Category Archives: Mary
The end result of all good enculturation is described for us in the Scriptures:
- Zechariah 12:10 – And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
- John 19:37 – And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
- Apocalypse 1:7 – Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
The Immaculate Virgin Mother of God is singled out in Genesis 3:15 as one to do battle over against Satan. She does that maternally with us, placing us – of every tribe and tongue and people and nation and, dare I say, culture – before the wounds our Warrior, her Divine Son, Christ Jesus. No exceptions. Mary is the leader in enculturation because she simply places us before Christ’s goodness and truth and kindness and truth and love and truth. Being with Jesus, God, cuts through all cultural expressions of whatever madness. Look at her and tell me it isn’t true. Can’t do it, can you?
Seriously, that reaches across cultural “boundaries” does it not?
God Himself, standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, that touches even fallen human hearts unless they have totally given themselves over to Satan purposely.
We usually get upset when we’re frustrated, which is when things are out of control, when we get nervous that the spinning of worldliness is spinning away while the true pole of the earth is tossed as irrelevant. However, it remains true that the Cross remains while the world spins away:
Crux stat dum volvitur orbis.
That’s just a two second video of Shadow-dog above. He demonstrates well my reaction to anyone holding the cross to be irrelevant. That’s my reaction because I’m not as close to Christ Jesus as I should be. So, I get nervous, upset. How stupid is that. We must retain our peace of heart even if we also have anguish of soul. Anyway, I had that frustrated reaction the other day to something someone who should know better said of a proclamation of Saint Pope Paul VI to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council which received something like a dozen minutes of thunderous and unanimous applause in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Try anything more than ten seconds of applause…
Because Jesus is the Head of the Body – so to speak – and the members of the Church are the members of that Body, Saint Pope Paul VI proclaimed Mary to be Mother of the Church, Mater Ecclesiae, which title is no innovation, no heresy, but is instead a title which is humbly bestowed upon her so as to celebrate the reality of her motherhood. She is the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and her prayers for us under that steadfasat Cross that we might receive the grace of redemption as salvation directly from her Divine Son appropriately confers upon her such a title, for she is, then, our mother in this way, Mother of the Church.
The nasty thing I heard someone who should know better say is that this proclamation was the beginning of the end of the Church. I was stunned. Perhaps I didn’t hear correctly. Perhaps he meant to say that Mary’s inclusion in Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic decree on the Church, was and is somehow the driving engine bringing all to hell. Or perhaps he was saying that in general about the Council itself and he had no intention of demeaning our Lady.
But this is a symptom of the times, is it not? Flippant statements smashing everything and everyone down? Two seconds to throw all into chaos, and then smirking away. Wow.
But things are not “out of control”. The Lord Jesus remains the Lord of History. And we can remain with Him. He can and does make us part of the Holy Family. He does forgive us. He does fill us with sanctifying grace. He does give us the wherewithal to continue.
If that video above were to continue, one would see Shadow-dog immediately lie down and peacefully oversee his domain. A good example. Goooood daaaawwwg!
The rectory was visited by a locust the other day. I haven’t seen as healthy and big a grasshopper as this since I was a kid up in Minnesota. It’s twice as big as the biggest that I’ve otherwise seen around here.
Assumption Chapel instantly came to mind. Would we have the faith to do the same today in the plague of faithlessness we are witnessing in the midst of the Church?
The story behind Assumption Chapel – the Grasshopper Chapel – right next to where yours truly grew up, is amazing, well worth a look see at Wikipedia’s Assumption Chapel, well worth visiting if you’re just passing by the middle of nowhere Lake Wobegon.
The most practical thing in the world is do something like this. The most practical thing in the world is to get to know the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, Joseph. And don’t forget the angels.
We’ve been saying the rosary and other devotions nightly while we have the icon of Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians. Dozens of copies have been making their way around so that parishes might better be in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters.
The above video is the most amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing recitation by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J Sheen.
Lovely lady, dressed in blue,
Teach me how to pray
Cause God was just your little boy,
And you know the way
Did you lift him up sometimes,
Gently on your knee
Did you tell him stories of the world,
Like Mother did to me
And when he fell, did you lift him up,
And make everything alright
And did you tell him his prayers at night
I want to know my lovely lady, lovely lady,
Dressed, dressed in blue
Oh, God was just your little boy,
Your little boy and you know the truth
And did you whisper in his ear sweet lullabyes,
I want to know, I want to know,
I want to know, did he cry
Lovely lady, dressed in blue,
Oh won’t you please teach me how to pray
Cause God was just your little boy, and
I want to know, I want to know,
I want to know, so teach me how to pray
Teach me how to pray
Monstra te esse matrem!
Rhododendron calendulaceum or Flaming Azalea is native to these mountains in WNC. This one is next to the Samuel the Angry Donkey pasture some miles down the mountain from the hermitage. A “snitty” florest on the internet calls it “Satan,” as if Satan has rights over anything to do with flames. No.
God is love, and God’s love which we witness with Jesus is ardent. We poetically speak of the ardent flames of love. The Scriptures speak of the flames issuing from the majestic throne of God. Those flames are symbolic of God’s love. God’s love does not itself change for the recipient. It is the receiver whose changing capacity to take in God’s love which put’s a limit or less so on God’s love.
- In heaven all receive fully of God’s love and rejoice in those ardent flames of love.
- In purgatory those very same flames of love, so to speak, instruct those preparing for heaven, purging them of their lack of thanksgiving, and in this they also rejoice as they know they are on their way and are progressively more capable of thanking the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. They are learning, but, mind you, they are also holy, as they are in the state, as we say, of sanctifying grace.
- In hell all are also provided with the ardent love of God, but they, fallen angels and damned souls, have chosen to have no capacity to take in that ardent love. They perceive that love as punishing flames, writhing in spiritual and intellectual frustration even while choosing to be that way.
How to say it? God’s love is God’s love.
But what about Mary, the Immaculate Conception? She was free of any need for purging so she knows nothing of our weakness and anguish and struggles, right? So, she can’t actually be a good mother to us, right? Wrong.
It’s because of her purity of heart and agility of soul and clarity of spiritual vision that she saw exactly our need in all it’s horror, much more than we could even begin to know, and at the same time she was in solidarity with her Divine Son in His mission to redeem us, and, if we so choose to cooperate with His grace, to save us. Mary knew all about the ardent flames of God’s love from the perspective of those on earth, those in purgatory, and, analogously, as one fully in grace that is to turn to glory, as Saint Paul says.
So, whatever it’s called, a fiery flower for you, Mary, Jesus’ good mom.
Sorry, I couldn’t help but make the analogy…
Of course, Mary’s ferocity is to get us to go to Confession and go to heaven.
Anecdote time – and this does NOT break the Seal of Confession!
When I was a permanent chaplain in Lourdes and hearing zillions of Confessions of the 12,000,000 pilgrims that 150th anniversary jubilee year in the “Confessions Chapel,” the last penitent left the confessional leaving the door open. Another pilgrim appeared and, before coming in, declared before God and everyone else in ear shot (really a lot of people as it was jammed) that he didn’t know what he was doing there, that he didn’t want to be there, that he hated this, but it was just that after some moments in the grotto he felt compelled to come into the Confessions Chapel, and there he was, hating the whole thing, surely with his guardian angel smacking him down hard. And then he came in, closed the door, and…
That’s how our Lady works. Don’t mess with Jesus’ good mom. She’ll get you every time.
P.S. I have not ever, not now, nor will I ever, as far as I know, ever own an iPhone.
While preaching this Palm-Sunday on what would be an appropriate meditation for this Holy Week for my parishioners – the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and then the 4th and 13th Stations of the Cross: Jesus meeting his mother after getting smashed down by the cross for the first time and then Jesus being lowered from the cross into her arms, ever so dead – in preaching on all that… well… I mean… I suppose I could put the audio of the homily up… It’s just that it’s embarrassing as I got entirely choked up a number of times, entirely unable to speak for at least what seemed like ten seconds… thirty seconds…
Here’s the deal: Not that it at all came out in what I said necessarily, but it was in preaching on Jesus and His good mom that I “understood” – beheld quite directly, if you will – the dynamic, if you will – by which it is entirely necessary that Mary be Co-Redemptrix. To me this wasn’t just an “insight”, but rather an invitation to behold what’s really going on with our Redemption, ever so personal for Jesus about Mary, the good Son of a good mom. It was like seeing Mary as Mother from the eyes of her good Son.
I asked a specialist in psychology and priests about this fault of mine, getting choked up, which the Brits would call weakness, and even worse. He knows me well, and is my spiritual director. He straight up laughed at me for stupidly even asking the question, saying that Freud would say that it all has to do with an unresolved conflict with my own mom. But, then he said that Freud has been discredited on saying everything like this must be a “conflict,” adding that surely this was, in fact, for me, a valid religious experience. And then he went on to mention some of his own like experiences.
I say all that just to rid some of such unnecessary distraction so that they might pay attention to what is important. Here are some points spelling out a bit what I didn’t entirely spell out in the homily because of my getting choked up:
- Only Adam was responsible for the “breath of the living ones” which was only given to him with its intention that he and his offspring be alive and then reaffirm this life should he eat from the tree of the living ones, that is, living with good choices, instead of eating, as it were, from the tree of knowing good mixed with evil, a kind of epistemology of dumbed-downness by which the power of his agent-intellect was corrupted not only for himself, but for us. Adam changed the intention of the breath from life to death. We no longer have the wherewithal to keep matter and spirit, body and soul together. We start to drop into the grave the moment we are conceived.
- Any offspring have a share in the breath of the dying ones, and are dumbed-down, weakened, unable to love that which, the One – God – whom they don’t know, as they otherwise should, and so are immediately in sin, what we call original sin.
- God creates the soul which is concomitant with that life, that dying life at the choice of Adam, not of God. God is just respecting Adam’s choice for himself, for us. We are created good up to the point Adam chose. And that’s the point: up to the point that Adam chose. Adam chose to descend to the level of where his wife bid him to go, not more nor less.
- In justice, in our Redemption, Jesus should redeem us, recreate us only inasmuch as, only to the point that one of us would ask for this, Mary’s intercession for us.
- Mary, free from original sin, and therefore with purity of heart and agility of soul and clarity of (spiritual) vision so that she could see exactly what we needed as she looked upon what sin has ravaged on her Son. She was in perfect solidarity with Son, her Immaculate Heart, His Sacred Heart.
- Jesus followed up on her intercession for us, and only up to the point she desired this for us, which, of course, was perfectly. She’s the perfect mother. Our mother.
- That maternal intercession of hers was necessarily for Him. It is this to which He looked. And only this. Jesus had a human nature. In justice, He should use this human nature. It is in His human nature that He received the intercession of His mother for us. He was going to do exactly what she wanted for us (which is, of course, exactly what He wanted for us precisely as her children, with Him).
Just to say it:
Our Redemption by Jesus is equal, not more, not less, to the maternal intercession of Jesus’ good mom for us. He looked to her, the Son to the Mother. Just as Adam looked to his wife as to just how far he should fall, so did the new Adam look to The Woman to see just how far He should lift us back up. Being Immaculate, she saw our need perfectly, and, in perfect solidarity with her Son, interceded for us perfectly. Having said all that, it is she who set us before our Redemption. Jesus would not have done it without her indicating that Redemption. Mary is entirely necessary as Co-Redemptrix for our Redemption.
Academically, the point is entirely valid with all my years of doctoral studies on Genesis 2:4–3:24 (including 3:15). I have much to say on all this, drawing out all the implications, drawing out the incisive ironies. I am overwhelmed with the entirely and very personal dynamic, if you will, of what is happening with our redemption, Jesus looking to His good mom: “Woman! Behold! I make all things new!”
Finally, this provides me the engine – how to say it? – to draw out a popular version of the thesis. I pray that I’m able to accomplish this. I pray that this works toward what has been called the fifth Marian dogma.
Now it’s more personal than it ever was. It’s like a project with Jesus.
I entirely realize that making it personal makes me look to be the fool. Delusional. An idiot. Fine. Whatever. I know what I know. It’s all come together. Whatever authority by which I write anything has nothing do with me. It’s to be judged on consistency with the Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Magisterial interventions of the Church. It’s to be judged on the reasoning. Yes.
All I can say is that, right now, at the start of Holy Week, I’ve been shaken to the core of my being before God that Mary, our good mom, is necessarily Co-Redemptrix. It has to be that our Redemption in entirely involved with Jesus looking to His good mom. And, yes, she was singled out in Genesis: “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and The Woman [in context, the future Mother of the Redeemer].
In saying that, what is left to say? Just this:
Jesus, Immaculate Mary’s Divine Son, has done all things well.
Not having bought any ammo since, I think, sometime in late 2018, the “long-way” was taken to the hermitage, passing by a number of Walmarts with variously stocked ammo desks, some desk managers being more on top of things than others. Then, after hitting the UPS Store, it was up and up and up “the mountain.” BTW, can you spot the huge cross made out of I-beams partially hidden by the trees towering above the driveway in the picture above? The neighbor to the hermitage is a master welder.
After a couple of hours of quiet time – a day off after all – energy returned, prayers were said, protection of angels was requested, targets went up, mags were loaded, timers were set, “ears” were adjusted, adrenaline was forced, trigger fingers, left and right, were steadied, concentration was narrowed…
The first course consisted of some six stages of drills, supposedly of a SEAL team, surely dumbed down and from “back-in-the-day.” Here’s a picture of the first stage, just three yards out, from cover/holstered, with an 8 1/2 x 11 target of the usual “body” (inside the two vertical lines: 5:3/4″ x 10:1/2″) and “head” (consisting of a 2″ x 4″ box at the top, an eye-forehead shot instantly “stopping the threat”). The first stage is just one shot from holster to the “head” ≤ 1.5 seconds. Dunno why, but this time I was much more accurate and quick for all stages of all courses, coming in mostly (way) under time and with smaller more centered patterns, mostly inside the “inside bottle” representing the spinal cord. Prayers for priests and the bishop while moving, marking, changing out targets.
The target then moves further away for different stages until 75 feet away up the ridge.
DIGRESSION: Someone had given me some massively oversized targets (23″ x 35″), I guess to poke fun at my aim, the comment surely being that I’m not able to hit the side of a barn… from inside the barn! I took those dozen or so roll of wallpaper-esque targets just to see if there was anything superimposed. Nope. Having ascertained that, those targets will now go back to the giver. As of a couple years, the most recent policy really is no gifts from intel, ever, zip, zero, zilch… can’t happen. I’m guessing the targets are for zeroing in rifle scopes, say, from a mile out. But I’m not a sniper. I don’t own or use rifles. Not my thing. With a Glock, as the saying goes, aim small, shoot small.
After that, it was time for an FBI course with reduced QIT 97-99 inside bottle targets (that partial detail fitting on legal paper), and then the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal courses (that target consisting of foam dessert plates propped up by pigtail wires), and then some swinging breakfast blend plastic coffee buckets on ropes and filled with dirt (out to about 15 yards), totaling for day I’m guessing about 175 bullets. Not much, but enough. It was a good day for review and keeping edgy.
With the Glock thoroughly cleaned and oiled and the target-ammo changed out for appropriate carry-ammo, I was eager to go to the neighbors of the hermitage. That’s when the real happiness of the day began.
The spiritual conversations after plinking are becoming a thing, as it were, something that’s expected and to which we all look forward. We spoke of judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, witnessing to the point of martyrdom, suffering, angels, Jesus, our dearest Heavenly Father, the state of the Church, the state of our souls, the patience of our Lord with us sinners, and being happy for Jesus that after all He has gone through for us, He is now in heaven with our Heavenly Father.
But most of all – at length – we spoke about our Blessed Mother, Jesus’ good mom, about what she went though in this world, what with her purity of heart and agility of soul and clear vision confronting this fallen world, how it is that she was in solidarity with her Divine Son Jesus as He was tortured to death right in front of her. If recorded, these conversations would be good material for an ongoing series of blog posts.
A repeat-topic about our Lady came up, you know, which of the 14 Stations of the Cross would be most – how to say? – involving to Jesus. The neighbor said it would surely be the meeting with His mother. I agreed, but in another way, saying that it may well be when Jesus is taken down from the cross and put in the arms of His blessed mother.
Aquinas says that the divinity of Jesus never left His body even when that body died and He, with His soul, descended to hell to preach to the fallen spirits. It struck me then, devastated as He would be in His soul that His mother was so devastated holding His dead body, that He would be bragging on His mother to the fallen spirits: “Look at her! She’s the mother-warrior who crushes you, Satan, under her heel. She’s remained faithful in the most adverse circumstances, all of hell attacking. You have failed! She has won souls for heaven!” These are the words, so full of love, which will torture those fallen spirits, so full of hate, for eternity.
Much better to have our souls in order, frequenting the Sacraments, to go to heaven and rejoice to be happy that, after all they went through in this world for us, both Jesus and our Blessed Mother are there.
Homily 2019 01 20 Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; Οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. John 2:4. *The* Wedding. Priests are married.
These are the massive central portals to the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes, in front of which the candlelight rosary procession is led nightly in Lourdes, France. The artist attempts to get us to understand that the two scenes are one by distributing the jars of water now turned to wine at the Wedding in Cana on both sets of doors. He also has us pointed to where the real “Wine” is to be had, as well as Mary’s solidarity with Jesus at His Hour, where she is to intercede for us in the redemption of the image of God, as Genesis has it, one man and one woman for marriage and family.
Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; Οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου (John 2:4).
- Mary’s statement: “They have no wine.”
After all, we have to celebrate the image of God as to be found in marriage and the family when the Redeemer of the image of God within us is present. All the Sacred Scriptures point to this. She, who is the Mother of the Redeemer of Genesis 3:15, knows she can go to her Son who is set for the rise and downfall of many in Israel, He who is the Light unto the Nations.
- Jesus’ title for His mom: “Woman”
Some think that this is an insult. Since when is being a woman an insult?! Anyway, this is the epic title of the Woman in Genesis 3:15, the War Hero over against Satan, and the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer, the War Hero by way of her maternity of “her Seed.”
Then we see the Woman below the cross who, already having given birth to the Head of the Body, Jesus, becomes mother also to the members of the Body, that is, by way of her perfect intercession for us under the cross, with all the “birth pangs” as it were that that entails. This is when all of hell is broken out. This is when she is successful in the battle with her Seed, her Divine Son, Jesus, who crushes the power of Satan over us and is crushed in His human nature for us.
Then we see the Woman in the Apocalypse, the Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under he feet, and crowned with twelve starts, she, again, depicted as victor over Satan by way of her maternity.
For Mary to be entitled Woman is not an insult!
- Jesus’ question: “What is that to me and to you?”
That question refers to both Jesus’ good mom and Jesus. Jesus wants to draw out the truths that are taking place. The Vulgate gets it exactly right: “Quid mihi et tibi est?” “What is that to me and to you?” It’s a real question, seeking the deeper truths to be spoken publicly. Great!
The Holy Spirit inspired the words to be the way they are. If we rewrite the Scriptures, bad things happen. Thus:
The Catholic NAB translates this if not with true malice, then with sheer incompetence: “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” That makes it sound like Mary just wants more alcohol for everyone, and that Jesus couldn’t give a hoot about anyone there, so that He wants to point out her stupidity publicly.
The KJV is even worse: “What have I to do with thee?” It’s like these rebels are having Jesus disowning His mother. That’s bad, really evil.
One of the Spanish translations simply has “déjame,” “Let me take care of it” (which leaves Mary out of it altogether. No good, that. And that’s only if we give it the far-fetched best sense, which would otherwise be: “Leave me alone!” Sigh… The Lectionary version we had was this: “¿Qué podemos hacer tú y yo?” That puts way too much emphasis on stuff to do instead of what the real question was about, namely, the explication of the deeper realities at hand.
- Jesus’ hint for the answer: “My hour is not yet arrived.”
His Hour is when He is on the Cross on Calvary when all hell is broken out and the battle is on, when Mary’s hour of intercession for us is to be in full operation.
Let’s do the analogy: Cana has a wedding banquet. The Last Supper is Jesus’ wedding banquet. His vows refer to the epic battle for our souls mentioned above: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, the chalice of my blood poured out for you in sacrifice.
If Jesus wants Mary to make the realities of our salvation more apparent by this question, if Jesus wants to point out that we are to celebrate such a marriage at Cana because Jesus is set to redeem all marriage and the image of God within us by way of His own marriage with His Bride the Church at the Last Supper and then on the Cross, then we understand Mary’s “response.” She simply has to turn and say to the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”
We priests and bishops MUST understand this, that we are married to the Church by way of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we offer, by way of the wedding vows that we recite in the first person singular: This is my body… my blood. And we have to be just that ready instantly to lay down our lives for the flock just as Jesus, that is, by way of the love and truth and goodness and kindness of Jesus granted with sanctifying grace.
- You knew, of course, that the grotto was the pig sty of the town, right?
- You knew, of course, that in Sacred Scripture, pigs are symbolic of demons, right?
- You knew, of course, that the universe was made into a pig sty by Adam’s sin, right?
God: “I shall put enmity between you [Satan] and the Woman [the Mother of the Redeemer], and between your seed [Satan’s followers] and the Seed of the Woman [Jesus and those who belong to Him as members of a body to the head of the body].
Today’s 8 December – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – and… and… it’s set to snow today, perhaps a lot. A good re-post.
Back in the day, when I was a permanent chaplain in Lourdes, France, I took this picture with my el-cheapo digital camera. It was February, the first day following weeks of 24/7 sub-freezing temps with ice and snow precipitating down on the pilgrims daily. As you can see, the ice and snow are no match for the gentlest of petals when it is time to give due honor to the Immaculate Conception at the grotto. Here’s a view from above the grotto, and, yes, this is also a color picture. It was just that dark and dreary and ferociously cold for weeks:
Meanwhile, in the brutally hot August of Rome it snowed exactly where the Basilica in honor of Jesus’ good mom was to be built, and only there, you know, when tender snowflakes had something to do with water and temperature.
Today I am thinking about Saint John Paul II, how he used the phrase “co-redemptrix” dozens of times, I think 29 times. This title for our Lady refers simply to how appropriate it was in justice that one of us who is not divine should ask for such graces perfectly, graces coming directly from her Divine Son. Thank you, Blessed Mother, for being a good mother to us. Continue to show yourself a mother to us!
Monstra te esse matrem!
Perhaps this theme of co-redemptrix is the key to my making a popular version of the thesis, finally. My hope is that this would bring some light to the darkness, including my own dark little life. The glory of the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception entering this world to grab us and bring us to heaven fires me up, enough, methinks, to melt the ice and snow, enough, methinks, to finally start writing. [I know, I know, I just have to do it. Time goes on. Life is short. Yikes!]
- Spruce up Mary’s shrine!
- More adoration!
- More rosaries!
“Frost and chill, bless the Lord!”
Aussie Mum made a good catch about another “Flower for the Immaculate Conception.” (HERE). She said:
“I can imagine Our Lady reciting or singing parts of Azariah’s prayer – the praises for example that he and his companions prayed (Daniel 3:51-56 and 58-90) – but parts of the prayer that he prayed alone, such as “ Sinners we were, that had wronged and forsaken thee, all was amiss with us …” (verses 29-30) seem most unsuitable to be voiced by the Immaculate Conception since she was totally sinless. Maybe I have the wrong prayer or have not properly understood. The praises are certainly beautiful and verse 70 does indeed go well with the photo above [“Snow and ice, bless the Lord!”]. Thank you Father. Your posts get me thinking on things that are good to be thinking about.”
Good catch, Aussie Mum.
It is true, of course, that Mary was never touched by original sin, that she is, therefore, the Immaculate Conception. It is true, of course, that Mary never personally sinned.
But there is something else to consider here so as to give credit to our Lady where credit is due. She also had to be redeemed, which is the way she was able to be saved from original sin at the first instant of her conception so that it never touched her. In other words – time not being a difficulty with God – what her Son did on the Cross was also done for her.
Take note, then, that this provided her with such purity of heart and agility of soul and clarity of vision that the fact of the Redemption to come also being needed for her was obvious, providing her with opportunity to be thankful, and not only for herself, but for all for whom her Divine Son would lay down His life, and for whom she would become a mother with such a spirit of solidarity:
“ Sinners we were, that had wronged and forsaken thee, all was amiss with us …”
She interceded for us in utter solidarity with what her Son on the Cross was doing for us all, but not forgetting for an instant that she had to be thankful as well. She had never been a sinner – true! – but she was aware of that sin more than all of us put together. The “we” and “us” are, for her, truths of solidarity, not of personal fact.
I hope the one-day-to-be-canonized Archbishop Fulton J Sheen once said that only the sinless know sin. Sinners are so immersed in darkness that they cannot see the Standard of Goodness, Jesus, but only their darkness. They cannot see the contrast. They cannot see why sin is called sin and bad and evil. Only the sinless, who have purity of heart and agility of soul and clarity of vision can see Jesus for who He is, also on the Cross, though tortured to death like the worst of criminals. And in seeing that sin, seeing what we need perfectly, she can then, with such a maternal heart, intercede for us perfectly, uniting herself to us, standing in our place with all the “we” and “us”, innocent as she is, you know, just like her Son, who stands in our place, the innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
You know the old saying:
Like Son, like mother.
You have heard recently that it was said that Jesus’ good mom, Mary, the immaculate ever virgin mother of God, had no intention whatsoever of remaining a virgin at all. This is to insult Mary as being stupid.
Consider that when the angel sent to her to announce that she was to be the Mother of the Divine Son of God, she asked how this could be since she knows not man. Mind you, she was betrothed to Joseph, to be married to him, but she is ruling out making babies with Joseph. She knows not man. She will not ever know man. She’s not ever going to give up on being a virgin. She knew absolutely that she was called by God to be virgin forever.
That doesn’t mean that she was ruling out following the command to be fruitful and multiply; that doesn’t mean she was ruling out being a mother.
When the angel explained that she would conceive inside her womb by the power of the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, so that the One who is to be born of her will truly be the Divine Son of God, and when the angel again explained to her that during the very birth that Divine Son of God would be called “Holy” – necessitating that there be no blood offending Jewish purity laws (which would be impossible unless it would be a miraculous birth) – only then did she consent: “Yes!”
So, to repeat, saying that Mary had no intention to remain forever a virgin is to insult her as stupid or as being a liar. We recall what Pope Francis said about insulting one’s mother:
Of course, I have no intention to punch Pope Francis for having insulted Jesus’ good mom. I’ll leave that to Jesus (but see below). I do recall, however, that in mid-January 2015 Pope Francis insulted my mom by telling women generally not to breed like rabbits: as it is, I’m the fourth child of my own mother. She wasn’t a rabbit.
Now, having said all that: I forgive Pope Francis. I assume that he’s had a typical Jesuit anti-Catholic training in the seminary, and that he was taught to be dismissive of the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church and the Councils of the Church. I assume that he thinks that he’s better than everyone before him because he lives today, you know, the old trick of being Promethean and all that, you know, because that’s the trick that everyone who taught him were playing when he was in the seminary. I assume that he’s no theologian, that he thinks it’s nice to speak of Mary as being “normal girl”, that he’s simply a political animal, you know, sincere in his vacuity, but sincere nonetheless. So, whatever. That’s on him. I forgive him.
That I forgive him – I’m his own Missionary of Mercy, right? – that forgiveness doesn’t mean I don’t hate it that people are scandalized, that people are not fed, that the brethren are not at all confirmed in the faith, that the Pope is not the sign of unity. I do hate all that. But I forgive him. And he does say the occasional good thing, you know, now and again. And he has, of course, never abused the gift of infallibility, nor could he.
Here’s the deal: I’ve done much worse. I’ve crucified the Son of the Living God, of the Immaculate ever Virgin Mary by way of my after-the-fact participation in original sin, by way of my own sin. We’re not made more righteous by throwing a tantrum and condemning others. We’re not made more righteous by being cynical and unforgiving.
Regardless of whatever Pope Francis says to insult Mary, I myself will continue to give flowers to the Immaculate Conception, asking that she ask her Divine Son Jesus to forgive Pope Francis for such insults and outrages.
You know what happens then? Then I am peaceful in heart and soul once again. Thank you, Jesus; thank you, Mary.
M.T. sent in a postcard sporting the Sistine Madonna by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael). The postcard itself arrived a bit damaged, as postcards do, so the above is a Wikipedia file.
I’m thankful for a reminder of the Sistine Madonna (with its wild history of locations both for the real painting and my mom’s copy) as it throws me fully into nostalgic mode. But that would be known from what I’ve written over the years. This was my mom’s favorite painting which always graced the “living room” of whatever house we lived in. Her copy looked like the real thing (to a kid like me) and was very elegantly framed. My mom made the frame and “antiqued” it. All very stately.
I would stand before this painting in wonder as a kid. It was my secret way to peek into heaven. There was heaven, right there, for all to see. How is it that the angels in the background allowed me to live. Even the angels are bored down front as they tolerate my presence. Did others see the treasures to be found here, in heaven? For me, these were mesmerizing sacred moments, so many, but always the same right through the years and in different houses: I would be racing about as a kid but then, in passing this painting, I would stop, instantly transported to the gates of heaven. Out of breath in my running. But absolutely still. “Look!” thought I, “There are all the angels!” straining as I was to see not so much the two angels out front, but the zillions in the background.
“Wow…” constituted the extent of my art appreciation at the time, though I imagine that that word was inscaped with more of a Hopkins’ umph than most grownup critics could ever muster with all their ulterior motives.
I remember being miffed that I didn’t know who Pope Sixtus was, or, as such a little kid, what his tiara was, and that I didn’t know who Saint Barbara was. But no matter. I happily gazed into the faces of Mary and her Son Jesus. M.T. shared his thoughts about these faces with me. I suppose I should return the favor with some of my own musings at this stage in my life.
M.T. says he sees something “stern” in the face of Jesus. The way I myself would describe that is something of dread determination in the face of what is to come for Jesus during His life upon this earth, yet joy for what the result will finally be when He comes to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Jesus and His good mom are totally in solidarity with each other and mean to accomplish that which they set out to do for our redemption and salvation. But as with all such paintings, you have to follow the eyes, and in context. What’s said with just this detail is not wrong, but it’s all out of context. So, let’s move back to the full painting.
You’ll notice that young Saint Barbara, Virgin and Martyr, is looking down at the two angels who entered heaven, as did she, by the right choice to follow the Son of Mary. We have to remember that about angels. They, like us, had to say “Yes!” They expect us to use our free will correctly as well.
You’ll notice that Sixtus is bidding Jesus and Mary to look out from heaven to those here upon the earth. It’s as if Sixtus is saying “Look at what they are saying about me!” with “they” referring to those at whom he is indiscriminately pointing. And Jesus is looking over him – indeed over the viewer of the painting – and Mary is scanning the crowd also in back of the viewer of the painting (her eyes just a bit askance). As Sixtus makes his complaint, Jesus has already gone through His passion and death, and has risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven. But here Sixtus is addressing Jesus as a child. That surely refers to what Sixtus is complaining about.
There was a vicious gossip columnist in Rome at the time – given no credence by anyone – who wrote about Sixtus in such manner – repeating without discernment all that he heard – that you would think that gossip guy is writing in late 2018, all stuff about interfering with kids and young men.
Again, back to Jesus and Mary: there’s a certain foreboding, a certain sorrow, but also and more importantly a certain joy for those who will make it to heaven. Note as well that Sixtus himself is canonized in the painting. He’s up in the clouds of heaven. Is protected by the bored angels who would happy to do some janitorial work over against enemies if called upon, and can speak with Jesus and Mary at will, and they are right with him. But the gossip? Horrible. But the truth? That’s what Raphael is painting.
Lots to think about there. To M.T.: Again, thanks for the postcard.
UPDATE: What’s Raphael doing?
Silly me. When I was living for a little while above the cave of Elijah on Mount Carmel, I went outside and asked my guardian angel to show me a cloud in the shape of a foot (crushing the serpent, as in Genesis) arising out of the sea from which a rain storm would come (as with Elijah). My guardian angel has fun with me.
Did you know that Mary has two names? Well, three, at least.
- “The Woman” as in Genesis 3:15, Gospel of John, etc
- Mary – Miryam – Bitter Sea
- The one who perfectly continues to stand perfectly transformed in grace from the time when – in context of Luke 1 – she was called to the be Virgin Mother of God, from all eternity, and that coming home at the first moment of her conception.
I realize I haven’t put up any homilies for a while, but I figure that if Pope Francis can give homilies over in Santa Marta the way he does, then I can give homilies over here in the beyonds of the peripheries.
One of our Russian readers sent this in. You can see the Apostles gathered about the tomb of Jesus’ good mom. But because the grave could not hold her, she the was herself resurrected from the dead and assumed soul and body into heaven.
It’s always been a tradition in the East that the ever Virgin Mary died. There have been some in the West who, instead, stupidly said that – splutter splutter – Mary could not have died because she was not subject to original sin and therefore could not have died and anyone who says differently is a heretic and should be dismembered and burned at the stake. Um… well… I say differently.
Jesus died. He’s God. He’s never been affected by original sin. He never sinned. The grave could not hold the author of life just because He stood in our place, the innocent for the guilty, taking on the punishment we deserve for sin, death, so that He could have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Right? Let’s take a look at how He died.
In Luke’s Gospel we read that Jesus sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, at that moment standing in our place, obeying the will of our Heavenly Father. In John’s Gospel we read that blood and water flowed out of Jesus’ side, His heart, when the soldier pierced Him with his Roman sword. This shows up on the Shroud of Turin by the way. Anyway, the doctors of Calvary, as they are called, say that in a most traumatic incident, a subject can sweat great drops of blood, but in conjunction with a massive heart attack, itself to traumatic that the pericardium, the outside portion of the heart, actually breaks, from one dies immediately or can survive for just some time. In Jesus’ case, this pericardium filled with blood which itself separated into red blood cells and plasma, the blood and water. Pilot was surprised at Jesus’ early death, as crucifixion usually took three days. Jesus’ trauma was exacerbated by the torture and crucifixion. We can say that He died more of a broken heart for us, literally, than the crucifixion.
Now, take Mary’s case. If she were subject to original sin, she would, like us, be so blinded to the reality of God laying down His life for us that we would just feel sorrowful for this, but be almost totally oblivious to what this means. She, instead, Immaculate, had purity of heart, agility of soul, clarity of vision. She knew that what she was seeing was God’s great love for us in the midst of our ingratitude. It’s not because she was sinful or subject to original sin that she was knew death. It’s because she was crushed, as a good mother, by the traumatic incident she went through in solidarity with her Son. I believe that she also sweat great drops of blood, that she also suffered such a massive heart attack. She survived, but, as Tradition has it, appropriately, only until immediately after the full birth of the Church at Pentecost. She had done all she could as Jesus’ mother and ours. Now it was time for one who gave Jesus His body to be brought herself soul and body to heaven, just like Him.
- Jesus: If you love me you will rejoice that I am going to the Father.
- Mary’s kids: If we love her we rejoice that she has gone to heaven.
A couple of points…
- We can learn from each other, you know, East and West. Instead of hyperventilating so as, we think, to protect some doctrine, perhaps instead we should go to Jesus. Perhaps we can learn from Him. In this case we learn that Mary could certainly die and this fact not being offensive to our holding that Mary was never touched by original sin.
- And, just to say, this post is misnamed. I believe this is not about ecumenism. The excommunications have been absolved by both sides. Take out the “ex-” and you are left with “communion.” Right?
Our problem today and every day is that we forget about Jesus and His good mom. We are more concerned about hyperventilating because that’s what we do. We’re just so afraid of Jesus being a good Son of Mary Immaculate. We’re just so afraid of Mary being such a good mother to Jesus and to all of us.
Saint John Paul II’s favorite citation of Mary’s Son Jesus was: “Be not afraid!”
BE NOT AFRAID!