Saturday, September 15, 2012

Devotion for today: Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Meditation on the Seven Sorrows of Mary
by Donald Fantz, Angelus Magazine
The First Sorrow: Simeon's Prophecy
Every life has elements of mixed joy and sorrow. Certainly Mary and Joseph are filled with joy as they travel the day's journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to offer Mary's First-Born to the service of His Father. According to Jewish custom, they "ransomed" Him back by offering two turtle doves as sacrifices to Almighty God. The joy of Mary seems to overflow as the aged Simeon receives her in the Temple and, taking the Child from her arms, looks heavenward with praise to the Almighty for sparing him until he saw the salvation "prepared before the faces of all peoples: a light of revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for Thy people Israel."
From the height of her joy, Mary's heart suddenly sinks, as Simeon glances first to the Child, then straight into her eyes. "This Child is set for the rise and the fall of many ... a sign of contradiction . . . thine own soul a sword shall pierce . . ." Mary knows that her Son is to suffer. She knows that He will be lifted up. Simeon makes it painfully clear, as he reminds her of her Son's mission. "She pondered these things in her heart."
O, Mary, help me to understand the purpose of suffering in my life.

Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt

After returning to Bethlehem, the Holy Family is visited by the Magi. Shortly after their departure, Joseph is warned by an angel to "take the Child and His Mother and flee into Egypt." Already, jealous Herod's soldiers seek the Child. Joseph and Mary hurry a few blocks from their temporary home to a nearby cave, where Mary nurses her Babe in what has since become known to the local people as the "Milk Grotto." As they continue their journey out of town and head towards the Egyptian border, the terrible sounds of the slaughter ring in Mary's ears. Even Rachel mourns from her grave the Innocents of Bethlehem. Mary wonders: "Is this to be His time, at this age?" The only alternative is to flee quickly to the unfriendly Egyptians, the former captors of her people. Is it possible that only the Sphinx looks down in silent approval as they pass into Pharaoh’s land? Jeremiah the Prophet speaks for Mary: "Bitterly she weeps at night, tears upon her cheeks, with not one to console her of all her dear ones; her friends have all betrayed her and become her enemies.’Look, O Lord, upon my distress: all within me is in ferment, my heart recoils within me from my monstrous rebellion. In the streets the sword bereaves, at home death stalks. Give heed to my groaning; there is no one to console me.' “And yet, through this trial Mary still has Emmanuel with her. She knows that all will be accomplished in God's time. This gives her the security of peace in her sorrow. The Scripture will be fulfilled: "I have called My Son out of Egypt that salvation may come to Israel."
O, Mary, help me to stay close to your Divine Son when I feel most abandoned.

Third Sorrow: The Loss of Jesus

Again, the joy of traveling, this time for several days, from Nazareth to the Temple in Jerusalem for the great feast. These were especially happy times for Mary, reunited with her own people, living with Jesus and Joseph. The feast ends; the return to Nazareth commences in the early morning. The caravan of women moves ahead north of the Holy City. The men follow in their caravan. They sing Psalms praising God, exchange news and laughter, as the trip progresses. Both groups meet in their encampment at the end of the day. As night falls, Mary and Joseph find each other and realize with horror that Christ is not in their company. They search through both camps to no avail. "Have you seen Him? He is only twelve years old." Each time the reply is negative. Mary remembers the words of Simeon and the Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet: "The Lord has done as He decreed: He has fulfilled the threat He set forth from days of old; He has destroyed and had no pity, letting the enemy gloat over you and exalting the horn of your foes. Cry out to the Lord; moan, O daughter of Sion! Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night; let there be no respite for you, no repose for your eyes." Mary feels terror and panic. "This must be His hour," she thinks. In His boyhood hurts, even in the flight to Egypt, Jesus was with her. Now, for the first time, He is gone. Nonetheless, she knows that the Eternal Father knows all things, and this gives her peace. Her confidence is rewarded three days later when she and Joseph find Jesus in the midst of the doctors in the Temple.
O Mary, help me to keep peace of soul, even when searching for Jesus in my life.

Fourth Sorrow: Mary meets Jesus on the Road to Calvary

It is coming soon. She senses that now. The Pharisees have become increasingly resentful towards Him. She is praying over these things when the knock comes at the door. "They have taken Him! They have taken Him!" She wraps her veil tightly around her face and runs into the night with her friend. They reach Caiaphas' house in time to see Jesus pushed up the steps. She overhears Peter: "I know not the Man!" She meets John, who leads her towards the praetorium of Pilate. She waits through the night as reports are brought to her of Jesus' scourging. Once again Simeon's words thrust at her as so many arrows. She prays the psalm: "My heart has become like wax melting away within my bosom." The long night passes into gray dawn and still she keeps her vigil. Then she hears Pilate's words to the crowd from the arch: "Behold the Man!" She can scarcely recognize Him as the crowd roars for His death. He does not yet see her. She wants it that way— to spare Him the pain. She sees the rough cross-timber dragged to a point below the arch. She watches the soldiers laughingly lead her Son to the cross. He can scarcely walk. He stumbles, He falls—He opens up more wounds, as if that were possible! She sees the seamless robe she has woven for Him years ago- now a mass of blood and flesh, clinging to His Body. His face is misshapen and swollen. She cannot move. He is pushed forward by the soldiers. He walks a few more feet, and then He sees her! Mary does not restrain herself. She kisses Him softly through her tears and reminds Him of her love for Him. "Their looks became as swords, to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly."
O, Mother of God, teach me to behold Jesus in His sorrows when I am most tempted to sin.

Fifth Sorrow: Mary Sees Jesus Die on the Cross
"Yes, truly, O Blessed Mother, the sword pierced your soul. Only by passing through your soul could it penetrate to the body of your Son. When Jesus your Son had given up His spirit, when the cruel spear which pierced His side could no longer touch His soul, it transfixed yours. His soul was no longer there. Yours was. It could not be torn away. We call you more than martyr because your love, which made you suffer with your Son, brought pain of soul far more exquisite than any pain of body. "Woman, behold thy Son"—how keenly those words must have pierced your loving soul! Mere remembrance of them can wring with sorrow our hard, steely hearts. Do not wonder, my brethren, that Ma-ray is said to be martyred in spirit. Want of affection was far from Mary's heart. O, may it be equally far from those of her servants! Christ died in body. Could she not die with Him in her heart? His death was brought about by a love greater than any man has; hers by a love no other mortal ever had, except she." (From the Sermon of St. Bernard on the Twelve Stars.)
Through you, O Virgin Mother, may we draw the waters of salvation out of the wounds of Christ.

Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives Jesus' Body into Her Arms
"Joseph of Arimathaea requested the body of Jesus, which he took down from the cross. And His Mother received it into her arms. The sorrowing mother took her dead Son and laid Him on her knees" (From the Divine Office of the Feast of the Seven Sorrows).

What a sea of tears and sorrow
Did the soul of Mary toss
To and fro upon its billows.
While she wept her bitter loss,
in her arms her Jesus holding.
Torn so newly from the Cross.
Oh, that mournful Virgin Mother!
See her tears how fast they flow
Down upon His mangled body,
wounded side, and thorny brow;
While His hands and feet she kisses
Picture of immortal woe.
Oft and oft His arms and bosom
Fondly straining to her own;
Oft her pallid lips imprinting
On each wound of her dear Son;
Till in one last kiss of anguish
All her melting soul is gone.
Gentle Mother, we beseech thee
By thy tears and troubles sore;
By the death of thy dear Offspring,
By the bloody wounds He bore;
Touch our hearts with true sorrow
Which afflicted thee of yore.
(Hymn of the Divine Office of the Feast)

O, Mary, help me to stand beside the Cross with you, whose soul the sword of sorrow has pierced.

Seventh Sorrow: Mary Places Jesus' Body in the Tomb
They place Jesus' body on a slab and quickly anoint it. From there they carry it to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. There, once again, Mary arranges the folds of the winding sheet with her own hands. The tomb is closed and the mourners leave. "Depart from me, I will weep bitterly; labor not to comfort me. There is in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, nor appearance that would attract us to Him. From the sole of the foot to the head, there is no sound spot in Him." "To what can I liken or compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What example can I show you for your comfort, O Virgin daughter of Sion? For great as the sea is your downfall." Yet Mary's deep sorrow did not overshadow her faith in Jesus or her hope in His promise. His death was her hope of resurrection.

God of mercy, let us run  where yon fount of sorrow flows;
Pondering sweetly, one by one,
Jesus 's wounds and Mary's woes.
Ah, those tears Our Lady shed,
enough to drown a world of sin;
Tears that Jesus’s sorrows fed,
Peace and pardon well may win!
His five wounds, a very home,
for our prayers and praises prove;
And Our Lady's woes become
Endless joys in Heaven above.
Jesus, Who for us did die,
All on Thee our love we pour
and in the Holy Trinity
Worship Thee forever more. Amen.

(Hymn from Lauds of the Feast)

O, Virgin Mary, may your many sorrows make me rejoice in Heaven's Kingdom.




Friday, September 14, 2012

Devotion for today: Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

Scripture for meditation: Hebrews 5:7-9
In the days when he was in the flesh, Christ offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to God, who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Scripture for reflection: 1 Peter 1:18-19
You were delivered from the futile way of life your fathers handed on to you, not by any dimishable sum of silver or gold, but by Christ’s blood beyond all price: the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb.

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) we honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts. The miraculous discovery of the cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is the origin of the tradition of celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on this date. Constantine later built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the site of her discovery of the cross. On this same pilgrimage she ordered two other churches built: one in Bethlehem near the Grotto of the Nativity, the other on the Mount of the Ascension, near Jerusalem. In the Western Church the feast came into prominence in the seventh century — after 629, when the Byzantine emperor Heraclitus restored the Holy Cross to Jerusalem, after defeating the Persians who had stolen it. Christians “exalt” (raise on high) the Cross of Christ as the instrument of our salvation. Adoration of the Cross is, thus, adoration of Jesus Christ, the God Man, who suffered and died on this Roman instrument of torture for our redemption from sin and death. The cross represents the One Sacrifice by which Jesus, obedient even unto death, accomplished our salvation. The cross is a symbolic summary of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ — all in one image. The Cross — because of what it represents — is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It has inspired both liturgical and private devotions: for example, the Sign of the Cross, which is an invocation of the Holy Trinity; the “little” Sign of the Cross on head, lips, and heart at the reading of the Gospel; praying the Stations (or Way) of the Cross; and the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful on Good Friday by kissing the feet of the image of Our Savior crucified. Placing a crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ’s body upon it) in churches and homes, in classrooms of Catholic schools and in other Catholic institutions, or wearing this image on our persons, is a constant reminder — and witness — of Christ’s ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross. We remember Our Lord’s words, “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it” (Mt 10:38,39). Meditating on these words we unite ourselves — our souls and bodies — with His obedience and His sacrifice; and we rejoice in this inestimable gift through which we have the hope of salvation and the glory of everlasting life.(
Prayer: Canticle: Revelation 4:11; 5-9, 10, 12
O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power. For you have created all things; by your will they came to be and were made. Worthy are you, O Lord, to receive the scroll and break open its seals. For you were slain; with your blood you purchased for God – men of every race and tongue, of every people and nation. You made of them a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they shall reign on the earth. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and praise. Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

My thoughts: This is truly a great day in the Church. Today we pause from our busy lives to contemplate the mystery of the Cross; the vehicle of shame which became the vehicle of our salvation. We are reminded that our joy rests in the promise of everlasting life given to us by God when His Son purchased our freedom by His death. We have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, and as we take time to pray before a crucifix today, our eyes fixed on our loving Savior, let us remember that in our own lives, as in the life of Christ, no suffering is ever wasted. All suffering is redemptive; from suffering comes strength, and from strength comes conviction, and from conviction comes determination, and from determination comes a heart set on the truth, the truth which can only be found in Christ. Let us remember that we are celebrating the triumph of the Cross, both Christ’s, and ours.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Devotion for today: give it to Adam, he’ll eat anything

Scripture for meditation: Genesis 3:4-6
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Scripture for reflection: John 6:35
 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”

Jeff Cavins tells us: As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side, but is this so? How often do we think that we’ll be satisfied with a different car, a new house, a better job, or a fitter body? How often do we convince ourselves that the music will be better at that church, the sermons more exciting when preached by that pastor, or our spiritual hunger will be satisfied by that group, church, movement, book, tape, prophet, leader, speaker, or televangelist? How often has God provided sustenance for us and we have responded by complaining? How often has God provided a miracle for us and we have responded by whining? “I’m not being fed here, God, can’t you see? Why can’t you feed me what I want to eat?” The serpent succeeded in tempting the father and mother of mankind. The key to his strategy was to promise Eve that, by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she would have a better life, she would know more, and she would be “like God, knowing good and evil.” It didn’t seem to be that big of a deal. Seeing that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to look at, she ate from the tree, and then “gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” Adam and Eve had the perfect cuisine – and it still wasn’t enough…. I [Jeff Cavins] simply need to tell it like it is, and to proclaim the awesome food we have as Catholics. Do you have a spiritual eating disorder? Don’t lose heart! Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). The table is set, the meal is prepared, and the Lamb is waiting. (“I’m Not Being Fed!” Discovering the Food that Satisfies the Soul, Ascension Press, 2005)

Prayer: Prayer to Jesus for the Grace to Receive Him Frequently.
 O Jesus, Savior of my soul, I beseech Thee to grant me an ever-increasing desire to receive Thee in Holy Communion. Let each reception of Thee fill my heart with a fervent desire to receive Thee again. Let me so desire Thee that I may never forget Thee.
From one Communion to another, I ask that Thou nourish my soul with an ardent longing to receive Thee. This desire will help my soul to cooperate with Thee, thus preparing it to receive Thee more worthily.
Grant, O most loving Jesus that I may learn to appreciate the benefits of frequent Holy Communion for time and eternity.
O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine,
All praise and all thanksgiving
Be every moment Thine!

My thoughts: I have noticed that many people today are dissatisfied and unhappy, although they have successful careers, beautiful homes and good families. What is it that they want? What is it that any of us really wants? I submit that the one gift we would all love to have is true inner peace, the sustaining peace that accompanies us to bed at night and awakens with us in the morning. How do we get that peace? St. Augustine tells us that our souls are restless until they rest in God. Jeff Cavins tells us that only one food can fulfill our restless souls, and that food is found in the Eucharist. Christ gave us Himself because we are made in the image and likeness of God. Only one source of spiritual nourishment can help us to realize the awesomeness of that statement. If we allow ourselves to be picky eaters, and feed on the only food provided by God Himself for our spiritual well being, we will never need to be restless again. Don’t be like Adam (or Mikey) and eat anything. Fill yourself with the true bread of life, and have a peace-filled day!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Devotion for today: The Holy Name of Mary

Today we celebrate the memorial of the Holy Name of Mary.

Scripture for meditation: Judith 13:23, 25

And Ozias the prince of the people of Israel, said to her: Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever, for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God.

Scripture for reflection: Luke 1:26-33

 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

St. Alphonsus de Liguori tells us: Richard of Saint Laurence states, “There is not such powerful help in any name, nor is there any other name given to men, after that of Jesus, from which so much salvation is poured forth upon men as from the name of Mary.” He continues, “that the devout invocation of this sweet and holy name leads to the acquisition of superabundant graces in this life and a very high degree of glory in the next.” The Abbot Francone, speaking on this subject, says, “There is no other name after that of the Son, in heaven or on earth, whence pious minds derive so much grace, hope, and sweetness.” Hence Richard of Saint Laurence “encourages sinners to have recourse to this great name,” because it alone will suffice to cure them of all their evils; and “there is no disorder, however malignant, that does not immediately yield to the power of the name of Mary.” The Blessed Raymond Jordano says, “that however hardened and diffident a heart may be, the name of his most Blessed Virgin has such efficacy, that if it is only pronounced, that heart will be wonderfully softened.” Moreover, it is well known, and is daily experienced by the clients of Mary, that her powerful name gives the particular strength necessary to overcome temptations against purity.  “Thy name, O Mother of God, is filled with divine graces and blessings, as Saint Methodius says. So much so, that Saint Bonaventure declares, “that thy name, O Mary, cannot be pronounced without bringing some grace to him who does so devoutly….”(taken from the Magnificat, September, 2011 edition, Yonkers, NY)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

My thoughts: Listen to the words of the above prayer: Holy Mary, Mother of God. Mother of God.  How could anyone doubt the words of St. Alphonsus of Liguori when you meditate on these words? How could the Mother of God not be able to help us flee sin, soften hearts and fill us with divine blessings? The name of Mary is powerful. Call it out in time of need. Mary will come to you. She is your mother. Just call her name. That is all you need to do. Mary, my mother, come to me, and help me. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Devotion for today: are you talking to me?

Scripture for meditation: Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Scripture for reflection: Romans15:4
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

Tim Gray tells us: How are we to open this Holy Book to meet the Lord and hear Him speak to us? The answer is one of the true secrets of the saints. The saints didn’t have some mystic gene in their DNA, but they did share with St. Paul an insight that he had eagerly taught the first Christians: Scripture is living and active, and so it ever remains God’s Word, spoken to whomever has the courage to pick it up and receive it….Paul’s point is simple: you, not just Israel, are the one being addressed in Scripture. This makes a tremendous difference for us reading the Scriptures today. It is the difference between picking up a letter and thinking it is addressed to someone else versus realizing that it is intended for you. God’s Word is ever ancient, ever new…. God’s voice in the Scriptures is not an ancient news report about something that occurred in a long-forgotten past. Nor is Scripture a form letter sent out in a generic mass mailing. Rather, it is a personal note addressed to each of us, intended to speak personally to the intimate details of our life….Scripture is a love letter from our Divine Bridegroom, and, like the saints, we too should eagerly and often read the Scriptures and hear there the voice of our Beloved speaking to us. (Praying Scripture for a Change: an introduction to Lectio Divina, Ascension Press, 2009)

Prayer: Psalm 119:97-104
O how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever [as] mine. I have more insight than all my teachers,
for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged,
because I have observed Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
that I may keep Your word. I have not turned aside from Your ordinances,
for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

My thoughts: I have recently become aware that prayer for me is too much talking and not enough listening, so I have begun to use the practice of Lectio Divina, where I read a passage of Scripture and then spend time listening in my heart to what God is trying to say to me through those words. St. Cyprian tells us that praying is talking to God, and reading Scripture is God talking to us. St. Paul tells us that every word in the Bible is meant for each one of us personally. Each tale in the Old Testament, each parable in the New was written from God to us, to give us the direction and grace we need to become the dream He had in mind when He created us. Let us spend time this week pondering every word of a short Bible passage and then remain quiet and still. We may be surprised to hear God’s voice whispering in our hearts. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Devotion for today: Archbishop Sheen's thought on women

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s

thought for the Day


“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”