Archive for the ‘Assumption of Mary’ Category

A Preview of our Future Glory – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15th

August 15, 2019

In the year 1950, with the world past beyond the deaths of World World II and rejoicing in the victory against evil, Pope Pius XII promulgated this joyful message:

“…For the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son – the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

As Pope Pius detailed in the decree in which he proclaimed this dogma, the Church’s belief in Mary’s Assumption into Heaven is not something new. This is evidenced by the fact that no Church in East or West claims to have her body. You can find purported (and quite probable) relics of St. Peter or St. Paul, but you will encounter no bones of St. Mary. This is because Christians everywhere believed that her body no longer remained to be found anywhere on earth.

Some people say Catholics honor Mary too much, but this is an unfounded concern. Whatever we celebrate about Mary at the same time points to and glorifies her Son. The Lord’s Ark of the Covenant, his throne, and his mother are celebrated and glorious; but the One whom the ark, the throne, and the mother bear is greater still. While the mysteries of Mary point to and glorify Jesus, the mystery of Mary’s Assumption particularly points to our future glory in Christ.

For example, as I mentioned before, Mary’s body is no longer to be found on earth. In times past and present, some have doubted whether the bodily resurrection of the dead extends beyond Jesus from his tomb. Mary in her glory is not a disembodied spirit, but united in her body and soul. This is the future destined for our bodies as well. That is why we do not treat dead bodies as trash, like dirt swept up from the floor to be thrown outside to the wind. We reverence the bodies of the dead because those bodies will rise again.

We know more about Mary after her Assumption through the Church-approved apparitions of her; such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, and other appearances. While we are not bound to believe in these apparitions, the Church – having investigated them thoroughly – has judged them to be true and worthy of belief. These apparitions indicate that Mary has been globe-traveling for nearly two thousand years.

The dogma of Mary’s Assumption leaves open the question of whether Mary ever actually died. There are traditions on both sides of the question, and Pope Pius XII merely proclaimed that she assumed after “having completed the course of her earthly life.” But in either case, whether she died or not, Mary now clearly shares in her Son’s victory over death. Death no longer has any power over her, and this will be true for all of us who rise in Christ.

A detail that seers of Mary’s apparitions agree on is that she is now exceedingly beautiful. During the years of her life on earth, Mary might not have been the most beautiful woman alive. We do not imagine that Jesus had to be the tallest or most muscular man who has ever lived, so likewise Mary need not have lived as history’s most beautiful woman either. If she had been that physically beautiful, I can easily imagine it impeding her God-given mission. But regardless, now there is no mismatch between Mary’s inner and outer beauty. This inner beauty is called holiness. Sometimes in this world the holy can look quite plain or even ugly, while the wicked can look very attractive. But after the resurrection, the abundance (or lack) of holiness we have cultivated within will be seen in our endless beauty (or ugliness) forever.

It seems that Mary, in her now-glorified body, can change aspects of her appearance. For instance, in her apparition to St. Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531 she had darker skin and black hair, like the Native Americans. But at her first Church-approved apparition in the United States, to the Belgian-immigrant Adele Brise in 1859 here in Wisconsin near Green Bay, Mary had white skin and blonde hair. And on these occasions she did not speak to them in her own original language, in Hebrew or Aramaic, but in the familiar languages of those she was speaking to. She chose to look and speak this way to them because she is their spiritual mother. And she is our mother, too.

Mary may change her hair color, skin color, and age because these are relatively unimportant details of our person; but interestingly, she never appears as a different sex. She has never appeared as a bearded man declaring, “I am the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus.” God has created Mary as a female, just as the body he created for Jesus is forever male. God made them male and female, and what God has created is very good.

In none of her apparitions has Mary ever said, “I appreciate the sentiment, I really do, but could you please let up on all the prayers? I can’t keep up with all your Hail Marys!” Just imagine having an email account with an inbox receiving a billion new messages every day. For us this would be overwhelming, but Mary’s capacity to hear, and know, and act has been heightened in her glorified state. She hears you, she knows you, and she loves you personally. This foreshadows our life in the Kingdom to come. How many close friends can a person have? Five, ten, maybe twenty? But in Heaven we will have more than a billion such friends, and the capacity to profoundly know them all and to intensely love them all will be within our ability. The practice of love in this life is a preparation for that endless day.

What is Mary’s mission after her Assumption? It’s not that different from the Visitation we hear about in today’s Gospel. Mary encounters her extended family member, Elizabeth, and comes to serve her in love, for Elizabeth is up in age and pregnant with her first child. And Mary does not come alone, but with Jesus within her, and she helps to make him known. And then Mary and Elizabeth praise and rejoice in God together: “the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name!” That is what she’s doing in her apparitions. And even after the Resurrection, that will continue to be her mission and ours; to encounter and love and serve our family in Christ, to praise and glorify God, and to rejoice with Christ and each other forever.

In conclusion, Mary’s Assumption points to our own bodily resurrection. Her beauty encourages us to pursue the beauty of holiness. She is our mother, and as long as we have God as our Father we will be their son or daughter forever. Mary knows and loves each one of us, helping us to grow in love. And her mission is our mission; to encounter and serve others, to walk with Jesus Christ, and to praise and rejoice in God. All of the mysteries of Mary point to and glorify Jesus, but the mystery of Mary’s Assumption particularly points to our future glory in Christ.

The Glorious Mysteries, Meditations with the Saints

October 27, 2010

The 1st Glorious Mystery:
The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead

St. John Bosco, an Italian priest, founded a famous school for boys in the mid-1800’s and is the patron saint of students. He is known to have worked many miracles, but one from 1849 stands out. Returning from a journey, he learned that Charles, a 15 year old student, had died. He went immediately to the teenager’s home where the family informed him that Charles had been dead for over 10 hours. The body was laid out in the living room, already dressed for burial.

Fr. Bosco asked everyone to leave except the mother and the aunt. After some time in silent prayer, he cried out: “Charles, rise!” Charles emitted a long sigh, stirred, opened his eyes, stared at his mother and asked, “Why did you dress me like this?” Then, realizing Fr. Bosco was present, he told him how he had cried out for him and how he had been waiting for him. He exclaimed, “Father, I should be in hell!” He told of how a few weeks before he had fallen into serious sin. Then he said he had a “dream” of being on the edge of a huge fiery furnace, and as he was about to be thrown into the flames, a beautiful lady appeared and prevented it. She said, “There is still hope for you, Charles. You have not yet been judged.” Then he heard the voice of Fr. Bosco calling him back.

Charles asked Fr. Bosco to hear his confession. After his confession, the mourners filled the room again, and Fr. Bosco said, “Charles, now that the gates of heaven lie wide open for you, would you rather go there or stay here with us?” A profound silence filled the room. Charles, with tears in his eyes said, “I’d rather go to heaven.” Then he leaned back on the pillows, closed his eyes and breathed his last.

Unless Jesus’ Second Coming happens first, each of us here will die, and rise. As we meditate on Jesus’ resurrection, let us consider how ready we are to meet Him.

The 2nd Glorious Mystery:
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.

St. Padre Pio is another Italian priest from not so long ago who also worked remarkable miracles. During WWII, Allied planes flew bombing raids over Italy. Almost all of the centers of the region were subjected to repeated bombardment, but no bombs ravaged the town of San Giovanni Rotondo. Every time the aviators approached that place, they saw a monk flying in the air who prevented them from dropping their bombs. Understandably, reports of this flying friar did not amuse the superior offices.

Bernardo Rosini, a general of the Italian Air Force, recounts this story: “One day, an American commander wanted to lead a squadron of bombers himself to destroy the German arms depository of war material that was located at San Giovanni Rotondo. The commander related that as he approached the target, he and his pilots saw rising in the sky the figure of a friar with his hands held outward. The bombs released of their own accord, falling in the woods, and the planes completely reversed course without any intervention by the pilots.”  

Someone told the commanding general that in a convent at this town, there lived a saintly man. At war’s end, the general wanted to go meet this person. “He was accompanied by several pilots… He went to the convent of the Capuchins. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the sacristy, he found himself in front of several friars, among whom he immediately recognized the one who had ‘stopped’ his planes. Padre Pio went forward to meet him, and putting his hand on his shoulder, he said, `So, you’re the one who wanted to get rid of us all!’”

As we meditate on the Ascension of Jesus, to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, let us pray that He would establish justice and peace, in this country and the whole world, in our time.

The 3rd Glorious Mystery:
The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

We usually don’t associate India with Christianity, but that nation has over 24 million Christians.  That’s about as many people as live in Texas, our second largest state. If you were to ask them how the faith reached their land they would point to St. Thomas the Apostle.

What led St. Thomas, who at first refused to even believe in the Good News, to travel over 2,500 miles to bring them the Gospel? It was not merely seeing the risen Christ. Jesus knew His disciples would need more to strengthen them then merely their memories of Him. St. Thomas journeyed because the Lord had sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to fill them with gifts, like wisdom, courage, and zeal.

If we are in the state of grace, God the Holy Spirit dwells in us too, and He wants to empower us with His gifts. As we meditate on the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us pray for whatever spiritual gift that we need the most.

The 4th Glorious Mystery:
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

No Church, in the East or the West, claims to contain the body of St. Mary. This is because “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This is because Jesus would not suffer Mary, His sinless, faithful beloved, to undergo corruption.

Death is a consequence of human sin, and without human intervention, as in embalming or mummification, our dead bodies will ordinarily experience its corruption. But, sometimes, the Lord preserves the dead bodies of his saints, to give a sign of their holiness, and to show that death is not all that awaits us.

Among the numerous saints whose incorrupt bodies you can still see today are:  St. John Bosco, St. John Vianney, St. Catherine Laboure (the visionary of the Miraculous Medal), St. Bernadette Soubirous (the visionary of Lourdes), and St. Maria Goretti.

As we meditate on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, let us pray for purity in our lives.

The 5th Glorious Mystery:
The Coronation of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth

Once, when St. Maximillian Kolbe was a boy, his behavior began trying his mother’s patience. She said in exasperation, “Maximillian, what will become of you?” As St. Maximillian writes, “Later, that night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.” St. Maximillian would receive both crowns, as a holy Franciscan brother, and as a victim of the Nazis at Auschwitz, were he took the place of another innocent man who was condemned to die.

Jesus crowns his holy ones. He wills that those who share in His sacrifice should also share in His glory. As we meditate on the Coronation of Mary, let us pray to accept whatever crowns of burden and glory the Lord wants to give to us.

A Veiled Beauty — The Assumption

September 2, 2010

Consider this reflection by the servant of God, Bishop Fulton Sheen:

“Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had the infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideas. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself?

Would you have made her of such a type that would make you blush because of her unwomanly and un-mother-like actions? Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed of her? Or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes; the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?”

Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother? If you who hate selfishness would have made her selfless and you who hate ugliness would have made her beautiful, do you not think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?”

Fulton Sheen thought that Mary was, in every respect, the most beautiful woman who had ever lived. However, if we had been travelers walking through the small town of Nazareth during the reign of Emperor Tiberius, I’m not sure that we would have recognized God’s greatest creature as we passed by her. I imagine that her face may have looked quite ordinary, apart from her beautifully, loving smile. Her Son, was the all-beautiful God become man, yet it seems that Jesus was not the most handsome man alive. As the prophet Isaiah says of Him, “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.” (Is 53) Perhaps Jesus and Mary had ordinary physical features on earth because having extraordinary appearances would have impeded their missions.

Yet now, invested with heavenly glory, Jesus and Mary possess a beauty greater than anyone in history. The perfection of love, goodness, purity and virtue within them shines through their exterior in a way that captivates those who behold them. Jesus told St. Faustina to commission a painting of how He appeared to her. When Faustina saw the artist’s quality work she dissappointedly lamented, “[Jesus,] Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?” The young visionaries at Fatima and Lourdes we struck by how very beautiful the mysterious lady was. And when St. Bernadette visited the grotto for the last time she remarked, “I have never seen her so beautiful before.” There is more to a beauty of this kind than natural appearance.

Why does the Church celebrate Mary’s Assumption? Because this solemnity not only celebrates her, but points to Church’s future. Virgin Mary is the icon, the image, of our Church. Jesus Christ’s Church is Marian. What she did, we are called to do; and where she has gone, we are called to follow. What Christ has done for Mary, He shall do for His Church on the last day. My previous reflections on the ordinary, appearances of Jesus and Mary probably had on earth only goes to show that external appearances can veil the true reality of things. 

Men judge by appearances, and they often misjudge. Many will drive past this building this hour without realizing the wondrous beauty of what is happening here inside. Many fail to see the beauty of Christ’s one, Catholic Church, for which this world was made and through which this world is saved. Many people see the beauty of exterior flesh, but not the beauty of the soul. Yet after the Last Judgment, everyone will see the most homely saint become radiant with beauty, and the most attractive sinner become repellant.

Mary is the first and greatest member of Jesus Christ’s Church. At the end of her unassuming life on earth Jesus lifted up her up body and soul into Heaven and gave her a beauty unmatched in history. He will do the same thing for His Church someday, and He desires to do the same for each of us. You and I are called to follow Mary in following Christ; to imitate their love, goodness, purity and virtue. Despite any appearances to the contrary, in this veiling and deceptive world, we are called to share in a beauty and glory like theirs.

August 14 – Vigil of the Assumption of Mary

August 17, 2009

When I was younger, I used to wonder why Mary was such a big deal. It wasn’t that I was against her or anything. I prayed Hail Mary’s to her, and I wasn’t out to deny anything our Church said about her. I just didn’t understand why we, as Catholics, honored her so much.

Some people say that Mary is no big deal, that she’s just another Christian.  They might point to today’s Gospel as evidence, where a woman from the crowd calls out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed.”  And Jesus replies, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” “So you see,” they would say, “it’s nothing special to be the mother of Jesus.” But in this Gospel Jesus is not denying Mary’s greatness, He is rather affirming it.

If Mary had merely been the biological mother of Jesus, delivering Him, and nursing Him, she might have been just another Christian. But Mary is most blessed among the disciples of Christ, of which she is the first, because she heard the word of God and observed it. She heard the word of God from the angel Gabriel and answered,

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

The overwhelming evidence for Mary’s exceptional glory, and her unique loveliness, is to be found throughout the Bible. The two Testaments, the Old, together with the New, show us why Mary is worthy of our great admiration and deserving of our special affection.

In the first reading we heard of the ark, the ark of the covenant, which you may remember seeing in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The ark was a wooden box, plated with gold inside and out, with two gold statues of winged angels on its lid.  This box, the ark, was carried about using two long polls, since men would be struck down if they touched the holy ark. The ark bore the presence of the Lord, it was His throne amidst His people.

The Lord had told Moses, who constructed the ark, according to the Lord’s precise specifications, to have some interesting things placed inside of it.  First, the wooden staff of Aaron, which had miraculously grown shoots and blossoms. Second, the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments which were written by God’s own hand. And third, an urn full of manna, the food which the Lord had given his people to eat during the Exodus.

That was the ark of the Old Testament.
Mary is the ark of the New Testament.

As the ark was a box of wood, plated with precious gold, inside and out, so Mary was a human being, surrounded and filled with divine grace. Like the dead wood of Aaron’s staff, which (naturally speaking) should not have borne life, the Virgin Mary miraculously blossomed life within her. Unlike the written word of God in stone, Mary carried within her the eternal Word of God in flesh. Mary borne within herself the true bread from heaven, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the first reading we heard how David led the ark of God’s presence into Jerusalem.  The ark’s coming to Jerusalem is also commemorated in the psalm we heard.  Jerusalem is sometimes poetically referred to as Zion, since Mt. Zion was the place of the temple in Jerusalem.

Just as the Lord’s presence came into Zion, the presence of the Lord came to dwell in Mary. Nine times out of ten, whatever Scripture says of Zion or Jerusalem, also goes for Mary. Mary is Jerusalem.  She is Zion.

“For the Lord has chosen Zion;”
says the Psalm
He prefers her for his dwelling.
Zion is my resting place forever;
In her will I dwell, for I prefer her.”

And, nine times out of ten, whatever can be said of Mary, also applies to Christ’s Church. Mary is the icon of the Church.

So, as you can see, Mary is a big deal. And none of us is more admirable, praiseworthy, and sweetly loveable than her.

‘Therefore her heart is glad and her soul rejoices,
her body, too, abides in confidence;
because God did not abandon her soul to the netherworld,
nor would He suffer His faithful one to undergo corruption.’

He assumed His beloved into heaven. Thanks be to God, who gave Mary this victory over death, through her Lord and ours, Jesus Christ.

August 15 – The Assumption of Mary

August 17, 2009

When I was younger, I used to wonder why Mary was such a big deal. It wasn’t that I was against her or anything. I prayed Hail Mary’s to her, and I wasn’t out to deny anything our Church said about her. I just didn’t understand why we, as Catholics, honored her so much.

Yet, the overwhelming evidence for Mary’s exceptional glory, and her unique loveliness, is to be found throughout the Bible. The two Testaments, the Old, together with the New, show us why Mary is worthy of our great admiration and deserving of our special affection.

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve.  An angel came to Eve, and tested her trust in God. Eve failed the test, and took the fruit, and gave it to Adam. Together, their actions led to the fall of humanity, and because she was “the mother of all the living,” the sad consequences of their sin propagated down to us and to all of their children. But, as St. Paul teaches, Jesus Christ is the “New Adam,” who, by his obedience, restores what was lost by the Old Adam’s disobedience.

“For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.”

So Christ is the New Adam, but where is the New Eve? Mary is the New Eve. An angel came to Mary, and her trust in God was tested. Mary answered,

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”

Mary passed the test with trust and obedience, and she gave the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity a body.  The New Eve gave the New Adam the fruit of her womb. Because Mary said at the Annunciation, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” Jesus could say in the garden, “Lord, not my will, but yours be done.”Together, their actions led to the salvation of humanity.  The happy effects of their faithfulness extend to all of us.  Mary is the new “mother of all the living,” that is, the mother of all Christians. Mary’s motherhood of all Christians, as Eve was the mother of all the living, is reflected in the Book of Revelation.

In Revelation, there is seen a glorious woman, who bears a son destined to rule all nations. (There are multiple senses of meaning here, but this woman and child, must in part represent Jesus and His mother Mary.) There is a dragon, who is the devil, poised to devour the woman’s child, but the Son escapes the Evil One’s grasp.

“Then,” Revelation says, “the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.”

Mary’s offspring are those who keep God’s commands and bear witness to Jesus.

In the Gospel of John we see that Jesus on the cross entrusted Mary to us as our mother, and entrusted us to Mary as her children.

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’”

The “beloved disciple” here stands for each of us as Jesus’ disciples.  Each of us is beloved by Christ and each of us has Mary as a blessed mother.

Mary is indeed, “blessed among women,” as Elizabeth declared in the Gospel. Mary knows that she is most blessed, but she is also the most humble, because she knows the source of all her greatness:

“From this day, all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.”

Every time we call her the Blessed Virgin Mary, this prophesy is fulfilled for our time.

So, as you can see, Mary is a big deal. And none of us is more admirable, praiseworthy, and sweetly loveable than her.

‘Therefore her heart is glad and her soul rejoices,
her body, too, abides in confidence;
because God did not abandon her soul to the netherworld,
nor would He suffer His faithful one to undergo corruption.’ 

He assumed His beloved into heaven. Thanks be to God, who gave Mary this victory over death, through her Lord and ours, Jesus Christ.