Today is the 444th year after the battle of Lepanto, the most important naval battle in history. Without it, Muslim Turks would have taken over Italy in 1571. Because of the Mother of God’s role in this naval battle, Pope St. Pius V asked that every first Sunday in October be thenceforth remembered and honored as the Feast of the Holy Rosary. The full story of the naval battle is at Catholic Answers, but this homily ties in the current battle in the Church, and the victory that will come through the Rosary:
I petition the intercession of the following two saints as I consecrate this blog to St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Holy Mother of God, aka the Holy Theotokos, the Immaculata, Mary Most Holy…”Mamma Mary!” as all the Philippina women at my parish lovingly call our mother. I also dedicate it to all the guardian angels of the entire world, and especially the angels of any people the Eternal Father has destined to read my mediocre but true blog.
May I suggest St. Maximilian Kolbe’s consecration prayer to the Mother of God? I believe St. John Paul II prayed this every day:
O Immaculata, Queen of heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, [name] cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most please you. If it please you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: She will crush your head and You alone have destroyed all the heresies of the whole world. Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The above picture is taken from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It is clear in this movie, and in most private revelations, that Mary (the Mother of Jesus) knew Mary Magdalene long before the crucifixion.
Granted, Scripturally I know of no other time when Mary and Mary are found in the same place, except John 19:25 (the three Mary’s at the crucifixion.) So my theory can’t be proved from Scripture. However, using common sense, we can be very sure that Mary and Mary didn’t simply introduce oneself to each the other at the foot of the cross. It can be assumed that this would be an inappropriate time for introductions; Mary and Mary had to have known each other long before the crucifixion.
Even though she has very few words, let’s look at who Mary (the Mother of God) knew in the New Testament. Of course, she is at the four most important events of salvation history, which gives us an idea of who knew her:
1) The Incarnation of God as a zygote (Luke 1:38)
2) The Death of Jesus (John 19)
3) The Resurrection (Sacred Tradition)
4) Pentecost (Acts 1 and 2)
But then, on a smaller scale, it’s surprising who Mary knew. Mary seemed to have a quiet presence in the life of everybody:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples.—John 2:1
Mary seems to be the star of the invitation, where Jesus’ band of 12 fishermen were “also invited.” Of course, Jesus never committed any sin of gluttony, but maybe Jesus’ disciples ate too much at weddings or something, because John makes it pretty clear they were an afterthought!
The Apostles all knew Mary. Foremost was John the beloved, who was to live with the Blessed Virgin Mary after Christ’s Death (John 19:27) and assumedly after the Ascension. (Their home was uncovered in Turkey in 1891, using the private revelations of Bl. Emmerich—the same visions that guided the making of the movie, the Passion of the Christ.)
John’s brother James, whose feast day we celebrate today, was not left orphaned by Mary. As you know, Jesus sent James to evangelize Spain. However, at one point James was ready to give up after only gaining 8 disciples. Mary bi-located to him when he was praying at modern day Zaragoza, and (during the first approved Marian apparition) Mary told James not to give up, for the faith of that people would be as strong as the pillar that she was standing on.
There is a 17th century Spanish nun named Mary of Agreda who was given a private revelation of the entire life of Mary (the Mother of God.) It is put into several thousand pages of a book that you can buy, the Mystical City of God (not to be confused with the work of St. Augustine by almost the same name.) In the Mystical City of God, it is revealed to the nun of Agreda that Saul was always slated in God’s Providence to become the great Apostle of Jesus Christ to the nations.
However…this event was to happen much later that when it was originally “scheduled” by God, so to speak. What changed the course of history was the prayers of the mother of Jesus. After Pentecost, Mary saw in prophesy that Saul would become the chosen vessel, but she saw this was coming much later than when the Church needed such a weapon of love. Mary begged God the Father to speed up this conversion, and God the Father answered; Saul became Paul much earlier than he was slated to.
What does any of this have to do with Mary Magdalene?
A few days ago, as I was offering the Mass on the Feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, the above scene from the movie hit me: Mary holds Mary during the torture of Jesus. I realized at that moment that all the great saints of the New Testament were really close to the Mother of God. Even if you don’t believe in the private revelations that filled the movie of Mel Gibson or the Mystical City of God, common sense applied to Scripture reveals that the mother of Jesus intimately knew all the slobs and dignitaries of the New Testament.
Here’s how I want to tie all of this together:
After doing Total Consecration to Mary for the first time several years ago, I had actually come to believe the words of St. Louis De Montfort, namely, that there were a few certain saints (like St. Bernard or St. Bonaventure) who chose Mary as the quickest and surest way to Jesus Christ. For a long time, I had taken this to be a development of doctrine of the middle-ages—a wonderful and valid one, to be sure—but a development of doctrine nonetheless.
But at the Mass a few days ago in honor of St. Mary Magdalene, as I thought of the above scene of Mary and Mary, I had this realization that Jesus’ mother is the dispersal vector of zeal for her Son for not only for the great saints of the middle-ages—but for all the tycoons of the New Testament. This would surely include the conversion of St. Mary Magdalene.
In light of all the great people and the events of the first century Church, we have to come to the conclusion that the Holy Theotokos—she who carries God as the God-Bearer—is the one who gently brings all the top dogs of the New Testament to her Christ Jesus. Even with Mary Magdalene, I imagine the mother of Jesus was the quickest and strongest way to her son. So it will always be, for you and for me, too.
Should God have ended the world when Adam and Eve sinned?
As I tell high-school kids, as soon as Adam and Eve had sinned…There were only three options that God had for a planet spiraling towards total sin:
1) Blow up earth to end both sin and free-will…or…
2) Turn people into robots that would automatically obey, so as to terminate free-will but keep the planet…or…
3) Send a rescuer who could transform the human state of suffering into redemptive suffering.
If you can think of a fourth option, let me know. In the mean time, notice that only the third option allows for free-will.
Because option #3 allows for free-will to continue among both the good and evil people on this blue planet, it is the only option that allows for either love or harming people until the end of time.
For example, if a woman is choosing to offer up her suffering for her children after her husband was killed by a drunk driver, she can only choose to unite her redemptive suffering to Christ’s infinite merits of the cross precisely because she lives in a world where someone else can choose to drive drunk. This is why widows must live side-by-side with drunk drivers until the final judgment.
We each have the option to continue the cycle of suffering and sin, or… we can choose to escape from that horrible cycle. Baptism ends sin (original sin, at least, and actual sin in the lives of some saints) but suffering continues for them. However, their suffering then ceases to have a certain mental pain, as God said to St. Catherine of Siena. When you carry the cross God has allowed in your life, your suffering can become redemptive because it more easily fits with the merits of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With Christ, we escape the red patten to the left in favor of the orange trajectory, a different trajectory of suffering:
This is only possible by the cross. I put the cross in blue for two reasons. The vertical blue bar shows that Mary gave God the one thing He didn’t have: The ability to die. This symbolizes Christ’s incarnation and His approach to us. Secondly, our incorporation into the mystical body of Christ happens in the waters of baptism (the horizontal blue line.) As St. Peter writes, “It is baptism that now saves you.”—1 Pt 3:21. Suffering has little value in itself until it be incorporated into the suffering mystical body of Christ. This happens at baptism, because it is at that moment that we receive all of the merits of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ as a free gift of redemption. The best description of death to oneself, baptism, and this new life can be found in Romans 6:3-11.
Death is the cycle to the left. The requirement for new life is: a new life. The gift of the cross is free (gratis) to us at the high price Jesus paid for us in his 17 hours of torture…nay, His whole life lived for us. But, for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. The cross doesn’t offer an escape from suffering but it does offer an escape from sin, and that part is up to our cooperation with grace in living in our free will as we become transformed, divinized sons and daughters of God.
We are then given the chance on this earth to let our sufferings be united to those of Jesus (through Mary) so as to become participators in redemptive suffering. Again, in itself, suffering has no value. But joined to the cross, it helps redeem the world. It helps pull more people out of the cycle on the left to the orange bar on the right. This is all that the old-school (and now new-school) nuns meant when they said “Offer it up.” It all comes from what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.”—Col 1:24.
What is lacking or wanting in the suffering of Jesus? Nothing except my participation. It was 100%, but that 100% continues in His mystical body. As long as sin continues on the earth, so also must the suffering of Christians. It is a gift, not a burden, and it is joined to Christ’s sufferings at the nearest Mass. That is why both the suffering of the Mystical Body and the Mass continue until the end of time.
At the final judgment, the left cycle will continue in hell. However, the right trajectory will become heaven.
Here on earth, both cycles have to suffer. So, if you have your choice between the devil’s eternal cross and Jesus’ temporary cross, why not avoid sin and choose the pattern to the right?
By a strange turn of events, I have to spend a day in Istanbul while trying to get home from Spain—even though it’s the opposite direction.
The reason this is especially strange is because these two countries were evangelized by the brothers James and John, sons of a Galilean fisherman named Zebedee. These two men became first century Apostles of Jesus Christ. Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” because of their attitude towards life. After His resurrection, Our Lord sent St. James to Spain and St. John to Turkey (with His own Blessed Mother.) I flew from James’ land to John’s land today, and I’m tryıng to navigate a keyboard set up for the Turkish language at 9pm here in the city center of Istanbul.
Now, it’s a Muslim country. But did you know that for the first 500 years of Christianity, Turkey had a Christianity as booming and as heroic as the newly-converted Roman Empire? The two centers of Christianity in the first 500 years of the Church were Italy and Turkey. Constantinople was first evangelized by St. Andrew (Peter’s brother.) Turkey then became the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist. Years later it was the home to St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Church Fathers and countless heros of Byzantine Catholicism. Except for Jewish converts, the most successful areas of conversion in the first 500 years of Christianity were Italy and Turkey. Roman Empire and Byzantine Glory.
Now Turkey is 0.2% Christian.
What happened? This great loss is usually blamed on Islam. It is true that the violent conquest of Turkey happened as early as the very century of Mohammed (7th century.) It was completed in the 15th century.
But Jesus is always faithful to His Church, especially in persecution, so something else happened.
We have to remember that Jesus speaks directly to the Turkish Churches in the book of the Apocalypse and warns:
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.—Rev 2:2-5
This was evidently not an empty threat from Our Lord. The light in Turkey would indeed extinguish. It was lukewarmness that sunk the Church here in Constantinople/Istanbul, just like it is 20th century lukewarmness that has nearly sunk the living Faith within the country I just walked across, Spain.
How do I know it was lukewarmness and not Islam that has extinguished the fire in the two countries of the Sons of Thunder? Because Spain is the only country in the history of the world that was conquered by Muslims and reconquered by Christians to again become a Christian country. This reconquest was done by a woman, Isabel “la Católica,” an outrageously beautiful name, considering she came from a line of 800 years of Catholic kings attempting that very reconquest of Spain that Isabel (a married queen who knit her children’s own clothes and rode horseback alone at night in the rain to quell uprisings) finished once and for all in the 15th century. She did it on horseback and in battle, but mostly on her knees.
The next three centuries then witnessed Spain evangelize most of the Western hemisphere. In fact, this deed was also due to Queen Isabel “the Catholic” who took a risk on Christopher Columbus. (She originally told him “No” and then sent her courier to inform him that she changed her mind when he was several kilometers outside the city.) Whether you like Christopher Columbus or not, the point is that Islam didn’t ultimately stop the greatest Catholic nation in history from producing St. Francis Xaviers. In fact, in some strange way within the permissive will of God, Islam helped the evangelization of the World.
Now, Spain has fallen to secularism harder than she ever fell to Islam. This may sound like an exagerration, but I promise the following is true: Almost every day on the Camino, a Spanish man or woman would see my Roman Collar and preach New-Age relativism to me (in Spanish) before I could ever explain the Gospel, or even say my name. What St. James and Queen Isabel won heroically—what Islam could not extinguish but strangely fueled—has been trashed by the heresy and lukewarmness from within the Church, not without, especially in the past 50 years.
I’m not much of a patriot for the country that St. John Paul II called “the culture of death” (the USA) but after travelling the world the past year, I can glorify God for the USA for this reason: We Americans have a hope for a renewal and restoration of the Faith which is greater than the hope of Spain or Turkey, (at least if grace keeps building on the nature of these countries’ attitude to Christ and His Church.) Yes, miracles can change anything overnight (like Mexico from the miracle of Our Lady of Guadelupe) but right now, I’m proud to be an American.
But if the Catholic Church in the land of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Turkey) can nearly collapse, we must move beyond our extreme presumption of God Almighty and return in sackcloth and ashes to Him. Better, we must return to our first love (see the quote from Apocalypse chapter 2 above.) We need Sons of Thunder to do the works those men did at first.
Why did Jesus call them Sons of Thunder, anyway? One example is this: When a Samaritain village rejects Jesus, St. James and St. John have an idea:
His disciples James and John…said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But (Jesus) turned and rebuked them.—Luke 9:54-55
In regard to that passage, we have all heard a thousand stupid homilies that go something like this: “The Apostles were Old Testament—all based in justice. But Jesus was about to teach them about love.”
Here’s two reasons why that’s a silly homily:
1) Has anyone ever considered how or by Whom the Apostles thought (or knew) that they had the power to call down fire anyway?
2) Jesus chose fighters, not lovers. He chose fighters to turn them into lovers. Lovers of “the brethren” as John wrote. Lovers of “Christ crucified” as Paul wrote. Christ needed fighters who believed in something, precisely so Christ could turn these fiery-fishermen into lovers of the peace that only Christ can give. He warned there would be no peace from compromise with the world.
Perhaps a 20th century fear of that zeal is why seminaries the past 50 years got so full of men acting out effeminate sexual-perversions. Apparently it was worth it for dioceses to keep the sacraments flowing out and the money flowing in towards these charming men at the pulpit. But the real test of a priest is how many men he has inspired to follow Christ into religious life or a holy seminary. The Sons of Thunder cared more about spiritual multipication than the numbers of money or popularity raised among those making sacriligious communions. Just google St. James and Our Lady at Zaragosa if you think discipleship among priests is a new idea.
Globally, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as she promised at Fatima. But how many souls will be lost before then? I believe that the USA, Africa and Asia will be called upon to bear the torch to rekindle the ancient faith in the world, but you must pray for priests who will be fighters and lovers…those who will fight the battle of love for the peace that only the cross of Jesus Christ can bring. Peace with God the Father comes only from the sacrifice of Christ—the only One who can reconcile us to a God who is infinitely holy. Divine Mercy and ancient Tradition.
The Church desperately needs priests who wıll not be simply charming and semi-orthodox, but Sons of Thunder.
Raise such men in your families.
The unity between the Holy Spirt and Mary is so intimate that each one can be called the Immaculate Conception—one in eternity, and one in time. However, to understand the importance of Mary in our lives, we have to understand the basics of the Holy Spirit, as given to us by the earliest Christians. This post will be like a tornado hitting a junk pile and then organizing it into nice categories, so bear with the heavy theology at the beginning.
Every earthly analogy to explain the Blessed Trinity eventually breaks down, but the least-failing analogy is the following: The Trinity is like a fire. There is a flame. There is a light. There is heat. In this analogy, the flame is the God the Father (the origin), the light is God the Son (the only one seen by human eyes) and heat is God the Holy Spirit (for obvious reasons.) The flame is not the light. The light is not the heat. The heat is not the flame. But you can not have the flame without the light, nor the light without the heat nor the heat without the flame. The flame is the fire. The light is the fire. The heat is the fire. One fire. So also: One God. Three persons.
St. Augustine had a pretty good analogy, too. He compared the Trinity to the faculties of the human soul. He compared God the Father to the memory, God the Son to the intellect and God the Holy Spirit to the will. Three faculties, but only one center to your responsibility. Furthermore, although the persons of the Blessed Trinity have no need for faith or hope, our faculties do have such a need, and the Church Fathers linked this up, too: Our memory is perfected by hope, our intellect by faith and our will by charity or love. Thus, we have the three supernatural virtues of faith and hope and love as found in 1 Corinthians 13.
If we put all this together, we have this:
God the Father—Flame—Memory—Hope
God the Son—Light—Intellect—Faith
God the Holy Spirit—Heat—Will—Charity
Mary’s relationship to each of the three is important, but (per the title of the article) we’re going to focus on the third category in bold.
Amazingly, you can have supernatural faith without supernatural charity: “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not charity, I am nothing.”—1 Cor 13:2b. On the contrary, the only place you can have charity without faith is heaven, since “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) Why won’t there be faith or hope in heaven? Precisely because faith refers to things not seen and in heaven we will see God face to face. When a person dies in sanctifying grace, his faith and hope terminate, but his charity is launched into the beatific vision and perfect union with God. In the eternal homeland, it will only be charity at every breath.
But back to earth, where Mary once walked. Mary had a union with the Holy Spirit more interior than that of spouses, but purely spiritual, which is why she is always at the center of ancient pictures of Pentecost. Even the Liturgical Calendar reflects this union of the Holy Spirit and Mary, insofar as Pentecost usually falls within the month of Mary—May!
Thus, Mary is our connection to the Holy Spirit for perfecting our will in charity, making us to live lives not just of faith, but of love. St. James writes “Even the demons believe, and shudder.”—Jam 2:19. That means that faith is not enough for salvation. This is where Mary comes in with charity to perfect the will, all because of her union with the Holy Spirit and ability to form apostles (both shown in Mary and Pentecost part I.) Last post showed Mary was the entire key to courage. This post shows Mary as the entire key to love. Courage and love: The two virtues most needed in the lives of Catholics today.
Mary even said to the children of Kibeho in the 1980s (in a Vatican-approved apparition) that in her Son’s heart is found infinite justice and infinite mercy, but in her heart is only infinite mercy.
In May, before Pentecost, we actually come to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and petition the Holy Spirit that He revivify our cold hearts. In this way we go before God not only with the intellect (faith) but with our hearts and wills aflame with the charity of the Holy Spirit. This is why the Marian saints were always the most loving, always the most charitable.
The Church was formed from the side of Christ on the cross just as Eve was formed from Adam’s side. Life was breathed into that body at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit, with Mary at the center. We Catholics don’t adore Mary. We never have and we never will. But if the above connections of the Church Fathers be true, then adoring the Blessed Trinity at Mary’s side is the entire determinant of the advance in the spiritual life.
I suppose I wasn’t clear with my friends or family exactly what I’m doing in India this time either. The Missionaries of Charity at the Mother House in Kolkata wanted me to come back to do general confessions and deliverance prayers for two groups: 1) A youth group of Indian high school students run by four lay American missionaries. 2) University aged students of volunteers from around the world.
It sounds like a glorious work, but I only have the energy for two of these sessions a day. This depresses me when I think of how St. Francis Xavier, at the height of his ministry, was baptizing between 300 and 400 a day in this land.
So, I started thinking of an intercessor of some saint who lived in the world, but didn’t form or affect too many people outside of prayer. This is hard criteria since most prayer warriors were hermits, cloistered nuns and desert monks. On the other hand, the saints who lived in the world, like Bl. Pier Giogio Frassati, affected tremendous amounts of people one-on-one (as evidenced by the surprising hordes of homeless that showed up to his funeral in Turin.) Of course, the latter group seemed to pray all night and use the day for the apostolate.
Then Mary came to mind. I started to wonder about who Mary really formed or affected while she was on earth. Of course, her prayers affected even the whole pagan world in the first century, but in the world around her, who did she form or affect?
Clearly, the longest period of life for her was at home with Jesus and St. Joseph. But, there are instances from the very beginning of her going “with haste” to help her cousin Elizabeth, or that she spurred her Son onto His first miracle because of her love of marriage and married couples (John 2.)
But, excepting the above, I realized that the primary people Mary affected were the Apostles. Even before Pentecost, we know that the Apostles joined Mary in prayer in the first novena ever, the 9 days of prayer in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). Scripturally, we have no reason to believe that Mary abandoned the Apostles after Pentecost, before her Assumption. I believe this means that the primary people that Mary formed in her life was the Apostles.
At the Resurrection, in St. John chapter 21, St. Peter can’t even say that he loves Jesus, as far as the Greek word agape is concerned. Peter can only admit that he likes Jesus (See the Greek word, philo.)
On the other hand, after Pentecost with Mary, Peter shows no fear.
The third glorious mystery, the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Mary and the Apostles is really the coming of the Holy Ghost to the Apostles through Mary. If Mary is the mediatrix of all graces, as most saints believe, then even the Holy Ghost came through her to the Apostles at Pentecost.
So, to recap: At the Passion, only one out of 12 of the Apostles stays strong. At the Resurrection, there is still hesitation among Jesus’ closer followers. At Pentecost, there is no hesitation among the Apostles. Rather, we see a joyful running towards martyrdom. What gives?
It’s everything to do with Mary’s prayer, since she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying that Jesus leads to fear while Mary leads to courage. But Jesus did say to the Apostles before He was murdered : “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7) Of course, Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit, but the advantage He speaks of is that now Jesus Himself would be formed in each of them in unique ways. Only by Pentecost would they fully be ready to share Christ’s suffering and glory in an eternal outpouring of love.
How do we get to Pentecost? Prayer with Mary (Acts 1:14)
But back two sentences is precisely the definition of the Trinity: an eternal outpouring of love. St. Augustine taught that the Father eternally engenders the Son while the Son eternally returns the perfect gift-of-self in a love that spirates between them—the Holy Spirit, the eternal third person of the Trinity who is Love itself. That is why the Holy Spirit is known by some as the eternal (or, in old English, uncreated) Immaculate Conception.
Not long before he was killed at Auschwitz, St. Maximilian Kolbe made the most astounding theological discovery of his life. He remembered that at the apparition in Lourdes, France, Mary told St. Bernadette that she (Mary) was the “Immaculate Conception.” Why didn’t she just say she was Immaculately conceived for that which happened in the womb of St. Anne?
St. Maximilian Kolbe saw that the answer lied in Trinitarian theology: If the Holy Spirit be eternally spirated outside of time as the uncreated Immaculate Conception, then there must be a connection as to why Mary would come to exist in time as the created Immaculate Conception.
The connection is this: Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit to the point that they share the same name, just as spouses do. My friend Janet calls them: “Mr. and Mrs. Holy Spirit.”
Once, a student asked me how to tell how much she loved the Holy Spirit. I was surprised at what came out of my mouth: “The test is how much you love Mary.”
They are not the same person, but in the next post we’re going to see—via the Bible and Church Fathers—why he who is united to the Lord is one spirit with Him.