The 30th Anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II Visit to Phoenix, Arizona

Pope St. John Paul II after the Papal Mass in Phoenix, Arizona.

On September 14, 1987, I had the privilege to attend the Papal Mass of Pope St. John Paul II at Sun Devil Stadium along with my Mom and cousin. It was an awesome celebration and one that I remember to this day. I was only 13 years old and really didn’t know much about the life of the Holy Father at that time. It wouldn’t be until six years later that I finally began to learn more about Pope St. John Paul II. Since then, I have studied, read, and written about Pope St. John Paul II.

While on this side of heaven, he became one of my heroes. I was also able to see him at World Youth Day 1993 in Denver, Colorado and then seven years later at World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, Italy. His influence on my life is hard to describe at times. I enjoy talking about him often with family and friends. Many know that I am a JP2 junkie.

Today, September 14, 2017, is the 30th Anniversary of his Papal Visit to Phoenix, Arizona. Although it was 30 years ago, I still remember it so vividly, as you read above. Pope St. John Paul II still is a major impact in my life as a Catholic, and as someone who studies the faith academically and teaches it to others, he is an important figure in the Church today. His writings will impact the Catholic Church for centuries to come. There are countless blog articles on this very site written either about him or quoting him.

The liturgical vestments worn by Pope St. John Paul II at the Papal Mass here in Phoenix.

Pope Saint John Paul II…Pray for Us 

Here is a picture that was sold back in 1987 to commemorate his visit to Phoenix. It hangs framed at the entrance of my home.

“Mondays with Mary” – 10 Quotes by Pope St. John Paul II on the Assumption of Mary

Since tomorrow, August 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church (in the Eastern rites of the Church, today, August 14 is the Dormition of Mary – see my blog post from 2013 titled, Breathing with the Two Lungs of the Church for the Assumption of Mary), I thought I would use today’s “Mondays with Mary” as a way to continue my ever growing catechesis on this important dogma of the Catholic Church.

Ever growing because if you include this post, I have written on the Assumption of Mary 8 times over the past 5 years. It’s an important dogma to the Church and is the culmination of the other three Marian dogmas – Theotokos (God-Bearer), Perpetual Virginity, and Immaculate Conception. For a complete understanding of all four of these dogmas, I would suggest reading my book, Understanding Catholic Teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone that reads this blog and these series on a regular basis, but for those of you that are new, I am a big Pope St. John Paul II fan. I attribute his papacy to my intellectual conversion as well as all that I do for the Catholic Church in my current position and in my writings on here.

So for today’s post on the Assumption of Mary, here are 10 quotes from different homilies, audiences, and Angelus’ given by Pope St. John Paul II during his 26 year reign –

1. “In her, assumed into heaven, we are shown the eternal destiny that awaits us beyond the mystery of death: a destiny of total happiness in divine glory. This supernatural vision sustains our daily pilgrimage. Mary teaches about life. By looking at her, we understand better the relative value of earthly greatness and the full sense of our Christian vocation.”

2. “Taken up into heaven, Mary shows us the way to God, the way to heaven, the way to life. She shows it to her children baptized in Christ and to all people of good will. She opens this way especially to the little ones and to the poor, those who are dear to divine mercy. The Queen of the world reveals to individuals and to nations the power of the love of God whose plan upsets that of the proud, pulls down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the humble, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich empty away (cf. Lk 1:51-53).”

3. “Mary’s Assumption is an event that concerns us precisely because every human being is destined to die. But death is not the last word. Death – the mystery of the Virgin’s Assumption assures us – is the passage to life, the encounter with Love. It is the passage to the eternal happiness in store for those who toil for truth and justice and do their utmost to follow Christ.”

Fra Angelico – Assumption

4. “The Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption into heaven reminds us that Mary has returned to the Father’s house in body and soul, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of peace towards which we are all journeying. This is the reason why the Church, which addresses the Mother of the Lord by the title of Queen of Heaven, also loves to invoke her with the fitting name of Queen of Peace.”

5. “Mary shines on earth “until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen gentiumn. 68). A caring mother to everyone, she supports the efforts of believers and encourages them to persevere in their commitment. Here I am thinking most particularly of young people, who are more exposed to the attractions and temptations of fleeting myths and false teachers.”

6. “Mary, glorified in her body, appears today as the star of hope for the Church and for humanity on its way towards the third Christian millennium. Her sublime exaltation does not distance her from her people or from the world’s problems, on the contrary, it enables her to watch effectively over human affairs with that attentive concern with which she obtained the first miracle from Jesus at the wedding in Cana.”

7. “Today the Church celebrates Mary’s glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven. The two dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are closely related. Both proclaim the glory of Christ the Redeemer and the holiness of Mary, whose human destiny is even now perfectly and definitively realized in God.”

8. “Chosen by God as the purest vessel in which to “come and dwell” among men, Mary, at the end of her earthly existence, was immediately taken up into heaven. This is why the Christian community, in a renowned hymn, joyfully sings her praise and invokes her: “Hail, O steadfast foundation of faith; / Hail, O shining emblem of grace…. /Hail, O key to the kingdom of Christ / Hail, O Hope for the ages of bliss…. / Hail, for the heavenly rejoice with the earth; / Hail, for the earthly meet the heavens in song!” (Akathistos).”

9. “In Mary and in the mystery of her Assumption, every person is called to discover the bold, connatural end of life, according to the plan established by the Creator: in other words, to be conformed to Christ, the incarnate Word, authentic image of the heavenly Father, to join him on the journey of faith and to rise with him to the fullness of blessed life.”

10. “Today Mary seems even closer to us: from heaven she sees us and protects us. Contemplation of paradise does not distance us from the earth; indeed on the contrary, it is an incentive to us to work with all our might to transform our world in view of eternity. In our minds resounds the Apostle’s invitation to seek the “things that are above” (Col 3:1), where an eternal dwelling place is prepared for us in the common house of the Father.”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Assumed into Heaven…Pray for Us

Pope Saint John Paul II…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary’s Relationship with the Eucharist

With yesterday’s celebration in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church of the great Solemnity of Corpus Christi (The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ), I felt the need to share with you some of the words from Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical, Eucharistia de Ecclesia, specifically where he focuses on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s relationship with the Holy Eucharist.

I think I have at least quoted some of these thoughts in previous blog posts, but have never brought them all together in just one article. The Holy Eucharist is a topic that I have written about numerous times in the past, most notably the article from my series, Quick Lessons from the Catechism.

If you are a faithful, devout, and practicing Catholic, the Holy Eucharist should be an important aspect of your spirituality, most importantly Sunday Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. If your parish has Perpetual or weekly Adoration, I can’t encourage you enough to sign-up for one hour to spend with Our Lord, particularly if you are involved with a liturgical ministry at your parish (sacristan, usher, lector, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist). I know countless people who have found a new love for their faith in an Adoration chapel.

If your parish does not have Eucharistic Adoration, I would highly encourage you to speak to your Pastor about bringing in this devotion to the life of the parish. For some reason, if you’re having a difficult time with this endeavor, ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist you. She knows exactly how important the Holy Eucharist is to the life of the Church, because she was there at its inception.

Knowing how important the Eucharist is to the life of the Church, here are 10 quotes from the aforementioned encyclical written by the great 20th century Polish Pope about Mary’s relationship to the Holy Eucharist –

1. “If we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church. In my Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I pointed to the Blessed Virgin Mary as our teacher in contemplating Christ’s face, and among the mysteries of light I included the institution of the Eucharist.  Mary can guide us towards this most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with it.”

2. “Mary is a ‘woman of the Eucharist’ in her whole life. The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery.”

3. “With the same maternal concern which she showed at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary seems to say to us: “Do not waver; trust in the words of my Son. If he was able to change water into wine, he can also turn bread and wine into his body and blood, and through this mystery bestow on believers the living memorial of his passover, thus becoming the ‘bread of life’”.”

Our Lady of the Host by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

4. “Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist, by the very fact that she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God’s Word. The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord’s body and blood.”

5. “Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church’s Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary.”

6. “In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of “anticipated Eucharist” – one might say a “spiritual communion” – of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion.”

7. “For Mary, receiving the Eucharist must have somehow meant welcoming once more into her womb that heart which had beat in unison with hers and reliving what she had experienced at the foot of the Cross.”

8. “Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist. This is one reason why, since ancient times, the commemoration of Mary has always been part of the Eucharistic celebrations of the Churches of East and West.”

9. “Mary sings of the “new heavens” and the “new earth” which find in the Eucharist their anticipation and in some sense their programme and plan. The Magnificat expresses Mary’s spirituality, and there is nothing greater than this spirituality for helping us to experience the mystery of the Eucharist. The Eucharist has been given to us so that our life, like that of Mary, may become completely a Magnificat!”

10. “…let us listen to Mary Most Holy, in whom the mystery of the Eucharist appears, more than in anyone else, as a mystery of light. Gazing upon Mary, we come to know the transforming power present in the Eucharist. In her we see the world renewed in love.”

During this week, let us contemplate these words and implement them into our daily prayer life. If you do spend time in Adoration, I would encourage you to do a “lectio divina” type of prayer with these words. Meditating and praying upon these saintly words might open for you another avenue in your devotion to the Holy Eucharist and in your relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is there always leading us closer to Jesus Christ in this sacrament of all sacraments.

Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament…Pray for Us

Pope Saint John Paul II…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Trinitarian Perspective

On January 10, 1996, Pope St. John Paul II focused on, as part of his Marian Catechesis during the years of 1995 to 1997, Mary in the Trinitarian Perspective. Beginning with the 8th chapter of the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium, the Polish saint lays out the importance Mary plays in regards to the Most Holy Trinity. As the greatest creature of all creatures, she has a distinct relationship with each of the persons of the Holy Trinity. Quoting paragraph #53 from the aforementioned document, John Paul II says,

“Mary’s threefold relationship with the divine Persons is confirmed in precise words and with a description of the characteristic relationship which links the Mother of the Lord to the Church: “She is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Coronation of the Virgin – Diego Velázquez

He further explains in the same catechesis how Mary is the Mother of the Son of God, beloved daughter of the Father, and temple of the Holy Spirit. He says,

“Mary’s fundamental dignity is that of being “Mother of the Son”, which is expressed in Christian doctrine and devotion with the title “Mother of God”.

This is a surprising term, which shows the humility of God’s only-begotten Son in his Incarnation and, in connection with it, the most high privilege granted a creature who was called to give him birth in the flesh.

Mother of the Son, Mary is the “beloved daughter of the Father” in a unique way. She has been granted an utterly special likeness between her motherhood and the divine fatherhood.

And again: every Christian is a “temple of the Holy Spirit”, according to the Apostle Paul’s expression (1 Cor 6:19). But this assertion takes on an extraordinary meaning in Mary: in her the relationship with the Holy Spirit is enriched with a spousal dimension. I recalled this in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater: “The Holy Spirit had already come down upon her, and she became his faithful spouse at the Annunciation, welcoming the Word of the true God…” (n. 26).”

Pope St. John Paul II concludes his short catechesis on Mary’s role with the Trinity with these words,

 “…the authentic meaning of Mary’s privileges and of her extraordinary relationship with the Trinity: their purpose is to enable her to co-operate in the salvation of the human race. The immeasurable greatness of the Lord’s Mother therefore remains a gift of God’s love for all men.”

To read the full catechesis from January 10, 1996, click HERE.

I have also written on Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium in the past, to read the paragraphs spoken from this catechesis, please click HERE. If you have never read the Second Vatican Council document, I would highly encourage you to do so.

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.