Tag Archives: Blessed Mother Mary

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

our-lady-of-the-rosaryToday we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Last year on this feast day I shared some beautiful words by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen on Our Lady.   Today I wanted to share some beautiful words from Saint John Paul II from his 2002 Apostolic Letter ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’:

Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us.

And further down in the letter, Saint John Paul II has this to say about the Rosary as a prayer for peace:

The Rosary is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces. When prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his “Beatitudes” in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a “Simon of Cyrene” for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan?

I invite you to read the full text of ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’ here.   It is lengthy but is a wonderful explanation of the beauty of the Rosary.  If the Rosary is currently a part of your regular prayer life, it will surely encourage you and inspire you to continue forward in prayer with renewed excitement and joy for this beautiful prayer.  And if you are new to the Rosary, this lovely letter by St. John Paul II will not only explain what it is, but how it leads us closer to Christ.  Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary to you all!

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Answers to Prayers

Whenever discussing our struggle with infertility, I always remind myself that I know God has a plan and we will have a baby.  Recently I was asked how I can be so sure of that despite all the obstacles we have faced and are still facing.  I have faced the same questions myself on more than one occasion.  Every time I begin to look down another path and give up on becoming a mother, something happens that  calls me to be patient and continue on my journey.  It may be some good medical news, a particular verse in the Bible that seems to jump out at me, or someone sharing a story of their own struggles.  But each time, I am reassured that being a mother is in fact my call.  Even so, it is certainly difficult to remember at times.

Almost a year ago I was having a very hard time with it all.  I decided to delve deeper into my faith and make an honest effort to keep myself truly open to whatever God’s will may be.  Around that time my parish women’s group was beginning the 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat in preparation for Marian Consecration by Father Michael Gaitley.  And I decided to participate.

MaryThe purpose of the retreat is to bring you closer to Mother Mary, and thus grow closer to Christ.  My mother participated in the retreat long distance.  She and I would discuss the daily readings and I would call her after each weekly meeting with my women’s group to tell her what we talked about.  In late November, while in the midst of our retreat, my mother called me early one morning to tell me something wonderful.

She told me that the previous night, she had a visit from Our Lady.  She was unable to see her face but could see her robes, could hear her voice, and knew without a doubt that it was Mary.  This was not a dream.  It was more than that. In her visit, she told my mother to let me know that she sees my pain, she knows how deeply I long for a child and that I will have a baby!  She did not say how.  She did not say when.  But she did say how important it was to remember my blessings and to keep praying because our prayers are so very powerful.  She said that there is something else that must be finished first, but that I should not be sad because God hears my prayers and I will have a child.

Now some might say that is just a dream but I know it was more than that.  The peace that my mother felt and that I had upon her telling me this was surely from God.  I truly believe that the Mother of Our Lord came to my own mother here on earth to deliver a message for me, in a way that perhaps only a mother can.

The message from Mother Mary was an answer to my prayers.  I didn’t find out when or how I would become a mother. And almost a year later, I still am not pregnant.  It can be tempting sometimes to say that my prayers have not yet been answered but I know that is not the case.

I was at a crossroads praying for direction.  My heart and soul longed to be a mother and I felt such pain in the thought of letting go of that dream.  I believe I was led by the Holy Spirit to participate in this retreat because through the 33 Days, I found myself letting go of more and more of my own desires.  I was giving more of myself up in preparation to fully give myself to Jesus through Mary at our consecration.  And by opening my heart up in this way, I received the answer to my prayers.

I received confirmation that motherhood was indeed my calling.  And just as important, perhaps even more so, was the message to remember my blessings and to continue on in prayer.  There have been many struggles since then and many times when I do not know how in the world I will become a mother.  There are times when it seems like I should give up.  But I remember the message from Our Lady and hold tight to my hope and faith in Jesus Christ who I know hears and answers my prayers.

Answers to prayers come in many forms.  It might be the answer you were looking for.  It might be a gentle nudge to move in another direction. It might be the pull to a particular Bible verse that speaks to your heart.  For me, I am incredibly thankful for the blessing of Our Lady in her visit to my mother which uplifted my spirit, renewed my hope, and led me to a greater faith in her Son, Jesus Christ who gives me the strength I need to continue on my journey.

How Can this Be…?

Paolo_de_Matteis_-_The_AnnunciationMary’s YES to the Lord can seem incredibly daunting.  How could Mary, as a young virgin girl, hop on board so easily?  Why do I struggle so much with discerning God’s will for my own life?  Why can’t I say YES in the same way?

When Gabriel greets Mary he tells her that she is full of grace and that the Lord is with her.  What wondrous words!  God’s grace had already filled the Blessed Mother.  And while this was her biggest YES to the Lord, it was hardly her first.  Gabriel tells Mary she has found favor with the Lord.  She has been living a holy life, following the Lord, and placing her trust in Him.   She was given a special grace from God to prepare her for this moment.  In short, she was given everything that she needed to make this decision.

Our God loves us.  He does not desire to put us into situations we are completely unprepared for.  Instead, He calls each one of us and is by our side constantly in life to prepare us for what He has in store for us.  He gives each of us the grace we need to say YES to His call in our own lives.

But as I am only human, there are times when I still feel confused by it all.  Times when I want to know more, to understand what will happen next.

Then I read those words again,

“How can this be…?”

Mary did not understand it all either.  When Gabriel greets Mary, she is troubled and confused.  Even after Gabriel tells her not to fear and that she will be the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Most High whose kingdom will reign forever, she asks, how?  She wanted to understand.

Eve wanted to understand, too.  She was literally surrounded by God’s goodness, but she still wanted to know more.  She wanted to know the how and the why of it all.  She also had a choice to make, and she chose to follow her own path, to turn away from God.  Rather than trusting in His promises, she took matters into her own hands, choosing sin over God.

Mary chose differently.  She was still confused.  She still wanted to understand more.  But rather than trying to figure it out on her own, she turned to God.  She asked, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”   And she took the explanation that was given to her.  Gabriel did not explain exactly how it would all work.  He didn’t tell her how to deal with the questions from others, including Joseph! He didn’t reveal everything that the future would hold.  But he did remind her “nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary didn’t continue to question the specifics of everything.  She knew what she needed to know.  And so she put her trust in the Lord and said YES.

Sometimes saying YES to God means we can see it all clearly before us.  And sometimes, saying YES means knowing that we need to trust in Him even when we can’t understand how it will all work out in the end. We may ask the Lord, how can this be?  To ask Him this is to seek His guidance.  And though we may not see it right away, He will always answer with whatever it is we need to know.  Even if all we need to know in that moment is that nothing is impossible for God!

When we are faced with confusion and doubt, when tough decisions come our way, when we simply feel the need to know and understand, we have two choices. We can choose to give into the temptation and place our quest for knowledge above our trust in God, as Eve did.  Or, we can use the grace He has given us to say YES to God even though we may not understand it all. We find hope in the knowledge that nothing is impossible for God.  And through this hope, through His grace, we can follow the example of our loving and holy Mother Mary and say “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

Full of Grace

conception-1“Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with thee.”  (Luke 1:28)

These words, the first lines of the “Hail Mary” prayer, were spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel when he came to her to share the glorious news that she was to be the mother of the Son of God.  This was not a casual greeting.  These words, short though they may be, held deep meaning within them, and Mary knew it.

“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.”   (Luke 1:29)

What is it about these words?  Mary was not troubled simply by the presence of Gabriel, but by the words he spoke and the meaning they held.  They must have great importance.  If not, we could skip the greeting altogether and head right to Luke 1:30 and continue on from there,

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end”.

But that is not where the story begins.  Luke includes the specific words spoken in greeting to the Virgin Mary for a reason.  Mary pondered over these words for a reason.  This greeting is more than just a few words strung together as a way to say hello.  They hold profound meaning.

Today, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate the meaning of these words.

The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the birth or conception of Christ, but rather to the Immaculate Conception of Mary within the womb of her mother, St. Anne.  The Immaculate Conception refers to the fact that Mary was conceived immaculately, free from sin from the very beginning of her life.  She was miraculously preserved free of original sin and thus was in a state of grace from her very conception.  Where does this teaching come from?

The official dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not proclaimed until 1854 but the belief in Mary as being immaculately conceived goes back to the earliest church teachings and beliefs. This belief was not invented in 1854, but rather simply defined.  The belief itself stems from looking at the very verses mentioned above.

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”

That peculiar greeting holds within it the deep meaning of the Immaculate Conception.  Mary is not told that if she agrees to give birth to the Son of God, then she will have the Lord within her and will thus be filled with His grace.  She is not told that the Son she will bear will die for all sins and His sanctifying grace will then fill her.  The angel Gabriel announces that Mary is already full of grace!

The grace of God filled Mary’s soul from the very moment of her creation so that she would be worthy of carrying the Son of God within her womb.  But Mary was still a created being.  She was fully human.  At any moment during her life, she could have chosen to give in to the temptations around her.  She could have chosen disobedience and sin, but she did not.  She remained filled with the grace of God and free from sin throughout her life.  In her perfect obedience to the will of the Lord we see exactly why it is that Mary proclaims “All generations will call me blessed”  (Luke 1:48).

On this feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we praise God for His miraculous grace that allowed Our Lady to be preserved from sin and thus worthy of carrying Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Through her example and love for the Lord, we grow closer to Him.  With Mary ever by our side, we grow in grace and are constantly drawn closer to Our Savior.

+  Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen. +

Advent: Calm in the Chaos

nativity-447767_640Advent.  A time of waiting and preparation, both for the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and for His glorious return.  Sometimes we might feel as though there is too much going on in our lives to truly focus on the Advent season.  But the season of Advent can be celebrated in our hearts in times of quiet prayer and pondering as well as in the midst of hectic preparations.

In the time leading up to the birth of our Lord, Mary and Joseph had a lot going on. The angel Gabriel comes and delivers a most wonderful message to the Blessed Mother and she joyfully accepts the will of the Father, even without knowing exactly what may be involved.  Then an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph to assure him that what Mary said was true.  He, too, accepts the will of the Father and takes Mary into his home.  Suddenly their lives were forever changed.  They had been two seemingly ordinary people preparing to be married.  And now they were married and expecting a child.  Not just any child, but the Son of God! The child they were preparing to welcome into the world would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

In what I can only imagine was a whirlwind of wonder and joy at the events that were transpiring I am sure that there were also some hectic moments.  Mary went to visit Elizabeth for several months.  They had the usual preparations for expecting a baby.  And rather than staying close to home while waiting for the Christ Child to be born, they had to go and journey to Bethlehem for the census.  Can you imagine being in Mary’s position?  Leaving family and friends and the comfort of the home you have likely been preparing for months for the arrival of a baby, to travel while quite pregnant would be stressful for most of us.  And what about Joseph?  He loved Mary dearly and I am sure he was concerned for his new bride with all the commotion going on.  I can imagine him frantically trying to find a place for them to rest before finding the stable.  I think it is fair to say that most of us would be overwhelmed by it all.

Was Mary overwhelmed?  Were Mary and Joseph stressed out and frantic as their plans kept changing?  Mary and Joseph were people just like you and me.  They had plenty on their plates!  And in their time of waiting, they couldn’t constantly sit back in quiet solitude and contemplate the events that were going to transpire.  They had to continue on in their preparations, deal with changing plans and forge ahead with their lives.  They couldn’t escape the whirlwind of life.

What they could do was make time for the Lord in the midst of it all.  They could trust in His Almighty plan for them, even when things seemed chaotic and confusing.  They could lean on His promises and ponder in their hearts the glorious mystery they had been called to live out.  They could proclaim His goodness even if it didn’t all make sense to them right away.

As we make our way through this Advent season we journey in our hearts alongside Mary and Joseph.  The world around us is hectic.  When everywhere we turn there is commotion and chaos, we can still find the peace of Advent within us.   While we wait for Christmas to come there are things to be done!  Gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, decorations to put up, family get-togethers to plan and attend.  Even if we manage to avoid the frenzied pace that can accompany the Christmas season, what then? After Christmas we will still be waiting for Christ’s glorious return.  Do we truly expect to avoid all stress, all chaos, all commotion for the rest of our lives?

That holy night in Bethlehem when Christ our King was born was truly glorious.  But the journey wasn’t over.  And it wasn’t always calm and peaceful.  Imagine the commotion and uncertainty as they fled to Egypt in the middle of the night to save the Baby Jesus.  And imagine the frantic search for the Child Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple.  Even with the Son of God living there with them, I am sure that Mary and Joseph had their share of stressful and hectic moments.  We all do!

Try as we might, the Christmas season may not be quiet and peaceful at every moment for us.  We may not avoid all the chaos and commotion in this season or in the months and years to follow.  Even so, we can still find peace.  Emmanuel!  God is with us!  Even in the hectic moments, He is there.  And those moments will seem a little less hectic if we strive to remember that.   When we feel the frantic pressure of waiting in long lines to purchase gifts we can say a prayer of thanks for the loved ones in our lives.  When we find ourselves stuck in an endless traffic jam we can take advantage of the extra time and say a few prayers while we wait.  When life is swirling around us and we seem to find confusion every way we turn, we can trust that God is there beside us even when we can’t see the way ahead.

So this Advent season, if despite your efforts to remain calm and peaceful you find yourself stuck in the midst of the commotion, look to Mary and Joseph.  They show us how to follow the Lord and trust in His ways while still living out our daily lives, crazy though they may be.  Things may get hectic, plans may change, but God remains with us.  He is there in the calm.  He is there in the chaos.  God is with us!  Emmanuel!

The Blessing of the Blessed Mother

devotionla-songs-of-mother-maryThanksgiving is just a few days away and it seems only natural that our thoughts turn to the many blessings we have to be thankful for. My mind goes to the usual things, my loving husband, my wonderful family, our goofy dog, our home, our health, our food, our freedom, and of course the love of our Savior. This year I have another to add to my list.

Mary.

I am currently going through Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat in preparation for consecration to Jesus through Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  When I first began the retreat, I will admit I was a little nervous.  I love Mary but wanted to make sure that this consecration would lead me ultimately not to her alone, but to Christ.  While parts of the readings have taken some prayer and contemplation to better grasp, they have opened my eyes and my heart to Mary’s presence in my life in a new way.

Looking back at my childhood it seems that there was no escaping the love of Mother Mary.  We were taught the Hail Mary and the Rosary, we had beautiful holy cards and statues of the Blessed Mother as reminders of her perfect example, we watched animated children’s videos of Mary appearing in Fatima and in Lourdes.  Even the parish I grew up in, Immaculate Conception was named in honor of Mary.  The importance of Mary in our faith was never lost on me as I grew up.  It was so instilled in me that I took it for granted and failed to realize what an enormous blessing it is to be able to walk this journey of faith with Mary by our side. When I think back again to that list of things I am thankful for, I can see Mary working within each one.

When I met my husband it was not long before I knew he was the one I was meant to be with.  But before I could make that decision, I remember praying deeply for guidance.  I prayed for God to show me if this was truly the man He had meant for me.  And I prayed for Mother Mary to guide me to be the wife God had called me to be.  On our wedding day, amidst the flurry of activities and emotions, I remember going over to the statue of the Blessed Mother during Mass to offer flowers up to Our Lady and take a moment to pray for her guidance in our marriage.  Yes Mary was certainly present in bringing my husband and I together and she has been there guiding us in our love for each other and for the Lord ever since.

As I mentioned before, devotion to Mary was instilled in my sisters and I from an early age.  Our parents and grandparents showed us just how important she is in our lives.  And I strongly believe that the faith we learned as children formed the foundation not only for the faith that we share today, but for the deep relationships I share with my family even now that we are grown and scattered across the country.

My goofy little puggle.  You might be wondering how in the world Mary’s presence in my life relates to my dog.  I believe that I am called to care for a family.  I have spent countless hours in prayer for that to happen.  But God’s ways are not my own and He has a perfect plan for us to one day have a child.  In the meantime, my motherly energy goes toward my pup.  And in the morning, when I say my Rosary and my little dog curls up next to me quiet as can be as if she knows this is prayer time, I know that Mary is there bringing me to God and helping me to be patient and enjoy the time with my little puggle while I wait for the blessing of a baby.

Our home, health, food, freedom…Mary is there in all of it.  Through times of job searching, apartment searching, doctor’s appointments, Mary is there.  Even if we do not always see it, she is there nudging us closer to God as we face each decision in life.  There showing us the deep love of the Father as we see the blessings He has poured out for us.

Mary’s yes to being the mother of Our Lord showed us the way in which we are all called to respond to the Lord.  She accepted the will of the Lord without knowing exactly how it would all play out.  She placed her trust fully in God as she raised the child Jesus.  She was with Him as a baby, as a child, as a man.  She was there for His miracles, for His joys, for His suffering.  She stood by His side through it all, even at the foot of the cross.  The love she has for Jesus is deep and pure.  And it is that love that she wants to share with us.  To show us how to love the Lord more perfectly.

Mary’s presence in our lives is a wondrous mystery that is truly something to be thankful for.  To have the mother of our Lord guiding us every step of the way so that we may become more of the people God has called us to be is such a blessing.  As we take a special moment to thank the Lord for all that we have, let us remember to thank Him for the blessing of His Blessed Mother Mary who leads us to a deeper love for Christ our Lord.

Our Lady of the Rosary

20141007102001041Today we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.  The Rosary is a most beautiful and powerful prayer.  As we pray through the words of Scripture and focus on the life of Our Savior, we are filled with peace and the love of Christ.  We grow closer and closer to Jesus through His Mother, who is indeed our mother as well.  Our devotion to His Blessed Mother does not take away from the glory of God.   But through her loving and faithful example, she has shown us how to love her Son, Jesus.

Our Lady of the Rosary, lead us to your Son, our Savior. We pray that through the devotion of the Rosary we might draw closer to the Lord and draw others to Him.  Pray for us that we might reflect His light to all those around us.  We pray that we may learn to love Him with all our hearts and trust in Him completely, as you did.  In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“God, Who made the sun, also made the moon. The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun. The moon would be only a burnt-out cinder floating in the immensity of space were it not for the sun. All its light is reflected from the sun. The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing. With Him, she is the Mother of Men. On dark nights we are grateful for the moon; when we see it shining, we know there must be a sun. So in this dark night of the world when men turn their backs on Him Who is the Light of the World, we look to Mary to guide their feet while we await the sunrise.”  – Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen