Honor Mary for What She Does, Not Just Who She Is

We just finished Mary’s month of May.  I hope it was a spiritually fruitful month for you.  I want to talk about the Catholic devotion to Mary and how that connects to rosary prayer.  This would have been a better article to publish at the start of May rather than in June so I apologize for the untimeliness.

Mary, Queen of Heaven
Mary, Queen of Heaven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Catholic Exchange did a great job of distinguishing the devotion we give to God (latria), what we give to the saints (dulia), and what we give to Mary (hyperdulia).

Latria basically means adoration. Traditionally, it refers to the worship and homage that we give to God and God alone.

Now, Catholics believe that we should not only honor those who excel in the things of this world, but that we should also honor those who excel in the things of the spiritual world (for example, in their devotion to God, their obedience to his will, and their charity to others). That’s why we honor the saints — men and women who, during their earthly life, excelled in their pursuit of holiness. Honoring the saints does not detract from God any more than honoring athletes does. In fact, when we honor saints, we are honoring God, too, for it is by his gifts, and for his glory, that saints are able to excel in holiness in the first place.

And in recognition of Mary’s pre-eminent holiness, the special recognition we give to Mary is called hyperdulia: the greatest amount of honor we can give to any created person.

When we pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, Mary Crowned Queen of Heaven, we acknowledge her deserving hyperdulia devotion.  She was not only exalted in her earthly life by being chosen as the Mother of God, but further exalted in Heaven by being crowned queen.  And this is only fitting given that her son is King of Heaven.

We shouldn’t get lost on the honor bestowed on Mary by both God and humanity.  We may think that God singling someone out, like he did Mary, would be like winning an award.  Some of us may picture it like receiving a certificate you can frame and hang on the wall to show off to your friends that you have God’s seal of approval.  But honoring Mary because God honors her misses an important fact.  We don’t honor Mary solely because something passively happened to her but we also honor her active response to God’s plan.

English: Diploma
If only we could have something so concrete to know if we’re in God’s Grace. Oh wait, there is! It’s called CONFESSION.

God singling out Mary for that very special role came at a price.  But because of her faith, it was a price Mary was more than willing to pay.  It’s not like Mary could lead a normal life after the Annunciation.  She led a life of perfect obedience to God’s plan even if that meant not understanding her son’s ways and eventually watching him die on the cross.

Mary lived a life of perpetual virtue which couldn’t have been easy.  While she was immaculately conceived and free from original sin, she was not divine like Jesus.  So living a life of perfect obedience and virtue had to have been challenging for Mary who possessed but overcame all the weaknesses inherent in being human.

When we pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery, we should ask our Queen Mother for the strength to imitate her and live in obedience to God’s will.  When we give her hyperdulia devotion we should stand in awe of what she was able to do with her life and what we can do with her help and an active effort from us.  Praise Mary, not just because of her status in Heaven, but also because of the effort she put forth in her earthly life as a model of what God asks of all us.

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Getting Mary’s Help in this New Year

Happy New Year!  Usually, my first post of the year is about how we should not make “praying more” a new year’s resolution because making something a new year’s resolution almost guarantees failure.  However, this year I’m going to take a different tone based on the homily I heard last Sunday on the feast of the Solemnity of Mary.

At my parish, Father Tony talked about the importance of asking Mary for help with all the challenges and concerns in our lives.  He iterated the Church’s teaching that Mary will clarify and amplify your intentions before her son, Jesus Christ, and act as your mediator.  You may only have a vague notion of what you want or need but Mary will help you better understand those needs and help you present them to Jesus.

That homily got me thinking about new year’s resolutions.  What if they don’t fail because they are often rather vague promises made on a somewhat arbitrary day on a calendar?  Instead, maybe new year’s resolutions do not stick because people try to accomplish them on their own without any help.  Maybe we should ask Mary for her assistance in trying to accomplish our resolution.  After all, she desperately wants to help all of us achieve true happiness by eventually living in God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

But how will Mary help me lose weight?  How will Mary help me earn $10k in the stock market?  Does she really care about helping you achieve any non-spiritual goals?  Probably not.  And maybe she wants us to take a hint.  If certain goals are not a priority to Mary, maybe they shouldn’t be a priority for us either.  Like I said earlier, part of Mary’s intercession is to clarify what we truly need.  Finding a meaningful resolution is just as important as following through on one.

Yes, but will it buy you true happiness?

In the spirit of including Mary in helping me throughout my life in all important matters, not just a single new years resolution, I’m going to try to remember to add the Memorare prayer to my daily routine.  I invite you to do the same.

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

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Building Your Spiritual Emergency Fund One Prayer at a Time

2015 has started out rough for me.  I have a car that is failing its smog check (okay, that’s trivial but still annoying).  Our old water heater broke and flooded the walls, insulation, and floors of the surrounding rooms.  I am going through my annual January cold (seriously, I think the cold virus is pro-choice because it hits me every year around the Walk for Life).  And my parent company announced that they are shutting down my office as part of a downsizing effort.  That’s just my immediate family’s issues on top of the usual difficulties of raising children.  I then have to pile on the challenges various members of my extended family face as well.  And yet, while I would have every reason to freak out, I’m strangely at calm with my situation right now.  Why?

I think a lot of my calm and acceptance of my situation comes from me praying the rosary regularly.  I’m not saying this to brag or to somehow come across as being holier than others.  I’m saying this as a testament to the power of prayer.  You really have to think of routine prayer as building a spiritual “rainy day” fund.  Financial experts are always saying that you should save money in an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.  So prayer is the emergency fund for your soul.

I know many of us turn to prayer mostly when times get tough.  But that is like only starting to save money after the car broke down or the floors are already flooded.  Not having reserves makes a difficult situation even harder.  So if you don’t have those spiritual reserves to dip in to, turning to prayer for the first time in an emergency almost adds to the burden instead of relieves it.

First there’s the logistical hurdles.  Prayer is frustrating when you haven’t practiced it because it will be hard to get into that state of mind where you are calm and relaxed enough to have a truly open heart to the Holy Spirit.  You’ll be fumbling over words and thoughts instead of getting into the zone and being receptive to how God is leading you.  Second, spirituality accumulates like water in a well — the more you pray the deeper that well becomes.  Sometimes you really just need that large gulp of grace to get you through a difficult situation.  But if you haven’t prayed regularly, you are dipping into a shallow spiritual well that won’t give you the grace you need.

It’s never too late to start building your spiritual emergency fund.  All it takes is five free minutes and a rosary (or your fingers if you don’t have a rosary).  It starts with a single Our Father or Hail Mary or just a free form meditation.  In finance, there is the idea of compounding interest and exponential returns.  You can start with a very small amount of money and over time it can grow to a large amount through compounding.  The same goes with prayer.  Building your spiritual emergency fund can start with a small amount of prayer but if you regularly invest some time here and there, those small prayer moments start to add up to one large pool of grace.

This leads me to the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary, Mary’s Coronation as Queen of Heaven.  She’s the one that compounds our prayers into something more substantial.  There is a reason why Mary is known as the Mediatrix of Grace.  She’s takes our prayers and intentions and places them before her son, Jesus Christ, after she’s cleaned them up and clarified them.  Remember, Mary has a particularly interesting role as being both human like us and going through the human experience but also being singled out as a purified vessel for the Son of God.  So it makes sense that she has the unique role in Heaven of hearing our intentions and, in a way, translating them and amplifying them to God.  Like a good mother, she understands all our little faults of being human.  It doesn’t matter how ineloquent or small your request is, Mary Queen of Heaven will act as your intermediary, your advocate, and your broker in Heaven.

Crowning of the Virgin by Rubens, early 17th c...
Crowning of the Virgin by Rubens, early 17th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, no matter how small your spiritual emergency fund may be, start building it up with a prayer here and a prayer there.  When you pray the rosary, don’t think of it as a daunting task of 53 Hail Marys, 6 Our Fathers, and a several other prayers.  Just focus on one prayer at a time for however much time you have.  Mary and the Holy Spirit will take it from there.  And over time, you will have that deep well of faith to dip into when times get tough or to give to others who need it in their time of need.

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Hell is for Real, aka The Fatima Prayer

There is a best selling book titled Heaven is for Real about a young child’s glimpse of Heaven.  You may have heard of it since it was also made into a movie.  But have you heard about the much darker prequel, Hell is for Real?  Okay, it’s not really a prequel and it doesn’t go by that title.  I’m talking about the first secret of Fatima when in 1917 Mary showed three Portuguese children a glimpse of Hell.  Since November is dedicated to praying for souls, I want to focus on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and how the Fatima Prayer in the rosary is a great tool for praying for souls in need.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - The Madonna of Car...
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo – The Madonna of Carmel and the Souls of the Purgatory – WGA22270 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, what is the Fatima Prayer?

While not part of the original tradition of the Rosary or in the original text of the vulgate, many Roman Catholics choose to add it after the Glory Be to the Father after the Blessed Virgin Mary was said to have requested its use during her apparition at Fátima, a miracle deemed “worthy of belief” by the Church. The following text of the prayer appears first in Latin and then in English.

Domine Iesu, dimitte nobis debita nostra, libera nos ab igne inferiori, perduc in caelum omnes animas, praesertim eas, quae misericordiae tuae maxime indigent. Amen.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.

Wikipedia

And now a flashback to my childhood.  In my grade school I remember we had “rosary afternoons” in May where we broke up into small groups to pray the rosary.  The groups were led by an eighth grader who explained how the rosary worked and led a group of seven other students, one from each grade 1st through 7th, through five decades.  When I think back to those childhood rosary days I now recall one prayer being noticeably absent — the Fatima Prayer.

I think my early experience with the rosary was typical for a lot of kids.  Someone thought it was best to shield us from the “scary prayer” that mentions the fires of Hell.  I don’t believe this was done out of a disbelief of the reality of Hell, but more out of a concern of not opening that door of fear or questions from the inquisitive youth.  I’m sure the school didn’t want to receive calls from angry parents about how their kid came home and said everyone is going to Hell or asked if Uncle Barney, who never went to church, was in Hell.

But the avoidance of talking about the afterlife, particularly Purgatory and Hell, didn’t end with the omission of the Fatima Prayer from my grade school’s rosary education.  To this day, it’s a topic that most priests don’t touch with a ten foot pole.  When was the last time you heard a homily about the eternal consequences of sin or the need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Over the decades, talking about sin and its consequences was unofficially deemed offensive speech.  A priest cannot teach about sinful behavior without being labeled intolerant, self righteous, and uncompassionate.  That is truly unfortunate because pretending that sin and Hell don’t exist does not make them any less real.  Instead of explaining these scary aspects of reality and providing people with the knowledge, prayers, and the will to confront them, we sweep them under the rug.  Instead of urging people to pray and help those “souls in most need of Thy mercy” we, as a Church in general, let people just dive into the fire because we’re afraid of offending someone.

Praying the rosary is a great way of meditating on the afterlife and praying for souls.  Because talking about sin and Hell may be a taboo topic we have to put extra emphasis on them in our rosary intentions.  After you pray each decade, that Fatima Prayer is that little reminder of Heaven, Hell, and even Purgatory (more on this in a bit).  It encompasses asking for the intercession of the saints in Heaven, praying for at risk souls on earth, and those souls in Purgatory.  Unfortunately, I too often race through the Fatima prayer.  I treat it more like a placeholder while I think about my intentions for the upcoming decade.  But slow down because there’s some heavy stuff in this prayer.

  • O my Jesus” — God sent his only son for our benefit.  He wants us to have a personal relationship with him.  You don’t say, “O Jesus.”  That “my” is in there for a reason.
  • Forgive us our sins” — We all sin and are in need of reconciliation.  There is nothing wrong acknowledging that we aren’t perfect and we screw up at times.  We are asking for Jesus’ mercy for all peoples’ sins, hence the word “our” and not “my.”
  • Save us from the fires of Hell” — Again, we are asking Jesus for his mercy on all souls.  The fact that this phrase comes after “forgive us our sins” highlights that connection between sin and Hell.  We implicitly acknowledge that sin is the cause of going to Hell.
  • Lead all souls to Heaven” — This is where we want to go!  Everything we do in life should be aimed towards one day living in God’s glory in Heaven.
  • Especially those in most need of Thy mercy” — There are many people on that edge of eternal damnation.  But there is still hope for them.  They need our prayers and the intercession of Mary, the saints, and the Holy Spirit.

Where does Purgatory factor into the Fatima Prayer?  There is a bit of a mistranslation of this prayer from Portuguese into English according to Br. Alexis Bugnolo:

I would point out that this English translation is not exactly correct; because the Portuguese does not say “souls”, but “little souls”, a term of endearment among Portuguese Catholics for the souls in Purgatory, equivalent to our phrase “poor souls”. The the context of the phrase refers to the deliverance of all souls from purgatory into heaven; and thus never signified universal salvation.

Remember, souls in Purgatory rely on your prayers to get into Heaven.  Imagine knowing that you are saved and you’re so close to entering God’s kingdom but there is nothing you can do unless people on earth pray for you.  That frustration alone must be part of the purification process in Purgatory for your sins.  But now you have a reason to remember those souls in Purgatory every time you pray the Fatima Prayer.  Time to pray it forward because hopefully someday we all may be in a position where we will need those prayers.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #11

You shall obtain all you ask of me by recitation of the Rosary.

Mary‘s 11th rosary promise is one of my favorites probably because it is so easily misunderstood (thus providing me with lots to write about). What does Mary mean when she says you will obtain all that you ask through the rosary? I’m sure many of us have prayed for a financial windfall. But how many of us have won the lottery? I’m sure we’ve prayed for good health for ourselves or a loved one. And yet we still get sick. It seems like we ask a lot from Mary through rosary meditation and yet so few of us seem to have our specific requests fulfilled. If Mary doesn’t keep this promise how can we trust her to keep the other 14 rosary promises?

Mary Magdalene, in a dramatic 19th-century pop...
Unlike my last 10 requests, this one is REALLY, REALLY important.

I think the best way to jump into this promise is to retell a homily I heard many years ago. The priest emphasized how we tend to fixate on one specific answer to our prayers and we overlook how God actually answers them. The priest told a story of a man travelling home on foot after a long journey and had to cross a mountain range. Already tired and hungry, he prayed for God to level the mountain so that he could make it home safely and quickly. After waiting a few hours and seeing that God did not level the mountain, the man grumbled, carved a walking stick from a nearby tree branch, and started on his way.  After a rather uneventful trip, he made it over the mountains and back home.

The man was enraged because he thought God did not answer his prayer.  What the man failed to realize was that God provided a tree branch for the walking stick, good weather, and safe passage through the mountain range.  And ultimately, the man did make it over the mountains and back home safely which is why he prayed in the first place.  The man was so fixated on his one specific request that he did not notice two things.  First, he did not realize that he already had the ability to make it over the mountains without God performing a miracle.  Second, he didn’t see all the little things God provided to supplement his abilities.

I think many of us approach prayers and intentions like the man crossing over the mountains.  We ask God for help and wait for a very specific, often miraculous, response.  The response we want is usually an easy answer.  We get sick so we want God to cure us.  We have financial problems, we ask God for a windfall.  We have relationship issues, we ask God to set the other person straight.  We have problems at work, we ask God to make those problem disappear.  But asking God to “bail us out” shortchanges the abilities He already gave us.  God often does help us, not by making our problems go away, but by making us realize he already infused us with the strength, intellect, and abilities to overcome life’s challenges.

Man's face screaming/shouting. Stubbly wearing...
God, why won’t you answer me!!?

Mary’s promise reminds me of how the rosary is a lot like an amplified echo chamber.  You make your intentions through rosary prayer and Mary reminds you that God already gave you the strength to overcome whatever challenges you face.  But the rosary helps magnify Mary’s response so that you can hear it, internalize it, and put into action those gifts God has given you.  You ask for wellness and Mary reminds you that God gave you the strength to endure the sickness and use your physical weakness as an opportunity to offer up a sacrifice to God in reparation for your sins.  You ask for a fix to your financial problems, but Mary reminds you through rosary meditation that money doesn’t make you a better person nor gets you into Heaven.

Mary does hear and answer our prayers and acts as our mediatrix to God.  But we have to be open to the fact that the answer to our prayers isn’t always what we expect.  The rosary helps us not only hear God’s response but more importantly it helps us accept it even when it isn’t what we want to hear.

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Our Lady’s Messages: May, 2011

May 02, 2011

Dear children; God the Father is sending me to show you the way of salvation, because He, my children, desires to save you and not to condemn you. That is why I, as a mother, am gathering you around me, because with my motherly love I desire to help you to be free of the dirtiness of the past and to begin to live anew and differently. I am calling you to resurrect in my Son. Along with confession of sins renounce everything that has distanced you from my Son and that has made your life empty and unsuccessful. Say ‘yes’ to the Father with the heart and set out on the way of salvation to which He is calling you through the Holy Spirit. Thank you. I am especially praying for the shepherds (priests), for God to help them to be alongside you with a fullness of heart.

Confession

Remember when you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary that God assumed Mary, body and soul, into Heaven so she could be our guide to eternal salvation.  Also remember the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  Jesus ascended into Heaven to judge the living and the dead.  However, while He is our ultimate judge, He does not wish to condemn us but instead wants us to live with him forever in happiness.  May we try to avoid sin and receive mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation to show that we want to live in God’s grace as much as He wants to give it to us.

May 25, 2011

Dear children! My prayer today is for all of you who seek the grace of conversion. You knock on the door of my heart, but without hope and prayer, in sin, and without the Sacrament of Reconciliation with God. Leave sin and decide, little children, for holiness. Only in this way can I help you, hear your prayers and seek intercession before the Most High. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Think about Mary’s message when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery and remember that Jesus calls all of us to lead a life of conversion.  May we turn away from sin and strive to live in God’s grace.  We should remember that each day is an opportunity to forge a deeper relationship with God.

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Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima

In 1917, on the 13th day of each month for six months starting in May, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal.  The apparitions at Fatima have particular significance regarding the rosary as Mary asked the children to pray it every day informing them it was the key to peace both personally and globally.  Fatima is where we also get the Fatima Prayer which is prayed at the end of each decade of the rosary.  For those who do not know it, it is very simple and yet extremely powerful:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.

There is so much power contained in that one little sentence.  As I explain in my upcoming book on the rosary (that’s right, I’m writing a book), this is an incredibly important prayer since you acknowledge the reality of hell and that everyone runs the risk of going there if we choose to live in sin instead of embracing God’s truth.  We beg for God’s mercy that we will be worthy of Heaven and ask for mercy for those who do not live as Jesus calls them.  Take this small prayer seriously as it reminds us of the consequences of sin and the power of God to forgive and save anyone no matter how far they may stray.

If you do not know much about Fatima, I encourage you to take some time reading about it as it is really fascinating and also slightly scary.  You can get a good overview from Wikipedia, Catholic Exchange, or any number of books and DVDs from Amazon.

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Gospel for March 6, 2011 — Not Leaving it to Chance

Dice
Image by doug88888 via Flickr

The Gospel for Sunday, March 6, 2011 is from Matthew 7:21-27.  Jesus tells His disciples that those who hear His message but do not act on it will not enter His kingdom of Heaven.  He calls on all of us to think beyond our earthly existence and realize that we have eternal souls that will live forever in either Heaven or in Hell.  Whenever we pray the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary, we recall that Jesus rose to new life and desires all of us to join Him in Heaven.  But we must make the conscious decision to live for Heaven in this life by staying in a state of grace lest we hear these words from the Gospel, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.

The Gospel tells us that we must not only “talk the talk,” but also “walk the walk.”  Jesus says that it is not enough to hear God’s Word and just proclaim that you love Him.  We must back up our words with actions that put into practice Jesus’ teachings.  What is interesting about this Gospel is that Jesus says He will deny some people entrance into Heaven although they did good works here on earth.  What Jesus means is that those who are cut off from God’s grace by mortal sin will not enter Heaven despite their good deeds.  You cannot erase mortal sin through good deeds alone.  Jesus does not keep a list of ways sins can be forgiven like this:

  • Missing church = Give $100+ to charity
  • adultery = 12x volunteering at a soup kitchen
  • Cursing = Help a senior citizen cross the street

You could donate a million dollars to charity and that still will not absolve you of sin and bring you back into God’s grace.  The only way to come back into God’s grace is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This sounds harsh, but Jesus wants us to love God first and have good works flow from that grace.  Loving God above all else is what matters, not individual acts of charity.

We must remember that Heaven is our goal.  When we pray the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary we recall that Jesus’ earthly death was not the end but only the beginning of His eternal reign as King of Heaven.  Whether we like it or not, we do have souls that will live forever in either Heaven or Hell.  We cannot opt for a third, neutral option.  And the option between Heaven or Hell is just too important for anyone to leave it up to chance.  I am often scared how relaxed some people are about where they will ultimately end up.  Many believe that if they just live a neutral life, a little good and a little bad (but not too bad), Jesus will cut them a break.  And while Jesus does show mercy, His teachings do not say that people can just live on auto-pilot and just slide into Heaven without a lot of effort.  I’m not saying that we need to constantly stress out about going to Heaven or Hell, but we do need to realize that our actions in this life do determine where we spend all eternity.

Jesus told us that the wise ones will build on solid foundations while the foolish will not.  In other words, the ones who live on solid, moral principles and do good works according to His teachings will see His Heavenly kingdom.  That isn’t difficult to comprehend but can be hard to put into practice.  So when you think about this Gospel or pray the rosary, really question where your focus lies.  Are you focused on living for God’s kingdom by striving to be in a state of grace or for Satan’s kingdom by living in sin?  Or, if you have not set a goal for where to spend all eternity, do you not think it’s time to start?

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Our Lady’s Messages: January 2011

Toruń, church of St. James, Descent of the Hol...
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January 2, 2011 Message to Mirjana Soldo

Dear children; Today I call you to unity (communion) in Jesus, my Son. My motherly heart prays that you may comprehend that you are God’s family. Through the spiritual freedom of will, which the Heavenly Father has given you, you are called to become cognizant (to come to the knowledge) of the truth, the good or the evil. May prayer and fasting open your hearts and help you to discover the Heavenly Father through my Son. In discovering the Father, your life will be directed to carrying out of God’s will and the realization of God’s family, in the way that my Son desires (wishes). I will not leave you alone on this path. Thank you.

Mary brings up the very important concept of family.  She wants us to understand that none of us exists solely as individuals, but that we are all connected through God.  We are all each other’s brothers and sisters and Jesus calls us to take care of each other.  But much like siblings in a family, we often find it difficult to get along with each other.  One only has to watch the evening news to catch a glimpse of how we treat our brothers and sisters.  But we don’t mistreat each other only through outright crimes.  I’m sure all of us can think of times when we have treated others badly or unfairly.  If we are all part of God’s family then we must look like a very dysfunctional one to say the least.

However, God assumed Mary into Heaven so that She could be our Heavenly mother.  And one thing moms do is keep peace and order amongst quarreling siblings.  As She says in Her message, She will not leave us alone on our journey through life.  She is a very patient mother in that no matter how far we may stray She will always help us get back on the right path towards family unity.  But just because She guides us doesn’t mean She will do all the work for us.  We have a choice.  We can either follow the path God lays before us or not.  Mary asks that we pray, fast, and try to discover God in our lives.  Praying and fasting for guidance are important.  I find it amazing how much more time someone spends deciding and evaluating what clothes, cars, homes, and other possessions to buy.  And yet, it seems like we so quickly dismiss our relationship with God without ever really meditating and contemplating what that relationship means.  All Mary wants us to do is stop and think seriously about it through praying, fasting, reading the Bible, and attending Mass.

January 25, 2011 Message

Dear children! Also today I am with you and I am looking at you and blessing you, and I am not losing hope that this world will change for the good and that peace will reign in the hearts of men. Joy will begin to reign in the world because you have opened yourselves to my call and to God’s love. The Holy Spirit is changing a multitude of those who have said ‘yes’. Therefore I desire to say to you: thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary says that She still has hope that all of us will turn towards what is good.  Again, She shows great patience with us since it seems like the world is anything but good and peaceful.  And while it is easy to feel defeated when you look around and see so much pain, suffering, and evil, Mary asks us just to simply say yes to God.  All it takes is that little spark of motivation to live for God’s kingdom and Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the saints in Heaven will multiply that spark one hundred times.  The apostles were only twelve men and yet when the Holy Spirit came to them in the Pentecost they went out and spread Jesus’ message and built the Catholic Church.  Indeed, the Holy Spirit can do wondrous things when we let it lead us.  All we have to do is make the conscious choice to say “yes” to God.

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Scary Times

Waaah!.
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We are going into that “scary” period in the liturgical calendar right before Advent where many of the readings and Gospels focus on the end times, persecution, and final judgment.  There are many people who take these apocalyptic verses to extremes.  There is the one camp that just ignores these readings or see them as a lot of hyperbole and not events that will eventually occur.  The other camp thinks the end of the world will occur every day and finds every shred of circumstantial and coincidental evidence to support their claim.  I want to take a more balanced look at these readings and how we can approach them without being hysterical.

The Gospel reading from Luke on November 14, 2010 presents some very grim imagery.  Jesus describes wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and persecution (Lk, 21:5-19).  I do not think anyone would disagree that these are all pretty terrible things and we would be fortunate to avoid them.  In many people’s world view this is how it all ends; people dying in misery and despair.  However, many people do not see that there is light at the end of this dark tunnel we call human existence.  There is the glory, comfort, and joy of eternal life in Heaven.  Last Sunday’s Gospel ends with Jesus saying,  “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk, 21:19).  And that is the central message we should take away from these apocalyptic readings — the joy of Heaven is infinitely greater than any suffering here on Earth.

Think back to your childhood.  Do you remember the first time you cut yourself?  Perhaps you fell when you were playing.  Maybe you poked yourself with a sharp object.  I’m sure many of us cried and wailed over that pain as it seemed like the worst torment we would ever encounter.  Now as adults we probably don’t have the slightest recollection of that ordeal.  This is similar to how Heaven will compare to all our Earthly suffering.  The worst wars and tragedies won’t even be a faint memory compared to the joys of Heaven.  This is what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel.  In the end, our faith and perseverance will bring us more happiness than we can possibly imagine and make all our earthly suffering seem like nothing more than a scraped knee.

We can pick any Sorrowful Mystery as an example of  perseverance through hard times.  In this period before Advent, when we pray the rosary, we should ask God for the strength to endure any difficulties in our lives.  Perhaps you are having a hard time at work or at home.  Maybe you are having relationship problems or there are people in your life that bring you nothing but misery.  Take all those challenges and present them to God when you pray.  Try to look past the misery and difficulties of this world by reminding yourself that it is all temporary.  When you put it all in perspective you will realize that life’s biggest obstacles are so small compared to the joy of Heaven and you will wonder why you even worried about them in the first place.

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