THE LOVELY MONTH OF MAY

April 26, 2012

 

As strange as it may seem to some of us, the time is almost May! With the early spring and negligible winter, we are confronted with a beautiful and symbolic month. It’s time once more for May Altars and May Crownings; all those wonderful rituals of our “cultural” faith that remind us of our deep love and admiration for the Mother of God.

 

The great Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1890) wrote a beautiful poem entitled: “The May Magnificat.” It begins simply enough:

May is Mary’s month, and I

Muse at that and wonder why –

There is, of course, much more to the poem, but for our purposes the object of the poet’s musing does stir some curiosity for us, I’m sure. As we know, the various months of the year are dedicated and held sacred for various aspects of our spiritual lives. For example, next month, we shall honor the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in June, July the Most Precious Blood, and so forth.

 

May, however, is Mary’s month and it is certainly good for us to sanctify the time with Our Mother. Simply enough, May is the month filled with the somewhat steady growth of fresh blossoms and beautiful flowers. May is Mary’s month, the month for spring’s return of flowers. As the flowers return we honor Mary whom we call the "Mystical Rose."

 

The Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin arose at the end of the 13th century. In this way, the Church was able to Christianize the secular feasts that took place at various times. In the 16th century, books appeared and fostered this devotion.

 

The practice became especially popular among the members of the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits – and by 1700 it took hold among their students at their college in Rome and a bit later it was publicly practiced in the Church of the Gesu in Rome. From there it spread to the whole Church.

 

The month lends itself so perfectly for us to contemplate and celebrate Mary. It is typically Easter season, the time when we clearly reflect upon the newborn Church’s infancy. Who better to consider in this than our Mother, to whom our Blessed Savior Himself commended the Church as He died on the cross? Who better leads us to ponder the Mysteries of Salvation – the Risen Lord – the Descent of the Holy Spirit – than the Woman who led the Apostles in these very events when they took place in our history? This season of refreshment and renewal is part of God’s great audio-visual production – a great display of being, that is meant to remind us of His love and His life.

 

 

Mary’s unique place in salvation history is celebrated during the month of May in a big way with the Solemnity of the Ascension and Pentecost typically found in this month. Mary, as the Mother of the New People, leads us and helps the Apostles to form the Church. She, who guided Jesus Himself in His earthly life, guides His Bride, the Church, as she takes her first steps into the world in His name, filled with the Spirit of His mission.

 

I believe the words of Pope Paul VI, from his encyclical “The Month of May,” (April 29, 1965) can be of great consolation and inspiration to us as we begin the month of May, 2012.

 

We are delighted and consoled by this pious custom associated with the month of May, which pays honor to the Blessed Virgin and brings such rich benefits to the Christian people. Since Mary is rightly to be regarded as the way by which we are led to Christ, the person who encounters Mary cannot help but encounter Christ likewise. For what other reason do we continually turn to Mary except to seek the Christ in her arms, to seek our Savior in her, through her, and with her? To Him men are to turn amid the anxieties and perils of this world, urged on by duty and driven by the compelling needs of their heart, to find a haven of salvation, a transcendent fountain of life.

Because the month of May is a powerful incentive to more frequent and fervent prayers, and because our petitions more readily find access to her compassionate heart during it, it has been a favorite custom of our predecessors to choose this month, dedicated to Mary, for urging the Christian people to offer up public prayers whenever the needs of the Church demanded it or some grave crisis threatened the human race. This year, Venerable Brothers, we in turn feel compelled to call for such prayers from the whole Catholic world. Looking at the present needs of the Church and the status of world peace, We have sound reasons to believe that the present hour is especially grave and that a plea for concerted prayer on the part of all Christians is a matter of top priority.

…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

WE’RE NOT THERE YET

April 12, 2012

 

I hear from more and more folks about their support of the bishops and our unified fight for religious freedom. Thank you. Your support in this effort is needed and appreciated more than you know. Please keep up the work. Stay in contact with our legislators in Washington. Let them know that you know this is an assault on American freedom. This is not a “war on women.” This is not a “contraception controversy.” This is a violation of our American civil liberty and a violation of the United States Constitution – an outrage to patriotic Americans.

 

Earlier today I read a post on the Campus Notes The Cardinal Newman Society blog regarding Fr. Paul Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, inviting Catholics to consider the model of St. Thomas More when defending their rights in this struggle. St. Thomas More, you will remember was beheaded for refusing to take the oath of loyalty to King Henry VIII after Henry divorced his wife, publically repudiated and displaced the pope, and set himself as the head of the church in England.

 

Fr. Scalia points out that history shows stunning signs of repetition in the current HHS mandate of the Administration. I share a bit of the article with you here.

 

We do well to recall this history in light of the unjust Health and Human Services mandate handed down this Jan. 20. The similarities are striking and instructive.

Just as in St. Thomas’ day it was a moral issue that precipitated the larger crisis, so also in our day. The Church’s teaching on contraception is at the core of this crisis. We can – and should – say many things about this teaching. It is one of the most important, challenging and beautiful of the Church’s doctrines. But the teaching itself – as important as it is – really just occasions another, broader issue. The crisis now before us between the bishops and the administration turns on the rights of the Church and the rights of man: the Church’s right of self-governance and the rights of individual conscience.

Henry VIII redefined the Church in England. It is not too much to say that by the HHS mandate, the administration seeks to do likewise in the United States. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, asks the question: Can a government bureau define for us or any faith community what is ministry and how it can be exercised? Of course not. The Church has the right to define herself and not be told by outside authorities what does or does not define her work.

And not only that, by certain statements, the administration and some members of Congress have, in effect, lectured the bishops about what the Church should do or think. By so doing, they have inserted themselves into the internal workings of the Church. For example, they have observed that many if not most Catholic women use contraception at some point, and therefore we should not make an issue of the mandate.

Unfortunately, their observation has some legitimacy: This has been one of the most neglected teachings of the Church in the past 40 or so years. Sadly, there has been a great deal of confusion, division and sometimes disobedience regarding it. But these are issues for the Church herself to address. Such internal matters of the Church are certainly not the business of public authorities to lecture us on or, worse, to exploit for political purposes. All we ask is that the Church be allowed to be the Church – without any outside coercion regarding our identity, doctrine and ministry. We do not need government officials to tell us who we are, what we believe or what our ministry is. We know these things well.

There is a second similarity between St. Thomas More’s crisis and our own. Henry VIII’s actions did not end with the Church as an institution. They extended to individuals, beginning with Thomas More in his retirement. So also this present crisis concerns not only the rights of the Church as an institution but also the right of every individual not to have his conscience forced. Since the mandate is imposed not only on Catholic institutions, but on all providers of employee health insurance, the individual Catholic as private citizen will suffer the injustice of this law. Just as Thomas More was not left unoppressed, neither will the individual Catholic be today. He too can be made to violate his conscience by conformity to this ruling.

Finally, there is a third parallel between our crisis and More’s. Just as Catholics were penalized in England, so also – as Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, has speculated – the Church and individual Catholic employers may have to pay a fine for not obeying the mandate. In effect, a fee to be Catholic.

Fr. Scalia points out that while history tends to repeat itself, it does not inevitably do so. If it does, however, then we must deliberately choose to imitate – to repeat – the witness of St. Thomas More.

You can read the piece by Fr. Scalia in its entirety at these links: the  Arlington Catholic Herald, the Catholic News Agency and The Cardinal Newman Society

Stay informed and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

A PEOPLE WHO WALK IN LIGHT

April 5, 2012

 

I take this opportunity to wish you a Blessed Easter, everyone. This is a most spectacular event and it colors all of our lives – everyday! This event in our human history unites us with divinity in a most extraordinary and irrevocable way. This is where hope is born and sustained in the life of the human being. We are created by God so that we may live with God. If we can keep our eyes pretty well fixed on that reality, we can make some tremendous achievements at enduring some of the extreme challenges that face us this side of paradise.

 

We tend to take far too simplistic a view to the great feasts – the truly historic events – of our salvation. We tend to see things in little pictures. At Christmas, we see the Baby Jesus in the manger; during Lent, we see a Man of Sorrows; at Easter, the Risen Christ; at Ascension, the “disappearing” Jesus; and the rest of year, there is very little thought of his presence and impact on our daily lives. It’s almost like we are believing what the world believes: “if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” Baloney!

 

I invite you to enter into the light of Christ this Easter. Make a plan to move into the awareness of mystery in your life – the mystery of Christ present everyday, with you and beside you, close to you and within you. In every feast the Church has the whole of Christ’s life present before Her, even when She selects a special time to celebrate particular events – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, etc. All of this revolves around two significant and earth shaking events: the death and resurrection of Jesus. These events are always in front of the eyes of the believer. Jesus has died for us and He is risen from the dead for us.

 

We celebrate these events at every Mass. The Mass is not just a ritual that is performed for us because the Church made a rule for us to be there. The Mass expresses our very selves filled with a knowledge and hope of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gloriously alive, right now.

 

I find this knowledge and hope to be a great comfort and strength for me as I strive to make my way in this world that seems to be filled with so many contrary ideas. So much death, so much pain, so much desire for things we cannot afford and do not need.

 

I need to know that I am loved. I need to know that, no matter what, someone cares for me more than I could ever dream – He is my Savior. He is alive. I know it and it is here that I find my consolation and the energy to live another day confident of his return – just for me!

 

Blessed Easter, everybody; and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!