“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin in The Spirit of Catholicism

Although I read many fantastic books during my two years of graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville (2008-2010), one of my favorite books became The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam. Since reading it, I usually suggest it to Catholics that are seeking a deeper understanding of the organic nature and growth of the Catholic Church from the time of Christ till today. When I read it in graduate school, I was pumping my fist in the air often in the John Paul II Library because it truly makes you feel proud to be a Catholic, especially in a culture like today.

Even though I have never suggested it to any non-Catholics, it would be good to give to your non-Catholic friends, because it could help them understand that organic nature as well. As you read it, you can see that he is answering many of those non-Catholic objections. Some of the most notable Catholic converts in the Church today were brought to Catholicism through this great work. To learn who these individuals are, I would suggest reading my Book Reviews on here. It’s the first book on that page.

As I was sitting around my house yesterday, because I went to our monthly Ordinary Form in Latin last night, I had some ideas for today’s “Mondays with Mary” but nothing that was solidified. Two weeks ago, I gave a talk on 6 Reasons why Mary should not be forgotten in a time of crisis, a talk based on my grad school notes and an interview given by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1984. In that talk, I speak briefly about this book.

Madonna of the Chair – Raphael

Realizing I have never shared with you the words of Karl Adam about Mary from The Spirit of Catholicism, I thought I would give you some of those thoughts today –

“But however wondrously glorious all these holy figures are [the saints], each in his own way, yet all are outshone by one, by the Queen of all angels and saints, Mary, the Mother of God. Like every creature in heaven and on earth, she too was called into existence out of nothingness. An infinite distance separates her from the Infinite, from Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And she has not grace, no virtue, no privilege, which she does not owe to the divine Mediator. Both in her natural and supernatural being, she is wholly the gift of God, ‘full of grace’.”

“The mystery of Mary’s divine Motherhood does not merely comprise the bare fact that the Word took flesh and blood, our human nature, in her womb. The Catholic is not content merely to repeat with gladness the words of the inspired woman in the Gospel: ‘Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck.’ He listens with a far deeper attention to Our Lord’s answer: ‘Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it’.”

“Mary’s importance in the work of salvation does not lie chiefly in the purely bodily sphere, but in the sphere of morality and religion. It consists in this that Mary, so far as lay in her, gave the best of herself, even her whole being, to service of God, and that, however infinitely small all human doing and suffering are in comparison with the Divine Perfection, she surrendered this infinitely small without limitation or stint to the visitation of Divine Grace, and so prepared herself to be the sublime instrument of the divine redemption.”

“Her whole subsequent life was lowliness and simplicity on the one hand, and on the strong and joyful faith. Bethlehem and Golgotha are the two termini of a way of sharpest renunciation, of heroic resignation, of complete ‘self-emptying’, such a way as our Lord himself traveled (Phil. 2:7). The sword foretold by Simeon (Lk. 2:25) pierced ever more sharply into her soul as the process of her self-abnegation advanced.”

“All the sublimity of Mary’s moral personality, all the depth of her virginal devotion, and all the strength of her faith culminate in the word which she spoke to the angel: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.’ These were no common, everyday words; no words such as fall from men in the changing circumstance and casual course of life. They were words out of the depths and recesses of a soul that was pure and noble beyond all earthly measure, words that were her being, her expression, her achievement. By them of a truth she consecrated her body to a ‘reasonable service’ (cf. Rom. 12:1), and that is the source of all blessedness.”

“She is mother not of the Redeemer alone, but also of the redeemed; and so she is the mother of the faithful. The Catholic acknowledges in heaven not only a Father, but also a mother…When the Catholic speaks of his Heavenly Mother, his heart is full with all the strength of feeling that is contained in that word. Mary is as it were a gracious revelation of certain ineffable and ultimate traits in the nature of God, which are too fine and too delicate to be grasped otherwise than as reflected in the mirror of a mother. Ave Maria!”

I don’t know what you are thinking, but just from typing these words, my only word is – Wow! Allow these words to penetrate your heart and mind this week. Reading them more than once is a definite and I would imagine each time you will get something new from each one.

Mary, Mother of the Redeemed…Pray for Us.

Happy Mother’s Day

During this month of Mary, we celebrate the 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 that chose life and that continue to choose life today. You are all beautiful witnesses to a culture that refuses to see the life of human children as sacred.

mary-baby-jesus

As an example of perfect 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 as well. 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 Pope St. 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 III hope you can read it and share it with others.

Please watch the video below and share with your family and friends. I have used it other blog posts in the past. It’s simply fantastic. It’s a fine example of artistic license with the life of Christ 

To my Mom – We have been through a lot these past year. You are a rock, the strength, that holds our family together. I am not really sure how we could endure it without your presence. Thank you for all the prayers, support, and encouragement you give me on a daily basis.

To my sister – Watching you with the kids is simply amazing. You run all over the place with them and never seem to get tired, or at least show it. You are a great mother and support them well in all that they do.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“Mondays with Mary” – The Theotokos Brings Joy to the Whole World

Since this upcoming Thursday, January 1, is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, I wanted, as I have done over the past couple of years on this Solemnity, to provide you with a blog post that focuses specifically on Mary’s Motherhood and the Eastern derived title, Theotokos. Knowing full well that I am repeating myself here, and not all that concerned with it either, I will say that this title for Mary, Theotokos or God-Bearer, has been most favorite title for the Blessed Virgin ever since studying about the Council of Ephesus in graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

It was at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. where this doctrine of Mary as God-Bearer was solemnly declared through the writings and teachings of this council, which was spearheaded by St. Cyril of Alexandria. For a brief introduction to the Council of Ephesus, I would encourage you to read two previous blog posts – The Declaration of the Theotokos at the Council of Ephesus and Saint Cyril of Alexandria – Defender of the Incarnation and the Theotokos.

Since St. Cyril of Alexandria played such an important role in the declaration of this dogma in the 5th century, I have chosen for today’s “Mondays with Mary” a homily he gave at the Council. It’s my hope that with this homily and the reading of the blog posts from above, that you will come to know the importance of this great Marian feast that begins each New Year – the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.

Theotokos of Vladimir

Theotokos of Vladimir

Speaking against Nestorius at Ephesus, St. Cyril said,

I see the assembly of the saints, all zealously gathered together, invited by the holy Mother of God, Mary, ever-virgin. I was feeling very sad, but then the presence of the holy Fathers changed this sorrow into merriment. Now the sweet words of the hymnographer David have been fulfilled in our presence: “Behold how fair, and how it is, when brothers dwell together as one!” (Ps 133:1). Hail, we say, O holy and mystic Trinity, who have called us together in this church dedicated to Mary, Mother of God. We hail you, O Mary Mother of God, venerable treasure of the entire world, inextinguishable lamp, crown of virginity, scepter of orthodoxy, imperishable temple, container of him who cannot be contained, Mother and Virgin, through whom it is said in the holy Gospels: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mt 21:9).

Hail, you who held the Uncontainable One in your holy and virginal womb! Through you, the Holy Trinity is glorified; the precious Cross is celebrated and adored throughout the world; heaven exults, the angels and archangels rejoice, the demons are put to flight, the devil, the tempter, falls from heaven, the fallen creation is brought back to paradise, all creatures trapped in idolatry come to know the truth.

Through you, holy baptism and the oil of gladness are administered to believers; through you, churches are established throughout the world; the peoples are led to conversion. What more shall I say? Through you, the only begotten Son of God shone forth as a light upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. Through you, the prophets made their predictions, the apostles preached salvation to the nations; through you the dead rise, sovereigns reign, and through you the Holy Trinity reigns.

But who among men is capable of celebrating Mary most glorious? The virginal womb: such a great wonder! This miracle has me enraptured. When has it ever been heard that a builder was prevented from dwelling in a temple that he built himself? Could he, who calls his own handmaid to be his Mother, be considered deserving of shame? Behold, now: the whole universe is rejoicing. The sea obeyed, recognizing [in the fathers] its fellow servants. For while the water surged in stormy billows, the passage of the saints made it smooth and calm. The creature water remembered the voice of the Savior: “Silence! Be still” (Mk 4:39). The passage of the fathers also subdued the earth, which previously had been infested with brigands. “How beautiful the feet of those who preach the good news of peace” (Rom 10:15). But what peace is this? Jesus, Our Lord, who was born from Mary, as he himself willed.

As we commemorate the great Solemnity on January 1, let us take to heart the words from St. Cyril of Alexandria, always desiring to be made humble, just as Christ Jesus was humble being born of a Virgin and becoming Man. In her role as Theotokos, let us ask the ever virgin to always lead us closer to her Son, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. She is the one, as our Mother, who leads us perfectly to Jesus Christ.

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mary Greets Elizabeth’

This coming Saturday, in the Latin Church, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because I believe this to be an important feast of the Church, I have written on this topic numerous times in two and a half years. It’s at the Visitation where Mary greets her older cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant and was known to a barren woman. We also hear Mary’s Song of Praise, the Magnificat, during the Visitation.

For today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I bring you into the mind of one of the great Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria. Since St. Athanasius had to battle the Arians in the Early Church, much of his theology focuses on Christology, which in turn led him to defending Mary’s Motherhood and Perpetual Virginity.

Although Mary’s Motherhood (Theotokos) and Perpetual Virginity would not be declared dogmatic till the fifth and seventh centuries, the doctrines were held as truth by many early Church Fathers. Many of them fought with pen and papyrus in defending Mary, which in turn had them defending Jesus Christ. It’s the common understanding that when you state something incorrect about Mary’s nature, you are in fact stating something incorrect about nature of Jesus Christ.

The excerpt below is from St. Athanasius’ Homily of the Papyrus of Turin. In it, he clearly calls out Arius, who thought that Jesus Christ was above man, but below God. For Arius, Jesus Christ is a demi-god like the Marvel Comics hero, THOR.

“[Mary] greets Elizabeth: the Mother of the Master greets [the mother] of the servant; the Mother of the King greets the mother of the solider; the Mother of God greets the mother of the man; the Virgin greets the married woman. She greets Elizabeth with an outward greeting, and when the two greet each other in a visible manner, the Holy Spirit, who dwelt in Mary’s womb, incites him who is in Elizabeth’s womb, as one who urges on his friend, ‘Hurry, get up!’

Visitation of BVM -3

Therefore he who dwelt in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. And behold: [Christ spoke to him] saying, ‘Go forth; make straight my paths, so that I may realize the plan [economy] that has been determined for me.’ When Mary and Elizabeth greeted one another, Christ also greeted John in his mother’s womb, as it is [said] in the Gospel: ‘It happened that, when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby stirred in her womb of joy.’

Come now, raving Arius: do you not hear that he who is in Mary’s womb and he who is in Elizabeth’s womb are exchanging greetings, while the son of the barren woman announces to the whole world: ‘Behold the Son of God in the womb of the holy Virgin, Mary.’

But you say, ‘How does this happen?’ Listen, and I will tell you. The moment John heard his Master’s voice, he greeted him through the mouth of his mother, and then he rejoiced and delighted to hasten forth from this mother’s womb, in advance of his Master. Then, unable to contain his joy, he cried out, through his mother’s mouth, addressing the Virgin: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. But who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?’

My dear friends, do not think that John was the instrument; Elizabeth is the instrument, and John speaks through her mouth. Now, just as John was not an instrument, so also the Savior greets John, by the greeting Mary addresses to Elizabeth through the mouth of his mother.”

Wow…That is one moving excerpt! When we hear the voice of God, the voice of Jesus Christ in our hearts, let us pray that we have the courage, strength, and grace to – Hurry and Get Up! Let us also pray that the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the greeting She and Jesus brings to Elizabeth and John can be brought to each and every one of us.

Source:

Gambero, Luigi. Mary and the Fathers of the Church. Ignatius Press, 1999.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Motherhood, and Sacrament of Baptism

Luke 2:21-22 says,

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.’”

icon-of-the-circumcision-of-jesus

This is the account in the Sacred Scriptures of Jesus’ circumcision. The Blessed Virgin Mary was not present at the Baptism of Our Lord, which the Latin Church celebrated yesterday, but she was present at his circumcision. The Sacred Scriptures don’t really tell us what Mary was feeling during this time, however, St. Luke does say that she kept all these things, pondering them in her heart (Lk 2:19). He also states that her soul will be pierced with a sword.  This is in reference to Jesus’ Crucifixion on the cross.

Knowing what we know about Mary and her total trust in God, I would speculate that she offered up everything she and St. Joseph experienced to God and had great faith in His Divine plan. The gift of motherhood is a precious gift. Mary was a great mother to Jesus who obeyed all the commandments of God, which included circumcision. Circumcision finds its fulfillment in the Sacrament of Baptism for us in the New Covenant. To understand the connection between circumcision and baptism, please read yesterday’s post – The Circumcision and Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As I did with the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I provide you with experiences from mothers talking about their children receiving the Sacrament of Baptism. They are very heartfelt, honest, and loving testimonies.

After my children were born, the next important day in their lives was their baptisms. Bringing them to church to become Catholics was special to our family. We were so blessed to have our parish priest Fr. Joseph Nativo baptize them. We had known Fr. Nativo since we were children and had always gone to St Lucy’s Church. Who better to baptize our children than the priest who married us and be surrounded by all our family. – Joyce

I felt excitement about my son joining the faith; to know that he was set apart for God. I felt joy as we honored our vow to God to bring our children up in the Catholic faith. It was a joyous occasion that would impact his life and ours forever. – Melanie

On the day my son was baptized, I was thinking what a privilege it was to engage on a journey where by my husband and I would be responsible to form this precious soul to authentically live out his baptism.  We committed to our son to pray with him and for him daily so that he would learn the ways of living out the call to be priest, prophet and king.  We planned on doing all of this, from day one, by living a fully happy and holy life and knew that we really wouldn’t be understood by most people around us.  So, it was a beautiful day because it was a day that our married vocation expanded and our first-born had the full possibility of heaven. – Christine

The morning of my daughter’s baptism I was feeling overjoyed that this day was here.  I was excited that she would be welcomed into a community of Catholics and into God’s loving arms.  She wore the same baptismal gown that my brother and I wore as infants and that tradition meant a lot to me as well.  It was touching knowing our family and friends would be a part of this special day. – Carla

My Goddaugher/Niece and I on the day of her Baptism.

My Goddaugher/Niece and I on the day of her Baptism.

I recall the excitement surrounding our children’s baptisms. The finality of knowing there is no longer original sin on their souls. Also the comfort in knowing if anything ever happened to them God forbid. We wanted them baptized as soon as we could get a priest to do it. To be full in the Church and received this way is an awesome sacrament. I think I need to thank my husband Dan for making me aware more fully how wondrous this sacrament truly is. Each child we have I begin to realize the awesomeness of our faith. – Erika

I remember the night before each of my boy’s baptism. I was very excited to have them be fully welcomed into the church. The fact that all of our favorite family and friends gathered on this wonderful occasion was a blessing! I love that Father Rob Clements and Father John Erich also included a blessing for my husband and I. As parents we need all the blessings and prayers we can get. I thought baptism was a beautiful sacrament to start my boys on their lifelong journey to get to heaven! – Dena

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on Mary and the Mystery of Christmas

Since yesterday was the 4th Sunday of Advent and in two days is Christmas, I give you the words of Pope Benedict XVI and his explanation of Mary and the Mystery of Christmas from his Angelus on the 4th Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2011. I hope you enjoy it.

“In this fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the liturgy presents this year, the annunciation to Mary. Contemplating the beautiful icon of the Blessed Virgin, when she receives the divine message and gives her answer, we are internally illuminated by the light of truth which shines, always new, from that mystery. In particular, I would like to dwell briefly on the importance of the virginity of Mary, that is, the fact that she conceived Jesus while remaining a virgin.

In the background of the event’s at Nazareth is the prophecy of Isaiah. “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This age-old promise has found superabundant fulfillment in the Incarnation of the Son of God. In fact, not only did the Virgin Mary conceive, but she did so through the Holy Spirit, which is God himself. The human being that begins to live in her womb takes the flesh from Mary, but his existence is derived entirely from God ‘fully human, made of earth – to use the biblical symbol – but he comes from above, from heaven. The fact that Mary conceived while remaining a virgin is, therefore, essential for the understanding of Jesus and our faith, because it witnesses that it was God’s initiative and above all it reveals who is conceived. As the Gospel says: ” Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Luke 1.35). In this sense, the virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus reciprocally guarantee one another.

This is why that one question that Mary, ‘very upset’, addresses to the Angel ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man? ‘(Lk 1.34) is so important. In her simplicity, Mary is wise: She does not doubt the power of God, but wants to better understand his will, to fully comply with this will. Mary is infinitely surpassed by the mystery, yet perfectly occupies the place that, at the very heart of it, she was assigned. Her heart and mind are fully humble, and, because of her singular humility, God expects the “yes” of this young girl to achieve His purpose. He respects her dignity and freedom. Mary’s “yes” means both motherhood and virginity, and her wish that her everything be for the glory of God and that the Son who will be born to Her may be a gift of grace for al.

Dear friends, the virginity of Mary is unique and unrepeatable, but its spiritual significance concerns every Christian. It, in essence, is tied to faith: in fact, those who trust deeply in God, welcomes Jesus and his divine life within, through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christmas.”