Mary, what wonder woman you are!

Mary, what wonder woman you are!

The-entire-Trinity-has-a

 

Happy New Year and Happy Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

When I give retreats to women, based on my book, I love to talk about Mary as our Wonder Woman. She really is!

To hear a recent talk, go here.

For more posts about Mary, go here. 

IMG_3745

:::

My favorite Christmas hymn is “What Child is This?” Yet it was only recently that I learned all the words. Some hymnals sell it short.

Here’s the fullest rendition I could find. It’s so powerful as a song-prayer.

What Child is This?

(text by William Chatterton Dix 1837-1898)

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary.

Sheer Grace: A Savior Who Enters Our Dust So That He May Be Our Glory

Sheer Grace: A Savior Who Enters Our Dust So That He May Be Our Glory

A few of my close friends know that I am immersed in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and much of my recent meditation and reflection has been around the my own need for God, and my need for a savior. The word that keeps coming up for me  is what God said to Adam and Eve after they were banished from Eden:

“You are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Gen 3:19

As a wife and mother… dustiness is daily life. I’ve been chasing down dust and dirt and grime all my life. It comes with the territory. The goal is to eliminate dust, right? But no matter how we try, we simply can’t shake it. Dust we are. Dust we have. Dust we remain!

IMG_4017This Advent, I’ve really come to know and understand that God loves me so much that He enters into our dust. (Last year, it was all about Jesus entering into my chaos.)

That dustiness represents our sin and death, our frailty, our being lost and confused and broken. It is a grace to know one’s sins so we can turn from them.

It is a grace to know we are dust.

But the greater grace is know that God became man… and entered our humanity — on purpose!

The Lord of Glory took on the dustiness of our life. He was born of Mary into a dusty stable, and visited by dusty animals and shepherds who brought their own brand of dust to his bedside. Jesus is well acquainted with dust. He knows and sees and love the dust of me. And you.

St Paul knew this well. He contrasts the dusty man of Genesis, Adam, with the God-man of the Gospel, Jesus Christ who, though born into this dust, was destined to redeem it…

“The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15: 47-49

I love that this dusty Jesus cared to entered into my dust and will raise it.

As the Church prayed the O Antiphons this week, I was deeply consoled by this prayer…

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creatures you fashioned from the dust.

This is Christmas… it is the coming of the savior who is our redemption, God made man. One of the greatest sermons on this truth comes from the mighty pen of St Augustine. I’ll leave you with his wisdom

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. 

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not proceeded from us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ, were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head.For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

From the Office of Readings, Sermon from St Augustine, (Sermo 185: PL 38, 997-999)

This Christmas, I pray you and I will know this sheer grace…

From our house to yours…. Merry Christmas!

Give yourself 45 minutes of peace: Christmas caroling with Kings College College

Baking? Wrapping? Cleaning the house for your celebrations? Bookmark this page and prepare your heart for Christmas with this amazing choir’s hymns.

God Became Man – my latest article at Catholic Digest

God Became Man – my latest article at Catholic Digest

Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith.” (CCC, 463)

As Catholics, we profess our belief in the Incarnation in the Nicene Creed: Jesus Christ “came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

The Incarnation is a unique and singular event. Its truth informs the way we view God and ourselves.

Divine condescension

When Jesus arrived on the earth, he changed the way humanity viewed God. In Jesus, God came down from heaven to earth, without compromising his divinity.

The Incarnation of Christ crowned centuries of divine revelation, God’s slow revealing of himself, making himself known to humanity over time. God’s divine communication was now to be known through the Person of his Son. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Incarnation as “the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it” (CCC, 461).

This is the deepest meaning behind our Christmas celebrations.

[T]he Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. (CCC, 464)

This holy condescension of God means that we can never accuse God of being absent or lofty or unreachable or inaccessible. The Incarnation—the taking on of flesh in the Virgin’s womb—is the moment whereby the inexhaustible, inexpressible, invisible, omnipotent, and almighty Holy One takes on human visage. The divinity of God shines through a human person now.

At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature. (CCC, 479)

Divine dignity

Jesus, coming as a human person, changed the way we view ourselves. The Second Vatican Council declared that the Incarnation raises our own human dignity.

He who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) is himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam he restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as he assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. (Gaudium et Spes, 22)

Humanity now counts the face of God among its own.

Never again may I look at another person, or myself, with disdain or disrespect, for there is an inherent dignity in all.

Read the rest at Catholic Digest.

I’m pleased to be a regular columnist there writing about the beauty and inspiration that comes from the Catechism of the Church. Click here to subscribe to Catholic Digest. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.48.22 PM

The Pink Candle and other Musings – from my Patheos archives…

To the uninitiated, that pink candle at church makes no sense from a decorating point of view. It throws off the symmetry of the other three purple candles in the Advent wreath. Yet, it immediately draws attention.

A common sight in Advent, the pink or rose candle lit on the Third Sunday is a harbinger, a signpost, a little light that stirs the imagination. Something is a little bit different this week . . .

And what are we paying attention to? A respite from purple candles? Um, in a way, yes. But there is a much bigger picture, a broader context than ambience and church décor. Like so many visuals in the Mass, color is just one of the things that corresponds to the liturgical season, always pointing to a deeper truth.

If the purple candles are to remind us of the penitential and preparatory season of Advent, then the pink or rose candle is there to remind us of the soon coming joy of Christmas and the future joy of Christ’s coming again. Therefore, the object of our love and devotion should animate our penance, prayer, and service.

In years gone by, most Catholics learned that the Third Sunday was commonly called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete was translated from the Latin as “rejoice”! Gaudete Sunday gets it name from the opening antiphon and prayers of the Mass that declare: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (“Gaudete in Domino semper”) (Phil 4:4).

This Third Sunday, the Church is harkening to its good news: the Word is made flesh in Jesus, and the Kingdom of Heaven is born in our midst.

The imagery in Sunday’s First Reading from Isaiah, recorded centuries before the first coming Christ, hints at this coming joy.

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God . . .

Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you . . .

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; 
they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee (Is 35:1-2, 4, 10).

As always, there is much to meditate on, but the simple phrase that captures my attention as we come to this Sunday with joy is that once-and-future hope that the prophet gives about one day coming back to our true homeland, “crowned with everlasting glory.”

And I wonder if we could envision ourselves on that special Day, would we live any differently than we do now?

After all, rejoicing, as a verb, means it is something that we do.

Why? Because it is something that we Christians are: Joyful.

Or, are we still works in progress in the joy department?

It is here that the Church is giving hints to what our witness ought to be even within a penitential season. While the ransoming of our lives through Christ takes place long before the crowning occurs, such knowledge is a deep well for joy, hope, and the kind of repentance that leads back to joy.

Joy can be our watchword in this season for it reveals the deepest truth about the deepest reality of Christ’s Coming. But even more profoundly, that he has come and will come for me. And you. This joy is personal as well as corporate.

(Read the rest over at Patheos…)

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours…*

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours…*

So many things to be thankful to God for this year… from the big things to the little things…

My Bob and my all grown up family…

Ok, we gotta get better at this. This is the last photo I have of us -- from May?? (before I cut off my hair!)

At a friend’s wedding in May.

 

1977425_10201711334445515_950810041_n

Katie, Bobby, Peter… visiting Pete in DC

 

My married daughter and son-in-love -- celebrated one year!

My married daughter and son-in-love — celebrated one year!

 

For renewed health for my mom… (thanks for all the prayers!)

IMG_3042

 

For new employment for Bob… yay!

10469705_10202139907159565_899559712410988076_n

And continued free-lance style work for me

IMG_3910

Speaking to women earlier this month on Long Island. (I Love New York!)

And the book award from the Catholic Press Association…

20141012_183644

And book signings…

And the all people and places I have been able to meet with… both near and far…

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 8.12.00 PM

on WQOM

For fun

with Lisa Hendey,,,

with Lisa Hendey

 

A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

with Maria Johnson

And for ministry opportunities around the US and Canada…

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 1.32.55 AM

With Among Women listeners in California

 

51

With the team leaders in the Diocese of Springfield IL

 

Me with Fr James Mallon, pastor of Saint Benedict Parish

With Fr James Mallon, pastor of Saint Benedict Parish, and author, from Halifax, Nova Scotia

 

IMG_2432

At the Oklahoma City Catholic Women’s Conference

 

And for continuing education

Our Lady of Divine Providence, House of Prayer, Clearwater, FL

Our Lady of Divine Providence, House of Prayer, in Clearwater, FL

And another year behind the microphone at Among Women…

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 12.18.18 AM

 

Thank you to all my readers and listeners! May you enjoy a happy and holy holiday!

*Yes, that is an actual New England turkey spotted in full plumage.

When our heroes are transformed into Super Heroes. #JP2we

When our heroes are transformed into Super Heroes. #JP2we<3U

Today is feast day of SAINT JOHN PAUL II.

It’s a pretty cool thing when one of your heroes becomes a saint and has their own date on the liturgical calendar.

When I graduated with my Masters in theology in 2008, I grabbed all the photos of Pope John Paul II that I had in my office and bought myself a little present. I had all my favs framed.

IMG_3817

 

It hangs in our living room. A tribute to a real life hero, now transformed into a real live saint.

He prays for us.

IMG_3818

He calls us to be devoted to the Eucharist.

IMG_3822

He calls us to be devoted to Mary and the Rosary.

IMG_3821

He calls us to join him.

St John Paul II, pray for us!

:::

Just a brief update:

Due to a pressing editorial deadline, I intended to keep this post brief. But I couldn’t help taking time to read Pia di Solenni’s piece referred to at her blog. It says so much of what I tried to convey in my book, thanks to the holy influence of St John Paul in my life.

Elsewhere I’ve written about the impact of this saint on my own life…

My Top Ten Inspirations from St John Paul II

In Thanksgiving to John Paul for his contributions to women

Yeah, there’s more, but you get the point. St John Paul and the feminine genius shaped my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.

Pray the Rosary… (Resources, and more on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary)

Pray the Rosary… (Resources, and more on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary)

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

I’ll go to Mass. I’ll have breakfast with a friend. Then I’m going to get my stitches out from some oral surgery that took place last week.

And I’ll pray the rosary.

In other words, its a typical day. And the rosary fits my life. It fits in my day anytime… morning, noon, or night. I often pray it in the car, or on my walks. Or with friends.

The Catechism calls the Rosary an “epitome of the Gospel (CCC 971).”

Here’s some of my favorite resources about this prayer that has shaped my life over the last thirty years.

:::

I’ve written about praying the rosary many times. About prayer in groups. About my grandmother’s rosary.

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.09.47 PM:::

I’ve got many Among Women podcasts about the rosary — about forming local rosary groups for mothers… plus interviews with several knowledgable guests like Rosary Army’s Jennifer Willits… and author Karen Edmisten with an epic primer on the rosary…  and the rosary and pregnancy with Sarah Reinhard. Plus one of my favorite podcasts of all time — the Among Women listeners sharing what they love about the rosary!

:::

My most favorite book to pray the rosary with is the Scriptural Rosary. 

The best advice about loving the rosary  and Marian devotion comes from the classic books of St Louis de Montfort.

:::

Finally, I’ve learned what St John Paul has long taught: the Rosary conforms us to Christ. Outside of the Mass, it is the most powerful prayer we can pray.

Christian spirituality is distinguished by the disciple’s commitment to become conformed ever more fully to his Master (cf. Rom 8:29; Phil 3:10,12). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Baptism grafts the believer like a branch onto the vine which is Christ (cf. Jn 15:5) and makes him a member of Christ’s mystical Body (cf.1Cor 12:12; Rom 12:5). This initial unity, however, calls for a growing assimilation which will increasingly shape the conduct of the disciple in accordance with the “mind” of Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). In the words of the Apostle, we are called “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27).

In the spiritual journey of the Rosary, based on the constant contemplation – in Mary’s company – of the face of Christ, this demanding ideal of being conformed to him is pursued through an association which could be described in terms of friendship. We are thereby enabled to enter naturally into Christ’s life and as it were to share his deepest feelings. In this regard Blessed Bartolo Longo has written: “Just as two friends, frequently in each other’s company, tend to develop similar habits, so too, by holding familiar converse with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and by living the same life in Holy Communion, we can become, to the extent of our lowliness, similar to them and can learn from these supreme models a life of humility, poverty, hiddenness, patience and perfection”.

In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin. She who is both the Mother of Christ and a member of the Church, indeed her “pre-eminent and altogether singular member” is at the same time the “Mother of the Church”. As such, she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church.

-St John Paul II-
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 15
[
Emphasis mine]

Facing the sword of martyrdom, St Cyprian responds: “Thanks be to God!”

From today’s Office of Readings:

On the morning of the fourteenth of September a great crowd gathered at the Villa Sexti, in accordance with the order of the governor Galerius Maximus. That same day the governor commanded Bishop Cyprian to be brought before him for trial in the court of Sauciolum.

After Cyprian was brought in, the governor asked him: “Are you Thascius Cyprian?”

And the bishop replied: “Yes, I am.”

The governor Galerius Maximus said: “Have you posed as the pontiff of a sacrilegious group?”

The bishop answered: “I have,”

Then the governor said: “Our most venerable emperors have commanded you to perform the religious rites.”

Bishop Cyprian replied: “I will not do so.”

Galerius Maximus said: “Consider your position.”

Cyprian replied: “Follow your orders. In such a just cause there is no need for deliberation.”

Then Galerius Maximus, after consulting with his council, reluctantly issued the following judgment: “You have long lived with your sacrilegious convictions, and you have gathered about yourself many others in a vicious conspiracy. You have set yourself up as an enemy of the gods of Rome and our religious practices. The pious and venerable emperors, the Augusti, Valerian and Gallienus, and Valerian the most noble of Caesars, have been unable to draw you back to the observance of their holy ceremonies. You have been discovered as the author and leader of these heinous crimes, and will consequently be held forth as an example for all those who have follow you in your crime. By your blood the law shall be confirmed.”

Next he read the sentence from a tablet: “It is decided that Thascius Cyprian should die by the sword.”

Cyprian responded: “Thanks be to God!”

After the sentence was passed, a crowd of his fellow Christians said: “We should also be killed with him!”

There arose an uproar among the Christians, and a great mob followed after him. Cyprian was then brought out to the grounds of the Villa Sexti, where, taking off his outer cloak and kneeling on the ground, he fell before the Lord in prayer. He removed his dalmatic and gave it to the deacons, and then stood erect while waiting for the executioner. When the executioner arrived, Cyprian told his friends to give the man twenty-five gold pieces. Cloths and napkins were being spread out in front of him by the brethren. Then the blessed Cyprian covered his eyes with his own hands, but when he was unable to tie the ends of the linen himself, the priest Julian and the sub-deacon Julian fastened them for him.

In this way the blessed Cyprian suffered, and his body was laid out at a nearby place to satisfy the curiosity of the pagans. During the night Cyprian’s body was triumphantly borne away in a procession of Christians who, praying and bearing tapers and torches, carried the body to the cemetery of the governor Macrobius Candidianus which lies on the Mappalian Way near the fish ponds. Not many days later the governor Galerius Maximus died.

The most blessed martyr Cyprian suffered on the fourteenth of September under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus, in the reign of our true Lord Jesus Christ, to whom belong honor and glory for ever. Amen.

From the proconsular Acts of the martyrdom of Saint Cyprian, bishop
(Acta, 3-6: CSEL 3, 112-114)

:::

St Cyprian, and St Cornelius, pray for us!! 

:::

The number of persons dying for the Christian faith in the last hundred years is staggering, so said this report from 2002.

In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million — fully 65% — were in the last century, according to “The New Persecuted” (“I Nuovi Perseguitati”).

12 years later, we are seeing an increase in persecutions. Just last year, John L. Allen, Jr. wrote a book, A Global War on Christians, in which he said, this “global war on Christians is in many ways the greatest story never told about the 21st century.” His report, it seems to me now, to be prophetic.

Two months ago, Pope Francis talked about the recent persecutions, especially in the Middle East.

“Today – [Pope Francis said] – we look upon the Church of Rome that grows, fed by the blood of martyrs. So it is right – he continued – that our thoughts turn to the many martyrs of today, the many martyrs who give their lives for faith. It is true that during the times of Nero many Christians were persecuted, and today – he said – there are just as many.”

“There are many martyrs today, in the Church, many persecuted Christians. Think of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed. Even those Christians who are forced away in an ‘elegant’ way, with ‘white gloves’: that too is persecution. There are more witnesses, more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries. So during this Mass, remembering our glorious ancestors, let us think also to our brothers who are persecuted, who suffer and who, with their blood are nurturing the seed of so many little Churches that are born. Let us pray for them and for us”.

In the days since then, we’ve seen an escalation of epic proportions. There are calls for prayers, and for help for the victims and refugees who have had to flee persecution.

“It has shocked the conscience of the world that people are systematically being purged from the region where their families have lived for millennia simply for their faith. It is imperative that we stand in solidarity with them in defense of the freedom of religion and conscience, and provide them with whatever relief we can.”

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

The Order of the Knight of Columbus has a long history of providing humanitarian relief and has long supported persecuted Christians. You can donate here.

Catholic Relief Services continues to provide help too, donate here.