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In celebrating the centenary of St. Therese of Lisieux, we honor “Papa God” who formed His little daughter into a replica of God’s mas­terpiece, Mary Immaculate. At age six Therese wrote, “I want to be a very good girl. The Blessed Virgin is my dear Mother and little children usually resemble their mother.” Therese became, as it were, an extension of the Blessed Virgin by her perfect imitation of her virtues. It is pre­cisely Mary’s hidden virtues, her ordinary life at Nazareth, which are ech­oed in the life and writings of St. Therese whose life and writings were Marian from beginning to end.

However, unlike Mary, Therese was born with Original Sin. The Immaculate Conception sets Mary apart from all God’s creatures. Thus, we may be tempted to feel estranged from her. Not so St. Therese. She would say that she was more blessed being Therese than Mary, because then she could love and admire Mary, whom she recognized as “more Mother than Queen.”   Therese seems to “borrow” from the theology of how Mary could be immaculately conceived and still be redeemed when, speaking of herself, Therese writes, “… Jesus has forgiven me more than St. Mary Magdalene since He forgave me in advance by preventing me from falling. I was preserved from it only through God’s mercy!” Apply­ing this to Our Lady: unlike the rest of men who are conceived in original sin, she received the greatest possible mercy, the perfect redemption, free­dom from sin at the moment of her conception in anticipation of her Son’s redemptive death. Like Mary, Therese considered this preventive mercy a precious gift. When she made a general confession of her whole life in her first months in Carmel her confessor “spoke the most consoling words I ever heard in my life: ‘In the presence of God, the Blessed Virgin, and all the Saints, I DECLARE THAT YOU HAVE NEVER COMMITTED A MORTAL SIN. . . . Thank God for what He has done for you.’ … and gratitude flooded my soul.”

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Let us state immediately and with fervor that, in one sense, the Immaculate Heart of Mary has already triumphed. In one true sense, Our Lady has already conquered and the definitive victory belongs to Her. Bl. Dom Columba Marmion confirms this: “Her privileges have raised her above all creatures and now she reigns triumphant in Heaven on the right hand of Jesus as Queen of the Angels and of the Saints.”(1) In this article we will treat of the triumphant Heart of Mary as Immaculate, Maternal, Sorrowful, and Glorious. Then we will respond to a question regarding the prophecy of Fatima about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and our role in bringing about such a triumph.

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The Virgin Mary possessed wisdom in superabundance. The divine wisdom possessed by all the Apostles, Church Fathers and Doctors put together remain but a dim reflection of the fullness of resplendent wisdom residing in the Immaculate Heart of our dearest Mother and Teacher, Mary.

On the level of mere natural understanding and penetration of truth, the Immaculate Virgin did not have the intellectual dullness and darkness consequent to original sin. She possessed a keenness of intellect that surpassed all creatures, even the Angels, since She was eternally predestined to be the Mother of God and was therefore given singular graces to fulfill this role from the moment She came into being. However, wisdom goes beyond natural knowledge of things, and even surpasses the Spirit’s gift of understanding which accompanies faith. Wisdom is not content with knowing and believing in the truth revealed by God. No, wisdom desires union with that truth—wisdom loves the truth it knows; wisdom tastes and savors the truth believed; and wisdom judges all things in light of this divine truth. […]

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When one speaks of St. Maximilian one spontaneously thinks of his martyrdom in Auschwitz and his unlimited love for the Immaculate. However, it must be underscored that his martyrdom and Marian devotion were lived out in the context of a priestly vocation. “St. Maximilian, Priest”—this is the official title given him by Holy Mother Church. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II proclaimed Fr. Kolbe to be a luminous “example” and “glory” to the priesthood, a ministerial priest to be numbered among the great priest-saints such as Saints Ignatius of Loyola, Alphonsus M. de Liguori, Louis M. Grignon de Montfort, Vincent de Paul, John M. Vianney, and John Bosco.

St. Maximilian reflected a great deal on the revelatory statement of God to Moses on Mount Horeb: “I am who am,” and that of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette at Lourdes: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” It is deeply significant, then, that the last words recorded from Maximilian’s lips were those pronounced to the question posed by the Nazi Commandant Fritsch: “Who are you?” His answer too was a self-revelation: “I am a Catholic priest.” He identified himself as a priest of Jesus Christ and offered himself as a victim of love. […]

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Having reflected on the spiritual journey of the soul from conversion right up to a mystical transubstantiation into the Immaculate, and having seen the crucial role of our Mother Coredemptrix throughout, it would be extremely negligent not to treat of that final destination of the journey which is Jesus Christ. To be perfectly conformed to Jesus Crucified, to be espoused to Him in a transforming union: this is the supreme summit of holiness that is attainable during this earthly pilgrimage. There is no spiritual height which surpasses Jesus Christ who is Himself “our sanctification” (I Cor. 1:30). Union with Him, by grace in this life and by glory in the next; this alone constitutes blessedness.

Obviously it is beyond the scope of this short essay to cover this exhaustively. For our purposes it shall be sufficient to show how perfect conformity to Christ Crucified and transforming union with Him is a work accomplished by, with and in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Coredemptrix. (1) Fr. Ragazzini sums it up well when he writes: […]

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St. John the Beloved Disciple: Contemplation and Our Mother Coredemptrix

With the grace of conversion, illumination and purification, the Holy Spirit with His Immaculate Spouse, Mary, prepares and perfects the soul so that it may receive the gift of contemplation. Fr. Severino Ragazzini concisely sums up the Church’s tradition on this more perfect form of prayer when he writes: “Contemplation, as intended by mystical theology, is an intimate communion and experience of God by a soul through its faculties which have been refined by active and passive purification and which are elevated by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” (1) Here is prayer in its most pure form: union. As with the soul’s purification, so also with contemplation there is the active and passive elements; these are traditionally distinguished by the terms acquired and infused contemplation.

By acquired contemplation is intended that prayer of intimate communion with God which the soul attains by cooperating generously with the Holy Spirit. All souls are created to contemplate God and to experience profound union with Him; however, few are the souls who generously persevere when “tribulation and persecution” arise and “the care of this world” presses against them (cf. Mt 13). The soul that does not stand strong in what the Church calls the “battle of prayer” (2) will certainly never arrive at the heights. Only those who heroically fight “the good fight of faith” (II Tim. 3:7) will interiorly experience the fullness of the fruits of the universal Redemption wrought by Christ and His Mother. Practically speaking, if a soul urged by divine grace gives priority to daily prayer and seeks the face of God by holy desires and the practice of the theological virtues, he will undoubtedly reach the heights of acquired contemplation. In this form of recollected union with God the will is united to Divine Love in a simple gaze of adoration while the intellect and memory may, at times, continue to be active. […]

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In the spiritual life the soul must be illuminated by faith, especially when faced with the bloody reality of Christ’s shameful death on the Cross. The Holy Apostle Paul is extremely explicit on this point: “For the word of the Cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness…But we preach Christ Crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (I Cor 1:18, 23-24). Without the light of faith, Christ Crucified is nothing else but foolishness; with divine faith, however, the Cross of the Savior is the power and wisdom of God.

The model of faith is the Theotokos (Mother of God) standing at the foot of the Cross. “Throughout her entire life,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “and even at the final test, when Jesus, her Son, died on the Cross, her faith never wavered…This is why the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.” (49) In her maternal gaze on Calvary she beheld her Son crucified and tormented amongst blasphemy, mockery and indifference; in her Mother’s Heart, however, she ever saw her “God-Savior” (cf. Lk 1:47) and she adored Him in His misery as the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” She offered her own suffering to the Father in union with Jesus and, as far as what depended on her, she offered Christ as an expiation for sins, sacrificing her maternal rights over her Son precisely in order to redeem humanity in her subordinate, but essential role as Mother Coredemptrix. (50) Her faith in the Divinity of her Son was constant right from the Incarnation, when she gave her informed consent, her fiat, to be the Mother of God. (51)

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It is no secret that Catholic theology and devotion have produced many excellent works on the Blessed Virgin Mary and likewise on the spiritual life; however, it seems that there are very few who treat these two subjects together. (1) One is an expert in Mariology while another in Mystical Theology, yet all too often they fail to show the complementarity, or better, the essential unity between Marian devotion and union of the soul with God. (2) St. Bonaventure draws our attention to this indissoluble union between Our Lady and spiritual perfection when he observes: “I have never read of any Saint who did not have a special devotion to the glorious Virgin.” (3) This fact alone causes us to ask, “Why is it that the glorious Virgin has played such a special role in the spiritual life of all the Saints?” And further, “What is her role in the soul’s journey towards perfect union with God?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “through Mary the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the object of God’s merciful love into communion with Christ.” (4) It is through Our Blessed Lady that the Holy Spirit brings us into communion with Jesus. Just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her at Nazareth to form Jesus Christ in her most pure womb, so also the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin operate together to mystically form Jesus Christ in the world (behold the Church) and in souls (behold the Saints). (5) “The Holy Spirit,” writes St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, “does not act, except through the Immaculate, His Spouse. Hence she is the Mediatrix of all the graces of the most Holy Spirit…” (6) It is precisely this union of being and operating between the Holy Spirit and the Immaculate which places Mary at the heart of the spiritual life. The Divine Spirit sanctifies souls through, with and in the Virgin Mary. Hence Venerable Fr. Michael of St. Augustine states, “No one, in whatever state or condition, can obtain any grace and have any hope of the divine life or Christian perfection except by means of Mary, by means of communication through this amiable Mother.” (7)
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Let us state immediately and with fervor that, in one sense, the Immaculate Heart of Mary has already triumphed.  In one true sense, Our Lady has already conquered and the definitive victory belongs to Her.  Bl. Dom Columba Marmion confirms this: “Her privileges have raised her above all creatures and now she reigns triumphant in Heaven on the right hand of Jesus as Queen of the Angels and of the Saints.”(1)   In this article we will treat of the triumphant Heart of Mary as Immaculate, Maternal, Sorrowful, and Glorious.  Then we will respond to a question regarding the prophecy of Fatima about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and our role in bringing about such a triumph. […]

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