Our Blessed Lady's Living Faith: Thursday, February 28, 2019


J.M.J.



Our Blessed Mother possessed a “living faith,” meaning that she believed actively all the truths revealed by God on the basis of His authority. If He revealed them, then that was enough for Our Lady.

Mary’s was a dynamic faith. The profundity and fervor of that faith intensified with each passing day.

Passionist Father Giacomo Pesce hailed the Ever-Virgin Mother of God as a “model of faith.” Mary possessed a faith that was heroic, prudent and fruitful. And her faith was proven. Just as silver is tried in the fire and gold in the furnace, and the Lord tests hearts (see Proverbs 17:3), so the faith of Our Lady was tried and shown to be splendid!

Mary believed deep within her Immaculate Heart that her Son Jesus was the Creator of the world even when He was weak and suffering in Bethlehem’s rustic cave. She knew Him to be the King of Kings while she and her chaste spouse, Saint Joseph, fled with the Child to Egypt in order to escape the treacherous grasp of King Herod. She was convinced that He was the Omnipotent One despite His neediness and subjection to others. She acknowledged Him to be the “Joy of Paradise” notwithstanding His infant tears. She admitted that He was the wisdom and the strength of God although He grew in age, wisdom and grace before God and men. She knew that He had descended from Heaven in order to conquer Satan and to redeem humanity—never mind His exhausting work as a carpenter at the side of His foster-father.

Why did Jesus, who miraculously multiplied the bread and fish, not provide the Holy Family of Nazareth with a plethora of money? Why did Jesus, the true Messiah, stir up hatred and aversion against Himself? Why was Jesus the target of more spying than any murderer or thief? Why did the Father allow His Divine Son to be so mistreated? Why did the Father not permit the Sacred Divinity of His Son to be recognized? Why did the Father allow His Divine Son to take on the likeness of sinners even to His ignoble death on the Cross?

Father Pesce marveled at the incredible faith of Mary. “All these questions Our Lady heroically overcame. In all these terrible trials, the Virgin Mary repeated: ‘Behold the handmaiden of the Lord!’”

In capturing his own wonderment, Father Pesce names ours, too. “We admire the Madonna who did not vacillate during the most difficult hours; on the contrary, she became a very brilliant beacon for all Christians.”

As sons and daughters of God the Father, brothers and sisters of God the Son and temples of God the Holy Spirit, we have inherited the magnificent faith of Mary our Spiritual Mother. With the abundant grace provided by the Lord, Our Blessed Lady went forward in faith. We treasure her example and seek to imitate it.
We rightly conclude with a prayer offered by Father Pesce: “Virgin Mary, we believe all that God commands us to believe. Reinvigorate our faith. Increase it in such a way that we believe with all our hearts.” 

Mary, model of faith, pray for us!


A Worthy Companion Along the Path to Heaven: Memorial of Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, Religious, Wednesday, February 27, 2019


J.M.J.

"I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God's Holy Will, not my own!" This inspiring motto for daily living was expressed by Francesco Possenti (1838-1862), known in the religious life as "Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother." This youthful Saint, touched profoundly by the Holy Spirit, exemplified the burning desire to embrace the Lord's plans--regardless of the cost--rather than his own.
For various reasons but especially due to his remarkable abandonment to Divine Providence and to the care of his beloved Madonna, Saint Gabriel, whose Feast is today, is an excellent companion for us as we prepare for Ash Wednesday.
Francesco Possenti was born on March 1, 1838 in Assisi, Italy, one of thirteen children. His early life as a young adult was marked with a strong love for "the world": theatre and hunting were among his pursuits.
Having decided that the Lord had other designs for him, Francesco entered the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, commonly referred to as the "Passionists." He spent his days in prayer, sacrifice and contemplation of the Sacred Passion of Jesus and the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. In time, Gabriel received Minor Orders in preparation for the Holy Priesthood.
Gabriel cultivated a tender affection for the Mother of God. He wrote:
"Love Mary! . . . She is lovable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful Heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity."
This religious died of tuberculosis in the Abruzzi region of Italy on February 27, 1862, just two days shy of his 24th birthday.
Many miracles were attributed to Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother after his death. In fact, the extraordinary Gemma Galgani (1878-1903), who one day would also be raised to the glories of the Altar, was healed and consoled by his intercession and even his mysterious presence in several visions.
On May 31, 1908, Pope Saint Pius X (1903-1914) beatified Gabriel. On May 13, 1920, Gabriel was canonized by Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), who exhorted young men and women to pattern themselves after his sterling example. And in 1959, Pope Blessed John XXIII (1958-1963) named him the Principal Patron of the Abruzzi region.
Saint Gabriel's love for Jesus and Mary as well as his continual surrender to the Divine Will is a challenge to all of us who are preparing for the forty days of Lent, which abound in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our efforts are meant to make us, like Saint Gabriel, more conformed to the Crucified Christ Who laid down His life for each of us.
Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, pray for us!


The Son of Mary Was Obedient Unto Death: Saturday, February 9, 2019


J.M.J.


“He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” (Philippians 3:8)

At a very tender age, many of us learned the sacred truth undergirding the solemn celebration of Christmas: the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity became incarnate to save us from the terrifying sin and everlasting death ushered into our human condition by Original Sin.

The Eternal Son of the Father willingly took on our human flesh. He is Jesus Christ, the God-Man and our long-awaited Redeemer.

There was nothing for the Son to gain for Himself by becoming man. He was already perfect—and perfectly happy. But He obeyed His Beloved Father and came to earth to pull us out of the spiritual misery caused by the disastrous sin of Adam and Eve.

By being miraculously conceived in His Ever-Virgin Mother’s chaste womb by the Holy Spirit, Jesus demonstrated His unbounded love for His Father and for us—His needy brothers and sisters.

The virtue of humility was clearly evident in all that Jesus said and did. He came to glorify His Father, not Himself. But in glorifying the Father, Jesus was glorified by His Father!

All disciples of Christ desperately require humility, that resplendent virtue which allows them to see: a.) themselves as the Lord sees them; and b.) their personal part to play in the Kingdom of God.

We must beg from God that authentic humility so that we may be pleasing to Him and more able to do whatever He desires of us.

The Servant of God Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) was the Vatican Secretary of State under Pope Saint Pius X (1903-1914). Born in London of Spanish lineage, this devout and learned priest recited the “Litany of Humility” daily after he offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We may benefit greatly from this poignant prayer, which serves as a profound meditation on the splendor and necessity of humility.

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O Jesus! meek and humble of Heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

O Mary, my Mother, how greatly I love You! And yet, how little is my love! You teach me all that is necessary for me to know, because You teach me what Jesus is for me and what I ought to be for Jesus.

---

We ask the Prince of Peace to give to us the inspiring humility that shone through Him and His Mother. May we be all for the Baby Jesus, knowing that we are, and have, nothing apart from Him.




The Obedient Mary: Memorial of Blessed Pius IX, Pope, Thursday, February 7, 2019



J.M.J.


Our Blessed Mother’s constant practice of the virtue of obedience was nothing short of perfect. Her entire existence can be summed up in a simple but profound phrase: to do always the Will of God.

How may we characterize Our Blessed Lady’s stellar obedience?

Mary obeyed always. No one can point to a moment from her Immaculate Conception in the previously sterile womb of her mother St. Ann to her Coronation by the Most Blessed Trinity as the Queen of Heaven and Earth in which the Mother of God refused her Lord anything. Her answer was always “yes”—“yes” to love, to sacrifice, to hardship. God had only to ask, and Mary’s response was always the same: fiat—“Let it be done as You say.”

Mary obeyed unhesitatingly. Our Lady needed no time for deliberation on whether to obey. She responded immediately and affirmatively to the Lord without delay. Her delight was to obey God with all rapidity.

Mary obeyed selflessly. She never asked herself: “Is this in my best interest?” “Would I be hampered if I obeyed?” Such self-seeking questions were the farthest removed from her mind. She obeyed without selfish consideration of the future. She surrendered equally to both joys and sorrows.

Mary obeyed cheerfully. Who can imagine Mary with a “long face” when she was called to embrace some sacrifice? No, she was continually joyful in her obedience, no matter what God required of her. Mary’s was a deep joy that never escaped her soul.

If we wish to drawer closer to Jesus Christ, then we must take a page from His Ever-Virgin Mother’s Immaculate Heart and obey as she did. Our obedience, too, must be always unhesitating, selfless and cheerful.

This task is not easy, to be sure. Rather, it demands much from each of us. Yet, obedience is possible! And it is necessary if, like Our Mother, we are to inherit the Kingdom of God.

In our world where obedience is regarded as weakness and a lack of self-assertiveness, the example of Our Blessed Lady provides a necessary corrective. She is the beautiful model of obedience. She gladly exalted God’s Will in her life. We can even say that His Will became her will, so much did she yield to it.

In her own stirring example, Mary reminds us that obedience to God is where our treasure and unending happiness lie. By clinging to His Will instead of our own, we grow in the very life of God.

Our Blessed Mother never tired of obeying Her Divine Son. She did everything that she was asked by God. And all that she did was carried out with intense love for and gratitude to her benevolent Creator.

How was it that Mary understood the importance of obedience? What special insight did she have?

Having been filled with the Holy Spirit at the instance of her Immaculate Conception, Our Lady knew what was proper and just. Her decisions were blest because she made them humbly and with reference to Almighty God and His Eternal Law.

Are our decisions blest? Yes, if they are made humbly and with reference to God. By our daily prayer, frequent and worthy reception of the Holy Sacraments (especially Penance and the Most Holy Eucharist) and regular acts of charity and self-denial, our minds, too, become increasingly enlightened. Then, we see with the eyes of God and do as He wishes.

The virtue of obedience is within our grasp. We turn to Our Blessed Lady and seek her intercession so that we may behave as she did. Our reward will be like hers: Everlasting Life with the Most Blessed Trinity forever!


A Distinctly Marian Season: Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle, Friday, November 30, 2018


J.M.J.



The Church’s extraordinary wisdom is illustrated in numerous ways, one being the very existence of Advent. We are granted several weeks to make ready for the Solemnity of the Birth of Christ.

Such a period of prayerful preparation if sincerely “entered into” ensures that December 25th will not be just another day but instead a joyful, authentic commemoration of the first coming of Jesus over 2,000 years ago.

Mothers could tell us much about preparation. They are well aware of how to make ready for the birth of a child. The period of pregnancy helps mothers—and fathers—to adjust and anticipate the arrival of their son or daughter.

The Blessed Virgin Mary experienced the first Advent. She knew, thanks to the Archangel Gabriel, that the holy Child within her was “the Son of the Most High.” She intensely waited the appearance to the world of the One nestled in her chaste womb.

The long anticipation of the people of Israel rested with Mary.

The Chosen People had spent centuries preparing their hearts for the Messiah. Now, this unique woman, during her Advent of nine months, shouldered the hopes of Zion.

Our Lady’s pining for the Birth of the Savior is the pattern for us. Jesus Christ wants to be with us in our joys and sorrows. Therefore, to benefit from the annual celebration of Christmas, we commit ourselves to an Advent lived in the spirit of Mary. Here are some tried-and true Advent “exercises” to help us prepare for Christmas.

Prayer. Advent calls forth our prayer by reminding us that Jesus, Who came to redeem us from Original Sin, desires that we pray because He knows how our relationship with Him, His Father and Their Holy Spirit needs to be nourished. He taught His Apostles to pray. He teaches us to do the same.

+++Spend extra time in personal prayer, read Chapters 1-2 from the Holy Gospels according to Saints Matthew and Luke, go to Confession during Advent, receive the Most Holy Eucharist more often and more devoutly.

Self-denial. We are to be fortified in order to welcome Jesus again at Christmas. How pleased He will be if we show Him that we have cooperated with the Holy Spirit, thereby being genuinely converted to the principles of His Holy Gospel. Self-denial effects our detachment from the things of the world.

+++Deny yourself some legitimate pleasure, mortify your anger, stem your curiosity.

Service. The Birth of Jesus was about obeying His Father and serving us. Christ undertook His mission as the Suffering Servant Who selflessly laid down His life in adoration of His Father and in service of His brothers and sisters.

+++Visit an elderly person in a retirement home, extend kindness to a pregnant woman, offer some alms to a soup kitchen.

Holy Mary did not merely wait for the Birth of Jesus. Rather, she actively prepared for His coming. The spiritual fruits we enjoy this Christmas will be in direct proportion to how we, endowed with divine grace, prepare during this Advent to love and follow Jesus Christ our Lord.


Our Lady of Sorrows through the Eyes of Saint Robert Bellarmine: Sunday, September 2, 2018



J.M.J.



This remarkable Jesuit Bishop and Doctor of the Church (+1621), whose Memorial is September 17th, wrote about Our Lady under this glorious title of hers (September 15th) in his De Septem Verbis Domini (c. 11):

Have no doubts about it, the Blessed Virgin suffered extremely when she beheld her Son hanging on the gibbet of the Cross. But she loved the honor and glory of God more than the human flesh of her Son. She stood there under the cross as the Valiant Woman who showed not the trace of impatience over the exquisite pains to which Christ was unjustly condemned. She did not fall to the earth, faint with grief, as some artists would have us believe; she did not tear her hair or scream or bewail as other women might, but bore her sorrow courageously, because she knew that the spectacle before her had been justly willed by God. As much as she loved the human form of Christ, she loved the honor of His Father and our Redemption more. Thus did she blend her own affections with those of Christ, who also preferred His Father’s glory and our salvation to the temporal safety and security of His human body.