When I came back to New York from Lourdes, France I had a new admiration for Saint Bernadette. It was wonderful learning about the different Apparitions she encountered with Mary, Our Lady. The Apparition which struck me the most was the time Saint Bernadette attempted to pray the Rosary with a Rosary that was not hers. The first thing Mary always asked Saint Bernadette to do when in Our Lady’s presence is to pray the Rosary. During this Apparition though, Saint Bernadette tried to use a Rosary from a seamstress from the village of Lourdes, Pauline Sans. Madame Sans had asked Bernadette if she would take her Rosary just once so that she could have it as a memento of the Apparition. Saint Bernadette agreed and that very morning she brought Madame Sans’ Rosary to the Grotto; however, when she tried to pray the Rosary, she found that she couldn’t. Mary asked her where Bernadette’s own Rosary was. Bernadette recalled that she was using Madame Sans’ and reached into her pocket for her own. When she did that Mary allowed her to carry on with the Rosary and told her to “use those.”
This Apparition was so important because it showed how attentive Mary is to every unique detail of our lives. Mary notices everything, even the difference in Rosaries we use when we pray. I believe I had a Marian encounter similar to this in Mass this weekend. It was during the time of the offertory; I always feel rushed during this time. I can never seem to find my wallet in time to place my contribution in the collection basket. When I am fortunate enough to find my wallet, I always hastily grab the change from the bottom to make sure I have something to contribute. This time I was actually successful in finding my wallet and was readily prepared for when the basket came to me. I saw the woman making her way down the isle of the church offering the collection basket to each person row by row. As she got to me she made direct eye contact and smiled. I smiled back and started to make the motion to reach out and place my money in the basket but the woman skipped me. I was sitting with a friend of mine and we both looked at each other with the same quizzical look. Did she not want our money?
It wasn’t until I was putting my money back in my purse that some of the coins felt a little weird. I looked at what I was actually holding and I realized the the coins were not coins at all — they were my saint medals. I have four saint medals that I wear around my neck every day: Saint Michael, Saint Francis, Saint Benedict, and the Miraculous Medal. Recently I had to stop wearing them because I had an allergic reaction to the chain they were on. I feel naked without those medals so had put them in my wallet for “safe keeping.” I thought that even if I can’t wear them, I could at least have them on my person. It occurred to me that if the woman had offered that collection basket to me, I would have given my medals away. These medals that have come to be almost a part of me. I was reminded of the story of Saint Bernadette and suddenly recognized Mary’s presence in that situation. I have never experienced anything like what I experienced in the that church. I have never been completely surpassed during the offertory, as if I wasn’t there at all. I was so grateful for Mary’s intervention though. I would have been heartbroken if I had lost those medals. Just like Mary knew Saint Bernadette was not using her own Rosary, she knew what I could have done with my medals and she made sure I did not get the opportunity to give them away. Needless to say I will be finding a new place to keep my medals until I can get a better chain for them.
The ancient Ark of the Covenant that accompanied the Israelites during the Exodus of Egypt until the Babylonian conquest, has long been understood in the mind of the Church as a symbolic type of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Made of wood and gilded in gold, the ancient Ark of the Old Covenant bore the Presence of God in spirit, while in a far more excellent manner, Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant bore within her womb the very Presence of God made flesh in the Person of Jesus the Word Incarnate. This is saying nothing of the extraordinary dwelling which God had made in Mary’s soul which was “full of grace”.
A Central Theme
It is no wonder then, why for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady, a holy day of obligation, both first readings concern the Ark of the Covenant. The vigil Mass, taken from I Chronicles 15, and Mass during the day, from the Book of Revelation (chps. 11 and 12).
The first reading for the Vigil Mass concerns the historical occasion when for the first time David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem. The same occasion is described in 2 Samuel 6, painting a broader picture of this festive occasion. We’ll direct our focus to this.
Take 1: Bringing Up the Ark
King David has conquered Jerusalem and has arranged the Levites (the priestly tribe) to process into Jerusalem from the house Abinidab, amidst great jubilation, with the Ark at this stage of the journey being carried along on a “new cart” by a set of oxen. In the words of the Scripture:
“And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” (2 Sam 6:5).
Along the way, the oxen stumble, and Abinidab’s son, named Uzzah, stretches out his hand to stop the Ark falling, and as a consequence of breaking a divine command meets his untimely end with a little aid (okay… more than a little aid) from above. There’s no time to go into that now, as that’s an article of its own. Yet feel free to see the relevant footnote.
Anyway… the party kind of dies at this point. Well… sudden deaths as a result of divine smack-downs do tend to have this affect. Hence David gets upset at God — he probably liked the guy … he maybe even had dinner plans that evening with the fella. Oh well. So feeling like God’s being a bit of a kill-joy, he names the place “Perez-uzzah”, meaning “to break…” or “to burst out against Uzzah,” and being fearful of God and His Ark, David decides to hit stall on the procession, choosing to keep the Ark outside of Jerusalem at the House of Obededom.
The Ark remains at the House of Obededom for three months — paralleling the three months the pregnant Virgin Mary stayed at her cousin Elizabeth’s house. When the word reaches David that “The LORD has blessed the household of Obededom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” (2 Sam 6:12a), he decides to fetch the Ark and bring it into Jerusalem. He is reminded of God’s merciful goodness and doesn’t want to miss out on God’s blessings!
Take 2: Bringing Up the Ark
“So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David with rejoicing” (2 Sam 6:12b).
The key word is the Hebrew word וַיַּעַל (vay-ya-al) which the RSV translates as “[he] brought up” — with the root word עָלָה (alah) itself meaning “to go up, ascend, climb”.
Much like Spider Man’s spider-sense our Catholic ‘spiritual-sense’ should be tingling at this moment. We have the imagery of the Ark and the language of ‘bringing up’ and ‘ascending’. Here then is an allegorical allusion to Mary’s Assumption. For it was Jesus, the Son of David by royal lineage, and the New and Eternal David in the sense of being the King of heaven and the entire universe, who by His divine power “brought up” the New Ark of the Covenant — the most sacred body and soul of Mary — into the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:2) to be at His side forever. Doing so with the greatest rejoicing — not only Jesus, but all of heaven, the angels and saints, who like the Levites with their cymbals and tambourines, made festivity as this New Ark was assumed into heaven.
The narrative continues to describe how before the Lord present in the Ark, David danced “with all his might” girded with nothing but “a linen ephod” — so that he was nearly naked.
With the phrase “danced… with all his might” one can almost imagine David’s dancing as being nothing short of ecstatic. Such was David’s intense feeling of liberated freedom, a stark (pun intended) contrast with the fear he had before that stopped him from bringing the Ark into Jerusalem.
This serves as a type of the soul in Christ, whose servile fear of God is washed away by the Spirit of God, and who in turn has become a liberated child of God, free in the Spirit, and confident to the point of crying “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15).
The role of the Ark in facilitating David’s ecstatic response cannot be stressed enough, since the Lord’s Presence, in the context of the Ark’s ascent towards Jerusalem forms the focal point of the whole narrative. This highlights the important role which Mary plays in the life of the Christian. It is only Mary who can truly bring the confident freedom of the children of God to its full maturation. For she is after all the Mother of Jesus, and thus of God, and in turn of us — the children of God.
Michal—She No Like David’s Groove
Continuing the narrative, we read:
“As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.” (2 Sam 6:16).
Later on in the story we are told how Michal, one of the wives of David, never bore a child until the day of her death. Not all infertility is a literal curse brought about by personal sin by any means! But in this case it was. She was cursed by barrenness, and we are to understand from the Scripture that this happened as a consequence of judging David for his jubilant act of praising God. For in her eyes, this wild dancing went against the civility of David’s royal dignity and offended her own sensibilities, and thus undermined her respect for her husband.
Without True Devotion to Mary: Spiritual Barrenness
The barrenness suffered by Michal, besides illustrating the spiritual consequence of judging others and attributing evil to what is good, serves to demonstrate the spiritual repercussions a lack of Marian devotion and a refusal to honor and welcome Mary and the mystery of the Assumption into our lives can have. Michal wasn’t struck dead, nor was she exiled from the Kingdom of Israel — she was made to be barren. Sure, she was made barren because she judged wrongly, but this only occurred because she wasn’t focused on the Lord and His Presence which was coming into Jerusalem, and this in turn was a result of her failure to reverence and failure to recognize the worth of the Ark of the Covenant. Instead, being hardly captivated by the Ark, she lost sight of God’s Presence, and so came to nit-pick on her husband.
Likewise, a failure to reverence the true Ark of God, Mary the Mother of God — not to worship, but to honour as did Jesus, and as did David in type — may or may not lead one into becoming a terribly judgemental Christian, but it certainly will lead to a relative spiritual barrenness. That is, a barrenness which is not absolute, but relative in the sense of limiting ‘what could be’ compared to if we were devoted to Mary. Such relative spiritual barrenness is an automatic spiritual consequence of failing to welcome with loving fervor the Ark of the New Covenant into one’s life, by way of devotion to Mary.
To put it more simply and in the positive sense, a true devotion to Mary can only make one’s spiritual life more fruitful. In the words of St. Louis De Montfort:
When the Holy Spirit, [Mary’s] spouse, finds Mary in a soul, He hastens there and enters fully into it. He gives Himself generously to that soul according to the place it has given to his spouse. One of the main reasons why the Holy Spirit does not work striking wonders in souls is that He fails to find in them a sufficiently close union with His faithful and inseparable spouse.
With True Devotion to Mary: Spiritual Fruitfulness
On this festive occasion of the Solemnity the ancient example of David spurs us on to increase our love and appreciation of Mary, by which means we can only ever grow deeper in union with God, sinking deeper into His Presence. A Presence which is Fruitfulness Itself, and which actualizes through Mary the Ark of God. For she was chosen to bring forth the fruit of God’s Son in the flesh, and likewise, with the Holy Spirit, Mary’s role extends itself to spiritually bringing forth the fruits of grace within our souls.
Bringing Up the True Ark
Just as Jesus brought up Mary to heaven, assuming her body and soul into the New Jerusalem, may we too, by uniting ourselves by faith with this living reality of the Assumption, the light and hope of every Christian, allow our Lord to bring up this Sacred Ark into the Jerusalem of our souls, households. communities and parishes. For then like Obededom, our exterior homes, but more importantly our interior homes will be blessed, along with all our words and deeds — sanctified by God’s Presence working powerfully through Mary; and like David we will be compelled to interiorly dance in the joyful confidence that we are children of God called to share in the splendor of the Risen Christ which shines most brilliantly in Mary herself.
“So David and all the house of Israel”—Jesus in the Assumption, and His Church figuratively in devotion on this Feast Day— “brought up the ark of the LORD”—the Blessed Virgin Mary— “with shouting, and with the sound of the horn.” (2 Sam 6:15).
 It may seem harsh, and it clashes with our middle-class “nice” conception of God, however Uzzah simply reaped the automatic consequence of going against the law which forbid anyone except the chosen Levites from handling the Ark. In the same manner, one who goes against the law of aerodynamics in faultily repairing an aeroplane will inevitably lead to the crashing of the aeroplane. God is no more to blame for the latter, than he is for the former. After all, God is good and merciful, and is incapable of doing anything evil, even if by our limited human perspective, it seems to be the contrary. Besides, if — and God only knows — Uzzah did so out of good-will and without really thinking about God’s command, there is no reason to doubt his salvation.
Today, the Church invites us to recall the visitation of our Blessed Mother (pregnant with Christ) to her cousin Elizabeth (pregnant with John the Baptist). This visitation cannot be overlooked because it reveals to us why Catholics have always believed that Mary is the NEW Ark of the Covenant. Consider these typologies from the Old to the New:
God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then in-dwelled the Ark (Ex 40:34) 👉 The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the Power of the Most High overshadowed her. (Lk 1:34)
David said: “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam 6:10) 👉 Elizabeth said: “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43)
David danced with all his might when the Ark arrived (2 Sam 6:13,14) 👉 John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrived (Lk 1:41).
Ark remained in the house of O’bede’dom for three months (2 Sam 6:11) 👉 Mary remained three months with Elizabeth (Lk 1:56).
Unless this is all purely coincidence, one can only conclude that the Catholics are correct. Mary was designated by God to be the New Ark of the Covenant carrying the Word into the world.
We must ponder deeply in our hearts what this means. In the Old Testament, the Ark was so perfectly pure that Uzzah was struck dead just for touching it. Think about it, that was the Old Testament. All Christians today believe that the New Testament brings the Old Testament to fulfilment. Which means Mary by logic, is much GREATER than the Old Ark.
Luke further substantiates this in the Magnificat:
“My soul MAGNIFIES the Lord, ALL generations will call me BLESSED!” (Lk 1:46,48).
Friends, let us all remember that our Blessed Mother’s role is and always will be to MAGNIFY the Lord (think of a magnifying glass).
Mary does not bring salvation, but she will ALWAYS bring us closer to her Son, that we can be assured of. I can personally testify to that. Since I’ve started devotion to Mary a few months ago, I have noticed changes in my life that are incredible and irrefutably due to Mary’s intercession. And the best part? I love Jesus so much more than I ever did before!
Last year in August, I went on a pilgrimage to Portugal for the Centennial Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima. Often, I struggle to pray with the distractions of daily worries of family, friends and making ends meet, so in going on a pilgrimage I hoped I would be able to leave those worries behind and focus on my spirituality.
In Fatima at the shrine where Mother Mary appeared, there is a long pathway to the shrine where many people pray while walking on their knees. They prayed so fervently and made it look so effortless, so I thought I would give it a go.
One day, before the break of dawn to avoid the crowds, I joined Father Michael and some of the pilgrims to pray walking on our knees. As I observed Father and the pilgrims moving forward, I got on my knees and started praying. They moved swiftly and got further and further away; as for me, I kept lagging behind, and walking on my knees became more and more excruciating, so I had to crawl. Like a snail I kept crawling forward with my head bowed down in shame as I realized I had overestimated myself.
As I continue to claw my way towards the shrine, my body got heavier and heavier. Then I noticed somebody walking beside me on my right-hand side. There was no sound, even though it was still dark I was able to see the tip of a pair of beautiful feet and the bottom of a white, elegant yet simple dress walking silently and subtly next to me. I didn’t dare look up as I felt undeserving, I just couldn’t. At that moment, my whole life flashed in front of my eyes like a montage of all the trials, tribulations, struggles and dark times from childhood to present. In each scene, I was able to see vividly where Mother Mary was standing.
One scene that resonated with me related to a time years ago when I was in my apartment alone heart-broken, curled up in a ball on the floor and crying unceasingly. After that I felt consoled but didn’t recognized what it was back then (I don’t recall ever being hugged by my own mother, so I wouldn’t be able to recognize that feeling of being comforted with a mother’s touch). This time, with the flashback, I could vividly see Mother Mary embracing me at that moment and all the other times when life got burdensome. After the montage was complete, I couldn’t see anybody walking beside me anymore but for the rest of the path, walking on my knees was like walking on clouds all the way to the Chapel where Mass started.
Although I am undeserving, God has been very generous to me and He has answered my prayers throughout my life in His own creative way at just the right time. He answered my prayers by giving me Mother Mary through Jesus’ dying breath on the cross — He said: “Behold, your mother” (John 19:26-27). As I continue living my daily life and especially in times when I needed a mother’s tender touch and love, I turn to praying the rosary and with the “Hail Mary”, her blessings pour out upon me.
How do I know? The feeling of anxiety gets taken from me and is replaced with peace. That is when I know that I’ve had a good heart-to-heart conversation with Mother Mary. So, when living gets tough, praying the Fatima rosary and singing “Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria”, I can always teleport myself back to the moment when I was walking on my knees with Mother Mary walking beside me silently and subtly, leading me closer to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, January 2, is the 1,978th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. James the Greater at the pillar in Zaragoza, Spain in the year A.D. 40.
I never have been particularly devoted to St. James the Greater, but for some reason, he seems to be devoted to me.
I heard somewhere that the desire to do the Camino de Santiago – the Way of Saint James, which ends at the church at Santiago de Compostela where the remains of St. James the Greater are kept — is actually a call from the apostle himself. Around ten years ago, I read about the Camino de Santiago in a book about hiking. Since then, I became obsessed with it, researching about it on the Internet and dreaming about being able to walk it someday. At that time, walking the Camino de Santiago was a wild dream which I never thought would come true. Back then, I did not know if I could fit it in with my other big plan at that time, which was to take further studies in either the United States or the United Kingdom.
However, my priest-uncle-spiritual-director – who happens to be named “Father Jim” – convinced me to go to Spain instead for further studies, which I did. The university he recommended happened to be along the route of the Camino de Santiago. During my studies, I got excited every time I saw pilgrims – with their identifying scallop-shell pendants – crossing the campus.
Unfortunately, while I was able to hike some legs of the Camino de Santiago, I was not able to trek the last 100 kilometers required to qualify one to receive a compostela certificate. This was because I could not find a willing and available companion. Although women have been known to walk the Camino de Santiago alone safely, I did not want to take any chances.
Still, the opportunity to visit Santiago de Compostela came. I realized that flying to the place instead of walking did not make me less of a pilgrim. (In fact, flying proved to be more penitential, as I would have enjoyed a hike through the Spanish countryside more than an interminable wait for a delayed flight at the airport.)
While praying in the church, I realized that I owe to St. James a lot more than I thought.
I am a Catholic because most Filipinos are cradle Catholics. The Philippines – and many other countries — got the Catholic faith from Spain where, according to tradition, St. James preached the Gospel. This means that I am a direct spiritual heir to St. James, who preached the Catholic faith that he received from Christ Himself.
Very little is known about St. James the Greater, but from what is known about him from the Gospels, he was certainly suited to his special mission of preaching in Spain. He and his brother, St. John the Evangelist, were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” for their fiery spirit that made them ask Jesus to bid fire to come down from heaven to consume the Samaritan towns that did not want to receive Him. They had drive, ambition, and a can-do attitude that made them give an affirmative response to Jesus when He asked them if they could drink from the cup from which He was to drink.
As energetic and driven as he was, St. James the Greater was not immune to temptations to give up.
According to tradition, on January 2, in the year A.D. 40, while he was preaching the Gospel in Caesaragusta (now Zaragoza) in the Roman province of Hispania (now Spain), he felt discouraged because very few of those to whom he preached accepted the Gospel. While he was praying by the banks of the Ebro River, the Blessed Virgin Mary miraculously appeared to him atop a pillar. (Miraculously, because at that time the Blessed Virgin Mary was still living in either Ephesus or Jerusalem; thus, she appeared through bilocation.) The Blessed Virgin Mary assured him that the people he was preaching to would eventually embrace the Gospel, and their faith would be as strong as the pillar she was standing on. She gave him the pillar and a wooden image of herself, and instructed him to build a chapel on the spot where she left the pillar.
St. James thus built the chapel, which is now the Basilica of Our Lady of Del Pilar. He continued preaching, with better results. Then, he and some of his disciples returned to Jerusalem, where they were martyred under Herod Agrippa. His disciples, however, brought his body back to Spain.
I like this story of St. James and Our Lady of Del Pilar. It shows that God chooses each of us for special missions suited to our individual traits and aptitudes. At the same time, it shows that our natural aptitudes are not enough, for us to become effective instruments of God. Christ had to correct and purify St. James’ fiery temperament before St. James could channel his energy to preaching the Gospel. Then, in the course of his preaching, his natural energy proved insufficient to sustain his motivation.
But he did the right thing and prayed, and the Blessed Virgin Mary encouraged him. He allowed her to encourage him, and his preaching bore fruit.
The story of St. James and Our Lady of Del Pilar teaches us to exert all our efforts to fulfil the mission God gave us, using the best of our skills and abilities, while relying on the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will encourage us when our strengths fail us, and with her help, we will do a lot of good. Our encounters with her will pave the way for more encounters between Christ and others – just as the encounter between her and St. James paved the way for my own encounter with Christ.
Together with “exciting” and “joyful”, “stressful” is a word that is associated with the days leading up to Christmas and with the Christmas season itself. Increased rush hour traffic, shopping lists and parties to squeeze into tight budgets and schedules, tasks lists in the preparation of the Christmas dinner, caroling rehearsals, and year-end work to wrap up in the office all pile up at this time of the year. One is tempted to ask, “Is Christmas worth it?”
The antidote to all this stress of the season is to readjust one’s idea of a perfect Christmas, and to aspire for a contemplative one: one spent lovingly gazing at the Holy Family in Bethlehem, and reflecting on what must have been the sentiments of Mary, Joseph, and the adoring shepherds and Wise Men.
Given that the frenzied holiday environment is not conducive to contemplation, a contemplative Christmas does not just happen. It must be deliberately pursued. Here are some suggestions to achieve a contemplative Christmas:
1. Do not skip Advent. The point of this penitential, yet hopeful, season is to prepare for Christmas through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Sacrament of Penance is a great way to spiritually prepare oneself for Christmas during the Advent season.
2. Schedule pious practices scattered throughout the day: spiritual reading, praying the rosary, fifteen- or thirty-minute periods of silent prayer, daily Mass if possible, and other pious practices one likes.
3. Convert Christmas preparations into prayer. For example, while choosing, buying, and wrapping Christmas gifts, one can pray for the recipients. The same thing can be done while writing Christmas cards, shopping for and cooking the Christmas dinner, or taking the family out to see the city Christmas light displays.
4. Offer up the inconveniences of the holiday season. There will always be reasons, big or small, to complain about the holiday season. Perhaps it is the first Christmas after the loss of a loved one, or perhaps the holiday season aggravates certain family issues, or one is suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Perhaps on some days, the increased rush hour traffic just gets to one’s nerves. Perhaps one is an introvert for whom the thought of attending just one more party is a trial. Fortunately, all these inconveniences borne with a smile can be pleasing gifts to the Christ Child.
5. In relation to the previous suggestion, think of what the Holy Family had to go through. Thinking about Mary and Joseph having had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem with the available roads and transportation at that time, and with Mary about to deliver a baby, helps one to put on a serene smile as one endures rush hour traffic from work to that obligatory party with one’s relatives.
These suggestions will not eliminate holiday stress. But they are tried and true ways to convert the holiday frenzy into true, meaningful, joy that comes from contemplating the Holy Family at Bethlehem. Regardless of what one must endure during the holiday season, a contemplative Christmas is always a happy Christmas.
For the past three months, the liturgical calendar has been reminding us of our spiritual allies.
Towards the end of September, we commemorated the feast of the Archangels.
On October 2, we celebrated the feast of the Guardian Angels. On October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we reminded ourselves of the many victories and blessings that may be obtained through the Blessed Virgin’s intercession when we pray the Rosary.
We began November with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and we are encouraged to spend the entire month remembering the souls in Purgatory whom we can pray for and who can pray for us.
It’s not that God alone is not willing and able to help us; we know He is omnipotent and all-good. But God knows that we sometimes find it difficult to approach Him directly. He also knows that, as human beings, we like the help and companionship of those who have gone before us, whom we probably have even known personally when they were on earth, and who have gone through what we are going through now.
Hence, it is by God’s own will that we have the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels, and the saints (including the souls in Purgatory or the Church Suffering) to inspire us, give us good example, and intercede for us.
It is beyond the scope of this post to distinguish between the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints and the specific ways each of them help us. It is sufficient, for now, to remember that all of them are our allies, and powerful allies at that.
A lot is being written in the Catholic blogosphere about spiritual warfare, about exorcism, about how powerful and active the devil has become in recent years. At least in my circles of fellow-Catholics, it has become normal to speak of oneself or one’s acquaintances suffering from diabolical oppression.
It is good that we are reminded of the reality of evil, that we are roused out of our complacency in face of the besieging enemies of our salvation.
Unfortunately, there is the danger that this increased awareness of evil would lead to nothing more than a morbid interest in sensational exorcism stories, or worse, that we become paralyzed by our awareness of evil that we despair of the possibility of defeating it. This, in itself, would be a victory for the devil.
To paraphrase a famous movie line, we should definitely not underestimate the power of the dark side. But neither should we forget that we have powerful spiritual allies ready to defend us and help us do the good we want to do.
Just as we, members of the Church Militant, give strength and hope to our fellow-warriors here on earth, our spiritual allies look out for us, help us, and intercede for us before God. Just as we dare not forget our loyal friends on earth, we should not forget that our spiritual allies assist us, often in ways we do not realize. We do not realize everything that they do for us, and how much more they are willing to do for us, if only we’d ask.
In the end, our spiritual allies will rejoice together with us at the final victory.
I’ve always enjoyed learning about epic stories of martyrdom. Even as a young child of 8 or 9 years old, I would read, in awe (and a little bit of shock) about the ways in which holy men and women across the centuries have lived and died as witnesses of God’s love and mercy. In fact, in my zeal for learning about martyrdom, I’ve even found myself skipping over areas of a saint’s life, just to get to the “good parts” where I learn about his or her heroic death.
“So-and-so was a good child, blah blah blah…very devoted to Mary…tortured for the Faith-ah yes, here’s where it gets good.”
Learning about a saint’s martyrdom is fascinating, and it can seem extremely relevant. After all, since our world is facing much division and persecution, hearing the stories of the martyrs can give us people to whom we can relate. Shouldn’t we spend our time focusing on stories of martyrdom, and just “gloss over” other aspects of their lives?
The more I think about this, the more I realize something: We can talk about martyrdom all we want, but if that is the only thing we’re focusing on, we are missing the bigger picture. We miss the why. For example, we recently celebrated the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Many people focus on how St. Maximilian offered himself. We talk about his selflessness and heroic sacrifice as he literally gave his life for another person. For years, this is the sole image I had of St. Maximilian. It wasn’t until I reached college that I began to see the “bigger picture.” I learned about how St. Maximilian Kolbe was deeply devoted to Mary, and how his love for Mary was a strong, guiding motivation throughout his life.
We cannot simply “gloss over” Marian devotion or any other devotions that the saints have practiced, thinking that we should only focus on the “good” or “relevant” parts of their lives. These practices have formed the saints and made them who they are. Not only that, but Marian devotion will always be relevant. In fact, as our society quickly plummets downward into the chaos of moral relativism and disunity, growing in our devotion to Mary so that she may lead us to Jesus seems especially relevant.
When we read the lives of the saints, let’s not just focus on their gory martyrdoms or the mystical experiences that they had. Rather, let’s look at the whole picture of their lives, and learn from them so that we can strive for greater holiness too. Marian devotion is and will always be relevant, because Mary will never stop leading us to her son. So why gloss over it?
Photo credit: “Statue” by Momentmal via Pixabay. CCO public domain.
To say that someone sees through rose-coloured or rose-tinted glasses is a common idiomatic expression by which we describe someone as seeing something as being more pleasant than it is. The idiom implies that someone’s perspective on a particular reality, or on reality itself, is overly optimistic—rose-coloured, tinted, and glossed, softening the cold hard truth.
The origins of this idiom are unclear. It was clearly in common usage in the English language by the mid-19th century, and even then, it was used with various nuances of meaning.
O the joy of blossoming life! What a delicious thing it is to be young, and to see everything through rose-coloured glasses; but with a wish to be pleased, and a certain sunniness of mind, more in our power than we imagine (p.185)
Although, perhaps more commonly, the phrase would be used negatively to describe an outlook that has fallen prey to a rosy deception because of stubborn superficiality and an avoidance of the truth in its darker shades. See Fewell: A Series of Essays of Opinion for Churchmen (1846).
The phrase might also be used to speak of a blatantly false kind of optimism stemming from alleged naivety. Concerning the latter, the author of “The Ideal and the Real,” Mary Davenant, writes in Godey’s Lady’s Book (1843):
A man in love is easily deceived. I have seen more of life than you have, my dear, simply because I look at people with my own eyes, instead of through rose-coloured glasses as you do, and I never see a woman who appears so very soft and gentle that she cannot raise her voice much above a whisper, and whose every word and look betrays a studied forethought of the effect they are to produce, that I do not mistrust her sadly. Half of them are shrews, and the other half obstinate intriguers‚ I am much mistaken if Mrs. St. Clair is not a little of both. (p.160)
Reading that last excerpt, one almost wants to encourage the author to find herself a pair of rose-coloured glasses, and quickly at that! or at least to stop looking with her own eyes and to pull the shutter on those cynical lids.
Yet aren’t we all a little bit like this? For, at least from time to time, we judge others harshly—perhaps even ourselves; and as Catholics we may even look at the state of the world and of the faith in the world, and slip on the sunglasses of the cynic. To be sure, distinct from cynicism, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy critical outlook, in the sense of a rational and realistic perspective; but whatever the case, the rosiness of charity should always win-out.
The Rosy Blood of Christ
After all, through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, everything has been painted with the rosy, redeeming love of the Precious Blood (Col 1:19-20)—and for this reason nothing in the created order can fail to be used for the glory of God and the sanctification of the human person (CCC 1670). In sacramental theology, this is called ‘The Principle of Sacramentality’.
Thus, in all truth the Christian is both a realist and an optimist. For even if the perceived reality is dark and terrible, reality itself originates and culminates in Christ who is Light and Life itself, who shines in the darkness of each valley of death, offering the unshakable hope of joy in communion and beatitude, in the trudge of the workshop, the silence of prayer, the noisiness of the family home, and from the solitude of nature to the oppressiveness of the gulag.
We know that whilst God can see our sinfulness, in sending His Son to die for us, He has chosen to see us through the rosy blood of His Son in whom as new creations He beholds us as being “very good” (Gen 1:31).
To See as God Sees
To see as God sees, as Love Itself sees, is something to long for. The way St. Francis was able to see all people and creation like this is an encouragement to us; that by God’s grace we too can begin to see things through the rose-coloured glasses of God—through the Blood of Christ which has redeemed reality.
Putting the shades of meaning (pun intended) the world associates with the idiom rose-coloured glasses aside, we might define the rose-coloured glasses of the Christian, as looking with the eyes of faith, through the frames of hope, and the rose-tinted lenses of charity, by which we see as God sees, seeing things not so much as they appear to be, but as they were made to be, are called to be, and already are in some mysterious way in the Person of Christ.
Mary: God’s Rose-Coloured Glass
No one did this better than Mary—the supreme typus of the Church, whose faith, hope and love are the nourishment of the Church. In fact, the theological virtues were so perfect in Mary to such a point that she participated in the Paschal Mystery as completely and perfectly as it is possible for a creature. This brought Her into complete communion with the sufferings of Christ and thus in the work of Redemption as a helper par excellence, just as Eve was the helper of Adam in the work of creation. Hence the title, Co-Redemptrix; the prefix co- from the Latin com- meaning “together, mutually, in common”.
If we think of God’s rose-coloured glasses as being the veil of the Precious Blood which covers all created reality, it is inescapable that we recognise how Mary too is the rose-coloured glasses of God; for Jesus’ Blood came wholly and entirely from the virginal body of Mary, who alone was the proximate source of Christ’s human nature.
Therefore, when God looks at us in His Mercy through the Blood of His Son, He looks simultaneously through the Blessed Virgin Mary who from the moment of Her conception was preveniently redeemed by the Precious Blood, being fired in the charity of the Holy Spirit, and infused with His Sacred Breath, imparted through space and time, from the exhalation of Christ’s burning breath on the Cross and at the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost—just as a glassmith or glassblower fires glass and breathes into the molten mass during production.
Additionally, in the crafting of glass only those pieces that are free from defect, without any fractures, make it through the production line. Mary was indeed without defect—being free of the fracture of original sin and personal sin, thanks to the excellent craftsmanship of God.
Of course, we’re stretching the analogy here, as glassblowing isn’t a technique used in the fashioning of the glass used in eye-wear (in fact high-tech plastic is commonly used today), but nevertheless, on the created side of things, Jesus in His human nature together with Mary, form the two lenses which make up the rose-coloured glasses through which God sees the world in His Mercy.
God’s Rosy Bias
In another text from the 19th-century, rose-coloured glasses were used in reference to the bias stemming from affectionate ties in “personal kindness”. Perhaps this is the best reason we can give as to why God wears His rose-coloured glasses—crafted as Mary Immaculate and as the Word Incarnate: simply because of God’s freely chosen, outrageous and wonderful bias of personal kindness, by which He sees us through Mary, in the image of His Son, and in the likeness of His Triune Self.
Thank God He sees us through rose-coloured specs.
Putting on the Specs
May we too, especially in this month of May, through our Marian devotion, see through this Blessed Rose-Coloured Glass who is Our Lady, tinted by the Blood of Christ, so that with a hopeful gaze we might see the rosy presence of God flourishing in our lives and in our world. A world which is sorely in need of the glasses on offer from the Optometrist on high.
 The Free Dictionary, http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/rose-coloured+glasses
 The Baroch, Chzeck classic, Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart (1623) by John Amos Comenius is often posited as an early example (or even as the source) of the phrase—minus the rose-colour: “Just then Delusion on the other side remarked: ‘For my part, I present you with these glasses through which you must examine the world.’ After he fixed the glasses on my nose, everything immediately assumed a changed aspect… As I learned later, the lenses were ground from the glass of Assumption, and were set in horn-rims called Habit.” (Chp 4).
However, this saying may have older origins, since it is known that using transparent stones as reading aids was practiced at least since the 10th century, and magenta glasses were at least used in the 15th century.
 Thanks to Sven Yargs for the following gathered references, Origin of Rose-Tinted Glasses, https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/257566/origin-of-rose-tinted-glasses
 “Elliotson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine,” in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (December 13, 1843), p.19, accessed from Google Books, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=oLo1AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA 369&dq=%22rose+colored+glasses%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5OacVY3LLoauyQTq94fQBg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=%22rose%20colored%20glasses%22&f=false
The following review was originally written on the blog Sacrifice of Love. It is republished here with permission from the author.
With depth and simplicity, Jean Heimann’s new book, Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World (Tan Books 2017), instructs and inspires as it delves into the story of Our Lady of Fatima. However, instead of solely focusing on the apparitions themselves, Heimann provides a holistic view which shows the people and societal conditions that were so drastically affected by Mary’s appearances at Fatima. Heimann begins her work by introducing the three young children whom Mary appeared to: Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta. She then continues to discuss the Marian apparitions that took place in 1917 and continue to be important 100 years later.
Instead of simply discussing each apparition and then moving onto the next one, though, Heimann really dives into the messages of Our Lady. Following the scenes of the first two apparitions, she includes a “Lessons from the Apparition” section. This part of the book connects the faithful, humble “yes” that the three young visionaries gave to God with the fiat of Mary, the Mother of God. Heimann also explores Mary’s words, and how typical, “normal” lay Catholics can live out these messages. Instead of just throwing around terms like “reparation” and “Rosary,” she talks about what these aspects of the Faith are. I found the small section on the Rosary particularly inspiring as it discussed the importance of contemplation in this prayer.
In discussing these apparitions, Heimann draws from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s commentary on Fatima, which helps illustrate various symbols that were in the third apparition. She also provides the historical context of political events that were happening in Portugal at the time. Learning about these historical details was eye-opening, and helped me see how pivotal it was that Mary appeared in Fatima at this specific time period, and helped revive the Catholics there.
After diving into the sixth apparition—the famous incident of the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917—Heimann talks about the lives and deaths of the visionaries in the years that followed. I really did not know much about the events that followed the apparitions, and I was fascinated as I read about Lucia’s life in the convent. The book concludes by discussing the different popes who have visited Fatima, and some miracles connected to Our Lady of Fatima that have taken place in the years since the apparitions.
I really enjoyed this book, and think that Heimann did an excellent job crafting a well-researched, thorough resource on Fatima that is very approachable and engaging. Whether you are unfamiliar with Our Lady of Fatima or grew up watching the animated movie about Fatima, this book is a great read that inspired me. I found that this isn’t just a book about Fatima as an isolated set of Marian apparitions; instead, it shows us how Mary’s appearances at Fatima are part of the beautiful, rich tapestry of God’s work throughout the centuries.
Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World, by Jean Heimann, is available for pre-order at Tan Books and at Amazon.
I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Last year, I finished Fr. Michael Gaitley MIC’s book, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told.
I am sure some of you know about his book 33 Days to Morning Glorysold by the Marian Fathers. The Marian book talks about Marian consecration according to St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pope St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta.
In The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, Fr. Gaitley talked about how they printed 1 million Spanish copies of the Marian book and gave 100,000 for free to Mexico.
This was very important because the drug war there led to a lot of killings. One reason why there were so many killings is because of their devotion to “Santa” Muerte, aka “Saint” of Death. The devotion is practiced by gruesome killings. They do this to gain power from the demonic spirits.
He said that this was very important because Marian Consecration in the US and Mexico is being promoted by their bishops etc to combat the killings and abortion. The Mexican bishops consecrated their entire dioceses to Mama Mary.
Does Marian Consecration work? Yes! How do we know? Let me give you two concrete examples in recent history.
Before WWII, Mama Mary got St Maximilian Kolbe to promote Marian consecration throughout Poland. Through this, she strengthened her children for the coming war. The Poles were heroically charitable and generous even in the midst of inhumane persecution and oppression. St Maximilian also went to Nagasaki, Japan to promote Marian consecration there. He also passed by Manila en route back to Poland. Notice anything about these places? Warsaw, Poland and Manila were the most devastated cities of World War II. Nagasaki was the site of the atomic bomb. Mama Mary sent him to prepare the places that would be most devastated by promoting Marian Consecration.
In more recent history; my country, the Philippines, received the best proof of this during the 1987 EDSA People Power Revolution.
In 1985, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines dedicated the year as a Marian Year. All throughout the country, there would be posters of Mama Mary. There would be conferences about Marian spirituality. Parishioners were encouraged to pray the Rosary.
This renewed devotion to Mother Mary was in the midst of Martial Law, Marcos’ dictatorship where thousands were arbitrarily abducted, tortured and killed.
From February 21 until 25, 1986, thousands of people congregated along EDSA street. In the face of tanks and soldiers, they prayed the Rosary, asking for Mama Mary’s intercession for peace in the land. They offered flowers to the soldiers. And miraculously, there was no bloodshed. The soldiers lowered their weapons and accepted the flowers. The dictator Marcos fled to Hawaii. Peace and democracy was restored to the Philippines.
It remarkable that EDSA is short for Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, “Epiphany of the Saints.” Yes, this was its name even before the peaceful revolution! The day that manifested the power of everyday saints and Mama Mary’s protection and intercession.
In the world today, there is much confusion and chaos. ISIS, Syrian war in the Middle East. Migrant crisis and economic uncertainty in Europe. Abortion and euthanasia in the United States and Canada. The genocide of drug suspects in the Philippines. In the midst of so much uncertainty, the only way the world can find peace is if it turns with trust to Mama Mary. If the Catholics throughout the world consecrated themselves to Mama Mary, her Immaculate Heart would triumph once more.
Remember that this was her promise at Fatima: that if Russia was consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, the world would find peace. St John Paul II accomplished this at Fatima on March 25, 1984. But now our Lord and our Lady are calling us to do the same. We can find peace and healing if we consecrate ourselves to Mother Mary, entrusting ourselves to her perfect care; she will bring peace back to the world as only the gentlest of mothers could.
So now as we near the 100th anniversary of Fatima, I encourage everyone to make take advantage of this special season of grace. Pray the Rosary and consecrate yourselves to Mama Mary. As she has shown throughout history, she can bring about peace in the midst of the greatest adversities. And should God permit us to suffer, she will give us the grace, courage and strength to love one another as Christ loves us on the Cross.
Leia Go is a Filipina law student. She graduated in 2011 with an AB in Interdisciplinary Studies, focusing on Literature and Philosophy from Ateneo de Manila University (Loyola Schools). Her patron saints are Mama Mary, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Saint Faustina. She has been a lector and altar server in her schools’ campus ministry offices since high school. She also loves volunteering at the Good Shepherd Sisters baby orphanage and is discerning a vocation to religious/consecrated life.
The word “evangelization” comes from the Greek “Euangelion” meaning the announcing of good news. St Paul and the apostles were excited about the person and message of Jesus. They had encountered Jesus as a Savior, who by His cross and resurrection, has triumphed over sin and death, and who has sent His Holy Spirit to accompany His followers in all things. The command by Jesus to “go teach all nations” was not felt as a burden imposed upon them, but as a joyful obligation. They had experienced true freedom in the Gospel “for freedom Christ has set us free”, and they wanted to proclaim this to the world, that God has made adoption as His children possible in Christ.
Through the preaching of the apostles, those who became Christian in the early Church felt the same freedom. St. Justin Martyr felt that Christ was the fulfillment of his vocation as a philosopher. St. Agatha felt herself to be a spouse of Jesus. To preserve her vow of virginity, she refused marriage to a pagan noble and suffered martyrdom as a result. St. Augustine, after living a chaotic life, famously declared after his baptism, “You have made us for ourselves O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” The ancient world was stirred by Christ and His message. The human person has a royal dignity and a direct link with the Creator. God in Jesus Christ is the friend of the human person. And the countless Powers—gods, spirits, demons—weighing upon the soul with all their terrors, now crumbled into dust.
Why a “new” evangelization?
If evangelization is the announcing of good news, why the need for a new evangelization? John Paul II, who first coined the phrase “new evangelization”, clarified that the message of the Gospel has certainly not changed. What has changed however was the fact that
i. A growing number of Christians, in traditionally Christian countries, no longer experience Christianity, especially its moral teaching, as liberation but as a burden. They practice their religion “as if they have just returned from a funeral.”
ii. Increasingly educated and exposed to science and reason, the doctrines of Christianity were also experienced as somehow pre-scientific and having no rational basis.
Two convenient options
Faced with these two challenges, a Catholic can take the “soft” option. He can (at least in his own mind) “water down” the Church’s moral teaching, especially its difficult and inconvenient ones. Faced with accusations that he is being “pre-scientific”, he could also discard the seemingly incomprehensible “supernatural” doctrines of Christianity (the resurrection or the virgin birth, for example) and focus on what seems to be “reasonable.”
He can also take the “hard” option. In the face of a hostile world, he can retreat into his private Catholic space, with other like-minded Catholics, viewing the “hard” teachings as a necessary burden to attain heaven in the next life and diagnosing Catholics who have difficulties in believing as somehow lacking in faith. “If only they pray more and have more faith and don’t question too much.”
The teaching of the New Evangelization proposes a third option. John Paul II declares that the new Evangelization must be new “in ardor, methods and expression.” Let’s look at these in turn.
New in Ardor
Ardor refers primarily to enthusiasm and excitement. This is something that cannot be “faked”. It has to be real. It has to flow from an encounter, or a re-encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. Hence, Singapore Archbishop William Goh’s emphasis on the “conversion experience”, where one recognizes that he is a sinner in need of grace. Jesus Christ is experienced no longer as simply a great moral teacher but one’s personal savior. To continue fanning the flame of conversion, the Archbishop insists on the cultivating of an intense prayer life and on-going formation so that the converted disciple can better share the Gospel with others.
New in Method
There is a move away from teaching Catechism as simply “doctrines to be learnt” or “moral teachings to be followed.” Rather, at the heart of Catechesis is to facilitate for the child an encounter with the person of Christ. Doctrines and the Church’s moral teaching flow from that encounter. They liberate the person to live a new life in Christ. They point to Him. They are not ends in themselves. The catechist is not “the teacher” but a “facilitator.” Christ is the Teacher. The catechist is there to facilitate the encounter. He is not “God’s lawyer.” Rather, he is a co-pilgrim with his students in the journey of life. He has nevertheless found Christ in his pilgrimage of life and is thus there to share this with his students.
I remembered one incident that might illustrate this new approach. I bumped into my student who was hanging outside church and not attending Mass. In my earlier years as a Catechist, I would actually have focused straight away on his non-attendance at Mass and tell him that what he is doing is very wrong and that he should go for confession and then for Mass the next time. This time, I did something different. I said hello and asked him if he would like to chat a while as he seemed to have things on his mind. What followed was a 30 minute conversation where he shared about how he felt that Church teaching is restricting his freedom and that his family situation is unhappy. I acknowledged his feelings as very real and shared with him how, in my own experience, I too had these feelings but had gradually found Christ to be a source of freedom. I did not focus on what he “did not do.” A year later, while preparing another batch of students for confirmation, he waved at me and said that he too has decided to get confirmed. He too had experienced the love of Christ for him and found in the Catholic faith a source of true freedom. While I would never dare to take any credit for his conversion, I nevertheless shudder to think what might have happened if I had “scolded” him for not attending Mass during our first encounter, out of a sense of misguided zeal.
New in Expression.
It is easy to simply reduce the phrase “new in expression” to the need for Catholics to be “up to date”, especially in the use of social media (Facebook etc). While social media is certainly an important means of evangelization, the call for a “new expression” is deeper than that. It is a call to re-present the person and message of Christ in a manner that is comprehensible, challenging and compelling to a new generation. It would be no use for instance to say “Jesus Christ saves you from sin” when the culture has lost a sense of sin. Rather, a patient dialogue about the nature of right and wrong would be an important first step in precisely recovering such a sense, and then showing how Christ saves us from the burden of an overwhelming guilt. The art of learning how to understand the cultural situation in the light of Christ would require formation. But the acquiring of such knowledge is not simply “book knowledge” but flows from the fervor to make Christ known to others.
Conclusion: Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization
On 27th Sept 2014, Archbishop William Goh consecrated Singapore to Mary, the Star of the New Evangelisation. In this, we ask not only for our blessed Mother’s powerful intercession, but also through the studying of her life, we will know how to go about our tasks of evangelizing. As the Archbishop declared in his pastoral letter, it is from Mary that we learn i) that the New Evangelization is urgent. That it is ii)principally a witness of love. That it must iii) begin from a contemplation of the Word of God and that iv) it must possess a spirit of poverty and the recognition of the primacy of grace.