Redemptoris Mater: Part 2-The Mother of God at the Center of the Pilgrim Church

Last week I covered Part 1 of this encyclical, Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on Mary. This week we will look at the second part about how Mary is involved in the Church today.

John Paul II begins the second part by borrowing the analogy from Vatican II as the Pilgrim Church is like Israel in the desert of the Old Covenant. The Church is destined to reach all the ends of the earth but this journey is not only external but also internal. This is where Mary comes into the picture, the Council say that Mary’s role in Salvation history makes her a mirror in which the mighty works of God are reflected. From the beginning of the Church Mary is there at Pentecost with the apostles when the Holy Spirit came down upon them she was praying in the Upper Room. Although she wasn’t given the mission to preach to all nations like the apostles, Mary still plays a huge role as the Church looked at Mary through Jesus, she is always the Mother of Jesus  and he was Mary’s Son. This is a simple place for people to go to as everyone has a mother. The Apostles planted the seeds of faith but it is Mary who was provided the seeds since she is the first believer.

John Paul then moves on to the Church today and say that ecumenism is the key. He pulls from Lumen Gentium which says that Christians must deepen in themselves and each of their communities that “obedience of faith” of which Mary is the first and brightest example. And since she “shines forth on earth,…as a sign of sure hope and solace for the pilgrim People of God,” “it gives great joy and comfort to this most holy Synod that among the divided brethren, too, there are those who live due honor to the Mother of our Lord and Savior. This is especially so among the Easterners.” Mary is the role model for all of us in how to lead our Christian lives and she is a big deal with the Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental churches and offers examples of how Mary plays a role in their church. Then John Paul says that “Such a wealth of praise, built up by the different forms of the Church’s great tradition, could help us to hasten the day when the Church can begin once more to breathe fully with her “two lungs,” the East and the West. As I have often said, this is more than ever necessary today. It would be an effective aid in furthering the progress of the dialogue already taking place between the Catholic Church and the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West”.  This is a hope of many people.

John Paul II reminds us of the Magnificat, saying that it links us to Mary. The Magnificat is the Canticle that Mary says in Luke’s Gospel when she visits Elizabeth and is said daily by those who do Liturgy of the Hours at Vespers. For many of us we might hear it sung at a liturgy or read at the Assumption but that’s about it. This prays reminds us that Mary is constantly present with us in our journey of faith.  Let us remember and recite this prayer with the hope of remembering Mary in our lives, this prayer can be our words today as we praise God for all that the Lord has done for us. Let us remember and recite this prayer with the hope of remembering Mary in our lives, this prayer can be our words today as we praise God for all that the Lord has done for us.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” (Luke 1:46-55) RSV-CE

Next week we will be looking at Part 3: Maternal Mediation as well as the Conclusion as we close out the month of May.

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Redemptoris Mater: Introduction

Redemptoris Mater is the latest encyclical on the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was written by Pope John Paul II in 1987. Today, I am looking at the Introduction of the Encyclical, this is a short section so this will be a short post today.

John Paul begins reflecting on Mary through the lens of Paul and Vatican II in the mystery of Christ. Mary and Jesus don’t exist without each other and in turn the Church herself doesn’t as well. John Paul also wants to reflect upon Mary’s active and exemplary presence in the life of the Church, he notes that we are following a path Mary has already trod. As the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium says Mary is our beloved Mother and the model of the Church in Faith Hope and Charity. Pope Paul VI wrote a bunch about Mary after Vatican II where he looks at the veneration and devotions to Mary. Then the focus shifts to the upcoming millennium celebration (2000) of the birth of Christ and notes that some individuals have called for a celebration of Mary prior to Christ. John Paul says that Mary is like Advent. For liturgically speaking we also celebrate Mary’s birth before that of Christ, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. We then go into a history lesson of Mary going back to the Council of Ephesus which Mary is named/celebrated as the Mother of God the Theotokos (God-bearer) to Vatican II where they said that the Mother of God is already the eschatological fulfillment of the Church. In spite of being the fulfillment Mary is still that paragon that those still on our journeys of faith can look to.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Gospel this week takes the cake, it’s the Good Shepherd, so the other readings get forgotten. We begin in Acts where Peter addresses the people saying in a round about way that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. Just as the cripple was healed in the name of Jesus so to will we all be saved in him. He quotes the psalm “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” and mean that Jesus is the stone and it is only through Christ that we can gain salvation. Peter’s a bit harsh on this as the Church has walked this back a bit over the years notably in the Vatican II document Nostra aetate.

In the second reading we once again hear from John’s letter and the focus this week is love, “The father loves us and we are called children of God, but the world does not know us because they do not know the father.” This image is to help us recognize the Lord in our lives since we all have fathers to relate to but the Lord is more than one parent but rather both father and mother. The world might know us a little better now it helps that Christianity is the largest religion in the world, but this is a two way street we need to learn about other religions to see where other people are coming from. The past decade around the world Muslims are dealing with a lot of hostility although only a small fraction of them are in ISIS or Al-Queda, but Muslims recognize Jesus as one of the great prophets and are a lot like us. Let us not forget about the militant Christians who sacked Constantinople and Jerusalem it is not best to uses these individuals to illustrate all members of the religion.

Finally the Gospel is John’s account of the Good Shepherd. Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, calls them all by name. If a wolf were coming he would stick beside the sheep and defend them as well, he is like Toby from Sweeney Todd who sings “Nothing’s gonna harm you not while I’m around.” I hope that we can remember this during the week that the Good Shepherd is a pretty awesome individual and through this person we can find salvation.

Lesser known saints

Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum (died 270)
This group is a family of saint, husband, wife, and their two sons. Not much is really known about them. According to sources they were martyred for sympathizing with and burying Christians. I only mention them since there are not too many families which you could call all members saints, with the exception of the Martin Family.

Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c. 304)
Agnes is one of the eight women mentioned during the Eucharist prayer. She is the patron saint of a wide variety of things (chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins). According to tradition Agnes was martyred at 12 or 13 and she was sentenced to be pulled naked through the streets to the brothel that much the various sources agree upon. However various legends about about how exactly it happened, one says Agnes prayed and her hair grew covering herself another says that the men who attempted to rape her were struck blind. In another account Agnes is tied to a stake and they set it on fire and the flame don’t touch her. She is an interesting young woman and your should go and read more about her.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 – 444)
Cyril is a Church Father, a Doctor of the Church and has the titles of “Pillar of Faith” and “Seal of all the Fathers.” He’s pretty important as he wrote a lot and formed the base of mariology (Blessed Virgin Mary) that we know today. Cyril also was a central figure at the Council of Ephesus where Nestorianism became a heresy.

Vincent Pallotti (21 April 1795 – 22 January 1850)
Vincent Pallotti was born of a noble Roman family at 16 he decided to become a priest.  Soon there after he was ordained. As a priest he worked selflessly for the poor opening schools for tradesmen to learn more about their trade. Some people were calling him a second Phillip Neri. Pallotti founded the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, known as the Pallottines. They follow Pallotti’s belief that all are called to revive faith, rekindle charity and be apostles. Vincent Pallotti is an incorrupt saint. John XXIII named him a Saint in December of 1963 and is considered one of the patrons of Vatican II.

Paul VI

Finally the moment has arrived Pope Paul VI is going to be beautified, with all the talk about the other Vatican II popes (John 23 and JPII) and all the news coming out about the recent gathering of bishops. Paul VI has gotten lost in the middle of all of this.  Paul VI will be Beatified on Sunday at the Vatican as one miracle has been confirmed. Perhaps someday there will be another one and Paul VI will join John 23 and JPII as saints.

For most people of my generation we spent a majority of our lives living with John Paul II as Pope but it is Paul VI that has had the largest impact on our lives. As Paul VI basically fostered Vatican II and symbolically placed the Papal Tiara upon the altar at St. Peter’s as a sign of the renunciation of human glory and power in keeping with the renewed spirit of Vatican II. His Tiara was then donated to The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC where it is kept on display as a gift to all American Catholics. The papacy of Paul VI is when most of the Vatican II Documents came out, and is perhaps best known for a couple of ground breaking Encyclicals Humanae Vitae and Populorum progressio.

Paul VI was born Giovanni Montini in 1897. He was raised in a nice family and went to a Jesuit school, in 1916 Giovanni entered Seminary and by 1922 he was working under Pizzardo in the Roman Curia. in 1939 his friend Eugenio Pacelli became Pope Pius XII and Montini and Tardini were two of his closest allies. As the years went by Montini, Tardini and Pius XII were side by side during WWII and they tried to help as many people as possible. Montini was named Archbishop of Milan in 1954. Montini like working in a parish and interacting with people.  Montini told his congregations to love all people  including the schismatics, Protestants, Anglicans, the indifferent, Muslims, pagans, atheists. He even wrote friendly letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury after a group of Anglican clergy visited Milan.

While archbishop he became friends with Angelo Roncalli,  and it was a lasting one. Roncalli became John XXIII and eventually opened up a Council of which Montini said “This old boy does not know what a hornets nest he is stirring up.” John XXIII wanted the Council to end to coincide with the ending of the Council of Trent, although some believe this was more to do with John 23’s declining health. Montini was am important part of John 23’s Vatican, he was became a cardinal and would travel the world even coming to the US in 1960.

When John XXIII died many people thought that Montini would become the next Pope and that is just what happened Montini became Paul VI. As Pope, Paul VI continued the Council and firmly established what they were going to focus on. Paul VI also did a lot to reform the Church as a whole modifying the Curia as well as the Liturgy significantly. Paul VI was Pope during many years of chaos in the world, but he got a lot done as Pope.

Pope John XXIII

Today is the first feast day of Pope John XXIII, it is one of the unusual feast days as it is not on the day of his birth or death but on the date that Vatican II began. It also marks the beginning of this blog. It has been 52 years since The Good Pope John opened the council and I have tried to make some of the documents of Vatican II understandable, I’ve tried to keep up but done one so far I think, but more should be coming soon. I hope to get into the constitutions Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes as well as many of the Decrees and Declarations in the little over a year that we have left in this anniversary celebration.  When John XXIII was canonized many places around the internet gave nice biographical sketches of the Pope. I am sure they can still be found, or if you want to pull it from the Vatican they have one up as well along with other documents from John XXIII. In a matter of days Paul VI will be beatified and John Paul II will have a feast day as well. I hope that all three of these Pope can inspire us in the upcoming week.

 

 

Lesser Known Blesseds

While I was going through the Saint during Lent as I came closer to modern times the number of Saints dwindled as the number of Blessed increased. I stumbled across a whole bunch of wonderful individuals who have not been named saints yet.

Franz Jägerstätter, O.F.S., (20 May 1907 — 9 August 1943)

I first heard about Franz Jagerstatter in a homily back some time in like August of 2007 shortly after he was declared a martyr. Franz was born in Austria to an unwed mother, Rosalia Huber. His biological father died in WWI and his mother married Heinrich Jägerstätter in 1917 and Heinrich adopted Franz. Like his mother Franz had a child out of wedlock and in 1936 he married a deeply religious woman Franziska Schwaninger. They would have three daughters.

In 1938 when the Germans came into Austria he was the only one in his village not to vote for the Anchulss. Franz would continue to be anti-Nazi and he joined the Third Order Franciscians but in 1940 he would be conscripted into the army. When he came home from basic training Franz was a mess as he started thinking about the morality of war he  would talk to the local bishop about this but they got nowhere. Franz was eventually called into service in the Wehrmacht and when he arrived he declared his conscientious objection. Franz would offer to be a paramedic but they did not listen to this and threw him into jail. Franz was tried for undermining of military morale and was put to death by guillotine. I find his story interesting as he was just a regular guy and most of the time Saint are such great people who started some religious orders or were Popes.

Giovanni Battista Montini (Paul VI) (26 September 1897 – 6 August 1978)

Pope Paul VI has recently had a miracle confirmed so he will become a Blessed. Paul VI was the other Vatican II Pope as he was elected after John XXIII passed. Paul VI is best know for doing away with much of the regalness of the Papacy, he was the last Pope crowned and at the end of the second session of Vatican II he would leave his Papal Throne and place the tiara on the altar in a gesture of humility and as a sign of the renunciation of human glory and power in keeping with the renewed spirit of the Council. His Tiara is on display at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Paul VI did a bunch of other things too, whenever the beatification takes place I will have more about him as well.

John Paul II

I am sure by now you’ve had it up to here with things about John 23 and JP2 but this is a brief overview on Karol Wojtyla.

Karol Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, Poland on May 18 1920. His mother died when he was 8. Wadowice had a large Jewish population so he had hands on experience with them for a long time. In 1938 Karol and his father moved to Krakow where Karol enrolled in Jagiellonian University, it is here when he found a talent for words, writing plays and he began learning languages picking up at least 12, nine of which he used as Pope. In 1939 the Nazi forces came and shut everything down and Karol worked in a limestone quarry. A few year later his father died leaving Karol the only living member of his family. After his father’s death he felt called to the priesthood.

Karol participated in the underground seminary in Krakow and saved many a Jewish individual as well. In 1946 he was ordained a priest. The following year he was sent to Rome and went to school. By 1949 Karol was teaching at Jaglellonian and The Catholic University of Lublin, Wujek and his students there formed a group the Rodzinka, little family, and they went on many a skiing and kayaking trip. In 1958 he was named auxiliary bishop of Krakow. 1962 was a big year with the Archbishop of Krakow dying in June Karol was named temporary administrator of Krakow in July and in October he was participating at Vatican II  while there he helped influence Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes.

In 1964 Karol was named Archbishop of Krakow and only three year later in 67 he was raised to a cardinal. In 1967 he was instrumental in the formulation of Humanae Vitae George Weigel suggests that the poor reception of the encyclical is due to the fact that Karol Wojtyla’s book Love and Responsibility says the same things only better.

In 1978 Paul VI died in August so Karol went to the Vatican for the conclave after 4 ballots Albino Luciani was elected and he took the name John Paul. About a month later in October the cardinals gathered again in the Vatican as John Paul had passed away. This time it took 8 round of ballots but Karol was elected Pope and took the name John Paul II.

John Paul II had an affinity for the Blessed Virgin his coat of arms being a Marian Cross and his motto being Totus Tuus (totally yours). John Paul also wrote the second most about Mary out of all the Popes, behind only Pius XII. John Paul wrote an encyclical, apostolic letter and address. The month of May is one of the months set aside in which we honor Mary. I hope that this May we can dive into some of our most recent Saint’s Marian documents and grow closer to our heavenly mother.

Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II

Yesterday was a big day in the Catholic Church, a day which many media outlet are calling The Day of Four Popes. Pope Francis enrolled The Good Pope, John XXII and for so many in my generation simply The Pope, John Paul the Great. At the canonization Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was one of the co-celebrants, make this an event with four Popes. This canonization highlights Vatican II as an important part of the life of the Church as the architect of Vatican II (john XXIII) and the interpreter (John Paul II). I will talk more about both Saints later this week. Pope Francis had a beautiful homily today which focused on the wounds of Christ.

This was the first canonization mass I have ever watched and it is a beautiful ceremony and the Vatican had the booklet for the ceremony online which can be used to follow along. If you were not able to watch it live you can watch it online on Vatican Radio. The ceremony gives a glimpse at the Latin Mass and it is accessible thanks in part to the booklet provided. It was reported that 500,000 were in St . Peter’s Square, throughout Rome there were about 800,000, and worldwide watching who really knows how many people were witnesses to this historic day.