“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” – ‘Woman Clothed with the Sun’

A few weeks ago, I kicked off our Saturday Morning Speaker Series at the parish with a talk titled, The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Sacred Scriptures. One of the points that I mentioned in that talk was that Mary is seen as the woman in the verses of Revelation 12 – “And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun [italics mine], with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…”

To explain this scripture to you, below is Pope Emeritus Benedict’s homily from the Assumption of Mary on August 15, 2007 at St. Thomas Villanova Parish in Castel Gandolfo. Focusing on Mary being “clothed with the sun” and her Assumption into Heaven, the future Doctor of the Church explains how the two are so closely connected. At the end, he gives a very insightful lesson based on the life of Mary, and which we all must learn to do –

“Without any doubt, a first meaning is that it is Our Lady, Mary, clothed with the sun, that is, with God, totally; Mary who lives totally in God, surrounded and penetrated by God’s light. Surrounded by the 12 stars, that is, by the 12 tribes of Israel, by the whole People of God, by the whole Communion of Saints; and at her feet, the moon, the image of death and mortality.

Mary has left death behind her; she is totally clothed in life, she is taken up body and soul into God’s glory and thus, placed in glory after overcoming death, she says to us: Take heart, it is love that wins in the end!

The message of my life was: I am the handmaid of God, my life has been a gift of myself to God and my neighbor. And this life of service now arrives in real life. May you too have trust and have the courage to live like this, countering all the threats of the dragon.

This is the first meaning of the woman whom Mary succeeded in being. The “woman clothed with the sun” is the great sign of the victory of love, of the victory of goodness, of the victory of God; a great sign of consolation.

Mother of Mariazell

Mother of Mariazell

Yet, this woman who suffered, who had to flee, who gave birth with cries of anguish, is also the Church, the pilgrim Church of all times. In all generations she has to give birth to Christ anew, to bring him very painfully into the world, with great suffering. Persecuted in all ages, it is almost as if, pursued by the dragon, she had gone to live in the wilderness.

However, in all ages, the Church, the People of God, also lives by the light of God and as the Gospel says is nourished by God, nourishing herself with the Bread of the Holy Eucharist. Thus, in all the trials in the various situations of the Church through the ages in different parts of the world, she wins through suffering. And she is the presence, the guarantee of God’s love against all the ideologies of hatred and selfishness.

We see of course that today too the dragon wants to devour God who made himself a Child. Do not fear for this seemingly frail God; the fight has already been won. Today too, this weak God is strong: he is true strength.

Thus, the Feast of the Assumption is an invitation to trust in God and also to imitate Mary in what she herself said: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; I put myself at the Lord’s disposal.

This is the lesson: one should travel on one’s own road; one should give life and not take it. And precisely in this way each one is on the journey of love which is the loss of self, but this losing of oneself is in fact the only way to truly find oneself, to find true life [italics mine].

Let us look to Mary, taken up into Heaven. Let us be encouraged to celebrate the joyful feast with faith: God wins. Faith, which seems weak, is the true force of the world. Love is stronger than hate. And let us say with Elizabeth: Blessed are you among women. Let us pray to you with all the Church: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Life of Saint Augustine Through the Words of Pope Benedict XVI

Today, in the Western lung of the Catholic Church, we celebrate the great African Doctor – Saint Augustine of Hippo. Eloquent in his life and his words, the Church dons him the name – The Doctor of Grace. Even after 1600 years, the Catholic Church views him as one of the greatest theologians in her arsenal; an arsenal filled with many great fighters and defenders of Jesus Christ. The Church also sees him as one the greatest conversion stories of any saint.

Today, I am not going to focus on his biographical life, since I have done this in years past. For today’s memorial, I want to share with you Saint Augustine through the words of Pope Benedict XVI. In his general audiences from March 7, 2007 to February 27, 2008, Benedict taught on the Church Fathers from Clement of Rome to Augustine. So important is Saint Augustine to the Catholic Church that the Holy Father dedicated five general audiences to him from January 9 – February 27, 2008.

Here are 10 excerpts from the five audiences –

1. “It could be said, on the one hand, that all the roads of Latin Christian literature led to Hippo (today, Annaba, on the coast of Algeria), the place where he was Bishop from 395 to his death in 430, and, on the other, that from this city of Roman Africa, many other roads of later Christianity and of Western culture itself branched out.”

2. “Augustine realized that the whole of the Old Testament was a journey toward Jesus Christ. Thus, he found the key to understanding the beauty and even the philosophical depth of the Old Testament and grasped the whole unity of the mystery of Christ in history…”

3. “Yet, if the world grows old, Christ is perpetually young; hence the invitation: “Do not refuse to be rejuvenated united to Christ, even in the old world. He tells you: Do not fear, your youth will be renewed like that of the eagle” (cf. Serm. 81,8). Thus, the Christian must not lose heart, even in difficult situations, but rather he must spare no effort to help those in need.”

4. “When I read St. Augustine’s writings, I do not get the impression that he is a man who died more or less 1,600 years ago; I feel like he is a man of today: a friend, a contemporary who speaks to me, who speaks to us with his fresh and timely faith. In Saint Augustine, who talks to us…for Christ is truly yesterday, today, and for ever.”

5. “Thus, Augustine’s entire intellectual and spiritual development is also a valid model today in the relationship between faith and reason, a subject not only for believers but for every person who seeks the truth, a central theme for the balance and destiny of all men.”

6. “Here, then, Augustine encountered God and throughout his life experienced him to the point that this reality – which is primarily his meeting with a Person, Jesus – changed his life, as it changes the lives of everyone, men and women, who in every age have the grace to encounter him. Let us pray that the Lord will grant us this grace and thereby enable us to find his peace.”

7. “In the first place, confessiones means the confession of our own faults, of the wretchedness of sin; but at the same time, confessiones also means praise of God, thanksgiving to God. Seeing our own wretchedness in the light of God becomes praise to God and thanksgiving, for God loves and accepts us, transforms us and raises us to himself.”

8. “Only by reading Saint Paul’s Epistles within the faith of the Catholic Church was the truth fully revealed to him. This experience as summarized by Augustine in one of the most famous passages of the Confessions: he recounts that, in the torment of his reflections, withdrawing to a garden, he suddenly heard a child’s voice chanting a rhyme never heard before: tolle, lege, tolle, lege, “pick up and read, pick up and read” (VIII, 12, 29).”

9. “We always need to be washed by Christ, who washes our feet, and be renewed by him. We need permanent conversion…Augustine converted to Christ, who is truth and love, followed him throughout his life, and became a model for every human being, for all of us in search of God.”

10. “Even today, as in his time, mankind needs to know and above all to live this fundamental reality: God is love, and the encounter with him is the only response to the restlessness of the human heart; a heart inhabited by hope…so much so that Saint Paul wrote that “in this hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24).”

It is my hope, as it is with many of my blog posts where I quote the Doctors, the Saints, and the Popes, that you will come to take their words to heart in order that you know Jesus Christ in a complete way as well as come to know the beauty of the Catholic Church.

For further magisterial reading on Saint Augustine of Hippo, I suggest the Apostolic Exhortation, Augustinum Hipponsenem, promulgated on August 26, 1986, by Pope St. John Paul II.

Saint Augustine of Hippo…Pray for Us.