Category: Catholic Prayers

5 Reasons to Honor Mary This May

5 Reasons to Honor Mary This May

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It’s been a long-standing Catholic tradition to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary during the month of May. In most Catholic churches (and even in many Catholic homes), a “May Altar” is erected with a statue or picture of Mary, flowers, and perhaps candles. The altar stands from May 1-31 as a reminder of Mary’s importance in the life of the Church and in our own lives as well.

Additionally, many Catholic churches and families hold a “May Crowning,” presenting Mary with a crown made of blossoms or other hand-crafted materials to signify her queenship as the mother of Christ, the King. I’ve even seen some crowns made of glistening metal and synthetic jewels.

Why is the entire month of May given to the honoring of Mary?

The tradition dates all the way back to the ancient Greeks who dedicated the month of May to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity. Romans also claimed May to honor Flora, the goddess of bloom or blossoms. They celebrated “floral games” at the end of April and petitioned Flora’s intercession for all that blooms. In medieval times, a tradition arose of expelling winter at this time of year, since May 1 was considered the start of new growth.

It was during the Middle Ages (eleventh century) that the idea of giving the month of May to Mary began with an old tradition, the “Thirty-Day Devotion to Mary”, which was originally held August 15-September 14. During the month, special devotions to Mary were organized, and this custom, which began in Italy eventually spread elsewhere.

Although we don’t see Mary as a goddess of any sort – Catholics do not worship Mary, we honor, or venerate, her as Jesus’ mother – we’ve adapted the early Greek and Roman customs of honoring important women in their religions by honoring the most important woman in our religion: Mary.

Fine. That’s why Catholics in general honor Mary during Mary, but why should you honor her?

Here are five reasons why it makes sense for you to honor Mary this month.

1. Mary is Jesus’ mother. She is the instrument of the Incarnation and her yes, or fiat, made it possible for our Lord to become the God-Man who was Crucified for our salvation.

2. She is the first and most perfect disciple. Mary was the first to hear the Good News, and the first to follow Christ. Her entire life was devoted to him and assisting him, in whatever way she could, to carry on his mission. Unaffected by Original Sin, she was able to perfectly open herself to God’s will.

3. She’s your mom. No, really. She is. To put it simply, she’s our mother because we are all members of the Body of Christ. Since she gave birth to that Body, then she’s our mother, too. At the moment she gave her fiat, she became our mother in the order of grace. She may not have given birth to us physically, but she certainly has given birth to us spiritually. (Check out CCC #964)

4. She loves you more than you can ever imagine. If she didn’t, would she have endured the horror of seeing her Son tortured, scourged, crowned with thorns, carry the Cross to Calvary, and die a gruesome death on it? She did it for you, for all of us, because she understood that Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion was the only way to your (our) salvation. She loves you like no human mother ever could.

5. Not only is she Mother, but she also is Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix (CCC #969). Her job, so to speak, began at the moment she conceived Jesus in her womb and continues until this day. What’s more, it will continue for all eternity. As the first and most perfect disciple, she is devoted to accompanying him and continuing her saving office by interceding for us so that we may receive the gifts of eternal salvation. She’s at work 24/7/365/forever, for whatever we need, whenever we need it.

For all these reasons and more, Mary deserves honor, not only during the month of May, but always.

What will you do for her this May?

Saint of the Day for Saturday, May 18th, 2019

Saint of the Day for Saturday, May 18th, 2019

St. Pope John I

Image of St. Pope John I

Facts

Feast day: May 18
Death: 526

St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Feast day – May 18) A native of Tuscany in Italy, John was elected Pope while he was still an archdeacon upon the death of Pope Hormisdas in 523. At that time, the ruler of Italy was Theodoric the Goth who subscribed to the Arian brand of Christianity, but had tolerated and even favored his Catholic subjects during the early part of his reign.

However, about the time of St. John’s accession to the Papacy, Theodoric’s policy underwent a drastic change as a result of two events: the treasonable (in the sovereign’s view) correspondence between ranking members of the Roman Senate and Constantinople and the severe edict against heretics enacted by the emperor Justin I, who was the first Catholic on the Byzantine throne in fifty years.

Spurred on by the appeals of Eastern Arians, Theodoric threatened to wage war against Justin but ultimately decided to negotiate with him through a delegation of five Bishops and four senators. At its head he named Pope John – much against the latter’s wishes.

Little is known for certain about the nature of the message which the Pope bore and the manner in which he carried out his mission. What is known is that he succeeded in persuading the Emperor to mitigate his treatment of the Arians and thus avoid reprisals against the Catholics in Italy.

The Pope’s visit also brought about the reconciliation of the Western and Eastern Churches which had been plagued by a schism since 482 when Zeno’s Henoticon had been published. However, Theodoric had been becoming more suspicious with each passing day.

While waiting for the delegation to return, he ordered the execution of the philosopher Boethius and his father-in-law Symmachus on a charge of treason; and as he got word of the friendly relations between the Pope and the emperor, he concluded that they were plotting against him.

Hence, on the delegation’s return to the capitol city of Ravenna, Pope John was imprisoned by order of Theodoric and died a short time later as a result of the treatment he experienced there

I Started Praying with Mary and This is What Happened

I Started Praying with Mary and This is What Happened

For a long time I faked having a relationship with Mary. Even after I had a relationship with God, and leadership roles at my parish I just didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t even know how to correctly say the rosary until I did summer missions in college. So many women in my life told me about their incredible devotion to Our Lady and I just didn’t get it. I thought maybe Mary picked favorites. That some people could have a relationship with her and some people just didn’t make the cut. I figured I would just keep praying the same way I always had and if Mary wanted to pick me, she would.  

I did the consecration to Jesus through Mary for the first time my sophomore year of college. Even then, nothing really seemed to click for me. I posted a photo at the end of it that made me look super cool and Marian grace filled but in reality, I didn’t feel like anything had changed. My roommate had an incredible relationship with Mary and that added to the mystery surrounding Our Blessed Mother for me. I wanted the relationship my roommate had, but had no idea how to get there.

After many rosaries, consecrations, and discussions, it ended up just being the Holy Spirit that led me to Mary. Go figure. I was in the chapel after a particularly frustrating few months in my relationship with the Lord. I had tried so many times to give my life to Him. To surrender everything. Yet, I still found myself holding on and I was tired of always being back at the same point. It was in this moment of weakness, frustration, and disappointment that Mary broke through my defenses.

I understood that I couldn’t just give everything to God, I was too weak. But Mary gently took everything I was holding so tightly to and directed me towards Jesus. Her comforting, motherly presence led me to have peace in surrender. Finally, I understood why my friends relied so heavily on their relationship with Mary.

I realized that giving my life to Christ on my own was too much for my little soul and the only way to grow closer to Him was to let Mary, my gentle mother, guide me there. That was when I realized how much I need Mary and the role she plays in my salvation even today, years after her “yes” to the angel.

God can come to us without Mary, He doesn’t need anything extra to encounter and love us. But sometimes, our human hearts need help. That’s where Mary comes in. In John 19:26 Jesus says to John, the beloved disciple, “behold your mother.” In that moment, Jesus was giving all of us a gift- a heavenly mother to watch over us and lead us to Him.

She takes all of our failures and faults and presents them to Jesus like flowers and trophies. She intercedes for us and pleads for the grace we need to move forward in our journey to sainthood. Mary joins the angels in protecting us from the evil one and as the spouse of the Spirit bestows special graces upon even the littlest of her children.

What Mary’s Example Can Teach Us

What Mary’s Example Can Teach Us

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by an unexpected challenge or responsibility? Do you feel worn down by the daily struggle of making ends meet? Maybe you are among the millions who feel bewildered and afraid because they have had to leave their homeland as refugees. And who of us has not experienced deep pain and emptiness after losing a loved one in death?

DID you know that Mary, the mother of Jesus, faced all those challenges? What is more, she met them successfully! What can we learn from her example?

Mary is certainly known worldwide. And no wonder, for she played a unique role in the outworking of God’s purposes. Moreover, Mary is venerated by many millions of people. The Catholic Church reveres her as a beloved Mother and as a model in faith, hope, and charity. Many have been taught that Mary leads humans to God.

How do you view Jesus’ mother? And more important, how does God view her?

A Unique Assignment

Mary, the daughter of Heli, belonged to the Israelite tribe of Judah. The first mention of her in the Bible is in connection with an extraordinary event. An angel visited her and said: “Good day, highly favored one, Jehovah is with you.” At first, Mary was disturbed and “began to reason out what sort of greeting this might be.” So the angel told her that she had been chosen for the amazing but also extremely serious assignment of conceiving, bearing, and raising God’s Son.​—Luke 1:26-33.

What a responsibility was placed on the shoulders of this young, unmarried woman! How did she react? Mary might well have wondered who would believe her story. Might such a pregnancy cost her the love of Joseph, her fiancé, or might it subject her to public shame? (Deuteronomy 22:20-24) She did not hesitate to accept this weighty assignment.

Mary’s strong faith enabled her to submit to the will of her God, Jehovah. She was convinced that he would look after her. She thus exclaimed: “Look! Jehovah’s slave girl! May it take place with me according to your declaration.” Mary was willing to face the challenges that lay ahead because she valued the spiritual privilege she had been offered.​—Luke 1:38.

When Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant, he intended to break off their engagement. That must have been a time of great anguish for both of them. The Bible does not say how long this difficult period lasted. However, both Mary and Joseph must have felt extremely relieved when Jehovah’s angel appeared to Joseph. That spirit emissary explained Mary’s extraordinary pregnancy and directed Joseph to take her home as his wife.​—Matthew 1:19-24.

Hard Times

Today, many mothers-to-be spend months preparing for the arrival of a baby, and Mary may have done the same. This was to be her first child. Yet, unexpected events complicated her plans. Caesar Augustus decreed a census, requiring all to register in their town of origin. So Joseph took Mary, now in her ninth month of pregnancy, on a journey of about 90 miles [150 km], likely on a donkey’s back! Bethlehem was crowded and Mary needed somewhere private to give birth, but the only place available was a stable. Giving birth in a stable must have been hard for Mary. She may well have been both embarrassed and scared.

In these critical moments of her life, Mary surely poured her heart out to Jehovah, trusting that he would care for her and her baby. Later some shepherds arrived, eager to see the baby. They reported that angels had called this child “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Then we read: “Mary began to preserve all these sayings, drawing conclusions in her heart.” She meditated on these words and drew strength from them.​—Luke 2:11, 16-19.

What about us? We are likely to suffer pain in life. Furthermore, the Bible shows that “time and unforeseen occurrence” can befall any of us, throwing all manner of hardships and challenges in our path. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) If that happens, do we turn bitter, blaming God? Would it not be better to imitate Mary’s attitude and draw closer to Jehovah God by learning from his Word, the Bible, and then meditating on what we have learned? Doing so will surely help us to endure trials.

Poor and a Refugee

Mary faced other hardships too​—including poverty and a forced flight from her homeland. Have you faced such challenges? According to one report, “half the world​—nearly three billion people—​live on less than two dollars a day,” and millions more struggle to make ends meet even though they live in so-called wealthy countries. What about you? Does the day-to-day grind of providing your family with food, clothing, and shelter tire you out, even overwhelm you at times?

The Bible indicates that Joseph and Mary were relatively poor. How so? Among the few facts that the Gospels​—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—​reveal about this couple is that 40 days after Mary gave birth, she and Joseph went to the temple to make the required offering​—“a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”* (Luke 2:22-24) This sacrifice was allowed only for those who were too poor to offer a young male sheep. Thus, making ends meet was likely a struggle for Joseph and Mary. Even so, they succeeded admirably in creating a loving family environment. Doubtless, spiritual concerns were their priority.​—Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.

Not long after Jesus’ birth, Mary’s life was once again turned upside down. An angel told Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-15) This was the second time that Mary had to leave a familiar environment, but this time she had to go to a foreign country. Egypt hosted a large Jewish community, so Mary and Joseph may have been able to live among their own people. Nonetheless, living in a foreign country can be challenging and disorienting. Are you and your family among the many millions who have left their homeland, perhaps for the welfare of their children or to escape danger? If so, you can well understand some of the hardships that Mary may have faced in Egypt.

A Devoted Wife and Mother

Apart from the accounts of the birth and infancy of Jesus, Mary is mentioned little in the Gospels. Yet, we know that Mary and Joseph had at least six other children. You may find this surprising. However, consider what the Gospels say.

Joseph had great respect for Mary’s privilege of bearing God’s Son. Consequently, he refrained from having sexual intercourse with her before Jesus’ birth. Matthew 1:25 states that Joseph “had no intercourse with her until she gave birth to a son.” The word “until” in this verse indicates that after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary had normal sexual relations as husband and wife. The Gospel accounts say that, as a result, Mary had children with Joseph, both sons and daughters. James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas were Jesus’ half brothers. She had at least two daughters. (Matthew 13:55, 56) However, these children were conceived in the usual manner.

Mary was a spiritually-minded person. Although the Law did not require women to attend the Passover celebration, Mary customarily accompanied Joseph on the annual journey to Jerusalem for the festival. (Luke 2:41) That would have involved a round-trip of nearly 190 miles [300 km] each year​—with a growing family! But these trips were doubtless happy family occasions.

Many women today imitate Mary’s fine example. They work hard and selflessly to fulfill their Scriptural obligations. How often these devoted wives show great patience, endurance, and humility! Reflecting on Mary’s attitude helps them keep spiritual matters ahead of their own desire for comfort and pleasure. They know, as Mary doubtless did, that worshipping God together with their husband and children strengthens and unifies the family.

Once when Mary and Joseph were returning from a festival in Jerusalem​—probably with several children now—​they realized that 12-year-old Jesus was not with them. Can you imagine the distress Mary felt during the frantic three-day search for her son? When she and Joseph finally found him in the temple, Jesus said: “Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” Again, says the account, Mary “carefully kept all these sayings in her heart.” Here is another indication of Mary’s depth of spirituality. She carefully meditated upon all that happened regarding Jesus. Years later, she likely recounted vivid memories concerning this and other events of Jesus’ early life to the Gospel writers.​—Luke 2:41-52.

Enduring in the Face of Suffering and Loss

What became of Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father? After briefly appearing in the description of that one incident from Jesus’ youth, Joseph disappears from the Gospel record. Some take this absence as an indication that Joseph died sometime before Jesus’ ministry began.* In any case, it does seem that Mary was a widow by the end of Jesus’ ministry. At the time of his death, Jesus entrusted his mother to the apostle John. (John 19:26, 27) Jesus would not likely have done so if Joseph were still living.

Mary and Joseph had been through so much together! They were visited by angels, escaped a tyrant, relocated several times, and raised a large family. How many evenings must they have sat together and talked about Jesus, wondering what he would have to face in the future, concerned about whether they were training him and preparing him in the right way? Then suddenly Mary found herself alone.

Have you lost your mate in death? Do you still feel the pain and emptiness such a loss causes, even after many years? No doubt Mary found solace in her faith and in the knowledge that there will be a resurrection. (John 5:28, 29) Such comforting thoughts, however, did not end Mary’s problems. Like so many single mothers today, she faced the challenge of caring for her children without the help of a husband.

It is reasonable to believe that Jesus took over as the main breadwinner of the family when Joseph died. As Jesus’ brothers grew, they would be able to accept their share of family responsibilities. When Jesus “was about thirty years old,” he left home and commenced his ministry. (Luke 3:23) Most parents have mixed emotions when a grown son or daughter leaves home. So much time, effort, and emotion are invested in children that a huge void may seem to linger when they leave. Have any of your sons or daughters left home to pursue their goals? Are you proud of them, but at the same time, do you sometimes wish they were nearer? Then you can imagine how Mary may have felt when Jesus left home.

Unexpected Trials

Another of Mary’s trials was one she probably never expected. As Jesus preached, many followed him​—but not his own brothers. “His brothers were, in fact, not exercising faith in him,” say the Scriptures. (John 7:5) Mary, no doubt, told them what the angel had told her​—that Jesus was “God’s Son.” (Luke 1:35) Still, to James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, Jesus was just their older brother. So Mary found herself in a family with differing religious viewpoints.

Did Mary get discouraged and give up on the situation? Absolutely not! On one occasion when Jesus was preaching in Galilee, he went to a house to eat, and a crowd gathered to listen to him. Whom do we find outside looking for him? Mary and Jesus’ brothers. So when Jesus was near the family home, she followed him and evidently took her other children along with her, maybe hoping that they would change their attitude toward him.​—Matthew 12:46, 47.

You may similarly be faced with the challenge of striving to follow Jesus while other members of your family do not want to do so. Do not become downhearted, and do not give up! Many, like Mary, have patiently encouraged family members for years before seeing any real change. Such endurance is precious to God, whether other humans respond or not.​—1 Peter 3:1, 2.

The Hardest Challenge

Mary’s last trial, as recorded in the Scriptures, was no doubt the most heart-wrenching. She watched her beloved son die in agony after he was rejected by his people. The death of a child has been described as “the ultimate loss,” “the most devastating death,” whether the child is still young or he is an adult. Just as had been foretold decades earlier, Mary felt as if a sword had been run through her!​—Luke 2:34, 35.

Did Mary let this final test destroy her emotionally or let it weaken her faith in God? No. The next time Mary is mentioned in the Bible record, we find her with Jesus’ disciples, “persisting in prayer” with them. And she was not alone. Her other sons, who by this time had begun to exercise faith in their older brother, were with her. How that must have comforted Mary!—Acts 1:14.

Mary had a full and satisfying life as a faithful woman, wife, and mother. She had many spiritually rewarding experiences. She overcame many tests and trials. When we face unexpected challenges or when we are anxious over family problems, we can certainly learn from her example of faithful endurance.​—Hebrews 10:36.

What though, can be said about Mary as an object of special religious devotion? Does the Bible account of Mary’s unique role justify her being venerated?

[Footnotes]

One of the birds was offered as a sin offering. (Leviticus 12:6, 8) By presenting it, Mary acknowledged that she, like all other imperfect humans, had inherited the consequences of the sin of Adam, the first human.​—Romans 5:12.

It has been noted that Joseph’s absence from the record of Jesus’ ministry is remarkable because Jesus’ other family members​—his mother, brothers, and sisters—​are mentioned. At the wedding feast in Cana, for example, we see Mary actively involved and even taking some initiative, but there is no sign of Joseph. (John 2:1-11) In another incident, we find the people of Christ’s hometown referring to the man Jesus, not as the son of Joseph, but as “the son of Mary.”​—Mark 6:3.

Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?

Yes, he did. Some theologians have tried to argue their way out of that truth, though the Gospels several times clearly reveal the fact. (Matthew 12:46, 47; 13:54-56; Mark 6:3) However, Bible scholars have noted two things about the theories that Mary bore no other children. One, there is a motive behind such theories​—to uphold a doctrine that arose much later, the church teaching that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life. Two, the theories themselves do not hold up under scrutiny.

For example, one such theory suggests that the “brothers” in question were stepbrothers​—sons of Joseph by an earlier marriage. This notion lacks substance, for it would actually deny Jesus the legal right of the firstborn to inherit the kingship of David.​—2 Samuel 7:12, 13.

Another theory is that these brothers were actually cousins of Jesus, although the Greek Scriptures use distinct words for “brother,” “cousin,” and “relative.” Thus, scholar Frank E. Gaebelein calls these theological theories farfetched. He concludes: “The most natural way to understand ‘brothers’ . . . is that the term refers to sons of Mary and Joseph and thus to brothers of Jesus on his mother’s side.”

She Had the Courage to Change

Mary was born into a Jewish family, and she followed the Jewish religion. She attended the local synagogue, as the Jewish place of worship is called, and she visited the temple in Jerusalem. As Mary’s knowledge of God’s purposes grew, however, she came to see that the traditions of her fathers no longer had God’s approval. Jewish religious leaders had her Son, the Messiah, put to death. Before that happened, Jesus announced to them: “Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matthew 23:38) God withdrew his blessing from the religious system in which Mary had been raised.​—Galatians 2:15, 16.

When the Christian congregation was formed, Mary may have been about 50 or so. What would she do? Did she reason that she had been born into the Jewish religious system and that she wanted to remain loyal to the traditions of her forefathers? Did she say that she was too old to change? Of course not! Mary understood that God’s blessing was now with the Christian congregation, so she had the faith and courage to change.

Fleeing to Egypt as refugees

The worst experience a mother can go through