As Christians, We Are Called to Journey

“Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for your people’s unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering (Wisdom 18:3).”

Vatican Hall of Maps ceiling 3a

This past calendar year has been one of travel for my family and I. I can honestly say that I have put on more frequent flyer miles, stayed in more hotels, stuffed more suitcases, and experienced more of the world as a sojourner than in all my previous years combined. Now that much of the hustle and bustle is through- at least for the time being- it has been on my heart to “unpack” it all and examine the gift of this precious time in light of Lent.

As Christians, we are all called to journey. In a very real sense the life of every Baptized Christian is itself a journey; for by our Sacramental call, we are not merely aimless wanders in this life. Rather, we have a destination and a mission. We are called to love, honor and serve God in this life so that we might enjoy eternal bliss with Him for all eternity in Paradise. During the season of Lent, we focus more directly on just what it means to love, honor and serve God by seeing Him and loving Him concretely in our neighbor. It is thus, that during Lent we engage more fully in prayer, fasting and almsgiving so that we can have eyes that genuinely seek Him, ears that truly hear Him, hands that willingly serve Him, and a heart that overflows with love for Him.

Rome f from the bus

By definition, a journey implies movement and transition; there is both a definite beginning and a finite end-point. As Christians, we recognize that Jesus Christ is our Alpha and Omega- He alone is our beginning and end. If our journey is not focused on Christ, that is, on gratefully recognizing the Providential love of God in our past, engaging Him fully at each moment of our present, and desiring to above all rest in His embrace in the finality of our earthly end, then our journey runs the risk of merely being self-directed wandering. For it is only with the Lord as our guide that our destination is secure: “Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for your people’s unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering (Wisdom 18:3).” God neither forces His love, nor His plan upon us. If we choose to wander around like lost sheep in the desert, rather than remain close to the shepherd and the rest of the flock, the Good Lord will let us. However, it is only in journeying with Him that our hearts will find the object of their desire and the happiness that accompanies it.

The Obelisk - 1b

While all journeys involve travel, not all travel is a journey. Real journeys involve true sacrifice of precious commodities like time, money, sleep, comfort and personal security. Recently my family and I were privileged to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage with the Milwaukee Mercy Choir to sing for the Holy Father, at both the recent November Consistory and the Papal Mass closing the Year of Mercy (I intend to blog more regarding this pilgrimage in coming weeks). We traveled with one hundred seven individuals, fifty three of whom – like my daughters and I – were vocalists in the 300 member International Mercy Choir.

For nearly eight months before the first plane ascended into the evening sky toward the Eternal City of Rome, there were endless hours of planning and preparation. The sacrifice for the journey was tangible – from the financial cost of travel, the hours of choir practice, to the temporary separation from loved ones who were unable to travel with us. Even before the morning we all boarded buses for the airport, there was a real sense of sacrifice. Travel itself is not comfortable. While the most carefree among us might have found snaking through airport lines and security with 107 fellow pilgrims to be an adventure, for most travelers, stepping through the airport security scanners is enough to leave one feeling uncomfortably vulnerable at the acute loss of privacy. Vulnerability, moments of discomfort and uncertainty all seem to be among the hallmarks of an authentic journey.

The plane!

On a journey like this, the traveler quickly learns that time is relative. There must be an unwritten rule that the length of queues, such as the line to have one’s passport stamped at the Immigration Kiosk in Spain, is invariably inverse proportionally related to the time remaining before the flight is scheduled to leave. International travel with a group of this size could be characterized as intense moments of urgency and panic separated by hours of tediousness- both waiting for flights, and during the 8-10 hours crossing the Atlantic. Intense prayer is another of the hallmarks of a journey. Through it all, I had a rosary in one pocket and a chotki in the other, and prayed constantly –especially when it looked like we were going to miss our flight back from Spain to the U.S., and during those gut-wrenching moments of in-flight turbulence. Yet as much as I prayed, I knew that others were praying as well- both those on the pilgrimage and those who were supporting us with their prayers. We in turn prayed not only for ourselves, but carried with us the intentions of hundreds of people who had trusted their precious concerns in our intercession. The honor of praying for others, and in turn being prayed for by them, is one of the indescribable joys of a pilgrimage, and this particular journey.

Yet, so it is with Lent. We and our fellow pilgrims sacrifice – both individually and collectively- to journey toward a real goal. We pray for each other and are in turn supported in a real way both physically and spiritually by the fruit of that prayer. We sacrifice our time and comfort, giving alms, fasting, and praying intently. While this time period is measured in real moments- hours and days – it also transcends time, and bears significance in eternity. Travel shakes us of the constraints of our routines. The comforts of home – food, a comfortable bed, cleanliness, our favorite clothes, our sense of security- are all left behind for a duration. Don’t even get me started on time zones and jet lag…. Journeys involve sacrifice. Yet, because of that sacrifice, we are privileged to behold vistas that were previously unimaginable.

May the sacrifice of the Lenten Journey bear spiritual fruit for each and every one of us in both time and eternity.

-M.A.  JMJ

Woman, Why Are You Weeping?

Woman, Why are You Weeping? © SalveMaterDei.com 2013

Woman, Why are You Weeping? © SalveMaterDei.com 2014

“While I was weeping at the tomb, I saw my Lord (Evening Antiphon, Tuesday Octave of Easter, Divine Office, Liturgy of the Hours).” Have you longed for something so deeply that you nearly missed it when it was given to you? Have you ever prayed with all your heart and soul for a grace, only to have God answer with miracle beyond your wildest imagination? That is exactly how we find Mary Magdalene in today’s Gospel from Holy Mass, on this the Tuesday of the Easter Octave.

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried Him away, tell me where you laid Him, and I will take Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew “Rabbouni,” which means teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father and your Father, My God and your God.” Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what He told her (John 20: 11-18).

She had Seen Our Lord Tortured, Beaten, and Killed. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

She had Seen Our Lord Tortured, Beaten, and Killed. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2014

One can easily picture the distraught Mary Magdalene, kneeling in exhausted sorrow that Easter Morning, before Our Lord’s tomb. Sobs rack her body; her eyes are swollen from two days of grief, and her strength has faded. She had seen Jesus tried, tortured, and crucified. With Mary, and a handful of others she had hastily prepared Jesus for burial, and watched the stone set to seal the tomb. These past two days had been spent in a numb pain; alternating between fear, anger, and grief. How could this have happened to her Lord? There was nothing more that the chief priests, council, temple guard, or Roman soldiers could do that would surprise her.

She Had Helped to Prepare His Body for Burial . . .© SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

She Had Helped to Prepare His Body for Burial . . .© SalveMaterDei.com, 2014.

Now, as Mary Magdalene kneels in agony before the empty tomb, her pain is so great that she misses the joy that is before her. Her sorrow is so monumental that she is utterly oblivious to the two angels in white who are sitting “one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been.” The angels speak to her, and Mary is still so thoroughly immersed in her own grief that their presence, their words do not even register.

Sorrow turns to Joy! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Sorrow turns to Joy! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2014.

Christ Himself repeats the query of the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping?” She perceives Him to be a gardener, and is so intent on finding the dead Jesus, that she misses the Risen, Living Christ in front of her very eyes! She wants to find Jesus’s body, and return it lovingly to the tomb. She is even willing to try to carry it herself – “tell me where you laid Him, and I will take Him.” However, God’s plans are far greater than she can imagine. As Jesus calls her name, her eyes are opened – just like so many of the blind whom Jesus had cured. One can imagine the joyous reunion and Mary hugging Jesus with the strength of an iron vice-grip. One can almost sense a hint of amusement in Our Lord’s voice as He tells to loosen her grip: “Stop clinging to me!” Jesus tells Mary that He still has work to accomplish. “I have not yet ascended to My Father and your Father, My God and your God.” It is as if Our Lord is telling her, “In Heaven you will have all eternity to cling to Me if you wish, but for now, We need to get moving. You have work to do, as do I!” Again, there is a message for us as well. How often do we miss the grace and miracles that Our Lord lavishes upon us, because we are too narrowly focused on challenges of which seem insurmountable? God’s glorious designs surpass our greatest fears; His brilliance erases the bleakness of our sorrow. Jesus calls each of our names, just as He called out to Mary. Our task is to recognize the call, and respond to it with a hearty embrace of Our Risen Lord.

Our Task is to Embrace the Risen Lord. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Our Task is to Embrace the Risen Lord. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2014.

As the Easter Octave progresses we move toward the Great Feast of Mercy Sunday. We continue with the fifth day of our novena of Divine Mercy Chaplets. Again, full instructions regarding how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet can be found on the Divine Mercy Website of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/praythechaplet.php.

Today is also the fifth day of the novena Our Lord dictated to St. Maria Faustina in preparation for the Feast of Divine Mercy. For each day of this novena, Our Lord asked St. Faustina to pray for a particular group of souls, immersing them into the abyss of His unfathomable Mercy, and pleading for them before the throne of the Heavenly Father. Today, Jesus directed St. Faustina as follows:

Today bring to me the souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My passion they tore at My Body and My Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion (1218, p. 438 – Divine Mercy in My Soul, Congregation of Marians, 1987).”

St. Maria Faustia, Please Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

St. Maria Faustina, Please Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2014.

Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your Light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen. (Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet, Pamphlet [LFMCN], 2012 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate conception of the B.V.M.)

Today let us join St. Maria Faustina in praying for those who have separated themselves from the Holy Church. We intercede for all individuals who squander the graces God has lavished upon them, and pray that they may soon return to unity with the Church. As Jesus Himself prayed, “Father, may they all be one (John 17:21).” With Mary Magdalene, may we each have the grace to turn to Lord, and respond to His call; to embrace Him with all our strength, and to endeavor to do His will. May the Risen Christ bless you and yours abundantly.

Praise the Lord for He is Risen!
Indeed, He is Truly Risen, Alleluia!
Ad Jesum per Mariam M.A. J.M.J.
** Divine Mercy Celebrations will be held at churches world-wide in accordance with Our Lord’s directive to St. Maria Faustina. Confessions, Holy Mass (often at 3 p.m.) and the singing of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy usually occur at these events. There is a true outpouring of grace at these events. Contact your local Archdiocesan Office for details and locations of hosting churches.

You Will Not Leave My Soul in Hell, Nor Let Your Holy One Experience Corruption – 2014

Though sinless, the Lord has been put to death. The world is in mourning as for an only son.  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Though sinless, the Lord has been put to death. The world is in mourning as for an only son. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2014

“Though sinless, the Lord has been put to death. The world is in mourning as for an only son (Psalmody, Antiphon 1, Divine Office Holy Saturday).”

"Look Well All You Peoples and See My Suffering."  Good Friday Antiphon Divine Office SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

“Look Well All You Peoples and See My Suffering.” Good Friday Antiphon Divine Office SalveMaterDei.com, 2014

Holy Saturday begins with a mix of emotions. While a growing sense of anticipation is palpable an acute tinge of sorrow remains. Good Friday was physically and emotionally exhausting – and if celebrated deeply, it should be. By Good Friday Night Prayer, our bodies should be feeling the effects of a day of strict fasting, and just as our hearts and souls ache from contemplating the suffering and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As we settle down to slumber with a “May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death,” still on our lips from Night Prayer, we entrust body and soul to the compassionate and providential care of Our God.

Lord Open My Lips and My Mouth Will Proclaim Your Praise! SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Lord Open My Lips and My Mouth Will Proclaim Your Praise! SalveMaterDei.com, 2014.

Holy Saturday morning finds us waiting in anticipation. Last night, my older children and I stayed up and watched the movie, “The Passion of Christ.” Each Good Friday, we watch it together, and I am profoundly shaken by the depth of our Lord’s Mercy and the significance of His Slavific Sacrifice. Throughout this Holy Saturday, I have found myself reflecting on Our Lord’s Harrowing of Hades – yes , even in death He was not asleep – but rather extending His Mercy to those who had fallen asleep in the promise and Hope of a Redeemer.

"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death, and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life." © SalveMaterDei.com, 2014

“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death, and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2014

 

As I brought my kids to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians for an early morning practice for tonight’s Easter Vigil, the flowers has been lovingly arranged around the main altar and Shrine chapel. The tabernacle remains empty – someone is missing. Yet, the Resurrection is a certainty – it has been promised and our redemption is at hand. Today, as we prepare to celebrate the most sacred Solemnity of the year, let us strive to profoundly adore our Crucified Christ with all of the devotion and love we can possibly offer. By worshipping Him intensely and immersing ourselves in the mystery of salvation, may we be blessed to share fully the Glory of His Resurrection for all Eternity.

Sanctuary at the Bascilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help Of Christians at Holy Hill - Holy Saturday Morning SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Sanctuary at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help Of Christians at Holy Hill – Holy Saturday Morning SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

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.

Contemplating His Mercy, Adoring The Crucified Christ SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Contemplating His Mercy, Adoring The Crucified Christ SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

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).”

 

“Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service,* that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard — upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.”

 

* In the original text, Saint Faustina uses the pronoun “us” since she was offering this prayer as a consecrated religious sister. The wording adapted here is intended to make the prayer suitable for universal use (source: Marian Press, Marians of the Immaculate Conception.)

 

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 Sacraments, No One to Baptise Our Children, To Hear Our Confessions. . . SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Without Priests, There Would Be No Mass, No Sacraments, No One to Baptise Our Children, To Hear Our Confessions. . . SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Without priests, we would not have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass [nor for our Eastern brethren, the Divine Liturgy]. 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.

Who Prays for You? Religious Sisters and Brothers leading Hidden Lives Rich in Grace. SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Who Prays for You? Religious Sisters and Brothers leading Hidden Lives Rich in Grace. SalveMaterDei.com, 2014.

So too let us remember the religious sisters, monks 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 disdains 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, and Blessed Pascha.

Praise the Lord for He is Risen!

Praise the Lord for He is Risen, He is Truly Risen Indeed! SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Praise the Lord for He is Risen, He is Truly Risen Indeed! SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Indeed, He is Truly Risen, Alleluia!

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. J.M.J.

** Divine Mercy Celebrations will be held at churches world-wide in accordance with Our Lord’s directive to St. Maria Faustina. Confessions, Holy Mass (often at 3 p.m.) and the singing of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy usually occur at these events. There is a true outpouring of grace at these events.

Contact your local Archdiocesan Office for details and locations of hosting churches.

 

“Why We March………”

My son posted this reflection on his site (God Alone Sufficeth)regarding his experieces at this year’s March for Life 2014. He had the privilege to travel with an outstanding group of young adults and bear witness to the Sanctity of Life.

God Alone Sufficeth

One week ago today, I was arriving in Washington D.C. with my group from the great state of Wisconsin to participate in the 41st. annual March for Life. It was a tremendous blessing and honor to again attend this event. As a Catholic Christian, I prayed for an end to the scourges of abortion, euthanasia and the countless other abuses of the human being’s right to life with dignity which the legalization Roe vs. Wade has facilitated. As an American Citizen, I exercised my right to“peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” guaranteed under the 1st. Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The March for Life is far more than simply “another anti-abortion protest.” No, The March for Life is a “pilgrimage. “As we work to end the grave injustices of abortion, euthanasia and other infringements on the human being’s right…

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The Souls of the Just are in the Hand of God – Reprise

Salve Sancta Mater Dei

Much to my dismay, life has gotten in the way of regular blog posts. Forgive me for cheating and reposting last year’s All Souls’  Day piece, and please join me in prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed.

Today we celebrate the feast of All Souls Day. Like yesterday, we once again gather to rejoice in the communion of saints- celebrating the unbroken unity that is the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven), the Church Suffering (beloved souls in Purgatory), and the Church Militant (those of us on earth striving to reach our eternal beatitude). While yesterday’s solemnity was a joyous celebration of virtues of those saints who stand in perpetual adoration of the Lamb of God, today’s celebration is a more subdued supplication for our beloved siblings in Christ who- though saved- have yet to reach the eternal celestial joy of the saints. The Church teaches that Purgatory is the…

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Our Lady of The Holy Rosary, Pray for Us!

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

October 7 is the date set aside on the liturgical calendar for the Feast of the Rosary. This Feast is known under several titles including: “Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary,”, “Our Lady of Victory,” and “Feast of the Holy Rosary.” Historically, this feast celebrated the intercession of Our Lady, via the Rosary, in the Battle of Lepanto. As a result of this 16th Century naval battle the invading Turkish forces retreated and Christianity in Western Europe was secured.

 

 

In 1571 Pope St. Pius V attributed the victory to the Holy Rosary which was prayed throughout Europe, especially as the battle was waged. It was he, who instituted the feast under the title of “Our Lady of Victory.” Later, in 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the title of the Memorial to “The Feast of the Holy Rosary;” and Pope Clement XI extended its celebration to the entire Latin, officially inserting it into the Roman Calendar of Saints in 1716. While initially celebrated on the first Sunday in Rome, in 1913 Pope Pius X changed the date to October 7.

Hail Full of Grace. . . SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photo

Throughout the centuries, the Rosary has been a powerful tool, a tool we would do well to use each and every day. Through this inspired prayer, we contemplate the salvific action of Our Lord by meditating on a series of mysteries, while praying sequence of “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” and “Glory Be” prayers. The succession of prayers and mysteries works together to draw Our hearts closer to Christ through the message of the Angel Gabriel to Our Blessed Mother, at the moment of the Annunciation: “Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in muleribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui.”(Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb). As our hearts beat in unison with Our Lady’s, we contemplate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Oceans of grace are poured out upon us. Through this magnificent prayer miracles abound, both in the past and present.

Candle light Vigil October 8, 2011, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

One such celebration of the grace which accompanies the Holy Rosary has been an annual favorite of mine for years. Tomorrow, in Champion, Wisconsin my family and I will be present during the Vigil Celebration of the Anniversary of the Night of the Miracle of the Pestigo Fire. For the next two days we will celebrate an event that occurred in 1871, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. This is the only Vatican recognized, Bishop approved, Marian apparition site in the U.S. On this night, in 1871, a terrible hurricane of fire consumed an area of northern Wisconsin equal in size to the State of Rhode Island. Approximately 2,500 settlers lost their lives, many more were burned badly, and the loss of crops and livestock was enormous.

Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, October 8, 2011 Vigil Celebration © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

This intense wall of fire actually jumped Green Bay, and burned not only the area around Pestigo, but also part of the Door County Peninsula. Almost 10 years to the day of the fire, Our Lady had appeared to a young immigrant woman, Sr. Adele Brise, warning her that people needed to turn back to God. On this terrible night, October 8, 1871, area settlers remembered the warning, and fled to the tiny Chapel with their families and livestock. They prayed the rosary on their knees in procession. As the smoke would choke them, they would turn and process in another direction. Their efforts continued throughout the night. In the morning, a rain began to fall, and in the light of dawn the reality of the miracle became evident. The five acre site of the Chapel, and all who had prayerfully sought refuge there were safe. The Shrine stood as an “emerald Isle in a sea of ash.” Even the fence posts bore witness to the miracle: they were charred on the side facing the fire, yet perfectly intact on the side facing the Chapel.

Holy Mass October 9, 2011 Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. the Vigil celebration begins with the reading of the history from the Chapel history book, followed by an outdoor candle-lit rosary procession, Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This event deeply touches my heart, the rustle of corn in nearby fields, the scent of a distant fire, the chill of the air, the voices in prayerful harmony, together create a deep impression of the magnitude of what transpired on the night of October 8, 1871. The following day, Holy Mass is celebrated in memory of this incredible miracle.

Bishop David L. Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Holy Mass, October 9, 2011 SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

For more information on Sr. Adele, the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, and the Miracle, visit their website at: http://www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com/.

Tomorrow night, as we process around that same 5 acre site praying the rosary, I will remember each of you and your intentions in my heart. May Our Lady lead you to her Divine Son!

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

Flower of Carmel, Purest of Lilies

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

For the past two days we have celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel with the Discalced Carmelite Friars of the Immaculate Heart Province at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. Yesterday during the vigil celebration, scapulars were distributed to a standing-room-only crowd in the St. Therese Chapel, and dozens of people showed their affection for Our Lady by leaving flowers near her statue while praying for her patronage.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Bestowing the Brown Scapular Upon St. Simon Stock © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The enthusiasm of yesterday’s vigil was visibly echoed today. This morning’s Mass was concelebrated by the members of the Carmelite Community. It was a glorious Mass! Each year I look forward to hearing the Flos Carmeli chanted as the Sequence before the Gospel. This exquisite hymn was composed in the 12thcentury by St. Simon Stock, to whom Our Lady appeared on this date, presenting the Brown Scapular to the Carmelite Order.

                                           Flos Caremeli

Flos Carmeli,                                        Flower of Carmel

Vitis florigena,                                   Tall vine blossom laden;

Splendor caeli,                                        Splendor of Heaven

Virgo puerperal                                 Childbearing yet maiden.

Singularis                                                 None equals thee.

Flower of Carmel © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Mater mitis                                           Mother so tender,

Sed viri nescia                                  Who no man didst know,

Carmelitis                                          On Carmel’s children

Esto propitia                                       Thy favors bestow.

Stella Maris                                              Star of the Sea

Bestow Your Blessing on Carmel’s Children © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Radix Iesse                                 Strong Stem of Jesse,

Germinans flosculum                   Who bore one bright flower

Nos ad esse                                           Be ever near us

Tecum in saeculum                        and guard us each hour

Patiaris.                                           Who serve thee here.

Purest of Lilies © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Inter spinas                                       Purest of Lilies

Quae crescis lilium                      That flowers among thorns,

Serva puras                                Bring help to the true heart

Mentes fragilium                           That in weakness turns

Tutelaris                                           and trusts in thee.

Under Thy Mantle © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Armatura                                           Strongest of Armor

Fortis pugnatium                              We trust in thy might:

Furunt bella                                       Under thy Mantle

Tende praesidium                        Hard pressed in the fight,

Scapularis.                                           We call to thee.

We Turn to Thee © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Per incerta                                          Our way uncertain

Prudens consilium                             Surrounded by foes,

Per adversa                                       Unfailing counsel

Iuge solatium                                     You give to those

Largiaris.                                            Who turn to thee.

Gentle Mother © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Mater dulcis                                        O Gentle Mother,

Carmeli domina                              Who in Carmel reigns,

Plebem tuam                                 Share with your servants

Reple laetitia                               That gladness you gained

Qua bearis.                                           And now enjoy.

Gate of Heaven © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Paradisi                                           Hail Gate of Heaven,

Clavis et ianua                               With Glory now crowned,

Fac nos duci                                        Bring us to safety

Quo, Mater, Gloria                              Where they Son is found,

Coronaris. Amen                                    True Joy to see.

As the Gospel was proclaimed, I thanked Our Lord for the vocations of the faithful Carmelites world-wide. The line from today’s Gospel: “Woman behold your Son; Son behold your Mother (John 19:26-27),” really seemed to transcend this celebration. From her throne of grace in Paradise, Our Lady was surely beholding the sanctuary full of her faithful sons; and likewise, their attention was magnificently directed in admiration to their beloved Mother.

Salve Regina, Mater Misericoriae, Vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

As the Mass drew to a close, and the Salve Regina was chanted by the Carmelite Community (along with pews full of devoted pilgrims), a quiet joy enveloped the church. The beauty of the moment hung in the air, mingling with the sweet-scented incense. After the Mass, the homeschoolers had a little procession of their own, singing beautiful Marian hymns and glorifying Our Lord by honoring His beloved Mother.

Later, my children and I walked down to the 7thoutdoor station, behind which the Carmelite cemetery rests under the shadow of the basilica towers. We were there to pay our respects to those beloved Carmelite friends who were celebrating this feast in Eternity, and to request their intercession for our temporal and spiritual needs. The Communion of Saints is such an awesome expression of God’s love for humanity!

As today’s intercessions from the Divine Office state:

“With ultimate generosity and love, You gave Mary as a mother to Your beloved disciple. Help us to live as worthy sons of so noble a Mother.”

As Mary’s adopted children, may we seek her providential care, and find shelter amid the folds of scapular. May we indeed be worthy children of so noble a Mother.

May Our Lady of Mount Carmel wrap her Mantle around your shoulders and hold you close to the Sacred Heart of her Divine Infant Son, Jesus.

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

What Are You Looking For?

Seek the Lord While He May Be Found. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

“What are you looking for?” In yesterday’s Gospel St. John the Baptist acknowledges Christ with the words: “Behold the Lamb of God.” St. John and St. Andrew catch up with Jesus, and begin following along with Him. Our Lord, then poses the question: “What are you looking for?”

He addresses the same query to each of us. We are all seekers. Just like the Magi, we seek Our God, our Creator, our Savior, our Alpha and Omega. There is a longing in each and every human heart. Our inmost being is directed to discover He Who IS. We are commanded: “Seek Me that you may live (Amos 5:4)!”

God implants the desire to know, love, and serve Him deep within the very fiber of our being, and our eternity depends upon the degree to which we respond to His call. Yet the world is full of distractions that can mute our perception of God’s invitation. Like children, we run after our own pursuits – often ignoring the security of responding to God’s request to seek Him with a sincere heart. We are like young chicks, each seeking its own interests.

How I long to gather your children under my wings. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

Every year our yard is full of baby turkeys. Early in spring the kids and I are entertained by  the daily courtship ritual that unfolds in our back yard. A handful of Tom’s poof-out their feathers and strut around, while a parade of nonchalant lady-birds trot to and fro frequenting feeders in our garden. By early Summer we delight in watching these same hens waddle through the yard with their newly hatched broods. As they grow and develop over the summer we notice their individual personalities. For the most part, they are fearless, strutting past the kids on the swing, the adults on the patio, and the two Labrador Retrievers in the yard, to get to their bird feeders. Its is a constant parade of fowl.

One day last summer, as this daily ritual was unfolding, about thirty turkeys trotted through the yard. There were a few hens with many fledglings in tow. One confident little guy wandered off from the brood, finding the snacks left under the picnic table to be superior to the corn in the feeder. Something must have spooked the other birds because they quickly scattered to our nearby woods. This exodus escaped the notice of the little cowboy under the table. When he looked up and realized he had been left behind, he began to squawk a high-pitched panicky cry, which was returned from the woods by an equally alarmed vocalization. The kids and I watched as the fledgling scurried around the perimeter of the yard, crying and calling for the security that now eluded him. We have often seen coyotes in the yard about this time of day, thus his panic was well justified. The series of shrill calls from chick to hen and back again continued for nearly a half an hour. Finally success: Mom and baby were reunited.

Lost? © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

As we recalled this event during tonight’s dinner discussion, I realized just how much of an impact it made on the children and I. As much as we wanted to intervene, we were helpless to aid the little guy.  There were a few quick prayers to St. Francis, but otherwise we felt  powerless.

This event seems to parallel our relationship with God. Our eternal safety depends upon the ability to freely answer His call. We are free to wander off and seek satisfaction for the longings we experience. We have the liberty, the free will to fill the emptiness of our hearts with flimsy substitutes – lesser goods in place of the Supreme Good.  However, those freedoms can lead us either toward or away from the object of our desire. Sometimes the pursuit of apparent goods can interfere with the realization of our ultimate Good. Even when we wander off, God continues to call – to pursue us. He seeks us, even when we ignore our need to seek Him. Like that baby turkey, the danger of separating ourselves by losing sight of our decisive Good, is real.

We are called to seek Him with our whole heart. In so doing, all the other joys we desire will be given as gifts. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides (Matthew 5:33).” Often our ability to seek and find Him depends upon the methods we choose.

Tonight after dinner, I plopped The Catholic Bible Concordance into the lap of my fourth-grader. This heavy, red, (2,183 page) book is a bit daunting. Gemma’s eyes looked like Oreo-cookies when I assigned her the task of counting how many times the word “seek” appears in the Bible. She flipped through the reference text and stared at me blankly with that  you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-look. Relief came almost immediately as her older sister chimed in from the family room, “Well, why don’t you just Google it?” For the record, the word seek appears 303 times in Sacred Scripture. We are perpetually instructed to seek and find our God.

From the merchant who buys the pearl of great value, to the homemaker looking for a lost coin (Luke 15:8), we are directed to seek that which is of supreme value. Whether we are kings, wise men, or servants, or shepherds, we are each called to “Devote your hearts and souls to seeking the Lord your God (1 Chronicles 11:19).” Perhaps, we may just stumble upon that which we seek. However, bumbling and stumbling along solo, are uncertain methods, and their success is unlikely.  Rather, like the Magi, we are called to actively seek His Holy Face. We can expect to struggle as we travel through the dark nights following only the star of His Light. Yet, like the Magi, His Radiance is sufficient to guide us to the object of deepest longing: Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we approach the Epiphany, together seeking the joy of His Presence, may His Light envelope and guide us. Therefore, together let us prepare to answer wholeheartedly His query: “What are you looking for?”

Christmas Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. JMJ

Fear Not!

Uncorrupted Ark of His Dwelling Place- Please pray for us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photographer

The flash of the fireworks is gone from the sky. That gaudy-glitzy ball has dropped.  Noise-makers are silent, and punchbowls are empty. 2012 is officially underway. Thankfully, this is not the end of a mere night-long celebration, but the beginning of a time of grace. As we begin our new year, we celebrate the Feast of the Solemnity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Today, we focus our admiration on the Blessed Mother and our gratitude on God, for His gift of Divine Maternity to the Blessed Virgin. We celebrate Mary as the Theotokos – the Mother of Son of God.

Antiphon 3 from the Vespers for today’s feast reads:

Your blessed and fruitful virginity is like the bush flaming, yet unburned, which Moses saw on Sinai. Pray for us Mother of God.

Christ was fully human and fully Divine. He did not just take up residence in the belly of the Blessed Virgin, or merely temporarily occupy available space. Rather, in His humility and wisdom, Jesus Christ willed that His very flesh and blood would be drawn from the Spotless Virgin. Mary was the Immaculate Tabernacle that He chose to house and form the substance of His humanity. Today, we celebrate this mystery which is beyond human comprehension. Tonight’s Vespers Antiphons express it so beautifully:

O marvelous exchange! Man’s creator has become man, born of a virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

By your miraculous birth of the Virgin You have fulfilled the Scriptures: like a gentle rain falling upon the Earth You have come down to save Your people. O God, we praise You!

This is a moment of joy, of intense gratitude, and celebration. Together we rejoice the singular honor and privilege given to Our Lady, while we simultaneously celebrate our own share in Christ’s gift of grace.

What a fitting start to the new year! Today we recall the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, as he heralded her high calling. St. Gabriel greets Mary with: “Hail Full of Grace (Luke 1: 28).”  Recall, the Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη) is scripturally used only here, and the connotation is that Mary is the one who is so replete with grace that not even the slightest shadow of darkness is present. Before St. Gabriel announces God’s salvific plan, which elicits Mary’s fiat, he first directs her to: “Fear not Mary, for you have found favor with God (Luke 1:30).”

Mother of Our Redeermer, Please pray for us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photographer

Today as we embark on a new year, this message is profound. St. Gabriel is the messenger of God’s grace, and He well understands how overwhelming this pure Gift will be. “Perfect Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).” It is only with this Love that Mary (and the rest of us) can complete the mission assigned by God. It is only by accepting the Gift of Pure Love, that – like Mary –  we can say “yes” to God. The Angel Gabriel tells Mary that that the Divine Child, the Emmanuel Whom she is to bear, is to be named “Jesus.” This Child’s very name reflects His essence and means “God is with us!”

As 2012 dawns, we do well to remember that God is indeed with us. Just like Mary, we are told to “Be Not Afraid!” In fact, the admonition to “Be Not Afraid!” appears 365 times in the Bible! In nearly every book of the Bible we find those words. This new year is pregnant with possibilities. We have been given a great gift. 2012 will be full of joys and challenges. Yet, through it all God is indeed with us. In accepting His perfect Love, fear melts.

With Mary, let us rejoice in this new day, this new year.With hearts full of gratitude, let us turn to Our Creator, and through Mary, may we ask His Blessing upon this year.  From the Divine Office together let us pray:

God Our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for You bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

A Blessed 2012 to you and yours!

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