Friday, May 30, 2008

On the Feast of the Visitation

Dear Cousin Elizabeth:

Thank you for your warm, loving welcome. Although Zechariah was uncharacteristically quiet in the beginning (clearly his encounter with the angel was very different from mine ... I haven't been able to stop talking since it happened!), it felt good to share my joy with someone who understood the reason for it.

I wish I could say as much about my own family. Joseph hasn't spoken to me for days; neither has mother. They know me ... and yet, they don't. Not really. Not if they think I'm truly capable of what they THINK I've done. And yet ... well, it IS fantastic, isn't it?

How I wish I could be with you, even now. To see little John grow up alongside his cousin, would make my happiness complete. Now that I'm entering my confinement, I imagine it will be quite some time before I see your sweet face again, or his .... But please know that your voice still resounds in my ears. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"

Ah, how blessed we both are, that the Almighty has done such great things for us!

Ever your loving cousin,


Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Corpus Christi

Surely he has borne our griefs
My precious Son, my only Son,
My broken heart keeps beating still.
and carried our sorrows;
My tears like crystal droplets stream,
As crimson rivers flow downhill.
yet we esteemed him stricken,
They do not know ... how could they know?
They crown with thorns their rightful King.
smitten by God, and afflicted.
The skies turn a smothering, fetid black
as the sparrows lose the will to sing.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
The angry lash, nails driven home, such horror
I've not known till now.
he was bruised for our iniquities;
And as the nails pulled out again,
his body struck the blood-soaked ground.
Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
I nearly fainted dead away ... but then,
a whisper from Eternity ...
and by his stripes we are healed.
"It is finished ... It is finished ... It is finished."
His words returned and strengthened me.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
Thy precious body, my true delight,
had not been vanquished in the fight.
we have turned every one to his own way;
And neither would I die. My face, that moment
dry as I turned toward the light.
and the Lord has laid on him
They laid him down, to rise again
as Shepherd of His sheep.
the iniquity of us all.
His Body and Blood, the bridal price,
for bonds of love to keep.
Heidi Hess Saxton
Corpus Christi 2008
Thanks, Sarah, for posting your interview at "Another Day of Catholic Pondering"!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Behold Your Mother: Book Trailer

I just came across this second video today!

"Behold Your Mother" ... Now in Cyberspace!

Since May 1, Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert has been on a virtual book tour ! To connect to the tour while it's in progress, click here.

Our tour began on May 1 ... the Feast of the Ascension. When an angel taps on your shoulder and commands you to march .... well, it's time to start marching, isn't it? Too much gazing heavenward makes you stumble over your feet a great deal. There is work to do right here!

On that note, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the many thoughtful, lovely people who took time to read and review Behold Your Mother. I hope the reading blesses you as much as the writing blessed me.

Thursday, May 1. Catholic Exchange and Divine Caroline.
Friday, May 2. "Abba's Little Girl" and A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars
Monday, May 5. Postscripts from the Catholic Spitfire Grill and Catholic Fire
Tuesday, May 6. Paperback Writer
Wednesday, May 7. Embracing Motherhood (thanks, Donna!) and Storycrafters
Thursday, May 8. Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering
Friday, May 9. Storycrafters
Saturday, May 10: Amateur de Livre
Sunday, May 11: Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering (thanks, Sarah!)
Monday, May 12: Catholic Fire
Tuesday, May 13: The Book Connection and Snow's Place
Wednesday, May 14. The Book Connection
Thursday, May 15: Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars and Catholic Converts
Friday, May 16. Mary Our Mother
Monday, May 19. A Maiden's Wreath
Tuesday, May 20. Book Stacks and Story Behind the Book
Wednesday, May 21: Buzz the Book
Friday, May 23: Book Buzz
Saturday, May 24: Cause of Our Joy!
Monday, May 26: Just Another Day (interview) and Spiritual Woman
Tuesday, May 27: Et Tu? Conversion Blog
Thursday, May 29: Karina at Virtual Book Tour de Net

If you just clicked through here, and want to know more about this beautiful tribute to the Mother of Jesus, please be sure to join the tour or watch the video here.

If you'd like details on our special "Tea with Mary" offer ... click here. Or simply go to my website, and order the book via PayPal or credit card.

Blessings .... Heidi

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Our Lady of Sheshan: Prayer for the People of China

Today the "New York Times" reported that 200 rescue workers in China were killed in a mudslide in the aftermath of the earthquake. More than 50,000 are believed to have died in the catastrophe. Holy Mary, Lady of Sheshan, pray for us!

Today Lisa Hendey posted this prayer from Pope Benedict, dedicated to Our Lady of Sheshan:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”, the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.

We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care,
guide them along the paths of truth and love,
so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.

You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday
you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.

Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.
Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.

Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Our Lady of the Rosary!

I'm delighted to report that "Behold Your Mother" is ranked 23,263 in total sales today on Amazon ... #38 in Inspirational Catholic Books, and #39 in Catholic books in general.

Our Lady of the Rosary, keep praying for us ... that many people will come to know and love you! (And special thanks to Teresa Tomeo at "Catholic Connection", who ran our interview again today on the national hour in honor of Our Lady of Fatima. Thanks, Teresa!

On this date in 1917 that the first apparition of the Blessed Mother appeared to the seers of Fatima. Thirty years later, an apostolate called the "Ambassadors of Mary" was established in Chicago. Two replicas of "The Pilgrim Virgin" were commissioned and sent into circulation, to benefit those who are unable to make a pilgrimage to the original shrine.

The site that includes the history of this movement has this to say about its origins: "The Ambassadors of Mary, an organization which was founded in 1946, decided to take on this beneficent practice of the 'Pilgrim Virgin' as a Marian Year project. Accordingly, at our First-Saturday Retreat in May 1954, the first Pilgrim Virgin was blessed and sent on its way to Chicago homes. Within a few weeks, however, there were more requests for the Virgin than could be fulfilled in three years. On the first Saturday of October, therefore, three more Pilgrim Virgins were blessed and sent on their pilgrimage of love, and many more have been added since then. As of 1987 there were a total of 190 statues on pilgrimage in our country and in foreign lands."

The apparitions of Fatima have not yet been approved by the Church, and (as is in the case of all private revelation), faithful Catholics are not obliged to believe that Mary appeared to the three children (see photo right). I had a friend visit the shrine in Portugal this past February, and she was deeply touched by the experience. To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of it.

However, in an article recorded on EWTN website, Father John de Marchi records a moving account of his own experience:
There are not many striking or ornamental sights to see. At Fatima the edifice of greatest interest is perhaps the least of the structures there. This is the Chapel of the Apparitions—simple, surely inexpensive, and likely enough no larger than your living room at home. Its glory exists in nothing but the events it commemorates. The lone touch of grandeur at the Cova da Iria will be found in the great basilica that has risen above the humble land. This is a crowning structure in the manner of the Italian Renaissance, stately and reverent in its setting, and built of the stone, the labor, and the love these hills have returned to their Lady for the visits she paid them less than 40 years ago.

In the classic pattern of great Catholic shrines, remarkable and documented cures have been effected at Fatima. People seem either unduly devoted to miracles or else made furious by stories concerning them, but a great shrine without miracles would be to many like a song that lacked a lyric.

There is clinical certainty that at Fatima the blind have had sight restored, while men and women stretcher-borne have risen from their litters to cry hosannas to the Power that can in one moment banish cancer, loosen the fist of the tightest paralysis, or render whole and clean the shrunken lungs of abandoned tuberculars. More than a hundred contradictions of the natural physical law have been registered at Fatima, and held to be valid only after the most exhaustive and scrupulous examination of all available evidence. The author has himself been present at many miraculous cures, but to those who do not require the spangles of visible prodigy to know that God is in His heaven, the spiritual message of Fatima remains of infinitely greater importance.

The true meaning of Fatima is that God has spoken to us through Mary, the Blessed Mother of His Son. We should pause long enough to reflect that it is not strange for God to speak to us, since He loves us far more than the best of us loves Him. Through all human history He has given His counsel to the conduct of our lives, His light to our doubts, and finally, through Calvary, the blood of His only-begotten Son as a ransom for our sins. Angels and prophets and saints have spoken for Him, but the most glorious of His messengers has been Mary.
This week's Catholic Carnival is up at "Organ-ic Chemist." Be sure to check it out!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Marian Dogmas - Spiritual Woman

Patrice at Spiritual Woman writes about the four Marian dogmas to which every Catholic is obligated to assent. They are:

* The Immaculate Conception (Mary was conceived without original sin, and remained sinless her entire life by the grace of God and the merits of her Son, Jesus, because of her role as the "Ark of the New Covenant."

* The Perpetual Virginity of Mary (Mary remained a virgin throughout her life because she was the spouse of the Holy Spirit, by whom she conceived the Incarnate Christ, and gave birth to Him without losing her virginity. How God accomplished both these miracles, we won't know until we get to heaven -- the Catholic faith is full of mysteries -- but we are obligated to believe it nonetheless.)

* Mary is the Theotokos (the God-bearer). This dogma developed as a direct result of the Trinitiarian andChristological dogmas of the early Church Fathers.

* The Assumption of Mary, body and soul into heaven.

Patrice has a gift for explaining core tenets of the faith with simplicity and grace. Be sure to check out her post. Please also check out Ebeth's interview at "A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother of the Pentecost

It's Mother's Day ... and it's Pentecost!

Seems like the perfect day to blog about my favorite mother, who was actually present at that first Pentecost.

When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Acts 1:13-14

Mary was already on intimate terms with the Spirit, of course, who had brought about the miracle of the Incarnation. ("The Holy Spirit shall overshadow you..." the angel had predicted). And now she waited alongside her spiritual children, praying with them for the fulfillment of her Son's promise, for the divine mystery to be revealed to them. In this way, we see the three parts of the Body of Christ -- the mystical inner core, represented by Mary; the teaching and leading "skeleton" of the apostles; and the arms of service, represented by the other women "and his brothers."

It is the Spirit that empowers and directs the Body of Christ, each according to its own gifts and charisms. In The Sober Intoxication of the Spirit, Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, papal preacher to Pope John Paul the Great's potifical household, describes the nature of this holy source of power:

All through the Bible, the Holy Spirit reveals Himself in two ways: through His sanctifying work, which transforms a person who receives Him and infuses him or her with a new heart, and through His charismatic action. In the latter case, He empowers certain people not so He can dwell in them and sanctify them from within, but so that He can act through them in the community and for the good of the community. ... These charisms are free gifts, given to people not because they are holy and not even chiefly to make them holy but for the service of the people of God. That explains how someone can be charismatic without necessarily being holy (p.126).
I confess this passage horrified me the first time I read it. Prior to becoming Catholic, I had been a part of a number of charismatic groups, and had witnessed both manifestations of Holy Spirit power ... as well as examples of extraordinary human weakness and spiritual pride. Leaders without the graces of ordination, who manipulated and bullied their followers into submission; "mystics" whose focus on the extraordinary intercessory gifts such as speaking in tongues and prophecy turned every prayer meeting into a three-ring-circus; those who had been called to imitate the love of Christ in service, but who began to see demons under every bush and decided to wage war on the world around them, rather than draw them to Christ.

Canatlamessa observes:

Kirkegaard, a philosopher who loved Jesus very much, affirmed that God has created two categories of people: heroes and poets. The hero is the one who accomplishes great deeds and even does battle with death. The poet does not do impressive deeds, but he sings about the hero and is enthusiastic about the hero; he is as happy as if he were the hero himself, because his own genius can be expressed in sheer admiration and devotion. ... For us, Jesus is our hero, and we should be his poets. I do not mean in the sense that we should write poems about Him but in the sense that we are in
love with Jesus. The poets speak through their songs and succeed not only in convincing, but in taking others along with him (p.132).
Oh, that the Spirit might fall upon us, just as He did that first Pentecost, so that we might become true adorers of the one true hero ... Christ the Lord .. just as the Blessed Mother was!

Would you like to read more about the Holy Spirit and Mary? Today I found this link to a letter from Pope Paul VI on Deacon John's blog. Check it out!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What does it mean that Jesus is our "one mediator"?

A writing buddy of mine is struggling right now. Please pray for "J." She is casting longing looks across the Tiber, and can't figure out how to reconcile her understanding of what she believes about the all-sufficient work of Christ and what the Church teaches about the communion of the saints ... especially the powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother.

Ah, I know exactly how she feels. I say that without a trace of smugness, and with great anticipation. I can see that her heart is opening to truth, and it is like watching a new life being brought into the world (or so I imagine).

There may be others who, stumbling upon this post, have similar questions to those which my friend sent my way today. And so, for your benefit, I'm going to post a good part of my reply.

Here were some of her questions:

* How can we say that there is one mediator -- Christ -- if we can pray to the saints?
* How is prayer different from worship?
* How is it that Catholics can pray to Mary without insulting the Lord, or His supreme place in our hearts?
* How can I call Mary my "mother" without dishonoring my own mother?
* (This is my favorite) How can you be so open about your own journey? Aren't you afraid of what people will say to you who don't agree?

If you look up the word "pray" in the dictionary, you'll see that the original meaning of the word was not "worship," but "ask" or "entreat." To Catholics, as it was to Jews before us, the heart of worship is not prayer alone, but sacrifice. In our case, the sacrifice of the Mass. It is within this context that we worship, we adore ... we are transformed. When we pray, we are asking ... Like any family, who we ask depends on what we need. Sometimes we ask our Father or His Son. Sometimes we ask Mary our spiritual mother. Sometimes we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ, here or in heaven.

You ask how it is that I speak so openly with people. In order to reach this place in my life I've had to be stripped many times over. I know what it is to put on spiritual pretenses with people, how it wounds and alienates. This kind of insidious spiritual pride does great damage within the body of Christ. And it is pointless, because the one who knows and loves us best, sees it all and loves us anyway.

We love Mary because JESUS loves Mary. We love Mary because God CHOSE Mary to be the mother of His Son, and because Jesus gave her to us from the cross (see John 19). What son do you know gets insulted when you pay tribute to his mother? No good son does ... especially Jesus, who even in glory continues to "Honor your father and your mother."

None of us would make it to heaven without the atoning work of Christ. In that sense, he is the one and only mediator between God and man. The Catholic faith fully assents to this, without equivocation. At the same time, we must be careful what meaning we ascribe to "mediator."

* It doesn't mean that Jesus is the only one who can intercede for us. If that were true, we could not ask anyone else to pray for us, for any reason.

* It doesn't mean that ours is a passive salvation. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." "Put on the whole armor of Christ ... that you may stand."

* It doesn't mean that those believers who have gone before us to heaven are unable to pray for us, or are cut off from us like those who die without the hope of Christ. "He who believes in me shall never die."

It DOES mean that we must be willing to make ourselves like children again, to step into the light we have been given and trust God for the rest. It DOES mean that we may be called to lay aside some of our most cherished assumptions about who God is and how He operates, as we are given additional light and discover that what we have always thought ... is not consistent with what the first Christians believed, or what the apostles taught.

The Church teachings on Mary originate from the earliest councils of the Church, developed alongside the great Christological and Trinitarian dogmas of the 3-5th centuries. The first Church Fathers ... Ignatius and Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine ... all believed the same things the Church teaches now about Mary being the ever-virgin, immaculate Mother of God.

"Enter through the narrow gate ... for narrow is the path that leads to life, and only the few who find it." It means laying down the compulsion to have everything make sense within our particular intellectual parameters, and trusting God to lead. For He is infinite Mystery ... and we are poor and blind.

And that, dear sister, is why we lean on Mary. Not because Jesus is insufficient. But because WE are simply incapable of seeing the light at times, even when it shines right in front of us. "To Jesus through Mary." She is every bit as human as we are. She knows the pitfalls, though by the grace of God (and her Son's merits) she was kept from falling into them.

Do not let fear or pride rule in your heart. Trust God... and trust your spiritual mother. The same spiritual mother who took your own dear mother by the hand and led her to the Father. As an adoptive mother, I can assure you that there is room in every child's heart for more than one kind of mother's love.

Praying for you, always listening.


"Behold Your Mother": Examples of Ignatian Spirituality

"Heidi Saxton is an excellent writer of clear, unambiguous, and engaging prose. Her one page reflections in this book are textbook examples of Ignatian Spirituality. When I went through Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius the first time, I had a hard time understanding what I was suppose to get out of the contemplation exercises. This book would have been a great tool to help me do that. I'm not really 'into Mary,' but this book drew me much closer, and I enjoyed our Blessed Mother's presence. Like the Apostle John, at the foot of the cross, I finally got the idea behind what Jesus was saying to ME, 'Behold Your Mother.' How cool!"

Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D., Nineveh's Crossing

Thanks, Stan! You can order the book at Nineveh's Crossing ... or get "Tea with Mary" here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Catholic Carnival #171: Thoughts on Mary

Today at Catholic Exchange, Cheryl Dickow posts a lovely tribute to her mother, and ties it in nicely with "BYM." Enjoy! (Yet another example of how my publisher is a fearless advocate for Bezalel Books!)

The Catholic Carnival this week at "Building the Ark" is particularly ... Marian.

* At "Postscripts from the Catholic Spitfire Grill," RNW posts a thoughtful essay on "Why the Necklaces I Wear are Not Proof of Mary Worship."

* "Visits to Candyland" offers "The Wedding at Cana ... or the Big Mary Smackdown?" Was Jesus really trying to put Mary in her place when He said, "Woman, what have I to do with you" (and then proceeded to fill those water jars with the choicest wine)? Please say a prayer for Candy, here ... such vitriolic hyperbole and ignorance is often a strong indicator that the Lord has her in His divine crosshairs. I would not be the least surprised if one day she became one of us upstart converts!

* Last but not least, my friend Jean Heimann posts her review of BYM at "Catholic Fire." Also, Ebth posts hers at "Catholic Mum Climbing the Pillars."
(Image of Mary from the Shrine to the Blessed Mother at the Co-Cathedral to the Sacred Heart in Houston)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"Behold Your Mother" Hits Amazon's Top 100 Inspirational Catholic Books

What a rush... today Behold Your Mother was #92 in Amazon's Catholic inspirational titles. Heady company ... Nouwen, Hahn, Francis de Sales. How cool is THAT?! Many, many thanks to those who purchased the book from Amazon ... you are part of this success story, too!

It's not too late to get in your order before Mother's Day. Then again ... feel free to order from Amazon. Maybe we can bump it up a few more notches if we work together.

The fact that this little book is catching on the way it is, is another example of how the Blessed Mother operates. The first edition of the book had a much flashier cover ... not to mention stronger "marketing muscle" behind it, coming from a traditional publisher.

By contrast, this edition is simpler, smaller ... it is spreading largely by word of mouth. It's another example of how the Blessed Mother works in people's hearts. She's not one for flash, for grabbing attention for herself. Instead she lingers near us, drawing us to her so that she can "mother" us, and lead us closer to her Son, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

Our Lady of the Smile

From Lisa Hendey's "Catholic Moments" blog, a link to the lovely "Prayer to Our Lady of the Smile" from the Catholic Doors Ministry.

Gentle Mary, My Mother,
I place before you the worries,
hurts and hopes of my heart.
They shrink my soul and I feel heavy and hopeless.
Darkness closes in around me.
I reach out to you, bright Lady of Hope.
Smile on me.
Smile on my loved ones and the intentions I place before you.

(Mention your intentions here...)

Your tender smile works miracles and heals,
as you did with St. Therese, the Little Flower.
You are my true Mother.
You show the tender mercy of God.
Smile on me, Blessed Mother,
and all will be well.

Mother of Mercy

Last weekend was my son's First Holy Communion. Watching him, standing so straight and tall with the other children of the parish and singing his heart out, it took my breath away. (Chris is top center)

The little wild child who used to hide under tables and strike out at our priest, who painted walls with ... well, who painted walls and tore stuffed animals limb from limb, had grown up into a wonderful young man.

At the last moment, we were unable to find the white tie we had purchased for the occasion ... And then I found the little white garment he had received at his baptism two years before. His dad fashioned a tie out of it. It fit perfectly.

"Ave, ave, ave Maria ... Ave, ave Maria..." Their voices raised in song, I couldn't help but sing along. The path we had traveled together had not been a smooth one. There were times we were both scared. I was especially scared that I didn't have what it took to raise children with the kind of history, the kind of trauma these kids had experienced.

And yet, I had a special advocate, praying for me. Someone who had seen her Son carry burdens even greater than mine had. Someone who had walked alongside Him every painful step of the way. Someone who was even more delighted than I was at that moment, to see my son receive her Son, and all the graces that go with it.

She is the Mother of Mercy ... the Divine Mercy whose love knows no measure, whose limitless grace pours out in rich abundance whenever we call out to Him.

Mother of Mercy, I place my child into your loving care.
Your Son died for him, that he might live forever with the Father.
Hold on to him tight, especially when I cannot be there.
Watch over him, and be for him the mother I can never be.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.