Rosary and St. Joseph

Since we recently celebrated Father’s Day in America it seems fitting to turn to Joseph, spouse of the Virgin Mary, foster father of Jesus, and patron saint of the universal Church. Back in 1889 Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Quamquam Pluries, asked the faithful to add a prayer to Saint Joseph to the end of the Rosary, especially during the month of October. Sure I pointed this out back in October but It is a nice prayer, there are many others to St. Joseph and over the next couple of weeks we will have some more.  This first one written by Leo XIII is added to the end of the Rosary and it follows

To you, O blessed Joseph,
do we come in our tribulation,
and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse,
we confidently invoke your patronage also.

Through that charity which bound you
to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God
and through the paternal love
with which you embraced the Child Jesus,
we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance
which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood,
and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.

O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family,
defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ;
O most loving father, ward off from us
every contagion of error and corrupting influence;
O our most mighty protector, be kind to us
and from heaven assist us in our struggle
with the power of darkness.

As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril,
so now protect God’s Holy Church
from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity;
shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection,
so that, supported by your example and your aid,
we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness,
and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven.

Amen.

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Feast of Mary Mother of the Church

This is the newest feast of the church year as Pope Francis announced way back in March that the feast would be celebrated the Monday after Pentecost. Francis thought that this feast would “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.”

It is fitting that Mary is being honored the day after the we celebrate the “birthday of the church”. Now the title Mother of the Church is an ancient one for Mary as it dates back to St. Ambrose in the 4th century which was rediscovered by Hugo Rahner in 1944. The term has been used notably by Popes Benedict XIV and Leo III. The title didn’t really catch on until Vatican II when Pope Paul VI officially pronounced the title in the Credo of the People of God “The Mother of the Church, carries on in heaven her maternal role with regard to the members of Christ, cooperating in the birth and development of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.” John Paul II mentioned this a bunch of times and Benedict XVI has stated that “‘The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly she learns, that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary on the other hand is not an isolated individual, who rests in herself. She is carrying the mystery of the Church.” This is another great way to look at Mary. This is why we turn to Mary in this Month of May, I hope that in these last ten or so day we can turn to the rosary.

Fulgens corona

Fulgens corona is an encyclical from Pius XII in it Pope Pius declares a Marian Year in honor of the centenary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It begins with a recap of how the Immaculate Conception became dogma, Pius IX pronouncing it and then about 4 years later a young girl in Lourdes was visited by a lady who said that “I am the Immaculate Conception.”. This special title isn’t something new as from the Early Church Mary has had many titles ranging from Lily Among Thorns and Immaculate to The One And Only Daughter Not Of Death But Of Life and By Nature More Beautiful, More Graceful And More Holy Than The Cherubim And Seraphim Themselves And The Whole Host Of Angels. The encyclical has a long list of other titles as well. Pius continues going through history pulling the thread from St. Ephrem to Aquinas. His Holiness even notes that Non-Catholics see are devotion to Mary as worship for “any honor and veneration which we may give to our Heavenly Mother undoubtedly redounds to the glory of her Divine Son,” Now the centenary celebration should revive our Catholic Faith and devotion to the Mother of God as we try to conform our lives to that of the Virgin. “Just as all mothers are deeply affected when they perceive that the countenance of their children reflects a peculiar likeness to their own, so also our Most Sweet Mother wishes for nothing more, never rejoices more than when she sees those whom, under the cross of her Son, she has adopted as children in His stead, portray the lineaments and ornaments of her own soul in thought, word and deed.” Sure it’s some sixty years later but these wishes for the centennial of the Immaculate Conception can still be things that we strive for in our lives, reviving our faith and trying to follow in the steps of our Heavenly Mother.

As we are coming from Mother’s Day let us keep this last part in mind this week as we make our way through the rest of this month of May and we keep honoring our divine mother.

Coronation of Mary

The Crowning of Mary is the final Glorious Mystery, to some it is the last one in the whole Rosary. This is another one of the mysteries that isn’t a story directly in the Bible. There is some glancing at the idea in the Bible notably in Revelation 12:1-7. This is the decade where Mary is crowned as Queen of Heaven. The fruit of this mystery is perseverance and increase in virtue, trust in Mary’s intercession. This is important and we tend to neglect it at time but Mary is one of the best individual to ask to intercede on our behalf with our prayers and concerns to our heavenly father. I hope that we all can turn to Mary at some time this month and pray a Rosary when we’ve got a free moment.

Ad Caeli Reginam

As I said earlier in the week May is one of the months that is dedicated to Mary, specifically the Queenship of Mary. Ad Caeli Reginam is Encyclical from Pope Pius XII from 1954 which proclaimed the Queenship of Mary. Now this isn’t as long as the modern encyclicals from Francis and John Paul II. It is not separated into any sections and it focuses on Mary.

We begin with the idea that Mary has been a major figure in the Church for ages as ” Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world.” Pius continues the history of Marian devotion highlighting the dogma of the Assumption established in Munificentissimus Deus and the Immaculate Conception established in Ineffabilis Deus the Apostolic constitution from Pius IX as well as the “current” Marian Year in 1954. In light of the urging from all over the world  the Pope has decided to institute the liturgical feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary,this feast was put on May 31 it was moved by Paul VI to August 22, the octave of the Assumption.

Then Pius XII goes into the belief from ancient days that since Mary is the mother of Jesus she has a special place in heaven. It continues from various saints through the ages have been calling Mary a queen. The Encyclical ends nicely as it goes with “let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us.”

Take some time this month of May and reflect on the Virgin Mother, pick up a Rosary at some point this month.

Assumption of Mary

The fourth Glorious Mystery is when we get back to Mary and it is not an event which happens in the Bible, sure Pius XII pointed to Genesis 3:15 and 1 Corinthians 15:54 in Munificentissimus Deus, the Apostolic constitution which declared the dogma of the Assumption. You can also point toward Revelation 12 with the woman clothed in the sun stepping on a serpent’s head. After many years Mary was taken into heaven, some say she died other she fell asleep either way she was taken into heaven. The fruit of this mystery is Grace of a Happy Death and True Devotion towards Mary.

This past Sunday during the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis asked us to join with him this May in praying the Rosary for peace in the world, specifically in Syria. May is one of the two Marian months, the other being October which is dedicated to the Rosary. So I hope that we all can pick up a Rosary sometime this May in join in the prayers of the Holy Father.

Decent of the Holy Spirit

The third Glorious mystery is the Decent of the Holy Spirit which happened at Pentecost fifty days after Easter. It is when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Disciples. The fruit of the mystery is Love of God, Holy Wisdom to know the truth and share with everyone, Divine Charity, Worship of the Holy Spirit. This is a lot of things but it is very important when Jesus left he said God would send another advocate to help you and be with you forever. This second part is the most important part the Holy Spirit is with us today we need to remember this all to often we tend to forget that the Spirit is with us and we can/should be asking for help of the Spirit through discernment. I hope that we all can turn to the Holy Spirit at all time in our lives.

Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad)

The latest Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, is about the call to holiness in the world today. Pope Francis released it on Monday 9 April, the feast of the Annunciation and it was given on the Feast of St. Joseph. The document is broken into five chapters.

It begins with Pope Francis stating that this isn’t a treatise or discussion on holiness but rather is to “repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time”. God has called us from the beginning to be holy, God told Abraham to “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1) and this call continues for us today as Francis points out that God wants us all to be saints and echoes the words of John Paul II “Don’t settle for mediocrity”.

The first chapter is on The Call to Holiness, it begins with acknowledging all the holy men and women from the Abraham and Moses to even those of our dearly departed family and friends who are apart of as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it “cloud of witnesses”. Sure these individuals may not always have been perfect in their lives, but despite their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord. One of the key things here is that love is what connects the saints to us. The processes of beatification and canonization recognize the signs of heroic virtue, the sacrifice of one’s life in martyrdom, and in certain cases where a life is constantly offered for others, even until death. This Imitation of Christ is what singles out individuals, but it’s not only those Saints who’ve been beatified/canonized but also our neighbors, since throughout Salvation History the Lord has never saved an individual but rather taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. This “middle class of holiness” is where most of us live our lives as Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.” Now holiness isn’t just limited to the Catholic Church the Holy Spirit raises up individual from all backgrounds Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants Pope John Paul II points to these martyrs as a shared heritage.

Now, Francis says that this is well and good but his primary focus is going to be on the individual call to holiness. In Lumen Gentium we read that we are “called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect”. So we shouldn’t get frustrated by others who seems “more holier” for the “important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts, rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them.” We are all called as witnesses and there are many ways to do this. John of the Cross, famous mystic,  preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all since God’s life is communicated “to some in one way and to others in another.” Francis notes of the genius of women and list a bunch of saints from Hildegarde  and Bridget to Teresa and Theresa. He also notes that there are perhaps several unknown and forgotten who were great imitators of Christ.

For many it seem like you need to be a priest, bishops religious to be holy “we are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.” Holiness can grow with just small gestures like limiting gossip, being patient, taking out and praying a rosary faithfully, or turning to someone on the street and offering some kind words to them.  At times life can get complicated like when Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân, the Archbishop of Saigon, who was imprisoned for 13 year in a communist reeducation camp and then exiled, who strove to accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way. The Bishops of New Zealand teach that we can do this even with love, we are capable of loving with the Lord’s unconditional love even in the midst of our weaknesses. As Pope Benedict XVI taught us “holiness is nothing other than charity (love) lived to the full.” Then Pope Francis calls on us to allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.

Francis says that there are a bunch of distractions in the world today but we are all called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission. He continues by saying to not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. The first chapter ends with a quote from a French writer Leon Bloy “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint” which sort of sums up this universal call to holiness.

The second chapter begins with some talk of some problems that have existed from the beginning of the church and continue today  Gnosticism and Pelagianism. Those two heresies are still around, i guess. Gnosticism is looking for knowledge or experience that solves the mysteries. Those educated members of the church shouldn’t be superior to other members of the church for we all are basically on the same journey. The Lord works in mysterious ways and having knowledge should just motivate us to respond more fully to the love of God. Pelagianism is that sin does not taint human nature and that will is still capable of deciding between good and evil. The Church has continually taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord. We are reminded of the greatest commandment love your neighbor as yourself

The third chapter is where Pope Francis looks at how are we supposed to be holy and what consists holiness. This can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) where the Beatitudes were given, these are the identity card for all Christians as we are called to reflect these values in our daily lives. Next Francis goes through all the Beatitudes and breaks them down pointing out that they run counter to the way the world works. Jesus later on in Matthew’s Gospel expand on the Beatitudes in the twenty fifth chapter adding that “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (25: 35-36), these are the Corporal works of Mercy. Now this call is to recognize Jesus in the poor and the suffering, for we are called to except all  without the ifs or buts and holiness can not exist with out this demand for the beating heart of the Gospel is mercy.

Now there are two errors which Francis sees. First those Christians who forget the mercy part of the gospels. Christanity isn’t some NGO far from the lives of the Saints (Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa) who lived their lives full of mercy yet still reflected on the scriptures and prayer. The other problem is relativistic way that many people look at the world today where nothing is good or bad until I choose who my neighbor is or how to do it. Francis tells us about the Rule of St. Benedict where the monks would welcome anyone and everyone like they would welcome Christ, special care was given to the poor and pilgrims as well.  Let us all keep this in mind whenever we meet anyone. Finally we turn to worship and prayer first of all we do this not for God but ourselves and our neighbors. Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta eloquently put it “…God bends down and uses us, you and me, to be his love and his compassion in the world; he bears our sins, our troubles and our faults. He depends on us to love the world and to show how much he loves it. If we are too concerned with ourselves, we will have no time left for others. ” I hope that we are all able to follow the advice given by Pope Francis to re-read the Gospel referenced earlier, the Beatitudes and Last Judgement, since they can be a benefit to all of us as we all try to embody them. For it will make us happy.

The fourth chapter Francis looks for signs of holiness in the World today, there are five great expressions of love for God and neighbor. The listed expressions are Perserverance, Patience and Meekness; Joy and sense of Humor; Boldness and Passion; In Community; and In Prayer. In each of these expressions Francis gives a deep reflection on each pulling from the Bible to explain some items and pulling from the lives of the Saint for others. The final chapter is on spiritual combat, and this battle can’t be reduced to the struggle against our human weaknesses and proclivities. In case you were wondering the battle is against the Devil, we all need to be cautious and stay alert for the devil is everywhere. We need to also be a bit more willing to discern things, asking for the help of the Holy Spirit when we decide things.

Let us all be able to take some basic things from this exhortation and try to add them into our lives. For this is one of the ways which will bring more happiness and holiness into the world. Sure I began strong and sort of puttered out toward the end but this thing it fairly long and it took several days to get through it and wrote it up. However, if you don’t want to take the time to read the Exhortation yourself this should suffice  These were some nice words from Pope Francis and I hope than many Catholics and sure Christians in general take the key point, living the Beatitudes and corporal works of mercy to heart. This is how we can become a better world.

The Ascension

The second Glorious mystery is The Ascension it is found in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke. Forty days after Easter Jesus and the Apostles gather on the Mount of Olives and Jesus ascends into heaven and tells them to not leave Jerusalem until after the Holy Spirit comes. The fruit of the mystery is Hope and Desire for ascension to Heaven. Hope is something we all can have and we all hope for more than we can get. We also have a desire for all of us to go heaven in the long run.

The Resurrection

The first Glorious Mystery is The Resurrection. It appears in all the Gospels and I am positive that it is mentioned in a couple of other New Testament books as well. The fruit of this mystery is faith. Jesus after dying on Good Friday and being placed in a tomb on the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath, women came to anoint the body, but the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. They were told to go tell of the good news. We should be reminded of the Story of Doubting Thomas, who wouldn’t believe that Jesus had risen until Thomas himself could see the hands and put his hand in the side. When Jesus finally appeared that second time with Thomas in the room Jesus said to him “because you’ve seen you believe. Blessed are those who have not see but believe.” This is faith, it is one of the theological virtues written about in the Encyclical Lumen Fidei.