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.)

Knowing the Most Holy Trinity in Imitation of Our Lady: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, May 27, 2018


J.M.J.


“ . . . you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.”

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today, the Sunday after Pentecost, is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

What a reality! God is Three in One: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Most of us were probably very young when we first learned this truth. It governs all we know. And it governs who we are.

Here is a brief and incomplete summary of the Most Blessed Trinity.


1. The Most Holy Trinity is the Supreme Being Who is God—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is Catholicism’s foundation.

2. The Holy Trinity—eternal, perfect, limitless—always existed, exists now and will exist always.

3. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct and equal Persons. God is Three in One.

4. The Father is not greater than the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each is a different Person, but equal in majesty.

5. God has created, redeemed and made us holy. His love brought us into being, restored us to health when we had sinned and sanctified us.

6. God wants us to be happy on earth; He shows us the path to happiness: knowing and obeying His holy plan. His will alone is our joy and salvation.

7. By obeying His plan, we prepare to see Him “face to face” in Heaven. Experiencing the Blessed Trinity in Paradise is the ultimate happiness.

8. Love connects the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

9. The Holy Trinity is merciful. Although we cannot match God’s goodness, He wants us to imitate Him through our love and compassion.

10. God, Who is love, is pleased when we—His children—know, love and serve Him.


As we hear in today’s Holy Gospel from Saint Matthew, Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, just before His Ascension, promised to be with us until the end of time. Let us put our trust in His promise.

The Ever-Virgin Mother of God is the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

When we pray, receive the Holy Sacraments, venerate Our Blessed Lady, read Sacred Scripture, study the Teachings of the Church and the Lives of the Saints, and perform works of charity and self-denial, then we witness to the Presence and the Power of the Most Holy Trinity in us.

As a venerable hymn puts it:


“O Most Holy Trinity,
Undivided Unity.
Holy God, Mighty God,
God Immortal, Be adored.”

Begging the Holy Spirit to Come: Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018


J.M.J.
Invoking the Holy Spirit--the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity--is to be a constant exercise of love and adoration on the part of all Christians. Our genuine attention to the Consoler is to lead to imitation of Him and even to our abandonment to Him and all that He desires.
Pentecost Sunday highlights our desperate need for the Paraclete--a pressing need that we have every moment of each day.
The saintly Father Dolindo Ruotolo (1882-1970), a member of the Third Order Regular Franciscan Congregation, was known for his unabashed affection for, and obedience to, the Holy Spirit.
At the end of his excellent work entitled "Vieni, O Spirito Santo!" ("Come, O Holy Spirit") is found some Prayers in which the incredible favors of the Holy Spirit are requested.
These Prayers are short but intense and are appropriate for daily use. Here are a few of them.
Invocation
O Holy Spirit, sweet Guest of my soul, remain with me and assist me so that I may remain always with You.
Offering
Eternal Divine Spirit, I offer You all the prayers of the Virgin Mary and of the Apostles gathered in the Cenacle, and to those I unite all my prayers, begging You to come quickly to renew the face of the earth.
For the Gift of Tears
Almighty and most merciful God, Who made a fountain of water gush forth from the rock to quench the thirst of Your People, obtain from the hardness of our hearts the tears of compunction, so that we may cry on account of our sins and merit to obtain their remission through Your Mercy. Mercifully infuse into our hearts, Lord God, the grace of the Holy Spirit, which helps cancel--through our cries and tears--the stains of our sins, and obtains for us from Your generosity the effect of our desired pardon. Through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
To Expel Impure Thoughts
Almighty and most merciful God, hear favorably our prayers, and free our hearts from the temptations of impure thoughts, so that we may merit to become a worthy dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Deign, Lord, to purify our souls from impure thoughts, to guard them intact, and to illuminate them with the grace of the Holy Spirit. You Who enlighten every man who comes into this world, alas! Enlighten our hearts with the splendor of Your grace, so that we may always think of those things that are worthy and acceptable to Your majesty, and love You sincerely. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

No disciple of Christ worthy of the name would deny that the Holy Spirit is to be our sure Refuge and Guide. No authentic friend of Jesus would argue that presently in our world, the calming presence of the Counselor is recognized and adhered to as it should be.
We sadly but readily admit that the Holy Spirit and His wise wishes are not held in the required esteem. Obstacles have been built that stand in the way of His renewing the earth. Yes, He can surely overcome those hurdles. But often His approach is that He wants us to do what we can to break through those barriers so that His gentle and persuasive influence may be felt.
Therefore, our hearts must first be converted if there is any chance that the world will be. Our closeness and submission to the Holy Spirit paves the way for His further work in our society.
Our prayer to the Holy Spirit is simple: Come, Holy Spirit . . . Holy Spirit, come . . . transform our hearts so that we may join in Your labor to renew the face of the earth.

Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!