Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Receiving End of Motherhood

I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of motherhood from some pretty amazing women. Recently, when a blogging friend was praying about her family’s latest adoption, I got to thinking about my experience of adoption.

I’m not adopted in the technical sense. But after enjoying Heidi’s accounts of adoption on Mommy Monsters, my understanding of adoption has broadened.

For years, I had a broken relationship with my mother. I felt, for a long time, like I didn’t have a “real” mother. But, looking back, I see what a non-reality those feelings were.

There, in the wings, was a woman who had taken me for her own. She had been a part of my life all through high school and never stopped her cheering. My stepmother told me once that the only step in her motherhood of me was the one she took to marry my father.

In 2001, I recognized another mother, right about the time that I made up with my mother. The Blessed Mother, Jesus’ own mother, played the invisible-yet-present role in my return to Christianity and conversion to Catholicism. She was an example I stumbled upon - again and again and AGAIN - as I muddled through some struggles in my early Catholic years, including watching my husband’s nephew buried. When I first started working for the parish, I remember having a week of “Mary signs.” It still feels “funny” to bring it up. That week, all of a sudden and though I already had a great devotion to her, I knew Mary was active in my life - lil ole me! - always leading me back to her Son (that’s her job!).

When I got married, my mother-in-law was able to “officially” claim me, and she has been such a joy in my understanding of motherhood. She’s the day-to-day mom for me at this point in my life, and she takes her role seriously. “Sarah, sometimes you just need a mother,” she told me once, and she’s so right. She’s the one who sees my frequent failures and reminds me that I’m human, that I need to rely on the Big Guy and not myself.

Four mothers is a pretty generous share. All four - my mother, my stepmother, my mother-in-law, and my Heavenly Mother - are active in my life. All four have taught me valuable lessons about motherhood, life, and faith. They have prayed for me and they have stood to the side as I’ve stumbled. Just as Mary was there for Jesus while he suffered - the countless scrapes of life and, of course, the Passion - my four moms have been there for me.

I don’t always see them. I don’t always appreciate them. I don’t always get a chance to turn back time and thank them.

But they’re always there.

And I’m a better person for it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A prayer for journeying...

Image credit: I found this icon on this iconography website of the Augusta State University. This site identifies the image as being from Giotto's Arena Chapel Frescoes (c.1305).

Mother Mary, in your haste to get ready,
how much did you have to leave behind?
No coolers, no GameBoys, no Sippy Cups.
Just a parcel of gold, frankensense, and myrrh
And your husband's sturdiest donkey
And a whispered prayer that one day
You might return.

Lovely Mary, you kept your Child quiet,
offered your breast when He stirred
and did not draw back when, jostled, He bit down.
No Dairy Queens, no Ho-Jos, and no Comfort Inn
Broke the horizon with proffered relief.
Just your husband and his walking stick,
A murmured plea for direction
And safety.

Holy Mary, Mother of Travelers,
Please pray for us.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome, Ebeth!

I'd like to welcome the newest member of our blog, Ebeth Weidner from "A Catholic Mum Climbing the Pillars." Thanks for chiming in, Ebeth!

If you are interested in becoming a regular contributer to BYM, please drop me a note at hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com, or Sarah at peerybingle(at)gmail(dot)com.

God bless!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

5 Ways in Which People Offend and Blaspheme Against the Immaculate Heart of Mary


One of the message of Fatima is to make reparation for the sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. "Reparation for what", some may ask. Sister Lucia explains:

There are five ways in which people offend and blaspheme against the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

- the blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception,
- against her virginity,
- against the Divine Maternity,
- refusing at the same time to accept her as the Mother of all mankind,
- those who try publicly to implant in the children's hearts indifference, contempt, and even hatred against this Immaculate Mother, and those who insult her directly in her sacred images.

Here, my daughter, is the reason why the Immaculate Heart of Mary [My Mother] causes Me to ask for this little act of reparation and by means of it, move My mercy to forgive those souls who had the misfortune of offending her. As for you, try without ceasing, with all your prayers and sacrifices, to move Me to mercy toward those poor souls."
from Sister Lucia's memoirs.

Shared by Sue of Half the Kingdom

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Assumption of Mary

"And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars...." (Apocalypse 12:1)

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII in the bull Munificentissimus Deus defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The teaching that the Immaculate Mother of God was taken body and soul into heaven at the close of her earthly existence has been the constant belief of the universal Church, as ancient liturgical manuscripts bear witness. "Everything tends to indicate that the privilege of the Assumption was explicitly revealed to the Apostles...and that it was transmitted subsequently by the oral tradition of the Liturgy," wrote Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange in The Mother of the Saviour and Interior Life.

It was not until the middle of the twentieth century, a century so traumatized by genocide, mass murders, world wars, the breakdown of modesty, morality, and family life; the spread of false ideologies such as communism, socialism, and feminism, which promise to liberate but in reality only enslave and destroy, that the pope was moved to declare the dogma. "The political, social, and religious atmosphere in the middle of the twentieth century influenced greatly the decision of the Pope" so that "mindful of the human misery caused by war, of the ever present threat of materialism and the decline of moral life, and of the internal problems that disturbed the Church, [he] turned to Mary, confident of her intercession." Pope Pius XII "believed...that calling attention to the bodily Assumption of Mary would remind all men and women that the human body is sacred, that the whole person is holy and destined to live forever." (Fr. Kilian Healy, O.Carm. The Assumption of Mary)

For those who struggle to offer to God hearts free from all stain of actual sin, who strive to experience even in this life the joys of union with God through contemplation, the mystery of the Assumption is one which characterizes a way of life. According to Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. in his classic work Divine Intimacy:
Mary's Assumption shows us the route we must follow in our spiritual ascent: detachment from earth, flight towards God and union with God....It is not enough to purify our heart from sin and attachment to creatures, we must at the same time to direct it towards God, tending toward Him with all our strength...Mary's Assumption thus confirms in us this great and beautiful truth: we are created for and called to union with God. Mary herself stretches out her maternal hand to guide us to the attainment of this high ideal.
On our journey to Heaven, we confidently grasp the hand of our merciful Mother, the Mediatrix of all Grace. As St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wrote a few months before her death: "It is true that no human life is exempt from faults; only the Immaculate Virgin presents herself pure before the Divine Majesty. Since she loves us and knows our weakness, what have we to fear?" (Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol II, trans. by Fr John Clarke, O.C.D.) How fitting that the acclamation from the Book of Judith is so often applied to Our Lady: "Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honor of our people." (Judith 15:10)

Mary Moments: the Book Edition

Welcome to this month's Mary Moments. As we celebrate the Assumption, we also gather to discuss books about Mary. I've always been a bookworm, and books about the Blessed Mother are no different. I haven't read St. Louis de Montfort's classic, True Devotion to Mary, but it's on my to-read list. The first book I read about Mary, as a freshly minted Catholic, was on my priest's recommendation: Hail, Holy Queen, by Scott Hahn. I read it and, a year or so later, reread it (I'll admit I didn't "get" it all the first time through).

The Blessed Mother has quite a fan club, as she should. She's been the topic of many books and papal encyclicals (try Redemptoris Mater if you've a mind - you won't be disappointed!). This Mary Moments highlights some moments with Mary in books...and I found myself adding to my to-read list. There are excerpts here from books that are coming out and from books that have been out for some time. There are reviews and personal stories.

Take a moment and join us for our Mary Moments collection of posts.

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Let's start out with a look at The Beauty of Mary, by Rosemary Vaccari Mysel and friends, and a history of the feast we're celebrating today: "According to theologian Danilo Sartor, OSM, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was first celebrated in sixth-century Jerusalem. The Emperor Maurice (d.602) ordered the celebration of the Assumption for the entire empire. In the Byzantine Empire, it was called the 'Dormition.' ... By the late 7th century ... four Marian feasts were celebrated in Rome: the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the Annunciation, the Purification, and the Assumption."

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In Mary and Me, by Ginny Kubitz Moyer, we have "the story -- many stories, actually -- of individuals who felt the gentle tug of that particular apronstring, and let themselves be drawn in to her loving embrace." It's a new Mary favorite, says Heidi, and as an added bonus, Ginny graciously shares an excerpt from Mary and Me on her brand-new blog.

Mark Shea has a book about Mary, Behold Your Mother, coming out in a few months, and you can read a lovely snippet over at Streams of Mercy.

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In a special guest post that, while not relating back to a book, could turn into one, Allie shares about a statue her kids found...that seemed sent right from the Blessed Mother herself.

Esther shares A Woman Wrapped in Silence, by John W. Lynch, a 1941 classic narrative poem that, she says, "is a book you will read and read over again. Its words and imagery will stay with you a long time. It will be invaluable aid when meditating on the Holy Rosary of our Lady." She must be right, because her post is of the print-and-frame variety.

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For a look at Mary's motherhood in one of my favorite books about Mary, try Behold Your Mother, by Heidi Hess Saxton. "I challenge you, for a second, to let go of your preconceptions about Mary, Mother of God. Even if you have a devotion to her. Start out with a blank slate, and pick up this book. You may find that you come away changed. You may find that you come away smiling, with tears in your eyes. You may find yourself looking around you with new eyes." (Note from Heidi: the book will shortly be available in Spanish -- see left!)
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Though it's a little controversial (or it was when I heard what the ladies in my parish thought of it after they read it on my recommendation), I recommend Looking for Mary, Or, the Blessed Mother and Me, by Beverly Donofrio, just as heartily now as I did then. It is "far from a sterile story of devotion, but is instead the rambling, real-life journey of a woman who I couldn’t help but relate with...Her story is inspiring to those of us who have made mistakes in our lives, who have made decisions we regret, and who have been living with consequences that seem too hard."

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Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur shared an excerpt from her novel Letters to Mary from a Young Mother, and maybe it's just where I'm at in my life as a young mother myself, but that book will be on my bedstand before long!

From 101 Inspirational Stories of the Power of Prayer, we have a tale of the Blessed Mother stepping in and doing what mothers do best, taking care of their children, no matter their state in life.

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Kate takes a look at the conversion inspired by motherhood as she discusses Broken and Blessed, by Cathy Adamkiewicz. "Just as Mary stood helplessly by and watched her only son endure horrific agonies, Cathy could not do anything to save her baby. She couldn't even hold her baby much. She ached to nurse her baby girl, to dress her in frilly dresses, and to just rock her – all these mommy moments we often take for granted. Yet, although she certainly questioned, "Why?" and uttered many prayers on behalf of her hurting baby, Cathy, like Mary, recognized that God had called Celeste from the moment of conception to do his work."

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Next month...Mary Moments: the Birthday Edition
We'll be focusing on the Blessed Mother's birthday, traditionally celebrated on September 8.
  • What are some of your favorite Marian recipes? If Mary was coming to dinner, what would you make?
  • What do you give a mother who has everything? What will your gift to Mary be this year?
  • In reflecting on "another year older," how does the Blessed Mother serve as a guide, role model, and mentor to you?
Submit by 10 PM EST on September 10, using the online form or by emailing me at peerybingle [at] gmail [dot] com. If you have a story to share but no blog, feel free to email me your story and I'll put you live as a guest post over on my blog.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Rosary: A Means to Convert the Most Hardened Sinners

Our Lady With St. Louis de Montfort
Our Lady and St. Louis de Montfort

I beg of you to beware of thinking of the Rosary as something of little importance - as do ignorant people, and even several great but proud scholars. Far from being insignificant, the Rosary is a priceless treasure which is inspired by God.

Almighty God has given it to you because he wants you to use it as a means to convert the most hardened sinners and the most obstinate heretics. He has attached to it grace in this life and glory in the next. The saints have said it faithfully and the Popes have endorsed it.

When the Holy Spirit has revealed this secret to a priest and director of souls, how blessed is that priest! For the vast majority of people fail to know this secret or else only know it superficially. If such a priest really understands this secret, he will say the Rosary each day and will encourage others to say it. God and his blessed Mother will pour abundant grace into his soul, so that he may become God's instrument for his glory; and his word, though simple, will do more good in one month than that of other preachers in several years.

Therefore, my dear brothers and fellow priests, it will not be enough for us to preach this devotion to others; we must practice it ourselves, for if we firmly believed in the importance of the holy Rosary but never said it ourselves, people could hardly be expected to act upon our advice, since no one can give what he does not have: "Jesus began to do and to teach." We ought to pattern ourselves on our Lord, who began practising what He preached. We ought to emulate St. Paul, who knew and preached nothing but Jesus crucified.

I could tell you at great length of the grace God has given me to know by experience the effectiveness of the preaching of the holy Rosary, and of how I have seen, with my own eyes, the most wonderful conversions it has brought about. I would gladly tell you all these things if I thought that it would move you to preach this beautiful devotion, in spite of the fact that priests are not in the habit of doing so these days. But instead of all this, I think it will be quite enough for this little summary that I am writing if I tell you a few ancient but authentic stories about the holy Rosary. These excerpts really go to prove what I have outlined for the faithful.
First Rose, Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis De Montfort

St. Teresa of Avila and Our Lady

The French Carmelite Père Joseph de Saint Marie, OCD, in some of his conferences on St. Teresa and in his book Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel remarks about the fact that many of the significant events in St. Teresa's life happened on or around the feast of the Assumption. Her vision of hell, which inspired her to begin the monastic reform, occurred in the month of August, as did the foundation of St. Joseph's monastery in Avila. Two magnificent visions of Our Lady took place, in different years, on August 15. In her Life, St. Teresa describes the visions. Of the first one she writes:
...In a rapture there was pictured to me [Our Lady's] ascent into Heaven and the joy and solemnity with which she was received in the place where she now is. To explain how this happened would be impossible for me. Exceeding great was the glory which filled my spirit when it saw such glory. The fruits of the vision were wonderful and I was left with a great desire to serve Our Lady, because of her surpassing merits....
In the second apparition, which occurred on August 15, 1561, St. Teresa found herself transfigured, with Our Lady on her right and St. Joseph on her left. They clothed her in a mantle of great "whiteness and brightness," which meant she was "cleansed of [her] sins." According to St. Teresa's autobiography: "Our Lady suddenly took me by the hands and told me that I was giving her great pleasure by serving St. Joseph and that I might be sure that all I was trying to do about the convent would be accomplished and that both the Lord and they would be greatly served in it." Our Lady gave her a jeweled cross on a golden chain (similar to that of an abbess) signifying the saint's authority as a mother foundress. The vision left St. Teresa feeling "greatly comforted and full of peace." In such mystical experiences the strong Marian aspect of the Carmelite charism was once again emphasized, as a witness for those who would come after.

(All quotations from Msgr. Doheny's Selected Writings of St. Teresa)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Excerpt from Letters to Mary from a Young Mother

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur kindly agreed to share this excerpt from her novel, Letters to mary from a Young Mother, with y'all.

Dear Mary,

I found out today that I am going to have a baby. We tried for so long, it seems hard to believe that it finally happened. I think that I am in a state of shock. I’m happy, but scared. My whole life is going to change. I’m not living for myself anymore; I’m living for this baby. This baby depends on me. I don’t know how to be a mother. We told our parents and our friends the good news and they are all very happy for us. It feels good to have that support, but I still feel very overwhelmed.

How did you feel when the angel told you that you were going to have a son? You expressed surprise but trusted in God. Did you wonder what Joseph would think? What your mother would say? Who did you tell? Did you lay awake at night wondering what God had in store for your life?

Help me to trust in God the way you trusted in God. Help to have faith that He knows best.

Read the rest in Letters to Mary from a Young Mother, by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thanks, Esther!!!

A special thank-you to Esther Gefroh for putting together our delicately serene new header on the blog.

Isn't she lovely?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Call for Submissions

It's time to round up posts about "Great Books about Mary" for the August issue of the Mary Moments carnival. Send them to me at peerybingle [at] gmail [dot] com or using the online form by 10 PM EST on August 10.