Enlighten the Hearts of Your Faithful

“For with Thee is the Fountain of Life; and in thy Light we shall see Light (Psalm 36:9).”

In Thee We See the Light. . . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. GC photographer

It is impossible to wrap our mere human minds around the notion of the Holy Spirit. The Love that is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity is conceptually so vast that it cannot be contained by mortal understanding. Our fallen nature cannot begin to sound the depths of Love personified in the Holy Spirit. Thus, God has chosen certain symbols to augment our understanding.

I Saw the Spirit as a Dove. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. KJ photographer

Often we view the Holy Spirit as a dove. Scripture itself relates John the Baptist as stating: “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain on Him (John 1:33).” This symbol seems to convey the transcendent peace of the Holy Spirit, and His role in creation itself. God is above and beyond the limits of human frailty; time and space cannot contain Him, nor can conflict and discord shape His existence. God’s transcendent peace and beauty surpass the limits of our temporal world.

A Mighty Wind Swept Over the Water. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. photpgrapher EA

The presence of God the Holy Spirit is often communicated through symbols of water and wind. For example, Genesis 1:2 manifests this concept with: “a mighty wind swept over the waters.” The waters of Baptism refresh and cleanse, bringing new life to the soul. It is only through the action of the Holy Spirit that we may respond to our Baptismal grace and live lives pleasing to God. The waters of Baptism remove the stain of Original Sign, and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, sanctify our souls.

Our Lord Himself stated:

“The waters that I will give Him will become a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting (John 4:14).”

Enkindle in Us the Fire of Your Love…© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photographer

One of the most enduring symbols of the Holy Spirit is that of light. Light transcends darkness. One beam of light dispels the shadows and brings clarity to what otherwise would remain unintelligible. Light transforms; bringing shape and form to objects that lack dimension and substance if left in the dark. Light erases the obscurities that darkness tends to cloak. When the Holy Spirit brings light into a human soul, the shadow of sin and despair takes flight.

“The Light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us; Thou has given gladness in my heart (Psalm 4:7).”

Today as we continue day four of our Novena to the Holy Spirit in Preparation for Pentecost, let us pray for the Light of the Spirit to penetrate us, sounding the depths of our frail humanity and transcending it with the very Love of God.

This novena to the Holy Spirit is currently prayed each day after Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill.

Each day the Preparatory prayer is:

O Holy Spirit, Divine Consoler!

I adore You as my Triune God.

I bless You by uniting myself to the praises You receive from the angels and saints.

I offer You my whole heart, and I render You heartfelt thanks for all the benefits You have bestowed and unceasingly bestow upon the world. You are the author of all supernatural gifts and Who did enrich with immense favors the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, I beseech You to visit me by Your Grace and Your Love, and grant me the favor I so earnestly seek in this novena. . . .(state your request here). O Holy Spirit, Spirit of all Truth, come into our hearts: shed the brightness of your light on all nations, that they may be of one faith and pleasing to You. Amen.

Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Love.

(Recite the prayer of the appropriate day)

Let Your Light Shine Upon Us . . .SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. GM photographer

Day Four

O God, Who today by the Light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, give us, by the Light of the Same Holy Spirit, a love for what is right and just, and a constant enjoyment of His comforts. Pray Holy Spirit, that I may strive to learn more of my faith; that I may be ever more conscious that reason in all its human magnificence is capable of grasping but a glimpse of the reality that is God. Pray that I may accept a the motto of my life: “All for the greater glory of God,” and grant me the favor I so earnestly seek in this novena. . .(state your request here). . .Amen.

Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Love.

May the Holy Spirit give you His Light and His peace!

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

God Mounts His Throne to Shouts of Joy

“I am going to My Father and Your Father, to My God and Your God (John 20:17).”

As we celebrate the glorious Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, our eyes must turn from looking up at the clouds to walking the road ahead of us. After His Resurrection, Our Lord appeared to His disciples over a period of forty days – eating, drinking, and speaking with them on various occasions. Today we celebrate that moment during which Jesus, the Risen Christ, returned to His Heavenly Throne, where He is eternally seated at the right hand of The Heavenly Father. Our Lord promised His disciples that he would not leave them orphaned; Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. It is in anticipation of the fulfillment of this promise, that Jesus instructs His disciples to remain in Jerusalem for a time.

Today’s First Reading states:

“the promise of the Father about which you have heard Me speak; for John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts of the Apostles 1:4-5 ).”

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself like the disciples, too concerned about temporal matters to comprehend the depth of the gift which they are about to receive. They question Our Lord about whether He now intends to restore the temporal kingdom of Israel. Like us, they just don’t get it! He has died, risen, and explained the subtleties of Sacred Scripture to these individuals. They have enjoyed the intimacy of His companionship, eating, drinking and sharing profound conversation with the Risen Christ; and like us, the distraction of the temporal situation blurs the reality of the spiritual grace which is perpetually lavished upon them.

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Today First Reading continues:

“It is not for you to know the times and the seasons that the Father has established by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth (Acts of the Apostles 1:7-8).”

Like the early disciples, our Lord commissions us to carry His Word to all peoples. Yet, we too need the supernatural grace of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill our mission. Later this year we will hear more about our responsibility to act on this commission by Our Lord, as Pope Benedict XVI opens the Year of Evangelization.

Today’s First Reading continues:

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as He was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen Him going into Heaven (Acts of the Apostles 1: 10-12 ).”

One can scarcely imagine the array of emotions which confronted the Apostles and disciples after witnessing Our Lord ascend into the clouds of the sky: joy, exhilaration, trepidation, awe, incredulity, wonder – the experience is almost unimaginable! Were it not for the admonition of their celestial messengers, the disciples might have remained frozen, contemplating the miraculous Ascension, yet unable to take the requisite steps to make Our Lord’s commission an actuality. The white-clad visitors pull them back to reality. They validated the mystery experienced by all present, yet called the Apostles and disciples to transcend it. It is as if God’s messengers were saying: “Yes, Jesus did just rise above the clouds and enter Heaven. However, He has given you a mission and will return with a demand for accountability. Get moving! Begin the work He has entrusted to you!”

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Two millennia have passed, and yet the message is as relevant today as it was on the day of Our Lord’s Ascension. We too need the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives to grasp the meaning of the Ascension. Yes, there is a moment to stare into the clouds in wonder and awe, contemplating the glorious mystery of Christ, yet we are also called to embrace the evangelical mission entrusted to us.

Therefore, as this week unfolds let us join the Apostles in the Cenacle in prayer. Consider joining me in preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost with this novena to the Holy Spirit which is currently prayed each day after Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill.

Each day the Preparatory prayer is:

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

O Holy Spirit, Divine Consoler!

I adore You as my Triune God.

I bless You by uniting myself to the praises You receive from the angels and saints.

I offer You my whole heart, and I render You heartfelt thanks for all the benefits You have bestowed and unceasingly bestow upon the world. You are the author of all supernatural gifts and Who did enrich with immense favors the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, I beseech You to visit me by Your Grace and Your Love, and grant me the favor I so earnestly seek in this novena. . . .(state your request here). O Holy Spirit, Spirit of all Truth, come into our hearts: shed the brightness of your light on all nations, that they may be of one faith and pleasing to You. Amen.

Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Love.

(Recite the prayer of the appropriate day)

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. photo by Joey

Day Three

Heavenly Father, You have called me to be a member of the Mystical Body of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit. I ask You to give me these Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, that I may understand the follies of this world; understanding, that I may grasp more fully the meaning of my existence and the purpose of all things in the world; counsel that I may always choose the proper way; fortitude, that I may remain faithful to You under the pressure of temptation; piety, that I may revere You in all I do, think or say; fear of the Lord, that should the motive of love fail me, I may be quickly awakened to the eternal consequences of my deeds. Visit me by Your grace and Your Love and grant me the favor I earnestly seek in this novena. . . .(state your request here). . .Amen.

Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Love.

May the Holy Spirit give you His peace!

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit: Novena to the Holy Spirit Day 1

Bishop Donald Hying & Our Family © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

During recent the months I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, and the lives of those whom I love. My eldest son received the Sacrament of Confirmation a few weeks ago, and this year of preparation has offered our family the opportunity to focus more deeply upon the real, abiding presence of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity in our lives. Kenny was graced with the ability of joining a Confirmation class that seriously undertook the task of catechesis. They worked diligently through not only portions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but also delved into Thomistic study. As a parent, I was required to follow along, and read the same weekly texts as my son. Watching the Holy Spirit bring His gifts of wisdom, understanding, fortitude, piety, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and counsel and heap them measure by measure upon my offspring was a delight. Thus, this year, as I prepare for Pentecost, I feel a unique gratitude to the Holy Spirit.

Bishop Hying & Kenny © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

As a matter of faith, we believe that the Holy Spirit is truly the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, distinct, yet consubstantial, coequal and coeternal with the Father and the Son. Likewise, as Catholics, we believe that the Holy Spirit is fully and truly God, and is thus not generated, but rather proceeds from the Father and the Son by a single spiration.

God is Love (1 John 4:8). Yes, indeed, in a very real way God is truly Love Itself. Aquinas viewed the Trinity as the very heart of Christian teaching. St. Thomas believed that one could use reason to arrive at and defend the concept of the existence of God. However, the concept of Trinity is one that must be revealed. It is thus, through the teachings of Jesus Christ, One in Being with the Father, that we arrive at the concept of the Blessed Trinity.

Unity yet Diversity © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

God is both unity and diversity. God is unity in the sense not only of solidarity of purpose, but also an accord – or oneness of nature. God is one God, yet three distinct Persons. Scripture clearly tells us that God is God alone. Deuteronomy 6:4 states: “Hear O Israel, the Lord Your God Is One.” Likewise: “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me (Isaiah 44: 6).” While God is unity, He also exists as diversity in the sense that we can distinguish the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as discrete Persons. For the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Trinity is a reflection of the relationship of Love and Self-Knowledge within the Being of God. God the Son emanates from God the Father as a reflection of His self-knowledge; in turn God the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father and God the Son as the Love that exists between them.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

On the day of Pentecost when seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a Divine Person: of His fullness, Christ the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance (731).

It continues:

On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in: the humility of the flesh and in faith they share in the communion of the Holy Trinity (732).

As we anticipate the great feast of Pentecost, perhaps you might wish to join me in praying the novena to the Holy Spirit that is being recited each day after Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill.

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Each day the Preparatory prayer is:

O Holy Spirit, Divine Consoler!

I adore You as my Triune God.

I bless You by uniting myself to the praises You receive from the angels and saints.

I offer You my whole heart, and I render You heartfelt thanks for all the benefits You have bestowed and unceasingly bestow upon the world. You are the author of all supernatural gifts and Who did enrich with immense favors the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, I beseech You to visit me by Your Grace and Your Love, and grant me the favor I so earnestly seek in this novena. . . .(state your request here). O Holy Spirit, Spirit of all Truth, come into our hearts: shed the brightness of your light on all nations, that they may be of one faith and pleasing to You. Amen.

Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Love.

(Recite the prayer of the appropriate day)

Let Your Light Shine Upon Us © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Day One

O Holy Spirit, bestow upon us Your seven gifts.

Enlighten our understanding that we may know You. Give us Wisdom that Your Will might be clear to us and that we might accept it. Grant us the Gift of Counsel that we may always perceive what is right. Fortify us that we may always be capable of fulfilling Your Divine Will. Inspire us with the Spirit of Learning that we might be able to penetrate more deeply into the truths that You have revealed. Let our hearts be steeped in the Spirit of Childlikeness that we may bring You joy. Let us have proper fear of God that we may never grieve You or wander from the path of goodness. Give us the fullness of Your gifts that we may glorify You. Amen.

Look with compassion upon us, O Holy Spirit, and grant us the favor we seek in this novena. . . . (state your request here) if it be in accordance with Your Will.

May God the Holy Spirit bring you His many gifts and give You His peace,

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A.    J.M.J.

Be Sealed With the Gifts of the Holy Spirit © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Cardinal Dolan’s Mass of Thanksgiving: Welcoming Home a Good Shepherd

Ergo sum pastor bonus, dicit Dominus; et cognosco oves meas, et cognos- cunt me meae.“I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep and mine know me (John 10:14).”

This is My Body! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. photo by KJU

Through this blog, I have previously expressed my esteem for Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Just prior to his elevation in February, I posted, “May God Bless Timothy Cardinal Dolan,” https://salvematerdei.com/2012/02/20/may-god-bless-timothy-cardinal-dolan/, tracing my admiration for this brilliant, charismatic leader to his early days as Archbishop of Milwaukee, and his involvement with my cherished Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill.

Bless these O Lord, . . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Months ago, when I heard that Cardinal Dolan had chosen to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Hill, I was thrilled. It was under his leadership that Holy Hill became a minor Basilica. During Cardinal Dolan’s 7 years as Archbishop of Milwaukee, he affectionately used to call Holy Hill, “Our Mother’s House” or “Our Lady’s House.” How fitting for one of Blessed Virgin’s favorite sons to make his homecoming, in Her House. Over the months, the sense of anticipation built to a crescendo. As we would come and go for daily Mass the kids and I enjoyed watching the preparations unfold. For weeks the sacristy and grounds have been abuzz with busy hands. Even the very door handles of the upper church were scrubbed to a polish!

Fr. Don Brick, O.C.D., Rector of the Basilica, was charged with the monumental task of organizing the Cardinal’s visit to Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. He and the Archdiocesan staff worked tirelessly to make this homecoming a success. In recent weeks, one truly began to wonder if Fr. Don could bilocate – sightings of the busy friar were reported from all corners of the grounds. One would catch a glimpse of him with the grounds-keepers mulching the bushes, five minutes later he’d be in his confessional before Holy Mass, later we’d see him with workers repairing the wrought-iron railing around the out-door Stations of the Cross. The man was everywhere! His sense of humor remained in-tact, and it was easy to discern that each detail of these preparations was born of a labor of love.

Fr. Rocky (Francis Hoffman) of Relevant Radio & KJ . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

My family was blessed to participate with the music for this celebration. Two of my children played violin and viola, while two others sang in the choir. Under Annie’s gentle direction, weeks of practice and polish manifested into a sound that Heaven must have inspired.

Welcome Home! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Saturday morning arrived and my eldest served the 11 a.m. Mass, as is his habit. The girls brought their instruments and helped with the final preparations. A frigid rain may have kept the crowds at bay, but it did not dampen the enthusiasm of those present. In a huge white tent in the middle parking lot, folks began to gather around 5 a.m., waiting for a coveted wrist band – a necessary pass to obtain a seat in either the upper or lower churches. Among the hundreds of folks waiting in the wee morning hours were our dear Schoenstatt Sisters from Pewaukee. Cardinal Dolan has a special devotion to Our Mother Thrice Admirable, and Schoenstatt spirituality. One of the sisters had brought a lovely image of Our Mother Thrice Admirable for the Cardinal to bless.

I know My Sheep, and My Sheep Know Me © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Despite the large crowds and foul weather, the atmosphere remained festive. Cordial conversations bonded intimate strangers, sharing exuberance in the beauty of the day. We were there for HOURS – in that time we passed among thousands of people. Through it all, there wasn’t a harsh word, a snide comment, or a muffled complaint. Dignitaries arrived and the press and cameras seemed to fill every corner. Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Jim Sensenbrenner, Sheriff David Clark, and Tommy Thompson all waited to share this moment in time. I marveled at how flawlessly the day progressed; joy and peace filled the Basilica.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki, Bishop Donald Hying, and Bishop David Ricken © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

As Cardinal Dolan and the concelebrating Bishops and priests began to line up for the processional hymn, the exhilaration was palpable. Holy Mass was incredible! Cardinal Dolan was welcomed home by a congregation who truly loves him. He was joined by Archbishop Listecki and Bishops Don Hying, William Callahan, and David Ricken, as well as dozens of ordered and diocesan priests in concelebrating this magnificent Mass. I will never forget the beautiful image of all of those faithful shepherds filling the sanctuary during the Eucharistic prayer.

Shepherd Us © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

This was Good Shepherd Sunday, and the reading from John 10: 11-18 seemed chosen for this moment in time.

“I am the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, the wolf catches them and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. . . “

Bless them O Lord! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. KJU photographer

While Jesus Christ is The Good Shepherd, it is abundantly clear that He elevated Timothy Cardinal Dolan to be one of the Princes of His Church, because this dear human man is himself a good shepherd. He is no mere hired-hand, nor is he one to capitulate to the wolves of contemporary society. No, in recent months Cardinal Dolan confirmed the fiber of his character. As a good shepherd he is willing to defend his flock from the dark threats. Standing up for religious freedom, Cardinal Dolan has demonstrated that when wolves lurk with HHS mandates and assaults to religious liberty, that he will defend not only his flock, but sheep from all folds. Truly his life has become that of a public figure. He can no longer sneak into the Basilica at Holy Hill unannounced and pray in solitude. Where he goes throngs follow, and unlike the crowds at Holy Hill, those crowds are not always filled with well-wishers. Cardinal Dolan is living the life of the good shepherd – he lives for his flock, and is willing to defend both their spiritual and temporal existence from dark and real threats.

Good Shepherd Sunday, May God Bless Them © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. KJU photographer

Saturday was a Mass of Thanksgiving. Cardinal Dolan was here to thank Our Lord for the gift of his office. However, each of us in the pews also experienced this as a Mass of Thanksgiving, as a Mass at which we expressed our deepest gratitude to God for the gift of Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

With sincerest gratitude to The Good Shepherd for giving us this good shepherd, may God continue bless Cardinal Timothy Dolan!

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

A.M.D.G.

MA JMJ

With Gratitude and Love © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

He is Risen, Alleluia!

He is Risen! Alleluia! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

He is Risen! Alleluia! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The Lord has indeed risen, alleluia! Glory and Kingship be His forever and ever!

There is no greater joy, no higher feast, than the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ! May Christ bestow on you and yours all the blessings of this Glorious Easter Morning! Christ has Risen! Death has been conquered! Salvation has been won! The Lord is victorious!

One can only imagine the emotions that flooded the disciples on that first Easter Morning. The exuberance, awe, amazement, shock, gratitude must have undulated in waves. They had seen their beloved Christ disgraced, betrayed, beaten, scourged, crowned with thorns, mocked, dragged through the city, tortured, nailed to the cross, and allowed to suffer for hours in the blazing sun before He relinquished His Divine Soul to God the Father. Jesus’ friends had witnessed His side slashed open with a soldiers lance to reveal copious amounts of blood and water- the last precious drops of His blood poured out for humanity. They had seen Mary tenderly cradle the corpse of

Taking the body, Joseph Wrapped it in Clean Linen and Laid it in a Tomb. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

her Divine Son, kissing the bruises and bloody gashes. The disciples had seen his body prepared for burial; they helped wash Its cold and lifeless limbs, anointed It with spiced oil, aloe, and perfume, and hastily wrapped It in a clean linen shroud. These friends helped to roll the heavy stone at the door of the tomb, and watched as a guard sealed the tomb, and menacingly guarded its entrance.

Yet all of that belonged to yesterday- the darkness and death are gone, in it’s place Resurrected Life is to be found.

One can sense the panic as Mary Magdalene approaches the tomb, with Mary the mother of James and Salome, to find the stone rolled back. The thoughts and questions must have fired like lightning in a storm. The guard is missing, the burial cloths are there, but empty. Where is He? Where has He gone? Where have they laid Him? I imagine their encounter with the angel – the joy and confusion. How can this be? Yet, nothing is impossible with God! I envision myself running like Peter (o.k., Peter probably ran faster than would I), out of breath, quivering, questioning, grasping for truth. I contemplate John, peering into the tomb, waiting in silent wonder for Peter to enter first, and together to encounter a reality beyond their human powers of comprehension.

Faith is the act of willing to believe what is hidden from our eyes, but revealed to our hearts. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Faith is the act of willing to believe what is hidden from our eyes, but revealed to our hearts. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

We are offered the same reality, and yes, we must stretch our powers of comprehension and assent to faith to believe what we cannot see. To participate in the Resurrection, and share its joy we must embrace what we cannot as humans explain nor understand. Faith involves a choice, and we must will it!

Like the visitors to the tomb on that first Easter morn, the words of the angel are directed to us:

“Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him (Mark 16:6). “

Do not be amazed, do not seek Him among the dead, for He is not there. He is risen! He is truly Risen, indeed Alleluia! Go and tell others! Share the joy of this moment, that all might come to believe.

As we continue our journey in the octave of Easter, moving toward the Feast of Divine Mercy, let us continue to prepare our hearts to receive all the grace and blessing that our Risen Lord wishes to bestow upon us. Let us continue to contemplate the wondrous Mercy that is His ultimate gift to humankind. As we daily pray our novena of Divine Mercy Chaplets, let us consider this Passion of Christ that is the mystery of our redemption. The chaplet is prayed on ordinary rosary beads, and takes only about 3 minutes to recite. The full text for the Chaplet can be found on the Marians of the Immaculate Conception Website at: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/praythechaplet.php.

Today, as we celebrate Easter and continue our preparation for the Feast of Divine Mercy, we turn our prayers to the faithful souls who are enfolded in the arms of the Savior. Our Lord specifically asked St. Maria Faustina to immerse these particular souls in the abyss of His Mercy on this Sunday. Jesus stated:

“Today bring to Me all devout and faithful souls and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. These souls brought Me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were a drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness (1214, p. 437– Divine Mercy in My Soul, Congregation of Marians, 1987)..“

Walk as Children of the Light! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Like St. Faustina, let us today pray for all the faithful, that they may never fail in love or lose the treasure of the Holy Faith. Let us beg the Heavenly Father to surround these souls with His constant protection so that they may one day glorify the immeasurable mercy of God with the angels and saints in Paradise for all eternity.

The entire text of the third day of St. Maria Faustina’s Divine Mercy Novena (as directed by Our Lord Jesus) can be found on the Marians of the Immaculate Conception Website at: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena/thirdday.php.

May Our Risen Lord envelope you and yours with His Love and Mercy. May His blessing be always upon you, and may we one day praise Him together in the company of the Heavenly Court, with joy, and glory for all eternity,

Wishing you and yours the joy of a glorious Easter.

Praise the Lord for He is Risen!

Indeed, He is Truly Risen, Alleluia!

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. J.M.J.

Rejoice Heavenly Powers, Sing Choirs of Angels!

May God Bless Archbishop Jerome Listecki © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

What a beautiful day! I love Holy Saturday. There is a rhythm of expectation that builds as a crescendo throughout the day. Good Friday was a busy one. We began with the outdoor Stations of the Cross, led by Archbishop Jerome Listecki, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. It was a gorgeous day. While last year we were pelted by freezing rain (I watched the ice-balls form on the servers’ candles); this year the sleet was replaced with beams of sunshine. My boys served and the girls sang as we processed up Holy Hill, winding our way through the Stations of the Cross with hundreds of others, faithfully retracing Christ’s journey to Calvary.

Good Fri Stations of the Cross Holy Hill Basilica © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Later, we returned to the Basilica for the Memorial of Our Lord’s Passion. As usual the church strained with an overflowing capacity, as Christ’s Passion was remembered in both Spanish and English. The devotion of the faithful (friars, pilgrims, and religious alike) was palpable for hours within these sacred walls.

Good Fri Stations of the Cross Holy Hill Basilica © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The mundane chores of feeding, cleaning, and caring for my brood continued as the day wore on. After the family Rosary, and Night Prayer from the Divine Office, most of the family was blessed and tucked in bed. My husband, our eldest two children and I then sat up until 12:30 A.M., watching The Passion of The Christ, as is our tradition. The heart-wrenching scenes of the scourging, and carrying of the cross are freshly re-etched in my mind. I can barely look at the vivid pounding of the nails into Jesus hands as His arms are yanked from their joints. I cannot imagine watching these scenes nonchalantly; for each year, they seem to resonate more deeply within my very core.

Today, the sorrow of Good Friday seems to slowly be melting into the joy that is about to be Easter. The boys share the honor of serving for tonight’s Easter Vigil, and spent a couple hours at the Basilica practicing this morning. I hear the altar flowers are magnificent, and that their abundance fills the church. I can hardly wait to experience the sight and fragrance tonight. We brought baskets containing our Easter Vigil meal, and a bit of candy to the monastery office to be blessed by Fr. Dan. The daily chores continue, but with an eager anticipation of the glory of the Resurrection that we are about commemorate tonight.

As we prepare for the jubilant celebration of Easter, and the glorious octave that will follow, with gratitude we turn our gaze toward the unfathomable gifts our Lord bestows in His immeasurable love. The greatest of these is His Mercy.

As we prepare for the Feast of Divine Mercy, which occurs exactly one week after Easter, we reflect upon the immeasurable depth of God’s Mercy, and our personal response to that gift.

Regarding the gift of His Divine Mercy Our Lord told St. Maria Faustina:

“My Mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or an angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come from the very depths of my most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity (699, p. 286– Divine Mercy in My Soul, Congregation of Marians, 1987).”

We thus continue our preparation for the Feast of Divine Mercy, a Feast instituted by Our Lord, on which He tells us that “the very depths of His mercy are open.” In preparation, we continue our novena of chaplets. Remember, the Divine Mercy Chaplet is prayed on ordinary rosary beads. This link to the Marians of the Immaculate Conception Website gives clear directions for praying the Chaplet of Mercy: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/praythechaplet.php.

Immerse the souls of priests and religious in His Mercy. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Immerse the souls of priests and religious in His Mercy. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Today we also, continue the novena dictated by our Lord to St. Maria Faustina. This novena, initiated for her private devotion, offers spiritual fruit for all who pray it faithfully. On each of the nine consecutive days prior to the Feast of Divine Mercy, Jesus requested that St. Faustina immerse a certain group of souls in the ocean of His Mercy. Our Lord would in turn bring those souls into the House of Our Heavenly Father. On the second day of the novena, Sr. Faustina was instructed to pray especially for the souls of the priests and religious.

Our Lord instructed:

“Today bring Me the souls of the priests and religious and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave Me strength to endure My bitter passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon all mankind (1212, p. 436– Divine Mercy in My Soul, Congregation of Marians, 1987).”

As I do not want to break copyright laws or plagiarize, for the entire text of St. Faustina’s novena Day 2, please visit the Marians of the Immaculate Conception site at: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena/secondday.php.

Like St. Maria Faustina, let us endeavor to bring the souls of priests and religious into to abyss of Christ’s mercy. These faithful men and women are consecrated to the service of the Lord. They are the beloved laborers in His vineyard. Without them the channels of grace would close.

Without priests there would be no Mass, no Eucharist  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Without priests there would be no Mass, no Eucharist © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Without priests there would be no Mass. There would be no one to Baptize, washing away the stain of original sin, and bringing the Light of the Holy Spirit to our souls, and those of our children. Without priests there would be no Eucharist to nourish our souls, nor sacrament of penance to reconcile us to God when we had rejected His love. Without priests, we would have no hope of becoming soldiers for Christ, or having our marriages become truly sacramental unions. Without priests, our souls would never have the sacramental grace given as we prepare to leave this life and enter into the next. Our priests are a treasure, one this secular world often despises and rejects.

God Bless the Religious! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 photo by Jacinta Stephens

So too let us remember the religious sisters and brothers who support the church and the society with prayer, sacrifice, and works of charity. These hidden souls labor perpetually for the salvation of the world, and receive little positive attention for their monumental efforts. Just as the secular world distains the priests so too it seems to revel in ridiculing the very existence of religious sisters and brothers. In appreciation for the tremendous gift of priests and religious, let us follow Christ’s request, and immerse them in the abyss of His mercy, and present them to the Heavenly Father for His blessing.

Wishing you and yours the joy of a glorious Easter.

Praise the Lord for He is Risen!

Indeed, He is Truly Risen, Alleluia!

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. J.M.J.

May God Bless Timothy Cardinal Dolan!

God Bless Cardinal Dolan

Well its official, our beloved Archbishop Dolan is now officially Timothy Cardinal Dolan. I deeply admire Cardinal Dolan, and am thrilled that the rest of the world has had more exposure to the faith, intellect, and genuine goodness of this remarkable individual.

Over the past month, Cardinal Dolan has assumed center stage in a contentious moral and political debate. As President of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), Cardinal Dolan has courageously championed our constitutional right of Freedom of Religion, – a right President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have attempted to trample via the recent HHS mandate forcing Catholic (and other religious) institutions to pay for or offer contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization without co-pay as a required component of “health” insurance. Through it all, Cardinal Dolan has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the truths of our faith. His example of moral courage and authentic leadership is all the more illuminating when seen in contrast to the political shenanigans and posturing of Obama and his administration.

The kids and I have followed Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s trip to Rome for the consistory eagerly on EWTN, Facebook and Twitter. Our Archbishop Dolan, elevated to a cardinal! Amazing! Every Milwaukee Catholic has at least one favorite Cardinal Dolan story, and I have several.

Our family first crossed paths with this dynamic spiritual leader on August 18, 2002, at Irish Fest, in the Marcus Amphitheater, on Lake Michigan. Our new Archbishop celebrated Holy Mass to a packed crowd, just days before his official installation as Milwaukee’s tenth Archbishop. Sitting there with my then four young children (ages 9 mos., 2, 3, and 6), my husband and I were deeply impressed not only by our new Archbishop’s faith and intellect, but also absolutely charmed by his legendary wit. The electricity at that Mass was palpable; Archbishop Dolan’s love for Christ and Our Lady was as contagious as his humor. I bonded immediately as he confessed a fear of driving on Wisconsin’s winter roads- yep, we had an awesome Archbishop, with the same human trepidation I felt.

The Kids and a painting of Archbishop Dolan at Holy Hill © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012.

As the years passed, my esteem for Archbishop Dolan continued to grow. I watched with interest and admiration as he tackled the numerous challenges of the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Archbishop Dolan shares my love of the Basilica of Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. In fact, it was under his leadership that on November 19, 2006, this beautiful, historic church was elevated to the honor of being one of the less than 60 minor basilicas in the United States. The kids and I loved attending Archbishop Dolan’s Masses at Holy Hill. Over the years we had many opportunities to gain a first-hand appreciation of his deep abiding faith, and charismatic personality. We were there at Holy Hill when Archbishop Dolan consecrated the entire Milwaukee Archdiocese to Immaculate Heart of Mary. Over the years, I was impressed by Archbishop Dolan’s sincere devotion to the Blessed Mother. I loved how he used to call Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians “Our Lady’s House;” so simple, so profound, so true.

Holy Hill Basilica, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians © SalveMaterDei.com, KJ photographer

We were at Holy Hill in June of 2006. Archbishop Dolan’s Masses were usually packed, standing room only. This was no exception, however this Mass was different in another way. On June 6, 2006 a couple of troubled youths spray painted satanic symbols and graffiti all over Holy Hill; they desecrated the outdoor stations of the cross, even the very front door of the church. It cost approximately $33,000 to sandblast the stations and remove those hideous red marks. Soon after, Archbishop Dolan was there for Sunday Mass- I can still remember how his tremendous voice bellowed  “Begone Satan” and with that he announced once and for all that Holy Hill forever belonged to Christ. I still get goosebumps when I think of his amazing, comforting presence that day. He took an angry, grieving congregation, and reminded us of the need to forgive, be healed and let Christ’s love be victorious. He was right – it was shortly after, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel that it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI would elevate Holy Hill to the level of a minor Basilica.

An inspiring moment © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012.

I remember the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, 2008. We had just adopted our lovely little girl from Guatemala. Packed in a pew near the back, my seven kids and I waited for Archbishop Dolan’s blessing as he processed toward the altar. We were thrilled that he stopped for just a moment and squeezed the hand of our newest little daughter. It was a lovely Mass- the kids were mesmerized by our gentle, wise Archbishop. The best was yet to come. We were among the last to leave the Church. Remember this is July 16- it is hot in Wisconsin in July, and those vestments can’t be comfortable. Archbishop Dolan graciously stood in the doorway of Holy Hill, conversing with the faithful, and extending his blessing, smiling as if he had nothing else to do, and that each recipient of his blessing was a close friend. As my little brood of seven lined up to kiss his ring, and ask for a blessing, my eldest son (then 12 years old) announced that he aspired to be a Carmelite priest. Archbishop Dolan extended a hand toward him, pointed, and in that signature booming voice announced, “I want to ordain you!” Kenny’s feet barely touched the ground- he was absolutely overwhelmed. Archbishop Dolan continued to chat with him, they conversed about homeschooling, and faith; and then he blessed us. Kenny has carried that moment with him ever since. That solitary exchange provided invaluable support for the budding vocation of a certain young man. As Archbishop Dolan took him seriously, I too began to look at his aspirations with fresh eyes, and a new earnestness.

Archbishop Dolan Blesses Our Little One © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012.

A year later, we were back at Holy Hill. It was a whirlwind weekend. Our newest daughter had just arrived from Ethiopia a mere 18 –hours before. It was Laetare Sunday, and Archbishop Dolan’s last Mass at Holy Hill before moving to New York. He concelebrated a lovely, yet bitter-sweet Mass. Once again, Archbishop Dolan spoke of being at home in “Mary’s House.” He joked about resembling a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in his rose-pink vestments. God had spoiled us. He had given Milwaukee Catholics a tremendous gift, but now it was time to share it with the rest of the world. After Mass, our family stood in line in the Shrine Chapel to get one last word, one last blessing. Archbishop Dolan smiled as he saw Kenny, he called him by name, and asked: “How’s school Kenny, do you still like your teacher?” Kenny stammered that he was homeschooled. Archbishop Dolan, nodded and said, “I know, do you still like your teacher?” Kenny nodded. Amazingly, he reiterated to Kenny, “I want to ordain you!” We were floored. Undoubtedly this holy man of God had crossed paths with thousands of folks in the past year, grasped their hands, heard their stories, and prayed with them; yet he remembered this young man, and his dreams. What a remarkable individual. The Archbishop proceeded to blessed us. We explained that our new little girl had just arrived from Ethiopia. Archbishop Dolan scooped up all 13lbs of our little princess, held her close and again blessed us all. He is an amazing man. It is a privilege to have received his blessing.

May Our Dear Lord continue to bless Timothy Cardinal Dolan, and may he in turn continue to bless all whose lives he touches.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. J.M.J.

Seek the Lord While He May Be Found….

Basilica of Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012 photo by KJU

…You shall seek the Lord your God and indeed you shall find Him when you search after Him with your whole heart and your whole soul (Deut. 4:29).

Our hearts are indeed restless until they rest in the Lord. Last night as my family was leaving Mass at Holy Hill Basilica, our Lord chose to give me powerful visual reminder of my need to remain close to Him. As usual we were among the last few folks out of the church. As is our routine, we had stayed to spend a few minutes in prayer, then chit-chatted with our dear friend Annie – the choir director – and her parents, asked Fr. Jude to bless us, and waited for the boys to leisurely put away their cassocks and amble out of the sacristy. Turning the corner to elevator we came upon two small, frightened children. They had been separated from their parents, and were deeply distraught. We joined a handful of adults in attempting to calm the youngsters and reunite them with their missing parents. Their sobs and tear-stained faces gripped this mother’s heart.

That overwhelmingly helpless feeling- LOST! We’ve all been there, and it is a heart- wrenching distress.

Feed My Lambs! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

Several years ago, my husband and I were at the local zoo with our then seven kids and their grandparents. Paranoid as I am about losing a child, my kids were all dressed in brightly colored matching tie- dyed shirts. I often dressed them alike on such outings to make it easier to keep track of my brood. As our little group of eleven wound its way through the crowd, I lost sight of my daughter. When I had last seen her, she had a firm grasp on Poppie’s hand. Thus, I was certain she was safe with him, but when we all settled at the concession stand, my little girl wasn’t among our number. Panic, absolute panic! I can image how Mary and Joseph felt upon discovering that the Child Jesus was not among their caravan of relatives (Luke 3: 41-52). With “great anxiety” we too began to look for our child.

I sprinted across the zoo, frantically calling her name. When I finally found her, in front of the polar bears and seals, there were a few concerned adults comforting my distraught little girl. We had been separated for no more than 15 minutes, however time must truly be relative, because I know that I aged at least a decade in those moments. I was so grateful to those caring strangers who comforted her in my absence, a gratitude that was seconded only to that which I felt to God for her safe return. I hugged her close, and mumbled a quick “thank you” to Our Lord, her guardian angels and the Good Samaritans nearby.

LOST! What an awful feeling! The distress and danger are real, and every fiber of our being cries out to be reunited with those by whom we are known to be loved. The loved ones of the lost child endure an agony as great as that of the missing individual. Indeed, the Blessed Mother and Joseph were not spared this torment; thus, there must be profound lessons and grace that can be gleaned from it. This physical state of being is a living nightmare. However, as frightening as it is to be physically lost, it is even more dangerous to be spiritually lost.

Shelter of the Lost, Please Pray for us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012 EA photographer

Clinging close to Christ is our best defense. The closer we are to Jesus, the less likely we are to suffer the spiritual anguish of being missing. Yet, like my trip to the zoo, and the loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple, there are times that despite our best efforts, we succumb to spiritual dangers and lose sight of God – even if only for a little while. In those moments, we need to stay put, and cry out for Him. Like the Good Shepherd, he will seek us out. Nevertheless, like the children we helped last evening, there are times that the most expeditious way to find our way to Our Beloved is through the parental kindness of another. Just as my maternal instincts kicked into high gear at the sight of these youngsters’ tears, so too Our Heavenly Mother Mary’s maternal protection is secured when we cry out to her in need. She too is acutely familiar with the distress of losing her beloved young Son. Mary’s Immaculate, Motherly Heart will not be unmoved by our pleas – either for ourselves or our lost loved ones. She and St. Joseph will surely help us to be united with our loved ones in Christ Jesus – though God’s timetable and ours may differ.

As the elevator opened and the children were reunited with their equally distraught parents, fear melted into joy. How much joy must there be in Heaven when we repent, seek Sacramental Confession, are spiritually reconciled with our Lord? When Mary and Joseph finally encountered Our Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem:

They found him sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. And His Mother said to Him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s House?”

Those words cut across the millennia, and are as relevant for us today as they were when directed to Mary and Joseph two-thousand years ago. When we or our loved ones are lost, we need to cry out for help, humbly grasp Mary’s hand and seek the Lord in His Father’s House. For if we do so, He will rescue us, never letting one of His trusting little lambs be forsaken. We can have confidence in His words: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost (Luke 19:10).”

May the Lord bless you and give you His peace.

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. JMJ

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Pray for Us!

She wrapped Him in clothes and laid Him in a manger. . . .( Holy Hill Basilica)  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

She wrapped Him in clothes and laid Him in a manger. . . .( Holy Hill Basilica) © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph and the child cradled in the manger (Luke 2:16). – Entrance Antiphon from today’s Holy Mass, and Antiphon 3 from Evening Prayer I.

The Feast of the Holy Family celebrates the special relationship created by God, to exemplify His unfailing tenderness. Today it is His voice that ever so gently reminds us of the dignity and sanctity of the family in the readings from Sacred Scripture in both the Liturgy of the Hours and the readings for today’s Mass. Throughout the hours of this great Feast day, we are subtly reminded of the beauty of God’s plan for the family.

Last night’s Vesper’s readings, from Deuteronomy 5:16, directs:

Honor your father and mother, as the Lord, your God has commanded you, that you might have a long life and prosperity in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you.

This commandment is the only one with a promise attached, and it is significant that it is placed immediately after the three commandments dealing with one’s relationship to God. Our relationship with our human family is quintessentially important, second only to our relationship with God. God wants us to enjoy peace within this relationship. Even so, He recognizes our human weaknesses and offers us the guidance we need to live in harmony. Just like in the reading from Deuteronomy, God again promises us rewards of grace for even attempting to abide in family unity. The First Reading from today’s Holy Mass directs us:

God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and he preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays he is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he obeys his father who brings comfort to his mother. My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be  forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins – a house raised in justice to you (Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14).

God could have chosen to save us as an adult, a royal monarch, visiting His people with ostensible power and might. However, instead He chose to be born into that fragile human relationship called a “family”. He chose to save us from a crib and a cross, rather than from a cloud and a throne.

The ideal family, is a perfect reflection of the beauty and grace of the Blessed Trinity. In the Holy Family we see the purity of God’s love – the refulgence of His Brilliance – unified in three hearts: one Sacred, one Immaculate, and one Holy. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph labored together- as individuals and as family, they cooperated with God’s grace and fulfilled His Plan. From the outside, their family appeared just as messy as any of ours. The unplanned pregnancy that preceded the marriage of Mary and Joseph probably did not  endear them to relatives. A quick glance at the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1: 1) reveals not only kings, and nobility, but also prostitutes, thieves and murderers. In the ultimate act of humility, the Incarnation, Jesus chooses to be born into this complex nexus of humanity. He could have created an extended family of saints- each with pristine character, and spotless lives to call his own. But He didn’t. Instead, he reserved that singular grace and privilege of an Immaculate Life for the woman whose flesh would form His own, and whose blood would fill His tiny veins.

He was Obedient to them. . . .( Holy Hill Basilica)  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. EA photographer

He was Obedient to them. . . .( Holy Hill Basilica) © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. EA photographer

From the Old Testament to the New, God directs us how to behave as a family. For it is in family that His tender love is most visibly revealed. He spells out clearly how we need to interact with one another, and then He offers us the ultimate example of such love in the Holy Family.

Today’s Second Reading (Colossians 3:12-21) details the Almighty’s plan for harmonious family life:

Brothers and sisters: put on as God’s chosen ones holy and beloved heartfelt compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. Over all these put on love, that is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. . . .

It goes on to specify:

Wives be subordinate to your husbands as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so that they might not become discouraged.

Wow! If one wants details, there they are. It is so difficult to translate those specifications into daily practice. I fail constantly. Yet, I know in my heart, that at least trying to comply with God’s command brings grace. Contemporary life is so messy- secular threats to family life are everywhere: relativism, materialism, spiritual starvation, isolation,  addictions, vanity, etc.. We need this Feast of the Holy Family to remind us that with God’s grace, we can achieve the joy He ordained for each of us, and our beloved family members, long before time began. Our omnipotent God would not have outlined His plan for family life so explicitly, and then leave us to flounder. He has given us the plan, and in Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the ultimate example. Thus, He will also grant us the grace to reach the goal of family bliss, if only we ask.

Please join me in praying the closing prayer from tonight’s Vespers:

Father, help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love. Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Joyous Feast of the Holy Family,

Christmas Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. JMJ

The Lord is Close at Hand; Come, Let Us Worship Him.

 

Feed My Lambs! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

I love the readings for this week!  The interplay between the daily Mass readings and those of the Divine Office are so beautiful. They echo the deepest yearning of the human heart for the coming of Our Savior. The “O” antiphons that accompany the Magnificant, and are recited before and after this Canticle of Mary during the Evening Prayer are particularly poignant:

O Key of David, O Royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom- Liturgy of the Hours for December 20.

And tomorrow’s is equally beautiful:

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of Eternal Light, Sun of Justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death- Liturgy of the Hours for December 21.

Without the Light of Christ, our lives are indeed prisons of death and darkness. Sin, weakness, failure, hopelessness are inescapable without Him. However, Jesus is willing to be born in our human hearts- to enter into our misery with His Divinity, and save us from the consequences of sin. The first intercession in the Evening Prayer of today’s Divine Office is:

Dispel our darkness with the Light of Your Presence, and make us worthy of Your Gifts.

To which we are instructed to “cry out to Christ Our Lord, the Light of the World, with joy:”

Come, Lord Jesus!

In the First Reading from today’s Holy Mass, Ahaz was directed by the Lord to ask for a sign from the Lord. This weak and worldly king, who ruled Judah in Jerusalem in 735 B.C. is the legitimate ruler of Israel, and as such the God speaks to him and says:

Ask for a sign from the Lord your God: let it be deep as the nether world or high as the sky- Isaiah 7:11.

But Ahaz – like the rest us-  is weak, stubborn and bold enough to defy God. He prefers to rely on his own strength (and that of Assyria) rather than putting his confidence in God. He responds:

No, I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord! – Isaiah 7:12.

I don’t know about you, but this fits me perfectly! How often do I see God’s plan sketched out before me – His rules, His directives, His plan – and I excuse myself with resounding, “No!”. Like Ahaz, I even twist it to make it seem that rather than laziness or lack of confidence in Him,  I’m disobedient because I merely do no not want to offend Him. (Yes, it is pathetic- how often I need the Sacramental Grace of Penance!) Yet , even in this sinful, dark state, Our Lord is willing to bring the Light of His Love.

Then Isaiah said:

Listen, O House of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: the Virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel. – Isaiah 7: 13-15.

A Virgin Shall Conceive and Bear a Son....© SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

God Himself offers the sign, and it is truly deep as the nether world and high as the sky. Jesus dies, and descends to the nether world, rises from the dead, and ascends into  Heaven. Thus, just as foretold,  the sign is both as deep as the netherworld and as high as the sky. The Virgin Mary does indeed conceive and bear the Christ, the Son of the Living God. In today’s Gospel, we hear of the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel of Our Lady’s high calling. St. Gabriel refers to Our Lady as “Full of Grace (Kεχαριτωμένη),” and presents to her  God’s plan. Unlike Ahaz, The Blessed Mother affirms God’s plan with her whole being, and in the instant of her fiat, God acts within her to fulfill the promise made so very long ago.

The Child of the Promise is Our Lord and Savior, and it is His coming into our hearts for which we have been readying ourselves. These final few days of Advent direct us to finish our preparation- and like the Virgin Mary to offer Him our fiat – a robust and confident “yes”. 

When the children and I were at Holy Mass this morning at the Basilica of Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, we stopped by the outdoor nativity. Over the weekend, this nativity was full of life – the Carmelite Friars held their annual living nativity. Teens from the St. John Bosco Youth Group sang carols, as Fr. Cyril Guise, O.C.D., and Fr. Jude Peters, O.C.D. narrated the story of Our Lord’s Birth. As the crowd watched and listened, Mary and Joseph sat amid the hay with baby Jesus. The three Wise Men and multiple shepherds stood close to the stable, while camels, donkeys, chickens, and sheep fed nearby. It was like standing in a living Christmas card! My family loves attending this annual display. Watching the young Mary pull her veil close to shield her face from the chill of the breeze, while the sheep “baaaaaed” at her feet conveyed a sense of reality. Each time we participate in this event, I am struck by the humility of Our Lord in choosing such a stable for His birth.

 

Your Light Shall Come Jerusalem. . . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

Well, today the stable was rather quiet, and a bit empty. Lovely plastic statues have taken the place of the human figures that filled the stable  only a few days ago. The hum of cars moving to and fro replaced the sounds of camels and donkeys braying. The empty manger in the cold stable reminded me of the cold and empty places left in my own heart that needed to be warmed and readied for the arrival of my King of Kings.  I need Him, and am acutely aware of the clock ticking toward His impending arrival. I want my life to be a living Nativity – warm and real in what often seems a cold and plastic world. Only with the Light of His coming can my life be transformed. With joy we wait and hope:

Your Light Will come Jerusalem, the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty- daily Advent Liturgy of the Hours Morning Responsory.

Advent Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. JMJ