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The Thorns in Her Heart

The Thorns in Her Heart

“Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment; and there is no-one to make an act of reparation to remove them”

– Our Lord to Sister Lucia of Fatima

One of the most painful things a child can hear is for a loving parent to express disappointment; to feel we have in some way let down the one who loves us, and whom we love in return, is a heavy burden upon the heart. It is far worse than a parent simply being angry with us – anger usually passes quickly, once the emotions cool down and rational thought returns. Disappointment, however, tends to linger – it is not the result of a single moment, but a realisation whose cut ever deepens as the moments pass. It is a wound upon not one heart, but two.

How much worse, then, when the one complaining to us is none other than the Lord – and the Heart to which He refers, the wounded Heart, is that of His own Mother. I can only begin to imagine how painful it must have been for Sister Lucia to listen to this pitiful complaint from the Lord. Sister Lucia was deeply devoted to the Lord and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the events at Fatima in 1917 instilling within her a love of that Immaculate Heart which would remain with her in every moment of her earthly life.

Of course, the words of the Lord regarding this wounding of the Heart of His Mother are really addressed to every single one of us – to those of us who profess to love Him and the Blessed Virgin; to those of us who have no sense of love towards Them; to those of us who – directly or indirectly, deliberately or without thinking, offend Them in whatever way by our sins.

Every sin is a thorn piercing the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Why? Because She knows full well the price Her Son paid for our ransom from those sins. It cost Him everything, giving His life for us upon the Cross; and She stood there beside that Cross and watched Him die for us. As surely as His Sacred Heart was pierced by the lance in the order of nature, so was Her Immaculate Heart pierced by the sword of sorrow in the order of grace, such was Her mystical union to His Passion and Death.

Coming to Lucia in 1925, the Blessed Virgin complained of the offences committed against Her Immaculate Heart –

“Look, My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude.”

Returning four years later, She would say to Lucia –

“There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me, that I have come to ask reparation; sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.”

How then, are we to make reparation to this motherly and Immaculate Heart, so outraged by the sins of humanity?

The full message of Fatima gives us the answer.

Firstly, we need to stop offending God, recognising that our sins gravely offend His holiness. We need to improve the way we live, so that our lives reflect our belief in God and the values of the Gospel. Our Blessed Lady will help us in this, if we ask her assistance.

Secondly, we need to live a sacramental life – making frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion as often (and as worthily) as possible.

Thirdly, we need to pray as much (and as well) as possible. Prayer is the key that unlocks the Heart of God, the bridge that connects the human to the Divine. Above all, pray the Rosary every single day – the prayer of the Rosary is unbelievably powerful; this is why the Mother of God constantly asks us for it’s prayerful recitation.

Fourthly, we need to adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament – follow the example of Saint Francisco, who spent hours before the Tabernacle, praying hard for souls. In Eucharistic Adoration, the Lord grants us innumerable graces – for us and for others.

Fifthly, we need to expressly make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – sins comitted against Her are the cause of the loss of a great many souls. We also need to encourage others, by our example, to come to Her, to know her better and to love Her with the pure love of little children. She has already given us the particular way She recommends in order to do this – the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. Undertake this devotion over and over again.

Sixthly, we need to embrace our particular lives, and the daily duty this demands, as a path to holiness; it is where we are, that we will find the way to Heaven, for here the Lord has prepared for us all the graces we need. Offer everything as a sacrifice in reparation for sins and to beg God’s mercy and grace for souls, and especially for poor sinners – that is, every single one of us.

In doing all of this, day after day, in humility and with great love, may the Lord bless us and may His Mother grant us the sure refuge of Her Immaculate Heart in life and at the moment of death.

 

 

The Pierced Heart

The Pierced Heart

“God our Father, when Jesus, Your Son, was raised up on the Cross, it was Your will that Mary, His Mother, should stand there and suffer with Him in Her Heart..”

– Concluding Prayer of the Office of Our Lady of Sorrows

Sorrow and suffering are strange things. Amongst many effects, they leave us believing that we are truly alone in our grief – that no-one could have suffered as we have, that no-one could understand our suffering. This is not the case at all, needless to say. Sorrow, sadness, suffering, grief – these are the common lot of all people, and none is immune from their sting. And it is for this reason that we empathise when we see another person suffering or grieving; we understand that pain they are now subject to, for we have shared it.

Thinking of the Mother of God, it can be tempting to think Her life was a blessed one – and while it most certainly was, this does not mean it was free of suffering. On the contrary, She suffered enormously, for it was the will of God that She should take part in a mystical way in the Passion of Her Son, over and above the normal human suffering Her Heart felt at watching Her Son die on the Cross.

Because of this, the Mother of God is the one we should turn to when we are beset by suffering or grief or loss or adversity – She understands our pain all too well. Her Immaculate Heart is thoroughly pierced by the Sword of Sorrow, as Simeon prophesied it would be.

Empathy is curious; it doesn’t actually make things any better in a real sense, but the simple realisation that another person understands is, in itself, a blessing. And so it is when we turn to Mary. And beyond simple empathy, She obtains for us the graces we need to bear our trials with fortitude and with courage, supported always by the gift of our Faith.

This faith gives our suffering both meaning and value. Like Her own sufferings at the foot of the Cross, ours – when united to the Passion of the Lord – assume a redemptive quality. God can make use of the sufferings we offer to Him with a humble heart; these sufferings can help to sanctify us, because we learn important lessons within them; and they can help to sanctify others, by meriting divine grace on their behalf.

If this were not the case, then the Cross would be worthless, achieving nothing – and that could not be further from the truth. It is by the Cross that we are saved.

Mary has a very specific and singular role within that plan of salvation – and we do, too. And our suffering is the key that unlocks a treasury of divine grace, if only we will allow it to do so.

 

A Morning Offering

A Morning Offering

“Blessed be the Lord, Who has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield, in Whom my heart trusts. I am helped, so my heart rejoices; with my song, I praise Him.”

– Psalm 28:6-7

As Christians, we have a duty to pray, for prayer is the bridge that takes us to the Lord and which invites Him to come to us. One of the best ways to pray is through the Liturgy Of The Hours, which is the official prayer of the Church (you can read more about this on our sister site, Most Merciful Jesus, by clicking here). However, the Hours require disipline and time and familiarity. The intention behind praying the Hours is to sanctify the entire day. So is there anything else we can do?

Perhaps one of the most simple suggestions is to get into the habit of making a Morning Offering.

A morning offering takes only seconds to pray. And yet, despite it’s brevity, it begins the sanctification of both ourselves and of our day, by lifting our hearts,  minds and wills to the Lord and conscisously giving Him all the new day will contain. Also, because we renew our offering every morning, the practice of prayer quietly begins to take hold of our souls. This little prayer given to the Lord each day will certainly draw down divine grace from Heaven and little by little, the process of sanctification will have begun to mould us.

What should our morning offering contain?

It should recognise our complete dependence upon the Lord – this, after all, is the primary reason for making such a prayer. It should refer to our own needs in the day beginning, as well as the needs of others – high on our list of priorities should be the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church. together with the Holy Father, who leads and governs the Church. It is salutary, too, to have a particular intention in praying – perhaps it is helpful to be mindful of our mortality and our sinfulness, offering our prayer in penance. This sense of reparation or penance should not stop at ourselves but should encompass those who are in greatest need – poor sinners, the dying and the Holy Souls; and, by extension, it is fruitful to remember the entire world. All of this should, of course, be offered in union with the holy Mother of God, for Her prayers enormously strengthen ours and give them great weight before the Lord.

There are numerous versions of the Morning Offering available in prayer books, online and by personal recommendation. My personal version follows here – it covers the points made here and is broadly similar to most others. Perhaps it will give you a starting point – but feel free to adapt or to write your own.

 

Most Merciful Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You all my thoughts, words, deeds, prayers, joys, sacrifices and sufferings of this day –

– for all the intentions of Your Most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary;
– in penance for my sins and the sins of all the world, and for the conversion of sinners;
– for the dying, especially the least prepared and all who will die this day;
– for the Holy Souls in Purgatory;
– for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and for all his intentions;
– for the Bishops and Priests;
– and for the sanctification of Your Church;
– and to beg Your mercy for all the world.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us, for we place all our trust in You.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us; be our refuge and the way that will lead us to God.

The Light Of A Candle

The Light Of A Candle

“As our whole perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ, it follows that the most perfect of all devotions is clearly the one which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, as Mary is of all creatures the most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that of all devotions, the one that most consecrates and conforms a soul to Our Lord, is the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, His holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to Mary, the more it will be consecrated to Jesus Christ.”

St Louis Marie de Montfort

‘Treatise On The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary’, n.120

Recently, an online acquaintance messaged me about the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, in response to my noting that I would ask Her prayers. He asked why I would do so, adding that his preference is to go straight to the Lord rather than to Him by way of His Mother. He is not Catholic and so it was difficult to explain the theology behind my position in a short reply. I said simply that this is what the Lord intended when, upon the Cross, He gave His Mother to us with the words addressed to Saint John – ‘Behold thy Mother’.

Two things occurred to me afterwards.

The first thing that occurred to me is that we need to accept that much as we might like to be able to convert souls, to change minds and hearts, we are not always able to do so – not least of all because this is not within our power; only the grace of God can achieve this. St Bernadette once described herself as nothing more than a broom which the Lord used to sweep the floor, placing her back behind the door once the floor was swept. And she was right. We have a particular task to attend to, given us by the Lord – our job is to complete that task as perfectly as possible, expecting nothing back in return, and aware that we are nothing more than an instrument in His hands. And so at times like the moment described above, we should do what little we can in that moment, and leave the rest to God.

The second thing that occurred to me is that often, it is not our words which will bring about change in the heart of another – it is our example. People will forget what we may say to them, but they will remember what they see in us. A candle does not explain itself or it’s purpose – it simply provides light. When we see another acting in an authentic manner, their life reflecting clearly and with constancy what they profess to believe, then the grace of God may well act upon our hearts and effect change in one way or another. Perhaps this is what the Lord asks of us most often – not to say, but simply to be.

Conversely, to profess to live a Catholic or Christian life and to manifestly not do so, risks alienating those who look upon us or who listen to us. Simplicity, authenticity, charity, humility and interior poverty give out a very powerful and enticing message; they are like the roses in the garden which exude a pure perfume which we perceive even before we see the flower itself, and whose fragrance lingers with us long afterwards.

In being devoted to the Blessed Virgin, let us do so in a way that is quiet and simple and pure, in perfect conformity to the mind of the Church so that our devotion is authentically Catholic. And let this be the little flame which draws in others to share that heavenly light.

 

Our Everyday Acts

Our Everyday Acts

‘Our everyday acts, which are offered up in union with Mary, those acts which form the woof and warp of even the most humdrum existence – these can be made to surrender unspeakable spiritual worth for the salvation of souls and for the relief of the souls in Purgatory.”

– Fr Patrick Fannon, SMM

‘The Message of Montfort’

One of the primary desires of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, expressed very clearly at Fatima, is that we unite ourselves to Her and then offer up all we can in reparation for sins – our prayers, good works, penances, and daily duty.

These last two words – daily duty – are the key to a path of sanctity. 

It may be that we read the lives of the Saints and all the great things they achieved in their lives, often against seemingly insurmountable obstacles – and then fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to them and, as a result, doing very little to imitate the example they give us.

Thankfully, many of these same Saints remind us of an important truth – our path to sanctity lies in the life we are presently living, in the things we are presently doing, in the relationships we are presently a part of. It is in the humdrum of our every day life that we are given so many graces and numerous opportunities to advance along the way of holiness.

In other words, we do not necessarily need to be in a cloister or convent, or in a far off land, in order to seek God’s will for us. For the majority, the way of holiness is in the office, the school, the home, the kitchen – it is where we are right now. And in this present moment, the Lord gives us all we need.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is a good example of this truth – She who was to become the Mother of God did not live in a palace but in a simple home; tradition tells us that She had very little of material worth, but what She did have, She used for the glory of God. She sanctified Her life by the grace of God in precisely the place where He had put Her – the home.

On First Saturdays such as today, the Five First Saturdays devotion reminds us of this – that we are called to sanctity wherever we may happen to be, using what is around us to do the will of God, giving all out of love for Him and for His Mother.

She, in turn, promises us Her maternal assistance and intercession.

And if we do all this well and to the best of our ability, with constancy and with perseverance, then what is at first a devotion on one single day each month, will gradually take root in our souls and become a part of who we are and a mark of that path of sanctity upon which we walk.

 

Lead Kindly Light

Lead Kindly Light

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to pray in the private Oratory of Cardinal John Henry Newman, at Oriel College in Oxford.

The tiny Oratory is immediately behind the pipe organ of the College Chapel, out of sight of prying eyes. Very simple, it contains only a small table upon which sits a brass Crucifix and two candleticks, a wooden chair, and an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging on the ancient stone wall.

The hidden Oratory offers a pleasing view across the main quad of Oriel College, but leaving the viewer hidden unless you look very carefully.

Cardinal Newman is famous as part of the ‘Oxford Movement’ and because of his desire to re-Christianise England in the 1800s, and then for founding the Birmingham Oratory. Originally an Anglican Priest, he would later decide  – following years of study – that the Catholic Church was the closest he could find to the original Christian community at the time of Jesus and in the years immediately following Him. Ever a man in search of Truth, he was conditionally baptised a Catholic, later becoming a Priest and eventually created a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.

In 1833, Newman wrote the hymn (originally as a poem) ‘Lead, Kindly Light’  and the words of the first verse are painted on one of the windows of his Oratory at Oriel College –

“Lead, kindly light, amid th’ encircling gloom,
lead Thou me on
the night is dark and I am far away from home
lead Thou me on
keep Thou my feet, I do not look to see
the distant scene, one step enough for me..”

Those words, sung thousands of times since they were first written, express a great sense of trust in the Lord – and for Newman, there were many occasions during his life where all he could do was trust the Lord, surrendering everything to Him and aware that everything is a part of His greater plan. Later in his life, in his work entitled ‘Purity And Love’, Newman wrote –

“Such are the means which God has provided for the creation of the saint out of the sinner; He takes him as he is, and uses him against himself; He turns his affections into another channel.. it is the very triumph of His grace, that He enters into the heart of man, and persuades it, and prevails with it, while He changes it.”

This little Oratory is the place where some of the first great and far-reaching decisions were made by Newman, which would cuminate in his journey away from Oxford and many of his friends there, and also away from the Church of England, coming home to the Catholic Church. I wondered what thoughts went through his mind and entered into his prayers as he sat here, quietly and alone, and if he had any sense of where the journey which would begin there, would lead him.

Looking up at the icon of Mary on the wall facing him, I wonder if he asked Her help, and what relationship he had with Her. But I have no doubts about the graces She certainly obtained for him during his life.

On 13th October this year, his journey will reach it’s culmination – on that day, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, will declare Cardinal Newman a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

May he pray for us that we, too, might make a journey of our own in search of the same Truth.

(Main image: stained glass window in the Oratory at Oriel College, depicting Cardinal Newman)

Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary which hangs on the wall of the little Oratory inside the Chapel of Oriel College, Oxford

Portrait of Cardinal Newman which hangs in his little Oratory in the Chapel of Oriel College