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The Guiding Light of Mary: Inspiration for Deepening Our Relationship with Christ

The month of May is one of two months devoted to Mary, the mother of God. This past Lent, I found myself reflecting on the ways in which Mary endured her Son’s Passion – how she followed His final steps, and remained at His feet until it was time to accept His lifeless body into her arms, and prepare it for burial.

We then turned the page to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, and yet, my reflection on Mary didn’t end. Instead, it took a curious turn from how Mary stood by her Son, to what her reaction was when she was able to tangibly see Scripture fulfilled before her eyes – with the child she raised, risen from the dead!

Throughout Mary’s life, she maintained an unshakeable, unwavering faith. From a young age, to being a new mom, to becoming a seasoned woman, Mary continually committed all she had in fidelity to God. No matter how bleak the horizon looked for her, she trustingly held faith in her God’s plans, and His will for her future.

And, when her Divine Son appeared to her after His Resurrection, she had to have breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps not the kind of relief that would indicate she doubted her Son would rise; rather, a sigh of relief that, after all she had witnessed, her baby Boy was okay.

By her role as the mother of God, Mary became a guiding light for all of us to follow. In her example as a physical mother, we find the courage needed to help guide our own children to meeting God on a personal level. In her example at the mother who lost a Son, we find the strength to move forward in pursuing the will of God, even in our darkest moments. In her acceptance of being assigned the role of mother to the apostle John, we are clearly assured of the importance of spiritual motherhood, looking out for those who may not have been born of us, but who are nevertheless in need of the compassion and love our feminine genius offers.

Mary’s role as mother did not end with Jesus’ death on the cross, nor did it end upon Jesus’ Ascension. Instead, she continued to serve God in her vocation as mother long after her own flesh and blood no longer walked this earth. While apparitions of Mary are not required to be believed by Catholics, one could argue her vocation of motherhood took on an even greater role after her own death. She continues to include all of us as her children, centuries after she herself ceased walking this earth.

“To Jesus, through Mary,” is the reminder we are given when doing a Consecration to Jesus. We are reminded that Mary will lead us deeply, passionately, and unreservedly to her Son. We see her guiding light as early as Luke 1:38, when she tells the Archangel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” And, again, when she confides to Elizabeth in Luke 1:46-47, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” As early as those recorded statements are included in Scripture, we see Mary pointing back to our Lord God. We see her acceptance of God’s will, and her humility, which points not to her role, but rather, points us to her Son.

Throughout Scripture, she continually reminds us to do her Son’s will, while simultaneously affirming His role in our lives. With Mary’s light, illuminated throughout history, it is easy to see how her radiance magnifies Jesus and His role as Savior for humanity. She asks nothing of us for herself. Rather, she asks that we love her Son – the Boy she raised, the Man she knew, and the Savior in whom she loved and believed.

Therefore, this Month of Mary – May – let us follow her guiding light into a deeper understanding and relationship with the Joy of her life – Jesus.

Perhaps we can do that by meditating a little longer on the mysteries of the Rosary.

Perhaps we can do so by asking God to grant us more humility for ourselves – that we will let Jesus radiate through us, with no thought of our own gain.

Perhaps we can deepen our relationship with Christ by focusing on increasing the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity/love.

The ways we grow closer to Christ are really limitless, when we set our minds to doing so, and we commit to not allowing anything to derail our growth. Sometimes, we may just have to get a little creative. And, sometimes, we may have to ask for a little heavenly placed assistance, through Jesus’ mother, Mary.

How will you allow Mary to lead you closer to her Son this month?
How will you thank Mary for being a mother to us all?
What will help you better follow Mary’s guiding light in the month of May?

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Christmas Faith Formation Holy Days of Obligation Ink Slingers Karen Liturgical Year Mary Motherhood

Why the First of January is a Holy Day of Obligation

The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord has passed, and now we are in the thick of a joyous Christmas season! Hallelujah! 

 Why the First o
But don’t get too settled. January 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation. It is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. 
 
In the celebration of the Octave of Christmas, the most elevated day is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, where we honor Mary for her role as the mother of our Savior. 
 
This celebration appears to go back as far as 431 AD, and officially was giving the Solemnity date of January 1 in 1971, after having been placed at a variety of other dates in the year in the past (more history can be found here)
 
Why celebrate her? Well, why not? I like to consider the role she had in Jesus’s life and the significance it had not only for our Savior, but for all of humanity. What she did as a humble servant and mother, and continues to do as a powerful intercessor, gives us pause to marvel at what this one humble woman has accomplished: taking a prominent role in the salvation of humanity.
 
 
When the angel Gabriel approached Mary, her humble acceptance of God’s will resulted in the coming of Christ to save humanity.
She birthed the Son of God.
She nursed him.
She raised him.
Every scrape, she tended to.
Every need for guidance that a child might need, she gav“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1-38)e.
She would have taught him to clothe himself, proper customs and manners, how to draw water from a well, and see how bread was made.
 

Jesus was not simply born into this world and suddenly became the grown man walking the Earth, preaching to the masses. No, he was nurtured, cared for, and somehow, while simultaneously an omnipresent God and human child, would have discovered the world around him under the love and guidance of his faithful mother. And with this in mind, she provides us with the most perfect example of holy motherhood.

And if that all were not enough, she bore the hurt and suffering that only a mother can know of seeing her son scourged, reviled, and crucified.
She walked along the path to Calvary.
She would have held His lifeless body.
She was assumed into heaven and crowned Queen of Heaven, and has the power to intercede for us.
 
With all this, it is no wonder that Our Lady is a woman to be honored in such high esteem!  
 
So, make sure you are in the pews January 1 to thank your Heavenly Mother!
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Allison Bible Conversion Mary Prayer Rosary Sacred Scripture Special Needs Connection

My New Purple Rosary

rosary3I recently purchased a purple rosary from a fellow CF Mom, purple being the “awareness color” for cystic fibrosis. Its centerpiece is a rose on one side with a tiny image of Mary and Bernadette at Lourdes on the other. Roses are a special symbol for CF (“cystic fibrosis” sounds like “sixty-five roses”). Not much about CF makes me cry anymore; I’ve steeled myself because I’ve had to grit my teeth and hand over my children too many times. I don’t get too excited over stories of healing or sainthood or miracles. But when I opened my package from Maine and the shiny purple beads fell into my lap, I fought tears and swallowed hope.

I read about the rosary; I love the idea of the rosary; I agree with the wonderfulness of the rosary; I just don’t actually do it. But I want to.

I want to sit with Mary and have her point to pictures in the photo album, “Here’s when I visited Elizabeth and her John leaped; here’s when He was born and the shepherds came; here He is telling stories of God’s kingdom…” I want to hold her hand as she remembers with me His crucifixion. I want to smile with her as she is reunited with her Son in heaven.

I understand that my body reflects my soul and that as my body absorbs the rhythmic motion within a set structure of sweet words, my soul can imagine, contemplate, and learn the great stories of our Lord. I understand that using such a sacramental is not a good luck charm but can help me focus my attention and inspire me to greater devotion. My soul can be brought closer to Jesus and in turn, my body can do better things.

The ex-protestant in me sees that it is not the repetition that is condemned by Jesus but the vanity (Matthew 6:7), that He Himself repeated prayers (Matthew 26:36-46), told His followers to pray in a certain way (Matthew 6:9-13), told a parable about persistence in prayer (Luke 18:1-8), and that the angels in heaven repeat prayers (Revelation 4:8). I see that the first half of the Hail Mary is Gabriel’s and Elizabeth’s words and that the second half reflects theology handed to us in the first few centuries of Christianity (“Mother of God” was defined and approved at the council of Ephesus in AD 431 in response to the roiling Nestorian heresy that Jesus was not fully God and fully human.).

And so I shall begin. I ask you, my Sistas that pray rosaries, to think of me when you pray your own- just one thought for this little child as I try something new in my walk with Christ, sitting with His mother, remembering Him and praying for my children with my new purple-rosed rosary.

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Ink Slingers Martina Motherhood Movies Reviews Vocations

MOVIE REVIEW: Mary of Nazareth

Though we have previously heard about Mary’s life through Sacred Scripture with a primary emphasis on Christ’s life, the movie takes us through those familiar stories and puts a fresh and different perspective on her life. It takes her from Mother of God, someone whom we venerate, and places her in front of us in everyday, real situations that we often face ourselves. Even though the movie is about Mary’s perspective, it rightly maintains Christ as the intricately woven influence in her life. This movie will resonate for those with or without a Marian devotion, and even those who are curious to know who Mary was simply from a historical standpoint.

From the Mary of Nazareth website”This full-length feature film about the life of Our Lady, shot in English in High Definition, was filmed in Europe in very authentic locales with outstanding cinematography, a strong cast, and a majestic music score. Actress Alissa Jung gives a beautiful, compelling and inspired portrayal of Mary.”

Mary&AnnIn the beginning. We are introduced to Mary and her family, mother Ann and father Joachim. We immediately see how special she is and how God protects her even in the face of eminent danger. We feel the emotions that her parents must have felt as she was dedicated to the temple in service to the Lord. Throughout her life, there is constant element of childlike faith. Preserved by God Himself, we see Mary’s faith in action, always succumbing to His will before her own.

Compare and contrast. Through the movie, we see three women’s lives and the effects of their choices – Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalen, and Herodias, daughter of Herod. We see both Mary’s as friends in the beginning, but soon see the vast difference of journeys each takes. Our Lady, whose life is in complete service to God, and Magdalen, who seeks validation and self-worth through domination and lust. After a lifetime of debauchery, she shows up at Christ’s feet like a war-torn soldier with nothing left to give. She uses what little energy she has left to completely surrender to Him after He challenges those without sin to cast the first stone in the face of what is certain death. Herodias, on the other hand, remains a cold and vindictive person whose heart is hardened by the very mention of Jesus. Her reaction to Christ parallels the hardness of heart we see in the pharaoh of Moses’ time. We see Magdalen reclaim her femininity by wearing modest apparel – we see this change in her demeanor and appearance go from a haggard, chewed up and spit out by society look to someone who suddenly has the glow of Christ and embodies the forgiveness we all crave as sinners.

public shameShame and humiliation. Throughout Jesus’ life, we know that He accepted a life of worldly humiliation for the sake of paying our debt. We also know that He could have chosen not to feel the pain of the Cross, but freely chose to, out of love for us. Likewise, we see the shame and humiliation that Mary must have felt throughout her life. Although she always placed her trust and care in God’s loving hands, the reality of her situation was, indeed, difficult – carrying a child out of wedlock, enduring the stares, silent and not-so silent gossip whenever she was around, the embarrassment the families faced on their wedding day, even when it seems as though Jesus publicly repudiates Mary. Each stage of her life, we see how Mary responds to the humiliation with perfect and total trust in God’s plan.

ShepherdsHumor and humanity. This movie delivers when it comes to humor. When Mary arrives to visit her cousin Elizabeth, Zechariah opens the door, but fails to answer Mary’s greeting because of his own misgivings from months prior. We also see Joseph do what every father does when their child has come into the world – count toes! When the shepherds arrive to adore the Messiah, Mary is all too quick to hand over the Anointed One, but Joseph has a look of near panic on his face. It’s easy to imagine what he must have been feeling as the one chosen by God to be a protector of both Mary and Jesus!

Location, cast, and music. The full-length film was shot in English in HD quality in Europe. The location and cast both deliver and add to the authenticity of the story. The music score, written by Guy Farley, brings an element of beauty that builds upon the emotion from the scenery and acting.

Rating. PG – based on the official website question section – due to the scenes from Herod’s court and Magdalen’s overt sexuality, viewer discretion is advised.

No matter if you have a devotion to Mary or not, let us all adopt her fiat in response to God’s call for our lives. This is a movie that will bring you closer to understanding the bond between Mary and her Son, our Lord and Savior.

If you haven’t yet, please read my promotional piece on this movie.

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Alessandra Apologetics Catechism Doctrine Evangelization Faith Formation Feast Days Holy Days of Obligation Ink Slingers Mary Motherhood Parenting Rosary Sacred Scripture Saints Uncategorized Vocations

The Immaculate Conception: Christ’s First Gift to Mary His Mother

One of the most beautiful scenes that God, through nature, provides us with are sunrises.  At the distant horizon you see before arising a soft and radiant light, the aurora of the sun.  This beautiful and perfect light foreshadows the beauty which is to come; the daily gift of the sunrise.  Each day we are able to witness this perfect birth of the sun.  God, all-knowing and all-powerful at the moment of creation, in His infinite wisdom was aware of all that was to come.  This rising sun and it’s beautiful beginning at dusk is no coincidence and definitely not a thoughtless act or purpose, for we are sensory beings.  As this beautiful light at dusk announces the perfection that is to come, the sun, so too Our Blessed Lady foreshadows the redemption that is to come, God made man.  So as the sun shines through glass without changing it in matter, Mary is the window of heaven, through which the true Light came into the world.

In old times, as well as in places where it still exists today, monarchs are granted special privileges to the cities or towns of their birth or coronation.  In this same way, the King of Heaven gives special privileges and prerogatives to the Mother who bore Him, the Queen-Mother.  Mary is selected by God the Father to be the Mother of His Son; therefore He too is able to create and grant her preservation from the stain of original sin.  No other mere human, angel, or even a saint can say to God, “You are my Son,” but Mary.  He who was the author of her being was born of the blessed woman who is the wonder of wonders and nothing in the entire of creation, God is the only exception, is more glorious than she.  Due to his own infinite sanctity, God suspends, in this instance, the law which His divine justice had passed upon the children of Adam and Eve.

Early on in Genesis 3:15 God proclaims her spotless purity and her sinlessness in paradise, and afterwards in Luke 1:28 by the Archangel Gabriel himself when he refers to her as “full of grace” and “blessed among women.”  Her response to him announces her determination to preserve her virginity, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord, let it be done according to His will.”  God also said, “She shall crush thy head,” to the serpent; had she been conquered by sin like the rest of us, she could not possibly be his conqueror.   The dignity of Christ alone demanded that He be born of a woman free from sin; for she was the first tabernacle of Our Lord.

Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us that when God raises anyone to a high post (think Peter, Augustine, etc.) He gifts that person for the job at hand.  God gives each of us the graces needed for the vocation we are called for.  Therefore, God exalted Mary above all men and angels and was free from original and actual sin (Trent 6:23)  In Canticles 2:2, she is described as the “lily among thorns,” and in Wisdom 7:26 as “a mirror without flaw.”  God had a plan for her from long ago and in both tradition and scripture this dogma, a sovereign and universal decree, is supported.  Elizabeth is the first to call Mary, the “Mother of God,” and later in the year 431, in the Council of Ephesus the title “Dei Genitrix” is given to her in order to condemn the heresy of Nestorius.  Christ did not however, derive from her His Divine nature and just as any other child who does not receive its soul from its mother, but instead from God.  In Isaiah 7:14, the prophet foretells of a virgin that will conceive and bear a son.  At her conception in the womb of Saint Anne, in child-bearing, and even after the painless birth of Jesus, the Blessed Mother remained a pure virgin.  Just as Our Lord appeared to the Apostles through shut doors, so too he came into the world and her virginity remained intact.  The Blessed Mother herself says in Luke 1:48, “from henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed.”

Appropriately at the beginning of our liturgical year and during the Advent season, we honor her with the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the most solemn during this time of preparation.  There was none other that would better harmonize with the spirit of the Church in this mystic season of expectation.  We celebrate this solemnity with joy, for the Immaculate Conception of Mary foreshadows the coming birth of Our Savior.  Some wonder about dogmas of the Church, others criticize them as if they were inventions of men.  Dogmas are believed amongst the faithful throughout the history of the Church; the Immaculate Conception is a fine example of this.  Even though, it was not formally defined until 1854 by Pope Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus, belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception stretches back in time to the Early Church fathers.  The Church with her infallible authority, declared, by the lips of Pope Pius IX, that this article of faith had been revealed by God himself.

“He [God], therefore, filled her, far more than all the angelic spirits and all the saints, with an abundance of all heavenly gifts from the treasury of His divinity, in such a wonderful manner that she would always be free from absolutely every stain of sin, and that, all beautiful and perfect, she might display such fullness of innocence and holiness that under God none greater is known, and which, God excepted, no one can attain even in thought.” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 12/8/1854)

 

So whomever truly loves God should also honor the Mother of God far above the saints. Catholics honor the Queen-Mother as a reflection upon the King of Heaven and Earth, her Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  We see this in the lives of the saints; the greater the saint, the greater their love for Mother Mary.  Jesus told us in John 19:27,  that she was actually our mother when he tells Saint John, the beloved, “behold thy mother.”  The disobedience of Eve brought upon the human race the misery of original sin, yet the obedience of Mary, the new Eve, restored it to a state of grace.  Through one woman death entered into the world, through another, eternal life.

Just like any good mother our salvation is of her utmost concern.  So just as a dutiful child delights in the presence of his mother, we as practicing and devout Christians rejoice in addressing Mary in loving supplications as well as her majestic titles of Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the first Tabernacle of God.

 

***In discussing this topic with my friend, Brian Francis Hudon, he surprised me with this beautiful poem (he suggested you listen to this beautiful piece while reading it), entitled The Ark at Dawn:

“Woman, the new Ark, pure and immaculate,
the new Eve, for a redeemer, the dawn of man.
Holy one of Grace, touched by the Paraclete,
the Queen of Heaven, awaiting the end of night.
Thus breaks providence, His long awaited plan,
her Star rising in the East, the breaking of light.
 
End of the eclipse, Mary, daughter, mother,
a wealth of hope, long dark night of the soul.
Grace awaits, free of every stain, for another,
that He might enter unto the world the same.
Making every woman, thus in grace and whole,
so too that every man might know His name.
 
Her prayer into the night, obedient and mild,
a child in womb and in turn her womb of grace.
Thus the greeting then known for every child,
waiting, waiting for her greeting and to Rejoice.
We wait and consider, no stranger to her face,
her yes; but not before her temperate choice.
 
Her hope from God; the darkest of the dark,
always she was known, considered from the fall.
The Tabernacle, the Tent of God, and the Ark,
awaiting the Sword that would pierce her soul.
Hearts now revealed, only waiting on their call
for the fruit of her womb to make them whole.
 
More than all the storms of the weary world,
her birth tells the time of day and it is the morn.
For she was before time, her colors unfurled,
loved in the heart of God and loved by her Son.
And with the Spirit, by their Love she is born,
beyond the mountains, the stars and rising sun.”