Behold Your Mother: Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 3

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When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.- John 19:26-27

If there was one thing I liked about last night’s Passion on Fox, it was that Mary (played by Trisha Yearwood) played a more prominent role than expected, singing four songs throughout the show. With that said, one thing I wish they showed was a scene where Jesus asks John to take care of his mother.

There is a lot of symbolism and a huge breach of tradition within this scene. For one thing, it proves that Jesus has no biological siblings because if he did, those biological siblings would’ve had the job of taking care of Mary after Jesus died. Another important thing is how Jesus addresses Mary. He calls her “Woman,” the same title he used at the Wedding of Cana.

I’m currently reading Venerable Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ and the awesome archbishop spends three and a half pages meditating on this particular verse from the Gospel of John. By calling Mary “Woman” at the Wedding of Cana, Jesus is faced with the reality that after changing the water into wine, He will set Himself on the road to the Cross. In screenwriting terms, Mary acts as the herald, giving Jesus the call to adventure. By saying “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come,” Jesus is acknowledging that eventually, his hour on the Cross will come and that Mary will be there with him.

When Jesus calls Mary “Woman” at the Cross, he acknowledges her as the New Eve, the new mother of all living. By giving her over to John, He gives her over to all his disciples and, by extension, us. In this small gesture, Jesus made Mary our mother.

Given that I did like aspects of last night’s Passion on Fox, the song I’m gonna share with you is the last one Trisha Yearwood sang as she held onto the illuminated cross:

The Journey Begins: Advent Week 2, Day 1

 

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The second candle on the Advent Wreath is called “The Bethlehem Candle” and symbolizes faith. Today, I want to contemplate the faith of Mary and Joseph as they journeyed to Bethlehem.

If you’re familiar with Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey,” there’s a point in the story where the heroes are asked to answer “the call to adventure.” Think of when Bilbo was asked by Gandalf to journey with the dwarves in The Hobbit or when Luke Skywalker was asked to undergo Jedi training with Obi-Wan Kenobi. For Mary and Joseph, the call to adventure began with Caesar calling for a census. This census required everyone to go to the land of their ancestors. Since Joseph was descended from the House of David, it meant taking the 69 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It’s not an easy journey to take even now. A quick Google Maps search says that the time to reach Bethlehem to Nazareth now would take at least 9 hours on a bus or train. But since Mary and Joseph were travelling on foot (with Mary riding on a donkey), which meant that their journey would be a lot longer.

I can’t help but admire the faith Mary and Joseph must’ve had as they took this journey. They didn’t know when the baby was coming. They weren’t sure if they were going to find a place to stay when they got to Bethlehem. On top of that, they were given the task of being the parents of the Messiah. In spite of all the weight of this responsibility and uncertainty, they took this journey.

Do you feel like God is calling you to take on a journey of your own? What’s stopping you from answering the call?

Nothing in this life is certain, but as I’ve said before, nothing safe is worth the drive. When you feel like God is calling you to make a change, ask him to light your path and to guide you along the way. He will always be with you.

 

The Imitation of Mary in the 21st Century

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Today is the feast of the birth of Mary. Something I remember from my Catholic school days is something called The Imitation of Mary. It’s an actual book by Thomas A. Kempis, but the idea of imitating Mary is honestly intimidating. She was born without sin and she has so many miracles attributed to her. How the heck are we ordinary, flawed, imperfect humans supposed to be anything like her?

It starts by remembering that aside from being born without sin, Mary was just as human as the rest of us. She felt pain, she felt fear, she felt loss just like the rest of us. She was a mother and a wife and a daughter and a cousin. I imagine her as a short and sassy woman who wasn’t picture-perfect in looks, but still beautiful in heart. Once we remember that Mary (and the rest of the saints) are as human as the rest of us, it helps us on the path of relating to her and imitating her.

One way that we can imitate Mary is to practice The 10 Virtues of Mary. This list was written by St. Louis de Montfort. They are as follows:

The 10 Virtues of Mary

  1. Ardent Charity: Letting her love for God be the driving force behind every decision
  2. Profound Humility: Knowing who she is before God, nothing more and nothing less
  3. Universal Mortification: Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment
  4. Constant Mental Prayer: Always being aware of God’s presence
  5. Blind Obedience: Following God’s call without counting the cost
  6. Divine Wisdom: Always begging for God’s Spirit to guide her
  7. Surpassing Purity: Having a heart immaculately clean and unstained by sin
  8. Angelic Sweetness: Radiating joy and peace to everyone she encountered
  9. Lively Faith: Constantly seeking God’s will and never settling for complacency
  10. Heroic Patience: Always trusting that God was on the move; having more faith in His plans than her own

(Thanks to LifeTeen for introducing me to this list!)

The list seems daunting at first because we struggle with humility and patience. Not all of us see ourselves as sweet or wise or charitable. Being obedient is scary because we’re so used to asking questions about everything and being mortified is equally frightening because we are so used to doing what we want.

But there are real-life examples of people practicing these virtues. They may not have all these virtues, but if we start with imitating one, it takes us that much closer to becoming like a saint. So let’s break down these virtues and see how people of the 21st century can live them.

1. Ardent Charity: Letting our love for God be the driving force behind every decision. 

We may not always make the best decisions for the right reasons. Everyone always seems to have an ulterior motive for their actions, some kind of personal gain. But when we put God first in our decision making, we can give our hearts into our actions freely, even when we don’t stand to gain anything from doing something.

I can’t help but think of Saint John Paul II when I think of this virtue. He was a great example of someone who was driven by love. He lived his life with a great devotion to Jesus and Mary and he showed his love to the world, even to the communists who dictated his homeland and the assassin who shot him. All of his actions were motivated by unconditional love, acting with great justice and mercy. Communism fell thanks to his influence and a whole generation of people are inspired by his actions.

2. Profound Humility: Knowing who we are before God, nothing more and nothing less.

Humility is a balancing act. On the one hand, we can’t be divas and think that we’re special snowflakes entitled to whatever we want just because we want it. On the other hand, we can’t go around acting like emo kids who think that we’re worthless wastes of space. Humility is knowing your own value and understanding that you don’t need anyone else’s approval or love outside of God’s.

There are two instances that come to mind when I think of having humility. A good example from fiction can be seen in the ABC series Agent Carter, in which the titular character goes through many instances of personal humiliation as she tries to clear Howard Stark’s name. She loses her job, her apartment, and almost loses her friends, but manages to save the day in the end. When Agent Thompson ends up taking the credit, she doesn’t speak out against his lie or beg for approval. She says outright: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

Another example is found in one of my favorite songs “He Knows My Name” by Francesca Battistelli. In a behind the scenes video, Francesca says that the song came from her struggles of believing what other people think of her, for better and for worse. The song itself tells the story of a person who sees herself as less than perfect, but at the same time, knows that God is calling her to live for Him and marvels in the love that God has for her. The music video shows four women who’ve all had hardships in life and overcame them through God’s help and have turned their lives around for the better.

3. Universal Mortification: Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment

You wanna know why Police Lives Matter alongside Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter? Because the true job of a cop, of a soldier, of anyone who works in public service is to be willing to lay down their lives for the ones that they love. The duty of all public servants is to protect and serve everyone, even to those who hate them. Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth is being honored in Houston for the life that he lived. The fact that there hasn’t been any reports of violence in retaliation to his death says a lot about everyone else as well. Like public servants, the people who are honoring Darren Goforth’s death are laying down their desires to seek vengeance. Instead of rioting, the people are rallying, asking the world to “Love Thy Neighbor.” I wish other cities can learn from this.

4. Constant Mental Prayer: Being Aware of God’s Presence

Something I recently learned is that we take the Holy Spirit with us wherever we go and in whatever we do. It’s not always easy because there are times that we wish God was far away or we don’t feel like he’s there when we need him. But like that infamous Footprints poem, God is there carrying us through the hard times.

Stephen Colbert, who is going to start his stint at late night network comedy tonight, had an interview with GQ Magazine in which he talked about how God was constantly present in his life. He was grateful for the losses that he endured as a child, first by losing his father and brothers in a plane crash and then losing his mother later in life.

“I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died…. And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example am I not bitter. Byher example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.

“It was a very healthy reciprocal acceptance of suffering,” he said. “Which does not mean being defeated by suffering. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is just awareness.” He smiled in anticipation of the callback: “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien’s mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I’m grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.

“It’s not the same thing as wanting it to have happened,” he said. “But you can’t change everything about the world. You certainly can’t change things that have already happened.”

Consider that this is coming from a man who millions of people will soon watch on their televisions every night—if only there were a way to measure the virality of this, which he’ll never say on TV, I imagine, but which, as far as I can tell, he practices every waking minute of his life.

5. Blind Obedience: Following God’s call without counting the cost.

There’s something about doing what someone says without asking questions that scares me. It calls to mind a hell that consists of shades of grey, military dictatorships, Big Brother. UGH! No thank you!

The difference between that kind of obedience and following God’s will without counting the cost is that God does allow us to ask questions. In the Annunciation, Mary was initially confused at the angel’s greeting and asked “How can this be? I have known no man.” Gabriel gives Mary an explanation and proof of God’s power. After receiving that explanation, Mary accepts God’s will. If we were in Mary’s place, we’d probably ask more questions, to be honest, but God gives us enough knowledge to help us understand the present because the future is in His hands.

One example of this is from the soon to be Bishop Robert Barron, whose ordination into bishophood takes place today. He posted a video explaining his coat of arms.

One particular thing I love about his coat of arms is the motto he chose: Non nisi te Domine. The motto came from Thomas Aquinas who said this to God after presenting his works on the Eucharist in a private altar. Bishop-Elect Robert Barron said “If you have Christ, then you know what to do with the wealth, pleasure, power, and honor that come your way or you’ll know what to do with the lack of wealth, pleasure, power and honor which is why the one thing you should ask for is Christ himself.” As someone who’s also an Aquinas fangirl, I can’t help but totally agree with him.

Follow me on the next page to learn about how we can practice wisdom, purity, sweetness, faith, and patience in our lives.

There's Something About Mary

Given that it’s Mother’s Day, I thought it would only be fair if I paid tribute to the Blessed Mother Mary. May is Mary’s month, after all. This blog post will share stories of ordinary and extraordinary people whose love for Mary made an impact on their lives.

Of course, I can’t start a post about Mary without mentioning the Rosary. If you were like me in college and had problems praying the Rosary on a daily basis, I have a few suggestions. There are websites that offer scriptural verses that correspond with the Mysteries of the Rosary. Fr. Dwight Longnecker has a great book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing. There are a lot of YouTube videos and a Rosary CD from Lighthouse Catholic Media if you want to listen and pray along. But for me, what got me praying the Rosary on an almost daily basis was the 54-Day Rosary Novena.

Diana Von Glahn recently experienced a miracle after praying a 54-Day Rosary Novena for her husband’s health. If you want to know more about how to pray the 54-Day Rosary Novena, check out Tom McDonald’s blog.

I asked my Facebook friends to tell me their stories about how Mary made an impact on their lives. Here’s what some of them had to say:

My grandmother had asked for Mary’s intercession on having a girl. She did. So her daughters name became Marie and every girl in the family after that has the middle name Marie. My mom had problem having kids and she was going to be lucky to have one, she actually almost miscarried me, and she asked Mary that if she could only have one child to let it be a girl. And well she came thru!- Rebecca Marie

During my reversion period in my early 20’s (coming back to the Church after some years away) I LOVED going to the adoration chapel. I popped in on Christmas Day that year, to say “Happy Birthday” and was dismayed that no one was there. I didn’t want to go and leave Him alone, but was expected at my brothers for dinner, and in fact I was already late. I had read somewhere that Mary spent her latter days in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, so I thought to ask her to come and Adore Him so I could go. The room became filled with the scent of roses. There were no roses anywhere in the room, nor in the adjoining room (I checked.) I just KNEW, then, that Mama Mary was there, and I could go. Since then, every once in a while, I get a whiff of roses at particular times (like, for example, at the end of every Ordination I have ever attended) that tells me she is there: – Sharon Riel

The saints, of course, have had moments where Mary interceded for them in one way or another. St. Therese of Lisieux recovered from a very severe fever as she looked at a statue of Mary. St. Maximillian Kolbe devoted his life to The Immaculata, his favorite Marian title. And of course, St. John Paul II was well-known for his devotion to Mary. His motto was “Totus tuus” after all, echoing the devotion of the Marian consecration.

I always wonder what Marian title each pope was devoted to. Having a Marian devotion is practically a job requirement! I feel like St. John Paul’s particular devotion was to Our Lady of Fatima, especially since he credits her with saving his life from the assassination attempt. Although I don’t recall if Pope Emeritus Benedict ever expressed a devotion to a particular Marian title, I’d wager that it would be Our Lady of Lourdes, since he chose to announce his abdication on that particular feast day. Pope Francis, of course, has a devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

I also have my own relationship with Mary. Like Diana, I prayed a 54-Day Rosary Novena in the past and have discovered many graces from it, but none of which I can really pinpoint off the top of my head. However, during a recent retreat, I asked Mary to give me her heart. Rebecca Frech reminded me that Mary’s heart was pierced and filled with sorrow. Sad to say but that advice came after the fact. However, just as Mary did at the foot of the cross, I kept all of my sorrows in my heart and pressed on in spite of how I felt.

My favorite Marian title is Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It’s a popular devotion in the Philippines, but it was also the name of my Catholic school back in New Jersey. It closed down shortly after I moved, but the church is still there.

I think it’s only fitting that I end this post with one of my favorite Marian prayers, The Memorare. Danielle Rose recorded this beautiful version and I invite all of y’all to listen to it.

What the Holy Family Taught Me During My Retreat Weekend

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Serving a retreat can be just as much an emotional rollercoaster as being on a retreat. You’re being asked to serve on a really big level. And it takes a lot out of you, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I brought two sets of prayers with me to the retreat: one was the series of meditations for the renewal of my Marian Consecration and the other was a small book of prayers dedicated to St. Joseph, since I was in the middle of a St. Joseph Novena and wouldn’t have access to internet. Throughout this weekend, Mary and Joseph were with me, leading me to Jesus.

I prayed 2 prayers a lot during the weekend: The Memorare and this simple petition “Mary, Mother of Jesus, give me your heart that I may receive Jesus.” I was currently nursing a broken heart and couldn’t really talk about it because I didn’t want to ruin the retreat by whining. If anyone could understand a broken heart, it was Mary. In spite of the pain I had, my prayers to Mary gave me the strength to carry on in spite of it.

There were times during the retreat that I felt left out. I have MAJOR problems making small talk with people. Oftentimes, there would be conversations about stuff I was never a part of and I felt awkward because I had nothing to contribute. There were other times that I felt outright invisible, when I felt as if people only saw through me.  I also made some mistakes during the retreat, like forgetting things. And I wanted to cry or get angry or just leave and go home.

But I didn’t. I thought about times that Mary and Joseph probably felt invisible or inadequate. After all, people overlooked Mary’s importance in The Wedding at Cana. Yes, Jesus was the one who changed the water into wine, but it took Mary to ask him first. I also remembered that Joseph and Mary both forgot Jesus at the Temple. My time at the retreat was similar to their exile into Egypt, a time of growth away from the dangers of the world.

Whenever I asked for the intercession of Joseph, that prayer was quickly answered with an action or a sense of consolation. Prayers to Mary helped when I woke up restless in the mornings (lack of sleep is something retreat staffers know all too well) and needed some peace. (Now I’m wondering how many nights Baby Jesus woke Mary and Joseph up with his crying.)

I had small periods of consolation throughout the weekend in between the heartbreak and the interior struggles. I cherished my time in Adoration and found great joy in celebrating Mass. But the best consolation came from making new friends and rekindling some old friendships. I was reminded why I love serving retreats: I help people in the process of growing, giving them the same experience I received as a retreater. One friend I made from a previous retreat told me that she was entering the convent. I felt so proud of her for finding her vocation.

There were two other things that I learned during the retreat, aside from how amazing the intercessions from Mary and Joseph can be. I learned that when you grow up, you are responsible for yourself for better and for worse. Nobody’s gonna be there to remind you about something. You have to hold yourself accountable, ask for help when necessary, and make the best out of a bad situation. I also learned that a vocation isn’t something that you aspire to be. It’s something you live everyday. I know that someday, I could be married to a man (preferably one who’s gone through the Marian Consecration; liking Taylor Swift is optional, but highly recommended) or I could live in a cloister or I could be a consecrated virgin/teacher/novelist/blogger. But right now my vocation is what I’m doing now: writing about what I love and using my gifts of writing, teaching, and intercessory prayer to serve God and serve others every day.

From my Instagram

From my Instagram

Lent Day 21: There's Something About Mary

Although Fr. Robert Barron’s reflection for today talks about fasting, there’s a little loophole within Lent that says that fasting isn’t required on solemnities that take place during Lent. There are two solemnities that take place during Lent: The Solemnity of St. Joseph and The Solemnity of the Annunciation.

I know that Catholicism is infamous for being against contraception, abortion, female priests, etc, but seriously. How can you say that the Catholic Church is anti-women when the Church has Mary!

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By no means is she considered God’s equal or superior to God, but seriously, Mary gets so overlooked by people who don’t understand or even undermine her importance. She became the mother of the Savior of humanity and according to Catholicism, when she said “Yes” to Gabriel, she said “Yes” to becoming the mother of God! (Insert dramatic music.)

Now I understand that the idea of being devoted to Mary is a little crazy. I’m still trying to get my head around it. However, I will say that it is NOT worshiping Mary. It’s more like this: think about your favorite supporting character from a book, TV show, or film. That character sometimes has as many fans as the main character of a work if not more. It doesn’t take away the main character’s importance, but you feel like that story wouldn’t be the same without that particular supporting character. What would Star Wars be without Han Solo or Star Trek without Spock?

Mary is the same way. She is the most loved supporting character in the Gospel, at least when it comes to Catholicism. She may not have played a large role in Jesus’s ministry, but she had an important role from Jesus’s conception to adulthood. She and Joseph were given the responsibility to raise Jesus and represent the kind of people He would serve when He grew up.

It’s kind of funny that the people who were chosen to be Jesus’s parents were the quiet, humble types. Stories nowadays love loud, brash, take-charge heroes. And yet, here’s Mary in all of her simplicity and she becomes the mother of the Savior.

Now I’m NOT gonna go into speculation on Mary’s background, age, or the numerous apparitions attributed to her. Instead, I want you to listen to this song from Danielle Rose. Mary had a choice. And she said “Yes.” Whatever you might think about Catholicism and how Mary is seen, be glad that she said “Yes” and chose to let God conceive Jesus within her.

Don’t be afraid to say “Yes” to whatever God is asking of you. Let God’s will be done and marvel at how awesome things will be.