Novena starts today: Mary, Undoer of Knots

One of my favorite websites begins a novena today — to Mary, Undoer of Knots (one of Pope Francis’ favorites!)

Here is a quote from Irenaeus about Mary loosening our knot of sin:

The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.

For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith.

Irenaeus

Mary undoer of knots

I hope you can join in praying this novena!

A Beautiful Saint honored today

I was so moved by the story of today’s saint that I thought I’d post a link to his biography. Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was very humble, died fairly young, and is the patron saint of young people, students and clerics. Unfortunately most of his writings were destroyed, as he requested from his deathbed. A short biographical passage from the Catholic Culture website:

[Saint Gabriel joined] the Passionists, a religious congregation dedicated to the veneration of and meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ [in 1856].

After overcoming many difficulties, he carried out his resolution and received the religious name, Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows. Even as a novice, he was regarded as a model of perfect holiness both within and beyond the cloister.

Saint Gabriel did not stand out from his community in any extraordinary way — his heroism lay in his obedient attitude. He conformed himself to his community in complete humility. Little is known of his life — only that he was blessed with an excellent memory and other gifts that made him an outstanding student. He also had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary. Pius X and Leo XIII especially desired that he be the patron saint of young people and novices in religious orders, as their model in the interior life. He died in the year 1862.

And here is a lovely quote from him about Our Lady:

Love Mary! …She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity.

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

“I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God’s Holy Will, not my own.”

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

When a Star Isn’t a Star – An Epiphany Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12

When a Star Isn’t a Star – An Epiphany Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12

Beautiful meditation on this Feast Day.

[The epiphany of Christ didn’t happen only when the wise men arrived at the house where the child was. Their entire experience was epiphany. Observing “the star at its rising” was epiphanal. Their journey to Bethlehem was epiphanal. Seeing “the child with Mary his mother” was epiphanal. Offering their gifts was epiphanal.]

Interrupting the Silence

Star of Bethlehem, Feast of the Epiphany, Wise Men, Magi, Matthew 2:1-12, Sermon Star of Bethlehem by Waldemar Flaig (source)

“For we observed his star at its rising.”

Wise men from the East have followed this star to Jerusalem. They will follow it to Bethlehem. They will be overwhelmed with joy when it stops over the house where the child is. For they have come to pay homage to this child who has been born king of the Jews.

Some people have said that star wasn’t really a star. “No natural star could have traveled such a course nor could it have shone so brilliantly at midday and, furthermore, it stood still over the child,” said one person. He doesn’t believe it was a star in the sky and it’s not because he’s not a Christian or because he’s an unfaithful Christian. To the contrary he is one of the greatest preachers and bishops of the early church, St. John Chrysostom…

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Light Out of Darkness

So beautiful! Wish this practice continued today.

“At the comer of every street a little image of Mary rose from amidst a heap of flowers, which the pious people of the neighborhood renewed each morning as soon as the trumpets from the towers of Chatlet announced the break of day. During the night lamps burnt constantly before them illuminating their little grey niches and on Saturdays their number was greatly increased.”

Avangelista

If mosaics, priceless paintings and imposing statues are conspicuous in grand cathedrals, equally precious in God’s sight are humble wayside shrines. The tradition began in the earliest decades of the Catholic Church with the establishment of markers and small chapels to commemorate Christ. the Blessed Virgin Mary and the martyrs, often at the location of their faithful martyrdom.

Excerpt from “The Legends of The Blessed Virgin” 1853

They who have never visited the towns and villages of a Catholic country, cannot conceive the feeling of delight with which the pious traveler is affected at the sight of those monuments of piety and religious recollection, which, in the shape of crucifixes, images of the Blessed Virgin, and favorite saints, are placed at the angle of streets, in squares, and public places, on bridges, fountains, and obelisks, or between the stalls of a village market or fair. These works of popular art and…

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“All have sinned and fall short…”

It’s taken me a long time to answer last week’s RCIA questions, and perhaps you’ll see why:

What has Jesus done to save me?

What is God doing to save me?

Those questions are at the same time deeply personal, and somewhat generic. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Christianity knows the “generic” answer to at least the first question, and many Christians can probably quote some pertinent Bible verses.

It’s only recently that salvation has become personal for me. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Saint Augustine) Although blessed with so much, I felt empty until I returned to God. And that’s what Jesus has done to save me. His saving act upon the cross allows us to return to God, it bridges that separation, it enables that close, fulfilling relationship with God.

Throughout those years when I’d left Christianity and “dabbled” in Buddhism, it was as if I were subconsciously trying to work out my own salvation. I knew I was a sinner, feeling exactly as Paul did when he said (in his letter to the Romans):

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7: 15-20)

I could have said all of that, I was that frustrated with myself! The thing is, Buddhism does not believe in sin or evil, so any wrong thoughts or actions that one does, are supposed to be worked out on the meditation cushion. Calm your mind, and you will eventually no longer react angrily. Be mindful, live in the moment, and eventually you will no longer think impatient thoughts. Meditate on impermanence and you will no longer lust after people or things (because they’re impermanent, after all!) Meditate on your own death, and you will no longer fear death…

Now, I’m not saying this doesn’t work for some people (and I definitely met many calm, peaceful, happy Buddhists!) but I knew it wasn’t working for me. I was the same, sinful me after a decade of daily meditation as I was going in! The only thing different, was my despair at my feelings of emptiness and what I termed “spinning my wheels”. If I could have put it into words, I’d have said, “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

And I also felt a desperate, almost despairing, need to believe in God! And although I felt the separation from God in my life, I also felt the potential for closeness, often while I was meditating — that thrill when the quiet in a room anticipates a sound, rather than dead silence. After awhile I could no longer deny that Presence. I could no longer deny my need for God. I need God to fill that emptiness and longing in my life. I need God to thank with overflowing gratitude for my blessings! I especially need God so that I can quit the endless, useless spinning of my wheels.

In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7: 22-25)

We hear as children, “God is Love”, but I needed to experience that first-hand before I could believe it. For the first time I feel and believe I am loved and forgiven by God. I’m not sure what changed, except making small decisions to believe. To believe I could pray to Mary and she would hear my pleas for change in my life. To believe that the Presence I detect, and have been conscious of at moments throughout my life, is God’s Presence. To believe that the voice in my heart that is nudging me in certain directions is God’s Voice. To believe that my prayers and thoughts and gratitude and love for God are received. And to believe that this movement out of despair and lostness and toward God’s love and acceptance will continue.

God's Presence

And it is through Christ’s atoning sacrifice that I can be accepted back! “Just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5: 21) I am so happy that I finally get it! 🙂

And emphasis on God’s wonderful kindness! It’s: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Not “for God was so annoyed at the world”, or “for God so despaired of the world”, or “for God was so angry at the world”. Those reactions would have been justified, but I never experienced that from God when I returned to him. I only felt love and happiness! God freely gives of himself! It was Christ’s free gift that saves us! “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” (John 10: 17-18)

And I recognize that this is an ongoing process. I lay down my sinful self before Christ in the Eucharist, and he atones for my and others’ sins. I constantly try to die to my sinful self, and instead live for Christ in me. I hope to continue to serve him the rest of my days. “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness!”

Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

A beautiful passage about the Blessed Virgin Mary, from The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: As Set Forth in Her Litany, by Cornelius Joseph O’Connell, written in 1914.

Avangelista

MATERNITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGINThe humble Virgin of Nazareth, Mary, being the nearest and most intimately united to God, is, of all His creatures, the most holy. A closer union with God never existed, nor could there be a more perfect one than that which resulted from the divine maternity.

Notwithstanding Mary’s intimate relationship with God, her divine motherhood, it would have availed her but little had she not carried Jesus Christ in her heart, even more than in her chaste womb. She shunned the world, abhorred sin, and lived only for Jesus. All her days were passed in the practice of virtue. With greater reason than Saint Paul could she exclaim: “And I live, now, not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gall. 11—20).

She was holy in her eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet; she was godly in her thoughts, desires, words, heart, and in all the powers of her soul; she…

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