Book Review – Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations

I was recently asked to review a new book written by the Catholic author, Heidi Hess Saxton, titled, Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations. A convert to Catholicism, she is a wife and mother, and also holds a Masters in Theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. She has written other books, notably, an Advent daily meditation book focusing on Saint Teresa of Calcutta. You can also read her blog – A Mother on the Road Less Traveled.

In a time when so much is being offered to help us engage in the Lenten Season, here is a simple little book that will engage you to fully understand the themes of Lent by reflecting on the writings and teachings of the great saint of Calcutta – Mother Teresa. It’s simple not because of it’s content, since some of it is rather deep and challenging, but it’s simple because of it’s pedagogy. The simple approach focuses on one main teaching, written by the author, and then you are given two short sections that will help you focus during the day – A Moment to Reflect and A Moment to Pray.

mother teresa

For many of us, we remember the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta, however, for most of us we remember what we read in newspapers or in magazines, but we really don’t know much about the inner toils and struggles of St. Teresa and what she endured to bring the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to poorest of the poor in Calcutta and throughout the world. I believe this well-written daily mediation will do just that – it will allow you to practice the Lenten themes by experiencing, as much as one can, the daily sufferings of the modern saint. She will bring us out of our comfort zones to a place where Our Lord most needs us today. The Introduction, which grabbed my attention from the start, alone will prepare you for what’s to come during the 40 days of Lent.

If you are late on deciding how to engage your prayer life during this penitential season, then this daily meditation book might just be your answer to an incredible and fruitful Lent focusing on the mercy of God through the words and life of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament: The “Virgin Earth” (Part 4)

Picking up from where I left off last week in regards to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Testament, here is the next installment of a series that I wrote some time ago focusing on this very theme. A few years ago I did the first three parts, along with the Mary as Ark of the Covenant and the Esheth Yahil (Woman of Valor) from Proverbs 31. I will now conclude this series with additional parts through the upcoming Mondays. This part of the series will have titles instead of “Mary in the Old Testament”, however the corresponding part will be in the title as to unite it to the first installment.

Symbols in the Old Testament that relate to Mary are rich in the mysteries of God. In the Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, Blessed Pius IX, defines the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He names a discreet number of Marian symbols; many that are expressly rich in regards to Mary’s Immaculate Conception. They are “Ark of Salvation,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” the “Burning Bush of Sinai,” the “Impregnable Tower,” the “Enclosed Garden,” the “City of God,” the Lily Among Thorns,” the “Incorruptible Wood”, and the “Strong Box of Immortality.”

When we contemplate on the biblical Marian symbols, we “possess a consistency of content and a characteristic incisiveness of expression which cannot but enlighten the mind, animate the sentiments and enrich the soul with a more concrete understanding of things in their multiple senses and significance: every symbol in reality is a word pregnant with understanding of and enthusiasm for the real.”

Sassoferrato - Virgin Mother

Sassoferrato – Virgin Mother

Biblical symbolism in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary helps us transcend the person and mission she holds in salvation history. It enlightens are hearts and gives us a sense of deep warmth. Over the centuries, Marian biblical symbolism has found its origins in the Early Church Fathers, in Tradition, through the liturgy and in sacred art.

Today, we are going to focus on the Marian Symbol – The “Virgin Earth.”

Next week, we will examine The “Paradise of God” and “Closed Door,” “Gate of God,” “Gate of Heaven”.

The biblical symbol “Virgin Earth” focuses on the virginal womb of Mary, which through the power of the Holy Spirit came forth Jesus Christ, the New Adam. In the teachings of the Early Church Fathers, this term, “Virgin Earth” corresponds to Mary who surpasses the first Eve, essentially because the first Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is through her Immaculate Conception and that she is “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), where this term of her is fully embraced. Her mission was to conceive in the womb of virginity Jesus Christ, the New Adam, who is the Word of God incarnate.

As the “Virgin Earth”, Mary is united of Christ and with Christ. According to St. Bonaventure, in union with Christ and his Incarnation, the greatest glory of God, she is “the absolute primacy of the New Adam and of the New Eve in relation to our first parents.” Where Adam came forth from the first Earth; now the New Adam came forth from the second Virgin Earth.

O Blessed Mother of God, Virgin Earth…Pray for Us.

Sacred Treasures of England

Two weeks ago, a new album was released by Sony Music Masterworks in association with AimHigher Records, the sister company of De Montfort Music, the name of the album – Sacred Treasures of England

The London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir was founded in 1996. Boys from the age of 7 are educated in the Junior House of the London Oratory School. They are given the chance to learn choral and instrumental training within a dynamic musical environment, which enlightens both the mind and the body. The Schola is one of the most prestigious boys choirs in the world. They are in high demand for concerts and soundtrack recordings, most notably, The Lord of the Rings films, directed by Peter Jackson.

Recorded in the oratory founded by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman in the spirit St. Philip Neri’s Oratory, Sacred Treasures of England features 14 tracks of English Tudor era music. The composers of these tracks include William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, and Christopher Tye. Charles Cole directs the Schola. The London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir is the first choir to partner and release an album internationally with AimHigher Recordings/Sony Classical. For more information on the London Oratory Schola, click on the highlighted link.

As some of you know, the more I have learned about Liturgy, the more I understand the importance of good and proper music in the Liturgy. I have written about Sacred Music on this blog numerous times. To read my other posts, click on this link here. I would highly encourage you to support music and albums such as these, for this has been the music of the Church for centuries.

You can purchase the album on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play Music.

Below is the Feature Video –

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Testament

It is in the Sacred Scriptures that we see the Blessed Virgin Mary come alive for us in salvation history. It is through the Old Testament writings that we see the birth of Mary into the world. The Blessed Virgin Mary, although a creature like the rest of us, finds her origins in the Heavens (her Immaculate Conception), as did the Incarnation of the Word, for as the Old Testament scriptures speak of her, they also reveal to us the universal Savior and Redeemer. This is so because God willed it to be so.

When we read the Old Testament scriptures, as they were by the Early Church Fathers through a “biblical-theological exegesis” scope, in light of Jesus Christ and the Church, we find in the roots of these scriptures, a very strong sense of the Blessed Virgin Mary, theologically speaking, we find Mariology.

The document, The Jewish People and its Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, produced by the Pontifical Biblical Commission firmly and distinctly says that the mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary is found –

“…in the texts of the Old Testament explicitly and clearly. The genuine content of every revealed datum ‘finds is realization in Jesus’ (21, 6)…It has indeed been remarked that in the final analysis ‘we Christians, to understand fully the Scripture, not grasping merely the necessarily reductive meaning understood by the Hebrews, but their entire historical-theological content, must always read them not as if still Hebrews under the Old Covenant, blind in relation to the New, but as ‘Christians’ enlightened by Christ. This is to say, we must read them ‘in the light of Christ and of the Church’ so as to grasp the entire content, ‘hidden,’ but historic and real, of Divine Revelation contained in them and made manifest to us.”

Mary as New Ark of the Covenant - Icon

Examining the Old Testament scriptures as a whole in light of the Mariological biblical texts, we unearth many prophecies, Old Testament figures, as well as symbols, that all correspond to the Blessed Virgin Mary as “types” that are then fulfilled, or brought to completion, by her in the New Testament. We see the same “types” as well, even more so with Jesus Christ. Her presence in the Old Testament scriptures illuminates them in a way for us as Christians that that Hebrews failed to see.

These writings have been nurtured by the Early Church Fathers, through Sacred Tradition, by the Magisterium (teaching office of the Church) through the liturgy and through sacred art, from the earliest centuries to our present day.

To conclude today’s post, below are the “Mondays with Mary” where I written about these Old Testament scriptures in light of the Mariological revelations. Simply, it is where we begin to see the mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Testament Scriptures –

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

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

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

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

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mother of Fairest Love’

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

“Mondays with Mary” – Symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As I was writing today’s blog post, I realized there are some Marian prophecies, symbols and liturgical Old Testament Marian Symbols that I have failed to write on so far. In the upcoming weeks, I will focus on some of these for you.

Source:

Burke, Raymond L., Stefano M. Manelli, Luigi Gambero, Manfred Hauke, Peter M. Fehlner, Arthur Burton. Calkins, Paul Haffner, Alessandro M. Apollonio, Edward P. Sri, Charles M. Mangan, Enrique Llamas Martínez, Neil J. Roy, Etienne Richer, Vladimir Zelinskiĩ, and Mark I. Miravalle. Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Goleta, CA: Queenship Pub, 2008. Print.

Solidarity HealthShare: The Catholic Answer to the Healthcare Dilemma

Through a group of friends here in Phoenix, I recently discovered the Catholic answer to the healthcare dilemma that faces many people in our country today. With the rise of medical costs for so many from the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as ObamaCare), Solidarity HealthShare, which understands the commonality to care for each other as stated in the Sacred Scriptures, stands to be the answer for so many that would be subjected to astronomical costs from the ACA or otherwise go without medical care.

If you are one of the many Americans enduring this crisis of rising medical costs, I would encourage you to check out and join a community of health focused American Christians who seek to practice quality healthcare rooted in Catholic principles. If you are seeking to control your healthcare and the healthcare of your family as you see fit, then Solidarity HealthShare is the answer for you. Solidarity HealthShare brings together like-minded Christians to share together medical costs and as the Gospel of Matthew states, to be “reconciled to one another” (Mt. 5:21) in unity.

Solidarity HealthShare desires to rebuild and restore a true healthcare system that is Catholic in every way as well as promote the teachings and traditions of the Church through her social teachings, which are rooted in self-sacrificial love and the sanctity of all human life. As Christians families, you will “practice the sharing of material and spiritual goods (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #1948) and promote a network of members who will pray for each other and share in their Monthly Share Amount while growing together in a “human and Christian brotherhood” (CCC, 1939).

solidarity_opengraph

Solidarity HealthShare received approval from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix on October 4, 2016. In his letter, Bishop Olmsted says the following,

“At a time when many Catholics and other people of faith face challenges in making the best healthcare decisions for themselves and their families, Solidarity HealthShare can provide critical assistance to navigate options that are available.”

The CEO of Solidarity HealthShare, Bradley Hahn, is very hopeful that this ministry will be the answer for so many families seeking another avenue to care for their loved ones healthcare –

“We have spent several years searching for a way to help other like-minded individuals, families and organizations pay for medical costs without violating their consciences or breaking their bank accounts…I’m happy and grateful to God that we have found and can now offer this ministry to the many people who have been waiting for it.”

For more information on Solidarity HealthShare, I would encourage you to visit their website and see the options available. If you are aware of a family member or friend that is need of healthcare, and they refuse to subscribe to the Affordable Care Act, please forward this onto them as well.

I would also encourage you to Like and Follow Solidarity HealthShare on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t pass up this great opportunity to be member of a great Catholic community that will provide you with ethical and affordable options for your healthcare.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes by Pope St. John Paul II

Since this Saturday was the optional memorial for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I thought I would share with you briefly the prayer of Pope St. John Paul II to the Blessed Virgin Mary under this title. This prayer was originally published on August 15, 2004.

Pope St. John Paul in Lourdes, 2004

Pope St. John Paul in Lourdes, 2004

Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman,
Blessed by the Most High!
Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era,
We join in your song of praise,
to celebrate the Lord’s mercy,
to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom
and the full liberation of humanity.

Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord,
Glorious Mother of Christ!
Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word,
Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word,
and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit,
attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience
and to his manifestations in the events of history.

Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows,
Mother of the living!
Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve,
Be our guide along the paths of the world.
Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ,
to stand with you before the innumerable crosses
on which your Son is still crucified.

Hail Mary, woman of faith,
First of the disciples!
Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always
to account for the hope that is in us,
with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love.
Teach us to build up the world beginning from within:
in the depths of silence and prayer,
in the joy of fraternal love,
in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.

Holy Mary, Mother of believers,
Our Lady of Lourdes,
pray for us.

Amen.

For more catechesis on this important Marian feast, I would suggest reading the following blog posts I have written in the past – Our Lady of Lourdes“Mondays with Mary” – Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes and “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Our Lady of Lourdes…Pray for Us 

Saint Bernadette…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of the Rose

Today, we celebrate one of the feasts, which is not listed in the official calendar and feast days of the Church, but is still attributed to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today’s title is – Our Lady of the Rose, in Lucca, Italy. On January 30, in the arms of the statue of the Blessed Mother, three roses were found. From this point, this day has been celebrated as the Madonna of the Rose or Our Lady of the Rose.

Madonna of the Rose

Madonna of the Rose

So why is the Rose flower so important when it comes to the Blessed Virgin Mary?

If you think about it – in so many of the Marian apparitions, she is either carrying flowers, particularly the rose, or the rose has played a major part in revealing her message to the world.

When she came to us as Our Lady of La Salette, she was wearing a garland of roses as well as had tiny roses on her slippers. In the apparitions of Pontmain, Bannenexu, and most notably, Lourdes, and others, she brought beautiful roses with her.

The clearest time we see the rose flower is in Mexico on Tepeyac Hill when she appears to as Our Lady of Guadalupe. She tells St. Juan Diego to go to the hill and to collect the roses, placing them in his tilma. He was then was told to bring them to the Archbishop. When he arrived at the Archbishop’s residence to show him the roses, not only were the roses a sign, but also was the beautiful tilma St. Juan Diego was wearing. It was through the power of God and the roses that the world received the tilma. To learn more about Our Lady of Guadalupe, I would suggest reading – Why Nine Million People Suddenly Turned Catholic: Astounding Physical Evidence.

Blessed Cardinal John Newman said the following about Mary,

“Mary is the most beautiful flower ever seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God’s grace that from this barren and desolate earth there ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory; and Mary is the Queen of them all. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore, is called the Rose, for the rose is called of all flowers the most beautiful. But, moreover, she is the Mystical or Hidden Rose, for mystical means hidden.”

The rose is very beautiful, however, there is also suffering found in the thorns of the rose. For the Blessed Virgin Mary, the rose thorns are the reminder that like Jesus, who wore a crown of thorns, she too would also suffer along with her son. As the Mother of Jesus, she witnessed the terrible suffering and death first hand as she walked with him, stood with him, and watched him die on the Cross.

To learn more about Rose and the other Flowers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I would encourage you to read my blog post by clicking on the link above.

Our Lady of the Rose…Pray for Us. 

Source:

“Madonna of the Rose.” Roman Catholic Saints. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Madonna of the Rose Garden

Madonna of the Rose Garden