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Model of the Church

Model of the Church

“Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from Her union with Christ and flows directly from it.. After Her Son’s Ascension, Mary ‘aided the beginnings of the Church by Her prayers’. In Her association with the Apostles and several women, ‘we also see Mary by Her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, Who had already overshadowed Her in the Annunciation.”

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.964-965

 

It is a beautiful scene to contemplate – the beginnings of the early Church being supported by the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Apostles are gathered around Her and they are all united in prayer, this union giving great efficacy to the prayers they are offering, for they are one single body – the Mystical Body of Christ. They are asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit – He is the movement and power behind the Church, His breath it’s very life. And He comes. For Mary, this descent of the Holy Spirit has already happened previously – He has overshadowed Her at the moment of the Annunciation.

Mary is the ‘lightning rod’ of the Holy Spirit.

When Mary and the Holy Spirit are intimately uinited, miracles take place; on the first occasion, at the Annunciation, the Christ Child was conceived; and now, in prayer at the Cenacle, the Spirit will descend once more – and this time, the Church will be born. In this way, Mary is both Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

Beautiful though this scene, occurring two thousand years ago, certainly is, we should remember that the same scene is, in a sense, re-enacted every time the Church prays; the Mother of the Lord is still with us, uniting Her prayers with ours and giving them great efficacy. The Catechism tells us –

“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.” (para.969)

This good Mother hears the prayer of the Church and adds Her own supplication to ours. This ‘saving office’, as the Church refers to it, will continue until the last day.

To have prayed in the company of the Blessed Virgin was most certainly a great joy for the Apostles in those early days. And yet, we share the same joy, even though we do not physically see the Mother of the Lord, whenever we pray. Perhaps this is especially so in the praying of Her holy Rosary, that prayer so greatly loved by Her, and for which She often asks us, promising great graces to those who embrace this devotion.

When we take up our beads, even though we might be physically alone, still the Mother of God is with us and is listening to us. Our concerns are Her concerns – and above all, She is concerned with obtaining for us the great grace of eternal salvation once this life is complete for us.

In ‘Christi Matri’, Pope St Paul VI encourages us to weave the prayers of the Rosary into mystical garlands for the Mother of Christ”. He goes on to write –

“Nothing seems more appropriate and valuable to us than to have the prayers of the whole Christian family rise to the Mother of God, who is invoked as the Queen of Peace, begging Her to pour forth abundant gifts of Her maternal goodness in midst of so many great trials and hardships. We want constant and devout prayers to be offered to Her whom we declared Mother of the Church..” (CM, para.8)

 In praying our beads, let us join with the supplication of Pope Paul – “look down with clemency, Most Blessed Virgin, upon all Your children”.

 

Treasure of the Heart

Treasure of the Heart

“His Mother treasured all these things, pondering them in Her Heart.”

(Luke 2:19)

In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord tells us clearly – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.. but store up treasures in Heaven..” (cf.Mt.6:19-20). Our treasures, then, should not be created things, for these decay and rot and do not last; the treasures we seek, on the other hand, are eternal. Earthly treasures are invariably a distraction from the love of God, when He alone should be our focus. Those eternal treasures – used properly – should focus our attention and our love on the Lord. And this, after all, was the purpose for which He created us – to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

In searching for those eternal treasures, perhaps the actions of the Mother of the Lord, recounted early in the Gospel of Saint Luke, can provide us with an inspiration –

“His Mother treasured all these things, pondering them in Her Heart.” (Luke 2:19)

What things did She treasure? She treasured all the events of the life of Her Son. Luke is recounting this from the early part of the Lord’s life – but there can be little doubt that if this was Our Blessed Lady’s practice whilst Her Son was still a child, She would certanly have continued to do so as He grew into adulthood and as His mission progressed. Each of those events we read of in the Gospels, from the Crib to the Cross and beyond, She contemplated in Her Heart, in such a way that they were true treasures to Her. Undoubtedly, too, She would have recounted these events for the Apostles, so that the Evangelists then wrote them down, which allows us to read about them in the Gospels.

Those same Evangelists thought enough of this action of the Mother of the Lord – that She treasured these things in Her Heart – to record it for the Church. For them, too, this ‘treasuring in the heart’ was crucial – it was from this that they then went out and preached the very events they were treasuring within themselves, those events having transformed them.

In the same way, we are called to treasure these things in our own hearts; we do this at Mass in hearing the Word of God; and in receiving the Sacraments of the Church; in our prayers; and in the living out of our Faith.

The Rosary is a simple and yet very powerful way for us – like Mary, like the Apostles and like the early Church – to treasure all these things and to ponder them in our hearts. This is exactly what the Rosary invites us to do. It invites us to consider and contemplate the events of the lives of Jesus and Mary, those events which are the history of our salvation, and it even presents those events to us in an ordered manner. All we need do is take up our beads and pray, so that these events resonate within us and transform us, as they did the Apostles.

It is for this reason that the great Saint John Paul II referred to the Rosary as the ‘school of Mary’, for there, we learn from Her own example.

In more recent years, our present Holy Father, Pope Francis has spoken of the Rosary as being “contemplation in action, making God part of the little things of each day”.

The Rosary draws us gently into a place of quiet and stillness, a place of tranquility and prayer – and there, we can encounter Christ with Mary.

Understanding all of this, and encouraged by these words of the Popes, let us endeavour to pray this heavenly prayer – to sit in that school of Mary and to learn from Her own example, just as the Apostles did.

 

The Dowry of Mary

The Dowry of Mary

“the wonderful filial love which burnt within the heart of your forefathers towards the great Mother of God … to whose service they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the kingdom itself acquired the singular and highly honourable title of ‘Mary’s Dowry’.”

– Pope Leo XIII

I remember, as a child at school in the south of England some fifty years ago, that we were particularly dedicated to Our Lady of Ransom, and to the idea of England being the ‘dowry of Mary’. Even as a young child in those days, I thought this was a beautiful thing although I had very little sense of what it really meant. Of course, it expresses the notion that the Blessed Virgin regards England with a particular fondness, that She is our special protectress and patroness.

The notion that England is the ‘dowry of Mary’ goes back as far as 1051 according to some sources, even though there is no certainty over the actual origin of the title. In 1381, King Richard II dedicated England to Mary, setting it apart for Her. And the title finds itself written down around the year 1400, when Archbishop Thomas Arundel noted that –

“we English, being ..  Her own dowry, as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervour of our praises and devotions..”

As the Archbishop described the title as being ‘commonly’ used, it is not surprising that the imagery associated with the title can be found in a several religious artefacts of that period, including the Wilton Diptych; in this, King Richard is seen kneeling before the Virgin and Child, while an Angel bears a staff upon which is the flag of Saint George – patron of England – and a map of the country.

In 1893, the title received Papal recognition when Pope Leo XIII addressed English Catholics on pilgrimage to Rome; he said –

“the wonderful filial love which burnt within the heart of your forefathers towards the great Mother of God … to whose service they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the kingdom itself acquired the singular and highly honourable title of ‘Mary’s Dowry’.”

The Wilton Diptych: image © National Gallery

Mindful of this very long history of a particular devotion to the Mother of God, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have determined that this year, England will be re-dedicated as the Dowry of Mary.

The dedication will take place on Sunday 29 March 2020, in every Cathedral in England and Wales, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, in all the parish Churches taking part and in the homes of many of the faithful.

A 3 day triduum of prayer will take place immediately prior to this, between 26 and 28 March, consisting of prayers of reparation and the Litany of the Saints and Martyrs of England, together with the prayer of the holy Rosary.

This will see the conclusion of two years of spiritual preparation – a nationwide Novena of prayer for England and a tour of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham to every Cathedral in England.

At the personal level, the Catholics of England and Wales are being encouraged to begin their own period of spiritual preparation, starting on 21 February and ending on the feast of the Annunciation with a personal consecration to Jesus through Mary using the formula of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. Written materials supporting this personal consecration have been made available by the organisers, Behold2020, who note –

“History shows us that when people pray this prayer of absolute surrender to God’s will for their lives, society is transformed. By taking up this personal dedication in 2020, you can be a part of the renewal of this nation, drawing ourselves closer to the will of our loving God, through Mary.”

More information is available on the Diocese of Westminster website.

 

 

Entrusting It All To Mary

Entrusting It All To Mary

“In times of darkness, holding the Rosary is like holding your Blessed Mother’s hand. Pray the Rosary every day. Abandon yourself in the hands of Mary. She will take care of you.. love Our Lady and make Her loved; always recite the Rosary and recite it as often as possible.

– Padre Pio

Little children always run to their mother in all their needs. Whether they are frightened, unsure, sad, lonely, or simply want a little solace, a mother is always the first port of call. So it is in the order of nature.

And so it is, too, in the order of grace; when we have any similar needs, we should do as those little children do and run to our heavenly Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Throughout the centuries of the life of the Church, the Saints and the Holy Fathers have always encouraged us to go to the Blessed Virgin Mary in every need. Indeed, the Church herself goes to the the Mother of God in every need, repeatedly handing over to Her all that threatens the Church, the common good of poor humanity, and the world and her nations. It is for this very reason that so many nations are consecrated specifically to the Mother of God.

Saint Pio, in the words quoted at the top of this page, encourages us to place everything in the hands of Mary, particularly through the devout recitation of the holy Rosary. For Saint Pio, these were not mere words – rather, they were the lesson he lived out every day of his (very holy) life; so much so that he had a Rosary in his hand almost constantly.

Saint John Macias, living several centuries ago, did similarly. He gave absolutely everything over to the Blessed Virgin, placing all his causes in Her hands. She never failed him. And Saint Louis de Montfort, a great Marian Priest and scholar, wrote so muchn and so often about giving everything to the Mother of God and what would result from doing so. He wrote –

“Being the sure means and the straight and immaculate way to go to Jesus Christ, and to find Him perfectly, it is by Her that the holy souls, who are to shine forth especially in sanctity, have to find Our Lord. He who shall find Mary shall find life; that is, Jesus Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.. they will know the grandeurs of that Queen, will consecrate themselves entirely to Her service, as subjects and slaves of love. They will experience Her sweetness and Her maternal goodness, and they will love Her tenderly like well-beloved children. They will know the mercies of which She is full, and the need they have of Her succour; and they will have recourse to Her in all things, as to their dear advocate and mediatrix with Jesus Christ.. and they will deliver themselves to Mary, body and soul, without reserve, that they may thus be all for Jesus Christ.” (‘Treatise On The True Devotion’, n.50 and 55)

The great Marian Pope of our times, Saint John Paul II, had much to say on this theme of giving everything to Mary – he referred to it as ‘entrustment’ to Her. And our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke about this sense of entrustment yesterday, on the feast of Mary, Mother of God. He said –

“Woman of salvation, to You we entrust this year. Keep it in Your Heart. We acclaim You, the Holy Mother of God.”

The prayer of the Rosary is a great means of giving everything that is important to us, to Mary – whether our joys, our sorrows, our hopes, our fears, those dearest to us, or our very selves; in short, our lives and all they contain.

In this quiet and repetitive praying of the Rosary, we lose ourselves to some extent, since we focus our mind and our heart on the Mother of God and Her Son, by looking carefully and prayerfully at the events of Their lives. In these events, we see that Our Lady shared so very many of the concerns which presently concern us; we see Her life of complete trust in the mercy and the grace of God, from the Crib to the Cross and beyond. And in our prayer, we follow closely the example of this Woman who “treasured all these things and pondered them in Her Heart” (Lk.2:19).

Pope Saint Paul VI said that “true devotion to the Most Holy Mary reflects Her virtues” – and in praying the Rosary, this becomes easier, since we are prayerfully examining those very virtues. And not only once, but day after day after day, until the lessons of the Mysteries of the Rosary take firm root within us, that we might begin to live them out and ever more perfectly reflect those virtues of Our Lady.

In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord enjoins us to “be perfect, as your Father in Heaven in perfect” (Mt.5:48). The greatest Saints of the Church have told us, over and over, that a marvellous way to do this is by following the example of the Mother of God – after all, none has ever achieved such a degree of sanctity as the Immaculate Virgin – this is what the poet William Wordsworth described when he called Her “our tainted nature’s solitary boast”

Over these past twenty centuries, the Popes and the Saints have constantly pointed us to Mary as our way of salvation, Her sole task being to bring us to Her Divine Son; and She herself constantly points us to the praying of Her Rosary, and for precisely the same reason.

Let us, then, take careful note of the clear direction being given to us; and through our praying of the holy Rosary, let us give and entrust ourselves to the holy Mother of God, that She might give us to Her Son, Our Lord.

A Heavenly Garden

A Heavenly Garden

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death..”

The Blessed Virgin Mary has a great many titles, each one representing some honour or some facet of Her motherly intercession on our behalf. She is the Ark of the Covenent, the House of Gold, the Help of Christians, the Refuge of Sinners, the Queen of Peace, the Queen of the Holy Rosary and much more besides.

Every single one of these glorious titles is like a heavenly rose offered in Her honour. However, there is one single title which surpasses them all and which is the fragrant garden in which all of those heavenly roses, the other titles, blossom and give forth their heavenly fragrance; and it is this title – Mother of God.

Everything else rests upon the foundation of this single title.

Mary is truly the Mother of God, because Her Son, Jesus Christ, is both true God and true Man in one divine Person. And in this sense, the title says more about the Lord than His Mother; He is the reason for everything She is. The Catechism tells us –

“Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. “This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death”; it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion..” (Catechism, para.964)

In their ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council expressed it in these words –

“The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. . . . She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ . . . since She has by Her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” (Lumen Gentium para.53)

And in a discourse given in November 1964, Pope St Paul VI very succintly said –

“Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”

And so, if Mary truly is the Mother of God and also our Mother, that places repsonsibilities upon Her; She has a duty of care toward each and every one of us, doing all in Her maternal power to help us to reach Heaven. However, it also places responsibilities upon us, Her children; we are obliged to honour Her as the Mother of God and as our Mother. And like any good child, this means we should go to Her in all our needs, with all the confidence of little children, certain that Her motherly love for us will never cease. She is the most loving and the most powerful advocate we have before the Lord, and She pleads for us to Him constantly and unceasingly. Perhaps She had some sense of this when, in the Gospel of Saint Luke, in praying Her ‘Magnificat’, She said –

“All generations will call Me blessed.”

The Church reminds us that –

“By Her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to His Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus She is a ‘preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church’; indeed, She is the ‘exemplary realization’ (typus) of the Church.. Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. ‘In a wholly singular way She cooperated by Her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of 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 . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” (Catechism, parae.967-969)

On this great solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, let us confidently approach this sweetest and most immaculate of mothers, with the full confidence of children, and place our own causes at Her feet, asking Her to present all of our needs to the Lord, Her Son.

 

 

Address of the Holy Father

Address of the Holy Father

“Today we invoke the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers.

O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to You we entrust this year. Keep it in Your Heart.”

– Pope Francis

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Wednesday, 1st January 2020


 

“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). Born of woman: Jesus came in this way. He did not appear in the world as an adult but, as the Gospel tells us, he was “conceived in the womb” (Lk 2;21). It was there that he made our humanity his own: day after day, month after month. In the womb of a woman, God and mankind are united, never to be separated again. Even now, in heaven, Jesus lives in the flesh that he took in his mother’s womb. In God, there is our human flesh!

On the first day of the year, we celebrate this nuptial union between God and mankind, inaugurated in the womb of a woman. In God, there will forever be our humanity and Mary will forever be the Mother of God. She is both woman and mother: this is what is essential. From her, a woman, salvation came forth and thus there is no salvation without a woman. In her, God was united to us, and if we want to unite ourselves to him, we must take the same path: through Mary, woman and mother. That is why we begin the year by celebrating Our Lady, the woman who wove the humanity of God. If we want to weave humanity into this our time, we need to start again from the woman.

Born of woman. The rebirth of humanity began from a woman. Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb. Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman. Humanity’s salvation came forth from the body of a woman: we can understand our degree of humanity by how we treat a woman’s body. How often are women’s bodies sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, of profiteering, of pornography, exploited like a canvas to be used. Yet women’s bodies must be freed from consumerism; they must be respected and honoured. Theirs is the most noble flesh in the world, for it conceived and brought to light the love that has saved us! In our day, too, motherhood is demeaned, because the only growth that interests us is economic growth. There are mothers who risk difficult journeys desperately seeking to give a better future to the fruit of their womb, yet are deemed redundant by people with full stomachs but hearts empty of love.

Born of woman. The Bible tells us that woman come onto the scene at the height of creation, as a summation of the entire created world. For she holds within herself the very purpose of creation: the generation and safekeeping of life, communion with all things, care for all things. So it is with the Mother of God in today’s Gospel. The text tells us, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). She kept all these things: joy at the birth of Jesus and sadness for the lack of hospitality shown in Bethlehem; the love of Joseph and the amazement of the shepherds; the promise and the uncertainty of the future. She took everything to heart, and in her heart, she put everything in its right place, even hardships and troubles. In her heart, she lovingly set all things in order and entrusted everything to God.

In the Gospel, Mary does this a second time: at the end of the hidden life of Jesus, we are told that “his mother kept all these things in her heart” (v. 51). This repetition makes us realize that “keeping in her heart” was not something nice that Our Lady did from time to time, but something habitual. Women typically take life to heart. Women show us that the meaning of life is not found in making things but in taking things to heart. Only those who see with the heart see things properly, because they know how to “look into” each person: to see a brother apart from his mistakes, a sister apart from her failings, hope amid difficulty. They see God in all persons and things.

As we begin this new year, let us ask ourselves: Do I know how to see with the heart? Do I know how to look at people with the heart? Do I take to heart the people with whom I live? Or do I tear them down by gossip? And above all, do I put the Lord at the centre of my heart, or other values, other interests, like advancement, riches, power? Only if we take life to heart will we know how to take care and overcome the indifference all around. So let us ask for the grace to live this year with the desire to take others to heart and to care for them. And if we want a better world, a world that will be a peaceful home and not a war field, may we take to heart the dignity of each woman. From a woman was born the Prince of peace. Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes. Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.

Born of woman. Jesus, newly born, was mirrored in the eyes of the woman, in the face of his mother. From her, he received his first caresses; with her, he exchanged the first smiles. With her began the revolution of tenderness. The Church, looking at the Baby Jesus, is called to continue that revolution. For she too, like Mary, is both woman and mother. The Church is woman and mother, and in Our Lady, she finds her distinctive traits. She sees Mary immaculate, and feels called to say no to sin and to worldliness. She sees Mary fruitful, and feels called to proclaim the Gospel and to give birth to it in people’s lives. She sees Mary a mother, and she feels called to receive every man and woman as a son or daughter.

In drawing close to Mary, the Church discovers herself, she finds her centre and her unity. The enemy of our human nature, the devil, seeks instead to divide, to highlight differences, ideologies, partisan thinking and parties. But we do not understand the Church if we regard her by starting with structures, programmes and trends, ideologies and functions. We may grasp something, but not the heart of the Church. Because the Church has a mother’s heart. And we, as her sons and daughters, invoke today the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers. O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to you we entrust this year. Keep it in your heart. We acclaim you, the Holy Mother of God. All together now, for three times, let us stand and acclaim the Lady, the Holy Mother of God. [with the assembly] Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God!

 


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