Our Lady is the Mother of All Preborn Children: Sunday, January 31, 2016

J.M.J. In our age when preborn life in the womb is considered expendable, we must refer often to the truth that Gd is the Creator of all life. If there is any doubt that conception has occurred, then it is morally repugnant to disturb the human life that is now developing.

The Mother of God has concern for all of her sons and daughters, especially those who are in most need. Those who are in danger of abortion are in the gravest need.

How pleased she is when we do all that we can to promote the sanctity of human life and protect life in the womb!

Finally, please be careful about succumbing to the seductive argument that it would be better to have contraception available so that there are fewer abortions.

Contraception, like abortion, is an intrinsic evil and must never be practiced.

Our Lady of Life, pray for us, and pray for our brothers and sisters who are in the womb.

The Saintly Promotion of Mary's Rosary: Saturday, January 30, 2016

J.M.J. From the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 16, 2002) of Saint John Paul II:

"8. It would be impossible to name all the many Saints who discovered in the Rosary a genuine path to growth in holiness. We need but mention Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the author of an excellent work on the Rosary,(12) and, closer to ourselves, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, whom I recently had the joy of canonizing. As a true apostle of the Rosary, Blessed Bartolo Longo had a special charism. His path to holiness rested on an inspiration heard in the depths of his heart: 'Whoever spreads the Rosary is saved!'.(13) As a result, he felt called to build a Church dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Pompei, against the background of the ruins of the ancient city, which scarcely heard the proclamation of Christ before being buried in 79 A.D. during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, only to emerge centuries later from its ashes as a witness to the lights and shadows of classical civilization. By his whole life's work and especially by the practice of the 'Fifteen Saturdays', Bartolo Longo promoted the Christocentric and contemplative heart of the Rosary, and received great encouragement and support from Leo XIII, the 'Pope of the Rosary'."

Our Lady's Holy Rosary and Contemplation: Friday, January 29, 2016

J.M.J. From the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 16, 2002) of Saint John Paul II:

"5. But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine 'training in holiness': 'What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer'.(9) Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become 'genuine schools of prayer'.(10)

"The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation. Developed in the West, it is a typically meditative prayer, corresponding in some way to the 'prayer of the heart' or 'Jesus prayer' which took root in the soil of the Christian East."

Our Lady's Virginity during the Birth of Christ according to Saint Thomas Aquinas: Thursday, January 28, 2016

J.M.J. Happy Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas! From the Summa Theologica, III, Question 28, Article 2:

Article 2. Whether Christ's Mother was a virgin in His birth?

Objection 1. It would seem that Christ's Mother was not a virgin in His Birth. For Ambrose says on Luke 2:23: "He who sanctified a strange womb, for the birth of a prophet, He it is who opened His Mother's womb, that He might go forth unspotted." But opening of the womb excludes virginity. Therefore Christ's Mother was not a virgin in His Birth.

Objection 2. Further, nothing should have taken place in the mystery of Christ, which would make His body to seem unreal. Now it seems to pertain not to a true but to an unreal body, to be able to go through a closed passage; since two bodies cannot be in one place at the same time. It was therefore unfitting that Christ's body should come forth from His Mother's closed womb: and consequently that she should remain a virgin in giving birth to Him.

Objection 3. Further, as Gregory says in the Homily for the octave of Easter [xxvi in Evang., that by entering after His Resurrection where the disciples were gathered, the doors being shut, our Lord "showed that His body was the same in nature but differed in glory": so that it seems that to go through a closed passage pertains to a glorified body. But Christ's body was not glorified in its conception, but was passible, having "the likeness of sinful flesh," as the Apostle says (Romans 8:3). Therefore He did not come forth through the closed womb of the Virgin.

On the contrary, In a sermon of the Council of Ephesus (P. III, Cap. ix) it is said: "After giving birth, nature knows not a virgin: but grace enhances her fruitfulness, and effects her motherhood, while in no way does it injure her virginity." Therefore Christ's Mother was a virgin also in giving birth to Him.

I answer that, Without any doubt whatever we must assert that the Mother of Christ was a virgin even in His Birth: for the prophet says not only: "Behold a virgin shall conceive," but adds: "and shall bear a son." This indeed was befitting for three reasons. First, because this was in keeping with a property of Him whose Birth is in question, for He is the Word of God. For the word is not only conceived in the mind without corruption, but also proceeds from the mind without corruption. Wherefore in order to show that body to be the body of the very Word of God, it was fitting that it should be born of a virgin incorrupt. Whence in the sermon of the Council of Ephesus (quoted above) we read: "Whosoever brings forth mere flesh, ceases to be a virgin. But since she gave birth to the Word made flesh, God safeguarded her virginity so as to manifest His Word, by which Word He thus manifested Himself: for neither does our word, when brought forth, corrupt the mind; nor does God, the substantial Word, deigning to be born, destroy virginity."

Secondly, this is fitting as regards the effect of Christ's Incarnation: since He came for this purpose, that He might take away our corruption. Wherefore it is unfitting that in His Birth He should corrupt His Mother's virginity. Thus Augustine says in a sermon on the Nativity of Our Lord: "It was not right that He who came to heal corruption, should by His advent violate integrity."

Thirdly, it was fitting that He Who commanded us to honor our father and mother should not in His Birth lessen the honor due to His Mother.

Reply to Objection 1. Ambrose says this in expounding the evangelist's quotation from the Law: "Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord." This, says Bede, "is said in regard to the wonted manner of birth; not that we are to believe that our Lord in coming forth violated the abode of her sacred womb, which His entrance therein had hallowed." Wherefore the opening here spoken of does not imply the unlocking of the enclosure of virginal purity; but the mere coming forth of the infant from the maternal womb.

Reply to Objection 2. Christ wished so to show the reality of His body, as to manifest His Godhead at the same time. For this reason He mingled wondrous with lowly things. Wherefore, to show that His body was real, He was born of a woman. But in order to manifest His Godhead, He was born of a virgin, for "such a Birth befits a God," as Ambrose says in the Christmas hymn.

Reply to Objection 3. Some have held that Christ, in His Birth, assumed the gift of "subtlety," when He came forth from the closed womb of a virgin; and that He assumed the gift of "agility" when with dry feet He walked on the sea. But this is not consistent with what has been decided above (Article 14). For these gifts of a glorified body result from an overflow of the soul's glory on to the body, as we shall explain further on, in treating of glorified bodies (XP, 82): and it has been said above (13, 3, ad 1; 16, 1, ad 2) that before His Passion Christ "allowed His flesh to do and to suffer what was proper to it" (Damascene, De Fide Orth. iii): nor was there such an overflow of glory from His soul on to His body.

We must therefore say that all these things took place miraculously by Divine power. Whence Augustine says (Sup. Joan. Tract. 121): "To the substance of a body in which was the Godhead closed doors were no obstacle. For truly He had power to enter in by doors not open, in Whose Birth His Mother's virginity remained inviolate." And Dionysius says in an epistle (Ad Caium iv) that "Christ excelled man in doing that which is proper to man: this is shown in His supernatural conception, of a virgin, and in the unstable waters bearing the weight of earthly feet."  

Mother of Divine Grace: Wednesday, January 27, 2016

J.M.J. Our Lady carried her Divine Son for nine months in her chaste womb. She also carried Him, by way of Sanctifying Grace, in her sinless soul.

Whether or not we carry Jesus Christ in our souls will determine our destiny after this earthly life.

Our Blessed Lady knows how its done. Let us ask her for help.

Our Lady's Litany: Tuesday, January 26, 2016

J.M.J. One of the great Marian prayers is the Litany of Loreto:

May we recite (or chant) it very often!

Mary, Assumed: Monday, January 25, 2016

J.M.J. Although the actual dogma of Blessed Mary's Assumption body and soul into Heaven (especially commemorated by the Church every August 15) was solemnly defined a relatively short 66 years ago, nevertheless the belief in this fascinating mystery has been cherished and upheld by the Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful for centuries.

When Pope Pius XII declared on November 1, 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, "that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory," he readily acknowledged that "various testimonies, indications, and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries."

In particular, the Pontiff pointed to among other notable theologians a priest and subsequent Doctor of the Church who contributed significantly to the Church's understanding of Our Lady's reunion with her divine Son. Saint John Damascene (c. 690-749), venerated as "the last of the Greek Fathers," was hailed by Pope Pius as "an outstanding herald of this traditional truth."

What was so spectacular about this doctrine's analysis bequeathed to millions of believers by Saint John of Damascus?

In two of his extant homilies, he compared Mary's bodily Assumption to "her other prerogatives and privileges," thereby demonstrating in eloquent fashion why this teaching in no way contradicted right reason and the tenets of Divine Revelation.

Composed more than 1,200 years ago, the panegyric authored by Saint John still moves hearts today and provides admirable instruction pertaining to the Madonna's entrance into everlasting bliss. Listen to the wisdom of this Saint from the East:

"It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a Child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles.

"It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to Himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her Heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to Him, should look upon Him as He sits with the Father.

"It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to the Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the Handmaid of God."

Why would the Blessed Trinity bestow upon a mere mortal the indescribable honor of possessing both body and soul now in paradise-not waiting, like the rest of redeemed humanity, until the Redeemer's Second Coming? With unabashed simplicity and honesty, Saint John Damascene accepts the challenge represented by this enigma and deftly responds: "It was fitting." As Mary enjoyed unfailing proximity to the Messiah during this life, it seems right and proper for her to experience intimacy with Him even now in the next.

The reason that the Assumption inspires hope in disciples of the Savior is that we have sure assurance that human beings (along with the Angels) have the opportunity to know the unutterable joys of unending life in Heaven. If we strive for the fidelity that marked the earthly days of the Virgin, we also will one day partake both soul and body in the Beatific Vision that she now possesses. Where she now is, we hope to follow.

As Saint John Damascene might say, it was fitting.

Our Blessed Lady and Saint Francis de Sales: Sunday, January 24, 2016

J.M.J. Saint Jane Frances de Chantal declared that she heard the following from Saint Francis de Sales, whose Feast is January 24th: “I have been feeling most strongly, how great a blessing it is to be a child, though an unworthy one, of this glorious Mother. Let us undertake great things under her patronage, for if we are ever so little dear to her, she will never leave us destitute of what we are struggling to attain.”

Saint Jane Frances continued: “He said his Rosary every day with extraordinary devotion, and use to tell me that he found all his help in the Blessed Sacrament and in that Holy Virgin from whom he had received special and even miraculous assistance, as I have before said.” 

Our Lady's Special Son, Saint Ildephonsus; Modesty in Dress: Saturday, January 23, 2016

J.M.J. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) instructs us about today's Saint, Saint Ildephonsus, Bishop (+667):

"Ildephonsus, it is said, was one day praying before the relics of Saint Leocadia, when the martyr arose from her tomb and thanked the saint for the devotion he showed towards the Mother of God. It was related, further, that on another occasion the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in person and presented him with a priestly vestment, to reward him for his zeal in honoring her.

---   ---   ---   ---   ---

"Modesty in Dress"
(available in booklet form from Queenship Publishing)

          Inarguably, the kinds of dress for both men and women have changed dramatically, especially in the past seven decades. Much of today’s prevailing “high fashion” is meant to accentuate or expose particular body parts rather than to conceal them, the latter being the traditional reason for clothing.

Acknowledging that some of these styles in contemporary fashion would have been deemed “immodest" or outright “obscene” even a few years ago, one is bound to ask: are these ways of dressing still immodest at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium? Or do changing values allow for the admitting of these various types of clothing?
To give an intelligible answer, one first must look at the norm that for centuries guided Christians in the manner of dress: the notion of modesty.
Modesty in the strict sense is the virtue that regulates one’s actions and exterior customs concerning sexual matters. Specifically, modesty, which guards the virtue of chastity and is its “external protection,” controls one’s comportment so as to avoid unlawful sexual arousal in oneself or others. In this essay, we shall confine ourselves to the theme of modesty in dress.
(Many think modesty to be the humility of one who is not interested in self-promotion and fame. This is a different understanding from the one that is presented here.)
Modesty is counted as one of the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit; these perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory” are listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity” (#1832).
To choose to dress modestly implies that one, by his dress, is deliberately avoiding to cause sexual excitement in himself or his neighbor. Hence, one who dresses modestly shuns clothes that are known or reasonably expected to effect sexual arousal in oneself or others.
Has the Church encouraged the practice of this virtue? Yes. Only a few of the stirring exhortations offered by some holy members of the Church are now presented. (We remember that these counsels apply to men as well as to women.)
Saint Paul (+ ca. 67), in his First Letter to Saint Timothy, wrote: “Women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befit women who profess religion” (2:9–10).
Saint John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) spoke out against immodesty in dress. “You carry your snare and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment and much more effectively than you could by your voice. When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges in court punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal poison? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death-dealing drink, and you are more criminal than those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul. And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.”
It has been said that Jesus Himself appeared to Mother Mary Rafols, a Spanish Religious, and delivered a message about modesty. From some writings dated 1815, we read: “The offenses that I (Jesus) have received, and those that I shall yet receive, are many; especially the offenses of woman, with her immodest dress, her nakedness, her frivolity and her evil intentions. Because of all this, she shall accomplish the demoralization of the family and of mankind. . . .”
The Servant of God Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) addressed the urgent necessity of cultivating modesty several times during his nearly twenty year long pontificate. Here are a few relevant quotations.
“How many young girls there are who see nothing wrong in following certain shameless styles like so many sheep. They would certainly blush with shame if they could know the impression they make, and the feelings they evoke, in those who see them.
“The good of our soul is more important than the good of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. . . If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up. . . O Christian mothers, if you know what a future of anxieties and perils, of ill guarded shame you prepare for your sons and daughters, imprudently getting them accustomed to live scantily dressed and making them lose their sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the harm you are making for yourselves, the harm which you are causing to these children, whom Heaven has entrusted to you to be brought up as Christians.
“There is a limit which no type of fashion, however licit, should exceed; beyond which fashion becomes the cause of ruin to the souls of those who adopt it and for the souls of all who come into contact with it. The right of souls is above those of fashions. Christian girls, think also of this: the more elegant you will be, and the more pleasing, if you dress with simplicity and discreet modesty.”

On November 8, 1957, Pope Pius XII, in an enlightening address to the Congress of the Latin Union of High Fashion, presented the still-valid principles of the Christian understanding of modesty in dress. Although given over forty-five years ago, this discourse offers some crucial and unchangeable aspects concerning modesty for all to ponder.
Clothing fulfills three necessary requirements, those of hygiene, decency and adornment. These are “so deeply rooted in nature that they cannot he disregarded or contradicted without provoking hostility and prejudice.” These demands are discovered in virtually all eras and almost among every people.

Hygiene pertains mostly to “the climate, its variations, and other external factors” (e.g., discomfort, illness). This first factor is derived from man’s physical nature.

Decency involves the “proper consideration for the sensitivity of others to objects that are unsightly, or, above all, as a defense of moral honesty and a shield against disordered sensuality.” It comes from man’s spiritual nature.

Adornment is legitimate and “responds to the innate need, more greatly felt by woman, to enhance the beauty and dignity of the person with the same means that are suitable to satisfy the other two purposes.” Adornment, which is preferable to the term beautification because the former is not limited to “mere physical beauty,” hails from man’s psychological and artistic nature.

The aim of fashion is to enhance one’s physical appearance. It “has achieved an indisputable importance in public life, whether as an aesthetic expression of customs, or as an interpretation of public demand and a focal point of substantial economic interests.” One may unmistakably conclude that built into the fashion industry is the constraint to change continually. One style is quickly ellipsed by another. “The rapidity of change is further stimulated by a kind of silent competition, not really new, between the ‘elite’ who wish to assert their own personality with original forms of clothing, and the public who immediately convert them to their own use with more or less good imitations.”

The Pontiff then isolated the current (even now in 2004) difficulty with fashion. “The problem of fashion consists in the harmonious reconciliation of a person’s exterior ornamentation with the interior of a quiet and modest spirit. “Like other material objects, fashion can become an undue attachment—even perhaps an addiction—for some persons. The Church “does not censure or condemn styles when they are meant for the proper decorum and ornamentation of the body, but she never fails to warn the faithful against being easily led astray by them.”

Because the human body is a creation of the Creator Himself, the Church has the obligation to speak out when this temple of the Holy Spirit is being abused or manipulated. The human body is truly “God’s masterpiece in the visible world”; Jesus the Lord elevated the human body “to the rank of a temple and an instrument of the Holy Spirit, and as such must be respected.” Indeed, the beauty of the human body “must therefore not be exalted as an end in itself, much less in such guise as will defile the dignity it has been endowed with.”

Sadly, we must admit that there do exist certain fashions and styles in our age that “create confusion in well-ordered minds and can even be an incentive to evil.” While it is rather problematic to define the universal norms that separate the seemly styles from the shameful because of several factors like the times, places, persons and education of people, nevertheless it is possible to declare when the “limits of normal decency” have been violated. It is true that this sense of decency sounds an alarm when either immodesty, seduction, lust, outrageous luxury or “idolatry of matter” exists.

What the Holy Father said in 1957 is as applicable—and essential—now: “. . . no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be, there is always an absolute norm to be kept after having heard the admonition of conscience warning against approaching danger; style must never be a proximate occasion of sin.”

Those who design, promote and sell fashions have considerable responsibility. If, God forbid, any of these endeavor to inculcate “unchaste ideas and sensations,” then “there is present a technique of disguised malice.” For decency in dress to be restored, the intention of those who design the fashions and those who wear them must be upright. “In both there must be an awakening of the conscience as to their responsibility for the tragic consequences that could result from clothing which is overly bold, especially if it is worn in public.”

We may assert that “the immorality of styles depends in great part on excesses either of immodesty or luxury.” In fashion, immodesty involves the cut of the garment. How is immodesty to be judged? “The garment must not be evaluated according to the estimation of a decadent or already corrupt society, but according to the aspirations of a society which prizes the dignity and seriousness of its public attire.”

Wanton luxury is also excessive. “Prescinding from the dissipation of wealth which excessive luxury demands of its worshippers, who will more often than not end by being devoured by it, it always insults the integrity of those who live by their own toil, and it displays a cynicism toward poverty, either by flaunting too easy gains or by breeding suspicion about the way of life of those who surround themselves with it.” If the use of riches—even those obtained morally—is not moderated, then “either frightful barriers will be raised between classes, or the entire society will be set adrift, exhausted by the race toward a utopia of material happiness.”

Here is the trio of principles that is still pertinent to the question of what is modest clothing.

1. The Influence of Styles. There is a “language of clothing” that communicates certain messages. The dress of a policeman and a nurse convey that these persons are “helpers” and possess specific knowledge and authority. However, attire may also communicate negative and even destructive messages. For example, one who with knowledge and deliberation routinely dresses in a provocative or seductive manner so as to entice another to impurity commits a mortal sin, not only harming himself or herself but also gravely damaging the immortal soul of the other.

Jesus demanded of His disciples purity in glances, thoughts, desires and actions. Furthermore, He warned against giving scandal to others. The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah (3:16-24) prophesied that the holy city of Sion would be infamous because of the impurity of its daughters.

Pope Pius XII declared: “It might be said that society speaks through the clothing it wears. Through its clothing it reveals its secret aspirations and uses it, at least in part, to build or destroy the future.” Styles that respect the human body for what it is—the temple of the Holy Spirit—are commendable: those that seek to expose the body as a mere object to be used, abused or enjoyed for illicit sexual pleasure are to be condemned.

2. The Importance of Control. Fashion designers, critics and consumers are to recall frequently “that style should be directed and controlled instead of being abandoned to caprice and reduced to abject service.” Those who “make style,” such as designers and critics, cannot allow the craze that is in vogue to dictate to them when that particular trend goes against right reason and established morality. Consumers for their part must remember that their “dignity demands of them that they should liberate themselves with free and enlightened conscience from the imposition of predetermined tastes, especially tastes debatable on moral grounds.”

3. Moderation is Necessary. The respect of a standard measure is termed moderation. It is moderation that provides “a pattern by which to regulate, at all costs, greed for luxury, ambition, and capriciousness.” Pope Pius urged: “Stylists, and especially designers, must let themselves be guided by moderation in designing the cut or line of a garment and in the selection of its ornaments, convinced that sobriety is the finest quality of art.”

Should those who are responsible for today’s fashions return to the “outdated forms” of earlier times? No. Rather, there is a perennial value for clothing that transcends time and culture. When Christian decency is the mark of one’s attire, then that same dress becomes “the worthy ornament of the person with whose beauty it blends as in a single triumph of admirable dignity.”

Practically speaking, what exactly are examples of immodest clothing? This author, while acknowledging with the mind of the Church that not all change is bad and that one needn’t necessarily wear clothes popular decades ago in order to be modest, believes that there are standards which are so basic in every era that to transgress them—regardless of one’s good intention or ignorance—is to offend against human decency. Precisely what are these criteria?

Clothing composed of a transparent (i. e., “see-through”) material isn’t modest because of its obvious intent to expose to view various body parts that have been deemed—by most cultures and in most time periods—needy of cover.

Shorts that are very short (i. e., exposing much of the thigh), whether for a man or woman, can’t be regarded as decent. (Athletic pursuits indicate that shorts and a “jersey” type of shirt for both genders may be tolerated provided the shorts and shirts are moderate and that no temptation is encouraged.) Boys and men shirtless without sufficient reason (an allowance is made for swimming and vigorous work and exercise, as long as temptation is avoided) is problematic, especially given that such a sight may well be an unnecessary occasion of sin for another.

Perhaps the area of modesty in dress that attracts the most attention is that of attire for women and girls. Some may argue that this is unfair. Why should the responsibility concerning modesty in dress pertain to women and girls and not to men and boys?

As we have seen, men and boys are also held to modesty in attire. And it must be said forthrightly that not only do they have a responsibility to dress modestly themselves but also they are to encourage to whatever extent they can the women and girls of their acquaintance to dress modestly, even avoiding those who do not when they themselves are tempted to sin because of that immodest clothing. But it must be admitted; the sight of unclothed (even partially) bodies of women and girls has generally inspired lust and desire more than the bodies of men and boys. Such a conclusion is both sound and unbiased.

Clothing no matter how “chic” that reveals the front and back of women and girls, thereby significantly exposing their flesh, and drawing attention in some way to their breasts, is reprehensible. Skirts that rise much above the knee and highlight the shape of the leg for that very purpose are inappropriate.

A lady in her middle forties related that every time she purchases a skirt (regardless of the store), the clerk mentions that since she is tall and thin she really must buy something sufficiently short that will draw attention to her legs. The lady replies that she is not interested in such a possibility.

A wife and mother of two children recounted her genuine unease when attending Mass to find herself, her husband and her teenage son and daughter in the pew behind an adolescent girl who, with bare shoulders and a short dress, causes her husband and young son undue distraction during the Holy Sacrifice. One may contend here that this mother’s young daughter is also adversely affected by the bad example of another girl approximately the same age.

God has made the human body beautiful. It is not an object to be used for impurity but a gift to be esteemed and legitimately shared in the building up of the Kingdom of God here on earth. Immodest attire neither contributes to the promotion of the human person nor to the establishing of the Kingdom. More than ever, the chastity and modesty of Jesus the Messiah, the Blessed and Ever-Virgin Mary, particularly under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, Saint Joseph, and the powerful intercessions of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus ansd the Holy Face (1873-1897), Saint Maria Goretti (1890-1902), Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), Saint Maximillian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941), Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), Blessed Francisco Marto (1908-1919), Blessed Jacinta Marto (1910-1920), Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925), Blessed Teresa Bracco (1924-1944), Blessed Pierina Morosini (1931-1957) and Blessed Mary Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) are urgently required if we are to obtain the holiness that the Risen Lord Jesus expects of us—His cherished brothers and sisters.

Our Lady's "Yes" to Life: Friday, January 22, 2016

J.M.J. The astonishing action of God in protecting Our Blessed Lady from the audacious and reckless sin of our first parents Adam and Eve occurred precisely at the first moment of her conception. When Mary’s father Joachim and mother Ann provided the human matter necessary for conception, the Lord, as He always does, infused the soul that would coalesce with the human ingredients to form Mary. And when the beneficent Creator did so, He ensured that Mary would never experience even the slightest stain of Original Sin.

What God did for the very young Mary underscores the fact that human life does begin at conception. Our Blessed Mother was not preserved from Original Sin before she came to be. Exactly when her existence began God worked His miracle that we gladly cherish and refer to as the “Immaculate Conception.”

We gain much whenever we mull over the challenging, reasonable tenets of our Catholic Faith. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception is no exception. By meditating on and striving to penetrate what God did for Mary, we obtain fresh insights into the Lord’s goodness, the Virgin's holiness and human life's beauty and splendor even in its preborn state.

Although large sections of Western society may slight a fertilized egg as being nothing of import—in effect, a sorry blob of tissue, nevertheless we labor under no such error. We have no doubt as to what God thinks of a newly conceived person. The Almighty considers a preborn child of any age and size to be dignified and worthy of love and respect. With unspeakable love and esteem, Our Lord shielded Mary from Original Sin promptly at the instant she blossomed into being.

The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a wake-up call for our darkened and too-often stone deaf era. We must, nurtured by God’s light and strength, finally overcome the immense spiritual blindness surrounding us and recognize that human life is sacred. It may not be disposed of. Innocent human life may never be attacked, notwithstanding “just” wars, legitimate police actions meant to stem violence, etc. Innocent human life is absolutely and always inviolable. And one day we will be judged in part on how we have loved, nourished and guarded the weakest among us.

The humanity of the preborn infant is one of the numerous truths that are attached to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Imagine the positive change in our universe if all men and women were to accept the inarguable reality that children even before their birth are our brothers and sisters. Like Mary, they, too, are vital members of the human family; the Lord is preparing them even now for future service in His Kingdom.

Running to Mary: Thursday, January 21, 2016

J.M.J. "Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence."

--Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor (1567-1622) 

Our Lady, the Queen of Life: Wednesday, January 20, 2016

J.M.J. Those who have long worked for the protection of innocent human life—particularly that of preborn children—will testify to the many and varied vicissitudes that the pro-life movement has endured for over four decades.

A significant gain (e.g., the revelation of fresh, hard medical data confirming the unique individuality of a tiny fetus) by the right-to-life forces is always the cause of great hope, while a setback (e.g., the election of a pro-abortion president or other pro-abortion officeholders) gives rise to feelings of discouragement. In 2016, we observe how the pro-death forces, represented by Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List among others, tout as future stars new, young candidates for public office who unabashedly trumpet their support for abortion-on-demand.

The essential, critical spiritual component of this notable and sacred pro-life work, however, urges all those involved in what is inarguably a Herculean struggle of unquestionable import to remember that while successes and failures will inevitably occur, the Creator of all life wants above all else that defenders of life continue to do the best they possibly can. The often-quoted statement of Blessed Mary Teresa of Calcutta (+1997) rings true and is applicable here: “God doesn’t necessarily desire that we be successful; He always desires that we be faithful.”

Our Lady, the Queen of Life, is the Mother of all those who seek justice for those who are left out. No wonder that her powerful intercession is our strength. 

The history of the Church is full of one example after another of heroic men and women, boys and girls who outwardly seemed to fail; yet, inwardly these same stalwarts enjoyed the height of sanctity, thanks to their persistent, grace-inspired efforts to effect change in almost impossible situations.

It is only the strength of the Lord that keeps all those fighting to defend human life on the proverbial “even-keel”: avoiding the giddiness of certain victories, while simultaneously refusing to submit to despondency because of defeat.

To remain convinced of God’s assistance in the midst of this “spiritual warfare”—that ferocious conflict between the forces of good and evil—is absolutely paramount. Otherwise, the darkness of believing that one has been abandoned is sure to set in.

Our ceaseless efforts—regardless of the goal—are only as good as our prayer. Work without spiritual backing is bound to miss the mark that it would reach if nourished by communion with the Redeemer.

When fed by intimate, humble contact with the Savior, our works become enlivened by divine grace. Then, they are not just good “human” acts but also “supernatural” acts that please God and have beneficial effects in the spiritual realm as well as the earthly, material sphere.

Consistent, prayerful labors are required to assure the protection of preborn babies. God will surely not forget to bless and multiply the good deeds of all those who seek to be faithful to the noble aim of helping those who cannot help themselves.

The forty-third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion serves as a clarion call to all those connected to the holy mission of defending life: remember your origin and source! God alone through Our Lady will secure the victory so ardently sought. Immersed in prayer, sacrifice and unrelenting work, the faithful will be rewarded by the Almighty—Who still is in charge.

At the Cross Her Station Keeping: Tuesday, January 19, 2016

J.M.J. “Near the cross stood His Mother . . . .” 

Mary, the faithful Virgin, was close to her beloved Son, Jesus on Calvary. She accompanied Him to His painful death and participated in His Redemption of the human race. 

We recall the Madonna’s eager willingness to suffer with Christ. This heroic surrender helped to effect our much-needed reconciliation with the Godhead. Because of the transgression of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we were at enmity with God. Thanks to what the obedient Messiah and His humble Mother did on Calvary, misguided humanity enjoyed the long-anticipated possibility of a release from that awful sin which drove a large wedge between itself and its benevolent Creator. 

When we receive the Sacrament of Baptism, the Redemption wrought by Jesus blossoms in our souls. Baptism brings about the remission of Original Sin, the bestowal of Sanctifying Grace and our incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ, not to mention—among other salutary results—the infusion of the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity) the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord), and the four Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance). 

There would be no graces of Baptism if Jesus hadn’t freely died for us on the cross. The Father deigned that we would return to His friendship by way of the Precious Blood-stained wood of the cross and the selfless offering of Jesus by His Sorrowful Mother. 

The huge and significant part that Our Lady played in our redemption is, sadly, often forgotten. The Mother who generously accepted Him into her chaste womb at the Annunciation now on Calvary consented to His death. Both the Annunciation and the death of Christ demanded a prompt “yes” (fiat) from the sinless Maiden of Nazareth. And in both instances she splendidly fulfilled the Almighty’s command. 

The Ever-Virgin’s entire existence—from her Immaculate Conception through her glorification in Heaven—was nothing but one unbroken “Let it be as you say” to the Lord. She never denied Him any request but continually embraced His mysterious plan for her as well as His designs for all his sons and daughters. 

Mary’s availability to the Lord was remarkable. In one of his Sermons, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) hailed Our Sorrowful Mother and addressed her thus: “Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your Heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.” 

Saint Bernard cautioned his listeners: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the Heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.” 

Steeped in charity, Our Lady cooperated with Jesus as He opened the gates of Heaven for us by dying on the cross and rising from the grave. Let us not disdain the invitation of the Son and His Mother that—in God’s good time—we join them for all eternity in Paradise

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Our Lady's Beauty: Monday, January 18, 2016

J.M.J. In our contemporary era, there are many competing images of women and womanhood. 

Who is a woman and with what is she to be involved? 

This question, although its answer may seem obvious, has received widely varying responses from diverse sources: Playboy Magazine, Planned Parenthood of America, the National Organization for Women and Pope John Paul II, to name a few. 

Playboy Magazine considers physically “attractive” women (in its estimation) to be akin to goddesses to be coveted for their ability to provide sexual pleasure. 

Planned Parenthood of America declares that the “abortion decision” is to be made by women alone, ignoring the facts that men are responsible for conception and that abortion unfailingly takes the lives of a third party—innocent preborn children. 

The National Organization for Women contends that women have been traditionally oppressed, especially because of their role as child-bearer. Therefore, they should now be aggressive in reasserting their “rights” to “reproductive freedom,” among other equality issues. 

Finally, Saint John Paul II, in harmony with Sacred Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, believes women to be holy daughters of the Creator who possess an intrinsic beauty and value because they, like men, have been fashioned in the imago Dei—“the image of God.” 

In the midst of these opposing viewpoints, we would do well to remember one simple but profound truth: the Almighty Lord, in the words of our Holy Father in his Letter to Women (June 29, 1995), has a “mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world.” Each and every woman—regardless of her role as mother, wife, daughter, sister, religious, consecrated person, consecrated virgin—is remarkable and special in God’s eyes. Pope John Paul II, in pondering the dignity of each woman, wrote: “Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic” (number 2). 

Where would we be without women? The astounding realization—but perhaps not too astonishing, upon prayerful reflection—is that we owe women our very physical lives. Our mothers and fathers conceived us and brought us forth. We did not exist until they provided the physical matter (the seed and the egg) and God furnished the spiritual matter (the rational, immortal soul). 

The Ever-Virgin Mother of God, the Chaste, Holy Daughter of the Father, is the only woman hailed as both Virgin and Mother. She, more than any other person, cooperated freely in the inscrutable design of the Maker by yielding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, thereby living with a zest to do good that is at once amazing and inspirational. Our Blessed Lady teaches us how to put aside our projects so that Christ can work in us His inimitable plan of salvation. 

As the Church praises God for Our Lady, we also offer our gratitude for women and womanhood. As the Holy Father expressed in his August 15, 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (The Dignity of Women), the Church “desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the ‘mystery of woman’ and for every woman—for all that constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for ‘the great works of God,’ which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her” (number 31). 

The Madonna is, in the words of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the stellar example of “obedience, faith, hope and burning charity” (number 61) for all women, no matter their state in life. She reflects Christ and instructs all her daughters to do the same. Mary is the model for all peoples, but especially for women. 

When we recite the Holy Rosary, let us pray for women everywhere, that they may imitate Mary in her countless virtues. 

Where would we be without women? No Mary . . . no mothers . . . no wives . . . no sisters . . . no daughters . . . no women religious . . . no consecrated women . . . no consecrated virgins . . . how impoverished our world—and depleted Heaven—would be! 

"Do Whatever He Tells You": Sunday, January 17, 2016

J.M.J. From the General Audience Address of Saint John Paul II given on Wednesday, February 26, 1997:

1. In the episode of the wedding at Cana, St. John presents Mary’s first intervention in the public life of Jesus and highlights her co-operation in her Son’s mission.

At the beginning of the account the Evangelist tells us that “the Mother of Jesus was there” (Jn 2:1), and, as if to suggest that her presence was the reason for the couple's invitation to Jesus and His disciples (cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 21), he adds “Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with His disciples” (Jn 2:2). With these remarks, John seems to indicate that at Cana, as in the fundamental event of the Incarnation, it is Mary who introduces the Savior.

The meaning and role of the Blessed Virgin’s presence become evident when the wine runs out. As a skilled and wise housewife, she immediately notices and intervenes so that no one’s joy is marred and, above all, to help the newly married couple in difficulty.

Turning to Jesus with the words: “they have no wine” (Jn 2:3), Mary expresses her concern to Him about this situation, expecting Him to solve it. More precisely, according to some exegetes, His Mother is expecting an extraordinary sign, since Jesus had no wine at His disposal.

2. The choice made by Mary, who could perhaps have obtained the necessary wine elsewhere, shows the courage of her faith, since until that moment Jesus had worked no miracles, either in Nazareth or in His public life.

At Cana, the Blessed Virgin once again showed her total availability to God. At the Annunciation she had contributed to the miracle of the virginal conception by believing in Jesus before seeing Him; here, her trust in Jesus' as yet unrevealed power causes Him to perform His “first sign”, the miraculous transformation of water into wine.

In that way she precedes in faith the disciples who, as John says, would believe after the miracle: Jesus “manifested His glory; and his disciples believed in Him” (Jn 2:11). Thus, Mary strengthened their faith by obtaining this miraculous sign.

3. Jesus’ answer to Mary’s words, “O woman, what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4), appears to express a refusal, as if putting His Mother’s faith to the test. According to one interpretation, from the moment His mission begins Jesus seems to call into question the natural relationship of son to which His Mother refers. The sentence, in the local parlance, is meant to stress a distance between the persons, by excluding a communion of life. This distance does not preclude respect and esteem; the term “woman” by which he addresses His Mother is used with a nuance that will recur in the conversations with the Canaanite woman (cf. Mt 15:28), the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:21), the adulteress (cf. Jn 8:10) and Mary Magdalene (cf. Jn 20:13), in contexts that show Jesus' positive relationship with His female interlocutors.

With the expression: “O woman, what have you to do with Me?”, Jesus intends to put Mary’s co-operation on the level of salvation which, by involving her faith and hope, requires her to go beyond her natural role of mother.

4. Of much greater import is the reason Jesus gives: “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4).

Some scholars who have studied this sacred text, following St. Augustine’s interpretation, identify this “hour” with the Passion event. For others, instead, it refers to the first miracle in which the Prophet of Nazareth’s messianic power would be revealed. Yet others hold that the sentence is interrogative and an extension of the question that precedes it: “What have you to do with Me? Has my hour not yet come?”. Jesus gives Mary to understand that henceforth He no longer depends on her, but must take the initiative for doing His Father’s work. Then Mary docilely refrains from insisting with Him and instead turns to the servants, telling them to obey Him.

In any case her trust in her Son is rewarded. Jesus, Whom she has left totally free to act, works the miracle, recognizing His Mother’s courage and docility: “Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water’. And they filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7). Thus their obedience also helps to procure wine in abundance.

Mary’s request: “Do whatever He tells you”, keeps its ever timely value for Christians of every age and is destined to renew its marvelous effect in everyone's life. It is an exhortation to trust without hesitation, especially when one does not understand the meaning or benefit of what Christ asks.

As in the account of the Canaanite woman (Mt 15:24-26), Jesus’ apparent refusal exalts the woman’s faith, so that her Son’s words, “My hour has not yet come”, together with the working of the first miracle, demonstrate the Mother's great faith and the power of her prayer.

The episode of the wedding at Cana urges us to be courageous in faith and to experience in our lives the truth of the Gospel words: “Ask, and it will be given you” (Mt 7:7; Lk 11:9).