Starting the Year with An Invisible Mother?

We thank the good Lord for the year gone by. We invoke His blessing on 2013.

immac-concepWe greet the passing of time not with hopeless dissipation, like the pagans, but with sober joy. Whatever it will please the Lord to send our way in the year to come, we know that all of it will serve to build up the eternal city of love—if only we have the grace to receive it all with faith, like humble children looking for good things from our Father.

Not that I intend to be polyannish about AD 2013. The year to come does not lie before us like a bed of roses; no new year ever does. 2013 could start bad, and go downhill from there. To be perfectly honest with you, I have very serious doubts about the Washington Redskins’ ability to beat the Seattle Seahawks—among other looming problems.

But: We begin the new year as Christians. We begin it in church, with our Lord. And with His Mother.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared:

The Virgin in her own life lived an example of that maternal love [which] should animate all who cooperate in the apostolic mission of the Church…Placed by the grace of God, as God’s Mother, next to her Son, and exalted above all angels and men, Mary intervened in the mysteries of Christ and is justly honored by special [devotion] in the Church. From the earliest times, [Christians have] honored the Blessed Virgin under the title of Mother of God, under whose protection the faithful take refuge in all dangers and necessities. (Lumen Gentium 65-66)

Pope Paul VI, following up on this, decreed:

The Christmas season is a prolonged commemoration of the divine, virginal, and salvific motherhood of her whose inviolate virginity brought the Savior into the world…The Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God…is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation…It is likewise a fitting occasion for…imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace. (Marialis Cultus)

Now, sometimes people wonder about our Catholic love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. After all—they try to maintain—the New Testament does not contain much information about her. Only about ten direct mentions, and most of those very brief. You Catholics have all these solemnities in her honor. But don’t we have to conclude from the Bible that she has only minor importance, since she is practically invisible?

mlk marchingWell, let’s see. Let’s try to think about other examples of people with “invisible mothers.”

Can any of us even name the mother of William Shakespeare, or George Washington, or Blessed Mother Teresa, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Probably not.

But are these women really so completely unknown to us? Don’t we know something about them all–simply by virtue of the fact that we know the children that they raised?

When we see Mother Teresa sweetly and lovingly wiping the brow of a sick poor man, don’t we have to think that she learned this tenderness somewhere? When we see Martin Luther King standing his ground peacefully in Birmingham, don’t we have to think that he learned this Christian courage somewhere?

The truth is that, if we know Christ intimately, then we know Our Lady intimately, too. The apple does not fall far from the tree, even when He is the Son of God. The gospels paint the picture of Christ. By doing that, they also paint a picture of the mother who bore Him and raised Him.

But, actually, we don’t even really need to worry so much about how well we know the Blessed Virgin Mary. We may know Our Lady well; we may not. But, either way, we can be sure that she knows us. We can be sure that she loves us with a mother’s love, and that she will spend 2013—as she spends every year—interceding on our behalf, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ her Son.

No Sentimentality, But Sublime Sentiments

You will have to forgive me. Getting sentimental about Christmas has never been part of my repertoire. And this year, I will miss one of the three people with whom I have spent every one of the past 39 Christmases. My dear aunt is spending this Christmas in her newly sealed grave. Not to mention all the little ones from Connecticut who spend this Christmas that way, too.

mary-mSo sentimentality won’t work. Sorry. No yuletide chestnuts right now.

But: Can we find some sentiments that suit the holy Solemnity of the Nativity—sentiments that fit, year in and year out, in good times and bad, no matter how cold the outside world may seem?

Yes, we can. We can find joy that conquers every evil. We know right where to look for it. In the immaculate heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council explained that Mary offers to the Church our perfect model, our consummate example, the full flowering of all our efforts to believe, to hope, and to love like Christ. In Mary, we the Church see ourselves as we most want to be.

One phrase which the Vatican-II Fathers used to describe Mary takes on, I think, a special light at Christmastime. They refer to Mary as—above all others and uniquely—the “generous associate” of Christ.

Generous associate. Now, my dad was a lawyer. So the word “associate” makes me think of the name of the law firm he was in. Jones, Day, Reavis, Pogue, and Associates. Smart lawyers, savvy and streetwise. Brooks Brothers and BMWs—these “associates.”

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Mary the Cause + GS Notes 4

At this time of year, oftentimes non-Catholic family members accompany their Catholic spouses to Mass. Sometimes Protestants will come to take part in the ancient rituals by which the Roman Church marks the birth of the Christ. For whatever reason, at Christmastime many people who do not regularly find their way into Catholic churches come to Mass.

bl-virg-detailWe welcome all. This situation provides the preacher with a wonderful opportunity to try to explain, perhaps, some of the more misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church.

So I’ve decided to go ahead and try to outline why we love the Virgin Mary, almost as if she were a god.

Seriously, though: fifty years ago, the Pope and all the Catholic bishops met together, and it was called the ________________.

One of the things the Fathers did was to explain, as carefully and thoroughly as they could, the Catholic doctrine regarding the Church.

In order to do this, they had to focus on the one whose faith began the life of the Church.

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Our Longing Lady

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council proposed for us the Catholic doctrine regarding the Church. Christ, the light of the nations, gathers His flock into a single People of God.

Vatican II bas reliefIf we want to understand this perfectly visible, and yet profoundly mysterious, Church of Christ, we must focus our gaze on one human individual. We must contemplate the…

pre-eminent and singular member of the Church…its excellent exemplar…whom the whole People of God honors with child-like love. (Lumen Gentium 53)

Namely: _________________________________

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Divine Love Speedway

You shall love. You shall love. You shall love. To love is worth more than burnt offerings. Love, and you are not far from God’s kingdom. Love God. Love neighbor. Love. Love.

According to the readings, Sunday is the Sunday of Love. The first reading commands love. The gospel reading commands love. And the second reading has to do with love, too. In Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church, we read, about ourselves:

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President Brad Pitt?

Your faith has saved you. (Mark 10:52)

Last Sunday we began to discuss the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church.

Actually, it’s not true.

I mean, that we started discussing Vatican II’s portrait of the Church last week. In fact, we began to discuss it two weeks ago, when we reflected on the conversation the Lord Jesus had with the rich young man.

We wondered how we camels will get ourselves through the eye of the needle and into the kingdom of heaven. Chapter V of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church teaches the means by which every Christian person can seek holiness. Intentionally to choose poverty, chastity, and obedience ranks high among those means. And the Council taught that yet a higher means of attaining holiness beckons the chosen few, namely martyrdom.

In the spring, we talked about the federal Affordable Care Act, and how we would love it, were it not for the parts of it that we hate. I hope all of us grasp the responsibility we have as Christians to consider the politics of our country from the point-of-view of the weakest and most defenseless people, the people who have no voice, no money, no power, especially the thousands of innocent unborn children who die by violence every day.

So we covered our pro-life principles back in the spring. Now let’s consider something else…

The history of our nation has seen admirable civil-rights movements. Inspiring leaders have helped us to perceive the fundamental dignity of every individual human being. Thanks to these movements, we wonder now: How could any of our ancestors have held our other ancestors as slaves? And how could our forefathers have regarded our excellent foremothers as anything but perfectly capable and intelligent?

Crusades for justice fought by earlier generations have given us liberating clarity and insight. But we also have to acknowledge that such crusades tend to oversimplify things. Social movements paint the world with a very broad brush, dividing it into two forces: the noble, aggrieved class and their advocates on one side, and the villainous enemies of change on the other.

Now, let’s consider: Do you or I sin against justice by saying to a homosexual person: Dear homosexual brother, dear homosexual sister, God wills something better for you than to do unnatural and unfruitful things with your body?

Is this statement oppressive and unjust? We disciples of the chaste and pure Christ freely acknowledge that the “something better” God has in mind for homosexual people is also something harder. God wills something harder for the homosexual person, just like He wills something harder for anyone who has cancer, or for a young widow or widower, or for a handicapped person.

Getting sick is hard, losing a spouse before their time is hard, being celibate is hard. All involve carrying a cross heavier than what anyone wants to have to carry. But when we carry our crosses in faith, we become the people God made us to be.

We Catholics say to any person with homosexual desires: God wills something better for you than to give in. Stand right here beside us. We will carry our crosses together, with the help of Christ’s grace. We do not consider you to be “gay.” We call you a brother or a sister Christian. Let’s fight the good fight for chastity together.

Does saying this make us the enemies of a human right? We call it love to try to inspire people to have noble aspirations and seek God’s help in rising above the concupiscence of the flesh. But we have to face the sobering facts: A strong and self-assured social movement, with tons of money and prestige, calls what we say not love, but hate.

Let’s ask ourselves: If things continue to move in the direction in which they are headed, will there be room left for the Catholic Church as a mainstream institution in los Estados Unidos in twenty years? Or will the administration of President Brad Pitt have gotten our official teaching on homosexuality declared illegal by Chief Justice Ted Olson’s Supreme Court?

If we do not have the guts to think clearly now about the meaning of marriage, and find a way to stand our ground—if we do not offer our contemporaries a strong and loving answer to the Same-Sex Marriage Movement, an answer that springs from what we know about the sacredness of the human body, made male and female, and the beauty of lifetime marital fidelity—if we do not paint a picture of something better and truer than what the captains of our culture peddle these days, and then give ourselves over completely to the truth we believe in—if we fail to shine the light, in other words, then if we find ourselves outlawed and operating clandestinely and ineffectively out of someone’s basement in twenty years, we will have only ourselves to blame.

Being against “gay marriage” means defending the interests of children. But even more important is that we know, understand, and love what we are for. We are for Christian chastity, faithfulness, and fruitfulness.

If it becomes illegal to be for what Jesus Christ is for, then bring on the handcuffs! We will sing in our jail cells. For the sake of all the confused and misguided souls who have never heard of Christian chastity, we cannot afford to be wimps about this. We are living through a decisive time, and we have to be ready and willing to be fed to the lions—if that’s what it takes to stand with the chaste, loving Christ.

Christ’s Baptism and Ours

Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? (Mark 10:38)

The Lord Jesus asked the ambitious Apostles this question. When the Lord referred to “the baptism with which I am baptized,” what exactly did He mean?

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