The Magnificat Rosary Companion – Booklet Review

During the month of May we pay special honor to Mary. Perhaps, we even pick up those Rosary beads, which we haven’t touched in a while, and give them a go-around. Yet, when it’s been awhile, we can tend to forget how to say all the particular parts of the Rosary. The Magnificat Rosary Companion is here to assist you! This little booklet not only reminds you how to say the Rosary, it also offers meditations on each of the mysteries of the Rosary, accompanied by pictures of art from such masters as Fra Angelico, a 15th century Italian Renaissance fresco painter.

Whether it be the Joyous, Luminous, Sorrowful or Glorious Mysteries, each decade of the Rosary is accompanied by a meditation that places you back in time; experiencing the respective mystery anew. For example, in the second Luminous Mystery, we meditate on the Wedding Feast at Cana. As we read the meditation in The Magnificat Rosary Companion, we learn:

Our parched souls long for ultimate treasures: peace, purpose, meaning, fulfillment, happiness. Yet, the more we drink in the things of the world, the more we remain wrung out, depleted and defeated. Only in Jesus can we imbibe what satisfies our infinite desires. Mary, the Fountain of Hope, leads us to her Son, “the Fountain of all Holiness.”

Rich in content, this booklet will aide you in developing a good habit of saying the Rosary more regularly. Rather than mere recitation (vocal prayer), this booklet enables you to develop your skills when it comes to meditative prayer. The Magnificat Rosary Companion enhances your prayer time, by enabling you to think more deeply about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

If you would like to enhance your prayer time, then I highly recommend getting a copy of The Magnificat Rosary Companion. You can get your copy by clinking on this link.

Virginia Lieto teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online. She is the author of children’s book Finding Patience and blogs at www.virginialieto.com.

Why Consecrate to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

In celebration of 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, several bishops across the country have decided to consecrate their dioceses to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  This act might leave some people scratching their heads, wondering “What good will that do?” or shrugging their shoulders saying “That’s nice. What’s the NFL schedule that day?”

But if our eyes and hearts are opened to God’s wisdom, we will see that this consecration is the most powerful aid that a diocese could receive.  Marian consecration makes all the difference in the world!

“My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”  This is what Our Lady said to Lucia dos Santos, one of the three seers of Fatima.  The Blessed Virgin told Lucia that Our Lord wished Lucia to spend her life promoting devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary so that humanity could avoid turmoil and suffering on earth and, more importantly, be guided to everlasting salvation in the arms of Christ.

But why would Our Lord request consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?  What does it all mean?

To consecrate yourself to someone is to give yourself, or, as St. Pope John Paul II would say, to “entrust” yourself entirely to someone.  Strictly speaking, we can only consecrate ourselves to God because we are His.  However, when the Church speaks of consecration to Mary, it means that we are giving ourselves to God through Mary.  St. Louis de Montfort, who was arguably the most famous promoter of Marian consecration (and the person from whom St. Pope John Paul II took his motto, Totus Tuus, “Totally Yours”), coined the phrase, “To Jesus through Mary!”

Mary’s relationship with her Son and with us is unique.  She is the woman who said “Yes” at the Annunciation, giving herself without reservation to the Father so that she could give her humanity to the Son, and she is the mother who stood at the foot of the cross, heartbroken, but freely offering her only beloved Son to God for all the world.  In return for this great sacrifice, God extended her divine maternity to include all of His adopted sons and daughters.  She is now Queen of the Universe, our Heavenly Mother and Advocate.

Mary’s life and Jesus’s life are uniquely intertwined for all eternity.  Her will is His will and, as mother of all God’s adopted sons and daughters, she has been entrusted with the formation of souls.  The Son entered the world through Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit and the world is drawn to the Son through Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Does it seem strange that God would choose to draw us to Himself through a creature?  While I would not pretend to be able to explain the great mysteries of God’s wisdom, I would point out that this seems to be the way that God works throughout history.  He comes to us through prophets, saints, objects like the burning bush, and the material elements of the sacraments.  We give ourselves to Him through the manmade words of prayers and hymns, acts of corporal and spiritual mercy, and reception of the sacraments.  God has always used the material realm to commune with His children who are of the material realm.  When we consider this, it does not seem so strange that He would commune with us through the Son’s Beloved Mother.

God created Our Lady with her special motherhood in mind.  This is why she was and is the Immaculate Conception—the one born without sin, who was, is and always shall be in communion with the Holy Trinity.  She shows us the glory of God’s plans for humanity and she is His greatest instrument for making those plans happen.

If our earthly parents, priests and teachers can form us in the faith, how much more can our Heavenly Mother whose heart and mind are perfected and whose life has always been so intimately intertwined with her Son’s do for our salvation?

This year, many are choosing to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  To the extent that we entrust ourselves to her motherly care and conform to her immaculate example, we will receive great graces.  We enter this consecration knowing that it is not magic.  There will still be times when we will falter and fail.  But we will persevere in faith, remembering that Our Lady of Fatima promised, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

Maura Hearden Fehlner teaches Mariology for Saint Joseph’s College Online. She and her husband Deacon John Fehlner are the founders of Light of Truth Ministries, a Catholic radio station broadcasting at 98.3 FM in Lake Placid, N.Y.

God love you!

The Venerable Fulton J. Sheen opened one of his New Year’s broadcasts with this greeting:

God love you! That is the way I shall conclude my broadcasts, and that is the way I shall begin them today. I want the first word on the air of this New Year to be God. It is God who makes us happy. It is Love, which makes old things new. It is you who count the years in terms of God’s abiding love. Combining all three we have “God love you,” which is but another way of saying, “Happy New Year.” —The Relevance of God

God is the author and the subject of every single day, and it is no coincidence that we devote to God the first day of the calendar year. You may scratch your head and say, “What do you mean?” January first is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. While God is mentioned, isn’t the New Year really about Mary?”

"Virgin of the Green Cushion, " by Andrea Solario, 16th century

“Virgin of the Green Cushion, ” by Andrea Solario, 16th century

Any Marian feast is about her Son, and specifically, about our salvation. For example, the Mysteries of the Rosary—Mary’s Prayer—are, essentially, a meditation on God’s salvific acts, of which His Mother is central.

What is it about Mary that makes her so special? Surely, her complete and unreserved surrender to God’s will makes her special, but we can point to many saints who, as Mother Teresa said, gave themselves to God in “Total Surrender.”

Catholics, however, acknowledge Mary to be above all saints because of her Immaculate Conception—conceived without sin. Catholics also admit that Mary, like any human being, is saved by the grace of God, but unlike us, God graced Mary in an inimitable and extraordinary manner, making her the first to be redeemed. Mary’s soul was transfigured into the image of Christ in this life; thus, for us, she becomes a compass of sorts, pointing true north to Heaven: “to Christ through Mary.”

Integral to her purity of heart and unreserved assent to God’s will, Mary gave us Christ’s human nature, and, above all, this is why we give Mary our highest honor above every great saint who ever lived. God could have redeemed us in any manner but, as Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us, the most fitting way was to become Incarnate: God-made-man. Because God shared in our lives, utterly and truly, we know that God wants us to share in His Life, that is, to be transformed into the image of His Divine Son. The Incarnation is the transfiguration of humanity. Saint Athanasius said, “God became man that man may become god,” that is, full of grace—divinized. Or, as Saint Paul put it, “It is no longer I who live but Christ in me.”

At heart, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, is about the Incarnation—about the human nature that she freely gave to her divine Son: “Let it be done to me according to Thy Will.” Christ is born of a woman, true man and true God, and this woman, Mary, is the Mother of God.

On January first, the Byzantine Rite and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite celebrate the Octave of the Nativity of our Lord, which is the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision. The Nativity of Christ is, of course, a Marian solemnity as well, for we never can view the baby’s birth apart from his mother. Noting Jesus’ circumcision on the eighth day (the octave), the Church unequivocally claims Christ’s human nature, truly born of a woman, and at his circumcision, our Lord bled for the first time. We cannot help but wonder at the stirrings in Mary’s maternal heart, as she heard her newborn Son cry in pain and shed His blood on the octave of His birth and as she pondered the magnitude of God’s love expressed in such a tiny and vulnerable vessel.

God love you!

Patricia Sodano Ireland is Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Program Director of Online Theology Programs at Saint Joseph’s College.

Mary’s Prophetic Witness as Our Model

Worth Revisiting Wednesday – This post originally appeared on September 10, 2014.

This work week begins with our September 8 liturgical celebration of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We may echo the words of her divine Son in the Gospel of John (18:37) and apply them to His Mother: the Virgin Mary came into the world to bear witness to the Truth, to Jesus Christ.  All who are on the side of truth listen to His voice—this is Mary’s directive to us, also: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

100_0107(rev 0)The Virgin Mary and her prophetic mission really resonate with today’s September 10 readings.  The first reading from 1 Corinthians begins with St. Paul’s reference to virgins and ends with his assertion that “the world in its present form is passing away.”  The Virgin Mary’s detachment from worldly attractions, and her focus on “what is above” (Colossians 3:1-2)—on embracing God’s will (Luke 1:38)—underscore the transiency of this world.  Today’s Responsorial Psalm, drawing from Psalm 45, addresses the “king’s daughter.”  The high Christological tone is obvious: the king above kings is God, and His God has anointed Him (45:7-8).  The name of the king’s daughter will be renowned through all generations (45:18): Mary’s Magnificat alludes to this—“from now on all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

The Blessed Virgin certainly embodies the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon on the Plain, imparted through the Gospel reading according to St. Luke.  Jesus tells us, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.”  Mary is blessed by being poor—materially poor, yes (e.g., Luke 2:24, offering the poor person’s sacrifice), but more importantly, spiritually poor, or humble.  She demonstrated her humility so profoundly by embracing God’s will in all things, including accepting the humbling, humiliating, and devastating circumstances that befell her.

Mary of Nazareth had to place her newborn Son in a manger because there was no room for the Holy Family in the inn.  She lived in the Nazarene community in which citizens—some of whom Mary probably knew quite well—rejected her only Son and disdained Him enough to try to hurl Him down the brow of the hill upon which Nazareth was built. (Luke 4:29).  Not too long afterward, the leaders of His own people delivered Him to betrayal, torture, and execution.  Mary was there.  She felt His pain and shared in His rejection.

The Virgin Mary fulfilled Simeon’s prophecy: “And a sword shall pierce your own soul, too” (Luke 2:35).  Simeon seems to prophesy about Mary in continuity with and in partial fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour out on the House of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  And they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a first-born son.” [This is my own translation from Biblical Hebrew into English.  Notice, from the Hebrew translation, the identity of the object pronoun—“they shall look upon me”!  Many translations change the pronoun from first masculine singular to third masculine singular.]  As Jesus, the first-born and prophesied Shepherd (Zechariah 13:7-9) is struck and pierced by the sword/lance as a sign of contradiction, so too Mary’s soul is pierced by the sword, metaphorically.  Her pain, in union with her Son, is emotional and spiritual.

In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude and insult you…on account of the Son of Man…your reward will be great in heaven!”  The Blessed Virgin exemplifies this blessed and exalted one of whom Jesus speaks.  Her fidelity and obedience to God’s will in her life is our standard for authentic discipleship and prophetic witness.  With the Virgin Mary’s example and powerful intercession for divine grace, we may be light in darkness, love in a world gone cold, setting the earth ablaze by the love of Christ!

Mark Koehne teaches moral theology for Saint Joseph’s College.

 

Finding Her Voice…Do Whatever He Tells You.

After the ferocious winter many of us have weathered, the arrival of Spring and this brilliant month of May has beckoned us outside to dig in the dirt, plant some new flowers, and blow the leaves away while thanking them for keeping the bushes and shrubs warm and protected through the dark, cold days of Winter. In the midst of this and as I gaze up at the glorious blueness of the sky, I find myself in a kind of reverie, remembering the blessings of my Faith and how much I love Our Lady, the Mother of God. It is a joy to remember that May is traditionally dedicated to her.

The first decade of my life was the beautiful Marian Era. To say that Mary, the Mother of God, was a constant presence would not be overstating my experience.   I was welcomed into this world the same year as the proclamation of the Assumption by His Holiness Pope Pius XII (Munificentissimus Deus). How profoundly appropriate to proclaim this mystery of faith on the feast of All Saints, November 1, 1950! Then, just a few years later, we observed the celebration of the centenary of the Immaculate Conception (Ineffabilis Deus) proclaimed by His Holiness Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854. As proud Americans, we claim Our Lady as our particular patron under her title of The Immaculate Conception and celebrate that partonal feast as a national Holy Day of Obligation on December 8th. Our Lady has been so much a part of my education and spiritual development. I was baptized at Our Lady of Peace; educated by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in elementary school at Our Lady of Charity School; and  high school from Notre Dame High which was proudly lead by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

There are so many reminders and observances that give our faith and its practice a special Marian sensibility. Some mistakenly believe that we Catholics are the only ones who revere and honor her. Although there may be a particular affection that we Roman Catholics demonstrate, we surely are not the only ones who love and honor her. Many Christian denominations do honor her and Moslems do as well. She is honored in the Holy Qur’an as the mother of the great prophet, Jesus.

While the so-called golden age of Marian Devotion may be a distant memory from my youth, there are happy signs of a renewal of Marian Devotion. Parishes, schools, RCIA programs, and religious education programs are encouraging May Processions, Novena Devotions, Marian art, Miraculous Medals, and of course, The Rosary.  His Holiness Pope Saint John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries in October of 2002, and helped many to rediscover this precious contemplative devotion. October is traditionally dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary and the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is celebrated on October 7th.

Some of the most magnificent architecture bears her name, for example the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Our own national basilica in Washington, D.C. is dedicated to her under title of The Immaculate Conception.  Even in the secular arena, we find her. No woman has had nearly the number of Time magazine covers. The first one was December 25, 1938 and the latest one on March 21, 2005. There are many, many postage stamps that honor her…(for sports fans, I don’t know if a “Hail Mary” pass or the “Immaculate Reception” counts) .

Finally, Mary, the Theotokos, the Mother of Jesus, is the recipient of so many titles that there are Litanies that list and celebrate her names. She must have been a powerful presence in the course of her earthly life. After all, she is such a presence in our faith, our spirituality now. One might expect that a person like that would have been a powerful speaker and while she may have been, her voice is curiously silent in Sacred Scripture. Surveying the New Testament we find her speaking only seven times, and some of those are different Gospels quoting the same words, while others are really Mary quoting the Old Testament (the Magnificat is Hannah’s Song of Praise).  I am reminded of the old expression that “Actions speak louder than words”. One can be heard without words.

The last time we hear her voice in Scripture is at the Wedding Feast of Cana when she turns to the wine steward and says, “Do whatever He tells you”. She always directs us to her son. She always tells us to follow him. For us Catholics, it is our joy to be directed by her to Jesus…Ad Jesu per Mariam (to Jesus though Mary).

Madonna of the StreetImages of Mary in sculpture, paintings, tapestries abound. I offer you two of my favorites that represent two distinct frames of reference in Marian Theology and they partner similar frames in Christology. The first is Our Lady of the Streets. She is so young and while quite ordinary, she is beautiful. She may be at prayer while she holds her sleeping child.   She repents a parallel to Christology from Below or Antiochene Christology which highlights Jesus’ Human Nature.

The second is the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. She is other worldly looking and provides a kind of throne for an alert older Jesus who is regal and who may in fact be speaking to an angel. This image depicts the Christology from Above or Alexandrian Christology which highlights Jesus’ Divine Nature. Marian Theologians argue that Marian Art should always show her OLPHwith the Son. Artists don’t always agree and certainly have produced some beautiful art in spite of the disagreement. The Bishops at the Second Vatican Council had their own version of this conversation when they had some difficulty deciding whether Mary should be treated in her own document or placed within the context of another. Of course, famously, the grace-filled compromise was to present her in Chapter VIII of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1965. This, I suggest, places her within the very heart of the Church. The title of the chapter expresses this so beautifully, “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church”.

I wish you a beautiful May, a happy Mothers’ Day and I close with the words of the oldest known prayer to Mary, The Sub Tuum.

We fly to thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions in our necessities and deliver us from all dangers, all Glorious and ever Blessed Virgin.

Susan O’Hara teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Mary’s Prophetic Witness as Our Model

100_0107(rev 0)This work week begins with our September 8 liturgical celebration of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We may echo the words of her divine Son in the Gospel of John (18:37) and apply them to His Mother: the Virgin Mary came into the world to bear witness to the Truth, to Jesus Christ. All who are on the side of truth listen to His voice—this is Mary’s directive to us, also: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

The Virgin Mary and her prophetic mission really resonate with today’s September 10 readings. The first reading from 1 Corinthians begins with St. Paul’s reference to virgins and ends with his assertion that “the world in its present form is passing away.” The Virgin Mary’s detachment from worldly attractions, and her focus on “what is above” (Colossians 3:1-2)—on embracing God’s will (Luke 1:38)—underscore the transiency of this world. Today’s Responsorial Psalm, drawing from Psalm 45, addresses the “king’s daughter.” The high Christological tone is obvious: the king above kings is God, and His God has anointed Him (45:7-8). The name of the king’s daughter will be renowned through all generations (45:18): Mary’s Magnificat alludes to this—“from now on all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

The Blessed Virgin certainly embodies the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon on the Plain, imparted through the Gospel reading according to St. Luke. Jesus tells us, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” Mary is blessed by being poor—materially poor, yes (e.g., Luke 2:24, offering the poor person’s sacrifice), but more importantly, spiritually poor, or humble. She demonstrated her humility so profoundly by embracing God’s will in all things, including accepting the humbling, humiliating, and devastating circumstances that befell her.

Mary of Nazareth had to place her newborn Son in a manger because there was no room for the Holy Family in the inn. She lived in the Nazarene community in which citizens—some of whom Mary probably knew quite well—rejected her only Son and disdained Him enough to try to hurl Him down the brow of the hill upon which Nazareth was built. (Luke 4:29). Not too long afterward, the leaders of His own people delivered Him to betrayal, torture, and execution. Mary was there. She felt His pain and shared in His rejection.

The Virgin Mary fulfilled Simeon’s prophecy: “And a sword shall pierce your own soul, too” (Luke 2:35). Simeon seems to prophesy about Mary in continuity with and in partial fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour out on the House of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. And they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a first-born son.” [This is my own translation from Biblical Hebrew into English. Notice, from the Hebrew translation, the identity of the object pronoun—“they shall look upon me”! Many translations change the pronoun from first masculine singular to third masculine singular.] As Jesus, the first-born and prophesied Shepherd (Zechariah 13:7-9) is struck and pierced by the sword/lance as a sign of contradiction, so too Mary’s soul is pierced by the sword, metaphorically. Her pain, in union with her Son, is emotional and spiritual.

In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude and insult you…on account of the Son of Man…your reward will be great in heaven!” The Blessed Virgin exemplifies this blessed and exalted one of whom Jesus speaks. Her fidelity and obedience to God’s will in her life is our standard for authentic discipleship and prophetic witness. With the Virgin Mary’s example and powerful intercession for divine grace, we may be light in darkness, love in a world gone cold, setting the earth ablaze by the love of Christ!

Mark Koehne teaches moral theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

All About Mary

Traditionally, the Catholic Church has called May “Mary’s month.” Many parishes have May processions and May crownings in which freshly picked flowers from spring gardens are placed at st100_0107(rev 0)atues of the Blessed Mother, and she is crowned with a wreath of flowers. Some people plant a “Mary garden” which features plants that are mentioned in the bible. The most obvious association of the month of May and Mary is, of course, the celebration of Mother’s Day. On this day as we honor all mothers, we honor also Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church.

Christ Bearers

This month, because of where we find ourselves in the 50 day celebration of the Easter season, we have one more way to celebrate the Marian character of our faith. As the church moves toward the celebration of the feast of Pentecost, our readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel are full of the first accounts of the Apostles telling the amazing story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The apostles are stepping up and giving shape to the small community of believers that will become the church. Here, we find Mary as well. When she could have so easily returned to Nazareth to live quietly after Jesus’ return to his Father, Mary stays with the Apostles. We see her practice a spiritual motherhood – comforting, nurturing and praying for the mission Jesus has entrusted to his followers. Just as she fulfilled the mission God entrusted to her, bearing his Son to the world, she nurtures the apostles and followers of Jesus’ mission to bear the Risen Christ to the world. The mission of the apostles becomes our mission. As Pope Francis likes to say, all the baptized are missionary disciples.

Missionary Disciples

We are most like Mary in that we, too, are called to bear Christ to the world. How? In the same way we see the Apostles doing it in this month’s Gospel readings. We have opportunities to share our love for Our Lord. If faith makes all the difference in our lives, how do we share that? Could our story be a source of good news for a friend or family member or colleague? The missionary impulse that comes alive in Jesus’ followers is one of hospitality. Like Mary, who after receiving her mission from God, went immediately to help her cousin Elizabeth, the Apostles immediately began inviting others into the life of the community, to be of service, to welcome all who were searching for an experience of God, of love and of fellowship.

Mary with ApostlesFor us followers of Jesus, in the very noisy world of the 21st century, trying to make sense of a complicated world and complicated lives, perhaps the most inviting aspect of Jesus’ life and of the practice of Mary and the apostles is that of prayer. When we read that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart”, and that Mary and the apostles gathering in the upper room to “wait” for the coming of the Spirit, they were, in reality, praying and contemplating the meaning Jesus’ life for them and their lives.

 

Contemplative Missionaries

Mary and the apostles knew the need for silence, for thinking deeply, for learning to trust in God’s plan. What we followers learn is that God’s plan unfolds in our lives and in the life of the church. God’s plan for our lives does not arrive in a text message or in 140 characters. Like the Mary garden, it grows, at first hidden, then fledgling, but with God’s gift of sun and rain and gardeners plants, grows deep roots and gorgeous bright flowers and fruits! Cultivating faith is like cultivating a garden. Faith needs prayer, sacraments, community, and wise teachers to grow deep roots and flower.

This month, cultivate the garden you’ve been given to plant seeds of faith and bear Christ to the world.

Susan Timoney is the Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington and teaches spirituality for Saint Joseph’s College Online.