I'm finally rounding out my Cistercian Monastery series with the Glorious Mysteries. Whew!
Jesus knows how I feel:
I like how the sculptor made His robes look like they're billowing. It's stone! How do you carve stone into something that looks like it's fluttering in the wind??? If I could high-five the artist, I would.
The next two mysteries are different from all the other sculptures in that they are done in mid-relief style. I thought it was an odd choice given all the others are statues, but it was probably a lot cheaper to go this route than creating individual statues for all the saints present for these two events.
First up is the Ascension.
Five apostles are chosen to represent the lot of them. Again, I'm pretty sure this was done to cut down on both space and expense. The image of Jesus is almost exactly the same as the form used for the Resurrection and the apostles are in various states of adoration.
You can't really tell from the photo, but this is actually a very tall relief. When you're standing in front of it, you have to look up at it, and it does seem as if it's stretching up to the sky. Given how blue the sky was that day, it seemed that Christ was ascending right off the sculpture.
Vincent tried to give one of the apostles a high five because of how his hand was sculpted. That was funny. The lake also stretches out behind this one.
The next relief is a large image of Pentecost. I admit to being a fan of this one. Here's a detail of it:
I love how Our Lady is both centered and raised above the apostles. Given her status as Daughter, Spouse and Mother of God, it's fitting that she's got a large halo and is so obviously set apart from the men who she gently guided as they began building the Church her Son began. Here's the full image:
The next statue is probably my least favorite, but I think it's just me being picky. She's looking up into Heaven, but she looks resigned. I'd imagine she'd looked over-joyed... not just transfixed in a "I'm ready, come get me!" type stare. I almost feel this would have been her calm, reflected pose when she said "Fiat" to His Incarnation. But I digress. Here she is in all her Assumption-y glory:
Finally, the next statue is my favorite of the Glorious Mysteries. The Coronation of Mary looks like Our Lady of Mount Carmel. See for yourself:
She's officially Queen of the Universe (you can see her standing on the moon, planets and earth. She's enthroned upon a gorgeous detailed throne and hands are open in welcome. She's so regal, gentle and beautiful. I love this one!
And that, my friends, is FINALLY the end of my Cistercian virtual tour. I hope you enjoyed!
The garden leads you directly from one mystery into another, which I like. There are areas for you to sit or kneel for prayer, but the path simply continues to follow in the footsteps of Christ on the road to our salvation.
I really like that.
This set of mysteries is my favorite of the bunch. I just love the expressions of Christ. The artists did a fantastic job. They really, really did.
The Scourging was a little sad and confusing for Vincent. He couldn't understand why Jesus ("a good guy") had His Hands tied up. Vincent went behind Him and tried to undo the rocky tethers that bound Him. I explained that Jesus wasn't trapped anymore, but that when He was on earth, He took the beating so that His friends didn't have to. That made Him a hero to everyone. Vincent understood that, but it left him kinda quiet for the next couple minutes.
The Crowning with Thorns is simply Christ seated with with a simple robe, His Hands still bound, and a sad (and regal) expression on His Face. The way the artists placed His Hands enables the faithful to leave behind flowers as a sort of scepter. Of the mysteries, I think this is my favorite. It's nothing like the Coronation of Mary, but the way the artists created the two, they obviously parallel one another.
Next was Christ taking up His Cross, and again the expression on His Face is remarkable.
Walking along the path a bit father I saw a huge chapel-like shed which stood directly across from the Nativity "stable" from the Joyful Mysteries. Obviously drawing yet another parallel, the Crucifixion placement and artistry again highlights a theological truth. Christ was born to die on a Cross. He came into the world to die saving it. Incredible.
Stay tuned for the Glorious Mysteries. Hopefully it won't take me a month to cycle back through and update you! :)
Vince ran right over to the Annunciation. I asked if he knew who the statues were of and he immediately said "Mary."
I said, "Do you know who the angel is?"
Originally he thought it was St. Michael (because that's the angel he's most familiar with), but I explained that this angel was named Gabriel and got to tell Mary she was going to be Jesus' Mommy!
Vincent looked at their faces while I snapped a few photos. Then he took off running towards the Visitation.
As you can see here, Vince has made himself at home with St. Elizabeth. Her hands are open, almost as if to stop the Blessed Mother from approaching her.
I can almost hear her saying, "Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?"
And yet come Mary does. Come she must. For though news of Jesus' existence has not been announced, St. Elizabeth recognizes His Divine Presence as does her unborn son, John (the-one-day-Baptist), who leaps for joy within her womb.
Mary came, and in her labored procession to accompany Elizabeth in her final months of pregnancy, she unwittingly blessed the world with the very first Eucharistic Procession.
After all, she carried Christ Incarnate within her. She was the first, and most perfect, monstrance.
Mary, for her part, raises both her hands in a gesture of offering. Elizabeth should not be amazed that Mary has come to her, for it is not through Mary's doing that she has become the Mother of God. She is simply the hand-maiden of the Lord, and from this statue, you can just imagine her leading St. Elizabeth in the first of many Magnificats.
"My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour. He looks on his servant in her lowliness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed. The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy his name!"
For the Nativity, I was so happy to see they built a "stable" around the statues. Vincent was quite happy with the set up, too, as he freely went in to "see baby Jesus."
Mar is kneeling, and Joseph has his hands open and slightly outstretched, almost as if awaiting the gift of his newborn Son to be placed in his arms.
Vincent bent down and kissed the Child Jesus as he'd been taught to do at our parish manger. It made me happy that he remembered this small act of reverence.
Then again, he could've just been kissing on another child, because he adores kissing babies on the head. Regardless, I thought it was sweet.
The next mystery, the Presentation, was beautifully done. Vince was already there before I'd even finished taking photos of the Nativity. He kept calling out "Mommy, Mommy! I found birds!"
I thought he'd found a nest or something, but it turns out he was talking about the doves St. Joseph was holding as an offering / ransom as dictated by Jewish custom. The angel between Mary and Joseph isn't actually a part of this particular set (spoiler: Agony in the Garden), but I guess my angle picked him up. Ah well.
This mystery is the precursor to our celebration of Mass. God gives us (represented by Joseph and Mary) the gift of Himself (Christ). We offer this gift back to the Father through our mediator, the priest, and in turn, God ransoms Himself and we are thus blessed to have Him eternally. God is a master at foreshadowing!
This set of statues was interesting because St. Joseph was noticeably missing. The Blessed Mother, looking quite haggard (but again, her hands in prayer as she offers even this terror to God in accordance with His Will) is present, but St. Joseph is nowhere to be found. This is likely due to budgeting constraints, but I noticed it immediately. The scribes were dutifully paying attention to the Christ-child who looked incredibly regal standing on his pedestal teaching them about Himself (the Word of God, fully incarnate). Of course, again the master of foreshadowing, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple was looking forward to the Resurrection. Christ went "missing" during the Paschal feast. It took His parents three days to "find" Him again.
I've been blessed with several artistically inclined friends. Being someone who can't draw a straight line with a ruler, having these artistic friends has always given me a bit of a boost. I can live vicariously through their skill set. Ha!
Long-time readers of this blog know that I absolutely adore paintings. I'll try to sneak them into most entries and sometimes I'll even go on wild tangents trying to figure out their layered symbolism. I just really, really enjoy that sorta stuff!
Anyway, an old friend of mine dropped me a line this weekend. (I've already had this discussion with her, so no worries about wading into a public battle of wits. We've reached an understanding and she gave me permission to post this.) This friend, "Lilly," is a pretty incredible painter. I've linked to her material on my page in the past, and I've attended two of her shows in the last year. We don't really talk much, but I tend to comment on her albums as she posts new work. Every now and again she'll comment on a pic or two of Vince, but that's about the extent of our communication.
I was thus happy (and surprised) to hear from her this weekend when she called. She said that she'd been reading this blog for about a month and has been debating asking for my help with selling her paintings. She said that in exchange for selling her artwork on my page, she'd share my blog with her friends.
Now at first glance, that's not a ridiculous offer. However, I admit that I took offense to it simply based on a conversation I'd recently had with John.
Let me explain:
I've been posting to Facebook about my husband's upcoming movie release. Many of my readers already know that he sold his first movie to Lionsgate and the release is this week. In my attempts to support him in his dream to make and sell movies, I not only agreed to be in the movie (with Vincent), but I helped make the food, solicited help from my best friend, Mary, and have been plugging the movie left and right for it's various screenings, releases, and news-bytes.
Now, what most of you don't know is the name of my husband's movie. The reason for this is that the content in the movie. It's rated R, but it should really be closer to NC-17. It's very "The Hang Over" in content. Thus, I've never promoted it on my page, even after John's begged me to write up a horrible review and rile all of you fine readers up into a tizzy so you'll buy it and yell about it, too.
*Shakes head* My husband - "No publicity is bad publicity." Ha ha!
Anyway, I've made the conscious choice NOT to promote his movie on this page based on principle. He was feeling slightly unsupported because I didn't want to use this medium to promote what I was already promoting through Facebook, Twitter, etc.
As I pointed out, however, I was supporting him in every other way known to man. I was telling folks about his project, I was linking to the various news articles about it, I cooked for the cast / crew, and I agreed - against better judgement - to take part in it. That's about as supportive as it gets, right?
Then, on top of that, I pointed out that for all the unsolicited support he got from me - publicly - he had yet to link to my jewelry page. So I really shouldn't hear word one about being unsupportive.
(Mind you, pointing this out promptly solicited a "Check out my wife's page" post to his feed; I was quite appreciative).
I go out of my way to support the various projects he or our mutual friends get involved with. I'll re-post teasers, I'll comment on promotions, I'll share tasting / jewelry events. Why? Because that's what friends do, right? Even with stuff I'm not entirely excited about because it's not about my excitement regarding a project - it's my level of excitement regarding the success of a friend.
So I re-post - ad nauseum, I'm sure.
Yet I have not received similar treatment and the answer is always the same. "I'd totally repost your stuff if it weren't so religious."
Now this is not an entry whining about how little my friends repost my store. I'm honestly not looking for that. You fine readers have done a wonderful job of spreading the word, and for that, you have my prayers and appreciation. However, I take offense to the fact that there are those among my group who have the audacity to claim I'm unsupportive or unwilling to help because I'm embarrassed by X, Y or Z when they refuse to help me out because they're embarrassed by God, or who would have no problem reposting my jewelry so long as they're getting something out of it. As Lilly pointed out, she'd "make the sacrifice" of posting about God in order to access my "audience."
Something just doesn't really sit too well with me when you put it like that.
I don't mind coupling up with others who want to reach a broader audience. I've had similar discussions with Dom, a wonderful artist, and even my friend, Mary. I don't mind sharing wonderful items that I think my readers would be interested in.
What I DO mind, however, is being used and then allowing my readership to be used. Looking to ride the coat-tails of the year and a half I've spent churning out entries, battling against mean-spirited trolls, and pouring out my personal life for what I hope will be the benefit of others... it amounts to being used.
Telling me that you'll "make the sacrifice" of sharing my hard work so you're able to make good off the readership I love, appreciate and respect? I'm sorry, but that just seems downright arrogant.
And I explained it in those terms. If my page isn't good enough for you to "like" or share on its own - or even just because you would like to help me find success - your artwork isn't going to make it any better. Your artwork isn't going to somehow change or overshadow the fact that this blog is Catholic, and everything about me and what I do is firmly rooted in that Catholicism.
So again - this isn't a pity party asking folks to share my page. I don't want it shared by those who simply feel guilted or shamed into sharing. I want it shared by those who either enjoy my work (both written and crafted), or who believe others will find value in this calling.
I apologize for the long vent. It's just that I've been approached by so many folks over the last week or so who were interested in utilizing this page either for ad-space, sales or information (and no, I never have and never will allow 3rd parties to take your information).
It just really drove me up a wall and I ended up feeling very frustrated. Since speaking with Lilly, she agreed that she hasn't exactly been the most stellar at recognizing that my work was just as valid and time-consuming as hers. And maybe that's what folks who don't blog / craft tend to forget.
I feel like at one point in time, we've all been guilty of this.
Or maybe you're all just way better people than I am, and I'm the only one who has ever decided to go the route of lazy and cut corners during prayer.
Ever hear the story of the Fatima children who would say their rosaries every day by simply saying the first two words of every prayer down the line? "Our Father, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary..." and so on.
I remember reading that story when I was very young and thinking to myself, What a great idea! only to realize a few pages later that Our Lady didn't look too kindly on such half-hearted lip service. I remember then simply feeling like a jerk for having applauded their misguided 'brilliance.'
Anyway, I try to pray one rosary and one Divine Mercy chaplet every day. When I know I'm going to be particularly busy, I've said both Apostle's Creeds (one for the rosary, and one for the chaplet) together, then said 2 Our Fathers and 4 Hail Marys plus another 2 Glory Bes in order to "get them out of the way" so I'm able to focus on the "meat" of the rosary and chaplet later on.
And I wondered... should I be cutting up and reorganizing my prayers like that? After all, we were given them in a certain format for a reason, right?
The way we say our prayers and the order we say them in are significant. As I've always taught my class, EVERYTHING we do as Catholics (from how we position ourselves during prayer to the format and wording of those prayers) has significance.
So lumping stuff together isn't ideal... nor is it proper.
Think about it. Would you want the priest to lump together the Intercessions with the Penitential Rite just because he thought the Mass might go a little quicker that way? Or maybe on his way up during the Procession, he just swiped the bread and wine from the credence table instead of waiting around for the Offertory?
Of course not. We'd be losing some very key expressions of faith should he do any of these things. The same is true when we pray our rosaries and chaplets out of order.
I know I've touched on this briefly in Part 3 of my Rosary series, but it fits today's topic. The ordering of our prayers is another expression - another deepening - of our faith and our understanding of that faith. The ordering calls us to contemplate and rejoice in a rhythmic fashion. Each decade serves to draw us deeper into the picture of God's plan for our personal salvation. Saying the prayers as they're meant to be said is like taking a stethoscope to God's Heart as it beats lovingly for each and every one of us.
Sign of the Cross - As always, be begin our prayers by marking ourselves with the sign of His Victory... His Passion of mercy and love.
Apostle's Creed - We remind ourselves of our faith and renew the promises of our baptism.
Our Father - Using the words of Christ, we call upon God the Father to "give us this day our daily bread." Being in the 'eternal now,' though we are praying within the confines of a finite sphere of time, God is able to know and see these prayers throughout eternity. Thus, though we ask Him for our daily bread on a Thursday in September of 2012, God has foreseen this prayer from eternity. As we pray this before each decade, we unwittingly ask for the gifts each mystery reminds us that He has already bestowed.
Hail Mary - This blessed prayer is Christ-centric.
Glory Be - Again, remembering that God is in the eternal now, when we say this prayer of praise and thanksgiving, we are supposed to be thanking Him for the decade's particular mystery and whatever intentions we had going into that decade.
See the cycle?
Placing ourselves before God, the Sign of the Cross is like us putting the stethoscope to our ears in anticipation of listening to His Heart.
The Apostle's Creed is the tell-tale sign of His Love.
As we motion through the decades, the steady rhythm of petitioning for salvation (Our Father), God's answer to our petition through the various mysteries (Hail Mary) and our subsequent praise and thanksgiving for His active mercy through history (Glory Be) are like the gentle vibrations of Divine Love. Our God is a living God, and His movements are eternally present. Thus, our prayers are eternally present as well.
We'll never know just how far-reaching our prayers are until we get to Heaven and see the 10 or 20 forgotten Purgatory souls we've helped reach the Gates... or the 5 lost souls who would have continued along the path of perdition had you not done a daily offering... or maybe even the terrible accident you helped to mitigate for your great, great, great, great grand-daughter because you piously recited the Divine Mercy chaplet for all sinners past, present and future.
Never underestimate the power of prayer... especially prayers given to us by Heaven in a specific format. These formats are given to us for the holy purpose of helping us to better understand God's Love and Mercy.
So I've been making a much more concerted effort to recite my prayers in their proper order, but I figured I'd post this in the event that anyone else was like me and had attempted to "cut corners" every once in a while.
This series deals with visionaries not yet approved by the Church. Under the umbrella of private revelation, it is up to each individual to decide for him/herself the truth of these claims. I am not suggesting you believe or disbelieve. I'm suggesting that the messages contained within are important enough to warrant an open and honest discussion. Above all, these messages deserve to be looked into with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So please read this prayer before moving on:
O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to Thy heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
Prophecies I - My History
How to begin a post that makes you sound like a crazy person?
Holy Spirit, please guide my language.
When I was a child, I found a booklet in the back of my church. It was the story of Our Lady of Fatima as written by Sr. Lucia.
I was pretty young at this point. I had probably only just made my 1st Communion. However, I was blessed with a very fervent love of Our Lady from my earliest days, so when I saw this free booklet with such a pretty picture of her on the front, I couldn't wait to read it!
What's more, I learned that this was the story of the Blessed Mother coming down from Heaven to TALK to us! I don't think my little heart could have been more excited! I don't think I even knew that she did that sort of thing.
Anyway, this was probably the birth of my interest in visionaries. For many years, Fatima and Lourdes were the only two instances I knew of that Our Lady appeared. However, I could read about them / hear of them over and over again. The idea of the Blessed Mother coming down and speaking to her children filled me with so much joy, and it made perfect sense. Of COURSE she'd want to come down to give us little lessons of faith. Of COURSE she'd want to bequeath to us special graces in the form of "proofs" and healing waters.
It wasn't until I was in High School that I came to know Our Lady wasn't just keeping busy in Fatima and Lourdes. She was running all over the place!!!
One particular set of apparitions really drew me in - those of Garabandal. At first, I sort of rolled my eyes and poo-poohed the idea of the Blessed Mother being among us in this generation. It took me a long time of reading the revelations and learning the back stories of the visionaries before I finally said, "Okay... there may actually be something to this."
So I delved into the messages more and more. Considering I wasn't exactly a Catholic at this point, the messages and revelations were merely interesting suggestions for what the future might hold... fairy tales that were more interesting than the scientific theories only because Our Lady was the central character.
I didn't exactly "disbelieve" the revelations. I simply expected them to be in the far-off future. However, something always gnawed at me on that score. I felt an urgency that I wrote off as foolishness.
"Gina," I'd tell myself, "you're being ridiculous. Stop believing everything you read."
So I'd ignore the urgency and convince myself that the messages of repentance and prayer weren't really for me so much as for future generations. I mean, I could pray a thousand times a day and the effects wouldn't be for me so much as for my great-great-great-grandchildren, ya know?
All of that changed, however, just before my reversion.
I learned of a reported series of apparitions by Our Lady in the United States. At this point, I'd become well-versed with the various apparitions around the world. However, this particular set interested me because of the close proximity and the relative directness of the messages.
The more I read, the more began to question my own understanding of Catholicism. The more I read, the more I realized that I couldn't escape the fact that Our Lady was trying to speak to ALL of her children and that we needed to start listening YESTERDAY.
In an effort to console myself, I began looking for discrediting information. Some of the messages seemed to conflict with one another, and the wording just seemed... off. However, I figured that the messages were important enough to warrant an open, honest heart, so I prayed a rosary for discernment (falling back on the lesson I learned in that Fatima booklet regarding the power of the Rosary to those who use it to call upon Mary's intercession).
That rosary became my Conversion Rosary.
With it, I felt a fire return to my soul. Our Lady heard my call for help and rushed to my aid. She also obtained from the Holy Spirit discernment for my disbelieving heart.
The next day, I learned that the Bayside prophecies were rejected by the Church. I fully believe that Veronica, the visionary, was granted great graces by Our Lady, but I also believe that those surrounding her (even another visionary!) began using their privileged place for their own purposes, thus sullying the reputation of ALL Bayside prophecies.
As a result of this, I ceased my research regarding Bayside (now content that there was too much contrary information to find the complete Truth). I then asked Our Lady to direct me somewhere to really hear her messages.
I knew at that point she wanted to teach me something. I just had no idea what it was. So, at a loss, I turned to both her and the Holy Spirit.
For the first time in my entire life, I actually prayed to the 3rd Person of the Trinity. I never really understood His Purpose (even AFTER all my Confirmation classes). That's embarrassing to admit, but it's true.
Up until my reversion, the Holy Spirit was always just "that Guy." Like an extra piece in a jig-saw puzzle, I knew He fit, I just weren't sure what I got wrong that made it seem that He didn't.
So I prayed. Discernment and wisdom were what I prayed for. I wasn't looking for a direct line to His vast stores of knowledge, but I knew that He'd be the one able to lead me to the information I was looking for.
Within 24 hours of that SOS to the Holy Spirit, I was given direction. It happened so quickly that I actually felt ashamed for not having spoken to Him sooner. I thought, "Wow... everyone's so wrapped up in speaking to God the Father or Jesus that You must get forgotten a lot. Yet here You are, so eager to help that You fall over Yourself to answer my tiny request. I'm coming to You for the big stuff from now one!"
Seriously, though, we would do well to remember that the Holy Spirit is the "Mighty One" spoken of in the Divine Mercy chaplet. He is the one who endows us with special gifts and graces. He is the one tasked with protecting and guiding us while we remain on earth.
Anyway, I was granted two websites of incredible value. The first was a list of saints and beati who were granted the grace of visions and locutions. The second was the online version of St. Faustina's Diary (which truly grounded and directed my blossoming faith).
To be continued in Prophecies II - The Warning
Real men pray the rosary.
I have a friend who once was Catholic. She has since fallen away from the faith and considers herself atheist. She sometimes drops by this blog to chime in (through Facebook or e-mail threads) on current Church events that she hears about through mainstream media.
In all honesty, I think she just hears God calling her name now and again. :)
Anyway, she asked me a question and gave me permission to expound within the blog itself. Considering her tendency to only talk about things like abortion, the death penalty or women priests (sidestepping the child-abuse scandal), I was REALLY surprised to hear a question about the rosary spill out of her.
"Why do you talk about Mary and the rosary so much?"
Cue big cheesy grin.
My immediate response was, "Because I love them."
She responded with "Why?"
I took a moment. This friend, let's call her Lily, views the Blessed Mother, Jesus and pretty much all saints / religious figures as akin to Santa Claus. At one point in history, they probably existed in some form, but they've long since died and their legends morphed them into something very different from who they originally were.
Thus, her question of "Why?" is not a surprise. Even with her Catholic upbringing, she does not view the Communion of Saints possible. Thus, veneration of, or prayers to, spirits / souls is pointless. After all, wouldn't my time be much better spent serving others in a positive way?
So to answer her question, I needed to lay some groundwork.
First, I asked her ideas on what happens to a person upon death. Is death final?
She affirmed that was her belief. Upon death, we go in a box in the ground and that's that.
I asked if she was open to the possibility of a soul. She granted me an open mind and said there could very well be a soul that goes somewhere, but she simply doubted it.
A seed is all I need, baby.
Since my belief obviously sides with souls and an after-life, I logically hold that those who have died before me are living this "after-life." Those who lived exemplary lives, like the Blessed Mother and favored saints, are in Heaven. Those who didn't, well, we've got Purgatory and Hell.
Obviously, since Heaven is where us Catholics believe Jesus to be, that's where we, too, want to go. The truest example of a Heaven-bound soul is the Blessed Mother. Thus, if I wanted to be sure I got to Heaven, I'd go ahead and follow her example. Much like an amateur poker player might study up on Chris Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth or Dan Negreanu, us Catholics like to look to study up on the best of the best. Who better to follow than the Mother of Jesus, herself... the one we believe to be Queen of Heaven?
The rosary is an in-depth study of Our Lady. As I've said before, the rosary is the Photo Album of Christ. It is also the photo album of Our Lady. Though not depicted in each decade, she is spiritually present in each and every frame. Thus, in praying the rosary and going over the details of how Our Lady responded to these challenges and blessings, we come to understand how we, too, should respond to challenges and blessings.
So to answer the question, "Why do I love them?" I answer this:
I love Our Lady because she is a living part of the Communion of Saints who actively works to restore my inheritance with Christ in Heaven. Through her the gift of Salvation (Jesus) came into being, and through her I have the most perfect example of how to get my soul into Heaven. The Rosary, gifted to us by Our Lady, is a picture-map to Heaven. It is the most simplistic tool we have that directs us on how to enter Heaven. How could I not love that which teaches me so much? How could I not love the person who grants me so much?
Plus, she's so darn sweet. What is there not to love about her? :)
Today is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. What a treat to start off the New Year in thanksgiving for the Mother of Salvation. :)
Our pastor delved into the mystery of Jesus being both fully God and fully human, taking His Divinity from His Father and His Humanity from His Mother. Though something we are unable to fully comprehend, this article of faith is one of the backbones of our religion.
Since today is Sunday, I also got to pray the Glorious Mysteries. Some thoughts that popped into my mind while praying...
Resurrection - Though Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus' resurrected Body, I can't help but wonder if Jesus didn't appear to His Mother interiorly. She understood the necessity of His Death, and probably had an inkling of His Triumph over death. I wonder if she understood it to be in this particular manner, though. Anyway, upon news of His Resurrection, confirming whatever interior visions she was given, she must have been absolutely elated. Oh, but how her heart must have longed to hold Him!
Ascension - So bittersweet again for Our Lady! No doubt she endured emotional torture as she watched her beloved Son again move beyond her physical realm. Unable to hug Him, kiss Him or hear His Voice, she must've clung to the Eucharist in a way most infathomable. No doubt she was spiritually linked to Him (as she was and always will be), but as any of us know, being apart from the one you love is painful... even if you're able to keep in touch via e-mail, Skype, or telephone.
Pentecost - What bliss! Our Lady once more feels the presence of Her Spouse as He baptizes her with untold graces! Again, the Blessed Mother is there from the very beginning. She was the catalyst for the Savior's birth, and she was present for the birth of the Church. Can you imagine how all the apostles must have flocked around her as chicks to a mother hen? Our Lady held such love for all of them, and no doubt counseled them in countless ways. Our Church was forged by her Queenly hand, just as it was forged by the hands of the apostles.
Assumption - I imagine this to be Our Lady's happiest moment... probably even to this day (yes, even more than Christ's Nativity). I'd be willing to wager the only moment sweeter for her will be the Final Judgement, when all is completed and Her Son no longer must agonize over the sins of mankind. I've gone on and on about the Assumption several times, but honestly, I never tire thinking about how inexpressibly joyful that reunion must have been for her. Being corporeal, she'd've thrown herself into His Arms and no doubt He enveloped her with equal relish. To have been an angel (or even Saint Joseph!) looking in at that moment. All of Heaven must've been ablaze with their love!
Coronation - Our Mother - the Queen! I wonder which angels got to help prepare Our Lady for this event. I wonder if her own mother, St. Anne, were blessed to be there to brush her hair back, to place a veil upon her head, to adorn her perfect child with jewels. I wonder, too, if St. Joseph were there to process beside her as she made her way forth to the Throne of the Trinity. No doubt Jesus crowned her, probably just about besides Himself with joy. Oh wow.
I then imagined that Jesus granted her one favor as a gift for such a special occasion. Immediately I saw the gates of Purgatory open and thousands of souls come rushing into Heaven. The gift she requested was the freedom of souls - not for herself, but for Her Son who so loved them so dearly. Though Divine Justice dictates they make restitution for sin, Divine Mercy does not want it. A word from the Queen of Heaven is more than payment, and the joy of that blessed occasion must've reverberated throughout the earth.
Mind you, I'm not saying I saw these as true visions. My mind wandered over these things as I prayed the decades. I can't help but think Our Lady's graciousness extends infinitely towards all of us, especially those most in need of such kindness.
Mmmmm - I could dwell upon Our Lady forever with the dopiest look of love on my face, I bet. :) How blessed are we to have been gifted so great a blessing!
So tonight I introduced my class to the Rosary. Being October, I thought it fitting.
I had printed out this beautiful image on a large, laminated poster in order to impart the idea that the rosary is pretty much the photo album of Jesus' life, but I quickly realized that the kids (for the most part) hadn't even been introduced to what the rosary was let alone how the mysteries played into the recitation at all.
I was floored!
So we began with where the rosary came from, how St. Dominic codified it courtesy of Our Lady's visions to him concerning the prayers, and the importance of the Hail Mary as a Jesus-centric prayer.
We focused, in particular, on Our Lady's words to St. Dominic. They are so beautiful, and they explain in perfect detail why this litany of "Angelic Salutations" is so vital for the regeneration of faith for humanity. She says to St. Dominic:
When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore preach my Psalter composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest.
In other words, God began His renewal with the Annunciation. The angelic salutation that the Blessed Mother refers to is Archangel Gabriel's greeting of "Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee!"
I explained to the children that at this momentous event, the Blessed Mother came to understand that she was not only a mother, but the Mother of God! She was chosen to be "blessed among women" as the harbinger of salvation, even before John the Baptist. Her heart at these tidings was full of joy, brimming with gratitude, exaltation and hope that God would bestow upon her a gift so incomprehensible.
For many women, the moment of learning they're pregnant is a happiness incalculable. So when we say the "Hail Mary" we not only call to mind this immeasurably happy time for Our Lady, we call to mind this happy time for humanity as well, because as the Blessed Mother pointed out through St. Dominic, that first "Hail Mary" was the trumpet that sounded the calvary had arrived.
... Calvary ...
Until now, it never occurred to me how fitting it is that Christ died on Calvary. He truly was waging war against evil, and through that "last stand" He gained for us everlasting victory over death itself.
My heart has been humbled by so wondrous a thought.
As usual, I digress (but I thank the Holy Spirit for it this time).
Anyway, upon the Blessed Mother's acceptance of the news the Annunciation brought, Jesus was conceived within her (the Incarnation). So again, through the Angelic Salutation, Mary delivered her "Fiat" which, in turn, drew the Word of God into her womb. Thus, the Hail Mary prayer - ever echoing in thanks this most merciful act of God - is instrumental in helping us "fertilize" the earth. These prayers send a flourish of smiles across Our Lady's face because they remind her of a time so divinely precious that graces overflow in gratitude, raining down on souls as glorious, spiritual nourishment.
So I guess I'll be adding more to my Rosary series, especially for my CCD kids who are so hungry for these beautiful blessings of our Faith. If you, too, are interested in reading more about the Rosary, check out my sidebar and click on the "Rosary" heading under Categories. I've got a 4 part series (which will eventually stretch into about 12-15 parts) that delves into the most basic (and surprisingly misunderstood) understandings of this Advent Psalter.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace!
We echo the most majestic greeting given to Our Lady by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. This greeting (reserved for royalty!) reminds us that we are addressing our prayer to the Queen of Heaven and Earth - of Love, Truth and Mercy Incarnate. She is full of Grace Itself as God takes refuge within her most holy womb.
The Lord is With Thee.
The angel, understanding this, awaited her "Fiat." As soon as she uttered her humble, trusting acceptance of God's plan, no doubt he knelt before her, adoring not the Blessed Mother, but the Child she then accepted into herself through the Holy Spirit. God had always surrounded this humble Virgin. He always resided joyfully within her heart and soul. Now, He took physical shape within her body, and henceforth they became inseparable in a wholly unique way.
Blessed are Thou Amongst Women
Here we are faced with the words given to Our Lady by both Angel Gabriel and her cousin, Elizabeth, during the first moments of the Visitation. Elizabeth, deeply moved by the Holy Spirit, cries out the Divine Revelation that Mary, her young cousin, unknown to any man, was the dignified spouse of God spoken of in Psalm 45, verse 17: I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever. Indeed, the Blessed Mother acknowledges her blessings once more through her Magnificat in stating "All generations shall call me blessed."
And Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb, Jesus.
Ah, here we are at the exact center of the prayer. Who do we find? Jesus. After all, Jesus is at the center of all Mary is. Her very existence is to both bring Jesus into the world, and bring the world back into Jesus. Thus, at the center of even her most revered prayer, Jesus is the foundation on which it is built. Jesus was the reason for the angel's majestic greeting. Jesus was the reason for Elizabeth's inspired emotion. And it is through Mary's intercession that we hope to reach the heart of Jesus.
Yet we are also reminded that Jesus is both God and Man. He is, after all, a product of both God (the power of the Holy Spirit) and Man (through the Blessed Mother's physical bearing and tending). Thus, it is fitting to call Jesus the Blessed Fruit of HER womb. For as much as God did to create Himself within her, she also did her part in ensuring He grew and was born into the world safely.
Holy Mary, Mother of God
We acknowledge her unique place as Queen Mother (a topic I could devote several blog entries to!), and in doing so, trust that our next request is placed in capable and loving hands.
Pray for us Sinners now and at the Hour of Death.
Like children lost and in need of help, we turn to our Heavenly Mother for guidance and assistance. We understand that, as the Mother of God, her intercession is strong. She is not to be swayed, and knowing how much she loves her Son... how much she, too, sacrificed for the salvation of humanity, God cannot say "No" to her. Nor would He, as her intentions always reside peacefully within His Will.
The word "amen" is a Hebrew word meaning "Have faith and believe." Once we adopted this word for Christian use, we taped it onto the end of our prayers to add conviction. The "Amen" places our stamp of firm conviction on the Hail Mary, reaffirming our beliefs that the statements we make (and all the nuances they carry) are true. So true, in fact, that we would be willing to stake our lives on their validity.
I love this picture of Our Lady. She's cradling the Infant Jesus in her arms. Protective. Loving. Yet she isn't looking at Him (though her attention to His every need is unwavering). Instead, she is looking at all of us, beckoning with her maternal eyes to come. She is saying, "Come, my children. Come to me and see the Gift that I hold for you. Come to me and I shall share with you my most Perfect and Beautiful Son. He is God and Mercy, Love and Truth. Come to me, and I shall share Him with you."
Oh, how I love this picture! You can see the hay from His manger, and the rocks from the cave at Bethleham in the background. From the earliest moments of His Life, she was there... offering Him to the world. First to St. Joseph, then to the shepherds and wisemen, and perpetually to us.
Anyway, the reason I chose this picture is to explain why the Rosary isn't just a Marian prayer. Mary, as she pointed out in her beautiful "Magnificat," said "My soul doth magnify the Lord." She is nothing of herself, for she understands that she is a reflection of God - a glorious crystal which He has chosen to magnify His Love, Grace and Mercy for all humanity. The same is true of the Rosary. As the wonderful Scott Hahn pointed out once, the Blessed Mother doesn't keep all the prayers of the Rosary to herself. She doesn't revel in the Hail Marys, hoarding them all to herself. She takes each prayer and lovingly offers them to Her Son, who in turn offers them to God the Father.
Remember... the Magnificat was Our Lady's response to her cousin, Elizabeth, at the Visitation. When Elizabeth humbled herself before the Queen of Heaven, feeling unfit to be in the Presence of God and of she who carried God within her womb, Mary gently offered those prayers of humiliation and joy to God through the Magnificat. She took what Elizabeth offered and handed the glory straight-away to God, the true reason for ALL Glory.
So with that in mind, I offer the Rosary as a Christ-centric prayer. A photo album in which Jesus is WHOLLY present in each picture. We begin the Rosary with the Sign of the Cross, Christ's victory over death and sin. Each decade begins with the Our Father. Note, especially, the words "And give us this day our daily bread." Unwittingly, we ask God the Father time and again to grant those graces most necessary for our salvation! God (the Eternal Now) grants us these graces - most notably the Mysteries of the Rosary - through these prayers. He gives us the Nativity... He gives us the Crucifixion... He gives us the Resurrection, Pentecost and even the Coronation! We ask for these things, unwittingly, each time we begin a decade of the Rosary. And then, to complete the circle of thanks, we give glory to the Trinity at the close of each decade with the Glory Be.
And the Haily Mary... oh, let's not forget the Hail Mary. My next entry will be dedicated to this wonderous prayer.
Whoa! Huge picture today, painted by an anonymous Dutch artist from the 1500's. It does, however, make my point quite nicely. The Rosary is, in all actuality, the photo album of Christ. I realized this through my contemplation, and then, almost as confirmation from the Holy Spirit that I was on the right track, heard it on a CD I had picked up about the Rosary. How nice was that?
As I began to pray that first Conversion Rosary, I wanted to REALLY pray it. I didn't want to just run through the words as I did when I was a child. I wanted to REALLY immerse myself in the prayers so I could offer a proper Rosary to Our Lady. So as I prayed each mystery, I tried to place myself in the scene of the decade.
For example, during the Scourging at the Pillar, I imagined not only the Adorable Body of Christ (hanging, limp from pain, exhaustion and loss of Blood), but also of the soldiers tasked with the torture. I pictured them, massive, brutish and possibly gleeful, being goaded into worse and more sinister whippings by the invisible demons that surely surrounded them. I also pictured St. Michael the Archangel, no doubt present as well, barely able to contain his indignation and fury, held back ONLY by the gaze of His God and Master who wished to suffer this agony to save even those who would turn from Him. How St. Michael must have humbled Himself before His God as all others around Him abused and tortured Him.
During the Joyful Mysteries, I'd picture the Blessed Mother during the Annunciation given news that she was to be Mother of God. How utterly confused she must have been! But through her absolute trust in God's Will, she humbled herself (the Queen of Heaven!) before the Angel Gabriel and accepted, once more, the Divine Plan. "Hail Mary!" he said. "Hail Mary" indeed! We may not understand this anymore, being so far removed from the history in which this tiding was first offered, but "Hail" was a term reserved for royalty, something the humble, unknown Virgin of virgins would never dream to hear for herself (let alone hear it from the lips of an angel!). I wonder if all the angels in Heaven were peering down upon her at that moment, falling over one another as they waited to hear the "Fiat" fall from her lips. Could you imagine?
The reason I share these images with you is to help you look at each mystery deeper... as a picture. After all, if this Rosary is a photo album, each decade presents us a picture. Jesus, of course, is at the center of each picture, but look deeper. There are not only the surrounding images of the Blessed Mother, angels, or even sinners. There are background characters that, sometimes, are invisible to us unless we truly contemplate what each picture is showing us.
So I encourage you on your next rosary, really look at each picture. Try to place yourself in the midst of the setting and ask the Holy Spirit to show you things you may have missed, to unlock the treasure of beauty hidded within each scene from Christ's life. It makes the Rosary less of a chore, and more of a reverent, loving reminder of the gifts our God has given us.
My mind wanders... a lot. In attempting to pray the rosary when I was younger, I'd rush through my words as quickly as possible in order to say everything before I fell asleep. Mostly I was unsuccessful. I'd end up snoozing halfway through the 1st or 2nd decade. Nice, right?
As I noted in my "Reversion" story, I hadn't touched a rosary in years. I simply didn't have the self-discipline to carry out the prayers. They all seemed boring... insurmountable. Don't get me wrong... I still struggle with getting myself started. It's much easier to solicit motivation for the Divine Mercy chaplet. It's less than half the time of a good rosary! But I realized that I was going about the rosary in the wrong way. I remembered a story I had heard as a child. I'll share it with you, because it always stuck with me, gnawing the back of my mind, urging me to offer a similar gift to Our Lady.
An elderly woman lived in the city, and took the bus everywhere. Having no family to rely on, she relied heavily on public transportation for her daily necessities: shopping, salon visits, doctor appointments, and Mass. As a result, she spent a good amount of time waiting for notoriously late buses. To pass the time, she'd pray her rosary, offering each one up to the Blessed Mother for whatever intentions She saw fit to use them for.
One especially dreary day, this woman waded her way through the snow with her rosary in-hand. She saw her bus coming and readied herself to board. Unfortunately, the bus driver hit a patch of dry ice and slid into where she was waiting, killing her instantly.
Before she knew what was happening, she found herself being led to Heaven by her Guardian Angel. Heaven was extremely festive that day... Heaven was celebrating the birth of the Blessed Mother. The angels and saints surrounded Our Lady with the most exquisite gifts. The elderly woman, embarrassed that she had no present to offer, humbly bowed before the Queen and apologized for her lack of offerings. The Blessed Mother smiled and pulled the most beautifully wrapped present of them all from beside her. Placing it on Her magestic lap, she said,"Daughter, the rosaries you've offered to me all these years are more precious to me than any offering given to me today. Each represents intentions dearest to my heart, and they've translated into so many of my children finding their way home to my Son and I. Thank you for your loving generosity."
Ever since hearing that story, I've wanted to go to Heaven with a beautiful box full of rosaries just for Her. As a child, I used to resolve to say one rosary a day... then one a week... then one a month... and so on until I simply gave up saying them altogether. I always felt guilty for my laziness ('cause that's really what it was), but I never really did much to change it... until reading about Our Lady's repeated requests for rosaries earlier this year.
I have no idea what it was, but something in me was deeply touched by this message and I really did resolve to pick up the rosary more often. As I noted before, it had been so long since I'd prayed a rosary that I had to keep the mysteries open in front of me while I prayed for reference. But it's a good thing I did! In that first "Conversion Rosary" I made (Sorrowful Mysteries), I experienced the power of this beautiful prayer. I meditated the moments surrounding each mystery and came away with such a profound appreciation for the Passion that all other aspects of my spiritual life suddenly found themselves lacking. More on that in a later blog.
Anyway, the more I prayed the rosary, the more I contemplated the depth and and beauty of our faith. More importantly, I began to understand (and appreciate) the unfolding of God's Will in everything.
So with that in mind, I'll be starting my Rosary series. I've been itching to write about it for a while, and seems like this week is gearing up to be the perfect opportunity.
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