“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on the Importance of Saint Joseph (and some reflective thoughts of my own)

If there is one individual who I have focused on a lot in my writing over the years, it is Saint Joseph. Including today’s post, the total is now at 10. Saint Joseph has always played an important role in my life. My middle name is Joseph, so from the beginning of my life he has been watching over me, he is one of saints I first learned about in my adolescence, and he remains a steadfast figure in my life today, most especially now as I prepare for marriage and fatherhood.

In the past, many of my posts about St. Joseph have focused on the writings on Pope St. John Paul and his words, but for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I am going to turn to the words of Pope Benedict XVI. Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI had a great devotion to the foster-father of Jesus, most especially because his Baptismal name is Joseph (Josef).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 19 March, is the Solemnity of St Joseph, but as it coincides with the Third Sunday of Lent, its liturgical celebration is postponed until tomorrow. However, the Marian context of the Angelus invites us to reflect today with veneration on the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s spouse and Patron of the universal Church.

I like to recall that beloved John Paul II was also very devoted to St Joseph, to whom he dedicated the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, Guardian of the Redeemer, and who surely experienced his assistance at the hour of death.

The figure of this great Saint, even though remaining somewhat hidden, is of fundamental importance in the history of salvation. Above all, as part of the tribe of Judah, he united Jesus to the Davidic lineage so that, fulfilling the promises regarding the Messiah, the Son of the Virgin Mary may truly be called the “son of David”.

The Gospel of Matthew highlights in a special way the Messianic prophecies which reached fulfilment through the role that Joseph played:  the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (2: 1-6); his journey through Egypt, where the Holy Family took refuge (2: 13-15); the nickname, the “Nazarene” (2: 22-23).

In all of this he showed himself, like his spouse Mary, an authentic heir of Abraham’s faith:  faith in God who guides the events of history according to his mysterious salvific plan. His greatness, like Mary’s, stands out even more because his mission was carried out in the humility and hiddenness of the house of Nazareth. Moreover, God himself, in the person of his Incarnate Son, chose this way and style of life – humility and hiddenness – in his earthly existence.

From the example of St. Joseph we all receive a strong invitation to carry out with fidelity, simplicity and modesty the task that Providence has entrusted to us. I think especially of fathers and mothers of families, and I pray that they will always be able to appreciate the beauty of a simple and industrious life, cultivating the conjugal relationship with care and fulfilling with enthusiasm the great and difficult educational mission.

To priests, who exercise a paternal role over Ecclesial Communities, may St Joseph help them love the Church with affection and complete dedication, and may he support consecrated persons in their joyous and faithful observance of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. May he protect workers throughout the world so that they contribute with their different professions to the progress of the whole of humanity, and may he help every Christian to fulfil God’s will with confidence and love, thereby cooperating in the fulfilment of the work of salvation.

Today, as I write and reflect on these words by Pope Benedict XVI, I find myself having a connection with St. Joseph like never before. As I stated previously, I am preparing to enter the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in the coming months. The closeness I feel towards St. Joseph today is difficult to explain since it feels like the closeness I have with my father, even though he is nearly deceased for three years. As I sit in the adoration chapel here at the parish and write this post, I am also gazing up frequently to look at the St. Joseph statue.

Although it’s difficult to explain specifically why this year is different than in years past, I can tell you that some of the words from Benedict have penetrated my heart and have allowed me to see what I really need to do in my life as and soon-to-be husband and potential father.

As a man, who truly remained hidden in the house of Nazareth, St. Joseph still was the head of his household, courageously caring for Mary and Jesus, most notably when fleeing to Egypt. Like St. Joseph, I must remain steadfast and care for my future wife and any children the Lord blesses us with when we are married. In silence, I must learn that sometimes words are not needed, just my presence and the ability to have fortitude when challenges present themselves is enough. Being silent isn’t always easy for me since my secondary vocation is a teacher of sorts in a parish position that assists other adults in coming to know their Catholic faith. Learning to be more silent is a challenge for me, but to truly be like St. Joseph, I must learn to do so.

I pray this day that St. Joseph will allow me to be more like him – a man of faithfulness, obedience, steadfastness, courage, and silent strength.

For further readings on St. Joseph, I would encourage you to read posts from previous years:

1. Saint Joseph – Patron of the Universal Church

2. The Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

3. “Mondays with Mary” – The Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph

4. “Mondays with Mary” – ‘The Marriage that Linked Joseph to Mary’ 

5. “Mondays with Mary” – The Fatherhood of St. Joseph 

6. “Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mary, Joseph’s Virginal Spouse’ 

7. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Joseph, and the Spousal Gift of Self

8. The Influence Saint Joseph has on Catholic Men in the 21st Century 

9. “Mondays with Mary” – Asking for the Intercession of Saint Joseph 

 Saint Joseph…Pray for Us 

“Mondays with Mary” – Six Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Mary’s Connection to Pentecost

Yesterday we celebrated the great Solemnity of Pentecost – the day we celebrate the birth of the Catholic Church. From this day when the Holy Spirit enkindled the hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles, the Church began to grow, and grow rapidly. As the Apostles went out into the world to preach the gospel message to all the nations, the Holy Spirit accompanied them and through his guidance many repented of their sins and were baptized.

Before the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were simple men, afraid for their own lives, but after the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were men of self-sacrifice, strength, and great fortitude. They preached the Gospels even when it was dangerous to do so. In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says,  “Twelve simple, uneducated fisherman revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

Although he did not travel as vastly as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI brought the Gospel message to the nations and continents during his nearly eight year papacy. However, his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is thoroughly examined, explained, and taught in his many books and writings.

To celebrate Pentecost this year, here are six quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Mary and Pentecost –

1. “Since Pentecost is renewed in our time, perhaps taking nothing from the freedom of God the Church should concentrate less on activities and be more dedicated to prayer. The Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy, Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost falls on the very last day of May on which the Feast of the Visitation is normally celebrated. That too was a sort of miniature “pentecost” which caused joy and praise to well up in the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary, one barren and the other a virgin, who both became mothers through an extraordinary divine intervention (cf. Lk 1: 41-45).”

2. It would truly be possible to find many examples, less grave but equally symptomatic, in everyday reality. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that the energy capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force but the action of the “Spirit of God… moving over the face of the waters” (Gn 1: 2) at the beginning of the Creation. And Jesus Christ “brought to the earth” not the vital force that already lived in it but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God who “renews the face of the earth”, purifying it from evil and setting it free from the dominion of death (cf. Ps 103[104]: 29-30). This pure, essential and personal “fire”, the fire of love, came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, to make the Church an extension of Christ’s work of renewal.

3. Finally, Mary is a woman who loves…we sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus’ public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother’s hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus’ true hour (Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

4. Prior to the Ascension into Heaven, he ordered them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (cf. Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event (cf. Acts 1: 14)…The Church, gathered with Mary as at her birth, today implores:  “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! – Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.

5. If there is no Church without Pentecost, without the Mother of Jesus there is no Pentecost either, since she lived in a singular way what the Church experiences each day under the action of the Holy Spirit. St Chromatius of Aquileia comments in these words on the annotation in the Acts of the Apostles: “so the Church had gathered in the upper room together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. It is therefore impossible to speak of the Church if Mary, Mother of the Lord is not present…The Church of Christ is wherever the Incarnation of Christ by the Virgin is preached, and wherever the Apostles, who are the Lord’s brethren, preach, it is there that the Gospel is heard (Sermo 30, 1: SC 164, 135).

6. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain also today a renewed Pentecost for the Church that will imbue in all, and especially in the young, the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel…With Mary, the Virgin in prayer at Pentecost, let us ask the Almighty for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of unity and harmony, to inspire thoughts of peace and reconciliation in everyone.

Let us pray…Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle us the fire of your love. O Lord, during this week of Pentecost, give us the grace and strength to go forth from our homes and parishes to bring the Gospel message to the world we encounter each day of our lives. And let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was present that day. Amen.

250th “Mondays with Mary” 

“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’.


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.