“Mondays with Mary” – The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Historically, in the Liturgical Calendar, December 18 (Wednesday 2013) is the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although this feast is not in the current calendar, nearly the entire Latin Church still celebrates it. It’s the feast anticipating the coming of the Redeemer. It is very popular in the Spanish Church. To read more about it, visit the Catholic Encyclopedia – New Advent.

Our Lady of Expectation

Trying to understand what the Blessed Virgin Mary was feeling one week before giving birth to Jesus is difficult since nothing about her thoughts are revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures. At this point, it’s purely a speculative assessment. We know what Luke 2 tells us, however, we don’t know much more than this revelation.

Was it difficult on Mary to be away from her family and her mother during this time? Even though the birth of Jesus was miraculous, as was his conception, what was Mary feeling? Did she know what was to occur?

Knowing what we do know about the Blessed Virgin Mary, her own Immaculate Conception, and the Annunciation tells me that she completely put her trust in God, just as she had done nine months prior. Mary is the great sign of perfect faith and joy for us, all the time, but especially during the Third Week of Advent (Gaudete Sunday).  She is not only the God-Bearer (Theotokos), but she is now our Mother and Advocate. Just as she brought forth Jesus into the world, she longs to bring us closer to Him today.

We may not know what Mary was feeling one week before the birth of Christ, but below are ten quotes from mothers sharing what they were feeling one week prior to having their child –

“The anticipation of our baby is unreal. I cannot believe how this little life is growing and will be part of our family in less than a week. The fear. Why fear? Fear of the unknown. Fear of the hurt and pain our little one will face one day in his or her life. Yet joy overwhelms my soul. The unbelievable joy that comes of a life created by our Creator. What a gift. A true gift. I know it will come with some pain but the offering of the pain will not be without gain. I cannot wait to introduce this amazing gift of our God to our other 4 children. We cannot wait and are preparing the day he or she blesses our family.” – Erika

“I was anxious, excited and little afraid – with my first child because I didn’t know what to expect and with my second child because I did. Both deliveries were very different but they brought me a precious angel each time.” – Joyce

“One week before I gave birth to my daughter, I was feeling super excited to hold this little person who had been growing inside of me for 10 months. I was thrilled to hear her little cry, smell her, and to see her beautiful face. Also, I was feeling nervous for the labor and delivery part especially because I had her stories from so many other women. I just felt that I wanted to be the best Mommy to my baby girl who I had already fallen in love with.” – Carla

“I felt an anticipation, excitement, and joy to come face to face with my child. I was nervous and getting ready. I found myself decorating, cleaning, and trying to keep myself busy, not out of boredom, but because the overwhelming feeling that I would meet my child so soon. Time couldn’t pass fast enough.” – Melanie

“The week before giving birth I was very impatient and eager to meet my little one. There was a desire to have everything prepared, such as our home and car. I was a little nervous about the pain of labor and delivery since I didn’t have any drugs. During that week I reflected on how different my life would be after having this child, especially my prayer life, sleep and convenience.” – Genae

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“I felt the anticipation of longing to meet my new son, along with fear of the unknown if I’d be a worthy mom. Also thankful for the gift God gave me!” – Dena

“A week before giving birth there’s an overwhelming sense of excitement coupled with the sensation of wanting to literally pop. You can’t imagine getting any larger than you already are and no position is comfortable. Despite the discomfort, which dominates nearly every thought, you can’t wait to hold, cuddle and meet face to face that sweet baby boy or girl that you’ve been day dreaming about for nine (nearly 10) months.” – Amanda

“Today is my daughter’s 26 the birthday…perfect timing. I was going to have her natural; the first one was C-section. That part was little intimidating. The rest was pure excitement and anticipation. I wanted a little girl so much. I couldn’t wait to hold her.” – Marie

“I was filled with anticipation, anxiety, fear and hope.  I prayed a lot for the grace to know what I was suppose to do to care for a baby.  I feared the birthing process and what that meant for me physically.  I was anxious that I was always forgetting something that I needed to do before he arrived.  I found myself tearful a lot that week, especially every time I thought of the gift that God was entrusting to us.  The time was about to arrive when I would embark on a new layer of my vocation as a married woman…motherhood.” – Christine

“With our son, anticipation (he was born on his due date) I think I was pretty oblivious to how it was all going to unfold. More so with our daughter (she was born two weeks after her due date) anticipation was high, fearful (I now knew what labor pains were like!).  We didn’t know what the sex of either was going to be so definitely… ‘in waiting’.” – Kathy

Motherhood is so important. Thanks to the women above for hearing the call to be Mommies.

If you are Mom and would like to share your experience of what you were feeling one week before giving birth, please do so in the comment box.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Even though yesterday was the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, September 8th is also the day we celebrate the Feast of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s exactly nine months after we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the day we celebrate the birth of the Mother of God, who in time would carry in her womb for nine months – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. The Blessed Mother has a special place in Salvation History for she is the Theotokos – The God-Bearer, which was declared dogmatic at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.

As the great Mother of God, Mary was given the highest mission that any human creature would receive by the Lord himself. On this great day, we commemorate the Blessed Mother’s birth to her parents, Saints Joachim and Anne.

For today’s feast day, we turn our direction to one of the great Saints and Doctors of the Catholic Church, Saint Francis de Sales, who gives us a fantastic homily on this important feast in the Church. The italicized excerpts below are from his homily on September 10, 1620.

Saint Francis de Sales enlightens us to the obedience of Mary as a young child and into her marriage with Saint Joseph.  Please share this excerpt with a young Catholic woman you know today.

“In the beginning of her life she was subject to her mother. She remained with her family to show girls and children the honor and subjection they owe their parents and in what spirit they should live in their own homes. She was presented in the Temple in her youth, when only three years old, to teach fathers and mothers the care they should take in rearing their children and with what affection they ought to instruct them in the fear of God and lead them to His service. In this she was also an example for young girls who consecrate themselves to the Divine Majesty. Then she was married, to be a mirror for the married, and finally a widow. Thus Divine Providence let her pass through all the states of life in order that all creatures might find in her, as in a sea of grace, what they need in order to form and adapt themselves to their state in life.”

Nativity of BVM P Cavallini

Here Saint Francis explains how Mary is an example of religious life. With the release of the film, Light of LoveI would encourage you to share this with someone who is discerning religious life or an active member of a religious order.

“…It is true nevertheless, as I have said, that she was the mirror of the religious life particularly; for from her birth she practiced most excellently that perfect renunciation of the world, the flesh and herself, in which Christian perfection consists. As to the world, at her birth the sacred Virgin made the most perfect and entire renunciation that could be made…”

Here Saint Francis gives us a beautiful understanding of Mary as a young child in her crib. The Blessed Mother is even considered greater than the angels as a child. She would become the Queen of Angels.

“…O God, it is admirable how absolutely and perfectly the sacred Virgin, Our Lady and Mistress, made his renunciation at her nativity! Come close to her cradle, think of the virtues of this holy infant and you will find that she practiced them all to an eminent degree. Question the angels, the cherubim and seraphim, ask them if they are equal in perfection to this little girl, and they will tell you that she infinitely surpasses them…”

St. Francis de Sales explains to us that even in her infancy, Mary begins to the practice the cardinal virtues of Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, and Justice and the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Although she had a full understanding of her reason, she chose with her freedom to be a just an infant.

“There she was, that sacred and blessed Virgin, practicing all the virtues, but in an admirable manner that of renunciation of the world. For amid these practices and this exaltation she how she abases herself, not wishing to appear other than as a simple and ordinary infant, even though she had the use of reason from the very moment of her Conception…”

“…The most holy Virgin made this last renunciation in her nativity in such a way that she never used her liberty. Consider well the whole course of her life and you will see nothing but continual subjection.”

When I read these words from St. Francis de Sales, I come to love the Blessed Virgin Mary more and more each day. Recollecting on my own sins, which she never had to do, helps me try to renounce the temptations of my passions and desires. When faced with such great sin, we must remember to go to Our Lady and ask her to intercede for us, so that we will overcome all that is placed before us in our fallen human condition.

I pray that we all can look towards Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother in times of sin. They will never turn away from us.  Mary is our Queen Mother, who always seeks to bring us closer Jesus. Mary is never about herself. She always points us to our Lord and her Son, Jesus Christ.

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Aparecida

I would imagine that many Catholics outside of Brazil, like myself, had never heard of Our Lady of Aparecida before the celebrations this week at World Youth Day in Rio de Janerio. As a student of all things Marian, I am still learning the magnitude of Our Lady and the devotions to her throughout the world.

Pope Francis at AparecidaThe Shrine and Basilica of Aparecida was one of the first public places that Pope Francis visited this week in Brazil. As many of you know, his love and devotion for the Blessed Mother is as strong as his predecessors. On the first day of his papacy, Pope Francis visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. He dedicated his papacy to the Blessed Mother by presenting flowers at the altar there in the Basilica. As he visited the Basilica in Rome, he now visited the Basilica in Aparecida to ask for the success of World Youth Day.

During his homily at Aparecida, Pope Francis said,

“Today, looking forward to the World Youth Day which has brought me to Brazil, I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary – who loved and raised Jesus – that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal.”

So what is the story behind Our Lady of Aparecida?

It was October 1717 when the Count of Assumar, Dom Pedrom de Almedida, was on a journey from Sao Paulo to the state of Minas Gerais. In order to get to his final destination, he had to travel through a small city in the Paraiba River Valley by the name of Guarantinqueta. Knowing that he was going to visit, the people of this small town decided to throw the Count a massive banquet in his honor.

They knew that large amounts of food were needed for such a banquet, however it was not the season for good fishing, and they needed countless amounts of fish to feed the Count and the towns people. The small town turned to its fishermen and asked for the impossible – you need to find fish! After hours of catching nothing, the fishermen were in great despair.

Among the fishermen were three men who had a great devotion to Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception. They were Domingos Garcia, Joco Alves, and Felipe Pedroso. As they departed to seek out their impossible catch, they asked God to be with them in this difficult endeavor. The three knelt down in prayer and said, “Mother of God and our Mother, we need to find fish!”

As they were just about to give up, Joco threw his net over one more time near the Port of Itaguagu. As he pulled his net into the boat, the body of a statue came up with it. Domingo and Felipe were amazed at their friend’s discovery and decided to cast their nets into the water. As they brought their nets into the boat, the head of the statue was found.

Our of Lady Aparecida

The three men cautiously cleaned the statue since it was fragile. They noticed the statue was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Before they continued fishing, they wrapped the statue in some clothes. Realizing that the night had passed and they still had caught nothing, Felipe suggested that they continue to fish, but to fish with faith in the Virgin Aparecida (who appeared). From the moment they put their faith and trust in the Virgin, their nets became very full and were at the point of tearing. This was the first miracle of Our Lady of Aparecida.

To this day, nobody really knows how the three-foot statue found its way to the bottom of the river, however, the artist is known. The artist is a “carioca” monk from Sao Paulo by the name of Frei Agostino de Jesus. He was known for creating clay sculptures. From the examination that took place after the three men found it, it was concluded that it was created around the year 1650. From being in the river many years, it lost its original color. The color of the image now is a brilliant dark brown and a thick embroidered cloth covers it.

In 1904, the statue was capped with an imperial crown with precious stones. In 1930, Pope Pius XII proclaimed Our Lady of Aparecida as the primary patroness of Brazil. The feast day and national holiday for the Virgin Aparecida is October 12.

Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida-FlickrOn July 4, 1980, Blessed John Paul II visited the Shrine at Aparecida to proclaim it a Basilica. Although it was vandalized a few days before the Holy Father’s visit, through the work of artists, the statue was repaired.

During his homily, Blessed John Paul II said,

“Devotees of Our Lady and pilgrims to Aparecida present here, and you who follow us on radio and television, preserve jealously this tender and trusting love for the Virgin, which is characteristic of you. Never allow it to become lukewarm! Let it not be an abstract love, but an incarnate love…Would that the fine custom—once so widespread, today still present in some Brazilian families—of the family recitation of the Rosary, would spring up again.”

O Virgin of Aparecida, you came and provided great hope during a time of despair and answered the prayers of the faithful as the Immaculate Conception. Be with us during our times of desperation and hopelessness. Assist us in having greater faith in your Son, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our Lady of Aparecida…Pray For Us!

“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

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 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! 

Real Life Radio Interview on the Mike Allen Show

The two radio segments from my interview on the Blessed Mother and New Evangelization on the Mike Allen Show from June 5, 2013 are now on my Radio Interviews page of this blog. My interview begins at 12:25 in segment 1 and goes till 11:05 in segment 2. Hope you can listen to them and share the link with others.

If you know of Catholic radio stations here in the United States or across the globe that would be interested in interviewing me, please have them contact me at catholictom at gmail dot com.

Teaching the Catholic faith on the radio is very exciting!

Happy Mother’s Day

During this month of Mary, we celebrate the great day known to us MOTHER’S DAY. It is a day where we honor those women in our lives that cared for us in the womb before we were born, that nurtured us and supported us as young children, that watched us take our first step and, cried when we went to school for the first time. It’s a day where we say thank you to the women who washed our clothes, cleaned up after us, shopped for our food, and were just always there with love and prayers. Thank you to all the mother’s out there that chose life and that continue to choose life today. You are all beautiful witnesses to a world that does not value human life sacred. Thank you for being Pro-Life!

mary-baby-jesus

As an example of great motherhood, we have our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary. We honor her during this month for not only being the Mother of our Lord, but we honor her for being our Mother. Jesus gave her to us, through St. John, while he was on the Cross at Calvary. Mary is our Queen Mother. She intercedes for us and brings our petitions to our King – Jesus Christ. Someone who knew the great love of Mary’s love was Blessed John Paul II. When his own mother passed away, he asked the Blessed Mother to be his Mother. Please read – Mary, Motherhood, and Blessed John Paul II. I hope you can read it and share it with others. Also, please watch the video below and share with your family and friends – it’s very touching. It’s a great example of artistic license with the life of Christ.

To my own mother – I say thank you for the continued support even in my adult years. Your love and prayers are felt in the most difficult times. To my sister – watching you with the baby is amazing. You are a great mother and support her upbringing so well.

“Mondays with Mary” Turns 1 Year Old

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been one year since I began “Mondays with Mary.” Initially, it was going to be a four-week series that spanned the month of May, but the Holy Spirit inspired me to write more each week, and now I am celebrating a year of giving my readers Mariology – the theology pertaining to the Blessed Virgin Mary. My first “Mondays with Mary” was about how the month of May came to be the month celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary. I even said in the blog post that this was going to be a short series unless people asked me to write more. Well humans didn’t say much, but as I said previously, God had other plans for me with this series.

Happy 1st Anniversary

Over the past year, my love for the Blessed Mother has grown even more than when I began this series. One year ago, I said that I had taken a course on the Blessed Mother in graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville and from that point on my relationship changed with the Mary. She is a major figure in my prayer life, only second to Our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s Mary that assists me in knowing Our Lord better. She truly acts as my (our) Mediator and Advocate in bringing my requests to her Son. She is the Queen Mother!

The biggest prayer she has answered for me over the past year is my girlfriend, Tara. I prayed to the Blessed Mother for years that I could meet someone as beautiful, holy, and fun as Tara. She completes my earthly life, because Jesus and Mary complete it eternally. Tara understands this since it is the same for her. Our Lord, His Blessed Mother, along with a few others saints in Heaven, brought this wonderful woman into my life. As I told her when we were first dating and say it quite a bit to her – she “speaks my language.” The time we have ahead is only going to get better and the Blessed Mother will be our Advocate through it all.

Someone recently asked me, “What are your favorite posts from the past year in regards to “Mondays with Mary?”” I said, “all of them!” Honestly, I can’t really say I have favorites since I enjoyed writing them all. The link at the top of this post will take you to all my posts from this year.

I hope you can read some of them and pass them along to others. Over the next month and the year ahead, it is my mission to provide you greater Mariology posts. I realized there are some great topics I have yet to write on. They are coming…all in God’s time.

Two more things: first, please offer some prayers up for me. I am thinking about compiling some of these posts and trying to publish my first book. Second, I want to thank my friends at “My Mother Mary” on Facebook for posting some of my blog posts over the past 6 months on their page. They are a true blessing.

“May she, who knows the sufferings and troubles of life here below, the weariness of everyday work, the hardships and privations of poverty, the sufferings of Calvary, bring help to the needs of the Church and the world, head the appeals for peace rising to her from every part of the world, and enlighten those who rule the destinies of men.”  – Pope Paul VI, Mense Maio (April 30, 1965).