Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary
Christmas was so magical for me growing up. My family would all pile into our toaster van on Christmas Eve and head out to the 5:30 PM Mass, oriented to the kids with the children’s nativity play. All through Mass, my mind would be preoccupied with the thought that Santa would hopefully have brought us pajamas while we were out, as he usually did. I couldn’t wait to get home to see! We would arrive home, to find that Santa had already been there, with the (icing sugar) boot marks to prove it, as well as pajamas for all of us kids and a note saying that he would be back later while we were in bed. It was always so exciting to wake in the morning to find that Santa had been there, and I was always so eager to find out what he had brought for me from my list. It was wonderful.
As time went on, I figured it out that the fat bellied, jolly Santa I had come to know did not actually exist as I had thought. Mom’s handwriting, anyone? A sure giveaway. I was disappointed, but it was not like it was a shock. I knew that I would never experience Christmas in the same way, though I wished I could have. I wanted to experience the magic of Christmas that I had known – I did not know how else Christmas could be special again. Yet, I wanted to experience something real, and for Christmas to become magical for me, yet the right reasons. I knew that somehow, Christmas would now only be about the Nativity of Christ, and not about Santa, and that somehow, that would have to be enough for me.
As I kneeled in the pew at Midnight Mass this year before Mass, listening to the Christmas hymns, as well as singing them with the congregation throughout the Mass, I realized how the magic of Christmas is there for me, more than it ever has been, and in a far superior way than Santa could ever offer. All week, I could not wait to go to Midnight Mass as well as the Traditional Latin Mass the next day, and experience the real magic of Christmas. This real magic of Christmas is the glory of the coming of Christ in the flesh. Christmas Mass, especially the Mass in the Extraordinary Form with its breathtaking beauty and reverence, makes Christmas complete for me. It’s my favorite part of Christmas and what I look forward to the most and am the most excited for. Presents are great, and family time is wonderful, but what I want the most is to soak in the beauty and awesomeness of the incarnation through the Mass, and receive our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
What really had made this possible, and in a deeper way year over year, is an increasingly deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. The Christmas season always concludes on January 6 with Epiphany, the arrival of the Kings of the Orient, the Wise Men, to worship the Lord. We learn through the readings that those who went to worship Christ did so with haste. They traveled as quickly as they could, as they did not want to miss out on Christ as they could not be assured that they would still be there when they arrived; that it would not be too late, as they arrived months after his birth. To travel with haste is to travel with “excessive speed or urgency of movement or action.” There is an urgency in our finding Jesus. The time is now for we do not know the day nor the hour when we will die or when the Lord will come again in glory. One of the Priests who celebrates the Latin Mass for the Latin Mass community where I attend is Fr. John Johnson. One of the things he said during a recent homily which has stuck with me was that we need to “find Jesus and stay there.”
In the English translation of the traditional Latin Christmas hymn, Adeste Fideles, it reads:
O come, all ye faithful, Triumphantly sing! Come, see in the manger, The Angels’ dread King! To Bethlehem hasten, With joyful accord, Oh, hasten! oh, hasten! To worship the Lord.
Every year I want to remember the glory of Christmas more in my daily life, throughout the year to come. I desire this because the reality of the Incarnation plays such an important part in really investing in the Mass and prayer when meditating on what Christ has done for me. Yet, this does not happen as I wish that it would. I always find myself connecting the most and being the most grateful for the Incarnation of Christ at Christmas, when this great feast is celebrated with such glory. I believe, however, that we can all learn to better keep the “spirit of Christmas” alive throughout the year with a constantly deepening relationship with Christ, through prayer and the Sacraments.
In the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite, we recognize the Incarnation when we pray “He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary”. In the Extraordinary form of the Roman rite, we recognize the Incarnation twice in a very particular way. The first is during the Creed when we say in Latin that “He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man”, and during the Last Gospel when it says “and the Word became flesh”. Each time, we are asked to genuflect in honor of such a great gift. A great way to remember and keep the glory and importance of the Incarnation alive in our hearts is at those times, we can say in our hearts, “for me.” I am going to try to do to really enter into this mystery by breaking the routine and reminding myself of the reality that Jesus took on flesh for me personally at those times in the Mass. With such a great gift, I have come to realize that we need to take great care in not letting it become so familiar that we lose touch with it. Another way that I am going to try to enter into the Mystery of the Incarnation is spending more time in personal prayer or at Mass reflecting on the necessity for the Incarnation for our Salvation, on God taking on human flesh for us. Without the Incarnation, we would have no Mass and no Sacraments, and the Gates of Heaven would remain closed. Even if you cannot spend a long time in prayer, I encourage you try to think on this great gift and thank God for it every day, if only for a moment.
I will do everything I can this year to truly hasten to Jesus and stay there and to remember the Incarnation daily. It is my prayer for you all this year that you would do the same. Perhaps you have other practical ways of remembering the Incarnation. Share them in the comments below.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
Jesus showed up in my life at one of my darkest moments. As a young teenager, I felt like I was at rock bottom. My mother was pretty much dying, I had no father that was present in my life, I was at the bottom of the grade school food chain, and I hated God. Life sucked and I knew it. I thought about suicide and did not want to live anymore. It was in the midst of this darkness that Jesus came into my life in a real way and changed that (you can read that story here). The point is, I encountered the real and tangible love of Jesus Christ, and I began to get to know that same Jesus through prayer, through Sacred Scripture, lives of the Saints, and through the teachings of the Catholic Church. I was like a crack addict; I could not get enough of the Truth. Now pegged as a fanatic Jesus Freak, I did not even show up on the radar of the Grade School foodchain, but the difference was, I did not care anymore. I found out quite quickly, however, that I was very much alone in this faith.
The Jesus I encountered that changed my life was far different from the Jesus being peddled to us in our school religion classes. He looked even more different from the Jesus talked about in my Confirmation class. Why was “my Jesus” different than “their Jesus”? I could not understand why it was so different, when the Jesus I knew was the same as the Jesus the Saints had encountered. The Jesus of the Gospels was far different than the Jesus of my parish. This needed to be rectified and I took it upon myself to rectify it. Jesus was being misrepresented and I needed to set the record straight.
Looking back, I realize I made a lot of mistakes growing up in my faith, especially as a teenager. My naivete was only matched with the poor catechesis I was receiving from my parish and school. The type of Catholic faith I was trying to proclaim overcompensated for the lack of clear evangelization I was seeing. So my closet was filled with an arsenal of Christian t-shirts with super lame slogans, trying to encourage my classmates to start thinking about God. Armed with my WWJD bracelets and a crucifix around my neck, I thought I was doing a service to the Gospel. Looking back, though my attempts were sincere, I know my tactics needed work. Nevertheless, I was determined to reset the image people had created about Jesus in their minds. I still am, however my tactics have changed
Every attempt has been made to make Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, a fluffy feel-good spiritualist, especially in the wake of the abuses in the name of the Second Vatican Council. Thanks to hippies and psychedelic drugs we have things like the play Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. The world gobbled up this garbage like it was candy, and the image of the real Jesus has faded. Protestantism in its turn has also done a great disservice of painting a poor picture of what Jesus really looks like, however, as Catholics, you would think we would know better. It turns out, however, that what Protestantism began, modernist catholics have brought to an even greater low. On top of the Protestant Jesus who does not even see your sins, the modernist catholic Jesus does not even care if you worship Him at all. They place this friendly buddy Jesus on the same level as the Buddha or Muhammad. Jesus is made out to be this kind little lamb, with surfer hair and an english accent, who hugs peoples and gives them what they want. It drives me absolutely nuts, but I know it certainly is a tactic of the devil to deceive the world into thinking that Jesus has no real credibility and is certainly not God, who does God-like things like call people to conversion.
Last weekend, I attended a Christian Music Festival called Sonshine Festival, in Minnesota. If anyone knows me, they know I like music, and particularly hard music. Christian music has been a part of my life since my reversion. Christian music, however, can sometimes tend toward that feel-good spirituality that I absolutely abhor. Therefore, I found myself as a teen turning away from the mainstream Contemporary Christian Music, and listening to Christian metal, because I found in that genre a realism that I did not see in the mainstream. I was reminded of that fact during the recent festival I attended. Tommy Green, the lead singer of the Christian Hardcore band Sleeping Giant said something quite striking. He said before their set even began, “As I was walking over here to play tonight, I heard someone from the mainstage say, ‘You may think that we are rockstars, but Jesus is the rockstar here.’ A rockstar? GOD HELP US IF JESUS IS A ROCKSTAR!” He went on to say that, “Jesus is not a rockstar. He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords…do not let them take away what is true about God!” Now, I do not fully support the protestant spirituality of Tommy Green, but he made a valid point that I wish the entire local church could hear.
If you look across the face of the Catholic Church right now, you will see that it is the converted and reverted who are making the real differences. It is those who have come into an encounter with Jesus Christ, and who continue to encounter Him. The world is looking for credible witnesses, not people who read from a textbook. The world is trying to re-write Jesus, and idle Christians stand by and watch the Lord of all Creation be stripped of His power and credibility, not simply because they are afraid, but because they do not know otherwise. All of the problems we see within the local church stem from catholics who do not have a real and healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask any catholic who supports so-called “same-sex marriage” and the gay lifestyle if they spend a considerable amount of time in daily prayer, scripture, Eucharistic adoration and study of the Teachings of the Church. The answer will be a resounding “no”.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
Jesus knew when He asked the question to His disciples that the world did not know who He was. Peter, whose primacy is shown in this moment, speaks on behalf of the disciples when he exclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. What differentiated these Apostles from the rest of the world they were in? The Apostles were with Jesus and stuck by His side. They were His friends. In our culture today, it is not those whose names are followed by a bunch of letters, or even those who have received a higher ecclesiastical status, who can truly answer the question about who Jesus is. It is those who are united to Him in prayer and obedient to His commands and to the Church He established who can authentically say “I know the Lord”. Perhaps it is important for all of us to take stock of where we stand with Christ and ask the question, “Am I an authentic witness of the Gospel, or am I just going through the motions?” It is time for us as Catholics, the promised co-heirs of the kingdom, to begin to tear down, brick by brick, the false pictures that people have of Jesus and begin to proclaim with our actions and words, who Jesus really is. The New Evangelization will never take root until Jesus Christ is seated on the Throne, and we acknowledge Him for who He is, no matter how many committees or task forces are started. Jesus must be crowned King again if the Church ever wishes to see herself restored, bottom line.
+Mary, Queen and Star of the New Evangelization, help us to reveal the real Jesus to the world.+
Well? Are you hardcore? How can we define a hardcore Catholic? Is there even such a thing? The term ‘Devout Catholic’ is defined differently for many people. For some, it is just the Catholic that always goes to Sunday Mass. For others, it is the Catholic that seems to have a deep spiritual life, but perhaps doesn’t really follow every little thing that the Church teaches.
Fulfilling our Sunday obligation is only part of being Catholic. We must also frequent the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, pray daily, and assent to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. It is not enough to say “I am a devout Catholic” and think this is a synonym for being a Catholic that attends every Sunday mass. Attending Sunday Mass is an obligation that every Catholic has. Even the Pope has to attend Sunday Mass. Christmas and Easter are not the bare minimum requirements for being Catholic either.
When we look at the lives of the Saints, we see that their biographies do not only consist in attending Sunday mass. The Saints lived lives of heroic virtue, at the service of God and others. We can look at the lives of the desert fathers who committed their lives to prayer. We can look at the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and see how she devoted her life to charity and love towards those that were in most need of physical and (most importantly) spiritual nourishment. The lives of the Saints demonstrate an interior martyrdom which is a death to self and a desire to know and love Christ above all. To truly love Christ is to show the “least of these” the love of Christ in action.
Being a real Catholic is not about having a “holier than thou” disposition. Many times, the phrase “holier than thou” is said by those who feel intimidated or are offended when someone tries to help someone out of sin, even when done in charity. Sometimes they are right when they say we are being “holier than thou”. Oftentimes, when people of the world say this to us, it can make us feel like we have failed in evangelizing. If we are doing our best to love Christ and doing all that we possibly can to lead others closer to Him, then why is it received with such distaste among our family and friends? For many people, there is an internal moral crisis that prevents them from seeing things objectively. For others, however, I believe that they see a disconnect between our words and deeds. For some who do seek to live a life of virtue, they may still be shut down. Although it may not be easy for people to hear the truth, I believe that if our words are formed through prayer and said with humility and charity, our Blessed Lord will bless them in some way. The question is, how do we get through to those who do not wish to listen?
I think what it all comes down to is not to ask ourselves whether or not we are hardcore because this may create some kind of pride within ourselves. I think the real question we need to ask ourselves is this: Am I truly faithful to Christ, the Church He established, and do I live a life of service to others? Being Catholic is about loving Christ and devoted to the building of His Kingdom. It is about living life in truth and charity. It means trusting God enough to believe that His Holy Spirit is guiding His One True Church. Adherence to the teachings of the Church (and that means all of them), even if they challenge us, is key if we want to really enter into the fullness of a relationship with God. Being Catholic really comes down to making Christ the center of our lives, and encountering Him on a daily basis by making our entire life a sacrifice for Him and others. Along the way, frequenting the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion will keep us on the path when we stray and give us the strength we need the life the Christian life.
When we look at Mary, we can see the ultimate example of reverence and obedience. From her ‘Fiat’ to being with Christ in the last moments of His life on the Cross, she exemplifies what it means to be faithful. We must be obedient, just like Mary encouraged the servant at the Wedding at Cana and “Do whatever He tells you”. We must take up our crosses and follow Him daily. This Easter, we recognize in a particular way that Christ gave His very life for us. If we truly love Him, we will do the same, by laying down our lives for others.
“Each of you knows that the foundation of our faith is charity. Without it, our religion would crumble. We will never be truly Catholic unless we conform our entire lives to the two commandments that are the essence of the Catholic faith: to love the Lord, our God, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves… With charity, we sow the seeds of that true peace which only our faith in Jesus Christ can give us by making us all brothers and sisters. I know that this way is steep, and difficult, and strewn with thorns, while at first glance the other path seems easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying. But the fact is, if we could look into the hearts of those who follow the perverse paths of this world, we would see that they lack the serenity that comes to those who have faced a thousand difficulties and who have renounced material pleasure to follow God’s law.” – Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati
Society has objectified the woman while still claiming to encourage her to live freely. The freedom projected, however, is a false freedom. For example, women are shown almost nude in advertisements to show a sex appeal to the viewer. It isn’t the clothes, the perfumes, the shoes, or the lingerie that are coveted, but it is her. Many women can now ‘take control’ of their own fertility and abuse it as much as they desire in order to live ‘freely’, or ‘safely’. Is freedom to be associated with good looks, sex, and power over nature? And in this kind of freedom, can we find the definition for what it means to actually be woman?
Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to be a woman. Some might say that it means knowing if your soul is feminine. To others it lies solely in the body. To others it’s just a social construct and we can be whatever gender we want to be depending on where our sexual urges pull us to or push us from. None of these statements are true. It is in the beginning that we can find the truth. We need only to read Genesis to see how things really began in terms of our sexuality.
Genesis 2:18-25 is a powerful demonstration of beauty. God has just created the universe, earth, light, and life. He creates man, and when He sees that man shouldn’t be on his own, He creates animals for the man to name. It’s not enough though. Man has a longing for something greater. This greater something is Woman. Woman was created last, and she was created last because she is the pinnacle of creation, and she is to be loved and desired in a holy way. Women truly were the last to be created not because they were the least, but because they were to be loved and cherished. She was fashioned from man’s rib, close to his heart and to be protected. When man first saw her, he instantly knew that she was what was missing from his life.
Things take a turn for the worse, though. Satan attacks her first. He tricks her to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, and man, who was also there, doesn’t do anything to stop it. In the end, they lose their innocence, and there we see the first instance of sin, shame, and the ultimate fall of man. While the woman will desire for her husband, childbirth will now be painful. There will now be enmity between woman and Satan, between his offspring and hers.
Woman does become new and changed. This change is in Mary. Mary is the new Eve. She is the Immaculate Conception, born without sin. She is the ultimate woman. She is true in love, in all virtues, and in her devotion to all that is good. Her perfection was planned. Only a perfect being could be the Mother of our Savior. As followers of Christ, we must imitate the virtues of His mother, Our Lady, and with her aid, we can be better children of God.
Sadly, women are targets in these times. Since the fall, we’ve had it hard. Labor pains, attacks on our sexuality, and attempts to take away what makes us women in the first place fill our history. Sin attacks woman with unrelenting force. Pornography uses women as tools and sends countless souls in a downward spiral. Birth Control and abortion allow women to have the feeling of being a master of themselves, but actually enslave them to fear and sin. By many, the gift of motherhood is seen as a burden, as something that should be avoided until it is easy or convenient. Society demeans motherhood as an undesirable burden, and tells women that if we don’t want it, it can be disposed of the as soon as the opportunity should present itself. People will fight for the ‘right’ to not be mothers. Motherhood, however, be it physical or spiritual, is a gift, and we must be open to accept it lovingly and with gratitude.
Physically, we are built for motherhood. Within our bodies, thanks to God’s creative genius, we are able to have life grow within us, be delivered through us, and be fed from us. How amazing is that! We are given such an amazing and beautiful part of God’s plan. The woman’s body is meant to bring things close. It is meant to care, nurture, cradle, and soothe. We can see this when a mother sees her baby for the first time after they are born. When she holds that baby close for the first time and sees what has been within her for 9 months is there in her arms, looking back at her, it is enough to make anyone cry with joy.
The issue of a soul is one that is so incredibly flawed in our world today. So many see the soul as something that is trapped within a body, that it is possible to be a woman with a man’s soul or vice versa. This is false. With the creation of our unique bodies is the attached unique soul. The body is a reflection of the soul. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“In Sacred Scripture, the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.
The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.
The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.”
( CCC 363-365)
Essentially, the body and the soul are completely unified. “Man and woman, He created them”, and He makes no mistake in forming us as Man or Woman. To assume that there was a mistake instantly points the finger at God saying that He made a mistake. This, of course, is impossible.
Sin attempts to separate us from God. He wants more than anything to take us away from him to feed his own hatred. Attacking our sexuality is the easiest way. Lust and envy are the obvious examples. Satan really, truly wants to distort our already natural beauty and replace it with something else. Sin muddies our beauty. True beauty is only found when we allow Christ to form it within us.
We must glorify God through our bodies, through our hearts and minds, and be thankful for his love and mercy when we fall. Only He can raise us up. To be a woman is to be fully created as a woman. My soul, my mind, and my body are all feminine. My body is female, therefore every part of me is female and uniquely my own, formed by God and made to love God. He formed woman to love Him and to love man and be a companion, an Ezer Kenegdo, which means ‘help meet’ or ‘counterpart’. We must pray to him to help us in the discernment of our vocations, be it the single life, the married life, or the religious life, so that we can love Him better. We must seek Christ so that we can know the will of God. We must come to Him as we are, and offer it all up to Him.