Lenten Reflection: The First Sorrow of Mary - The Prophesy of Simeon

The_Prophesy_of_SimeonWe usually think of the Presentation in the Temple as a Joyful Mystery. And so it is. Mary and Joseph bring their first born son to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Here Simeon and Anna are both so grateful to have lived long enough to greet this child. 

The sad part is that Simeon also warns Mary that her own heart a sword shall pierce that the hearts of many will be revealed. (Lk 2:22-25)

In many ways this is true of all infants. Usually, there is celebration over the birth. Parents are proud and pleased to share their joy. They are also very busy tending to the child so they haven’t much time to think of the future. Yet they surely know that much pain will also come to them along the way;  the child’s first fall and injury, being hurt by other children in school, being exposed to drugs and alcohol, and making poor decisions.

We know these difficult times don’t often come in huge doses all at one time but any one of them causes significant pain and part of that is the knowledge that they as parents, are not really able to protect their child. Their helplessness adds to the pain.

Then there are those who anticipate their pregnancy with joy. They rejoice with everyone as their child is born but then they realize their child has a handicap, or they are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis or another such problem. The joy is now enveloped by pain.  Those who once were ready and eager to rejoice with them, now don’t exactly know what to say and they back away.

It’s important that we remember that every child has a value and is worthy of our joy. Every child enters the world with his/her own gifts and challenges. Let us not falter in our love and encouragement because of physical impairments any more than Simeon and Anna held back their love and praise. May we support every single aspect of life, praising God for His wonderful gifts and knowing that only He can really surprise us through our confusion and pain with the joy of a future and resurrection.

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Seven Sorrows of Mary

seven-sorrows-of-MaryYears ago I read a poem in which one line said something like, “Our happiest moments with some remorse are spent.” Even though I don’t remember the poet or the poem, this line has always hit home when I pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. 

From my life experience as well as from reading the Gospel, I know that as wonderful as an event may be, we cannot possibly live in the glory of that high for long. Sometimes I have thought it is just because we can hardly tolerate such joy yet I know that life moves along.

There was the Transfiguration and there was the Crucifixion. There was the joy of Jesus birth but it was in a barn.

During this Lent, I plan to write about the Seven Sorrowful Mysteries. There is a particular Rosary for these Mysteries. You can find it online at the Catholic Company  and for all the prayers and reflections, you can find them in the book The Seven Sorrows of Mary by Brother Joel Giallanza, C.S.C., which can be purchased at our online store.

For this Rosary one starts off with An Act of Contrition. Next we say Three Hail Mary’s.  On each medallion or “Our Father” bead we meditate on each Mystery in turn and then pray the Our Father. Then we proceed with seven Hail Mary’s. You can conclude the Rosary with, “Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who recourse to thee.”

The Mysteries are as follows:

  1. The Prophesy of Simeon when Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple for the Presentation. (Lk 2:22-35
  2. The Flight into Egypt. (Mt 2:13-15)
  3. The Loss of Jesus in the temple. (Lk 2:41-52)
  4. Mary Meets Jesus on the way to Calvary. (Lk 23:27-31)
  5. Mary stands at the foot of the cross. (Jn 19:25-27)
  6. Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms. (Jn 19:38-40)
  7. Jesus is placed in the tomb. (Jn 19:41-42)

In my next blog I will be pondering the first of these Mysteries.

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Topics: Mary, rosary, lent, sorrowful

A Surprise King Cake!

Students at Our Lady of Mercy School in Baton Rouge, LA., 2015.

This week I spent some time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at Our Lady of Mercy School. In addition to giving classroom presentations about the Rosary, I also had the opportunity to meet the students who belong to the Mary’s Club.

Mary’s Cub meets each Monday afternoon to learn about the Blessed Mother, Mary, and to learn about the connection between faith and service. The student members are in grades 2-8 and some parents and teachers are also members of the club.

During our time together, I had the opportunity to speak about what our Blessed Mother teaches us about her son, Jesus. We discussed Mary’s “Yes” to the Angel Gabrielle, the conversation with her son at the Wedding at Cana, how Mary prayed with the apostles in the upper room and how she stood at the foot of the cross of her son.

Throughout the presentation the underlying focus was how Mary always brings us to Jesus. Everything she did or said has the focus on her son.

The students began to see the connection with Mary and her son in this special way and were given examples of how we, too, are called to always keep our focus on her son, Jesus.

Before we began our discussion the students had a surprise for me! They presented me with a King Cake. The King Cake has a long history in Louisiana going back to around 1870. As part of the celebration of Mardi Gras, which begins on January 6th and ends on Fat Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the King Cake is baked and eaten at most parties – especially at Sunday gatherings.

The cake is made of cinnamon dough, twisted in a circle and covered with purple, green and gold frosting. The circle is a symbol of the unity of faiths, while the color purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power.

The unique item in the cake is a plastic baby symbolizing the baby Jesus. Like the Biblical story, the "search for the baby" adds excitement, as each person waits to see in which slice of cake the baby will be discovered. While custom holds that the person who "finds" the baby will be rewarded with "good luck", that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering.

Hence, my piece had the baby Jesus and so I promised to bring the next cake upon my return to Our Lady of Mercy School!

This symbol of the cake with the baby Jesus in it was the perfect lead into my presentation about how we are called, like Mary, to always focus our actions on bringing others to Jesus.

During this Lenten Season, what will you do to bring others to Jesus? How often do you find Jesus in your own actions?

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Topics: Mary, lent, ash wednesday

Revealing the Light to the Nations February 2: The Feast of the Presentation

Soon after I was ordained a deacon in 1990, I was sent to what seemed to me then to be the end of the world as I knew it: a village in the Altiplano (the "high plateau") in the southern Peruvian Andes. I was ordained a priest there and continued to serve for three years, total.

Feast-of-Presentation-1

Working in that beautiful but impoverished place, on the shores of Lake Titicaca profoundly shaped my vision. People there shaped my vision.

I remember when I arrived the whole area was celebrating La Candelaria, Candlemas, the Feast of the “Purification” or the “Presentation of the Lord,” commemorating when Mary and Joseph presented the Infant Jesus in the Temple for the Jewish rites that became a prophetic encounter with Simeon. 

I was puzzled that for the whole month of February the local town, Puno, celebrates this, their patronal feast, with an extended contest of traditional Andean dance troupes.

Yet this helped me to appreciate something Pope Francis is fond of stressing: humble people often know and love our Mother Mary in ways that overly rational intellectual types (like me, at the time!) easily forget.

They “get” that Mother Mary is the one who shows us Jesus, who reveals the Light to the nations, i.e., to all of us, her children! This is nothing other than what the Bible repeatedly teaches us in iconic words.

So people in Puno dance for a month. They dance for Mary, the Theotokos, “The Mother of God” (literally, the “One who bears God”). They dance for Jesus, the Light revealed for the nations. He is the Light of God Our Father, who is the truth, love, peace, virtue, strength, and wisdom without which we are set adrift in the dark in this world. He is the Way which enlightens the way for each and for all of us.

Take a look around and see the confusion of the world today that has tried to extinguish the light of faith.

Humble people of faith, like those I served in Puno, seem to “get it”.

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Topics: Mary, Pope-Francis, feast-day

Deacon Hector's Annual March for Life

Deacon_Hector_Raymond

Deacon Hector Raymond goes to Washington every year to join the March for Life. He is the 12th of 12 children in our family and is particularly grateful that our parents did not give up too soon. He is not too "in your face" about the absolute value and dignity of every human person conceived by God in the womb of every mother. However, along with Blessed Mother Teresa, he knows that "the greatest threat to peace in the world is abortion."

Lord, help every baptized Christian to be open to the Holy Spirit and bear witness to the sanctity of Life. {1st Luminous Mystery, The Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan}.

Lord, help all husbands and wives to treasure the priceless gift of married love by generously accepting children through procreation and adoption. {2nd Luminous Mystery, The Wedding at Cana}.

Lord, let every person who prays and works for greater respect for human life be guided by the Beatitudes and reveal the Face of Christ to others. {3rd Luminous Mystery, the Proclamation of the Kingdom}.

Lord, continue to transfigure our world by the witness of faithful Christians so that all may come to know the priceless value of every human being. {4th Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration}.

Lord, through our worthy reception of the Eucharist and frequent Eucharistic Adoration, may Jesus teach us all to love sacrificially the least and neediest among us. {5th Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Holy Eucharist}.

 

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Topics: luminous-mysteries, the-march-for-life

You Lack Only One Thing

Pope-Francis-Philippines-2015

The Catholic news this weekend was all about Pope Francis and his visit to the Philippines. I enjoy following the news of the Pope’s travels to the various countries he visits … listening to his talks and homilies and seeing how the people respond to him. 

This trip I found to be extraordinary as Pope Francis paused to pray, in the midst of heavy rain, for the victims of the typhoon a year ago, for the young woman volunteer from CRS who died when scaffolding fell on her and for the youth of the church.

It was very touching when a young girl from the streets asked Pope Francis why children have to suffer. The Pope’s response is a challenge for all of us. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question. If you do not learn how to cry, you cannot be a good Christian … be courageous and don’t be afraid to cry.

He went on to answer a question from a civil law student who asked whether in an era of social media, we no longer know the meaning of love. Pope Francis warned about information overload and the use of media. He said the most important thing we have to learn in life is how to love and how to be loved. The language of the mind, heart and hands is important. He asked us to remember these words: Think, Feel, Do.

The final question was about reconciling career with service. Pope Francis reminded us about the God of surprises. He said we are to pay special attention to the poor. We need to learn from the poor, coming to know their own poverty and their need to receive. He said if we can live in humility with the poor, we will be evangelized by them. It is good for us to serve them but we have to be mindful that we receive much from them. We need to learn how to receive with humility … to learn to beg.

He asked these two questions: Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? Do we ask the poor to share their wisdom with us?

Pope Francis once again places challenges before us to grow closer in our faith, to live as Jesus did and to bring the Word of God to life every time we encounter someone who is crying, in need of help or hurting. 

Are we ready to learn from the poor?  Are we ready to be evangelized by the poor? Are we ready to live the three words – Think, Feel, Do?

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Topics: philipines, Pope-Francis

New Year's Resolution

new-year-reflection

It's January and we can feel cold and alone at the beginning of a new year.

As the year progresses many of us make resolutions to lose weight, to quit smoking, to exercise more and to work diligently. There may even be a New Year’s resolution to pray more and, a real stretch, to pray as a family.

Of all the resolutions I can think of, I think the best for me is to deepen the experience of encountering Christ in Prayer, in community, in Church, in work, in the arts and entertainment, and in custody of the little acre of the world entrusted to me.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution you want to share? I would love to hear about it, especially if it can help families to get to know our Lord better in 2015.

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Topics: new-year, prayer, resolutions

2015, January With a Grateful Heart

Greatful Heart

During the Christmas season there are many opportunities to view the movie "It's a Wonderful Life".  Over the course of my life I couldn't begin to count the number of times I have enjoyed this film.  Most times it leaves me pondering what a difference my life might have made so far.

In preparing for the New Year what came to me in prayer was how many people have made a profound difference in my life.  Retrospectively, I began to recount them from my earliest days.  Some of these people have gone to their reward like my grandfather and my sixth grade teacher who supported me during such a difficult time.

There were several who made a difference because they didn't like me a bit or misunderstood me.  Others challenged me to rise above my faults and fears.  Many along the way supported me in my various ministries.  And of course there is my husband who is above and beyond my greatest fan and support and who loves me, unbelievably, with his unconditional love.

The more I reflected, the more individuals came to mind.  Some who were extremely important to my life at specific times are only grateful memories and have moved on in their own lives as I have in mine. With others, our relationships have changed over time but we are still close and they are even more precious and continue to impact my life.

As I begin this New Year, I want each to know that I remember them with gratitude and to remind them that they are forever part of the fabric of my life in whatever way I can, with love, prayer and gratitude.

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Mary, Did You Know...


 

Dear Friends,

In this Christmas Season, 2014, my favorite Christmas Carol has become “Mary Did you know” sung by Pentatonix. The Lyrics by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene are only two decades old. Still, I believe this beautiful Carol performs the amazing feat of pulling us into the world of mystery and beauty that God shares with us this season. “Mary did you know” dramatically blesses us with the joy of Mary as she discovers the difference her Divine and Human Son makes in our world. HE FILLS US WITH JOY! For this reason, Christmas brings hope to the despondent, peace to the troubled and unity to divided families. Jesus is Alive! Mary is alive! And they know that our world is alive with joy, hope, peace and unity. Remember, if you and your family wish to experience the joy and difference that Jesus makes all you have to do is pray together as a family. The family that prays together stays together. Through Mary’s prayer of the Rosary Jesus renews our hope, fills us with peace and unites us to his own Holy Family. All you have to do is pray and you also will know the difference Jesus makes. May God bless you and your family with profound Joy this Christmas Tide.

 

Fr. Willy Raymond, CSC

Holy Cross Family Ministries

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Topics: Christmas, Mary, song, Jesus

Walking with God’s Children

Childrens-Rosary-Group-at-Father-Peyton-Center-2014During this holy season of Advent we find ourselves waiting to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus.

This time of the year can be stressful as we are busy buying gifts, going to parties, preparing the house for company and arranging trips to visit relatives and friends. It can be anything but peaceful or joyful. There may be many moments of frustration and anxiety as we try to get everything done on our list … and perhaps run into several roadblocks or obstacles along the way!

Yet we try to attend Mass during the week or say a prayer around the Advent wreath to help us prepare for Christmas. Even with these good intentions, we may find ourselves falling short in taking the time we need to prepare our hearts for the birth of the Christ Child.

In anticipation of Christmas, members of the Children’s Rosary Group  spent a prayerful afternoon at the Father Peyton Center.

The children and parents, grandparents and members of the various parishes from around the local area came together to learn about the importance of intercessory prayer and why as Catholics we pray to saints and loved ones who have gone before us.

The group was eager to learn about the life of Servant of God Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. , how he asked the Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for him when he was sick and how he was cured of tuberculosis. They also learned about how he traveled around the world telling people about the importance of family prayer, especially the praying of the Rosary, and about our Blessed Mother Mary.

The children wrote letters to children in another country, made Rosaries and prayed the Rosary as part of their activities. We also talked about Advent and learned about the meaning of the Advent wreath.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was when then children started to name the flags of the various countries where Holy Cross Families Ministries is active in family prayer, especially the praying of the Rosary. The children, parents, grandparents and parishioners concluded their time together with some delicious hot chocolate and cookies.

It was such a powerful witness to see these children praying the Rosary, doing something for children in another country and spending prayerful time together in anticipation of the Christmas Season.

If you have had a special experience with your children while preparing for the birth of the Christ Child, please share with us. We would like to hear about it from you.

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Topics: Advent, Christmas, rosary

Another Viewpoint

pregnancyWhen Joseph realized Mary was pregnant he wasn’t sure what to do. The angel assured him that he should take Mary as his wife but what would this birth mean? How was he to father this holy child?

For years I prepared first time pregnant couples to have their infants baptized.

Although it should have been obvious, it took time for me to realize that the pregnancy was not all about the mother.

In our programs we asked each parent to write down their feelings and concerns regarding the child about to be born. Then they were to share these with their spouses. After a while the couples were free to share with the group. Each couple found they had completely different concerns.

Moms were worried about the birth, their parents and their bodies. They also feared they would not really be able to care for the child, and would their husbands be able to share the responsibilities.

Dads were concerned about finances; how would they make it while mom was out of work, and would they be able to pay for childcare. They also feared their wife would be so involved with the child that they would be forgotten. Already everything was about the mom and they more or less played second or perhaps third fiddle.

It’s nice to hear couples today saying, “We’re pregnant!” It makes it even more obvious that this is the creation of a new entity … a family.

The mother shows in every way that a new life is on the way … but let’s remember that each child has a father with his own feelings and concerns.

May couples be able to honestly share their individual concerns with each other and establish this as a habit. May grandparents also be attuned to their need to support the couple relationship just as much as they support the new infant.

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Topics: Mary, family, Joseph

Treasured Gifts

st-andre-bessette

Grandparents are a true treasure.

In my case, I had a grandmother who brought 12 children of her own into this world!

She taught neighborhood children the catechism and the prayers needed to prepare for First Communion in addition to teaching her own children.

She collected statues of saints. My grandfather once said he was ashamed of getting undressed in his own bedroom in front of all the saints' images she had accumulated!

Among my grandmother’s favorites was Brother André Bessette, C.S.C. , the Miracle Worker of Mount Royal.

Thank God for grandparents who pass on the faith and love with such grace!

Keep the focus on faith and love during this holy season. Don’t forget to check out our new Advent and Christmas web app daily. It’s our special gift for you and your family.

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Topics: Advent, Christmas, saints, family

One Who is Truly Free

Feast-day-Immaculate-Conception-Mary

 

What would it be like to be free? 

I don´t mean the cheap kind of freedom they try to sell us - to be able to do anything you want anytime - but rather to be really free:

  • To enter relationships and make decisions without the baggage we all carry that mostly comes from our pride and insecurity.
  • To be able to love others without counting the cost and expecting return, knowing that this is what makes us really happy, not our possessions.

  • To be so open to God´s presence that you know that His love is all around you, so, no matter what, you don´t have to be anxious and afraid.

What is this like? Look at Mary Immaculate.

We tend to have a reduced idea of the Immaculate Conception, thinking it refers in the first place to Mary´s purity and chastity. That is important, but our vision needs to be much bigger.

Christians have always seen in Mary the greatest model of holiness after Christ Himself. So important has this been that it took a long time to find a way to express this well. The dogma was defined for the whole Church only in 1854, but the belief in that Mary was totally “full of grace” has been part of our belief since God Himself called her so, through the mouth of the Angel Gabriel.

We believe that she was saved by Christ, as are you and I, but in her case, she was conceived sinless and spared even effects of original sin that plague the rest of us. Then, she never sinned. Thus, finally one person would be able to respond to God´s total YES, His gift of Himself, with another total YES and so the Word would be made flesh in her. 

THAT is true freedom - to be able to choose what is good and beautiful! Further hers was a whole life in that freedom to the point that Christ made her our mother too who can help us to be free also, in very real ways.

Holy and Beautiful Mother Mary, Full of Grace, help us to love freely, help us to live in freedom.

 

 

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Topics: Mary, freedom, feast-day

Reaching Out

support-during-difficult-time

Through her own dogged determination and commitment to her studies in high school, Lily received several scholarships for a prestigious college. She was the first in her family to attend college and her parents could see her promising future.

When she returned for her second year and found herself pregnant she was understandingly overwhelmed. She grew up in a staunchly Catholic family and had no doubt that even though it would be difficult, her parents would support her during the pregnancy. She knew the college made no provision for students in her situation.

Though it was painful, she explained the situation to her parents when she went home for Christmas. What an utter shock it was that they wanted her to have an abortion.

She grew up knowing her family supported life. She never doubted she would have the baby. Her parents felt that for the good of her future, she must continue college or lose her scholarship. In their minds, there was no alternative.

In Lily’s mind, she was between a rock and a hard place. She had figured she would only have to miss one semester and she could give the child up for adoption. Her parents not only would not support her decision, they made an appointment for her to have an abortion and took her to the site.

Lily felt she had no choice in the matter.

When Mary heard the news of her pregnancy, she was off to visit Elizabeth whom she knew would understand the momentousness of her gift and provide the support she needed. This was not true in Lily’s case.

The unforeseen ramifications for this family, unfortunately, were that Lily could not recover from her parent’s decision nor from the abortion. She quit college and became somewhat of a lost soul and estranged from her family. It took her years to find her place and voice again.

May each of us be more open and welcoming to those who need love and support during difficult times. May more colleges who profess life, make provisions for single parents on the campuses so girls aren’t forced into such decisions.

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Topics: support, Mary, the visitation

The Unexpected News

THE_NEWS-1When Mary woke up this particular morning, being pregnant was most likely the last thing on her mind. And then the Angel came…

In this day when so many people are actually planning to start a family, we must surely be cognizant of how many women suddenly become aware of an unexpected pregnancy. So many times this news is not welcomed. A pregnancy and an infant will change the life of a woman, married or not.

Decisions must be made and among these decisions a woman must face might just be the decision to abort the child. We must understand and appreciate the fact that society has made this choice apparently quite simple. Yet there is nothing simple about keeping a baby or not. It’s important to remember that women making these decisions are not evil and are going through a tremendous amount of turmoil.

Though we believe abortion is not an acceptable alternative, we need to respect the fact that the decision is, for the most part, not made callously.

How much support is a woman given? What are her fears? What is she envisioning? In our materialistic and throw-away culture, how much do we actually support life in all its forms?

So, as Mary accepted the mission to become Mother, may we remember all the newly pregnant around us. Let us offer prayer and support to them. May we not just encourage them to have the baby but continue to offer support as the infant is born and grows. May we fight for social conditions which are more inviting to new life. And may we pray every day for those who suffer with their decisions without being judgmental.

 

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Topics: Mary, family, The Annunciation

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