Sunday, December 10, 2017

Stepping Deeper into Advent with Our Lady

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Advent is a largely ignored season of the Church’s liturgical calendar. The main reason is that many of us live in cultures where the Christmas season begins on Thanksgiving, or even on Halloween. The stores and streets are decorated for Christmas earlier and earlier each year. Unfortunately, this means that a great many Catholics miss out on the motions of the liturgical year, including the beginning of a new year within the Church. It is no surprise that the Church begins the year in waiting. Advent is a season filled with meditations on the Christian life.
Advent is multi-faceted. We are waiting for the great Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ. The readings that begin the Advent season conjure up the images of Christ coming on the clouds as the Son of Man as seen in Daniel’s vision. This past Sunday we heard St. John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ. We are in a time of preparation; a time we need in our busy lives. Christmas is not something we check off our list each year. It is a holy season that goes well past the Christmas Eve Vigil which marks the beginning of the Christmas season. It is still Christmas Day on December 26, 27, 28 and on until the Octave ends. Then comes Epiphany and the Church still lives in the liturgical color of white until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, at least in the Latin Rite.
Advent is the time we acknowledge that we are constantly waiting upon the Lord. We are waiting for him to return in His glory and wipe away every tear. We are waiting for the day we stand before the Beatific Vision upon our own death. We wait in the darkness of December for the tiny baby who is the Incarnate Word of God. Waiting is a part of the Christian journey, in fact, it is a critical part of the Christian life. We are not called to skip over Advent and jump right into Christmas. Instead the Church reminds us of the deep longing of our hearts, which is to dwell with Christ. We are reminded of the long wait of the Israelites as they awaited the Messiah. We too wait for Him to come as we watch the bloodshed, suffering, and pain of this mortal coil.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.
Psalm 13:1-6
The best guide in this period of waiting is Our Heavenly Mother. She quietly carried and waited upon Our Lord for the 40 weeks as she held him in her womb. From the moment of her fiat at St. Gabriel’s announcement, she waited patiently to see the face of her Savior and ours. It is through her that we can contemplate the joy and sorrow of our waiting and learn what is required of us on this journey to holiness.

Humility

The great sin of Lucifer and the other fallen angels was pride. The Fall of Mankind was also mitigated by pride and a desire to be God. Humility is not self-deprecation, rather it is a proper ordering of ourselves before the Most Holy Trinity. We ask, who am I before God? Mary is the example par excellence of humility.
The angel begins with these words of humble greeting: “Hail, Mary, full of grace.” Hail, that is, most agreeable to God and full of his gifts, “the Lord is with you, and you are blessed above all women” (cf. Luke 1:28). This discourse is in a much loftier tone than the one that was addressed to Zechariah. To him the angel said, “Do not be afraid,” as to a man who has something to fear; and “your prayers have been heard.” Yet what is announced to Mary is something so sublime and excellent that she could not have asked for it in her prayers. Mary, humble, hidden, small in his eyes, could not have begun to think that an angel would greet her, especially not with such noble words. It is humility that made her heart troubled.
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Mediations for Advent, page 41-42
When the Annunciation occurs, Mary is stunned that God has chosen her. She knows the greatness of God and her place in relation to Him, but she does not allow that knowledge to stop her from serving Him. She understands that humility also requires an acceptance of what God wants in our own lives. Humility is the beginning of the virtues of obedience and charity. In knowing our place, we are better suited to accept the mission God gives us in our own lives.
Humility should be at the forefront of our minds during this Advent season. How strange, glorious, and unexpected it is that the God of the Universe would lower Himself and become a babe in a human mother’s arms. This is not some story we accept as quaint, but true. The Incarnation is deeply disconcerting and a complete reversal of the power structures human beings have put in place since the Fall. We should fall on our faces in humility before the babe who is the Son of God and marvel at the wonderful things He has done for us. Advent is the time we prepare for this incredible mystery and we do so resting in the care of the Mother who bore Him.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception


The following is a meditation of Pope Benedict on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception from Zenit:

O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,

Again this year, with filial love, we meet at the foot of your image to renew to you the homage of the Christian community and of the city of Rome. Let us pause in prayer here, following the tradition inaugurated by previous Popes, on the solemn day in which the liturgy celebrates your Immaculate Conception, a mystery that is a source of joy and hope for all the redeemed.

We greet you and call upon you with the Angel's words: "full of grace" (Lk 1:28), the most beautiful name that God himself has called you from eternity.

"Full of grace" are you, Mary, full of divine love from the very first moment of your existence, providentially predestined to be Mother of the Redeemer and intimately connected to him in the mystery of salvation.

In your Immaculate Conception shines forth the vocation of Christ's disciples, called to become, with his grace, saints and immaculate through love (cf. Eph 1:4). In you shines the dignity of every human being who is always precious in the Creator's eyes.

Those who look to you, All Holy Mother, never lose their serenity, no matter what the hardships of life.

Although the experience of sin is a sad one since it disfigures the dignity of God's children, anyone who turns to you discovers the beauty of truth and love and finds the path that leads to the Father's house.

"Full of grace", are you, Mary, which, welcoming with your "yes" to the Creator's plan, opened to us the path of salvation. Teach us also at your school to say our "yes" to the Lord's will. Let it be a "yes" that joins with your own "yes", without reservations or shadows, a "yes" that the Heavenly Father willed to have need of in order to beget the new Man, Christ, the one Saviour of the world and of history.

Give us the courage to say "no" to the deceptions of power, money, pleasure; to dishonest earnings, corruption and hypocrisy, to selfishness and violence; "no" to the Evil One, the deceitful prince of this world; to say "yes" to Christ, who destroys the power of evil with the omnipotence of love. We know that only hearts converted to Love, which is God, can build a better future for all.

"Full of grace", are you, Mary! For all generations your name is a pledge of sure hope. Yes! Because as the great poet, Dante, wrote, for us mortals you are "a source of living hope" (Paradise, XXXIII, 12). Let us come once again as trusting pilgrims to draw faith and comfort, joy and love, safety and peace from this source, the wellspring of your Immaculate Heart.

Virgin "full of grace", show yourself to be a tender and caring Mother to those who live in this city of yours, so that the true Gospel spirit may enliven and guide their conduct; show yourself as Mother and watchful keeper of Italy and Europe, so that people may draw from their ancient Christian roots fresh vigour to build their present and their future; show yourself as a provident and merciful Mother to the whole world so that, by respecting human dignity and rejecting every form of violence and exploitation, sound foundations may be laid for the civilization of love.

Show yourself as Mother, especially to those most in need: the defenceless, the marginalized and outcasts, to the victims of a society that all too often sacrifices the human person for other ends and interests.

Show yourself, O Mary, as Mother of all, and give us Christ, the Hope of the world! "Monstra Te esse Matrem", O Virgin Immaculate, full of grace! Amen!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Novena to the Immaculate Conception: Day 9

Don Bosco Credited all his achievements to the Blessed Virgin; in his sermons and talks he kept repeating that all the success of the Oratory and the Congregation was due to Mary's goodness.  Throughout his life he never took an important step without first entrusting his plans to her protection.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Saint Who Punched a Heretic


The following comes from Brandon Vogt

Today marks the feast of St. Nicholas, a saint remembered by most for his association with Santa Claus, some for his commendable charity, but a small number for his famous punch against a third-century heretic.
As the story goes, during the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325) there was a big argument over the divinity of Christ. Arius, a heretical bishop, believed that Christ was not divine, but rather just a creature. The Council challenged him to defend his claims in front of his brother bishops, including jolly old St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas tried to listen patiently but he considered Arius’ proposal so radical, so heretical, that he could no longer contain himself. In the middle of the speech, he rose with a scowl, charged toward Arius, and punched him right in the face.
The noted Punch is memorialized in many icons and works of art, including this piece:
Unfortunately, the Punch got St. Nichols into serious trouble. The Emperor Constantine was present at the Council, and he was so alarmed by St. Nicholas’ act of violence that he and the other bishops stripped Nicholas of his office and confiscated his two episcopal markers: his personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium, the vestment worn by all bishops in the East.
But the story didn’t stop there. According to tradition:
 
“After Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic.

Our Lord Jesus Christ asked Saint Nicholas, “Why are you here?” Nicholas responded, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.”

Christ then presented Nicholas with his copy of the Gospels. Next, the Blessed Virgin vested Nicholas with his episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop.

When the Emperor Constantine heard of this miracle, he immediately ordered that Nicholas be reinstated as a bishop in good standing for the Council of Nicea. Today we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday so we know how the controversy played out. The bishops at Nicea sided with Saint Nicholas and Saint Athanasius and they condemned Arius as a heretic.

To this very day, we still recite in the Creed that Christ is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.””

St. Nicholas’ redemption as a bishop is memorialized in the icon below. Notice Christ (left) holding out the book of the Gospels, Mary (right) holding out the episcopal pallium, and Nicholas (center) holding the Gospels and wearing the pallium:

Novena to the Immaculate Conception: Day 8

The boys often said among themselves: "Don Bosco must be very influential with Our Lady because she obtains so many favors for him!"

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Novena to the Immaculate Conception: Day 7

With his usual zeal, Dominic Savio selected several of hs most trusted friends and asked them to join him in founding a sodality to be called the Immaculate Conception Sodality. Its purpose was to seek the protection of the Mother of God in life and especially at the hour of death by promoting practices of piety in honor of Mary Immaculate as well as frequent communion. This initiative greatly consoled Don Bosco.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Novena to the Immaculate Conception: Day 6

Once the plague (cholera) had completely spent itself in the city and its environs, Don Bosco wanted his boys to show their gratitude to God for having protected them so lovingly.  As a day of thanksgiving, he chose December 8th, 1854, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the very day when Pope Pius IX would solemnly proclaim the dogma in St. Peter's Basilica!

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Novena to The Immaculate Conception: Day 5

When giving his personal blessing Don Bosco invoked the powerful protection of Mary upon those present or far away.  He claimed credit for nothing and kept repeating: "How good Our Lady is!"

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Novena to The Immaculate Conception: Day 4


As a matter of policy, Don Bosco always began, pursued, and completed his undertakings by invoking her aid.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Novena to The Immaculate Conception: Day 3

Don Bosco urged the festive oratory boys to say the rosary daily.  Rather than have them omit it for lack of time he asked them to say it while at work or on their way to and from the shops.  He maintained that the rosary was a wonderful means for acquiring the virtue of purity and a suer protection against the snares of the devil.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Fr. Robert Barron comments on C. S. Lewis

Mother Teresa's Quick Novena

The Quick Novena was, so to speak, Mother Teresa’s spiritual rapid-fire weapon. It consisted of ten Memorares—not nine, as you might expect from the word “novena”… Given the host of problems that were brought to Mother Teresa’s attention, not to mention the pace at which she traveled, it was often just not possible to allow nine days for an answer from Celestial Management. And so she invented the Quick Novena.

Mother Teresa used this prayer constantly: for petitions for the cure of a sick child, before important discussions or when passports went missing, to request heavenly aid when the fuel supply was running short on a nighttime mission…

The reason why Mother Teresa always prayed ten Memorares, though, is that she took the collaboration of heaven so much for granted that she always added a tenth Memorare immediately, in thanksgiving for the favor received.

—From Msgr. Leo Maasburg’s book, “Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait”. Learn more about this book or purchase at www.MotherTeresaStories.com

Novena to The Immaculate Conception: Day 2

No one could adequately describe Don Bosco's love for Our Lady. His devotion to her came second only to his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and he continually fostered it with visible filial love, whether preaching, hearing confessions, or talking informally. He seemed to live only for her. He often visited her shrines, and he always had a supply of medals and holy pictures to give away especially to children. As they crowded about him, he urged them to wear the medals devoutly and pray every day to the Blessed Virgin.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.


O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Novena to the Immaculate Conception: Day 1

For Don Bosco the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been the answer to many prayers and Masses he had said to hasten this long awaited definition. Now he continued to pray to and thank the Lord for having so glorified the Queen of Angels and men. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception became his favorite feast!

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.


O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Monday, November 27, 2017

St. Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal


This vignette of the apparition of Our Lady to St. Catherine Laboure on the occasion of her request for the Medal was produced by the Franciscans of the Immaculate in conjunction with Susan Mackewich of Gizmo Productions and Dave Wroe. We include this segment on the happy occasion of the start of Air Maria and on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Archangel St. Michael to Our Lady resulting in the blessed Incarnation of the Son of God. This will also serve to introduce our series on the Miraculous Medal, hosted by Fr. Elias Mary, FI and Dave Wroe on the many miracles attributed to this medal.

The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Ninth of eleven children born to a farm family, and from an early age Catherine felt a call to the religious life. Never learned to read or write. Forced to take over running the house at age eight after her mother died and her older sister joined the Sisters of Charity. Worked as a waitress in her uncle’s cafe in Paris, France. Upon entering a hospital run by the Sisters of Charity she received a vision in which Saint Vincent de Paul told her that God wanted her to work with the sick, and she later joined the Order, taking the name Catherine.

On 18 July 1830 she had a vision of Our Lady who described to her a medal which she wished struck. On one side it has the image of Our Lady, and the words, “O Mary, conceived wthout sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”; on the other are the hearts of Jesus and Mary. Our Lady told Catherine that wearers of the medal would receive great graces, it has become known as the Miraculous Medal, and its wearing and devotion has spread worldwide. Miracles reported at her tomb.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Spiritual Life

“The ideal of spirituality is to be found in the first and last words of Our Lord’s public life. The first word of His public life was: ‘come’ (John 1:39; Mark 1:17; Matthew 4:18). The last word was ‘go’ (John 20:21; Mark 16:20; Matthew 28:19). The disciple first comes to absorb His Truth, to become inflamed with His Love; then and then only, he goes to accomplish his mission. Both words are summarized in the summary of the call of the disciples: He called the men He wanted; and they went and joined Him….these He would send out to proclaim the Gospel (Mark 3:14). Unfortunately today, we have too many ‘go-goes’ and not enough ‘come-comes.’ The proper balance is found again in the story of Martha and Mary which follows in the Gospel the Good Samaritan. In the latter, social service is praised. But in the story of Martha and Mary, it is suggested that we are not to become too absorbed in serving, that we have become too absorbed in serving that we have no time to sit at the food of Jesus and learn

His lessons.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Those Mysterious Priests)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Devotion of Blessed Solanus Casey

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


Thank God ahead of time.  This sentence nearly leapt off the page of a thin book of collected quotes by Father Solanus Casey that I purchased at the St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit.  I was a young college student, and my faith was in its springtime as I embraced my singlehood to grow and mature in everything related to Catholicism.  I only ended up at the Capuchin monastery, because my mother had invited me to a one-day pilgrimage there.  Having never heard of Father Solanus before that day, I eagerly accepted her invitation without expectation of what might happen or how I might be inspired.
But Father Solanus’s life changed mine that day as I traced his footsteps through the building, feeling his presence strongly with me.  It was as if Father Solanus came to life that day, and everything biographical about him captivated me in an instant.  His writings, too, were simple and yet incredibly profound.  I knew I met a kindred saint that day, despite the fact that he was not even beatified.
My mother’s interest in Father Solanus began with a casual conversation with her friend who owned the local Catholic bookstore in our area.  He explained that Father Solanus spent quite a bit of time in his later years living in our diocese, which piqued her interest further.  Then she heard some amusing personal stories from friends whose parents had known him, and somehow the camaraderie between Father Solanus and my mom was sealed.
I knew that day as I pondered his life and legacy why my mom asked me to join her.  The depth of my affinity towards this plain and quiet Franciscan perplexed me at first, mostly because I was the scholarly type who enjoyed intellectual debates and analyzing research in my spare time.  Father Solanus was nothing like me, but I was drawn to him.  I wanted to be more like him spiritually: poor in spirit and pure of heart.
After that pilgrimage, I began to ask for Father Solanus’s intercession, but only sporadically.  College and then graduate studies overwhelmed and distracted me, but his memory remained captured in my psyche.  From time to time I would wonder rhetorically (and silently), How can I be like Father Solanus?  How can I grow in such humility and with joy in being considered nothing?
You see, Father Solanus scrubbed the toilets at the monastery not only without complaint but, in fact, with great interior peace and joy.  I couldn’t fathom doing such a thing were I in his position, because my pride was too great.  But Father Solanus accepted what was given to him – whether it was bodily injury or a menial and demeaning task – with incredible resignation to the Divine Will.  He gave all to and for God.  That is what attracted me to his charism.
Years later, I found myself masked in darkness as I faced a dreaded c-section with our second daughter, Sarah, after an intense 24-hour labor.  My pride in shambles, I wept openly in front of perfect strangers who prepped me for the operation.  My heart was inconsolable, yet somewhere in the abyss of my fear, a tiny voice said to me, Say a prayer to Father Solanus.
Instantly I offered a silent supplication to my Capuchin friend in Heaven, and my heart was still and quiet.  I sensed a Heavenly presence, though I uttered not a word to a single person, including my husband, Ben.  And the operation not only went flawlessly, but I was told by the on-call obstetrician that it was “miraculous.” 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Chris Stefanick on the Mass