“Mondays with Mary” – My Five Favorite Marian Books

As I continue to write my own book and finish a writing project on the Blessed Virgin Mary, it came to me that I have never written a post on the books I often turn to when writing. Although I don’t use these five books every week in these posts, they are five books that have become my favorites over the past few years of writing about Mary. If you don’t have these books in your personal library, I would suggest purchasing them.

The order they are in has nothing to do with how I favor these five books. The listing of these books is not like the Top 10 Plays on ESPN each night, they are just a list of five good quality books that focus on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

1. Introduction to Mary (Mark Miravalle) – this book gives a good systematic approach to Marian theology beginning with Devotion to Mary, Mary in the Scriptures, then focusing on the four dogmas of Mary, the fifth doctrine – Mother of All Peoples, The Holy Rosary, Consecration to Jesus through Mary, Mary in Private Revelation, and concludes with the most common objections and responses on Marian theology. A must read and one that should be in any Catholics library.

2. Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness (William H. Carroll) – as soon as your finish reading this blog post, open up a new tab in your web browser and head directly to Amazon to purchase this book. It’s the best book I have ever read in regards to the great Mexican shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Once you begin reading it, you will not be able to put it down. I have told countless people about this text. They all come back saying the same thing – Wow! What a book! To read my blog post on this book, please go here.

Five Favorite Marian books

3. Mary and the Fathers of the Church (Luigi Gambero) – this has become one of my go to books as of late because it contains Marian theology given to us by the early Church Fathers. Covering Church Fathers of the Ante-Nicene period and the Post-Nicene period, its vastness of the great early century theologians seems to be unmatched. This is a fantastic book for anyone seeking to know more about Marian theology through the words of the men that followed the Apostles.

4. John Paul II’s Book of Mary (Margaret R. Bunson) – if you read this blog often and know my interests, then you will understand that there is no way a book list would be complete without the writings of Pope St. John Paul II. This is an excellent book for anyone seeking to know the Polish Pope’s thoughts on one of his favorite topics, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Having a devotion to her since he was a young boy in Poland, and even placing the letter “M” on his papal crest, John Paul II wrote extensively on the Blessed Mother in many of his documents, letters, and speeches. This book is a compilation of some of those words.

5. Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons (Mark Miravalle, Editor) – a much thicker book than the rest on this list, but the information this book provides is an excellent resource for anyone seeking a more academic understanding of Mariology. It’s a compilation of essays written by some of the best minds of today focusing on a wide range of Marian topics. When I was in graduate school at Franciscan, one of the essays in this book became the outline to my own thoughts and eventual paper on Mary as the Advocating Queen.

If you have any questions about these books or other Marian books in my personal library, please let me know. As this very moment, I am looking at 30 books that focus on the Blessed Virgin Mary in some capacity. Even with all these books on Mary in my library, I realize everyday the more I think I know, the less I know.

Once my writing projects on Mary are complete and ready for publication, I will release that information on here. Please pray for me.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Kingdom of God

Over the past three Sundays in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, we have been hearing about the Kingdom of Heaven parables in the Gospel of St. Matthew. Although there are parables with this same motif in the other Gospels, we see St. Matthew focusing on the Kingdom of Heaven because he is trying to prove to his audience, Jewish Christians (those who were either converting to Christianity or those who had already converted), that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic and Solomonic Kingdom.

St. Matthew along with the other Gospel writers tells us in their accounts that the Kingdom of God is going to be much different than what they were actually expecting. Most Jews believed that the Messiah would return to reestablish the kingdom that David built, including the reestablishment of the Temple, which Solomon had built. Even in Acts of the Apostles 1:6, the Apostles ask Jesus the question, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” – they were speaking about the Davidic kingdom.

Although we learn about the Kingdom of Heaven from the Sacred Scriptures, as Catholics, we also look at what Sacred Tradition tells us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a resource that every Catholic Christian should possess. If you don’t own your copy, I would suggest purchasing one as soon as possible. We give them to all our RCIA candidates and catechumens.

Regarding the Kingdom of God, the Catechism teaches us…

CCC 567: The Kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. “This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works, and in the presence of Christ” (Lumen Gentium 5). The Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom. Her keys are entrusted to Peter.

For a deeper and fuller explanation of the Kingdom of God in the Catechism, I would suggest reading paragraphs 541-553. With that being said, here is CCC 546, which directly teaches us about the Kingdom of God parables we have been hearing in the Sacred Liturgy for the past three weeks,

Jesus invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the forms of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough; deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the world? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.” For those who stay, “outside,” everything remains enigmatic.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Importance of Fasting

The practice of fasting is a form of penance that pre-dates Christianity. In the Old Testament, we see fasting associated always with prayer in numerous scriptures. In the Book of Tobit, it states, “Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness” (12:8). The prophet Daniel, states, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (9:3). Psalm 69:10 says, “When I humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach.”

So why am I specifically focusing on fasting as a teaching of the Church for today’s Quick Lessons from the Catechism? We are not in a penitential season such as Advent or Lent. Why the focus today of all days?

Well if you read the blog post from a few days ago written by Elizabeth Scalia, The Anchoress, on what we can do to unite ourselves in solidarity with our fellow Christians in the Middle East who are being persecuted and killed for being believers of Jesus Christ, fasting is one of the five points. Fasting is a very important element for us as Christians for it unites our suffering to that of Jesus Christ as well as to what (or who) the fast is being offered for.

Our fellow Christians in the Middle East need our support, prayers, and solidarity at this very moment. Let us either fast today or over the weeks ahead (specifically Fridays since that’s the day Our Lord died on the cross) offering the prayers for their sufferings. Although we may never meet them, at least not on this side of Heaven, we can be in complete solidarity for their anguish now.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

CCC 1434: The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification bought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: efforts at reconciliation with one’s neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one’s neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity “which covers a multitude of sins.” [Bold mine].

CCC 1438: The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). [Bold mine].

CCC 2043: The fourth precept (“You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepares us for the liturgical feasts and helps us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.

The traditional fast is to eat bread and water, however, if you can’t do that because of either dietary or medical reasons, please read the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops regulations on fasting.

St. Charbel…Pray for us.

St. James the Apostle…Pray for us.

St. John of Damascus…Pray for us.

My Radio Interview on the Live Hour WNGL Archangel Radio

This morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. Arizona time for a radio interview on the Live Hour WNGL Archangel Radio in Mobile, Alabama. The radio interview was from 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. Arizona time, 7:00 a.m. Central Standard Time. During the interview, I was drinking coffee and water…3 cups of coffee actually!

To say the least, it was one of the best live radio interview experiences I have had to date. I really enjoyed my time on the radio with host Todd Sylvester, Station Manager David Renshaw, and Production Coordinator Patrick Alog. I hope to sit down with these fine Catholic gentlemen again in the future.

To listen to my interview, just play the YouTube Video below.

St. Mary Magdalene and Three Things We Can Learn from Her Life

Today, in both the Eastern and Western lungs of the Church, we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Her name Magdalene derives from the tradition that she hailed from a town in northern Galilee called, Magdala. Along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Apostle, and other female relatives, it is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures that St. Mary Magdalene was at the foot of the cross as Jesus was crucified.

Although there are quite a few traditions surrounding the life of St. Mary Magdalene, it is believed universally by the West that she was the woman that Jesus Christ drove seven demons from in the Gospel of St. Luke: “And the Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out…” (8:2; see also Mk 16:9).

The writings of St. Clement of Alexandria and others also teach that the woman who anointed Jesus with an alabaster flask of ointment and wet his feet with her tears in Luke 7:37-38 is St. Mary Magdalene –

“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was sitting at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”

In other traditions, some see St. Mary Magdalene as the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This tradition even has her traveling with her brother, sister, and some of the other disciples of Jesus Christ to Marseilles, France, after they were exiled from their home region by the Jews for believing in Jesus Christ. It is taught in France that she lived in a cave for 30 years, speaking with the angels often until her death. Tradition also teaches that Lazarus became the first bishop of that area.

The Eastern Tradition has her traveling to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Apostle and remaining there for the rest of her life until her death at an old age. The East adheres that her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 A.D.

St. Mary Magdalene

Although all these traditions have their own important value, we see her importance in all four gospels (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:9; Lk 24:10; Jn 20:11-18) where it is revealed that Jesus appeared to St. Mary Magdalene on the day of His Resurrection, Easter Sunday. In two of the four gospels, St. Matthew and St. Luke, other women accompany Mary Magdalene. Since it is St. Mary Magdalene who first professes to the Apostles the Resurrection of Jesus, she is often referred to as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

So what we can learn from the life of this important saint?

First, like St. Mary Magdalene, all Christians are called to wait with faith and trust in God. So many of us want God to work quickly in our lives, we forget that God works at His pace and in His time. We must have faith that He knows exactly what we need despite our own desires. Just as St. Mary Magdalene heard the words of Jesus and trusted that he would rise from the dead, so we must also hear the words of Jesus in the Sacred Scriptures and trust in all that he professes.

Second, we must stand outside the tomb seeking Jesus Christ. As Catholic Christians today, we must establish a personal friendship with Jesus Christ. It is great that we know about Jesus Christ and His Church, since they are one and the same, but do we truly have a deep friendship with Him? Do we speak to Jesus on a daily basis? Standing outside the tomb waiting for him always will keep us focused on what truly matters in this life and in the life to come.

Third, we must have the ability to repent of our sins and be humble in the face of God. Although St. Mary Magdalene is not the prostitute in the scriptures some have claimed, she at one point must have confessed her sins to Christ, where upon he then forgave her of those sins. To be a follower of Jesus Christ, a intentional disciple, one must confess the wrongs he/she have committed in life and be humble enough to say – “O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” As Catholics, reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is fundamental and should be practiced often.

Let Us Pray: O God, you gave St. Mary Magdalene the important duty to tell His apostles and others the news of Easter joy. Through her intercession, may we have the courage to spread the gospel message to all we encounter daily.

Saint Mary Magdalene…Pray for Us.

This blog post is dedicated to the clergy, staff, and parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Gilbert, AZ.

“Mondays with Mary” – “Praying Daily to Mary for My Vocation”

For today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I give you something very different than what I have given you in the past, however, today’s post should give each and everyone of us great hope for the Catholic Church in America in the years to come. It should also inspire us to continue to pray for vocations to religious life. In recent days, it may seem that the world is just falling apart all around us, but when you read a vocation story like this one, you realize that God is still and always in control.

This is the vocation story of Ava, a former student of mine and now high school graduate of St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin, TX. When I taught high school theology at Savio from 2010-2012, Ava was my student during her sophomore year. Even then I could see there was something special about this young woman. There was a light in her eyes not often seen in the face of a 16-year-old teenager. To this day, I remember when she first shared with me that she was thinking about religious life. If there was one (and trust me, there are a few more in this class) student in the Savio Class of 2014 who could have a calling, it was Ava. 

Please read this blog post, pray for Ava and all women entering religious life this year, and then share this story with everyone you know, especially young women who might be discerning a calling to religious life.

As my August 28th, 2014 entrance date quickly approaches, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  It is only by the abundant graces of God that I am preparing to enter the beautiful community of the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist this year.

Ava dressed as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) for Third Grade Living Museum.

Ava dressed as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) for her Third Grade Living Museum.

I recall a time when I was very young that I thought I would be a nun.  I didn’t know any sisters, but I believe that it was through the prayers of my parents that God gave me the gift of a religious vocation.  In the fourth grade, I joined a Catholic girls group that offered me the opportunity to attend retreats and to meet Consecrated women.  It was during these years at the end of elementary school and through middle school that I first began to hear Jesus inviting me to be totally His.

My eighth grade year, I began to grow closer to Jesus in the Eucharist.  I strove to attend weekly Eucharistic Adoration in our beautiful perpetual adoration chapel at my parish.  Jesus continued to draw my heart to Himself in a very special way.  I knew He wanted me to be His.  I began to ask Jesus where He was calling me, and I began praying daily to Mary for my vocation.  The associate pastor at my parish mentioned in a homily the sisters who were on Oprah.  I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember going home and watching the videos on YouTube.  I could hardly believe that the sisters were sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, the two treasures of our Faith that I had so recently been deepening my devotion to.  Once I discovered that the sisters were teachers, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect order for me since I had always wanted to be a teacher.  I worked up the courage to email the sisters, and then I realized that the sisters had a mission convent 5 miles from my house!  I was even more shocked to recall that I had gone Christmas caroling with a church group at their convent a few months earlier!

Another wonderful priest encouraged me to make contact with the sisters here by the end of that year.  My natural introversion and quiet demeanor made me nervous to do so, but I continued to ask Jesus to work it out for me if this was his plan.  Someone I barely knew invited me to an event with the sisters at the Cathedral. I accepted her invitation thanking God for paving the way for me to get to know the sisters.

Ava with some of the Dominican Sisters, including Mother Assumpta (left of Ava).

Ava with some of the Dominican Sisters, including Mother Assumpta Long, O.P. (left of Ava).

The summer after my freshman year I attended Sunday Vespers (which I frequented more as the years went on) and really talked with the Sisters for the first time.  I am so blessed to have met so many incredible Sisters right here in my own community!  God had much in store for me when I transferred to Catholic school for the first time my sophomore year. I then was blessed to have Sister Mary Elizabeth, O.P. as a teacher in chemistry, physics, and an independent study in theology over the next three years!  Her beautiful love of Christ and His Church, her genuine love of her students, and her passion for helping them truly learn was so inspirational for me.  Her prayers and support sustained me through so much and I am incredibly grateful for her daily beautiful witness of religious life.

My sophomore year, my parish priest asked me if I had thought about entering the convent right out of high school.  The thought had never crossed my mind!  I began bringing that to prayer, and I was led to the conclusion that entering out of high school was indeed what God wanted for me.  The idea overwhelmed me though, because I couldn’t even fathom leaving my family (I have six younger siblings and the youngest is only two).

My junior year finally arrived, and I signed up for a discernment retreat.  The moment I walked through the doors into the Motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was flooded with peace.  When I met with the Vocation Director, Sister Joseph Andrew, she spoke the words that made my heart sing, “Welcome Home!”  On this retreat, I realized that I was in the point of discernment that I needed to ask myself what was holding me back.  I was shocked to realize how short the list was, and by how my list melted away when I was looking into the eyes of Jesus in prayer.  By the end of the retreat, I didn’t want to leave!  God blessed me with abundant consolations throughout the whole retreat, and I was floating!

Ava with Sr. Mary Elizabeth.

Ava with Sr. Mary Elizabeth.

My senior year of high school was definitely the hardest year of my life so far.  I thank God for the graces He has given that have enabled me to overcome so many obstacles.  It has been a roller coaster, and there were many times where I wasn’t sure if what I was hearing God ask of me was even going to be possible.  I learned so many lessons, but the one that really stands out is this: God is faithful.  He may lead you to the edge of a cliff, but when He invites you to jump, He is there to catch you.  I am even able to be grateful for the sufferings of this year because it has led me to trust in God more than I ever thought was possible.  His love is real, and it is worth it.

I am so very excited for this August 28th when I will enter the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist as “Sister Ava,” a postulant.  After a year of postulancy, there are two years in the novitiate before temporary vows, and then five more years until final profession.  Please keep me in your prayers as I continue discerning God’s will for my life. God bless!

Our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of All Religious…Pray for Us.  

Pope St. John Paul II Rockin’ the Brown Scapular

JP2 and the Brown Scapular MemeSince today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I wanted to share one of my favorite photos of the young Karol Wojtyla, the future pope and now saint, Pope Saint John Paul II, wearing the Brown Scapular. 

To learn more about Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown Scapular, I recommend my three blog posts -

1. Catholic Dog Tags

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Our Lady of Mount Carmel 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – The Synthesis of Marian Spirituality in the Brown Scapular 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel…Pray for us.