Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent: Time to Seek the Lord

Advent is a season that brings back fond memories of childhood practices: lighting the Advent wreath each day at dinnertime, putting straws in a manger after performing an act of charity, making gifts for each family member, putting out shoes on St. Nicholas’ Eve to find them full of goodies in the morning, praying the Advent prayer “Hail and Blessed”...(found below)  Traditionally, Advent is a time, when like St. John the Baptist, we prepare a way for the Lord. We give ourselves the chance to see the presence of God to commune with Him, to discover His plan for us.

Each season of the Church year brings with it a special grace for us. Just as on holidays we often make time to visit with friends and relatives, God wants to visit us and give us the grace of the season? Each day of Advent spend some time in prayer before Our Lord in the Eucharist and together search for answers.

If Advent is just a time of consumerism, we have missed the boat. The greatest gift, the one and only gift of Christmas is Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus is the gift that God wants to give us this Advent. He is always willing to give, but it is up to us to unwrap the Father’s gift to behold His face. We can do this by using Advent to renew and deepen our relationship with God.

Advent is the time to step back and reflect on such questions as “What is my relationship with Jesus Christ?” How does this relationship color every aspect of my life?” "Am I just a follower of Jesus, or am I really His disciple?"  There is so much persecution of Christians going on in our world today, even in subtle ways. But if we were on trial simply for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

The third Sunday of Advent is sometimes called "Gaudete Sunday" from the first word of the entrance antiphon in Latin meaning "Rejoice"  Joy is a decision that can surprise us.  it often shows us in unexpected places and includes our ability to choose.  St. Paul gives us a recipe for joy in the second reading.  He says to rejoice always - it's not a suggestion, but rather a command.  Rejoice!  Not only when things are going well for me, but always.  Joy can be a command because it requires a conscious choice.  Granted, joy is not an easy choice.  It is much easier to give in to sadness and cynicism.  Often we focus on the one thing going badly when so many other things are going well.  But St. Paul does not only tell us to "rejoice always," he explains how we can do it: to pray the way of the Lord in our lives.  Advent is a good time to take a year-end inventory of our lives, examine our consciences, and make a good Confession with serious resolutions to do better.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thanksgiving Day

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Psalm 28:7)

Thanksgiving Day is almost upon us.  It is a wonderful day to celebrate with our families and our friends.  A day to remember to be grateful for all that God has given us.

Judging by recent research, celebrating Thanksgiving can actually make us healthier. Studies have shown that being thankful improves our physical and emotional health. Holding on to feelings of thankfulness boosts our immune system and increases blood supply to our heart. Living in the exercise of gratitude can help to improve sleep and lessens stress and depression.

However, living in this spirit of gratitude is often difficult and does not come naturally. We tend to focus our energies on the problems that we face.  St. Paul in Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to be thankful in all circumstances, especially when we are struggling.  We can focus on the blessings that we have and it is easier to keep our trials in the proper perspective.

Suggestion for this Thanksgiving Day!  Have you ever seen the movie "Pollyanna"?  It is a must at this time of the year.  Pollyanna is a young girl who recently lost her father and is sent to live with her aunt.  Pollyanna aunt, Poly lived her life angry at her sister for leaving the family circle to follow her dreams.  Pollyanna is her sisters child.  The sense of duty impels her to take the child but love does not come naturally.

Pollyanna bright and happy outlook on life becomes contagious as she teaches the whole town to play the "Glad game" taught to her by her late father.  In so doing, she helps to transform the lives of all she meets, including eventually her aunt.

Pollyanna then suffers an accident which leaves her paralyzed.  Will she be able to play her "Glad game again?  Watch the movie this Thanksgiving and see.  It is a must for the whole family. in our
And in our prayer this thanksgiving, let us .."rejoice and be glad..", as the gospel tells us, and offer our own thanksgiving to Our Heavenly Father for all that He has given us.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fostering Discernment of Vocations

Summer camps are a great way to keep kids busy and entertained while out of school for the summer. An exciting time for participants, camps come in all varieties.  Usually focused on a certain age group, they can cater to a specific theme, such as music, sports, art or wilderness survival, canoeing, horses, and so on.  Sometimes location plays a part in determining the purpose of the camp. Combining families with picturesque Lake Huron made for a beautiful Family Vocations Camp.

On July 23, the Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace of Ave Maria Parish, hosted a day-long Family Vocations Camp.   Held at the CYO Girls Camp, just north of Port Sanilac, the purpose of the day was to help young people become more aware of different ways of responding to God's call in their lives, especially as regards priesthood and consecrated life. This was a “family” day with over fifty five participants, ranging in age from babies a few months old to great grandparents.

We wanted to have a 'family' vocations camp because of the important role the family plays in the discernment of vocations. Families play an important part in raising awareness of vocations, especially to priesthood and consecrated life, which require an extra measure of discernment and encouragement that goes beyond the discernment of natural attraction to the married state. In various Church documents, the family is described as a 'nursery of vocations,' 'domestic church,' 'initial seminary,' 'sanctuary of love and cradle of life,' 'natural setting' for the care of vocations, 'natural and fundamental school for formation in the faith,' 'first experience of the church,' 'seedbed of vocations.' All these descriptions highlight the importance of the family as the proper environment for their children to listen to the divine call and to make a generous response. In fact, it is part of the family's vocation to inspire children in the family to discern and follow their own vocations from God, be it to marriage or to consecrated life. The family is to provide the holy space in which the Lord's voice may be heard in the hearts and souls of young people.

The day was filled with activities which helped participants think about the unique invitation that God extends to each person individually. Some topics that came up during the activities included the similarities and differences between priesthood and consecrated life, the role of the laity in the world, the basics of how to discern God's plan in one's life, the essential elements of consecrated life, the missionary mandate of the Catholic Church – to name a few. Other areas explored helped participants experience the value of life in community, the advantages of learning from and relying on others, and that not all have the same gifts, nor play the same role in a group.

"I learned a lot.  Last year, we seemed to learn more about the lifestyle, the price you have to pay, the rules you have to follow [in embracing consecrated life].  This year was more about the reward entailed in going into religious life," said Alexis Marschall, a fifteen year old,  "and the reward is worth a lot more than the price."

But the day was not dedicated solely to learning about consecrated life from the Sisters. Father Nate Harburg offered Mass at the camp and shared his vocation story. There was also time for confessions – Father Bob Schikora just happened to be in the area for a sick call and was inspired to stop by the camp, just in time to help hear confessions. And to share still another different life choice, Brian Derowski told of his call to be a single lay missionary in Poland.

The National Weather Service Hazard Beach Warning (it was the first time many people had ever seen this) prevented swimming and a bonfire, but there was volleyball and basketball.  Alexis' favorite activity was the Scripture Scavenger Hunt because "we were able to work as a team as well as bring the Bible to life and connect small pieces of the Bible to our everyday world.  Things haven't really changed much.  People still do amazing things and we can relate to how life was like back then."

"It [Family Vocations Camp] was very good.  It exceeded my expectations.  I expected it to be smaller, because last year there were fewer people.  It definitely has grown," said Alexis. "I think it is a great thing and should become a yearly tradition."


We are grateful to all those who helped make this event possible, especially for a grant from the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid Michigan.

More photographs of the Family Vocations Camp, 2014 are available at https://www.facebook.com/SistersMDG, or on our website: www.sistersmdg.org.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Sacred Heart & Priesthood

When a young man aspires to become a priest, he must pattern his life after the Heart of Christ.  St. John Paul II reminded us of the importance of praying for priests, as they fulfill their special calling, when he established the Feast of the Sacred Heart as a special day of prayer for priests.

In 1675, Our Lord appeared to a French Visitation nun, Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque.  He asked that devotion to His Sacred Heart be promoted and this feast to be celebrated.  In 1856, on August 25th, Blessed Pope Pius IX responded to this request by inscribing the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in the Calendar of the Catholic Church, directing that it be celebrated on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi (the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord) each year.  Sr. Margaret Mary was later to be canonized on May 13, 1920, just five days before the birth of Blessed Pope John Paul II, who, towards the end of his great Pontificate established this day of prayer for priests on the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Today the Church observed this feast as the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.

Since its establishment, it has taken on many forms. One particular event which has spread worldwide is the Global Priest Day Rosary Relay.

This powerful idea has grown to encompass 46 nations and 85 shrines across the world, who during the course of 24 hours pray the rosary continuously for our priests. This event has received the Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis.  Check out the website describing the details of the process.

Join in offering the rosary in thanksgiving to God for the gift of the priesthood, and implore the protection and loving care of Our Lady, Mother of all priests, upon those who have the power to bring Christ to us in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist!  "Where two or more, are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them."


Friday, June 20, 2014

Fortnight for Freedom 2014

USCCB urges faithful to pray, fast and support this effort to protect our religious freedoms.

The Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve will take place from June 21 to July 4, 2014, a time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. The theme of this year's Fortnight will focus on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church's teaching.

For more information: see their website: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/


In God we Trust!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mary, May, and the Miraculous Medal

May is kind of a fun time for devotion to Mary with May shrines, Rosary processions, May crownings, honoring Mary on Mother's Day.  But we can take for granted how much influence Mary has had in our everyday lives.  There is the Hail Mary Pass known to football fans; gardeners know about marigolds and lady slippers; but the general respect given to women is based on Christian principles, on the way Christ treated women and His mother in particular.  

Holy Mother Church gives us an icon of marian devotion in the Miraculous Medal.  Although formally known as the medal of the Immaculate Conception, it is commonly called the Miraculous Medal due to the numerous miracles attributed to its use. This little medal is an icon of devotion to Mary, just as Mary is the personification of May.  We know that an icon is an important and enduring symbol of something.  When you click on one of those little icons on your computer or smart phone, you are led to something bigger and better which that icon, that little picture, signified.   

Mary is the personification of May and the Miraculous Medal is the icon of Marian devotion.  How do we picture Mary?  As Americans, we have several different aspects under which we honor Mary.

On the front of the Miraculous Medal are the words: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. The Immaculate Conception is the patroness of our country. The Immaculate Conception was the proximate sign to the world that redemption is at hand, the morning star which precedes the dawning of the Sun. Interesting that the Immaculate Conception was chosen by the American bishops as the patroness of our country. As Americans, we pride ourselves on our independence, our rugged individualism, our ability to accomplish great things by our hard work. And yet our national patroness is the Immaculate Conception, who teaches us complete dependence on God the Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. She shows us that one who abandons herself totally in God's hands does not lose her freedom. Rather, it is only the person who entrusts herself totally to God who finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good. Mary proclaims, not her greatness, but the greatness of the Lord. Her spirit rejoices, not in herself, but in her Savior. She finds favor with the Mighty One because of her lowliness. She glories, not in the things she has done, but in the great things the Almighty accomplishes in her.

On the front of the Miraculous Medal, we see Our Lady of Grace with rays coming from her hands, which we interpret to symbolize graces coming to us from her.  Our Lady of Grace is popularly depicted in our churches and homes.  When the angel Gabriel appeared to her, he greeted her as “full of grace” as if that were her name, and asked her consent to become the Mother of God, on behalf of the Most High. If homes could speak, what would the walls say of this Virgin full of grace who dwelt there? Of the Child who was the author of grace? The day that Mary of Nazareth received the announcement of the angel Gabriel and consented to her divine maternity, the history of the world turned to the ocean of divine grace, while it continued to unfold as a daily series of great and small events.

The back of the Miraculous Medal is circled by 12 stars. Our Lady of Guadalupe, our own Lady of the Americas, appeared as “the woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet,” with stars on her mantle, a young woman, wearing the traditional clothing both of virgin and mother on our own continent bringing a message of loving concern for all her children. She is the Mother of the Americas: Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only the mother of the people of Mexico, but also the mother of all people of the Americas and mother of all the living. She is Patroness of the New Evangelization: She came because in her maternal heart she wanted to give her Son to the people of the new World.  She came to spread the faith in her divine Son to every man and every woman - not only to Mexico, but throughout the world. Witness the miracle of Guadalupe: within a few years of her appearance, 8 million Mexicans were baptized. She is the Patroness of the Pro Life movement:  She appeared wearing the garb of a pregnant woman and her message was one of hope – she carries within her womb God become man, a God who clearly reveals Himself as the only God, who is Life and Love and shares both with us.

Within the twelve stars on the back of the Miraculous Medal is the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  For both Ave Maria Parish and Holy Family Parish, as well as mothers in general, the Annunciation is of special significance.  The Scriptures refer several times to Mary as "pondering these things in her heart" and the mystery of the incarnation was one of those things she must have pondered long and hard.    You know what happens in the Gospel story of the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and greets her. While she is pondering the greeting, Gabriel asks her consent to be the Mother of God. All creation awaited her response. At her yes, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and as all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of its course, the Eternal Word leapt down from heaven to rest below the heart of the Virgin Mother.  The Church proposes this mystery to us as a lesson for us on how we should be living our every day life. God the Father had prepared her from the first moment of her life to be a worthy mother of his Son. Like a faithful daughter of Israel, she had prayed throughout her youth for the coming of the Messiah. When she was a young girl, she discovered that she was part of God’s answer to that prayer, but in a way that would far have exceeded any Hebrew maiden’s prayers: not only would the Messiah be her son, but her son would also be God. Her “yes!” to the Archangel Gabriel launched the proximate preparation for the birth of Jesus the Messiah.  When we honor the Annunciation, we’re entering into Mary’s response of faith that is a guide for us along our own pilgrimage of faith. And I don't need to speak to you mothers, of the communion that exists between a mother and the child she is carrying within her.

Still another image on the back of the Miraculous Medal is an M surmounted with a cross.  Those who are familiar with the total consecration of St. Louis de Montfort, popularlized by Saint John Paul II, can readily identify the image as meaning "To Jesus through Mary:" the secret to sanctity, the secret of Mary. This Total Consecration to Mary, described in the book, True Devotion to Mary is  really focused on Christ and living as a follower of Christ.  

In fact, the basis of the entire devotion is the Incarnation - the act of God becoming Man for us.    St. Louis de Montfort tells us that Mary was necessary to God in the Incarnation of the Word.  Jesus chose to be born a helpless child.   Could Jesus have come to earth without a mother - certainly yes, but He chose to come to us through Mary.  St. Louis de Montfort takes it a step further to tell us that Mary is necessary to God in the sanctification of souls.  We realize that sanctity is that close encounter with the divine which brings forth a response of love.  How did Elizabeth and John the Baptist encounter Christ but through the medium of Mary.  Where the shepherds and wise men found the Child that first Christmas, we also will find Him - in the company of Mary his mother, because God has so ordained it this way. 

Devotion to Mary is all about Jesus living in Mary as we recognize the instrumental role she plays in our redemption.  And that mystery is an essential element of St. Louis de Montfort's spirituality.  St. Louis says, " I adore you profoundly ...in the virginal womb of Mary your most worthy Mother at the time of your incarnation."  From that moment on, the Consecration recognizes our belonging to Christ who already unites all his mystical members in Mary.   "The incomprehensible, the inaccessible, He who is, has willed to come to us"  to live among us "to pitch His tent among us," to become one of us, to suffer and die for us because He loves us.  And He accomplishes this by coming to us  through Mary, by living in Mary.  

What is Christ's early life about but Jesus living in Mary, completely dependent on her.  If being a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, is imitating Jesus because we love Him, Jesus Living in Mary gives us the example of how we need to live, what our relationship to Mary should be - and that is living entirely dependent on Mary, turning to her with our every need, sharing with her our joys and sorrows, our trials and triumphs, our hopes and dreams.  Montfort's whole spirituality is centered on this maternal function of Mary towards the incarnate Christ wholly dependent on his mother: for us, this state  lasts all our earthly life and our true birth comes about in glory after death.

Just as we hope that in May the sun will transform our gray days into warm sunshine, so we know that Mary brings us her Son, will transform our lives with the light of hope and warmth of joy.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Feast of Divine Mercy

On this Feast of Divine Mercy, let us all thank the Lord for the lives of St. Pope John XIII and St. Pope John Paul II.  May they intercede for all of us to grow in the service of the Lord and of one another.  Pope Francis' homily at the Mass of Canonization follows:

"At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.
He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection.  But Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe.  A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and Thomas was present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds.  Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith.  That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us.  They are essential for believing in God.  Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.  Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24, cf. Is 53:5).
John XXIII and John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side.  They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles.  These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.
They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century.  They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them.  For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.
In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8).  The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them.  The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice.  Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.
This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42-47).  It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.
This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us.  John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries.  Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church.  In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit.  He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader.  This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit.
In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family.  He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family.  I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.
May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family.  May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mother of Sorrows and Gifts of the Spirit

The season of Lent is upon us.  The Church, in her wisdom, sets aside 40 days to draw our attention back to the purpose of our lives here on earth.  Prayer, fasting, and alms giving are the antidotes to our many faults and failings, to those aspects of our lives that need to be cleansed in the Lord's grace.

Prayer draws us into a deeper conversion and  renewal of heart, which helps us to live more fully the promises made at our baptism.  Fasting strengthens our skills of self denial. Giving alms, either materially or in the form of acts of kindness and compassion are tools used to spread the light of Christ to others.

Lent is that fresh encounter with the Lord where we recall His great mercy and love for each and everyone of us, that God sent His only begotten Son, born of the Virgin, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to save us from our sins. It was for mankind that Christ walked up the hill to Calvary and embraced the cross.  St. Louis deMontfort tells us that "in the bosom of His Father" Christ chose the cross, and He renewed this choice "in Mary's womb".... "all his pursuits, all his desires were directed toward the cross." (LEW 170)
In the mysteries of Christ, Mary is always present; "together with the Father, the Son has chosen her, entrusting her eternally to the Spirit of holiness" (Pope John Paul II, RM 8) Then on the Cross, Christ gave her to us in the person of St. John: "Woman, behold your son!" (Jn 19:26) thus revealing her mission and maternal vocation.

Mary, through the goodness of God, is "the inseparable companion of the Holy Spirit in all the works of grace" (TD 90)  "When the Holy Spirit ...finds Mary in a soul, He hastens there." (TD 36)  Contemplating Mary's seven sorrows, we can see the fruits of the Holy Spirit lived out in her cooperation with Christ for our salvation. Therein we can find ample fruit for our Lenten journey.

Mary's Sorrows and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

First Sorrow:  The Prophecy of Simeon corresponding to the gift of Fear of the Lord.  Fear of the Lord is a reverential obedience performed out of love and because of love.  Mary in this sorrow is reminded of her sorrowful vocation: "a sword shall pierce thy heart".  Although she did not know exactly what that entailed, she nevertheless, embraced the will of God out of her love for the Lord, knowing that she was His handmaid, and had freely given her consent.   This gift of the Holy Spirit sees her through the difficulties that lay ahead.

The Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt corresponding to the gift of Piety.  Piety is meekness, a profound confidence in God, a tenderness toward God expressed in prayer. Mary exercised this gift of the Holy Spirit by fulfilling her duties toward Joseph and Jesus in a foreign land, trusting in the providence of our Almighty Father.

The Third Sorrow: The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple corresponding to the gift of Knowledge.  This gift helps us to know the value of creatures in relation to the Creator. To see in all things the manifestations of the Truth, Beauty, and Infinite Goodness of God.  Mary keenly felt sorrow when Christ remained behind in the temple, because she had knowledge of His identity as the Son of God.

The Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary corresponding to the gift of Fortitude. This gift is a supernatural impulse giving strength to the soul; not only in cases like martyrdom, but in the normal difficulties of life as well.  It enables us to stand strong and decisive on the path of truth.  Mary found strength in this gift of the Spirit to meet, console and stand steadfast with her Son as He walked the sorrowful way of the Cross.

The Fifth Sorrow: Jesus Dies on the Cross corresponding to the gift of Counsel.  Counsel is the gift of the Holy Spirit that enlightens our conscience in moral choices which are presented in our daily lives. Mary who stood courageously at the foot of the Cross is the spiritual guide and counselor for all who seek her crucified Son.

The Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms corresponding to the gift of Understanding.  This gift opens the heart to the joyous understanding of God's plan.  As Mary holds the dead body of her Son, she perceives His coming resurrection.

The Seventh Sorrow: The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb corresponding to Wisdom.  Wisdom is the greatest of the gifts.  It is a special sharing in that highest knowledge which is God Himself.  To see as God sees, to understand as God understands.  In this sorrow of Mary, Christ is hidden but her soul continues to see Christ and communicate with Him, because she is permeated with light from the Holy Spirit.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, ask for us an increase in His gifts.

Friday, January 24, 2014

March for Life, Washington DC

In spite of the bitter cold weather, hundreds of thousands showed up in Washington DC for this years March for Life, Pro-life rally.  Two of our Sisters, accompanied by our parish youth group and their parents, attended this year's March along with six other bus loads of faithful from the Diocese of Saginaw.

This event leaves a lasting hope that our country will restore the dignity of every human person, from conception to grave.  We are made in the image of God who is Life, and wills the good of each person.  May we in our lives and in our country give glory to God who made us, became Incarnate to be one of us, died to redeem us and rose from the dead to show us life.  Continue to join with the many people of our great nation who value the rights of each person, and beg God to change our hearts and put an end to murder of the unborn.

The History of the March for Life (provided by the Diocese of Saginaw)

The MARCH FOR LIFE in Washington, D.C. began as a small demonstration and rapidly grew to be the largest pro-life event in the world. The peaceful demonstration that has followed on this somber anniversary each year since 1973 is a witness to the truth concerning the greatest human rights violation of our time, legalized abortion on demand.

In October, 1973, months after the Roe v. Wade decision, a group of thirty pro-life leaders gathered in the Washington, D.C. home of our founder, Nellie Gray, to discuss how to commemorate the one year anniversary of Roe. There was a fear that January 22 would pass as any other day rather than allow for a moment to reflect upon how legalized abortion had hurt women and taken the lives of babies.
Today the MARCH FOR LIFE is the largest civil rights event in the world. Over the past 40 years, millions of people have traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the March for Life. Locally, in the past 8 years, over 3,000 young people and adults from the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw have attended.
We now know that the impact is much greater than anticipated. It affects the mother, father, baby, and indeed, all of society. There have been countless stories of the young pro-life activists who were ‗born‘ out of the March for Life, and are now changing the face of the pro-life debate. The March for Life is the engine of the pro-life movement and we are all indebted to Nellie Gray.

January 22, 1973 is ingrained in the minds of pro-life supporters. On that infamous historic day the Supreme Court invalidated 50 state laws and made abortion legal and available on demand throughout the United States in the now-infamous decisions in Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton.
Greeting Marchers at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
You can view more photos on our website.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Epiphany


The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated in the US on the closest weekend to January 6th, however, it is still an observed Holy Day in Rome.  This feast is particularly directed at us. When Christ was born in Bethlehem, few people came to see Him, His birth was hidden and humble, unknown to the majority of people who lived close by, with the exception of some local shepherds. Epiphany recalls the visit of three men whom we know as Wise Men or Magi. These men journeyed from far off lands and came first to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem.

They had responded to God’s call and followed the Star. What was the object of their journey? To see the King of the Jews. Scripture does not tell us whether they were surprised at what they found. What it says is that they “entered the house and found the Child with Mary His Mother, and falling down they adored Him.” They quickly learned that His Kingdom was not of this world. In fact, His birth explained His Kingdom in its humility, simplicity and poverty. Christ was born to preach the Good News to the poor, to suffer and die for our sins. And yet the poverty of the Gospel is richer than any of the riches in this world. In having nothing, Christ had everything because He gave up all to follow His Father’s Will in all things. The Wise Men were learned sages, but they were not of the race of God’s chosen people, they were not  Jewish.

They represent the rest of the world, the gentile world, our world and come to do homage at the feet of the Babe of Bethlehem. They offered gifts that indicate the nature of this Child. Gold for the king, frankincense for God, myrrh for man. How did the Wise Men know that Jesus was King, God and Man? Because God had chosen to reveal Himself to them in much the same way as He manifests Himself to us.
What lesson can we learn from all this? First of all, the greatest of lessons: humility. Love reveals itself in small, simple gestures. Love humbles itself. It seeks not to be grandiose, but rather humble and little. As the Holy Gospel exhorts us, we must “seek the last place”. We must become like nothing in the eyes of the world, in order to be great in the Eyes of God. Love is about serving. It is about serving humbly, meekly, without ever seeking a reward in return. It is all about dying to oneself, becoming nothing, so that God can be everything. This is perhaps the greatest lesson of the Feast of the Epiphany. God manifested himself not in the manner of the great thunderlighting manifestations of the Old Testament. He manifested himself to the world, through the Magi from the East, as a simple, helpless Babe lying in a manger, with no crib for a bed. He did this because He loved us and did not want us to be afraid to approach Him. Had He come with great power and majesty, accompanied by an army of angels ready to do His bidding, with lightning and thunder blazing as His chariot, perhaps we might have been struck with terror and hesitated to go to Him, especially if our lives left something to be desired. But a baby in diapers making soft, nursing noises—no one would be awed or fearful. So let us approach Him in the manger, in the tabernacle, confident that this little baby, yes, His name is “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” but He is our Brother and He loves us enough to do anything for us. He just wants us to love Him.
God bless you all!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mary kept all these things in her heart

Gospel for the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God: Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.


From Saint Bede: "Abiding by the rules of virginal modesty, Mary wished to divulge to no one the secret things which she knew about Christ. She reverently waited for the time and place when he would wish to divulge them. However, though her mouth was silent, in her careful, watchful heart she weighed these secret things. And this is what the Evangelist says, pondering in her heart—indeed, she weighed those acts which she saw in relation to those things which she had read were to be done. Now she saw that she herself, who had arisen from the stock of Jesse, had conceived God’s Son of the Holy Spirit. She had read in the prophet, “A shoot will sprout from the root of Jesse, and a ‘Nazareus’ will ascend from his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.”… Mary was comparing these things which she had read were to occur with those which she recognized as already having occurred. Nevertheless she did not bring these things forth from her mouth but kept them closed up in her heart."

Mary's lively faith and trust in the providence of God is central to this mystery of the Incarnation of Our Lord.  Faith surpasses our senses.  Faith is about things that are hoped for but cannot be seen.  Mary is truly our example.  Mary pondered these mysteries and kept these secrets within herself until God showed her how she should reveal them.  Her example of steadfast trust and confidence in the will of God should be our lesson.  May we with her, ponder the mysterious ways of God in our own hearts and lives, and know that He will lead and guide to Himself.

From Blessed Pope John Paul II's homily for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, 1979, we read: "Today the church particularly venerates the Motherhood of Mary.  This is, as it were, a last message of the octave of Christmas. Birth always speaks of the Begetter, of her who gives life, of her who gives man to the world. The first day of the New Year is Mother’s day.
We see her then—as in so many pictures and sculptures—with the Child in her arms, with the Child at her breast. The Mother, she who begot and fed the Son of God. The Mother of Christ. There is no image that is better known and that speaks in a more simple way of the mystery of the Lord’s birth than that of the Mother with Jesus in her arms. Is not this image, perhaps, the source of our extraordinary confidence? Is it not just this image that allows us to live in the circle of all the mysteries of our faith, and, while contemplating them as “divine”, to consider them at the same time so “human”?