Friday, May 23, 2008

Our Lady of Sheshan

Pope Benedict recently made public a prayer he composed for Catholics in China. There is a shrine to Our Lady of Sheshan. This prayer is interesting because the Pope refers to Mary's cooperation in the work of redemption:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians," the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously co-operated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross. Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter. Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trails, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus. In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built. Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!


Anonymous said...

Catholics need to speak the truth to everyone, especially in Marxist China! All that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good men and women to do nothing, and so it is in our time. People in the West have so much material things that they don't need God, so people really need to wake up and acknowledge their need for God.

James M. Essig said...

As a Catholic, I find myself often pondering the most profound mystery for which we Catholics and other Christian denominations on Earth are aware of, and that is the very existential and ontological attributes of GOD, in particular that of the HOLY TRINITY.

We in the Western Tradition of Theology and Philosophy have a history of categorizing GOD in terms of Platonic or Ancient Greek ideals, concepts, or forms such as; pure absolute infinite being, all-knowing, immutability, perfect and infinite good, and the list goes on and on.

The language of modern psychology has given us new forms of language and associated concepts such as the concept and wordage of personality, interpersonal relationships, intimacy, and the like.

GOD is not just some abstract being that is impersonal, but rather is someone. Since the primary distinction between the Three Divine Persons is the fact that they are distinct persons, we can conclude that GOD also has the perfection of personhood, personality, etc., to the ultimate and absolutely unfathomable infinite extent.

Commensurate with this infinite perfection of personality is the ability for interpersonal relation and interpersonal intimacy among the Three Divine Persons. Thus, one aspect of the Holy Trinity is to be a Life of Pure Infinite Interpersonal Relationship or Intimacy.

I make these comments especially to all of those who have found themselves trapped in dysfunctional and hurtful relationships who are looking for something much greater, something that only GOD can provide.

Yes, the Church and Sacred Scripture teach that homosexual acts are wrong as well as fornication, adultery, and the like, however GOD is looking to share with you and me, in fact with all of us, His nature in a form that is pure, sinless, infinitely intimate and loving in manner. God loves you with a love beyond all imagining. This love is not just some abstract ultimate good or intellectual ascent to the great good you are. It is directed and oriented toward who you are as you. God would walk the road of the cross and crucifixion for each one of us if it were necessary for our salvation.

We again in the Western tradition have often categorized human make- up as body and soul, intimately united so as to form one being or substance (in the ontological sense of the word), almost as if the Body was just an entity, the soul was just an entity, or the body/soul combination was just an entity. However, there is yet a deeper spiritual dimension within us and that is the “who we are” and not simply the what we are.
Our eternal destiny is to have this “who we are” raised to a supernatural level to a degree that we just cannot comprehend in this life. A great theologian, I forget his name, sometime around the late 19th Century or early 20th Century once said that we see just a glimmer of our souls in this life, as if the glimmer on a vast ocean infinite and unfathomable. Within our souls is a depth of being and an ocean of existence that is infinite and incomprehensible. This is how God sees us right now, not only in our ontological makeup, but also in the concrete existential “who that we are”.

Our Lady, The Immaculate Conception and Mother of God and your spiritual mother and my spiritual mother is also waiting to embrace you with a tenderness beyond your comprehension as only a Mother can do who has had the existential and ontological nature of Her motherhood exalted above all other creatures to the throne of Her Divine Son by the power of God. Mary is truly the Queen of Heaven, the Queen of All Saints, the Queen of All Angels, the Queen of the Cosmos. For those of us who are mothers, be proud of your maternal and spousal vocation. Cherish your vocation. For the greatest creature is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is greater than every thing not GOD, greater than any ordained priest or minister, greater than any angel, greater than any Saint. GOD chose to exult her to the throne of her Divine Son in likeness and glory. She is truly full of grace. I encourage all women to look up to not only Our Lord Jesus Christ, but also to His Mother. In an age where woman are still held back by so-called glass ceilings, are the victims of domestic violence in various places and cultures, and are mocked by others for bearing children, simply tell yourself that such negativism is sheer nonsense because how else would Jesus have been born to have a human nature if it were not for the maternal dignity of the womanhood of Our Lady. Our Lord Jesus has the ultimate respect for the beauty and dignity of woman and the vocation to be a mother. After all, that is how he was incarnated into the world.

For those within our family of the Church, our extended families including children who have or will choose the vocation of marriage, whether within the Catholic Church, as a Christian in general, or even through the authorities that are vested in state officials who perform marriages, you know the passion, intimacy, and delight of the company of your spouse or you will know the passion, intimacy, and delight of the company of your spouse which you have felt to the depth of your consciousness. Imagine the joy felt among the Persons of the Holy Trinity as a Divine analogue to this love between spouses and between parent and child as amplified to an absolutely indefinable degree in nature and in magnitude. This is the love that God has for you, your spouse, your children. This love of God for each and every one of us can never be extinguished or diminished no matter what sins we have committed or will commit. God is waiting to embrace all of us when we arrive on the other side in the visibility of the fullness of God’s Glory.

As we struggle with the news of terrorist attacks, the development of WMDs by rouge terrorist sponsoring nations, the chaos that seems to be overtaking our climate, the various disasters that almost seem to be all the more common as of late, and just the hassles of everyday life, know that the whole human family in Heaven will be just that, a perfect family. No more suffering, anger, lack of respect, manipulation, envy etc., for our family will be so exulted in the quality of familial life that the Brady Bunch will look like Hell in comparison.

GOD loves you with an interpersonal warmth and intimacy that we simply cannot comprehend on Earth. To paraphrase the Holy Bible, "GOD knew you before He formed you in the womb."

I can well imagine that since GOD is inexpressibly exulted beyond all that we can comprehend and define, that the mystery of the HOLY TRINITY is just one of an infinite number of mysteries concerning the existential and ontological nature of GOD that we will have access to in the depths of all Eternity in the next life.

Many years ago, as I was having some personal trials and great difficulties, my sister Mary who is a devout Christian would console me with the words, “Jim, this life is just a stepping stone in eternity!”

Know that you are wanted by God, regardless of what you choose to do in life. Whether you have a call to be married, single, a celibate religious, a deacon, a priest, a bishop, and the like, know that God loves you just the way you are beyond all telling.

I personally have let many people down in life. Know that God will never let you down. He only builds you up.

God Bless All of You;