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.

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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.

Our Blessed Lady and Humanae Vitae: Tuesday, August 14, 2018


J.M.J.



A few months ago, someone who has long labored in promoting respect for human life and for marriage asked me why there was no reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as is customary at the conclusion of an encyclical, at the end of Humanae Vitae, the most famous—and last—encyclical of Blessed Paul VI.

I did not know to respond. But looking at the encyclicals of Pope Paul VI, I note that two of them, Humanae Vitae (1968) and Populorum Progressio (1967), are addressed not only to the Catholic Clergy and Faithful but also “To All Men of Good Will.” These two do not directly mention Our Lady, while those addressed only to Catholics do.

Whatever the meaning, there is no argument that a “Marian spirit” permeates Humanae Vitae, which is dated July 25, 1968. Here are only three instances for our reflection during this fiftieth anniversary.

1. The centrality of the transmission of life within marriage. All the baptized are called to imitate the generosity of Jesus Christ in responding to the Father. Husbands and wives are to surrender themselves to God and His wise plan for them, including the bringing forth of children. Although Mary and Joseph did not have children together, both were receptive to all that the Creator wanted. The marriage of Joseph and Mary honored and adhered to the indispensability of being open to life.

2. The fruit of married love. Children are the greatest fruit of marriage. The marriage of Joseph and Mary was fecund. Nothing was done to prohibit the gift of life; all was done to accept the Son of God Who became man in Our Lady’s womb for us. Husbands and wives who welcome life do as the Mother and the Foster-father of Jesus did.

3. The Law of God is our guide. What does the Divine Law demand from us? A “resolute purpose and great endurance.” (HV, 20) Whatever the challenge that confronts us, the Word of God shapes us and reassures us. Christ gives His abundant grace to us. And by accepting that grace, we become all that He wants us to be.




Mother, Queen, Model: Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saturday, June 9, 2018


J.M.J.


Saint Mary Teresa of Calcutta, the twentieth century's version of Saint Vincent de Paul (1581-1660), founded the Missionaries of Charity.
Several times each day, those Sisters, while assembled in the Chapels of their various convents, sing a brief hymn to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It goes like this: "O most pure and loving Heart of my Mother and my Queen, Grant that I may love thee, love thee daily more and more. Grant that I may love thee, love thee daily more and more."
I have chanted that hymn with hundreds of Missionaries of Charity after offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them, imparting Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, hearing their Confessions or giving them a conference. No matter how often I join them in honoring the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I am struck by their childlike, sincere veneration of and love for Jesus' Mother.
This simple yet profound hymn takes about twenty-five seconds to sing. But length must not deceive. The genuine sentiments expressed and the theological truths outlined in this musical composition provide a welcome key not only to the Missionaries of Charity and their apostolate in serving "the poorest of the poor" but also to the very essence of the Christian life.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary, who is our Mother, Queen and Model, is the focus of this melodious prayer. Two important characteristics of Our Blessed Lady's Heart are recognized and hailed: purity and love.
The purity of Mary is seen in her complete dedication to her Creator. She never wavered from following Him and adhering to His Will. Her chastity and virginity also manifest that deep purity of heart for which Our Blessed Mother is well known. She cheerfully embraced the unique vocation that God had bestowed on her.
The love of Mary is observed in her loyal service of God and neighbor. She spent herself in promptly obeying the Almighty's commands and responding to the spiritual and bodily needs of others. Whether doing something extraordinary--like miraculously conceiving through the power of the Holy Spirit and bringing Christ forth while retaining her Perpetual Virginity--or something routine--like taking care of Jesus and Saint Joseph by attending to common household chores--Mary was a servant par excellence. Nothing was too grandiose or too small for her to accomplish if God in fact directed her to do so.
Now that we acknowledge Our Lady's purity and love, what is our response? To love her "daily more and more." This is nothing other than the desire of Christ: that each day we learn to love His Mother more. Our happy task is straightforward: to love Mary as Jesus does.
We cannot fully imagine the love the Son has for the Mother. Jesus treasures Mary and would do anything for her. How He must delight in answering her requests! And her requests are those that come from her children. When our petitions are in accord with the unfathomable plan of God, then Mary makes them her own and raises them to her beloved Son.
We are grateful that God has given to us that pure and loving Immaculate Heart. We honor her. We ask her help. We imitate her. And we strive, like the spiritual daughters of Mother Teresa, to love her daily more and daily.
O most pure and loving Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

Our Lady's Messenger, Venerable Patrick Joseph Peyton (1909-1992): First Saturday, June 2, 2018


J.M.J.


On December 18, 2017, Pope Francis declared the Reverend Father Patrick Joseph Peyton, C.S.C., (1909-1992) to be “Venerable,” meaning that the virtues he practiced are considered to be heroic. Who is this Irish-born priest who is recalled for his dedication to Christ and his love for Our Blessed Lady and her Holy Rosary?

County Mayo was the home of this priest, who was the sixth in a poor family of four girls and five boys. Patrick would drop out of school as a young man but, as an adolescent, he sensed that God was calling him to the Holy Priesthood.

The nineteen year-old Patrick and his brother, Thomas, decided to immigrate to the United States and settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1932, both men entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Despite experiencing a serious health problem in October 1938, which was determined to be tuberculosis, Patrick eventually entered Holy Cross College in Washington, D.C. to prepare for Final Vows and was ordained, with his brother Thomas, to the Holy Priesthood on June 15, 1941 in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.

It was not long before his well-known work of promoting devotion to Our Lady and her Holy Rosary began to span many miles.

A reflection on Father Peyton’s efforts offers the following points for our reflection and application.

1. His labors always adhered to the will of his Superiors. He lived his Vow of Obedience, imitating Christ in His submission to His Father.

2. “From the Cross to Life.” The cross of physical maladies is a heavy one. But joy results when it is embraced! Father Peyton’s grave bodily trials did not stop him from giving himself completely to God’s plan. And whenever the Will of the Lord is accepted, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is made manifest in that person’s life.

3. Father Peyton shunned not the economically destitute, the wealthy, the unlettered or Hollywood luminaries. He neither feared the famous nor was enamored by the jet-setting way of existence. He invited all to participate in the building of the Kingdom of God by honoring His Ever-Virgin Mother.

4. Father Peyton did not shy away from doing the “big things” for God, like the Rosary Crusades and Rallies, the intercontinental travel and the making of movies. Precisely during the frightening period of the “Cold War,” he exhorted all to travel the path of peace.

5. “The Rosary priest” did not allow his spiritual life to take a back seat to his prodigious work. He did not forget that, first and foremost, he was a Religious and a Priest, notwithstanding his prestige and authority. In 1962, Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart of the Knights of Columbus wrote about his time with Father Peyton: “His great piety, his unflagging zeal and his intense earnestness carry you away. You feel that you are in the presence of a saint and you want to share with him his hopes and aspirations and contribute what you can to the success of his efforts.”

Father Peyton is remembered, too, for his oft-quoted saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”

He was concerned about the welfare of the family. During a Rosary Crusade, he said: “The restoration of family prayer is a basic need, and if it is given the chance it will prove itself to be the most efficacious and powerful protection against the dangers of our age.”

How apt his words are in our twenty-first century: “The person with the Rosary in hand has the key to learning the most important of all lessons: the love of God for us, the destiny He has in store for us and the way he is helping us to reach that destiny.”

On June 3, 1992, Father Peyton, with Rosary in hand, died in San Pedro, California and was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery located at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.

(With gratitude to: www.holycrsscongregation.org; www.wikipedia.org; “The Rosary Priest” by Father Richard Gribble, C.S.C., in Columbia (March 2018), pages 22-25.)