“Mondays with Mary” – Six Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Mary’s Connection to Pentecost

Yesterday we celebrated the great Solemnity of Pentecost – the day we celebrate the birth of the Catholic Church. From this day when the Holy Spirit enkindled the hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles, the Church began to grow, and grow rapidly. As the Apostles went out into the world to preach the gospel message to all the nations, the Holy Spirit accompanied them and through his guidance many repented of their sins and were baptized.

Before the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were simple men, afraid for their own lives, but after the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were men of self-sacrifice, strength, and great fortitude. They preached the Gospels even when it was dangerous to do so. In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says,  “Twelve simple, uneducated fisherman revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

Although he did not travel as vastly as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI brought the Gospel message to the nations and continents during his nearly eight year papacy. However, his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is thoroughly examined, explained, and taught in his many books and writings.

To celebrate Pentecost this year, here are six quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Mary and Pentecost –

1. “Since Pentecost is renewed in our time, perhaps taking nothing from the freedom of God the Church should concentrate less on activities and be more dedicated to prayer. The Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy, Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost falls on the very last day of May on which the Feast of the Visitation is normally celebrated. That too was a sort of miniature “pentecost” which caused joy and praise to well up in the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary, one barren and the other a virgin, who both became mothers through an extraordinary divine intervention (cf. Lk 1: 41-45).”

2. It would truly be possible to find many examples, less grave but equally symptomatic, in everyday reality. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that the energy capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force but the action of the “Spirit of God… moving over the face of the waters” (Gn 1: 2) at the beginning of the Creation. And Jesus Christ “brought to the earth” not the vital force that already lived in it but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God who “renews the face of the earth”, purifying it from evil and setting it free from the dominion of death (cf. Ps 103[104]: 29-30). This pure, essential and personal “fire”, the fire of love, came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, to make the Church an extension of Christ’s work of renewal.

3. Finally, Mary is a woman who loves…we sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus’ public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother’s hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus’ true hour (Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

4. Prior to the Ascension into Heaven, he ordered them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (cf. Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event (cf. Acts 1: 14)…The Church, gathered with Mary as at her birth, today implores:  “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! – Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.

5. If there is no Church without Pentecost, without the Mother of Jesus there is no Pentecost either, since she lived in a singular way what the Church experiences each day under the action of the Holy Spirit. St Chromatius of Aquileia comments in these words on the annotation in the Acts of the Apostles: “so the Church had gathered in the upper room together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. It is therefore impossible to speak of the Church if Mary, Mother of the Lord is not present…The Church of Christ is wherever the Incarnation of Christ by the Virgin is preached, and wherever the Apostles, who are the Lord’s brethren, preach, it is there that the Gospel is heard (Sermo 30, 1: SC 164, 135).

6. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain also today a renewed Pentecost for the Church that will imbue in all, and especially in the young, the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel…With Mary, the Virgin in prayer at Pentecost, let us ask the Almighty for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of unity and harmony, to inspire thoughts of peace and reconciliation in everyone.

Let us pray…Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle us the fire of your love. O Lord, during this week of Pentecost, give us the grace and strength to go forth from our homes and parishes to bring the Gospel message to the world we encounter each day of our lives. And let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was present that day. Amen.

250th “Mondays with Mary” 

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

Yesterday we celebrated the great Solemnity of Pentecost. It is the day we celebrate the birth of the Catholic Church. From this day when the Holy Spirit enkindled the hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles, the Church began to grow. As the Apostles went out into the world to preach the gospel message to all the nations, the Holy Spirit was with them.

Before Pentecost, the Apostles were simple men, but after the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were men of self-sacrifice, strength, and courage. In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says,  “Twelve simple, uneducated fisherman revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

No one knew the message of Pentecost better than Pope St. John Paul II, who as Pope traveled far and wide across the globe, much further than any of the Apostles originally traveled, as well as all his predecessors, to bring the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to many nations and all continents.

To celebrate Pentecost, here are five quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Mary and her connection to Pentecost –

1. “Thus beginning her invocation to the Holy Spirit, the Church makes her own the substance of the Apostles’ prayer as they gathered with Mary in the Upper Room; indeed, she extends it in history and makes it ever timely… So we pray with Mary, sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, a most precious dwelling-place of Christ among us, so that she may help us to be living temples of the Spirit and tireless witnesses of the Gospel” (Pentecost Homily, 1998).

2. In the Acts of the Apostles Mary is as one of those taking part in the preparation for Pentecost as a member of the first community of the Church which was coming into being. On the basis of Luke’s Gospel and of other New Testament texts a Christian tradition on Mary’s presence in the Church was formed, which the Second Vatican Council summed up by hailing her as a preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church (cf. LG 53), inasmuch as she is the mother of Christ, the Man-God, and therefore the mother of God” (Wednesday Audience – June 28, 1998).

Pentecost - Eastern Icon

3. After the events of the Resurrection and Ascension Mary entered the Upper Room together with the Apostles to await Pentecost, and was present there as the Mother of the glorified Lord. She was not only the one who “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith” and loyally persevered in her union with her Son “unto the Cross,” but she was also the “handmaid of the Lord,” left by her Son as Mother in the midst of the infant Church: “Behold your mother.” Thus there began to develop a special bond between this Mother and the Church. For the infant Church was the fruit of the Cross and Resurrection of her Son. Mary, who from the beginning had given herself without reserve to the person and work of her Son, could not but pour out upon the Church, from the very beginning, her maternal self-giving” (Redemptoris Mater, #40).

4. “Descending upon the apostles assembled with Mary, Christ’s mother, the Holy Spirit transforms and unites them, “filling them” with the fullness of the divine life. They become “one,” an apostolic community, ready to bear witness to the crucified and risen Christ. This is the new creation which flowed from the cross and was given life by the Holy Spirit, who gave it its historical beginning at Pentecost” (Wednesday Audience – August 30, 1998).

5. “Now, at the first dawn of the Church, at the beginning of the long journey through faith which began at Pentecost in Jerusalem, Mary was with all those who were the seed of the “new Israel.” She was present among them as an exceptional witness to the mystery of Christ. And the Church was assiduous in prayer together with her, and at the same time “contemplated her in the light of the Word made man.” It was always to be so. For when the Church “enters more intimately into the supreme mystery of the Incarnation,” she thinks of the Mother of Christ with profound reverence and devotion. Mary belongs indissolubly to the mystery of Christ, and she belongs also to the mystery of the Church from the beginning, from the day of the Church’s birth” (Redemptoris Mater, #27).

Let us pray…Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle us the fire of your love. O Lord, during this week of Pentecost, give us the grace and strength to go forth from our homes and parishes to bring the Gospel message to the world we encounter each day of our lives. Amen.

Blessed Virgin Mary…Pray for Us.

Pope St. John Paul II…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mary and Pentecost’ with Romano Guardini and Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Throughout the Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ, in those very significant events, we witness the Blessed Virgin Mary playing an integral role. From the Annunciation of Our Lord to the Wedding Feast at Cana to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and even in the feast of Pentecost, after Our Lord had ascended into Heaven, we see the strength of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she faithfully and obediently accepts all that God has designed for her life.

As the Church is born and unfolds on the Pentecost Sunday, Mary in the life of the Church begins to take shape. She is the fundamental figure in the life of the early Church.

For this year’s “Mondays with Mary” focusing on Pentecost, I turn our attention to two great 20th century theologians – Romano Guardini and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. This excerpt comes from the book, Mary For Today, by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

“Here we should trust ourselves to the wisdom of Romano Guardini:

There must have been something divinely great when by the light of the Spirit everything became clear to her who “kept all these things in her heart”: the context and interconnection of Jesus’ existence were revealed. Throughout the years of Jesus’ public life she had to maintain her confidence in heroic faith: now she received the answer, resplendent, and solving everything.

It is easy to think that she must always have understood the Lord, better than anyone else. Humanly speaking – to the extent that in this context one can talk of the human – without a doubt this was so. Historically no one else was able like her to provide information about him. But on the other side it is not without purpose that the Gospel says that she “did not understand the saying which he spoke to them”. Probably she could just not have borne a real, complete understanding. The way of genuine experience of life lived in faith and love is greater than the anticipation of things which in God’s guidance have their place only later.

To recognize that the child, the boy, the youth, the man who lived in her company was the Son of God in the sense that became manifest after Pentecost would probably have put her in an intolerable situation. That security without which existence as a mother is not possible would have disappeared. Now however God’s mystery can be revealed, to the extent that this is possible on earth.

She does not any longer need any protection against what is too great for human understanding. She is able to carry together in her mind the two statements, ‘He is the Son of the eternal Father’ and ‘He is your son’, without breaking down or merely becoming confused. Indeed, is this unity she recognizes the ineffable content of her vocation.

This description by Guardini of the effect of the Spirit on Mary at Pentecost, when, as innumerable medieval representations of the event portray her, she becomes the center and focus of the Spirit-enlightened Church, does her perfection no harm but rather enables it to be seen as something genuinely human. What is unique about her is the Spirit of Pentecost basically does nothing other than to present to her the content of her own experience as her memory had retained it: a memory that contains all the central dogmas of revelation in their complete unity and interwovenness.”

As we conclude this Easter Season, let us, like Mary, keep the memory strong in our minds of the message of Jesus Christ and our duty in being missionaries to the world we encounter each day. As we stand against those who dislike Jesus Christ and His Church, let us ask Mary for her motherly intercession to always guide us in our words and actions.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 2

Continuing with last week’s theme, Mary in the New Testament, this week we will focus on the Mary in the Redemption of Jesus Christ and her role in the life of the Church. For a recap of last week, I would suggest reading, “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 1.

For this blog post, you will need your Bibles, so make sure you have it next to you.

1. The Wedding Feast of Cana (Read John 2:1-10)

The Wedding Feast of Cana has a dual meaning. First, we clearly see the maternal mediation of the Blessed Mother and her relationship with Jesus Christ. As you know, the wedding that Jesus, Mary, and some of the Apostles attend happens to run out of wine. The Mother of Jesus, Mary, intercedes for the couple giving the grace of Jesus Christ (her role as Mediatrix begins to develop here) through the miracle of turning water into wine. She is the Maternal Mediator at the wedding, and during the Crucifixion of Jesus, she will become the Maternal Mediator for all of humanity.

The second meaning behind this miracle (and grace flows from it) is that it’s the first public miracle of Jesus Christ. When Jesus says, “O Woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come”, he is essentially saying two things. First, using the term “Woman” is not meant to be demeaning. He is simply connecting Mary with the “Woman” in Genesis 3:15, the same “Woman” who would be at his side at Calvary in John 19:25 and the “Woman” who would be crowned and glorified in Heaven as the Queen of Heaven and Earth in Revelation.

Second, the question he asks is in reference to Calvary. Jesus is saying that if he performs this public miracle, his public mission and the path to Calvary begins. Mary’s “Do whatever he tells you” is her response and readiness to walk with Jesus Christ to Calvary. This would begin the redemption of mankind and Christ as the “Suffering Servant” prophesied in Isaiah (Is 52:13-53:12).

2. Mary at the Foot of the Cross (Read John 19:25-27)

The famous words of Jesus while suffering on the Cross-to Mary and John establish for all of humanity the relationship that we would have with Her for all time. At the point when Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son…Behold, your mother”, symbolically through the disciple John, Mary becomes the Spiritual Mother for all humanity. She is the spiritual gift personally given by Jesus Christ himself to every human person – believer or non-believer. The “beloved disciple” from that moment on takes Mary into his home and treats her as his own mother. We too must invite Mary into our “homes” and allow her to be our mother. The devotion the Catholic Church has to the Blessed Virgin Mary developed from the households of Saint John.

For a deeper understanding of Mary’s role in the “Wedding Feast of Cana” and “Mary at the Foot of the Cross”, please read, The Queenship of Mary: Advocate, Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix and “Mondays with Mary” – ‘Leads Us to Jesus’ (Pope Benedict’s Homily at Altötting).

Pentecost - Eastern Icon

3. The Presence of Mary in the Upper Room (Read Acts 1:13-2:4)

After Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, we see Mary in the Upper Room waiting with the Apostles for the Coming of the Holy Sprit, Mary’s divine spouse. She is the central figure in the Upper Room as well in the life of the infant Church. As she held the infant Jesus in her arms, close to her heart, and feeding him, she holds the infant Church in the same respect. “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” is the nurturer of the early Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. For a more on Mary in the Life of the Church, please read “Mondays with Mary” – Mary is the Church on Pentecost.

4. Pauline Reference of Galatians 4:4 (Read Galatians 4:4)

In Galatians 4:4, Saint Paul tells us the Savior was “born of a woman.” With this statement, the Apostle to the Gentiles gives testimony to Mary’s Divine Motherhood. God the Father sends his only begotten son to redeem all of humanity through Mary. When he says, “born of woman”, St. Paul is stating that Mary is the “Woman” in the Scriptures who works with and under (“co” – not equal to) the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, to obtain “adoptive” sons and daughters through the “Spirit of the Father.” They all cry out, “Abba, Father.” Abba in the Hebrew language means “Daddy.”

5. The Woman Clothed with the Sun (Read Revelation 12:1)

Here we see the “Woman” clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. The “Woman” is in battle with the ancient foe, Satan. The “Woman” refers to Mary because Mary only gives her birth to the male child and he will have the scepter of ruling the people. Mary is the Mother of the Church, but uniquely is Mother of Jesus.

First, being “clothed with sun” means that she is veiled in intimacy with the Son. Second, the “moon under her feet” means that the moon reflects the light of the sun without being its source and without the dulling the rays (Saint Bernard). She is not the source of the light, but its reflection. This is the perfect image of our Lady.

Third, she is crowned with 12 stars. She is the Queen Mother of the male-child who will “rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (scepter). The 12 Tribes of Jacob who were ruled by King David are fulfilled in the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, the new David and fulfillment of the Davidic Kingdom. Fourth, the battle with Satan is the cosmic battle for souls. Mary is God’s greatest creature and Satan is his most despised creature, just like in Genesis 3:15. There is complete enmity!

Although Mary ‘s role seems to be minimal in the writings of the New Testament, she plays a major role in the salvation and redemption of humanity as Maternal Mediator, Advocate, Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix of All Graces. The Blessed Virgin, the spouse of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to our understanding of Jesus Christ. She is our Mother! We must behold her each day in our homes and most especially, in our hearts.