“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.’

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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

Saint Isidore of Seville – Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages

In 560 A.D., St. Isidore was born in Cartagena, Spain and is the son of Severinus and Theodora, two individuals known for having great virtue. His father descended from a Roman background and was associated with the Visigothic kings. Saint Isidore’s siblings are all saints. Two of his brothers, St. Leander and St. Fulgentius were bishops and his sister, St. Florentina, was an abbess of many convents.

For his education, St. Isidore was entrusted to his much older brother, Leander. Although his brother was a taskmaster when it came to learning, it proved to be a very successful combination since St. Isidore received a great education, was considered one of the greatest minds of his time, and became an ardent educator himself. Even though he was never a monk, there are rules with his name attached to them since he loved religious orders.

After the death of St. Leander, Isidore became the Bishop of Seville around 600 A.D. Continuing the work that he began with his brother; Isidore served the diocese of Seville for thirty-six years. Within Seville, one of the major contributions he completed was the conversion of the Visigoths to Catholicism from Arianism. He also established the discipline for the Spanish church in councils.

In 619 A.D., St. Isidore was the main presider at the Council of Seville. In 633 A.D., at the Fourth Council of Toledo, he was selected as the main presider over the archbishop of Toledo who should have led the council, but because Isidore was such a learned man and a great teacher in the country of Spain, he was chosen instead.

The Fourth Council of Toledo was the most important of all the Spanish councils since Toledo was the capital of Spain at the time and the home of the Visigoth kings. Many of the decrees promulgated from the fourth council were instituted by Isidore, most notably was that every diocese in the Church should have a seminary or cathedral school set for education.

St. Isidore of Seville

As an educator, Isidore was a man ahead of his time. Instead of just a classical education, he was a proponent who thought education should include all areas of knowledge – liberal arts, law, the languages of Greek and Hebrew, and medicine. He encouraged the philosophy of Aristotle to be taught to all students, well before the Arabs began to teach it. His most important achievement as an educator was the compilation of the Etymologies or Origins, an encyclopedia that brought together all knowledge of the time.

St. Isidore was a voluminous writer. Many of his works include a dictionary of synonyms; a historical treatise that covered the Goths, Vandals, and Suevi; his many rules for monks, dissertations on astronomy and geography; biographies of famous men of the time; a book covering important events in the Old and New Testament; and an all-encompassing work covering theology and ecclesiology. He had a gift with learning languages and knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew fluently.

Ecclesiastically, he oversaw and promulgated the Mozarabic missal and breviary, which was first begun by his brother Leander. The missal and breviary, derived from an early Spanish liturgy, was to be used for the Goths.

At the end of his thirty-six years as Bishop of Seville, realizing that his time this side of Heaven was drawing to a close, he began by giving his money away and offered penitential practices, such as wearing sackcloth and putting ashes on his head. He prayed fervently asking Heaven to forgive him of his sins.

Along with giving his money and possessions to the poor, he also paid back any money that he had borrowed from others. Finally, in the company of two bishops, he received viaticum and entered Heavenly glory calmly in 636 A.D.

In 1722, Pope Innocent XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church. His memorial is today, April 4th.

In 1997, Pope St. John Paul II, decided that the Internet needed a patron saint, he declared that St. Isidore of Seville should be that saint. As of April 2014, the Vatican has not made this official.

 

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, Week 4

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 asked yesterday from Chapter 4 – The Fourth Word: Confidence in Victory. This chapter focuses on Mary’s Magnificat and Jesus’ – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Mk. 15:34), which originally comes from Psalm 22:1 (21 in the Septuagint), the great Todah (Thanksgiving) Psalm.

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary

1. “All trusting implies something you cannot see. If you could see, there would be no occasion for trust. When you say you trust a man only insofar as you can see him, you do not trust him at all. Now to trust God means to hold fast to the truth that his purposes are good and holy, not because you see them, but in spite of appearances to the contrary.”

2. “Rather approach him in full confidence and even with the boldness of a loving child who has a right to ask a Father for favors.”

3. “The man without faith was generally surprised at the dark turn of events with two world wars in twenty-one years, the resurgence of barbarism and the abandonment of moral principles. But the man with faith in God was not so surprised. The sun came out just as he had expected; chaos was in the cards though they had not yet been dealt, for he knew that ‘unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it’ (Ps 126:1).”

4. “Evil will never be able to be stronger than on that particular day, for the worst thing that evil can do is not to ruin cities and to wage wars…against the good and the living. The worst thing that evil can do is to kill God..”

5. “Though he may not grant all your wants, be sure that, in a certain sense, there is no unanswered prayer…Do not forget either that there are not two kinds of prayers to prayer, but three: One is ‘Yes.’ Another is ‘No.’ The third is ‘Wait.”

Questions: 

1. With all the evil and sin in the world, how does a Christian remain steadfast in knowing that in the end the final victory belongs to Christ and those who follow his teachings?

2. What would the Jews standing around the cross have thought when they heard Christ cry out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

3. In Heaven, Christ still bears the wounds of his Crucifixion. Explain the significance of this teaching.

 

Pope Emeritus Reads TomPerna.org

Wow – you wouldn’t believe what happened on this day! Of all days, this happens today.

While taking a late lunch break at the parish, I checked my gmail account and saw an email titled – “Greetings from Rome.” When I opened up the email, I realized that it was from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI!

In the email, he told me that he reads my blog posts quite often and finds them very interesting, theologically orthodox, and faithful to the Magisterium. He said that he began reading my blog about 6 months ago after seeing it on NewAdvent.org.

He stated that his favorite blog posts of mine are the posts on the Doctors of the Church, “Mondays with Mary”, and the ones I have done on his predecessor, the soon-to-be-saint, Pope John Paul II. He also asked me when I was going to write my first book because he would be interested in editing it for me. How cool is that!

At the end of his email, he said, “if people are not following your blog, they are truly missing out on solid Catholic theology.” What a compliment!

I am so fired up writing this to you, I can hardly sit still.

Update: This is categorized under “Catholic Humor.” Today is April 1 – April Fools. :)

Pope Emeritus B 16 with IPad

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘The Handmaid of the Lord’

Over the past three weeks, I have focused on variety of teachings underlining the Solemnity of the Annunciation. The first week we looked at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states about Mary’s Virginity; the second week focused on some of the Early Church Fathers teachings on the subject of Mary’s faith at the Annunciation; and last week we looked at the Annunciation through the theology of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

To conclude this short four-week series on the Annunciation, I give you five “words” focusing on Mary’s Fiat from the soon-to-be-saint, Pope John Paul II. As I have promised in other posts, as we get closer to his official canonization, which is less than one month away, I will write more about him and the theology he wrote for the Catholic Church during his twenty-six pontificate.

Redemptoris Mater, 28 –

“In the faith which Mary professed at the Annunciation as the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ and in which she constantly ‘precedes’ the pilgrim People of God throughout the earth, the Church ‘strives energetically and constantly to bring all humanity…back to Christ its head in the unity of his Spirit.’”

Address in Rome, July 13, 1994 –

“The whole ecclesial movement of women can and should reflect the light of Gospel revelation, according to which a woman, as the representative of the human race, was called to give her consent to the Incarnation of the Word. It is the account of the Annunciation that suggests this truth when it tells that only after the ‘fiat’ of Mary, who consented to be the Mother of the Messiah, did ‘the angel depart from her’ (Lk. 1:38). The angel had completed his mission: he could bring to God humanity’s ‘yes’,’ spoken by Mary of Nazareth.”

The Annunciation - Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Insegnamenti, March 19, 1982 –

“The Blessed Virgin intoned the Magnificat, knowing that to accomplish the plan of salvation for all mankind, the Lord willed to bring her, a simple maiden of his people, into association with it. We are here to intone our Magnificat, after the example of Mary, knowing that we have been summoned by God to a service of redemption and salvation, in spite of our inadequacy.”

Address in Rome, June 18, 1979 –

“And in the moments of weariness raise your eyes to Mary, the Virgin who, forgetting herself, set out ‘with haste’ for the hills to reach her elderly cousin Elizabeth who was in need of help and assistance (cf. Lk. 1:39ff). Let her be the inspiration of your daily dedication to duty; let her suggest to you the right words and opportune gestures at the bedside of the sick; let her comfort you in misunderstandings and failures, hoping you always keep a smile on your face and hope in your heart.”

Mulieris Dignitatem, 5 –

“When Mary responds to the words of the heavenly messenger with her ‘fiat’, she who is ‘full of grace’ feels the need to express her personal relationship to the gift that has been revealed to her, saying: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord’ (Lk 1:38). This statement should not be deprived of its profound meaning, nor should it be diminished by artificially removing it from the overall context of the event and from the full content of the truth revealed about God and man. In the expression ‘handmaid of the Lord’, one senses Mary’s complete awareness of being a creature of God. The word ‘handmaid’, near the end of the Annunciation dialogue, is inscribed throughout the whole history of the Mother and the Son. In fact, this Son, who is the true and consubstantial ‘Son of the Most High’, will often say of himself, especially at the culminating moment of his mission: ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve’ (Mk 10:45).”

As always, let us keep in our hearts and minds, Mary’s Fiat, her Yes to God. Let us always be prepared in our hearts to say YES to God just as our Blessed Virgin Mary did at the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel visited her.