Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jesus Lost in the Temple

"Let patience have a perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing" (James 1:4)
The sorrow we consider today is one of Our Mother's greatest sorrows - the loss of her child in the temple. She was used to being in the the Divine Presence daily, one can assume at most times, excepting when duty required short separations. In a way this deprivation of Mary mimics the so-called dark night of the soul, in which one steeped in God's consolation is deprived of it in order to purify that soul's longing for God. Mary underwent a dark night that was very tangible and real.
In the second chapter of Luke, the story is told that the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, together with thier family would visit the Temple annually at the Pasch. Jesus was twelve years old when this occurred, but upon departing, Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. At some time during the return journey, Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not with them nor thier relatives. They returned to Jerusalem and searched for three days before finding Him in the Temple, listening to the teachers and asking questions.
What an agony of fear and anxiety these holy parents must have underwent! The following scripture passages have been applied to thier lamentations: "Have you seen him whom my soul loves? (Cant 3:3). "My tears have been my bread day and night, while it is said to be daily: Where is your God?" (Ps 41:4). "The boy is not there, and I, where shall I turn?" (Gen 37:30). We can think about what anxiety any parents undergo at such a loss. We can safely assume that Mary and Joseph were not able to sleep nor eat during these three days. According to St. Bernard she frequently addressed Jesus during this time using the words of Canticles: "Show me where you feed, where you lie in the midday, lest I begin to wander" (Cant 1:6) Imagine her distress, perhaps she said: My son, tell me where you are, tell me that you are safe and unharmed so that I may find you and have peace. Let me no longer search for you in vain...
There are some who state that this sorrow was Mary's greatest of all. The most painful sword to pierce her heart through her entire life. This is the only sorrow during which she did not have Jesus with her. Now she suffers far from her Son: "And the light of my eyes itself is not with me" (Ps 37:11). Origin states that "because of Mary's love for her son she suffered more from this loss of Jesus than any martyr ever suffered in the separation of his soul from his body." These three days must have been exquisitely and abhorringly painful indeed. "Therefore do I weep, and my eyes run down with water; because the comforter...if far from me" (Lam 1:16). Also we hear our Lady's words echoing with those of Tobias, "What manner of joy shall be to me who sit in darkness and see not the light of heaven? (Tob 5:12)
O Blessed Virgin, why do you afflict yourself, looking everywhere for your lost son? Is it because you do not know where he is? Do you not know that he is in your heart? Are you not aware that he feeds among the lilies? You yourself said: My beloved to me, and I to him, who feeds among the lilies (Cant 2:15). Your thoughts and your love- all so humble, so pure, and so holy- are the lilies which invite your divine Spouse to dwell in you. Amen+
(Source: The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)

Flight Into Egypt II

"O God, must he who came to save men now flee from them?" ~St. Albert the Great
We can only poorly imagine the agony that Mary and Joseph underwent at their impending exile away from all and everything they knew. This sentiment is nicely put by St. Peter Chrysologus: "Flee from your friends to the abode of strangers; flee from the temple of God to the shrines of demons! O what tribulation for a newborn Infant, still at his mother's breast, to have to flee into a foreign land!"
Biblical scholars differ in opinion regarding the location of the Holy Family during their stay in Egypt. Brocard and Jansenius claim they lived in Matarea. St. Anselm records the residence at Heliopolis, or at Memphis, now the city of Cairo. The bible does not record anything of the poverty which must have been their companion there - they were strangers, without income, perhaps barely able to support themselves. St. Basil describes their situation thus: "Since they were destitute it is obvious that they must have worked very hard to provide themselves with the necessities of life."
Upon the death of Herod, the angel again appeared to Saint Joseph, instructing him to take his wife and the child back to Judea. At this time Jesus would have been seven years old. We can think with confidence that this too would have been a great suffering. A child of seven is too big to carry, but is yet too small to walk long distances. The Holy Family's return must have been a labor of joy mingled with great suffering and trial.
Saint Colette was graced with a mystical vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who: "showed her the Infant Jesus in a basin, bruised and mutilated. Mary said to her: 'This is the way sinners continually treat my dear son , renewing his death and my sorrows. My daughter, you must pray for them so that they will be converted."
Another vision granted to Ven. Joanna of Jesus and Mary: "One day, when she was meditating on the Infant Jesus persecuted by Herod, she heard a loud noise, like that of armed men pursuing someone. Immediately she saw before her a beautiful child all out of breath and running, who exclaimed: 'O Joanna, help me, conceal me! I am Jesus of Nazareth, I am fleeing from these sinners who wish to kill me and persecute me as Herod did. Please save me!'
(Source: The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)
Jesus and Mary, my two sweet loves, for you I will suffer; for you I will die; I am entirely yours and in nothing my own. ~St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Flight Into Egypt

"Your hair is like draperies of purple; a king is held captive in its tresses." (Cant 7:5)
This passage has been used to refer to Mary's constant thoughts regarding the passion of Jesus. The skin torn by whips, the blood that would be sacrificed were always before her eyes. This the second sword to pierce the heart of Mary was her son himself.
Having heard that the King of Jerusalem was born, Herod feared he would lose his kingship over the people. St. Fulgentius writes of this: "Why are you disturbed, Herod? The King who is born does not come to conquer kings by the sword. He will subjugate them in a most remarkable manner by his death." When King Herod realized he had been decieved by the magi who did not return as he had asked, he decreed that all male babies under the age of two be cruelly massacred. It was due to this that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph: "Arise, and take the child and his mother, and flee into Egypt" (Mt 2:13). St. Joseph, a strong and wise protector, immediately did as he was instructed. "He arose and took the child and his mother, by night, and withdrew into Egypt" (Mt 2:14).
We see here that the persecution of Jesus begins right after his birth and the prophesy of Simeon begins to unfold: "He is set for a sign that shall be contradicted" (Lk 2:34). What suffering this exile must have been for Mary and Joseph. They left behind their family, friends, home, land, culture and language. They went to a place where they knew no one, did not speak the language, and all this in fear for the life of their newborn son.
Some experts estimate the journey to have been 400 miles, a journey of no less than 30 days. The road with rough, unknown and rarely traveled. It was winter, requiring traversing through snow, rain, wind - without servants, without enough supplies for the duration. Imagine the very young and delicate Blessed Virgin with her newborn infant swaddled in her arms, her husband at her side, wandering through the wilderness. What did they eat? Where did they sleep? According to St. Bonaventure: "They were probably satisifed with a hard piece of bread, either brought along by Joseph or begged as alms. Thy only place they could have slept along the road, especially through two hundred miles of desert where there were no houses or inns, was on the sand or under a tree, in the open air and exposed to the dangers of robbers and wild animals with which Egypt abounded. If anyone had met these three - the greatest of all personages in the world - would he not have thought that they were but three poor wandering beggars?"
The thought of Jesus with his parents wandering as fugitives amidst foreign lands teaches us that we also are to live as pilgrims on this side of the vale. "Here we have no permanent city, but seek for the city that is to come" (Heb 13:14). Or as St. Augustine said: "You are only a guest here. You glance around and then pass on." Or even better, from the lips of the Blessed Virgin Mother herself to Bl. Veronica of Binasco: "Daughter, you have seen how difficult it was for us to reach this country {Egypt}. Learn from this that no one receives graces without suffering."
My most sweet Mother, let me have tears to weep over my ingratitude. By the sufferings you endured on that journey to Egypt, help me in the journey I now have to make to eternity so that I may finally be united to you in loving my persecuted Savior in the kingdom of the blessed. Amen+

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Prophesy of Simeon

"Behold this child is set...for a sign which shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce. (Luke 2:34-35)
God willed that Mary be the Queen of Sorrows and as such He set before her eyes the suffering she was to undertake as our Savior's mother.
Is it not somewhat of a contradiction that the Presentation, being one of the joyful mysteries of the Rosary, ends with the Prophesy of Simeon, one of Mary's sorrows? As is often the case, great joy is mingled with great suffering. The Blessed Virgin Mary told St. Matilda regarding St. Simeon's prophesy, "all her joy was changed into sorrow." It appears that Mary approached her Son's Presentation with joy, but all this was turned to sorrow, thus was the will of God, and indeed Mary accepted His Holy Will as she always did - as should we.
Mary also revealed to St. Teresa of Avila that she already knew that her son would be sacrificed for the salvation of the world. At Simeon's prophesy she learned in more specific detail of the sufferings and death her Son would undergo. Here she learned, by Simeon's words, how horribly opposed the people would be to the teachings of Jesus. She now knew that Jesus would be persecuted instead of being believed.
Let's look ahead into the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and just how this played out. I urge you to see this all through the sorrowful eyes of Mary, who loved her Son more than herself. He was accused of blasphemy by Caiphas: "He has blasphemed...he is guilty of death." (Mt 26:65,66). Jesus was accused of being a nobody, a person of lowly birth although He was of royal lineage: "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Mt 13:55). "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mk 6:3). He is the possessor of perfect wisdom and yet: "How does this man know letters, having never learned?" (Jn 7:15). Derided as a false prophet: "And they blindfolded him, and smote his face...saying: 'Prophesy who is it that struck you?' (Lk 22:64). He was treated as a crazy person: "He is mad, why hear you him?" (Jn 10:20) He was called a drunkard, a glutton, and a friend of sinners: "Behold a man that is a glutton, and a drinker of wine, a friend of publicans and sinners." (Lk 7:34). A sorceror: "By the prince of devils he casts out devils" (Mt 9:34). He was also called a heretic, even possessed by the devil: "Do we not say well of you that you are a Samaritan and has a devil?" (Jn 8:48).
Jesus was so thoroughly calumniated, derided and held in public disdain that no trial was needed to condemn him, "If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to you." (Jn 18:30) Imagine if you will, Mary serving and following her Divine Son during his public life and the great suffering she underwent due to this contradiction, truly a living martyrdom!
St. Alphonsus de Ligouri takes this living contradiction of Jesus a step further: "He was opposed even in his very soul: for his own Eternal Father, in order to meet the demands of divine justice, opposed him by refusing to hear his prayer when he said: 'Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me." (Mt 26:39). His Father abandoned him to fear, weariness, and sadness - so much so that Jesus exclaimed: 'My soul is sorrowful unto death' (Mt 26:38). His inner sufferings even caused him to sweat blood. In a word, he was persecuted and tortured in body and in soul in every way until a finally, drained of every drop of his blood, he expired - an object of scorn on a cross of shame."
Think of the scorn and humiliation Our Lord underwent in the business of saving us. Think of the sword that pierced the soul of Our Heavenly Mother who suffered silently at her Son's side, offering her sufferings for us. Be grateful for this!
O blessed Mother, I have not pierced your heart with one sword alone, but with as many as are the number of sins I have committed. O Lady, it is not you who are innocent who ought to suffer, but I who am guilty of so many crimes. But since you have suffered so much for me, obtain for me by your merits great sorrow for my sins and patience in the trials of this life. These are bound to be light in comparison with my crimes, by which I have so often deserved hell. Amen+
(Source: The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Saints Meme

From Ray at Stella Borealis Roundtable - Dear Ray has mentioned little 'ol me and asked me to write about the following:

"Those tagged for this meme will list their four favorite saints, their one favorite blessed, and one person they think should have been a saint."

Ok, so here goes:
1. St. Joan of Arc: The heroic young women was a visionary of Sts Michael, Elizabeth and Margaret, and leader of armies. Her story inspired my youth. In the 4th and 5th grade I checked every book on her out of my public elementary school library and read them voraciously. I believe her prayers and intercessions kept me from straying "too far" and ulitimately led be back into the fold. She is my primary patron saint, my heavenly sister, my model in virtue. I have been known to pour out my soul to her and she never fails to give guidance. Following my Confirmation I legally added her name to mine. I can't wait to meet her in Heaven.

2. St. Elizabeth of the Visitation: Wife of Zachary and mother of St. John the Baptist, the first one Our Lady went to see after the Incarnation. Her name is my other given middle name, now legally Elizabeth-Joan. When I was "away" in my teen years I bought her medal and wore it nearly all the time. I also believe her prayers were instrumental in my conversion. She is the patroness of my motherhood, a good and holy example and powerful intercessor.

3. St. Charles Borromeo: Born of the powerful Medici family in 1538, became a lawyer, then priest and bishop then Cardinal of Milan. He was "the force" behind the Council of Trent. He led the counter-reformation and was the principle leader second to his uncle, Pope Pius IV. One of the Church's holiest and effective reformers. I read a little summary of his life to my kids one night from our children's book of the saints and I felt an powerful drawing to him. I began a novena to him and received the swiftest and clearest response I've ever in my life received to any prayer. It is the likes of him that we need leading our Church today.

4. St. Raphael the Archangel: Beloved angel, one of the seven "who stand before the thone of the Most High" The kinda guy you want praying for you. The book of Tobit is my favorite, I never tire of reading it or hearing its stories at Mass. Raphael is the patron of nurses - which is my profession. He is also a patron to travelers, single people and of new meetings. My husband and I prayed a novena to Raphael when we were first dating and call on his intercession to this day. I frequently entrust the salvation of souls to his intercession.

5. St. Benedict: Holy, holy abbot and founder of the Benedictine order as you all know. What I love the most about him is his saavy and power against the devil and the fallen. I wear his medal always and have several around the house. I invoke him often for the dead, against evil and for healing. He is our family patron saint as well and I entrust our safety to his intercession.

Favorite Blessed: Bl. KAROLINA KÓZKÓWNA. Martyr of Purity
Born 2 August 1898 in Wal-Ruda, Poland. Murdered defending herself from an attempted rape by a Russian Soldier on 18 November 1941 in a forest outside Wal-Ruda, Poland.
Beatified 10 June 1987 at Tarnów, Poland by Pope John Paul II. Feast Day 18 November

Should be a saint: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Best US bishop in history, certainly the best public speaker. I get the chills when I see tapes of his old television programs. Please God raise up and give America many bishops like him!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Queen of Martyrs VI

Mary's Easter
As we know, after Jesus' death on Good Friday comes His glorious resurrection on Easter. Although not specifically spoken of in sacred scripture, it is a pious tradition that Jesus appeared to His mother first. Yes, the apostles heard first from Mary Magdalene that Jesus had appeared to her, but that does not mean definitively that He did not appear first to His Mother. Anyway, I came across a beautiful story of Mary's Easter which follows. The Lord rewards those who compassionate His Passion with a generosity we cannot fathom, this is certainly true of His Blessed Mother. (And I realize the above picture is St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, but its the best I could do :) If you know of an image of the Virgin Mary with her Risen Son, please kindly leave a link in the comment box!)
"Now, Lord, you have glorified that holy flesh which suffered on the cross. But remember that your flesh is the flesh of your Mother and that she also suffered in seeing you suffer on the cross. She was crucified with you and therefore, it is just that she should rise with you. It is the statement of your apostle, Paul, that those who were your companions in suffering should also be your companions in glory. And since this Lady was your faithful companion in all your sufferings from the crib to the cross, it is fitting that now she should share your joys and glory.
Brighten that darkened sky, reveal that eclipsed moon, disperse that clouds of sorrow from her sorrowful soul, dry the tears of her virginal eyes, and command that the flowers of summer return after the winter of so many rains. Perhaps at that time the Blessed Mother was at prayer in her oratory, waiting for this new light to break forth. She cried forth in the interior of her soul and addressed herself to her beloved Son, now in the third day of his death: "Arise, my glory; return, Victor, to the world. Gather your flock together, Good Shepherd. Hear, my Son, the cries of your afflicted Mother and since these sighs made you come from heaven to earth, let them now raise you from hell to earth."
In the midst of these prayers and petitions her poor little house was suddenly illumined with the light of heaven and the resurrected Son presented himself to the eyes of his Mother. No brighter light had ever risen in the morning and the sun at midday was never so resplendent to the eyes of Mary as that face filled with grace. She sees the body of her risen Son, its former beauty restored and increased. The openings of the wounds, which were swords of sorrow to her, have now become fountains of love. He whom she had seen between two thieves, she sees accompanied by angels and saints. He who had recommended her to his disciple from the cross, now extends his arms to her and imprints the kiss of peace upon her brow. He whom she held dead in her arms, she sees risen before her eyes. She holds him and will not let him go. She embraces him lovingly and asks him never again to depart. When she was overwhelmed with sorrow, she could not speak a word; now she cannot speak for the excess of her joy." ~Venerable Louis of Granada (+1588) was a Spanish Dominican priest and a good friend of St. Charles Borromeo, one of my patron saints!
I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ. Alleluia! ~Melito of Sardis
In the battle between death and life, Christ is the victor! And the victory is ours! Alleluia!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Queen of Martyrs V

"Why O Lady, did you go to sacrifice yourself on Calvary? Was it not enough for God to be crucified in order to redeem us? Did you, his mother, also have to go to be crucified with him?" ~St. Bonaventure.
The death of Jesus was more than enough to redeem Mankind, but due to her unfathomable love for her Divine Son, Mary wished to assist in the cause of our salvation. She accompanied Our Lord to Calvary to help in our salvation through the merits she offered for us there. "As we are under great obligation to Jesus for what he suffered for our sake, so also are we under great obligation to Mary for the martyrdom she voluntarily suffered for our salvation in the death of her son." Indeed she did volunteer for this martyrdom, since St. Agnes revealed to St. Bridget of Sweden, "our merciful and compassionate mother was willing to endure any torment to save the souls of men." We can hope our mother's suffering was in some way relieved by this knowledge.
Such love shown us on Mary's part deserves a huge amount of gratitude from us. We can show our gratitude by compassionating her sorrows. However the Blessed Virgin Mary has revealed that very few people do sympathize with her sacrifices on their behalf. Mary revealed to St. Bridget of Sweden, "I look around me at all who are on earth to see if there are any who pity me and who meditate on my sorrows, and I find that there are very few. Therefore, my daughter, while I may be forgotten by most people, at least you do not forget me. Meditate on my sorrows and share in my grief, as far as you can."
Jesus revealed to Bl. Veronica of Binasco that He is in fact more pleased by compassion shown to His mother and her sufferings than to Himself: "My daughter, I certainly appreciate the tears shed for my Passion. However, because I loved my mother so intensely, meditation on the torments she suffered at my death is even more agreeable to me."
Knowing this, we can better understand the reason God has made, through His Mother, such extrodinary promises to those who practice a lively devotion to His mother's sorrows. These have been stated in previous posts available in the archives, and are restated here in brief:
1. “I will grant peace to their families.”
2. “They will be enlightened about the divine Mysteries.”
3. “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”
4. “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of My divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
5. “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death - they will see the face of their Mother.” 7. “I have obtained this grace from My divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to My tears and sorrows will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven and My Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.”
We can show our Sorrowful Mother our gratitude by praying one Hail Mary for each sorrow while meditating upon it. We can also pray the Rosary of Our Lady's Sorrows available for purchase here, or the Chaplet of Our Lady's Tears available here. All of these devotions have the approval of Holy Mother Church and are richly indulgenced. I urge all of you to be devoted, mindful and grateful to our Heavenly Mother for all she has done for us.
Be on hand, O advocate of sinners, to aid my afflicted soul in the combat it will have to engage in as it passes into eternity. Since at that hour I will probably be unable to speak and unable to call upon your name and that of Jesus, who are my only hope, I do so now. I call upon your son and you to come to my help during my last moments. And to you, O Jesus and Mary, I commend my soul. Amen+
(Source: The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Queen of Martyrs IV

"O Lady, tell me, where were you on Calvary? Near the cross? No, I would rather say that you were actually on the cross, being crucified with your Son." ~St. Bonaventure.

The Blessed Virgin Mary suffered more by seeing her Divine Son suffer than if she had endured His Passion herself. What parent would not without hesitation volunteer for any martyrdom in order to save their child? Why is this? It is due to love, and also would it not be a greater suffering to see them suffer than to suffer for them? Mary loved the life of her Son many times more than she loved her own. Nothing could have caused our Blessed Mother's suffering more than witnessing The Passion. Saint Bernard states it thus: "The soul is where it loves, rather than where it lives." Our Lord speaks the same sentiment: "Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be (Lk 12:34).

St. Alphonsus Liguori boldly states that Mary experienced absolutely no relief whatsoever during her Son's torture and death. By contrast, martyrs were consoled in their sufferings by the love of Jesus - as related by those who experienced this firsthand. St. Vincent in his martyrdom suffered the rack, tearing with pincers, burning with red hot plates, all while speaking to his tormenters with "such seemed as if there were one who spoke and one who suffered." Saint Boniface had his body raked with hooks, reeds jammed between his fingernails and flesh, melted lead poured into his mouth, all the while uttering without respite "I give you thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ." Saints Mark and Marcellinus were tied to a post, their hands and feet run through with nails, when their torturer said to them "Wretches, see what a miserable condition you are reduced to; save yourself from these torments, " they replied; "What pains? What torments do you mean? We have never felt better than we feel at the present moment, now that we are suffering joyfully for the love of Jesus Christ." St. Lawrence as he was being slowly roasted to death over fire said to his tormentor, "If you want to feed on my flesh, part of it is now roasted; turn it and eat." In this St. Augustine comments, "Intoxicated by the wine of divine love, he felt neither torments nor death."

The stronger the martyrs experience love for Jesus, the less they felt their tortures. They were strongly consoled by mingling their sufferings with those of Christ. But was Mary likewise consoled at the sight of His Passion? No, for Jesus' suffering was the real cause of her suffering. Her love for Him was veritibly her own executioner. Mary's martyrdom consisted in seeing and compassionating her innocent Son's torturous death - the more she loved Him, the more she suffered - Great as the sea is your destruction; who shall heal you? (Lam 2:13) Jeremiah asks "who shall heal you?" For there was no one to sooth your grief. "Thine own Son is the cause of thy suffering, and your love of Him was what constituted your martrydom. Other martyrs are all represented with the instruments of their sufferings - St. Paul with his sword, St. Andrew with his cross, St. Lawrence with his gridiron - but Mary is represented with her dead son in her arms. Jesus himself, and he alone, was the instrument of her martyrdom, because of the love she had for him."

For other marytrs the greatness of their love consoled them, but for Our Lord's Mother, the greatness of her love caused an even more excruciating suffering.

"O all you that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow." (Lam 1:12) Let us picture ourselves at the foot of the cross beside Mary. Picture her there and hear her say "O all you who pass by the way, see if any sorrow on earth is like mine. O you who spend your lives on earth and do not pity me, do not give my pain or sacrifice any thought. See me here as my Son dies and tell me if any anguish on earth is like my anguish. Have you ever seen such sorrow as mine?"

(Source: The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)


No, O suffering mother, Queen of all Martyrs there is not a sea more bitter than yours. No anguish greater than thine. I have failed to compassionate your tears nor appreciate your pain as through your soul the sword did pass - all for my sins and the sins of my fellow humans. I offer you my little prayers, sacrifices and sufferings in atonement for the neglect Mankind shows you. I beg you, cover my pathetic offering with the blood of your Son and offer them to the Father in atonement for my sins and those of the whole world. Amen+

Monday, April 16, 2007

Queen of Martyrs III

Mary's was the Most Intense of all Martyrdoms
To what shall I compare you? Or to what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem?...for great as the sea is your destruction; who shall heal you? (Lam 2:13)
No one can measure the intensity of Our Mother's sorrows. Cardinal Hugo tries to with these words: "O Blessed Virgin Mary, as the sea is more bitter than anything else, so is your sorrow more bitter than any other sorrow." St. Anselm adds: "If God had not by a special miracle preserved the life of Mary at each moment of her life, her sorrow would have been such as to cause her death." Saint Bernardine goes a step further: "The grief of Mary was so great that, if it were divided among all men, it would be sufficient to cause their death immediately." Our Sorrowful Mother testifies to this herself in her church approved apparition at La Salette: "No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured for your sake."
Sober indeed are these words of Our Lady and the saints who testify on her behalf. We, as sinners who are hardened by our worldliness and concupiscience, can never even begin to understand the suffering and sorrow that took place in Mary's Immaculate Heart. Remember, she was for all time preserved by a special grace from all stain of sin - therefore her suffering is more intense for this, not less as if often wrongly assumed.
So why was Mary's martyrdom more intense than that of all others? Mary's martyrdom was spiritual rather than physical, as St. Simeon prophesied: "And your own soul a sword shall pierce (Lk 2:35). St. Alphonsus de Ligouri expounds on this passage thus: "O most Blessed Virgin, the bodies of other martyrs will be torn with hooks of iron, but you will be transfixed and martyred not in body but in soul by the Passion of your Son." Jesus, speaking on His holy mother's suffering to St. Catherine of Siena: "There is no comparison between the sufferings of the soul and those of the body." Therefore it is well accepted by Holy Mother Church that spiritual martyrdom is worse, more severe and longer in length than physical martyrdom.
Other marytrs suffered by sacrificing thier lives, the Virgin Mary suffered by sacrificing her son's life, a life dearer than her own. She endured in spirit all that her Son suffered in body. It is generally well known that when children suffer thier mothers suffer even more - how much more is this true for Mary and Jesus? More than we can imagine. Saint Lawrence Giustiniani says: "The heart of Mary became, as it were, a mirror of the Passion of her Son, in which one could see, faithfully reflected, the thorns, the blows, the wounds, and all that Jesus suffered."
More on the intensity of Mary's martyrdom in the next post...
(Source: The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)
O sorrowful Mother! You wept bitterly over your son who died for my salvation; but what good will all those tears do me if I am lost? By the merits of your sorrows, obtain for me true contrition for my sins and a genuine amendment of my life, together with a constant and tender compassion for the sufferings of Jesus and your own sorrows. Since Jesus and you, innocent as you both are, have suffered so much for love of me, help me, who am deserving of hell, to suffer something for love of you. Amen+

Friday, April 13, 2007

Queen of Martyrs II

"He will crown you with a crown of tribulation"
~Isa 22:18
Jesus is the King of all martyrs, as during His life He suffered more than all the martyrs. Mary indeed suffered the most cruel martyrdom after that of her Son. St. Alphonsus de Ligouri boldly states that Mary suffered more than all the martyrs put together.
Spiritual martyrdom is accepted to be "suffering sufficient to cause death, even though death may not result from it." Thus St. John the Evangelist is called a martyr even though being boiled in oil did not cause his death. He suffered greatly, although it states in the breviary that "he came out more vigorous than he went in." According to St. Thomas Aquinas: "To have the glory of martyrdom it is sufficient to exercize obedience in the highest degree, that is, to be obedient unto death."
Therefore, Mary was a martyr; "not by the sword of the executioner, but by the bitter sorrow of her heart." (St. Bernard) Although not injured in body, her heart was viciously pierced with grief at the suffering and death of her Son. St. Bernard goes much further with his teachings regarding Mary's martyrdom stating, " can be said that her whole life was a protracted death. The Passion of Jesus began with his birth."
This flows from the reality that Jesus suffered throughout his whole life. As He was with the Father in Heaven, perfectly happy, perfectly joyful - He emptied Himself, took on our flesh, our weakness. Think dear reader what a suffering this must have been! You are the Great I Am, Ruler and Creator of the Universe, all powerful, all knowing...then Zap! You're a weak, tiny, helpless human being. What a suffering! We cannot even begin to know what this was like. Most assuredly Jesus and Mary also knew great joys in thier earthly lives, but doubless these existed side by side with unfathomable sorrows.
The very meaning of the name Mary is "bitter", or "bitter sea." The words of Jeremiah have been applied to the martyrdom of Our Lady, "Great as the sea is your destruction" (Lam 2:13) The following verses from the Old Testament are likewise applied to Mary: "My life is spent with grief and my years with sighing (Ps 30:11), My grief is with me always (Ps 37:18). The Blessed Virgin Mary related to St. Bridget of Sweden that she knew even before the Incarnation that the Savior was to suffer for mankind. Also after the Ascension of Jesus that in everything she did, working, eating, praying...the memory of the Passion was "as deeply impressed on her mind as if it had just begun." Therefore it would appear she spent her whole life in continual sorrow.
This posting focuses primarily on the duration of Our Mother's suffering, next we shall consider its intensity.
O my Mother, by the grief you experienced in seeing your Son bow down his head and expire on the cross in the midst of so many torments, I beseech you to obtain for me a good death. Amen+
(Source: The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri. Ligouri Publications, Ligouri MO. 2000)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Queen of Martyrs

Mary is the Queen of Martyrs because her martyrdom lasted longer and was more severe than that of all other martyrs. ~St. Alphonsus de Ligouri
The next several posts will focus on the sorrows of Mary and the reasons why this holy devotion is one we should all cultivate in our hearts and souls.
Who fails to be moved by the thought of a mother, standing by witnessing the slow agonizing death of her son? Think on this dear reader....her son who never gave her the least trouble, who was tender and devoted to his parents and family, never gave her the least reason for grief. She in turn loved this son with all her heart, showering him with all the affection she has. Now add to this that Jesus is sinless, the Great I Am made flesh. The mother, Full of Grace, conceived without the least stain of sin, Immaculate and without fault, blameless and greatly beloved by God. How much would any other mother sorrow and lament such a tragic death, how much more would a heart never hardened by sin suffer? We cannot possibly begin to understand the living martyrdom of Our Lady, because we are sinners, she is not. Therefore she did not suffer less, but rather more.
It is well known through the Saints and by Mary's example that to those God loves the most, He grants a greater share of his Cross and Glory. By offering Himself as victim for our sins on the Cross, He entered into his glory. No human on earth would He love more than His holy Mother, therefore logic follows that she would be given the greatest share of his suffering on the Cross. No doubt she also is given the greatest share in His glory in Heaven.
Speaking on this very topic, St. Alphonsus de Ligouri says in the "Glories of Mary", "Because of her love for us, she was willing to see him sacrificed to divine justice by the barbarity of men. This great torment which Mary endured for us was more dreadful than a thousand deaths and deserves our sympathy and our gratitude. If we cannot return this love in any other way, let us at least for a few moments consider how great were the sufferings by which Mary became queen of martyrs. The sufferings of Mary's martyrdom surpassed those of all other martyrs. First of all, they lasted longer; and second, they were more intense."
These last two points of Mary's martyrdom will be further explored in the next two posts. I urge all good Christians to be moved by the sorrow of thier Heavenly Mother, pray the Chaplet of Our Lady's Tears, available here. Let us wipe the tears of Mary from her face.
Prayer ~ Sub Tuum
We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Meditations on Purgatory III

The Seriousness of Scandal Cont.

We pick up today right where we left off with yesterday's post, quoting St. Peter Canisius in St. Alphonsus de Ligouri's "The Glories of Mary"

"One night, a certain devout canon named Frederick was praying in the church of St. Maurice and begging the Lord to remove the scandal of this prelate from the diocese. Suddenly, the door was opened by a strong blast of wind. Two young men entered carrying torches in their hands and took up positions on either side of the high altar. These two were followed by two others who laid a carpet before the altar and put two golden chairs on it. Then came another youth in the uniform of a soldier, a sword in his hand. The soldier stopped in the center of the church and shouted aloud: "O you saints of heaven, whose relics are here in this church, come and be present at the great act of justice which the Supreme Judge is about to perform." At this, many saints appeared, along with the twelve Apostles who were to be assistant judges in the trial. Finally, Jesus Christ entered and sat down on one of the two chairs. Next, Mary entered with a retinue of holy virgins and sat down on the chair beside her son. Eventually, the court was called to order and the criminal bidden to appear. The criminal, of course, was none other than the unfortunate Otto."

"In the name of the people who had been scandalized, Saint Maurice demanded justice because of the evil life of the bishop. All cried out and said: "Lord, he deserves death!" The Eternal Judge answered: "Let him die!" Mary's merciful heart was filled with grief. Before the death sentence was carried out, she left the church so that she would not have to witness this terrible act of justice. Only then did the heavenly minister of justice, the one with the sword in his hand, approach Otto. With one stroke he lopped off his head. Then the vision diappeared."

"The church was left in darkness. Trembling, the canon went to light a lamp at the lower end of the church. When he came back to his place, he saw Otto's beheaded corpse and the floor of the church all stained with blood. Morning came and the people all began to flock into the church. The canon told them what he had seen and what had actually happened. The same day, the unfortunate Otto, now condemned to hell, appeared to one of his chaplains who was unaware as yet of what had taken place in the church. Otto's corpse was thrown into a swamp. The blood spots on the floor remained there as a perpetual reminder of the event, though they were always covered by a carpet. Ever since that day, it has been the custom to uncover them whenever a new bishop takes possession of the see, so that he may be moved by the sight to order his life properly and not be ungrateful to the Lord and his most holy mother for their graces."

Perhaps I should have labelled this a meditation on hell. This true story has always given me chills. The Lord is merciful and kind, slow to anger....note that, SLOW to anger does not mean never to anger. We trust in God's mercy, but we must balance this with fear of God's just judgement. Let us strive to keep these two in balance.

I attempted to do some research on this story. I was able to find the church in which this event took place, The Church of Saint Maurice, which is now the Cathedral of Magdeburg, dedicated to both St. Maurice and St. Catherine of Alexandria. It is recorded in history that Emperor Otto I founded this Cathedral and personally received the body of St. Maurice and the relics of many saints (this is not the Otto of this story). Otto I's tomb can be visited within this beautiful gothic cathedral. I also could find a record of a bishop Otto von Hessen but I have no idea if this is the same one. Otto apparently was a very common name. This book also does not relate any dates as to this occurance, but we ought to trust the words of the saints. We are to take heed of it.


Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell satan, and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen+

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Meditations on Purgatory II

Story from St Peter Canisius - Part I
Feastday: December 21
b: 1521 d: 1597
This is a story which is related by this great Jesuit priest, theologian, writer and Doctor of the Church. He lived during the time of the reformation and ministered to the heavily persecuted Catholics in rebellious Protestant Germany. Read more about St. Peter Canisius here. Its a somewhat lengthy story, but is a riveting read, therefore it is here presented in two parts.
First off ~ this is a true story, related to us via St. Alphonsus de Ligouri in his famous book "The Glories of Mary" available for purchase here. As you may know, St. Alphonsus is also a Doctor of the Church and his book of course bears the Church's Imprimatur. This book has only been outsold by the Holy Bible in the world since its first printing in 1750 - it is indeed one of the greatest spiritual classics of all time.
Our topic, of course, is again - giving scandal, and the tragic outcome of doing so. Scandal is a horrible sin, but sadly one many, if not most of us are guilty of at some time in our lives. We must pray for the conversion of those who give scandal, pray in reparation for any purposeful or inadvertant scandal which we have given. The choice is ours to pay the debts due to this sin in this life through pentitential reparation, or in the next life in purgatory. This story is offered as a meditation, albeit a TRUE story which demonstrates very clearly the dire consequences of scandal given.
"Trithemius, St. Peter Canisius, and others relate that in Magdeburg, a city in Saxony, there was a young man named Otto who as a youth was so simple-minded that he was the laughingstock of his fellow students. One day when he was more than usually disturbed over his backwardness, he knelt before a statue of the Blessed Virgin and prayed to her. A short time later, Mary appeared to him in a dream and said: "Otto, I come to reassure you, for I shall obtain from God such talents that the others will not only stop taunting you but will even admire you. Moreover, I promise that after the bishop's death, you will be chosen to succeed him." Everything Mary told him came true. He made progress in his studies and eventually became bishop of that city.
But Otto was so ungrateful to God and to Mary, his benefactress, that he gave up all semblance of devotion and became a scandal to everybody. One night while he was lying in a bed of sin, he heard a voice saying to him: "Otto, stop this at once; you have gambled enough with your soul's salvation." When he first heard these words he became angry, thinking that someone was whispering to him in order to scold and correct him. But when he heard the same words repeated the second and third night, he began to be afraid that it was a voice from heaven. Nevertheless, he went on with his sinful way of life. When the three months which God had given him to amend had elapsed, the punishment came. And this is what it was....
Come back tomorrow for this stories' conclusion!
O holy and heavenly child, destined Mother of my Redeemer and great mediatrix of miserable sinners, have pity on me. Behold at your feet another ungrateful soul who appeals to you and asks for mercy. Is it true that because of my ingratitude to God and to you, I deserve that God and you should abandon me; but I have heard, and I believe it to be so (knowing the greatness of your mercy), that you do not refuse to help anyone who recommends himself to you with confidence. Therefore, O most exalted Lady, since there is no one but God above you, and the greatest saints in heaven are small compared with you, O saint of saints, O Mary, abyss of charity and full of grace, help me, a senseless sinner, who has lost grace through his own fault.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Meditations on Purgatory

Let us Consider the Causes of Lengthy Sufferings in Purgatory - Scandal
(Source: Purgatory by F.X. Schouppe by TAN Books)
A terrible expiation of suffering sadly awaits those of us who have given scandal to others in this life. To give scandal is to, through our example or words cause someone/s of weaker conscience to sin. If we lead a person thus into venial sin, we have sinned venially, if mortal sin ensues, then we have indeed sinned mortally.
Of course Our Lord spoke very severely of scandal: "Woe to the world because of scandals! Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh! (Matthew 18:7)
"A painter of great skill and otherwise exemplary life had once made a painting not at all conformable to the strict rules of Christian modesty. It was one of those paintings which, under the pretext of being works of art, are found in the best families, and the sight of which causes the loss of so many souls.
True art is an inspiration from Heaven, which elevates the soul to God; profane art, which appeals to the senses only, which presents to the eye nothing but the beauties of flesh and blood, is but an inspiration of the evil spirit; his works, brilliant though they may be, are not works of art, and the name is falsely attributed to them. They are the infamous productions of a corrupt imagination.
The artist of whom we speak had allowed himself to be misled in this point by bad example. Soon, however, renouncing this pernicious style, he confined himself to the production of religious pictures, or at least of those which were perfectly irreproachable. Finally, he was painting a large picture in a convent of the discalced Carmelites, during which he was attacked by a mortal malady. Feeling he was about to die, he asked the Prior to allow him to be interred in the church of the monastery, and bequeathed to the community his earnings, which amounted to a considerable sum of money, charging them to have Masses said for the repose of his soul. He died in pious sentiments, and a few days passed, when a Religious who had stayed in the choir after Matins saw him appear in the midst of flames and sighing pitiously.
"What!" Said the Religious, "have you to endure such pain, after leading so good a life and dying so holy a death?" "Alas!" relied he, "it is on account of the immodest picture that I painted some years ago. When I appeared before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, a crowd of accusers came to give evidence against me. They declared that they had been excited to improper thoughts and evil desires by a picture, the work of my hand. In consequence of those bad thoughts some were in Purgatory, others in Hell. The latter cried for vengeance, saying that, having been the cause of their eternal perdition, I deserved, at least, the same punishment. Then the Blessed Virgin and the saints whom I had glorified by my pictures took up my defence. They represented to the Judge that that unfortunate painting had been the work of youth, and of which I had repented; that I had repaired it afterwards by religious objects which had been a source of edification to souls."
"In consideration of these and other reasons, the Sovereign Judge declared that, on account of my repentance and my good works, I should be exempt from damnation; but at the same time, He condemned me to these flames until that picture should be burned, so that it could no longer scandalize anyone." Then the poor sufferer implored the Religious to take messages to have the painting destroyed. "I beg of you, go in my name to such a person, proprieter of the picture; tell him in what condition I am for having yielded to his entreaties to paint it, and conjure him to make a sacrifice of it. If he refuses, woe to him! To prove that this is not an illusion, and to punish him for his own fault, tell him that before long he will lose his two children. Should he refuse to obey Him who has created us both, he will pay for it by a premature death."
"The religious delayed not to do what the poor soul asked of him, and went to the owner of the picture. The latter, on hearing these things, seized the painting and cast it into the fire. Nevertheless, according to the words of the deceased, he lost his two children in less than a month. The remainder of his days he passed in penance, for having ordered and kept that immodest picture in his house."
If such consequences occur due to one improper painting, what of millions of scandalous, impure or pornographic books sold in the U.S alone? What of the influence of impurity in movies, TV shows, video games and the like? What of the mere influence of our actions on the actions of others? Let us pray, pray that we do not cause scandal, confess our sins with sadness and amend our lives. Let us have Mary, Jesus and the saints as our examples instead of scandalous celebrities. Pray for the holy souls in purgatory as they suffer more than we can imagine!
Graciously hear, O God, the fervent prayers we offer Thee for the suffering souls in purgatory, who, not having satisfied Thy justice, confide in Thine infinite mercy and our intercessions. Extend unto them Thy consolations, and redeem them, through Christ our Lord. Amen+
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen+

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Our Lady of La Salette XI

A Holy Place of Pilgrimage
La Salette, a small town of 200 people about 50 miles south of Grenoble, was the site of reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1846. The Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette remains a minor place of pilgrimage today.
The shrine of La Salette is located in a high alpine pasture at an altitude of about 6,000 feet, about 9 miles from the nearest town. Now easily accessible by car, bus, and taxi, the shrine operates a hospitality service with a range of accommodations.

The mountain scenery around the shrine is spectacular and it is surrounded by a network of walking trails, making La Salette an ideal place for spiritual retreats and day hikes.
The Basilica of Our Lady of La Salette was begun in 1852, completed in 1865, and designated a basilica in 1879. It is a large, rather austere church, with a facade flanked by two strong towers.

Inside, the basilica's nave is bordered by two rows of Byzantine columns supporting the Romanesque vaulted ceilings. A mosaic of Christ crowns the apse. The transept has three medallions representing the stages of the apparition (the weeping, the message, and the departure). The basilica also includes a small museum documenting the history of La Salette.
Outside the basilica, pilgrims can take a walking path leading to the apparition site, the "Valley of the Apparition." Bronze statues erected in 1864 depict the three stages of the apparition.
Pilgrimmage to the site of apparition is encouraged and approved as a pious offering by the Catholic Church:
Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette
Address: 38970 La Salette, France
Phone: 04 76 30 00 11
E-mail: or
Hours: Daily 7am-11pm. Open all year, weather permitting, except during November.
Feasts: September 19 - Feast of Our Lady of La SaletteAugust 15 - Assumption of Our Lady September 8 - Nativity of Our Lady
Tours: Guided tours in English available; book one at reservation.
(Above information taken from Sacred Destinations Travel Guide available here.)
There is also a site of pilgrimmage here in America, internet information here or:
National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette
947 Park Street Attleboro, MA 02703
Hours of operation
Monday - Sunday
9AM - 5PM
Phone: 508-222-5410 Fax: 508-222-6770

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Our Lady of La Salette X

Symbolism of La Salette
Mary, the Queen of Heaven appeared to the seers of La Salette who were humble, poor children as a humble woman dressed in rather humble clothes. She wore a crucifix on a chain around her neck, a pincer on one side, a hammer on the other. What do these symbols of the pincer and hammer mean?
These symbols represent to each of us a choice. With our actions, thoughts, words, we can either choose to hammer the nails into the hands and feet of Our Lord upon the Cross, or we can use the pincer to withdraw them. We choose vice or virtue, sin or goodness, life or death.
Moses said it best: "I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
The Woman of La Salette is also the "Woman" of the gospel:
"Consider this holy apparition for a moment. First, we note the Virgin hidden from the eyes of the public, a humble, modest, Mary of Nazareth speaking a people-language, wearing a simple dress, preferring the company of humble, helpless and poor people. We also recognize, in this weeping Mother wearing the cross of Jesus praying without ceasing for her guilty children, the afflicted Mother of Calvary. Finally, here we see our Mother as the angels see her in heaven, the powerful Mediatrix, always interceding for us, the divine keeper of heavenly gifts, the generous giver of graces....making her own all of her children's concerns, those of this life and those of eternity." (A Grace Called La Salette by Fr. Jean Jaouen)
Be on hand, O Advocate of Sinners, to aid my afflicted soul in the combat it will have to engage in as it passes into eternity. Since at that hour I will probably be unable to speak and unable to call upon your name and that of Jesus, who are my only hope, I do so now. I call upon your Son and you to come to my help during my last moments. And to you, O Jesus and Mary, I commend my soul. Amen+ ~St. Alphonsus Ligouri