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Our Blessed Lady, Immaculate!

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Our Lady of Lourdes by Auxilium Christianorum

On the 5th and 12th centuries, St. Augustine and St. Bernard, respectively, pointed out a contradiction:  “How could Jesus be the Saviour of a human creature who had been exempt from sin from the moment of conception?”  This issue sparked debates among theologians for centuries, until theologian Duns Scutos argued that the Virgin Mary is favoured with an “anticipated redemption,” but still this argument didn’t settle the issue.

On November 27, 1830, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared for the second time to St. Catherine Laboure.  She was standing on a globe.  Her arms were outstretched downwards.  An oval frame formed around her on which were written the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”  Then Mary instructed Catherine to have a medal struck after this model. Countless extraordinary blessings were attributed to the medal after its propagation in 1832 that in 1834, people began calling it the miraculous medal.
Largely because of the widespread use of Mary’s miraculous medal, and the countless debates on the issue of Mary “as conceived without sin,” on December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX solemnly declared Mary’s Immaculate Conception as a dogma in his encyclical Ineffabilis Deu
Then, four years later, on the sixteenth apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette on 25 March 1858, in Lourdes, France. Bernadette asked her who she was.  She answered “I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.”        

I found the hymn of Our Lady Immaculate’s Feast at UCatholic

Immaculate Mary, thy praises we sing;
Who reignest in splendour with Jesus our King.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

In heaven, the blessed thy glory proclaim;
On earth we, thy children, invoke thy fair name.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

We pray for our Mother, the Church upon earth,
And bless, dearest Lady, the land of our birth.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

Waiting together with Mary.

mary-laughing

Our Lady and her cousin Elizabeth.

I thought that as it’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I’d search for some beautiful images of Our Lady. Uppermost in my mind as I looked for these was Our Lady’s time of waiting.

image004

A special moment for Our Lady.

maria-schwanger

Maria Schwanger

A beautiful rendition of the pregnant Madonna.

Madonna del Parto,  Antonio Veneziano

Madonna del Parto, Antonio Veneziano

Her time of waiting is almost over…

Mary and Elisabeth Meet ZachariahLorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni about 1416

Mary and Elisabeth Meet Zachariah
Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni about 1416

An Advent Message from Southwark’s Shepherd.

advent_12_pastoral (1)I am particularly fond of our spiritual Shepherd who oversees the vast pastures of the diocese of Southwark: His Grace, Archbishop Peter Smith.  His Advent pastoral letter  is worth ‘chewing over’ as he highlights the ever important alertness to be taken by Christians to live as faithful followers of Christ.archbishop_peter_160(Highlighted text is my comment)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The season of Advent is given to us as a “spiritual wake-up call” as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and look, in the longer term, to the final coming of Christ and the completion of the Kingdom of God at the end of time. (As Christians, we await Christ’s return to earth, our lives should be lived as such, not just as Christmas time.) In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges his disciples to “stay awake”. Advent, which begins the Church’s new liturgical year, is a time for us to be alive and awake, to become ever more watchful and faithful disciples. It is a time to witness to the life and hope which has been given to us in and through Jesus Christ, in whom we see made visible the God we cannot see. It is a time to look forward with hope and confidence to renewing our personal relationship with Christ in our hearts so that we can live out our faith in our daily lives. (We need Spiritual ‘fuel’ to keep us going on this Christian Journey:- Advent is the perfect stop to refuel and re-energize) A key question for each of us, is to ask “What is God asking of me?” This is the question which I want each of you to consider and reflect upon prayerfully, not only this Advent, but throughout the course of this Year of Faith.

Beginning with the Incarnation, and culminating in the Paschal Mystery, the coming of Christ reveals and celebrates God’s faithful and unconditional love for all people and for all time. He revealed himself as the God of unconditional love and compassion, who has a passionate care and concern for our salvation and our eternal well-being. Advent is a unique opportunity each year to allow God to deepen our faith and proclaim that love by the way we live and relate to others. It is especially a time, given to us by the Church, for us to focus on our relationship with the person of the risen Christ – an opportunity to make a new start with ourselves, with God and with others. It provides a more focused time to open our hearts to God in prayer, to allow God’s grace to change and mould us into clearer images of Jesus Christ, and to live as renewed and more faithful disciples. So we need to take to heart Christ’s challenge to all of us in today’s Gospel: “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”

We cannot hope to be changed, to be gradually transformed into more mature disciples, unless we keep alert to the opportunities of grace which God offers us day by day. The work of transformation and redemption is God’s work. It is literally a “labour of love” which God pursues through, with and in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This season of Advent is a special time for us to co-operate with that work, opening our hearts to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. It is a time for us to make use of all the means which Christ has given his Church for our renewal and transformation – especially the gift of Holy Scripture, the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and the gift of personal prayer. (This paragraph to me, is the most important part of the message.There’s nothing new being said here, but it is set perfectly in the context of the whole letter) 

Pope John Paul II, (The one and only!)whose life and ministry made such a profound impact not only on the Church but on the whole world, reminded us that, “To be Christians has never been easy, and it isn’t easy today either. To follow Christ means having the courage to make radical choices that often go against the current. (The ever-present secular tidal-wave.)Do not be afraid to accept this challenge. Be holy men and women. Do not forget that the fruits of the apostolate depend on the depth of the spiritual life, on the intensity of prayer, of continual formation and sincere adhesion to the directives of the Church.” (We are always growing as Christians into the person that God intends us to become. We’ll never know all there is to know. This is the beauty of our Faith. By SINCERELY following the directives of the Church, we’ll be taking steps on the path of knowledge, understanding and Truth.)

Through the Church, God, in Christ, offers us again and again the love, nourishment and strength we need to continue on our journey of faith – a journey towards the fullness of life and love in the kingdom of our heavenly Father. (This is the reason why we, as Christians need to be an active parishioner in our churches.) As we make that journey day by day, we should do so with hope, confidence and joy. These are gifts of the Holy Spirit which we need to ask for in our prayer, and which he asks us to share with those around us. We are called to be the “light of the nations”, the “salt of the earth”. Like Christ we too live with the life of the Holy Spirit and we too are called “to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” (Lk. 4: 18-19)

We are all called to proclaim the Gospel in the first place by the way we live. And we can only do that if we open our hearts fully and allow the Spirit, who dwells in the very depths of our being, to transform us more and more into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Only with his help will we have the courage, the strength and the power to do as he asks of us – to proclaim the Gospel of God’s love, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, and to visit the sick and those in prison. I pray that each one of us may grasp the opportunity that Advent gives us, listening to God’s Word, rejoicing in his gifts and confident of his love for us and for all people.

“Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love,
and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.”
Yours devotedly in Christ,

Archbishop of Southwark

Given at Southwark,
26th November 2012

From the shores of England!

                                           

Cardinal Rafael Merry de Val

He was accustomed to recite this prayer daily after the celebration of Holy Mass. I came to know of this litany a few months back and it’s a hard one to pray initially. It pushes the boundaries against all secular sentiment, and made me realise how just much my thinking and expectations have been formed by the thinking of the day.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver, me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver, me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

NO HUMAN RESPECT

“Never act with a view to pleasing the world. Let us have the strength to bear criticisms and the disapproval of the world. Let us have no human respect. Provided that God is pleased, what does the rest matter?” Card. R. Merry del Val
Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val was an exceptional and extraordinary man, of noble birth. From the first years of his life he had one unique and most noble goal: to be a Priest of God.
He was a dynamic figure at the Vatican in the early 20th century.

Rafael Merry del Val was educated at Ushaw College in the north of England. He commenced his studies at Ushaw College in 1883 before he went to Rome in 1885.

Ushaw Seminary ,Durham,Summer 2009

Ushaw College was the major seminary for the north of England and was formed in 1808 by students who had fled some years earlier from Douai College in northern France during the French Revolution. It expanded over the decades and by 1962, at the opening of the Second Vatican Council it housed 400 students, although some were secular students. It was ordaining about 22 priests per year. Following the introduction of the changes in the 1960’s the numbers dropped quite dramatically and by 2010 there were less than 30 students. Sadly, it was closed by the English hierarchy in June 2010.

Relating to Mary’s pain.

Image @thecatholicchurch.facebook

The Seven Dolors of Mary

1. The Prophecy of Simeon.
2. The Flight into Egypt.
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus
4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
5. The Crucifixion
6. Jesus’ body Struck by a Lance, Taken Down from the Cross
7. The Burial of Jesus.

Mary our Mother.

Image @imva.info

We need to give special honor to Mary who is not only the Mother of our Lord, but our Mother as well.

In the Gospel of John, we listen to Jesus’ words as He hung upon the Cross: “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’” (Jn 19:27).  Jesus was speaking to John at that point, but it is commonly understood that John stands in proxy for us.  That is to say, in speaking to John, Jesus was speaking to all disciples when He pointed to His Mother and said, “Behold, your mother.”  And so, Mary is our Mother.  The Mother of the Head (Jesus) is also the Mother of the Body (us), and as John took Mary into her home, we must take her into our hearts.

Like all mothers, Mary gives us life.  By the sin of Eve, death was brought into the world.  By her obedience, Mary brought life into the world making it possible for life to be restored to our souls.  That’s why we say that Mary is our Mother in the order of grace (Lumen Gentium, 61).  Mary gave the world not just life, but Him who is Life itself.

Like all mothers, Mary is a teacher.  When she said “yes” to the angel Gabriel’s message, she taught us how to have faith.  She taught us the importance of obedience to the will of God.  She taught us that we must always be willing to say “yes” to God even when we might not understand what He is asking of us.  She taught us that being humble doesn’t mean that you are weak.  In fact, it takes great strength to live a humble life.

Like all mothers, Mary guides us along the right path.  At the wedding in Cana (John 2), when they ran out of wine, it was Mary who brought this problem to Jesus.  Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Mary’s whole purpose is to guide us to Jesus.  This is why we draw close to Mary – she will always bring us to Jesus.

In 2006, Pope Benedict explained to the world Mary’s role as mother and teacher:

In the days that followed the Lord’s Resurrection, the Apostles stayed together, comforted by Mary’s presence, and after the Ascension they persevered with her in prayerful expectation of Pentecost.  Our Lady was a mother and teacher to them, a role that she continues to play for Christians of all times.

Every year, at Eastertide, we relive this experience more intensely and perhaps, precisely for this reason, popular tradition has dedicated to Mary the month of May that normally falls between Easter and Pentecost.  Consequently, this month…helps us to rediscover the maternal role that she plays in our lives so that we may always be docile disciples and courageous witnesses of the Risen Lord.

May we allow Mary to be our Mother so that she can nurture, teach, and guide us on the way to Salvation.

Prayer

Today I attended the Stations of the Cross on the Wintershall Estate just outside of Guildford. This is the second time I ve attended and it was more powerful than the first. Our leader used two copies of the Stations, one from Mary’s perspective and one for everyone. It was certainly a very profound and moving experience for me this year, as a whole year has passed and my life experience portfolio is more extensive than last years’. As a result, my perception and understanding  of the meditations affected me profoundly.

Wintershall is a beautiful, sprawling Estate in Surrey, and the way of the Cross leads one up a winding hill, making you stop to meditate at the different sculptures representing Christ’s journey to His Cross. Above is a picture I took of a beautiful rendition of Christ in the tomb. The  prepared Christ is laid within the tangled  roots of a huge tree, with the ‘large tombstone’ just to the right of the body. Surrounded by natural beauty , peace and quiet, with birdsong as an accompaniment it was just uplifting.  This represents the 14th station. We came over the rise of the hill, to be greeted by a flock of sheep boasting numerous Spring lambs. What a sight to behold. Just beautiful.