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 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.
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.
This week we finish up going through Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est. The focus this week is the conclusion of the document.
The conclusion starts with Benedict directing us to the Saints. He starts with one of that everyone should know Martin of Tours who illustrates the irreplaceable value of the individual testimony to charity when he offered his cloak to a poor man. Then he moves on to Anthony the Abbot and the whole monastic community and loads of others, like Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, John of God, Camillus of Lellis who founded the Camillians or Clerics Regular, Minsters to Sick which was basically the Red Cross before it existed, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac who were the co-founders of the Daughters of Charity, Giuseppe B. Cottolengo who formed many orders which still work together in activities focused on communicating God’s love for the poorest, John Bosco who founded orders which focused on poor children, Luigi Orione a student of Don Bosco and founder of the Son of Divine Providence who are dedicated in helping the poor, Mother Teresa of Calcutta to name but a few—stand out as lasting models of social charity for all people of good will. All of these people have done wonders and provided care to the less fortunate, we need to follow their example. Benedict picks out the example par excellence Mary, the mother of Jesus and mirror of holiness. Mary is great because she wants to magnify the Lord this can be seen in the Magnificat. As we can pray or sing during Vespers “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Benedict traces this throughout the life of Mary from the Visitation to Pentecost.
His Holiness make note that the lives of the Saints don’t end when they die but continue in heaven with God. One thing is clear that as we draw closer to God we cannot withdraw from society, but become closer to it. At his Passion Jesus turned to his beloved disciple saying “Behold, your mother!” This is Mary and we are all the beloved disciple, Mary is our mother and she shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. This is what love is, let us all have to courage of Mary to say Yes to God’s call in our lives. As well as being open to the world although it seems like a horrible place currently.
The second Joyful mystery is the Visitation. This is when Mary goes and visits her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with John the Baptist. It is found in Luke’s Gospel 1:39-56. After hearing that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant Mary went to visit her. Now Elizabeth lived a little some speculate it was south of Jerusalem, in Hebron or even in Ein Karem, wherever it was Mary traveled from Nazareth to visit about a 150 mile journey which would take a couple of days to get there. When Mary arrived Elizabeth was about six months pregnant and Mary stayed until she had given birth to John. The feast day is on 31 May for the Western Church and 30 March in the Eastern Church.
The feast was first celebrated by the Franciscans and by 1263 it was spreading around to other churches in the Franciscan Breviary. Pope Urban VI hoping to end the Western Schism in 1389 added it to the Roman calendar, the official list of feast days of the church. It wasn’t until 1969 when the feast was moved to May so that it would be between the Annunciation (25 March) and the Nativity of John the Baptist (24 June) to better align with the Gospels.
The fruit of this mystery is love of neighbor. As we approach the Christmas season we will expect to look out toward our neighbors and celebrate with them this great feast however how often is it that we care more about ourselves or what’s on the screens in front of us than those living next door. Let us all try to go out and meet our neighbors since we all live in a community and they are it.
Today is the feast of The Presentation of Mary or in the East The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Now this feast is unique as it is not based on anything in the Bible but come from the Infancy Gospel of James. This is a unique Gospel since it focuses on Mary it is a twenty-four chapter book which can be separated into three sections of eight chapters. The first eight focus on the birth of Mary to Anna and Joachim, as well as Mary’s childhood and her presentation in the temple. Now, Anna and Joachim were a childless couple when they received a heavenly message that they would have a child Anna and Joachim agreed that the child would be brought to the temple and offered to God like Hannah did to Samuel. In the second section Mary has come of age and is twelve and can’t stay in the Temple so Joseph becomes her husband, but he sort of begrudgingly agrees to be something more like her guardian. Mary becomes pregnant and they think Joseph is the father and there is a bit on that as well. The last section tells of the Nativity of Jesus along with visits from midwives as well as the hiding from Herod by Jesus and John the Baptist.
In the Orthodox Church it is one of the Twelve Great Feasts in their calendar. It began in the Orthodox Church and eventually adopted by the Catholic Church first by monasteries in Southern Italy in the 9th century however it wasn’t until 1472 when it was added to the Roman Missal, the feast was repressed for about 20 years in the 1500s. Pope Paul VI notes in his encyclical Marialis Cultus, that “despite its apocryphal content, it presents lofty and exemplary values and carries on the venerable traditions having their origins in the Eastern churches.” So take some time and remember Our Mother and God-bearer on this day as we all turn our minds to the upcoming holiday season. Pick up a Rosary and pray it.
Diuturni Temporis is Pope Leo XIII’s last encyclical on Mary and the Rosary. This came out only a year since the previous one Augustissimae Virginis Mariae, and sort of continues on with the same themes. The second paragraph is one of my favorites as it reminds us that “have never ceased to encourage the constant use of the Rosary among Christians, by publishing every year since September 1, 1883, an Encyclical Letter on this subject, besides frequently issuing Decrees, as is well known.” Pope Leo then given an overview on all that’s been said on the Rosary so far “We first of all pointed out that the origin of this form of prayer is divine rather than human,showing it to be an admirable garland woven from the Angelic Salutation, together with the Lord’s Prayer, joined to meditation, and that this form of prayer was most powerful and particularly efficacious for attaining eternal life. For besides the special excellence of the prayers, it affords a powerful protection to faith and conspicuous models of virtue in the mysteries proposed for contemplation. We showed also how easy the devotion is and how suited to the people, offering an absolutely perfect model of domestic life in meditation on the Holy Family at Nazareth, and that therefore Christendom had never failed to experience its salutary effects.” This is a wonderful summation of the previous teaching on the Rosary.
Pope Leo continues offering history of how different Popes have evolved the idea of praying the Rosary from the dates of Gregory XIII and Sixtus V to today (1898). This document itself is just a big old teaser for an Apostolic Constitution Ubi primum, which was on the laws, rights and privileges of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary issued about a month later. I’ll get to this next week.
Fidentem poumque animum is another encyclical on the Rosary by Pope Leo XIII. This one is pretty short and simple one. It starts with the whole general idea of Pope Leo reminding everyone that we’ve sent out numerous Encyclicals about how important the Rosary is and how everyone should be praying it especially in the month of October. This turns into a look at how important prayer in general is everything. Leo notes “The Fathers and Doctors in subsequent times have taught that this is a matter of such grave necessity, that if men neglect it they hope in vain for eternal salvation.” Leo continues that the Rosary is a deeply Christ-centric prayer. It concludes with the request to pray the Rosary during October. This is basically the entirety of the Encyclical
Quamquam Pluries is an Encyclical by Leo XIII on the Devotion of Saint Joseph. I know you might be asking isn’t this supposed to be about the Rosary since it is October now, well yes you are right but this concerns the Rosary as well. The Encyclical begins although we’ve said it before yet again it seems like it is necessary for special prayers to be offered up “chiefly when every lawlessness of act seems permitted to the powers of darkness” we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Leo urges praying the Rosary as it turns us to Mary. We should also remember Joseph, the Patron of the Church, for his dignity, holiness, and glory. Since in the ties of marriage, Mary and Joseph became one and “its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together. Therefore God appointed him as a participator in Mary’s sublime dignity. It goes on like this talking about Joseph, how work is a vocation and that the family is the foundation of Christianity and society. These topic were picked up again in Rerum Novarum, which I’ll get to later on. Leo ends this Encyclical by asking for the Rosary to be prayed but to end it with a prayer to St. Joseph in the month of October. It also made his feast day, 19 March, a Holy Day of Obligation. St. Joseph’s feast day is still a Holy Day in some places as it is one of the ten set forth in canon 1246.
The prayer is as followed I think that during this month I will be adding it.
Prayer to Saint Joseph
To thee, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt succor us in our need by thy power and strength.
Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen off-spring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.
Today is the Feast of the Assumption and the Dormition of Mary in the Western and Eastern Churches respectively. They are technically the same event but there are nuances between the two. At the Assumption Mary is brought up to heaven at the end of her life body and soul, while during the Dormition Mary falls asleep (dies) and is bodily resurrected before going to heaven. I don’t see that big of a difference between the two. In the Orthodox Church today marks the end of the Dormition (Theotokos) Fast which began on the first of August. This is a Holy Day of Obligation in most of the world. If you have some time perhaps take out and pray a rosary today.