Why I love Saint Mary Magdalene

Why I love Saint Mary Magdalene

From my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood:

Here’s a vision of hope for every woman stung by bad decisions and the pain of sin. It is the life of St. Mary Magdalene.  First, imagine Mary Magdalene, one of the notorious sinners mentioned in the New Testament, from whom seven devils were cast out. When she met the God of love, she turned from her sins, converted, and lived to love and serve Jesus.

Now, here’s a second picture to envision: At the foot of Jesus’s Cross, the Gospel records that Mary Magdalene stood next to the Blessed Virgin Mary—the woman the Church declares and Mother of God, and John Paul II called “the mirror and measure of femininity” (See Angelus Message, 3, June 25, 1995.)

In the New Testament  [Mary Magdalene] is mentioned among the women who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Lk 8:2–3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mk 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mk 15:40; Mt 27:56; Jn 19:25; Lk 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. (Jn 20:11–18)

(Pope, “St. Mary Magdalen ”, New Advent.)

 If Mary Magdalene, with her checkered past, can stand with the Blessed Virgin Mary – the epitome of grace and womanhood – then we all have a chance to do the same. The Blessed Mother is truly the friend and refuge of sinners…

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It’s no coincidence Francis is calling us together on Pentecost to prays for peace in the Middle East

It’s no coincidence Francis is calling us together on Pentecost to prays for peace in the Middle East

Pope Francis is calling for peace in the Middle East, and especially in the Holy Lands, by inviting Israeli and Palestinians to pray together with him at the Vatican. And how marvelous that it is taking place on Pentecost! Have you seen the Scripture readings that the global church will be proclaiming and praying over this weekend? I think the Holy Spirit did a very fine job of bringing these leaders together on such a day.  There’s nothing coincidental about this event in my mind. Our job here is to pray, pray, pray.

At Pentecost, our Sunday readings bring us the Pentecost account from Acts of the Apostles in the first reading, and the Gospel for Pentecost, recalls Jesus bestowing the gift of peace and the Spirit in a powerful post-resurrection display.

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.” 

John 20:19-23

 

During his recent Holy Land pilgrimage, Pope Francis invited Israel’s President Shimon Peres, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come to the Vatican to pray for peace. They have accepted his invitation and will be with the Holy Father tomorrow on Pentecost. Also in attendance will be Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

Prayers will be prayed by Christians, Jews and Muslim together around 7pm Rome time. Details from the VIS news are here. The full text of the prayers and program can be read here.

The program outline from the Vatican:

May the Lord give you peace!

We have gathered here, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, so that each of us can offer his or her own that each of us can express his or her desire for peace for the Holy Land and for all who dwell there.

Together with Pope Francis, who greatly desired this moment, Patriarch Bartholomaios of Constantinople and all those present, Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas will join in this calling, voicing the desire of their respective peoples to invoke to God the common longing for peace.

This evening’s meeting will consist of three parts, followed by a conclusion.

Each part will be devoted to an invocation by one of the three religious communities, in chronological order: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Each part will itself unfold in three moments. The first moment will consist of an expression of praise to God for his gift of creation, and for his having created us as members of the human family.

In the second moment, we will ask pardon from God for the times we have failed to act as brothers and sisters, and for our sins against him and against our fellow men and women.

In the third moment, we will ask God to grant the gift of peace to the Holy Land and to enable us to be peacemakers.

Each of these three moments will be framed by a brief musical interlude. A musical meditation will conclude each of the three main parts.

Be sure to read the prayers and watch the proceeding if you can.

May the Holy Spirit fall anew on each of these leaders and their people. May God bring about something new. From the Sequence from Pentecost Sunday:

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Alleluia.

Come, Holy Spirit!

 

Pentecost song: You are the Fire

A family favorite: Michael W. Smith with a song from his new album “Sovereign”

Ascension … some art to help bring us into the story…

Ascension … some art to help bring us into the story…

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.  

Mark 16: 15-20

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Attributed to Dosso Dossi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Can you imagine yourself in the crowd watching Jesus ascend?

Can you hear his words upon exiting?

Are you moved enough to preach about his message?

#2PopeSaints and Divine Mercy Sunday

#2PopeSaints and Divine Mercy Sunday

Today we celebrate, as a global church, the elevation of two new saints — two recent popes — Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. What an exciting day for the church — and to have it coincide with Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast added to the liturgical calendar by John Paul , is especially meaningful. Find coverage here and here.  Don’t forget to check out the  Vatican resource for the canonizations of St John XXIII and St John Paul II.

A few quotes from John Paul II that are dear to me…

God has chosen our own times for this purpose… The message of merciful love needs to resound forcefully anew. The world needs this love. The hour has come to bring Christ’s message to everyone… The hour has come when the message of Divine Mercy is able to fill hearts with hope and to become the spark of the new civilization: the civilization of love.

John Paul II
Beatification Homily of the four Poles
in Poland on August, 18. 2002.

Here’s a few more thoughts on mercy from St John Paul II’s 1980 encyclical on mercy, Dives in Misericordia, on God’s “most stupendous attribute”… and his infinite mercy.

“He who has seen me has seen the Father.” [Jn. 14:9.]

 The Church professes the mercy of God, the Church lives by it in her wide experience of faith and also in her teaching, constantly contemplating Christ, concentrating on Him, on His life and on His Gospel, on His cross and resurrection, on His whole mystery. Everything that forms the “vision” of Christ in the Church’s living faith and teaching brings us nearer to the “vision of the Father” in the holiness of His mercy. The Church seems in a particular way to profess the mercy of God and to venerate it when she directs herself to the Heart of Christ. In fact, it is precisely this drawing close to Christ in the mystery of His Heart which enables us to dwell on this point-a point in a sense central and also most accessible on the human level-of the revelation of the merciful love of the Father, a revelation which constituted the central content of the messianic mission of the Son of Man.

The Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy-the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer-and when she brings people close to the sources of the Savior’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser. Of great significance in this area is constant meditation on the Word of God, and above all conscious and mature participation in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. The Eucharist brings us ever nearer to that love which is more powerful than death: “For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup,” we proclaim not only the death of the Redeemer but also His resurrection, “until he comes” in glory. [Cf. 1 Cor. 11:26; acclamation in the Roman Missal.]

It is precisely because sin exists in the world, which “God so loved…that he gave his only Son,”  [Jn. 3:16.] that God, who “is love,” [1 Jn. 4:8.] cannot reveal Himself otherwise than as mercy. This corresponds not only to the most profound truth of that love which God is, but also to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which is man’s temporary homeland.

Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Conversion to God always consists in discovering His mercy, that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind [Cf. 1 Cor. 13:4.] as only the Creator and Father can be; the love to which the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” [2 Cor. 1:3.] is faithful to the uttermost consequences in the history of His covenant with man; even to the cross and to the death and resurrection of the Son. Conversion to God is always the fruit of the”rediscovery of this Father, who is rich in mercy.

Authentic knowledge of the God of mercy, the God of tender love, is a constant and inexhaustible source of conversion, not only as a momentary interior act but also as a permanent attitude, as a state of mind.

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Alleluia, Alleluia! Happy Easter!

Alleluia, Alleluia! Happy Easter!

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud the might King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lighting of his glory,
let this building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

– from The Easter Proclamation–

Holy Saturday: “We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness…”

Holy Saturday: “We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness…”

The death of God in Jesus Christ is at the same time the expression of his radical solidarity with us. The most obscure mystery of the faith is at the same time the clearest sign of a hope without end. And what is more: only through the failure of Holy Friday, only through the silence of death of Holy Saturday, were the disciples able to be led to an understanding of all that Jesus truly was and all that his message truly meant. God had to die for them so that he could truly live in them. The image they had formed of God, within which they had tried to hold him down, had to be destroyed so that through the rubble of the ruined house they might see the sky, him himself who remains, always, the infinitely greater. We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness and the chasm of our nothingness which would grow wider and wider without him.

There is a Gospel scene which in an extraordinary way anticipates the silence of Holy Saturday and which again, therefore, seems to be a profile of the moment in history we are living now. Christ is asleep on a boat which, buffeted by a storm, is about to sink. The prophet Elijah had once made fun of the priests of Baal who were futilely invoking their god to send down fire on their sacrifice. He urged them to cry out louder in case their god was asleep. But is it true that God does not sleep? Does not the prophet’s scorn also fall upon the heads of the faithful of the God of Israel who are sailing with him in a boat about to sink? God sleeps while his very own are about to drown – is not this the experience of our lives? Don’t the Church, the faith, resemble a small boat about to sink, struggling futilely against the waves and the wind, and all the time God is absent? The disciples cry out in dire desperation and they shake the Lord to wake him but he is surprised at this and rebukes them for their small faith. But are things any different for us?

When the storm passes we will realize just how much this small faith of ours was charged with stupidity. And yet, O Lord, we cannot help shaking you, God, you who persist in keeping your silence, in sleeping, and we cannot help crying to you: Wake up, can’t you see we are sinking? Stir yourself, don’t let the darkness of Holy Saturday last for ever, let a ray of Easter fall, even on these times of ours, accompany us when we set out in our desperation towards Emmaus so that our hearts may be enflamed by the warmth of your nearness. You who, hidden, charted the paths of Israel only to become a man in the end with men – don’t leave us in the dark, don’t let your word be lost in these days of great squandering of words.

Lord, grant us your help, because without you we will sink. Amen .

“The Anguish of an Absence (Three Meditations on Holy Saturday)”
by Joseph Ratzinger
(later Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, in the darkness of death You made a light shine; in the abyss of the deepest solitude the powerful protection of Your love now lives for ever; in the throes of Your concealment we now can sing the hallelujah of the saved. Grant us the humble simplicity of faith, which does not let us stray when You call us in the hours of darkness, of abandonment, when all seems difficult; grant us, at this time when a mortal struggle is being waged around You, light enough that we will not lose You; light enough for us to give to all those who still have need of it. Make the mystery of Your Easter joy shine, like the aurora of the dawn, on these days of ours; grant that we may truly be men of Easter in the midst of history’s Holy Saturday. Grant that in the course of the days of light and dark of this age we may always with happy hearts find ourselves on the pathway to Your future glory. Amen.

Joseph Ratzinger

Meditationen zur Karwoche,
Kyrios-Verlag, Freising 1969

 

Good Friday Meditation: A prayer before the Crucifix, by St Francis de Sales

Good Friday Meditation: A prayer before the Crucifix, by St Francis de Sales

A while back I came across this stunning prayer by St Francis de Sales. It’s a prayer about one’s death, and the grace to die a holy death that leads to union with Christ. It is a perfect prayer,  I thought, for our own meditation before the Cross of Christ on Good Friday.

“O Jesus, agonizing on the Cross, be my model at the hour of death. Although You are the Creator and Restorer of life, You willed to undergo death and accepted it willingly in order to expiate my sins. Death had no claim on You; You are the fountain of life and immortality, in whom and by whom all creatures have life; yet You willed to subject Yourself to death in order to resemble me and to sanctify my death.

“O death, who will henceforth fear you, since the Author of life bears you in His bosom, and without doubt, everything in Him is life-giving. I embrace you, I clasp you in my divine Savior’s heart; there, like a chick under the wing of the mother hen, I shall peacefully await your coming, secure in the knowledge that my most merciful Jesus will sweeten your bitterness and defend me against your rigors.

“O Jesus, from this moment I wish to employ all my powers in accepting all the circumstances and pains of my death; from this moment I desire to accept death in the place, hour, and manner in which it may please You to send it. I know very well that I must suffer and be ground by the teeth of tribulations, sorrows, privations, desolations, and sufferings in order to become bread worthy to serve at Your celestial banquet, O Christ, on the day of the general resurrection. I well know that if the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it brings forth no fruit; therefore, with all my heart, I accept the annihilation of death in order to become a new man, no longer mortal and corruptible, but immortal and glorious.” (St. Francis de Sales).

This quote is from Divine Intimacy by Fr Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdelen, OCD.

Note: I did try to find this quote within the writings of St Francis de Sales but I could not come up with its original source. I’d be obliged that if you know where the original text is from that you let me know in the comments box or send me an email.

 

St Joseph, pray for us… a few links of interest

St Joseph, pray for us… a few links of interest

In the course of that pilgrimage of faith which was his life, Joseph, like Mary, remained faithful to God’s call until the end. While Mary’s life was the bringing to fullness of that fiat first spoken at the Annunciation, at the moment of Joseph’s own “annunciation” he said nothing; instead he simply “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt 1:24). And this first “doing” became the beginning of “Joseph’s way.” The Gospels do not record any word ever spoken by Joseph along that way. But the silence of Joseph has its own special eloquence, for thanks to that silence we can understand the truth of the Gospel’s judgment that he was “a just man” (Mt 1:19).

One must come to understand this truth, for it contains one of the most important testimonies concerning man and his vocation. Through many generations the Church has read this testimony with ever greater attention and with deeper understanding, drawing, as it were, “what is new and what is old” (Mt 13:52) from the storehouse of the noble figure of Joseph.

Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”) by Bl. John Paul II.

Joseph’s Way – my reflections on St Joseph from 2011 at Patheos.

Salute to a Silent Saint – from the Marians at the Shrine of Divine Mercy

AW 160: In this Among Women podcast from the archives, I describe the obedience and faith of Joseph as it impacts the  marriage of Joseph and Mary, drawing on the writings Blessed John Paul II in Redemptoris Custos, above.

Prayers to St Joseph - from St Joseph’s Shrine in Lowell, MA – one of my favorite places to hang out and pray. A nice little pilgrimage if you are ever in the area.

Finally, a video tour of St Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.