Happy Birthday to my hero – Pope St. John Paul II

Today would have been the 97th birthday of Karol Wojtyla, known to so many as – Pope St. John Paul II. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him fondly. The reason I do what I do on this blog and in my position at the parish is based on his life and his many great documents. The influence of John Paul II on my own life is truly immeasurable. I was blessed to see him three times in my life – Phoenix, Arizona in 1987, Denver, Colorado in 1993, and in Rome, Italy in 2000. I am the JP2 Generation.

Pope St. John Paul II as a young priest.

For a collection of pictures from a previous post, check out this one I wrote on his birthday in 2014. Below are the Top 5 All-Time Posts (most views) I have written in the past –

1. 12 Quotes from Blessed Pope John Paul II on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World 

2. 12 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Our Lady of Guadalupe

3. “Mondays with Mary” – 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on the Mother of Mercy

4. 5 Quotes on Pentecost from Pope St. John Paul II

5. 10 Quotes on the Holy Family from Pope St. John Paul II

For the complete collection of my writings on him, click here.

Pope Saint John Paul II…Pray For Us 

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, the Gate of Heaven

Since tomorrow is the feast day of Our Lady of Loreto, and one of the titles for Mary in the Litany to Our Lady of Loreto is “Gate of Heaven,” I though I would focus today’s “Mondays with Mary” on this specific title. So why and how is Mary the “Gate of Heaven”?

First, it has to do with our death. There are two moments in our life that that the Church teaches us to call upon Mary – now, the present moment, which is in our power, and “at the hour of our death,” which may not be in our power, however, with the help of Mary we may be given to the chance to enter Heaven. Second, Mary is called the “Gate of Heaven” because she leads us to Jesus Christ, who is in Heaven and that is where we want to end up. The “Gate of Heaven” isn’t just for those of us on earth, the Church Militant, but she is the gate that also leads those souls suffering in Purgatory, the Church Suffering.

Second, Mary is the “Gate of Heaven” because her Our Lord, who entered the world through her, allows her to lead us closer to Him. Along with the Sheep Gate (John 10), Mary as the “Gate of Heaven” works with protecting Heaven and leading the sheep of the flock ever more closer to Jesus. There is nothing more that Our Lady wants but to lead us all closer to Jesus Christ.

St. Bonaventure says, “Mary is the called gate of heaven because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her. Furthermore, St. Bernardine of Siena says the following, “As every mandate of grace that is sent by a king passes through the palace gates, so does every graces that comes from heaven to the world pass through the hands of Mary the Gate of Heaven.”

To conclude today, here are five quotes from Pope St. John Paul II regarding Mary as the “Gate of Heaven” –

“We are going to turn to Mary, our Mother. I am sure that the children here present pray to her often. And you parents, you set great store by training them, from the earliest age, to prayer, to religious acts, to the Good News of the Gospel. Even better, you deepen your faith with them and pray with them. Let us ask Mary to lead you to full knowledge of her Son, Jesus, to be his disciples and his apostles.”

“What can I wish for you but that you will always listen to these words of Mary, the Mother of Christ: ‘Do whatever he tells you’? And may you accept these words with your heart, because they were uttered from the heart. From the heart of Mother. And that you will fulfill them: ‘God has chosen you…calling you to this, with our Gospel, for possession of the glory of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.’”

“As the Apostle Paul says: ‘We know that our home is in heaven, where we also await our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior, who will change our vile body that is may be fashioned like his magnificent body’ (Phil 3:20-21). Holy Mary has already reached her heavenly home, and after exile on earth gained entrance immediately to glory. So, let your sufferings, your anxieties, your hopes be directed toward her…”

“…[T]he Second Vatican Council emphasizes in the last chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church that “in her life the Virgin has been a model of motherly love with which all who join in the Church’s apostolic mission for the regeneration of mankind should be animated” (Lumen Gentium, 65).

“Moreover, the effectiveness of our pastoral mission depends on our holiness of life. Let us not be afraid, for the Mother of Jesus is with us. She is in our midst today and always. And we are strong through her prayers and safe in her care. Regina Caeli, laetare, alleluia!

Mary, Gate of Heaven…Pray for Us

Our Lady of Loreto…Pray for Us

Pope St. John Paul II…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – Was the Blessed Virgin Mary the first to see the Resurrected Lord?

In a recent homily at our monthly Latin Mass, my boss and Pastor, made reference to something he once heard – the Blessed Virgin Mary was the first to see Jesus after his resurrection instead of St. Mary Magdalene, as the Gospels proclaim. It was a footnote in his homily more than anything else. As he said it, I thought to myself that I had never heard of such an idea. I just know what the Gospels tell us.

After Mass, Father said he was looking towards me when he said it thinking that I would have heard of it somewhere in my studies and in my writings on Mary via this blog. I told him I had never heard of it and asked him where he read it, but he said he didn’t read it. He heard it somewhere, however, he couldn’t remember where it was specifically.

Not thinking about researching that idea that night, I just came home and wrote on something else. As I was trying to figure out what to write for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I was doing some online searches since I hoped to incorporate Mary with Easter. Not thinking I was going to find anything specific, I came upon an older Catholic website asking that same question I am asking today – Was the Blessed Virgin Mary the first to see the Resurrected Lord?

The website lead me to the Papal Audience of none other than – Pope St. John Paul II!!

Christ Appearing to His Mother – Rogier van der Weyden; Flemish, ca. 1445

Before you read this, I would say – go into it with an open heart. This is not definitive Church doctrine, but something we could reflect and contemplate in our hearts during this Easter Octave. Again, I don’t believe the Catholic Church doctrinally teaches on this point anywhere specifically, I would be interested to know the Orthodox view; but John Paul II gives us the opportunity here to use both our reason and our hearts to discover something about the relationship between Jesus and His Mother we may have never thought happened.

Instead of providing you with the entire text, here is the link to the Vatican website – General Audience – May 21, 1997 – Mary was witness to whole paschal mystery.

Pray about it this week and if questions come up – feel free to write me one in the comment section. I may or may not be able to answer them completely. If you are a Scripture buff, just keep in mind that the Gospels themselves do say that many other things happened which is not recorded in these writings. Could this interaction between Jesus and Mary be one of them? Remember also that the Gospels talk about Jesus appearing after his Resurrection to more than 500 individuals – if such a big event – why wasn’t it recorded either? Something for us to think about then.

Post Script: Just as I was about to publish this post, I found this article from May 2011 on The New Theological Movement.

I hope that you all had a blessed and joyful Easter Sunday and that your Easter Octave is as equally blessed.

“Mondays with Mary” – 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom

Since yesterday was the 12th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s entrance into eternal glory, I thought I would combine his words on Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom with Mary in Old Testament (a series I have been writing recently) for today’s “Mondays with Mary.” Before we focus on the late Holy Father’s words, let us turn our gaze to understanding the Old Testament Marian symbol – “Created Wisdom.”

In the Old Testament, we see some rather transcendent passages on the idea of Wisdom, which focuses on the divine Person, the Father’s Word, who exists and works before all of creation is formed, most notably, Sirach 24:3-21 and Proverbs 8:22-35. The Church in the liturgical texts has used these transcendent scriptures for two Marian feasts since the seventh and tenth centuries – The Assumption of Mary into Heaven and The Nativity of Mary. In the Lectionary, these passages are commonly used for the Masses for the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, headed as “Mary, Seat of Wisdom.”

Since the seventh century, the Church has employed these texts to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This did not happen through simple accommodation, but through the simple and basic understanding of the texts, which “evidently is found in the letter of the text, but at the same time surpasses it, widens it, and enriches it.”

We see then that through the writings of the sacred author, “Wisdom, by way of reflection and participation is ascribed to Mary, the Mother of the Word of God, who from eternity was predestined, as Ineffabilis Deus, in one and the same decree with the Incarnation of divine Wisdom.” Understanding this, it is clear that Mary shares and plays a fundamental role in the mission of the Incarnation as well as the perquisites of the Word who dwelt among us, the hypostatic Wisdom incarnate. Wisdom, which was uncreated, was now incarnate in Mary, making her the epicenter of Life and Truth. She is truly “Created Wisdom.”

Madonna as Seat of Wisdom, 1199

Now that we have come to an understanding of the Marian symbol – “created wisdom”, let us turn our attention to five quotes by Pope St. John Paul II that focus on the Marian title, Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom –

1. “The prophecy and the promise of faith, whose fulfillment was awaited by the whole people, the Israel of divine election, and the whole of humanity: This was Mary’s mystery. Joseph did not know this mystery. She could not transmit it to him, because it was a mystery beyond the capacity of the human intellect and the possibilities of human language. It was not possible to transmit it by any human means. It was only possible to accept it from God – and believe. Just as Mary believed. – Termi, Italy, 1981

2. “Beloved young people! Continue to live in the truth and for the truth! May the Blessed Virgin, the Seat of Wisdom, Mother of the Word who enlightens every man, assist you, enlighten you, and comfort you.” – Rome, Italy, 1979

3. “To succeed in your intentions, entrust yourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary always, but especially in moments of difficulty and darkness. ‘From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God…Learn from her to be always faithful, to trust that God’s Word to you will be fulfilled, and that nothing is impossible with God.’” – Washington, D.C., 1979

4. “The cross is the living book from which we learn definitively who we are and how we must act. This book is always open in front of us. Read, reflect, enjoy this new wisdom. Make it your own and you will walk also along the paths of knowledge, culture, and university life, spreading light in a service of love, worthy of children of God.

And look also the Blessed Virgin, standing by the cross of Jesus (Jn. 19:25) where she is given to us as our mother: she is our hope, the seat of true Wisdom.” – Rome, Italy, 1980

5. “Be faithful to the Mother of fair love. Have trust in her, as you shape your love and form your young families. May Christ always be there for you “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” – Krakow, Poland, 1979

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom…Pray for Us.

Pope St. John Paul II…Pray for Us.

“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” – 5 Quotes on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God by Pope St. John Paul II

Yesterday, we celebrated one of great Marian Solemnities in the Catholic Church – Mary, Mother of God. As another year comes upon us, we begin our year focusing on Our Lord’s Mother, particularly in her role as Theotokos or God-Bearer.

As some of you know, this happens to be my favorite title for the Blessed Virgin Mary. I like this title for Mary so much that my home Wi-Fi is named Theotokos and my fantasy football team, which by the way won the league championship, is titled – The Theotokos Tide.

In the past, I have written on this title for Mary many times, if you are interested in reading some of those posts, I would encourage you to check those out here.

As many of you also know, Pope St. John Paul II is a major influence in my writing and work, not only here, but also at the parish. Next week and week after, I will be teaching on his life to the parents of our family formation program. So for today’s, “Mondays with Mary”, I am going to provide you 5 quotes from homilies written by Pope St. John Paul II that focus on Our Lady in this Solemnity – Mary, the Mother of God. Feel free to share these on your social media sites or with family and friends.

1. “Today’s liturgy celebrates the solemnity of the Mother of God. Mary is the one who was chosen to be Mother of the Redeemer, sharing intimately in his mission. In the light of Christmas, the mystery of her divine motherhood is illumined. Mary, Mother of Jesus who was born in the Bethlehem cave, is also the Mother of every man and woman who comes into the world. How is it possible not to commend to her the year that is beginning, to implore a time of serenity and peace for all humanity? On the day when this new year begins under the blessed gaze of the Mother of God, let us invoke the gift of peace for each one and all.” – 1997

Orans - Theotokos

2. “‘When the time had fully come’ (Gal 4:4). These words of the Letter of St Paul to the Galatians correspond very well to the character of today’s celebration. We are at the beginning of the New Year. According to the civil calendar, today is the first day of 1998; according to that of the liturgy, we are celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God…The Virgin most holy, whom we address on this first day of the year by the title ‘Mother of God’, turns her loving gaze to the whole world. Through her motherly intercession, the people of all the continents can feel more like brothers and prepare their hearts to welcome her Son, Jesus. Christ is the genuine peace that reconciles man with man and all humanity with God.” – 1998

3. In a certain sense, the whole liturgical year follows in the footsteps of this motherhood, beginning with the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, exactly nine months before Christmas. On the day of the Annunciation, Mary heard the Angel’s words: ‘Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’ (Lk 1: 31-33, 35). And she answered:  ‘Let it be to me according to your word’ (ibid., 1: 38). – 2000

4. “Today the Church is celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. After presenting her as the One who offers the Child to the shepherds who sought him anxiously, Luke the Evangelist gives us an image of Mary, at the same time simple and majestic. Mary is the woman of faith, who made room for God in her heart, in her plans, in her body, in her experience as a wife and mother. She is the believer who is capable of understanding the unusual event of the Son as the coming of that ‘fullness of time’ (Gal 4: 4), in which God, choosing the simple ways of human life, decided to involve himself personally in the work of salvation.” – 2001

5. “Today, the liturgy of the Octave of Christmas presents to us the icon of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. The Apostle Paul points her out as the “woman” through whom the Son of God entered the world. Mary of Nazareth is the Theotokos, the One who “gave birth to the King of Heaven and earth for ever” (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Sedulius). At the beginning of this new year, let us place ourselves with docility at the school of Mary. We want to learn from her, the Holy Mother, how to accept in faith and prayer the salvation that God never ceases to offer to all who trust in his merciful love.” – 2004

As we begin this new year of 2017, let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Mother of God, to intercede always for us by leading us closer to her Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us also pray that the Pope St. John Paul II will continue to watch over and pray for the Catholic Church from his place in Heaven. Amen.

Pope St. John Paul II’s Rookie Card

Today is the memorial for Pope St. John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) as well as the 38th Anniversary of his Installation to the Papacy of the Catholic Church. Below you will find two pictures – the front and back of a prayer card from October 1978.

In some aspects, this prayer card for Pope St. John Paul II is like a “baseball rookie card.” It states the dates of his birth, ordination to the priesthood, elevation to the episcopate, cardinal creation, election to the papacy, and installation to the papacy.

If the prayer card below is like his baseball rookie card, then my blog post titled, Pope Saint John Paul: Mission Accomplished, is his induction to the Hall of Fame, well in this case, the Heavenly Kingdom.

In the 4½ years of writing on this blog, I have written about Pope St. John Paul over 50 times. He is one of the main reasons why I teach and write about the Catholic faith so much. His inspiration in my life, which began through Robert “BK” Kloska, has fueled many of my projects on here and in different parish and school positions that I have held over the years.

JP2 Rookie Card, Side 1JP2 Rookie Card, Side 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For your reading pleasure today, here are the blog posts that I have written on the Polish Pope and Saint since last year’s memorial day –

1. Pope St. John Paul II on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

2. 7 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Mary’s Connection to Pentecost

4. “Mondays with Mary” – 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Mary as the Virgin of Virgins

5. Remembering Pope St. John Paul II: Eleven Years Later

6. “Mondays with Mary” – 10 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on the Presentation of the Lord

7. 10 Quotes on the Holy Family from Pope St. John Paul II

This link will take you to the many other blog posts I have written on him.

Pope St. John Paul II…Pray For Us!

JP2, We Love You! 

Be Not Afraid! 

Beatification Pic of JP II