“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament: Among the “Poor of Yahweh” (Part 6)

After a couple of weeks focusing on other Marian topics, I want to turn my gaze back onto Mary in the Old Testament and focus on the Marian liturgical symbol – Among the “Poor of Yahweh”. Today’s blog post coincides perfectly with Saturday’s Solemnity of the Annunciation.

According to the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium, “She [Mary] stands out among the humble and the poor of the Lord, who confidently await and receive from him their salvation” (#55). Here the Council Fathers, with biblical recollection, focus on the “anawim” of God. They are considered the truest of the “poor of Yahweh” – the God-fearing and humble children of God who trust in the Lord to save them from the oppression of men. From these “anawim” come the poorest of the poor – the “remnant of Israel”, who will now form the chosen people of God. This chosen people will be lead by Christ and His Church on pilgrimage to the Kingdom of heaven.

Being the “handmaid of the Lord”, we know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is shown to us as being of a poor disposition. In her song of praise, the Magnificat, Mary includes herself in the humble and poor of the Lord – “he has looked upon the low estate of his handmaiden” (Lk 1:48) and “he has lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:52).

The Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Focusing on these words from the Sacred Scriptures, in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Pope St. John Paul II, focuses on and asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary was undoubtedly saturated in the “poor of Yahweh.” In paragraph 37, John Paul II says,

“The Church’s love of preference for the poor is wonderfully inscribed in Mary’s Magnificat. The God of the Covenant, celebrated in the exultation of her spirit by the Virgin of Nazareth, is also he who “has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly, …filled the hungry with good things, sent the rich away empty, …scattered the proud-hearted…and his mercy is from age to age on those who fear him.” Mary is deeply imbued with the spirit of the “poor of Yahweh,” who in the prayer of the Psalms awaited from God their salvation, placing all their trust in him (cf. Pss. 25; 31; 35; 55). Mary truly proclaims the coming of the “Messiah of the poor” (cf. Is. 11:4; 61:1). Drawing from Mary’s heart, from the depth of her faith expressed in the words of the Magnificat, the Church renews ever more effectively in herself the awareness that the truth about God who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from the manifestation of his love of preference for the poor and humble, that love which, celebrated in the Magnificat, is later expressed in the words and works of Jesus.

The Church is thus aware-and at the present time this awareness is particularly vivid-not only that these two elements of the message contained in the Magnificat cannot be separated, but also that there is a duty to safeguard carefully the importance of “the poor” and of “the option in favor of the poor” in the word of the living God. These are matters and questions intimately connected with the Christian meaning of freedom and liberation. “Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission.”

As we commemorate the fourth week of Lent, the fourth Sunday in Lent – Laetare Sunday, let us rejoice with the Heavenly Jerusalem that the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us hope, even in her poor disposition, that she is with us always and ready to lead us closer to her son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Source:

Burke, Raymond L., Stefano M. Manelli, Luigi Gambero, Manfred Hauke, Peter M. Fehlner, Arthur Burton. Calkins, Paul Haffner, Alessandro M. Apollonio, Edward P. Sri, Charles M. Mangan, Enrique Llamas Martínez, Neil J. Roy, Etienne Richer, Vladimir Zelinskiĩ, and Mark I. Miravalle. Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Goleta, CA: Queenship Pub, 2008. Print.

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

Last week I said I would return to the series, Mary in the Old Testament, but again I am going to suspend that series for one more week to focus on the Intercession of Saint Joseph by providing you some prayers and litanies that ask for his intercession. I can write about Saint Joseph as part of my “Mondays with Mary” series since he is so closely connected with Mary, most especially through their marital vows. Although Saint Joseph never utters a single word in the Sacred Scriptures, his presence is never forgotten and his heroic fortitude is never shaken. He listens to the Lord and in turn is obedient to Him.

Because he was the Guardian of the Redeemer and the protector of the Redeemer’s mother, Saint Joseph stands as the Patron of the Universal Church – he protects the Church as he protected Jesus and Mary. However, with Mary, he shares in her divine motherhood by protecting and interceding for that which is most precious to all of humanity. In the Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, Pope St. John Paul II says,

“Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery. Together with Mary, and in relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God’s self-revelation in Christ and he does so from the very beginning. Looking at the gospel texts of both Matthew and Luke, one can also say that Joseph is the first to share in the faith of the Mother of God and that in doing so he supports his spouse in the faith of the divine annunciation. He is also the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary’s “pilgrimage of faith.” It is a path along which – especially at the time of Calvary and Pentecost – Mary will precede in a perfect way…The path that was Joseph’s – his pilgrimage of faith – ended first, that is to say, before Mary stood at the foot of the cross on Golgotha, and before the time after Christ returned to the Father… Nevertheless, Joseph’s way of faith moved in the same direction: it was totally determined by the same mystery, of which he, together with Mary, had been the first guardian.”

So how does one ask for intercession to St. Joseph? Although there are a variety of prayers, the three most common that I personally turn to in prayer are below. The first is pretty short and focuses on any difficult affairs we might be facing. The second is a litany and I provide you with the link to the EWTN page. The third focuses exactly on my points today – his Guardianship in union with Mary. It is my hope for you that if you don’t know St. Joseph well, these prayers will begin your time with him.

O Glorious St. Joseph, whose power can render possible even things which are impossible, come to my aid in my present trouble and distress. Take under thy protection the important and difficult affairs which I entrust to thee, that they may end happily. (Pause – Petition)

My beloved Father, all my confidence is in thee. Let it not be said that I invoked thee in vain; and since thou art able to obtain everything before Jesus and Mary, show me that thy goodness equals thy power. Amen.

Litany of St. Joseph

In our tribulation we fly to thee, O blessed Joseph; and, after imploring the help of thy most holy Spouse, we ask also with confidence for thy patronage.

By the affection which united thee to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and the paternal love with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee to look kindly upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ acquired by His Precious Blood, and by thy powerful aid to help us in our needs.

Protect, most careful Guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen people of Jesus Christ. Keep us, most loving father, from all pestilence of error and corruption.

Be merciful also to us, most powerful protector, from thy place in heaven, in this warfare with the powers of darkness; and, as thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from danger of death, so now defend the Holy Church of God from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity.

Guard each one of us by thy perpetual patronage, so that, sustained by thine example and help, we have live holiness, die a holy death, and obtain the everlasting happiness of heaven. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Patron and Guardian of the Holy Catholic Church…Pray for Us.

To read more about St. Joseph, see Saint Joseph – The Foster-Father of Jesus Christ and the Patron of the Universal Church

Saint Joseph – The Foster-Father of Jesus Christ and the Patron of the Universal Church

Although today is the Third Sunday of Lent, which trumps the Solemnity of Saint Joseph; we will celebrate the Solemnity tomorrow on March 20, I still wanted to provide you with the blog posts I have written on the past that have to do with Saint Joseph. He is patron saint to me since my middle name is Joseph, and without fail my Aunt Agnes always calls me on this day to wish me a Happy Name Day.

Although St. Jospeh never says a word in the Sacred Scriptures, he is the example of heroic fortitude, steadfastness, and protection. It was his duty to care for Jesus and Mary – a duty he fulfilled wholeheartedly and without complaint. He is the type of man that all Christian men must strive to be like – single or married. Men – he is our greatest example behind Our Lord and Savior.

Here are eight blog posts I have written in the past that show the importance and the heroic fortitude of the foster-father of Jesus Christ and the Patron of the Universal Church –

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 

Saint Joseph…Pray for Us 

Understanding Apologetics: How to Defend Your Faith

This is an article that had been on my heart and mind to write for some time since we are often asked if we will offer “apologetic classes” at the parish. It first appeared in the March 5, 2017 edition of Saint Mary Magdalene’s Parish Bulletin, Vidi Dominum (Latin for – “I have seen the Lord.” The words of St. Mary Magdalene to the Apostles [John 20:18]). With permission, I am able to provide this article to you here.

In a world filled with buzzwords, there is one on the lips of many Catholics I run into. That buzzword is apologetics. Recently, a lot of parishioners have been requesting that more apologetics classes be offered here at St. Mary Magdalene. Before I address that, we should first ask whether we really understand what this word means – what apologetics is, and what it isn’t.

What is Apologetics?

The word apologetics comes from the Greek root word, apologia, which means to defend. In Ancient Greece, it was referred to as the formal way one would defend a belief, explanation, or argument for one’s philosophy or religion. Although we might associate this term with the word, apologize, it does mean to say that we are sorry for what we believe, or that we are sorry for offending someone because of our beliefs.

The term apologia cannot only be found in the New Testament (Acts 22:1 and 1 Peter 3:15), but also in other documents in ancient history, such as The Apology of Socrates by the Greek philosopher Plato. In this text, he makes a defense for Socrates when accused of wrongdoing. Furthermore, we also see this word in the Early Church writings of St. Irenaeus (Against the Heresies), St. Justin Martyr (The First Apology), and, most notably, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Clement of Rome, St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and Tertullian, among others. In more modern times, we have G.K. Chesterton, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Frank Sheed, Peter Kreeft, Jimmy Akin, and Arizona’s own, Trent Horn.

Although the aforementioned Early Church Fathers defended their newfound Catholic faith and beliefs to a pagan culture of non-believers, Catholics today are in a similar position. We are constantly being required to explain and defend our Catholic faith to many non-believers, even to those who were raised Catholic but were never truly taught their Catholic faith correctly. Many people have left the Catholic Church as a result of having been poorly catechized. Even I was not catechized correctly as a young child and adolescent. I first had to learn the truth before having the courage to defend it.

Preaching of Saint Peter by Masolino da Panicale (The Brancacci Chapel in Florence, Italy).

For us today, and for our older brothers and sisters in the past, the battle cry of defending our Catholic faith should be centered on St. Peter’s words – “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). In his book, Reasons to Believe – How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith, Scott Hahn says the following in reference to St. Peter’s words:

 “We should…always “be prepared” to explain the reasons why we believe what we believe. That statement assumes our beliefs are defensible on rational grounds, and that we’re willing to spend a lifetime preparing to defend what we profess in the articles of faith…as Christians, we have the sweet obligation of coming to know them and coming to their defense as often as we please. There is no shortage of opportunity of study, contemplation, and evangelization. Wherever we go, we are in God’s presence and in His world. And in most places we go we can take a good book along for stolen moments of study. It’s the work of a lifetime.”

 Always be prepared

So we might be asking ourselves at this point: How can we make sure that we are always prepared?

First, we must be people of prayer. The greatest apologists in the history of the Church were those striving to be saints. Their work as apologists was secondary. The best way to become a saint is to strive for holiness and to converse with God through prayer. A consistent daily and lively prayer life is fundamental for anyone who wants to learn and defend the Catholic faith. A good place to start with prayer is attending Sunday Mass and spending time with Jesus in Adoration. If you can make daily Mass, that will benefit you even more.

Second, we must come to have a good understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches on the fundamental articles of faith. Although the Catholic faith is vast and contains a wealth of knowledge, starting with the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, amplified with strong works of biblical and theological learning is fundamental. You can read and learn on your own, but many people find it overwhelming to pick up the Bible or the Catechism. I have heard it here at the parish many times.

Do We Offer Apologetics Classes?

In a recent Flocknote survey that I sent out, I received numerous requests to offer “apologetics classes.” Although I understand what people are asking, the simple response to the question above is, “We already do!” Through the Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation Program, we have already provided Bible studies such as Genesis to Jesus, The Gospel of Matthew, Book of Revelation; the Catholicism Series, sessions on the Mass and the Eucharist, Consecration to Jesus through Mary, Prayer, and many others.

Third, we must realize what apologetics is and isn’t. Apologetics is simply, as I stated above, the ability to defend one’s faith, but more than that, apologetics should remove false notions of Catholicism. We should be able to explain to people, through reason, what Catholicism is, and what it is not. Many people have been given a false perception of the Church through no fault of their own.

Apologetics seeks to bring people to Jesus Christ through conversion. It is not about bringing someone to Christ by force. Apologetics is not about winning or trying to recruit people to the faith. People must be open to hearing the truth of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church in order for conversion to take place, and the Holy Spirit will take care of that.

Lastly, Apologetics is not just answering questions or giving quick answers to questions asked by our friends and coworkers. Many people I encounter just want some rote answer to a question (although memorization does have its place too). However, that often does nothing but give a cold response when so much more could be achieved. Our sessions will help you understand Catholicism as a whole, not just give you answers to questions your neighbor might ask you.

Giving a quick answer is not what St. Peter meant in his letter. St. Peter, along with Jesus, wants us to be well-trained Christians with minds and hearts formed in love, humility, and generosity. Scott Hahn says in the aforementioned book,

“We’re not looking for the quick comeback…we’re looking for answers that will satisfy – first ourselves and then others. Apologetics is a theological art that must rest on a firm foundation of theological science. If our defense does not flow from deep preparation, deep Christian formation, it will be unconvincing at best, but merely offensive at worst.”  

Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens by Raphael, 1515.

 To defend our faith is about engaging the culture in which we live, actually that’s the mission of the Catholic Church – to engage the culture, to be counter-cultural, and to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each person we encounter in our daily lives is different. We must learn to develop relationships with each of them. One of the best sort of apologetic “arguments” is giving your personal testimony to those who question our beliefs. Cardinal Avery Dulles once said,

“The apologetics of personal testimony is particularly suited to the genius of Catholicism. In the act of the Catholic faith, reliance on testimony goes out indivisibly to Christ and to the Church through which he continues his mission in the world. Such testimony invites us not only to individual conversion but to communion with the whole body of believers.”

 Suggestions for Further Reading

Below are five books that I suggest for further reading. It’s my hope that if you have not attended one of our Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation sessions in the past, that you will seek out what we will offer in the months and years ahead, in order that you will have the proper formation, and as St. Peter states, “Always be prepared to make a defense.”

  1. Reasons to Believe – How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith, Scott Hahn.
  2. Theology for Beginners and Theology and Sanity, Frank Sheed.
  3. Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating
  4. The Fundamentals of the Faith, Peter Kreeft
  5. Handbooks of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Jr.

Sources:

“”Be A Catholic Apologist – Without Apology”. Ignatius Insight, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

Hahn, Scott. Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith. New York: Doubleday, 2007. Print.

“Starting Out as an Apologist.” Catholic Answers, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Sorrowful Mother at the Cross through the words of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

For this week, I want to suspend my Mary in the Old Testament series I have been writing on over the past few weeks in order to provide you with two important reflections on Mary and her connection with Christ at the Cross. I am doing this since I don’t think I will get another chance before Lent ends since I am focusing on the aforementioned series. Next week, we will return to that series and focus on Marian symbols.

I have written on this week’s topic numerous times before over the years, most especially during the Season of Lent, when we focus on our own sufferings, crosses, and penitential offerings. Today’s two reflections come from the great mind of the 20th century United States Archbishop –  Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. These two excerpts are from a book compiled by Henry Dieterich, titled, Through the Year with Fulton Sheen.

I hope that you enjoy them and will reflect on them this week and in the weeks to come as we approach the High Holy Days of Lent, otherwise known a the Triduum.

The first reflection is titled – Mary and Christ’s Suffering

“Mary’s participation in Christ’s suffering began with the annunciation, when she was asked to give God a human body, more properly, a human nature. In other words, will you make God capable of suffering? God though he was, he learned obedience in the school of suffering. God could know experimentally what suffering was only by taking a body. So the Blessed Mother is asked, ‘Will you make it possible for your creator to suffer?’ Think of a mother, for example, who give to a young son or daughter an automobile at the age of nineteen, which a short time afterwards is the cause of a wreck and permanent injury. Would the mother ever forgive herself? And here Mary has to say yes, I will let him suffer.”

Our Lady of Sorrows by Carlo Dolci

The second reflection is titled – Mary and John

“On the cross we no longer have Christ and his mother, or Jesus and Mary. I know we speak of the sorrowful mother at the foot of the cross, but I don’t think she was sorrowful, I think she was suffering. I cannot imagine the mother of the Maccabees as being sorrowful when she sent her seven sons to death. There must have been a certain joy in the mother’s heart as she gives her son. But there’s something different here. At this moment on the cross we no longer have Jesus and Mary. We have the new Adam and the new Eve. Our Lord on the cross is the new Adam, the Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross is the new Eve. And we’re going to have the consummation of a marriage, and out of the consummated marriage of the new Adam and new Eve is going to begin the new church of which John will be the symbol. And so the new Adam looking down to the woman, says: ‘Woman, your son.’ And to the son, he did not say ‘John’ (he would have then been only the son of Zebedee), but ‘Son, your mother.’ Here is the beginning of a new life. The Blessed Mother becomes the symbol of the church. And as Eve was the mother of the living, so Mary becomes the mother of the new living in the order of grace.”

To read more about this topic, I would suggest reading my other articles –

“Mondays with Mary” – The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross  

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Our Guide Through Lent

“Mondays with Mary” – The Method of Praying the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Suffering of Mother Mary 

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope St. John Paul II on the Suffering of Mary 

O Blessed Mother, Sorrowful and Suffering…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament: The “Paradise of God” and “Closed Door,” “Gate of God,” “Gate of Heaven” (Part 5)

The term, “Paradise of God” in reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary derives from the homilies of the eighth century Bishop of Constantinople, St. Germain. Traditionally in the Church, the term “paradise” is a Marian symbol closely associated with the Early Church Fathers, such as St. Leo the Great, St. Proclus, St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene, and others, who developed it in their writings.

Since the trickery of the serpent and the sin committed by our first parents in the earthly paradise of Eden, resulting in a original sin (yesterday’s Gospel Reading in the Latin Rite), God, in his infinite mercy, desired to fully restore another earthly paradise through the redeeming work of the Incarnate Word. He (God) prepared the “paradise” of the virginal womb of Mary, in which, in the fullness off time (Gal 4:4) came the Divine Son.

In the Litany of Loreto, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been petitioned by the faithful to answer their intercessions as the “Gate of Heaven.” Mary’s immaculate and virginal womb brought forth Jesus Christ into the world, she then is truly the Gate of Heaven.

In the prophet Ezekiel (44:1-2), it references the mystery of the “closed door” which “shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut.” The most accurate and detailed scriptural exegetical study of this passage points out that this passage is in reference to Mary’s perfect and perpetual virginity – before, during, and ever childbirth. In Mary’s perpetual virginity, it’s a doorway that is always sealed and always to be closed.

 The image of the Virgin Mother and Infant Christ surrounded by flowers is from the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria.


The image of the Virgin Mother and Infant Christ surrounded by flowers is from the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria.

As Saint Ambrose said, “Christ has passed through it, but not opened it.” Pope St. John Paul II has said that Jesus did not violate Mary’s virginity, rather, he sanctified her virginity.

The elect enter into paradise through the “Gate of Heaven” – who is truly the Blessed Virgin Mary. Psalm 117:20 says, “This is the gate of the Lord, the just shall enter through it.” In the antiphon for the Gospel of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it says the following – “‘Gate of Heaven’: The gate of paradise, shut by the sin of Eve, has been reopened by you, O Virgin Mary.”

Next week we will continue our Old Testament Series in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary as we examine Marian Symbols used in the Liturgy.

O Mary, as the Paradise of God and Gate of Heaven…Pray for Us. 

Source:

Burke, Raymond L., Stefano M. Manelli, Luigi Gambero, Manfred Hauke, Peter M. Fehlner, Arthur Burton. Calkins, Paul Haffner, Alessandro M. Apollonio, Edward P. Sri, Charles M. Mangan, Enrique Llamas Martínez, Neil J. Roy, Etienne Richer, Vladimir Zelinskiĩ, and Mark I. Miravalle. Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Goleta, CA: Queenship Pub, 2008. Print.

The Witty Banter of a Practicing Catholic

Earlier today, I was giving some insight to a friend of mine through wit, banter, and humor about going to Confession and what they should do so they could make the Latin Novos Ordo Mass at the parish tonight.  As I was sitting around the house today, I also thought to myself that I ate a lot of meat yesterday since on Friday (First Friday of Lent), I didn’t eat any meat. In these two moments, I came up with the new page on my blog of comments that a practicing catholic might say to oneself or to others to be serious, but more funny than serious. The new page – The Witty Banter of a Practicing Catholic

There is a twofold purpose of this new page, first, it’s meant to be funny. As practicing Catholics, the world thinks we are crazy, but in that craziness, we can have a lot of fun – such as knowing that you sometimes have to line up one hour before Confession begins. Second, it will provide insight to the beauty and mystery of Catholicism. The same Catholicism that a practicing Catholic witnesses every day in the Church.

As I think of sayings or comments that come into mind or come out of my lips or things I hear others say, I will write them on this page. Credit will be given. If you want some wit, banter, and humor, read this post – 12 Sayings of Mother Angelica that Made Me Laugh Out Loud.

Saint Philip Neri…Pray for Us.