Mary, We NEED Her

Based on a talk by Fr. Jeff Norfolk

Jesus could have chosen any means to dwell among us, but He chose His Mother.  Mary acknowledged that favor in her Magnificat: “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed,” (Luke 1:48).  This mother, whom he had chosen, he also gave to us while he hung from the Cross.  “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home,”’ (John 19:26-27).  During his final hour, Jesus’ attention turned to his mother offering her as the Mother of humanity.  Her sadness was intertwined with the joy of receiving us, her spiritual children.

As her spiritual children, we too need Mary, our mother.  The words of her Magnificat remind us of the hope that the poor and humble bear in salvation (CCC 264), the importance of faith in the Lord, and the joy of a gratuitous heart (CCC 273). “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” (Luke 1:49).  Mary represents the dignity of motherhood.  During her early years, she confronted trials against motherhood.  She witnessed King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.  As a dear cousin, she knew of Elizabeth’s initial barrenness which later led to the gift of a miraculous child.  Through our own trials and family wounds, we can look to Mary as a model to follow and a source of intercession.  Mary shows us how to handle the suffering that we receive.  She demonstrates how all trials can be borne with love.  However, she also teaches how to aspire to a richer and more beautiful way of life.  She shows us how following her Son’s will can lead us away from many of the wounds we create ourselves.

Through selfishness and indifference to Christ, we fall into our own suffering and can cause hurt towards Jesus, ourselves, and others.  We need Mary in order to overcome that indifference.  We need her in order to know her Son.  Jesus gave her to us so that we may come to him just as he came to us.  Let us welcome Mary more fully into our lives and allow her to introduce us more perfectly to her Son.

 

 

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Cited from the usccb.org website

Fortnight for Freedom

Last night began our “Fortnight for Freedom” where Catholic Americans around the country united together to defend the rights guaranteed by our Founding Fathers and endowed by our Creator: the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Believing that all people possess inherent dignity, our Founding Fathers listed numerous human rights that cannot be violated.  At question currently is the right to freedom of religion.  Oddly enough, the aspect of our religious freedom that is at the greatest risk is the duty to defend and care for the human person’s right to life.  This right is at the foundation of all other rights.  We are guaranteed human rights based upon the knowledge that every person possesses dignity regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.  Now the very nation which was founded to safeguard our freedom and protect our rights has asked us to violate our duty to protect life and subsequently to violate our consciences.

If we as Catholics and citizens of this country no longer value our duty to care for human life, we can no longer expect any other human right to be held sacred.  If we become passive, we may discover that our morality and beliefs, so long protected by this nation, may continue to be compromised in greater ways.

As this Fortnight for Freedom begins, we are called to stand up for the moral truths that enable us to witness to love, the love which unceasingly cares for every person, the love which profoundly expresses our own dignity: the love revealed in Jesus Christ.  While we cannot expect every person in this nation to profess the Christian faith, we can and must expect that this nation will allow us to practice our own faith.  We can and must love in the way that Jesus loves.  This means caring, in a holistic way, for every person, whether that may be a patient, employee, or stranger.  Our government asks for us to create within ourselves a false dichotomy where we believe in our minds but do not let that faith bear fruit in our actions.  What a limit to our freedom and an unfortunate expression of the state of our society.

During this Fortnight, let us exercise our freedom of religion through prayer, penance, and enriching our understanding of the issue at hand.  May God continue to bless America.  May he help us to develop a society that promotes true social justice where the rights of every person are protected and where we may work as a community to help every human life flourish.

Christianity – Taught the world that forgiveness is greater than revenge!

Posted by Joe Rutten, Director of Faith Formation – Cathedral of St. Joseph

Abuse takes many forms, but the path to healing must cross the bridge of forgiveness.  Where would civilization be without Jesus Christ and his message to turn the other cheek, to forgive those who have offended us?

Abuse, violence and sin are as ancient and deep as the roots of human history.  We have been blaming other people for our sin since Adam blamed Eve for eating the apple, and abuse has occurred since Cain killed Abel.  The pain and trauma we experience in our lives today as a result of sin is no different than it was for the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans or civilization of your choice.  Humanities reaction to violation and sin against one another has always been to exact revenge in pursuit of justice.

Yet, ancient civilizations lived more like the Mafia than they did our beloved Walton’s, Ingall’s, Brady’s or Cosby’s (which family you grew up watching on TV).  They acted on their first instinct when violated and retaliate with greater violence than what was caused to them.  If someone killed one of your sheep, you might kill ten of theirs.  This is where the great Hebrew Law of Talion and the Legal code of Hammurabi brought into practice the principle of an “eye for an eye”.  The principle was good because it says that you cannot return excessive punishment on someone for an offense they have committed against you.   The retribution and reciprocity for crime must only be equal to the crime committed.  The Romans even had a system where a monetary fine was paid for reciprocity, we still do this today.

Where would western civilization be without Christ and the Gospel message?  First, the eye for an eye law, which was actually a good law in the development of just human societies, would still be standard operating procedure.   We must remember that it is Christ and His Church that provides the guidelines and grace which elevates the human person to something greater than itself.  Western society was not elevated because of an age of enlightenment, it was elevated because it embraced “the Way, the Truth and Life”, Jesus Christ and the message of salvation.

Pray for courage to practice forgiveness.  It’s more than a message; it is a way of being and acting.  Think of one person who has hurt you and ask God for the courage and strength to forgive them.  Allow the Gospel message to transform you and experience the healing and peace that comes from living as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan + J.M.J.

On this Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I happily recall the Inaugural Diocesan Marian Conference in the Diocese of Sioux Falls on the First Saturday, October 1, 2011, which was the Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

The Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, D.D. (2006-       ), the Eighth Bishop of Sioux Falls, consecrated the Diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that very day. In doing so, he adapted the Act of Consecration that Blessed John Paul II (1978-2005) used to consecrate Russia and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Sunday, March 25, 1984.

We may use this Act of Consecration as a framework for our personal consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Act of Consecration of the Diocese of Sioux Falls to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

 “We fly to your protection, O holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our necessities but ever deliver us from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.”

As we offer this antiphon with which the Church of Christ has prayed for centuries, we come before you, Blessed Mother, during this Inaugural Diocesan Marian Conference.

We humbly declare today this Act of Consecration of the Diocese of Sioux Falls to you O Immaculate Heart of Mary, in which we include the fears and sorrows, the hopes and joys of the Faithful of our Diocese.

O Mother, you who have a mother’s awareness of all the struggles between good and evil, between light and darkness, which afflict our Diocese, accept the cry which we, moved by the Holy Spirit, address directly to your Immaculate Heart. Embrace Our Diocese with the love of the Mother and Handmaid of the Lord which we entrust and consecrate to you.

Behold, as we kneel before you, Mother of Christ, before your Immaculate Heart, we desire, together with the whole Church, to unite ourselves with the Consecration which, for love of us, your Son made of Himself to the Father: “For their sake”, He said, “I consecrate Myself that they also may be consecrated in the truth.” (Saint John 17:19).

The power of this Consecration that your Son made before His Death lasts for all time and embraces all individuals, peoples and nations. Above all creatures, may you be blessed, you, the Handmaid of the Lord, who in the fullest way obeyed the divine call. Hail to you, who are wholly united to the redeeming Consecration of your Son.

Mother of the Church, enlighten the Faithful of our Diocese along the paths of faith, hope and love. Help us to live in the truth of the Consecration of Christ for the entire human family of the world.

Immaculate Heart, help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our world:

From sins against human life—abortion and euthanasia, deliver us.
From contraception and sins against marriage and chastity, deliver us.
From famine and war, deliver us.
From every kind of injustice in society, both national and international, deliver us.
From violations of the Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church, deliver us.
From all kinds of dishonesty and addiction, deliver us.
From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us.

Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings and hopes of the Faithful of our Diocese.
Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin, individual and collective, and to grow in holiness.
Let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption: the power of merciful Love. May it put a stop to evil. May it enlighten consciences.

May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of Hope.
Pray for us O holy Mother of God that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.
Amen.

Heart of Christ, We Sing Thy Praises

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan J.M.J.

 This month the Church is the scene for varied celebrations: ordinations, weddings, graduations. With so many festive occasions, it is easy to forget the traditional dedication of June to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Solemnity of which is commemorated this year on June 15th.

As is well known, the decades after the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965) witnessed the decline of long-standing devotional practices, including that to the Most Sacred Heart. What was once held dear was often considered expendable and unenlightened. From the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to the nine First Fridays to the five First Saturdays, private devotions fell into disuse, and in some quarters were openly scorned.

Recently, however, Catholic devotional practices have begun to blossom. Parishes throughout the United States have blown the dust off monstrances and reinstated Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The Litany of the Sacred Heart is recited after Holy Mass in an increasing number of churches. Personal devotions no longer seem to be considered “embarrassing” as they were not long ago.

Yet, much remains to be done to ensure that pious practices dedicated to the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Angels and the Saints continue to be fostered and respected. There still exists among priests, Religious and laity the unfortunate misunderstanding that personal devotions are in opposition to the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

It is as if one cannot truly love the Eucharistic Liturgy and at the same time be concerned about the Church-approved revelations of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary, the Church-sanctioned apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, and other private revelations which enjoy ecclesiastical approbation.

The Servant of God Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), in his 1956 encyclical entitled On Devotion to the Sacred Heart (Haurietis Aquas), reminded the Faithful that devotion to the Sacred Heart, far from being “optional,” is necessary and rests on “solid foundations”: Sacred Scripture, the Fathers of the Church and theologians. All three proclaim that the Heart of Christ “is the natural sign and symbol of His boundless love for the human race.”

The Sovereign Pontiff quotes his predecessor Pope Leo XIII: “In the Sacred Heart there is the symbol and the express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return.”

Those who contend that private devotions detract from the centrality of the Mass would do well to meditate upon Pius’ assertion: “One may affirm that the divine Eucharist, both as a sacrament and a sacrifice—the one He bestowed on men, the other He Himself continually offers ‘from the rising of the sun even to the going down’—and the Priesthood, are really gifts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

The same Jesus who bestows His Sacred Body and Precious Blood upon His friends is the possessor of the Heart “which has loved so much but has been loved so little in return.”

Perhaps one of the reasons for the current revival of private devotions is the realization that personal piety can enhance one’s participation in the Mass. To reflect privately upon the riches of the Sacred Heart leads to a greater consciousness of the splendor of the Holy Eucharist. When one adores the Heart of Christ outside the celebration of the Eucharist, one will be better prepared to participate with deeper fervor and awareness within the Sacred Liturgy.

God’s gifts to His people are many. The bestowal of the Lord’s love upon His Church—as exemplified in the image of the Sacred Heart—is proof that Christ calls all to love as He Himself loved.

This June, as always, the Faithful look to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus because, as Pope Pius wrote quoting Pope Leo XIII, “in It man’s salvation must be sought and looked for.”

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!

 (This article, which has been edited slightly, originally appeared on page four in the June 16, 1991 issue of the National Catholic Register and is used with permission.)

 

Unspeakable Beauty, Unmistakable Love

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan J.M.J.

 Spiritual writer and retreat master Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., is fond of telling the story of a young seminarian’s encounter with Albert Einstein.

The future Levite had an affinity for science and longed to meet the renowned scholar. Summoning up as much courage as he could muster, he entered the professor’s office and asked the secretary whether he may have just a few moments with Dr. Einstein.

When he heard about his unexpected visitor, the professor grinned and exclaimed excitedly: “A Catholic seminarian. Send him in immediately.”

The seminarian, having been ushered into the genius’ office, thought that his chance had finally come to probe the mind of the world-famous scientist.

But what a surprise for the cleric-to-be! It was he who was on the receiving end. Professor Einstein demonstrated an insatiable desire to discover as much as he could about the mysterious Catholic doctrine which had intrigued him for so long—the teaching of how bread and wine are altered—transubstantiated—into an entirely new substance: the Body and Blood of Christ.

Respectfully, Dr. Einstein asked one question after another of the seminarian, eager to learn how the accidents of bread and wine could remain while the substance was changed. To what did the accidents adhere? The scientist grappled with what theologians for centuries had declared.

The Most Holy Eucharist continues to fascinate persons of all persuasions. Some, like Albert Einstein, are riveted by this dogma on an intellectual level; they seek to learn all they can about this “almost-too-much-to-believe” tenet of the Catholic Faith. Others are captivated by what the Most Blessed Sacrament does in one’s own life, struggles and temptations notwithstanding, when one is receptive to It.

Whatever the attraction, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ remain the focus of young and old, rich and poor. To experience this mystery, it is not enough to know the technical intricacies of the Church’s doctrine, as illustrated by Professor Einstein’s questions (though, of course, one should always strive for a better understanding of the theoretical dimensions of the Teaching of the Church).

Rather, if we hope to grasp the reality of the Flesh and Blood of the Savior, then we must be willing to allow the Most Holy Eucharist to grasp us. In other words, it is Christ Himself Who makes sense of this mystery and endows the believer with the wherewithal to accept what has happened.

To receive the Body and Blood of Christ with faith is to surrender to the bald truth: one must change! As the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the sincere recipient is altered into a disciple who more closely conforms to the Master. No one who is open to the Holy Spirit can swallow the Sacred Contents of the Ciborium and Chalice without being positively impacted. The Most Blessed Sacrament infallibly changes the lives of the Faithful who are disposed to the power of Blessed Mary’s only Son.

One who allows the Most Holy Eucharist to have full effect in his life is well on the way to Paradise. The Body and Blood of the God-Man glorify the Eternal Father through the Holy Spirit and prepare the recipient for Everlasting Life.

 (Adapted from an article that appeared on page four in the June 21, 1992 issue of the National Catholic Register. Used with permission.)

 

 

Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear

“Be not afraid.” This is a phrase used consistently by Jesus in the Gospels and repeated frequently by the late Bl. John Paul II.  Fear seems so natural, and even inevitable, with the problems our world possesses and the individual trials that we each face.  With all of these difficulties, why does Jesus make such a command?  How can he tell us so boldly to let go of fear?  Jesus offers a key to the freedom of the children of God.  For those who choose to carry all of their own burdens, they face many, and even daunting, fears because they are personally responsible for procuring their resolution.  They have to be their own savior.  Jesus comes as Lord and Savior.  He is Lord over death and more powerful than any oppressive force.  He is Savior meaning that he desires to rescure us from the forces of evil and from our own burdens.  “Be not afraid.”  Let Jesus be Lord of your life.  Trust in him and his love for you.  Let go of fear and live in the freedom and joy designed for all of God’s children.

We Ponder the Most Blessed Trinity!

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan +J.M.J.

We often think about the Most Blessed Trinity. But how little we understand!

 Today, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we reflect on this Mystery. Here are some important truths about the Most Blessed Trinity.

 1. In the one and only God there are Three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 2. Each of the Three Persons is distinct, but each is united and is equal in majesty and splendor to the other Two Persons.

 3. Each of the Three Persons shares the Divine Essence.

 4. The Son, Who is the Second of the Three Persons in God, proceeds by way of generation from the Father.

 5. The Holy Spirit, Who is the Third of the Three Persons in God, proceeds by way of spiration from the Father and the Son.

 6. All the activities in which God is involved outside of Himself are common to the Three Persons, even though: A.) Creation is especially attributed to the Father; B.) Redemption is especially attributed to the Son; C.) Sanctification is especially attributed to the Holy Spirit.

 In this morning’s Homily during the Holy Mass that marked the conclusion of the VII World Meeting of Families that occurred at Milan’s North Park near the Bresso Airport, Pope Benedict XVI said that the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

 urges us to commit ourselves to live our communion with God and with one another according to the model of Trinitarian communion. We are called to receive and to pass on the truths of faith in a spirit of harmony, to live our love for each other and for everyone, sharing joys and sufferings, learning to seek and to grant forgiveness, valuing the different charisms under the leadership of the Bishops. In a word, we have been given the task of building Church communities that are more and more like families, able to reflect the beauty of the Trinity and to evangelize not only by word, but I would say by “radiation,” in the strength of living love.

 As we contemplate the truth of the “Three in One,” may we love the Most Blessed Trinity and one another.

 Mary, you who are the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!

Our Blessed Lady Visits Elizabeth

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan + J.M.J.

 The Servant of God Terence Cooke (1921-1983) was the Archbishop of New York for fifteen years (1968-1983). Almost three decades after his death, he is fondly remembered for his tranquility and his willingness to suffer from grave illness silently and without complaint.

In Meditations on Mary (New York: Alba House, 1993), which has an Introduction from Father Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R., one finds a series of conferences that the then-Monsignor Cooke, who was secretary to the famous Francis Cardinal Spellman, gave at Lourdes, France in 1958 on the 100th anniversary of those cherished apparitions of Our Blessed Lady to little Bernadette Soubirous.

In one of his meditations, the future Shepherd of Gotham described the Madonna as one who visited others. “Mary’s life has been and still is a continual series of visitations of which that first visit to Elizabeth was the prototype. She is ever bringing Jesus to souls, and leading souls to Jesus. Alone she never comes, for Jesus is always with her. To her we owe every Holy Communion we receive, for it is the same Body, conceived and nourished in her immaculate womb, that is the food of our souls. To her we owe every spiritual visitation of Divine Grace, for she is the Mediatrix of all graces, interceding and obtaining for us favors and blessings even before we are aware of their necessity. To her we owe every good accomplished, every evil avoided, every temptation overcome, for ‘without Him we can do nothing.’ If He is with us or near us, in some way she is responsible for His nearness.”

We need not try hard to imagine Mary as seeking every opportunity to visit us—her sons and daughters. Her visits urge us, in turn, to “visit” her and her Son. How is this possible? Monsignor Cooke asserted: “Your daily sacrifices are your visitation to Jesus and Mary, to honor them, to offer thanksgiving, to make reparation, and to petition some new blessing. But before you began to make these sacrifices, or even to plan them, Mary has already made a visitation to you inspiring you to make them.”

Mary is justly hailed as the “Visitrix.” Now from Paradise, she cares for her beloved children. And we, according to Cardinal Cooke, approach her because we have been touched by her visits to us.

In encouraging his listeners to the sacred Grotto of Lourdes to consider attentively their relationship with the Risen Lord Jesus and His chaste Mother the Ever-Virgin, Monsignor Cooke concluded his remarks thus:

“In the Gospel for Christmas there are two lines which, no matter how often they are read, always have a sad, melancholy tone: ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.’ ‘There was no room for them in the inn.’ Your coming on this pilgrimage of Our Lady is a sign that you have made room for them in the inn of your heart. They have come unto their own, and their own have received them.

“It has been said, ‘Happy is the house which the Mother of God visits.’ We might say, ‘Happy is the heart which the Mother of God visits.’”

May our hearts be visited by the Queen of Heaven and embrace every chance to visit her in return.

Our Lady of the Visitation, pray for us!