Monday, August 15, 2016

Mary’s Assumption and Divine Mercy



Today's Gospel recounts Mary's visit of Elizabeth. Scripture scholars point out that various elements in this text can make us think of Mary Mary as being like the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was  made of acacia wood (see Ex 25:5), which was so strong it was basically indestructible. It wouldn’t decay. That detail can give us an insight into another aspect of Mary: her Assumption. This dogma of the Church, formally declared by Pope Pius XII, means that at the end of her earthly life Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. Her body didn’t decay in the grave, but Jesus brought Mary into heaven in a fully human way, her soul united to her body.
The Church has always venerated the tombs of its saints, but there is no tomb of Mary. Interestingly, the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from history. It was lost at a certain point in Israel’s history and has never been found. While this is not a proof of the dogma, still it can hint at Mary’s Assumption.
What is the point of the Assumption? It was part of God’s mercy toward Mary, a gift given to her to bring to fulfillment the role God had asked her to play. Having faithfully followed Jesus on earth, she is already united to him in heavenly glory. This anticipates what we too hope to receive at the final time of fulfillment when Christ comes again in glory. We too will rise with him to new life, and experience what we profess in the Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”
Death is the great shadow that hangs over us. All of us experience the death of loved ones, and we know that our turn will come in due time. But Jesus has assured us that death is the gateway to new life, and that by his own resurrection he will bring us to eternal life with him. This is the greatest mercy of all, the gift of eternal salvation.
As the Mother of Mercy, Mary is always ready to help us with her loving, tender intercession. She looks at us with love, just as she looked so tenderly at St. Juan Diego and asked him, “Do you need anything else?” Mary’s intercession is honored in the Church’s liturgy by the feast of her queenship celebrated August 22, one week after the Assumption. These two feasts are linked also in the rosary, being the fourth and the fifth glorious mysteries. When Mary was assumed into heaven, she wanted to keep on helping the members of the Church on earth. It’s similar to what St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, that she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth.
This intercessory role of Mary and the saints is not separated from Jesus, as if the saints help us apart from him. They pray for us as members of the whole body of Christ, just as we can pray for each other on earth. Once we get to heaven, this continues in an even more intense way. Mary’s intercession for us has a special character, in that it is a maternal mediation. St. John Paul stressed this in his encyclical Mother of the Redeemer. Mary is certainly subordinate to Jesus and everything she does draws its power from him. Still, because she is his mother, she has a unique role given to no one else.
At the wedding in Cana, Jesus worked his first miracle at the request of his mother, Mary. He changed water into wine, and abundantly so. Even though he seemed to rebuff her request, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” (Jn 2:4), he did it anyway. In some mysterious way, even now Jesus is always ready to grant the requests his mother makes of him. What would I like to ask?


Prayer

Mary my mother, I come to you with confidence and trust. I know that you are my spiritual mother and that you are very attentive to the needs of all your children. Please help me in my moment of need, (mention request), and ask Jesus to sustain me with his grace. Pray also for all those in the world who are in situations of special need. Cast your eyes of mercy on them as well.


Monday, July 18, 2016

St Camillus, an unlikely saint



Saint Camillus de Lellis (May 25, 1550 – July 14, 1614)
Patron: of the sick, doctors, nurses, hospitals, health-care workers
Even as a boy Camillus had a rough character. His mother died when he was twelve, and a few years later became a soldier, fighting alongside his father. They had the vices typical of a soldier’s life at that time, especially gambling. After his father died Camillus became a drifter who survived mainly by gambling. Because of a wound on his leg that wouldn’t heal, Camillus started working in a hospital in Rome. But he got into trouble on account of his bad temper and rough ways. He made some attempts to improve and even thought of becoming a friar. While doing manual labor at a Capuchin monastery his better nature started to show and he eventually made a complete conversion of life. Back at the San Giacomo hospital in Rome, he began in earnest to take care of the sick. Camillus also found a good spiritual director in Saint Philip Neri. Camillus was ordained as a priest when he was thirty-four. Against the advice of Saint Philip, he began a congregation to take care of the sick, known as the Clerics Regular, Ministers of the Sick. The work flourished and with great dedication Camillus and his men nursed the poor victims of the plague. They wore a large red cross on their habit.

Reflection

As a young man, Camillus certainly seemed like an unlikely candidate for sainthood. Yet the grace of God can do wonders with those who turn themselves over to God. What about me? What part of my life do I need to turn over to God so as to become holy?
Prayer
Saint Camillus, you like to say, “We want to assist the sick with the same love that a mother has for her only sick child.” Pray for us that we may have the same compassion toward those we are called to serve.

© 2016 Daughters of Saint Paul

Monday, July 11, 2016

St Thomas as a Teacher

Recently I've started to read some of the Scriptural commentaries of Thomas. They're very fascinating. I came across an interesting parallel text between his commentary on the letter to the Hebrews, and q. 36 in the first part of the Summa.

Both works come from his time teaching in Italy from 1265 to 1268. Although the two passages are dealing with different theological questions, when he talks about types of causes he uses the same examples in both of them. Perhaps he was in the habit of using similar examples in his teaching. In this case, the two texts are from about the same time, so it would make sense. Teachers often like to use their favorite comparisons in explaining something. While Thomas did dictate and write, much of his work involved teaching. He was in the classroom all the time, and this developed his theological thought. If we understand him as a teacher, I think we have an important key to his thought. The commentary on Hebrews was given as a lecture and Friar Reginald wrote down the notes.

The two examples involve the bailiff and the king, and the artisan and the hammer. Here are the texts:



From lecture 1, commentary on Hebrews:

“For through Him the Father made the world. But it should be noted that the grammatical object of the preposition ‘by’ or ‘through’ designates the cause of an act: in one way, because it causes a making on the part of the maker. For the making is midway between the maker and the thing made. In this usage the object of ‘by’ can designate the final cause motivating the maker, as an artisan works by gain; or the formal cause, as fire warms by heat; or even the efficient cause, as a bailiff acts through the king. But the Son is not the cause making the Father act through Him in any of these ways any more than He is the cause of His proceeding from the Father. But sometimes the object of ‘by’ designates the cause of the action, taken from the viewpoint of the thing made, as an artisan acts through a hammer; for the hammer is not the cause of the artisan’s action, but it is the cause why an artifact made of iron should proceed from the artisan, i.e., why iron [which the hammer strikes] be worked on by the artisan. This is the way the Son is the cause of things made and the way the Father works through the Son.”


From the Summa, I, q. 36, a. 3

“Whenever one is said to act through another, this preposition "through" points out, in what is covered by it, some cause or principle of that act. But since action is a mean between the agent and the thing done, sometimes that which is covered by the preposition "through" is the cause of the action, as proceeding from the agent; and in that case it is the cause of why the agent acts, whether it be a final cause or a formal cause, whether it be effective or motive. It is a final cause when we say, for instance, that the artisan works through love of gain. It is a formal cause when we say that he works through his art. It is a motive cause when we say that he works through the command of another. Sometimes, however, that which is covered by this preposition "through" is the cause of the action regarded as terminated in the thing done; as, for instance, when we say, the artisan acts through the mallet, for this does not mean that the mallet is the cause why the artisan acts, but that it is the cause why the thing made proceeds from the artisan, and that it has even this effect from the artisan. This is why it is sometimes said that this preposition "through" sometimes denotes direct authority, as when we say, the king works through the bailiff; and sometimes indirect authority, as when we say, the bailiff works through the king.”


Friday, June 03, 2016

What is devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?



Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque is well known as one of the most ardent promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart. But it did not originate with her. In fact, we could even say it began with Jesus himself when he invited us to rest in his heart. This invitation to find rest in the merciful heart of Jesus has consoled Christians throughout the centuries.

Many Church writers have spoken about the love of Jesus in reference to his heart.  This devotion developed as the Church meditated on the love of Jesus and gradually came to understand it better. In the Middle Ages, saints like Bernard of Clairvaux and Albert the Great preached and wrote about the heart of Jesus. This text from the Gospel of John in particular gave them much to meditate on:

So the soldiers came and they broke the legs of the first one and then of the other who had been crucified with him, but when they came to Jesus and saw that he had already died they did not break his legs, but, instead, one of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. And the one who saw it has borne witness and his witness is true, and he knows that he is speaking the truth so you, too, may believe. For these things happened so the Scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of his shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:32–37).

In the blood and water that flowed from the heart of Jesus, Christian writers saw the symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist. The great gift of the sacraments flowed from Jesus’ heart. Saint John Chrysostom wrote, “Since the sacred mysteries derive their origin from thence, when you draw near to the awe-inspiring chalice, so approach as if you were going to drink from Christ’s own side.” In light of all this, it is clear that devotion to the Sacred Heart is deeply rooted in Scripture and Catholic tradition.

It was through Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690), however, that the devotion went viral, so to speak. She was a cloistered nun from the Visitation convent at Paray-le-Monial, France. Jesus appeared to her several times and revealed to her how much he loved her and all people. He spoke of his desire that people would love him in return, and for this purpose, he wanted Margaret Mary to spread devotion to his Sacred Heart.

In the cloister she had little or no contact with the outside world; how was she to do what Jesus asked? The Lord himself gave her the means through a holy Jesuit, Saint Claude de la Colombière, who was her spiritual director. He realized that Margaret Mary’s charity, humility, and obedience reflected true holiness. Convinced that she was telling the truth, he asked her to write an account of her revelations. He himself began to preach about Jesus’ love for us in his Sacred Heart. 

Through Margaret Mary, Jesus requested that we honor his Sacred Heart by fervently receiving Holy Communion, especially on the First Friday of the month, and offering reparation for sins. Jesus also requested that a special feast day be established to honor his Sacred Heart. In 1765 the feast was officially observed in Poland, and in 1856 Pope Pius IX extended it to the universal Church.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is more than merely a devotion; it is the essence of the Gospel: to take on the heart of Jesus and live in his love and bring it to others. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: “The Son of God . . . loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, (cf. Jn 19:34) “is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that . . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings” without exception. (CCC 478, quoting Pope Pius XII, encyclical Haurietis aquas)
From Sacred Heart of Jesus Prayerbook to be published next January,

Copyright © 2016, Daughters of St. Paul

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mary, Mercy, and the Ark of the Covenant


The Gospel of Luke gives us the beautiful story of the Visitation, when Mary hastened to help her cousin Elizabeth. What does this have to do with mercy? First of all, Mary is doing a work of mercy in helping her older relative with this unexpected pregnancy. But the text has another theme, a bit hidden, that is also connected with mercy. Luke is hinting that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. What does this mean?

First, what was the Ark? It’s first mentioned in the book of Exodus and it represented the presence of God with his people Israel. The Ark was a large wooden box gilded with gold that contained three things: 1) some manna 2) Aaron’s rod, which budded, and 3) the tablets with the Ten Commandments.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The gold-plated cover of the box was called the mercy seat (kapporah in Hebrew; hilasterion in Greek). Later when the Temple was built, the ark was placed in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest would go once a year on the Day of Atonment. He would sprinkle blood on it and make an offering to God to atone for the sins of the people. The idea was that God would have mercy on the people and forgive their sins.

So the Ark of the Covenant had this close connection with mercy. We also find that in the New Testament, Jesus himself is the one who offered the perfect atonement for sins by his sacrificial offering of himself on the cross. The Greek word used for the mercy seat, indicating its role as an atoning sacrifice, is used of Jesus, for example, in Romans 3:25 where Paul says, “whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”

In the Visitation, we can see an important connection between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary. How so? First, consider that the Ark represented God’s presence among the people. As she went on her journey, Mary was already carrying Jesus. And since Jesus is God, Mary is the God-bearer. Here she is bringing Jesus, who is mercy itself and the one who will offer the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Mary was like a tabernacle for Jesus.

Luke’s text indicates this, as we can see by comparing it to 2 Samuel 6:1-19, where the Ark of the Covenant was transferred to a new location.

1) Dancing and joy
“David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the lord with all their might….” (v. 5)

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb” (Lk 1:39)

2) Humility before God’s presence

David said, “How can the ark of the lord come into my care?” (v. 9)

Elizabeth said, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:43).

3) Three months time span:

“The ark of the lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months” (v. 11)

“Mary remained with her about three months” (Lk 1:56)

4) Blessings from God’s presence in the Ark

“And the lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household” (v. 11)

Elizabeth told Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45)


What about us?
As baptized Christians we too have the presence of God in us through sanctifying grace and the sacraments, especially Communion. Like Mary, we can bring Christ to others through our words and actions.


Prayer

Mary, you were a tabernacle for Jesus, bringing him to others. Pray for us that like you, we too may recall his presence in us through grace, and always strive to lead others to your Son. Help us realize that everything we do can be a positive witness to the Gospel, so that through our lives others will be brought to Jesus.

© 2016, Daughters of Saint Paul

Friday, May 27, 2016

St Thomas and the Feast of Corpus Christi



Besides his great theological work, Thomas was a poet and hymn writer. He wrote his most famous hymns for the feast of Corpus Christi, which was first celebrated in 1246 in the diocese of Liège (Belgium). Under the inspiration of a devout group of women headed by St. Julienne of Mont-Cornillon, the bishop Robert of Torote approved their request to establish a feast in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ. It was a local celebration but soon began to spread. The Dominican Hugh of Saint-Cher approved it for use in Germany, where he was the cardinal-legate.
On August 11, 1264, Pope Urban IV established the feast for the whole Church through the publication of the papal bull Transiturus. Before becoming Pope, Urban had been in Liège and knew St. Julienne, so he was well acquainted with the background of the feast. However, in Italy the impetus for the feast originated with the Eucharistic miracle at Bolsena, a small town near Orvieto. A priest who was traveling through the area and who had been experiencing doubts about the Eucharist celebrated Mass in the town. During Mass the sacred host began to bleed, and the doubting priest reaffirmed his faith. The corporal he used is now venerated in the cathedral in Orvieto. This miracle stirred up popular Eucharistic devotion. Pope Urban asked Thomas to write the texts for the Mass and Office of this feast. This includes some of his most famous hymns that are still sung today and cherished by Catholics, such as the Pange lingua, Tantum ergo, and Panis angelicus. Although for a while some scholars had expressed doubts that Thomas was the author of the liturgical texts, more recent studies have concluded without a doubt that he indeed was (see Jean-Pierre Torrell, St Thomas Aquinas, vol. 1, p. 129-132). The theology of the texts is like Thomas’ autograph.
Although the feast was set for the Thursday following the octave of Pentecost, that first year it was celebrated in Orvieto in the late summer of 1264. Pope Urban died shortly after, on October 2. The implementation of the feast was never fully carried out until 1317 under Pope John XXII (who also canonized Thomas).

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.


Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio. Amen.



Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless majesty. Amen.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Nine: Self-Control

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control." Gal 5:22

This is the ninth and final fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions here in Galatians. He is not speaking of self-control only in the sense of a certain kind of asceticism, though we need that too. For Paul, if we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit himself enables us to live holy lives. We need to do our part, definitely, but it is primarily a matter of grace.
And God always gives that grace in abundance if we pray and ask for it. On Sunday when we celebrate Pentecost, pray for the Spirit to come upon you personally just as it happened on the first Pentecost. The apostles were waiting and praying in the upper room as Jesus had told them (see Acts 1:4, 13-14). When the Holy Spirit came upon them with power, they were transformed and spoke about Jesus with renewed boldness and zeal. The Holy Spirit will transform us too.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts!

In our congregation, today (Saturday May 23) we celebrate the feast of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Mary was the one most filled with the Holy Spirit. So here is a prayer that brings out that connection.



Mary, Transformer of the Apostles

Mary rejoice for the days you were in the Upper Room
with the Apostles and Disciples of your Son, Jesus.
You were teacher, comforter, and mother to all those
gathered in prayer awaiting the promised Holy Spirit,
the Spirit with the sevenfold gifts,
Love of the Father and of the Son;
Transformer of the Apostles.
Through your intercession and prayer obtain for us
the grace to realize the value of every human person
saved by your Son’s fidelity to the Father
to the point of offering his life on the cross.
May the love of Jesus urge us on for the Gospel.
May we feel in our hearts the needs of the unborn, of children,
of youth, of adults, of the elderly.
Grant that the vastness of Africa, the immensity of Asia,
the promise of America, the hopes of Europe, and Oceania
will attract us to share the message of the Gospel
with every person and in every culture.
May the apostolate of witness, prayer, the press,
films, radio, television, the Internet, social media and all media-technology,
draw many apostles to use these effective means
as ways to announce the Kingdom of God.
Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother,
Queen of the Apostles, our intercessor, pray for us.

Blessed James Alberione, SSP, adapted



Mary and the Holy Spirit

Unless we see Mary in relation to the Holy Spirit, we will never understand her role in the Church.

“The Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life” (St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John).

The Holy Spirit first came upon Mary at her Immaculate Conception, preserving her from original sin and filling her with grace. She was filled with the Spirit all through her life, but at certain moments received a greater outpouring of the Spirit:  at the Annunciation, on Calvary, and on Pentecost. At each of these moments the Holy Spirit changed Mary. In what way and why did it matter?

The Holy Spirit changed Mary by making her holy and by giving her a new mission. The role of the Spirit is not only to make us holy, but also to give us a mission in the Church. As St John Paul put it, “The Holy Spirit is indeed the principal agent of the whole of the Church’s mission” (Mission of the Redeemer, no. 21). With that in mind let’s dig a little deeper into these three moments in Mary’s life.

The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Lk 1:35). At that moment when Mary gave her consent, she became the Mother of God by becoming the mother of Jesus, who is God. That was a huge change for her, unique in the history of the human race. But that shouldn’t make us feel that Mary is distant from us. The mission she received then was not so much for herself but for us. Her mission was to give us Jesus in the flesh, the incarnate Son of God who came to earth to free us from our sins. The mission of Jesus depended on Mary. Without her, we wouldn’t have him. For many Christians, Mary’s mission stops here. But the Gospel leads us deeper.

On Calvary

“Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (Jn 19:25-27) What was going on? Certainly Jesus cared about his mother’s welfare and as a loving son wanted to provide for her. But John’s Gospel has layers of meaning, so there’s more to it.
The beloved disciple is never named in the Gospel. Many think that is because he represents the beloved disciples of every age, that is, all of us. Jesus was telling the disciple not just to take care of his mother, but also to accept her into his life of faith. In telling Mary “Here is your son,” Jesus was giving her many spiritual sons and daughters who would follow Jesus throughout the ages. Mary would help the beloved disciple more than he could help her, because of her spiritual motherhood.
With that gesture, Jesus finished his mission on earth and the Gospel tells us “Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Certainly that means that he died. But again, the text has a deeper meaning. Jesus is handing over the Holy Spirit to the Church, represented there by his mother and the beloved disciple (see I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Yves Congar, p. 52). This will become more definitive after Easter, but John is bringing out a connection between Jesus’ death on the cross and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Mary, receiving the Spirit again, is changed and is given the new mission of being the mother of the beloved disciples and indeed all of us.


Pentecost

Finally, on Pentecost we find Mary with the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). This new outpouring of the Holy Spirit again brought to Mary a new change and a new mission. This has to do with her role in the Church. Vatican II said of Mary that “the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church: the Mother of God is a figure of the Church in the matter of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ” (Lumen Gentium, no. 63).
Mary received a new motherhood in the order of grace (see John Paul, Mother of the Redeemer) by which she leads us to a deeper knowledge and love of her son, Jesus. As disciples, the more we ourselves are filled with the Holy Spirit, the more we will be changed to fulfill the mission God gives us. And the more we welcome Mary into our own lives as disciples, the more effective we will be.


Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!


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