Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Novena for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Looking through the calendar I noticed that we will soon celebrate the feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fast math told me that this fantastic day is nine days out, so I did a quick Google search for a novena honoring the birth of Our Lady.

I couldn't recall one myself, but surely someone in cyberspace would know an appropriate prayer.

Turns out the second entry on Google was this, posted by me on this date last year.


Happy to Be Catholic.


Still working on wiser.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mother Teresa

Jim Castle was tired when he boarded his plane in Cincinnati, Ohio, that night in 1981.
The 45-year-old management consultant had put on a week long series of business meetings and seminars, and now he sank gratefully into his seat
ready for the flight home to Kansas City, Kansas.
As more passengers entered, the place hummed with conversation,
mixed with the sound of bags being stowed.

Then, suddenly, people fell silent.
The quiet moved slowly up the aisle
like an invisible wake behind a boat.
Jim craned his head to see what was happening,
and his mouth dropped open.
Walking up the aisle were two nuns
clad in simple white habits bordered in blue.
He recognized the familiar face of one at once, the wrinkled skin, and the eyes warmly intent.
This was a face he'd seen in newscasts and on the cover of TIME.
The two nuns halted,
and Jim realized that his seat companion was going to be Mother Teresa!
As the last few passengers settled in,
Mother Teresa and her companion pulled out rosaries.
Each decade of the beads was a different color, Jim noticed.
"The decades represented various areas of the world,"
Mother Teresa told him later,
and added, "I pray for the poor and dying on each continent."
The airplane taxied to the runway
and the two women began to pray, their voices a low murmur.
Though Jim considered himself not a very religious Catholic
who went to church mostly out of habit,
inexplicably he found himself joining in.
By the time they murmured the final prayer,
the plane had reached cruising altitude.
Mother Teresa turned toward him.
For the first time in his life,
Jim understood what people meant
when they spoke of a person possessing an 'aura'.
As she gazed at him, a sense of peace filled him;
he could no more see it than he could see the wind but he felt it,
just as surely as he felt a warm summer breeze. "Young man," she inquired, "do you say the rosary often?"
"No, not really," he admitted. She took his hand, while her eyes probed his. Then she smiled.
"Well, you will now."
And she dropped her rosary into his palm. An hour later, Jim entered the Kansas City airport where he was met by his wife, Ruth.
"What in the world?" Ruth asked when she noticed the rosary in his hand.
They kissed and Jim described his encounter.
Driving home, he said. "I feel as if I met a true sister of God." Nine months later, Jim and Ruth visited Connie, a friend of theirs for several years.
Connie confessed that she'd been told she had ovarian cancer.
"The doctor says it's a tough case," said Connie,
"but I'm going to fight it. I won't give up."
Jim clasped her hand.
Then, after reaching into his pocket,
he gently twined Mother Teresa's rosary around her fingers.
He told her the story
and said, "Keep it with you, Connie. It may help."
Although Connie wasn't Catholic,
her hand closed willingly around the small plastic beads.
"Thank you," she whispered. "I hope I can return it."
More than a year passed before Jim saw Connie again.
This time her face was glowing,
she hurried toward him and handed him the rosary. "I carried it with me all year," she said.
"I've had surgery and have been on chemotherapy, too.
Last month, the doctors did second-look surgery,
and the tumor's gone. Completely!"
Her eyes met Jim's.
"I knew it was time to give the rosary back."In the fall of 1987, Ruth's sister, Liz,
fell into a deep depression after her divorce.
She asked Jim if she could borrow the rosary,
and when he sent it, she hung it over her bedpost in a small velvet bag.
"At night I held on to it, just physically held on. I was so lonely and afraid," she says, "yet when I gripped that rosary, I felt as if I held a loving hand." Gradually, Liz pulled her life together,
and she mailed the rosary back. "Someone else may need it," she said.
Then one night in 1988, a stranger telephoned Ruth.
She'd heard about the rosary from a neighbor
and asked if she could borrow it
to take to the hospital where her mother lay in a coma.
The family hoped the rosary might help their mother die peacefully.
A few days later, the woman returned the beads.
"The nurses told me a coma patient can still hear," she said,
"so I explained to my mother that I had Mother Teresa's rosary
and that when I gave it to her, she could let go;
it would be all rosary in her hand."
"Right away, we saw her face relaxed.
The lines smoothed out until she looked so peaceful, so young.
A few minutes later, she was gone."
Fervently, the woman gripped Ruth's hands.
"Thank you." Is there special power in those humble beads?
Or is the power of the human spirit
simply renewed in each person who borrows the rosary?
Jim only knows that requests continue to come, often unexpectedly.
He always responds though, whenever he lends the rosary,
"When you're through needing it, send it back. Someone else may need it."Jim's own life has changed, too,
since his unexpected meeting on the airplane.
When he realized Mother Teresa carries everything she owns in a small bag,
he made an effort to simplify his own life.
"I try to remember what really counts -
not money or titles or possessions,
but the way we love others," he says.

May God bless you abundantly.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary ask her Son Jesus to shower you with grace.

Thank you God for the grace of Mother Teresa's example. In her honor, please consider offering prayers, penance and alms for the poor, sick and dying all around the world.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thoughts on the Assumption of Our Lady

I posted this last year on the Feast of the Assumption. I hope to post again this weekend about what it must have been like in heaven on that magnificent day. Please thank God for every minute of this glorious feast!

Meditating on the Assumption pushes my brain to its limit – I know the joy in Heaven must have been indescribable but I simply cannot fathom what it was like for Our Lady to first behold the beatific vision. To meet the Father for the first time. To see her Divine Son again, in all of His heavenly majesty. To fully understand her role in the salvation of its world. To see St. Joseph ; that the two of them might wonder in all of their humility and obedience the greatness of God that He bestowed upon them such extraordinary dignity. To have choirs of angels welcoming Our Lady into Paradise. *sigh* Oh, to have been a mouse in the corner. What a glorious day it must have been!

But it was when I learned the Franciscan Crown Rosary, a prayer celebrating the joys of Our Lady, that I found something else to ponder about the Assumption.

According to one Franciscan Order, the Blessed Virgin Mary was seventy-two years old when she was assumed into Heaven. Estimating that she was fourteen when she gave birth to Jesus, she would have been forty-seven when He died. That leaves twenty-five years for her on Earth without her beloved Son. Despite her joy in His victory, the Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, it must have been incredibly painful for her to be separated from Him.

Certainly she had the company of some of the Apostles, and friends. I am sure she knew that she would see her Divine Son again one day, but we humans often need a tangible presence for comfort.

I would assume that Our Lady may have been given special consolation at times, visits from her Son or the holy angels. But maybe not. Maybe her solitary presence on Earth was part of a bigger plan.

Because she was given twenty-five years to further contemplate the mysteries of God, Our Lady must have prayed often for the salvation of her Son’s beloved children. She knew what was in store for the faithful, and she knew the desolation that befell those who rejected God.

And one tear from the spotless, sinless Virgin means more in Heaven than we can possibly imagine. How often did Our Lady plead lovingly through tears with the Father for mankind, many of whom she saw living sinful lives, oblivious or indifferent to her Son who sacrificed all while she, the Mother of God, remained, sinless, on Earth?

Perhaps those twenty-five years she spent on Earth were yet another facet of her martyrdom. She undoubtedly offered her own agony to the Father as she watched her Son suffer on the Cross. Did she offer the sorrow of being separated from her Son to the Father for the sake of mankind? I suspect so.
And such an offering from the humble Virgin would have made her Assumption into Heaven all the more glorious.

Thank you so much to Our Lord and Our Lady for this beautiful Feast Day.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Real Presence: He Waits Patiently

I recall the first time that I heard the song One of These Days by the group Far From Home. The powerful lyrics "One of these days, I am going to see the hands that took the nails for me..." moved me deeply, a reminder that one day I really will meet Jesus.


Then I tonight I came across this article, one of countless inspiring reflections on the Real Presence. The words of St. Teresa of Avila struck a chord as just yesterday I wondered what it must have been like to have lived during the time Jesus was on Earth.

What was it like for people outside the ‘word of mouth’ region - people who may not have heard of the miracles of the Messiah?

Did these people feel any different as their Savior walked on the Earth at the same time they did?

Was His presence palpable?

Turns out I don't have to wonder.

"I cannot doubt at all Your Presence in the Eucharist. You have given me such a lively faith that when I hear others say they wish they had been living when you were on earth, I laugh to myself, for I know that I possess you as truly in the Blessed Sacrament as people did then, and I wonder what more anyone could possibly want."
St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church

So many of us, myself included, drive by churches, hurrying to do things that are "important". If I really and truly believe in the Real Presence, then why would I spend one free minute away from Him?

Please go see Him this week.

Maybe a daily Mass, or a few moments before the Blessed Sacrament.
An hour of adoration would be wonderful. There is even online perpetual adoration if you aren't able to get to a church.

He burns with Love beyond anything that we can understand.

He, the King of Kings, waits patiently for us.

Then one day, when you see the hands that took the nails for you, you will rejoice that you chose to spend time with Him here on Earth.