Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Angelic Spirits, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

In early Judaism, St. Michael was considered a powerful symbol of divine assistance. He appears three times in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Daniel. (Dan 10, 13-21; 12, 1) where he is hailed as a defender of the Hebrew people and the head of the heavenly army defending the weak and the persecuted.

The most ancient and famous shrine of the Latin Church dedicated to St. Michael is on Monte Gargano, in the town of Monte Sant'Angelo, situated 850 meters above sea level. (Apulia, Italy) I was privileged to make a pilgrimage there in 2003. Learning the story of these miraculous events, which led St. Michael to chose and consecrate this cave left me with a sense of awe and mystery.

“I am Michael and I am always in the presence of God. The cave is sacred to me. I have chosen it; I myself am its watchful custodian....There where the rock opens wide the sins of men can be forgiven....What is asked for here in prayer will be granted. Therefore, go to the mountain and dedicate the grotto to the Christian religion.”
(To the Bishop of Siponto, dated 490)

St. Michael, special protector of the people of God, defend God's Holy Church now, and lead us all to the possession of the glory of God.

St. Gabriel is “God's Ambassador”, the voice who announced to Mary, that she was to be the Mother of the Lord. It was he who adored with Mary the Word made flesh in her womb. He was the first adorer of the Precious Blood on earth and the first to pronounce the name of “Jesus”.

St. Raphael is the angel of peace, of health, of joy and happy meetings. The “medicine of God” who can cure our infirmities of soul by virtue of the Divine Blood, shed for our salvation. The angel sent my God's providence, he will forever typify the watchfulness, tenderness and helpful affection of our own guardian angels.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Mother of Sorrows

From the Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo
Maria dei Sette Dolori, Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630)
When I was in Rome in 2010, the Pontifical North American College in Rome during Lent leads a pilgrimage to each of the Stational Churches.  We were able to attend Mass each day, venerate the sacred relics preserved in these Churches and spiritually encounter the saints and faithful who preceded us in these holy places.
The Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo in Monte Celio is one of these Stational Churches.  This particular circular church was inspired by the shrine built by the Emperor Constantine over the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem.  Circular plans were often used for shrines built over the tombs of martyrs, particularly in the Eastern Roman Empire. Although this basilica is not built over a tomb, it depicts in mosaic the different kinds of martyrdom of many early christian saints.  It is dedicated to St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and has a beautiful art piece of Mary, Queen of Martyrs, identifying her seven sorrows.
St. Alphonsus, in speaking of the dolors of Mary describes her as the Queen of Martyrs because her martyrdom was longer and greater than that of all the martyrs.  St. Thomas Aquinas says that "to have the glory of martyrdom, it is sufficient to exercise obedience in its highest degree, that is to say, to be obedient unto death" (2.2,q.124, a.3)  And St. Bernard tells us that the passion of Jesus began with his birth and therefore Mary, in all things like unto her Son, endured her martyrdom throughout her life. 
Let us ask Mary on this feast of her sorrows for the grace to accept peacefully our own sorrows in this life by uniting with the sufferings of Our Lord and her own pierced soul as she faithfully followed her Son to Calvary.