This important Marian feast occurs during Advent, a season of watchful and prayerful preparation for Christmas. She who knew better than anyone how to wait attentively for the Lord guides us and shows us how to make more vital and active our journey to the Holy Night of Bethlehem. With her, we spend these weeks in prayer and, guided by her bright star, hasten to make the spiritual journey that will lead us to celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation with greater intensity.”
~ Pope St. John Paul II
Dear Lord, Today we are reminded of the many blessings you have generously bestowed upon us. For all these gifts both tangible and intangible, we “Thank You” from the bottom of our hearts. We pray that we continue to live each day with gratitude. Never forgetting that everthing has been given by you and comes from you. We pray that we find you in all things so in all things we find your love, your kindness, and your mercy. May we endeavor to return this gratitude by living a life pleasing to you and generously sharing your gifts with others. Amen.
Recently, my wife and I watched the excellent movie, The Song of Bernadette, the story of St. Bernadette Soubirous, the seer of Lourdes. One scene in particular was especially moving: After the village school children completed their lessons well, a priest rewards them for their good behavior by giving them holy cards. Now, a holy card doesn’t sound particularly exciting to us, and most of us probably have more than we know what to do with. But the children in the movie were overjoyed. Most of them were incredibly poor, barely able to heat their homes, and having a “holy picture” was a luxury they had never experienced.
This scene got my wife and me thinking about how much we have and how much we take for granted.
Americans, and all those in the developed Western world, have a serious problem with ingratitude. We have so many luxuries that we don’t even see them any more. In the summer, we live in air conditioned comfort. In the winter, we have heat available instantly, without having to scrounge for firewood to fuel a meager fire. Rather than walking miles and miles to get water, we turn on the faucet. Our grocery stores, and our cabinets, are bursting with every imaginable food. Almost every American owns a smart phone, and giant flat screen TVs are in every home. Any and every imaginable convenience is only a shopping trip away.
And because we have so much, we face the serious, soul destroying danger of materialism. Did you know that 1 in 10 Americans has to rent a storage unit to store all their extra stuff?And yet we want even more. Every year, people are trampled to death by the stampedes of shoppers on Black Friday, and countless Americans are drowning in credit card debt because they bought things they didn’t need and couldn’t afford.
Materialism is at bottom the idolatry of things. While some of these things may be good in themselves, seeking our happiness in them, instead of God, is a spiritual sickness. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “How hardly shall the rich enter the kingdom of heaven.” Loving stuff more than God can literally kill our souls and keep us out of heaven if we aren’t careful.
So how can we combat this materialism? How can we keep our souls alive when the comforts and luxuries we enjoy desensitize us to the goodness of God? Here are three simple ways.
1. Gratitude – Gratitude flows from humility. When we realize that we are completely dependent upon God for everything we have, including our very existence, we begin to see everything as a gift. “Blessed is he that expecteth,” said Chesterton, “for he shall be gloriously surprised.” The difficult part is to take notice of these gifts and then appreciate them as undeserved favors from God. This doesn’t come naturally, it is an art we have to cultivate.
One way to take better notice of God’s gifts is to start a gratitude journal. Once a week, or even once a day, write down all the things you are thankful for. This practice will make you more attentive to all that you have.
2. Detachment – The saints constantly speak of detachment from the things of the world. What does this mean practically speaking? It means you don’t need anything to be happy except God. It means you use things and love God, rather than loving things and using God. It means your heart is completely free.
Have you ever noticed that sprinters wear very little clothing? Their outfits are minimalist because they don’t want layers weighing them down. The less clothing they have, the fast they can run. It is the same in the spiritual life. The less our hearts are weighed down by attachments and desires, the faster we can run towards heaven.
3. Generosity – Giving is an excellent antidote to greed. It helps us realize that all that we have really isn’t ours anyway. When we realize that everything we have is a gift from God, rather than something we are entitled to, we are much more likely to share it with others.
Even if you don’t feel generous or particularly want to give, do it anyway. The practice will help sever those attachments to possessions and make us grateful for what we have. You will also find that there is great joy in giving—much more so than there ever is in taking. “Give and it will be given to you,” said Jesus. God is generous to us in proportion to our generosity to others.
In Everything Give Thanks
We are all blessed in countless ways that we hardly notice. God our Father will not be outdone in generosity. Yet, far too often, all we can see is what we don’t have, and we grumble and complain. This ingratitude is sinful and it grieves the heart of God.
Let’s make a concerted effort to be grateful for our numberless blessings and to keep our hearts detached from material things, remembering the admonition of St. Paul, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Resource: The Catholic Gentleman
“To succeed in your intentions, entrust yourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary always, but especially in moments of difficulty and darkness. ‘From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God…Learn from her to be always faithful, to trust that God’s Word to you will be fulfilled, and that nothing is impossible with God.’”
– St. John Paul II
Can you imagine a being that is able to be present everywhere at the same time eternally? Modern society can easily associate this kind of ability as belonging to a superhero… suited for one of a multitude of characters from Marvel or Dc Comics. They may even contest that there are cooler and more useful superpowers than it such as flying, supersonic hearing, the ability to climb walls, or teleportation to name a few.
Each superhero has very distinct skills and talents to fight the evil of their day, but they are all fictional characters written by talented writers with a flair for imagination. To be Omnipresent belongs not to the creation of man, but the Creator of man. While superheroes discover how their powers can be used to help conquer evils, God’s nature as being omnipresent was there before evil entered the world. By His very nature, He is omnipresent not for the sake of anything or anyone..it is who He is.
If we want to know ourselves fully well than we must learn who created us and who He made us to be. So the question arises, if the one true God is omnipresent then what are humans? How are we to exist in time? Unlike God who is always present, we are not. He made us to be in the “now” of time.
We had a beginning and we have a future with Him forever, but we can only exist right this very moment. In Isaiah 43:18, we are reminded by God of how we are to live in relation to time,”Remember not the events of the past” and Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
When we try to live in either the past or future for which we were not made to exist then this is where our anxiety, stresses, disappointments, nostalgia, handicaps, and fears come from. Many are robbed of the full joy given by Christ by attempting to live omnipresent like God, though not a true omnipresence but a false one. We cannot fully experience life in any dimension in time but right now.
So how can we practice being present in the moment? This brings me to the recitation of the Holy Rosary. This is a wonderful prayerful tool that brings us to the present moment while connecting us with the timelessness of God and with His mother and the saints. Receiving Eucharistic Jesus is another way to be present. Being intentional about gratitude, being kind, loving, and merciful are all good ways to be in present moment. How will you practice living the truth that God has revealed in your life right now?
By Mom Contributor
To give worthy praise to the Lord’s mercy, we unite ourselves with Your Immaculate Mother, for then our hymn will be more pleasing to You, because She is chosen from among men and angels. Through Her, as through a pure crystal, Your mercy was passed on to us. Through Her, man became pleasing to God; Through Her, streams of grace flowed down upon us.”
– St. Faustina
Fall is my all time favorite season! The color of the leaves, the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin spice, the taste of apple cider, doughnuts, and pies, and much more make this season special.
Another reason to love fall is Thanksgiving, celebrated in November. All anticipate the merry making and the scrumptious feast that family and friends will be partaking on Thanksgiving Day. Americans celebrate this day in remembrance of the historical meal shared by the Native Americans and the Pilgrims. Some however, have spiced this day up a bit by incorporating gratitude for all the blessings received making this day a “A Day to Give Thanks”.
My family is one that celebrates this day with a spice of extra gratitude. For there really is nothing that God has given that is not a gift. Our family, our friends, untangible and tangible possessions from our health to the food on our table all come from God’s goodness and love.
God presents us with gifts in different forms, in different wrappings at different times. Some gifts are more appealing than others and some gifts we might want to return (if only it came with a gift receipt) but nonetheless, these presents are lovingly chosen and wrapped by God. He knows exactly what we need.
This month we talk about gratitude and what it means to have a grateful heart. We will explore the role of humility in acknowledging God’s blessing and how being grateful leads to an over all happier life. We will look to our Blessed Mother for inspiration in accepting God’s Will with gratitude and acknowledge that all that we are and all that we have is a BLESSING.
The Battle of Lepanto
October has been traditionally dedicated to the honor of Our Lady of the Rosary and the recitation of her Rosary. Her feast is celebrated on the 7th of October, in memory of the Victory believed to have been brought about through her intercession by the faithful, reciting herRosary. It was in 1571 that this battle, crucial for the survival of the Church then was waged between the Holy League, as it was called, composed of a patchwork of some Spanish and Italianfleets against the overwhelmingly huge naval fleet of the Ottoman Empire with a large array of warships tens of thousands of men trained in naval warfare. It was not only a war between opposing armies but between two religions, Christians and Muslims, a war where the Christians were definitely at the losing end. It was fought at Lepanto, hence the famous Battle of Lepanto. Miraculously the Holy League prevailed despite their enormous disadvantage. The Turks were mercilessly routed. It was Our Lady’s victory for the Church. The faithful with the Blessed Mother’s light, the rosary, prevailed over defeat, over darkness.
Once again this year, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called all Catholics all over the world to pray the rosary particularly on the of month of October for a very urgent reason. Another battle! The Vatican Press Office said the Pope wants “ all to join in communion and in penitence as the People of God , asking the Holy Mother of God and St Michael the Archangel to protect the Church from the Devil who always seeks to separate us from God and from each other) The Pope says, He ( the Devil) is the Great Accuser who goes around the world to accuse people. He reminds us that “in moments of great spiritual turbulence, we take shelter beneath the mantle of the Holy Mother of God.”
Pope Francis, being a Jesuit, keen on this perennial battle and schooled in the Ignatian meditation of the Spiritual Exercises on the battle between the two standards, that of Jesus, the other of the Devil, perceives this menace in our midst today: the Devil has escalated his war against humanity particularly the Church and her faithful. This conflict started way back in the Garden of Eden and which will continue until he is finally defeated in the end of time; when God iscompletely glorified by all. The devil is helpless before God so he strikes against humankind as it is created in God’s image and likeness.
We are aware of these wars being waged on many fronts in our world today: nations at arms against each other particularly in the Middle East but also beyond, some for racial reasons, others, religious; Many die as the martyr’s in these persecutions. There are threats of war amongpowerful nations, all creating unrest and uncertainties among countless peoples. Grave calamitieshit different countries both rich and poor and the devastation of nature and properties. The Holy Father have all these in his mind, most especially what is happening in the Church under his care, divisions and dissensions under his apostolic office; sexual abuses and scandals among priests, bishops even Cardinals; The disheartening apostasy from the faith in the Catholic Church, the repudiation of many Catholic tenets, like the sanctity of marriage, the inviolability of life, particularly of the unborn of the; the family is endangered and the future of humanity is not ensured. The Enemy has seemingly the upper hand in the affairs of the world; He has entered every area of life particularly the family and is determined to win. Signs of the Impending end times? Pope Francis says “only prayer can defeat him.” And the prayer he asks is the Rosary.
Fatima and the Rosary
Our Lady at Fatima has made repeated appeals to pray the rosary every day. On May 13 1917 she said to the three children:”Say the rosary every day to bring peace to the world and end of the war.” World War I was about to start then. Nowadays we believe that prayers of the rosary worldwide have averted the danger of a World War III .Nevertheless it is very apparent that we are still in war and it is against the Snares of the Devil in our daily life. This is the battle that the Pope is warning us against and more. Let me quote again from Our Lady’s message from the Blue Book “ Continue to recite it (the rosary)…thus responding to the invitation which the first of my beloved sons, the Vicar of Jesus, has so urgently made to you.”(msg. 182,e) In this message Our Lady affirms and concurs with appeal the Pope has made. The Church in heaven and earth are clearly united in battling against him whom Our Lady calls, her Adversary.(Blue Book passim)
Mary and the Blue Book
In order to understand better why the Church, the Popes in history and Pope Francis insist in the recitation of the Holy Rosary let us look into the messages of Our Lady, received through interior locutions by Fr Stefano Gobbi of the Marian Movement of Priests and compiled in the so called “Blue Book” used in cenacles and dubbed “the school of Mary”. They are in consonance with the messages of Our Lady in Fatima but now addressed to priests and consequently also to the laity (604 in all, from 1973 – 1997). While these messages have no Papal approval they carry several imprimaturs , meaning there is nothing contrary to faith or morals in the manuscript. The proof of authentic spiritual and even pastoral value can be gleaned from the response they have received all over the world from priests, bishops, even Cardinals ,of course, the Popes from Pope St John Paul II on and more numerous than the clergy are the laity. (The messages will be in italics, together with the message number and line or paragraph.)
Let us listen to our Lady: She asks, “Why is the rosary so efficacious” (275e)
And she gives this answer to her question ”Because it is a simple prayer, a humble one and it forms you spiritually in littleness, in meekness, in simplicity of heart”. (.275f ) “It is a prayer that you say together with me.(275,i)
Our Lady prays with us in this simple prayer and forms us in her own spirituality of simplicity littleness and meekness . How does he form us. She outlines for us:
“By contemplating its mysteries, you are led to understand the plan of Jesus, as spelled out in all of his life, from the Incarnation, to the consummation of this glorious Pasch, and thus you penetrate ever more profoundly into the mystery of the Redemption.
And you begin to understand this mystery of love through your heavenly Mother; moving through the passage way of her heart, you gain possession of the immense treasure of the divine and burning charity of the Heart of Christ “.
In the rosary you are formed for the perfect glory of the Father with the frequent repetition of Jesus taught you: ‘Our Father who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come.
You are also formed for the everlasting adoration of the Most Holy Trinity with the recital of the ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.’” (275,n,o,p,q)
Our Lady has given us explanation of the very core of our faith expressed In a very simple yet powerful prayer as we will see latter. It is not just recitation much less is it a like repetitious mantra to obtain something but truly a meditation and formation into the mystery of salvation in our Lord Jesus. To explain her messages will be superfluous. We will continue to quote this message in the hope that we will see another dimension of the Rosary that the Holy Father wants us to open up to.
“Today your Holy Mother asks you to make use of the Holy Rosary as the most efficacious weapon for the fighting of the great battle, under the command of the ‘Woman clothed with the Sun,’
“Give your support to my invitation; multiply your cenacles of prayer and fraternity; consecrate yourselves to my Immaculate Heart; frequently recite the Rosary! Then the powerful Red Dragon will be shackled be this chain, and his margin of action will become ever more restricted. In the end he will be left impotent and powerless and harmless.
“The miracle of the triumph of my Immaculate Heart will be made manifest to all.” (275, r,s,t,)
Mary’s Final Battle
Every time we pray the Rosary, we pray for our personal intentions or private intentions ask by others for us to pray for. This view and use of the rosary while valid is in complete. The rosary indeed is a very useful prayer for obtaining favors for our or other’s needs. But Our Lady herself invites us to see further from ourselves and from our small needs. She invites us to look at our world from the from vantage point of God. God and His work of salvation for His creation where Mary, the Mother of His Son is a docile cooperator. She received the task of Motherhood of us at the foot of the cross from her dying Son.. The reason of His death was our sins. Mary was to take care of us with Him. Being a good and loving Mother, She wants everything good for her sons. She wants to guard them from sin and the cause of sin, the Evil one. From creation on in Scriptures the “Woman clothed with the Sun” (Rev 12,1) who would be taunted by the Dragon. …Angry with the woman and (he) went off to wage war with the rest of her offspring.(Rev. 12, 17) Our Lady knows that the role of that woman has been assigned to her to war against the Dragon and ultimately to defeat him. The Devil is proud and full of lies and wiles and he uses all means to entice to sin. Our Lady is humble and full of truth and holiness and her only weapon is a fragile rosary that will be the ‘’chain that will shackle him’.
The triumph of her Immaculate Heart will coincide with the triumph of the reign of the Lamb, of Her Son Jesus. (he Blue Book , passim) Pope Francis I am sure refers also to this final battle and victory. The Battle of Lepanto was just a prelude. The definitive defeat of the Dragon will still be wrought through the rosary of our Lady. Our daily rosary involves us in this battle to prepare us for this victory. This gives us hope. Every rosary is a step towards that victory.
Beyond October and always
The call of our Lady of Fatima is for the achievement of peace and conversion of sinners. Peace is a fruit of conversion, among nations, communities, families, and in our hearts as we are all sinners. She assures us it is her rosary that will be her weapon to achieved the triumph of herImmaculate Heart and the reign of the Eucharistic Lord. She asks for daily rosary. The call therefore goes beyond the month of October. It should be part of our daily routine however should not be said routinely but with devotion, taking our active role in her final battle for peace..“Pray for us of Holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
By Religious Contributor Monsignor Pagulayan
To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and His mother.”
~ Saint John Paul II