Tag Archives: Mary

My Vocation Story: Father Jason Smith, LC

If not for a hockey game, I wouldn’t be a Legionary of Christ priest today. As a good Minnesotan, I naturally considered hockey as divinely inspired, a sign of God’s love for us. But it’s what happened after the game that took me by surprise and lead me to know my priestly vocation.

During my first year at college, I often went to the rink at the University of Minnesota with my friends. After one such event —ending in a double overtime victory for the Golden Gophers, and a long celebration— I returned home in the wee hours of the morning, too tired to get out of bed until Sunday afternoon.

Stumbling upstairs for something to eat, I found my Dad sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. Opening the fridge, I heard from over my shoulder: “Jason, did you go to Mass this morning?” I swallowed hard. I hadn’t. Quickly I tried to think up the perfect excuse. None came. Trying to hide behind the refrigerator door, I quipped “No, I didn’t go”. Without looking up Dad replied solemnly, “Go tomorrow then.”

It was my first Monday morning Mass ever. I was struck by how quiet the Church was, and how empty. I sat about halfway up and waited. Little by little people began to filter in. Then an attractive girl sat down a few pews behind me. How is it I find a girl like this now and not last Saturday evening? It must be God’s providence! I decided the sign of peace was the perfect time to introduce myself. When the moment came I turned around and, to my surprise, she passed me a note. I put it in my pocket pretending it happened all the time.
When I got home I opened the note. It read something like this: “It’s good to see someone young attending daily Mass. You must really love your faith! I want to let you know about a group of young people who pray and study scripture Wednesday evenings. If you would like to come, here is my number.” I decided I could find time in my packed schedule to go. That’s when it occurred to me I hadn’t seriously looked into my Catholic faith since Confirmation. What would I say? What would I pray? Where was my Rosary? I found it stuffed in the bottom dresser drawer along with a pamphlet of prayers.

As to what I would say, I went to my Dad’s study and checked out his library. It had books on music, history, politics —but the largest section was religion. I found one book called True Devotion to Mary. It seemed like a good place to start since it was short. The book changed my life. It explained how St. Louis de Montfort, a priest who tirelessly preached the Gospel and underwent extraordinary trials, spread devotion to Mary throughout France. It was my first encounter with the life of a saint. I marveled how someone could dedicate himself entirely to Christ, even to the point of heroism. It inspired me to truly seek God and sincerely live my faith.

A few months later I went on a retreat with the youth group. It was the first time the priesthood entered my mind. During the consecration, as I gazed at the elevated host, I thought to myself —in words that were my own, but which carried a remarkable resonance I will never forget: If there is one thing I should do, it’s that. It was the defining moment of my life and it came entirely by surprise. I knew I had to look into the priesthood, but I didn’t know how or where. To make a long story short, the same girl who gave me the note in church then gave me a brochure on the Legionaries of Christ. It had testimonies of the young men who entered the year before. I read it and was convinced. I called and asked for an application. A Legionary came to visit. I went to candidacy. I joined. My younger brother followed the next year.

Since then 25 years have passed by like a whirlwind. There is much more I could write, but the essential is simple: Christ crossed my path, called, and by His grace —definitely not my own strength— I found the courage to drop everything and follow him. I have never looked back. Our Lord’s presence and the needs of the Church have captivated my attention ever since.

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Originally posted by Catholic Convert. Reprinted with permission of Fr. Jason Smith LC.

Talking to God in Prayer

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” (Mt 20:20-21)

Mother knows best but God knows us even more. Whether it was the prayer or wish of the mother, God did not grant her request because He knew James and John even more than their mother did.

It is good to examine ourselves on our manner of prayer to God. How do we pray? When we pray, what do we tell God? Do we give Him a litany of our request for favors? Do we dictate to God what we want? “God, please give me this and that!” Is our prayer purely about what we want in life? “Mine! Mine! Mine!” “Me! Me! Me!”

Then, it is not a prayer. It is just a mere monologue. We are just simply talking to ourselves and listening to our own voice.

What is prayer? Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “Prayer is not asking. Praying is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition and listening to His voice in the depths of our heart.”

Prayer is an encounter with God. It can only happen if we truly put ourselves in His presence so we can hear Him in the silence of our hearts.

The Visitation

Zephaniah 3:14-18, Isaiah 12:2-6, Luke 1:39-56

Hail MaryToday, 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!

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Pentecost

Acts 2:1-11, Psalm 104, Galatians 5:16-25, John 20:19-23

Catholicism sprouted from Judaism. The Church has always promulgated that because well; Jesus chose to be born into a Jewish family and was faithful to the Jewish traditions of his time. So my Catholic friends, always be proud of your Jewish roots because its a sign of authentic historicity of our Faith!

The Jews had a cycle of feast days just like Catholics (Lev 23). Out of these, two have been brought over to the New Covenant in the Catholic Church:

Passover 👉 Easter

Feast of Weeks (Shebuoth) 👉Pentecost.

The word ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek ’50’, which means 50th day after Passover. This is why the Church celebrates it 50 days after Easter.

From a Jewish perspective, Pentecost was immensely important because it was one of the three pilgrimage feasts. (This meant that adult male Jews were required to go up to the temple and offer sacrifices on this day.) Why? Well, the Babylonian Talmud indicates that Pentecost was the day Moses received the Ten Commandments on Sinai.

Understanding this is crucial to draw the parallel to Luke’s account of ‘Tongues of Fire’ in Acts, because Exodus 19:16-18 describes how God also descended upon Sinai ‘ in fire’.

12 Tribes + Ark present (Ex 19) = 🔥

12 Apostles + Mary present (Lk 1:14) =🔥

Pentecost is thus an extremely important feast day for it marked the sign of a New Covenant. The Psalmist sings: ‘Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth!’ (Ps 104:30). An early Church Father comments:

“Now the Holy Spirit appeared in fire and in tongues because all those whom He fills He makes simultaneously to burn and to speak—to burn because of Him and to speak about Him. And at the same time He indicated that the Holy Church, when it had spread to the ends of the earth, was to speak in the languages of all nations.” (Ven. Bede, 8th Cent.)

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Editor’s note: Today concludes the Octave of Pentecost, a beautiful tradition of Holy Mother Church.

Politician’s wife healed of cancer – credits Our Lady of Guadalupe

Singapore is a secular state, so it was with pleasant surprise that I read the news on one of our secular sites:

Former Foreign Minister George Yeo and Jennifer Yeo are on their way back to Singapore, after more than six months in Houston, United States.

Jennifer Yeo, who was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive type of nasal cancer called Sinonasal Undifferentiated Carcinoma, has recovered.

She had a full checkup on Jan. 29 and 30 and there is no trace anymore of her cancer. However, she has to be under close surveillance especially in the first two years.

[After treatment] … they prayed at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Sept 6.

Back in Houston on Sept 8, which coincidentally was the birthday of the Virgin Mary, Jennifer’s MRI showed the tumor to have melted away.

George Yeo said:

We thank God for His mercy, the Virgin Mary for her intercession and so many relatives, friends and well-wishers for your prayers and support.”

Mr. Yeo was raised in a staunchly Catholic family, and reminisces on his blog:

“I used to hear my mother say the rosary in Teochew but that was a long time ago.”

He has also said:

“[A]s a Christian, I believe in love as the highest virtue in life and the sanctity of the individual.”

Mr. Yeo was one of the first lay Catholics appointed to the Vatican’s Council for the Economy in 2014, after serving as the only Asian member of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See in 2013.

Living in Australia, where secularism is often anti-religious and specifically anti-Christian, it is refreshing to look back on my homeland, where to be secular does not mean to oppose religion, but to give all religions a common space in civic life where they can each freely contribute to the public good, being respected as founts of traditional wisdom which bind communities. It is very heartening to see God and Our Lady exalted on a secular platform. Glory be to God!

Movie Review: Mary Magdalene (2018)

A friend and I were given free tickets for a preview of the upcoming film Mary Magdalene.

The visuals were truly exquisite, bringing to life the stark beauty of poor Hebrew dwellings, their dress and cuisine, and the simplicity of life in a fishing village, with the soothing susurration of the waves ever present.

However, I was really disappointed with the lack of true understanding of Mary Magdalene’s role as a disciple of Jesus, and how the film pits her against the apostles. The film has a strong feminist bent while funnily leaving out Jesus’ other female disciples.

We are introduced to Mary as a strong-willed though mild young woman who refuses to marry, despite her father’s attempts to match-make her.

She flees to the synagogue to pray in distress, and is rebuked for bringing dishonor on her family by appearing crazed.

Her stubbornness is interpreted as demonic possession, and she is tricked into an exorcism ritual where she is nearly drowned.

However, she encounters Jesus, who is mobbed by villagers seeking cures. She runs away from home to follow him and his apostles to Jerusalem.

The apostles are portrayed as clueless Jewish patriots who see Jesus as the key to overthrowing the Roman Empire. Judas is portrayed in a sympathetic light, as someone who lost his wife and child to the Romans.

The movie depicts Mary Magdalene as being the only one to understand Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness. At her instigation, he preaches to the women of a town, especially one who is filled with hatred and unforgiveness over another’s rape. This is in contrast to the Scriptures, where Jesus needs no one to prompt Him to approach the Samaritan woman, or to visit Mary and Martha, or to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead.

Also, Mary Magdalene is shown baptizing women, using a strange formula about being “baptized into the Light.” There is no mention of the Holy Trinity, which is necessary for a valid baptism.

Peter resents Mary’s presence and declares that she will cause division among the apostles. However, he is sent with her to minister to the towns. She tends to the dying, and he realizes that she, more than he, has grasped Jesus’ message of mercy.

Mother Mary meets them as they enter Jerusalem. Far from the beautiful and stately Mary portrayed by Maia Morgenstern in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004), she looks crabby and restless. She sharply states to Mary Magdalene, indicating Jesus, “You love him, don’t you?” Mary Magdalene is then depicted lying down near Jesus, his one companion in his distress as he approaches his death.

Jesus is also shown breaking down in tears before entering Jerusalem, while Mary Magdalene comforts him, cradling his head in her lap. It is a poignant reminder of God making Himself vulnerable in His humanity, and that we can comfort Him by doing reparation for sins. Yet, all this intimacy between Mary Magdalene and Jesus in the end does a disservice to the Gospel, where Jesus pursues His earthly mission as both God and man, the Anointed One with the strength to resist temptations alone in the desert.

The movie also omits the true friendship Christ enjoyed with the apostles, particularly St. John the Beloved, who stayed with Him to the bitter end and was entrusted with His mother’s care. Instead, after the Resurrection, Mary and Peter are again depicted at odds, with Mary Magdalene pledging to carry Jesus’ message despite the corrupted message she feels Peter and the apostles will pass on in forming a church. Yet, Scripture records that Peter was the one who stood by Jesus when others deserted Him over the Eucharist.

Oddly enough, the movie ends with references to the very Church built on the rock of Peter (Matthew 16:18); yet, again, it distorts the message of the Catholic Church. It notes Pope Gregory the Great as wrongly conflating St. Mary Magdalene with the penitent prostitute, and claims that because the Vatican has recognized her as the Apostle to the Apostles, that means she is equal to the apostles.

“Apostle” is simply Greek for “messenger”, and yes, Mary Magdalene brought news of Christ’s resurrection to the Apostles, so she was the messenger to the messengers of the Gospel, the messengers ordained by Christ to preach and to forgive sins with His authority (Matthew 18:18). All this hype about “equality” is a tone-deaf rendering of the roles of both men and women in the Church, which are different though complementary.

By denying St. Mary Magdalene‘s identity as a penitent, the film has omitted the awesome wonder of God’s grace working through a repentant sinner to bring the Good News that Christ conquered sin and death.

In the end, the 2018 film Mary Magdalene may be remembered for its beautiful cinematography, but it fails to deliver the salvific truth of the Gospel as ministered through the seven Sacraments instituted by Christ. The Gospel is not just about human charity and forgiveness or equality between men and women. It encompasses God’s great design for human salvation from the time of the Fall to the present day, and the movie very disappointingly lost His plot.

(Also, they forgot the donkey when Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem, foretold in Zechariah 9:9.)

Walking on My Knees with Mother Mary

By guest writer Ann Tran.

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.

___

Original post at PAPA Foundation.

St. James and Our Lady of Del Pilar

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.

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), “El apóstol Santiago y sus discípulos adorando a la Virgen del Pilar”
Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), “El apóstol Santiago y sus discípulos adorando a la Virgen del Pilar”

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.

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Image: PD-US

Spiritual Allies

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.Fra Angelico

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.

______

Image: PD-US

Why We Shouldn’t “Gloss Over” Marian Devotion

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. 

God’s Rose-Coloured Specs

Conrad von Soest, ‘Brillenapostel,’ (1403), Wikimedia Commons.

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.[1] 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 Saying

The origins of this idiom are unclear.[2] 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.[3]

For example, in Mary Boddington’s Slight Reminiscences of the Rhine, Switzerland, and a Corner of Italy (1834), the phrase is used positively in regards to a sunny youthful outlook:

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”.[4]

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”.[5] 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.

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[1] The Free Dictionary, http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/rose-coloured+glasses

[2] 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.

[3] 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

[4] Dictionary.com, “co-,” http://www.dictionary.com/browse/co-

[5] “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

Mary-ing Our Marthas

I was at a high school soccer game recently. I didn’t know the girls playing, but my second daughter was collecting the balls hit out of bounds with the rest of her soccer team. At least she was supposed to. They were focused, at first. But as the game wore on, the girls seemed more interested in working on a dance routine. My daughter participated, but eventually wandered off, choosing to spin underneath some low hanging trees instead. That’s so her style. Blissfully lost in her own world. Enjoying her life, expressing this joy through song and dance. I love watching her, whether it’s her dancing or her swinging ferociously. Her ability to escape the worries that I know school places on her, to forget her squabbles with her siblings, is inspiring. She knows how to enjoy life, how to appreciate the sun and the beauty of nature. She sees the world for the glorious gift that it is.

We are admonished to become as little children in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven. We are to trust completely in God, Our Father, knowing that He will provide for us, meeting our every need, sometimes in ways that better suit us than we can ever realize. We put our faith in Him and are not disappointed. The love and protection we come to recognize leads to trust and appreciation. It is truly a parent-child relationship. There is a peace that children have. Especially children who rest easy in the comfort of their parents’ love and protection.  There is a freedom and ease to their life; they bounce about, with few worries. What keeps us, as adults, from imitating, or seeking, this freedom? This ease? I have a never ending list of chores in my head; I rush from one task to the next. Being responsible, making sure that meals are made, the house is clean, the laundry is done. All of these are important, necessary tasks, much like school is for my children, so where is my peace? Where is my joy?

It’s a fine tightrope mothers walk. Finding that balance between Martha and Mary. There’s always so much that needs to be done, and yet these moments, these gifts from God are fleeting. And I admit, I was always sympathetic to Martha’s plight, dinner doesn’t make itself, and laundry doesn’t end up done, no matter how long you wait. It’s part of being an adult, balancing responsibilities and caring for those who depend on you. Still, we are called to be like children in relation to God. And what do children do? They delight in the world. They are free and uninhibited with their joy. I came to sit and write, at the scheduled time. I have a few minutes to drink my coffee now that the vacuuming is done before it’s time to work out. Then it will be lunch, with naptime and some school time following. My eighteen month old daughter followed me into the office, which isn’t unusual; she wanted to sit in my lap, which too isn’t unusual. And I held her, which I am very used to. But she wasn’t content to just sit, she wanted to snuggle and snuggle in such a way that her head rested on my shoulder. She’s a little thing, but still, both arms were required to hold her so. And I did. And I willed myself to not think of deadlines, of how I could move her just so and still type. I just sat and let her hair tickle my nose, her hands play with my shirt, her body melt into my arms, letting me know she was ready to sleep. But I didn’t rush her to bed. I delighted.

I delighted in the beautiful baby who is growing too fast. I delighted in the silence of the office, the bent heads engrossed in their schoolwork. I just let myself melt into the moment, pushed those worries out of my mind, even if just for a second. It is a beautiful life we lead, even if that beauty is mired in diapers, sticky hand prints, cranky children, who are always hungry. And just as we can miss the glorious sunset painting the colorful leaves as we rush from work to the numerous sports practices that await our children, we can miss the beauty of the chaotic world about us. Not that we don’t see it, but we don’t appreciate it in the moment. I’m sure that Martha was well aware how magnificent it was that Jesus was sitting there in her home. She was doing her best to keep the visit magnificent, cooking and caring for the needs of everyone, without help. And, at first glance, it seems like Jesus is ungrateful for her efforts. But He was just teaching, using her desire to love and serve to remind her of the why. The why we are so busy. It is to care for those we love, to provide for them. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the work itself, the cooking and cleaning, without remembering that it is to better care for those we love.

Martha was frustrated by the amount of work that she had to do, Mary was enjoying and delighting in the presence of those she loved. It can seem like a chore, a never ending to do list, the care and nurturing of our families. We can lose their faces to the stacks of dishes and unmade beds. So it is those moments when we let it go, we stop and delight, in which our Marthas and Marys meld. Our desires to serve and give are rejuvenated by our love and delight in those we want to give so much to. Let go of those cares, for just a moment. Let the beauty, the joy, the peace engulf you. Let your heart spin and twirl in the love that overwhelms you. Be childlike in your delight of the wonders in life. And then it’s back to work. But maybe it will seem just a little less like work.

 

Rebekah Andrews is a 2001 graduate of Thomas Aquinas college. Married to Dave since 2001, Rebekah is mother to five children. She home schools her children and works for an online school. There is no spare time for hobbies because all five children play various sports, mostly soccer. Rebekah also writes at Moments in Mediocre Motherhood.