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

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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.”


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Call To Prayer For Life, Marriage, And Religious Liberty

What: The U.S. bishops have approved a pastoral strategy to advance a Movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. It is essentially a call to prayer, penance, and sacrifice for the sake of renewing a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty in our country. 

5 Ways to Participate: 
1) Monthly Holy Hour 
2) Daily Rosary 
3) Prayers of the Faithful 
4) Fasting & Abstinence 
5) Fortnight for Freedom 2013

Details can be found at the USCCB website


Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

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

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

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

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

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

          Our devotional heritage provides us with many patterns for approaching God and worshipping Jesus Christ outside of the Church’s official worship, the sacred liturgy. But all focus on our active participation in the mysteries of salvation.  Devotional practices extend and continue the graces of the Eucharist and the sacraments.  They help us live our baptismal vocation.  We insert ourselves into the ongoing plan of redemption as we make the way of the Cross, pray the rosary, follow a novena, fast, offer particular prayers, and perform charitable actions. However, from earliest times, devotions existed in the framework of the liturgy. For example, devotion to Mary has always existed in the Eucharistic Liturgy and in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Mary’s close association in all the mysteries of Jesus is explicitly mentioned in
those liturgical prayers.

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

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

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

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

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

The domestic church
          The time-honored Catholic tradition of small altars, shrines, and prayer niches in the home is a reminder of God’s presence in the family setting.  This practice began with the first Christians who prayed privately in their homes before churches were built for publish worship.  And the custom continued and fostered personal prayer even after churches were constructed. 
          Such a space in a family dwelling provides a place where members can gather to pray and focus on God.  It is a tangible way of honoring God and his
saints and attests that they have a cherished spot in the home, that they are always in our midst.

          A simple altar-like setting may reflect the family’s history, petitions, and special devotions.  It is a place of honor for items that hold a special meaning and
value: a crucifix, Bible, images or statues, votive candles, holy water, rosaries, medal, prayer books, palm, photos of loved ones, incense, and other sacramentals.  These items may be rotated as the liturgical season changes.

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

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

          Devotions are based on faith and need a doctrinal underpinning. However, ordinary Christians at prayer are not concerned with theological nuance. Theological inquiry has produced a high Christology which tended to distance Jesus from ordinary people. He, like the Father, was king and judge. Jesus Christ was much too distant to approach directly. Enter Mary and the saints. It made much better sense to cultivate the attention of his mother and most faithful disciple, and that of the saints. They seemed much closer to our human condition and were kindhearted enough to bend God’s ear in our favor. The Marian apparitions, even of the twentieth century, have reinforced this attitude. Mary and the saints lead to Jesus. At all approved shrines, for example, Mary directs us
to her Son in the Eucharist and in the sacraments.

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

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

Vatican II restored balance
          However, the accolade that “never enough honor can be given to Mary” (De Maria nunquam satis) must be placed in proper perspective and understood accordingly, The Second Vatican Council moved in this direction by adapting Catholicism to the modern world, re-emphasizing the Biblical foundations of faith and worship, and directing us to the call of the social gospel.
          Vatican II moved to correct abuses and excesses in liturgical worship and in popular devotions. The Council undertook a theological re-shaping of the image of Mary and the popular impulses of devotion to her and to the saints. It should be noted that in every age Mary’s image tells us as much about ourselves as it does about Mary.

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

          Participating in and continuing honored practices of devotion are an important part of our faith-life.  Devotions are touchstones of faith. They are part of our Christian heritage.  Sound devotions extend and continue liturgical worship.

          Remember, and be faithful.

St. Nicholas of Myra

St. Nicholas of Myra

Picture source

A Message of Hope from Leonardo Defilippis

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Advent - Season of Anticipation

                                        by  Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          The season of Advent has a twofold character, a double meaning.  Advent prepares us for Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s first coming to us.  And it also reminds us to direct our minds and hearts to be prepared for Christ’s second coming at the end of time.

          In Christian usage the word “advent” (adventus) has a special liturgical significance, but the origin of the word is pagan.        

          At the time of Jesus’ birth the pagans observed a manifestation of their pagan divinity that came to dwell in its temple at a certain time each year.  This pagan feast was called advent, and it marked an anniversary of the return of their pagan god to the temple.  During this special time the temple was open.  Ordinarily the temple was closed.

          In the days of the Roman emperor, advent also celebrated the coming of the emperor.

          The word “advent” was suitable to describe the coming of the Son of God in the temple of his flesh.  Gradually the use of this word was limited to describe the coming of the Lord.  This advent, the coming of the Lord and the anniversary of his birth, replaced the advent and birth of the unvanquished sun of the winter solstice.  This use of the word “advent” gained prominence during the reign of the Emperor Constantine (306-337).  To grant tolerance to all religions and to allow the open practice of Christianity, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313.  As Christian feasts were adopted and celebrated, pagan festivals were soon replaced and forgotten.

          The ancient idea of advent underlies the prayers of Advent that call forth the coming of the Lord, often with the same image of the temple.

          Now Advent signals a time to prepare for Christmas, the celebration of the first coming of the Lord.  But the prayer texts and Scripture readings of the Sunday Masses and the Liturgy of the Hours give ample attention to the second coming of the Lord to which we look forward.

          In reality the three distinct accents of the Liturgy of the Advent season are defined by the three comings of the Lord: yesterday, at Bethlehem, when the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary; today, in our world, where he is incarnate in the Church, in the sacraments, and in the faithful baptized into grace; tomorrow, when he returns in glory.

          This, then, is the rich meaning of Advent.  From the beginning of the liturgical year we celebrate the whole panorama of the mystery of salvation history.

          The variety of this season is not only desirable, it is truly appropriate because Advent is oriented toward the one who has come once for all, who is coming, and who will come.



The Angelus - Portrait of a Prayer

"The Angelus" by Jean-Francois Millet

Picture source

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

            The Angelus is a prayer practice rich in doctrine and devotion. This prayer honors the Annunciation of the Lord and commemorates the mystery of the Incarnation, the Son of God becoming the Son of Mary for our salvation, the union of the divine nature with human nature. The Angelus takes its name from its first word in the Latin version of the prayer.
            Praying the Angelus recalls the dialog between the Archangel Gabriel and Mary by reciting three versicles and responses with a Hail Mary after each set, another versicle and response, and then a concluding prayer. Traditionally, this was done while the local church bell tolled at 6 a.m., 12 m. (noon), and 6 p.m.  Older people will recall this experience.
            The Angelus traces its beginnings to the 13th century. In that era bells were often inscribed with the Angelic Salutation. Before the Second Vatican Council's liturgical renewal, the concluding prayer was the Postcommunion Prayer for Masses of Our Lady in Advent; but now it is the Opening Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
            Although the origin of the Angelus is obscure, it is certain that the morning, midday, and evening practice of praying the Angelus did not develop simultaneously. By the 16th century, the various customs were unified. The morning prayer was recited to commemorate Christ’s resurrection; at noon, Christ’s passion; and in the evening, to recall the Incarnation, since St. Bonaventure taught that Gabriel’s visit to Mary came at evening.
            Since the 15th century to the present day, the Angelus prayer has been recommended by many popes. In our time, Blessed John XXIII began to recite the Angelus each Sunday at noon as a Christian family prayer with the pilgrims and Romans gathered below his residence window in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.  Pope Paul VI expounded at some length on the value of the Angelus in the last section of his apostolic exhortation on proper devotion to Mary, Marialis Cultus (1974).
            Even before I began school, I remember our parish church bell, -- St. James in San Francisco’s Mission district -- recalling the angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary of the Incarnation.   In those years, unlike today, most parishes tolled the Angelus daily.  Then, in the third grade, Sister M. Benvenuta, O.P., taught us to pray the Angelus. From that time I listened carefully to the ringing of the church bell for the Angelus -- three tolls for each of the invocations and nine for the concluding prayer.
            Later in my education, I was introduced to the renowned painting by Jean-François Millet entitled “The Angelus.” The famous painting depicts a young man and a young woman standing in a field. They are farmers.  He holds his cap reverently as he stands with head bowed. She, in a white cap and long blue apron over her dress, clasps her hands as a prayerful look sets her face. They pause in prayer near the end of the workday.
            At the woman’s feet is a basket of potatoes, and at her far side rests a wheelbarrow full of empty sacks. At the side of the man is a pitchfork spiked upright in the ground. The breaking clouds are blushed with light as birds flit in the twilight. The viewer can almost hear the bells ringing from the spire of the church in the distant right of the painting.
            The artist was born in 1814 in Grunchy, a hamlet 10 miles west of Cherbourg in northwest France. This inland area off the rugged coast was countryside of undulating downs beyond the moors.
            Jean-Louis, the painter’s father, possessed real artistic talent, though all his life was spent tilling the fields. He loved music and directed the village choir; he studied the forms of trees and plants; he made clay models when time permitted.
            Jean-François absorbed his father’s appreciation for beauty and art. In his father he found an exemplar to emulate. Jean-François also was impressed by his parents’ piety and devotion.
            As a boy, Jean-François traced prints from the family Bible and then tried freehand. From the beginning his parents and the parish priests recognized that he was extraordinary. The priests were careful to educate him the best they could in mythology, Greek, Latin, as well as in translation. He became familiar with the work of William Shakespeare, John Milton and Robert Burns. All this time Jean-François was at home working on the family farm. He became a man of culture with the heart of a peasant. Later, he declared of himself, “A peasant I was born and a peasant I will die.”
            His parents and the villagers commented favorably on his work. His father realized that he must go to Cherbourg to study art. It was at this point that Jean-François’ lifelong work as an artist began.  Later, in Paris,  he fined-tuned his painting skills for 12 years.
            Because he disliked Paris and city life, he was delighted to return to the country. Barbizon became his home until the time of his death in 1875.
            It was in 1859 that Jean-François Millet painted “The Angelus.” Vivid were his memories of the Angelus bell ringing while peasants were still working at twilight. Often he had seen his father standing, bareheaded, cap in hand, and his mother, with bowed head and folded hands, at the sound of the evening Angelus bell.
            Millet recorded that impression to show the quiet peace of twilight, the rosy glow of sunset engulfing the fields, the church bells filling the evening air and the devout attitude of the peasants. Surely he succeeded.
            When his agent, Sensier, first saw the picture on Millet’s easel, the painter turned to him and asked, “Well, what do you think of it?”
            “It is the Angelus, “replied Sensier.
            “Yes,” Millet said with satisfaction. “Can you hear the bells?”
            Millet believed he had painted a great picture, but his genius was not recognized and acknowledged until after his death. In 1889, 14 years after his death, Millet’s painting of “The Angelus” was put up for auction, after the person who had bought the painting from Millet had died.
            Prior to the auction the French government asked Antonin Proust, Director of Fine Arts, to buy the painting to keep it in France. Bidding was frantic in the crowded gallery the morning of the auction, mainly between Proust and two American dealers. When the sale was almost settled, two more Americans arrived and new bidding continued. Finally, Proust offered 533,000 francs, about $94,000.
            A pause occurred in the bidding. Then the gavel fell, and “The Angelus” was declared the property of France. The people in attendance were elated.
            However, the French government declined to ratify the purchase for so large a sum. “The Angelus” went to the next highest bidder, an American agent. Customhouse officials made the duty exorbitant, almost $12,000. But they agreed to waive the claim on condition that the picture  remain only six month in America.  Another Frenchman, M. Chauchard, bought the painting upon its return to France.
            Eventually, “The Angelus” found its way into the Louvre Museum in Paris. Today, we can still enjoy Jean-François Millet’s masterpiece in the Louvre.  There the story of “The Angelus” by Millet concludes.


                        ***  Author's note to editor:
                        This ICEL translation (or the older familiar translation) of the Angelus
                        would be a worthwhile sidebar.

                        THE ANGELUS

V.  The angel spoke God's message to Mary,
R.  and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
      Hail Mary…
V.  "I am the lowly servant of the Lord;
R.  let it be done to me according to your word."
      Hail Mary…
V.  And the Word became flesh,
R.  and lived among us.
      Hail Mary…
V.  Pray for us, holy Mother of God,
R.  that we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Lord, fill our hearts with your grace.
Once, through the message of an angel,
you revealed to us the incarnation of your Son;
now, through his suffering and death,
lead us to the glory of his resurrection.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Our Lady of Guadalupe short Novena & Prayer for Life - start today

Shared by Mary Jane:

Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Feast is December 12. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of the Americas. Novena is usually prayed from December 4 to December 12.

First Day Dearest Lady of Guadalupe, fruitful Mother of holiness, teach me your ways of gentleness and strength. Hear my humble prayer offered with heartfelt confidence to beg this favor...... Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...
Second Day O Mary, conceived without sin, I come to your throne of grace to share the fervent devotion of your faithful Mexican children who call to you under the glorious Aztec title of Guadalupe. Obtain for me a lively faith to do your Son’s holy will always: May His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...
Third Day O Mary, whose Immaculate Heart was pierced by seven swords of grief, help me to walk valiantly amid the sharp thorns strewn across my pathway. Obtain for me the strength to be a true imitator of you. This I ask you, my dear Mother. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...
Fourth Day Dearest Mother of Guadalupe, I beg you for a fortified will to imitate your divine Son’s charity, to always seek the good of others in need. Grant me this, I humbly ask of you. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...
Fifth Day O most holy Mother, I beg you to obtain for me pardon of all my sins, abundant graces to serve your Son more faithfully from now on, and lastly, the grace to praise Him with you forever in heaven. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...
Sixth Day Mary, Mother of vocations, multiply priestly vocations and fill the earth with religious houses which will be light and warmth for the world, safety in stormy nights. Beg your Son to send us many priests and religious. This we ask of you, O Mother. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...
Seventh Day O Lady of Guadalupe, we beg you that parents live a holy life and educate their children in a Christian manner; that children obey and follow the directions of their parents; that all members of the family pray and worship together. This we ask of you, O Mother. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...
Eighth Day With my heart full of the most sincere veneration, I prostrate myself before you, O Mother, to ask you to obtain for me the grace to fulfill the duties of my state in life with faithfulness and constancy. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...
Ninth Day O God, You have been pleased to bestow upon us unceasing favors by having placed us under the special protection of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Grant us, your humble servants, who rejoice in honoring her today upon earth, the happiness of seeing her face to face in heaven. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...

    Novena Prayer for Life to Our Lady of GuadalupeOh Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of Life,
    We honor you as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

    Thank you for pointing us to Jesus your Son,
    The only Savior and hope of the world.

    Renew our hope in him,
    That we all may have the courage to say Yes to life,
    And to defend those children in danger of abortion.

    Give us your compassion
    To reach out to those tempted to abort,
    And to those suffering from a past abortion.

    Lead us to the day when abortion
    Will be a sad, past chapter in our history.

    Keep us close to Jesus, the Life of the World,
    Who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.

    Monday, December 03, 2012

    Meditations of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta on Advent

    One of my new friends is a Missionary of Charities sister. She graciously shared this beautiful Advent resource with me and I in turn want to share it with you.

     Mother Teresa Advent Meditations.

     You can visit visit the official Mother Teresa of Calcutta website here.

    Mother Angelica Live Classic - Another Look at Mortification

    St. Francis Xavier

    Today the church honors one of our patron saint of the missions, St. Francis Xavier.  This statue is prominently placed at St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa.

    St. Francis Xavier often spent whole hours during the day and into the night before Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, Who gave Him the grace and the strength to lead so many souls to Christ. His devotion to Our Eucharistic Lord was so great that Fr. Stefano Manelli, O.F.M. writes (in his book, Jesus, Our Eucharistic Lord):  
    "What shall we say of St. Francis Xavier who at times when distributing Holy Communion felt so carried away by a sense of adoration toward Our Lord Who was in his hands, that he got on his knees and in that position continued giving Holy Communion? Did that not present a witness of faith and love worthy of heaven?"

    St. Francis Xavier
    Spain ~ 1506-1552
    One of seven founders of Society of Jesus (Jesuits)
    Considered "greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles"
    Incredible zeal, baptized thousands, miracle worker
    Patron of mission fields
    Known as the "Apostle to the Far East"
    FEAST DAY - December 3
    St. Francis Xavier - from his letters to Saint Ignatius ...
    “Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: “What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!”
    “I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.
    “This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like — even to India.”
    This Eucharistic Reflection is archived.