Saturday, May 4, 2013

Devotion for today: Selections from “The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary”

I like the prayers in “The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” This book follows the same format as the Liturgy of the Hours, with the prayers and hymns emphasizing Mary. To help us celebrate  the First Saturday of May , let us take a look at some of the prayers and hymns for Saturday Morning Prayer.

God, come to my assistance.
-          Lord, make haste to help me.
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.

HYMN: Holy Mary
Holy Mary, my Queen and sovereign Lady, I give you myself, trusting in your fidelity and your protection.
I surrender myself entirely to your motherly tenderness, my body, my soul, all that I am, all that I possess, for the whole of this day, for every moment of my life, and especially at the hour of my death.
I entrust to you once more all my hopes, all my consolations, all my anxieties, all my troubles, my life, my dying breath, so that by your prayers and merits, I may have, in all I do, one only goal, your good pleasure and the holy will of your Son.

Antiphon 2: The Virgin Mary is exalted above the choirs of angels; let all believers rejoice and bless the Lord.

Canticle: Ezekiel 36:24-28
They will be his own people, and God himself will be with them, their own God (Revelation 21:3).
I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all the foreign lands, and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you, and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees. You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Antiphon 3: The Lord has made you so glorious that your praise will never cease to resound among me.

First Reading: Revelation 12:1
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Second Reading: From a letter from Paschasius Radbert, abbot: Mary is taken from earth

Today the glorious, ever-virgin Mary ascends to heaven. I urge you to rejoice, for, if I may so put it, she has been raised up in an ineffable way to be with Christ who reigns for ever. The Queen of the world is today taken from the earth and from this present evil time. I say again: rejoice, because she who is sure of her imperishable glory has reached the palace of heaven. Exult, I say, and rejoice, and let the whole world rejoice, because this day Salvation has drawn nearer for us all… Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.” It was fitting that the Virgin should be given such gifts and be full of grace, since she has bestowed glory on heaven and has brought God and peace to the earth, faith to pagans, an end to vice, order to life, and discipline to morals. And it was right that an angel be sent to the Virgin, because virginity always means kinship with the angels… “Rejoice,” the angel says, ‘for you are full of grace.” Yes, full! For while a share of grace was given to others, the undiminished fullness of grace was poured into Mary.

Concluding Prayer: All powerful and ever-living God, you raised the sinless Virgin Mary, mother of your Son, body and soul to the glory of heaven. May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Devotion for today: Hail, Woman

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there... When the wine ran short Mary said to Him, "They have no wine." Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother told the servers, "Do whatever He tells you.’ Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.  (John 2:1-7).

Continuing our look at Fulton Sheen’s commentary on what the Wedding Feast at Cana reveals to us about Mary, our Mother, we now proceed to the line where Jesus addresses His Mother as “Woman,” something that sounds as bit harsh and disrespectful to our 21st century ears. Not so, my friends, not so! As you read this selection, know that Sheen writes this as though we are listening in on a private conversation Jesus is having with His Mother.

“To indicate the role that you will play in Redemption, I now bestow upon you that title of universal motherhood; I call you – Woman. It was to you that I referred when I said to Satan that I would put enmity between him and the Woman, between his brood of evil and you seed, which I am. That great title of Woman I dignify you with now. And I shall dignify you with it again when my hour comes and when I am unfurled upon the Cross, like a wounded eagle. We are in this work of redemption together. What is yours is mine. From this hour on, we are not just Mary and Jesus; we are the new Adam and the new Eve, beginning a new humanity, changing the water of sin into the wine of life.”
(Fulton J. Sheen, “The World’s First Love”, Ignatius Press, reprinted in 2011,  originally printed in 1952 by McGraw Hill)

Let us take a look at a few Bible passages which show us how Mary is the “Woman” in Genesis, at the Crucifixion, and in Revelation.

Genesis 2:23: The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
John 19:26: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
Revelation 12:1-6: A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.  Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.  His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.
Here we have our passages from the Bible which show three things: 1) Mary is the new Eve as Jesus is the new Adam; 2) Mary is the universal Mother of the Church; as she is given to John, so is she given to us. We are Jesus’ new family, and just as He chose His apostles to lead His new family, so He chose Mary to intercede for His new family, to love His new family, and to give an example of pure living to His new family; 3) Mary bears the means to wipe out Satan, from the world and from our lives. Turn to Mary as Satan attacks you and turn to Mary as you strive to grow in your love for her Son. The apostles and disciples, who wrote the New Testament, knew Jesus for only a few years; Mary knew Him His entire life. Rely on her, for just as, at the Cana Wedding, Christ performed a miracle at her request, so in your life, He will do the same.

“Dear children! Today I again invite you to devote your life to devote your life to me with love that I may be able to lead you with love. I love you, dear children, with a special love and I want to bring you all to heaven, to God. I want you to understand that this life is so short compared to that one in heaven. So dear children, decide for God again today. Only then shall I be able to show you how dear you are to me and how much I wish you were all saved and in heaven with me. Thank you for having responded to my call. (Medugorje, November 27, 1986)

Prayer: Mary, thank you for this motherly call! Mother of my Savior and Mother of Peace, today I surrender my life to you with love. As Jesus, dying on the cross, gave you also over to me, so do I give myself over to you now. Take me on your motherly lap! I want to love Jesus as you did, Mother. I want to learn with you how to listen to the Father’s word and do His will. Mary, with you I wish to learn how to love all people as my brothers and sisters because they are all yours. I devote myself to you that my prayer may be prayer of the heart in which I shall find peace, and love, and the strength of reconciliation….Let everything in me praise the Lord with you from now on! (Fr. Slavko Barbaric, O.F.M., Pray With the Heart!, Franciscan University Press, 1988)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Devotion for today: Mary, to thee do we cry

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there... When the wine ran short Mary said to Him, "They have no wine." Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother told the servers, "Do whatever He tells you.’ Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.  (John 2:1-7).

Mary has one role in her life that takes precedence over all others: she is our  personal intercessor. Mary will go to Jesus with needs we don’t even know we have, and ask Him to help us. Look at what we learn about her at Cana. Although there are many guests, servants and wine stewards at this wedding, it is Mary who notices the wine is gone. Ever vigilant for her children, Mary makes sure a happy and blessed occasion does not end in embarrassment. Mary watches over us as well. As Fulton Sheen tells us in his book “The World’s First Love”:

 …Mary intercedes to gain us what we need, without our always knowing our need. Neither the wine steward nor the diners knew that the wine was failing; therefore, they could not ask for help. In like manner, if we do not know what our soul needs, how can we put such needs into prayers? Often we do not know what is vital to our lives…There are so few of us who know the reason for our unhappiness. We pray for wealth…we ask for peace of mind, we are at the end of our strength and even of our hope; and we do not know that we ought to be asking for Divine strength and Divine love. That is where devotion to Mary comes in….one thing is certain – no one will ever call on her without being heard or without being finally led to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, for Whose sake she alone exists – for Whose sake she was made  pure – and for Whose sake she was given to us….And as the mother knows the needs (of a baby) better than the babe, so the Blessed Mother understands our cries and worries and knows them better that we know ourselves. As the baby needs the doctor, so the Blessed Mother knows we need her Divine Son. As Our Lord mediates between us and the Heavenly Father, so the Blessed Mother mediates between us and Our Divine Lord. She fills our empty pots, she supplies the elixir of life, she prevents the joys of life from ebbing away. Mary is not our salvation – let us not be absurd on that. The mother is not the doctor, and neither is Mary the Savior. But Mary brings us to the Savior. (Ignatius Press, 1952).

So beautiful is the role of Mary in our lives! How loving a God we have to provide us with a Mother who only has our best interest at heart! God loves His purest daughter; Jesus loves His devoted Mother, and the Holy Spirit loves His faithful spouse. Let us never forget that to go to Mary is to go to the most perfect adorer of the Trinity that has ever existed. We must always understand that to love Mary is God’s desire for us, and in no way takes away from our love for Him. Just as our love for our earthly mother does not interfere with our love for our earthly father, or our love for our sister does not interfere with our love for our brother, so our love for Mary will never do anything but bring us closer to God. She will fill us with the wine of God’s love, and our cups will never run dry.

The Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Devotion for today: Jesus Gave Mary to us, that’s why

The love Jesus has for us knows no bounds. He gave His life to redeem us from our sins. He gave us His Body and Blood so that we will have the bread of life, and He gave us His dear Mother, that we may always know the love and concern from her that He knew all his earthly life. He pointed out to us that we have a Father in heaven, and we call Him Abba. He made sure we have a Mother in heaven as well, and her name is Mary. Fulton Sheen tells us, in his book, “The World’s First Love”:

It may be objected: ‘Our Lord is enough for me. I have no need of her.’ But He needed her, whether we do or not. And, what is more important, Our Blessed Lord gave us His Mother as our Mother. On that Friday men call Good, when He was unfurled upon the Cross as the banner of salvation on earth, He looked down upon the two most precious creatures He had on earth: His Mother and His beloved disciple John. The night before, at the Last Supper, He had made His last Will and Testament, giving us that which on dying no man was ever able to give, namely, Himself in the Holy Eucharist. Thus He would be with us, as He said, “all days unto the consummation of the world.” Now, in the darkening shadows of Calvary, He adds a codicil to His will. There beneath the Cross, not prostrate, as the Gospel notes, ‘stood’ His Mother. As a Son, He thought of His Mother; as a Savior, He thought of us. So He gave to us His Mother: ‘Behold thy Mother.’ Just as we do not shrink from the thought of God giving us His Father, so that we can pray: ‘Our Father,’ so neither do we rebel when He gives us His Mother, so that we can pray: ‘Our Mother’. Thus the fall of man is undone through another Tree, the Cross; Adam through another Adam, Christ; and Eve through the new Eve, Mary. (Ignatius Press, 1952)  

Jesus continues to give us His Mother through her many apparitions. Sometimes she comes to reassure us, as does in these words to Juan Diego at Guadalupe:

She said:  “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my son, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth…. “Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything….”

Sometimes, as at Kibeho in Rwanda, Mary implored: ““I speak to you who hold power, and who represent the nation: save the people, instead of being their torturers. Don't rob the people; share with others. Be careful not to persecute, to muzzle those who want to denounce your errors. I say it to you, I repeat it, whatever you do, even though you try everything to harm somebody because he loves his fellow men, defends human rights, fights for the respect of the life of others, and for the truth and all that is good, and even because he fights so that God may be loved and respected, whatever you do, you can do nothing against him.”… “I love you very much. If I came, it is because you needed it.”

And sometimes, as at Fatima, she gives us instructions to help our weaker brothers and sisters:  "When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: 'O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.' "…"Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them."

We must remember that Mary is perfect holiness, and her only desire for us, her children, is to show us the way to achieve that holiness. She tells us at Medjugorje: “I invite every one of you to start living in God’s love. You are ready to commit sin and to put yourselves in the hands of Satan. Decide for God.”

Truly, Mary is our Mother. Listen to her words. She is pointing us to her Son, and she tells us how to get to Him: Decide, today, for God. Then ask Mary’s help to give up earthly desires and replace them with a fire for Jesus.

Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Devotion for today: Mary is the Mother of God, that’s why


I am always a little surprised when Catholics tells me they don’t have a devotion to Mary, that praying to Jesus is enough for them. It is true: Jesus is, after all, God, and therefore, enough. I can’t, however, ever let it go at that. “Why should I pray to Mary?” they ask. “Why not?’ I always reply, and my explanation always begins with the most powerful statement ever made about a woman: “She is the Mother of God! If God chose her as His means to enter humanity, why wouldn’t we?”If we do believe in the true divinity of Jesus, then we believe in the sanctity and holiness of Mary. To be the Mother of God, Mary had to be pure, humble, compliant to God’s will, without guile, without anger, without self-serving – I guess everything we would like to be but somehow fall short. Would it not make sense, then, that if we found perfection in a human being, someone we could emulate to become all we could possibly be, we would go to her, be with her, study her and ask her to help us become more perfect in God’s eyes? In his excellent book, my all time favorite book written about Mary, “The World’s First Love”, Fulton Sheen offers this short prayer to Mary as he points out the greatest attribute she possessed, and we lack:

We speak much of freedom today, Mary, because we are losing it – just as we speak most of health when we are sick. Thou art the Mistress of Freedom because thou didst undo the false freedom that makes men slaves to their passions by pronouncing the word God Himself said when He made light and again when thy Son redeemed the world – Fiat!  Or, be it done unto me according to God’s will. As the ‘no’ of Eve proves that the creature was made by love and is therefore free, so thy Fiat proves that the Creature was made for love as well. Teach us, then, that there is no freedom except in doing, out of love, what thou didst do in the Annunciation, namely, saying Yes to what Jesus asks.” (The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God, Ignatius Press, 1952)

So the first point of my explanation is the most powerful one of all: Mary is the Theotokos: the Mother of God. God gave Adam and Eve freedom in the Garden of Eden, and they used that freedom to turn away from Him. God wanted to redeem man, but in the context of freedom once again, and He gave Mary the freedom to choose to be His Mother. He sent an angel to ask her to be His Mother, and this time, mankind got it right. Fiat! Can we do that? Do we do that? Do we want to do that, every single time God knocks on our hearts? If we do, then we turn to Mary. She will show us the Way. After all, the Way is her Son. He came forth from her body. He looked like her, He acted like her. “Show me a good man, and I will show you his good mother” is to paraphrase a popular expression. Would God have been born to a selfish mother? Would He have been born to a mother who wanted more praise and honor for herself than for her son? Of course not! Mary does for us what a beam from a lighthouse does for a ship: she points us in the right direction. I will end with another powerful statement from Fulton Sheen, quoting from the above book. By the way, Fulton Sheen had a profound love for Mary. When asked what he hoped Jesus would say to him at his judgment, Fulton replied, “I know all about you! My Mother told me all about you!” Mary, please tell Jesus all about me!

“As our love does not start with Mary, so neither does it stop with Mary. Mary is a window through which our humanity first catches a glimpse of Divinity on earth. Or perhaps she is more like a magnifying glass; she intensifies our love of her Son and makes our prayers more bright and burning. God, Who made the sun, also made the moon. The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun. The moon would be only a burnt-out cinder floating in the immensity of space were it not for the sun. All its light is reflected from the sun. The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing. With Him, she is the Mother of Men. On dark nights we are grateful for the moon; when we see it shining, we know there must be a sun. So in this dark night of the world, when men turn their backs on Him Who is the Light of the World, we look to Mary to guide their feet while we await the sunrise.”

Here is Fulton Sheen’s favorite poem about Mary:

Lovely Lady dressed in blue–—
teach me how to pray!
God was just your little Boy,
Tell me what to say!
Did you lift Him up, sometimes,
Gently, on your knee?
Did you sing to Him the way
Mother does to me?
Did you hold His hand at night?
Did you ever try
Telling stories of the world?
O! And did He cry?
Do you really think He cares
If I tell Him things–—
Little things that happen? And
Do the Angels’ wings
Make a noise? And can He hear
Me if I speak low?
Does He understand me now?
Tell me–—for you know!
Lovely Lady dressed in blue,
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little Boy.
And you know the way.

 Mary Dixon Thayer
 The Child On His Knees, pages 24 and 25
The MacMillan Company, New York, 1926 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Devotion for today: How are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?

Sometimes, when we look at a world that accepts abortion as an acceptable way of life, and suffers from acts of violence and terrorism, we have to ask ourselves, “Have we, ourselves, done enough to bring the truth to those around us?" If we haven’t done so, then why are we so shocked at the atrocities that surround us today?

Romans 10:14-21

 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the world.”

 Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Devotion for today: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth

Revelation 21:1-5
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;
and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."

The following selection is taken from the book, “Inside the Passion” by John Bartunek, L.C. He is commenting on a scene from the movie, “The Passion of Christ” where Jesus is carrying His cross and he falls. His mother Mary runs to comfort Him.

…When the three see Jesus, the thought of having to go and grapple with the gruesome reality again was more than Mary could take. But then Jesus falls. Mary’s reluctance snaps as she realizes that her son is in trouble…. Mary presses through the crowd and puts her arms around Jesus and says, “I’m here.” All she needs to do is simply be there for Him…. Jesus rewards her gesture of love, strengthening her even as she strengthens Him, by reminding her of the meaning behind His hideous torture. Rising to his feet, He looks her in the eye and says, “Behold, Mother, I make all things new!” This quote is taken from the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse. It refers to the final victory of Christ over evil, the end of history when, Christians believes, He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

The verse in the Apocalypse preceding the line Jesus speaks in the film explains symbolically the difference between the “new creation” that will be fulfilled at that time and the fallen creation that precedes it. By including that line (“Behold, I make all things new”), the film shows Jesus reminding Mary, who is entirely (and understandably) absorbed by her son’s terrible sufferings, that the suffering isn’t the end of the story. Rather, it is the path to freedom and eternal joy for her and for all sinners.

Co-screenwriter Benedict Fitzgerald believed that even though the line was not part of the Gospel’s account, it seemed to fit well. When Icon Productions screened the first version to an auditorium of four hundred Jesuit priests in Los Angeles, that line threw them into a chorus of affirmation. They loved it; they saw it as the climax of the film, the perfect touch. When the Savior of the world needs His mother’s help to get back on His feet and continue His redeeming journey, a powerful line of Scripture added to a script flashes like a bolt of lightning to reveal the meaning of human history.