"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

Marian Spirituality

December 12 – FEAST OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

imagesThe feast in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated each year on December 12th.  Early on the morning of December 9th, 1531, a Native American peasant, Juan Diego, was walking on Tepeyac Hill (in the northern part of the present day Mexico City) when he saw a vision of a young woman who was surrounded by light.  She spoke to him in his native language, Nahuatl and identified herself as the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking that a church be built in her honour on that spot.

When Juan Diego told his story to the Bishop, he asked him to return to Tepeyac Hill to ask the Lady for a sign that would prove her identity.  The Blessed Virgin responded by asking Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of the hill (which was normally barren), even though it was already mid-December and not a time of year when many flowers would be in bloom.  There he found Castilian roses (which are not native to Mexico), and after he had gathered them up, the Virgin arranged them in his tilma (a poncho-like cloak made of cactus fibre).  When Juan Diego opened his cloak before the Bishop on December 12th, the flowers fell on the ground, and in their place was an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, miraculously imprinted on the fabric.  Since that time, many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady of Guadalupe and millions of Native Americans have been converted to the Catholic faith.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (begun in 1531; completed in 1709) is now the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destination in the world, and Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego as the first indigenous American saint in July, 2002.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is venerated as the Patron of the Americas and the Protectress of the Unborn.

Prayer for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe 

O God, Father of mercies, who placed your people under the singular protection of your Son’s most holy Mother, grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe may seek with ever more lively faith the progress of peoples in the ways of justice and of peace.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

–  Sharon van der Sloot

Novena in Honour of the Immaculate Conception – December 8th

December 8th marks the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the most important Marian Feast Days in the Church calendar.  On this day, we celebrate the fact that Mary was kept free from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception.  Although this belief was widely held from the earliest days of the Church, the doctrine was not formally pronounced (by Pope Pius IX) until 1854.  The proclamation read: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”1 

A novena is nine days of prayer that we make for a special occasion or intention.  It is a practice that originates in the nine days that the disciples and Mary spent in prayer between the day of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven and Pentecost Sunday.

The following Novena may be prayed in honour of the Immaculate Conception, beginning on November 29th and finishing on December 7th, the Vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Begin each day with the opening prayer, then pray the prayer from the appropriate day, and finish with the Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Immaculate Conception Novena2  

Opening Prayer

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, did prepare a worthy dwelling place for Your Son, we beseech You that, as by the foreseen death of this, Your Son, You did preserve Her from all stain, so too You would permit us, purified through Her intercession, to come unto You. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Day One

O most Holy Virgin, who was pleasing to the Lord and became His mother, immaculate in body and spirit, in faith and in love, look kindly on me as I implore your powerful intercession. O most Holy Mother, who by your blessed Immaculate Conception, from the first moment of your conception did crush the head of the enemy, receive our prayers as we implore you to present at the throne of God the favour we now request… (State your intention here…) O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Day Two

O Mary, ever blessed Virgin, Mother of God, Queen of angels and of saints, we salute you with the most profound veneration and filial devotion as we contemplate your holy Immaculate Conception, We thank you for your maternal protection and for the many blessings that we have received through your wondrous mercy and most powerful intercession. In all our necessities we have recourse to you with unbounded confidence. O Mother of Mercy, we beseech you now to hear our prayer and to obtain for us of your Divine Son the favour that we so earnestly request in this novena… (State your intention here…) O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Day Three

O Blessed Virgin Mary, glory of the Christian people, joy of the universal Church and Mother of Our Lord, speak for us to the Heart of Jesus, who is your Son and our brother. O Mary, who by your holy Immaculate Conception did enter the world free from stain, in your mercy obtain for us from Jesus the special favour which we now so earnestly seek… (State your intention here…) O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen. 

Day Four

O Mary, Mother of God, endowed in your glorious Immaculate Conception with the fullness of grace; unique among women in that you are both mother and virgin; Mother of Christ and Virgin of Christ, we ask you to look down with a tender heart from your throne and listen to our prayers as we earnestly ask that you obtain for us the favour for which we now plead… (State your intention here…) O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Day Five

O Lord, who, by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, did prepare a fitting dwelling for your Son, we beseech you that as by the foreseen death of your Son, you did preserve her from all stain of sin, grant that through her intercession, we may be favoured with the granting of the grace that we seek for at this time… (State your intention here…)
O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Day Six

Glorious and immortal Queen of Heaven, we profess our firm belief in your Immaculate Conception preordained for you in the merits of your Divine Son. We rejoice with you in your Immaculate Conception. To the one ever-reigning God, blessed Immaculate Conception. O Mother of the Word made Flesh, listen to our petition as we ask this special grace during this novena… (State your intention here…) O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Day Seven

O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, and my mother, from the sublime heights of your dignity turn your merciful eyes upon me while I, full of confidence in your bounty and keeping in mind your Immaculate Conception and fully conscious of your power, beg of you to come to our aid and ask your Divine Son to grant the favour we earnestly seek in this novena… if it be beneficial for our immortal souls and the souls for whom we pray… (State your intention here…) O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Day Eight

O Most gracious Virgin Mary, beloved Mother of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, intercede with him for us that we be granted the favour which we petition for so earnestly in this novena…O Mother of the Word Incarnate, we feel animated with confidence that your prayers in our behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God. O Glorious Mother of God, in memory of your joyous Immaculate Conception, hear our prayers and obtain for us our petitions… (State your intention here…) O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Day Nine

O Mother of the King of the Universe, most perfect member of the human race, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast,” we turn to you as mother, advocate, and mediatrix. O Holy Mary, assist us in our present necessity. By your Immaculate Conception, O Mary conceived without sin, we humbly beseech you from the bottom of our heart to intercede for us with your Divine Son and ask that we be granted the favour for which we now plead… (State your intention here…) O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.

Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the World, have mercy on us.

God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us

Holy Mother of God, pray for us

Holy Virgin of virgins, …

Mother of Christ, …

Mother of Divine Grace, …

Mother most pure, …

Mother most chaste, …

Mother inviolate, …

Mother undefiled, …

Mother most amiable, …

Mother most admirable, …

Mother of good counsel, …

Mother of our Creator, …

Mother of our Saviour, …

Virgin most prudent, …

Virgin most venerable, …

Virgin most renowned, …

Virgin most powerful, …

Virgin most merciful, …

Virgin most faithful, …

Mirror of justice, …

Seat of wisdom, …

Cause of our joy, …

Spiritual vessel, …

Vessel of honour, …

Singular vessel of devotion, …

Mystical rose, …

Tower of David, …

Tower of ivory, …

House of gold, …

Ark of the covenant, …

Gate of heaven, …

Morning star, …

Health of the sick, …

Refuge of sinners, …

Comforter of the afflicted, …

Help of Christians, …

Queen of Angels, …

Queen of Patriarchs, …

Queen of Prophets, …

Queen of Apostles, …

Queen of Martyrs, …

Queen of Confessors, …

Queen of Virgins, …

Queen of all Saints, …

Queen conceived without original sin, …

Queen assumed into heaven, …

Queen of the most holy Rosary, …

Queen of Peace, …

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us,

O Lord, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us,

O Lord, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Grant we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we, Thy servants, may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body:  and, by the glorious intercession of the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enjoy eternal gladness.  Through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

1 Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus (God Ineffable), December 8, 1854; quoted in CCC, 491.

2 Immaculate Conception Novena; EWTN Global Catholic Network; Internet; accessed 29 November 2012;http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/novena/immaculate.htm.

October: Month of the Most Holy Rosary

A Journey into the Heart of Christian Meditation 

The month of October is set aside for devotion to the Holy Rosary, a prayer whose origins date back to the second century.  Revived in the 13th century by St. Dominic (founder of the order of the Dominicans), the practice of praying the Rosary began to spread in the 15th century and was officially approved by St. Pius V in 1569.  In Medieval times, praying the Rosary was a way to imitate the monastic practice of praying the 150 Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours each day.  Because many lay people were unable to read, they substituted Ave Marias (“Hail Marys”) for the words of the Psalms.

If you have never prayed the Rosary before, you may be wondering whether repeating so many Hail Marys, one after the other, could possibly be anything more than a dry and boring exercise.  Far from it!  The Rosary is a simple, meditative prayer in which we reflect on the life, suffering, and Resurrection of Jesus, contemplating the face of Christ through the heart of Mary. Pope Paul VI explained,

“Without [contemplation] the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas and of going counter to the warning of Christ: ‘And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are unfolded.”1

In an increasingly busy and noise filled world, more and more people are turning to non-Christian methods of meditation as a way to calm their hearts and minds.  However, in seeking out something “new” to satisfy the longings of their hearts, many are unaware of the authentic and lasting peace that can be experienced by all who pray the Rosary; it is a treasure of incalculable worth!  When we pray the Rosary, abundant graces and blessings flow to us from God through the hands of our Blessed Mother (as well as to those for whom we pray).

How does Christian meditation differ from other forms of meditation?  Where non-Christian meditation practices aim at emptying the mind of thoughts and images in order to calm the mind and relax the body, the Rosary (as well as other forms of Christian meditation such as Lectio Divina) engages our thoughts, our imaginations, our emotions, and our desires.  It is always a lifting up of our hearts and minds to God in order to find that place of peace, a means to go beyond ourselves in order to discover God.

The ultimate goal of all Christian meditation is to help us to know Jesus better and to bring us to union with Him.  What sets the Rosary apart from other types of Christian meditation is that through this devotion, we seek to imitate Christ who entrusted His human person to Mary.  When we pray the Rosary and ask for Mary’s intercession, like Jesus, we entrust ourselves to her care and place ourselves in the shelter of her loving, protective mantle. 

Christian spirituality is distinguished by our commitment to become more like Jesus each day, to meditate on His life and teachings so that we can be transformed and strengthened through the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.  This flight from self in order to become more like Christ ensures that our meditation does not degenerate into a form of self-absorption.  Instead, meditations such as the Rosary fill our minds and hearts with thoughts of the divine and take us up into something greater than ourselves.  Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Rosary is simply a method of contemplation.  As a method, it serves as a means to an end and cannot become an end in itself.”2 The end that we seek is communion with God, the source of all authentic and lasting peace and the author of our Salvation.

For more information on how to pray the Rosary, please click on the link: How To Pray the Rosary. 

Did you know?

The word ‘Rosary’ comes from the Latin word, rosarium, which means ‘rose garden’ or ‘garland of roses’, and we use it to refer both to the words of this Marian prayer as well as to the prayer beads that we often use when we recite it.  The rose is one of the flowers used to symbolize the Virgin Mary, and as we pray the Rosary, it is as though we offer our Blessed Mother a spiritual bouquet of roses.  Although Marian in character, at heart, the Rosary is a prayer centered on Christ. Its purpose is to help lead us to “contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.”3

The “Hail Mary” is a prayer based in Scripture.  It begins with the greeting spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel at the time of the Annunciation: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28), and continues with the greeting spoken to her by her relative, St. Elizabeth: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus” (Lk 1:42).  The Hail Mary finishes with the words, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”  With these words, we affirm our belief that Mary is holy because she is the vessel who carried Christ in her womb.  Because Jesus is God, it logically follows that Mary, as Mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God.  Why do we ask Mary to pray for us?  In the same way that we might ask someone who is living to pray for us, we also ask those who are with Christ in Heaven to pray for us, and who better to ask to intercede on our behalf than His Mother!

–  Sharon van der Sloot

Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), 2 February 1974, 47; accessed 16 October 2012; available from Marialis Cultus.

Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary), 3, October, 2002, 28.  Accessed 16 October 2012; available from Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

Ibid., 1.

The Fifteen Promises of Mary to Christians Who Recite the Rosary

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
  4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only Son Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

(Given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan)

Imprimatur: Patrick J. Hayes, D.D. Archbishop of New York

September 15 – MEMORIAL OF OUR LADY OF SORROWS

The Church sets aside two days in the liturgical calendar to honor the Sorrows of Our Blessed Mother Mary: one on the Friday before Good Friday, and the other on September 15th, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  As we meditate on the Sorrows of Mary, we come to realize how difficult it is for us to comprehend the depth of suffering that she was called to bear during her life.  Fr. Lawrence Lovasik S.V.D. writes, It was not because she was the Mother of God that Mary could bear her sorrows, but because she saw things from His point of view and not from her own – or rather, she had made His point of view hers.”1

The Divine perspective is one that is at once both supernatural and eternal.  In Jesus’ eyes, the Cross was not a cause for scandal but a reason for joy.  His suffering and Death, which He freely accepted, was the necessary price of our Salvation and the means of His Resurrection.  Jesus’ point of view is one that discovers the ultimate meaning and purpose of suffering in the triumph of love, a perspective that causes us to exclaim, “O happy fault, o necessary sin of Adam, that gained for us so great a Redeemer!”2

In today’s society, suffering is regarded as something that is negative, something that should be avoided at all costs.  However, there is a necessary connection between suffering and love; we cannot have one without the other. Pope Benedict writes,

“Pain is part of being human.  Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.

“When we know that the way of love – this exodus, this going out of oneself – is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature.  Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human.  Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he becomes hard and selfish …

“If we say that suffering is the inner side of love, we then also understand why it is so important to learn how to suffer – and why, conversely, the avoidance of suffering renders someone unfit to cope with life.  He would be left with an existential emptiness, which could then only be combined with bitterness, with rejection, and no longer with any inner acceptance or progress toward maturity.”3

Although we will always be subject to pain and suffering as long as we live, we find in Mary not only a model of how to love and how to bear our sufferings, but also a Mother who is always ready to accompany us, who is always ready to shelter us in the protective folds of her mantle.  We need only reflect on Mary’s life to be certain that there is no suffering that we could ever experience that she does not understand or any sorrow that does not move her heart to compassion.  In embracing her own suffering with such love and humility, we find in Mary a model worthy of our reflection and our devotion, a Mother worthy of imitation.

Mary’s love for us is so great that it is deserving of our gratitude, and we can show that gratitude by meditating on and pitying her in her sorrows.  In a mystical vision of Our Lady, it was revealed to St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373) that seven graces are granted to souls who honor Mary daily by saying seven Hail Mary’s and meditating on her tears and sorrows.  In the vision, Mary said:

“I look around at all who are on earth, to see if by chance there are any who pity Me, and meditate upon My sorrows; and I find that there are very few.  Therefore, My daughter, though I am forgotten by many, at least do you not forget Me; consider My anguish, and imitate, as far as you can, My grief.”4 

Closing Prayer:

Mother of Sorrow, You who held Jesus in your arms, please intercede with your Divine Son on our behalf.  Ask Him to help us to know one another better; to forgive one another more readily; to love one another more deeply.  Mother of all mankind, inspire us to travel without falter along that road at the end of which, under the Fatherhood of God, there is true peace.  Amen.

–  Sharon van der Sloot

1Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., Treasury of Novenas (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co.,1986), 173.

2Exsultet from the Easter Vigil, Roman Missal.

3Pope Benedict XVI, God and the World (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), 322-323.

4St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1852; reprint, Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, 1982), 416.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

Although Mary endured many sorrows during her life that are not recorded for us in Scripture, there are seven sorrows that the Church proposes for our meditation.

  1. The first Sorrow is the prophecy of Simeon.  And Simeon blessed them [Mary and Joseph] and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed’” (Lk 2:34-355).
  2. The second Sorrow is the flight into Egypt.  “Now when they [the Wise Men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’”  (Mt 2:13).
  3. The third Sorrow is the loss of the Child Jesus in the temple.  “Now his parents [Mary and Joseph] went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.  And when he [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him” (Lk 2:41-45).
  4. The fourth Sorrow is the meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way to Calvary.  “Consider the meeting of the Son and the Mother, which took place on this journey.  Jesus and Mary looked at each other, and their looks became as so many arrows to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly.”  (St. Alphonsus di Liguori, The Way of the Cross6)
  5. The Fifth Sorrow is the Crucifixion.  “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (Jn 19:25).
  6. The Sixth Sorrow is Mary receiving the Body of Jesus in her arms.  “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.  He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.  And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud” (Mt 27:57-59).
  7. And finally, the Seventh Sorrow is the burial of Jesus.  In the normal course of life, we do not expect that children will die before their parents, yet Mary was not preserved from this sorrow: “They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.  Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid.  So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there” (Jn 19:40-42).

5Scriptural quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition (RSV-CE).

6St. Alphonsus di Liguori, The Way of the Cross, accessed 12 September, 2012; available fromhttp://www.feastofsaints.com/wayofcrossalph.htm; Internet.

 

Stabat Mater (The Mother was Standing)

The Stabat Mater, which dates back to the 13th century, is considered one of the greatest Latin hymns of all time.  Although we are uncertain as to who wrote the words, they are a beautiful reflection on the sufferings of Our Blessed Mother.  The Stabat Mater has been sung at the liturgy on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows since 1727.

At the Cross her station keeping,

Stood the mournful Mother weeping,

Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,

All His bitter anguish bearing,

Now at length the sword had passed.

Oh, how sad and sore distressed

Was that Mother highly blessed

Of the sole begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,

She beneath beholds the pangs

Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,

‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,

Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain

From partaking in the pain,

In that Mother’s pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,

She beheld her tender Child,

All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation

Saw Him hang in desolation

Till His Spirit forth He sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,

Touch my spirit from above,

Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;

Make my soul to glow and melt

With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,

In my heart each wound renew

Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you His pain,

Who for all our sins was slain,

Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,

Mourning Him who mourned for me,

All the days that I may live.

By the Cross with you to stay,

There with you to weep and pray,

Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!

Listen to my fond request:

Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,

In my body bear the death

Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with His every wound,

Steep my soul till it has swooned

In His very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,

Lest in flames I burn and die,

In His awful judgment day.

Christ, when You shall call me hence,

Be Your Mother my defense,

Be Your Cross my victory.

While my body here decays,

May my soul Your goodness praise,

Safe in heaven eternally.

Amen.  (Alleluia)

September 8 – THE NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

On September 8th, the Church celebrates the Feast Day of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  If we look back in the liturgical calendar, we will see that this date falls exactly nine months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which we observe each December 8th.  As a rule, the Church celebrates the births of the Saints on the day that they begin their lives with our Lord in eternity, not on the day of their earthly births.  The reason for this is that we cannot know whether we will have remained faithful to our Lord until our earthly lives have come to a final end.  We do commemorate the end of Mary’s earthly life on August 15th, The Feast of the Assumption.  Why, then, do we also celebrate her birth?

There are actually three exceptions to the Church’s “birthday rule”: we celebrate the earthly births of John the Baptist on June 24th, the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th, and the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, on Christmas Day, December 25th.  The Dictionary of Mary explains: “The reason [that we celebrate the births of St. John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary] is not found primarily in the greatness or the privileges of the persons involved but in the singular mission that was theirs in the History of Salvation.”1 In other words, both John the Baptist and Mary have a direct relationship with the coming of Jesus into the world, and because of this, their births take on a significance that transcends their own persons.2   The birth of Mary prepares the way for the birth of Christ.  She is the bridge between the Old and the New Testaments, marking an end to the time of waiting and expectation.  Because Mary agreed to become the Mother of Jesus, the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled, and she became the vehicle through which a new era of grace and the hope of Salvation were ushered into the world.

Scripture gives us no information about the birth of Mary or even the names of her parents.  What little we do know comes to us from the Protevangelium of James, an apocryphal Gospel that dates back to the end of the 2nd century.  Here we read that Mary’s parents were Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, and that the birth of their daughter, Mary, was an answer to the prayers of these elderly parents who had been barren for many years before she was born.  St. Joachim belonged to the royal family of David and St. Anne belonged to the priestly tribe of Aaron; in this way, Jesus would be born of both a royal and a priestly family.3

Pope John Paul II writes, “The Mother of Christ … is given as mother to every single individual and all mankind.”4  We therefore celebrate Mary’s birthday as that of our own Mother, a Mother conceived without sin in order to bear Christ into the world, a Mother who continues to intercede for us in heaven today.

Collect (from the Roman Missal):

Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord, 
the gift of heavenly grace, 
that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
may bring deeper peace
to those for whom the birth of her Son
was the dawning of salvation. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

1 A. Valentini, “Birth of Mary,” EWTN; quoted from Dictionary of Mary (NY: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1985); accessed September 4, 2012; available from http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/MARYBRTH.HTM; Internet.  Emphasis added.

2Cf. Ibid.

3 Catholic Encyclopedia: “The Birth of Mary”; cf. Aug., Consens. Evang., l. II, c. 2; accessed September 4, 2012; available from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15464b.htm; Internet.

4Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), 1987.

–  Sharon van der Sloot

August 15 – THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

August 15th marks the Feast Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The Church teaches that “The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”  (CCC, 966)  To listen to a short homily on the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, check out the following link: The Assumption of Mary; “Star of the Sea

–  Sharon van der Sloot