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.

Advertisements

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.

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 Crucifixion

The final sorrowful mystery is the Crucifixion and death of Our Lord. The fruit of this mystery is Perseverance in faith, grace for a holy death and Forgiveness. This story is found in all the Gospels and if you can’t find it it’s rather easy and throughout the epistles it is mentioned as well. We are all well aware of this story or you could check out the film mother! if you need a refresher (please don’t). Jesus is crucified between two thieves one berates him to “He helped other but can’t save himself” the other asks “Don’t you fear God, for we are all suffering the same fate although we have been fairly judges for the crimes we’ve done this man (Jesus) did nothing.” He continues to Jesus saying “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replies “Today you will be with me in paradise.” This is what is so special about our faith not matter when or where if you but ask it shall be given unto you. Forgiveness is a huge topic and even Pope Francis talked about it this past Sunday’s Angelus (17 Sept) where he said “Forgiveness does not deny the injustice one has been subjected to, but it acknowledges the fact that the human being, created in the image of God, is always superior to the wrong that is committed.” This is what we need to keep in mind for even in the Our Father we say “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” the second part is the important one.

Pope in Fatima

This past Friday and Saturday, Pope Francis made a quick trip over to Portugal and canonize two of the three shepherds (Jacinta and Francisco Marto), Rocco Palmo over at Whispers in the Loggia has a great recap of all that happened. It began simply enough with Pope Francis bringing a Golden Rose  and bestowing it to our lady, it is Fatima’s third rose. The main event was Saturday the one hundredth with the Canonization mass. This bishop dressed in white delivered a message which had double meaning in the United States this weekend of “honoring your mother” since Mary is Mother to us all. The Homily at the Canonization I think gave the greatest reason why we should honor Mary.  Pope Francis echoes Mary’s message from 100 years ago and added to it a bit “Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures.  Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell.” Sure Russia and the World have been Consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary several times but perhaps we need to do something about it rather than just says that it’s been consecrated. We need to pull out those Rosaries and get to praying.

Fatima Centenary

On this upcoming Saturday one hundred year ago Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto were herding sheep outside of Fátima, Portugal. Pope Francis will be canonizing Jacinta and Francisco when he travels to Fatima this Friday and Saturday. Saturday will be the hundredth year since the shepherd children first saw a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” This woman asked the children to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war (World War I). This was the first of six appearances to the children between May and October of 1917, now these were about once a month and I’ll go into those during their months.

EWTN has a nice website up about the Fatima Apparitions.  If you want an easy overview of all the apparitions take a look at their site. I think that if Mary were to come today she’d ask us to do the same thing devote ourselves to the Trinity and to pray the Rosary for world peace. I hope that as we reflect on the events in Fatima this year we are compelled to pick up a Rosary and pray it.  Pope John Paul II also has a connection with Fatima as on May 13 in 1981 John Paul was shot and critically wounded, and John Paul believed that it was through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima that his life was spared.  Next week we will reflect on what Pope Francis did and said in Fatima.

Pope TED Talk and Kenan Thompson

There were a couple of cool thing I found on the internet yesterday first off. His Holiness Pope Francis Skyped in a TED talk in it Francis talks about how the only future worth living in is one in which we all work together. It’s basically the message from the parable of the Good Samaritan, we need to look out for each other no matter who they are.

The other interesting thing is a nice article on Huffington Post about Kenan Thompson, from All That, Kenan and Kel, and currently SNL. It offers a unique look at how important Kenan is to the show. Thompson who is currently in his record tying 14th season with SNL and it doesn’t look like will be leaving the show anytime soon. It nice to see a kid grow up doing sketch comedy and be successful at it.

X-files and Fatima Saints

There two news items are on opposite sides of the spectrum, one was widely speculated and the other is a bit unexpected.

Fatima: As we’ve all sort of guessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the children of Fatima who died a long time ago will be Canonized by Pope Francis when he visits Fatima on May 13. I still sort of feel like we should all be expecting Lucia will be Beatified before the year is over as well, perhaps on October 13?

X-Files: On the other side of things Fox has decided to bring back Mulder and Scully for another ten episodes. The show which last aired the six episode “Event series” in early 2016 will air during the 2017-18 television season. Fans are clamoring for them to bring back the old team of writers with the likes of Vince Gilligan, want William to show up at some point, some redemption for characters and for Chris Carter not to write an episode. We will have to wait and see what all they can bring together but hopefully the 10 episode season will get the right balance of episode types.

Children of Fatima

I am sure you’ve all heard that this year in the one hundredth year since Our Lady appeared to the three children in Fatima. Later on this year on the thirteenth of May through October we will focus on what all happened at Fatima and talk about the secrets of Fatima as well. In what seen like the least kept secret it has been confirmed by the Vatican that Jacinta and Francisco Marto will be canonized during the Papal visit to Fatima in May. It also seems likely to think that Sister Lucia will be beatified sometime this year, since she is also connected with Fatima. Lucia’s cousins, Jacinta and Francisco will become two of the youngest saints who are not martyrs as they died at nine and ten.

Misericordia et Misera

To mark the end of the Year of Mercy Pope Francis has written an Apostolic Letter, in which he reflects on the year and what we should do. Pope Francis begins by saying that mercy need to be apart of our lives, looking at the Gospel story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11) the woman by the Law of Moses should be stoned, but Jesus reminds us the intent of the Law. There is love at the heart of the Law for it is God’s Law and God is love. Pope Francis goes on to the time the woman came and washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and anointed them, Jesus says that “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47) It all comes down to forgiveness which is the most visible sign of God’s love and mercy is a concrete action of love.

The letter goes into a what can we do now that the year is over. Francis make an appeal for confession and he says that the provisions made during this Jubliee year for regular priest forgiving Abortion and the faithful in SPPX communities can obtain absolution for their sins will continue. The Pontiff continues “The Jubilee now ends and the Holy Door is closed. But the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open.” Let us all remember that Mercy is available to all of us in all shapes. Pope Francis the names the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time as the World Day of the Poor. If you have some time over this upcoming holiday weekend take a look at this Apostolic Letter.  Mercy is distilled down to love, let us all go out into the world filled with love for one another.