Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

OUR LADY OF SORROWS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I took this picture in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  It is right next to the place of Jesus crucifixion.  It shows Mary’s heart pierced with a sword.

On the day after we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross, we turn to Mary and her Sorrows. The two are inseparable. The cross, the instrument of our salvation is exalted on one day. On the next day we see the sorrows of a mother’s love for her son. Our own lives here in this world are filled with so many times of exaltation and so many times of sorrow. We experience many joys, many triumphs, many difficulties and many sorrows. It is just what human living is all about. It does help us to know that our God, in the form of Jesus, knows through personal experience what rejection, difficulties, pain and even death is. It also helps us to know that we have a mother who can really understand our times of sorrow, because she too has experienced them.

One of the most precious gifts that God has given us is the gift of His mother (John 19:26). Just as she has experienced sorrow in seeing Jesus rejected and tortured and killed, she also experiences sorrow when she sees the difficulties and sorrows that we experience. As a loving mother, she is there with us to help us in our difficulties and sorrows. When we celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows, we celebrate with our mother a love that encompasses all things, especially the difficulties of our lives. She, and her Son, are always there to comfort us and assist us. Her love for us as her children is poured out in all of the good that we experience and in all of the bad. Jesus blessed us so much in sharing His mother with us.

Traditionally there are seven sorrows, or dolors, that are attributed to Mary. These are all based on various scripture accounts. I would like to list out these seven sorrows and give a brief reflection on each one. I would suggest that you read the scripture and then the reflection questions and then pray asking Mary for help and guidance and peace.

1 – The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus (Luke 2:34): How often do we receive news that seems to indicate some kind of impending difficulty that we just don’t quite understand? Don’t we usually fret and worry about it? How often do we carry it with us for years just waiting for something bad to happen? Mary must have experienced that with the words of Simeon.

2 – The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family (Matthew 2:13): How many people in the world have to leave the comfort of their homes heading to some unknown place? The number of refugees in the world due to war and famine and natural disasters is unbelievable. Mary knew what it was like to leave home to escape a tyrants rage. How often do you feel like you just are not at home?

3 – The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days (Luke 2:43): When Jesus was missing for three days, how difficult that must have been for Mary? Many people have lost their children due to runaways, drug and alcohol addiction and psychological disorders and often just to a lack of communication.. The pain and sorrow a parent feels due to this is crushing. Ask Mary to help. She understands.

4 – The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross (Luke 23:26): Have you ever seen your child in pain? This could be medical, emotional or depressive pain. Have you seen your child mistreated, or bullied or just picked upon? This causes so much sorrow to a parent. Mary knows all about this. Turn to her.

5 – The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross (John 19:25): Have you had to watch your child slowly die. Unfortunately many parents have. Sometimes it isn’t even physical death. Sometimes it is depression or even a lack of ambition. Mary feels your pain and can help you with it. Turn to her.

6 – The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57): So many parents have held their child in their arms when they died. Sometimes this is from a still born birth, or sickness or accident. How many parents have had their child die in a foreign war and wished that they could have held them for one last time? The pain is excruciating. Mary understands.

7 – The Burial of Jesus (John 19:40): Probably the worst thing that a parent can do is to bury their child. To see their child enter the grave and to know that you won’t be able to hug them and laugh with them or talk to them is so painful. Mary knows how this feels. She can bring help when we turn to her.

It is important for us to realize that Mary faced all of these difficulties because of her faith and because she trusted that God could work through all things. Our Lady of Sorrows is also Our Lady of Hope. We too are called to face our difficulties with faith that God works out all things. Even in the midst of our sorrows, we are called to be filled with hope.

From the Our Lady of Hope Novena:
But above all I pray, O dearest Mother, that through your most powerful intercession my heart may be filled with Holy Hope, so that in life’s darkest hour I may never fail to trust in God my Savior, but by walking in the way of His commandments I may merit to be united with Him, and with you in the eternal joys of Heaven. Amen.
Mary, our Hope, have pity on us.
Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us.

The Birth of Mary and the Protoevangelium of James by Deacon Marty McIndoe

If we asked most Catholics who Mary’s parents were they would probably answer Anna and Joachim. But if we look in the Holy Bible there is no mention of Mary’s birth or the name of her parents. So how do we know their names? The simple answer is through tradition. As Catholics, we believe that God reveals His truths to us through the Holy Bible AND through tradition. Tradition was sacred to the Jews (we all know that great song from Fiddler on the Roof) and is also sacred to us. St. Paul tells us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
On September 8th we celebrate the birthday of Mary. This is exactly nine months after we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. This feast was celebrated no later than the 6th century. An eastern Saint, St. Romanos, a deacon who composed numerous liturgical songs, wrote a hymn celebrating the birthday of Mary. The hymn was quite popular and used in liturgies to celebrate the birthday of Mary which helped lead us to the feast day. The Eastern Churches first celebrated it and then within a century the Roman Church celebrated it. St. Romanos relied heavily upon the apocryphal writing, The Protoevangelium of St. James, in composing the lyrics to his hymn on the Nativity of Mary.
As an apocryphal writing, we must realize that the Church decided that this book was not inspired as scripture and it was not placed in the canon of the bible. However, this writing has been seen as a good source of tradition from the earliest times of the Church. Most scholars believe that it was composed around 145 AD. Because of this, and the language structure, we know that St. James did not write it. However it came from an area where St. James had followers and there may be some things passed on from him in the writing. In view of all of this, and with a certain amount of caution, I would like to share some of the points covered in the Protoevangelium concerning Mary and her birth and upbringing.
The Protoevangelium does repeat many items found in the scriptures concerning Mary and the birth of Jesus. But it adds details prior to that not mentioned in the sacred scriptures. It tells us that her parents were named Joachim and Anna and that Joachim and Anna were unable to conceive for many years and that both of them became depressed at not being able to have children. It tells us that Joachim became so depressed that he went out to the desert to live in solitude in a tent where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights pleading with God. At the same time, Anna grieved not having Joachim with her and not being able to become pregnant. She prayed that God would bless her as He had blessed Sarah with Isaac. The Protoevangelium tells us that an angel appeared to Anna and told her that God had heard her prayer and that “you shall conceive and bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world”.
About the same time, an angel appeared to Joachim and told him that God had heard his prayers. He was told to go to Anna and that Anna would conceive a child. Nine months later Anna gave birth to a little girl and they name her Mary. The Protoevangelium tells us that at the birth Anna said, “My soul has been magnified this day.” The writings go on to say that Mary walked at six months old. When she was one year old, Joachim held a great birthday feast for Mary and invited the priests, scribes and elders and all the people of Israel. The priests blessed Mary saying, “O God of our fathers, bless this child and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations”.
The Protoevangelium tells us that at the age of three Joachim and Anna took Mary to the temple to be raised there hoping that her heart would be captivated by the Temple. When they gave her to the priest he kissed her and blessed her saying, “The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel.” The priest put her down on the third step and the grace of God came upon her and Mary danced with joy and the people loved her.
The Protoevangelium goes on to tell us that Mary stayed in the temple until she was 12 years old. At that time the chief priest received a visit from an angel while in the Holy of Holies telling him to assemble the widowers of the people and that God would give a sign as to which widower He chose for Mary. When all of the widowers assembled the High Priest again prayed to God for a sign to show which widower would receive Mary as his wife. When a dove appeared and landed on Joseph’s head, the high priest declared him to be the one who was chosen. At first Joseph declined saying that he had children and was an old man and it wasn’t good for him to take such a young girl. The chief priest reminded Joseph that it was God’s will and Joseph said to Mary, “Behold I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave you in my house and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to you. The Lord will protect you”.
As interesting as all this is, we must remember that the Church refused to recognize the Protoevangelium as sacred scripture. We cannot be sure of any truth found here, but as I said earlier, this is a very early writing that passes on at least some of the tradition handed down about our beloved mother, Mary. It might help us imagine a little better the life of the most significant woman who ever walked the earth (and rule in Heaven). Hail Mary full of grace…….
As Saint Augustine said, “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER MARY….WE LOVE YOU

 

Our Lady of Fatima at the United Nations –  by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The United Nations in New York City

On May 12th, the day before the 100th anniversary of the first apparitions at Fatima, my wife and I had the privilege of attending a special gathering at the United Nations in NYC entitled, THE CENTENARY OF FATIMA AND THE ENDURING RELEVANCE OF IT’S MESSAGE OF PEACE.   It was a most rewarding experience.  The Fatima apparitions have been the beginning of so many changes in the 20th century.  They began on May 13, 1917 just as Europe was immersed in WWI, a very devastating war and supposedly the “war to end all wars”.  It was also the year of the Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the Communist threats to the world.  The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherd children in a remote region of Portugal and gave a message of the need to turn to Jesus, do penance, and pray in order to keep further horrendous wars away.   Her message was filled with Hope and Love but also quite disturbing in showing the way the world was headed.   She was concerned with bringing Peace and Hope and Eternal Life to all of the peoples of the world by having them follow Jesus.

The conference itself looked at the message of Fatima and what had occurred since then.   There is still a great need for peace in our war torn world.  The threat of communism seems to be gone, but there are many other threats to world peace.   The conference had five speakers and lasted about two hours.   I would like to give a brief synopsis of what each speaker said.  There is no doubt that this 100 year old message from the Blessed Virgin Mary is still very relevant to us today.   All of the speakers were excellent in their content and in the emotional attachment to what they were saying.  Tears flowed from both men and women as they spoke.  I was impressed by the dedication of each speaker.

The Dais for the speakers.  The statue of Fatima is to the right.

Archbishop Bernadito C. Auza opened the conference and was the mediator.   He is the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.   His topic was “The Lessons of the Fatima Message of Peace for the Cause of Peace Today”.  The Archbishop recounted what had happened at Fatima and how it had led to many changes in the world.   He told the story of Pope John Paul II’s dedication to Fatima and how the Pope was very instrumental in the collapse of communism in Europe and in Communist Russia itself.   The Archbishop reflected the call for hope but also the need for continued conversion.   He was very pastoral in his tone, and appears to be an excellent representative of the Church to the United Nations.

Johnnette Benkovic was the second speaker.   Johnnette is the foundress and president of Women of Grace.   She is also an author and TV and radio host.   She is an excellent speaker and her topic was,   ‘Mary and the Dignity of Women’s role in a Culture of Peace”.   Johnnette did an excellent job of reminding us how women, who by their very nature are life giving and protecting, must work hard for peace.   She did say that women are not always fulfilling this role of working for peace and must step up to do so.   She definitely believes that women can be very instrumental in helping bring about peace.

The Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Dais.

Dr. Andrea Bartoli was the third speaker.   He is currently the Dean of the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations.   His topic was “The Importance of Religious Leaders Serving as Examples of Peace, Tolerance, Solidarity and Justice”.   Dr. Bartoli shared several stories from his work in various nations to deal with the ravages of war.   He was quite emotional in sharing some of the things that happened to the people he was trying to help.   There was no doubt that this man is a man of faith and compassion who has worked hard to foster peace (he is an expert in conflict resolution) and to help those who suffer because of a lack of peace.   He challenged all, especially those who are religious leaders, to work hard for peace and to help those who are suffering from a lack of it.   His call was basically to be like Jesus.   We need more diplomats like him.

Dr. Maria Santos Pais was the fourth speaker.   She is the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children.   Her topic was, “Children as a Zone of Peace”.   Dr. Pais is from Portugal and it was apparent that she was well aware of the Fatima story.   She also seemed well aware of the terrible things that are happening to children throughout the world today.   Some of the statistics that she gave us were quite disturbing.   Dr. Pais was very clear in showing us that children are peacemakers, but unfortunately are often victims of the lack of peace.   She gave a very emotional talk.   Please pray for the children of the world.

The Shepherd Children of Fatima to whom Mary appeared.  Pope Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto Saints as he celebrated the 100th anniversary mass in Fatima.  Lucia only died in 2005 and her cause is pending.

Dr. Anna Halpine was the fifth and last speaker.   She is the Foundress and CEO of the World Youth Alliance.   Her topic was, ‘The Fatima Shepherd Children: the Role of Children in the Cause of Peace”.    Dr. Hapline did an excellent job of showing how these poor shepherd children responded so well to the call of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She continued talking about children of the world living in such difficult situations.   Her talk was very complementary to the previous talk given by Dr. Pais.   The last two speakers helped us all to focus on those who suffer so much from a lack of peace, the children.  It is so sad to think that we have created a world where children suffer so much.

This sculpture is in the United Nations plaza.

In review, the conference was very much like the original message of Fatima.   It is disturbing in pointing out what mankind has done by war and by a lack of peace.   It also pointed out that we must work hard to accomplish peace.   There is hope, but we must actively seek it and work for it.   The message of Our Lady is very appropriate today.   We must seek Jesus, pray and do penance and work hard for peace.   Having this conference take place at the United Nations was quite encouraging.  The Statue of Fatima was brought there for this conference and then brought over to the Church of the Holy Family nearby.   This is the second visit of this statue to the United Nations.   It first came to the UN in 1952.  The Blessed Virgin Mary is most definitely the Queen of Peace.   May peace come forth to this world and may all peoples receive the gift of heavenly peace.  I end with the prayer that Mary taught at Fatima; O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen…

The Statue at Holy Family Church near the United Nations

 

The Power of God Working at Lourdes by Deacon Marty McIndoe

A Lourdes procession at night.

On February 11th we will be remembering the Appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, France, in 1858.  Since then the shrine there has been overflowing with miraculous healings and conversions.  It is one of the most popular and visited shrines in the world.  It all began on February 11th, 1858 when a little 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux went out to gather wood along with her younger sister,  Toilette and a friend, Jeanne Abadie .  This was a Thursday evening right before Ash Wednesday.  Bernadette saw a very beautiful lady above a rose bush in a grotto called Massabielle.  Only Bernadette saw this woman.   There was a golden cloud around her.  Bernadette was frightened until she saw the smile on the woman’s face.  The woman motioned to Bernadette to come towards her and she did, falling on her knees to pray the rosary.  The woman was later described by Bernadette as the most beautiful lady she has ever seen.  She was dressed in white with a blue sash and carried a rosary.  Bernadette tried to begin the rosary with the sign of the cross, but was unable to move her arms until the lady did so first.   They prayed the rosary together with Bernadette saying all the prayers, but the lady saying only the Glory be’s.  When they finished the rosary, the lady disappeared back in to the cave and the golden cloud disappeared.  Bernadette told her sister what had happened and they decided to keep it secret.

Later that evening, at the family prayer time, Bernadette began to cry and when her mother asked her what was wrong, her sister told the mother what had happened.  The mother told Bernadette that these were just illusions and that she was not to return to Massabielle.  Bernadette couldn’t keep the thoughts of this beautiful woman out of her mind.  Bernadette knew that this woman was kind and gracious and talked about her to her mother.   Bernadette described the woman as “She has the appearance of a young girl of sixteen or seventeen. She is dressed in a white robe, girdled at the waist with a blue ribbon which flows down all around it. A yoke closes it in graceful pleats at the base of the neck. The sleeves are long and tight-fitting. She wears upon her head a veil which is also white. This veil gives just a glimpse of her hair and then falls down at the back below her waist. Her feet are bare but covered by the last folds of her robe except at the point where a yellow rose shines upon each of them. She holds on her right arm a rosary of white beads with a chain of gold shinning like the two roses on her feet.” On Sunday, Bernadette’s mother allowed her to return to the grotto.

Bernadette’s parents and most of the town and even the Chief of Police were very concerned and worried about what was happening.  They made it difficult for Bernadette, but she persevered, going to the site for a total of eighteen apparitions.  People would often accompany her and they saw her face transfigured and illuminated and knew something was happening but did not see it.  Bernadette was promised by the lady that she would have happiness in heaven.  She also called Bernadette to pray for sinners and call people to repent and turn to Jesus.  The lady also gave her a private prayer to pray every day and told her to bring a blessed candle with her whenever she visited the grotto.  This tradition is kept to this very day.

During the ninth apparition the lady told Bernadette to drink from the fountain.  Bernadette was confused as there was no fountain there.  She began scratching the dirt where the lady pointed and water started coming out.  This spring is still flowing today and delivers about four to five liters per minute.  At the eleventh apparition, the lady told Bernadette to tell the priests to build a church on the spot of the grotto.  When Bernadette went to the local pastor, he was not very receptive.  At the fourteenth apparitions, the lady again told Bernadette to tell the local priests to build a chapel there.  Bernadette was afraid of the local pastor because of the way he reacted to her first request, but decided to go back to him.  He told her to tell the lady that he would not follow the dictates of a stranger and that if she wanted anything from him, she would have to identify herself.  During the sixteenth apparition Mary identified herself as “The Immaculate Conception”.  Bernadette had no idea what this meant.  Although our early Church fathers talked about the Immaculate Conception, and theologians debated it for centuries, it was never defined as a dogma until 1854, just four years prior to the apparitions.

During the seventeenth apparition, when Bernadette went in to ecstasy, she unconsciously passed her hand on top of the candle and did not move it.  She didn’t appear to feel it and did not hear the screams of the people around her as they watched the flame shoot through her hand.  After the apparition, they took her to the doctor who could not see any burns at all.  He even touched a lit candle to her and she screamed.  It was at this point the local Prefect closed down the sight.  Bernadette would make one more visit to say goodbye to Mary.

Bernadette joined the Sisters of Charity and remained sickly.  She kept up with her duties and prayers and died on April 16, 1879 at the age of 34.  She was buried at Nevers, France.  Thirty years later, in the presence of two doctors and several nuns, she was exhumed and her coffin was opened.  There was no odor and her body had suffered no decay.  Ten years later, she was again exhumed and found in the same condition.  Her body is now at rest in a gold and glass coffin in the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the motherhouse in Nevers, France.

Ever since the apparitions, people have been coming to Lourdes to bathe in the Healing waters.  There have been thousands of healings and Saint Pope John Paul II declared February 11th, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, as World Day of the Sick.  John Paul II loved Lourdes and made three pilgrimages there during his Pontificate.  Pope Benedict was also close to Lourdes.  He was born on the Feast day of St. Bernadette and then on February 11th the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, he announced his stepping down from the papacy.  Pope Benedict also told us, “The message that Our Lady continues to spread in Lourdes recalls the words that Jesus spoke at the very beginning of his public mission, which we hear several times during these days of Lent: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel,’ pray and do penance. Let us accept Mary’s invitation which echoes Christ’s and ask her to obtain for us that we may ‘enter’ Lent with faith, to live this season of grace with inner joy and generous commitment.”

There are so many stories about the miracles and life changing events that occurred at Lourdes.  I would like to leave you one that I find very interesting.  We all have probably seen the movie, “The Song of Bernadette”.   That is based upon a book written by a famous German Jewish writer, Franz Werfel.  He was trying to escape the Nazi holocaust and landed in Lourdes while he was trying to escape to Portugal.  Several Catholic families took him and his wife in to hide them from the Nazis and he kept hearing the stories about Bernadette and all the miracles that happened at Lourdes.  He was so moved by these miracles that he swore that if he and his wife escaped, he would write all about Bernadette.  As soon as he came to the United States, he kept his promise and wrote “The Song of Bernadette”.  This became so popular that they made it in to a movie.  The interesting thing is that in creating this book Werfel honored the Rosary by making the book in five sections with ten chapters to each section, following the structure of the Rosary.  Truly the Blessed Virgin Mary has brought about many healings and miracles as well as leading people away from sin and towards Jesus.

Here is a beautiful Lourdes prayer by Saint Pope John Paul II:

Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman, Blessed by the Most High! Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era, We join in your song of praise, to celebrate the Lord’s mercy, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the full liberation of humanity.

Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord, Glorious Mother of Christ! Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word, Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience and to his manifestations in the events of history.

Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows, Mother of the living! Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve, Be our guide along the paths of the world. Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ, to stand with you before the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified.

Hail Mary, woman of faith, First of the disciples! Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always to account for the hope that is in us, with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love. Teach us to build up the world beginning from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.

Holy Mary, Mother of believers, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and How She Personally Brought a Miracle to My Family by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               January 4th is the feast day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  She is the first native born American to be canonized the Church.  She is a convert, was married with children, and the woman who started the first Catholic School in the United States.  She was a prolific reader and loved the scriptures and the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She also gave me the gift of my daughter (see below).

               Elizabeth was born two years before the American Revolution and was from the upper class of New York City.  She married a wealthy man and was extremely happy for many years.  Unfortunately, her husband became quite ill and lost his import business.  She cared for him and his younger siblings when his parents died.  Elizabeth brought her sick husband to Italy to help his health, and they stayed with friends, but he finally died there from tuberculosis.  While in Italy she was influenced by their friend’s Catholic faith and converted to Catholicism.  She returned to the United States to settle in Baltimore.  There, at the suggestion of the president of St. Mary’s College, Elizabeth started a secular school.  It didn’t take long for Elizabeth to decide to change it to a Catholic School.  She started an order of sisters known as the “Sisters of Charity” (following closely the rule of St. Vincent de Paul in France) who helped children by establishing schools and orphanages.  Even though Mother Seton contracted tuberculosis herself, she worked tirelessly guiding the order.  Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming Catholic.  She was beatified by Pope John XXIII in 1963 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on September 14th, 1975.

               Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton is very special to me.  I attribute the gift of our daughter to her.  My wife and I desperately wanted children but after many years of trying and then going to doctors, we decided that God wanted us to adopt.  The doctors never found anything wrong with either of us, but we were never able to conceive.  Back in the 70’s it was very difficult to adopt.  I didn’t have the money to go through a private adoption and I was worried if we would ever have any children.  One day, both my wife and I felt, through prayer, that the time was right for us to go through an agency to try to adopt a baby.  We really wanted a newborn, but most agencies just laughed when we told them.  However, we felt inspired to not give up and to keep trying.  We called the Long Island Adoption Services number and they told us to give a call to New York Foundling Hospital in Manhattan.  They said that this hospital offered classes twice a month on ways to adopt.

               When we called NY Foundling Hospital, the woman on the phone seemed so excited.  She told us to come in to the next meeting that they were having on September 14th, 1975.  We signed up for that and drove in that day.  We found ourselves in a room with eleven other couples and one single person.  The social worker came in and said she would explain different ways to go about adopting.   She first said that she would show us pictures of some older children that were awaiting adoption.  Most of them were special needs children that really tugged on your heart.  They were also older children.  She then explained ways that you could adopt younger, normal (I really don’t like that word, but that is what she used) children.   At that time, Korean children were popular and she explained how to get them.  She also told us that there were a number of black American children available and how to get them.  She then paused for a moment, quite dramatically, and said that she had something very important to tell us.  Both Martha and I were sitting there a little stunned by all that had been presented to us.  We were quite curious what was left to tell.

               The social worker said to us that for the first time in about eight years, their “white infant” list was growing short.  Their adoption committee decided that they could not advertise that they were taking new names for this list because too many would apply.  Since they placed only two or three babies per year, they decided to open the list only to the people who showed up at the next adoption class, the one we were attending.  Martha and I both looked at each other, recognizing that this was no coincidence that we were here.   We knew God was at work.  We immediately put our names in and were told that we would be contacted in within 30 days by a social worker.  Martha and I walked out of the class and went downstairs and went in to the chapel to thank God.  We knew we were there as part of His plan.   I remember a large statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton just outside the chapel.   If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that she winked and smiled at us.  We later found out that New York Foundling Hospital was operated and founded by the Sisters of Charity who were founded by Elizabeth Ann Seton.   We were told that the process could take several years, first we had to be checked out, and then we had to wait until we were next on the list and a baby arrived.  Martha and I drove home to Long Island praising and thanking God.

               A little before Christmas in 1976 we were called and told we were next up.  It was a great Christmas for us.  On January 4th, 1977, we were called and told that our daughter was born the day before and we could pick her up at New York Foundling Hospital on January 7th.  I looked on the calendar and we were called on the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  We had remembered that when we were driving in to the initial session in September 1975 at New York Foundling, the radio was covering the news that Elizabeth Ann Seton was just canonized that day.  We had received our daughter through the Sisters of Charity, the order she founded.  We saw the hand of God at work in all of this and felt that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was an integral part of his plan, and knew we had to name her Elizabeth Ann McIndoe.  Our social worker told us that she had been doing this for many years and had never seen a baby go to a couple that shared so much of the same ethnic background as the child.   Not only was our daughter from basically the same Irish, English and a little Italian background, but her mother was Catholic and her father protestant, just as Martha and I had been.  Our social worker told us that Elizabeth’s birth mother became pregnant in High School and would not abort her baby due to her Catholic faith.  I thank God that her birth mother saved her life and offered her for adoption.  She was a very strong, faith filled young woman.  Our social worker told us that many of the babies that they placed were born to drug addicted mothers and needed special medical help.  Elizabeth was born from a drug free mother and in perfect health.   God is so good. 

               The evening before we had to pick our daughter up in Manhattan a winter storm was brewing.  We woke up to find about 11 plus inches of snow on the ground.  The roads were not good and we had to drive almost 60 miles in to the city.   I called the hospital and told them that we planned on coming no matter what the weather.  It was a slow trek in to the city, but we made it.  Nothing was going to stop us from getting our daughter.  A last worry was parking near the hospital.  If anyone has been to NYC, they know that parking is always a problem.   When you have a snow storm, it becomes much worse as there is no place to put the plowed snow.  I remember coming up to the hospital, praying that God would get us a parking spot close to the hospital.  Just as we pulled up to the entrance we needed, a parked car pulled out and gave us a place.  God answers prayer, even for parking spots.

               We drove home with our little miracle adopted baby.  We were so very happy.   To this very day, exactly 40 years later, our daughter has brought us so much joy.  She has also given us three wonderful grandsons who light up our life.  There has never been a time that I haven’t thanked God for the precious gift he gave us, through adoption, of our daughter, Elizabeth Ann.

               Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, we thank you for your role in bringing us our FANTASTIC daughter.  God works through His Saints.  God is so good!

 

 

 

St. John the Apostle and Evangelist by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Today we celebrate St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist.  He is the man referred to in the Gospels as “the beloved disciple”.  He is also the one who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary and to whom Jesus said to Mary, “here is your son”.  Jesus then said to John, “here is your mother”.  There is no doubt that there is something very special about John and his relationship to Jesus and Mary.   When you compare the four Gospels, the Gospel of St. John stands out for his deep theological wonders.   John starts his Gospel by saying:   “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  John reveals the true nature of Jesus, long before the incarnation.  I thought that since we have just celebrated Christmas, God becoming man, we could look at St. John’s reflection on the Word made flesh.  To do this please read over 1 John 1:1-2:3 and then read the following written by St. Augustine.

A treatise by St Augustine on the epistle of John – The flesh revealed Life itself

 

We announce what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have touched with our own hands. Who could touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us?

Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says: What existed from the beginning. Notice how John’s letter bears witness to his Gospel, which you just heard a moment ago: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.

Someone might interpret the phrase the Word of life to mean a word about Christ, rather than Christ’s body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: and life itself was revealed. Christ therefore is himself the Word of life.

And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? Mankind ate the bread of angels.

Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.

John continues: And we are witnesses and we proclaim to you that eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed among us – one might say more simply “revealed to us.”

We proclaim to you what we have heard and seen. Make sure that you grasp the meaning of these words. The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and in turn they proclaimed the message to us. So we also have heard, although we have not seen.

Are we then less favoured than those who both saw and heard? If that were so, why should John add: so that you too may have fellowship with us? They saw, and we have not seen; yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith.

And our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And we write this to you to make your joy complete – complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us the gift of St. John.  May we always read his Gospel in wonder and awe.  May we also be as fervent in spreading the Good News, as he was.

 

Advent Saints – Mary, as Our Lady of Guadalupe by Deacon Marty McIndoe

nican_mopohua

Early, Aztec Language writings about Our Lady of Guadalupe

               Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th,1531 near Mexico City.  Her appearance forever changed the makeup of the Americas.  I wanted to share some information about her and would highly suggest you research her more.  I start with two noted sources and then give you excerpts from Don Antonio Valeriano’s Nican Mopohua written in 1545, fourteen years after the appearance.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patron of the Americas.

               From “Evangelizer of the Americas” by Elizondo Morenito:  The news of the appearance of the Indian mother who left her imprint on the tilma spread like wildfire! Three points were appreciated by the native population. First, the lady was Indian, spoke Náhuatl, the Aztec language, and appeared to an Indian, not a Spaniard! Second, Juan Diego explained that she appeared at Tepeyac, the place of Tonantzin, the mother god, sending a clear message that the Virgin Mary was the mother of the true God, and that the Christian religion was to replace the Aztec religion. And third, the Indians, who learned through pictures and symbols in their culture of the image, grasped the meaning of the tilma, which revealed the beautiful message of Christianity: the true God sacrificed himself for mankind, instead of the horrendous life they had endured sacrificing humans to appease the frightful gods! It is no wonder that over the next seven years, from 1531 to 1538, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism!

               From “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love” by Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chavez:  The imprint of Mary on the tilma is striking, and the symbolism was primarily directed to Juan Diego and the Aztecs. Mary appears as a beautiful young Indian maiden with a look of love, compassion, and humility, her hands folded in prayer in reverence to the Almighty God. Her face is also not unlike that of a Jewish maiden. Her rose dress, adorned with a jasmine flower, eight petal flowers, and nine heart flowers symbolic to the Aztec culture, is that of an Aztec princess. Her blue mantle symbolized the royalty of the gods, and the blue color symbolized life and unity. The stars on the mantle signified the beginning of a new civilization. La Morenita appeared on the day of the winter solstice, considered the day of the sun’s birth; the Virgin’s mantle accurately represents the 1531 winter solstice! Mary stands in front of and hides the sun, but the rays of the sun still appear around her, signifying she is greater than the sun god, the greatest of the native divinities, but the rays of the sun still bring light. Twelve rays of the sun surround her face and head. She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings like an eagle: to the Aztec, this indicated her superiority to the moon god, the god of night, and her divine, regal nature.   Most important are the black maternity band, a jasmine flower, and a cross that are present in the image. Mary wore a black maternity band, signifying she was with child. At the center of the picture, overlying her womb, is a jasmine flower in the shape of an Indian cross, which is the sign of the Divine and the center of the cosmic order to the Aztec. This symbol indicated that the baby Mary carried within her, Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, is Divine and the new center of the universe. On the brooch around her neck was a black Christian cross, indicating she is both a bearer and follower of Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, who died on the Cross to save mankind.  In summary, the image signified Mary bringing her Son Christ to the New World through one of their own!   As Father Miguel Sanchez noted in 1648, one cannot help but identify Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Woman of the Apocalypse, recorded in the Bible in Revelation 12:

From a report by Don Antonio Valeriano, a Native American author of the sixteenth century
(Nicon Mopohua, 12th ed., 3-9, 21)

The Voice of the Turtledove has been heard in our land

At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill called Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.”

He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”

When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”

Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting, and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was the truth. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they may believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”

She answered him: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”

But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.

On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.

Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City and to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”

When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”

Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”

He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.

The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name that she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe.”

Advent Saints – Mary, The Immaculate Conception by Deacon Marty McIndoe

immaculate-conception-virgin-mary-blessed

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the greatest of all Saints and is venerated with a special cult.  She is called by St. Thomas Aquinas, hyperdulia, as the holiest of all creatures.  Her Feast Day on December 8th celebrates her Immaculate Conception.  Many people think that this refers to the conception of Jesus, but it is all about the conception of Mary by Saint Anne.  The conception of Jesus is celebrated as the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25th, exactly nine months before Jesus’ birthday on December 25th.  The birthday of Mary is celebrated exactly nine months after the Immaculate Conception, on September 8th.  When you think about it, these dates make a lot of sense.

So what is the Immaculate Conception?  Very simply it tells us that by a special grace from God Mary was conceived without original sin.  This was to make her ready to receive the God made Man, Jesus.  She was to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the very dwelling place of God.  Sin could not be present where God was present.  Although the doctrine was promulgated fairly recently, in 1854 by Pope Pius IX , it dates back to the very earliest days of the Church.   Many of the early Church fathers reflected on it and many scripture passages hint at it, but it took a long time for Theologians to deal with it.  Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They pointed out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth by baptism. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the moment of conception.

Even though there was no official promulgation until 1854, and even though theologians were late in defining it, the Church and its peoples celebrated it.  There are indications the Feast was celebrated as early as the 600’s.  Initially it was known as the Conception of Saint Anne.  By the 11th century it bore its present name, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  For those who would like some further information on the Feast, I would recommend going to Catholic Answers.  I am giving you the link to the page where it shows Scriptural references for the Feast.  Just click here:  http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture.

 

Here are some quotes from early Church fathers about the Immaculate Conception:

“She was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.” – St. Hippolytus (circa 235 A.D.)

“This Virgin Mother of the Only begotten of God is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” – Origen (244)

“Thou alone and Thy Mother are in all things fair; there is no flaw in Thee and no stain in Thy Mother.” – St. Ephraim (370)

“Mary, a virgin not only undefiled but a virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” – St. Ambrose (388)

“A Virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” – Theodotus of Ancrya (446)

“The very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” – Jacob of Sarug (521)

“In the womb of the her mother now begins to blossom the earth which will be the dwelling place of the Creator of the earth, the holy scepter, the new ark, the vessel of manna, … the bush which was not consumed by fire, the golden candelabrum, the living bridal room  of the Lord God.” – Hymn for the feast of the Conception of St. Anne (seventh century)

“She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.” – Theotoknos of Livias (650)

“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty.  The shame of sin had darkened the splendor and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature again regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today, and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” – Andrew of Crete (733)

A POWERFUL SPIRITUAL WEAPON FOR US ALL by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Our Lady of the Rosary (Victory)
Our Lady of the Rosary (Victory)

               The course of world history was dramatically changed in 1571.  On October 7th, about 30,000 Muslim men and 300 Muslim ships gathered off the coast of Corinth, Greece, ready to make their attack on Europe.  A Christian army of about the same size with about 100 fewer ships went to stop them.  Europe was threatened and the Muslims had already taken over the Byzantine Empire by 1453.  An increasingly divided Christian world was being governed by Islamic law.  Even some parts of Europe, right up in to the Danube River Valley, were under Islamic rule.  In 1570 Cyprus had been overtaken.  Now the Muslim armies were attacking Greece and Italy with the intention of capturing Rome and the Church.  The future of western Christian civilization was hanging on this battle.

               Pope St. Pius V knew that something had to be done, and that the future of the Church depended upon it.  He also knew that even though the Christian and Muslim armies were about equal in size, the Muslims were fierce and determined fighters and they had 100 more ships.  He knew that God’s intervention was needed to assure a victory.  He was also aware that the Rosary was a very powerful method of prayer and he asked everyone to pray the Rosary asking for a Christian victory.   Pope Pius V asked all of the religious convents and priories throughout Europe to pray.  He also had all of the armies and fleet crew members praying the Rosary.   On the day of the battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, the Pope left a meeting with his cardinals to go to the window and pray the Rosary.  He had no way of actually knowing that this was the day of the battle.  He returned to the meeting and told the Cardinals that the Catholic fleet had been victorious.   Mary had assured him of that, long before any conventional news methods could reach him.

               The victory had been quite miraculous.  Even though they were outnumbered, the Christian fleet lost only 17 ships and about 7,500 men, while the Muslim fleet was totally destroyed or captured and the Muslims lost almost all of their 30,000 men.  The Christians also set free over 2,000 slaves that the Muslims had on their ships.  There was no doubt that a miracle had occurred.  Europe was saved.  St. Pius V immediately attributed the Victory to the prayers said in the Rosary.  He instituted the feast of Our Lady Of the Rosary, which we still celebrate today.

               It is interesting to note that not only the prayers of Mary through the Rosary were present, but a little bit of the New World was there too.  In 1531 when Mary appeared to Juan Diego in Central Mexico, she gave him a special image of herself that is still in existence today.  The local Archbishop of Mexico had an exact copy of this image made and sent it to King Philip II of Spain.  When the king was sending his fleet to fight at Lepanto, he gave Andrea Doria, one of the three principal admirals of the fleet, the copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The admiral placed it in his ship and led the fleet in to battle.  They also flew the blue flag of Our Lady of Guadalupe on their masthead.

               The Rosary has been, and still is, a powerful spiritual weapon for all of us.  When reciting the scriptural prayers of the Rosary and when meditating on the various mysteries of the Life of Jesus we draw ourselves in to the very message of the Gospel.  It lifts us to new spiritual heights.  All of us have various “battles” that we fight in our own lives.  The Rosary can help us be victorious over them.  I also think that it is important to mention that the Rosary lifts us in to the arms of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace.  Although this article pays special attention to the military battle of Lepanto, we must remember that the primary goal of Jesus is to bring peace.  Let us continue to pray the Rosary asking God to lift us up and grant us the Peace that only He can give.

A Catholic – Christian Response to Violence- by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 344This is the entrance to modern day Bethlehem, the city where the Prince of Peace was born.  It is only one reminder of how violence changes things for the worse.

Sometimes I find it so difficult to face the news of the day.  I know that there are so many good people in the world today that are doing so many good things, but then we are confronted with some people who just seem to be totally influenced by pure evil.  The recent attack in Dallas, Texas has caused me to write this post.  Five Police Officers were killed and six more wounded while they were trying to keep peace at a protest against police violence.   Police Officers have one of the toughest jobs in the world and the vast majority of them do an absolutely fantastic job.  I was really struck by the fact that when the gunfire began at the Dallas rally, Police Officers began shielding, with their own lives, the people that were protesting against them.  That is just an example of how the Police Officer operates.  He or she is trained to Protect and Serve.  In response they are often treated very poorly.

I think that this is just a small portion of the problem we have today.  People seem to think that acts of violence are a way of achieving certain goals.  We then throw in to that racial bias and you can see how messed up we really are.  We have groups like Black Lives Matter who say that Police unfairly attack blacks.  Now, there may be some occasions when this happens, but that is rare.  In 2015 Police Officers had to take the lives of 494 white people and 258 black people.  That hardly seems racist.  It is absolutely terrible that any lives had to be taken, white or black.  But, violence is a large part of our society.  There are some people who believe that making gun ownership illegal would solve that, but as a former law enforcement officer myself, I can tell you that people will get the guns whether they are legal or not.  There are plenty of statistics to show that certain cities that have outlawed guns still have a high rate of people being shot.  We really need to go down much further in to the problem to try to stem violence.

Violence seems so present in our society.  I used to work in the Family Court and I could not believe what some husbands and wives did to each other.  Even young children seemed to act out in fits of violence.  It is hard to find a movie or tv show that doesn’t have a great deal of violence in it.  I look at the video games out there, and they are filled with violence.  This isn’t something new.  Even when I was growing up the cartoons had a lot of violence.  We seem to be a people that are fascinated with violence.  Along with that, there seems to be a shrinking respect for LIFE in all of its forms.   Here in the United States over one million mothers take the lives of their children through abortion each year. Soon to be St. Theresa of Calcutta said, “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”  Euthanasia seems to be growing too.  We can’t be a people that JUST say, Black Lives Matter; we need to be a people that say, EVERY LIFE MATTERS.

So, as Catholics growing in our faith, how do we deal with this?  First of all, PRAYER is very powerful.  I was so moved at mass today when our Pastor dedicated the whole mass (including selecting special Eucharistic Prayers) to ending violence and establishing PEACE.  We must make it our constant prayer to ask for peace.  We also must change our lives to turn away from violence.  Instead of watching those extremely violent movies and TV shows, turn towards ones that offer less violence.  In our every day actions, we need to try to be more peaceful.  When that car driver cuts you off, don’t swear or raise a finger at him, pray for him.  We need to tone down yelling in our relationships within our family.  We must try to do things that lead toward peace.  Let us recall the words of Pope Francis, “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace.”

Our Church has given us tools to help keep us from being influenced by the evil one who loves to lead us towards violence and death and disunity.  Attending mass is one of the best ways to grow in to the person Jesus wants us to be.  We become more like him, when we receive him.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation helps not only us, but the people we live with.  I already mentioned prayer, but I want to mention it again because it is so powerful.  I especially recommend asking Our Blessed Mother, Mary to intercede for us.  She loves us all as her children and wants us to live together in peace and in harmony.  We call her the Queen of Peace.   We must follow the Church’s lead in calling all people to respect LIFE in all of its form.  Respect for LIFE should be at the heart of who we are.  Be a people who say, EVERY LIFE MATTERS.  Stand up for the Christian values that have been taught us and live them out.  When we end mass we are told, “GO FORTH”; that means that we have now been empowered by the Lord and sent out to make a difference in this world.  We really need to change this world.

 

 

Praying for Healing – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 600The Pool of Bethesda (with the five porticoes) where Jesus healed a man who had been infirm for 38 years.  It is interesting that the Romans built their own temple right next to it that was for their god of healing, Aesculapius.

I believe very strongly in the power of prayer.  When anyone asks me to pray for them, or for a loved one, I immediately tell them that I will.  So often these prayers are for some kind of healing to take place.  Since my own real conversion to the Lord in 1972, I have seen so many of these prayers answered; but I have also seen so many that seem to be unanswered.  It often appears to be quite a confusing process.  If we pray for someone, and they are healed, it is fantastic.  If we pray for someone and they are not healed, it seems so sad.  A big question to ask is, do we give someone false hope in saying that they may receive a healing?  Another question is what do they think of God who sometimes seems to heal people and sometimes seems to ignore them?  The Church tells us that God wants us to pray to Him for help in every situation.  Scriptures are full of examples of miraculous healings at the hands of Jesus and at the hands of the Apostles and other members of the early Church.  Throughout the ages we have had so many accounts of Saints who have brought healings to people.  It seems that every place where there has been a Marian Apparition, healings abound.  There is no doubt that miraculous healings do occur, but certainly not apparently in every case.

In my own life I have seen miraculous healing occur in me, as a result of prayer.   Around 1980, I went for an annual checkup.  This was done in a clinic where they did all of the body fluid tests, and X-rays and then sent a report to my personal physician.  A few days after the tests, my physician called me and told me he wanted to see me in his office as soon as possible.  I went in and he told me that the chest X-ray that they took showed a mass growing between my heart and my lung.  He also told me that since this report came from a clinic where a lot of people were treated at the same time, a mistake could have been made.  He had me go for a new chest X-ray.  The new X-ray confirmed that there was a sizeable mass growing between my heart and my lung.  My doctor then referred me to a thoracic surgeon.  By now I was quite concerned and I asked my local parish charismatic prayer group to pray for me.  They all gathered around me and laid hands upon me and prayed for a healing.  I went to the thoracic surgeon and he did another X-ray, this time in his own office.  He examined the X-ray and confirmed again the mass being there and said he wanted to schedule me for surgery.  I asked him if it was cancerous and he told me that he really wouldn’t know until a biopsy was done on the removed mass.  I was scheduled for surgery about two weeks away.  I again went to the weekly Charismatic prayer meeting and again they laid hands on me and prayed over me.  A few days before the surgery was scheduled, the surgeon sent me to an X-ray facility for what they called a triangulation X-ray.  He said he needed this to determine the exact depth and location of the mass so he could operate properly.  This was before MRI’s.  After that X-ray was taken, he called me back to his office and told me that somehow the mass had totally disappeared.  He was dumbfounded as to why, but I told him that I had been prayed over for a healing.  He said that was the only explanation he could offer.  He scheduled me for follow up X-rays (I figured that all these X-rays would cause cancer, but I had to do it) and none of the follow ups, to this very day, have shown the mass re-appearing.  I felt very strongly that it was the Lord who had healed me because of the prayers I went through.  God is so good.   I have had other healings in my life too, but this was the most dramatic, and best documented.

I have also witnessed many miraculous healings of others.  In 1982, I was attending a Priest’s and Deacon’s Conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  Although this was open only to Priests and Deacons and Seminarians, on Thursday evening they had a Healing Mass and opened it to the general public.  Several priests, known for healing ministries, were there and concelebrated the mass.  Fr. Ralph DiOrio was one of those priests and he came down walking among the people sprinkling them with Holy Water while prayers for healing were being said.  I was sitting in a row with several priests and deacons and some laypeople.  One nearby man, who came in with sunglasses and a red tipped walking cane, was helped to his seat by his wife.  It was obvious that he was totally blind.  When the Holy Water landed upon him, he let out a large cry and immediately took off his glasses and started looking around.  He kept exclaiming, “I can see, I can see”.  He and his wife were overjoyed and their eyes were filled with tears of joy.  Throughout the rest of the evening the man kept looking all around in wonder.  I especially remember him looking through his wife’s pocketbook and looking at various items and pictures.  I am not sure if he had ever seen during his lifetime.  He acted as if this was the first time he had vision.  It was a very wonderful evening with many healings being attested to.

Another time my wife and I were on a retreat at Mount Saint Augustine in Staten Island.  Fr. Francis MacNutt was leading the weekend.  He was known for the many healings that occurred when he prayed with people.  There was a young woman in her early twenties that was there who had difficulty in walking.  She had one normal shoe and one shoe that had about a six inch lift on it.  She shared that she had been in a bad auto accident and that her leg bone was so damaged that they had to remove six inches from it.  She also suffered from some hip injuries.  She walked on her own with the lift shoe, but not very well.  Fr. MacNutt prayed over her and as hard as it is to believe, her leg started extending. By the time the prayers were over, she had to remove the lift and her regular shoe and walk around barefoot.  She not only walked, she ran around leaping and jumping for joy.  I remember that for the rest of the weekend she had to go around barefoot because her legs were now the same length.  At the end of the weekend, her mom came to pick her up and the minute she saw her daughter leaping and running around in bare feet, she completely broke down in pure joy.  If I hadn’t been there to see the whole thing, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.  But it HAPPENED!  God is good.

I have worked on many healing prayer teams over the last 40 plus years and I have seen many other healings.  I have visited Marian Shrines and have seen healings and the evidence of healings.  I have been at other conventions and retreats and seen healings.  I know, without any doubt, that they do exist.  BUT, I have also prayed with many people who have not been healed.  I find it so difficult to understand why.  Shortly after the healing of the woman with the shortened leg, I came home and went to pray with the teenage son of a member of our prayer group.  This young boy had advanced bone cancer.  I felt for sure that if we kept praying over him, he would be healed.  Unfortunately, he never was, and he died at seventeen.  I kept asking the big WHY?   I don’t pretend to have the answer to that.   Why does healing occur in some people, and not in others?    I really dislike it when people say that it is because they do not have enough faith.  In my experience, this is not true.  Many people with very strong faith have not been healed.  We can only answer the question by stating the obvious….we cannot understand the plans of God.  We can only trust in Him.   We also limit ourselves to what we experience.  Our experience is the limited life span that we as humans normally have.  However, our God has given us the gift of unlimited life for all of eternity.  A child, who dies young, even though we see it as very tragic, is going to live forever.  Our own lifespan now, whether it is only a few hours or over one hundred years, is miniscule compared to all of eternity.  That person who is “taken away” from us will be reunited with us for all eternity.  That is what the Good News is all about.  We have LIFE now, so we can LIVE forever.

So where does that leave us when we need healing or when we are asked to pray for healing?  First of all, we should depend upon the medical profession to help us.  God has given many gifts to the doctors and nurses and others who care for us.  Secondly, when there is serious illness, we should go to our local priest and ask to be given the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.   In addition to these we should pray and ask others to pray for us.   One of the people that we should ask to pray for us is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She loves her children so very much and wants the best for them.  Her prayers for us are so powerful.   We should also realize that when we don’t see an apparent miracle, God, through our prayers, has been at work in the situation.  Sometimes the healing is more on the spiritual side then on the physical side.  Our prayers work, but not always the way we think that they should.

I believe that we are always called to be filled with the HOPE of a MIRACLE and always continue on in praying for those who need it.  We should pray for the fullness of life and pray for the best of life.  But, we should also know that God has a plan that is much better than we can imagine.  We need to be able to say, “Jesus, I trust in you”.   His plan for us is for all of us to live together with Him forever and forever and forever.  God is good!

The Visitation of the Ark of the New Covenant – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 369Statue of Mary and Elizabeth at Ein Karem in Israel, the place of the Visitation.  Plaques of the Magnificat, in various languages, are on the wall behind them.

I know, the title of today’s Feast is The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  But in all actuality, scripture and the Church see the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.  You have to really appreciate the links between the New Testament and the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) to fully understand this.   I won’t go in to the full explanation of TYPOLOGY, but suffice it to say that many things in the New Testament point to the Old Testament.  Many things in the Old Testament are better understood because of the New Testament.  Saint Augustine said that “the Old Testament is the New concealed, but the New Testament is the Old revealed” (Catechizing of the Uninstructed 4:8).  One easy example of TYPOLOGY is when Jesus himself refers to the bronze serpent of Moses (that was hung on a pole to bring life to the Israelites) as a type of his own crucifixion.

If you remember the stories from the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was seen as God’s own presence to his people.  It was carried forth in battle to assure victory and was kept in the Holy Temple to be worshipped.  It was so holy that no one could touch it.  When Uzzah, the son of Abinadad touched it, he immediately died.  The Ark of the Covenant contained three items; the tablets on which God wrote the ten commandments, a piece of manna from when God fed the Israelites in the desert, and the rod of Aaron, the symbol of priesthood of the first priest of Israel.  This ark was prominent in the life of David and Solomon and many others until it was hidden when invaders came in to Israel.  It was never found and is still hidden somewhere in Israel.  Just in case you are wondering, Indiana Jones did not find the Ark of the Covenant; that was just fiction.

So why do we consider the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant?  There are many reasons, but I will list a few.  First of all, when Mary was told that she would give birth to Jesus, the angel told her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her.  This word overshadow is the same word that the Old Testament used for God’s Spirit overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant.  The only place this word is used in the New Testament is here, overshadowing Mary.  This shows the parallel of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant and that same Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant.  Today’s Feast shows another very good example of TYPOLOGY.  Mary comes to visit Elizabeth when both of them are carrying child.  Mary is pregnant with Jesus and Elizabeth is pregnant with John the Baptist.  As soon as Mary greets Elizabeth, we are told that John the Baptist leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth.  This makes us look back to King David when he danced before the Ark of the Covenant and leapt for joy.  The words, “cried out for joy” here for both Mary and the King David before the Ark of the Covenant are the words used for liturgical dance and joy.   The readers of that day would have understood this.

Another interesting thing is that when King David was able to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant he said, “How can the Ark of the Covenant come to me?”  Elizabeth said to Mary, “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  See how close these are.  Luke also tells us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months in the hill country.  The Old Testament tells us that David kept the Ark in the hill country for three months.  There are other parallels, but I would like to end with one final thought.  Let us compare what the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant contained and what the New Testament Ark of the Covenant (Mary) contained.

The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the very Word of God, written on stone.  The New Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the Work of God, made flesh.   The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the Manna that God sent to feed the Israelites.  The New Testament Ark of the Covenant contained the Bread of Life, Jesus, who feeds His people with the Eucharist.  Finally, the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the rod of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel.  The New Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the New High Priest, Jesus.  Isn’t God AWESOME?

A Most HOLY room, the Ark of the NEW Covenant, the Holy Spirit, the Sequence and a little bit of Typology by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 624 Israel 628 Israel 629 Israel 630In these pictures of the Upper Room, you see first, the interior; second signs of the Muslim Mosque; third,  a brass olive tree donated to Israel by the Catholic Association, and lastly, a column showing a Pelican feeding its young by taking blood from its side.  This was an early Christian symbol of the Eucharist.  When the Ottomans took over Upper Room, they removed all Christian symbols but this one.  They did not understand its meaning.

In Jerusalem there is a building known as the Upper Room (or Cenacle).  The present day structure is in Jerusalem on Mount Zion and dates to the 1200’s.  It is a reconstruction made by the Crusaders using three out of the four original walls of the original structure from the time of Jesus.  There were earlier reconstructions as well.  It is a very HOLY building since it was used by the disciples for The Last Supper, The Washing of the Disciple’s feet by Jesus, Several Resurrection Appearances by Jesus, and the Election of Matthias as an Apostle to replace Judas.  Lastly, it was the place where the Holy Spirit descended upon the Disciples on the Feast of Pentecost.  It is such a Holy place that the early Christians used it as a place of worship, a synagogue (remember the Early Christians in Jerusalem practiced Judaism).  In 384 the first large Christian Church was built right next to it and was known as the Church of the Apostles.  The traditional Tomb of David is right below it.  The Church of the Apostles, next to the Upper Room, was torn down by the Muslims in 1009 but Crusaders later took back the area and built the present reconstruction of the Upper Room.  The Franciscans kept custody of it until 1552 when the Ottomans overtook it and they turned the Upper Room in to a Mosque.  You can still see signs of the Muslim usage.  In 1948 the government of Israel took it over and gave the Franciscans administrative control again.

This Holy room, the Upper Room is where our Church first began.  The Disciples were unable to do much of anything after Jesus Ascended in to Heaven.  They seem lost and powerless.  However, with the Blessed Virgin Mary amongst them, the Power of the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost and they were given the power to go out and form the Church.  It is interesting here to throw in a little typology.  In scripture study, we use the term typology to show the way that the Old Testament (Hebrew scriptures) and the New Testament are related.  I would like to point out one thing about Pentecost regarding this.  In yesterday’s post, Dan Gonzalez showed how Pentecost is a Jewish feast day.  We, as Christians, see it as the birthday of our church.  In looking at this we should look back to the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles where we hear the story of the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built.  In this account, the scriptures tell us that 120 priests gathered for the dedication and a sacrifice was put on the altar.  We are told that when the Ark of the Covenant was brought in to go in to the Holy of Holies, God sent fire from the sky to burn the sacrifice on the altar.  When we look at the New Testament book of Acts we hear that the disciples and other followers, totaling 120 people, gathered in the Upper Room.  The mother of Jesus, Mary, who is known as the New Ark of the Covenant gathered in the center of them all.  God sent down the Holy Spirit upon them all as tongues of fire.  In both accounts of the beginning of the Temple and the beginning of the Church, 120 people gathered with the Ark of the Covenant and God sent down fire.  Our Lord is awesome.

As we celebrate this Holy Feast of Pentecost, let us give thanks to God for giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit and for the gift of the Church.  Our Pentecost liturgy has a Sequence put in along with the normal scripture readings.  This really should be read at every mass of Pentecost, but is quite often skipped over.  Here is a copy of this Sequence.  Read it over and see the precious gift that God has given to us in the Holy Spirit.

 

Sequence — Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Alleluia.

 

Note: Veni Sancte Spiritus is a true masterpiece of Latin poetry. In rhyme scheme, it is complex and gorgeous; lines one & two rhyme with each other, and line three always ends in the syllable –ium. In meter, the sequence is a very faithful example of trochaic dimeter. In content, it is a magnificent meditation on the Spirit’s guidance through consolation & desolation. So much is lost when this sequence is not sung in its original Latin.

 

A Very Special Gift by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 632Looking up to the Upper Room (Cenacle) in Jerusalem

As we approach Pentecost this weekend, it is important for us to see what a precious gift God has given us in the Holy Spirit.  This feast dates back to the first century and finds its beginning in the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples nine days after the Ascension of Jesus.  In all actuality, Scripture shows us that this Spirit has been promised to us by God since the earliest times.  The Old Testament is filled with references to the Holy Spirit beginning with the second verse of Genesis where it is said that the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.  When the Church blesses the water to be used for Baptism it says, “At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed upon the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness”.  The prophets are continually making reference to the Spirit.  The prophet Joel tells us that God will POUR out His Spirit upon us.  The prophet Ezekiel says, “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life”.  There are too many references to the Holy Spirit within the Old Testament to cover in this short article.

The prophet, John the Baptist, when seeing Jesus tells us that He will BAPTIZE us in the Holy Spirit.  Jesus himself promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He tells His disciples, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  Right before His Ascension Jesus tell His disciples, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Paraclete, Advocate or Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”  There are so many New Testament references about the promise of the Gift of the Holy Spirit that we could not list them all here.

After the Ascension of Jesus, His Disciples, and His mother Mary all gathered in the Upper Room (Cenacle) to pray.  They were saddened by His leaving and seemed lost as to what to do next.  I think that it is so important to remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary was there praying with the Disciples.  She is the Chosen Spouse of the Holy Spirit and her prayers are so very powerful.  As I grow in my own faith and openness to the Holy Spirit, I grow in my love and adoration of Mary.  The Disciples were so blessed to have her join them in prayer.  We too are so blessed to have Mary join us in prayer.

At his Ascension Jesus told His Disciples to go out to every nation and spread the Good News.  The Disciples were totally unable to do this command and just sat in the Upper Room and prayed.  They prayed for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit for nine days (this is the source of our own nine day novenas) and on the feast of Pentecost it came to them.  Luke, in Acts Chapter 2 tells us, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”  This Holy Spirit empowered them to be able to do the command of Jesus and to go out to the entire world to proclaim the Good News.  You only have to look at the Disciples demeanor before and after Pentecost to see how this Holy Spirit can really EMPOWER us. The Church considers Pentecost its birthday, because the Disciples were now empowered to form the Church.

So what does all this mean to us today?  We are given that very same Spirit that the Disciples were given and it should EMPOWER us too.  We are given the Spirit in Baptism and are called to see it released more within us at Confirmation.  The truth is that many people do not know the POWER that is within them.  Do you?  St. Paul tells us that Spirit that is within us is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  Now that is a powerful Spirit.  So why do we not always see this?  I believe that quite simply it is because we don’t know about it that much and don’t ask to be baptized, or fully immersed, in the Holy Spirit.  It is like someone gives you one million dollars and puts it in your savings account.  Unless you know that it is there, and ask to use it, it just sits there.  We need to learn that not only is the Holy Spirit within us, but we need to learn how to use it.  A good study of the Scriptures and Lives of the Saints can help us with that.  Even better is just learning to call upon the Holy Spirit.  When is the last time you did that, and when is the last time you prayed to the Holy Spirit?  Also, ask your mother Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit to join you in prayer for the Holy Spirit just as she joined the Disciples at Pentecost.  Another great source to opening up to this Spirit is by attending a Life in the Spirit Seminar.  Many parishes offer this, especially through their Charismatic Prayer meeting.  Seek one out; it will change your life.  I know that it changed mine.

 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

 

The Two Most Sacred Places in the World by A.J. Avila

402

Goodness, how God loves women!

God loves women so much; I’m tempted to say He’s unfair to men.

What is God’s greatest work of creation? It’s not stars and planets. It’s not plants or animals. It’s sentient beings with immortal souls. And we know of only two kinds of those: angels and humans.

Well, angels don’t reproduce. Cherubim might be portrayed as chubby little babies, but they’re nothing of the sort. Angels don’t have sexual relations with each other. Angels don’t get pregnant, and they don’t give birth.

But women do. God has allowed women the biggest role (next to His own) in the incredible work of bringing new immortal souls into creation.

Oh, men have their part in that, and I don’t mean to downplay it. But it is a fact that if, after a man and women have relations, the man gets hit by a bus, any baby can survive that. If the woman gets hit by a bus, however, both mother and child die. Her role, biologically speaking, is far more crucial.

Twice I’ve been pregnant, and both times I was amazed at what I was doing. Those first little butterfly-like kicks in my body signaled that the life growing inside me was indeed a separate entity. In time the kicks grew stronger, and I could sometimes even tell where an elbow or a knee was. Yes, I had morning sickness, swollen ankles, and of course a painful labor at the end of it. But it was worth it. Oh, how it was worth it! You can never feel as close to another human being as you do to the child growing inside your body.

Sometimes I think the reason God allows only men to become priests is because He had to give them something to make up for denying them all of that.

And when you think about it more deeply you can see that these two roles: mothers and Fathers (as in Catholic priests) are complementary. Mothers, through childbirth, bring the people to God. Fathers, through the Eucharist, bring God to the people. As Dr. Peter Kreeft once put it, the two most sacred places in the world are wombs and altars.

Only once has this role been changed, and it was for a very special occasion. The Blessed Virgin Mary, through childbirth, brought God to the people.

My own mother has been gone almost ten years now. So that means I have two mothers in heaven: my biological mother and the mother Jesus gave me from the cross.

This Mothers’ Day let us pay homage to both of our mothers, for they both co-operated with God’s great work of creation.

Do Catholics Believe Jesus had no Earthly Brothers and Sisters? by David Rummelhoff

Did_jesus_have_brothers

Let’s begin by asking, does anyone believe that Jesus had biological siblings — brothers or sisters born of the same biological mother? Yes. (And that’s probably no revelation to you.) The follow-up question is, why does anyone believe that Jesus had biological siblings? The most prominent answer to that question will be, “Well, the Bible says Jesus had siblings.” And if that’s why you believe that Jesus had biological siblings, born of the womb of Mary, then I understand where you’re coming from. I believed the same thing for a long time.

The task then is to read the Scriptures that lead people to believe that Christ had biological siblings, and to examine them closely enough to determine whether or not that is the most tenable or probable case. And where do we begin? Perhaps the best place would be Matthew 13:55-56 (which has a close parallel in Mark 6:3). In this passage, the people of Nazareth are responding to Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue:

Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

Again, that seems straight-forward enough, so nobody is jumping to any conclusions here by thinking these are biological siblings. That said, we must note that in the language of the New Testament, the terms here are not absolutely indicative of siblings. The Greek term, which is adelphoi, is also indicative of other familial relations. Fine, but that’s merely a possibility, that doesn’t demonstrate that these four men named are other than Mary’s children. So, let’s see if the NT can clarify for us who these men are in relation to Jesus and Mary.

Jump to Matthew 27:55-56 :

There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Here we find another mention of “James and Joseph”, and here their mother is named Mary. However, it is fairly clear that this Mary who was looking on from a distance is not the Mary who bore Jesus. Why? Well, the central character is Jesus, and quite frankly, being the mother of Jesus is a far more important and distinguishing piece of information than being the mother of anyone else. And that this is a different Mary than Jesus’ mother is reinforced a few verses later (v.61) when Matthew writes:

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

“The other Mary”? Yes. Once again, the Mary who was paired with Mary Magdalene just a moment ago is now called “the other Mary”. It’s not easy to justify the idea that Matthew would refer to the mother of Jesus Christ as “the other Mary”, which is probably why there’s almost no Scripture scholar on earth who believes this other Mary is the mother of our Lord.

Maybe you’re not totally convinced; I get it. So, let’s look at another account of the crucifixion to see how another Gospel writer recorded the presence of these people. John 19:25 :

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Alright, John has given us three Marys. One he identifies by her being the mother of Jesus. Another is the famed Mary Magdalene, and the last is, we’re fairly certain, the “other Mary”, the wife of Clopas and the sister of Jesus’ mother. So, Jesus’ mother is named Mary, and his mother’s “sister” is named Mary. Of course, that Jesus’ maternal grandparents gave two daughters the same name is extremely improbable. So, this is probably another one of those instances where that Greek term adelphoi is used to indicate a non-sibling relation. In other words, it’s quite likely that Clopas’ wife is the cousin of Jesus’ mother.

  1. So, that gives us good reason to conclude that the first two “brothers”, James and Joseph, named in Matthew 13 are of some other familial relation to Jesus. In fact, the evidence strongly indicates that they are Jesus’ second cousins. And if the first two adelphoi named are only second cousins of Jesus, it is certainly improbable that the men and sisters mentioned after are of closer relation, certainly not the children of Mary and Joseph.

Does this “prove” that Jesus had no siblings? No, but it tells us that it’s highly improbable. When the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth thought of Jesus’ family members, the first people they named are second cousins

Visit David’s website at www.sperolaus.com

 

David Rummelhoff is a stay-at-home dad whose three little girls have him on a short leash since he finished his MA in theology. He pretends to have time to read and write, but he really spends his days incessantly preparing food for children with insatiable appetites and dangerous minds. He is the founder of Peter’s Mark.

The Annunciation by Deacon Marty

The lower church of the Basilica looking in to the house of Mary where the angel appeared for the Annunciation
The lower church of the Basilica looking in to the house of Mary where the angel appeared for the Annunciation
The house of Mary in the lower church
The house of Mary in the lower church

This special Solemnity is usually celebrated on March 25th, exactly nine months before the birth of Jesus.  This date, and its importance, comes down to us from the apostolic age.   St. Irenaeus, a second century Bishop, received the tradition from disciples of the Apostles themselves.    This year we celebrate the Solemnity on April 4th because March 25th of this year was Good Friday.  Think about that, this year March 25th was the date of the conception of Jesus, as well as the date of His death.  Since both of these events show the great Mercy of God, it is quite appropriate that this falls during the Year of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis.  The Church moves celebrating this Solemnity whenever it falls during Holy Week.  It is moved to the Monday following the Octave of Easter.  While this is not a Holy Day of Obligation, it is an important Feast that needs to receive special attention.  At the end of this article, I will look at several ways we can do that.

I had the privilege, of visiting the actual place where our tradition holds that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.  This is in the child hood home that Mary occupied in Nazareth.  Today there is a beautiful large Basilica built over the spot that has within it two previous churches built around the house.  The first church is from the Byzantine era (4th Century) and the second church is from the Crusaders era (12th Century).  The pictures that I took above show ruins from both churches.  The free standing pillars were brought from Rome by St. Helene, the mother of the Emperor Constantine in the early 300’s.  If you look inside the two churches you will see the actual home itself.  Behind the altar are stairs that led up to the street.  Outside of the Basilica you can see excavations down to the street level of Mary’s time.  You can see the entrance to her home.  The Basilica itself was built in 1964 and is quite large with several areas for Mass and prayer.  Around the inside of the Basilica you see mosaics and pictures from all over the world that depict the Annunciation and other Marian devotions.  There are more pictures outside that go around the courtyard.  It is a most beautiful, and holy, place to visit.  It is quite interesting to see how so many various cultures of the world depict Mary.

St. Luke, in his Gospel account (Luke 1: 26-38), tells us that the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a virgin, name Mary, in Nazareth of Galilee.   Gabriel tells Mary of God’s plan and that she was being asked to become the Mother of Jesus.  She certainly had questions about this mind blowing revelation, but she quickly said YES to God.  You cannot help but to think back to the Garden of Eden account where Eve said No to what God had asked.  This new Eve, Mary, now says a big resounding “be it done to me according to thy will”.  Oh how the Devil must have cringed at Mary’s consent!  What a gift this young  woman was to God’s plan of salvation.  The incarnation of the Savior could now happen because of Mary’s yes.  Satan saw the beginning of his defeat by the words of Mary.  The Word became flesh because the word of a young, female human consented.  No wonder the Church has always given Mary such a special place.  No wonder that Satan seems to flee when Mary is brought present.

So how do we celebrate this great Solemnity?  Going to mass is certainly a great start.  Praying the Rosary is another great thing.  Praying the Divine Mercy prayers is another.  Try praying the Angelus prayers and making a habit of it, especially at noon time.  I would certainly recommend that every family read the Gospel account, as listed above, together as a family, and then discuss what God has done through Mary and through the gift of the Incarnation.  Also, you can prepare (or purchase) an Angel food cake for dessert or snack and talk about the gift that God has given us in Angels.  Think about a friend or family member that is pregnant and give them a call.  Lend support to a Pro-Life group by giving prayers, actions or donations.  All of these are great ways to celebrate the YES of Mary.

The Angelus:  The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. (say the Hail Mary).  Behold the handmaid of the Lord, Be it done to me according to Your Word. (say the Hail Mary).  And the Word was made flesh, And dwelt among us. (say the Hail Mary).  Pray for us O Holy Mother of God.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  LET US PRAY – Pour forth, we beseech Thee O Lord, Thy Grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.  Through the same Christ Our Lord.   Amen