“Mondays with Mary” – The Marian Pope and Saint

Last week Catholics around the world received wonderful news from the Vatican, specifically from the Congregation for the Canonization of Saints, that Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII could be canonized by years end. Although I find John XXIII to be a great man in the 20th century Church, growing up as part of the JP2 Generation and knowing that “our” Pope is going to be declared a Saint of the Church is just so exciting. I mean really exciting!!

Beatification Pic of JP II

Blessed John Paul II is a major figure in my life as a Catholic man, but also as a Catholic educator, writer, and speaker. His life, his writings, and his witness have played a major role in my own journey in the Catholic faith since 1993 when my friend, Robert Kloska, first really introduced to me to him.

There are many reasons why I love Blessed John Paul II, but one of the BIG reasons is because of his love for the Blessed Mother. His love for Mary began as a small child when his own mother passed away. At that time, he asked Mary to his mother. As a child, he had a great devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He had a great devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa, Our Lady of Fatima, the Holy Rosary, and the Brown Scapular. He is the only Pope to put the letter “M” on this Papal shield to represent Mary. Blessed John Paul II Papal Seal

He wrote numerous documents that focused on the Blessed Mother and even in those documents that did not specifically focus on Mary; he spoke about her. Even though many Popes before John Paul II had devotions to the Blessed Mother, it can be proclaimed very easily that John Paul II is the Marian Pope and Saint.

Below is a minimal sampling of his writings and addresses that focus on the Blessed Mother. These five quotes hardly due John Paul the Great and future Doctor of the Church justice, however, I would encourage you to read them once, read them again, and then pray with his words in order to implement them into your own heart and life of prayer.

“Mary shares our human condition, but in complete openness to the grace of God. Not having known sin, she is able to have compassion for every kind of weakness. She understands sinful man and loves with a mother’s love. Precisely for this reason she is on the side of truth and shares the Church’s burden of recalling always and to everyone the demands of morality. Nor does she permit sinful man to be deceived by those who claim to love him by justifying his sin, for she knows that the sacrifice of Christ her Son would be emptied of its power. No absolution offered by beguiling doctrines, even in the areas of philosophy and theology, can make man truly happy. Only the cross and glory of the risen Christ can grant peace to his conscience and salvation to his life.”  Veritatis Splendor, 120

“And in the moments of weariness raise your eyes to Mary, the Virgin who, forgetting herself, set out “with haste” for the hills to reach her elderly cousin Elizabeth who was in need help and assistance (cf. Lk. 1:39ff). Let her be the inspiration of your daily dedication to duty; let her suggest to you the right words and opportune gestures at the bedside of the sick; let her comfort you in misunderstandings and failures, hoping you always keep a smile on your face and a hope in your heart.” – Address, Rome, June 18, 1979

“In creating the human race “male and female,” God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity, endowing them with the inalienable rights and responsibilities proper to the human person. God then manifests the dignity of women in the highest form possible, by assuming human flesh from the Virgin Mary, whom the Church honors as the Mother of God, calling her the New Eve and presenting her as the model of redeemed woman.” Familiaris Consortio, 22

“As the Council proclaims: Mary became “a mother to us in the order of grace.” This motherhood in the order of grace flows from her divine motherhood. Because she was, by the design of divine Providence, the Mother who nourished the divine Redeemer, Mary became “an associate of unique nobility, and the Lord’s humble handmaid,” who “cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls.” And “this maternity of Mary in the order of grace…will last without interruption until the eternal fulfillment of al the elect.” – Redemptoris Mater, 22   

Evangelization “is the greatest ministry or service that the Church carries out for the world and for men, the Good news that the kingdom of justice and peace reaches men in Jesus Christ” (Puebla Document, 679). Hence the Church, if she wishes to be really the bearer of the message of the Son of God, must proclaim, live, and bear witness to the Gospel faithfully and consistently. In the evangelizing history of the Church, the Virgin Mary has occupied and continues to occupy a singularly unique place. It has rightly been said: “to Christ through Mary.” – Address, Mendoza, Argentina, October 12, 1980

mary-baby-jesus1

 O, Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, be our guide and intercessor to the divine light, Jesus Christ. As we develop a personal friendship with your Son, assist us in being your children more and more each and allowing you to be our Advocating Mother.  Our Lady Help of Christians…Pray For Us! 

Pentecost, Playing with Fire, and the New Evangelization

In the 1991 film, Backdraft, there is a scene when Robert De Niro’s character asks Donald Sutherland’s character (an imprisoned pyromaniac), “what do you want to do to the whole world Ronald”, and he replies “burn it all.” If you have never see the movie, I encourage you to see because it’s a great film, however the reason why I quote this film is because as Catholic Christians living in the world, we should want to do the same thing to the world, but in a Evangelistic way. We should be seeking to light the world on fire with the light of the Holy Spirit.

As Catholics, we should be spiritual fire-starters for Jesus Christ and His Church. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled” (Lk 12:49). Now I am not talking about starting literal fires, but I am speaking about playing with the fire of Pentecost and the fire that we receive in the Sacrament of Confirmation. As Catholic Christians, it is our fundamental duty to evangelize the world by playing with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

At the direction of a good friend of mine, who is also in the trenches fighting for Jesus Christ, I have begun reading George Weigel’s latest book – Evangelical Catholicism.  To say the least – it’s simply fantastic! His understanding of the Catholic Church and the deep reform (not doctrinal reform) that is needed for the Church in the 21st century is beyond compare. Having read other titles by Mr. Weigel, I can honestly say that he could be the greatest catholic author in the last half century. His arguments are concise, clear, and follow simple common sense. In Chapter 1, there is a section called – Pentecost, Again. He begins this section by stating that through the pontificates of Pope St. John XXIII (and the Second Vatican Council) and Pope St. John Paul II, a new Pentecost is on the horizon in the Catholic Church. The marching orders that will lead this new Pentecost is the New Evangelization. Now this is no easy task, but if the mission can be met, it means that we who take on this great call will have to play with fire.

pentecost

Instead of providing a commentary on the readings from this year’s liturgical cycle on Pentecost, I provide you with some dynamic and powerful quotes from Evangelical Catholicism and the section on the new Pentecost –

Quoting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger –

“the Holy Spirit is fire; whoever does not want to be burned should not come near him.” This fire…”is an “inimitable” part of the “relationship between Christ, Holy Spirit, and Church.””

Fire of the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ –

“The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, inspires, and fuses men and women together into a new human community, the Church. Through each of its members, and in them as a whole, the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.”

Fire of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Ratzinger –

“Faith is a tongue of fire that burns us and melts us so that ever more it is true: I am no longer I…When we yield to the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, being Christian becomes comfortable only as first glance…Only when we do not fear the tongue of fire and the storm it brings with it does the Church become the icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.”

Evangelical Catholicism is Not Easy –

“The cultural Catholicism of the past was “comfortable” because it fit neatly within the ambient public culture, causing little chafing between one’s life “in the Church” and one’s life “in the world.”…Evangelical Catholicism does not seek to “get along”; it seeks to convert.”

Evangelical Catholicism in the Church –

“…Lukewarm Catholicism has no future: submitting to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit is not longer optional…Evangelical requires a generosity about time from the laity, who must make time amid the rush of postmodern life for a deeper encounter with Christ than that permitted by an hour’s worth of weekly worship…more attention to sacramental preparation and sacramental discipline…”

Evangelical Catholicism, Community, and Holiness –

“Evangelical Catholicism builds up the community of the faithful not for the sake of the community but for the sake of a common reception of the mysteries of the faith, which in turn become the fonts of grace…The tongues of from which the Church is formed thus become the fire of mission by which the world is set ablaze…Evangelical Catholicism calls the entire Church to holiness for the sake of mission.”

I don’t know about you, but these words from George Weigel get me fired up…pun intended! As Catholics, it is time for us to light the world on fire with the love of Jesus Christ and the Church. Find strength in the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the Sacrament of the New Evangelization.”

In the his book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says, “Twelve simple, uneducated fishermen revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

If the Apostles could do this, imagine what we can do with 2,000 years of Scripture and Tradition behind us. Catholics – Go! And the set the world on fire!

Mondays with Mary” – Benedict XVI, the Year of Faith, and the Mother of God

Even though I had said at the beginning of the month that I was going to write on the Holy Rosary during the month of October, I am switching gears this week to present to you Pope Benedict XVI’s Homily on October 4 from Our Lady of Loreto Square in Loreto, Italy. The Year of Faith that started on October 11 and will go to November 24, 2013 is important topic. Last week alone, two of my blog posts were on the Year of Faith – one is here and the other is here – there is no doubt that over the year many of us will be writing on and reading about this important year in the Catholic Church.

The reason I am sharing Our Holiness’ Homily from October 4 is because not only did the Holy Father declare this the Year of Faith, but he dedicated it to the Mother of God. That’s right! Pope Benedict XVI is asking for the maternal and queenly intercession of the great Mother of God, our Theotokos, to care for us and to take our prayers to our Heavenly Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Highlighted in red are the words that speak to Our Blessed. I hope you enjoy this homily…it’s a good one!

“Your Eminences,
 Dear Brother Bishops,
 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On 4 October 1962, Blessed John XXIII came as a pilgrim to this Shrine to entrust to the Virgin Mary the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, due to begin a week later. On that occasion, with deep filial devotion to the Mother of God, he addressed her in these words: “Again today, and in the name of the entire episcopate, I ask you, sweetest Mother, as Help of Bishops, to intercede for me as Bishop of Rome and for all the bishops of the world, to obtain for us the grace to enter the Council Hall of Saint Peter’s Basilica, as the Apostles and the first disciples of Jesus entered the Upper Room: with one heart, one heartbeat of love for Christ and for souls, with one purpose only, to live and to sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of individuals and peoples. Thus, by your maternal intercession, in the years and the centuries to come, may it be said that the grace of God prepared, accompanied and crowned the twenty-first Ecumenical Council, filling all the children of the holy Church with a new fervour, a new impulse to generosity, and a renewed firmness of purpose” (AAS 54 [1962], 727).

Fifty years on, having been called by divine Providence to succeed that unforgettable Pope to the See of Peter, I too have come on pilgrimage to entrust to the Mother of God two important ecclesial initiatives: the Year of Faith, which will begin in a week, on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which I have convened this October with the theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. Dear friends, to all of you I offer my most cordial greetings. I thank the Most Reverend Giovanni Tonucci, Archbishop of Loreto, for his warm words of welcome. I greet the other bishops present, the priests, the Capuchin Fathers, to whom the pastoral care of this shrine is entrusted, and the religious sisters. I also salute Dr. Paolo Niccoletti, Mayor of Loreto, thanking him for his courteous words, and I greet the representatives of the government and the civil and military authorities here present. My thanks also go to those who have generously offered their assistance to make my pilgrimage possible.

As I said in my Apostolic Letter announcing the Year of Faith, “I wish to invite my brother bishops from all over the world to join the Successor of Peter, during this time of spiritual grace that the Lord offers us, in recalling the precious gift of faith” (Porta Fidei, 8). It is precisely here at Loreto that we have the opportunity to attend the school of Mary who was called “blessed” because she “believed” (Lk 1:45). This Shrine, built around her earthly home, preserves the memory of the moment when the angel of Lord came to Mary with the great announcement of the Incarnation, and she gave her reply. This humble home is a physical, tangible witness to the greatest event in our history, the Incarnation; the Word became flesh and Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, is the privileged channel through which God came to dwell among us (cf. Jn 1:14). Mary offered her very body; she placed her entire being at the disposal of God’s will, becoming the “place” of his presence, a “place” of dwelling for the Son of God. We are reminded here of the words of the Psalm with which, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, Christ began his earthly life, saying to the Father, “Sacrifices and offering you have not desired, but you have prepared a body for me… Behold, I have come to do your will, O God” (10:5,7). To the Angel who reveals God’s plan for her, Mary replies in similar words: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The will of Mary coincides with the will of the Son in the Father’s unique project of love and, in her, heaven and earth are united, God the Creator is united to his creature. God becomes man, and Mary becomes a “living house” for the Lord, a temple where the Most High dwells. Here at Loreto fifty years ago, Blessed John XXIII issued an invitation to contemplate this mystery, to “reflect on that union of heaven and earth, which is the purpose of the Incarnation and Redemption”, and he went on to affirm that the aim of the Council itself was to spread ever wider the beneficent impact of the Incarnation and Redemption on all spheres of life (cf. AAS 54 [1962], 724). This invitation resounds today with particular urgency. In the present crisis affecting not only the economy but also many sectors of society, the Incarnation of the Son of God speaks to us of how important man is to God, and God to man. Without God, man ultimately chooses selfishness over solidarity and love, material things over values, having over being. We must return to God, so that man may return to being man. With God, even in difficult times or moments of crisis, there is always a horizon of hope: the Incarnation tells us that we are never alone, that God has come to humanity and that he accompanies us.

The idea of the Son of God dwelling in the “living house”, the temple which is Mary, leads us to another thought: we must recognize that where God dwells, all are “at home”; wherever Christ dwells, his brothers and sisters are no longer strangers. Mary, who is the Mother of Christ, is also our mother, and she opens to us the door to her home, she helps us enter into the will of her Son. So it is faith which gives us a home in this world, which brings us together in one family and which makes all of us brothers and sisters. As we contemplate Mary, we must ask if we too wish to be open to the Lord, if we wish to offer our life as his dwelling place; or if we are afraid that the presence of God may somehow place limits on our freedom, if we wish to set aside a part of our life in such a way that it belongs only to us. Yet it is precisely God who liberates our liberty, he frees it from being closed in on itself, from the thirst for power, possessions, and domination; he opens it up to the dimension which completely fulfills it: the gift of self, of love, which in turn becomes service and sharing.

Faith lets us reside, or dwell, but it also lets us walk on the path of life. The Holy House of Loreto contains an important teaching in this respect as well. Its location on a street is well known. At first this might seem strange: after all, a house and a street appear mutually exclusive. In reality, it is precisely here that an unusual message about this House has been preserved. It is not a private house, nor does it belong to a single person or a single family, rather it is an abode open to everyone placed, as it were, on our street. So here in Loreto we find a house which lets us stay, or dwell, and which at the same time lets us continue, or journey, and reminds us that we are pilgrims, that we must always be on the way to another dwelling, towards our final home, the Eternal City, the dwelling place of God and the people he has redeemed (cf. Rev 21:3).

There is one more important point in the Gospel account of the Annunciation which I would like to underline, one which never fails to strike us: God asks for mankind’s “yes”; he has created a free partner in dialogue, from whom he requests a reply in complete liberty. In one of his most celebrated sermons, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux “recreates”, as it were, the scene where God and humanity wait for Mary to say “yes”. Turning to her he begs: “The angel awaits your response, as he must now return to the One who sent him… O Lady, give that reply which the earth, the underworld and the very heavens await. Just as the King and Lord of all wished to behold your beauty, in the same way he earnestly desires your word of consent… Arise, run, open up! Arise with faith, run with your devotion, open up with your consent!” (In laudibus Virginis Matris, Hom. IV,8: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4, 1966, p.53f). God asks for Mary’s free consent that he may become man. To be sure, the “yes” of the Virgin is the fruit of divine grace. But grace does not eliminate freedom; on the contrary it creates and sustains it. Faith removes nothing from the human creature, rather it permits his full and final realization.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this pilgrimage in the footsteps of Blessed John XXIII – and which comes, providentially, on the day in which the Church remembers Saint Francis of Assisi, a veritable “living Gospel” – I wish to entrust to the Most Holy Mother of God all the difficulties affecting our world as it seeks serenity and peace, the problems of the many families who look anxiously to the future, the aspirations of young people at the start of their lives, the suffering of those awaiting signs or decisions of solidarity and love. I also wish to place in the hands of the Mother of God this special time of grace for the Church, now opening up before us. Mother of the “yes”, you who heard Jesus, speak to us of him; tell us of your journey, that we may follow him on the path of faith; help us to proclaim him, that each person may welcome him and become the dwelling place of God. Amen!”