Pope SAINT John Paul II: Mission Accomplished

Beatification Pic of JP II

Today is the day that the JP Generation has been waiting for since our beloved Pope John Paul II passed from this life into the life of Heaven – his first ever feast day in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar. He is officially a canonized Saint of the Catholic Church. Knowing the example that the modern world needed when it came to heroic virtue and holiness, Pope John Paul II canonized 482 Saints of the Church at 51 canonizations and beatified 1338 at 147 beatifications. Blessed with a long papacy, John Paul II accomplished more than many of his predecessors combined.

Although I could write so much on him at this moment, it’s hard to find the right words today with the emotions in my heart that are pouring forth from my eyes when I think of him in Heaven with the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Saints he canonized and beatified as well as with the other great Saints of the Catholic Church. Over the past 2 years and 9 months, including this very blog post, I have written on Pope John Paul II 52 times. That’s how much of an influence he has had on my life as a Catholic man, a Catholic educator, and as a Catholic blogger and speaker. You can read every blog post written on him here. I would highly encourage you to read the many words I have provided to you over this time about the Great Pope St. John Paul II.

JP II as young priest

The young Karol Wojtyla, ordained November 1, 1946.

Including the saint statistics above, here are more facts about Pope St. John Paul II -

Pastoral Visits: 104 in Italy and 146 outside of Italy

Rome parishes: He visited 317 of the 333 parishes.

General Audiences: 17,600,000 people

Meetings with Heads of State: 738

Pope St. John Paul II in Denver for World Youth Day 1993.

Pope St. John Paul II in Denver for World Youth Day 1993.

World Youth Days: 19

Cardinals of the Church: In 9 consisitories, he created 231 Cardinals.

Synods of Bishops: 15

Writings: Encyclicals – 14, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations – 15, Apostolic Constituions – 11, Apostolic Letters – 45, Books published – 5.

So on this day, the first feast day of Pope St. John Paul II, let us ask our beloved Pope and Saint to continue to pray for the intercession of our personal prayers, prayers for the Catholic Church, and prayers for the entire world. Let us also continue to pray for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. John Paul II had a deep devotion to Her from his earliest days as a young boy in Poland.

POPE SAINT JOHN PAUL II…PRAY FOR US! 

JP II and papal cross

“Mondays with Mary” – Blessed Pope Paul VI on the Blessed Virgin Mary

It’s either God’s Providence or just the natural course of writing extensively on the Blessed Virgin Mary for nearly 2 ½ years, but today’s “Mondays with Mary”, the 125th blog post in this series, corresponds with the Beatification of Pope Paul VI. It was his document, Mense Maio, which inspired me to begin writing these weekly posts on the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 6, 2012. To learn about the story of how “Mondays with Mary” began, I encourage you to read the very first blog post in this series.

As I reflect back on the 2 ½ years and the 124 blog posts focusing on the great Theotokos, I am somewhat shocked that I have written so much on Mary, but also realize there is so much I have yet to write. There are some important Marian apparitions and titles that have yet to be written as well as not getting to the final chapter in the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium. It’s my hope in the month of November (the 50th Anniversary of the document) to write on this chapter, which focuses on Mary’s role as Maternal Mediator and Advocate. It’s also my hope that I will write more on what the Doctors of the Church have said about the Blessed Virgin.

I’ve said in my posts before that it’s an exciting time to be a Catholic. Yesterday’s beatification of Pope Paul VI is yet another indication of this time. We now have three popes that served nearly one after the other in the 20th century as saints of the Catholic Church. Although Paul VI has not been officially canonized, we know that he is there in Heaven with his predecessor, Pope St. John XXIII and his successor, Pope St. John Paul II.

Pope Paul VI

In honor of our newest beatification, I now give you some of the words on the Blessed Virgin Mary from Blessed Pope Paul VI -

1. “This pious practice, by which the Blessed Virgin Mary is honored and the Christian people enriched with spiritual gifts, gladdens and consoles us. Mary remains ever the path that leads to Christ. Every encounter with her can only result in an encounter with Christ himself” – Mense Maio #2

2. “The general norm ‘Through Mary to Jesus’ is therefore valid also for the imitation of Christ. Nevertheless, let our faith not be perturbed, as if the intervention of a creature in every way similar to us, except as regards sin, offended our personal dignity and prevented the intimacy and immediacy of our relationships of adoration and friendship with the Son of God.” – Signum Magnum, Part 2, Section 2.

3. “Mary is not only an example for the whole Church in the exercise of divine worship but is also, clearly, a teacher of the spiritual life for individual Christians. The faithful at a very early date began to look to Mary and to imitate her in making their lives an act of worship of God, and making their worship a commitment of their lives.” ­– Marialis Cultus, #21

4. “Whenever we say the rosary, the joyful mysteries thus place us once more before the inexpressible event [Annunciation] which is the center and summit of history: the coming on earth of Emmanuel, God with us.” – Gaudete in Domino, Section III.

5. “…the Church has always prayed from her earliest days, and in a special way calling on the intercession and protection of the Virgin Mary, who is the Queen of Peace” – Mense Maio #9

6.With Christ, she sums up in herself all joys; she lives the perfect joy promised to the Church: Mater plena sanctae laetitiae. And it is with good reason that her children on earth, turning to her, who is the mother of hope and of grace, invoke her as the cause of their joy: Causa nostrae laetitiae.” – Gaudete in Domino, Section IV.

7. “…the last description of Mary’s life presents her as praying. The apostles ‘joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers’ (Acts 1:4). We have here the prayerful presence of Mary in the early Church in the Church throughout all ages, for, having been assumed into heaven, she has not abandoned her mission of intercession and salvation.” – Marialis Cultus, #19

8. [St. Augustine] said, “’…Maternal consanguinity would not have benefited Mary if she had not felt more fortunate in having Christ in her heart than in her womb.’” And it is still in her that Christians can admire the example of how to fulfill, with humility and at the same time with magnanimity, the mission which God entrusts to each one in this world, in relation to his own salvation and that of his fellow beings.” – Signum Magnum, Part 2, Section 3.

9. “Nothing seems more appropriate and valuable to Us than to have the prayers of the whole Christian family rise to the Mother of God, who is invoked as the Queen of Peace, begging her to pour forth abundant gifts of her maternal goodness in midst of so many great trials and hardships.” – Christi Matri, #8

10. “On the morning of Pentecost she watched over with her prayer the beginning of evangelization prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be the Star of the evangelization ever renewed which the Church, docile to her Lord’s command, must promote and accomplish, especially in these times which are difficult but full of hope!” – Evangelii Nuntiandi, #82

Mother of Jesus Christ

So as we celebrate the beatification of Pope Paul VI, let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to always show us the way to Jesus Christ and to continuously lead us to closer and close to Him each day of our lives. Blessed Pope Paul VI…Pray for Us.

As always, please feel free to share this post or copy and paste the quotes to your social media sites in order for your family and friends to experience the beauty of the Catholic Church and her Saints.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Expressions of Prayer

Since today is the feast day of Saint Teresa of Avila, the Doctor of Prayer, I found it fitting to quickly express to you one of the articles from the third chapter of the Christian Prayer section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In this section, we will focus on the Expressions of Prayer: Vocal, Meditation, and Contemplative.

St. Teresa of Avila wrote on these three expressions of prayer extensively in her writings. In her work, The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa says,

“…Let us give ourselves to mental prayer. And let whoever cannot practice it turn to vocal prayer, reading, and colloquy with God…Mental prayer consists of what was explained: being aware and knowing that we are speaking, with whom we are speaking, and who we ourselves are who dare to speak so much with so great a Lord…the nature of mental prayer isn’t determined by whether or not the mouth is closed. If while speaking I thoroughly understand and know that I am speaking with God and I have greater awareness of this than I do of the words I’m saying, mental and vocal prayer are joined.”

On these three expressions of prayer, the Catechism says…

CCC 2720: The Church invites the faithful to regular prayer: daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday Eucharist, the feasts of the liturgical year.

CCC 2721: The Christian tradition comprises three major expressions of the life of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer. They have in common the recollection of the heart.

CCC 2722: Vocal prayer, founded on the union of the body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ’s example of praying to his Father and teaching the Our Father to his disciples.

CCC 2723: Meditation is a prayerful quest engaging thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own in faith the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life.

CCC 2724: Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that is makes us share in his mystery.

For a more extensive explanation on the three expressions of prayer, I would encourage you to read CCC 2700-2719.

As we celebrate the Doctor of Prayer, let us ask her to intercede for us during our fruitful times of prayer, but especially when our prayer lacks fruit and we find ourselves battling in prayer.

“Mondays with Mary” – St. Louis De Montfort on the Hail Mary

Since October is the month of the Holy Rosary, I found it fitting again this week to focus on the main prayer of the Holy Rosary – the Hail Mary. But instead of going through the prayer line by line, which I have done in other blog posts that focus on the themes in the Hail Mary, today we will draw from one of the great saints of the Catholic Church, St. Louis De Montfort.

In his famous book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis De Montfort explains the many different elements of the Holy Rosary. In Rose (chapters) 15, 16, 17, and 18, the saint explains thoroughly main prayer of the Rosary. The excerpts below come from these four chapters.

As always with my blog posts, I hope you share with them others, especially your family and friends as well as copy and paste this quotes to your social media sites in order that others may learn more about the beauty and truth of Jesus Christ, the Catholic faith and her traditions.

St. Louis De Montfort said…

“The Angelic Salutation is a most concise summary of all that Catholic theology teaches about the Blessed Virgin. It is divided into two parts, that of praise and petition: the first shows all that goes to make up Mary’s greatness and the second all that we need to ask her for and all that we may expect to receive through her goodness.”

“The new hymn is that which Christians sing in thanksgiving for the graces of the Incarnation and the Redemption. As these marvels were brought about the Angelic Salutation, so also do we repeat the same salutation to thank the Most Blessed Trinity for His immeasurable goodness to us.”

“When we praise and bless Our Lady by the saying the Angelic Salutation she always passes on these praises to Almighty God in the same way as she did when she was praised by Saint. Elizabeth. The latter blessed her in her most elevated dignity as Mother of God and Our Lady immediately returned these praises to God by her beautiful Magnificat.”

Immaculate Heart of Mary

“The Hail Mary is a blessed dew that falls from heaven upon the souls of the predestinate. It gives them a marvelous spiritual fertility so that they can grow in all virtues. The more the garden of the soul is watered by this prayer the more enlightened one’s intellect becomes, the more zealous his heart, and the stronger his armor against his spiritual enemies.”

“By each Hail Mary we give Our Lady the same honor that God gave her when He sent the Archangel Gabriel to greet her for Him. How could anyone possibly think that Jesus and Mary, who often do good to those that curse them, could ever curse those that bless and honor them by the Hail Mary?”

“The Hail Mary is a sharp and flaming shaft which, joined to the Word of God, gives the preacher the strength to pierce, move and convert the most hardened hearts even if he has little or no natural gift of preaching.”

“In each Hail Mary we bless both Jesus and Mary: ‘Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is thy fruit of thy womb Jesus.’”

“If we make ourselves worthy of the greeting and blessings of Our Lady we shall certainly be filled with graces and a flood of spiritual consolations will come down into our souls.”

So as this month of the Holy Rosary continues, let us ask for the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of the Rosary to always intercede for us, bringing our prayers to Jesus Christ. Let us also ask for the prayers of St. Louis De Montfort who through divine wisdom and great spiritual insight loved the Blessed Virgin Mary and helped further the understanding of the Holy Rosary. Amen.

The Day I Drove Fr. Benedict Groeschel to the Pittsburgh Airport

In a matter of hours, the body of Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. will be laid to rest here on earth following the Funeral Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey. When I heard that Fr. Groeschel passed away last Friday, I quickly said a prayer for the repose of his soul and also remembered the forty-five minutes I spent with him in a car from Steubenville, Ohio to the Pittsburgh Airport.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel

In the Summer of 2009, as a graduate student in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I worked as a driver for the transportation division for the Franciscan Summer Conferences. As a driver in transportation, one of the perks was picking up and dropping off speakers at the Pittsburgh Airport. Out of all the people I drove that summer, which included Steve Ray and David Currie, when I was asked to take Fr. Benedict Groeschel to the airport by my supervisor, Alex Hart, I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement and joy. Being that I was one of the older drivers, she knew that she could trust me to be at his hotel at 5:00am to pick him up.

Within hours, my friends found out that I was taking Father to the airport, either by me telling them or others telling them. At once I started to receive rosaries, medals, scapulars, holy water, and just about every other sacramental you can think of for Fr. Groeschel to bless on our ride to the airport. By the time I arrived at his hotel at 5:00am, I had three medium size zip-lock bags full of sacramentals, plus the book I bought, Praying in the Presence of Our Lord – Prayers for Eucharistic Adoration by Fr. Groeschel.

I barely slept that night, woke up around 4:00am, and arrived at the hotel at 4:30am for the 5:00am pickup. It was a humid, rainy, very early summer morning in Steubenville. My heart was pounding fast…I was so nervous! Then all of a sudden, walking with a cane and with the assistance of a young CFR who traveled with him, Fr. Groeschel came walked into the lobby. I introduced myself and told him I was taking him to the airport. He shook my hand with his left since he did not use his right hand.

With the assistance of the young CFR, we got him into the front passenger sit and put his bags in the trunk. The first question he asked me was if I had a wife, after I said no, he replied, “Good. Neither do I.” We laughed and I realized my anxiety was gone. Noticing the bags of sacramentals on the dash, he blessed them and signed his book for me (see picture below).

Fr. Benedict Groeschel signature

After saying a short prayer for our drive to the airport, Fr. Groeschel said to me, “Where are you from?” I replied, “Phoenix, Arizona.” He said, “not with that accent!” After the three of us laughed, I then said, “I am originally from New Jersey.” So he said, “where in New Jersey” and my response was Bergen County. He then nudged my right arm with his left and said, “come on?!…where in Bergen County.” I then said I was born in Newark, where my parents were from, but that I lived for nine years in the town of Wood-Ridge. He then nudged my right arm, a little harder this time, and said, “come on?!…I lived in Woodridge as baby for a short time.”

We were both in complete shock at this point. I remember him saying that he had never met anyone on his travels before that was from Woodridge, N.J. We also learned that the church he was baptized in, Our Lady of the Assumption, was the same church I received my First Holy Communion (he nudged my arm the hardest after learning this information).

As we continued our drive on U.S. 22, he asked me many questions about being a graduate student in Theology at Franciscan. I shared my thoughts and how I came to Franciscan after teaching high school theology for four years in Phoenix. Eventually the conversation ended up on the Early Church Fathers and how important they are in the life of the Catholic Church. I remember thinking to myself in the car, “I AM TALKING TO FR. BENEDICT GROESCHEL ABOUT THE CHURCH FATHERS!!!” When I applied for the driver position in May, it never came to me that I would find myself in this experience.

As quickly as the drive began to the airport, it was quickly over. Once I stopped the car, the young CFR shook my hand, said thank you, and told Fr. Groeschel that he would get his bags out of the trunk. Fr. Groeschel then shook my hand and asked if he could pray for me. I said yes and he quickly recited a short prayer, blessed me, and said, “I will talk to the Blessed Mother about you today.” I thought to myself at that very moment, he probably actually has conversations with her.

As the young CFR came over to the car with a wheelchair and just as Father was about to exit the car, he turned around one last time and said to me, “You will do great things for the Church very soon.” I think I said thank you but who knows! I was truly at a loss of words. It was one of my those experiences that just sticks with you. Every time his name has been mentioned around me since that day, I tell this story.

So on this day, October 10, 2014, let us pray for the soul of Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. and that he, like St. Therese of Lisieux, will do more work for us from Heaven than he did for us here on Earth.

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope St. John Paul II on Our Lady of the Rosary

Tomorrow, October 7, is the Marian feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and although I have written quite extensively on this topic in the past, it’s fitting yet again to draw upon the words of one of our most recently declared saints, and for many of us, our beloved saint, Pope John Paul II. His love for the Rosary and the Blessed Virgin Mary has inspired many Catholic Christians across the globe to also have a devotion to Mary through the Rosary. If you follow the Facebook page, My Mother Mary, you will see that the administrators every day whether they are home or traveling always find the time to pray the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As prayer should, it has become ingrained into their daily lives.

Since its inception through the development of St. Dominic and the Dominicans, the Holy Rosary has been on the lips of many saints, through both prayer and teaching. It’s the one Marian prayer that focuses deeply and profoundly on the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. In his document, Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), Pope Paul VI, says,

“As a Gospel prayer, centered on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, the rosary is therefore a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation. Its most characteristic element, in fact, the litany-like succession of Hail Mary’s, becomes in itself an unceasing praise of Christ…The Jesus that each Hail Mary recalls is the same Jesus who the succession of the mysteries proposes to us – now as the Son of God, now as the Son of the Virgin…at one time there was a custom, still preserved in certain places, of adding to the name of Jesus in each Hail Mary reference to the mystery being contemplated” (#46).

ROSARY IS 'FAVORITE PRAYER' OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

Now that we have briefly drawn upon Pope St. John Paul II’s successor, let us turn our attention to five statements from the Polish Pope on Our Lady of the Rosary –

1. “You show your devotion to Mary by celebrating her feasts, by daily prayer in her honor and especially the rosary, and by imitating her life. May that devotion grow stronger every day” (Manila, Philippines, 1983).

2. “Turn to Mary most holy, your heavenly, Mother; pray to her with fervor, especially by means of the rosary; invoke her daily, in order to be authentic imitators of Christ in our day” (Nuaro, Italy, 1985).

3. “Mary enters the house of her relative, she greets Elizabeth, and hears her words greeting. These words are familiar to us. We repeat them innumerable times, especially when we meditate on the mysteries of the rosary: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb’ (Lk. 1:42). That is how the wife of Zachary greets Mary” (Altotting, Germany, 1980).

4. “The rosary is the prayer through which, by repeating the angel’s greeting to Mary, we try to draw considerations of our own on the mysteries of Redemption from the Blessed Virgin’s meditation. Her reflection began at the moment of the Annunciation and continues in the glory of the Assumption” (L’Osservatore Romano, 1983).

5. “…In harmony with the tradition of many centuries, the Lady of the message indicates the rosary, which can rightly be defined as “Mary’s prayer”: the prayer in which she feels particularly united with us. She herself prays with us. The rosary prayer embraces the problems of the Church, of the See of St. Peter, the problems of the world. In it we also remember sinners, that they may be converted and saved…”(Fatima, Portugal, 1982).

As we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary tomorrow, let us keep in our hearts and minds the words of Pope St. John Paul II, asking for his intercession and the intercession of Mary under her title of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Also, feel free to share this post and these quotes on your social media sites in order to evangelize the world of the importance of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

All Praise and Glory to Jesus Christ Now and Forever! Amen.

Source:

Bunson, Margaret R., John Paul II’s Book of Mary. Our Sunday Visitor. 1996.