Tag: Virgin Mary

When Mary Just Shows Up, Those Times We Least Expect

When Mary Just Shows Up, Those Times We Least Expect

In the challenges of life, Mary shows up and the Church in her wisdom, allows us to attend Mass on this special holy day. For some, the holy day might have been on your radar for a few weeks while for others a reminder at Sunday Mass or from your family prompts your attendance. We can say that Mary simply shows up in our life today as we celebrate her assumsption into heaven.

In my experience, Mary has a tendency to show up in our lives at times when we least expect.The Book of Revelation recounts John’s vision of heaven. And in all that he saw and wrote, Mary shows up, that is, if we grant that the woman of Revelation 12 is Mary. Some scholars recommend other possibilities, but as we read it within the context of the Assumption, our minds cannot help but think that it is Mary.

From the Bible, Mary shows up at the home of Elizabeth. After she received the angelic visitation and learned about the workings of God not only in her life, but also in the life of her aged cousin Elizabeth, Mary goes in haste and shows up at her home. Elizabeth wasn’t expecting her visit, but she joyfully receives her, calling her blessed among women.

Elsewhere in the Gospel it is true, as well. Mary shows up at the wedding feast of Cana (see John 2:1–12). Yes, she was invited, but her presence there commences Jesus’ public ministry by pointing out the simple fact there was no more wine. Because she showed up and spoke to her son, the couple was spared embarrassment. Mary showed up at the foot of the cross, too. Every other apostle, save one abandoned Jesus at the cross. Mary remained faithful with John. And because she showed up, Jesus spoke those words which echo within the Church today, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27).

Mary has shown up in the lives of countless people throughout the centuries. One group of people include visionaries, who went about the happenings of their ordinary day, only to be granted a vision of Mary, which changed their lives forever.  She shows up in those places to bring a message to the world.

In Champion, Wisconsin, it was to pray for the conversion of sinners; and in Fatima, Portugal, it was to request the daily recitation of the rosary and Marian consecration.

Because Mary shows up in these places, she changes the course of history, bringing an end to war and communism. Mary showed up in the life of St. John Paul II on May 13, 1981, when an assassin attempted to kill the Holy Father. Mary showed up, and as he often would say, guided the bullet, and spared his life.

Mary has a habit of just showing up in our lives. When I’m driving down the country roads in rural Wisconsin, and looking at the homes I pass by, I often see a statue of Mary, reminding me that she is my mother, she loves me as her child, and consistently intercedes for me.

The presence of Mary in our life today, through the celebration of the Assumption, is a reminder to us that Mary shows up in our lives. Because she was taken by her son, body and soul into heaven, Mary now can have a more complete love and care for the Church. When she lived her life with the early Church, she could only love those who were proximately close to her. But now, because she is assumed into heaven, she loves all the children of the world with a motherly love. We can beseech her to pray for us at a moment’s notice, and she will show up and offer her prayers to God for us.

In your own life, be attentive to the moments when Mary shows up, through the gift of an answered prayer, or in the unexpected moment when you need a reminder of God’s love. Stay devoted to her, and we can hold fast to our belief she will show up at our death, and her prayers will assist us on our journey to that kingdom, where she lives with her Son, Our Lord and savior.

What We Learn From the Gratitude of the Blessed Virgin Mary

What We Learn From the Gratitude of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“You who are most bountiful, do return great favors for small services.”

– St. Andrew of Crete

Tired and hobbling on an ankle I’d just sprained after falling in our front yard, I dragged my daughters Veronica and Felicity to the voting precinct on a blustery, dreary autumn morning. Veronica, in the throes of toddler-hood, was cranky due to the recent time change, and she was hungry. Felicity was equally tired and leaning on my shoulder as I stood in line for who knew how long.

The weeks had not been kind to me: Sarah’s behavior had steadily declined, and she had yet to be diagnosed by a psychiatrist. My husband Ben’s job grew more and more demanding, and the commute on a dangerous highway had become mentally draining. For me, the fourth pregnancy at an advanced maternal age was not easy. I had to receive frequent progesterone shots, which were painful, and blood tests every three weeks, as well as allergy shots and check-ups with various specialists.

Standing in line, then, I decided I could take no more. In desperation, I prayed to Our Lady, “Please, dear Mother, please help me get through this line without any tantrums or major issues.” Not surprisingly, she prayed for me. It was unusual for me to take Veronica anywhere those days without her erupting into a major meltdown, but she remained calm and fairly content as I meandered through the voting line.

Should it surprise any of us, then, when we ask the Blessed Mother for favors, both great and small? St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote in The Glories of Mary that merely greeting her with, “Hail, Mary” is enough to beckon her to our help for anything we desire. Praying one Hail Mary with sincere devotion is more than enough for her gratuitous favors, lavished upon our lives like spring rain showers.

Here are some lessons we can glean from Our Lady’s overwhelming gratitude to God:

She Is Generous to Us As God Was Generous to Her

“Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1: 30).

There is nothing Mary refuses a soul that is sincere, humble, and approaches her with genuine need. Authentic relationship of any kind requires vulnerability, and when we decide to open our hearts to her, she softens as any mother does, responding to us with whatever we need. Consider moments in your life when you’ve asked a favor of Mary, and she never fails to deliver — often beyond our expectations or even wishes.

Her Gratitude Is Sincere

“Gratitude of itself makes us sincere – or if it does not, then it is not true gratitude.”

– Thomas Merton

“He has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness” (Luke 1: 48).

If one reads the entire Magnificent prayer, it’s clear that Mary was pouring her heart to God in gratitude for the blessings of her life. She had just received word that she was chosen to be the Mother of God, and after she accepted, her heart was flooded with thankfulness, expressed by praising and honoring God, reflecting upon her lowliness, and checking how God’s mercy is adequate to all those who are poor in spirit.

If we desire to imitate her, we must likewise make our lives a continual prayer of praise to God, recalling all of the ways He has blessed us with His incredible mercy and frequently reflecting upon His goodness.

She Is Always Responsive

“Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly becoming aware to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.”

– Thomas Merton

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit gladdens in God my savior” (Luke 1: 46-47).

One who practices grateful living is not glum and does not hang his head and wear a frown every day. Rather, a grateful person is:

  • Cheerful;
  • Kind;
  • Generous;
  • Helpful;
  • Welcoming;
  • Friendly;
  • Responsive to others’ needs.

These, and far more, exemplify the life of gratitude that Our Blessed Mother emanated with every fiber of her being. In as much as how we feel, do we greet people with a smile and friendly wave or hello? If so, we are practicing the same gratitude of Our Lady.

She Recognized That Everything Comes From God

“To be grateful is to understand the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything.”

– Thomas Merton

“The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1: 49).

One who grumbles and gripes about every little disappointment is not a person of gratitude. It’s not difficult to get bogged down with the burdens of life; everywhere we turn, there’s some major national disaster or tragedy staring us in the face. We cannot move away from the reality of pain or of the effects of the human condition.

But we can decide to acknowledge that nothing happens in the world, or in our lives, without first going through God’s hands. That truth is hard to accept, because it means we have to wonder why God, who is perfect Love, would permit such horrific and disturbing pain. When we believe with the heart of Mary, we don’t have to have all the answers to our questions. We simply see God for who He is and thank Him for every good gift and big calamity alike.

A grateful heart is one that constantly hopes, searches for what is good, and discoveries the beauty of life.

What You Should Know About the Immaculate Heart of Mary

What You Should Know About the Immaculate Heart of Mary

One of the most common Marian devotions in the Catholic Church today is that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, mostly honored alongside the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion has its roots in the Scripture, which makes frequent mention of Mary’s contemplative heart, for example in Luke 2:19:

“But Mary exalted all these words and thought about them in her heart.”

According to Catholic doctrine, Mary is the Immaculate Conception; that is, in the getting ready for the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity in her womb, Mary was conceived without the corruption of original sin, and was preserved from committing any actual sins throughout the course of her life through the infinite merits of her Son, Jesus Christ. She was virginal not only of the soul, but also of the body, both before and after giving birth to Our Lord.

Our Lady was created literally “Full of Grace” as the Archangel Gabriel declared at the Annunciation, meaning that her soul was literally adorned with all of the virtues at the moment of her conception, as well as all the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

This fullness of grace is said to stem out from the center of her being—her heart—understood both physically and spiritually. It is Mary’s heart, in its unspoiled created perfection, that is the source and wellspring of her purity . . . therefore her heart is called Immaculate.

Our Lord took His sacred humanity from the flesh and blood of his Blessed Mother; Christ’s heart is taken from her heart. At Calvary, the perfect hearts of Jesus and Mary were joined for the salvation of mankind. And this is why the Two Hearts are exalted together.

While the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the source of Christ’s burning love for humanity, and is largely spurned by the indifference of mankind towards Him, the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the source of Our Lady’s burning love for God and her wish to bring souls to her Son, and is so often outraged by the offenses of mankind committed against her love.

Over the centuries, as the saints and theologians reflected on what it means for Our Lady to have pondered and treasured the sacred events from the life of Jesus in her heart, as attested in Scripture, Mary’s heart began to be recognized as something to be emulated in daily routine.

Devotion to Mary’s holy heart then developed, in much the same way as it did for the Sacred Heart, which was physically pierced by the lance on the Cross to give Eternal Life to men. So also does Mary’s heart, which was also pierced (as prophesied by Simeon) in union with her Son, give life—that is, grace—to the Christian soul.

Beginning in the Middle Ages, this devotion to Our Lady’s purity of heart began to flower, culminating in St. John Eudes actively making known the devotion in the 17th century alongside that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He also worked to have a feast established for the Immaculate Heart of Mary, starting in his native France.

After the 1830 apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Paris, which gave rise to the Miraculous Medal, efforts were renewed to have a devotion to the Immaculate Heart instituted as a feast for the universal Church. In this Marian apparition, Our Lady showed St. Catherine Laboure an image of a medal to be struck which would obtain many graces for those who wore it faithfully, mostly the grace of conversion for sinners.

On the front of the medal was an image of Our Lady encircled with the words, O Mary, Conceived Without Sin, Pray for Us Who Have Recourse to Thee, confirming the dogma of her Immaculate Conception. One the reverse was an image of the Cross of Christ surmounted by the letter “M”, and below it, the symbols of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary side-by-side, thus confirming the devotion to her holy heart.

The spreading popularity of the Miraculous Medal soon gave rise to a Marian confraternity based on her Immaculate Heart and her authority to convert sinners. The Notre-Dame-des-Victoires of the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners was established in Paris in 1836 and quickly spread all over the world, with many graces, especially the repentance of sinners, obtained as a result. Then, in 1855, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (or Most Pure Heart of Mary) was confirmed by the Vatican, however, without establishing it for the universal Church.

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary rose to a new level after the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. In her visitations to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, Our Lady revealed a vision of her Immaculate Heart encircled with thorns which showed the many sins committed against her. At Fatima, Our Lady asked for Russia to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart in order to prevent many problems from occurring in the Church and throughout the world.

Lucia describes the vision:

“As Our Lady spoke these last words, she opened her hands and for the second time, she communicated to us the rays of that same immense light. We saw ourselves in this light, as it were, immersed in God. … In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and searching reparation.”

At Fatima, Our Lady also revealed her request for the faithful to make Communions of Reparation to her Immaculate Heart on five consecutive first Saturdays of the month. Therefore devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is closely related with acts of reparation for sins in order to get the salvation of sinners. When Sr. Lucia later inquired from Our Lord why he would not convert Russia without having it consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lord said,

”Because I want My whole Church to affirm that Consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that it may extend its cult later on, and put the Devotion to My Mother’s Immaculate Heart beside the Devotion to My Sacred Heart.”

After the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was instituted for the universal Church by Pope Pius XII in 1944. The feast was first celebrated on August 22nd, the octave day of the Solemnity of the Assumption. It was later changed to the Saturday adhering the feast of the Sacred Heart so that the Two Hearts would appear side-by-side, Friday and Saturday, on the liturgical calendar. August 22nd was then made the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, connecting the Assumption to her reign in heaven (the 4th and 5th Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary).

Traditionally, the Church admonishes special devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during the entire month of August.

Today, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary remains on the level of a memorial. Hopefully, as the requests of Our Lady of Fatima are more widely heeded, the Immaculate Heart of Mary will enjoy a reserved place in the heart of each and every Catholic around the world.

7 Things You Wish To Know About The Immaculate Conception

7 Things You Wish To Know About The Immaculate Conception

8th December is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It celebrates a crucial point of Catholic teaching.

These are 7 things you need to know about the teaching and the way the feast of Immaculate Conception is been celebrated.

What is the Immaculate Conception?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it thus:

490 To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”. In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was essential that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the time of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin

Who does the Immaculate Conception refer to?

There’s a well-known idea that it refers to Jesus’ conception by the Virgin Mary.

It doesn’t.

Instead, it refers to the special way in which the Virgin Mary herself was conceived.

This conception was not virginal. (That is, she had a human father as well as a human mother.) But it was special and unique in another way. . .

Does this mean Mary didn’t need Jesus to die on the Cross for her?

No. What we’ve already quoted states that Mary was immaculately conceived as part of her being “full of grace” and thus “redeemed from the moment of her conception” by “a singular grace and right of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race.”

The Catechism goes on to state:

492 The “splendor of completely unique in holiness” by which Mary is “blessed from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”. The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and select her “in Christ before the basics of the world, to be holy and without sin before him in love”.

508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. “Full of grace”, Mary is “the most excellent fruit of redemption” (SC 103): from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she stayed pure from all personal sin in her entire life.

How does this make Mary a parallel of Eve?

Adam and Eve were both created immaculate–without original sin or its stain. They fell from grace, and through them, mankind was bound to sin.

Christ and Mary were also conceived immaculate. They stayed faithful, and by them, mankind was redeemed from sin.

Christ is thus the New Adam, and Mary the New Eve.

The Catechism notes:

494 . . . As St., Irenaeus says, “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. .: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.” Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary “the Mother of the living” and frequently claim: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.”

How does this make Mary an icon of our own destiny?

Those who die in God’s friendship and thus go to heaven will be freed from all sin and stain of sin. We will thus all be rendered “immaculate” (Latin, immaculatus = “stainless”) if we remain faithful to God.

Even in this life, God makes us pure and disciplines us in holiness and, if we die in his friendship but imperfectly purified, he will cleanse us in purgatory and render us immaculate.

By giving Mary this grace from the first moment of her conception, God revealed us an image of our own destiny. He reveals to us that this is possible for humans through his grace.

John Paul II noted:

In pondering this mystery in a Marian perspective, we can say that “Mary, at the side of her Son, is the most perfect image of freedom and of the freedom of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Libertatis conscientia, 22 March 1986, n. 97; cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 37).

Let us focus our gaze, then, on Mary, the icon of the pilgrim Church in the wilderness of history but on her way to the glorious destination of the heavenly Jerusalem, where she [the Church] will shine as the Bride of the Lamb, Christ the Lord.

How do we celebrate the Immaculate Conception?

In the Latin custom of the Catholic Church, December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In the United States and in a number of other countries, it is a holy day of duty.

Was it important for God to make Mary immaculate at her conception so that she could be Jesus’ mother?

No. The Church only speaks of the Immaculate Conception as something that was “fitting,” something that made Mary a “fit habitation” (i.e., suitable dwelling) for the Son of God, not something that was important. Thus in preparing to define the dogma, Pope Pius IX stated:

And consequently they [the Church Fathers] agreed that the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, completely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was constantly united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant; that she was never in darkness but always in light; and that, therefore, she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace. . . .

For it was certainly not fitting that this vessel of election should be wounded by the common injuries, since she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin. In fact, it was quite fitting that, as the Only-Begotten has a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol as thrice holy, so he should have a Mother on earth who would never be without the splendor of holiness