Saturday, September 24, 2011

Our Lady's Day


Japanese Madonna and Child

Friday, September 23, 2011

Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina - "The Mass of Padre Pio: What a Mass!" and Padre Pio Maxims

As we celebrate the feast of beloved St. Padre Pio, I share with you the following description of Padre Pio celebrating Holy Mass as well as other excerpts from an old book, Padre Pio the Stigmatist.

"No, we cannot describe it. Only an angel could. We poor human creatures with great difficulty and fragmentarily can give some impression of the effect. The supernatural with its ineffable sweetness is not attainable through any sufficiency of our own. As a seminarian at the American College of Louvain, Belgium, I found the mass of the famous Cardinal Mercier, of the First World War, used to thrill me, but the mass of Padre Pio turned me into a dumbfounded St. Peter watching Christ resurrect the dead Lazarus.

At the moment that Pio makes the sign of the Cross at the foot of the altar of St. Francis of Assisi, his face is transfigured. He is no longer the simple smiling priest who celebrates the divine sacrifice, but he is the man of God, chosen to give testimony of His existence, chosen to collaborate with Jesus in the continued martyrdom of the five wounds of the Passion the priest who with Jesus is crucified and, let us dare say, dies mystically in each mass with Him..."

"Christ is Padre Pio, and Padre Pio is Christ an alter Christus...And yet how few of our priests and bishops take time out to travel to this theater of our century's greatest drama..."

"How shall we explain otherwise the suffering that is reflected on the face of this Alter Christus, the anguished contractions of his body, the strained effort to raise himself up, leaning his bleeding hands on the altar after genuflections, as if on his back there were really the weight of Christ's cross? And the prolonged ecstasies like Christ transfigured on Mount Thabor, and that ravishment that takes him out of this world of materialistic chaos. And the motions of his head, the signs of smiles of consent which make him glow as his petitions for his spiritual children around his feet make his Christ smile in approval. And suddenly, then the twist of his face, the burst of tears--and, oh, what tears that bathe the sleeves of his alb as he struggles with frequency to retrain himself? Would you not then, love to rush up with tears coursing your cheeks and give him the fraternal filial embrace of a St. John with his Divine Friend? Having seen Padre Pio seven times in this state, I can truthfully say I have the privilege of seeing my Christ crucified.

Picture source

Picture source

Spiritual Maxims of Padre Pio

- Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds Him.

- The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain.

- Speaking of temptations he said: "If you succeed in overcoming temptation, this has the effect of washing on dirty clothes."

- Whoever does not meditate, is like someone who never looks in the mirror before going out, doesn't bother to see if he's tidy, and may go out dirty without knowing it.

- The person who meditates and turns his mind to God, who is the mirror of his soul, seeks to know his faults, tries to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.

- If we are calm and persevering, we shall find not only ourselves, but our souls, and with that, God Himself.

- On Mortifications: Our body is like an ass which we must beat, but not too much because otherwise it will fall down and it won't carry us any more.

- The demon has only one door by which to enter into our soul: the will; there are no secret doors. No sin is a sin if not committed with the will. When there is no action of the will, there is no sin, but only human weakness.

- On being excessively distressed by one's sins: That which you feel is pride; it is the demon which inspires you with this sentiment, it is not true sorrow."

- On distinguishing what comes from God and what comes from the devil: The spirit of God is a spirit of peace, and also in the case of grave sin, it makes us feel a tranquil sorrow humble, confident, and this is due precisely to His mercy. The spirit of the demon, on the contrary, excites, exasperates, and makes us in our sorrow feel something like anger against ourselves, whereas our first charity must be to ourselves, and so if certain thoughts agitate you, this agitation never comes from God, w ho gives you tranquility, being the Spirit of Peace. Such agitation comes from the devil.

- On our responsibility for the salvation of someone's soul: Try with love, lots of love, spending all you have, and if that is useless...rebuke him. Christ who is our model has taught us so, since He created Paradise and also Hell.

- A good scolding or slap given dutifully is sometimes more in order than a kindly reminder. On several occasions the Father said to his spiritual children at San Giolvanni Rotondo: "Beatings and bread make beautiful boys."

- Before sanctifying others, sanctify yourself.

- All human ideas, no matter from where they come, have their good and bad points; one must assimilate all the good in them and offer them to God, and eliminate the bad.

- All prayers are good, when these are accompanied by the right intention and good will.

- Prayer should be insistent when insistence denotes faith.

- Man is so full of pride that when he has everything he needs and good health, he believes himself a god, and superior to God himself, but when something happens and he can do nothing, and others can't do anything about it either, only then he will remember that there is a Supreme Being.

- God enriches the soul which empties itself of everything.

- In the spiritual life one must always go on pushing ahead and never go backwards; if not, the same thing happens as to a boat which when it loses headway gets blown backwards with the wind.

- It is not a loss of patience if one ask Jesus to take away pain, when this becomes insupportable to us and beyond our strength, nor does one lose the merit of the suffering which is offered, by asking this of God.

- Beneficence, from wherever it may come, is always the child of teh same mother, that is Providence.

- The lie is the child of the demon.

- The habit of asking 'Why" has ruined the world.

- Humility is truth, truth is humility.

- Remember always that God sees everything.

- Prayer is the best armor we have, it is the key which opens the heart of God.

- Remember that the axis of perfection is charity; who lives centered in charity, lives in God, because God is charity, as the Apostle said.

Picture source

- On sanctifying oneself: Separate yourself from the world.

- A mother in the beginning teaches a child to walk holding onto it, but afterwards the child has to walk alone. You must learn to use your own reasoning powers.

- Sin against charity is like piercing God in the pupil of the eye. What is more delicate than the pupil of the eye? To sin against charity is like a sin against nature.

- A good heart is always strong, it suffers, but with tears it is consoled by sacrificing itself for its neighbor and for God.

- Love and fear must go united together, fear without love becomes cowardice. Love without fear becomes presumption. When there is love without fear, love runs without prudence and without restraint, without taking care where it is going."

- Always have prudence and love, for these two must stay together. Prudence has the eyes, love the legs.

- Where there is no obedience there is no virtue, where there is no virtue there is not good, where there is no good there is no love, where there is no love, there is no God, and where there is no God there is no Paradise.

- The Cross will not crush you; if its weight makes you stagger, its power will also sustain you.

- Humility and purity are the wings which carry us to God and make us almost divine. Remember: that a bad man who is ashamed of the wrong thing he is doing, is nearer to God than a good man who bushes at doing the right thing.

Picture source

- To his spiritual son: "I have bought you with the price of my blood."

- In the spiritual life, the more you run the less you get tired; moreover, peace, the prelude to eternal joy, will come upon us, and we shall be happy and strong according to the extent that we live in t his study of making Jesus live in us, and of mortifying ourselves.

- The doors of paradise are open to every human creature, remember Mary Magdalene!

- Charity is the measure by which Our Lord judges all things.

- Time spent in honor of God and for the salvation of souls is never badly spent.

- Keep well dug into our minds thew words of Our Lord: In patience you will possess you soul.

- What does it matter to you whether Jesus wishes to guide you to heaven by way of the desert or by the fields, so long as you get there by one way or the other?

- Put away any excessive worrying which results from the trials by which the good God has desired to test you; and if this is not possible resign yourself to the Divine Will.

- It is just as well to make yourself at home with the suffering that Jesus is pleased to send you, as you must always live with them...

- The impetus to be in eternal peace is good and holy; but it must be moderated by complete resignation to the Divine Will.

= It is better to accomplish the Divine Will on earth than to rejoice in Paradise. To suffer and not die, was the motto of St. Teresa. Purgatory is sweet when one suffers for the love of God.

Picture source

- The demon is like a dog on a chain; beyond the range of the cahin it cannot bite anyone. And you, therefore, keep your distance. If you get too near it will get you.

- Temptations, discomforts, worries are merchandise offered for sale by the enemy. Remember this: if the demon makes a lot of noise, it is a sign that he is still outside, and not inside. What should frighten us is when he is at peace and in harmony with our human soul.

- Your temptations come from the devil and hell but your suffering come from God and Paradise...Despise temptations and embrace tribulations...

- Let us climb Calvary without getting tired, carrying our Cross and be certain that the climb will lead us to the beatific vision of Our dear Savior.

- If Jesus manifests Himself to you, thank Him; if He hides Himself from you, thank Him likewise...

- I hope you will persevere to death with Christ on the Cross, and that at the end you will softly exclaim with him: Consummatum est! (It is finished).

- Divine Goodness does not only not reject penitent souls, but goes out in search of obstinate souls.

- Have patience in the perseverance of the holy exercise of meditation, and be content to being by making little steps until you have legs to run with, or rather wings to fly with.

- Content yourself with just making an act of obedience with is never a thing of little importance for a souls who has chosen God for her portion, and resign yourself for the time being to be little baby bee in the hive, which soon will become a a full-grown bee, able to make honey.

- The heart of our Divine Master knows only the loving law of sweetness, humility and charity...

- Put your trust often in the Divine Providence of God, and be certain that rather will heaven and earth pass away than that our Lord should fail to protect you.

- Walk with simplicity in the way of the Lord and do not torment your spirit.

- You must hate your sins, but with a tranquil hate, not worryingly or restlessly.

- Rest like the Virgin on the Cross of Jesus and you will not be deprived of comfort...

Picture source
Excerpts from Padre Pio the Stigmatist by Father Charles Mortimer Carty

Picture source

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Lord, Bless My Tongue"

Picture source

The following is from the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers. It is an apostolate I highly recommend to all women...mothers and non-mothers alike. I have belonged to it for quite a few years now. I give it a lot of credit for helping me in my spiritual growth as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, etc.  More on the ACCM on a later post. 

"Our tongues are the most used, overused, abused organs in our frame. They need discipline to speak when we are afraid, to teach where ignorance confuses, to comfort when people are hurting, to assert when causes need defended, to caution where danger lurks, to encourage when trust is lacking, to say thanks where unhappiness overlooks blessings.

Keep our tongues from telling lies, destroying reputations, repeating obscene stories, violating secrecy, casting ethnic slurs, blasting angry words, criticizing insensitively, telling people off, bad-mouthing leaders in authority, sassing our parents, inflating our egos, excusing our weaknesses, exaggerating our accomplishments, humiliating our enemies.

Teach our tongues to pray and to praise our God in and out of the liturgy - in and out of season - whether we feel like it or not. Let our motive be: that God be glorified and our neighbor be helped. Make our tongues, a little more like Yours with each word we speak. Amen."

Copyright Father Angelus Shaughnessy, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Mother Love, A Newsletter to the Christian Mother Vol. 67 No. 4, Fall 2009.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spiritual Guide - on Mortifications

...5 - Offer your meals to God; at table impose on yourself a tiny penance: for example, refuse a sprinkling of salt a glass of wine, a sweet, etc.; your companions will not notice it, but God will keep account of it.

6 - If what you are given appeals to you very much, think of the gall and the vinegar given to Our Lord on the cross: that cannot keep you from tasting, but will serve as a counterbalance to the pleasure.

7 - You must avoid all sensual contact, every caress in which you set some passion, by which you look for passion, from which you take a joy which is principally of the senses.

8 - Refrain from going to warm yourself, unless this is necessary to save you from being unwell.

9 - Bear with everything which naturally grieves the flesh, especially the cold of winter, the heat of summer, a hard bed and every inconvenience of that kind. Whatever the weather, put on a good face; smile at all temperatures. Say with the prophet: "Cold, heat, rain, bless ye the Lord." It will be a happy day for us when we are able to say with a good heart these words which were familiar to St. Francis de Sales: "I am never better than when I am not well..."

Read this in its entirety at Vivificat's blog


by William Adolph Bouguereau

This article should have been posted on September 14th. Please accept my apologies.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
September 14

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

Already in the time of the apostles the cross on which Christ died had become the symbol of his redemptive death and a symbol for himself and for Christianity.

In 335 A.D. on September 13 the Church of the Martyrdom and Resurrection was dedicated in Jerusalem. The next day, in a solemn ceremony, the faithful were shown the cross that the Empress Helen had discovered on September 14, 320. This ceremony was repeated each successive year on September 14 in that church, which possessed a large relic of the cross. The reverent elevation of the relic of the true cross gave this day its name, “exaltation of the cross.” From this gesture we have our popular contemporary hymn, “Lift high the cross.” Later this feast was combined with the memorial of the rescue of the stolen cross from the Persians by the Emperor Heraclius in 628.

The striking prayers of the Divine Liturgy for this day testify to the grace of our salvation as expressed in Christ’s promise, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself” John 12:32).

The tone of the feast of the “Exaltation of the Cross,” which more properly is now called the “Triumph of the Cross,” is quite different from the somber and sorrowful liturgy of Good Friday. September 14 has a definitely joyous character. It recalls our happiness about our salvation.
Blessed Pope John XXIII had a favorite crucifix on his bedroom wall. He prayed in front of it before retiring, upon arising, and whenever cares awakened him during the night. “A cross,” he said, “is the primary symbol of God’s love for us.”

Because the cross has become so commonplace, there is danger that this symbol of Christian salvation may lose much of its significance. The cross is visible in so many places and we see it so often: in church, in our room, in public displays, even on some hilltops. Frequently we make the “sign of the cross” over ourselves when we pray and at other times. Even in the secular realm the word “cross” is widely used not only as a symbol of honor or service as in “Red Cross” and “Distinguished Service Cross,” but even in more prosaic terms such as “criss-cross,” “crossword,” and other common expressions. How do we overcome the tendency to lose or dilute the importance of the word and the symbol?

We need to devise solutions and reminders to overcome that kind of passivity. One approach is to think of and to speak of the striking symbolism of the two beams that make up the cross. The upright (vertical) beam with its orientation pointing both above and below will remind us that the Son of God came down from heaven for us and for our salvation. This beam is a symbol of God’s love for humankind, which manifests itself especially in the Incarnation and in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. The upright beam will also remind us of the necessity of lifting up the human spirit to God. When people forget this upward climb to God, this transcendence, they quickly lose awareness of the fundamental dimension of their own creaturely status and dependence on the Creator. Then the illusion of human autonomy quickly encroaches resulting in error and confusion.
The horizontal (cross) beam points both left and right indicating our fellow human beings all round us. That reminds us that together with the love of God, the love of neighbor is essential to the Christian commandment of love. True holiness cannot overlook one’s neighbor. Christ himself demonstrated symbolically with his arms extended on the cross what he had earlier proclaimed publicly: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself” (John 12:32). Let us stretch our arms wide as Jesus has done, so that we will embrace the whole world. We cannot love God while denying our fellow human beings practical love in concrete situations. Christ refers every good deed, and every good deed left undone, to himself: “ did it (did not do it) to me” (Matthew 25:40-45).

Recalling the vertical and horizontal beams of the cross in this way is a lively reminder of the Christian way of life. To give the symbol of the cross such a prominence in our lives is the most significant “exaltation” and “triumph” of the cross. May the feast and each time we bless ourselves remind us of this.
“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed us.”


Brother John emailed me the following.

MESSENGER OF MARY IMMACULATE published the attached article in its current issue. Any comments?


Bro. John

Does Mary Bridge Islam and Christianity?

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

Non-Muslims generally harbor a pejorative view of Islam. This presentation offers a different perspective, a Marian outlook espoused by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his book, The World’s First Love, and shared by other devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary in the Muslim holy book
Contemporary interest in Islam and the Qur’an, its sacred book, runs high.
Among the queries raised concerning the Qur’an is the place Mary, the Mother of Jesus, occupies in Islam. For the past two millennia people have given many faces to Mary. Some of the most impressive images of her are found in the Qur’an. And ample evidence exists that the sources of its Marian references are found in earlier Christian traditions.

Mary and her son Jesus the prophet have a privileged place in the Qur’an. Mary is the only female whose name is cited. Her name is repeated frequently. The expression, “Jesus son of Mary” appears 13 times, and “Jesus, the Messiah, son of Mary,” is found three times. About 45 times we find Mary’s name or references to it.

According to the Qur’an, God made Mary and Jesus a sign, a witness to faith. “And We made the son of Mary and his mother a portent” (Sura 23:50; Sura 21:91).
Both the Qur’an and the entire Islamic tradition consider Mary the most blessed and prominent of women. This belief reaches back to Muhammad as noted in Musnad by Ibn Hanbal. The founder of Islam placed Mary above even his daughter Fatimah, and said Fatimah would have been highest among women were it not for Mary.

Christianity and Islam are both missionary faiths originating among Semitic peoples. They have this in common: belief in one God, who is just, merciful, omnipotent, omniscient, and who acts in history. Accepting Jesus as prophet and Messiah, Islam thus elevates his mother, Mary, to a special position and role.

Islam’s creed

Islam is the only great post-Christian religion of the world. Since it originated in the seventh century under the leadership of Muhammad, it was possible to include some elements of Christianity and Judaism along with some customs of Arabia.

Islam seems to use the doctrine of the unity of God, his majesty and his creative power, to reject Christ as the Son of God. Not understanding the notion of the Trinity, Muhammad recognizes Christ as a prophet and announces himself, that is, Muhammad.

Christian Europe, the West, barely escaped eradication at the hands of the early Muslim jihadists. At various times the Muslims were repulsed near Tours, Vienna, Lepanto and other areas. The Church across North Africa was destroyed by Muslim invasions. Presently Islam is again on the rise and flexing its power.

If Islam is a heresy, which Hilaire Belloc declared it to be, it is the only heresy that has never declined. Rather, it has rebounded. Other heresies experienced a period of vigor and influence, but later declined and lapsed into doctrinal decay at the death of the leader, and eventually faded away as a social movement. Islam, on the contrary, endured and has not declined in numbers or in the loyalty of its followers.

On the surface of things, the missionary efforts of the Church with Muslims have failed. They seem almost unconvertible. Muslims believe they have the final and definitive revelation of God and that Jesus Christ was only a prophet announcing Muhammad, the last of God’s real prophets.

Currently, the hatred of Muslim countries toward the West is becoming hatred against Christianity itself. There is still grave danger that the temporal power of Islam may return and bring with it the menace that will overcome the West that has ceased to be Christian, and affirm itself as the great anti-Christian world power. Muslim literature says, “When the locust swarms darken countries, they bear on their wings these words in Arabic: We are God’s host, each of us has 99 eggs, and if we had 100, we should lay waste the world, with all that is in it.”

The problem is how to prevent the hatching of the hundredth egg. Some believe firmly these fears concerning the Muslims will not be realized. They believe that Islam will eventually turn to Christianity, and in a way that missionaries do not expect. These Christians believe that this will happen not through the teachings of Christianity, but through inviting the Muslims to veneration of the Mother of God. This is their line of reasoning.

Role of Mary

The Qur’an, the Muslim bible, contains many passages about the Blessed Virgin Mary. It speaks of her Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth. The third chapter details the history of Mary’s family in a genealogy that goes back through Abraham, Noah and to Adam. Comparing the Qur’an’s description of Mary’s birth with the apocryphal gospel version reveals a similarity that indicates Muhammad probably depended on the latter. Both books describe the old age and sterility of Mary’s Mother, Ann. When Ann conceives Mary, she says in the Qur’an, “O Lord, I vow and consecrate to you what is already within me. Accept it from me.” When Mary is born, her mother says, “I consecrate her with all her posterity under your protection, O Lord, against Satan.”

The Qur’an makes little mention of Joseph, but the Muslim tradition appreciates him. Joseph asks Mary, who is a virgin, how she conceived Jesus without a father. Mary responds: “Do you not know that God, when he created the wheat had no need of seed, and that God by his power made the trees to grow without the help of rain? All that God had to do was to say. ‘So be it,’ and it was done.”

The Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity are also included in the Qur’an. Angels are depicted accompanying our Blessed Mother and saying, “Oh, Mary, God has chosen you and purified you, and elected you above all the women of the earth.” In the 19th chapter alone are 41 verses about Jesus and Mary. The defense of the virginity of Mary is so strong and clear in the fourth book of the Qur’an that it attributes the condemnation of the Jews to their monstrous calumny against the Virgin Mary.


For Muslims, Mary is the true Sayyida (Lady). In their creed only Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, would rival her. After the death of Fatimah, Muhammad wrote, “Thou shall be the most blessed of all women in Paradise, after Mary.” In a variation of this text, Fatimah says, “I surpass all the women, except Mary.”

This highlights another point; namely, why our Blessed Mother in the 20th century should have revealed herself in the insignificant village of Fatima, Portugal, so that all future generations will know her as Our Lady of Fatima. Because nothing happens without divine reason, some believe the Virgin Mary chose to be known as Our Lady of Fatima as a pledge and sign of hope to the Muslim people, and as an assurance, that they who show her great respect will one day accept her divine Son too.

Evidence to support these views is found in the history of Muslim occupation of Portugal for centuries. When they were finally driven out of Portugal, the last Muslim ruler had a beautiful daughter named Fatimah. She fell in love with a Catholic young man. For him she not only stayed behind when the Muslims left, but she also embraced Catholicism. Her young husband loved her so much that he changed the name of the town where he lived to Fatima. Consequently the very place where Our Lady appeared in 1917 bears a historical connection to Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad.

The relationship of Our Lady of Fatima to Muslims is evident in the enthusiastic reception Muslim people in Africa, India, and elsewhere offered to the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. They attended prayer services in honor of her and allowed religious processions and prayers in front of their mosques. In Mozambique some Muslims became Christians soon after the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was erected.

A half-century ago Archbishop Sheen wrote: “I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as Our Lady of Fatima as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Muslim people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her divine Son, too. Mary is the portal for Muslims to accept Christ.”

In a number of countries Muslims frequent Marian shrines to pray and to honor Sayyida.

Christians and Muslims in Lebanon share the feast of the Annunciation as an official national holiday in a spirit of dialogue and of mutual understanding and respect.

In an effort to show a common ground between Christians and Muslims, an Australian imam named his house of worship in the sheep country between Melbourne and Geelong the Virgin Mary Mosque. This was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on May 27, 2007. “Let us prove that Christianity and Islam have many things in common,” said the blind Somali named Sheik Isse Musse. “We both revere the Virgin Mary. Generally Muslims name their schools, their mosques, their streets, everything after men. Let us show there is nothing wrong in naming a mosque after a person like Mary.” He added, “Some people could not digest it, but I kept explaining. Is not the Virgin Mary mentioned in the holy Qur’an? Isn’t she a very important and pious person? Yes. So what is stopping us giving her name to our mosque?”

Missionary challenge

Increasingly we will see that the Christian missionary apostolate among the Muslims will be successful in the measure that it preaches Our Lady of Fatima. Mary signals the advent of Christ, bringing Christ to the people before Christ himself is born. It is sound apologetics, then, for our missionary effort to begin with something the people already accept. Because Muslims are devoted to Mary, our missionaries wisely endeavor to enlarge that devotion with the realization that Our Lady will bring Muslims along the rest of the journey to her divine Son. She never accepts any devotion for herself, but always brings the devotee to her Son. As those who lose devotion to her lose belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, so those who intensify devotion to her gradually acquire that belief.

Many missionaries, in Africa especially, have already broken down the bitter hatred and prejudice of Muslims against Christians by their works of charity, their schools and hospitals, and other social services.

It remains now to employ this Marian approach: to interpret chapter 41 of the Qur’an to show them it was taken from the Gospel of St. Luke and that Mary cannot be seen as the most blessed of women if she had not borne the Savior of the world. If Judith and Esther were prefigures of Mary in the Old Testament, we may assume that Fatima herself was a post-figure of Mary.

Let us pray that Muslims acknowledge that, if Fatima gives place in honor of Mary, the reason is that Mary is different from all other mothers of the world and that without Jesus she would be nothing. May they find refuge in the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was given to us by God himself.

Mary is clearly a bridge between Islam and Christianity.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, St. Paul Chong Hasang, and their Companions

St. Andrew Kim

Saint Andrew Kim Taegon was of one of the noblest families of Korea.  He was ordained at Macao and returned to Korea s the first native priest, and was arrested almost immediately and put to death.  His feast day is commemorated today along with St. Paul Chong and companions.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Used with permission.

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

How many popular songs in recent decades have extolled memories? In addition, how often do we find ourselves and others recalling important incidents and persons of the recent or distant past?

When we stop to think about it, we are following the same human pattern when we celebrate some aspect of the official liturgy of the Church or a popular devotion. This is part of our Christian heritage.

Memories, stories, family customs and practices, and significant persons and events in our lives are a very important part of each of us. Recalling special persons and events, and continuing time-honored rituals with family and friends nourish the human spirit. This stimulates us to imitate and to continue what our predecessors have achieved.

Thus it is with Jesus and his faithful followers. We look to Mary and the saints for models and examples of how to continue in the footsteps of our Redeemer. Therefore, we call on their help in a variety of ways.

The mystery of God becoming human and our role in this mystery is communicated to the Church not only in its official teaching, but also in its liturgy, piety, art, music, and in the religious experience of its members.

Our devotional heritage provides us with many patterns for approaching God and worshipping Jesus Christ outside of the Church’s official worship, the sacred liturgy. We insert ourselves into the ongoing plan of redemption as we make the way of the Cross, pray the rosary, follow a novena, fast, offer particular prayers, and perform charitable actions. However, from earliest times, devotion existed in the framework of the liturgy. For example, devotion to Mary has always existed in the Eucharistic Liturgy and in the Liturgy of the Hours. Mary’s close association in all the mysteries of Jesus is explicitly mentioned in those liturgical prayers.

However, as time progressed, new forms of honoring Mary and the saints, our heroes and models in the faith, were developed and practiced without the need of an ordained priest. The Bible, the liturgy, and the teachings of the Church have been the wellsprings for popular devotions that are celebrated in public or in private. From those sources, we develop other forms of celebrating God’s love for us in company with Mary and the saints.

It is imperative to keep in mind that when we call Mary and the saints we are communicating also with Jesus for they lead us to him. In honoring the saints and asking for their assistance, we honor Jesus Christ. Christ is always our focal point.

Devotions are not meant to displace the liturgy but to extend it for special occasions and circumstances. They complement our liturgical prayer life with other forms of expressing our dedication to God.

If we honor or seek the help of Mary and the saints, it is because they are human mirrors reflecting the goodness of God. All this is borne out in the creed, code, and cult of our Christian faith. What is said and believed of Jesus applies also to Mary and the saints in appropriate, lesser degrees.

Alone or in a group, in public or in private, with approved prayers or using a prayer which is spontaneous or has no special authorization, we celebrate the life and love of our Savior in many ways, most of which carry the respect of centuries: the Way of the Cross, Eucharistic adoration, honoring the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, praying the mysteries of the Rosary, special hymns and practices which highlight Mary and the saints and their attachment to God, novenas, pilgrimages to shrines, applying particular titles of holiness and protection, and similar practices. Most of us have some familiarity with such devotions.

Important to our appreciation and use of devotions is the understanding that they complement our life and further enrich our personal relationship with Jesus, sometimes directly and sometimes through the saints.

Since the second century devotion to Mary and the saints originated as a need arose, or when a priest was not available, or when a special occasion was to be marked, or when someone was inspired.

Devotions are based on faith and need a doctrinal underpinning. However, ordinary Christians at prayer are not concerned with theological nuance.

Theological inquiry has produced a high Christology which tended to distance Jesus from ordinary people. He, like the Father, was king and judge. Jesus Christ was much too threatening to approach directly. Enter Mary and the saints. It made much better sense to cultivate the attention of his mother and most faithful disciple, and that of the saints. They seemed much closer to our human condition and were kindhearted enough to bend God’s ear in our favor. The Marian apparitions, even of the twentieth century, have reinforced this attitude. Mary and the saints lead to Jesus. At all approved shrines, for example, Mary directs us to her Son in the Eucharist and in the sacraments.

In terms of devotion to Mary, every age tends to shape her image according to its own needs and desires. Yet, there are certain constants in her image -- healer, intercessor, prophet and social critic, gentlewoman who is mother, comforter, nurturer, counselor, and friend. Mary is the perfect friend and mother for us.

The Gospel continues in Mary and the saints -- and in us. We, the Church, are the continuation of Jesus Christ in our time, place and circumstances. Consequently, we need these saints and heroes as our models. Christian life without the saints is unthinkable. The saints are for the ages, ours no less than others, because they proclaim by their lives that life is worth living, that a provident God cares for us. Mary and the saints personify this hope.

However, the accolade that “never enough honor can be given to Mary” (De Maria nunquam satis) must be placed in proper perspective and understood accordingly, The Second Vatican Council moved in this direction by adapting Catholicism to the modern world, re-emphasizing the Biblical foundations of faith and worship, and directing us to the call of the social gospel.

Vatican II moved to correct abuses and excesses in liturgical worship and in popular devotions. The Council undertook a theological re-shaping of the image of Mary and the popular impulses of devotion to her and to the saints. It should be noted that in every age Mary’s image tells us as much about ourselves as it does about Mary.

Balance is what we seek. Blessed Pope John XXIII once remarked: “The Madonna is not pleased when she is put above her Son.” We must not over-humanize or over-divinize the cult of Mary and the saints. Devotion should rest on a sure theological and historical footing without neglecting the needs of our affective piety for images of Mary and the saints, who are healers, intercessors, prophets, and friends. The saints and Mary do for the faithful what friends do for friends. Mary does for us what mothers do for children. What theologians may sometimes overlook, we ordinary Christians will provide.

Participating in and continuing honored practices of devotion are an important part of our faith-life. Devotions are touchstones of faith. They are part of our Christian heritage.

Remember, and be faithful.