12 Quotes from Blessed Pope John Paul II on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World

If you have not heard, Pope Francis has called for an Extraordinary Synod on the Family. It will take place October 5-19, 2014. The theme will be – “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” Since his election to the papacy, he has been saying lots of things, but his words on the family, particularly his words on husbands and wives as well those who are divorced and seeking annulments, have garnished some attention. I look forward to hearing about the Synod as it approaches over the next year.

Official JP 2 Papal PhotoAnother Pope who had a real passion for the family was Blessed Pope John Paul II. From September 26 to October 25, 1980, a Synod occurred with Bishops from around the world and Pope John Paul II. The purpose of the Synod was to explain how the importance of the family must help man find his vocation and to seek greater justice, by educating the individual in the virtues of justice and love. It was his second synod and one that he found highly important to call because of his love for the human person and the outright destruction of the Christian family. He witnessed this for many years in Poland under the Socialists, who ruled much of Eastern Europe with an atheistic iron fist.

I suggest you “Bookmark” this post and remember it when the Extraordinary Synod comes up a year from now and the document that will follow. I imagine there will be good continuity between Pope Francis and the future saint, Pope John Paul II.

Below are 12 quotes (I could have given you 50!) from the Apostolic Exhortation (a proclamation from the modern day Apostles) that followed the Synod, Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) –

1. “Willed by God in very action of creation, marriage and family are interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ and have need of His graces in order to be healed from the wounds of sin and restored to their “beginning,” that is, to full understanding and the full realization of God’s plan” (#3).

2. “The education of the moral conscience, which makes every human being capable of judging and of discerning the proper ways to achieve self-realization according to his or her original truth, thus becomes a pressing requirement that cannot be renounced” (#8).

3. “Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers” (#13).

4. “The family, which is founded and given life by love, in a community of persons: of husband and wife, of parents and children, of relatives…with love the family is not a community of persons and, in the same way, without love the family cannot love, grow and perfect itself as a community of persons” (#18).

5. “While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family” (#23).

6. “The Church condemns as a grave offense against human dignity and justice all those activities of governments or other public authorities…in favor of contraception or, still worse, of sterilization and procured abortion, must be altogether condemned and forcefully rejected” (#30).

Holy_Family_icon1

7. “Thus the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith…the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates…the future of evangelization depends in great part on the Church of the home” (#51-52).

8. “Christian marriage, like the other sacraments, “whose purpose is to sanctify people, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God,” is in itself a liturgical action glorifying God in Jesus Christ and in the Church” (#56).

9. “Family prayer has its own characteristic qualities. It is prayer offered in common, husband and wife together, parents and children together…by reason of their dignity and mission, Christian parents have the specific responsibility of educating their children in prayer, introducing them to gradual discovery of the mystery of God and to personal dialogue with Him…”(#59-60).

10. “The Church must therefore promote better and more intensive programs of marriage preparation, in order to eliminate as far as possible the difficulties that many married couples find themselves in, and even more in order to favor positively the establishing and maturing of successful marriages” (#66).

11. “The person principally responsible in the diocese for the pastoral care of the family is the Bishop. As father and pastor, he must exercise particular solicitude in this clearly priority sector of pastoral care” (#73).

12. “I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth…it is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families…St. Joseph was a “just man”…may he always guard, protect and enlighten families. May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of “the Church of the home”…May Christ the Lord, the Universal King, the King of Families, be present in every Christian home as He was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity, and strength” (#86).

For more on the family from Blessed Pope John Paul II, please see his 1994 (Year of the Family) Letter, Gratissimam Sane. Also read and share – Catholics Continue to Have Lowest Divorce Rates.

The Holy Family of Nazareth…Pray For Us!

“Mondays with Mary” – The Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

October is considered the Month of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that is why for the next three weeks; we will take up Mary’s Role in the New Testament. Mary’s role in the New Testament is deeply rooted in the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Let’s first begin today with the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.

ROSARY IS 'FAVORITE PRAYER' OF POPE JOHN PAUL IIFor many Catholics, who pray this Marian prayer worldwide every day, the Rosary is a daily prayer offered through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary that meditates upon the Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ. Blessed John Paul II says, “The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae On the Most Holy Rosary).

On October 7, 1571, the first Sunday of October, Don Juan of Austria won his famous naval battle over the Turks at Lepanto. When giving praise and thanksgiving, he attributed the victory because of the praying of the Holy Rosary and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because the Christians were victorious over the Turks through Our Lady’s intercession, St. Pope Pius V (1566-1572) established an annual feast on October 7 and titled it, Our Lady of Victory.

Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585), the immediate successor to St. Pope Pius V, enhanced the title to “of the Rosary.” He gave its Office to any church that there was an altar consecrated to Our Lady of the Rosary.

In the year 1716, the army of Emperor Charles VI, under the military leadership of Prince Eugene, had a tremendous victory near Belgrade over the Turks. This occurred on the Feast of Our Lady of Snows and while the Society of the Holy Rosary members were offering sacred prayers in the city of Rome. Some time after, in the city of Corcyra, the Turks were forced to surrender that city.

Mary and the Rosary

In light of these great victories, Pope Clement XI (1700-1721), gave the Universal Church the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. Before this time, it was only a regional feast in the Church. Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) entered the feast into the Roman Breviary. The feast was given a feast of second class under Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). Pope Leo also made an invocation addition to the Litany of Loreto. He implemented – Queen of the Most Holy Rosary…Pray for Us.

In the year 1961 and during the pontificate of Blessed John XXIII, the title of this feast became, Our Lady of the Rosary. The Rosary, which has played a major role in the Church for centuries, has its birth and infancy through the great saint and founder of the Dominicans, Saint Dominic de Guzman.St. Dominic

For a more information on the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, please see these five “Mondays with Mary” posts –

1. “Mondays with Mary” – The Holy Rosary

2. “Monday with Mary” – The Holy Rosary, Part Deux and St. Therese of the Child Jesus

3. “Mondays with Mary” – The Holy Rosary Through the Words of Blessed John Paul II

4. “Mondays with Mary” – The Saints and the Popes on the Holy Rosary

5. “Mondays with Mary” – 7 Benefits of Praying the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Our Lady of the Rosary…Pray for Us!

This post is dedicated to the repose of the soul of my grandmother (on my Mom’s side), Carmela Tino, who passed away 33 years ago on this day.

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Source:

Hoever, Rev. Hugo, S.O.Cist., Ph.D., Lives of the Saints, Catholic Book Publishing, New York, 1989.

Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict, Saint Bruno, and the Carthusians

Although today is the twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, in the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar, it’s the memorial for Saint Bruno, founder of one of the strictest orders in the Catholic Church, the Carthusians. To learn more about Saint Bruno and the Carthusians, please read the links provided.

Carthusian spirituality consists of the aim, which is Contemplation. The other elements consist of Separation From The World, Prayer, Liberty, Obedience, and Faith. A Work of God is the Carthusian Vocation. Carthusians also enjoy the Silence and Solitude.

The last two Popes, Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, had an interest for Saint Bruno and the Carthusian Order. Below are short excerpts from a letter written by Blessed John Paul II on the 900th anniversary of Saint Bruno’s death and a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI from October 2011 to the Carthusians.  You will notice there is some continuity in their remarks.

Letter from Blessed John Paul II –

“Bruno, when able to forget his own plans to answer the call from the Pope, shows his strong sense of the Church. He is conscious that to follow the path of holiness is unthinkable outside of obedience to the Church: and shows us in that way that real following of Christ demands putting oneself into His hands. In abandonment of self he shows us the supreme love. And this attitude of his kept him in a permanent state of joy and praise. His brothers noticed that, “his face was always radiating joy, his words modest. To a father’s vigor he joined the sensitivity of a mother” (Introduction to Bruno’s obituary scroll). These exquisite remarks from the obituary scroll show the fruitfulness of a life given to contemplate the face of Christ as the source of all apostolic fecundity and brotherly love. Would that Saint Bruno’s sons and daughters, as did their father, may always keep on contemplating Christ, that they ” keep watch in this way for the return of their Master ever ready to open when He knocks ” (Letter to Ralph § 4); this will he a stimulant call for all Christians to stay vigilant in prayer in order to welcome their Lord!…”

“…How could one doubt for a second that such expression of pure love gives Carthusian life an extraordinary fecundity, as it were, for the missions? In the retreat of their monasteries, in the solitude of their cells, the Carthusians spin Holy Church’s wedding garment (“beautiful as a bride decked out for her bridegroom “, 1 Rev. 21,3); every day they offer the world to God and invite all mankind to the wedding of the Lamb. The celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and the summit of life in the desert, modeling into the very being of Christ those who give themselves up to His love. Thus the presence and the activity of Christ in this world become visible, for the salvation of all men and the joy of the Church.”

“…So I invite the members of the Carthusian family to remain, by holiness and simplicity of life, like the city on the mountain or the lamp on the lamp stand (Cf. Matt. 5, 14-15). Rooted in the Word of God, quenching their thirst with the sacraments of Holy Church, upheld by the prayers of St Bruno and their brothers, let them remain for the entire Church and at the heart of the world ” a sort of place for hope and discovery of the Beatitudes, where Love leaning on prayer – source of communion – is called to become logic of life, and source of joy “! (Vita consecrata § 51) The cloistered life as an outward expression of the offering up of one’s whole life in union with Christ’s, shows the fleetingness of our existence and teaches us to count only on God. It increases the thirst for graces given in meditation of the Word of God. It also is ” the place for spiritual communion with God and our brothers and sisters, where the restricted character both of space and of contacts favors an interiorization of Gospel values ” (Ibid. § 59).”

Girolamo_Marchesi_-_Saint_Bruno_-_Walters_37423

Homily of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI –

“…Dear brothers you have found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value (cf. Mt 13:44-46); you have responded radically to Jesus’ invitation: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). Every monastery — male or female — is an oasis in which the deep well, from which to draw “living water” to quench our deepest thirst, is constantly being dug with prayer and meditation. However, the charterhouse is a special oasis in which silence and solitude are preserved with special care, in accordance with the form of life founded by St Bruno and which has remained unchanged down the centuries. “I live in a rather faraway hermitage… with some religious brothers”, is the concise sentence that your Founder wrote (Letter to Rudolph “the Green”, n. 4)…”

“…The monk, in leaving all, “takes a risk,” as it were: he exposes himself to solitude and silence in order to live on nothing but the essential, and precisely in living the essential he also finds a deep communion with his brethren, with every human being…In the world’s eyes it sometimes seems impossible to spend one’s whole life in a monastery but in fact a whole life barely suffices to enter into this union with God, into this essential and profound Reality which is Jesus Christ.”

“I have come here for this reason…To tell you that the Church needs you and that you need the Church. Your place is not on the fringes: no vocation in the People of God is on the fringes…You too, who live in voluntary isolation, are in the heart of the Church and make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through your veins…”

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – “Doctor of Merciful Love”

Today we celebrate the memorial of one of the most prolific Doctors of the Church in the modern era, not because of the large quantities of her writing, but the impact and simple quality of her writing and how it reaches into the depths of our souls when we read it. Although she is known as the “Little Flower” or “Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus”, she is often referred to as the “Doctor of Merciful Love” for her magnificent writings on the mercy and love of God. Read the complementary post, Offering to Merciful Love, to attain a sense of the beauty this little saint has given us.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the most famous saints in the Catholic Church over the last 115 years. Countless miracles have been attributed to her and the scent of roses usually follows. Millions of people love her and have a strong devotion to this “Little Flower” from Lisieux. Personally, she is in the top three saints I would love to meet when I enter heaven (St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed John Paul II would be the other two).

Saint Therese as a childThérèse was born on January 2, 1873 to Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin. She was baptized Marie-Francois-Thérèse. She was the youngest of five children who survived to maturity. She had a very joyful and ordinary childhood. Her mind was very open and filled quickly with intelligence. In 1877, Zélie Martin died of breast cancer, leaving Louis to raise five girls on his own. He sold his business in Alencon and moved to Lisieux, where the children were under the care of their aunt. Thérèse was very special to her father and he cared for her deeply.

When Thérèse was nine years old, her sister, Pauline, entered the Carmel at Lisieux. She had a strong attraction to the life of a Carmelite as well. Five years later, Mary followed Pauline into Carmel. Watching her sisters enter religious life was both a joy and a struggle for Thérèse, because she wanted to join so badly. The Christmas before her eventual entrance to Carmel is referred by Thérèse as “my conversion.” That night she had an experience with the child Jesus. She says,

“On that blessed night the sweet infant Jesus, scarcely an hour old, filled the darkness of my soul with floods of light. By becoming weak and little, for love of me, He made me strong and brave: He put His own weapons into my hands so that I went on from strength to strength, beginning, if I may say so, ‘to run as a giant.’”

After asking her father permission to join, in which he gave his full approval, Thérèse tried to enter Carmel. However, due to her young age, the Carmelite authorities, supported by the bishop of Bayeux refused her entrance.

Some months later while on pilgrimage with her father in Rome for the sacerdotal jubilee of Pope Leo XIII, Thérèse, who was told not to say anything directly to the Holy Father as he blessed her, boldly and courageously, asked the Pope, “In honor of your jubilee, allow me to enter Carmel at fifteen.” Pope Leo was astonished at the young girls request and found it to be impressive, but said to her, “If the good God wills, you will enter.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

On April 9, 1888, Thérèse was given approval to enter Carmel. Three of the five Martin sisters were now Carmelites. In 1889, the sisters suffered a great loss when the mind of Louis Martin suffered two strokes and was taken to an asylum where he would live for three years, cared for by Celine, another of the sisters. Reflecting on her fathers’ suffering, Saint Thérèse said, “the three years of my father’s martyrdom seem to me the dearest and most fruitful of our life. I would not exchange them for the most sublime ecstasies.”

One year later, on September 8, 1890, Thérèse professed her final vows. She was in poor health, but remained strong and steady. On her final profession day, she said she felt like a queen and “I took advantage of my title to gain all the favors I could from the King for His ungrateful subjects. I did not forget anyone. I wanted all the sinners of the world to be converted that day, and purgatory emptied of every single captive.”

She lived the life of a cloistered Carmelite well, often praying for priests, which is a primary duty of Carmelites. However, she did struggle in prayer and often fell asleep while praying. She felt at times great distress and dryness of prayer. She carried most of the austere Carmelite rules out efficiently, but because of her poor health, was not permitted to fast, since it could take a toll on her overall condition.

In 1893, she was appointed as assistant novice mistress and actually did the work of mistress, but never had the official title. One year later, Louis Martin died after years of suffering mentally and physically from his strokes. Celine, the sister taking care of him, entered Carmel to join her three sisters.

The Carmelites from Hanoi in Indo-China requested her to join them, but she had to decline because of her poor physical condition. During the last eighteen months of her life, she endured great physical suffering and spiritual trials. She entered the infirmary in June 1897 and was unable to receive Holy Communion because she was frequently sick.

On September 30, 1897, with the words of divine love on her lips, Saint Thérèse entered Heavenly glory. In 1923, Pope Pius XI beatified her and two years later, he canonized her a saint. In 1927, she was declared the heavenly patroness of the foreign missions, never leaving the grounds of Carmel.

St. Therese Holy Card

On October 19, 1997, the soon to be saint himself, Blessed John Paul II, declared Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church. During his homily, the Holy Father said,

“Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is the youngest of all the “doctors of the Church”, but her ardent spiritual journey shows such maturity, and the insights of faith expressed in her writings are so vast and profound that they deserve a place among the great spiritual masters…[she] did not only grasp and describe the profound truth of Love as the centre and heart of the Church, but in her short life she lived it intensely. It is precisely this convergence of doctrine and concrete experience, of truth and life, of teaching and practice, which shines with particular brightness in this saint, and which makes her an attractive model especially for young people and for those who are seeking true meaning for their life…. In a time like ours, so frequently marked by an ephemeral and hedonistic culture, this new doctor of the Church proves to be remarkably effective in enlightening the mind and heart of those who hunger and thirst for truth and love.”

Sources:

Gorres, Ida Friederike, The Hidden Face: A Study of St.Thérèse of Lisieux. Ignatius Press, 2003. 

Walsh, Michael, Butler’s Lives of the Saints. HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Vatican Website, http://vatican.va, Homily by Blessed John Paul II on Proclamation of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and The Holy Face as  “Doctor of the Church”

Mercy, Compassion, Love, and the Poor: The Holy Father Speaks

One week ago today, the now famous interview with Pope Francis was released across the globe via the Jesuit Order. Here in the United States, we received the interview from the Jesuit publication, America – The National Catholic Review.  If you haven’t read the interview, I would encourage you to read it, but read the actual interview itself, not some hijacked cherry-picked version that the mainstream media produced to make Francis sound like something he is not.

Honestly, I enjoyed the interview. I know many of my Catholic friends had their own opinions on it, but today’s post is not a rehashing of what was said and not said by Francis in the interview, that’s been done enough.

If Pope Francis is not challenging you or you have not felt uncomfortable with some of his words, you obviously aren’t listening. He has challenged me in ways I never thought, and yes, it’s totally uncomfortable! He is awakening many Catholics who are settled in their “comfort zones.”

Being that I blog and read other bloggers as well, it’s funny to read what’s being said about the new Holy Father. Others have said, He is too “progressive”, but he is still “conservative.” He seems “orthodox” but it’s a disguise to be “liberal.” He is going to “destroy the Extraordinary Form of the Mass!” He is breaking from the “continuity” of his predecessors.

Blah, blah, blah! He is neither liberal or conservative, he is Catholic! Just like his predecessors before him, Francis is a Catholic Pope. He cannot, and should not, be pigeon-holed.

Personally, I have enjoyed many of his words on mercy, compassion, love, and the poor. Do you think he is much different than his predecessors? Let’s look at some of the words of the Holy Father -

1. “Mercy that is truly Christian is also, in a certain sense, the most perfect incarnation of “equality” between people, and therefore also the most perfect incarnation of justice as well, insofar as justice aims at the same result in its own sphere.”

2. “Society can become more human only if we introduce into the many-sided setting of interpersonal and social relationships, not merely justice, but also that “merciful love” which constitutes the messianic message of the Gospel.”

3. “There is a need to intensify and broaden what is already being done in his area, with the goal of reaching as many of the poor as possible. Sacred Scripture reminds us that God hears the cry of the poor (cf. Ps 34:7) and the Church must heed the cry of those most in need. Hearing their voice, “she must live with the poor and share their distress. By her lifestyle, her priorities, her words and her actions, she must testify that she is in communion and solidarity with them.”

4. “…A woman represents a particular value by the fact that she is a human person, and, at the same time, this particular person, by the fact of her femininity. This concerns each and every woman, independently of the cultural context in which she lives, and independently of her spiritual, psychological and physical characteristics, as for example, age, education, health, work, and whether she is married or single.”

5. “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”

6. “The poor are not to be considered a “burden”, but a resource, even from the purely economic point of view. It is nevertheless erroneous to hold that the market economy has an inbuilt need for a quota of poverty and underdevelopment in order to function at its best.”

7. “Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message. In our time humanity needs a strong proclamation and witness of God’s mercy . . . Go forth and be witnesses of God’s mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world.”

8. “The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility.”

If you think Pope Francis is saying new things never said before by his predecessors, well then I suggest you read Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI quite a bit more.

Do you know why?

The first four quotes above are from Blessed John Paul II and second four quotes above are from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis might be putting a new emphasis on being a Church of mercy, love, compassion, and the poor, but he is in complete “continuity” with the two Popes before him.

“Mondays with Mary” – Blessed John Paul II on the Suffering of Mary

Although yesterday was the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, it was also the memorial for Our Lady of Sorrows. This memorial focuses on the seven great sorrows in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 1) The Prophecy of Simeon, 2) Flight into Egypt, 3) Losing Jesus for Three Days, 4) Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary, 5) Mary standing at the Foot of the Cross, 6) Jesus Taken from the Cross, and 7) the Burial of Jesus.

Our Lady of Sorrows

For many of us, human suffering is difficult to understand. It could be suffering from losing a job, losing a family member, enduring great amounts of stress, or suffering from a physical ailment for many years. Although many people react differently to suffering, most people object to it and ask “why” is this happening to me. As Christians, we must remember that our Lord talked about taking up our crosses and following him. Carrying a cross is not easy. It takes work and is a great challenge for many of us. Often, we have many crosses at one time we must endure.

There are two means to endure such suffering; the first way is to pray, and to pray often. Conversation with God can yield answers. The second is to look at our Blessed Mother who suffered greatly through her life beginning with the Prophecy of Simeon in Luke 1:34-35, which states,

“Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also) that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

To give us in depth look on how to follow the Blessed Virgin Mary’s lead, I turn towards our future saint, Blessed John Paul II, from his Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering). In the later years of his life, Blessed John Paul II showed us himself how we were to suffer. Hang on to your souls; his words are poignant.

JP II and papal cross

“It is especially consoling to note –and also accurate in accordance with the Gospel and history – that at the side of Christ, in the first and most exalted place, there is always His Mother through the exemplary testimony that she bears by her whole life to this particular Gospel of suffering. In her, the many intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected that they were not only a proof of her unshakeable faith but also a contribution to the Redemption of all. In reality, from the time of her secret conversation with the angel, she began to see in her mission as a mother her “destiny” to share, in a singular and unrepeatable way, in the very mission of her Son.”

“…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.”

“As a witness to her Son’s passion by her presence, and as sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of suffering…She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she “completes in her flesh” – as already in her heart – “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

“In light of the unmatchable example of Christ, reflected with singular clarity in the life of His Mother, the Gospel of suffering, through the experience and words of the Apostles, becomes an inexhaustible sources for the ever new generations that succeed one another in the history of the Church. The Gospel of suffering signifies not only the presence of suffering in the Gospel, as one of the themes of the Good News, but also the revelation of the salvific power and salvific significance of suffering in Christ’s messianic mission and, subsequently, in the mission and vocation of the Church.”

“…The Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of His holy Mother, the first and most exalted of all the redeemed. As though by a continuation of that motherhood which by the power of the Holy Spirit had given Him life, the dying Christ conferred upon the ever Virgin Mary a new kind of motherhood – spiritual and universal – towards all human beings, so that every individual, during the pilgrimage of faith, might remain, together with her, closely united to Him unto the cross, and so that every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God.”

Wow! I told you the words of Blessed John Paul II would grab your souls. I can honestly say that I have more hope and joy in my own sufferings after writing those words out for you than when I began this post.

A few reflections for this week:

1. Pray that you come to understand why Jesus gives you the sufferings and crosses you have in your lives. Ask Him to help you know how the sufferings will save you.

2. How can the Church help you to endure your sufferings and lead you closer to Christ and His Holy Mother? Know that you are not alone in your sufferings and generations of Christians before you endured the same.

3. Take your sufferings and crosses and present them to the Blessed Mother and pray for her intercession as your spiritual mother.

“Mondays with Mary” – Marian Consecration: Knowing Jesus through Mary

In his book, True Devotion to Mary, Saint Louis De Montfort states,

“True devotion to Our Lady is interior; that is, it comes from the mind and heart. It flows from the esteem we have for her, the high idea we have formed of her greatness, and the love which we have for her…this devotion consists then in giving ourselves entirely to the Blessed Virgin, in order to belong entirely to Jesus through her.”

true-devotion-to-mary

Consecration to Jesus through Mary has been a long-standing and fertile tradition in the Catholic Church dating back to the early centuries of Christianity. The Early Church Fathers, such as St. John Damascene and St. Ildefonsus of Toledo, used the term, servus Mariae – servant or slave to the Mother of God. Now this understanding of slave is not the contemporary understanding as being degrading to the human person, but has its roots in the Sacred Scriptures. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans states that he is a “slave of Jesus Christ” which means that he is a completely focused and dependent on Jesus Christ. The term “Slave of Mary” simply means the same thing.

By the ninth century in Ireland, the terms “slave” or “servant” of Mary became common practice among the faithful. In the thirteenth century, the devotion received Church approval through the religious order known as the “Servites of Mary.” Throughout the centuries, a few Popes, such as Pope John VII, Pope Nicholas IV, and Pope Paul V, declared themselves as the “slave of the Mother of God.” The great Troubadour of Mary, St. Bernard of Clairvaux said he was a slave of the Mother of God and added these words, “Whatever you are about to offer, remember to commend it to Mary, so that through the same channel whence grace flowed, it may return to the giver of grace.”

Consecration to Our Lady under a variety of disciplines had spread throughout all of Catholic Europe by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Many Christians devoted themselves to Mary in the early years of these forms so that they would increase their relationship with Jesus Christ through his Mother.

So, what is Marian Consecration?

In his book, 33 Days to Morning Glory (I will talk about this book shortly), Reverend Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, states, [Marian Consecration] is…

“A new way of life in Christ. The act of consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary marks the beginning of a gloriously new day, a new dawn, a brand new morning in one’s spiritual journey. It’s a fresh start, and it changes everything.”

Furthermore, Mark Miravalle states in Introduction to Mary,

“Consecration to Jesus through Mary is to give oneself entirely to Mary in a self-donation of love that enables the Mediatrix of all graces to use her full intercessory power to keep a person faithful to his or her baptismal promises to Jesus Christ.”

Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All GracesTheologically, the roots of Consecration to Jesus through Mary are found in the Marian doctrines of Spiritual Maternity and Mediatrix of All Graces. After her Assumption, the Blessed Mother now serves as our Spiritual Mother in Heaven bringing our petitions to her Son and our King, Jesus Christ. When an individual consecrates oneself to Mary, the doors of the heart open to the great graces that flow from Our Lord Jesus Christ that is given to His Mother, our Advocating Queen. Once our heart is completely turned over to Mary, she can then intercede for us with greater magnitude for our prayers and keep us away from the attacks of Satan.

For more on Mary’s intercessory role and Mediatrix of All Graces, I would encourage you to read my blog post – The Queenship of Mary: Advocate, Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix.

The two most famous Marian Consecrations come from two great saints, St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximilian Kolbe. Both saints had great devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout their entire lives and created their own consecrations.

St. Louis de Montfort’s, True Devotion to Mary, focuses on the Christians consecration to the Immaculate Mother in order for the individual to find a deeper union with Jesus Christ while focusing on their baptismal promises. St. Maximilian Kolbe’s, “Consecration to the Immaculata”, focuses on Mary’s statement at Lourdes where she said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Both of these great saints help us grow in our relationship with Mary, so that our relationship with Jesus Christ will be ever stronger and renewed in Him.

33 Days to Morning GloryAlthough these are two fantastic consecrations, the consecration that is sweeping through the Catholic Church in the United States, and possibly other regions around the world is the do-it-yourself retreat in preparation for Marian Consecration known as the 33 Days to Morning Glory. In the past six months, I have traveled throughout different parts of the USA and have found that this personal retreat and consecration is on the lips of most faithful Catholics I meet.

33 Days to Morning Glory is a four-week retreat that focuses on four Marian giants who lived out their consecration to Jesus through Mary each day of their lives. Like Mary, this retreat will help us to ponder the words in our hearts. Although there are five days of review at the end, the retreat is structured like so: Week 1 – St. Louis de Montfort; Week 2 – St. Maximilian Kolbe; Week 3 – Blessed Mother Teresa; and Week 4 – Blessed John Paul II.

If you have not heard of this personal 33-day retreat until now, I would encourage you to stop by your local Catholic gift shop or purchase it online. There are seventeen different times you can begin this consecration throughout the calendar year. Don’t wait for the “perfect” consecration date, as I have (starting it in two days now), to begin such an important aspect of our relationship with Jesus Christ through Mary.

I leave you with the words of my hero and soon to be canonized saint of the Catholic Church. When speaking of de Montfort’s True Devotion, Blessed John Paul II, pope-john-paul-II

“The reading of this book was a decisive turning point in my life. I say “turning point,” but in fact it was a long journey…this “perfect devotion” is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of Redemption.”

Mary, Our Spiritual Mother and Mediatrix of All Graces…Pray For Us!

Blessed John Paul II on the Queenship of Mary

Beatification Pic of JP IIEveryone that has ever really taken the time to listen or read Blessed John Paul II will know that his love for the Blessed Mother began in his youth, after the passing of his own mother. He put his trust in her as Advocate and never looked back. Blessed John Paul II is on the cusp of being canonized a saint. This time next year he should be St. Pope John Paul II. II. Here is our future saint speaking about the Queenship of Mary from 1997 –

“Popular devotion invokes Mary as Queen. The Council, after recalling the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in “‘body and soul into heavenly glory’”, explains that she was “exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rv 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death” (Lumen Gentium, n. 59).

In fact, starting from the fifth century, almost in the same period in which the Council of Ephesus proclaims her “Mother of God”, the title of Queen begins to be attributed to her. With this further recognition of her sublime dignity, the Christian people want to place her above all creatures, exalting her role and importance in the life of every person and of the whole world.

But already a fragment of a homily, attributed to Origen, contains this comment on the words Elizabeth spoke at the Visitation “It is I who should have come to visit you, because you are blessed above all women, you are the Mother of my Lord, you are my Lady” (Fragment, PG 13, 1902 D). The text passes spontaneously from the expression “the Mother of my Lord” to the title, “my Lady”, anticipating what St John Damascene was later to say, attributing to Mary the title of “Sovereign”: “When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became queen of all creatures” (De fide orthodoxa, 4, 14, PG 94, 1157)…In looking at the analogy between Christ’s Ascension and Mary’s Assumption, we can conclude that Mary, in dependence on Christ, is the Queen who possesses and exercises over the universe a sovereignty granted to her by her Son.

The title of Queen does not of course replace that of Mother: her queenship remains a corollary of her particular maternal mission and simply expresses the power conferred on her to carry out that mission.

Queen Mother

Citing Pius IX’s Bull Ineffabilis Deus, the Supreme Pontiff highlights this maternal dimension of the Blessed Virgin’s queenship: “Having a motherly affection for us and being concerned for our salvation, she extends her care to the whole human race. Appointed by the Lord as Queen of heaven and earth, raised above all the choirs of angels and the whole celestial hierarchy of saints, sitting at the right hand of her only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, she obtains with great certainty what she asks with her motherly prayers; she obtains what she seeks and it cannot be denied her” (cf. AAS 46 [1954] 636-637).

Therefore Christians look with trust to Mary Queen and this not only does not diminish but indeed exalts their filial abandonment to her, who is mother in the order of grace.

Indeed, the concern Mary Queen has for mankind can be fully effective precisely by virtue of her glorious state which derives from the Assumption. St Germanus I of Constantinople, highlights this very well. He holds that this state guarantees Mary’s intimate relationship with her Son and enables her to intercede in our favour. Addressing Mary he says: Christ wanted “to have, so to speak, the closeness of your lips and your heart; thus he assents to all the desires you express to him, when you suffer for your children, with his divine power he does all that you ask of him” (Hom. 1 PG 98, 348).

One can conclude that the Assumption favours Mary’s full communion not only with Christ, but with each one of us: she is beside us, because her glorious state enables her to follow us in our daily earthly journey. As we read again in St Germanus: “You dwell spiritually with us and the greatness of your vigilance over us makes your communion of life with us stand out” (Hom. 1, PG 98, 344).

Thus far from creating distance between her and us, Mary’s glorious state brings about a continuous and caring closeness. She knows everything that happens in our life and supports us with maternal love in life’s trials.

Taken up into heavenly glory, Mary dedicates herself totally to the work of salvation in order to communicate to every living person the happiness granted to her. She is a Queen who gives all that she possesses, participating above all in the life and love of Christ.”

“Mondays with Mary” – 7 Benefits of Praying the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary

From the beginning of his Papacy, Pope Francis, has been giving us a continual catechesis on the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the first day as the Bishop of Rome, he went to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major and offered flowers to the Blessed Mother. Since that first trip, he has been back twice now. Just like his predecessors, he has a deep love for the Blessed Mother and continues to direct us on how we are to love her more.

This past Thursday for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass outside the Papal Residence at Castel Gandolfo. Focusing his attention on more catechesis of the Blessed Mother, he encouraged us to pray the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary everyday.  He said, “Mary joins us, she fights at our side. She supports Christians in the fight against the forces of evil. Especially through prayer, through the rosary.” Many of the great Popes and Saints of the Church over the centuries had a devotion to the Rosary.

Saint Louis De Monfort said there were 7 benefits of praying and meditating on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary - 

  1. The Holy Rosary gradually gives us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ.
  2. The Holy Rosary purifies our souls, washing away sin.
  3. The Holy Rosary gives us victory over all our enemies (St. Pio of Pietrelcina – the Rosary is the greatest weapon against the devil).
  4. The Holy Rosary makes it easier to practice virtue.
  5. The Holy Rosary sets us on fire with love of Our Blessed Lord.
  6. The Holy Rosary enriches us with graces and merits.
  7. The Holy Rosary supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellow man, and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces for us from Almighty God.

This Thursday we will celebrate the Queenship of Mary. As Queen, one of her duties is to intercede for us. She is our Advocate. On this role of Mary in relation to the Rosary, Blessed John Paul II said, “When in the Rosary we plead with Mary, the sanctuary of the Holy (cf. Lk 1:35), she intercedes for us before the Father, who filled her grace, and before the Son born of her womb, praying with us and for us” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae).

During this week, I would encourage you to pray the Rosary and form a habit of praying it everyday. If you can’t pray all five mysteries at one time, it’s okay to break it up during the day. Make the effort to pray the greatest Marian Prayer and hear the call from our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Our Lady of the Rosary…Pray For Us!

Breathing with the Two Lungs of the Church for the Assumption of Mary

My fascination with Eastern Catholicism began on Pentecost Sunday 2009 when I first attended Our Lady’s Maronite Catholic Church in Austin, Texas with the Weis Family. At the time, I was teaching high school theology at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School and had three of the Weis girls in one of my classes. They knew I was interested in attending a Divine Liturgy. Along with their parents and younger brother, they invited me to attend. The Weis Family became good friends and occasionally invited me over for dinner to eat Middle Eastern food.

At first, I was like a deer in the headlights! The Divine Liturgy of the East is very different than what Roman Catholics experience each week at Holy Mass. After Pentecost Sunday, I found myself attending the Maronite Church once a month or so. The more I went, the more I loved it! Since moving back to Phoenix, I have attended St. Joseph’s Maronite Catholic Church, St. Stephen’s Byzantine Cathedral, and the Melkite Church, St. John of the Desert.

At this point, you might be asking yourself the question – Why is a Roman Catholic attending Eastern Catholic Churches?

JP 2 with Orthodox clergySimply because Blessed John Paul II called Roman Catholics to learn more about the Eastern Catholic Churches and to attend them as well. He wants us to learn about the rich heritage, traditions, and mysticism that occur in the Eastern Rites and the Divine Liturgy. In his Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen (The Light of the East), Blessed John Paul II says,

“…I listen to the Churches of the East, which I know are living interpreters of the treasure of tradition they preserve. In contemplating it, before my eyes appear elements of great significance for fuller and more thorough understanding of the Christian experience…the Christian East has a unique and privileged role as the original setting where the Church was born…Tradition is the heritage of Christ’s Church…Tradition is never pure nostalgia for things or forms past, nor regret for lost privileges, but the living memory of the Bride, kept eternally youthful by the Love that dwells within her.”

If those words aren’t enough for you, let’s continue on with our catechesis from the future saint. Even though these next words were particularly stressed for the reconciliation of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, they can still be applied here since Eastern Catholicism associated itself with the Orthodox for many years after the Great Schism of 1054. In his Encyclical, Ut Unum Sint (On Commitment to Ecumenism), Blessed John Paul II says,

“In this perspective an expression which I have frequently employed finds its deepest meaning: the Church must breathe with her two lungs! In the first millennium of the history of Christianity, this expression refers primarily to the relationship between Byzantium and Rome…the vision of the full communion to be sought is that of unity in legitimate diversity.”

Still remaining unique in their respective traditions and rites, the Church must breathe with her two lungs! As a Roman Catholic, I have taken this call from John Paul II upon myself and attend the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church while still attending the Roman Rite.

While attending the Melkite Church a few weeks back, I decided to attend the upcoming Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in both the East and West.  It was the perfect opportunity to literally breathe with the two lungs of the Church.

On Wednesday night, August 14, I attended the Divine Liturgy at St. Stephen’s Byzantine Cathedral. The words sacred, beautiful, and mystical don’t give the actual liturgy the justice it deserves. Before the Divine Liturgy began, we prayed Vespers, prayers from the Psalms that speak of God’s great glory. I am still learning the parts of the liturgy so my assessment and reflection is not yet complete.

Icon Screen in St. Stephen's Byzantine Cathedral

Icon Screen in St. Stephen’s Byzantine Cathedral

The entire liturgy, like always, was chanted. You chant the whole liturgy…it’s amazing!! The Blessed Mother was mentioned at least 5-10 times. There were 5 Scriptural Readings – 3 from the Old Testament and 2 from the New Testament, including the Gospel. The hymns teach you the faith since they are rooted in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The homily was superb and focused on the scriptural readings and the explanation of the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

During the consecration, the priest’s were Ad Orientem – “facing eastward.” As the priest should, he is offering the sacrifice of the liturgy facing the crucifix and offering it to God. The incense was so great that I actually felt it enter my throat and descend into my lungs helping me to breathe better throughout the liturgy.

Last night, August 15, I attended Holy Mass at the Catholic Newman Center located on the campus of Arizona State University. As always, when Reverend Rob Clements celebrates the Mass, it’s going to be sacred and reverent. The sacred space is brand new and still does not have much catholic art or statues, but it’s a beautiful space nonetheless. Once complete, it will be one of the most beautiful places to pray in Phoenix.

What really helped me breathe last night was the music that accompanied Holy Mass. The organ is often the main instrument at the Masses I have attended in the past, but last night they had an all male choir singing in both English and Latin. The music along with the sacredness of the liturgy lifted me into Heaven. It was blessing to attend such a beautiful and reverent Latin Rite liturgy.

If you are a Roman Catholic and have never been to an Eastern Divine Liturgy, I have one word for you – GO!! You may be a deer in the headlights at first, but keep going to learn the importance of the East in relation to the West.

To conclude, I give you the Second Vatican Council Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, which states,

“The very rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches should be known, venerated, preserved and cherished by all. They must recognize that this is of supreme importance for the faithful preservation of the fullness of Christian tradition, and for bringing about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians.”

Coptic Orthodox Leader  Tawadros II and Pope Francis

Coptic Orthodox Leader Tawadros II and Pope Francis

Let us pray for the works of Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis; that through their Papacies the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches can reconcile their differences and be united as one yet again.  Amen.