“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Our Guide Through Lent

The connection of the Lenten Season with Mary is not always the most obvious. The Stations of the Cross as do the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary give us some insight of the Passion of Jesus Christ through the eyes of Mary.

During Lent, Mary is the ideal companion for us since it is in Lent that that she places her special role as the shelter of sinners and comforter of the afflicted. It is also during this season that we focus our hearts and minds to the contemplation of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.

Simply, Mary, as our guide through Lent helps us search for Jesus and then leads us directly to the cross on Calvary, and while at the cross, we are then given to Mary and she is given to us.

Today we are going to draw from three great minds of the 20th century to help us understand the Lenten themes with Mary as our guide. They are Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope St. John Paul II.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar – Mary for Today

“Mary plays a mysterious role at the Wedding at Cana. The couple whose wedding is was there clearly friends of the family in Nazareth…Mary is one among many other guests. But she is the first to notice the embarrassing situation these probably not very well off people are in…what is noted here is Mary’s awareness of the need of the poor and her instinctive feeling that her son must know about it and can somehow provide help…

And then it is as if the whole scene had moved up onto a higher plane. Jesus has started on his ministry: he is no longer this person’s son. And in his ministry he no longer sees Mary as his own mother but as “the woman”, the other, the “helpmate”, who however will only start in her own proper role when he finally, on the Cross, becomes the “New Adam”. She has already suffered: the sword has already pierced her soul. He on the other hand is only now marching toward his ‘hour’.”

Mary is not just one who leads us closer to Christ in Lent, she is always leading us closer to Christ for it is he who will cure us of our sins, he who will turn water into wine for us, and it’s his sacrifice on the cross that gives us all.

Focusing on the embarrassment of the situation, how many times are we embarrassed by our actions and words, our very sins? How many times do I feel embarrassed to be call myself a Catholic Christian when I do things contrary to what I know is the right thing?

The words “Do whatever he tells you” although directed towards the servants, have meaning for us. As Mary guides us to Jesus, that phrase should be in our minds for it is what exactly what every saint has tried to do – align their will with the will of God. We should be doing whatever our Lord tells us to do.

sign of the cross

Just as Mary said, “Yes” at the Annunciation and at Calvary, our yes to Jesus is not a one-time yes, but a yes that needs to be repeated, and strengthened during Lent.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) – Mary: The Church at the Source

“Luke’s first express mention of the Cross as an aspect of Mary’s grace, prophecy, and mysticism occurs in her encounter with the aged Simeon…The sword shall pierce her heart – this statement foreshadows the Son’s Passion, which will become her own passion…The Pieta completes the picture of the Cross, because Mary is the accepted Cross, the Cross communicating itself in love, the Cross that now allows us to experience in her compassion the compassion of God. In this way the Mother’s affliction is Easter affliction, which already inaugurates the transformation of death into a redemptive being-with of love.”

At the Cross of Christ, Mary consents again to the giving up of her son. During the Lenten Season, as we walk with Christ to the cross, through the desert, so too are we giving our consent, but the consent to give up of ourselves.

For each of us, we must learn to joyfully embrace the Cross. The joy I speak is not banal joy of forgetfulness, but real joy. The joy that is expressed with reason and faith. As Ratzinger says, “real joy that gives us the courage to venture the exodus of love into the burning holiness of God. It is the true joy that pain does not destroy but first brings to it maturity. Only the joy that stands the test of pain and is stronger than affliction is authentic.”

Pope St. John Paul II – Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer)

At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest “kenosis” of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened. On Golgotha, Jesus through the Cross definitively confirmed that he was the “sign of contradiction” foretold by Simeon. At the same time, there were also fulfilled on Golgotha the words which Simeon had addressed to Mary: “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”

During this Lenten Season, and as our guide, Mary shows us as she did herself at the cross, how to self-empty ourselves. As co-heirs in Christ’s salvation, we take part in our way of emptying ourselves of our sins and focusing our attention back on him and back to the Cross.

As our guide through Lent, Mary also shows to us what it is to have great faith. We see her faith first at the Annunciation where she willingly accepts the invitation of the Divine Angel to be the Mother of the Savior. We also see Mary’s great faith at the cross where she says Yes again to death of her son. Even though the majority of the apostles ran in fear, she along with the other women (and John) stood at the foot of cross in great faith.

As John Paul II states in Redemptoris Mater,

“Living side by side with her Son under the same roof, and faithfully preserving ‘in her union with her Son’ she advanced in her pilgrimage of faith,”…by “suffering deeply with her only-begotten Son and joining herself with her maternal spirit to his sacrifice, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim to whom she had given birth,” in this way Mary “faithfully preserved her union with her Son even to the Cross.” It is a union through faith- the same faith with which she had received the angel’s revelation at the Annunciation.

As Mary (and Joseph) searched for Jesus and found him in Temple, in Lent, we search more diligently for Jesus with Mary. The more we follow Jesus, with the assistance of the Blessed Mother; we too will increase in faith, spiritual wisdom, and charity for all.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Battle of Prayer (a.k.a. Prayer is a Battlefield)

If you grew up in the 1980’s like the author of this blog or at the very least listening to the radio as your kid’s were growing up in the 1980’s, you should remember the Pat Benatar hit – Love is a Battlefield. And although this may be true on certain levels, one of the real battlefields for us as Catholics is our daily prayer life. We are nearly ¼ into the Season of Lent and the question we should ask ourselves is – Has my prayer life increased so far this Lent? Am I praying more? Am I committing time for prayer? Or does the statement still remain – My prayer life a battlefield.

First thing to do is recommit yourself right now to begin praying more. Once you’re finished reading this blog post, offer up some prayers for the people in your life and of course the author of this blog will take all the prayers you will give him. Second, designate a specific time in your day/week when you are going to pray. We all have calendars on our Smartphones. Schedule your prayer time as you would schedule a meeting. And third, don’t fret over your prayer life. The greatest of the saints struggled with their prayer lives at one time or another. Even the Doctor of Prayer, St. Teresa of Avila, had struggles on this battlefield. I am not saying don’t pray, but avoid beating yourself up over it. Satan wants us to find despair in any place possible. Don’t let it be in your prayer life.

To help us on our Lenten journey this year, let us draw from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches a whole lot on prayer. The Church knows that prayer is a battlefield and that’s why there is a section in the Catechism titled, The Battle of Prayer. The Catechism states…

Prayer presupposes an effort, a fight against ourselves and the wiles of the Tempter. The battle of prayer is inseparable from the necessary “spiritual battle” to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ: we pray as we live, because we live as we pray. (#2752)

In the battle of prayer we must confront erroneous conceptions of prayer, various currents of thought, and our own experience of failure. We must respond with humility, trust, and perseverance to these temptations which cast doubt on the usefulness or even the possibility of prayer. (#2753)

The principal difficulties in the practice of prayer are distraction and dryness. The remedy lies in faith, conversion, and vigilance of heart. (#2754)

Two frequent temptations threaten prayer: lack of faith and acedia – a form of depression stemming from lax ascetical practice that leads to discouragement. (#2755)

Filial trust is put to the test when we feel that our prayer is not always heard. The Gospel invites us to ask ourselves about the conformity of our prayer to the desire of the Spirit. (#2756)

“Pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). It is always possible to pray. It is even a vital necessity. Prayer and Christian life are inseparable. (#2757)

What to “pray constantly”? Recite the Jesus Prayer – O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me a Sinner.

When it comes to our prayer life – Do Not Be Afraid! Keep on Keeping On! The Lord is with us. Embrace the battlefield, take hold of it, and conquer it. For in the end, Christ has already given us victory.

500th Blog Post on TomPerna.org

The Top 10 Read “Mondays with Mary” to Date So Far

Mary and Eucharist

It’s been nearly three years of writing on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the series “Mondays with Mary” and although I have covered a lot of information, there is still plenty to write on for the future. There are more titles to discover, Marian apparitions to explain, and more writings from the Popes and Saints. Although at some point I will get to all of this, I wanted to do a Top 10 list of the most read “Mondays with Mary” to date. The list is from the top down starting with the most “Monday with Mary” views. 

1. “Mondays with Mary” – 10 Quotes by Padre Pio on the Blessed Virgin Mary (#121)

2. “Mondays with Mary” – The Flowers of the Blessed Virgin Mary (#94)

3. “Mondays with Mary” – 10 Memorable Quotes about the Blessed Virgin Mary from St. John Vianney (#68)

4. “Mondays with Mary” – 7 Benefits of Praying the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary (#67)

5. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant (#79)

6. “Mondays with Mary” – Saint Mary of the Snows (#65)

7. “Mondays with Mary” – 10 Sayings from St. Alphonsus Liguori to the 21st Century on the Assumption of Mary (#116)

8. “Mondays with Mary” – Blessed Pope Paul VI on the Blessed Virgin Mary (#125)

9. “Mondays with Mary” – “Praying Daily to Mary for My Vocation” (#113)

10. “Mondays with Mary” – Pope John Paul II on Mary’s Witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (#101)

It’s my hope today and this week that you can read these posts and the many other “Mondays with Mary” listed on my blog. Feel free to share all of these posts with your family and friends.

10 Ash Wednesday Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI

Today, on Ash Wednesday, we enter the great penitential season of Lent, a season that draws our attention to prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving. For many, this season is about “giving something up” (in today’s social media driven world that would be Facebook). Whatever your Lenten fast is this year, I encourage to do it, and to do it well.

Fasting though is only 1/3 of the Lenten motif, we must also pray and give alms. Since prayer is our encounter with God, adding times to pray to our daily routine would be extremely beneficial to each and everyone of us. A simple addition of prayer is signing up for Eucharistic Adoration in your parish or a nearby parish. Spending that extra hour in prayer each week will for sure increase your encounter with God.

For alms, if you have a favorite charity or don’t give to your parish yet, increasing your financial donations during the next 40 days will assist you in meeting the alms obligation during Lent. Please don’t forget, there are many people less fortunate that need our assistance at home and abroad.

With this being said, I now turn our attention to 10 Ash Wednesday Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI. These quotes are come from his homilies given to the Church and the world on the Ash Wednesday’s of his Papacy. Feel free to share this blog post or copy and paste the quotes to your social media sites, that’s if you haven’t given those up for Lent.

1. “Dear brothers and sisters, let us begin our Lenten journey with joyful confidence. May we feel deep within us the call to conversion, to “return to God with all our heart”, accepting his grace which makes us new men and women, with that astonishing newness which is a share in the very life of Jesus. May none of us be deaf to this appeal, which also comes to us in the austere rite, at once so simple and so evocative, of the imposition of ashes, which we are about to celebrate.” – 2013

2. “Lent reminds us, therefore, that Christian life is a never-ending combat in which the “weapons” of prayer, fasting and penance are used. Fighting against evil, against every form of selfishness and hate, and dying to oneself to live in God is the ascetic journey that every disciple of Jesus is called to make with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance.” – 2006

3. “This is our responsibility, following in St Paul’s footsteps, a further reason for living Lent fully: in order to bear a witness of faith lived to a world in difficulty in need of returning to God, in need of conversion.” – 2011

pope benedict on ash wednesday

4. “Prayer is a crucible in which our expectations and aspirations are exposed to the light of God’s Word, immersed in dialogue with the One who is the Truth, and from which they emerge free from hidden lies and compromises with various forms of selfishness (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 33). Without the dimension of prayer, the human “I” ends by withdrawing into himself, and the conscience, which should be an echo of God’s voice, risks being reduced to a mirror of the self, so that the inner conversation becomes a monologue, giving rise to self-justifications by the thousands.” – 2008

5. “…Ashes are one of the material signs that bring the cosmos into the Liturgy. The most important signs are those of the Sacraments: water, oil, bread and wine, which become true sacramental elements through which we receive the grace of Christ which comes among us. The ashes are not a sacramental sign, but are nevertheless linked to prayer and the sanctification of the Christian people. – 2012

6. “Precisely due to the richness of the symbols and of the biblical and liturgical texts, Ash Wednesday is considered the “door” to Lent. In effect, today’s liturgy and the gestures that mark it, together form, in anticipation and in a synthetic way, the very physiognomy of the entire period of Lent.” – 2007

7. “This absolute certainty sustained Jesus during the 40 days he spent in the Judean desert, after he had received Baptism from John in the Jordan. For him that long period of silence and fasting was a complete abandonment of himself to the Father and to his plan of love. The time was a “baptism” in itself, that is, an “immersion” in God’s will and in this sense a foretaste of the Passion and of the Cross. Going out into the desert alone to remain there at length meant exposing himself willingly to the assaults of the enemy, the tempter who brought about Adam’s fall and whose envy caused death to enter the world (cf. Wis 2: 24). It meant engaging in battle with him, with nothing but the weapon of boundless faith to challenge him, in the omnipotent love of the Father.” – 2010

8. “If Advent is the season par excellence that invites us to hope in the God-Who-Comes, Lent renews in us the hope in the One who made us pass from death to life. Both are seasons of purification – this is also indicated by the liturgical colour that they have in common – but in a special way Lent, fully oriented to the mystery of Redemption, is defined the ‘path of true conversion’” (cf. Collect). – 2008

9. “Fasting, to which the Church invites us in this particular season, certainly is not motivated by the physical or aesthetical order, but stems from the need that man has for an interior purification that detoxifies him from the pollution of sin and evil; it educates him to that healthy renunciation which releases the believer from the slavery to self; that renders him more attentive and open to listen to God and to be at the service of the brethren.” – 2007

10. “May Mary, our guide on the Lenten journey, lead us to ever deeper knowledge of the dead and Risen Christ, help us in the spiritual combat against sin, and sustain us as we pray with conviction: “Converte nos, Deus salutaris noster” — “Convert us to you, O God, our salvation”. Amen!” – 2011

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Joseph, and the Spousal Gift of Self

This past Saturday at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, we were honored with the presence of Steve and Becky Greene, co-hosts of the Immaculate Heart Radio Show 1310 AM – The Catholic Conversation. As part of our Saturday Morning Speaker Series, which I oversee in my position at the parish, Steve and Becky spoke about their story together as well as the importance of giving of oneself in marriage to the other. The title of the talk was – Of Rings and Romance: The Gift of Self in Marriage. It is my hope to soon have their talk available online and linked to this blog post.

During their talk on Saturday, Steve and Becky mentioned numerous times the importance of Pope St. John Paul II and his writings that focus on the dignity of the human person and the beauty of marriage – The Theology of the Body. In a time when the institution of marriage is being so vigorously redefined on numerous plains, the overall attack on the family continues to occur on a daily basis, and the destruction of marriages through selfish and addictive acts seems to be an ever growing epidemic, as Catholics it is our duty and obligation to stand and combat the forces that seek to destroy the gift of marriage, which was given to us by God himself.

Focusing on this theme of self-sacrificial love in marriage, I turn our attention to an excerpt from the Apostolic Exhortation written by Pope St. John Paul II titled – Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer). It is the hope of this unwed writer to someday be able to sacrifice for another, but until that day comes, I challenge all of you to look to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph as the true and perfect examples of marriage, full freedom, and the “spousal gift of self.”

Holy family Icon

Pope St. John Paul II says,

“The Son of Mary is also Joseph’s Son by virtue of the marriage bond that unites them: “By reason of their faithful marriage both of them deserve to be called Christ’s parents, not only his mother, but also his father, who was a parent in the same way that he was the mother’s spouse: in mind, not in the flesh.” In this marriage none of the requisites of marriage were lacking: “In Christ’s parents all the goods of marriage were realized—offspring, fidelity, the sacrament: the offspring being the Lord Jesus himself; fidelity, since there was no adultery: the sacrament, since there was no divorce.”

Analyzing the nature of marriage, both St. Augustine and St. Thomas always identify it with an “indivisible union of souls,” a “union of hearts,” with “consent.” These elements are found in an exemplary manner in the marriage of Mary and Joseph. At the culmination of the history of salvation, when God reveals his love for humanity through the gift of the Word, it is precisely the marriage of Mary and Joseph that brings to realization in full “freedom” the “spousal gift of self” in receiving and expressing such a love. “In this great undertaking which is the renewal of all things in Christ, marriage—it too purified and renewed—becomes a new reality, a sacrament of the New Covenant. We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth. The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family—that sanctuary of love and cradle of life.”

How much the family of today can learn from this! “The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride.” This being the case, it is in the Holy Family, the original “Church in miniature (Ecclesia domestica),” that every Christian family must be reflected. “Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families.”

I dedicate today’s “Mondays with Mary” to all my family members and friends who are married as well as those preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in the Catholic Church. Let us also pray for healing to couples and families who have been torn apart for the reasons only known to them. May the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph always intercede on our behalf to their Son, and Our Lord – Jesus Christ.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Today is the optional memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes. It was on this day that the Our Lady first appeared to the fourteen year-old, St. Bernadette Soubirous. Overall, there were eighteen appearances to St. Bernadette. The very last one was on July 18, 1858. The general message of Lourdes is the call to repentance (conversion), prayer, and charity. 

Below are the three blog posts that I have written on in the past focusing on Our Lady of Lourdes – 

1. “Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Lourdes 

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes 

Our Lady of Lourdes…Pray for Us.

Our Lady of Lourdes and Bernadette

 

 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Sacred Scriptures

In his document, Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), Blessed Pope Paul VI says this about devotion to Mary in the Biblical context,

“Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary cannot be exempt from this general orientation of Christian piety; indeed it should draw inspiration in a special way from this orientation in order to gain new vigor and sure help. In its wonderful presentation of God’s plan for man’s salvation, the Bible is replete with the mystery of the Savior, and from Genesis to the Book of Revelation, also contains clear references to Mary, who was the Mother and associate of the Savior.”

The letter, The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, written by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1988, when speaking about the exegetical research focused on Mary says,

“Biblical exegesis has opened new frontiers for Mariology, ever dedicating more attention to the inter-testamental literature. Some texts of the Old Testament, and especially the New Testament parts of Luke and Matthew on the infancy of Jesus, and the Johannine periscopes, have been the object of continuous and deep study, the results of which have reinforced the biblical basis of Mariology and considerably enriched its themes.”

Furthermore, Pope Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini (Word of God), states the following about Mariology and the Word of God,

“The Synod Fathers declared that the basic aim of the Twelfth Assembly was “to renew the Church’s faith in the word of God”. To do so, we need to look to the one in whom the interplay between the word of God and faith was brought to perfection, that is, to the Virgin Mary…I would encourage scholars as well to study the relationship between Mariology and the theology of the word. This could prove most beneficial both for the spiritual life and for theological and biblical studies. Indeed, what the understanding of the faith has enabled us to know about Mary stands at the heart of Christian truth.”

Mary Ponders The Word of God

Now that you have read through these three quotes focusing on the importance the Blessed Virgin Mary plays in the Sacred Scriptures, let us turn our attention to eight previous “Mondays with Mary” that have focused particularly on this very subject. It’s my hope that you can share this post as well as the previous posts on your social media sites as well as with your family and friends.

1. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament , Part 1

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament, Part 2

3. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament, Part 3

4. “Mondays with Mary” – The Esheth Yahil (Woman of Valor)

5. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 1

6. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 2

7. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant

8. “Mondays with Mary”- Mary the Word of God