“Mondays with Mary” – Praying with Mary during Advent

Before I get into the topic for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I want to share with all of you some monumental news when it comes to my writing. Today’s article is the 800th post I have written on TomPerna.org. I hope that my father is smiling down from eternity today since it was he who first encouraged me to start writing. In a month and a half, I will celebrate the 6th anniversary of this website/blog. Thank you to all my readers, followers, and supporters. Your prayers have been very helpful.

 Now that we have entered the Season of Advent, a season of anticipation, hope, and rejoicing, I wanted to share with you a great way to pray with Mary every night during this season. I didn’t realize the importance of this prayer until I heard it last night at our monthly Latin Novus Ordo Mass and then read about it this morning. I have mentioned it briefly in passing in previous posts and it has been listed among Catholic hymns when I wrote about Sacred Music, but I have never written on the prayer itself. The prayer I speak of is the Alma Redemptoris Mater.

In his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, Pope St. John Paul II opens the document with these words about Mary –

“The Mother of the Redeemer has a precise place in the plan of salvation, for “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Gal. 4:4-6).”

In God’s divine economy, even with the Fall of Adam and Eve, God always had a plan to save us, and just as a man and woman caused our great fall of grace, so too would a man and a woman reverse that fall from grace and establish a new covenant with all of humanity. Even on the first day of the disaster in Genesis, God promised us a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ and the woman is Mary, the Dear Mother of the Redeemer. Her role in salvation history is unparalleled. Without her, we don’t get Jesus Christ.

The Alma Redemptoris Mater is one of the four antiphons associated with Mary, along with verses and prayers that follow. It is said or sung traditionally after night prayer, just before ones goes to sleep. The prayer is said from the beginning of Advent (from the night before the Fourth Sunday of Christmas) through February 1, leading us right into Candlemas. Below is the English translation. If you would like to say it or sing it in Latin, you can find it here.

O Loving Mother of our Redeemer

O loving Mother of our Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Hasten to aid thy fallen people who strive to rise once more.
Thou who brought forth thy holy Creator, all creation wond’ring,
Yet remainest ever Virgin, taking from Gabriel’s lips
that joyful “Hail!”: be merciful to us sinners.

Up through the day before Christmas Eve:

The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Christmas Eve on:

Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity:
R. Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. Amen.

I would encourage you all to pray this wonderful prayer during the Season of Advent. Praying with Mary through this season and into Christmas will only benefit us more and help us to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

O Holy Mother of the Redeemer…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin’s Relationship to the Word of God

Over the past four weeks on Sunday nights, I have been teaching a class titled, A Catholic Understanding of the Bible, for the Institute of Catholic Theology at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Phoenix, Arizona. As I was finishing up last night’s class, in the back of my mind was today’s “Mondays with Mary” since I said to the participants, as Catholics, we should look to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the perfect example of knowing God’s word. Her fiat at the Annunciation should be on each of our lips when it comes to the Word of God.

We all should have the same zeal and affirmation that our Blessed Mother had when the Angel of Gabriel came to her declaring that she would bear a son through the power of the Holy Spirit. In regards to the Scriptures, we need to say, Yes, as Mary said yes to God. If we embrace the Scriptures as Mary embraced God’s will in her life, then there is no saying what Our Lord will give to us through sacramental grace and knowledge of the Holy Word of God.

To drive this point home of Mary’s relationship and role to the Word of God, here are four quotes from Redemptoris Mater, the encyclical written Pope St. John Paul II, which focuses on the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church –

1. “Is not Mary the first of ‘those who hear the word of God and do it’? And therefore does not the blessing uttered by Jesus in response to the woman in the crowd refer primarily to her?”

2. “Without any doubt, Mary is worthy of blessing by the very fact that she became the mother of Jesus according to the flesh (‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked’), but also and especially because already at the Annunciation she accepted the word of God, because she believed it, because she was obedient to God, and because she “kept” the word and “pondered it in her heart” (cf. Lk. 1:38, 45; 2:19, 51) and by means of her whole life accomplished it.”

Picture taken from - Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria

Picture taken from – Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria

3. “The Church ‘becomes herself a mother by accepting God’s word with fidelity. Like Mary, who first believed by accepting the word of God revealed to her at the Annunciation and by remaining faithful to that word in all her trials even unto the Cross, so too the Church becomes a mother when, accepting with fidelity the word of God, ‘by her preaching and by baptism she brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God.’”

4. “Following the example of Mary, who kept and pondered in her heart everything relating to her divine Son (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51), the Church is committed to preserving the word of God and investigating its riches with discernment and prudence, in order to bear faithful witness to it before all mankind in every age.”

Mary’s role in Salvation History is fundamentally important for the life of the Church, however, her role in relation to the Word of God is just as important. Next time you read the Scriptures on our own, read them in the daily missal at Mass, or just listen to them at Mass, ask that the Blessed Mother help you to take the Word of God to your heart and say – “Yes!”

Mother of the Word Incarnate…Pray for Us.

“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, Our Guide Through Lent

The connection of the Lenten Season with Mary is not always the most obvious. The Stations of the Cross as do the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary give us some insight of the Passion of Jesus Christ through the eyes of Mary.

During Lent, Mary is the ideal companion for us since it is in Lent that that she places her special role as the shelter of sinners and comforter of the afflicted. It is also during this season that we focus our hearts and minds to the contemplation of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.

Simply, Mary, as our guide through Lent helps us search for Jesus and then leads us directly to the cross on Calvary, and while at the cross, we are then given to Mary and she is given to us.

Today we are going to draw from three great minds of the 20th century to help us understand the Lenten themes with Mary as our guide. They are Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope St. John Paul II.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar – Mary for Today

“Mary plays a mysterious role at the Wedding at Cana. The couple whose wedding is was there clearly friends of the family in Nazareth…Mary is one among many other guests. But she is the first to notice the embarrassing situation these probably not very well off people are in…what is noted here is Mary’s awareness of the need of the poor and her instinctive feeling that her son must know about it and can somehow provide help…

And then it is as if the whole scene had moved up onto a higher plane. Jesus has started on his ministry: he is no longer this person’s son. And in his ministry he no longer sees Mary as his own mother but as “the woman”, the other, the “helpmate”, who however will only start in her own proper role when he finally, on the Cross, becomes the “New Adam”. She has already suffered: the sword has already pierced her soul. He on the other hand is only now marching toward his ‘hour’.”

Mary is not just one who leads us closer to Christ in Lent, she is always leading us closer to Christ for it is he who will cure us of our sins, he who will turn water into wine for us, and it’s his sacrifice on the cross that gives us all.

Focusing on the embarrassment of the situation, how many times are we embarrassed by our actions and words, our very sins? How many times do I feel embarrassed to be call myself a Catholic Christian when I do things contrary to what I know is the right thing?

The words “Do whatever he tells you” although directed towards the servants, have meaning for us. As Mary guides us to Jesus, that phrase should be in our minds for it is what exactly what every saint has tried to do – align their will with the will of God. We should be doing whatever our Lord tells us to do.

sign of the cross

Just as Mary said, “Yes” at the Annunciation and at Calvary, our yes to Jesus is not a one-time yes, but a yes that needs to be repeated, and strengthened during Lent.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) – Mary: The Church at the Source

“Luke’s first express mention of the Cross as an aspect of Mary’s grace, prophecy, and mysticism occurs in her encounter with the aged Simeon…The sword shall pierce her heart – this statement foreshadows the Son’s Passion, which will become her own passion…The Pieta completes the picture of the Cross, because Mary is the accepted Cross, the Cross communicating itself in love, the Cross that now allows us to experience in her compassion the compassion of God. In this way the Mother’s affliction is Easter affliction, which already inaugurates the transformation of death into a redemptive being-with of love.”

At the Cross of Christ, Mary consents again to the giving up of her son. During the Lenten Season, as we walk with Christ to the cross, through the desert, so too are we giving our consent, but the consent to give up of ourselves.

For each of us, we must learn to joyfully embrace the Cross. The joy I speak is not banal joy of forgetfulness, but real joy. The joy that is expressed with reason and faith. As Ratzinger says, “real joy that gives us the courage to venture the exodus of love into the burning holiness of God. It is the true joy that pain does not destroy but first brings to it maturity. Only the joy that stands the test of pain and is stronger than affliction is authentic.”

Pope St. John Paul II – Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer)

At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest “kenosis” of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened. On Golgotha, Jesus through the Cross definitively confirmed that he was the “sign of contradiction” foretold by Simeon. At the same time, there were also fulfilled on Golgotha the words which Simeon had addressed to Mary: “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”

During this Lenten Season, and as our guide, Mary shows us as she did herself at the cross, how to self-empty ourselves. As co-heirs in Christ’s salvation, we take part in our way of emptying ourselves of our sins and focusing our attention back on him and back to the Cross.

As our guide through Lent, Mary also shows to us what it is to have great faith. We see her faith first at the Annunciation where she willingly accepts the invitation of the Divine Angel to be the Mother of the Savior. We also see Mary’s great faith at the cross where she says Yes again to death of her son. Even though the majority of the apostles ran in fear, she along with the other women (and John) stood at the foot of cross in great faith.

As John Paul II states in Redemptoris Mater,

“Living side by side with her Son under the same roof, and faithfully preserving ‘in her union with her Son’ she advanced in her pilgrimage of faith,”…by “suffering deeply with her only-begotten Son and joining herself with her maternal spirit to his sacrifice, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim to whom she had given birth,” in this way Mary “faithfully preserved her union with her Son even to the Cross.” It is a union through faith- the same faith with which she had received the angel’s revelation at the Annunciation.

As Mary (and Joseph) searched for Jesus and found him in Temple, in Lent, we search more diligently for Jesus with Mary. The more we follow Jesus, with the assistance of the Blessed Mother; we too will increase in faith, spiritual wisdom, and charity for all.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Star of the Sea that Shines Through Advent

As we enter the Season of Advent, our attention is drawn to the coming of Emmanuel – Jesus Christ. We see his first coming in the Incarnation which in turn will prepare us for His second coming, where He will judge the living and the dead. Just as Mary welcomed Jesus with great hope, the Church does the same. The first half of Advent, through her liturgy, prayers, readings and antiphons, the Church anticipates the eschatological return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day as Supreme Judge.

Within the Advent season, we see two Marian feasts that display the important role that Mary plays in Salvation History, the role of preceding Christ – the Immaculate Conception on December 8 and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. As the sunrise follows the dawn so too does the Blessed Virgin prepare the Church, and all of humanity, for the coming of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. As the Star of the Sea, which shines with great brilliance, Mary not only guides us through the night of Advent, but through the waves and storms of life helping us to reach the port of Heaven.

Mary - Star of the Sea

Pope St. John Paul II summarizes this with great articulation when he says,

“It is a fact that when “the fullness of time” was definitively drawing near-the saving advent of Emmanuel- she who was from eternity destined to be his Mother already existed on earth. The fact that she “preceded” the coming of Christ is reflected every year in the liturgy of Advent. Therefore, if to that ancient historical expectation of the Savior we compare these years which are bringing us closer to the end of the second Millennium after Christ and to the beginning of the third, it becomes fully comprehensible that in this present period we wish to turn in a special way to her, the one who in the “night” of the Advent expectation began to shine like a true “Morning Star” (Stella Matutina). For just as this star, together with the “dawn,” precedes the rising of the sun, so Mary from the time of her Immaculate Conception preceded the coming of the Savior, the rising of the “Sun of Justice” in the history of the human race” (Redemptoris Mater #3).

As we enter this Advent season, let us go “to Jesus through Mary”, which follows the identical path of Our Lord who came through Mary His Mother. Let us invoke the Marian antiphon, commonly recited following Compline (night prayers or solemn vespers), known as the Alma Redemptoris Mater. It is in this song of honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary that we as sinners seek the intercession of Mary, our perpetual Ever-Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, Open Gate to Heaven, and the Star of the Sea –

Loving mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before. You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners.

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘The Handmaid of the Lord’

Over the past three weeks, I have focused on variety of teachings underlining the Solemnity of the Annunciation. The first week we looked at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states about Mary’s Virginity; the second week focused on some of the Early Church Fathers teachings on the subject of Mary’s faith at the Annunciation; and last week we looked at the Annunciation through the theology of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

To conclude this short four-week series on the Annunciation, I give you five “words” focusing on Mary’s Fiat from the soon-to-be-saint, Pope John Paul II. As I have promised in other posts, as we get closer to his official canonization, which is less than one month away, I will write more about him and the theology he wrote for the Catholic Church during his twenty-six pontificate.

Redemptoris Mater, 28 –

“In the faith which Mary professed at the Annunciation as the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ and in which she constantly ‘precedes’ the pilgrim People of God throughout the earth, the Church ‘strives energetically and constantly to bring all humanity…back to Christ its head in the unity of his Spirit.’”

Address in Rome, July 13, 1994 –

“The whole ecclesial movement of women can and should reflect the light of Gospel revelation, according to which a woman, as the representative of the human race, was called to give her consent to the Incarnation of the Word. It is the account of the Annunciation that suggests this truth when it tells that only after the ‘fiat’ of Mary, who consented to be the Mother of the Messiah, did ‘the angel depart from her’ (Lk. 1:38). The angel had completed his mission: he could bring to God humanity’s ‘yes’,’ spoken by Mary of Nazareth.”

The Annunciation - Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Insegnamenti, March 19, 1982 –

“The Blessed Virgin intoned the Magnificat, knowing that to accomplish the plan of salvation for all mankind, the Lord willed to bring her, a simple maiden of his people, into association with it. We are here to intone our Magnificat, after the example of Mary, knowing that we have been summoned by God to a service of redemption and salvation, in spite of our inadequacy.”

Address in Rome, June 18, 1979 –

“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 of 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 hope in your heart.”

Mulieris Dignitatem, 5 –

“When Mary responds to the words of the heavenly messenger with her ‘fiat’, she who is ‘full of grace’ feels the need to express her personal relationship to the gift that has been revealed to her, saying: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord’ (Lk 1:38). This statement should not be deprived of its profound meaning, nor should it be diminished by artificially removing it from the overall context of the event and from the full content of the truth revealed about God and man. In the expression ‘handmaid of the Lord’, one senses Mary’s complete awareness of being a creature of God. The word ‘handmaid’, near the end of the Annunciation dialogue, is inscribed throughout the whole history of the Mother and the Son. In fact, this Son, who is the true and consubstantial ‘Son of the Most High’, will often say of himself, especially at the culminating moment of his mission: ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve’ (Mk 10:45).”

As always, let us keep in our hearts and minds, Mary’s Fiat, her Yes to God. Let us always be prepared in our hearts to say YES to God just as our Blessed Virgin Mary did at the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel visited her.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Take Two

The reading from the Gospel of Luke – 1:39-45 was read yesterday for the Gospel reading and was also read this week for the Gospel during weekly Mass. Instead of rehashing the entire reading, I give you my blog post that I wrote for the May 28 “Mondays with Mary” – The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I would also encourage you to read my post on – The Magnificat as well, even though that was not part of the reading yesterday and this week. Below are the words of Blessed John Paul II on the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary from his encyclical – Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) – 

Official JP 2 Papal Photo

“Immediately after the narration of the Annunciation, the Evangelist Luke guides us in the footsteps of the Virgin of Nazareth towards “a city of Judah” (Lk. 1:39). According to scholars this city would be the modern Ain Karim, situated in the mountains, not far from Jerusalem. Mary arrived there “in haste,” to visit Elizabeth her kinswoman. The reason for her visit is also to be found in the fact that at the Annunciation Gabriel had made special mention of Elizabeth, who in her old age had conceived a son by her husband Zechariah, through the power of God: “your kins woman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a Son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk. 1:36-37). The divine messenger had spoken of what had been accomplished in Elizabeth in order to answer Mary’s question. “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” (Lk. 1:34) It is to come to pass precisely through the “power of the Most High,” just as it happened in the case of Elizabeth, and even more so.

Moved by charity, therefore, Mary goes to the house of her kinswoman. When Mary enters, Elizabeth replies to her greeting and feels the child leap in her womb, and being “filled with the Holy Spirit” she greets Mary with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (cf. Lk. 1:40-42) Elizabeth’s exclamation or acclamation was subsequently to become part of the Hail Mary, as a continuation of the angel’s greeting, thus becoming one of the Church’s most frequently used prayers. But still more significant are the words of Elizabeth in the question which follows: “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk. 1:43) Elizabeth bears witness to Mary: she recognizes and proclaims that before her stands the Mother of the Lord, the Mother of the Messiah. The son whom Elizabeth is carrying in her womb also shares in this witness: “The babe in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk. 1:44). This child is the future John the Baptist, who at the Jordan will point out Jesus as the Messiah.

While every word of Elizabeth’s greeting is filled with meaning, her final words would seem to have fundamental importance: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk. 1:45). These words can be linked with the little “full of grace” of the angel’s greeting. Both of these texts reveal an essential Mariological content, namely the truth about Mary, who has become really present in the mystery of Christ precisely because she “has believed.” The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself. Mary’s faith, proclaimed by Elizabeth at the Visitation, indicates how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift.”