, suddenly, rosaries were evil and the statue of Mary a forbidden idol.

After they drove off, I went into the house, called my prior worship leader, and he was available and happy to come back and take over. The following Sunday was New Year’s day 2017, and our prior worship leader was leading the music. And just like that, five people who had been with the church for nine years (the parents and three kids) were gone. My youth leader was devastated, as she was very attached to all of the children.

Shortly after that confrontation, I spoke with another long-term faithful parishioner on the pathway by the Mary statue. “So, do you like the Mary statue,” I asked. “No, Pastor Anne, I don’t,” she replied emphatically. “But that was my two-month art project,” I smiled. “Why don’t you like it?”

“I was Catholic as a child, and even wanted to become a nun. But my priest said I should go to college.” “But what happened to you that caused you to leave the Catholic Church?” I asked. “It’s a long story,” she said. But I never got to hear it; within months, she, her husband and their three children left the church. Between these two families, a fifth of our tiny congregation was gone — over my beautiful Mary statue.

Several people suggested I move it, or hide it on Sunday morning under a bag. But I reasoned, “It’s in front of the house, not the chapel. If the parishioners use the walkway that goes directly to the chapel, they wouldn’t even see her.” Yet the suggestions continued, and the youth leader (also an ex-Catholic) admonished that I should have submitted the rosaries, NAB Bibles and statue of Mary to the church council for a vote before implementing them.

Finally I asked Father Jim to come and bless the Mary statue so the negativity would stop. And it eventually did. After pretty much all the congregation left.”

Love,
Matthew