“Mondays with Mary” – Pope John Paul II on Mary’s Witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Although the Sacred Scriptures never speak of the Blessed Virgin Mary interacting with Jesus Christ after his Crucifixion on Calvary, it is highly doubtful that He would have never appeared to her or speak to her again.

He does give her to Saint John on the Cross, “Women, behold your son”, who in turn represents all Christians and all of humanity, for she is now our maternal mediator. The Gospel does tell us that he, Saint John, took her into his home from that day forward, but do we really believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ would not have spoken to his own Mother again? Why did the gospel writers choose to not include any conversation between Jesus and Mary into their accounts?

Blessed John Paul II These are the questions that the soon-to-be saint (less than six days now), Blessed Pope John Paul II asks in his Wednesday Audience from May 21, 1997. As we begin the Season of Easter, let us prayerfully contemplate the words of John Paul II -

“In the supposition of an “omission”, this silence could be attributed to the fact that what is necessary for our saving knowledge was entrusted to the word of those “chosen by God as witnesses” (Acts 10:41), that is, the Apostles, who gave their testimony of the Lord Jesus’ Resurrection “with great power” (cf. Acts 4:33). Before appearing to them, the Risen One had appeared to several faithful women because of their ecclesial function: “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28:10).

If the authors of the New Testament do not speak of the Mother’s encounter with her risen Son, this can perhaps be attributed to the fact that such a witness would have been considered too biased by those who denied the Lord’s Resurrection, and therefore not worthy of belief.

Furthermore, the Gospels report a small number of appearances by the risen Jesus and certainly not a complete summary of all that happened during the 40 days after Easter. St Paul recalls that he appeared “to more than 500 brethren at one time” (1 Cor 15:6). How do we explain the fact that an exceptional event known to so many is not mentioned by the Evangelists? It is an obvious sign that other appearances of the Risen One were not recorded, although they were among the well-known events that occurred.

How could the Blessed Virgin, present in the first community of disciples (cf. Acts 1:14), be excluded from those who met her divine Son after he had risen from the dead?

Indeed, it is legitimate to think that the Mother was probably the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared. Could not Mary’s absence from the group of women who went to the tomb at dawn (cf. Mk 16:1; Mt 28:1) indicate that she had already met Jesus? This inference would also be confirmed by the fact that the first witnesses of the Resurrection, by Jesus’ will, were the women who had remained faithful at the foot of the Cross and therefore were more steadfast in faith.

Indeed, the Risen One entrusts to one of them, Mary Magdalene, the message to be passed on to the Apostles (cf. Jn 20:17-18). Perhaps this fact too allows us to think that Jesus showed himself first to his Mother, who had been the most faithful and had kept her faith intact when put to the test.

Lastly, the unique and special character of the Blessed Virgin’s presence at Calvary and her perfect union with the Son in his suffering on the Cross seem to postulate a very particular sharing on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection.

A fifth-century author, Sedulius, maintains that in the splendour of his risen life Christ first showed himself to his mother. In fact, she, who at the Annunciation was the way he entered the world, was called to spread the marvellous news of the Resurrection in order to become the herald of his glorious coming. Thus bathed in the glory of the Risen One, she anticipates the Church’s splendour cf. Sedulius, Paschale carmen, 5, 357-364, CSEL 10, 140f).

It seems reasonable to think that Mary, as the image and model of the Church which waits for the Risen One and meets him in the group of disciples during his Easter appearances, had had a personal contact with her risen Son, so that she too could delight in the fullness of paschal joy.

Present at Calvary on Good Friday (cf. Jn 19:25) and in the Upper Room on Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:14), the Blessed Virgin too was probably a privileged witness of Christ’s Resurrection, completing in this way her participation in all the essential moments of the paschal mystery. Welcoming the risen Jesus, Mary is also a sign and an anticipation of humanity, which hopes to achieve its fulfilment through the resurrection of the dead.

Queen Mother

In the Easter season, the Christian community addresses the Mother of the Lord and invites her to rejoice: “Regina Caeli, laetare. Alleluia!”. “Queen of heaven, rejoice. Alleluia!”. Thus it recalls Mary’s joy at Jesus’ Resurrection, prolonging in time the “rejoice” that the Angel addressed to her at the Annunciation, so that she might become a cause of “great joy” for all people.”

This is no way undermines the important role of Saint Mary Magdalene, who is told by our Lord to go and tell his disciples to meet him in Galilee. Pope John Paul II is just giving us another expression of the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

It would be from this moment on that She becomes our Advocate, our Queen Mother, and our maternal mediator. As Jesus resurrects and then forty days later ascends into Heaven, Mary’s role as the Mother of the Pilgrim Church would develop. To this very day and till the day when Our Lord Jesus Christ come again, Mary’s role is to lead souls closer to Jesus Christ as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces.

Holy Mother of All Humanity…Pray For Us.

Saint Anselm – The Father of Scholasticism

In the year 1033 A.D., in the region of Piedmont, Saint Anselm was born. From his earliest years, he was attracted to the life of a monastic, and even applied at the age of fifteen, but was rejected. This rejection pleased his father, a man Anselm never agreed with as a boy. After the death of his mother, he went to study in Burgundy since his father nearly drove him out of the house.

After three years in Burgundy, Anselm traveled to Bec in Normandy where he became a pupil under the great abbot of Bec, Lanfranc. After his teacher and friend, Lanfranc was elevated as abbot to another monastery in the region; at the age of twenty-seven, Anselm became prior of Bec with only three years of experience under his belt as a monk.

Saint Anselm is one of the greatest minds the Catholic Church has ever seen. His thoughts and theology are some of the most original in the Church’s 2000-year history. He outmatched all of the theologians of his time and is known as the “Father of Scholasticism.” He was especially known for his metaphysics, which only compared to that of Saint Augustine. As the abbot of Bec, he penned some of his most famous writings – the Monologion, a treatise on how God exists by using metaphysical proofs, and the Proslogion, a text that focuses on the attributes of God. Along with these two great documents, he wrote many others on truth, freewill, the genesis of evil, and reasoning.

After fifteen years as prior, he was eventually made abbot of Bec. As abbot, he was forced to travel to England from time to time to make visits because the abbey owned possessions there. He enjoyed his travels to England since he was able to visit his friend, Lanfranc, who was now the Archbishop of Canterbury. Three years into that position, his friend died and the see of Canterbury was left open due to pressure from King William Rufus, who claimed financial interest from it. While enduring a rather quick and sudden illness, the king changed his mind and vowed that he would follow the law more efficiently. He also nominated Anselm as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Shocked at the request of the king, Saint Anselm was not prepared for such a nomination because he was not in good health nor did he think he had the proper skills for the position. Nevertheless, the other bishops and clergy forced the crosier into his hand, brought him to the church, and sang a Te Deum, a hymn of praise.

In the end though, King Rufus really didn’t change his heart or mind. After recovering from his illness, he quickly challenged Anselm as Archbishop and demanded supplies be given to him once again. Anselm offered 500 marks but the king sought out 1000 instead, pleading that this was the fee for his nomination to the see of Canterbury. Anselm did not comply!

As the two battled back and forth on a variety of church business, the non-virtuous and greedy monarch tried to remove Anselm from his episcopacy. He even tried to persuade the Holy Father, Urban II, to have him removed, but that was also a futile attempt. On top of the Pope’s rejection of the king, the papal diplomat who brought the news also brought with him the pallium, a sign that Anselm was not going anywhere.

St. Anselm of Canterbury

As the dual continued between Saint Anselm and William in regards to the clergy of England, in the year 1097, Saint Anselm finally was given approval to leave the country to discuss his options with the Holy See. He was threatened with exile and losing the financial holdings of Canterbury. After arriving in Rome, he met with the Holy Father who supported him 100 percent and wrote a letter to the King demanding that the possessions be given back to the church immediately.

During his stay in Rome, Anselm was boarded at the Campanian monastery. It was here at this monastery that Saint Anselm wrote his greatest work on the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man). Feeling frustrated about his position in Canterbury, he requested that he be removed from his office, but the Pope refused.

Also during his exile, Saint Anselm attended the Council of Bari in 1098. He made himself quite known because he explained eloquently the beauty of the Filioque to the Italo-Greek Bishops in attendance. The council also backed Anselm in regards to his dealings with King William, who was charged with simony, oppressing the Church, and persecuting Anselm. The council was ready to ask the Holy Father to excommunicate the king, but Anselm pleaded them not to make that request. Soon after the council, King Rufus died. The people of England, and the new King, Henry I, greeted Anselm with great excitement and joy.

Just like before, with King Rufus, the “honeymoon” did not last long between Anselm and Henry I. Henry I wanted Anselm to pay him homage and reinvest him to the See of Canterbury. This was now contrary to church law so Anselm refused it. With threats of invasion coming from Robert of Normandy, Henry I did whatever he could to get Anselm and the church on his side. Once the threats were no longer, Henry I sought investiture again.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anselm continued to remain steadfast against Henry. He refused to elevate bishops that were nominated by the king, unless they were canonically approved. Both brought their cases to Rome, and like his predecessor, Paschal II, stood with Anselm. As it was with the previous king, Henry tried to exile Anselm and take away the financial holdings of the church, but once he got word that Anselm was going to excommunicate him, he redacted his threats and offered a truce. Sometime later, at a royal council, King Henry enacted a degree that bishops and abbots should be free to do homage for their temporal possessions. Anselm and the Pope concurred.

During his years as Archbishop, he cared for the poor of the city, gave them alms, was in complete opposition of the slave trade, settled many church affairs of his time, and was faithful shepherd of Jesus Christ to the people under his care, despite his poor health.

After many years of obedience to the church always remaining steadfast in her teachings, Saint Anselm died in the year 1109 A.D. with the monks of Canterbury around his deathbed. He was never formally canonized a saint, but is still recognized as one. In 1720, Pope Clement XI declared him a Doctor of the Church. His feast day is April 21.

 

 

 

 

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

From my first year in the Saint Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco, I knew the importance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (abbreviated as CCC) because in most of my theology driven Institute classes it was quoted by my professors. It was Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder of the Saint Ignatius Institute and Ignatius Press, who first professed the importance of studying the newly promulgated catechism.

Over the years since 1994, I have read nearly the entire Catechism, have quoted from it for papers and blog posts, and have used it extensively when teaching others about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church plays a major role in the New Evangelization set before the Church today. There should be a copy of one in every Catholic household. To buy it, click here.

With that being said, let’s turn towards the first official brief lesson from the Catechism. Since today is Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Cross and Burial in the Tomb, let us begin here.

CCC 619: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3).

CCC 620: Our salvation flows from God’s initiative of love for us, because “he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation of our sins” (1 Jn 4:10). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19).

CCC 621: Jesus freely offered himself for our salvation. Beforehand, during the Last Supper, he both symbolized this offering and made it really present: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19).

CCC 622: The redemption won by Christ consists in this, that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mt 20:28), that is, he “loved [his own] to the end” (Jn 13:1), so that they might be “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [their] fathers” (1 Pet 1:18).

CCC 623: By his loving obedience to the Father, “unto death, even death on cross” (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfills the atoning mission (cf. Isa 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will “make many righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19).

CCC 629: To the benefit of every man, Jesus Christ tasted death (cf. Heb 2:9). It is truly the Son of God made man who died and was buried.

CCC 630: During Christ’s period in the tomb, his divine person continued to assume both his soul and his body, although they were separated from each other by death. For this reason the dead Christ’s body “saw no corruption” (Acts 13:37).

For a more extensive explanation of the above paragraphs, please read CCC 613-620 and CCC 624-628.

Please be advised: the numbers next to the CCC above are the paragraph numbers, not the page numbers.

“Mondays with Mary” – Six Words of Pope John Paul II on Mary at the Cross

In the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I believe there are three important biblical events that define her mission and role in Salvation History – the Annunciation, the Wedding Feast at Cana, and Jesus’ Crucifixion. Mary plays a major role in each of these revealed events, first, because she is the Immaculate Virgin and Mother of God, and second, because these events help define her actions in the life of the Church after the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these events run in conjunction with one another and continue to provide for us Mary’s important role in the life of Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church.

Being that this is my 100th “Mondays with Mary”, I would like to present to you not only my love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also for the only Pope to have the letter “M” on his papal shield, the soon-to-be Pope St. John Paul II. The reason I write this blog and work as the Director of Adult Evangelization and Catechesis at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church is because of the great influence John Paul II has had on my life.

Below are six quotes from Pope St. John Paul II focusing on the three events in the life of Mary I mentioned above. Since we are in Holy Week and looking towards Good Friday, each of the quotes corresponds to Mary’s presence at the foot of the cross. It is at the foot of the cross that Mary’s maternal mediation, her universal care for all Christians and all humanity takes effect.

MHS_Ukrzyzowanie_XVI_w_Kostarowce_p

“…How poor she was on Bethlehem night and how poor on Calvary! How obedient she was at the moment of the Annunciation, and then – at the foot of the cross – obedient  even to the point of assenting to the death of her Son, who became obedient ‘unto death’! How dedicated she was in all her earthly life to the cause of the kingdom of heaven through most chaste love.” – Redemptoris Donum, 17

“…The handmaid of the Lord in the poverty of the anawim, the Mother of Fair love from Bethlehem to Calvary and beyond, the obedient virgin whose “yes” to God changed our history, the contemplative who kept all of these things in her heart, the missionary hurrying to Hebron, the one who was sensitive to the needs at Cana, the steadfast witness at the foot of the cross, the center of unity which held the young Church together in its expectation of the Holy Spirit – Mary showed throughout her life all those values to which religious consecration is directed…” – Essential Elements in the Church’s Teaching on the Religious Life…, 53

“The words uttered by Jesus from the cross signifying the motherhood of her who bore Christ finds a “new” continuation in the Church and through the Church, symbolized and represented by John. In this way, she who as the one “full of grace” was brought into the mystery of Christ in order to be his Mother and the Holy Mother of God…” – Redemptoris Mater, 24

“On the cross Christ said: ‘Woman, behold your son!’ With these words he opened in a new way his Mother’s heart. A little later, the Roman soldier’s spear pierced the side of the Crucified one. That pierced heart became a sign of the Redemption achieved through the death of the Lamb of God.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary – opened with the words ‘Woman, behold your son!’ – is spiritually united with the heart of her Son, opened by the soldiers spear. Mary’s heart was opened by the same love for man and for the world with which Christ loved man and the world, offering himself for them on the cross, until the soldier’s spear struck that blow.

Consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means drawing near, through the Mother’s intercession, to the very Fountain of Life that sprang fourth from Golgotha. This Fountain pours fourth unceasingly redemption and grace. In it reparation is made consensually for the sins of the world. It is the ceaseless source of new life and holiness.” – Address, Fatima, May 13, 1982

“…Later, all the generations of disciples, of those who confess and love Christ, like the Apostle John, spiritually took this Mother to their own homes, and she was thus included in the history of salvation and in the Church’s mission from the very beginning, that is, from the moment of the Annunciation. Accordingly, we who form today’s generation of disciples of Christ all wish to unite ourselves with her in a special way. We do so with all our attachment to our ancient tradition and also with full respect and love for the members of all the Christian communities.” – Redemptoris Hominis, 22

“…Standing by the cross’ (Jn. 19:25), Mary shares in the gift which the Son makes of himself: she offers Jesus, gives him over, and begets him to the end for our sake. The ‘yes’ spoken on the day of the Annunciation reaches full maturity on the day of the cross, when the time comes for Mary to receive the beget as her children all those who become disciples, pouring out upon them the saving love of her Son: ‘When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple who he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold you son!’ (Jn 19:26). – Evangelium Vitae, 103

During this Holiest of All Weeks, let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to walk with us as she walked with Christ to Calvary. Let us petition her to assist in the carrying of our crosses and that the grace poured out upon Calvary on Good Friday will be made readily available to us through the sacramental life of the Church – most especially in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass and through the Mediatrix of all Graces.

All Praise and Thanksgiving to Jesus Christ! This is my 100th “Mondays with Mary”. To read the other 99 blog posts, check out the “Mondays with Mary” page. Thank you to everyone who reads these posts and have shared them with others over nearly two years. We honor our Our Lord by loving and honoring His Holy Mother, our Mother, the Theotokos.

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, Week 5

Continuing with the six-week Lenten reflection series based on the book, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, here are the quotes and questions that John and I presented from Chapter 5 – The Fifth Word: Religion Is a Quest. The chapter focuses on the word of Mary from Luke 2:48 – “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” and on the word – “I thirst” from Jesus in John 19:28.

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary

1. “And yet that thirst could have not only been physical, for the Gospel tells us that he said it in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. It is therefore spiritual as well as physical.”

2. “Every human heart in the world without exception is on the quest of God. Not everyone may be conscious of it; but they are conscious of their desire for happiness which some in ignorance, perversity, or weakness, identify with the tinsel and baubles of earth. It is as natural for the soul to want God as for the body to want food or drink…It is natural to want God; it is unnatural to satisfy that want with false gods…Not only is the soul on the quest of God, but God is on the quest of the soul, inviting everyone to his Banquet of Love..”

3. “And yet here, a woman addresses him who is the Author of Life, through whom all things were made and without whom nothing is made, as ‘Son.’ She called him that by right and not by privilege. That one word shows the intimate relationship between the two…”

4. “They [bigots] do not really hate the Church. They hate only what they mistakenly believe to be the Church. If I had heard the same lies about the Church they have heard, and if I had been taught the same historical perversions as they, with my own peculiar character and temperament, I would hate the Church ten times more than they do…”

5. “Why is it that in religion we want a proof and a manifestation so strong that it will overwhelm our reason and destroy our freedom? That God will never gant!”

6. “God is thirsting, too, for those who have lost the Faith. The position of fallen-away Catholics is rather unique. The seriousness of his fall is to be measured by the heights from which he fell. His reaction to the Church is either hate or argument. In both cases he bears witness to the Divinity of the Church. The hate is his vain attempt to despise. Since his conscience which was formed by the Spirit in the Church will not let him alone, he will not let the Church alone.”

7. “One need hardly ever tell such a sinner how wicked he is. He knows it a thousand times better than you…This consciousness of sin is not yet conversion, for up to this pint a soul may be repenting like Judas, only to itself…. The consciousness of sin creates a vacuum; grace alone can fill it.”

Questions:

1. How is Judas’ reaction to his betrayal of Christ different from Peter’s?

2. Do you find it odd that St. Joseph’s recorded participation in the story of Christ’s life is so diminished? Why do you think that is?”

3. If you were a fallen-away Catholic at some point in your life, what made you leave in the first place? Did a practicing Catholic ever engage you? What brought you back to the Catholic Church?

 

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘The Beetles of Our Lady’

We are one month away from celebrating the two year anniversary of my “Mondays with Mary” – a series that is on the cusp of its 100th post. Although the majority of this series has focused on Mariology, there have been a few blog posts that were Marian themed, but were not strictly theology. Today’s blog post falls into that second category. With that being said, I think this legend is something that many people don’t know about and really should.

Now that we are officially into the spring season, at least in the northern hemisphere, let’s discuss what spring means for us. The spring season is about new life. For us as Christians, spring is essentially the last step in the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where winter is the death of the Paschal Mystery; spring is the resurrection.

Many friends of mine have suffered greatly through the long and cold winter that gripped the East and Midwest regions of the United States this year. As much as they enjoy the sunset_landscapes_fields_texas_bluebonnet_m26070four seasons, I know they are happy that spring is finally here. With spring, we see green leaves on the trees; in Washington, D.C., we see the cherry blossoms; in Texas, see the blue bonnets, and nearly everywhere we see the beautiful flowers (see the post – The Flowers of the Blessed Virgin Mary) of God’s abundant creation.

Not only do we see flowers and leaves again, but the bugs of God’s creation will find new life as well. The one bug that I have always enjoyed since my days as a child is the ladybug, otherwise known as the ‘Beetles of Our Lady.’

ladybug-in-tennessee-300x300

It’s not historically known how the ladybug received its name, but legend tells us that it’s associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story follows that during the Middle Ages in Europe, many, even swarms, of insects began to ravish and destroy the crops. Fearing that their livelihood would suffer and their families would not eat, the farmers began to pray through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for assistance with the pesky insects. After sometime in prayer, the ladybugs began to descend upon the crops of the farmers, devoured the plant-destroying pests, and saved the crops.

When they realized that the ladybugs had come after praying to the Virgin Mary, the farmers called these beautiful insects – ‘The Beetles of Our Lady.’ From that time forward, these beautiful red and black spotted insects became known as ‘lady beetles’ because Our Lady of Sorrows the beautiful Virgin and Mother of God sent them to help the farmers. The red wings represented the Virgin’s red clock, often seen in artistic depictions of the Blessed Virgin. The black spots were symbolic of the sorrows and joys of the Virgin Mary. Throughout Europe, there is a wide range of terms for these bugs in the different languages. In Germany, the term, Marienkäfer, translates to “Marybeetle.”

Many people find that ladybugs bring good luck and if one lands on you, you will have years of fortune come your way. Although that seems beneficial to us, I think as Christians we need to view the ladybug a bit differently, and specifically in two ways.

First, as Christians, we believe in the One True God and not in luck or fortune. Non-believers (Pagans) believe in luck and fortune. We Christians don’t need luck or fortune; we have Jesus Christ and His Divine Will. This is why the Catholic Church teaches against superstition. The person who is superstitious is placing their trust in some object or thing and not in Christ Jesus. Instead of saying, “good luck” to someone when they are about to do something (i.e. take a test), we should say instead, “God’s will be done.”

Second, instead of thinking that a ladybug landing on us will bring us fortune, we should do what Christians do for one another and pray for someone that we know needs Our Lady’s intercession and prayers. Just as the farmers asked for the Virgin’s intercession for their crops, when we encounter ladybugs, let us pray for those who need assistance. We must never forget that the Blessed Virgin Mary is our Advocating Queen Mother in Heaven. She will always bring our needs directly to her Son, and our King, Jesus Christ.

So as spring continues into summer, let’s keep a lookout for ladybugs and to pray for those who need prayers by asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every time you see a ladybug, pray a ‘Hail Mary’, ‘Magnificat’, or another favorite Marian prayer for someone in need.

Mary, Queen of Angels