Hail Mary Series (Part 8 of 10) – Pray For Us Sinners

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus! Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death! Amen.

Often in the Body of Christ you’ll hear someone’s tale of woe and make the reply, “I’ll pray for you!” I don’t know about you, but until fairly lately, I’d say “I’ll pray for you!” and then five minutes later I’d have completely forgotten the promise of prayer that I’d made. I’ve been growing in faithfulness to prayer lately, but still forget from time to time. It hurts my heart to think of the promises I’ve made that have slid from my mind, especially the promises to pray for someone.

Bring to mind the images of the Blessed Mother that you’ve seen. She may be holding the Christ Child, she could have her hands outstretched offering us love and grace, or her hands are folded in prayer. In the Hail Mary, we ask for her prayers. Unlike myself, she won’t ever forget to pray, and as she is now right before the throne of her Divine Son, she has a pretty good vantage point to make herself heard! At the Wedding at Cana, she made it known to Jesus that the wine had run out (such a mother – so attentive to detail and the needs of those around her!), and while she didn’t tell Him “Hey, fix this,” she made the need known. She longs to have needs brought to her feet, and she takes great joy in presenting these needs to her Son!

It was said one time that offering prayers to Jesus through Mary is like giving a friend an apple. But you don’t just hand them the fruit; instead you gave it to their mother first, to prepare it just as they like best. She’ll know exactly what to do. Asking for our Heavenly Mother’s prayers is so much like that. She takes our humble, imperfect prayers, and perfects it with her gentility and devotion, and presents it to God, her Son. What an intercessor we have in Mary!

It’s worth noting also; Mary taught Jesus His prayers. As much as this may boggle the mind, it is true. If you’re struggling in prayer, ask for her help. Ask her to teach you to pray like she taught Christ.

She’s your mother! She loves you!

Hail Mary Series (Part 7 of 10) – Mother of God

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus! Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us now, and at the hour of our death! Amen.

Who knows you the best, out of everyone you’ve ever met? Who has invested the most in you during your life? The one who not only knows you like your PB & J’s with the crusts cut off, but also takes the time to carefully cut them off for you? Who stays up late when you’re sick, ensures your diet is healthy, and makes sure your friends are above reproach, because she knows you’ll become like the company you keep? Your mother does. She lovingly and carefully cares for you, loves you, and helps you grow into a mature adult. This support, love, and assistance that can only come from a mother is among the most precious and necessary people in any child’s life. Without a mother, children often grow up emotionally and psychologically disadvantaged.

Now, if Jesus was truly man along with being truly God (and He was!), He would also need a mother! He came to live the same life we do; He is completely like us in all things, save sin. To ensure His healthy development both in and out of the womb, he needed a mother! And not just ANY mother, but the BEST mother!

It’s simple enough to think of a mother/child relationship, but when the child is GOD, it totally changes the paradigm. Your mother is special, and particularly and intentionally planned by God to be YOUR mother! Why would God Himself be any different?! His mother was perfectly planned, and Immaculately Conceived (ie, without Original Sin), to be GOD’S mother! She had to have special graces and privileges (like a King’s mother would!), to fulfill the special role she was given. Like we talked about a few weeks ago, Mary is very, very blessed!

Another facet of Mary’s maternity that always draws my heart to love her more is the fact she was always, always with Him. We see pictures like this:

She held Him as a babe, rocked Him to sleep, and cared for every need that babies have. She taught Him to talk and walk; she nursed and fed Him; she even taught Him His prayers. Yes, the mother of God taught God how to pray! What a beautiful, touching reality! (Note: having trouble in your personal prayer life? Ask Mary to help! If she taught God, she can sure help you!)

Mary was also with her Son in times like this:

She was the most faithful of Mothers. She held her Son as a sweet little infant, and she held His tortured, bloodied Body after He was crucified for our Salvation. This lady is God’s MOTHER! I could write pages and pages on Mary’s maternity, but for now, I’ll leave you with this little thought from St. Maximillian Kolbe: “Don’t worry about loving Mary too much; you can’t ever love her more than Jesus did.”

Hail Mary Series (Part 6 of 10) – Holy Mary

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus! Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us now, and at the hour of our death! Amen.

We’ve talked about why Mary is called “Blessed,” but here we hit another word that many take issue with, when used towards Mary. She’s not God; why do we call her holy?

Let’s first take a look at what holy means before we start throwing around accusations of idolatry. “Holy,” as defined by Mr. Webster, means “set apart” or “reserved for special purpose.”

Now, let’s look at Mary. Was she set apart from the rest of womankind? Was she reserved for a special purpose? Yes! She was destined by God to carry His Son, to give Him birth, nurse Him, teach Him, and love Him in the most intimate way that only woman gifted with motherhood herself can understand. This privilege was not offered to just any woman. It was offered to her. And in total surrender and complete humility, she said gave her fiat. YES.

Now, think for just a second. What happened to you at your Baptism? You were cleansed, anointed, and set apart; you were made Holy. You (yes, YOU) are HOLY! You are set apart for the work of GOD!

Being holy doesn’t mean being perfect; being holy means being part of something Bigger and More Important than just you, namely, the Kingdom of Heaven and the Family of God. You’re not just another body walking around, you’re not normal; you are set apart! You are HOLY! So don’t deny it when someone calls you that, because if you’ve been Baptized, you ARE.

Now, go make someone’s day and tell them that they are holy – and most importantly – tell them WHY!

Overflow In Me

In prayer a few weeks ago, I asked for graces for a few things going on in my life. Eyes closed, I envisioned “grace like rain” falling on me from Heaven. I opened my hands to receive it, but as my hands filled to capacity, I started to panic! Frantically, I searched with my mind to find something that could hold the excess. I mean, this is GOD’S GRACE! You can’t WASTE the stuff!!! It didn’t stop raining down on me though, and my hands were not enough to hold the abundance I was being given. I was beside myself! The ‘grace-like-rain’ filled up my hands and ran out between my fingers and onto the ground. I looked up, beseeching this waste of precious grace to STOP! Couldn’t God see I had all I could hold?!

I cried out to Mother Mary, and she smiled down at me and the state of panic I was in. She looked up to the One that the Graces were coming from. As my gaze followed hers, I saw no end… It was infinite. Infinite. I didn’t really understand though; I was still upset about the ‘wasted grace’ making mud at my feet.

It slowly sunk in though… When something is endless, there’s no such thing as waste. God could pour out enough to drown me (and then some!), but never run out, or even run low! His grace has no end, which is why He can give, and give, and give. I realized that this extra Grace was not being wasted. It was, in fact, giving testimony to the great generosity of God to my poor, feeble soul. Any of what God does is never, EVER wasted. My frantically trying to conserve the infinite must have made God smile. He knows my heart, and my love of Holy Things, but this Holy Thing is His to pour out at will, and I pray for the Grace to accept His generosity in all things!

Overflow In Me!

“This Is The Night…” EXALT!

“This is the night…”

This phrase is repeated frequently in the Exultet, the Easter proclamation, at the Easter Vigil Mass:

“This is the night when first you saved our fathers…    

This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!..

“This is the night when Christians everywhere … are restored to grace and grow together in holiness…

“This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.”

It goes on to sing of light, THE Light, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

The Vigil Mass begins outside where the Easter Fire is lit, blessed, and used to light the Paschal (Easter) Candle. This candle is symbolic of the Light of Christ, and as it is processed into the Church, we hear chanted “Behold the Light of Christ!” to which we respond, “Thanks be to God!” (The entire Easter Vigil is froth with ceremony, meaning and reason behind that ceremony, symbols, and realities. I wish I could delve into each facet of this stunning liturgy, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick with the candle.)


The Paschal Candle from my parish – beautiful!

Each member of the faithful always has a small taper candle that is also lit from the Easter Fire via the Paschal Candle. The servers lit their tapers from the Paschal Candle and lit a few of the congregation’s candles. We then started sharing among ourselves, and the “Light of Christ” grew as it spread among His people! As we processed into the Church and the light continued to grow, a few things came to mind. First, we had to be willing to share our Light in order for everyone’s candle to be lit. Second, we had to be willing to receive Light from others, or our own would stay dark. Third, we had to protect our flame; walking too fast or a strong breeze would extinguish it.

I was blessed to attend this Mass with two of my most precious friends – Brianna and Mary.

Bri, Mary, and I arrived early to get a good seat, and waited anxiously for our candles to be lit by the Paschal Candle.

New Easter Fire! JOY!

When the Exultet was chanted, I was struck by the part towards the end talking about our candles, and the Paschal Candle. (If you would like to pray the entire Exultet, it may be found here.)

Let [this candle’s light] mingle with the lights of Heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed His peaceful light on all mankind,
Your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

“Mingle with the lights of Heaven…” We’re a part of Something, SomeONE, much bigger than ourselves. We are a part of the Mystical Body of Christ! Our light DOES mingle with those of Heaven! The unity we have in Christ is expressed in simple fire. The flame is very much symbolic of our Faith, also. We must give of ours to others, learn from the faith of others, and guard our own faith fiercely, lest it be extinguished by the gales and storms of this life. Also, as Christ said in Matthew 5, we are not to hid our lights, but set them out to be SEEN by others! We are to give LIGHT to our surroundings!

Also, I noticed the word ‘bravely’ was used in relation to the flame’s fidelity to burning. It does take bravery to live a life of Faith before the scorn of the world. And be willing to face the scornful with love, and offer your flame to them! And may each of us guard and spread our light until the Morning Star, the Light of the World, Jesus Christ returns to claim His own! Take this Easter Fire, and Go Light Your World!

A happy, holy, and blessed Easter to you and yours!! Rejoice in the Lord!

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Alleluia!

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered – Holy Saturday

Today is a really awkward day.

Jesus is dead. He signed the New Covenant in His own Blood, the tomb was sealed, and His Soul has been delivered to His Heavenly Father. Annnnnd He’s gone…

It feels as if today shouldn’t even happen. From yesterday at the Good Friday Service until tonight at the Vigil, life as a disciple of Christ is just weird.

Our Master, the Lord, died. So how is life still going? How do the mundane things like eating, sleeping, talking… how does it keep going?! Doesn’t anyone know what happened yesterday? If HE is dead, how are we alive?

The soldiers are standing guard over His tomb. His apostles are hiding. The women are crying. Mary’s heart is broken.

Even with this overwhelming sense of loss, there is still something there, though, moving underneath… something hopeful, something growing… I can’t put my finger on it, but it lends some peace to the uncomfortable feeling of ‘out-of-place’ that follows me like a shadow every Holy Saturday.

“…and after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb, they departed.” – Matthew 27:60

 

How Much Does He Love You? – Good Friday

Two summers ago, when working at The Pines Catholic Camp, I received a beautiful gift and grace from God that affirmed and confirmed my belief in Jesus’ presence in the Holy Eucharist. I was at a daily Mass one evening, and when I went up to receive the Precious Blood, I couldn’t see anything in the Chalice – the inside of the chalices at camp are gold-ish, and white wine had been consecrated. Thinking that, as had been the case the two daily Masses previous, only a tiny bit of the Precious Blood was left, I started tilting it before the whole weight was in my hand. It was full to the brim.

I spilled His Blood. It got on my face… on the floor… later I noticed a huge splotch on my t-shirt (which, ironically, had a Monstrance on it with the word Eucharist… God has a sense of humor!). I didn’t know what to do…

My mind filled with stories I’d read about when the Eucharist had fallen on the floor and how it was mourned, reverenced… Later, the Extraordinary Minister came to me. He saw I was very upset, and tried to calm me down, telling me I was alright; it wasn’t a sin – only an accident that could have happened to anyone. He told me to change shirts and rinse this one at an outside faucet, so the Savior’s Blood would run into the earth. I did as he said, and later the priest found me outside at the faucet washing my shirt with water and tears.

His compassion was that of a saint. He gently put his hand on my shoulder and asked me, “How much does He love you?”

All I could think to say was, “Enough to spill His Blood for me.”

Father smiled, and nodded.

Many weeks later, I was looking at a crucifix and thinking about that day. My own devotion to Mary had been growing in those weeks, and as I thought of her standing at the foot of the Cross with her Son, another image came to me. Up until this point, I’d always thought of myself as standing at a distance and watching her watching Jesus die. This time, though, she reached out for me, and brought me to the foot of the Cross with her. Looking up at Christ, His Precious Blood streamed down his legs and feet, and dripped off onto His holy mother’s face and clothes. This time, though, I was standing with her, and His Blood fell on me, too.

I came to realize many profound things from that one night in the humble Chapel at camp. Not only had Mary invited me deeper into the Passion of her Son as her companion, she had allowed me to share in her sorrow at the death of her Son. When I tilted that little chalice a bit too far, Jesus invited me deeper into the mystery of His Presence on the Blessed Sacrament. I spilled His Blood. It was my sins that sent Him to the Cross, but He also gave me a tangible experience that brought me to a much deeper love and appreciation for His Love and Sacrifice.

Oh Sacrament most Holy, oh Sacrament Devine, all Praise and all Thanksgiving be every moment Thine!

A Good Friday – by Cricket’s Song

Mary’s Ghillie is happy to introduce our first guest writer: Cricket’s Song! We’re grateful for his contribution to this blog, and hope to post more of his writing in the future!

The cool evening breeze gently brushed the woman’s graying hair against her lined cheek as she sat gazing out the window at the dying light of the setting sun. She stirred herself slowly in an attempt to rise, but soon gave in to the serenity of the fading day and instead settled into a more comfortable position; the women in the kitchen would have to do without her for a while longer. She tucked the ends of her clean but simple dress around her ankles and slowly returned her gaze to the fading light beyond her window. Her anxious eyes scanned the gathering gloom, hoping perhaps to see a messenger outlined against the fading light. Rumor had it that the authorities were looking for her Son, though she could not justify any reason why. She wished her husband was still alive; he would know what to do. He had been such a good father, so understanding and kind. Who else would have stayed with her, young and pregnant as she had been, and raised the child as his very own? She decided that if her Son did not contact her soon, she would turn the city over looking for Him like she had done that time when He was young. She smiled at the thought. If only she still had the energy she did then – not that she was weak or frail by any means. She was not getting younger though, and nowadays, He seemed to get into more trouble with each passing day.

People just do not understand Him sometimes, she thought.

Like that gossip she had overheard about Him leading a revolution, she had been shocked, and even now she could hardly reconcile herself to the idea. A feeling of unease seemed to make the room cramped and constricting and her brow creased at the thought, multiplying the winkles that played across her features. She was just shy of fifty, but her continuous traveling these last couple of years had aged her beyond nature. She placed her venerable hands into the folds of her dress; the air was starting to become a bit chill and if she inhaled slowly, she could just distinguish the faint smell of the sea. Memories of her Son came flooding back, unbidden, unasked for; the joyful, sorrowful, the challenging. She felt tears come to her eyes, blurring the forbidding darkness that gathered outside. She must be strong. She must pray.

 

 

Not but a few miles away, a young man frantically scrambled across the terrain, heedless of the numerous cuts and scrapes he had received in his battle with the nearly invisible brush and shrubs.

Why!? he cried internally. Why did this have to happen?

John had hastily left minutes before when he and his friends had been surprised by armed men. He was lucky he had not been slain in the confusion, as much as he had panicked. He furiously tried to make sense of the events that had so recently transpired. He and his friends had eaten supper together and then left for a nearby garden in hopes of a bit of peace. They had not been there long before the soldiers appeared out of nowhere.

How did anyone even know we were there? he thought for the twentieth time. And why us? he wondered.

He considered taking his sandals off but there was no telling what he might step on, and any time gained by going barefoot would be lost if he ended up limping the rest of the way. He was going to have to slow down soon, as his lungs were starting to constrict.

Am I even going the right direction? he wondered; it was hard to tell in the freshly fallen night.

The soldiers had not offer a word of explanation, and he had no idea what had happened to the rest of his group. He had only stayed long enough to see them capture One of his friends and now he must bear the terrible news to this Friend’s mother.

Friend!? he thought. How could he call the now-captive only a ‘friend’ when they were so much more like brothers? All thirteen of them had traveled many miles together, though it was this One in particular that he and the others looked up to. He was in such haste that only now did he grimly consider how his Friend’s mother would handle the news.

Not far now, he thought.

 

 

The woman turned with a start. A moment before she had thought she heard the faint sound of running. Perhaps she imagined it. What she heard now was the voice of one of the younger women calling her name. The voice’s owner soon appeared and scolded her for sitting to close to the window, warning against sickness. She smiled softly as she listened, not at all put out by the scolding nor repentant of the actions that earned the redress. Her dress swished as she silently let herself be helped to her feet. She certainly needed no help, but was still lost in thought.

“Come join us inside Mary,” she heard, and as she let herself be lead into the light, a faraway cricket began its lonely song.

Maundy – Holy Thursday

Today is often called “Maundy Thursday.” As often as I’ve heard that name for Holy Thursday, I’ve wondered what on earth “Maundy” even meant… It’s been bugging me enough lately, so I looked it up.

Maundy is the ceremony of washing the feet of the poor, and also refers to Jesus’ washing His Apostle’s feet at the Last Supper in the Gospel of John, chapter 13. Jesus got down on His hands and knees, and cleaned the dirtiest part of His band of Apostles. In doing this, He was trying to show us many things… We’ll look at three of them.

First, washing someone’s feet is nasty work – and if you think it’s bad in 2013, just imagine what it was like when people wore, not Nike’s, but thin sandals (if anything!) and walked everywhere on dirt roads! That had to have been GROSS! When feet needed washing (and this was often!), it was the job of the servants. When Jesus got around to Peter in verse six, Peter knew that Jesus was the Lord of the Universe, and felt like he (Peter) should wash Jesus’ feet, not the other way around! Jesus gently reminded him though that He knew Peter didn’t understand… and that was ok. “…You’ll understand later,” Jesus promises in verse seven. Jesus goes on to say that if He doesn’t wash Peter’s feet, Peter cannot have any inheritance with Him. Peter sees a little more clearly, and asks that Jesus not only wash his feet, but all the rest of him as well! (Oh Peter…!) Jesus doesn’t always ask us to understand every little thing He does in our lives, but He does ask us to lay aside our fear and trust Him. “You will understand later.”

Second, by washing nasty, dirty feet, Jesus is asking us to submit our dirtiness to Him. Peter didn’t want to! He saw how dirty his dirtiness was, and didn’t want Jesus to touch it. (I can’t say that I blame him!) Peter wanted to give Jesus the best and perfect parts of himself, and not let the yucky see the light of day, especially when Jesus, the Son of God, was looking. Jesus shows us though that He WANTS these parts of us. He wants you to give Him the yuckiest, nastiest, grossest parts of yourself, so that He can cleanse and heal them. Jesus told St. Faustina to “give Him her misery,” because it was the only part of her that was truly hers to give. The pretty stuff, the virtues, etc… they were all gifts and graces from God. Though we should offer our gifts to God also, He mostly wants the nasty stuff, so that He can relieve, clean, and heal. “If I do not wash you, you have no inheritance with Me.” Peter said it best: “Then not just my feet, Lord, but my hands and head as well!”

Third, Jesus is setting an example for us. He says in verse fourteen that “if I, therefore, the Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” He shows us by His own actions how we should love one another. Not only did He tolerate the dirtiness, but He embraced it, and washed it with His own hands. What would this look like in our lives? A smile to a complete stranger is a good place to start! Digging deeper though, Jesus is teaching us by example that we ought to bear one another burdens, and love each other through highs and lows. Do you know someone struggling with sin? PRAY for them!! And then TELL them you’re praying! Affirm their good efforts, console them in failure, encourage, and offer them every kindness! ‘Wash their feet’ as much as you can, and in this way, you imitate Christ!

Jesus poured Himself out completely for us, and today, Maundy (aka washing-of-the-feet) Thursday, He will ask you to pour yourself out alongside Him. How will you answer?

“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.” John 13:5

The Living Word – Wednesday of Holy Week

Ever heard that saying, “You are the only Bible some people will ever read?”

Well, sad as it may be that more people don’t read Scripture, it’s true. I confess to not reading nearly as much as I ought to, but the excuse I give my Spiritual Director is that I get plenty of the good stuff at daily Mass. (I mean after all, 4,591% of the Mass is a direct quote from Scripture, and the parts that aren’t allude to it!)

I had a pretty stark sip of reality last Thursday (can’t say that I recommend the stuff…tastes like tar…), and I realized how true that old saying is. My dear friend Brianna (to whom I just realized I owe a blog post or five) was telling me about a conversation with a coworker. Bri had just passively made the comment that she’d be clocking out early Friday so that arrangements could be made for her absence. Now Bri, much like myself, is pretty obviously NOT the go-out-get-wasted-on-the-weekends type, so her short workday at the end of the week caused a slight arousal of curiosity. Bri shared that she’d be going to Good Friday Services (yes, it IS a service… it’s the only day of the year there is NOT Mass in the Catholic Church), then staying in town to see Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” with students from the local University. Her coworker went on to ask what the story was, anyway. She’d never heard it.

Once Bri got over the shock at meeting someone in EAST TEXAS (aka, the “Bible Belt”) who’d not heard the story, she invited her to come along.

After talking about it together, I realized that the way Brianna lived and worked was giving a beautiful testimony to her Faith in Christ and His Church. She was the Word of God that her coworker could read.

When we write the Word of God on our hearts, and most importantly, LIVE like its written there, we are being missionaries to a spiritually third-world country. I think we ought to follow the beautiful example of Mother Teresa to serve the poor on our street and at our door: the Poor in Spirit.

“It has been made manifest that YOU are the Epistle of Christ, ministered by us, and written down, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, and not on tablets of stone, but on the fleshly tablets of the HEART.” 2 Corinthians 3:3 (emphasis added)

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