Month: December 2015

MARY’S GREATNESS FLOWS FROM HER DIVINE MOTHERHOOD

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 “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35)

      It is a matter of dogma that God the Son is eternally begotten by the Father (“God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God“). It is a matter of dogma that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Eternal Love between the Father and the Son (“I believe in the Holy Spiritthe Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son“). The Holy Spirit is the fulfillment or “terminus” of the Holy Trinity, and therefore (unlike the Father and the Son) He does not bring forth (to use human terms) another Divine Person, except through Mary in the Incarnation!
     The Holy Trinity chose to take its “repose” in Mary in order that the Holy Spirit could bring forth a God-man, Jesus Christ, through the unspeakable grace of the true and never-ending maternity of Mary Immaculate who is, and will always be, the Mother of God. Through Mary’s consent, the Holy Spirit’s shadow covered Mary, and she conceived our Savior in her womb (Luke 1:35). Even now in Heaven she is truly the Mother of Jesus Christ.
     Although we are all adopted sons and daughters of God through baptism, Mary is, as Saint Maximilian Kolbe points out, the actual Mother of God! There is, then, a unique and special relationship between Mary and the Holy Trinity that far exceeds in profundity our understanding. We can only approach this mystery in love.
     Mary’s supreme office then – her predestination we might say – is that of Mother! And since she is the mother of the first born of all the elect, Jesus Christ, she is our Mother too. She intercedes for us as a good Mother – no, much more, as “the best of Mothers!” Jesus bequeathed her to us!! “Behold your Mother.”
     The Fathers at Vatican II put it this way in Lumen Gentium:

“The predestination of the Blessed Virgin as Mother of God was associated with the incarnation of the divine word: in the designs of divine Providence she was the gracious mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the temple, shared her Son’s sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.[15] By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home.”

     January 1, 2016 is the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Let us begin the new year by drawing closer to the maternal heart of Mary. 

“In Mary’s case we have a special and exceptional mediation…Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their ‘mother in the order of grace’ ” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer, 39).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: I am relying on Chapter One of True Devotion to Mary by Saint Louis DeMontfort, and also on Aim Higher, Spiritual and Marian Reflections of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. I am indebted to these two saints for the content of this note. Thank you, Mother Mary, for these two great saints!

Image: The Annunciation, 1660, by Eustache Le Sueur, Public Domain, U.S.A. (per Wikipedia)

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The Royal Spirit of Mortification and Self-Denial at Bethlehem

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 “…we cannot fix our eyes and hearts upon any part of the Incarnation [including the Sacred Infancy at Bethlehem], without the royal spirit of mortification and self-sacrifice passing into us. Jesus, in every shape and under every view, is the doctor of penance and mortification. Whatever else he teaches, that goes along with every lesson. Every lesson presupposes it, and reacts back upon it. Except a man take up his cross daily, and so follow Jesus, he cannot follow Him at all.” (From:The Blessed Sacramentp.167, by F.W. Faber, comparing the Sacred Infancy of Jesus to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament).

From the very beginning at Bethlehem, Jesus “chose a lifestyle” of simplicity, detachment and self-denial. We can thus learn a lot about who Jesus is by looking at the circumstances of his lowly birth, and the following list highlights some of those circumstances (and here I am drawing directly or indirectly from Father Faber’s book, Bethlehem: The Sacred Infancy of our Most Dear and Blessed Redeemer):
 

  1. Holy Poverty…..The Lord was born in extremely low circumstances                                            

  2. Detachment from things…..The Lord was born in a stable
  3. Humility…..The Lord let others use the Inn
  4. Mortification…..The Lord exposed himself to the elements/weather/straw bed
  5. Simplicity…..Extreme simplicity/animals/shepherds
  6. Contempt of World…..Jesus born outside of the city of Bethlehem in a stable
  7. Abandonment…..Jesus has placed himself totally in the Father’s care
  8. Silence…..An interior spirit/solitude

Bethlehem is like a microcosm of the Christian life. It is there in Bethlehem, in the simplicity of a spirit which rejects the values of the world, that adoration of the King of Kings can take place (so “far removed” from the false worship the world gives to the passing things of this world). What a lesson in theology Bethlehem provides!

Father Faber says:
 
LOOK TO GOD (in a manger of straw!)
 
LOVE HIS GLORY (“Oh Come Let us Adore Him”)
 
MORTIFY YOUR SELFISH SELF (which is antithetical to the spirit of the Lord’s nativity)
 
LIVE SIMPLY  (imitating the Holy Family, according to your station in life)
 
Faber says: “The secrecy of the saints is akin to their simplicity [and that] simplicity clothes us from head to foot in Christian gracefulness. It gives an unworldly air to all we do…. ”  The effect of simplicity is to narrow “the sphere of self-love.”  Paraphrasing Faber (and also Saint Louis De Montfort), simplicity is sort of like a hidden key that gently and imperceptibly begins to unlock the chain of self-love as self-love finds it hard to breathe in such an unworldly atmosphere.

What a lesson our Lord’s infancy at Bethlehem provides for living the spiritual life! No wonder why we meditate on the mysteries of our Lord’s life, including his birth at Bethlehem.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

 
Reference: F.W. Faber, Bethlehem: The Sacred Infancy of our Most Dear and Blessed Redeemer This is a fantastic book for Advent meditations.

Photo Attribution (Used with permission):

From Wikipedia: ” Detail from the distinguished Nativity scene, painted on paper sheets glued on wood paneles, was made by Francesco Londonio (1723-1783) around 1750. It is on display in the Cappella del Presepe in san Marco church at Milan. This kind of presepe was rather common in the past, but only few such specimens survived to us. This one is remarkably well preserved, and it was carefully restored a few years ago. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, April 14 2007.”

 

ISAIAH’S MAGNIFICENT PROPHECY OF A NEW BORN KING WHO IS BOTH GOD AND MAN

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The prophecy of a new born King in Isaiah 9, whose attributes “reveal a mysterious union of divinity and humanity” (Christ in Prophecy, p. 91), is really quite remarkable by way of its ultimate and perfect fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah, who lived some 700 years before Christ, wrote the following words:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.  (Isaiah 9:2-3) ***
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV)

On pages 93-94 of Christ in Prophecy, renowned Catholic Bible scholar Dr. Paul Heinisch explains how this prophecy of a child with Divine attributes finds its “perfect understanding” in the “second Person of the Blessed Trinity…become Incarnate.” He states:

“Did the prophet’s oracle come true? St. John [in his Gospel] heralded the incarnate Son of God as ‘the Light that shines in the darkness but which the darkness did not comprehend and as the ‘true Light that enlightens every man’ [John 1:5; 1:9]. *** Jesus refers to Himself as ‘the Light of the world’ [John 8:12]. ***
On the plains of Bethlehem angels announced the birth of the Prince of Peace [Luke 2:14]. ***  Considered together, the attributes listed in Isaias find their fulfillment in Jesus, and in no other descendant of David. Only Jesus was God and man. Before Pilate he acknowledged being king of the Jews and then added: ‘My Kingdom is not of this world.’ The spiritual character of His kingdom has already been expressed in our oracle, a kingdom not founded or dependent upon the power of arms, but upon justice and righteousness, a kingdom of peace enduring forever. There likewise is a connection between the Light before which ‘darkness and the shadow of death’ must flee and the name ‘Wondrous-Counsellor,’ for in the Messianic kingdom new doctrine and revelations are to be expected. Over this kingdom God is supreme. He rules through the Messiah who accomplishes His commands.”

CONCLUSION: Jesus, true God and true man, is the only possible fulfillment of Isaiah’s magnificent prophecy of a child and king who shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. The child born of the holy Virgin is to be called Emmanuel, “God is with us” (see Is. 7:14; Matthew 1:23). He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and a light of revelation to all the nations (see Luke 2:32).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Source: For a fuller explanation of the fulfillment of this prophecy, see Christ in Prophecy by Dr. Paul Heinisch (The Liturgical Press), wherein he also explains the prophecy’s relevance “to the age and circumstances in which it was composed,” although its perfect fulfillment can only be in the Messiah (see, for example, Matthew 4: 12-17).

Image: The Virgin of the Lilies, Public Domain, U.S.A. (at Wikipedia).

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MICAH’S PROPHECY: THE MESSIAH WILL BE BORN IN BETHLEHEM

 

“The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:11)

Micah is not a book in the Bible that gets a lot of attention. Yet, there is in Micah an awesome prophecy about the birthplace of the Messiah. Let me add that the prophet Micah lived some seven hundred years plus before Jesus Christ.

Here is Micah’s prophecy of the birthplace of the Messiah:

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah,  from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days.”  (Micah 5:2)

In commenting on this passage from Micah, Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., a distinguished Old Testament scholar, states: “The Messiah is the great Ruler who will come one day. According to his human heritage, he will descend from the family of David who lived in Bethlehem and will be born in that same town, even though he has a divine line of descent that takes him clear back to eternity. He will be both human and divine. What a mystery!” (The Messiah in the Old Testament, p. 154).

Matthew cites this prophecy of Micah as being fulfilled by Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:6). How far back in time is the origin of this great ruler and Messiah? Saint John provides the clearest answer:

     “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. *** And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….” (John 1:1; 1:14)

And the prophet Isaiah, a contemporary of Micah, adds his own prediction about the extraordinary credentials of the future Messiah, saying:

     “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

 A dispute among Bible scholars is whether the Hebrew word “olam” in Micah 5:2 refers to an ancient time in temporal history or to an everlasting time in eternity. Clearly, Walter Kaiser, Jr. sides with the interpretation that points towards eternity. But from a Christian perspective the dispute is somewhat moot because we know that Jesus (as both man and God) descended from the ancient line of David, and also from his eternal generation as the Word of God. In either case, at a minimum, the prophet Micah correctly foretold the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem and his descent from the ancient line of David. Under either scenario Micah’s prophecy of the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem is quite remarkable!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: The Adoration of the Sheperds by Gerard von Honthorst, 1622, Public Domain, U.S.A. (per Wikipedia).

P.S. See also Micah 5:4 which demonstrates that with the fulfillment of the prophecy the Messiah’s dominion and greatness shall extend “to the ends of the earth,” a prediction of the greatness of the Messiah (see Pulpit Commentary).

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IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!

 

                      “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life”

     It’s that time of year again! Time to watch one of the most meaningful movies of all time – a movie which gets more meaningful each time I watch it. I understand Frank Capra made the movie after an experience of deepening faith that would ultimately (under the influence of his wife) lead him back to the Catholic church. There is more good theology in this movie than in some theology texts!

     The movie starts off with people in the town praying for George Bailey – one of the prayers is to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is through prayer that God is going to transform George Bailey’ life and show George all the good he has done in the world. In fact, just before George is about to commit suicide, he makes a short prayer to God, saying, “SHOW ME THE WAY.” It’s hard to imagine a more powerful prayer. And God hears George’s prayer and begins to unveil to him (George Bailey) the rich tapestry of his life.

Everything is accomplished through PRAYER.

     The key point in the movie is that every person’s life touches the lives of many others – either for the good or bad. This is all about the solidarity that exists between human beings. Our sin hurts others, but our personal holiness and good works “put into motion powerful spiritual forces” that help out other human beings (and thus help to create a good and just society). If George Bailey hadn’t lived, Bedford Falls would have been Pottersville – a corrupt and immoral town (as George Bailey was allowed to see). When George prays for his life back, the town changes back to Bedford Falls (and the movie theater, as one example, reverts to showing The Bells of St. Mary’s, whereas in Pottersville it was a place to watch 20 show girls). We will never know this side of Heaven how much our good works and love of neighbor help out other people, but we can rest assured that they are helping out many souls. I think the guy who authored #1475 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church must have had It’s a Wonderful Life in mind when he said:

“In the communion of saints,  ‘a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.’ In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.”

     George didn’t realize that through his mundane and hum-drum life in Bedford Falls, God was accomplishing much good. When the veil was lifted from his eyes, and he was allowed to see how different things would have been without him, he was filled with the deepest gratitude for all the great things in his life – most especially his family and friends.

     Let us rejoice and be thankful for all the good things God has given to us. By the way, The Bells of St. Mary’s is also a powerful movie (and my second favorite Christmas movie is The Bishop’s Wife).

Tom Mulcahy

Ref. Image at Wikipedia, Public Domain, U.S.A.  See “The Catholic Vision of Frank Capra” via Google. “Puts into motion positive spiritual forces” : a phrase borrowed from Cardinal Ciappi he used in the context of Marian consecration (see CCC 1477). In his great spiritual classic, Abandonment to Divine Providence, Father de Caussade wrote something which applies very well to George Bailey: “Faith, piercing the superficialities, disclosed that God was accomplishing very great things [in his life].” Let us pray for a great spirit of faith.

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MIRACLE ON M-14TH STREET!

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     There is power in tears. The shortest verse in the Bible merely states that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Shortly thereafter, Jesus performed one of his greatest miracles – raising his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 1:43-44).

     Saint Catherine of Siena devoted an entire chapter to the spiritual significance of tears in her great masterpiece, The Dialogue.

     There is a fascinating discussion of the devotional value of tears in Father Faber’s book, Growth in Holiness (chapter 22), and therein Faber quotes the angel Raphael, who moved by the tears of Tobias, said: “When thou didst pray with tears, I offered thy prayer to the Lord” (Tobit 12:12).

     With these introductory comments in mind, I take you now to a young man, then 21 years old, who was driving his car westbound on M-14 on his way back to the Ann Arbor area. Prior to leaving his family home in Birmingham that day, he had been involved in a discussion with his father about what he planned to do with his life. His father told him that he would bless the work his son chose to do, even if he were to choose the priesthood!

     With these thoughts on his mind, our young protagonist was driving on M-14, wondering what to do with his life, praying, and listening to Christian music. He was listening to a song by Michael Card and these words from the song jumped out at him and touched his heart:

“So come lose your life for a carpenter’s son
For a madman who died for a dream
And you’ll have the faith His first followers had
And you’ll feel the weight of the beam”

     This young man began to cry, or rather “to ball.” Although he was alone in the car, he then saw a man in the front passenger seat – as real as if you or me had been sitting there – who was “obviously Jesus.” Jesus then reached over and stuck his hand into this man’s chest and said to the man: “these are all your dreams, all your goals, all your desires and everything that you want to do with your life; I am going to give  you my dream, my goal, my desire and what I want you to do with your life.” Moments later, Jesus was gone. And one person’s life was dramatically changed.

     Ultimately, after additional searching and discernment, this young man entered Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and was ordained a priest. You may know him as Father John Riccardo.

     Imagine that! Jesus riding in a Chrysler (I presume it was a Chrysler) in order to respond to the tears of a young man praying for guidance. Who knows: perhaps some old and forgotten woman, praying endless rosaries in her rocking chair, merited this grace for him? This I do know: I’ve been judging the credibility of witnesses for many years, and although I’ve never deposed Father Riccardo (pictured below), I have the strongest conviction that his integrity is of the highest order.

Father_John_Riccardo

     Moreover, our Lord is no stranger to car rides! Every day he is taken by car to those who are sick, or old, or in the hospital, so that they may receive Him sacramentally.

     And is not our Lord’s sacramental presence a greater miracle than the one experienced by John Riccardo out on M-14?

     “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Our Lord is alive and well, working diligently for the welfare of the church and for the salvation of souls.

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Merry Christmas!

Tom Mulcahy

Sources: To hear this true story in Father Riccardo’s own words, Google: “Common Ground: What Protestants and Catholics Can Learn From Each Other” – and a number of websites from which the talk can be purchased will appear. Photo of M-14 sign by Molly Mulcahy on 11/24/2015. I presume Father Riccardo was driving a Chrysler because his Dad was once the President of Chrysler! Picture of Father Riccardo, with permission, at avemariaradio.net (https://avemariaradio.net/hosts/fr-john-riccardo/). Father John Riccardo is currently the Pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, Michigan. I was once in a prayer group and Father Riccardo was our adviser. I have heard many people talk highly of his podcasts which you find in a Google search (or click on the avemariaradio link above).

SAINT JOHN PAUL II AND DEVOTION TO OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

     1531 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe anagoria.jpg

      As the moral decline of the United States of America intensifies, we are in need of guidance in order to stay on that narrow road that leads to Heaven. God was not remiss in sending us a holy, anointed and prophetic voice to guide us through these troubled times. Clearly, in the years to come, we are going to need more faith and more fortitude to be faithful to Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church. But with discernment we can see that the Holy Spirit has already sent us a holy, anointed and prophetic voice in the person of Pope John Paul II, who is now Saint John Paul II  (his canonization occurred on April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday!).

     Pope John Paul II was a tremendous gift to the Church, and his encyclicals contain a wealth of spiritual knowledge and guidance that is of great significance to us right here, right now. I especially recommend that we all read and meditate on the following two encyclicals as specifically pertaining to the difficulties we presently face:

                      1. THE GOSPEL OF LIFE

                      2. THE SPLENDOR OF TRUTH


Understanding and implementing the spiritual wisdom of these two encyclicals will help us get ourselves and our loved ones to Heaven. There is more wisdom in these two encyclicals than all the combined worldly wisdom (or lack thereof) of the present age. Keep in mind that John Paul II was a mystic, a Pope and now a Saint. Pray for his intercession.

     Now it is important to keep in mind that Pope John Paul II emphasized the critical importance of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (normally ending his encyclicals with a prayer for her intercession). In his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the Pope made a prophetic statement that the Church’s future victories will come through Mary, stating:


     “‘Be not afraid!’ Christ said to the apostles (cf.Lk 24;36) and to the women (cf. Mt 28:10) after the Resurrection. According to the Gospels, these words were not addressed to Mary. Strong in her faith, she had no fear. Mary’s participation in the victory of Christ became clear to me above all from the experience of my people. Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski told me that his predecessor, Cardinal August Hlond, had spoken these prophetic words as he was dying: ‘The victory, if it comes, will come through Mary.’ During my pastoral ministry in Poland, I saw for myself how those words were coming true.
     After my election as Pope, as I became more involved in the problems of the universal Church, I came to have a similar conviction: On this universal level, if victory comes it will be brought by Mary. Christ will conquer through her, because He wants the Church’s victories now and in the future to be linked to her.” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp. 220-221).

     Another prophetic statement concerning modern times comes from the great Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the martyr who died in a starvation bunker in a German concentration camp (voluntarily having taken the place of a married man). Indeed, it was Pope John Paul II who presided over the canonizaton of Maximilian Kolbe. Kolbe also prophesied that Mary would play a crucial role in combating the forces of evil that have risen up against the Church. He said:

      “Modern times are dominated by Satan and will be more so in the future. The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men, even the most clever. The lmmaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. However, assumed into heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, who will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of God’s kingdom upon earth.” St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv 

     WHAT SHOULD WE DO?  Those of us living in the United States, let us intensify our devotion to Mary and, in particular, to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I suggest special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the following reasons. It is now beyond peradventure that the treasured image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is supernatural in origin (see Infallible Catholic: Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe). Moreover, to shed additional light on the importance of this apparition of Mary, its seer, Blessed Juan Diego, has now been canonized (by Pope John Paul II on July 31, 2002). In this famous apparition which took place in Mexico in 1531 Mary’s appearance transformed the brutal Mayan culture of death (with is demonic worship through the gory sacrifices of human beings) into a Catholic culture of life (see and click on link below):

Our Lady of Guadalupe, We Need You More Than … –Catholic Lane).

     Presently, in the United States we are witnessing firsthand a “dramatic” confrontation between the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.” We need recourse to Mary in order to defeat the culture of death and build a culture of life.  In 1910 Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared Patroness of Latin America by Pope Saint Pius X, and in 1945 Pope Pius XII declared her to be the Empress of all the Americas. On January 22, 1999 Pope John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe patron of the Americas and raised her feast (on December 12) to the rank of solemnity throughout the Americas (this information is from Wikipedia and other web sites). Our Lord’s Vicars are telling us in America to turn with devotion to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

      Pope John Paul II visited Mexico five times during his Papacy, and it is now widely reported that Pope Francis will visit Mexico and pray before the miraculous Guadalupe image sometime in 2016.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

ReferencesCrossing the Threshold of Hope (by Pope John Paul II); and Reparation and the Dual Dimension of Pope John Paul II’s Consecration (by Jerome F. Coniker). Image above, Public Domain, U.S.A., per Wikipedia.  Any ads following this post are from WordPress and not this blog.

P.S. A good place to start would be to have a picture of the powerful Guadalupe image in our homes and to explain its significance to as many people as possible! Since we are so “married to our senses,” images like the miraculous Guadalupe “picture” are of immense value.

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THERE IS NO GOSPEL WITHOUT THE MORAL GOSPEL

                           

             “For this is the will of God, your sanctification….” (1 Thes. 4:3)

     Morality is not a consolation prize in the Catholic Church…a sort of additional benefit you get if you want to apply for it. No, Catholic morality is the very heart and soul of the Gospel, indeed, it is the very joy of the Gospel.
     In the preaching of Jesus the critical importance of morality is emphasized from the beginning of his ministry. Jesus may very well have met people “where they are,” in some sense of that phrase, but only to point them in the direction of living profoundly by the moral Gospel. Thus, in his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), preached at the commencement of his ministry, Jesus lays out a “manifesto” which is “a compendium of the moral code of Christianity” (Catholic Bible Dictionary, page 828). “He teaches on anger, adultery, marriage and divorce, oaths, retaliation, love for enemies, and alms-giving” (Id at 828). The fundamental importance of the moral life is firmly established – sometimes very dramatically –  in the preaching of Jesus. The beatitudes themselves represent the very highest moral perfection attainable in this life.
     The Gospel is a call to holiness which will ultimately result in your complete and utter sanctification in Heaven. Therefore, there is no Gospel without the moral Gospel. To preach the Gospel is to preach holiness of life in imitation of Jesus and the Saints. To peach the Gospel is to preach a break with sin and a new life of grace in Christ. To preach the Gospel is to lead sinners to repentance. When we first hear someone preaching the Gospel, what do we hear: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1: 2-4).
      The modern tendency to preach the Gospel without reference to its moral demands will only lead to an “obscuring of the moral sense” (Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 106). Saint John Paul II teaches us that the “New Evangelization” must include the presentation of the moral Gospel. The Pope stated:

     “Evangelization — and therefore the “new evangelization” — also involves the proclamation and presentation of morality. Jesus himself, even as he preached the Kingdom of God and its saving love, called people to faith and conversion (cf. Mk 1:15). And when Peter, with the other Apostles, proclaimed the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, he held out a new life to be lived, a “way” to be followed, for those who would be disciples of the Risen One (cf. Acts 2:37-41; 3:17-20). Just as it does in proclaiming the truths of faith, and even more so in presenting the foundations and content of Christian morality, the new evangelization will show its authenticity and unleash all its missionary force when it is carried out through the gift not only of the word proclaimed but also of the word lived. In particular,the life of holiness which is resplendent in so many members of the People of God, humble and often unseen, constitutes the simplest and most attractive way to perceive at once the beauty of truth, the liberating force of God’s love, and the value of unconditional fidelity to all the demands of the Lord’s law, even in the most difficult situations. For this reason, the Church, as a wise teacher of morality, has always invited believers to seek and to find in the Saints, and above all in the Virgin Mother of God “full of grace” and “all-holy”, the model, the strength and the joy needed to live a life in accordance with God’s commandments and the Beatitudes of the Gospel.” (Veritatis Splendor, 107)

      Saint John Paul II also reminded us that God’s Mercy is given to us to forgive, not justify, sin.

“In this context, appropriate allowance is made both for God’s mercy towards the sinner who converts and for the understanding of human weakness. Such understanding never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil in order to adapt it to particular circumstances. It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to God and his mercy. An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.” (Veritatis Splendor, 104).

     Our children deserve to hear the full Gospel – that is to say they deserve to hear the Gospel preached without neutering its moral imperative. There is no Gospel without the moral Gospel because Jesus came to save us from sin.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners….” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Note: The panoply of virtues and gifts given to us in baptism, which flow from sanctifying grace, are supernatural strengths with which to lead a moral life.

Reference: I had a Professor who once said: “There is no Gospel without the moral Gospel.”  Image: Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch, Public Domain, U.S.A.  All rights reserved. Any ads following this post are from WordPress and not this blog.

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THERE IS POWER IN DEVOTION TO MARY’S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

   Miraculous medal.jpg
 (Medal of the Immaculate Conception, a/k/a the “Miraculous Medal”)

We are in need of power in the spiritual life. Here is a devotion full of power because Mary’s Immaculate Conception was a spiritual revolution in human history. It was a revolution because it brought forth a human being no longer contaminated by sin (Mary), who was fit to be the mother of the Savior of the world (Jesus). It is the Saints themselves who understood the marvelous union of Mary and Jesus.

In my previous post I outlined doctrinal and scriptural bases for the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. In this follow-up post, which is essentially a postscript to that note, I touch briefly on the importance and efficacy of increased devotion to the Immaculate Conception.

Mary entered human existence by a remarkable grace that preserved her from original sin, and which set her apart to become the Mother of God and the harbinger of God’s own human existence in the person of Jesus. Mary’s Immaculate Conception thus warrants a special devotion, and wearing the Miraculous Medal (first called the medal of the Immaculate Conception), and saying the prayer each morning, “Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you,”  is one way to effectively practice this devotion. Saints who have been devoted to Mary’s Immaculate Conception include Saint Catherine Laboure (the nun who received the Miraculous Medal devotion from the Virgin Mary), Saint Bernadette, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and Blessed Mother Teresa (whose nuns have given out millions of Miraculous Medals).

Father Faber, who I am essentially relying on, talks about the power of this devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Conception; he indicates that her Immaculate Conception “is the first dawn of the world’s redemption.” He further indicates that devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Conception is calculated to help us greatly in our “present needs…against the torrent of modern impurity” (and Faber was writing around 150 years ago, so how much more do we need this devotion now!). Perhaps you know someone battling impurity: here is a devotion “eminently calculated” to sanctify our unruly passions. Faber recommends immense devotion to Mary and her Immaculate Conception, calling such devotion “a special power with God.” Of the power of Mary’s mediation Saint Pope John Paul II once said:

“In Mary’s case we have a special and exceptional mediation…Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their ‘mother in the order of grace’ ” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer, 39).

This “preparation” began with the Immaculate Conception. If you are interested in the Miraculous Medal devotion, I recommend you read about the amazing conversion story of a Jewish man, Alphonse Ratisbonne. To do so, click on the post below:

The Miraculous Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Note: A short but powerful prayer invoking the Immaculate Conception is: “Oh Mary, by thy Immaculate Conception make my body pure and my soul holy.”  The tone and content of this note owing to the writings of Father Faber, and in the first two sentences I am copying him.

Photo attribution: The photo above is by Xhienne, May 18, 2007, “Medal of the Immaculate Conception,” at Wikipedia,  available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

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A FEW BASIC POINTS ABOUT MARY’S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

 
 
 
1. It is an infallible doctrine of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope Pius IX , ex cathedra  (from the chair of St. Peter) on December 8, 1854. The Papal Bull reads:
 
“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.” 

“With these words in 1854, Pope Pius IX in the Papal Bull Ineffabilis Deus, declared Mary’s Immaculate Conception to be dogma. Pius was simply affirming a long-held belief of many Christians East and West before him, that Mary was conceived free of the stain of original sin, on account of Christ’s work, in order to bear God-made-flesh.”  (From Saint John Cantius Parish web-site)

2The dogma is confirmed four years later (in 1858) by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself in the most famous of her apparitions at Lourdes. At Lourdes, when asked her name by St. Bernadette, Mary responded in an extraordinary fashion, saying, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Since then, Lourdes has been the situs of countless miracles (photo above, Rosary Basilica at Lourdes).

3. Some of the early Reformers, such as Martin Luther, at least initially stood firmly behind this doctrine in that they saw that Mary would have to be a pure and sinless vessel in order to communicate to Jesus his sacred and holy body. The following quote from Martin Luther is illustrative:
 
     “It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin.”
Martin Luther, (Sermon: “On the Day of the Conception of the 
Mother of God,” 1527).

4. Contrary to popular belief, the doctrine has strong scriptural support in that:
 
           A. Gabriel announces that Mary is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). If Mary is full of grace it follows that she is without sin (note how the angel does not call Mary by her name, but rather by a title, saying:“Hail, full of grace”  – and the angel is God’s messenger). The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible defend the traditional translation, “Hail, full of grace,” as against some modern translations, stating: “[The Greek word used by Luke], kecharitomene, indicates that God has already graced Mary previous to this point, making her a vessel who ‘has been’ and ‘is now’ filled with divine life. Alternative translations like ‘favored one’… are possible but inadequate.”   
 
         B. Saint Luke (in his Gospel) and Saint John (in the Book of Revelation) identify Mary as the  Ark of the New Covenant, thus comparing her to the all-holy Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. See “Topical Essay: Mary Ark of the Covenant” in The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study or click the following on-line article from This Rock: Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant | Catholic Answers
         C.  Mary’s Immaculate Conception is internally consistent with the doctrine of Original Sin (which flows from a number of Old and New Testament passages, especially at Romans 5:12-21). Since original sin is transmitted by physical generation, it follows logically that Jesus, who was born without sin, would have to be born from a spotless womb. Mary is that pure and spotless vessel: the woman who overflows with God’s grace; and
 
        D. John the Baptist was sanctified in his mother’s womb. At Luke 1:15 it states that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. The passage, in context, reads as follows:
 
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:11-17)
 
      The angel then identifies himself as Gabriel, the same angel of Mary’s annunciation a few lines later at Luke 1:26, who addresses Mary, not by a name, but by a title, “Hail, Full of grace.”  The point is obvious (I think its obvious): if John was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, what was done in God’s providence to prepare Mary to be the mother of God? Luke then, as you know, makes a direct comparison between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, implying the incredible magnitude of her sanctity and holiness. All of this fits in very nicely with the Church’s proclamation of her Immaculate Conception.
 

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Image, The Rosary Basilica, Lourdes, France (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

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