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A short Mother’s Day reflection from St John Paul II on Mary and the glory of womanhood

A short Mother’s Day reflection from St John Paul II on Mary and the glory of womanhood

For every Christian, for every human being, Mary is the one who first “believed,” and precisely with her faith as Spouse and Mother she wishes to act upon all those who entrust themselves to her as her children. And it is well known that the more her children persevere and progress in this attitude, the nearer Mary leads them to the “unsearchable riches of Christ”(Eph. 3:8). And to the same degree they recognize more and more clearly the dignity of man in all its fullness and the definitive meaning of his vocation, for “Christ…fully reveals man to man himself. [Gaudium et Spes, 22]”

This Marian dimension of Christian life takes on special importance in relation to women and their status. In fact, femininity has a unique relationship with the Mother of the Redeemer, a subject which can be studied in greater depth elsewhere.* Here I simply wish to note that the figure of Mary of Nazareth sheds light on womanhood as such by the very fact that God, in the sublime event of the Incarnation of his Son, entrusted himself to the ministry, the free and active ministry of a woman. It can thus be said that women, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement.

John Paul II
Redemptoris Mater, par. 46

*My book also looks at these fundamentals. Find it on sale here til June 19.

Among Women Podcast 203: An online Catholic Conference 4 Moms #FacesOfMercy

Among Women Podcast 203: An online Catholic Conference 4 Moms #FacesOfMercy

Calling all Moms! Sometimes mothers have trouble taking time out for themselves — so how about participating in an online conference this Lent?

This episode of Among Women is a timely message with a call for all “the Marthas” in our midst — women who know how to get things done! Or, women who know how to give the gift of hospitality and encouragement — Mom-to-Mom! This podcast is about getting on board this Lent with the Catholic Conference 4 Moms. This online conference launches Feb 20, 2016, and its super easy to plan it for your parish or home-based gathering.

Join me, and conference founder and organizer Tami Kiser, AKA Smart Martha as we discuss the good stuff that Moms will experience in this unique online conference — The Catholic Conference 4 Moms! You can offer day of encouragement for you and the Moms in your parish or neighborhood… for a very low price of $59 for “conference-in-a-box”.

This is also a chance to watch this conference in your home with friends! This is available for $14.99 — In fact, you can get a discount off the price if you use my affiliate promo code: AMONG WOMEN! Use my coupon code AMONG WOMEN and get that for $10.99.

Also, in our “Blessed are They” segment, we learn about St Waltrude from Mons, Belgium. She is a saint who was inspired by the saints in her family and lived in such a way as to inspire saints in her children.

Listen to the podcast here!

Register for the conference here.

Watch the trailer for the online Catholic Conference 4 Moms…

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This Makes Me Think… how good it is to be a child of God AND a child of the Church!

Jesus loves us so much that He wills to remain with us until the end of time. Therefore, He abides with us in the Blessed Sacrament as the Companion of our earthly pilgrimage, as the Food of our souls, but He also remains with us in the Church as our Guide, our Shepherd, and our Teacher. Jesus formed the first nucleus of the Church by His preaching, by choosing and instructing the Apostles; He gave life to her by dying on the Cross. “The Church,” as the Holy Father notes, “came forth from the side of our Savior on the Cross like a new Eve, Mother of all the living” (Mystici Corporis). Jesus sanctified her by shedding His blood for her. He gave her His power; He made her His spouse and collaborator, continuing through her His work of sanctifying and directing souls. Today Jesus no longer dwells among us as He did nineteen hundred years ago; His Physical Body is gloriously enthroned in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. But He does abide with us in His Mystical Body, the Church, His Spouse and our Mother. Jesus is the living Head of the Church; it is always He who rules her invisibly by His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. He sustains and vivifies her unceasingly, gives her life, and distributes graces to each of her members “according to the measure of His giving” (cf. Eph 4:7). The Church lives by Christ alone; she is holy with His holiness; she is the Mother of souls through her union with Him. This union of Christ with the Church is so intimate and vital that the Church can be regarded as a prolongation of Christ. Indeed, Pope Pius XII teaches that “Christ sustains the Church in a divine manner; He lives in her to such a degree that she is, as it were, another Christ” (Mystici Corporis). Even as it is through the Eucharist that we unite ourselves to Jesus and are nourished with His immaculate Flesh, so it is through His Church that guided and ruled by Him, we are vivified by His grace and nourished by His doctrine. And as we cannot become more one with Christ in this life than by uniting ourselves to Him in the Eucharist, so we can have no greater assurance of living according to His Spirit, of being directed and taught by Him, than by uniting ourselves to the Church and following her directives.

To be a “Child of the Church” is the most glorious title for a Christian and second only to that of “child of God.” These two titles can never be separated — one depends upon the other; for as St. Cyprian has said, “He who does not have the Church for a Mother, cannot have God for a Father.” Jesus wishes to save and sanctify us, but He wishes to do it by means of the Church. He gave His life and shed His Blood for us; He put His most precious merits at our disposal; He gave us the Holy Eucharist and left us the heritage of His doctrine, but He wished the Church to be the sole depository and dispenser of the inestimable benefits, so that all who wish to enjoy them must have recourse to her. Let us go, then, to the Church with the complete confidence of children, certain to find Jesus in her, Jesus who sanctifies, nourishes, teaches, rules, and directs us by means of His representatives. If the thought of being a Child of the Church does not make our hearts vibrate, if our love for the Church is weak, if our recourse to her is not confident, this indicates a lack of the spirit of faith: we have not sufficiently understood that the Church is Christ, continuing to live in our midst to sanctify and sustain us and to lead us to eternal beatitude. “We can think of nothing more glorious, more noble, and more honorable than membership in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, by which we become members of such a holy Body [the Mystical Body of Christ], are guided by one and so sublime a Head [Jesus Christ], are filled with one divine Spirit [the Holy Spirit], and finally, are nourished in this earthly exile with one doctrine and one same heavenly Bread until we are permitted to share the one eternal beatitude in heaven” (Mystici Corporis). Let us love the Church, “the most perfect Image of Christ” (ibid.); let us love the Church, the most pure Spouse of Christ and our Mother; and as He loved her whom “He hath purchased with His own Blood” (Acts 20:28), so let us love her with a true spirit of obedience and filial devotion, offering ourselves completely to serve, glorify, and defend her.

Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy

 

This makes me think… about what animates the Church

The holy Scriptures declare the body of Christ, animated by the Son of God, to be the whole Church of God, and the members of this body—considered as a whole—to consist of those who are believers; since, as a soul vivifies and moves the body, which of itself has not the natural power of motion like a living being, so the Word, arousing and moving the whole body, the Church, to befitting action, awakens, moreover, each individual member belonging to the Church, so that they do nothing apart from the Word.
–Origen*

*Origen against Celsus. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), F. Crombie (Trans.), Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second (Vol. 4, p. 595). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

This makes me think… entering into the place where Jesus is…

Not to know Scripture is not to know Jesus, Saint Jerome tells us. And we know Christ only if we are conversant with the words that are the words of God. Scripture tells us how such a oneness with Christ, such a penetration to the center, is to be achieved in practice. It tells us that faith is not something remote from us, something that would require us to engage in great research, or, perhaps, to cross an ocean or make an expedition into the depths of the earth. It speaks to us of what is near. The word is in your heart. You have only to enter into your own heart and you will find it there. Jesus is Lord, Jesus is risen. In these words Paul identifies the two confessional formulas of the Church, which form the heart of our confession of faith. He says: When you enter into your heart, you enter into the place where Jesus is, and vice versa you enter into your heart only when you do not simply hide yourself in yourself but co-believe with the faith of the living Church. In co-believing with the faith of the living Church, in letting yourself be carried along by it, even though many individual teachings continue to be obscure, you are hidden in the communality of the faith and so remain faithful to it, communicate with it. We read Holy Scripture as we should, from its center, from its inner unity, only when we read it in harmony with the faith of the Church.

From: L’Osservatore Romano 13, no. 8 (1983), p. 12

 Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 269). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

This makes me think… about Mercy as a bridge that connects us to God and others…

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), after having revealed his name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.

We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church “has an endless desire to show mercy.” [Evangelii Gaudium, 24.] Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The temptation, on the one hand, to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step. But the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal. On the other hand, sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. It some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.

Pope Francis
Misericordiae Vultus, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy 

#Fast Fridays in #Lent… not that we might do, that we might be… not the sins, but the faith.

#Fast Fridays in #Lent… not that we might do, that we might be… not the sins, but the faith.

Lent is not a punch card. It is not a ticket to heaven. It is not dues paying or making deposits in some holy account.

Lent, in the briefest way, means 40 Days. In the longer way it means this.

40 Days.

Productivity experts tell us that it takes more than 30 days to make something a habit. Some say 66. 

Anyway, I think that’s the point of Lent for me in terms of my spiritual life. It’s making me look at my habits and asking me to add a few that will aid my faith and help me break the sinful habits. It’s like me staring at Jesus in the desert who is staring down temptation. It’s making me stronger. But only if Jesus is with me to give me courage. And the only way he is going to do that is if I’m faithful to the church which gives me the graces I need, since I’m not very courageous on my own.

Honestly, there are many days that I want my Lent to be a ticket that I punch. That way I don’t have to enter into it fully. It can become something that I check off my to-do list.

Sorry, Pat. It ain’t a to-do list.

It’s more like a to be list.

*sigh*

Honestly, I’m so much better at the doing thing.

This is much more than a Martha vs Mary struggle. I understand that message. And trust me, what I’m thinking about is way more than putting Christ above housework and people about things. I understand those priorities. It must now be Christ always. First always. Not first mostly…  This is about how fast do I want to conform to Christ? How quick am I to obey for love of Him? How long will it take for his cruciform to appear in me?

This little meditation from the Magnificat stopped me cold yesterday morning. It is anti-ticket punch. It is antithesis of the gold star mentality of earning our way to heaven, or at least earning our way through Lent. It’s about full on entering into being the one Jesus is recreating us to be. To let Jesus be in me that I might become more like him, to imitate him with greater proficiency and more in line with his thinking, his ways.

And guess what? It positively will not happen without the Church and what the Church prescribes for me, not only this Lent, but always.

Sometimes we take up the attitude vis-à-vis the Church of someone who is looking for a certificate of good behavior. But the Church doesn’t supervise: she exists and we exist within her. She is the Body of Christ and we are members of the Body. Our dependence on her and our commitment to her, if they entail external acts or signs, are above all an internal and vital dependence and commitment. Our dependence on the body that she is, is considerable.

But our initiative, our responsibility, and our function are also considerable. We are designed as irreplaceable parts of the Church. Both our submissions and our initiatives are matters of obedience, as they would be for a body’s cells…

We don’t make good on obedience with a prayer said at Mass, with a devotion to a priest or to a movement. We don’t even make good on it with a faithful life of the sacraments, or with a fervent life of prayer, but rather by carrying our sacramental life and our prayer life wherever they must go, all the way to the end for which they were made.

– Servant of God Madeleine Delbrêl (from We, the Ordinary People of the Streets)

Wherever they must go, all the way to the end for which they were made. That is purpose of Lent. Because that is the purpose of faith… that we might be in a relationship with the One who called us to be.

But let me tell you, I repeat: I cannot be all that I am to be without the Body of Christ, the Church. I cannot make it without grace.

It is the Church that believes first, and so bears, nourishes and sustains my faith. Everywhere, it is the Church that first confesses the Lord: “Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you”, as we sing in the hymn “Te Deum”; with her and in her, we are won over and brought to confess: “I believe”, “We believe”. It is through the Church that we receive faith and new life in Christ by Baptism. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 168)

There is one tiny little prayer that priest offers at Mass before the Sign of Peace. Maybe you know it. It is a great consolation to me:

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever. (Emphasis mine.)

I am always praying that in some way. Every day. Look not on the sins, but on the faith. My sins and the faith of the Church.

Thank you, Church.

 Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1Peter 4:8

 

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More on I-am-faithless-but-God-is-faithful.

The Feminine Genius and reading ’round the Web… Don’t miss these posts!

The Feminine Genius and reading ’round the Web… Don’t miss these posts!

There has been, in the last two weeks, much important reading on subjects close to my heart, and many women’s hearts, relating to the feminine genius and the beauty of womanhood — and our loss of that sensibility and truth. Much of my writing and speaking in the three years has been to point out the basics of woman’s dignity, gifts, and mission as presented to our through the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is more pro-woman and pro-life than any other institution or organization you could name. (To learn more on this perspective, see my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious. Or come to one of my events.)

Sadly, I have been unable to comment on these posts, save for the briefest ideas,  due to my current writing work load and travel schedule

I am, however, linking to a few of those posts here. It’s Lent, after all, so I invite you to read and reflect on these in light of the Gospel, and our call to live it.

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1. Mary Eberstadt’s piece on Jailhouse Feminism over at National Review online is jarring as it is astutely on to something… the rage of women in the media and elsewhere is pointing to their abuse and abasement by themselves and others all in the name of freedom. This is must reading. Warning: course language here.

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2. Read Our Emotions, Our Bodies, Ourselves by Carolyn Moynihan as she comments on a female psychiatrist, writing in the NY Times about a boom in the number of women (1 in 4) talking medications… it was most emailed article on the New York Times website over the weekend, “Medicating Women’s Feelings”. I admit I have not had time to read the NY Times article but this reply references offers much quoted source material.  It is worth reading this piece by the ever-wise Carolyn Moynihan.

A few of my thoughts: One of the powerful gifts of women is their sensitivity, or empathy. It is more than emotions, for sure. But if we don’t understand the body-soul connection of a woman’s great ability of “seeing” with her heart, she might not understand that what breaks her heart also points her in the direction of holy actions: To be deeply rooted in prayer and clinging to Christ, and to be ready to acknowledge the the persons in their midst in need of care and nurture.

Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty—not merely physical, but above all spiritual—which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.

(St John Paul II, Letter to Women, 12)

How many women may have been medicated, or told they were crazy or unbalanced, when, really they are not — just normal? I can’t take that in now, but it grieves my heart.

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3. Yet another post on one of the gifts of women, this time, maternity: Motherhood is the Strongest Bond written by a blogger who describes the heart of women… and how we need to stand alongside one another, mother to mother, when we encounter the toughest of all crosses, the death of a child. I’m reminded here how mothers are well disposed, as St John Paul would say, not only their own children, but to all children. The author of the piece has this central message: “You’re a mother, you know.”

Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and “understands” with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the “beginning,” the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings—not only towards her own child, but every human being—which profoundly marks the woman’s personality. (St John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, 18)

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4. The Christophers’ Tony Rossi has a piece up includes some compelling lyrics from singer Kelly Clarkson, and others who are trying to combat the madness of sexual imagery that is everywhere.

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5. Some hope here from Lisa Hendey in her piece on The Blogosphere as a Mission Field, with lots of commentary from women leaders, including myself.

While I really appreciate this well written piece, it’s important to remember Lisa’s end point: we are all called to the new evangelization. For many of us, it’s the call to be saints whose mission is to rescue the culture from its confusion and chaos regarding the gifts of masculinity and femininity.

Among Women 189: Leading with Humility — talking about “The Prodigal You Love”

Among Women 189: Leading with Humility — talking about “The Prodigal You Love”

In this latest episode of Among Women, I discuss the unscheduled hiatus of the show in the last couple of months, as well as my forays into the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. I also welcome my guest, Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble FSP, author of a new book from Pauline Books and Media, The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. St Theresa is a former atheist who returned to the Catholic faith after encountering Catholics whose authentic faith and joy won her over. In this conversation Sr Theresa offers three tip for helping us invite our loved ones back into the Church… the most important of which is to lead with humility.

Finally we explore the life of a 14th century saint, St Dorothy of Montau, whose humility and gentility won the hearts of her husband to Catholicism, as well as many others. Don’t miss the return of Among Women with this newest episode.

Listen now.