Saturday, April 28, 2012

St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary

St. Louis Marie de Montfort is a special patron saint in our community constitutions.  As Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace our spirituality and devotion to Mary is based on St. de Montfort's Treatise  on True Devotion to Mary. 

Over the past few decades, many have questioned devotion to Mary as subtracting or taking away from the dedication we should have to Christ.  Our recent Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II, confessed:  "At one point I began to question my own devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ.... " (Gift and Mystery).  It was during his study for the priesthood that he was introduced to St. Louis de Montfort's, True Devotion to Mary, and realized after reading this text, that this devotion is actually ..."Christocentric, very profoundly rooted in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption." (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp. 212-213).  After his election to the Pontificate, he took for his motto: "Totus tuus" (Totally Yours).  Blessed John Paul II, spoke often of how living in harmony with Mary, one can attain to the experience of the Father in limitless confidence and love, to docility to the Holy Spirit and to the transformation of self according to the image of Christ.

St. Louis lived in the later half of the 1600's, in France.  In his early years of study in the poor seminary, his own spirituality was much influenced by the French spirituality begun by Cardinal de Berulle. Its trinitarian/christocentrism, its devotion to Mary including the vow of servitude, its apostolic outreach, its love for sacred scripture (especially for the Pauline letters), its intense mysticism, its view that man on his own could attain nothing without Christ, were especially appealing to Montfort. These aspects of this spirituality, he developed in his own fashion.

As a young seminarian and priest, St. Louis was influenced by the spirit of the Jesuits, Sulpicians, Dominican and Franciscan spirituality.  He was devoted to preaching, and to the rosary, to the poverty of St. Francis, as well as the wisdom expressed by St. Bonaventure.  One of his own greatest works, is  a book entitled, “Love of the Divine Wisdom.”  He continually expressed God as Tenderness and Love.

In his Act of Total Consecration to Mary, found in his book: "True Devotion", he emphasizes that Consecration - Holy Slavery of Love - must be focused on Christ as final end or else it springs from the devil, that Jesus and Mary are "one heart," (St. John Eudes) so too the consecration response to Jesus and Mary is "one."  "The more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus." He does not counsel two separate consecrations, one to Jesus and one to Mary, but he teaches a consecration to  Mary is a consecration to Jesus and a consecration to Jesus according to scripture,  must have a Marian dimension. Jesus is the center, Our Lady is the means: "The Consecration of oneself to Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate, through the hands of Mary." (True Devotion)

Other characteristics of this devotion are a total giving of one's self.  He spoke of this consecration as the perfect fulfillment of our sacramental Baptism in Christ.  Thus, we give all merits and satisfactions to Mary to apply where best needed. The idea of gaining merit was much talked about in his day.  This consecration is expressed in the Incarnation, the mystery of Jesus living in Mary.  God willed to come to us through Mary, it is His will we go to Him through her.  And this consecration is apostolic.  As a perfect renewal of baptism, it is of an evangelizing outreach, spurring Christians on to serve their brothers and sisters who are "the very portraits of Jesus Christ."

If you are interested in reading True Devotion to Mary, you can read the book online here.

0 Jesus living in Mary,
0 Jesus living in Mary,
Come and live in Thy servants,
In the spirit of Thy holiness,
In the fullness of Thy might,
In the truth of Thy virtues,
In the perfection of Thy ways,
In the communion of Thy mysteries;
Subdue every hostile power
In Thy spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lumen Christi!

I was reading this beautiful article on the Easter Vigil written by Pope Benedict XVI before His Pontificate. Christ is our Light, He freed us from sin and slavery! On this Feast of the Resurrection may we chant forever: Lumen Christi, Deo Gratias! Lead us to your Truth and Light! 

From Dogma and Preaching:

“During this holy night, the Church endeavors to convey the meaning of the mystery celebrated in the Easter vigil, the mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection. She does so in the language proper to her, which is the language of symbol. Three great symbols dominate the liturgy of this night of the Resurrection: light, water, and the “new song”, that is, the Alleluia.

First, light. This is one of mankind’s primal symbols. Whether in the North that thirsts for light or in the South that is intoxicated by light, for men everywhere it has become the image of the mysterious divine power that they know sustains them in existence. In fact, at one time light was much more than an image to people. Augustine himself was still so deeply moved by the resplendent beauty of light that he dared write: “Christ is not called ‘light’ in the same way that he is called ‘cornerstone’. The latter name is applied to him by metaphor, whereas the former is meant in a literal sense” (De Genesi ad litteram IV, 28, 45). Earthly light is the most direct reflection of God’s reality and gives us our best glimpse of him who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16).

During the two great holy nights of the Church year, Christmas and Easter, the symbolism of light fuses with the symbolism of night. On both occasions, the Church uses the interplay of night and light to show symbolically what the content of the feast in question is: the encounter of God and the world, the victorious entry of God into a world that refuses him room and yet in the end cannot prevent him from taking it.

This Christ-centered drama of light and darkness, of God and the world as they encounter each other, begins on Christmas, when God knocks on the door of a world that rejects him even though it belongs to him (Jn 1:5-11). But the world cannot prevent his coming. He himself becomes “world” in becoming a man. His coming seems a defeat of the light, which becomes darkness, but at the same time it is the first, hidden victory of the light, since the world has not been able to prevent God from coming, however carefully it may have barred the doors of its inns.

Now, on Easter, the drama reaches its central act and climax. The darkness has used its ultimate weapon, death. In orderly judicial fash­ion, it has declared Truth and Love to be the chief criminals of world history and has condemned the light-bringer. But the Resurrection ef­fects the great reversal. Light has won the victory and now lives on invincibly. Most important of all, it has made a bit of the world its own and transformed it into itself.

Of course, with that the drama is not yet over. Its end is still to come; it will arrive with the Parousia of the Lord. It is still night, al­beit a night in which a light has been lit. When the Lord comes again, the day will last forever.

This great drama of history, in which we live out our own lives, is the background for the liturgy of the Paschal candle with which the celebration of the Easter vigil begins. The church building, in the darkness of night, where you cannot see anything and people stumble and bump into one another—is this not in fact an image of our world? A world that, despite all our scientific knowledge and all our social achievements, is still in deep darkness. In fact, it often seems darker than ever. Despite all our specialized knowledge, the meaning of the whole has become increasingly incomprehensible, even for the believer who often enough is dismayed by the seeming absence of God, who cannot be found in worldly commotion. Who can fail to be deeply affected by the monstrous eclipse of God that we feel in Reinhold Schneider’s Winter in Vienna? And who can deny that, amid all the everyday conveniences that cover all questions with a security blanket, he suddenly senses from time to time something of this eclipse of God that seems at a single stroke to call everything into question? Who is there who is not forced like Cardinal Newman to utter a plea into the night around him: “O God, you can bring light into the darkness! You alone can do it!” And who is unaware of how men come into conflict and are stumbling blocks to one another in this night that covers the world and so often conceals, not only the ultimate things, but even what is near at hand (our neighbor!)?

As we wait in the pitch-dark church for the Easter light, we should experience the consoling realization: God is aware of the night that surrounds us. In fact, he has already kindled his light at the heart of it. “Light of Christ!—Thanks be to God!” The night enables us to appreciate what the light is. It is brightness that enables us to see; that shows the way and gives direction; that helps us to know both others and ourselves. It is warmth that strengthens and quickens, that con­soles and gladdens. Finally, it is life, and this tiny quivering flame is an image of the wonderful mystery that we call “life” and that is in fact profoundly dependent on light.

Soon the entire church is radiant with the bright light of the candles everyone is holding. Then it is no longer merely a celebration of the Resurrection; it is a foreshadowing of the Second Coming of the Lord, whom we are advancing to meet with lamps lit. It is a glimpse of the great eschatological feast of light, an anticipation of the wedding feast of God that is illumined by the gleam of countless candles. Something of the joy that marks a wedding should overwhelm us on this night so bright with candles.

And also, of course, the question: “Will I be one of those who sit at God’s table? Will my lamp have enough oil for the everlasting wed­ding feast?” But perhaps it is even more Christian to ask ourselves the right questions about the present. The world is indeed dark, but even a single candle suffices to bring light into the deepest darkness. Did not God give us a candle at baptism and the means of lighting it? We must have the courage to light the candle of our patience, our trust, our love. Instead of bewailing the night, we must dare to light the little lamp that God has loaned us: “Light of Christ!—Thanks be to God!”

Friday, April 6, 2012

His Mother's Heart is Pierced!

Today is Good Friday.....Good because Christ is all goodness and love!  As we contemplate the scenes of the Passion of Our Savior, let us look to the example of Mary who played an important role in this great drama of our Salvation.  I once read a book entitled: "The Ascent to Calvary" written by Pere Louis Perroy in french and later translated into english.  There was an inspiring chapter on the Sorrowful Mother that I have used often in meditation.  Here is a summary.

Behold your Mother!

We cherish memories of our friends and memories of our mothers but a mother's memory in all that relates to her child is more tenacious.  It reaches back to the child's first days and only to the mother as she looks upon her child grown to adulthood, can she fix her gaze upon the babe she once held in her arms.  She remembers the joys and sorrows of each particular insident in her child's life.  And too often, mothers would like to keep their children always in their arms, always dependent upon their loving care. 

I would like to imagine that Mary had these same sentiments.  On this fateful day, as She follows her Son to His death, a death that She knew had to come about for each one of us, She could still see the Child of Bethlehem and Nazareth, recalling in her memory those blessed days of intimacy. Indeed, in our own lives when faced with hours of trial and grief, the sorrow is more intense when we remember lost happiness.

But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19).

The Child grew in grace and years; Mary remembered the first words of those lips that on Calvary were smeared with blood, she recalled with what sweetness they had formed the name of Mary! Now She is hearing the prayer of forgiveness: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."  Exile ceases to be exile when the soul possesses Jesus.  Even now, watching Jesus suffer and die, Mary knew that in possession of His love, all things would be made new! When He was a Child, she had kissed and fondled Him; a few years later, He had become her inspiration. She would listen to His words and follow His works.  She had truly chosen the better part.

She knew that His great mission absorbed the Messiah.  She knew that He had come to do the will of His Father, and She was called to follow.  Even in His earliest years, the Mother discerned the shadow of the cross.  And today, the scriptures tell us that She stood in the shadow of that cross, not as in a vision but as a hard reality!

Jesus' last will and testment to His followers on Calvary was to entrust us to the loving care of His Mother.  "Woman, behold your son, son behold your Mother."  And in this action, Mary embrased us and all the sorrow that was hers on Calvary.  To cling to the cross that crushes us is to be bathed in the blood of Jesus.  To stand valiant under the blows of suffering is to be like the Mother of Sorrows, who willingly gave her Son for our redemption.

Pope Benedict has reminded us in an address on the Annunciation: "In this Lenten Season we often contemplate Our Lady, who on Calvary sealed the "yes" she pronounced at Nazareth. United to Christ, Witness of the Father's love, Mary lived martyrdom of the soul. Let us call on her intercession with confidence, so that the Church, faithful to her mission, may offer to the whole world a courageous witness of God's love."

May the gifts of repentance and a heart filled with forgiveness be your grace on this Good Friday!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Betrayal of Jesus: Wednesday of Holy Week

Betrayal of Christ: Giovanni Barbieri
Today's gospel is a poignant reminder of our own human nature.  It is difficult to meditate upon the betrayal of Our Lord by Judas, and much easier to dismiss this portion of the gospel, as not relevant to one's own life.  Looking closer at the account of this gospel passage, we have much to learn about our own frailty.

When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matt. 26: 21-25)

The more we address the failure on the part of the disciples of Our Lord to follow Him to His death, or address the betrayal of one of His chosen ones, we must look into our own lives.  Since the treachery of Judas, to be betrayed by a loved one has ever been the keenest suffering known to the human heart. Jesus suffered this disappointment, betrayal, and humiliation to gain for us the necessary strength to endure similar trails and to realize that God does not spare this to those who aspire to resemble His Son. And truly, in a small degree, this is one aspect of the passion that comes home to each one of us.

Origin tells us: "I believe that each of the disciples knew from the things Jesus had taught them that human nature is unstable and vulnerable to be turned toward sin and that in struggling “against the principalities and powers and rulers of this world of darkness” a man can be besieged and fall or be so weakened by the power of the enemy that he becomes evil."
Our human nature is frail and needs to be well guarded.  In the case of Judas, never was a man more forewarned about himself or his tendencies.  The obstinance of the sinner is a deep mystery.  God has given each of us the ability to choose the tremendous love He offers or to reject it.  And we know that it is only through His grace, that we can overcome those human weaknesses that cause us to choose evil.   Jesus endured this specific suffering to show us that our strength and consolation must be in Him.  There would have been forgiveness for Judas, even after his betrayal, if only he would have turned in humility and repentance to Christ.
Christ taught his apostles and disciples to confront evil with good.  A new law of charity, something strange in their day and unfortunately not all that strange in our own.   To do good to those who injure us, to pray for those who persecute us, to forgive insults, to smile at those who wound us, to be patient with the violent and overbearing.  This is the Divine law of love which truly frees us, and transforms us into the life of Christ.

As we begin the Sacred Triduum, let us ask for this gift of Divine charity that was won for us at such a horrifying price.  Let us look deep inside ourselves to see where we have failed and seek His love and forgiveness, then we can genuinely give it to others.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Holy Week: Palm Sunday

As I was waiting in Church this morning for the ceremonies of Palm Sunday to begin, I was thinking about the Jewish people long ago who welcomed Jesus as their King.  Laying palm or tree branches was a common custom in ancient times to show one's homage and honor.  “Hosanna to the Son of David, they cried and Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.....Hosanna in the highest, we cry today every time we attend Mass. Today we again enter Jerusalem with Christ. But behind the palm branches, the shouts of joy, the stage is set for the ignominious drama of His passion.  Another procession which will wend its way up the hill of Calvary.

What kind of people could one day proclaim shouts of joy and hail Jesus as King and a few days later, desert Him, jeer at Him, and clamor for His death?  Am I one of those?  As the Reading of the Passion was begun, I was profoundly struck by Peter's protest, even though I must die with you, I will not deny you. Do I have that commitment to Christ?  Earlier in our gospel readings, Peter had protested when Our Lord tried to warn the apostles of His coming death, No,Lord, that can never come to pass! But the meaning of Christ's words where hidden from Peter then.  He, like the others, did not understand the necessity of Christ's passion.  We too, often find it impossible to understand the the reasons for our own interior, personal, or public “Calvaries” which we must undergo.  God often uses our whole existence in an endeavor to make us understand the necessity of suffering.

As we walk through this Holy Week, let us do so with Peter, who in his own old age, when he understood all, would be delivered to the same cross and suffer the same death as His Lord, having found His strength in Christ.  Let us allow the mercy and love of Christ poured out in His passion to be our reason to continue our Hosanna's and proclamation of Christ as our King.

Palm Sunday in Rome, 2009