Tag Archives: Virgin Mary

Pope Francis on Mary

I did not get a chance to write my Empowered Catholic Women post for this week…but I promise there will be one next week! I did come across this article though and it states so eloquently what I was hoping to convey in my own post on the Blessed Mother a few weeks ago.  Here’s a sample…

Despite everything, even the “deepest darkness,” Mary does not leave, but stands faithfully, he said. “That’s why we all love her as a Mother…We are not orphans: we have a Mother in heaven, who is the Holy Mother of God.”

The full article can be found here.

Also, did you know that this Saturday is the 100th anniversary of Mary appearing to the children in Fatima? It’s been a favorite story of mine since I first learned about it as a child and I hope to write more about it someday. In the meantime, if you aren’t familiar with the inspiring story and Mary’s message, check it out! EWTN has a great site with all the info you could ask for here.

God Bless!

ECW: The Blessed Virgin Mary

The first ECW (empowered Catholic woman) I want to focus on in this series is Our Blessed Mother. She goes by many titles: Virgin Mary, Blessed Mother, Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, and many more. When looking at women honored and respected by the Catholic Church, you can’t get much greater than Mary. In fact, Mary is so much a part of our Catholic faith that it can be easy to take her for granted and not realize what a immense blessing she is.

From the first moment we meet Mary in the Bible, we meet a strong woman who does the Lord’s will fully and without reservation. She says YES to the Lord when asked to be the mother of the Son of God, even while she does not fully understand how this will happen. (Luke 1:26-38) Being a young, unwed virgin and finding out she was with child, she certainly had reason to say no. She could have been stoned for adultery! But she trusted in God’s perfect plan for her. That’s a pretty strong woman!

She visits her cousin Elizabeth who addresses her as most blessed among women. (Luke 1:42) And while Mary acknowledges that all generations will indeed call her blessed, she does not keep the praise for herself. She does not brag to Elizabeth  about how she was chosen or how righteous she is. No. She is quick to give all glory and praise to God. (Luke 1:46-55) And still today this is what she does. By acting as our mother, she does not take away from God but rather magnifies Him, points us toward Him and gently nudges us closer to her Son, the Savior of the world!

But Mary’s YES to the Lord’s will didn’t end there. It was more than a YES to have a baby, it was a YES to endure all that would come with being the Mother of God.  She travelled nine months pregnant on a donkey to a strange land and had her baby surrounded by animals and shepherds instead of family and friends. (Luke 2:1-20) She left the people she had known to escape to Egypt to save her son from Herod’s killing. (Matthew 2:13-17) And when she and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, she was met with the words of praise for the Messiah…along with a foretelling of the pain she  would endure because of her YES (and you yourself a sword shall pierce – Luke 2:35)  But she didn’t complain. She didn’t run or hide or say to God, I’m done now this is all too much. No. She “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Mary raised Jesus and was with Him for 30 years.  After hearing those prophecies, I can’t help but wonder if she found herself during those 30 years thinking when will it happen? How will it happen? Can’t we just stay like this happy and together? Even if she felt this way, she never allowed it to interfere with what the Lord willed. She did not give in to temptation and hold her Son back from fulfilling His life-saving mission. Quite the opposite! After all, it was through Mary’s  intercession that Christ performed His first miracle at the wedding at Cana. (John :1-12)

Those three years of His ministry must have been filled with joy and also pain for Our Lady. Surely she was amazed by the wondrous deeds He performed, the loving message He shared, His courage to speak out for what was right. And yet as people spoke out against Him, tried to trick Him into speaking against the Scripture, called Him names and plotted against Him, I am sure her heart was heavy. What mother wants to see her child ridiculed and spoken of in such a manner? Still the pain she faced in watching Him treated this way during His ministry was nothing compared to the pain of watching her only son put to death on the cross 

Jesus’s crucifixion was beyond difficult for His followers to face. They were confused, filled with sorrow and dismay and fear. So troubling was His suffering and death, that we do not see them present with Him at His death. They followed Him for years but in the final moments could not stay beside Him.  Mary was by His side to the very end and beyond. (John 19:25-27) She did not accompany Him to Calvary to beg that He change what was to happen, to scream for the soldiers  to stop, to say to Him as did the others, “save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:40) No. She stood, stood, at the foot of the cross silently. Not buckled in grief or crumpled on the ground weeping, although perhaps inside she wanted to do nothing more than just that. She trusted fully in the Lord and through Him was given the remarkable strength to stand there while watching her son suffer and die because, though she may not have understood it, she knew that this was His plan and she was not going to go against His will. And after He rose from the dead, and even after He ascended into Heaven, she remained faithful to the Lord and devoted herself to prayer with the disciples. (Acts 1:14)

What incredible faith! We can learn so much from Mary’s example of obedience to the Father. She said YES to have a baby, but she also said YES to every bit of suffering and every moment of joy. She knows what it is to suffer. She knows that there is pain in this world because she has lived it. And now from her place in heaven, she hears our cries and seeks to draw us ever closer to her son, Jesus Christ. She wants to console us in our grief and sorrow by sending us into His loving, outstretched arms where she knows we will find peace.  She wants to share in our joy when we see the glory of God displayed in our lives.  She loves us as her children, for she is our mother. 

When it comes to empowered Catholic women, perhaps none was more filled with the Holy Spirit than Mary. And what a tremendous gift that we have her, not only as an example to look up to and admire, but also as an advocate for us! She is not just a distant holy woman we can read about and that’s that. She is present to us here and now through the the communion of Saints to pray for us and guide us on our faith journey. May we learn from her  example to live according to God’s will for us and to accept our joys and our sufferings.  And when we find ourselves struggling to do so, may we turn to her that she may intercede for us and bring  us closer to God. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. 

Christmas Joy

Christmas JoyDo you remember being a child and anxiously counting down the days until Christmas?  Maybe on an advent calendar or maybe a paper chain that you made?  Do you remember singing Christmas carols without a care as to how you sounded and dancing around the house laughing?  Do you remember being so excited on Christmas Eve night that you could barely sleep?  And waking before the sun to see if Santa had come?

As children, it seems that the joy of Christmas is impossible to miss.  Without having to worry about running errands and getting things done around the house, children can focus purely on the excitement of the season.  Even if part of that excitement is directed towards the coming of Santa, they still know and experience the incredible joy of the Christmas season.

As we get older, sometimes that excitement can begin to fade.  Perhaps because our schedules have become so busy we don’t have time to stop and focus on the joy.  Perhaps because we have experienced pain and sorrow and the Christmas season makes us feel sad or alone in suffering.  Perhaps it is simply that we feel we have other, more important things going on.

Whatever the reason, as Christians we are called to find that joy again and to share it with all those we meet.  Despite our hectic schedules, despite the suffering we may be experiencing, despite the things we have going on in our lives, there is always time to find the joy.

Mary and Joseph did not face an easy road in preparing for that first Christmas or in the years that followed.  Yet, despite it all, they found joy.  In fact, the whole Christmas story is filled with examples of joy.

Mary, after learning the news that she would be the mother of Christ, goes to visit Elizabeth.  Elizabeth greets her with joy.  John the Baptist, still in his mother’s womb, leaps for joy!  And Mary, despite all that was going on in her life, since learning this news, exclaims with great joy, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

At the birth of Christ, the angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds saying “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).

When the wise men, on their search to see this new King, saw the star in the sky,they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).

The Christmas story is filled with joy, not because there was a complete lack of stress, pain, and suffering.  They did not experience the joy because they had nothing else to worry about or because they had never experienced sadness.  They had problems much like we all do today.  But they were able to recognize that something bigger was happening.

Something bigger than the fear of a young, unmarried girl being found pregnant. Something bigger than the stress of traveling such a long distance while nine months pregnant.  Something bigger than the worry of having to search for a place to stay and eventually finding only a stable to give birth.

That something was the long awaited Messiah!  Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  And joy that they felt that first Christmas, the joy that we experienced so freely as children, that joy is still there calling to us in the midst of this holiday season.

Being filled with the joy of Christ’s birth doesn’t mean all problems will magically melt away.  It doesn’t mean the gifts will wrap themselves and there will be nothing else on the to-do list.  But it does mean that in spite of whatever else we may be dealing with, God is with us!  Emmanuel!  And that wondrous and amazing reality, that God sent His Son to us as a tiny babe to save us all and resides within the heart and soul of each and every one of us?  That is something bigger than all the stuff we have going on.  That is something to truly fill us with joy.

Merry Christmas to you all!  May it be a season filled with holiness, family, friends, and joy.

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!

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. +