The Lord is Risen, Alleluia!

The Joy Continues! © Salve Mater Dei 2013

The Joy Continues! © Salve Mater Dei 2013

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad, Alleluia! (Divine Office Liturgy of the Office, Easter Octave Antiphon).

He is Risen, He is truly Risen, indeed, Alleluia! The joy continues! For the rest of the world Easter ended at midnight. However, as Catholics we have the grace of celebrating the Resurrection of Christ with the highest solemnity, for eight days. Throughout these eight days, or Octave of Easter, each day is recognized as a sort of mini-Easter. The celebration continues and blessings flow.

He is Truly Risen, Alleluia! © Salve Mater Dei 2013

He is Truly Risen, Alleluia! © Salve Mater Dei 2013

The Gospel Reading from today’s Holy Mass reads:

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful, yet overjoyed and ran to announce the good news to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced His feet, and did Him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had happened. The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel; then gave a large sum of money to the soldiers telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep. And if this gets to the ears of the Governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. . . . (MT 28: 8-15).

A recurrent theme in this Gospel passage is trepidation. Two groups of people have encountered the reality of Christ’s Resurrection, yet their response is very different. There is a stark contrast between the two paragraphs, while both deal with a response of fear. The women are described as “fearful, yet overjoyed” and they run to announce the Good News of the Resurrection to the equally frightened disciples. While the women experience fear and awe, they are able to move past it. They embrace Our Lord, both His Risen physical body, and embrace the concept of His Resurrection. They do not understand, yet they believe, and accept His exhortation to “Be not afraid,” and proclaim with joy all they have seen. As they move forward, one perceives a sense of Light transcending them.

They Looked on Him Whom They had Pierced © Salve Mater Dei 2013

They Looked on Him Whom They had Pierced © Salve Mater Dei 2013

On the other hand, we have the guards, strong Roman men, battled hardened soldiers, who fell down “as dead men” at the sight of the Resurrection, and quiver in fear as they approach the chief priests and the elders. One wonders which frightened them more – the vision of Christ bursting forth from the tomb or the wrath of Pilate and the Council. Either way, they were terrified. We sense the darkness of their hearts, the darkness of the situation. They were offered bribes to hide the most significant Truth ever witnessed by human eyes, and they capitulate. Likewise, the religious elders and chief priests seem equally shrouded in darkness and fear. They know the truth – they crucified the Messiah, and now He is Risen. If He is strong enough to conquer death, do they really think their secret will last forever? They don’t care. They would rather perpetuate a lie, than embrace the reality of the Resurrection.

We too are faced with a similar choice. The Resurrection is indeed a mystery. Yet we are asked to accept with faith what we cannot explain. It is a choice of the will. The bridge between faith and understanding is the will. When we choose to embrace the Risen Christ, and proclaim the reality of His Resurrection, we too move from darkness to light. The words He spoke to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are meant for us as well: “Do not be afraid. Go tell My brothers. . . .”

Jesus I Trust in You! the Divine Mercy Image © Salve Mater Dei 2013

Jesus I Trust in You! the Divine Mercy Image © Salve Mater Dei 2013

Perhaps there is no better way to tell our brothers and sisters about the love of the Risen Christ than to spread the message about Christ’s Divine Mercy. As this glorious week unfolds, we continue our preparation for the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday which occurs on the Sunday following Easter. Thus, in preparation we continue our novena of Divine Mercy Chaplets. This chaplet is prayed on ordinary rosary beads. For complete instructions please visit the Divine Mercy website run by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/praythechaplet.php.

Today we also continue the novena our Lord dictated to St. Maria Faustina for her private use. Each day, Jesus directed St. Faustina to pray for a specific group of souls, immersing them into the abyss of His Mercy, and pleading for them before the throne of the Heavenly Father.

On this the fourth day of the novena, Sr. Faustina was directed by Our Lord to:

“Bring to Me those souls who do not believe in God and those who do not yet know Me. I was also thinking of them during my bitter passion, and their future zeal comforted My heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy (1216, p. 438 – Divine Mercy in My Soul, Congregation of Marians, 1987).”

Today, let us pray as St. Faustina did, immersing the souls of unbelievers in the abyss of Christ’s mercy. Let us recall what courage it takes to have the will to believe. Our own faith is a treasure for which we should express sincere gratitude, as we pray, that like Mary Magdalene and the women at the tomb, these souls “will not persist in their unbelief, but believe!”

Like Sr. Faustina, let us beg the Heavenly Father to “draw them to the light of the Gospel,” that they too may extol the mercy of God for endless ages.

The text for the fourth day of the novena is:

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as of yet do not know You, but are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the Light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen. (Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet Pamphlet [LFMCN], 2012 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.)

The complete text of the fourth day of the novena is also available via the Divine Mercy Website of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena/fourthday.php.

Today’s prayer from this morning’s Divine office is appropriate:

Father, You give your Church constant growth by adding new members to your family. Help us to put in action in our lives the Baptism we have received with faith. We ask this through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen (Divine Office, Liturgy of the Hours, Monday Morning within the Octave of Easter).

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.

In Wisconsin,

The Basilica of The National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill hosts a beautiful celebration. For more information regarding that celebration visit the site: https://www.holyhill.com/index.php?option=com_jevents&task=icalrepeat.detail&evid=741&Itemid=50&year=2013&month=04&day=07&title=sunday-of-divine-mercy-&uid=dfc595f576ed1845fa495278cafe52ea&catids=6|3

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse also will celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. For More information visit their site at: http://www.guadalupeshrine.org/events/divine-mercy-sunday

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

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, 2013

“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, 2013

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, 2013.

Now Holy Saturday has dawned! It was a glorious sunrise! As I stood outside in my pj’s this morning, the dogs played in the snow and mud as the first streaks of golden dawn illuminated the sky. The air was filled with the song of newly nesting cranes and Canada Geese. The pair of trumpeter swans that I had witnessed fly overhead two mornings ago made their voices heard amid the symphony of creation. I literally stood there and thanked God for His goodness – we had crucified Him with our sins, and yet in each generation He continues to lavish the magnificence of His bounty upon each of us and our progeny.

Viva Cristo Rey! SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Viva Cristo Rey! SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

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. 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.

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).”

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 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 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.

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, 2013

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 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.

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.

In Wisconsin,

The Basilica of The National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill hosts a beautiful celebration. For more information regarding that celebration visit the site: https://www.holyhill.com/index.php?option=com_jevents&task=icalrepeat.detail&evid=741&Itemid=50&year=2013&month=04&day=07&title=sunday-of-divine-mercy-&uid=dfc595f576ed1845fa495278cafe52ea&catids=6|3

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse also will celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. For More information visit their site at: http://www.guadalupeshrine.org/events/divine-mercy-sunday

Wednesdays Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph: Solemnity & Inauguration of Pope Francis

The Just Man Shall Blossom Like a Lily © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013 EA photo

The Just Man Shall Blossom Like a Lily © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013 EA photo

The just man shall blossom like the lily (Divine Office, Feast of St. Joseph).

Heaven and earth united in heartfelt joy yesterday, as the Solemnity of St. Joseph was celebrated as never before. On this solemn feast day, set aside to reverence the merits of St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis was inaugurated as the 266th man chosen to fill the sandals of St. Peter, and Shepherd the Holy Catholic Church.

The Solemnity of St. Joseph has always been among my favorite feast days. I love St. Joseph, and especially since the death of my own father, have felt deep closeness to this formidable saint. I recognize his presence in my life, and the lives of my family, and feel a deep sense of gratitude for the gifts God bestows upon us, through his powerful intercession. As a family with deep ties to Carmelite Spirituality, St. Joseph is a revered patron. Several years ago, one of my sons specifically chose to make his First Holy Communion on the Feast of St. Joseph at Holy Hill Basilica, as a reflection of his devotion to this powerful saint. Celebration of St. Joseph’s feast is also therefore a celebration of that important anniversary in our family history. Thus, here in the middle of winter, and the long penitential weeks of Lent we revel in the joy of this great solemnity. St. Teresa of Avila, the Carmelite Holy Mother, directed that St. Joseph’s Feast be celebrated with the “highest Solemnity” in all of her monasteries, so great was her personal devotion to this beloved intercessor.

Our Prayers as Incense Rise © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013 EA Photo

Our Prayers as Incense Rise © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013 EA Photo

Who are we to argue with the Holy Mother? As this special feast was accentuated by the inauguration of our new Papa, Pope Francis, yesterday we celebrated in grand fashion. The older kids, three Labrador Retrievers and I camped on the family room floor in front of the T.V. to watch the Inauguration Mass; it began at 3 a.m. our time. Outside, the wind howled and the thermometer read a balmy 11 degrees Fahrenheit (with wind chill we were definitely subzero). Our dogs eagerly shared their floor space with the kids and I as we huddled around the television to witness history and to pray for our new supreme pontiff. The Holy Mass was beautiful! We were particularly moved by the scene of our Holy Father praying outside of the tomb of St. Peter, and the long procession of cardinals prior to Mass – an unbroken succession stretching from the tomb of he who had been told by Our Lord: “You are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it! (Matthew 16:18)”- through Pope Francis and extending toward the horizon of the future.

Carmelite Community Singing "Salve Regina" at the Basilca of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013 EA photo

Carmelite Community Singing “Salve Regina” at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013 EA photo

Later, we headed to Holy Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill to celebrate with the Carmelite Community. Our prayers rose with incense in the sanctuary at Holy Hill, just as the prayers of 1,000,000 Catholics rose in St. Peter’s square as Pope Francis celebrate Mass there. Truly from sunrise to sunset a perfect offering is made around the world, and Heaven and Earth united in glory, praise and thanksgiving to the one True, Triune God. The mystery of salvation is unfathomable and wondrous to contemplate!

After Holy Mass we headed home and celebrated with a few little treats throughout the day, as we embarked upon our daily tasks – homeschool, chores, and prayer. At meals we chatted eagerly about our new Pope – enumerating his virtues: humility, wisdom, simplicity, poverty of spirit, compassion, zeal. . . . The children and I have been impressed by the manner in which Pope Francis conveys the relevance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The EWTN footage of the Holy Father winding through St. Peters Square yet stopping to greet a disabled gentleman and kiss babies moved us all as profoundly beautiful and relevant. Like St. Joseph, Pope Francis possesses the unique ability to demonstrate the Gospel through actions even in moments of verbal silence. As our family discussed our aspirations for Pope Francis and shared hopes for the renewal of our Church, it became evident that among the Christian community there is a hunger for the authentic Gospel, and even in his first few days as pontiff this Holy Father is truly feeding and leading his sheep as commanded by Christ.

Habemus Papam!

Habemus Papam!

For a taste of the spiritual direction that Pope Francis has already offered his flock, I invite you to read the full text of yesterday’s inaugural homily: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-TxSJa5tpCmE/UUiX0aZByRI/AAAAAAAAPLo/ouDCTY_j1l8/s1600/pf1in3.jpg (provided through Whispers in Loggia) and the full text of his Lenten message as Cardinal Bergoglio http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XBNBP3VukYE/UUmB35e6ZXI/AAAAAAAAPME/6HL5faPfS-8/s1600/f1sbi.jpg .

All Creation Gives You Glory, O Lord of Hosts © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

All Creation Gives You Glory, O Lord of Hosts © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Yes, just as St. Teresa of Avila specified, our Feast of St. Joseph was commemorated with the “highest Solemnity”: we witnessed the Inauguration of the Holy Father, assisted at Holy Mass, attended to our daily duties, and celebrated with sweet treats on a cold, blustery March 19th. As twilight turned to night, a herd of nine deer munched seed from the bird feeders on our back porch, we gazed through the window at their serenity as we enjoyed a slice of blackberry cheesecake and chocolate éclairs in honor of the sweetness of the feast day. A single flame glowed in the St. Joseph candle on the kitchen table, as together in gratitude and supplication we prayed:

Celebrating the Sweet Joys of St. Joseph © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013 EA Photo

Celebrating the Sweet Joys of St. Joseph © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013 EA Photo

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Please, St. Joseph, do assist me with your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, all possible spiritual blessings. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and the child Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – Pray for me.

May the Holy Heart of St. Joseph be a source of blessing and inspiration for each of you and your loved ones. Happy Feast Day!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Please Pray for Us! (Novena)

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

“In order that Love may be fully satisfied it must needs

stoop to very nothingness and transform that nothingness into fire (Story of a Soul, Chapter XI).”

St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, remains one of the most beloved of all the saints. In 1888, this young sister entered the Carmelite Cloister (with the special permission of the Holy Father himself) at the tender age of 15; she died a mere 9 years later. Therese longed to be a missionary, an apostle, and a prophet,- to travel to each of the continents spreading the Gospel of Christ, yet her plans were not God’s plans. She would indeed travel to the five continents, and spread the love of Christ, but it would be after her death, in the hearts of those who sought Christ through her “Little Way.” I was present in October of 1999 when her relics arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill, as they continued in pilgrimage around the world. Hundreds of thousands of faithful were introduced to her unique path to sanctity during this world-wide tour, and the shower of grace continues.

Young Therese petitioning the Pope Leo XIII for entrance to Carmel at the age of 15. This beautiful stained glass window is one of a series on the life of the saint that will soon grace the St. Therese Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

As her life in the Carmel of Lisieux unfolded, St. Therese soon realized that her ultimate vocation was a call to love within the heart of the Church. In her short time in Carmel, she perfected her “Little Way,”- a path of love which leads right to the Door of Heaven. St. Therese found that offering her weakness and littleness to God was as mighty and heroic as magnificent deeds beyond her call.

In Chapter 4 of her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Therese states:

“Jesus made me understand that the true, the only glory is that which will last forever; that to attain it we need not perform wonderful deeds, but rather those hidden from the eyes of others and self, so that the ‘left hand knoweth not what the right hand doth (Matthew 6:3).’”

St. Therese states, “I am a very little soul who can offer only very little things to the Good God. . . (The Story of a Soul, Ch. X).” The Little Flower realized that mighty heroic deeds as a missionary were not what had been planned for her from all eternity. No, her daily sacrifice of the mundane, her authentic humility, and unwavering love brought the Little Flower into full communion with her beloved spouse. “Love alone have I ever given to the good God, and with love He will repay me (Story of a Soul,Chapter XIII).”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Stained Glass Window from the Chapel in the Carmelite Monastery in Denmark, WI. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Therese discovered the intense mystery of Love in the simplicity of daily duty. As St. Therese made an “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love,” she completely abandoned herself to the merciful love of Christ. She lived, suffered, and died, united to her beloved spouse. She became little so that the Almighty might reveal His glory through her humility.

Pope Pius X called St. Therese: “the greatest saint of modern times.” In 1927, Pope Pius XI named St. Therese the patroness of the missions, and in 1944 Pope Pius XII placed her beside her beloved St. Joan of Arc, in naming her co-patroness of France. On October 19, 1997, Blessed Pope John Paul the Great declared St. Therese to be one of the thirty-four doctors of the Universal Church, in his Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia(The Science of Divine Love).

Among her ardent admirers have included such souls as: Pope John Paul I (Cardinal Albino Luciano), Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Guiseppe Moscati, and St. Maximillian Kolbe. This remarkable young woman, and her “Little Way” have greatly influenced a myriad of souls. As St. Therese predicted, a shower of roses, a plentitude of grace, is often granted to those who earnestly seek her intercession with the God whom she loved and served so well while on Earth.

St. Therese statue at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

In preparation for her Feast Day, celebrated on October 1, please consider joining me in the following novena, which begins today:

Eternal Father, I thank you for the graces you have bestowed upon St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. I offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus in gratitude for the beauty of her soul. Thank you for preserving her baptismal innocence and instilling in her a burning love for You. Thank You for calling St. Therese to the sweet sacrificial life of Carmel. Thank You for giving her the grace to live as a beloved and faithful spouse of Christ, and a spiritual mother to many souls.

Please fill my heart with the grace of a humble child-like love, so that like the Little Flower, I may live in Your friendship and enjoy the gift of everlasting bliss in Your Heavenly presence. Please grant me the spiritual and temporal graces that I need to live in imitation of this saint whom I so deeply admire, especially the grace which I request in this novena, if it be for the good of my soul and in accord with Your Divine Will (mention your request here). I place my petition in the hands of the Little Flower, and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. Amen. (One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be).

May St. Therese of Lisieux, intercede for us and send a shower of roses upon all those who invoke her intercession.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Novena, Day Nine

Queen of Carmel, Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is drawing to a close. This evening we will celebrate the Vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and tomorrow we will rejoice in the glorious feast itself.

For the past several years, my family has joined a candle-lit procession to the Lourdes Grotto at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. I love watching the Carmelite Friars process from the monastery to the grotto, their voices blending in chorus to the ancient hymn Flos Carmeli as they honor Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I have sweet memories of rosaries prayed, and scapulars distributed in that candle-lit grotto as the sunset bathed Holy Hill with splendor. My kids and I look forward to this Vigil and the subsequent Feast Day Mass each and every year.

Vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (2011) © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

As the Vigil happens to fall on a Sunday this year, the procession will be a little different, taking place after the 12:30 Mass instead of at dusk. We are eagerly anticipating this beautiful event. (I’ll post photos in the afternoon). Our Lady is so very gracious! I know that the filial praise we offer to her will be magnified in her Immaculate Heart and reflected toward her Divine Son, Jesus Christ. Knowing too that Our Beloved Mother is never out-done in gratitude, I am confident that Our Lady will abundantly bless all those who honor her by seeking Mary’s maternal help to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, her Divine Son.

As we anticipate the joy of today’s vigil and the grace of tomorrow’s feast, please join me in praying the ninth day of the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Ninth Day
O Most Holy Mother of Mount Carmel, when asked by a saint to grant privileges to the family of Carmel, you gave assurance of your Motherly love and help to those faithful to you and to your Son.
Behold us, your children.

We glory in wearing your holy habit, which makes us members of your family of Carmel, through which we shall have your powerful protection in life, at death and even after death!
Look down with love, O Gate of Heaven, on all those now in their last agony!
Look down graciously, O Virgin, Flower of Carmel, on all those in need of help!
Look down mercifully, O Mother of our Savior, on all those who do not know that they are numbered among your children.
Look down tenderly, O Queen of All Saints, on the poor souls!
(pause and mention petitions)
Say: Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

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.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

A Double Portion of His Spirit

Carmelite Coat of Arms © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photographer

Sitting in my back yard, watching the sun dip below the swaying trees I feel the magnitude of God’s embrace. It has been a beautiful Summer day. As is our habit, we assisted at morning Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill. This marvelous Shrine, entrusted to the Discalced Carmelites was a fitting place for today’s Mass. Today’s First Reading (2 Kings 2:1, 6-14.) is one of my favorites, and it deals with the glorious departure of the spiritual Father of the Carmelites: the prophet Elijah.

Elijah is about to be taken up into heaven in a whirlwind and Elisha is grieving at the thought of losing his friend and mentor. Elijah the holy prophet whose miraculous works include: defending the one true God against the idol worshipers of Baal, saving the widow of Zarephath and her son from certain death, confronting King Ahab over the murderous theft of the vineyard of Naboth, let alone calling down fire from heaven and raising the dead. Elijah is a pure instrument of God; his love is so deep that his unity with God allows miraculous events to unfold- even in ordinary times and places.

As Elisha and Elijah walk on toward the Jordan, a group of about 50 guild prophets trail behind to watch. As they are crossing the Jordon River to which God had been directing Elijah:

“Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water, which divided and both crossed over on dry ground. As they crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha answered, ‘May I receive a double portion of your spirit?’ ‘You have asked something that is not easy,’ Elijah replied, ‘Still, if you see me taken up from you your wish will be granted; otherwise not (2 Kings 2: 8-10) .’”

They crossed over on dry ground. . . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. KJ photographer

I can only imagine Elisha’s grief and trepidation as they walked along. Elisha loved God, and knew well how perfectly Elijah conformed himself to God’s grace. He had witnessed firsthand God’s mighty works through this holy prophet. As they miraculously crossed the Jordon on dry land, Elisha had to have known that the most profound moment of his life was about to occur. He realized that as Elijah’s earthly journey was about to end, that a transformation in his own role as prophet and servant was about to occur.

It is thus that he asked Elijah for a “double portion of his spirit.” This was not a self-serving, prideful request to be greater than the master. No, on the contrary, Elisha revered Elijah as a spiritual father, and was requesting the grace to carry on as his heir. In keeping with the inheritance rubrics of the period, Elisha is merely asking to be recognized as the legitimate heir of Elijah. In those days it was the custom that the eldest son, the legal heir, be given a “double portion” of the father’s inheritance. Thus, if a patriarch were to leave behind 3 sons, his estate would be divided into quarters, with the eldest son receiving two portions, and the other sons each receiving one. Here, the estate that Elisha seeks is not a treasury of gold, but rather of grace.

Elijah makes it clear that this is a profound request. Yet, while they are conversing,

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. KJ photographer

“a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. When Elisha saw what happened, he cried out, ‘My father, my father! Israel’s chariots and drivers!’ But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two (2 Kings 2: 11-12).”

Like his garment, his heart must have been equally rent, yet with the grace from the Spirit of God, he was able to accept his role as heir and move on. He picked up Elijah’s mantle that had fallen from him, and walked back to the banks of the Jordon.

“Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah, Elisha struck the water in his turn and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then Elisha struck the water; it divided and he crossed over (2 Kings 2:14).”

How often we find ourselves in the place of Elisha? God asks us to let go of what is dear, and trust that His grace will be sufficient. He calls us to journey with Him, and to accept the roles He envisions for us, His servants. It is then, that like Elisha, we must seek and call on Him by name, requesting a “double portion” of His Spirit. St. Therese of Lisieux wrote that she asked God for a “double portion” of the spirit of all the saints in heaven, so that she might have the grace to do His will. With the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, we too can have the grace to live as heirs of the Kingdom of God. At times, it is difficult to move past the human emotions that mark the passage of time, yet it is only in so doing that we can become the heirs to the grace and legacy that He has chosen for each of us from the dawn of eternity.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

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.

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.

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

Rejoice in the Lord Always: Again I Say Rejoice!

Gaudete Sunday! Rejoice! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.  EA photographer

Gaudete Sunday! Rejoice! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. EA photographer

How did I get here so soon? Here I find myself in the third week of Advent, 2011. It seems only a few weeks ago that the Summer breezes were turning chill, and the leaves were beginning to fall. Nonetheless- here I am: time to prepare myself and my family for the entrance of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords into my heart- our hearts- our world. This is a rather daunting task, yet even so, it is a task that to be properly accomplished requires joy.

Of all the weeks of Advent, this one has a particular significance; indeed, the Church reserves it as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. Rose-colored vestments and Advent Candle highlight its uniqueness. The Latin name for this special day is derived from the opening words of the Introit, or First Reading:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum (Psalms 84:2). Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob (Philippians 4:4-6).

The English translation of today’s First Reading is:

 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God  (Psalms 84:2). Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob (Philippians 4:4-6).”

Keep Christ as the Center of Christmas!  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.  EA photographer

Keep Christ as the Center of Christmas! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. EA photographer

We are called to actively rejoice and be glad because our captivity is about to end, just like the ancient Israelites who first sang these exact words when they were released from exile. This is a dynamic call to exuberant expectation. Like Mary, our souls are to “proclaim the greatness of Lord, and rejoice in God my Savior.” We are lowly creatures, and the One, True, Eternal, Omnipotent God is willing to descend from the Throne of Grace that has rightfully be His from before the dawn of Creation, to enter our imperfect world, and our humble hearts. I don’t know about you, but contemplating the magnificence of His gift makes my heart skip a beat or two!

Gaudete Sunday compels us to make ready our hearts! Penance, prayer, sacrifice, and contemplation are the requisite tools to clean the stable of our hearts. (Yep, the sacrament of Confession is a good place to start.) While Christmas decorations, parties, shopping and gifts are important elements of the season, and can beautifully unite friends and family in Advent joy; in themselves they are not essential to Christmas. I have to keep reminding myself that when I appear before Jesus’ throne, He is not going to ask how many Christmas cookies I baked, nor how many cards I sent, and whether they arrived on time. What is essential is Christ and a ready heart to welcome Him. Each year, I grapple with the challenge of providing an Advent and Christmas that are meaningful- steeped in tradition and replete with joy. I want my children to grasp the true meaning of this sacred season, and carry with them the memories of laughter and family closeness. It is indeed a complexity that often leaves me perplexed – especially when I find myself rushing around like a deranged wind-up toy. It sounds so simple: Keep Christ in Christmas! Yet in reality, it involves daily conscious struggle.

Fr. Cyril Guise of the Mother of God, O.C.D.,  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.  EA photographer

Fr. Cyril Guise of the Mother of God, O.C.D., © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. EA photographer

Perhaps that is the reason the Holy Catholic Church, in Her Wisdom, instituted Gaudete Sunday. This special day has ancient roots – going back at least to the year 740 A.D. The rose-colored vestments and candles help us to comprehend that in a season of celebration, something extra-special is happening. The tradition of these rose-colored vestments is worth noting.

Both Advent and Lent are penitential seasons of preparation for the great Solemnities of Christmas and Easter. For many centuries, during Advent and Lent, special celebrations of Holy Mass occurred at “station” churches in Rome. While the third Sunday of Advent is celebrated as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, it also corresponds to a similar celebration during the fourth week of Lent – Laetare Sunday (which, by the way, also means rejoice). The station Mass for “Laetare” Sunday was the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, near the Pope’s cathedral of the Lateran Basilica. From the time of Pope St. Gregory the III (740 A.D.), it was the tradition for the Holy Father to bless special gold roses that were sent as a gesture of grace to the Catholic kings, queens and notables. That special Sunday was termed Dominica de Rosa– the Sunday of the Rose. It was as if the Holy Father was subtly reminding even the most powerful in the world of their need to keep Christ as the center of their preparation. The rose-colored vestments have grown out of this ancient tradition (source for this information is Fr. Z’s Blog).

Yesterday, I was speaking on the phone with a dear friend, Fr. Cyril Guise, O.C.D. regarding my difficulty in keeping focused on the joy of Advent amid the various pressures of the world. In response he read a lovely poem – a version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” that he had recently penned. This simple gesture had the desire effect of refocusing my attention on the Essence of Christmas. As Our Lord would orchestrate it, Fr. Cyril celebrated this morning’s Gaudete Mass at Holy Hill Basilica, National Shrine of Mary. As I watched my boys serve Holy Mass beside this wise and gentle priest, I could not help but thank God for the abundance of grace He pours upon us daily.  I asked Fr. Cyril if I might share His poem, and he graciously offered it for me to post here.

Rejoices in God My Savior!  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.  EA photographer, Holy Hill

Rejoices in God My Savior! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. EA photographer, Holy Hill

The Night before Christmas.

“T’was the night before Christmas

and all through the house,

not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse!”

 

“When all of a sudden I heard so

much chatter that I sprang from my bed

to see what was the matter and what to my

wondrous eyes should appear but a gathering

of angels giving praise to our God;

For there in their midst was a young married couple,

Mary and Joseph were their names,

and Mary had just given birth to a Son and mind you

this was no ordinary Son but the Incarnate Word,

Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Promise of the Ages.”

 

“Now I could return to my bed and continue my

slumber, for I knew that our God had blessed us

and would continue to watch over me till I woke on

CHRISTMAS MORN!!!”

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

– Fr. Cyril of the Mother of God, O.C.D. Shrine Minister, Director of Development

© Used With Permission.

 

As we all seek to follow the directive of St. John the Baptist, and “Prepare the Way of the Lord,” may you find joy!

Blessed Gaudete Sunday!

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A.  JMJ