“Mondays with Mary” – Praying with Mary during Advent

Before I get into the topic for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I want to share with all of you some monumental news when it comes to my writing. Today’s article is the 800th post I have written on TomPerna.org. I hope that my father is smiling down from eternity today since it was he who first encouraged me to start writing. In a month and a half, I will celebrate the 6th anniversary of this website/blog. Thank you to all my readers, followers, and supporters. Your prayers have been very helpful.

 Now that we have entered the Season of Advent, a season of anticipation, hope, and rejoicing, I wanted to share with you a great way to pray with Mary every night during this season. I didn’t realize the importance of this prayer until I heard it last night at our monthly Latin Novus Ordo Mass and then read about it this morning. I have mentioned it briefly in passing in previous posts and it has been listed among Catholic hymns when I wrote about Sacred Music, but I have never written on the prayer itself. The prayer I speak of is the Alma Redemptoris Mater.

In his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, Pope St. John Paul II opens the document with these words about Mary –

“The Mother of the Redeemer has a precise place in the plan of salvation, for “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Gal. 4:4-6).”

In God’s divine economy, even with the Fall of Adam and Eve, God always had a plan to save us, and just as a man and woman caused our great fall of grace, so too would a man and a woman reverse that fall from grace and establish a new covenant with all of humanity. Even on the first day of the disaster in Genesis, God promised us a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ and the woman is Mary, the Dear Mother of the Redeemer. Her role in salvation history is unparalleled. Without her, we don’t get Jesus Christ.

The Alma Redemptoris Mater is one of the four antiphons associated with Mary, along with verses and prayers that follow. It is said or sung traditionally after night prayer, just before ones goes to sleep. The prayer is said from the beginning of Advent (from the night before the Fourth Sunday of Christmas) through February 1, leading us right into Candlemas. Below is the English translation. If you would like to say it or sing it in Latin, you can find it here.

O Loving Mother of our Redeemer

O loving Mother of our Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Hasten to aid thy fallen people who strive to rise once more.
Thou who brought forth thy holy Creator, all creation wond’ring,
Yet remainest ever Virgin, taking from Gabriel’s lips
that joyful “Hail!”: be merciful to us sinners.

Up through the day before Christmas Eve:

The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Christmas Eve on:

Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity:
R. Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. Amen.

I would encourage you all to pray this wonderful prayer during the Season of Advent. Praying with Mary through this season and into Christmas will only benefit us more and help us to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

O Holy Mother of the Redeemer…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – Marian Advent Hymns and the Benedictines of Mary

Since yesterday was the beginning of the Season of Advent, I found it fitting today to share with you some Marian Advent hymns sung by a religious order that I know pretty well, since I have written about them a few times in the past – The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles.

The Benedictines of Mary have produced four CD’s, which you can read more about on the DeMontfort Music website, the music company who produced their CD’s. To read more about the Benedictines of Mary, De Montfort Music, and Decca Records, please read my first post on ecclesiastical music – The Beauty of Sacred Music.

As we learned last week, many Catholic hymns focus on Jesus Christ and His Church, but there also many hymns written to reflect the beauty of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and these are specifically known as Marian hymns. Many of the Marian hymns are used in the month of May since May is the month of Mary, during the great Marian solemnities throughout the liturgical year, and also during the Season of Advent.

So for the rest of today’s blog post, I am going to ask you to do something different, instead of reading, I am going to encourage you to listen to some of these beautiful Marian Advent hymns performed by the Benedictines of Mary from their CD, Advent at Ephesus. Click on the links to purchase it via CD, iTunes, and Google Music.

For more great music from the Benedictines of Mary, check out their latest CD (November 1, 2016), Caroling at Ephesus.

Mary in Advent

1. Angelus Ad Virginem

2. Gabriel’s Message

3. Hayl Mary, Full of Grace

4. Maria durch ein Dornwald Ging (Mary Wondered through a Wood of Thorns) 

5. Alma Redemptoris Mater

6. Adjuvabit Eam 

7. Like the Dawning 

Our Lady Queen of Ephesus…Pray for Us  

Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles…Pray for Us 

225th “Mondays with Mary” 

What was Mary Thinking the Week Before She Gave Birth to Jesus?

Historically, in the Latin calendar, December 18 was the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, however the feast is not in the current calendar. To learn more about the history of the feast, I encourage you to visit the Catholic Encyclopedia on New Advent here.

Trying to understand what the Blessed Virgin Mary was feeling one week before giving birth to Jesus is difficult since nothing about her thoughts has been revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures. At this point, it’s purely speculative at best. We know what St. Luke tells us in Chapter 2 of his Gospel, however, we don’t know much more than this revelation.

Was it difficult on Mary to be away from her family and her mother during this time? Even though the birth of Jesus was miraculous, as was his conception, what was Mary feeling? Did she know what was to occur? Was she ready for it? Did she think she would be a good mother?

As tradition has shown us, the Blessed Virgin Mary completely put her trust in God, just as she had done nine months prior at the Annunciation. Mary is the great sign of perfect faith and joy for us, but especially during the Third Week of Advent (Gaudete Sunday), which we celebrated in the Latin Church this past Sunday.

We may not know exactly what Mary was feeling one week before the birth of Christ, but based on the 12 quotes below from mothers sharing what they were feeling one week prior to having their child, I would imagine Mary’s experience may not have differed much from some of these –

My daughter was actually born 3 weeks early, so I finishing my last week at work.  I do remember nesting really bad. Everything needed to be ready. I was a cleaning fool. I remember feeling anxious, nervous, excited and scared. I wanted nothing more than to be the perfect mom. I think that is why she came early, God’s sense of humor, I was the mom she needed. – Kristi

My first child was nine days post estimated due date, so with this in mind…I wasn’t anxious, nor fidgety, but very at peace, feeling good about being ready for the birth. We had a plan, we had things packed…I somehow knew, everything would be perfect, just because it was in God’s hands…prayer was my constant companion. There was a joy in waiting, knowing that it was just time, and this sense of treasuring every moment leading up to the big day. – Maggie

My last week of pregnancy was Christmas week and I was overdue. I loved being pregnant but was now more than ready to meet this little person God was entrusting me with. I was anxious and excited, what a wonderment pregnancy is! We didn’t know the gender of our baby so there was that added anticipation. We went to Midnight Mass that year, 10 days past my due date. I remember feeling so connected to Mary that night.  – Kristin

The week before my first child was born I was so anxious to see my baby’s face and hold the baby in my arms and learn if “Little K” was Kathleen or Kevin. At the same time, even though I had been reading and rereading a couple of books about babies, I felt as if I was not prepared for such an awesome responsibility. I placed my trust in The Lord and prayed to be a good mother and do His Will with His awesome blessing. – Helen

Madonna and Child - 16"x20" by Steve Bird. Please visit Steve's website for more of his works - http://www.stevebirdart.com

Madonna and Child – 16″x20″ by Steve Bird. Please visit Steve’s website for more of his works – http://www.stevebirdart.com

As the birth of my first child was approaching I was filled with a potpourri of emotions.  The anticipation of finally seeing his little face and learning about his personality filled most of my thoughts.  Mixed in that joy was some apprehension about being responsible for another human being. I wondered if I would be a good mother. – Kay

Just before having my son, I remember an overwhelming feeling of joy and entrustment. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby boy, but knew that once he was born, I would have to share him. Others would hold him, would smile at him, and yes, could hurt him. I couldn’t keep him in the safety of my arms forever. Today, he is four and this is still my heart’s desire: to simply hold, love, teach, and protect him. I know each day he grows he will be more independent. – Allie

My due date was May 22 and as that day came closer I was nervous, scared, and excited but never had that “done” feeling other moms talk about. Well-meaning friends and relatives were becoming increasing frustrated as each day came and went without a baby. The truth is I was not at all upset. I cherished every hour that I was allowed to assist God in this most precious creation. – Kim

One week before giving birth to my first born I was feeling anxiousness, excitement, and I was uncomfortable because it felt like his feet were lodged in my ribs, but the anticipation of pushing this gift from God, this little miracle out of my body was and still is the most overwhelming sense of happiness I’ve ever experienced. – Sydne

The week leading up to giving birth to my first child was a roller coaster of emotion. Fear, excitement, anxiety, anticipation, all wrapped up in the blessing that would soon arrive. Physically I was exhausted and I worried if my body could handle the natural childbirth I had opted for. So many questions ran through my mind…would I be a good mother? Would my baby be healthy? When that day came, there are no words to describe the experience of giving birth and feeling your newborn laid on your chest for the first time. It is truly a miracle and gift from God! – Kasandra

I was working full-time for an optometrist and on the go and on my feet most of days. Nothing really set in until my last workday, which happened to be 3 days before I had our son. I didn’t experience much honestly until I wasn’t working. I think once I finally relaxed from being on the go, my body decided it was time for a baby. – Christine

The anticipation was overwhelming as I waited for the birth of my first son. He would be 5 1/2 weeks early and a 72-hour labor. As a new Mom, the timing initially was scary but God provided me with a sense of peace knowing we would both be healthy. It was an exciting time but also a sense of nervousness, hoping and praying I was ready to take on this new role of Mommy that God was entrusting me with…pure excitement and joy! – Karyn

The final week leading up to the birth of my first child was filled with much anticipation, joy, excitement and exhaustion. It was also a time fear of the unknown. Fear about being ready to welcome a child into this world…It required so much trust in the Lord and placing it in His hands…The meaning of love had changed drastically after carrying a baby within my womb for 9 months. I was blessed to be given the gift of life. – Lindsey

Motherhood is so important. Thanks to the women above for hearing the call to be Mommies. If you are Mom and would like to share your experience of what you were feeling one week before giving birth, please do so in the comment box below. We would love to hear them.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in Advent

Since we are now in the season of Advent, I thought I would give you a very brief blog post today focusing on the four blog posts I have written in the past that focus on Mary within the season of Advent. However, instead of reading them at random, I am going to number them in the order they should be read. However, before we get to those four blog posts, let’s quickly read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the season of Advent. In paragraph 524, it states,

When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

As you see, Advent is a season of preparation and waiting for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. There is no one better in the Kingdom of God to assist us in waiting for Jesus than Mary herself. She waited and carried him in her womb for nine months. As she has done since the Resurrection, through many Marian apparitions across the world, She brings us to Jesus each and every time. In a sense, every time she appears we have another Advent upon us because each time renews our desire for Him and His second coming.

Mary in Advent

So with this being said, let’s read the previous blog posts focusing on Mary and Advent –

First read, Advent – A Penitential Season

Second, read, “Mondays with Mary” – The Star of the Sea that Shines Through Advent

Third, read, “Mondays with Mary” – “The Virgin Mary Perfectly Incarnates the Spirit of Advent

And lastly, read “Mondays with Mary – ‘Mary’s Nine-Month Advent’

As we conclude, let’s remember the words of Pope Francis from December 1, 2013, when he said,

“For the great human family it is necessary to renew always the common horizon toward which we are journeying. The horizon of hope! This is the horizon that makes a good journey…the time of Advent that we begin again today returns us to the horizon of hope, a hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the Word of God. A hope that does not disappoint, simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful!…[Advent is] a new journey of the People of God with Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, who guides us in history towards the completion of the Kingdom of God….a new journey of the People of God with Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, who guides us in history towards the completion of the Kingdom of God…[Mary is a] model of this spiritual attitude, to this way of being and of journeying in life…In her womb, the hope of God took flesh, became man, and made history: Jesus Christ.”

So as we begin this season of Advent, let us ask for Mary’s intercession that she would journey, and prepare with us, for coming of our Savior Jesus Christ at Christmas.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Preparations of the Christmas Mystery

We are only nine days away now from the Christmas Mystery – the birth of Emmanuel, the coming of the Christ in the Incarnation. At Christmas, we celebrate with great amounts of joy the coming of Jesus Christ as an infant. God becomes man and dwells among us. The Word that always is is now Incarnate. The Little Child is God eternal!

As we continue in the week that follows Gaudete Sunday, I found it fitting to provide to you three paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that talk about the preparations of the Christmas Mystery. Focusing on the main character of this past Sunday’s Gospel, St. John the Baptist, the Catechism explains the importance of his role in Salvation History as the precursor of the coming of the Messiah. Furthermore, the Advent Season prepares for this coming as well as the second coming when Christ will return.

St. John the Baptist icon

Icon of St. John the Baptist

The Catechism states,

The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the “First Covenant.” He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming. (#522)

St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. “Prophet of the Most High,” John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom,” whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom. (#523)

When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (#524)

Keep in mind that Christmas is still not here for us Christians. Although the world is celebrating Christmas right now and has been for multiple weeks in the retail shops, we must continue our focus on preparing for the Coming of the Messiah. If you have a Nativity set in your home, make sure you don’t place baby Jesus in it until December 24/25. For when Christmas arrives, we celebrate an entire liturgical season and not just one day.

“Mondays with Mary – ‘Mary’s Nine-Month Advent’

Last year in the blog post, “Mondays with Mary” – The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wrote the following –

“Trying to understand what the Blessed Virgin Mary was feeling one week before giving birth to Jesus is difficult since nothing about her thoughts are revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures. At this point, it’s purely a speculative assessment. We know what Luke 2 tells us, however, we don’t know much more than this revelation. Was it difficult on Mary to be away from her family and her mother during this time? Even though the birth of Jesus was miraculous, as was his conception, what was Mary feeling? Did she know what was to occur?”

As is always the goal with these blog posts on Our Lady, I try to help you see the bigger picture with Mary’s role in Salvation History, the importance she plays in the life of Christ, and the importance of Marian theology in the life of the Church.

For today, I turn our attention to the words of the great 20th century Swiss Theologian and Catholic Priest, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, who in his book, Mary for Today, focuses on “Mary’s Nine-Month Advent.” What Von Balthasar writes in this section plays in the same arena as what I sought to articulate last year in the blog from above. Mary’s Expectation and Mary’s Advent are in correlation with one another since her expectation comes in the final days of her advent.

Writing about the Blessed Virgin, Von Balthasar states,

“Mary’s nine-month Advent was not without pain…What Mary underwent during her Advent were above all mental and spiritual sufferings: every pregnancy that is lived in a genuinely human way includes a certain intercession, a certain suffering on behalf of the child on the way that is given to him as his birth as an invisible present of grace to take on the journey through life. It is a selfless hope, a commending to God or – if one does not know God – to the invisible powers that guide the fate of men and women. With what concern must Mary have prayed for the child growing within her and worried about it in advance! Did she have a premonition that the Messiah would have to suffer? We do not know.

Mary with Child - light

But some overpowering fate must await him. Simeon in the temple would confirm this to her: ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against..’ For woman, pregnancy does not proceed without some element of fear: for Mary not without some presentiment of the Cross. From the outset she had a share in it that could not be defined.

We do not know to what extent physical hardships were linked with these mental and spiritual sufferings; but it is quite possible that they lasted until shortly before the birth, which in the end took place as a miracle, as the sudden beginning of what is final and definitive. At the birth every pain was dissolved in pure light. How her womb opened and closed again we do not know, and it is superfluous to speculate about an event which for God was a child’s game, something much less important than the original overshadowing by the Holy Spirit.

Someone who accepts this first miracle as valid – and as a believer one has to, otherwise Jesus would have had two fathers – should not toss and turn over accepting the second miracle, the Virgin Birth. For Jews it is truly astonishing that that they should have been able firmly to translate into Greek with the work ‘virgin’ the old Hebrew prophecy ‘Behold, a young woman shall conceive’ (Is 7:14, where the term could already mean ‘virgin’). And thus only is it fitting that from the virginal son onward virginal fruitfulness should become a specific ‘vocation’ for men and women in the Church (1 Cor 7).”

So as we get more and more closer to the Incarnation on December 25, let us turn our gaze to Mary’s final days of her advent and ask her to lead us closer to her infant son, Jesus Christ. For it is always Mary, our Mother and Virgin, our Advocating Queen, who desires to bring us closer to Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

To learn more about Hans Urs Von Balthasar or to purchase his writings, please view his page on the Ignatius Press website.

Advent – A Penitential Season

In Day 1 of Fr. Robert Barron’s Advent Reflections – Our Tainted Offering, he says,

“We all know that Lent is a penitential season, a time when Christians get in touch with their sins. But Advent has a penitential dimension, too. It is the season in which we prepare for the coming of the Savior, and we don’t need a Savior unless we’re deeply convinced there is something to be saved from.”

At work yesterday, one of my co-workers and I was talking about the importance of prayer and penance in our daily lives, particularly we were talking about the prayers and offerings we can do for the souls in Purgatory. This then led us to the discussion that many have forgotten about the penitential nature of the Advent Season.

Like the Season of Lent, where we enter the desert with Jesus for 40 days, we should also enter a season of waiting for Jesus during Advent. This waiting for Jesus to come on Christmas can and should be done with the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is through Mary’s intercession, as our Advocating Queen Mother, that she will assist us in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Following the Church’s vision, we should go “to Jesus through Mary.”

Just like in Lent, where we Fast, Pray, and Give Alms, we should also fast more, pray more, and give alms more during this Season of Advent. Our Eastern (Eastern Catholics and Orthodox) brothers and sisters have not forgotten the penitential nature of this season for they mirror Lent during Advent every year. Although Advent may not be a “desert” for 40 days, we can still be sacrificial (we should always be sacrificing!).

I would encourage you during this Advent season, if you have not begun already, to do the same things you do for Lent – Fast, Pray, and Give Alms. So to give you a practical example of what you could do, I will share quickly my sacrifices.

Although I don’t eat meat on Fridays any longer (with a few exceptions), not eating meat will continue as a fast. I have also decided to fast from Facebook, going on only once a day (to highlight these posts and to post things on our parish page). I am going to spend time praying in front of Our Lord for 30 minutes in Eucharistic Adoration to increase my prayer life. For alms, I will donate a gift to the Christmas Giving Tree at my parish.

It’s my hope, since hope is another theme of Advent, that my relationship with Jesus Christ through the intercession of our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary will increase during this Advent Season helping me to give of myself more and more each day.

Let us pray, fast, give alms…wait with hopeful patience…and be JOYFUL!