Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31 - pray the TE DEUM

"Holy Trinity" by Murillo

Shared by Mary Jane:

public recitation on the last day of the year as an act of thanksgiving may earn a plenary indulgence -  click on link for explanation:
O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin's womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all
Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy
Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.

V.  Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thy inheritance!
R.  Govern them, and raise them up forever.

V.  Every day we thank Thee.
R.  And we praise Thy Name forever, yes, forever and ever.

V.  O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R.  Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.

V.  Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R.  O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Holy Innocents

"Masacre de los Inocentes" by Francois Navez
Picture source

Today Holy Mother Church commemorates the Holy Innocents who were brutally murdered by a jealous tyrant.  In his homily this morning, Father Paul S. talked about how Catholics are outraged by the slaughter of these innocents.  Yet, thousands of children are killed daily because many Catholics continue to vote into office the politicians who do not defend life.  Not once did Father mention the word abortion.  He did not have to.

Please read today's article shared by Courageous Priests: Abortion…The Ultimate Crime…The Gravest Sin: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Reparation for Abortion by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Feast of St. John the Evangelist

by Piero di Cosimo
Picture source

The following prayer is by Blessed John XXIII which he wrote in his journal.  (Journal of a Soul).  I thought it was a beautiful reflection of Jesus' divinity and humanity.

"...St. John the the heartbeats of Jesus..."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas and the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Picture source

Shared by Mary Jane:

Please pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, especially your loved ones and those whom you've known - many are released on Christmas.

[Footnote: account from Maronite website:
Pat Murnahan was coming back from a business trip to New York during the month of November, 1996.  He felt his presentations had gone very well and he felt relaxed as he sank back into his seat ready for the flight to London and then on to Dublin.  He had chosen a window seat so that he could sleep and not be disturbed by people coming and going.  As more passengers entered the plane and it began to fill up, he could hear the hum of continuous conversation up and down the aisles, mixed with the sound of bags being stowed in the overhead lockers.
 After ten minutes Pat was beginning to snooze and the rhythmic sound finally lulled him to sleep.  But just minutes after he fell asleep he found himself sitting up fully awake.  He heard nothing and wondered what had woken him, then he realized there was complete silence in the plane.
He sat fully upright wondering what had caused the silence, he felt a slight tinge of terror, the first thing coming to mind was that terrorists were taking over the plane.
Pat turned hi s head to see what was happening and his mouth dropped open when he recognized the slight bent figure and smiling face that had caused the complete silence as she moved quietly up the aisle; it was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, with another slight bent figure in similar dress following behind her.
Both nuns were dressed in simple white habits edged in blue.  The familiar face, the wrinkled skin and the warm smiling eyes were instantly recognizable by everyone, from the youngest back packers to the eldest on board.  The plane was full of American tourists who had never been so close to this world renowned figure before in their lives.  An image they had seen on hundreds of television newscasts and on the covers of Time Magazine, on more than one occasion.
The two nuns stopped and Pat realized with a start, that the designated seats of this most extraordinary person and her companion were the seats beside him and he felt strangely unworthy as Mother Teresa herself was the one beside him.  As the last few passengers settled in and the flight prepared to take off, Mother Teresa and her companions took out their Rosary beads.   He noticed as they unfolded the beads that each decade was a different color.
They both closed their eyes as they immersed themselves in prayer and Pat stole a closer look at the unusual Rosary beads.  He noticed that the decades at the beginning were totally black but as the beads went on they got lighter until, at the end of the rosary, they were completely white.
After about three Rosaries Mother Teresa and her companion put away the beads and she took out a little red prayer book.  But before she opened the book she turned to Pat and asked him where was going.  When he told her Ireland and then having replied to her next question to confirm the ‘yes, he was Irish,’ he raised himself up in his seat more, no longer eager to sleep as he suddenly felt elated and privileged to be taking part in a conversation with probably not only the most famous person on the planet but also probably the holiest.  He was not ready for her next comment which showed that her knowledge of the Irish was from another era.
She said, “Well, you being Irish you must of course be Catholic and very prayerful.”
Pat felt embarrassed and didn’t respond.  Then he felt even more embarrassed, if that was possible, as she put away her little red book and took out her Rosary again, saying “As you are Irish we will say another rosary for you and the wonderful country you come from.”  Pat knew if he could see himself then in a mirror his face would have turned a very crimson red.
She told him, “Is there anyone in particular you wish to keep in prayer?”  Pat thought for a minute and he suddenly thought of his elderly grandmother who was bedridden and just clinging to life.  He knew she would really be taken with the thought of Mother Teresa praying specially for her, so he mentioned his grandmother’s name to Mother Teresa.
As she took out the Rosary he ventured to ask about the differing colors of the beads.  She explained they were called Holy Souls Beads and the changing colors signify coming from darkness into light.  We know as we pray a Rosary for the holy souls, Jesus brings many of them out of darkness into the light.  Mother Teresa asked Pat to take out his Rosary and they would begin.
Pat fumbled around in his pockets feeling extremely embarrassed as this saint in waiting expected hi to take out a Rosary, which she undoubtedly thought every Irish person carried around with them.  After a short interval Mother Teresa handed him her Rosary, which he was relieved about as he did not want to tell even half lie to this saint, as he was about to, saying, “I don’t seem to have one on me,” somehow implying that he normally did.
She produced another one for herself and he was also glad that they said all the prayers very quietly, so his mumbling was accepted as discreet prayer in unison with them.  He did, however, notice their petitions in between decades were for the souls in purgatory and did not include the name of his grandmother.
Afterwards, he asked the Reverend Mother why his grandmother’s name wasn’t mentioned in the petitions.  Her answer surprised him.
“When you pray for the souls in purgatory God will be so pleased with your unselfish prayers for those you don’t even know, that he will grant you your dearest wish, without even asking and sometimes maybe without you even knowing what your dearest wish is.”
Though Pat considered himself not very religious, knowing when he did go to church he went mostly just out of habit with his family and hardly ever prayed outside a church, he found these prayers extremely uplifting and he was in explicably happy afterwards, as he returned the Rosary to Mother Teresa.
As she smiled again at him Pat understood for the first time in his life what people meant when they spoke of a person possessing an ‘aura’ and, as his eyes connected with hers, a sense of peace overwhelmed him; he felt like when he was a little boy sitting by the river, with a warm summer breeze blowing through his hair, completely at peace with the world.
As they landed at Heathrow and alighted from the plane Mother Teresa was just ahead of him.  She turned back to him and asked, “Do you say the Rosary often?”  “No, not really,” he admitted. She took his hand, looked straight at him with her extraordinary gentle loving eyes and said, “Well, you will now,” and she pressed her Rosary into his hands.
Two hours later Pat entered the waiting area at Dublin airport where he was met by his wife, Alice.  “What in the world?” she asked, when she noticed a Rosary inhis hand.  They kissed and Pat explained the Rosary and described his encounter with Mother Teresa in the plane as being like a visit to heaven.  Driving home he said, “I really feel as if I have met a living Saint.”
The next day he heard his grandmother was up out of bed and seemed to have found a whole new lease of life.
Six months later Pat and Alice visited a close friend of theirs who they had just heard had cancer, with a short time left to live.  The friend told them that many prayers had been offered for her.  Then, after reaching into his pocket and taking out the special beads, Pat gently entwined Mother Teresa’s Rosary around the friend’s fingers.  He told her the story and said, “Pray for the Holy Souls, it may help you.”  Although the friend wasn’t Catholic, her hand closed willingly around the black and white beads.
Between one thing and another, Pat did not meet the friend again for a month.  This time her face was simply glowing, she hurried toward him and handed him the Rosary.
“I have carried it with me ever since and prayed for the Holy Souls whenever I got the change,” she said, and you won’t be surprised to hear that just this week I had another check up, the doctors could find nothing, the tumor was gone.  Pat, I am completely healed!”
Pat Murnahan vowed that day to get some more of these special Rosary beads, he knew they were not special in themselves but special in what they inspired people to do.  To help Jesus bring souls into the Kingdom would be reciprocated by that person receiving great graces from God.
With this particular friend of Pat’s not only did it bring physical healing to her but spiritual healing as well, for two years later she joined the Catholic Church.
Pat now promotes this Rosary telling people it can save lives and souls.

Friday, December 21, 2012

O Antiphons - O Dawn of the East!

Dec. 21--O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun 
of Justice-

COME! and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

O Antiphons - O Key of David

Dec. 20--O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens 
and no man shuts, who shuts, and no man opens--

COME! and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in 
darkness and in the shadow of death.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Antiphons - O Root of Jesse

Dec. 19--O ROOT OF JESSE, who stands for an ensign of the people, 
before whom kings shall keep silence, and unto whom the Gentiles shall 
make supplication--

COME! to deliver us, and tarry not.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

O Antiphons - O Lord

Dec. 18--O LORD AND GIVER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses 
in the flame of the burning bush, and gave him the law on Sinai--

COME! and redeem us with outstretched arm.


Monday, December 17, 2012

O Antiphons - O Wisdom

Dec. 17--O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching 
from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly--

COME! and teach us the way of prudence.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Picture source

by Brother John Samaha, S.M.

        After the batteries have long expired on other gifts, these intangible gifts will long endure.  They are recommended by  Catholic school teachers
·        Time.   It shows them how much you mean to them.
·        Love.  Nothing is more important than love.
·        Sense of justice.  This includes fidelity to relationships and responsibilities.
·        Laughter and joy.  Happiness nurtures.  Morality is a byproduct of growing up with laughter and joy.
·        Celebration.  Find something special to do each month as well as mark special occasions.
·        Spirituality.  Show the importance of prayer and Sunday worship.
·        Forgiveness and healing. Never let children go to sleep without being forgiven for a wrong, or healing a hurt.
·        Truth.  Help them to be truthful and honest.  Insist on this.
·        Respect.  Respect the property of others.  Give the example.

·        Books.  Urge children to read, and read aloud with them.  
·        Optimism.  Embrace a sense of possibility. Encourage faith in one’s ability to impact others positively and meaningfully, to make changes for the better.
·        Gratitude.  By word and example teach them to say “thank you.”  Encourage them to thank God for all their blessings.  Remind them to speak and to write a word of thanks to their elders and peers who do good things for them.      

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          One would be hard pressed to find a better example of a highly evocative national symbol than the Virgin of Guadalupe of Mexico. Like her famous Polish counterpart, the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, Our Lady of Guadalupe embodies abstract principles and precepts of the nation where she dwells.

          The complexity and heterogeneous nature of Mexico are reconciled in Our Lady of Guadalupe in a special way that no other symbol can rival. Political overtones are blended with individual and societal aspirations, especially for the Indian, because it was an Indian to whom she revealed herself in 1531.

          Several decades ago Eric Wolf (1923-1999), noted anthropologist, compiled a masterful analysis of the Guadalupe phenomenon. This is an attempt to summarize his findings. With the recent canonization of St. Juan Diego, this topic is timelier than ever.

          Now and then we encounter a symbol that seems to embody the major hopes and aspirations of an entire society. Such a master symbol is Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patroness – and Empress of the Americas.

          During the Mexican War of Independence against Spain, her image preceded the insurgents into battle.  Emiliano Zapata and his agrarian rebels fought under her emblem in the Great Revolution of 1910. Today the Guadalupe image of Juan Diego’s tilma adorns house exteriors and interiors, churches and home altars, bull rings and gambling dens, taxis and buses, restaurants and houses of ill repute. Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated in song and poetry popular and sacred. Annually her shrine at Tepeyac, a little north of Mexico City, is visited by millions of pilgrims ranging from the Indian villages to the members of the socialist trade unions. As one scholarly observer reported, “Nothing to be seen in North America or Europe equals it in the volume and vitality of its moving quality or in the depth of its spirit of religious devotion.”

          Eric Wolf referred to the holy image and the ideology surrounding it as the Mexican master symbol. He identified it as a cultural form or idiom of behavior operating on the symbolic level, and not restricted to one set of social ties, but referring to a wide range of social relationships.

          The history of the image and shrine are well known. The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a neophyte Indian of ordinary standing, and addressed him in Nahuatl, his native Indian language. The encounter occurred on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531, ten years after the Spanish Conquest of Tenochtitlan. Mary directed Juan Diego to visit the bishop of Mexico and to inform him of her desire to have a church built in her honor on Tepeyac. Twice unsuccessful in his mission, Mary miraculously provided her messenger colorful roses in a spot where normally only desert plants would grow. Juan Diego gathered the roses into his tilma, and was told by the Virgin Mother to present the roses and tilma to the Franciscan Bishop-elect Zumarraga. When St. Juan Diego unfolded his tilma before the bishop, the roses cascaded to the floor and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously impressed to the cloth. The bishop acknowledged the miracle and ordered a shrine to be built where Mary had appeared to her humble servant.

          Now the tilma bearing the sacred image of Mary is displayed above the main altar of the basilica, showing a young woman with her head lowered demurely in her shawl. She wears an open crown and flowing gown, and stands upon a half moon.

          This Marian shrine, however, had been preceded on Tepeyac hill by the pagan temple honoring the earth and fertility goddess, Tonantzi -- our lady mother, who like Our Lady of Guadalupe, was also associated with the moon. In pre-Hispanic times, that temple was the site of large-scale pilgrimages.

          The veneration accorded Our Lady of Guadalupe at first commingled with and was influenced by the earlier pagan worship of Tonantzin.  Several Spanish friars attest to this over those early years.

          Fray Bernardino de Sahagún writing fifty years after the Spanish Conquest bemoaned the fact that the Indian pilgrims to the shrine were calling Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin, too. “The term refers to that ancient Tonantzin,” he wrote, “and this state of affairs should be remedied, because the proper name of the Mother of God is not Tonantzin but Dios and Nantzin. It seems to be a satanic device to mask idolatry.”

          Later, Fray Marin de León expressed a similar concern: “On the hill of Our Lady of Guadalupe they once adored an idol of the goddess called Tonantzin, which means our mother. This is the name they also give to Our Lady, and they always say they are going to Tonantzin, or they are celebrating Tonantzin; and many of them understand this in the old way, and not in the new way.

          In the 17th century the syncretism was still alive. Discussing the pilgrimages to the shrine at Tepeyac, Fray Jacinto de la Serna noted, “It is the purpose of the wicked to worship the goddess and not the Most Holy Virgin, or both together.”

          The cult of Our Lady of Guadalupe increased steadily in the 16th century and thereafter, and gathered emotional impetus during the 17th century. The 17th century saw the first pictorial and artistic representations of the miraculous original; poems were composed in honor of the Virgin and her chosen messenger; sermons presented the implications of her supernatural appearance in Mexico and among Mexicans. Wolf’s opinion is that historians tended to neglect the 17th century, which seemed “a kind of Dark Age in Mexico.” But in this period the institution of the hacienda begins to dominate Mexican life, and “New Spain” ceases to be “new” and is regarded as Spain. These new experiences required a new cultural idiom, and in the Guadalupe cult the various segments of colonial society found cultural forms in which they expressed their parallel interests and longings.

          The evolution of the Guadalupe symbol took on functional aspects in relation to the major social relationships of Mexican society. Primary among these relations are the ties of kinship, and the emotions arising in the interplay of relationships within families. Wolf suggests that some of the meanings of the Virgin symbol in general and the Guadalupe symbol in particular derive from these emotions. He says “derive” rather than “originate” because the form and formation of the family in any given society are themselves determined by other social factors: residence, economy, technology, and political power. The family is one relay in the circuit within which symbols are generated in complex societies.

          Mexican family life may be understood in terms of two major types of families. The first type of family is congruent with the closed and static life of the Indian village. This is the Indian family. The husband is ideally dominant, but in reality labor and authority are shared equally between both marriage partners. Exploitation of one sex by another is atypical; sexual feats do not add to a person’s status in the eyes of others. Physical punishment and authoritarian treatment of children are rare. The second type of family is congruent with the much more open, manipulative life of a nation, a life in which power relationships between individuals and groups are of great moment. This is the Mexican family. The father’s authority is unquestioned on both the real and ideal planes. Double standards regarding sex prevail, the male sexuality is charged with a desire to exercise domination. Children are ruled with a heavy hand. Physical punishment is common, even frequent.
          The Indian family pattern is consistent with the behavior toward Our Lady of Guadalupe noted by John Bushnell in the Matlazinca-speaking community of San Juan Atzingo in the Valley of Toluca. There the image of the Virgin Mother is addressed in passionate terms as a source of warmth and love; and the pulque  (century plant beer) drunk on ceremonial occasions is identified with her milk. Bushnell assumed that Our Lady is identified with the mother as a source of early satisfactions, never again experienced after separation from the mother and emergence into social adulthood. She embodies a longing to return to the pristine state in which hunger and unsatisfactory social relations are minimized. The Mexican family pattern is also consistent with a symbolic identification of Virgin and mother, within a context of male and adult dominance and sexual assertion, discharged against submissive females and children. In this context the Guadalupe symbol is charged with the energy of rebellion against the father. Her image is the embodiment of hope in a victorious outcome of the struggle between generations.

          The symbolism is further extended by that struggle. Successful rebellion against power figures is equated with the promise of life; defeat is equated with the promise of death. John A. McKay saw additional symbolic identification of the Virgin Mother with life, of defeat and death with the crucified Christ. Mexican artistic tradition and Hispanic artistic tradition in general seldom depict Christ as an adult man, but usually as a helpless child, or as a person beaten, tortured, defeated, and killed. This symbolic equation strikes at the roots both of the passionate affirmation of faith in the Virgin Mother, and of the fascination with death that characterized Baroque Christianity in general, and Mexican Catholicism in particular. Our Lady of Guadalupe stands for life, for health, for hope; Christ on the cross, for despair, for death, for salvation.

          Supernatural Mother and natural mother are equated symbolically, as are earthly and other-worldly hopes and desires.
          However, family relations are seen as only one element in the formation of the Guadalupe symbol. They illuminate the feminine and maternal attributes of the more widespread Virgin symbol. Our Lady of Guadalupe is important to Mexicans not only because she is a Supernatural Mother, but also because she embodies their major religious and political aspirations.

          To the Indians the symbol is more than an embodiment of life and hope. It restores to them the hopes of salvation. The Spanish Conquest signified not only military defeat, but the defeat also of the old gods and the decline of the old ritual. The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to an Indian commoner represented in one way the return of Tonantzin.  Tannenbaum had observed, “The Church gave the Indian an opportunity not merely to save his own life, but also to save his faith in his own gods.” But on a deeper level the apparition served as a symbolic testimony that the Indians as much as the Spaniards were capable of being saved, capable of receiving Christianity. To be understood properly, this must be seen against the background of the bitter theological and political disputes that followed the Conquest and divided clerics, religious, officials, and conquerors into two camps: those who believed that the Indian was incapable of conversion, was inhuman, and therefore a subject of political and economic exploitation; and those who held the opposite and knew that this exploitation had to be tempered by the demands of the Catholic faith and of orderly civil processes of just government. Consequently the Guadalupe event validates the Indian’s right to legal defense, fair government, citizenship, and salvation from random oppression.

          If that sacred event guaranteed a rightful place to the Indians in the social system of New Spain, it held special appeal to the large group of illegitimate offspring of Spanish fathers and Indian mothers. These progeny were disinherited, impoverished, acculturated, and bereft of any status with the Spanish population or the Indian. For these people there was no proper place in the social order for a considerable length of time. Their very right to exist was questioned because of their inability to command the full rights of citizenship and legal protection. While the Spaniard and the Indian stood squarely within the law, the mestizo landed in the intersections and margins of constituted society. Although they acquired influence and wealth in the 17th and 18th centuries, they still found themselves outside the pale of social recognition and power by prevailing economic, social, and political order. For them the Guadalupe event symbolized not only the possibility of a place in heaven, but also an assurance of their place in society here and now. Politically the desire for a return to a paradise of food and warmth, a life without defeat and sickness, gave rise to a wish for an earthly Mexican paradise. There the illegitimate would possess the country and the irresponsible Spanish overlords who never acknowledged the social obligations of their paternity would be driven from the land.

          In the writings of 17th century clerics, the Guadalupe event looms as a harbinger of this new order. A book published by Miguel Sanchez in 1648 offered the view that the Spanish Conquest of New Spain is justified solely on the ground that it allowed the Virgin Mary to become manifest in her chosen country, and to found in Mexico a new paradise. As Israel was chosen to produce Christ, Mexico had been chosen to produce Guadalupe. Sanchez equated Our Lady of Guadalupe with the apocalyptic woman of Revelation 12:1, “arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” who is to realize the prophecy of Deuteronomy 8:7-10 and lead the Mexicans into the Promised Land. Hence, colonial Mexico became the desert of Sinai; independent Mexico the land of milk and honey.

          Writing in 1688 Fray Francisco de Florencia coined the slogan that made Mexico not merely another chosen nation, but the Chosen Nation: non fecit taliter omni nationi (he did not act in such a way for every nation) – words which still adorn the portal of the basilica and shine in lights at night.

          An additional elaboration had been expressed on the eve of Mexican independence when Servando Teresa de Mier claimed that Mexico had been converted to Christianity long before the Spanish Conquest. St. Thomas the Apostle had brought the image of Guadalupe Tonantzin to the New World as a symbol of his mission, just as St. James the Elder had converted Spain with the image of Our Lady of the Pillar. This made the Spanish Conquest unnecessary and erasable from the annals of history. In that perspective the Mexican War of Independence marked the final realization of the apocalyptic promise. The banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe led the insurgents. Their cause was labeled “her law.”

          In this ultimate extension of the symbol, the promise of life proffered by the Supernatural Mother has become the promise of an independent Mexico, liberated from the Spanish father oppressors and restored to the Chosen Nation whose election had been manifest in the apparition of the Virgin Mary on Tepeyac. The land is finally possessed by the rightful heirs. The symbolic circuit is closed. Mother; food, hope, health, life; supernatural salvation, rescue from oppression; Chosen People, national independence. All find expression in a single master symbol.
          The symbol of Our Lady of Guadalupe links together family, politics, and religion; colonial past and independent present; Indian and Mexican. This reflects the salient social relationships of Mexican life, and embodies the emotions generated. It provides a cultural idiom through which the import and emotions of these relationships can be expressed. Ultimately the Guadalupe symbol is a way of talking about Mexico: a “collective representation” of Mexican society.

THE IMAGE OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE Icon of the Church in the Americas

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          With her head tilted to the right, her hazel eyes are cast downward in an expression of gentleness and concern.  The mantle covering her head and shoulders is turquoise, studded with gold stars and bordered in gold.  Her hair is jet black and her complexion is olive.  She stands alone, her hands clasped in prayer, an angel at her feet.

          We have all seen her image.  She is Our Lady of Guadalupe, a life-sized portrayal of the Virgin Mary as she appeared in 1531 on the cactus-cloth tilma, or cape, of St. Juan Diego, an Aztec peasant and devout convert.  This happened merely a dozen years after Hernan Cortes had conquered the land that is now Mexico for the monarchy of Spain.  Almost five centuries later the colors of that portrait have remained as vibrant as if painted this year.  The coarse, woven, cactus cloth shows no signs of fading or deterioration, although that type of material seldom lasts 20 years.

          Today the image is preserved behind an impenetrable glass screen in the basilica at Mexico City.  Pilgrims can view it from a distance of 25 feet.  Each year more than 10 million persons venerate the mysterious image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, making this shrine the most popular in the Catholic world after St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City.  The Mexican faithful refer to her lovingly as La Morenita.

          In 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he acknowledged the enduring appeal of this unique portrait, addressing the Virgin directly: “When the first missionaries who reached America . . . taught the rudiments of the Christian faith, they also taught love for you, the Mother of Jesus and of all people.  And ever since the time that the Indian Juan Diego spoke of the sweet Lady of Tepeyac, you, Mother of Guadalupe, have entered decisively into the Christian life of the people of Mexico.”

          Accounts abound of the miraculous events attributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe.  In the early 17th century when floods almost destroyed Mexico City, her image escaped unharmed.  In 1921 during the Mexican Revolution, a bomb was planted in flowers placed before the altar behind which the image hung.  When the bomb exploded, no one was hurt, but the altar was badly damaged.  Yet not even the glass covering the picture was broken.

          This venerable icon has come to be regarded widely as the national symbol of Mexico.  Her image is found everywhere, even in unlikely places.

          Forty years after La Morenita appeared to St. Juan Diego, she may have been responsible for a significant turning point in the history of Western civilization.  Throughout Europe copies of the holy image had been circulated.  One of the first copies was given to Admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria, grandnephew of the renowned Admiral Andrea Doria.  The young admiral took the picture aboard his flagship when he assumed command of a flotilla of ships sailing from Genoa to the Gulf of Lepanto.
Some 300 Turkish Muslim ships stood in battle array blocking entrance to the Gulf.  A Christian massed navy of almost the same number of ships attempted to meet the Turks head on, but were outmaneuvered by the Turkish force. 

          Doria’s squadron was cut off from the rest of the Christian fleet.  At this crucial hour Doria went to his cabin and knelt in prayer before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  He implored her to save his men and his ships.  Miraculously by nightfall the tide of battle turned.  One Turkish squadron was captured, and others were thrown into panic and disarray.  Much of the Turkish fleet was destroyed.  That day 15,000 Christians enslaved in the Turks’ galleys were freed.  The Christian victory in the Battle of Lepanto was the last great naval battle fought under oars.

          To this day Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to work wonders large and small, noticed and unnoticed. 

          Why hasn’t the holy image deteriorated after almost five centuries?  Why do the colors remain bright?  Why hasn’t the crude fabric shown signs of disintegration?  The search for answers to these questions, regularly pursued by experts, persists from generation to generation.  What they have learned is fascinating.  However, the scientific investigations defy natural explanations.

          Although the picture has been touched up from time to time, there is proof that the original image is made in a manner no artist has been able to imitate or to explain.  Of particular interest is the fact that the eyes of the Virgin are done in a way never seen before in any painting. 

          Yet the greater, ongoing miracle is how the lives of millions are touched by Our Mother of Guadalupe.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saint Juan Diego: Icon of Mary's Evangelizing Mission

Picture source

                        by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.
The canonization of Saint Juan Diego 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).
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 "proclaim the Good News by word and deed."

Understanding Mary's Immaculate Conception

Picture source

Explained by Blessed John Duns Scotus

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          At the beginning of the liturgical year we honor the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary. 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.   

          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 this 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 than 150 years later, we are privileged to continue to honor that solemn definition and its recognition by Mary Immaculate at Lourdes.   

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