Category Archives: Mariology

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

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 2 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

For the next eight and a half months, I attended two morning Masses each week, followed by my RCIA classes, as well as the Saturday afternoon Mass. I joined the parish, received my own envelopes, and began contributing weekly.

I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the first month of my journey, then numerous books on Mary, the Fathers of the Church, and testimonies of other Protestants who had found the truth of the Catholic Church — all this while still pastoring my little flock at My Father’s House. I had asked the Lord early on, “Do you want me to leave my church?” to which He replied, “I don’t want you to leave, I want you to lead.”

So I began teaching many of the principles I was learning in RCIA to my church, even transcribing some of the homilies (sermons) that I heard on EWTN and preaching them to my congregation. At St. Frances’ thrift store, I purchased rosaries, and with their parents’ permission, gave them out to the youth group in My Father’s House. The church pew Bibles were replaced with NAB Catholic Bibles, and each child was presented with an NAB Youth Bible to keep. I now wore a crucifix around my neck, together with a hidden Miraculous Medal of Mary. I wrote my last article as the Rev. Anne Barber for the Bradenton Herald, published on September 17, 2016, entitled “Protestants Should Try Reading Missing Old Testament Books.”

Meantime, at the Catholic church, I experienced profound joy, love, and the same wonder and excitement I had experienced when I met Christ for the first time 40 years prior. Now I was meeting Him anew through Mary. What happiness I felt! No one on the outside could discourage me. The more I attended Mass, and the more people I met, at some point I lost my fear of being recognized as a local pastor, and just let myself become a member of the St. Frances congregation. Within months I knew 25 people by their names.

Then, in November of 2016, tragedy struck at St. Frances, with the accidental death of Father David. I had been in his office the Thursday before, then attended his last Mass on the Saturday prior to his death. We had talked for an hour, during which I shared with him my experience of Mary. He agreed to come and preach at My Father’s House in January of 2017. I felt a real kinship with this elderly priest.

In his Saturday homily, two days after that conversation, Father David spoke of Christ being crucified between two thieves. He walked back and forth across the sanctuary (altar area) as he spoke, and as I watched him intently, I saw a pink-rimmed aura appear all around him. As he walked, the aura remained with him. The last words of his homily were, “Today you shall be with Me in paradise!” And he gestured broadly to the large crucifix on the wall behind him. When Father David consecrated the Eucharist, I remarked to Georgia, seated next to me, that I felt there was something extremely holy about him that afternoon. When he held up the host, still surrounded by a pink aura, I wished I could take a photograph so that I could try painting it later. Four days after that Mass, our beloved Father David died in a freak accident.

I attended his viewing, the vigil, the funeral, and the interment of his ashes. This was now my church, my priest, my sorrowing church family, and I cried with the rest of them. The funeral was unlike any I had ever attended: The Knights of Columbus led the casket down the aisle, and every priest in the diocese who could come was dressed in white, standing in the sanctuary. The bishop looked entirely regal, walking down the center aisle with his crosier (shepherd’s staff) in hand. The shared testimonies from the priests and family members brought both laughter and tears. Finally, it was time to go forward for the Eucharist. I was in the line for the Bishop and was thrilled to receive his blessing.

The memory of that funeral stayed with me for weeks. I had never experienced anything like it. There really is nothing quite like the beauty and kindred spirit of the Catholic family. I truly felt that I belonged. I was eagerly looking forward to the evening of the Saturday before Easter, when new converts are received into the Church, and I too could experience my Savior in the Eucharist.

Meanwhile, back at My Father’s House, I was busily trying to put things in order so that I could step back from the pulpit. With the church located in a chapel on our farm, it wasn’t easy to find a replacement who would be content to preach in a semi-hidden location down a semi-paved road. Additionally, I was bringing a new perspective to my sermons that I knew the next pastor probably wouldn’t bring.

Around this same time, I bought a concrete statue of Mary as a Christmas present for my friend Gloria, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t have one for myself, as my congregation probably wouldn’t tolerate it. But at the statue store that day I encountered a four-foot stone statue of Mary, Our Lady of Grace, at a greatly reduced price. My husband encouraged me to go ahead and get her. After she was delivered, I put her in the back of the carport so I could paint her without anyone seeing her. I had never painted on concrete before, and it was quite a challenge. But after two months, she was perfect: the snake was an awesome rattlesnake with a nasty green eye, and Mary was painted in gold, brown, and white, with a crown of 12 stars on her head and a rosary in her hand.

Even my husband liked the statue and built a concrete platform to install her in the garden area in front of our home, just to the left of the chapel. In December, three of us struggled to move the 500 pound Mary statue to her new home. I put a solar light in front to illuminate her at night. I was so pleased with how she looked. But my happiness was short-lived.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 1 of 4


-for greater detail, please click on the image


-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.

How It Began

In early August 2016, my life suddenly changed — irrevocably and forever. It began on the night I picked up a rosary and a “How to Pray the Rosary” pamphlet, sat in the candlelight on my front porch, and prayed it for the first time. From the first prayer, tears began to roll down my cheeks. As I stumbled over — then embraced — the sentence, “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” I felt a distinct motherly presence next to me. Unseen, yet comforting, consoling, inviting. I remember saying, “Mary, if you’re there, I could sure use a mother.” And a response came, “I chose you.”

Since 2004, I had pastored My Father’s House, an Evangelical church in Ellenton, and later Parrish, Florida. I am also an attorney and a licensed member of the Florida Bar. I had never given Catholicism even a passing thought. But I had a number of rosaries in my house, thanks to my dear friend, Gloria Martinez, who had worked for me for 10 years. Gloria was a devoted Catholic woman who truly lived her faith. Over the years, she obligingly provided me with rosaries. First I asked her for a red rosary to hang in my red car. Then a blue one to hang on a blue stained glass mirror. Then rosaries for friends who saw mine and wanted one. Of course, they were only for decoration, since I absolutely did not believe Mary was anything more than Jesus’ earthly mother.

Like most evangelicals, I believed Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. But I also believed Mary had at least seven other children with Joseph after Jesus was born (Matthew 13:55–56). I felt the title “Mother of God” bordered on blasphemy.

Now, sitting on my porch, speaking to the warm presence I felt near me, I was immediately able to put all my prior concepts about Mary aside. They simply didn’t matter any more. What mattered was that she had apparently entered my life, and I decided to let her show me who she was.

I had discovered the EWTN Catholic television network, and had begun watching the programs. Soon I ordered a painting from their Catalogue, one of Mary holding the infant Jesus and a lamb in her arms, entitled Innocence. I also ordered two books by Mother Angelica. I put the painting on my bedroom wall, where any parishioners entering my home would not see it.

One night, as I sat on the bed, reading one of Mother Angelica’s books, I looked up at the painting, and it seemed as if I saw one of Mary’s hands move. I kept watching, and it did move! So did her head, as she bent down toward the baby. Then her mouth opened as if she were speaking to the child. (However, I heard no sounds.) Following this, it seemed His head turned up to look at her. Finally, she appeared to sway back and forth as if rocking the baby and the lamb, with her dress clearly blowing in the wind!

What?! I was so startled that I took off my glasses and put them on again. Surely this was some sort of optical illusion. But no, the painting began to move again. Now I was frightened! Was there something evil about this painting? Was this woman about to step out of the painting into my bedroom? Was God displeased that I had been talking to Mary? That I had hung the painting? I prayed to God that it would stop moving. It sort of did, but I felt there was still an entity in my room, and it scared me.

The next day, I tried to contact Gloria, to ask her about it, but I couldn’t get in touch with her. That night, the painting moved again. This time, the lamb also opened its mouth, as if it were bleating, and the baby’s face turned red, as if he had been awakened and was about to cry. The third night, too, the painting moved as if it were a living scene, and rays of light shone out from the painting into the room. Absolutely shocking!

I decided, then and there, that I either needed a psychiatrist or a priest! The following day, I visited a local Catholic church, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Parrish, FL. My husband, Bob, and I had been there before to visit their thrift store. Afterwards, on one or two occasions, we entered the empty sanctuary to see the artwork and statuary. I’d even given a donation to light a candle for prayer requests. 

On the day after the third evening of seeing the painting of Mary come alive, Bob accompanied me to St. Frances’ thrift store, and I asked one of the workers how I could learn more about the Catholic Church. The thrift store lady kindly informed me that RCIA classes were beginning the following week, and if I was interested, I should visit the office. She explained these were classes for adults inquiring about the Roman Catholic Faith, and that taking the classes did not mean I had to become Catholic.

We went to the church office. Bob is a retired Lutheran Pastor, now pastoring a Community Church part time. He loves to “talk shop” with other clergy, and asked to see the priest. The retired priest in residence, Father David, graciously made time for him, and the two of them went to a conference room. I spoke with the secretary, meanwhile, asking her about the RCIA classes. She immediately recognized me from my photo in the Bradenton Herald, for which I wrote an occasional article for the Pastors’ “Faith Matters” section. “You want to know about the classes for yourself?” she asked incredulously.

Next, I spoke with the woman in charge of parish education, and cried when I related my experience with the Rosary. When I told her of the moving picture of Mary, she didn’t react adversely, but explained what an “apparition of Mary” was. It was if I were being propelled quickly in this new direction. I didn’t know it then, but Mary had taken me firmly by the hand and was leading me step by step to her Son in the Eucharist.

I was assigned a wonderful RCIA teacher, Georgia, who agreed to teach me privately, so as to not expose me to folk in the community who might know who I was. (“To prevent scandal,” she said.) My husband was nonplussed, having decided I was going through some sort of “phase” that would pass. He even agreed to attend a morning Mass or two with me.

Georgia suggested she attend daily Mass twice a week with me, to answer any questions, and afterwards, we could meet for class. The second Mass Bob and I attended was on a Tuesday. For the Eucharist, Georgia explained that I could go forward, cross my arms when I got to the priest, and receive a blessing. I happily did so. After Father spoke the blessing over me, I felt like an anointing had been poured on me. I could physically feel a warm, weighty substance on the top of my head. When I got back to my seat, I said to Georgia, “I felt something. I can’t move.” She replied, “God is pouring out His graces on you.” I knew right then that there had to be something profoundly different about the Catholic Communion and began intensely desiring to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.

The Mass ended with a novena to the Virgin Mary. Bob could barely tolerate listening to it and later reiterated the Protestant view on what he termed “Catholic heresies.” I didn’t care. Something had happened to me, and I wasn’t going to fight it. I knew that God was sending me in this direction and that I would become Catholic. Not because of the Church’s great theology, or because the Fathers of the Church were convincing, or because I had thoroughly analyzed my experiences in light of scientific evidence, or because I understood anything intellectually. Simply put, I had met Mary. She had made herself known to me, crept into my heart, and I was already prepared to follow her anywhere she led me.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary, Queen of Priests


Composed for the World Day of Prayer for Priests, 2008 and the feast of Mary, Queen of Apostles, the Saturday after Ascension. It is a prayer of reparation and hope in the face of discouragement.

At God’s word: “Behold thy Son”
Had new motherhood begun,
Caught in the love of Three in One:
O Queen of priests and mother!

Unto His will thine did bow,
And broached love thenceforth allow,
With singing heart and silent vow:
O valiant maid and mother!

Pure Heart! Hide thy priests therein,
Thieve back hearts that bleed in sin,
And vanquished souls in solace win:
Fair virgin spouse and mother!

With thy grace their hearts endow,
And steel them in courage now
To love Love as thou knowest how,
O Queen of priests and mother.

Why say prayers for priests? Because, as St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, once said “After God, the priest is everything.” He also once referred to the priest “the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth”, and the priesthood as “the love of the heart of Jesus.”

As Father John Hardon, S.J., once said, “praying and offering God sacrifices for the priesthood are indispensably important,” because “there is no Catholic Church without the priesthood.”

“Mary is in a special manner Queen and Mother of priests.
Because of their resemblance to her divine Son,
Our Lady sees Jesus in each one of them.
She loves them not only as members of the mystical body,
but on account of the priestly character imprinted on their souls,
and for the sacred mysteries which they celebrate in persona Christi.”
-Bl Columba Marmion, OSB

“Inasmuch as priests can be called, by a very special title, sons of the Virgin Mary, they will never cease to love her with an ardent piety, invoke her with perfect confidence, and frequently implore her strong protection.”
-Pope Pius XII

O Mary,
Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of Priests, [Mater Iesu Christi et Mater sacerdotum]
accept this title which we bestow
on you
to celebrate your motherhood
and to contemplate with you the priesthood
of your Son and of your sons,
O holy Mother of God.

O Mother of Christ,
to the Messiah-Priest you gave a body of flesh
through the anointing of the Holy Spirit
for the salvation of the poor and
the contrite of heart;
guard priests in your heart and in the Church,
O Mother of the Saviour.

O Mother of Faith,
you accompanied to the Temple the Son of Man,
the fulfilment of the promises given to the fathers;
give to the Father for His glory
the priests of Your Son,
O Ark of the Covenant.

O Mother of the Church,
in the midst of the disciples in the upper room
you prayed to the Spirit
for the new people and their shepherds;
obtain for the Order of Presbyters
a full measure of gifts,
O Queen of the Apostles.

O Mother of Jesus Christ,
you were with Him at the beginning
of His life and mission,
you sought the Master among the crowd,
you stood beside Him when He was lifted up from the earth
consumed as the one eternal sacrifice,
and you had John, your son, near at hand;
accept from the beginning those who have been called,
protect their growth,
in their life ministry accompany your sons,
O Mother of Priests.
Amen.
-Pope St John Paul II

Marian Prayer of Priests

O Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen,
Mother of the Church, a priestly people (1 Pet 2,9),
Mother of priests, ministers of your Son:
accept the humble offering of myself,
so that in my pastoral mission
the infinite mercy of Eternal High Priest may be proclaimed:
O “Mother of Mercy”.
You who shared the “priestly obedience” (Heb 10, 5-7; Lk 1, 38), of your Son,
and who prepared for Him a worthy receptacle
by the anointing of the Holy Spirit,
keep my priestly life in the ineffable mystery
of your divine maternity,
“Holy Mother of God”.

Grant me strength in the dark hours of this life,
support me in the exertions of my ministry,
entrust me to Jesus,
so that, in communion with you,
I may fulfil the ministry with fidelity and love,
O Mother of the Eternal Priest
“Queen of Apostles and Help of Priests”.

Make me faithful to the flock
entrusted to me by the Good Shepherd,
You silently accompanied Jesus
on his mission to proclaim
the Gospel to the poor.

May I always guide it
with patience, sweetness
firmness and love,
caring for the sick,
the weak, the poor and sinners,
O “Mother, Help of the Christian People”.

I consecrate and entrust myself to you, Mary,
who shared in the work of redemption
at the Cross of your Son,
you who “are inseparably linked to the work of salvation”.

Grant that in the exercise of my ministry
I may always be aware of the “stupendous and penetrating dimension of your maternal presence”
in every moment of my life,
in prayer, and action,
in joy and sorrow, in weariness and in rest,
O “Mother of Trust”.

Grant, Holy Mother, than in the celebration of the Mass,
source and center of the priestly ministry,
that I may live my closeness to Jesus
in your maternal closeness to Him,
so that as “we celebrate the Holy Mass you will be present with us”
and introduce us to the redemptive mystery of your divine Son’s offering
“O Mediatrix of all grace flowing from this sacrifice to the Church and to all the faithful”
O “Mother of Our Savior”.

O Mary: I earnestly desire to place my person
and my desire for holiness
under your maternal protection and inspiration
so that you may bring me to that “conformation with Christ, Head and Shepherd”
which is necessary for the ministry of every parish priest.

Make me aware
that “you are always close to priests”
in your mission of servant
of the One Mediator, Jesus Christ:
O “Mother of Priests”
“Benefactress and Mediatrix”
of all graces.

Amen.

Loving Father,
I praise you, I love you, I adore you.
Send your Holy Spirit to enlighten my mind
to the truth of your Son, Jesus, Priest and
Victim.
Through the same Spirit guide my heart to his
Sacred Heart,
to renew in me a priestly passion
that I, too, might lay down my life upon the
altar.
May your Spirit wash away my impurities
and free me from all my transgressions in the
Cup of Salvation,
Let only your will be done in me.
May the Blessed Mother of your dearly beloved
Son,
wrap her mantle around me and protect me
from all evil.
May she guide me to do whatever He tells me.
May she teach me to have the heart of St.
Joseph, her spouse,
to protect and care for my bride.
And may her pierced heart inspire me to
embrace as my own your children
who suffer at the foot of the cross.
I humbly cry to her: please be my consoling
mother,
and help me to be a better son.
Lord, make me a holy priest,
inflamed with the fire of your love, seeking
nothing
but your greater glory and the salvation of
souls.
I humbly bless and thank you, my Father,
through the Spirit, in Christ Jesus, your Son and
my brother.
Amen.
O Mary, Queen of priests, pray for us.
Saint John Vianney, pray for us.

Dear Lord,
We pray that the Blessed Mother wrap
her mantle around your priests
and through her intercession
strengthen them for their ministry.
We pray that Mary will guide your
priests to follow her own words,
“Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).
May your priests have the heart of St.
Joseph,
Mary’s most chaste spouse.
May the Blessed Mother’s own pierced
heart inspire them to embrace
all who suffer at the foot of the cross.
May your priests be holy, filled with
the fire of your love
seeking nothing but your greater
glory and the salvation of souls.

Amen.

Saint John Vianney, pray for us.

Love for our ordained, even the cranky, less than perfect ones, 🙂
Matthew

Aug 15 – Sermon on the Assumption by St John Damascene (675-749 AD), Doctor of the Church & the Assumption


-Assumption of the Virgin, oil on canvas, Height: 237 cm (93.3 in); Width: 169 cm (66.5 in), by Juan Martín Cabezalero, 1660, Prado National Museum, Spain. Please click on the image for greater detail.

-by St John Damascene

“Thy blessed soul is naturally parted from thy blissful and undefiled body, and the body is delivered to the grave, yet it does not endure in death, nor is it the prey of corruption. The body of her, whose virginity remained unspotted in childbirth, was preserved in its incorruption and was taken to a better, diviner place, where death is not, but eternal life. …Therefore I will not call thy sacred transformation death, but rest or going home, and it is more truly a going home … thou dwellest in a happier state.

Angels with archangels bear thee up. Impure spirits trembled at thy departure. The air raises a hymn of praise at thy passage, and the atmosphere is purified. Heaven rejoices thy soul with joy. The heavenly powers greet thee with sacred canticles and with joyous praise saying:

‘Who is this most pure creature ascending, shining as the dawn, beautiful as the moon, conspicuous as the sun? [cf Revelation 12, Song of Songs 6:10] How sweet and beautiful thou art, the lily of the field, the rose among thorns [cf Song of Songs 1:16, 2:1,2]; therefore the young maidens loved thee [cf Song of Songs 1:3]. We are drawn after the odor of thy ointments [cf Song of Songs 1:3-4]. The King introduced thee into His chamber [cf Song of Songs 2:4]. There Powers protect thee, Principalities praise thee, Thrones proclaim thee, Cherubim are hushed in joy, and Seraphim magnify the true Mother by nature and by grace of their very Lord. Thou wert not taken into heaven as Elias [Elijah] was, nor didst thou penetrate to the third heaven with Paul, but thou didst reach the royal throne itself of thy Son, seeing it with thine own eyes, standing by it in joy and unspeakable familiarity. O gladness of angels and of all heavenly powers, sweetness of patriarchs and of the just, perpetual exultation of prophets, rejoicing the world…refreshment of the weary, comfort of the sorrowful…health of the sick, harbour of the storm-tossed, lasting strength of mourners, and perpetual succour of all who invoke thee…’

We, too, approach thee today, O Queen; and again, I say, O Queen, O Virgin Mother of God, staying our souls with our trust in thee, as with a strong anchor. Lifting up mind, soul, and body, and all ourselves to thee, rejoicing in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, we reach through thee One who is beyond our reach on account of His Majesty. If, as the divine Word made flesh taught us, honor shown to servants is honor shown to our…Lord, how can honor shown to thee, His Mother, be slighted? How is it not most desirable?…those who think of Thee should recall the memory of Thy most precious gift as the cause of our lasting joy. How it fills us with gladness! How the mind that dwells on this holy treasury of Thy grace enriches itself.

Watch over us, O Queen, the dwelling-place of our Lord. Lead and govern all our ways as thou wilt…Lead us into the calm harbor of the divine will. Make us worthy of future happiness through the sweet and face-to-face vision of the Word made flesh through thee. With Him, glory, praise, power, and majesty be to the Father and to the holy and life-giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 15 – Solemnity of the Assumption & Disfigurement of Death


-please click on the image for greater detail

“At Your right hand stands the Queen in gold of Ophir.” – Ps 45:9

The doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, body & soul, implicitly taught in the liturgy since at least the sixth century AD and explicitly taught by the ordinary magisterium of the Church since that time, was solemnly defined as a dogma of faith in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, the ONLY time the doctrine of papal infallibility has been invoked since it was dogmatically defined.


-by Br Simon Teller, OP

“Sooner or later, my body will become a corpse.

A corpse looks alien. It’s both strangely familiar (so clearly my body), yet utterly unrecognizable (so clearly not me), putting on display the jarring indignity of death, the separation of my soul from my body—the fundamental elements that constitute me as a human person. Death dissolves the integration of my human identity, separating (in a sense) me from myself.

The cold truth about being mortal is that, sooner or later, we all suffer the disfigurement of death.

All of us except one, who, “when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 966). Death could not defile Mary because she was so closely united, in the core of her identity, to her Son, the very Source of Life.

While she gave her own physical likeness to Jesus, Mary was deeply conformed to Him as one made in the Divine Image. She defined her very identity by this conformity: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy word” (Lk. 1:38). Through her union with the Divine Word, Mary’s heart and soul magnified the glory of the Lord. She was full of grace, full of Divine Life, which is to say that she was full of Divine Love—the Love that the deep waters of death cannot quench (cf. Song of Songs 8:6-7). Because of this, when she came to the end of her earthly life, she crossed over those waters of death undefiled to the core of her being, with the harmonious union of her body and soul intact.

Mary’s assumption into heaven teaches us what it means to be fully alive, truly ourselves, immune to death’s sting, immortal. The true life is the life of grace, our participation in the Divine Life of God, into which we are initiated and in which we are sustained through the Sacraments. When we lose this Divine Life through sin we become spiritual corpses—alienated from our true selves, unrecognizable, disfigured. The Sacraments incorporate us into the resurrection of Christ, raising our spiritual corpses from the dead and making us participants in the undying life of God.

Mary lives now in heaven to save us from eternal death. She is our Blessed Mother, gaining for us the gift of Divine Life through her prayers, now and at the hour of our death. Which is why today, on the Feast of the Assumption, we entrust ourselves, body and soul, to Mary, Queen of Heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary’s love

“Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.” -Mt 25:13

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

Presence of God – O Mary, Mother of fair love, teach me the secret of steady growth in charity.

MEDITATION

We must not think that the Blessed Virgin Mary was excused from all personal activity and progress because she had been established from the beginning in a higher degree of sanctity than that which even the greatest saint could ever hope to attain. Quite the contrary! For her, as for us, life on earth was a “way” where progress in charity was always necessary; where personal correspondence with grace was expected. The excellence of our Lady’s merit consisted in her heroic fidelity to the immense gifts she had received. The privileges of her Immaculate Conception, of the state of sanctity in which she was born, and of her divine maternity were, unquestionably, pure gifts from God; still, far from accepting them passively, as a coffer receives the precious things put into it, she received them freely, as one capable of willingly adhering to the divine favors by means of a complete correspondence with grace. St. Thomas teaches that although Mary could not merit the Incarnation of the Word, by the grace she received she did merit that degree of sanctity which made her the worthy Mother of God (cf. Summa Theologica IIIa, q. 2, a. 11, ad. 3), and she merited this precisely because of her correspondence with grace. Hence, even in Mary, we can consider progress in sanctity, a progress which did not depend solely on the new abundance of graces which God gave her at certain special times in her life—at the moment of the Incarnation for example—but also on her personal activity, wholly informed by grace and charity, by means of which she brought to fruition the treasure entrusted to her by God. Mary, in the truest sense of the word, is the “faithful Virgin,” who knew how to increase a hundredfold the talents (Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:12-28) she received from God. Yes, the greatest amount of grace ever given to a creature was freely bestowed on her by the divine liberality, in view of the sublime mission for which she was destined, but she corresponded to it with the greatest fidelity possible to a creature. Thus, there was plenitude of grace on God’s part, and complete fidelity on Mary’s, so that, as St. Alphonsus says, “Without ever stopping, her beautiful soul soared toward God, continually growing in love of Him.”

COLLOQUY

“O Mary, you understood the gift of God; you never lost a particle of it. You were so pure, so luminous, that you seemed to be light itself: Speculum justitiae, mirror of justice. Your life was so simple, so lost in God, that there is scarcely anything to say about it. Virgo fidelis: the faithful Virgin, ‘who kept all things in her heart’.” (Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity First Retreat (Heaven in Faith) 10).

O Mary, how marvelous to see your soul continually growing in love, to watch it scale the heights of sanctity without ever halting! Nothing retarded the divine action in you; no obstacle hindered the growth of charity. “Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her Beloved?” (Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs] 8:5). It is you, O Mother, you who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and sustained by Him, ever rose from grace to grace, from virtue to virtue. O Mother of fair love, full of grace, O faithful Virgin, help me to correspond with fidelity to the gifts of God! Do not permit that my misery render sterile the grace within me. Help me, O Mother, to overcome the innumerable resistances of my weak, cowardly nature; draw me by the sweet charm of your example, so that I may follow you with ardor in the way of perfect charity.

“O my Mother, you who were ever on fire with love for God, give me at least a spark of that love. You appealed to your Son on behalf of the bride and bridegroom whose wine gave out, saying: ‘vinum non habent,’ they have no wine; and will you not pray for me, lacking as I am in love for God, and yet owing Him so much? Say to Him: ‘amorem non habet,’ he has no love. And ask this love for me. No other grace do I ask of you but this one. O Mother, by your love for Jesus, hear me. Show me what great favor you have with Him by obtaining for me a divine light and a divine flame so powerful that it will transform me from a sinner into a saint, and, detaching me from every earthly affection, will inflame me wholly with divine love. O Mary, you have the power to do this. Do it for love of the God who made you so great, so powerful, and so merciful” (St. Alphonsus).

Love,
Matthew

Mary’s hope


-Madonna of the Magnificat, Sandro Botticelli, 1481, Tempera, 118 cm × 119 cm (46 in × 47 in), Uffizi, Florence, please click on the image for greater detail.

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

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

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

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

-Lk 1:46-55

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

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

“Presence of God – O Mary, Mother of Good Hope, teach me the way of complete confidence in God.

MEDITATION

In the Magnificat, the canticle which burst forth from Mary’s heart when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, we find an expression which specially reveals Mary’s interior attitude. “My soul doth magnify the Lord … because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid” (Luke 1:46-48).

When Mary spoke these words, they revealed the “great things” which God had done in her; but, considered in the framework of her life, they expressed the continual movement of her heart, which, in the full awareness of her nothingness, would turn always to God with the most absolute hope and trust in His aid. No one had a more concrete, practical knowledge of her nothingness than Mary; she understood well that her whole being, natural as well as supernatural, would be annihilated if God did not sustain her at every moment. She knew that whatever she was and had, in no way belonged to her, but came from God, and was the pure gift of His liberality. Her great mission and the marvelous privileges which she had received from the Most High did not prevent her from seeing and feeling her “lowliness.” But far from disconcerting or discouraging her in any way—as the realization of our nothingness and wretchedness often does to us—her humility served as a starting point from which she darted to God with stronger hope. The greater the knowledge of her nothingness and weakness became, the higher her soul mounted in hope. That is why, being really poor in spirit, she did not trust in her own resources, ability, or merits, but put all her confidence in God alone. And God, who “sends the rich away empty, and fills the hungry with good things” (cf. Luke 1:53), satisfied her “hunger” and fulfilled her hopes, not only by showering His gifts on her, but by giving Himself to her in all His plenitude.

COLLOQUY

“O Mother of holy love, our life, our refuge, and our hope, you well know that your Son Jesus, not satisfied with being our perpetual advocate with the eternal Father, has willed that you also, should implore divine mercy for us. I turn to you, then, hope of the unfortunate, hoping by the merits of Jesus and by your intercession, to obtain eternal salvation. My confidence is so great, that, if I had my salvation in my own hands, I should yet place it in yours, for I trust in your merciful protection more than I do in my own works. O my Mother and my hope, do not abandon me! The pity you have for sinners and your power with God are greater than the number and the malice of my faults. If all should forget me, do not you forget me, Mother of the omnipotent God. Say to God that I am your child and that you protect me, and I shall be saved.

“Do not look for any virtue or merit in me, my Mother; look only at the confidence I place in you and my desire to improve. Look at all that Jesus has done and suffered for me and then abandon me, if you have the heart to do so. I offer you all the sufferings of His life: the cold He endured in the stable, His journey to Egypt, the Blood He shed, His poverty, His sweat, His sadness and the death He endured for love of me in your presence, and do you, for the love of Jesus, pledge yourself to help me. O my Mother, do not refuse your pity to one for whom Jesus did not refuse His Blood!

“O Mary, I put my trust in you; in this hope I live and in this hope I long to die, saying over and over: ‘Unica spes mea Jesus, et post Jesum virgo Maria,’ My only hope is Jesus, and after Jesus, Mary” (-Saint Alphonsus).

Love,
Matthew