Tuesday, May 31, 2016

7 Lessons From the Visitation

The church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation on May 31, bringing to a conclusion the month devoted to our Blessed Mother. The account of Mary's Visitation to Elizabeth from Luke's Gospel (Luke 1:39-56) is reflected upon by Catholics in  the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, and I number it as one of my favorite scriptural accounts. Here are seven lessons the actions of Mary and Elizabeth in the Visitation have taught me.

Put a little pep in your step. 
Luke's account of the Visitation opens with the following line: "During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste..." (Luke 1:39). The phrase that always jumps off the page at me is "in haste". Mary went in haste to be of service to her cousin, Elizabeth, whom she had just found out was pregnant in her old age.

Let's consider a few things here: First, Mary is pregnant. Second, she didn't jump in her SUV, stop at Dunkin Donuts for an Iced Coffee on the way and arrive a few hours later. More than likely she walked....over the hills....for hours, if not days. Third, Mary is pregnant. Ooops, I said that already....might be because I never did anything in haste when I was pregnant. In actuality, I don't do much in haste when I am not pregnant.

What is the lesson here? Mary was ready and willing to quickly provide service someone in need. She hopped right to it. She didn't agonize over it, check her calendar, weigh the pros and cons, or pause to consider what might be in it for her - she went in haste to help. It's a lesson that I, for one, am not learning in haste. Each time I hear this scripture I am more and more convicted that my attitude towards helping others needs to be far more like Mary's and for that to happen, I need to ask the Lord to fill me with the Holy Spirit, just like Mary was.

Service requires sacrifice.
We live in an instant-gratification culture. Watching the microwave tick down the last 30 seconds of cooking the four minute frozen dinner, often leaves me impatiently tapping my fingers on the counter. Yet, most things in life don't happen in an instant -and people's real needs are rarely met in the span of a 20 minute sitcom. 

St. Luke tells us that Mary's visit to Elizabeth lasted for three months. (Luke 1:56) Mary was willing to make the sacrifice necessary to help meet Elizabeth's needs. True Christian service requires a heart open to sacrifice and an attitude of putting other's needs before our own.

Becoming a Mom for the first time drove home this lesson with me. The nine months of of pregnancy required a self-sacrificing patience like few other experiences in my life before or since (with the possible exception of potty-training). No matter how much I desired to rush the process, the child in my womb required my constant, day-in, day-out sacrifice in ways that I had never though possible. Like Elizabeth, my pregnancy also found me needing  the service of others to assist me in performing the tasks that my growing belly left me unable to do on my own. This experience of both giving and receiving long-term sacrificial service led me to see the blessings of a life lived for others, a life like Mary's.

The Holy Spirit helps us recognize Jesus.
The scriptures tell us: "When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:41-43)

Because Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, she was able to recognize the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary and proclaim those beautiful words that we recite in every Hail Mary. St. Paul tells us "No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit." (1 Cor 12:3) It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to recognize the Lord Jesus, even when he is hidden from our senses, as he was from Elizabeth. We must daily ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, as he filled her, so that we too are able to recognize Jesus in others whom we meet. 
There is joy in encountering the Lord.
It is an unmistakable feeling when your unborn child makes a sudden move in your womb. For me, it was just a delight to feel my babies flip, dance and kick inside of me. I wondered what caused these movements - what were they thinking or sensing from me inside the darkness of the womb. Luke tells us that John the Baptist "leaped for joy" in Elizabeth's womb at the sound of Mary's voice (Luke 1:44).

Pope John Paul II calls the mystery of the Visitation a "mystery of joy". He says:
"But what is the mysterious, concealed source of such joy? It is Jesus. Mary had already conceived Him through the work of the Holy Spirit and He is now beginning to defeat what is at the root of fear, of anxiety, of sadness - sin, the most humiliating slavery for man." 
Let us pray with expectant faith that in all of our encounters with the Lord Jesus, whether in prayer, in the sacraments or in the love of another, we many feel the joy that the unborn John the Baptist felt!

Trust in the Lord bears fruit.
Elizabeth honors Mary's trust in God with the following words: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45) Mary bore Jesus, the fruit of her womb, because she radically trusted God. We, too, are called to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God in our lives - fruit which can only be borne if we live out Mary-like trust.

Proverbs 3:5 challenges us to "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart; on your own intelligence do not rely." Like Mary, we may not know all the details of the mission the Lord is asking us to do. We may wonder what the future will hold for us if we follow God's ways and surrender fully to his will in our lives. It is in moments of questioning, or fighting off the temptation to "rely on our own intelligence" that we should call upon our Blessed Mother for her intercession, so that we too can "bear fruit that will last." (John 15:16)

The glory belongs to the Lord.
How does Mary respond to Elizabeth's unconventional greeting? In humility, she directs all the glory to God. In opening lines of the Magnificat, one of the most beautiful songs of praise and glory to God, she declares:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Perhaps the greatest lesson of the mystery of the Visitation is that the glory for all the blessings and good things in our lives belongs rightfully to the Lord. It is a good practice, and one that I am slowly incorporating into my daily prayer life, to have a "gratitude journal"- a notebook to log the many blessings the Lord showers upon us every day. Taking time to "proclaim the greatness of the Lord" shifts our focus off ourselves and off the less joyful moments of the day, and places our attention on the Lord and all the great things he has done for us. It is a way to live out the mystery of the Visitation each day. 

The Visitation is ongoing.
Like all the mysteries of the Rosary (indeed the whole of scriptures) there is an ongoing aspect to our meditations. We are not simply reflecting on an event of the past, but rather entering into a living Word. Through our meditations, we pray for the grace to grow in imitation of what we are reading; to more and more fully incorporate the mystery into our daily lives. This is an on-going process, and one that will take our entire lives to unfold. 

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Quotes from St. Philip Neri

The church celebrates the Feast of St. Philip Neri on May 26. I was delighted to discover a treasure chest of his maxims here, which has only stirred up an interest in this unique saint. I read this great post about the Oratory which St. Philip Neri founded and their unique charisms, which led me to order the movie: Saint Philip Neri: I Prefer Heaven in the hopes of really jumping into his life.

Our family is particularly excited about St. Philip Neri because our parish is being established as an Oratory of St. Philip Neri.  It is a joy to watch the priests who will be part of the oratory minister with the same zeal and immense joy that St. Philip Neri had and we pray in a special way for his intercession for this newly formed Oratory - that it will be a "city on a hill" for all who witness God's love through it.

Below are five quotes from St. Philip Neri which most jumped off the page at me, but limiting it to a mere five was a struggle indeed. Please feel free to pin and share the wisdom of this great saint!






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Monday, May 23, 2016

You Will Receive Power: A Prayer For My Son at His Confirmation

To my son as you receive the Sacrament of Confirmation,

On this day, you will receive a new anointing of the Holy Spirit: the same Holy Spirit that hovered over the chaos when God created the world, the same Holy Spirit that God breathed into Adam to give him life, the same Holy Spirit that anointed Jesus at his Baptism and then drove him into the desert to prepare for his public ministry, and the same Holy Spirit that fell in tongues of fire on the heads of the Apostles and led them to boldly proclaim to the nations the Good News of the saving power of Jesus.

As you receive this same Holy Spirit at your Confirmation, you will receive the promise of the Father, and the power that he brings.

My prayer for you this day is that you will receive
  • power to radically surrender your life to our Lord Jesus.
  • power to discern and follow the will of the Holy Trinity in your life.
  • power to seek the Lord in prayer and study each day.
  • power to boldly proclaim your faith, both in the words you say and the way you live.
  • power to hold fast to the truth, even in times of difficulty, struggle and persecution.
  • power to live a life of heroic virtue and deep love of God and neighbor.
  • power to forgive others when they hurt you.
  • power to humble yourself and repent of your own sins and failings.
  • power to persevere through difficult times and help others do the same.
Most of all, I pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart the greatest gift of all - the knowledge that you are a beloved child of the most High God and that he loves and delights in you.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pentecost Quotes

As the Church prepares to celebrate her birthday - the great Feast of Pentecost, here are a few of my favorite quotes and prayers.  Please feel free to pin and share on Social Media (of course, tell 'em where you got 'em). 
This quote is the opening portion of a beautiful prayer to be recited during the Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer on the Solemnity of Pentecost. The line "with the power of a mighty wind" has always given me pause. By inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives, things will never be the same.  A mighty wind's power transforms the landscape in ways that cannot be imagined in advance.  This Pentecost, let us ask the Father to send the Spirit to transform our lives according to his good plan! 

I love these next three quotes from Blessed Pope Paul VI, Saint Pope John Paul II and most recently, Pope Francis. They all speak of the fact that Pentecost needs to be an on-going reality in the life of each individual Christian and the life of the church as a whole. 



Father Raniero Cantalamessa is one of my favorite teachers, especially when it comes to the Holy Spirit. This quote comes from his book: "Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Part Two."  My prayer is often to ask the Holy Spirit to renew my heart and continue to keep it as a "heart of flesh" open and docile to do God's will. 

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

31 Ways to Grow in Devotion to Mary

I have a confession to make. I was raised a cradle Catholic, but for most of my life I have had a bit of a "distant" relationship with the Blessed Mother. The idea of this perfect, sinless woman was a bit of an obstacle to me - I mean, I am far from perfect and light-years away from sinless. She and I, it seemed to me, had very little in common.  Oh, I prayed my rosary and attended May crownings at my parish like the good Catholic woman I am striving to be,  but honestly, I always felt like a bit of a fraud. I just couldn't get my heart to catch up to where my mind told me I should be with regards to Mary.  That is, until recently.

Over the past several months, by the grace of God, I have come to realize that the Mother of God is my mother too, entrusted by the Lord himself to me (and all of humanity) from the cross. I have discovered that at several challenging times in my life, it was the intercession of the Mary that saw me through - without me even deliberately asking for her help. She anticipated my needs, much like she did for the couple who had run out of wine at the Wedding Feast at Cana, and through her powerful maternal influence with the Lord, she obtained for me the good in these situations that would ultimately lead me closer to her Son.

This recent experience and new-found discovery of Mary's love has enkindled in my heart a burning desire to know more about her in order to come to truly know her. I have listed below 31 ways in which I plan to enter into a journey of deepening (please God) relationship with the our Holy Mother. I invite you to join me this May, the month in which the church traditionally honors the Blessed Mother, on this journey of encounter.

The Lord instructs us in the scriptures to "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you." (Mt 7:7). In order to grow in devotion to the Mary, we must first ask the Lord to give us this precious gift. Let us begin this month together asking the Holy Trinity and Mary herself to lead us on this journey.
  • God the Father, I ask you to enlighten my mind as to the privileged place that you have given Mary to occupy in your plan of salvation. 
  • Lord Jesus Christ, I ask you to reveal the great love with which the Blessed Mother carried you in her womb and showered on you during your earthly life and how she continues to give that love to us, the children you have entrusted to her. 
  • Most Holy Spirit, spouse of the Virgin Mary, I ask you to help me understand the special role Mary has my life and in the life of follower of Jesus.
  • Mary, Mother of God, I ask you to help me and lead me always into a deeper relationship with your Son, Jesus. 
  • Most Holy Mother, you surrendered completely to the will of God in every detail of your life. I ask you to help me to imitate you in total surrender and complete trust in the Lord in everything, even the most difficult areas of my life. 
Prayer is the key that unlocks the door of our spiritual life. The church has a long history of prayers asking the Blessed Mother for her intercession, help and protection. Here are a few ways we can grow in our devotion to Mary through prayer.
Lectio Divina is a meditation technique by which we place ourselves in the "scene" of the scripture and actively participate in the words we are reading, This type of meditation provides a effective way to allow the words of scripture touch our hearts. Here are a few passages and devotions we can meditate on in order to enter deeply into life of our Blessed Mother:

May Altar in our home. 
The following are several ideas of activities to honor the Blessed Mother that can be done as a family, together with other families and friends, in a homeschool group or within your parish community:
  • Enroll in the Brown Scapular - not sure what a Brown Scapular is? Watch here for more info. 
  • Create a May Altar in your home with a statue of the Blessed Mother surrounded by flowers. Pray your family rosary and other Marian devotions gathered around that statue. 
  • Help establish a pilgrim statue of Mary. Each week rotate the pilgrim statue to a different home and invite all those who receive the statue in their home to intercede in a special way for families and for priests. 
  • Participate in a May Crowning in your parish.  
  • Make a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine in your area.  If there is none nearby, visit a church named in honor of the Blessed Mother that is closer to your home. 
  • Have each member of your family (or small faith sharing group or homeschool group) research a different approved Marian apparition and share your discoveries
  • Write a letter in your Journal to the Blessed Mother thanking her for the times where her intercession has touched your life. 
There are so many opportunities to read, watch or listen to teachings about the Blessed Mother in order to learn more about her. Here are a few that have touched me in particular. 

Read More Related Posts Here:
7 Lessons From the Visitation
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    through any of the Amazon or Lighthouse links, my domestic church will receive a small commission. 
    Woo-hoo! We greatly appreciate the support!