“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI and Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today we celebrate the great Marian feast of Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe. Known as the Patroness of the Americas and the Patroness of my home diocese, Phoenix, the Virgin of Guadalupe is loved by both Mexicans and Americans. Not only does this continent love her; many Catholics across the globe also have a great devotion to Our Lady under this title as well.

In the final year of his short papacy, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI traveled to Mexico (as well as Cuba) from March 23-29, 2012. It was on this Apostolic Journey that he realized what his predecessor meant when he said he knew what it felt like to be a “Mexican Pope.” In an improvised address, Pope Benedict said,

“Mexico will always be in my heart. I can say that for years I have been praying every day for Mexico, but in the future I will pray much more. Now I can understand why Pope John Paul II said: ‘I feel I am a Mexican Pope’.

pope-benedict-xvi-in-a-black-sombrero

The Mexican people loved both John Paul II and Benedict XVI – with open arms, they embraced them as their own.

To celebrate today’s great Marian feast of Mexico and to ponder the mysteries behind the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, here are 5 quotes from the German Pope focusing on the Rose of Mexico –

1. “In Latin America, in general, it is very important that Christianity mean more to the heart than to reason. Our Lady of Guadalupe is recognized and loved by all, because people understand that she is a Mother to all and has been present from the outset in this new Latin America, after the arrival of the Europeans.”

2. “Mexico, and the majority of Latin American nations, have been commemorating in recent years the bicentennial of their independence…during these celebrations, as in the Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Most Holy Mary was invoked fervently, she who gently showed how the Lord loves all people and gave himself for them without distinction. Our Heavenly Mother has kept vigil over the faith of her children in the formation of these nations and she continues to do so today as new challenges present themselves.”

3. “This was how Our Lady of Guadalupe showed her divine Son to Saint Juan Diego, not as a powerful legendary hero but as the very God of the living, by whom all live, the Creator of persons, of closeness and immediacy, of heaven and earth (cf. Nican Mopohua, v.33). At that moment she did what she had done previously at the wedding feast of Cana. Faced with the embarrassment caused by the lack of wine, she told the servants clearly that the path to follow was her Son: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).”

4. “As we now pray the Angelus and remember the Annunciation of the Lord, our eyes too turn spiritually towards the hill of Tepeyac, to the place where the Mother of God, under the title of “the Ever-Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe” has been fervently honoured for centuries as a sign of reconciliation and of God’s infinite goodness towards the world. My predecessors on the Chair of Saint Peter honoured her with affectionate titles such as Our Lady of Mexico, Heavenly Patroness of Latin America, Mother and Empress of this continent.

5. “Recognizing the faith in Jesus Christ which I have felt resounding in your hearts, and your affectionate devotion to his Mother, invoked here with beautiful titles like Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Light, a light I have seen reflected in your faces, I wish to reiterate clearly and with vigour a plea to the Mexican people to remain faithful to yourselves, not to let yourselves be intimidated by the powers of evil, but to be valiant and to work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future.”

Patroness of the Americas, the Rose of Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe…Pray for Us. 

Pope Benedict XVI walks near an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as celebrates Mass to mark the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 12. During the liturgy the pope confirmed he will travel to Mexico and Cuba in the spring. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Dec. 12, 2011) See POPE-GUADALUPE Dec. 12, 2012.

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Woman Clothed with the Sun’

A few weeks ago, I kicked off our Saturday Morning Speaker Series at the parish with a talk titled, The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Sacred Scriptures. One of the points that I mentioned in that talk was that Mary is seen as the woman in the verses of Revelation 12 – “And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun [italics mine], with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…”

To explain this scripture to you, below is Pope Emeritus Benedict’s homily from the Assumption of Mary on August 15, 2007 at St. Thomas Villanova Parish in Castel Gandolfo. Focusing on Mary being “clothed with the sun” and her Assumption into Heaven, the future Doctor of the Church explains how the two are so closely connected. At the end, he gives a very insightful lesson based on the life of Mary, and which we all must learn to do –

“Without any doubt, a first meaning is that it is Our Lady, Mary, clothed with the sun, that is, with God, totally; Mary who lives totally in God, surrounded and penetrated by God’s light. Surrounded by the 12 stars, that is, by the 12 tribes of Israel, by the whole People of God, by the whole Communion of Saints; and at her feet, the moon, the image of death and mortality.

Mary has left death behind her; she is totally clothed in life, she is taken up body and soul into God’s glory and thus, placed in glory after overcoming death, she says to us: Take heart, it is love that wins in the end!

The message of my life was: I am the handmaid of God, my life has been a gift of myself to God and my neighbor. And this life of service now arrives in real life. May you too have trust and have the courage to live like this, countering all the threats of the dragon.

This is the first meaning of the woman whom Mary succeeded in being. The “woman clothed with the sun” is the great sign of the victory of love, of the victory of goodness, of the victory of God; a great sign of consolation.

Mother of Mariazell

Mother of Mariazell

Yet, this woman who suffered, who had to flee, who gave birth with cries of anguish, is also the Church, the pilgrim Church of all times. In all generations she has to give birth to Christ anew, to bring him very painfully into the world, with great suffering. Persecuted in all ages, it is almost as if, pursued by the dragon, she had gone to live in the wilderness.

However, in all ages, the Church, the People of God, also lives by the light of God and as the Gospel says is nourished by God, nourishing herself with the Bread of the Holy Eucharist. Thus, in all the trials in the various situations of the Church through the ages in different parts of the world, she wins through suffering. And she is the presence, the guarantee of God’s love against all the ideologies of hatred and selfishness.

We see of course that today too the dragon wants to devour God who made himself a Child. Do not fear for this seemingly frail God; the fight has already been won. Today too, this weak God is strong: he is true strength.

Thus, the Feast of the Assumption is an invitation to trust in God and also to imitate Mary in what she herself said: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; I put myself at the Lord’s disposal.

This is the lesson: one should travel on one’s own road; one should give life and not take it. And precisely in this way each one is on the journey of love which is the loss of self, but this losing of oneself is in fact the only way to truly find oneself, to find true life [italics mine].

Let us look to Mary, taken up into Heaven. Let us be encouraged to celebrate the joyful feast with faith: God wins. Faith, which seems weak, is the true force of the world. Love is stronger than hate. And let us say with Elizabeth: Blessed are you among women. Let us pray to you with all the Church: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Pope Benedict XVI: 65 Years as a Catholic Priest

Today is the 65th Anniversary to the Catholic Priesthood for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. After you read this very short blog post on him, offer up prayers for him – 1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s, and 1 Glory Be. Pray for his health and pray for his prayers.

Pope Benedict XVI & Eucharist

For all my writings on Pope Benedict XVI, please click here.

Don’t forget to say those prayers!

Happy Birthday, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Happy Birthday to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI!  

Today, Papa Benedict is 89 years old.

Pope Benedict XVI's Weekly General Audience

To read my many blog posts about him or his theology, please click this link.

Like Pope St. John Paul II, I am a huge fan and theology nerd when it comes to Papa Benedict. I have around 21 of his books and papal documents. One of my favorites is Verbum Domini, his Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. His Jesus of Nazareth series is pretty amazing as well as his book on the Early Church Fathers. If you have never read Ratzinger, what are you waiting for?

On this day of your birth, may Our Lord Jesus Christ through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in union with the Holy Saints and Angels, pray for you and be with you. Amen.

Was Jesus’ Last Supper Actually a Passover Meal or was it Something Completely New?

This year for Lent I decided to take it upon myself to read the second part of Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, which is subtitled – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. And although I have read a lot of it, I am not completely finished with it yet, but hoping to finish the chapters up to the Resurrection by Saturday morning. My lack of reading though has assisted me to write this blog post or should I say quote Pope Benedict himself.

Last year on Holy Thursday, I wrote the blog post titled, The Four Cups, the Last Supper, and the Cup on Consummation. Using Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn, and James Socias, I wrote about the Four Cups of the Passover Meal and whether or not Jesus drank the fourth cup or if the fourth cup is actually the Cross itself. To read last year’s post, check out the link above.

The reason I am writing today’s post on Good Friday of this year is because last night while sitting in front of the Altar of Repose at my parish, I re-read some parts in the Last Supper chapter that made me rethink some things I wrote about last year. Although Pitre’s book, Jesus and Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, mentions and highlights the Four Cups of the Passover, it’s interesting that Pope Benedict XVI writes nothing about the four cups in the aforementioned book. A somewhat interesting note of fact is that Pitre’s book was published on March 2, 2011 and Benedict’s on March 10, 2011. Theological ships passing in the night?

Why doesn’t Benedict talk about the four cups? Are the four cups not important? Did Jesus use/drink the cups? What about St. Luke’s account that speaks of cups?

Although there is a lot to say on this particular topic, Chapter Five covers the entire Last Supper, I am going to pick up on page 113. The question is – Was Jesus’ Last Supper Actually a Passover Meal or was it Something Completely New?

“We have to ask, though, what Jesus’ Last Supper actually was. And how did it acquire its undoubtedly early attribution of Passover character? The answer given by Meier (John P. Meier – A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus) is astonishingly simple in many respects convincing: Jesus knew that he was about to die. He knew that he would not be able to eat the Passover again. Fully aware of this, he invited his disciples to a Last Supper of a very special kind, one that followed no specific Jewish ritual but, rather, constituted his farewell; during the meal he gave them something new: he gave them himself as the true Lamb and there instituted his Passover.

Jesus & Eucharist - EWTN

In all the Synoptic Gospels, the prophecy of Jesus’ death and Resurrection form part of this meal. Luke presents it in an especially solemn and mysterious form: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (22:15-16). The saying is ambiguous. It can mean that Jesus is eating the usual Passover meal with his disciples for the last time. But it can also mean that he is eating it no longer but, rather, is on his way to the new Passover.

One thing emerges clearly from the entire tradition: essentially, this farewell meal was not the old Passover, but the new one, which Jesus accomplished in this context. Even though the meal that Jesus shared with the Twelve was not a Passover meal according to the ritual prescriptions of Judaism, nevertheless, in retrospect, the inner connection of the whole event with Jesus’ death and Resurrection stood out clearly. It was Jesus’ Passover. And in this sense he both did and did not celebrate the Passover: the old rituals could not be carried out –when their time came, Jesus had already died. But he had given himself, and thus he had truly celebrated the Passover with them. The old was not abolished; it was simply brought to its full meaning.

The earliest evidence for this unified view of the new and the old, providing a new explanation of the Passover character of Jesus’ meal in terms of his death and Resurrection, is found in Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be new dough, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed” (5:7; cf. Meier, A Marginal Jew I, pp. 429-430). As in Mark 14:1, so here the first day of Unleavened Bread and the Passover follow in rapid succession, but the older ritual understanding is transformed into a Christological and existential interpretation. Unleavened bread must now refer to Christians themselves, who are freed from sin by the addition of yeast. But the sacrificial lamb is Christ. Here Paul is in complete harmony John’s presentation of events. For him the death and Resurrection of Christ have become the Passover that endures.

On this basis one can understand how it was that very early on, Jesus’ Last Supper – which includes not only a prophecy, but a real anticipation of the Cross and Resurrection in the eucharistic gifts – was regarded as a Passover: as his Passover. And so it was” (pp. 113-115).

I am by no means an expert on this topic. I just find it interesting and I find the absence of the four cups from the writings of Benedict, at least in this book, to be equally interesting. Does anyone know if he speaks of the four cups in another document or even in a homily?

I will conclude with Benedict’s words from the beginning of Chapter Six: “Jesus’ final meal – whether or not it was a Passover meal – was first and foremost an act of worship. At its heart was the prayer of praise and thanksgiving, and at the end it led back into prayer.”

It was an act of worship! This however is a topic for another time.

“Mondays with Mary” – 7 Marian Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI

When I look at my blog statistics each week, I notice that some of the search terms that are always present are usually something in regards to quotes from either the saints or the popes. More often than not is the search term – quotes by Pope Benedict XVI or things Pope Benedict XVI said. It’s no secret that the former Holy Father, who now desires to be called Fr. Benedict, is one of the greatest theological minds the Catholic Church has seen in the last 500 years. When I read his works, it’s as if I am reading an Early Church Father or a Doctor of the Church. I have no doubt that someday Pope Benedict XVI will be listed among the great Doctors of the Universal Church.

If you have never read anything by him, I would suggest picking up something soon and began to learn why so many of us truly love him and have a great admiration for his works. If you are not sure what to read first, leave me a comment at the bottom of this blog or email me and I will assist you. For the brave of heart, you can check out the archives page on the website – The Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club.

Just like his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, and his successor, Pope Francis, Benedict XVI has a great love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although there is a plethora of Marian quotes I could share with you, here are seven quotes from Pope Benedict XVI –

1. “Looking at Mary, how can we, her children, fail to let the aspiration to beauty, goodness and purity of heart be aroused in us? Her heavenly candour draws us to God, helping us to overcome the temptation to live a mediocre life composed of compromises with evil, and directs us decisively towards the authentic good that is the source of joy.” – Angelus, December 8, 2005

2. “Dear friends, what an immense joy to have Mary Immaculate as our Mother! Every time we experience our frailty and the promptings of evil, we may turn to her and our hearts receive light and comfort. Even in the trials of life, in the storms that cause faith and hope to vacillate, let us recall that we are her children and that our existence is deeply rooted in the infinite grace of God. Although the Church is exposed to the negative influences of the world, she always finds in Mary the star to guide her so that she may follow the route pointed out to her by Christ.” – Angelus, December 8, 2009

3. “Mindful of the inseparable bond between the word of God and Mary of Nazareth, along with the Synod Fathers I urge that Marian prayer be encouraged among the faithful, above all in life of families, since it is an aid to meditating on the holy mysteries found in the Scriptures. A most helpful aid, for example, is the individual or communal recitation of the Holy Rosary, which ponders the mysteries of Christ’s life in union with Mary, and which Pope John Paul II wished to enrich with the mysteries of light.” – Verbum Domini #88

4. “Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).” – Spe Salvi #49

Pope Benedict XVI talking

5. “Consequently, every time we approach the Body and Blood of Christ in the eucharistic liturgy, we also turn to her who, by her complete fidelity, received Christ’s sacrifice for the whole Church. The Synod Fathers rightly declared that “Mary inaugurates the Church’s participation in the sacrifice of the Redeemer.” She is the Immaculata, who receives God’s gift unconditionally and is thus associated with his work of salvation. Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist.” – Sacramentum Caritatis #33

6. But now let us ask ourselves: how does the Assumption of Mary help our journey? The first answer is: in the Assumption we see that in God there is room for man, God himself is the house with many rooms of which Jesus speaks (cf. Jn 14:2); God is man’s home, in God there is God’s space. And Mary, by uniting herself, united to God, does not distance herself from us. She does not go to an unknown galaxy, but whoever approaches God comes closer, for God is close to us all; and Mary, united to God, shares in the presence of God, is so close to us, to each one of us. – Homily, August 15, 2012

7. By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk 1:38). Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk 1:46-55). With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only son, keeping her virginity intact (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution (cf. Mt 2:13-15). With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Jn 19:25-27). By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1-4). – “Moto Proprio Data” – Porta Fidei (For the Induction of the Year of Faith) #13

Holy Mary, Mother of God…Pray For Us

The Life of Saint Augustine Through the Words of Pope Benedict XVI

Today, in the Western lung of the Catholic Church, we celebrate the great African Doctor – Saint Augustine of Hippo. Eloquent in his life and his words, the Church dons him the name – The Doctor of Grace. Even after 1600 years, the Catholic Church views him as one of the greatest theologians in her arsenal; an arsenal filled with many great fighters and defenders of Jesus Christ. The Church also sees him as one the greatest conversion stories of any saint.

Today, I am not going to focus on his biographical life, since I have done this in years past. For today’s memorial, I want to share with you Saint Augustine through the words of Pope Benedict XVI. In his general audiences from March 7, 2007 to February 27, 2008, Benedict taught on the Church Fathers from Clement of Rome to Augustine. So important is Saint Augustine to the Catholic Church that the Holy Father dedicated five general audiences to him from January 9 – February 27, 2008.

Here are 10 excerpts from the five audiences –

1. “It could be said, on the one hand, that all the roads of Latin Christian literature led to Hippo (today, Annaba, on the coast of Algeria), the place where he was Bishop from 395 to his death in 430, and, on the other, that from this city of Roman Africa, many other roads of later Christianity and of Western culture itself branched out.”

2. “Augustine realized that the whole of the Old Testament was a journey toward Jesus Christ. Thus, he found the key to understanding the beauty and even the philosophical depth of the Old Testament and grasped the whole unity of the mystery of Christ in history…”

3. “Yet, if the world grows old, Christ is perpetually young; hence the invitation: “Do not refuse to be rejuvenated united to Christ, even in the old world. He tells you: Do not fear, your youth will be renewed like that of the eagle” (cf. Serm. 81,8). Thus, the Christian must not lose heart, even in difficult situations, but rather he must spare no effort to help those in need.”

4. “When I read St. Augustine’s writings, I do not get the impression that he is a man who died more or less 1,600 years ago; I feel like he is a man of today: a friend, a contemporary who speaks to me, who speaks to us with his fresh and timely faith. In Saint Augustine, who talks to us…for Christ is truly yesterday, today, and for ever.”

5. “Thus, Augustine’s entire intellectual and spiritual development is also a valid model today in the relationship between faith and reason, a subject not only for believers but for every person who seeks the truth, a central theme for the balance and destiny of all men.”

6. “Here, then, Augustine encountered God and throughout his life experienced him to the point that this reality – which is primarily his meeting with a Person, Jesus – changed his life, as it changes the lives of everyone, men and women, who in every age have the grace to encounter him. Let us pray that the Lord will grant us this grace and thereby enable us to find his peace.”

7. “In the first place, confessiones means the confession of our own faults, of the wretchedness of sin; but at the same time, confessiones also means praise of God, thanksgiving to God. Seeing our own wretchedness in the light of God becomes praise to God and thanksgiving, for God loves and accepts us, transforms us and raises us to himself.”

8. “Only by reading Saint Paul’s Epistles within the faith of the Catholic Church was the truth fully revealed to him. This experience as summarized by Augustine in one of the most famous passages of the Confessions: he recounts that, in the torment of his reflections, withdrawing to a garden, he suddenly heard a child’s voice chanting a rhyme never heard before: tolle, lege, tolle, lege, “pick up and read, pick up and read” (VIII, 12, 29).”

9. “We always need to be washed by Christ, who washes our feet, and be renewed by him. We need permanent conversion…Augustine converted to Christ, who is truth and love, followed him throughout his life, and became a model for every human being, for all of us in search of God.”

10. “Even today, as in his time, mankind needs to know and above all to live this fundamental reality: God is love, and the encounter with him is the only response to the restlessness of the human heart; a heart inhabited by hope…so much so that Saint Paul wrote that “in this hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24).”

It is my hope, as it is with many of my blog posts where I quote the Doctors, the Saints, and the Popes, that you will come to take their words to heart in order that you know Jesus Christ in a complete way as well as come to know the beauty of the Catholic Church.

For further magisterial reading on Saint Augustine of Hippo, I suggest the Apostolic Exhortation, Augustinum Hipponsenem, promulgated on August 26, 1986, by Pope St. John Paul II.

Saint Augustine of Hippo…Pray for Us.