“Mondays with Mary”: The Descent from the Cross, and Jesus in the Arms of His Most Blessed Mother

Continuing with our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are meditated in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa, today we discuss The Descent from the Cross, and Jesus in the Arms of His Most Blessed Mother.

Traditionally prayed as the Thirteenth Station of the Way of the Cross, the Descent from the Cross and Jesus in the Arms of His Most Blessed Mother is the most touching scene in a very brutal Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the last scene before Jesus is buried in the tomb. Often depicted in art, as in Michelangelo’s Pieta (pictured below), the descent from the cross and Jesus in the arms of His Most Blessed Mother moves us emotionally in a way often hard to explain. I remember that first time, and the only time, I saw the Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was as if I was there personally when Jesus was laid in the arms of the Blessed Mother. The tears that flowed from my eyes and down my face were nearly uncontrollable.

Michelangelo's_Pieta_5450_cropncleaned_edit

A very instrumental character in these final scenes in the Gospels is St. Joseph of Arimathea. He was a wealthy, righteous, and holy man, who was part of the Sanhedrin, but did not condemn Jesus to die. He came forth with St. Nicodemus and assisted with the taking down of Jesus’ body from the cross, and the eventual burial of his body in the tomb. A tomb tradition believes was Joseph’s own, but because he was a believer of Jesus Christ, he gave it up for Our Lord’s body to be entombed. At the chance of risking his reputation in the Sanhedrin, he courageously and boldly stands up for Jesus Christ as a “disciple” and assists in the burial of Our Lord. It is for this reason that St. Joseph of Arimathea is the Patron Saint of Funeral Directors.

To help us understand today’s post a bit more, I turn to the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich which are catalogued in the book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“…When the body was taken down it was wrapped in linen from the knees to the waist, then placed in the arms of the Blessed Virgin, who, overwhelmed with sorrow and love, stretched them forth to receive their precious burden.

The Blessed Virgin seated herself upon a large cloth spread on the ground, with her right knee, which was slightly raised, and her back resting against some mantles, rolled together so as to form a species of cushion. No precaution had been neglected which could in any way facilitate to her – the Mother of Sorrows – in her deep affliction of soul, the mournful but most sacred duty which she was about to fulfill in regard to the body of her beloved Son. The adorable head of Jesus rested upon Mary’s knee, and his body was stretched upon a sheet. The Blessed Virgin was overwhelmed with sorrow and love. Once more, and for the last time, did she hold in her arms the body of her most beloved Son, to whom she had been unable to give any testimony of love during the longs hours of his martyrdom. And she gazed upon his wounds and fondly embraced his blood-stained cheeks, whilst Magdalene pressed her face upon his feet.”

The Descent from the Cross - Rogier van der Weyden. Created 1435-1438.

The Descent from the Cross – Rogier van der Weyden. Created 1435-1438.

Let us pray that we never look upon this Thirteenth Station of the Way of the Cross without remembering the hardship, sorrow, and love that the Blessed Virgin Mary endured and felt. Let us pray that when pray the Stations of the Cross we too may come to know the sorrow of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Passion and Death.

Sources:

Emmerich, Anne Catherine. The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Tan Books and Publishers, 2005.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Ignatius Press, 2010.

The Navarre Bible – The New Testament Expanded Edition. Four Courts/Scepter, 2008.

“Which Title of Mary Will You Identify With the Most?”

Here is a fun quiz for you on this Friday over on CatholicLink by Becky Roach – Which Title of Mary Will You Identify With the Most? 

After you have taken the test, come back to this blog post and share your results in the comment box below. I would love to hear the responses.

I can tell you that I got Our Lady of Victory. With our Our Lady of Victory, we pray the Memorare, the prayer written by yesterday’s Doctor of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Every morning as part of my morning prayers and offering, I pray the Memorare. I also pray it as part of my After Mass Prayers.

Want to know more about the Blessed Virgin Mary? Check out my weekly series titled, “Mondays with Mary.”

Our Lady of Victory…Pray For Us.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Obedience of Faith

Recently I was on the Internet reading different blog posts from fellow Catholic bloggers, when I came upon a comment at the bottom of a blog post from someone who said they were a faithful Catholic, but didn’t have to believe everything that the Catholic Church teaches. My initial reaction was – What?! After composing myself, I took the time to pray for this individual in the hopes that they would come to realize their statement is completely false.

The above statement is perplexing not just because someone wrote it, but unfortunately there are people in the Catholic Church that truly think they can pick and choose what they believe in and what they don’t believe in. Believing in the revealed Truths of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church is not like picking out colors for the different rooms in your house nor it is like a choosing food in a cafeteria. In case you haven’t heard – the cafeteria is closed.

We don’t need Catholics who are wishy-washy, Catholics who believe some doctrines, but the moral issues are out of bounds, Catholics who claim to be “social justice Catholics” but don’t adhere to the Social Teachings of the Church, and we don’t need lukewarm believers who come and go like the passing wind.

In today’s culture, we need Catholics that are convicted in their faith; the same faith that Abraham displayed and was made perfect in the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We need Catholics ready to believe in all the teachings of the Church, not just the ones they “feel” fit their lives. We need Catholics who desire to be Catholic – completely, wholeheartedly, and without exceptions.

The words from Fr. Terrence Henry, TOR, Chancellor of Franciscan University of Steubenville should be noted and shared, “The age of casual Catholicism is over, the age of heroic Catholicism has begun. We can no longer be Catholics by accident but instead we must be Catholics by conviction.”

Although the Catholic Church has always been at war with the secular culture and the spiritual forces that support the culture, we find ourselves in a serious battle at this time in the overall war. The words of Fr. Henry should resound in our ears and prepare to us believe in all that the Catholic Church teaches and professes. Obedience is a key factor when it comes to faith. We need Catholics who are ready to be obedient and faithful.

Catholicism - Church Lady

With this being said, let’s examine what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about obedience and faith –

Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words [#176].

“To believe” has thus a twofold reference: to the person, and to the truth: to the truth, by trust in the person who bears witness to it [#177].

We must believe in no one but God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit [#178].

Faith is a supernatural gift from God. In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit [#179].

“Believing” is a human act, conscious and free, corresponding to the dignity of the human person [#180].

“Believing” is an ecclesial act. The Church’s faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother” (St. Cyprian, De unit. 6: PL 4, 519) [#181].

We believe all [italics mine] “that which is contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed” (Paul VI, CPG § 20) [#182].

Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16) [#183].

“Faith is a foretaste of the knowledge that will make us blessed in the life to come” (St. Thomas Aquinas. Comp. theol. 1, 2) [#184].

For a more extensive understanding of these points, I would suggest also reading paragraphs 144-175 in the Catechism.

To conclude, I leave you with the words of Rev. Karl Adam from his book, The Spirit of Catholicism, “Twelve simple, uneducated fishermen revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

5 Quick Points About St. Helena

Today, in the Latin lung of the Catholic Church, we celebrate the memorial of St. Helena or Helen. Here are 5 quick points about her life –

1. Mother of Constantine the Great. It was Constantine that legalized Catholic Christianity as a legal religion within the Roman Empire with the Edict of Milan.

2. After the conversion of her son and the legalization of Catholic Christianity, St. Helena converted to the faith at the age of 63 (A point that proves you are never too old to come to the faith).

3. After her conversion, using the wealth of the empire, she assisted the poor financially as well as gave financial contributions to the building of Catholic churches in Rome (A point that proves we should support our parishes).

4. At the age of 80 years old, St. Helena was sent to Jerusalem by Constantine to locate the True Cross of Christ, which was believed to be buried still at Calvary, although Emperor Hadrian build a temple to the goddess Venus over it. She did eventually locate the True Cross as well as two other crosses with it. Tradition states that there were numerous crosses located in Calvary. The True Cross was detected after St. Helena had someone who was sick touch the Cross and instantly they were healed from their ailments. The “title” of the Cross was also located nearby.

5. Under the direction of Constantine, she built two basilicas – The Eleona on the Mount of Olives, now known as the Church of the Pater Noster and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Although being 80 years of age, she took on the construction of these churches with great enthusiasm. (Constantine also built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre). 

St. Helena…Pray for Us.

St. Helena (Cima_da_Conegliano)

“Mondays with Mary” – The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross

Continuing with our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are meditated in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa, today we discuss The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross.

The place where our Lord was crucified is known as Calvary or “the place of the skull” (Aramaic – Golgotha). It was on the outskirts of Jerusalem and was a disused rock query shaped like a skull. It was the primary location for criminal executions performed by the Romans as well as the sanitation dump for the city at the time.

The crucifixion is the total summary of the life and death of Jesus Christ –

The seamless tunic that Our Lord worn and was stripped of him before he willingly lay upon the cross represents the unity of the Church. It’s the same unity that Jesus asked for in John 17:20-26. The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Apostle, the gushing of blood and water from the side of Jesus reconnects us with the Wedding Feast at Cana. The blood and water represent the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist. It is through these two sacraments that individuals become members of the Church.

When Jesus thirsts on the cross it harkens us back to John 4 – The Samaritan Woman at the Well. It is here that we see Jesus isn’t only interesting in saving the Jews, but he is looking to save all souls. Those very last words of Jesus (vs. 30) on the cross display for us that he is truly dying. He will eventually send the Holy Spirit to the Church, a promise he made numerous times in the scriptures.

Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Lastly, we see that before his death Jesus gives the Blessed Mother to St. John. The famous words of Jesus while suffering on the Cross-to Mary and John establish for all of humanity the relationship that we would have with Her for all time. At the point when Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son…Behold, your mother”, symbolically through the disciple John, Mary becomes the Spiritual Mother for all humanity. She is the spiritual gift personally given by Jesus Christ himself to every human person – believer or non-believer. The “beloved disciple” from that moment on takes Mary into his home and treats her as his own mother.

We too must invite Mary into our “homes” and allow her to be our mother. The devotion the Catholic Church has to the Blessed Virgin Mary developed from the households of Saint John.

The display or “title” over the head of Jesus proclaims that he is the Universal King and Christ. Written in multiple languages (Latin, Hebrew, and Greek), it signifies that the universal world that made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem could read it. It affirms that words of Jesus to Pontius Pilate from John 18:37 – “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”

Although Mary does not endure a physical suffering in the way our Lord does, she does suffer spiritually with him as he makes his way to the Cross. She is the Sorrowful Mother walking and standing with her Son. Pope St. John Paul II says in Salvifici Doloris,

“…It was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming of her Son. And the words which she heard from His lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers.”

For more on the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross, please read the following blog posts –

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

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

“Mondays with Mary” – 7 Quotes by Pope St. John Paul II on Our Lady of Sorrows

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Leads Us To Jesus’ (Pope Benedict XVI Homily at Altötting)

Sources:

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Ignatius Press, 2010.

The Navarre Bible – The New Testament Expanded Edition. Four Courts/Scepter, 2008.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Encounter of Jesus with His Blessed Mother as He Carries the Cross

Continuing with our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are meditated in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa, today we discuss The Encounter of Jesus with His Blessed Mother as He Carries the Cross.

Even though this is not specifically revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures, however, through the Tradition of the Church and private revelations, we have an understanding that this event did occur on the way to Calvary. In the devotional known as the Stations of the Cross, this is the fourth station – Jesus Meets His Blessed Mother. The Stations of the Cross are the fourteen stations that Catholics can pray throughout the year, especially during the Season of Lent, which focuses on Christ’s Way of the Cross. Although prayers for each station differ from different Stations of the Cross devotionals as a collective whole, the prayer that I have for the fourth station is the following –

How painful was Thine encounter with Thy Blessed Mother in this way of bitter sorrow! Thy gaze was like another sword that pierced Mary’s heart. My Lord, grant me the grace to obtain true devotion to the Mater Dolorosa!

Although we can never completely replicate the terrible images that Mary witnessed as she watched her Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ be led to die, we do have a faint understanding. Our Lord was Jesus Christ was beaten to a pulp – blood pouring forth from all parts of his body, a crown of thorns hammered into his skull, his back and chest shredded from the flogging at the pillar, and on top of this, he was forced to carry a cross that would push him to the brink of death, even before he arrived at Calvary.

Jesus Carrying His Cross - Raphael, 1516.

Jesus Carrying His Cross – Raphael, 1516.

All the events leading up to the Death of Jesus on the Cross bring great sorrow to the Blessed Mother, but it was this encounter that made Mary’s heart suffer the most. In the private revelations made to St. Bridget of Sweden from Mary herself, she said that she knew where Christ had carried the cross since “by the footsteps of my Son, I knew where he had passed, for along the ground was marked with blood.”

In his Meditations on the Stations of the Cross from Good Friday 2003, Pope St. John Paul II said,

“The Mother. Mary meets her Son along the way of the Cross. His Cross becomes her Cross, his humiliation is her humiliation, the public scorn is on her shoulders. This is the way things are. So it must seem to the people around her, and this is how her own heart reacts: “And a sword will pierce through your soul also” (Lk 2:35). The words spoken when Jesus was forty days old are now fulfilled. They are now completely fulfilled. And so, pierced by that invisible sword, Mary sets out towards her Son’s Calvary, her own Calvary. Christian devotion represents her with this sword penetrating her heart, in paintings and sculpture. Mother of sorrows!”

To conclude, if you like, watch the video clip below from Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ. It is in this film that we see visually what theologians and saints have explained to us in the encounter between Jesus and Mary on His way to Golgotha. This scene was also taken from book – The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, visions made known to Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19th century German mystic and nun. Along with the Sacred Scriptures, it was with this text that Mel Gibson developed his 2004 Drama on the Passion, Death, and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Sources:

Our Catholic Prayers Website – http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/the-fourth-sorrow.html Excessed site on August 9, 2015.

Prayers. Miles Christi Religious Order. 2013.

7 Quotes from St. John Vianney on the Sanctification of Daily Life

From time to time, I enjoy reading through the thoughts of St. John Vianney because they bring comfort and consolation when I am enduring daily trials. Although I firmly believe in Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church, it doesn’t go without saying that daily life is a grind…it’s hard. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say that life is a bed of roses, actually, he tells us to pick up our cross and follow him. Even in the Resurrection; the Cross is present.

So knowing that daily life is toil, what must we do to successfully make it through each day? In the life of the saints, particularly St. John Vianney, believed that if we sanctified our days, in other words, we made our days holy through prayer and sacrifice, we could endure the daily struggles of life and grow in holiness.

With today being the feast day of St. John Vianney, here are 7 Quotes on the Sanctification of Daily Life from him. I would encourage you to read through these, truly take them to heart and always remember that Jesus Christ is in control, no matter how difficult life may seem.

St. John Vianney 3

1. “In your work, offer your difficulties and troubles quite simply to God…and you will find that His blessing will rest upon you and on all you do.”

2. “Receive, O my God, all my thoughts and all I am going to do today, in union with all You bore out of love for me during Your life on earth.”

3. “When we do something we dislike, let us say to God: ‘My God, I offer you this in honor of the moment when you died for me.’”

4. “OH! How easily we could win Heaven day by day just by doing what we have to do – but by doing it for God!…”

5. “Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the Angels, and the Saints – they are your public.”

6. “When we cannot come to church, let us turn towards the Tabernacle and make a spiritual Communion. A wall cannot separate us from God.”

7. “Those who go often to Mass during the week, do their work very much better than those who, for want of faith, think they have no time for it.”

Let us pray: O, St. John Vianney, you endured daily struggles as the Priest of Ars, but through daily prayer and sanctification brought many souls to Jesus Christ. Intercede for us daily and assist us in sanctifying our day, so that we, through your guidance may bring those we encounter on a daily basis closer to Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. Amen.