Suppose you live in a small town in the hill country, far from the big cities. And suppose that just down the road from you there lives a quiet sort of family about whom there isn’t anything outstanding, except that they are devoted to each other and are very devout in the practice of their faith. The dad is a carpenter who makes furniture in his shop beside their small house. The mother is a “home-maker,” a lovely person really. Their ten-year-old son is a polite sort of lad, helps his dad in the shop, is serious by nature, never says much but is ever-ready to smile at the drop of a hat. You meet him sometimes while walking along the country road or tromping through the bush; you turn a corner or step over a log and there he is kneeling beside a pond watching a beaver build a dam, or there he is gazing up into a tree branch listening to newborn robins chirping in their nest. That’s him—just listening, just looking. He notices you, smiles, bows a little, then seems to gaze at you as if you were as wonder-full as the world. He’s not shy, just quiet. Like his dad, he carves small wooden toys as gifts for the other children in the neighborhood. There’s something special about him, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Is there a link between Guadalupe and the Immaculate Conception? From the time of the apparition and first glimpse of the Miraculous Image on the tilma of Bl. Juan Diego, Catholics, Spaniards and Indian, American and European, have always believed there is a relation between Mary Immaculate and Guadalupe.
But toward the end of the “age of enlightenment,” the eighteenth century, voices increasingly more strident have denied any such connection. Clearly, these “voices” are often identical with those who doubt or deny the historicity and/or supernatural nature of the apparitions. The arguments they use and the conclusions they reach exactly parallel those of modernists who claim one can deny the historicity of the infancy narratives, but still believe as a Catholic in the “symbolic” value of Marian dogmas such as the divine motherhood and perpetual virginity.
As so frequently happens, those attacking the truths of Faith unwittingly draw the attention of believers to the importance of facts easily discovered, yet commonly overlooked, which justify the traditional belief. In this case it is the role played by the Franciscans who assured that the link, intended by Our Lady, would be seen. That link has been explained over the centuries to rest upon the Franciscan influence in Spain and the New World.
In 1756, Miguel Cabrera, the most famous colonial artist of the day, examined the tilma and reported:
I believe that the most talented and careful painter, if he sets himself to copy this Sacred Image on a canvas of this poor quality, without using sizing, and attempting to imitate the four media employed, would at last after great and wearisome travail, admit that he had not succeeded. And this can be clearly verified in the numerous copies that have been made with the benefit of varnish, on the most carefully prepared canvases, and using only one medium, oil, which offers the greatest facility; and of these, I am clearly persuaded, that until now there has not been one which is a perfect reproduction as the best, placed beside the original, evidently shows.
Cabrera knows whereof he speaks, for his own copy of Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered the most faithful to the original. It was at the dramatic unrolling of this canvas that Pope Benedict XIV exclaimed, Non fecit taliter omni nationi, “Not with every nation has He dealt thus.” In 1979, in the tradition of Miguel Cabrera, Dr. Philip Serna Callahan, a biophysicist at the University of Florida, an expert in infrared photography, and himself a painter, was allowed to examine and photograph the Image.
By special request we are re-publishing the following article on the Rosa Mystica International Pilgrimage for Priests scheduled for April 13-19, 2005, as the article contains an official letter from His Excellency, Msgr. Giulio Sanguineti, Bishop of the Diocese of Brescia, which gives permission for a private priestly pilgrimage to the Rosa Mystica apparition site – Ed.
Recently, I was contacted by a group of priests who desired to organize an international private (non-diocesan sponsored) pilgrimage for priests in April of 2005 to the Rosa Mystica Shrine in Montichiari, Italy. Years ago, Our Lady had reportedly appeared several times in Montichiari (in the northern region of Lombardy) as the “Rosa Mystica” (Mystical Rose) and conveyed a powerful message of promised graces for the renewal of priesthood and religious life, particularly for those in crisis. The question raised to me by the priests seeking to organize the pilgrimage was: “Can we privately pilgrimage to Rosa Mystica in obedience to the Church?”
“Incarnatio redemptiva redemptio inchoativa” (the redemptive Incarnation is the Redemption begun). This patristic concept of the miracle of miracles in which the Second person of the Most Holy Trinity deigned to become flesh for us correctly conveys that the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is truly the “Redemption begun.” And yet, it was the Father’s perfect plan that such redemptive Incarnation take place only through the consent of a human, a woman, a virgin.
Perhaps St. Bernard describes it best when he states that the whole world waited to hear the response of the Virgin, upon whom salvation was dependent: “The angel awaits an answer; . . . We too are waiting O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us . . . We shall be set free at once if you consent… This is what the whole earth waits for…” (1).
I see this joyful assembly of holy bishops who, at the invitation of the blessed Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, have gathered here with enthusiasm. And although I am sad, the presence of these holy Fathers fills me with joy. Among us is fulfilled the sweet words of the psalmist David: “Behold how good and sweet it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity.”
Hail Mary Theotókos, venerable treasure of the whole world, star who never sets, crown of virginity, scepter of the orthodox law, indestructible Mother and Virgin, for the sake of the one who is called “blessed” in the holy Gospels, the one who “comes in the name of the Lord.”
At Nazareth Our very first thoughts must be turned toward Mary Most Holy, to offer her the tribute of Our devotion and to nourish that devotion with reflections that will make it genuine, profound and unique, in conformity with the plan of God. It is Mary who is full of grace, who is the Immaculate, the ever-virgin, the Mother of Christ and hence God’s Mother and ours, she who was assumed into heaven, our most blessed Queen, the model for the Church and our hope.
Before all else We offer Our humble filial promise to venerate her with that special devotion which recognizes the wonders God has accomplished in her; with singular homage manifesting the most holy, pure, affectionate, personal and confident movements of Our heart; with such devotion as causes her encouraging example of human perfection to shine upon the world from on high.
You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.
The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Homily, In Praise of the Virgin Mother (Hom. 4, 8-9: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4, 1966, 53-54).
God the Father gave his only Son to the world only through Mary. Whatever desires the patriarchs may have cherished, whatever entreaties the prophets and saints of the Old Law may have made for four thousand years to obtain that treasure, it was Mary alone who merited it and found grace before God by the power of her prayers and the perfection of her virtues. “The world being unworthy,” said St. Augustine, “to receive the Son of God directly from the hands of the Father, he gave his Son to Mary for the world to receive him from her.”
The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary.
God the Holy Spirit formed Jesus Christ in Mary but only after having asked her consent through one of the chief ministers of his court.
God the Father imparted to Mary his fruitfulness as far as a mere creature was capable of receiving it, to enable her to bring forth his Son and all the members of his mystical body.
God the Son came down into her virginal womb as a new Adam into his earthly paradise, to take his delight there and produce hidden wonders of grace.
God-made-man found freedom in imprisoning himself in her womb. He displayed power in allowing himself to be borne by this young maiden. He found his glory and that of his Father in hiding his splendors from all creatures here below and revealing them only to Mary. He glorified his independence and his majesty in depending upon this lovable virgin in his conception, his birth, his presentation in the temple, and in the thirty years of his hidden life. Even at his death she had to be present so that he might be united with her in one sacrifice and be immolated with her consent to the eternal Father, just as formerly Isaac was offered in sacrifice by Abraham when he accepted the will of God. It was Mary who nursed him, fed him, cared for him, reared him, and sacrificed him for us.
St. Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, nn. 16-18.
Contemplation of the mystery of the Savior’s birth has led Christian people not only to invoke the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of Jesus, but also to recognize her as Mother of God. This truth was already confirmed and perceived as belonging to the Church’s heritage of faith from the early centuries of the Christian era, until it was solemnly proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
In the first Christian community, as the disciples became more aware that Jesus is the Son of God, it became ever clearer that Mary is the Theotokos, the Mother of God. This is a title which does not appear explicitly in the Gospel texts, but in them the “Mother of Jesus” is mentioned and it is affirmed that Jesus is God (Jn 20:28; cf. 5:18; 10:30, 33). Mary is in any case presented as the Mother of Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (cf. Mt 1:22-23).
The following homily was delivered by Pope John Paul II at the Mass of Canonization for St. Juan Diego, given at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, Mexico City, July 31, 2002.
“I thank you, Father…that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Mt 11:25-26).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, these words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are a special invitation to us to praise and thank God for the gift of the first indigenous Saint of the American Continent. With deep joy I have come on pilgrimage to this Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Marian heart of Mexico and of America, to proclaim the holiness of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, the simple, humble Indian who contemplated the sweet and serene face of Our Lady of Tepeyac, so dear to the people of Mexico….
Advent has begun and Christmas is approaching as I write this. The malls are packed with shoppers. They are, like me, trying to beat the Christmas rush or tap into the pre-Christmas sales, or maybe just get into the spirit of things early. You may have noticed that life in these times is somewhat tense, and who can be blamed for rushing the season of peace just a little. There’s a holiday feeling in the air: the potted pines and the shop windows are all decked out; the robot Santas and the synthetic jingle on the loudspeakers are jolly in about equal portions. As is usual at this time of year, people are more patient with one another, will allow complete strangers to enter elevators before them, will overlook the irritating behavior of the occasional aggressive bargain-hunter, and will smile more easily at mothers with small noisy children. It is the season of tolerance.
Perhaps, then, it would not hurt to be reminded that the Incarnation was, in fact, an act of colossal intolerance on the part of God, by which I mean to say that it was an act of immeasurable love. He loved us so much that he would not let us die in our sins. He was intolerant of our slavery and was born among us for the express purpose of doing something rather definite about it. […]
It is in the heart, that is, in the very depth and substance of the Christian soul, that sanctifying grace resides and exercises its powerful influence. There grace establishes the throne of its power, extending to the memory, the intellect and the will, affecting all the higher and lower faculties, and all the internal and external senses.
Granting this, I say that the admirable Heart of Mary is an ocean of grace. Yet it is not I who make this statement, it is the Archangel Gabriel, sent by God from Heaven to announce to the Queen of Angels that the divine Majesty had chosen her to be the Mother of His Divine Son. The Archangel greets Mary by telling her first of all that she is “full of grace” (Lk 1:28). Notice that he does not say she will be, but that she is full of grace.
Would you know how it is that Mary was full of grace even before the Son of God became Incarnate in her womb? You must consider two truths taught by several distinguished theologians. […]
The following is a true story. Some of the names have been changed to protect the privacy of people involved. Our friend, Father Brian, died in Austria two years ago while giving a retreat on Divine Mercy.
The children are lying on the living room rug, their stomachs distended with turkey and Christmas cake. Our guest, Father Brian, turns a beaming smile on them, lights his pipe, and seats himself with a sigh on the old rocking chair beside the wood-stove. He is content just to soak up the family atmosphere and listen to our children’s after-dinner banter.
“Tell us a story, Father,” they cry before long. The priest has a reputation for stories. More than that, he has all the time in the world for children.
“What kind of a story?” he asks.
“A Christmas story!”
“Well,” he says, pondering, his eyes growing thoughtful, “I think I do know a true story about a gift that was given on a Christmas day many years ago. But no, it’s too strange.”
Now they’re hooked. “Yes, yes, that one! That one!”
“It’s full of grown ups,” he murmurs, “Nazis and war and things like that.”
“Yes, yes,” they squirm with anticipation.
His eyes go far away and his brow furrows. He rocks back and forth slowly, slowly, and the room grows quieter.
“I’m quite serious, when I tell you,” he says, “that this is a true story. I saw parts of it with my own eyes. I lived with the family to whom it happened.”
Then he begins…
During the Nazi era there lived in a small city in Germany a devout Catholic family by the name of Schmidt. They attended daily Mass and prayed the Rosary each evening after supper, and the day did not end without the father of the family, Karl, reading a psalm from the Holy Scriptures. Karl was the spiritual head of the family. He was a gentle, kindly man, noted for his subtle sense of humor and a love of youth. He was a high school teacher and was so well respected by his students that many of them accompanied him to Mass each morning before classes. He read to them the papal encyclicals against National Socialism and spoke strongly against the outrages committed by the Brownshirts. Then when Hitler was elected by a large majority, Karl was appalled. He pointed out to his students that only a minority of Catholics had voted for the new leader. Catholicism is a religion built upon objective truths, he taught them, and no Catholic is permitted to vote for an evil law or an evil ruler, even if they appeared to be lesser evils than, for example, economic or political instability. One cannot compromise a part of the Faith without the eventual collapse of the whole, he told them.
During the following years when the Nazi party penetrated to every level of life in the country, Catholics were continually challenged to pay the price of standing for their principles. Karl was warned by the local Gestapo that if he did not cease taking the youth to Mass he would be conscripted into the army and sent to the Russian front. He continued as before, and one by one his students dropped away from those early morning sojourns to the Bread of Life. Some of them, not many, joined the Hitler Youth. Others merely wished to avoid any potential conflict with the State. Karl was soon abandoned by everyone except his teenage children, who chose to accompany him to daily Mass well into the war years.
In that city there was a famous Dominican friar who was renowned for his fervor and courage. He had preached relentlessly against the Nazi ideology for many years, but he was so beloved by the populace of the city that the Gestapo had hesitated to arrest him. When he was eventually arrested and hung, the Dominican order begged for his body and the Gestapo grudgingly returned it. The priest’s body was covered with the marks of horrible tortures. The Order was warned that the funeral and burial must be a private affair. Public notices were posted saying to the effect that any of the public who attended would be interrogated. Karl Schmidt was known to be a close friend of the dead friar. He was personally warned that if he attended the funeral he would be arrested; if lucky, he would be let off lightly by being conscripted into the army and sent to the Russian front.
Needless to say, Karl attended the funeral Mass. The following morning he was arrested and found himself conscripted into the German army as a foot soldier. If he refused to go to the Russian front, they told him, his entire family would be sent, along with him, to a concentration camp. He went to Russia and not long after was captured by the Soviet Army. He remained in their concentration camps for seven long years, working as a slave laborer. There, he was subjected to a constant bombardment of political indoctrination. When the war ended he expected to be released, but Russia had lost so many men that she was suffering a severe labor shortage. The Germans were “invited” to remain as Soviet citizens upon condition of becoming members of the Communist Party. Karl refused. The political indoctrinators tried to convince the prisoners that their families in Germany no longer cared about them. Each Saturday they were ordered to write a letter home. During those seven years they received not one reply.
Some of Karl’s fellow prisoners became communists and stayed. Others refused to comply and, like Karl, they remained prisoners. His faith sustained him, especially his deep conviction that God would bring great good out of the tragedy which had befallen his family. He especially entrusted his life to the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God. His Bible had been confiscated and there was no priest to say Mass, but he prayed the Rosary daily. He taught others to pray, to trust, and to deny the temptation to despair. In the early l950’s he and other prisoners were exchanged for a group of Russians imprisoned in the West, and now found themselves miraculously liberated. They returned to their homes, and later formed an association of ex-prisoners. In comparing notes over the following years, they discovered that none of their families had ever received a letter from them while they were in the Gulag Archipelago. The entire correspondence had been a deliberate trick by their brainwashers.
There was one exception, however. Karl’s family had not received the fifty-two letters a year that he had written. But four times a year a letter of his would arrive at the Schmidt home. Invariably it was stamped with the date of a major feast of the Mother of God. Four times a year throughout those many years Our Lady made sure that Karl’s family knew he was under her care.
In the final weeks of the war, while Karl was in Russia, his teenage sons received notice that they were to be conscripted into the German army. They hid wherever they could. The youngest, fifteen year old Josef, ran to a swamp and stood waist deep in icy water for two days, avoiding capture. When he returned surreptitiously to the city he was overjoyed to find that it was full of Canadian soldiers, and that the German army was retreating towards Berlin. Arriving at his house he found his mother weeping and the family belongings in ruins.
“Gestapo?” he asked.
“No, Canadian soldiers,” replied his mother in anguish. “Because you boys and your father were missing they thought you were in the army or S.S. They broke things. They kept calling us Nazi’s.”
This was the cruelest irony of all for the Schmidt family.
“Why did they do this, Josef? They took many things, they even took your father’s camera.”
The family was heartbroken over the loss. The camera was Karl’s prized possession. If he had one weakness it was a passion for small ingenious gadgets. This was no ordinary camera. It was an experimental model with two apertures and many lenses which simultaneously exposed a photographic film from different angles. When the film was developed the resulting photograph could be placed in a special viewer, and it amazingly appeared as a three dimensional image. The invention was relatively unknown at the time and only a few models had ever been made of it. The soldier who had taken the camera did not understand its peculiarities, and because of that he neglected to take the viewer.
Here Father Brian stopped his story to relight his pipe and to recollect his thoughts.
“Father,” asks one of our more perceptive children, “Is this one of your true stories that never actually happened? You know, like the idea is true but . . . ”
He smiles. He has been caught before using one of his favorite literary devices. But this time he is not guilty. His face grows serious again and the children fall into silence.
“No, this is a true true story. Josef Schmidt is a friend of mine. We were in the seminary together. I lived with his mother and father while I was studying in Germany during the 1960’s. I saw the letters from Russia, I read the dates and I checked them. They were all great feasts of Our Lady. And the rest of the story I can vouch for, because I saw it with my own eyes.”
Not too long ago Fr. Josef Schmidt was visiting Fr. Brian at a famous Canadian university. Fr. Brian, who is a doctor of Theology, teaches there. They were joined in the faculty lounge by a well-known theologian. Fr. Brian had a great deal of difficulty with this man’s theories, and they had debated often. Father considered him a troubled soul. He took care to show respect to the man himself, but he was merciless with his ideas. As a consequence the famous theologian did not much like Fr. Brian.
Nevertheless, they fell into conversation after Fr. Brian introduced Fr. Josef.
“You are German, I see,” said the theologian. “You are a clever people. I must show you a marvelous invention that I got when I was in Germany after the war.”
He quickly departed for his office and returned five minutes later, smiling, with an imposing piece of glass, stainless steel, buttons and knobs. He showed it to them proudly.
Fr. Josef stared at it without a word. The professor described its mechanics and its optics with some enthusiasm.
“Where did you get it?” asked Fr. Josef.
“Oh . . . during the war I was with the Canadian army when we went into Germany. I stayed with a family there. We got to be fairly close. They gave this to me when I left.”
As Josef turned the camera over and over in his hands he asked the name of the city where the man had got it. The professor told him. It was Father Josef’s city.
“It’s a pity, though,” said the theologian, “This thing is a three-D camera and I guess they forgot to give me the viewer that goes with it.”
Later, when they were alone, Fr. Josef mentioned to Fr. Brian that his father had once owned a camera like that.
“That’s quite a coincidence,” said Fr. Brian.
“I think it’s not a coincidence at all. I think it is a God-incident. That is my father’s camera. There is a tiny brass plate on the bottom with his initials engraved on it. K.S.”
“What are you going to do? Should we go right now and confront him!”
“No, let’s wait a while and pray. I’m asking myself what my father would do. I must write to him. And there’s another question . . . what would Christ do in this situation?”
The children interject here. They bring Fr. Brian to a full stop with their protests and questions. They think that bad people, especially proud, bad people should get what they deserve. They want justice! They want the theologian punished for his theft and his lies. They want him shamed! Father Brian smiles. He has the children exactly where he wants them. He goes on with the story:
A few months later, the two priests were together once again. It was Christmas Eve and Fr. Josef had just arrived in the foyer of the college to pick up Fr. Brian. They were on their way that night to celebrate midnight Mass at a nearby convent of cloistered nuns. These ladies lived in a ramshackle house in what had become an inner-city slum. Their community was small, poor, and populated mostly by old women religious. They prayed many hours every day. They fed the poor. They were not intellectuals like most of the people in Fr. Brian’s world, nor like Fr. Brian himself. But they had the most extraordinary gifts of wisdom. Astounding, really, for most of them were rather poorly educated. Not a one of them had a university degree. But they were joyful people and very good at listening, though somewhat short on therapies or psychology. They had a curiously effective psychology and therapy of their own. If you told them something, they prayed about it. Things usually changed after you asked them to say a word to the Lord. The two priests loved them. These women’s lives were a banquet laid out for anyone who might want to come and celebrate. Few people did these days.
Fr. Brian had not seen Fr. Josef for many weeks. He asked him if he had done anything about the theologian and the stolen camera.
“I’ve done the really important things,” he replied, “I wrote to my father, and then I talked to the sisters. They know the professor quite well by reputation. They’re praying very fervently for him. They have been praying for his conversion for years . . . .”
Just then, the famous theologian bustled through the lobby, and with a wave of his hand shouted, “Merry Christmas.”
Fr. Josef called, “Do you have a moment, professor?”
The professor checked his watch and frowned, “Only a minute, Father, I’m on my way to a faculty party. I’m already late. Why don’t you come along? I’ll buy you a whiskey! God knows, we could use one! I’ve been driving hard all week with P and D sessions and inter-departmental warfare.”
The two priests nodded sympathetically.
“No, no thank you, we have to be on our way,” stammered Fr. Josef, “But I have something . . . .”
The priest’s hands trembled as he placed a small package into the hands of the professor.
“It’s for you,” he said gently, “The man who gave you the camera says to you, God bless you. He says that he forgot to give you the viewer that goes with it.”
With that, Fr. Josef bowed and departed without another word, leaving the professor to unwrap the gift.
And here Fr. Brian ends the story, leaving the children to ponder what it means.
Michael O’Brien, father of six, is a painter and writer. He is the author of several books, notably the best-selling novel Father Elijah and his examination of the paganization of contemporary children’s culture, A Landscape With Dragons: the Battle for Your Child’s Mind. You may visit him at his website www.studiobrien.com.
O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all. O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. Should I compare you to the fertile earth and its fruits? You surpass them, for it is written: “The earth is my footstool” (Is 66:1). But you carry within you the feet, the head, and the entire body of the perfect God.
Please accept our most heartfelt Christmas blessings and prayers for you and your families from the staff of Mother of All Peoples. We have truly been blessed by your generous response and expressions of gratitude for the magazine in its first few months of publication. From the bottom of our hearts we thank God, and we sincerely thank you.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux spoke so truly when he stated that about The Mother enough cannot be said. We pray that the little that we do say about Our Immaculate Queen, who is truly our Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate, assists you in some small way along your journey ever deeper into her Immaculate Heart; towards greater knowledge of her extraordinary God-given glories; towards greater love of her whom the angels eternally praise, and to whom God himself reverentially and tenderly refers to as “Mother.”
This extended two-week issue features a variety of Marian pieces which we hope will be of interest to you during the Christmas octave, the celebration of the Mother of God solemnity, and onwards into the new year. Our next issue will appear on January 8.
May the Mother of All Peoples, who brought us the Christ Child by the will of the Heavenly Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, bring new peace and profound grace into each of your hearts, into the Church, and into the hearts of all peoples.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Editor, Mother of All Peoples
When the angel revealed his message to the Virgin Mary he gave her a sign to win her trust. He told her of the motherhood of an old and barren woman to show that God is able to do all that he wills.
When she hears this Mary sets out for the hill country. She does not disbelieve God’s word; she feels no uncertainty over the message or doubt about the sign. She goes eager in purpose, dutiful in conscience, hastening for joy.
Filled with God, where would she hasten but to the heights? The Holy Spirit does not proceed by slow, laborious efforts. Quickly, too, the blessings of her coming and the Lord’s presence are made clear: as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the child leapt in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In these following excerpts from his fifth sermon on the angelic salutation, St. Lawrence continues his exposition of the archangel’s momentous greeting by explaining the special meaning of Mary’s plenitude: he expounds how Mary is as the moon to Christ who is the sun. In establishing this comparison, he looks first to Biblical imagery and then to the unified interpretative tradition of both the Greek and Latin Fathers of the Church.
Sacred Scriptures contain many images of plenitude, and, at the hands of St. Lawrence, these become a typology of Mary’s own singular fulness:
The plenitude of Mary’s grace is a very vast ocean. The great sea in the temple of Solomon was full of water (cf. 1 Kings 7:13-14, 23-24). We can with merit liken this sea to the Virgin Mary. “All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full” (Eccles 1:7). The sea designates the multiple abundance of the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit. As our Savior said in St. John’s Gospel: “He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive” (Jn 7:38-39). Therefore all streams run to the sea; thus the full abundance and plenitude of graces have flowed into the Virgin Mother of God. Behold the vessel full of manna in the sanctuary of the Lord, the new vessel of Elisha full of salt for purifying the waters of Jericho. Behold the tabernacle of the Lord full of the glory of God, as we read in Exodus (16:32-33), and behold the temple of Solomon full of the majesty of God on the day of its dedication. We read also in Isaiah (6:1-13) that the train of the Lord’s robe, i.e. the glory of the Lord, filled the temple and that the whole earth was full of His glory. In Ezekiel (43:4-5) also it is said that the house of the Lord is full of clouds and that his atrium is full of the splendor of His glory. These sacred mysteries designate nothing else but the Virgin as the divine plenitude; she is the most sacred living temple of the Divinity in whom the whole plenitude of deity dwelt bodily (cf. Col 2:9).
The great Jesuit theologian Father John Anthony Hardon (1914-2000) related that one Christmas, at the moment of the consecration of the bread during Midnight Mass, the mystery of the Incarnation—Jesus taking flesh and living with us as one of us—struck him with special profundity when he thought to himself: “I am holding in my hands the same Jesus that Our Blessed Lady held in her pure hands in the stable of Bethlehem.”
Such a precious insight can only but help all of us to focus more intently on Mary’s undeniable and essential role in that incredible, unrepeatable action: the Logos (Word)—the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity—becoming flesh and pitching His tent among us. Mary accepted that Word…embraced that Word…loved that Word…and learned from that Word. And this Real Presence of Christ enjoyed by His sinless Mother and chaste foster-father Saint Joseph is effected and continued today—and will be until Jesus comes again—by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which would not exist without the Incarnation.
Without Mary there is no Christmas.
In the cold dark barren land,
stars and moon and the great star
that has appeared,
puzzling the wise and the low,
scatter diamonds upon the blood soaked snow.
The grieving earth awakes to its first groaning;
and men, grown weary of toil and fear,
cynical of love and despairing of truth,
bearing lamentations as if these were their only
birthright, look up at last. […]
The Marian work of St. Lawrence is not only valuable, but timely. I am referring, of course, to the recent Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, in which the supreme Pontiff calls upon theologians to probe, just as St. Lawrence did, the depths of the meaning of Mary’s role in the life of Christ and the Church (§ 43). I do not know whether the Pope had the works of St. Lawrence in mind in this call to Marian studies, but there are many points of similarity between the thoughts of this saintly doctor and the mind of the Pontiff as expressed in the Apostolic Letter. One finds an especially remarkable correspondence in the first of St. Lawrence’s ten sermons on the “Angelic Salutation,” i.e. on the “Hail Mary.” In his letter the Holy Father says that the Rosary “has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety” (§1). St. Lawrence comes to a very similar position, not, however, about the whole Rosary, but about its most “substantial element” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, §33), namely, the “Hail Mary.” He holds that the words, “hail, full of grace,” contain in principle the whole of the Gospel.
In his reflections on the angel’s greeting, St. Lawrence notes the uniqueness of the words, “Hail full of grace.” This greeting indicates the birth into the world of a new and profound kind of joy, experienced mutually by the angel and the Blessed Virgin and, indeed, to be experienced henceforth, perpetually, by the entire Church of God. As we shall see, this is the joy of that special “good news” which is the Gospel.
For many years I have been fascinated and edified by the writings of Professor John Saward. He is a convert from Anglicanism in whose every page one can see that he has passed over into the fullness of Catholicism. Indeed, he is a man who is so profoundly steeped in the Catholic Tradition that he is able to draw with ease from virtually all of the major eras of its two thousand years of development.
Precisely for this reason I was delighted to learn of his latest book which he intends as a sequel to Redeemer in the Womb. That first volume, he tells us,
was an Advent book, a study of the nine months that God-made-man spent in His Blessed Mother’s womb. The second goes on to consider the Nativity and Epiphany of the Lord; it is a systematic theology of the Christmas mystery, the first to be written in many years. …I make no claim to originality. Self-consciously original theology tends always to be heretical theology. Orthodox theology has, by contrast, a blessed familiarity, for it does no more than assist the faithful in understanding what they already believe; its surprises are the outcome not of human ingenuity but of divine infinitude, the sign of a Truth that is ever ancient and ever new. My intention is to draw on the Christmas doctrine of the saints … (p. 14). In effect, with his new book Professor Saward has given us a veritable encyclopedia on the Christmas mystery which could be used as a textbook as well as for meditation.
The alluring story of the apparitions of Our Blessed Lady to Juan Diego in 1531 is increasingly better well known throughout the world. Seemingly more and more persons are coming to realize that even though these noteworthy appearances occurred in North America, their deep significance is universal.
The “Guadalupe event” was quite straightforward: the Ever-Virgin Mother of God showed herself to an unlettered peasant and directed him to approach the local Bishop. Although wary of such a spectacular claim on the part of Juan, the Bishop believed when he saw the delightful roses (in December!) and the image of Our Blessed Mother on Juan’s tilma.
What has always intrigued this writer about Mary’s appearances in Guadalupe is the long-term and profound effect that they had on the people nearby as well as on their behavior. In the ten years following the apparitions, an estimated nine million Aztec Indians were converted to the True Faith, and the abominable practice of child sacrifice to the pagan deity—which had been performed with horrifying regularity—abruptly ceased.