Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sunday Night Live Father Groeschel's Guest Paterson Bishop Serratelli


Picture source
Used with permission.

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

Among the religious and cultural factors that influence converts to enter into full communion with the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary holds particular prominence. Yet she is not the possession of the Catholic Church solely, for many Protestant churches are rediscovering the presence and role of Mary in life’s pilgrimage of faith.

Before embracing Catholicism, Blessed John Henry Newman, probably the most famous convert in the last two centuries, formulated an explanation of the development of doctrines in the Catholic Church, especially the Marian doctrines. He explained that the saving truths of revelation were not given by God in timeless and static expression, but as dynamic and life-giving truths which continue to unfold and develop. In An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine Newman wrote: “Growth is the only evidence of life.” Ideas live in our minds and continually enlarge into fuller development. “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
To believe in the ongoing prayer and care of Mary for the faithful is to find the Virgin Mother’s assistance in times of transitions, of new beginnings, of wandering and searching. Sacred Scripture shows us that Mary is the Virgin of beginnings and transitions (Annunciation, Cana, Pentecost), and the Virgin of spiritual searching (Presentation, Finding in the Temple, Cana, Calvary). It is quite natural then to experience her motherly presence in the struggles which accompany conversion, according to Father RenĂ© Laurentin in A Year of Grace with Mary.

Conversions to Catholicism develop from a complex of various factors. They result from conviction and personal experience. But also at play are conditions and developments in the Church and society that often help or hinder conversions. An instance of that scenario is nineteenth century England in which that period’s theological ferment and liberalism and the decision of the British government to suppress a number of Anglican bishoprics gave rise to the Oxford Movement, which questioned the Anglican Church’s legitimacy. The consequence was a number of conversions by prominent intellectuals from 1840-1920, the most noteworthy being John Henry Newman. These converts were usually imbued with an understanding of the Virgin Mary and their devotion to her often preceded their entry into the Catholic Church.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Following his conversion in 1845, Blessed John Henry Newman journeyed to Rome. Upon his return as a Catholic priest he wrote that he “went round by Loreto.” As a pilgrim to the Holy House he wanted “to get the Blessed Virgin’s blessing.” Then he commented about Mary’s presence in his life. “I have ever been in her shadow, if I may say it. My college was St. Mary’s, and my church; and when I went to Littlemore, there, by my own previous disposition, our Blessed Lady was waiting for me. Nor did she do nothing for me in that low habitation, of which I always think with pleasure.”

As an Anglican, Newman thought that the Catholic Church’s Marian doctrine and devotion were exaggerated. But in his study of the development of doctrine, he discovered that it was consistent with the early church. “I was convinced by the Fathers,” he explained. The early Father and ancient Christian writers viewed Mary as the New Eve. Newman came to understand Mary in patristic terms. He understood the Immaculate Conception was based on Mary’s holiness, a concept present in the Fathers, and the Assumption was rooted in her dignity as Mother of God, another concept from the early Christian writers.

Although Newman had reservations about some teachings of the Catholic Church while an Anglican, he nevertheless was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In his Apologia pro Vita Sua he proclaimed, “In spite of my ingrained fears of Rome, and the decision of my reason and conscience against her usages, in spite of my affection for Oxford and Oriel, yet I had a secret longing love of Rome, the Mother of Christianity, and I had a true devotion to the Blessed Virgin, in whose college I lived, whose altar I served, and whose Immaculate Purity I had in one of my earliest printed sermons made much of.”

Newman’s reluctance concerning the Virgin Mary, his “great crux” regarding Catholicism, were the “expressions of popular feelings toward the Blessed Virgin” and the intemperate statements of some Catholic authors concerning Mary. Later, when responding to Dr. Pusey’s Eirenicon, which contained numerous examples of exaggerated practices and devotions to Mary, Newman made a clear distinction between the Church’s doctrines and officially sanctioned prayers and practices, and the many expressions of popular devotions, sometimes questionable in taste and in theology. “Belief is separate from devotion; belief is the same everywhere, whereas expressions of devotion differ from place to place.” Newman also noted that cultural differences become manifest in expressions of devotion, indicating that there exists a legitimate “English style” in the expression of devotion. These distinctions between officially approved doctrine and devotion, and the many practices of popular devotion, which frequently reflect a cultural bias, have helped many along the journey of conversion.

Such was the experience of this famous convert and devotee of the Mother of the Redeemer.

Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957)

Another noteworthy English convert swayed by Mary’s influence is Ronald Arbuthnot Knox, a brilliant scholar and classicist. This Anglican clergyman embraced the Catholic Church in 1917, and was ordained a priest in 1919. Widely hailed as “Rome’s biggest catch after Newman,” his book,
A Spiritual Aeneid, ranks with Newman’s Apologia as a classic and impressive conversion story.

His interest in Mary stems from his fascination with English heritage and his attraction to Anglo-Catholicism. Among his earliest remembrances of the Blessed Virgin were his image on his school’s coat of arms and the prayers used in the chapel services.

“Thus although I did not ask for her prayers, I had a strong
sense of the patronage of the Mother of God. Her name was
part of our title; her lilies figure on our coat of arms; the blue of her robe you could easily see on the blazers of the Eight and the caps of the Eleven. And perhaps, after all, in the wide sympathies of her compassionate heart there is a special place for her children at Eton. I only know that it was the easiest thing in the world, on any of her feasts, to arrange for the singing at college prayers of that rather sentimental Ancient and Modern hymn which begins. ‘Shall we not love thee, Mother dear.’”

Although his father opposed his enthusiasm for Anglo-Catholicism, young Knox spent one college vacation with a group of Anglican Benedictines who “went over to Rome en masse.” It was his fond hope as an Anglican that one day England would reclaim its Marian heritage: “England will once again become the dowry of Mary, and the Church of England will once again be builded on the rock she was hewn from, and find a place, although it be a place of penitence and tears, in the eternal purposes of God.” In a sermon he delivered in 1913 he alluded to Mary’s interest in what was once her country:

“Mary…has not forgotten her children just because they have run away from their school master, and unlearnt their lessons, and are trying to find their way home again, humbled and terrified in the darkness.” When ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church he wrote: “I took a private vow, which I always kept, never to preach without making some reference to our Lady Mary, by way of satisfaction for the neglect of other preachers.”

The Anglican Church’s silence concerning Mary troubled Knox. Even before his conversion he wrote:

“I cannot resist making an appeal to all those who are attached to ‘old-fashioned views’ of the person of our Saviour, to reflect whether such views are afforded a proper devotional safeguard, so long as praises of, or prayers to, the Mother of God are either energetically repudiated or thrust away into a corner. Ever since the Nestorian controversy, the divine mystery of the Theotokos has been regarded with special honor, in protest against incomplete theories of the Incarnation.”

Once he left the Anglican Church and his post at Shrewsbury, he was aware of “the loneliness of a soul forced by conscientious motives to detach itself from loved surroundings and familiar friends and launch out into the deep.” At that time he recalled a line from Virgil’s Aeneid, “land showed no longer; all about was sky and sea.” He took the Latin words for sea and sky, maria and caelum, to represent Mary and heaven. And he thought, “Perhaps I was not so lonely after all.”

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1937)

One more renowned English convert of Marian significance is Gilbert Keith Chesterton. A distinguished essayist, poet, novelist and outstanding apologist, Chesterton was raised in a family that did not share the typical Protestant antipathy toward the Virgin Mary. “Our Lady was respected, though of course not invoked.”

When a youngster he turned into a poem for Mary the blasphemous lines of Algernon Swinburne’s poem to the pagan queen of death.

“But I turn to her still, having seen she shall surely abide in the end.

Goddess and maiden and queen, be near me now and befriend.”

A poem of his youth, The Nativity of Botticelli, attests, to his understanding or Mary’s role in the Incarnation.

In a letter to Chesterton written in 1907, Hilaire Belloc suggested that he search for a “first certitude” on which everything else depends. Belloc told Chesterton they agreed on two points: the Incarnation and Mary. Belloc explained:

“…in looking up to our dear Lady, the blessed Mother of God, I recommend to you that you suggest to her a comprehension for yourself, of what indeed is the permanent home of the soul. If it is here, you will see it; if it is there, you will see it. She never fails us. She has never failed in my demand. If you say ‘I want this’ as in your case to know one way or the other, she will give it you, as she will give health or necessary money or success in pure love. She is our Blessed Mother.”

His early writings, such as Orthodoxy (1908) and Ballad of the White Horse (1911), led others to anticipate his entry into the Catholic Church in 1922. This final step was the result of a promise made at a Marian shrine in Italy.

Chesterton wrote in 1934 that Mary represented the “collective unity of Catholic life” about which Protestants had such strange notions.
“Now I can scarcely remember a time when the image of Our Lady did not stand up in my mind quite definitely at the mention of the thought of all these things. I was quite distant from these things; and then doubtful about these things; and then disputing with the world for them, and with myself against them. For that is the condition before conversion. But when the figure was distant, or was dark and mysterious, or was scandal to my contemporaries, or was a challenge to myself, I never doubted that this figure was the figure of my faith; that she embodied, as a complete human being still only human, all that this Thing has to say to humanity. The instant I remembered the Catholic Church, I remembered her; when I tried to forget the Catholic Church, I tried to forget her.”

When writing about Chaucer he commented that devotion to Mary, “far from being a temporary malady from which one needed to be cured,” was “generally chronic and (in some cases I have known) quite incurable.”

Chesterton’s Marian writings are found mainly in his poetry where he refers to the “seed of dogma and from that seed alone all that flowers of art and poetry and devotion spring.”

One of GKC’s poems in The Queen of Seven Swords expressed his notion of the “wholeness” which underlies all expressions of devotion.
“In all thy thousand images we salute thee,
Claim and acclaim on all thy thousand thrones
Hewn out of multi-colored rocks and risen
Stained with the stored-up sunsets in all tones –
If in all tone and shades this shade I feel,
Come from the black cathedrals of Castille
Claiming these flat black stones of Catalonia,
To thy most merciful face of night I kneel.”

This is the legacy of several prominent British converts to the ongoing Marian movement. From here we look at the witness of two American converts of our times.

Dorothy Day (1897-1980)

Although baptized an Episcopalian, Dorothy Day might be characterized as an evangelical Protestant because of her involvement in the “social gospel” movement. She was a talented journalist who espoused radical causes, wrote for socialist newspapers, and staunch in her support of labor unions and pacificism.

Her earliest contacts with Mary came from a rosary and a small statue. While anticipating the birth of her daughter through a common law marriage, Dorothy Day began taking instructions so that her daughter could be baptized in the Catholic Church. “I began to think, to weigh things,” she explained, “and it was at this moment that I began consciously to pray more.” She developed the habits of praying often, of carrying a rosary, and addressing the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary which had been given her.

Deeply concerned about her daughter, Dorothy wrote that she “turned her over to the Blessed Mother.”

“What kind of a mother am I going to be? I keep thinking to myself what kind of a Catholic home is she going to have with only me? I’m a failure as a homemaker, I’m untidy, inconsistent, undisciplined, temperamental, and I have to pray every day for final perseverance. It is only in these last few years that it has occurred to me why my daughter never called me ‘mother.’ The Blessed Virgin Mary is mother of my child. No harm can ever come to her with such a mother.”

With Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement, which strove to establish solidarity with the working classes through a generous and convincing witness of hospitality for the homeless and of the works of mercy. She promoted the traditional devotions in all her communities. She prayed the rosary “on the picket lines, in prisons, in sickness and in health.” For her the rosary was not only a devotion to Mary but also a way of indentifying with the poor who had lost hope. “Who could have given me Our Lord but the Virgin Mary? It was easy to pray to her, repetitious though it may seem. Praying the rosary as I did so often, I felt that I was praying with the people of God, who held on to the physical act of the rosary as to a lifeline.”

The life and spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little flower, fascinated Dorothy Day, “perhaps because she was so much like the rest of us in her ordinariness.” In fact she authored a small book about St. Therese to offer hope to those who felt their lives were meaningless. She regarded Therese as Therese regarded Mary, for Therese abhorred writings and sermons that described “Mary’s life as totally different from ours.” Dorothy believed that Therese ‘”speaks to our condition.” Her approach, like that of St. Therese and the Blessed Virgin Mary, was to ask prayerfully at the beginning of each day, “What would you have me do?”

For Dorothy Day, Mary and Joseph shared in the plight and insecurity of the poor. During the Great Depression she wrote, “What security did the Blessed Virgin herself have as she fled in the night with the Baby in her arms to go into a strange country? She probably wondered whether St. Joseph would be able to obtain work in a foreign land, how they would get along, and anticipated the loneliness of being without friends, her cousin, St. Elizabeth, her kinfolk.” At another time she recalled, “St. Bonaventure says Our Lady worked in Egypt to earn the family’s daily bread because St. Joseph could not earn enough. It was all part of the humiliation of poverty for St. Joseph.” She realized that the Holy Family definitely shared the lot of the poor.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

The conversion of Thomas Merton led to a prolific writing apostolate and was widely followed and celebrated. His parents were artists with little religious interest. Educated in France and England, his interest in religious questions grew out of his study of literature and philosophy. In 1938 he entered the Catholic Church, and later became a Trappist monk at the Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky. His talented pen produced voluminous writings in a personal style on topics pertaining to monastic spirituality, mysticism, racial justice, and peace.

Merton’s references to the Virgin Mary are personal and deep, a response to a mystical attraction. The Seven Storey Mountain is the autobiographical account of his early life and conversion. One passage concerns his departure from England to a new life in New York City. He describes his experience of Mary’s guidance at this turning point in his life in these striking words.

“Lady, when on that night I left the Island that was once your England, your love went with me, although I could not know it…. I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got to New York. But you saw further and clearer than I, and you opened the seas before my ship, whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which even then you were preparing for me to be my rescue and my shelter and my home. And when I thought there was no God and no love and no mercy, you were leading me all the while in the midst of His love and His mercy, and taking me, without my knowing anything about it, to the house that would find me in
the secret of His face. Glorious Mother of God, shall I ever again distrust you?”

At crucial points in his life he actively sought the presence of Mary and her direction. When discerning his vocation to the priesthood he embarked on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre in Cuba.
“There you are, Caridad del Cobre. It is you that I have come to see; you will ask Christ to make me his priest, and I will give you my heart, Lady; and if you will obtain for me this priesthood, I will remember you at my first Mass in such a way that the Mass will be for you and offered through you in gratitude to the Holy Trinity, Who has used your love to win me this grace.”
Bewildered in the struggle to decide about becoming a Trappist, he turned naturally to the Mother of Jesus as any child would turn to his mother. “I give this whole Advent, every minute, to the Blessed Virgin, begging her to help me and bring me to her house at Gethsemane to be her loving child and servant, a child of God in silence and labor and sacrifice and obscurity.” After ordination to the diaconate he wrote, “Our Lady has taken possession of my heart. Maybe, after all, she is the big grace of the diaconate.”

For Thomas Merton, Mary is always persuading from within. “Mary does not rule us from without, but from within. She does not change us by changing the world around us, but she changes the world around us by first changing our own inner lives.” Thus was Merton’s journey of faith with Mary.

This attached article about Mary and converts was originally published in Ephemerides Mariologicae, a polyglot Mariological journal, July-December 2011.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Expert on Bl. Mother Marianne Cope Dies

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sister Mary Laurence Hanley.  Just the other day on one of the blog posts, I recommended her book on Bl. Mother Marianne Cope, A Song of Pilgrimage and Exile.

Hawaii Catholic Herald's Sister Mary Laurence Hanley dies.

I had the privilege of having an email communication with Sister a few years back. If I remember correctly, she contacted me about a blog post she disagreed with.  I dared to mention that Brother Joseph Dutton may one day follow in the saintly footsteps of Saint Damien and Bl. Mother Marianne Cope. This was certainly something Sister really disagreed about. She was very pleasant and friendly in all her emails back and forth. But she maintained her position that Brother Dutton not be a candidate for sainthood. She had her reasons. She was often told me to do my own research with all the archival materials at my disposal in Hawaii. She indicated that I would then draw the same conclusion.

Unfortunately, I never got around to doing that research and little by little we stopped emailing.

Even though we, the Church Militant, may be sad that she did not live to see her hero canonized. I doubt very much Sister is disappointed. After all, she will probably be there to congratulate Mother Marianne Cope in person!

Saint Juan Diego - Icon of Mary's Evangelizing Mission

Picture source

Model for the Laity

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

The Church celebrates the feast of Saint Juan Diego on December 9. The canonization of Saint Juan Diego by Pope John Paul II in 2002 elicited worldwide enthusiasm for the recognition of another Christlike lay person. This latest saint of Mexico was the Virgin Mother Mary's chosen messenger of evangelization in the nascent Church of the l6th century New World.  He is an illustrious example of a Christian in action.

The contemporary significance of the canonization and the occurrence at Guadalupe is multifaceted.  But the implication for the new evangelization in our day is overwhelming.  The honor bestowed on Saint Juan Diego extends the clarion call addressed to all Christians to respond actively to their baptismal vocation and consecration to collaborate with Mary in bringing Christ to all peoples.  Echoed again is the slogan of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, Founder of the Marianist Family, "We are all missionaries of Mary." 

The occasion has renewed and increased the momentum of the movement to designate Juan Diego as the patron saint of the laity and lay apostles.

God's plan for salvation needs the cooperation of us all.  In the Guadalupe event, God chose to give the miraculous image of Mary, his Mother and ours, to a humble, lonely widower.  The engaging, simple story of Our Lady giving her picture to Juan Diego touches hearts and disposes them for the grace of baptism.  This is a special chapter in the evangelization of the world.

Today we find stirrings of new interest in the unchurched, the alienated, and the disenchanted.  Faster travel and easier global communication portend a new fullness of time in spreading the gospel.  Since the beginning, God has depended on his creatures to fulfill his plan.  Today there is a desire for unity among Christians.  The work of the Holy Spirit is uniting them in prayer, love, and works of charity.

In the past century Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII began to re-emphasize the importance of the role of the laity.  Long before Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council to renew all in Christ, the lay apostolate was a point of emphasis and concern.

One of the sixteen documents of Vatican II is the Decree on the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 1965), and the role of the laity is treated in several of the other documents.  Some years later Pope Paul VI sounded a prophetic call to evangelization with the apostolic exhortation On Evangelization in the Modern World (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1975).  Our present pontiff, John Paul II, has preached a new evangelization and, following a Synod of Bishops, issued an apostolic exhortation on Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People (Christifideles Laici, 1989). Pope Benedict XVI has renewed this call to action, and the Synod of bishops in 2012 will ponder this new evangelization.

The Handmaid of the Lord, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, who first brought forth the Savior for us, plays her part in bringing his Good News to all.  The nineteenth-century apostle of Mary, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, is among the strongest voices still reminding us of our baptismal obligation to participate in the apostolic mission of Mary to complete the Whole Christ.  Like Juan Diego, all the faithful are called to spread the fragrance of the roses of Tepeyac wherever we are, whatever we do.

"Thy kingdom come," the daily petition of the Our Father, has always needed for its fulfillment the work and collaboration of the laity.  To all Christians is given the commission to make Christ and his teaching known, loved, and lived.  "The Spirit breathes where he wills" (Jn 3:8), and the people of God have always had the charisms to help spread God's kingdom on earth.

Our times need strong and dedicated Christian lay persons more than ever before.  All fields of human progress are directed by the laity.  Competence in the social, commercial, and political spheres is in the hands of the laity.  Only they can bring the spirit of the gospel into these arenas.  In the words of Paul VI, lay persons are "the bridge to the modern world."

Recognizing the ancient truth and the new need, Vatican II issued an official decree on the apostolate of the laity.  For the first time in the history of the Church a conciliar document expounded the concept that the lay person is indispensable to the mission of the Church, that to be a real Christian is to be an apostle.

The Vatican II Decree on the Laity advances, as the perfect example of the spiritual and apostolic life, the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles.  "While leading on earth a life common to all, one filled with family concerns and labors, she was always intimately united with her Son and cooperated in the work of the Savior in a manner altogether special.  Now that she has been taken up into heaven, with her maternal charity she cares for the brothers and sisters of her Son" (n. 4).

Consequently, it is appropriate that the model for the laity and the patron of the lay apostolate be one who will lead others to Mary, who in turn will lead them to Christ.  She is the perfect example of life on earth united to Christ and joined to his work.

To choose Juan Diego would stress the motherly concern of Mary, and highlight a special chapter in the loving care of the Queen of Apostles for her children.  Juan Diego's life story exemplifies the meaning of the lay apostolate.  He leads with singular and irresistible charm to our spiritual mother.

Juan Diego's story continues today as something living and enduring.  It lives in the long lines of pilgrims, the most numerous of any shrine.  It lives in the faith of a whole nation, and is celebrated in the entire western hemisphere.  It captivates the hearts of all.  It endures in the continuing portrait not painted by human hands, but as Pius XII explained, "by brushes not of this world."

Vatican II taught that "union with those whom the Holy Spirit has assigned to God's Church is an essential element of the Christian apostolate."  Juan Diego received the charism.  He was called by Mary.  She sent him to the bishop: "Go to the Bishop of Mexico and tell him that I sent you."  The Spirit breathed on Juan, but judgment and command were reserved to the bishop, as it still is today.

The Holy Spirit usually breathes in less dramatic ways.  But, the experience of Juan Diego shows that the inspirational grace for a great work may first come to a lay person, and that the chosen person then cooperates with the competent authorities.

Juan Diego's humble compliance with an unwelcome and embarrassing mission paved the way for an abundant bestowal of God's blessings.  In addition, the event clearly indicates that a layman pushed his point with a hierarch.  The bishop needed convincing, and Mary told Juan to go back and try again.

Mary clearly indicated to Juan Diego that he was necessary for the execution of heaven's plan.  When he protested his inability and urged the Virgin Mary to send a person better known and respected, her answer was: "Listen, least of my sons.  You must try to understand that I have many messengers and servants whom I could charge with the delivery of my message and cause to do my will.  But, it is altogether necessary that you, yourself should undertake this entreaty and that through your own mediation and assistance, my purpose should be accomplished."

The importance of the most humble person carrying out the divine plan can hardly be more sharply exemplified.  Mary did not go directly to Bishop-elect Juan Zumarraga and inspire him.  Nor did she choose the messenger most suited according to the judgment of human standards.  Mary chose one particular, unknown, middle-aged widower who would have preferred to be left alone.  She told him that he was to be the instrument of Divine Providence for these poor people.  This unlikely layman was the key to "unlocking graces destined for a nation", and later for many nations.
Juan Diego was wholehearted and without guile.  He was a living example of sincerity arid simplicity.  When children and adults hear about him they are fascinated, and love to hear the story retold.  His conversations with Mary have a rare quality of tenderness, immediacy, genuineness, and uniqueness.  Translated into any language they possess a special appeal.  In the Aztec Indian idiom, Mary called Juan her xocoyte, her favorite son, the least of her sons.  He addressed her as xocoyata, his littlest daughter, his lady, and his child.  Hearing this conversation one cannot help loving both Juan and his Lady.

Peoples of the emerging nations are able to identify very easily with Juan Diego.  He was humble and poor, not enmeshed in political or cultural history.  With improved and increased communication, we can expect the Church will proclaim its primary message more widely and wisely.  And lay persons will be the primary field workers.  Juan Diego, who has universal appeal, would be an inspiration for them and an example for those with whom they work.  His life story is a perfect example of how God's plans often require lay apostles, and how far-reaching the results can be.  Our Blessed Mother promised, "I will make you worthy of the trouble you have taken."

Juan Diego remained faithful until death.  The results of his work remain with us.  He was childlike and humble in his relationship with the natural world and the supernatural order.  While very ordinary and natural, he felt at home with the Virgin Mother Mary.  His simple and human qualities touch us all.  Saint Juan Diego is genuinely worthy to be patron of lay apostles, for he was the only person on earth to whom the greatest laywoman of all time gave her own picture.

A movement was launched more than a decade ago under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Mexico City to nominate Juan Diego as patron of lay apostles.  His canonization lends new impetus to the momentum already in progress.

The actual result of Our Lady of Guadalupe's message, in which Saint Juan Diego played the key role, brought belief in Jesus Christ and the grace of baptism to countless native Indians of Aztec heritage.  In the seven years following Mary's appearance at Tepeyac (1532-1538), eight million Indians were baptized into Christ.

During that period Saint Juan Diego lived near the marvelous picture, quietly caring for it as Saint Joseph cared for Mary herself.  He is a major part of the story of the magnificent lady, her representative, a living proof that heaven had smiled on the poor and the lowly.  As with Saint Joseph, we do not know all the details.  But we do know the quality of this layman's charity was magnetic.  "By this will all know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35).  He was, according to his Aztec name, Mary's "singing eagle," telling her story over and over to his fellow countrymen.

The sterling example of Saint Juan Diego inspires us to activate the continuing action of baptismal grace to be the "salt of the earth," "the light on the lampstand," the "leaven in the mass," and to “proclaim the Good News by word and deed."

Used with permission.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Picture source

Explained by Blessed John Duns Scotus

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

In the early months of the liturgical year we honor two special vocations in God’s plan of salvation -- the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary and one of her special proteges, Bernadette Soubirous.

The solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8, and honors the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without original sin. February 11 is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the date of the first appearance of Our Lady to Bernadette. April 16 is the feast day of St. Bernadette.

In 2008 we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions at Lourdes, where she identified herself to St. Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception. In 2004 we observed the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s solemn definition of this dogma on December 8, 1854. Blessed Pius IX explained that Mary was preserved from original sin by a “singular grace and privilege” given her by God “in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, “Redeemer of the human race. Mary, like every other human being, needed the redemptive benefits of Christ. But in anticipation of what God did for all through Christ, she alone was preserved from original sin “from the first moment of her conception.” As one writer asserted, hers was a “redemption by exemption.” By her Immaculate Conception she was conceived in the fullness of grace, in the state of closest possible union with God in view of her future role as the Mother of the Redeemer.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was celebrated already in the seventh century in Palestine as the Conception by St. Anne of the Theotokos (Mother of God) on December 9. The doctrine is understood differently by some Eastern Christian Churches because of a variance in their theological understanding of original sin. The observance spread west from Constantinople. Still called the Conception of St. Anne and observed on December 8, it was prominent in Naples in the ninth century; in English monasteries in the eleventh century, when it was called the feast of the conception of Our Lady; and in France in the twelfth century.

When the feast was introduced in France, St. Bernard of Clairvaux opposed it, igniting a controversy that endured for three centuries. Most Scholastic theologians, including St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Bonaventure opposed the doctrine on the grounds that it detracted from the universality of the redemption by Christ. But it was defended and explained with theological clarity in the thirteenth century by Blessed John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan. In 1263 the Franciscans adopted the feast.

The opponents of this feast and doctrine had argued that Mary had to be touched by original sin for at least an instant, even though she was sanctified in her mother’s womb. John Duns Scotus resolved these objections by explaining that Christ can save and redeem in two ways: he can rescue from sin those already fallen; or he can preserve one from being touched by sin even for an instant. Mary was granted “redemption by exemption.”

The Council of Basel in 1439 affirmed this belief. Ten years later the Sorbonne in Paris required all its degree candidates to pledge an oath to defend the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Pope Sixtus IV in 1476 approved the feast with its proper Mass and Office, and in 1708 Pope Clement IX extended the feast to the universal Church and made it a holyday of obligation.

Later the Council of Trent (1545-1563) explicitly declared that Mary was exempt from the taint of original sin. From then on the belief was embraced generally and defended by all schools of theology. Many Catholic thinkers and founders of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries promoted and expounded Mary’s Immaculate Conception with special interest and verve, and this doctrine became an important part of many Marian spiritualities. One such exponent was Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850), founder of the Marianist Family.

At the First Council of Baltimore in 1846 the Catholic bishops of the United States of America chose Mary under the title of her Immaculate Conception as the patron saint of the nation. This deepened interest in the vast new country.

The apparition of Mary Immaculate to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830 at Paris had also advanced this devotion. At that time Mary asked the young nun to produce the Miraculous Medal, which honored the Immaculate Conception. And the solemn definition in 1854 was the culmination of this development. Like an additional seal of approval on the definition four years later Mary appeared to the uneducated and sickly youngster, St. Bernadette Soubirous, at Lourdes. When Bernadette asked the Virgin Mary on March 25, 1858, to identify herself, Mary replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

In 1863 a new Mass and Office were composed for the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This feast is also celebrated as the
Conception of Mary by the Church of England. Among the Eastern Christian Churches the feast of the Conception by St. Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos continues to be observed on December 9. The date set for the feast is nine months before the Birth of Mary on September 8.

To celebrate the centenary of the definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius XII, a devout apostle of Mary, declared 1954 a Marian Year -- the first.
Now, more than150 years later, we were privileged to mark the sesquicentennial of that solemn definition and its recognition by Mary Immaculate at Lourdes.

“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”

Used with permission.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The beautiful painting above is from Terry's blog Idle Speculations. Please take a moment to read what he has to say about this beautiful work of art depicting our Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception.

St. Bonaventure's Marian Te Deum

We praise you, O Mother of God, we proclaim you Virgin and Mother!
The entire world venerates you as Spouse of the Eternal Father!
And to you all Angels, Archangels, Cherubims and Seraphim's sing unceasingly:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Mother of God, Mary every Virgin!
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your Son!
You are honored as Queen by the whole heavenly court!
You are invoked and praised as Mother of God by the entire world and by the holy Church.
You are the gate of Heaven, the ladder to the kingdom of Heaven and blessed glory!
You are Souse and Mother of the eternal King, the temple and sanctuary of the Holy Spirit; the altar of the Blessed Trinity.
You are the Mediatrix between Jesus Christ and men, the Advocate of the poor!
You are, after Jesus, our only hope, Mistress of the world, Queen of Heaven!
We bow to yo and salute you each day, O Mother of love!
Sweet and good Mary, in you we place all our hope, defend us for all eternity!

Mary was in the mind of God from all eternity: "I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made." (Prov. 8:23).

"I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel" (Gen. 3:15).

"Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel" (Isa. 7:14).

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root" (Isa. 11:1).

"I was exalted like a cedar in Lebanon, and as a cypress tree on Mount Sion. I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho. As a fair olive tree in the plains, and as a plane tree by the water in the streets, was I exalted. I gave a sweet small like cinnamon, and aromatical balm: I yielded a sweet odour like the best myrrh" (Ecchlus. 24:17:20).

"Behold my beloved speaketh to me: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of the pruning is come: the voice of the turtle is heart in our land." (Cant. 2:10-12).

"In dangers, in sorrows and in doubts, think of Mary, invoke Mary; may her name never cease to be on our lips, may she never depart from our hearts." - St. Bernard

"Blessed ins the man th at heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord" (Prov. 8:34-35).

The Immaculate Virgin was chose from all eternity; from the very beginning the Most High saw her and prepared her fro Himself alone. She was prefigured by the Patriarchs, and announced by the Prophets. - St. Bernard

"O Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, from the depths of my heart I praise and extol you as the purest, the fairest, the holiest creature of all God's handiwork. - St. Alphonsus di Liguori

Quotation source: Mary: Hope of the World by Rev. James Alberione, S.T.D., St. Paul Editions.
Last Reminder: Hour of Grace from noon to 1:00 PM today.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Like a Shepherd

Soon and Very Soon...A Second Saint for Hawaii

Statue of Bl. Mother Marianne Cope in Kakaako
By now you must have read the news: Vatican brings Hawaii closer to gaining 2nd saint
A nun who dedicated her life to caring for exiled leprosy patients is a step closer to sainthood after the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints recommended her canonization on Tuesday.
I think Hawaii will be the only state in the union with two saints!

Bl. Mother Marianne Cope's Relic - Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu

This is wonderful news and I am sure everyone in Hawaii is excited about Bl. Mother Marianne Cope finally that much closer to being canonized.  I must admit it is only recently that I have grown to appreciate the work she did for the Hansen's Disease patients in Kalaupapa.  Before that, it bothered me that Saint Damien, then Father Damien, had so much opposition to his tireless work with those patients.  It also bothered me that it took so long before Mother Marianne Cope and her sisters finally went to help Father Damien.  I realize now how unselfishly she gave of herself.  And, of course, I have a devotion to her too.
"We thank God that the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has approved a petition to ask Pope Benedict XVI to officially declare Blessed Marianne Cope, OSF, a saint of the Church. We are particularly joyful in Hawaii, because of Blessed Marianne's worked here, but her example of selfless love can soon be an inspiration to all the world. She was a woman who brought hope and joy to people who had good reason to lose hope and to lament their condition in life. At this time when so many people are losing hope because of our economy and the increased unrest throughout the world, Blessed Marianne inspires us to work simply for the good of others and to allow God to work miracles through the simple things we do. We look forward to honoring this holy woman in our celebrations, and most of all by our faith in the God who begins and sustains every good work among us."
- Statement by Bishop Larry Silva, Diocese of Honolulu.
Background of Barbara Cope (Bl. Mother Marianne Cope)

January 23, 1838 - Born to Peter and Barbara Koob (Cope) in the German Grand Ducy of Hesse-Darmstadt

In 1840, Koob family settled in Utica, New York

In August, 1862, entered the Sisters of the Third Oder of St. Francis, in Syracuse, N ew York
In 1877, elected Second Provencal Mother of the Syracuse Franciscans

Source: Mother Marianne of Molokai


"Reverend Sister Maryanne, Matron of the Bishop Home":

To see the infinite pity of this place,
The mangled limb, the devastated face,
The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod,
A fool were tempted to deny his God.

He sees, and shrinks; but if he look again,
Lo, beauty springing from the breast of pain! -
He marks the sisters on the painful shores,
And even a fool is silent and adores.

- Robert Louis Stevenson, Kalawao, May 22, 1889

Recommended reading and source of the above is A Song of Pilgrimage and Exile: The Life and Spirit of Mother Marianne of Molokai by Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, O.S.F. and O.A. Bushnell.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

"Where's the Line to See Jesus?"

Thanks Bob!

St. Nicholas - Bishop of Myra

Picture source

Prayer to St. Nicholas

Wonder-working follower of Christ,
from your early years you practiced fasting
and were outstanding in generosity.
You quickly distributed to the poor
what you had inherited from your parents.
Traveling to Palestine, you became a bishop
and dared to preach the Gospel
for which you were thrown into prison.
As "Santa Claus" you are still loved today.
Teach us to be generous like you!

- New Saint Joseph People's Prayer Book