Monday, September 29, 2008

The Reverent Heart

Today at "Streams of Mercy," I posted on a topic that I've been wanting to write about for some time now ... what does it mean to be "reverent"?

As a convert to the faith, I am sometimes struck by the tendency in some circles to equate certain actions (or lack thereof) at Mass with "real" worship. And yet ... at what points does the preoccupation with the actions (and questioning the motives) of others have a detrimental impact on our own humility and ability to focus ourselves?

Certainly the Blessed Mother would have been the picture of reverence ... and yet, women of her culture and generation were sequestered in their own section of the synagogue. I wonder ... did Mary ever have a hard time keeping the toddler Jesus quiet during shul?

I welcome your thoughts...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Achieving Real Beauty

Over at In God's Image, I recently wrote about my reluctance with having my daughters grow up to be beautiful women. I explained why:
“I've seen too many unhappy, beautiful girls to think it's something we should want (just think of so many of the Hollywood starlets who seem to have it all and end up in drug rehab programs or in an endless game of marriage roulette or with eating disorders). It's too exhausting to maintain beauty. Once you have it (or society says you do), you cling to it, thinking it's all you've got. Once you hit a size 0, you think that's what you have to stay to be anything (ironic isn't it that a size 0 used to be my favorite size because it made me feel like I was important when that number means an absence of anything). "

Then, later in the week, I was perusing an old prayer journal where I’d scribbled down “Canticle of Mary” and beside it the words “achieving real beauty.” This intrigued me. I read the Canticle of Mary or Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), and the first and perhaps most famous lines jumped out at me: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

I’ve always thought of Mary as beautiful. But it’s not because she wears flashy clothes, has lustrous hair and flawless skin, or a perfect body. It’s because her soul – her entire being – proclaims the greatness of the Lord. She is what every woman should strive to be: pious, humble, gentle but strong, feminine and blessed.

Once my preschooler was gazing up at a statue of Our Lady when she said, “Mommy, isn’t she pretty?”

“Yes,” I said. She’s the most beautiful woman in the world.

So I stand corrected. I do want my girls to be beautiful. As beautiful and lovely and worthy of roses as Mary.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mary Moments: the Birthday Edition

This month, with our Mary Moments carnival, we're celebrating the birthday of Mary, the Blessed Mother. We're a bit late with it - the Church calendar has September 8 as the official observance. I'm pretty sure, though, that Mary won't mind. (In fact, if she's my mom, she's going to be delighted that we remembered!) We're going to keep things simple - no artwork this month. It's not a diss to our Mother; it's a way of letting the feast speak for itself.

This birthday is special for who it honors, but also for the fact that, in the Church calendar, there is only one other saint whose birthday is celebrated (John the Baptist on June 24). We don't know much about the Blessed Mother's birth - we don't find anything about her young life or her parents in Scripture - but we do know that it was miraculous, because she was conceived without sin. She had to be, you see, because she was going to be the Mother of God! (But, though God had intended her to be the Mother of His Son, she still had to say yes.)

So put on your party hat, and let's pause for a prayer before we kick off our birthday celebration.

Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to all the world.
For from thou hast risen the Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

Destroying the curse, He gave blessing;
and damning death, He bestowed on us
life everlasting.

Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
For from thou hast risen of Sun of justice,
Christ our God.
From Morning Prayer in the Divine Office

Celebrating with Food
No birthday celebration would be complete without food. In our families, birthday celebrations include cake and ice cream, but often there's a meal that brings us all together. In our family, someone hosts it and makes up a terrific spread that rivals any holiday.

I'm a big fan of these gatherings. The family sits around the house and we visit and we laugh. The kids get excited and the adults can't help but catch that excitement. There's something so intimate about eating together, as a family - extended or nuclear - and it gives us a small glimpse of the great Wedding Feast of Heaven.

Imagine, if you would, sitting around a table with the Blessed Mother and your other Christian brothers and sisters. What would be on the table - decorations, place mats, napkins, dishes? What would you be drinking? What would you be eating?

Heidi would have a treat that will make your mouth water, pavlova. It sounds like just the thing for a heavenly birthday party!

While we're eating sweets, let's try the blueberry cheesecake that Jessica made. She says, "The all white cheesecake (white and angel food cakes are other excellent options) symbolizes Mary's purity, and the blueberry topping is is symbolic of her blue mantle. You can top the cake with a small statue of Mary and surround it with a circle of 10 candles, representing one decade of the rosary." She also shares pictures and a description of what she and her children did to celebrate.

I made grape jelly recently, and it was as I was sweating and juggling the kids and finding odd times to have silence that I realized that, in my world, Mary and I would sit down for coffee and jelly bread.

Celebrating by Giving
Birthdays often mean giving gifts, and, for me, they often mean receiving gifts I would have never thought to ask for. Gifts can be a heart-felt expression of love, a way of saying what you just can't put into words.

What would you give the Blessed Mother on her birthday? How would you wrap it? Can you see her expression when she opens it? Do you hear her graciously thanking you, see her face lighting up when she sees it? And how about that hug she gives you, whispering "I love you!" in your ear? (That's the best part, don't you think?)

Long-Skirts wrote a special poem for Mary on this special birthday, "Mary of the Morn." She wrote to me, in her submission, "This is what I give to her, Mother of Our Lord because as a Roman Catholic everything is for Jesus through Mary!" She shared another poem with us, which I think will make Mary smile, "It's a Good Catholic Mother I Am." Last, but not least, she wrote a poem on the nativity of Mary.

Kate shares, in part, "Because of my own devotion to Mary, I want my children to know her, too. I want them to love her as I do. I want my girls to look to our Blessed Mother as the model of womanhood. I want them to pray the Rosary when they are grateful, sad, uncertain, joyous, sitting with their mommy sipping tea, and one day alone in their college dorms or when they, too, become parents." Her way of achieving this is inspiring, and, I think, has a packaging that just suits our whole discussion!

In an email that made me sit back and look at Mary's birthday through a new perspective, Mary wrote, "I am reminded of her willingness to say "Yes" to God, not knowing what the future would hold or to what degree she would be asked to be perfectly selfless in all she would be asked to do...even witnessing the horrible death of her only son on a cross. I turn to her as my children have cried out in agony, during tests, shots and procedures and I am reminded of all she suffered at the foot of the cross. Her obedience to all that was asked of Her guides me and inspires me to have trust in God's will for our family. Her statement at Cana, "Do whatever He asks of You" rings in my ears whenever I feel weak and discouraged. Today, I celebrate Our Blessed Mother's birth for it's great significance in ushering in the advent of salvation for all mankind and I feel so blessed to call Her "Mother.""

Celebrating the Mother Who Has Everything
We all have someone - maybe it is your mother - who has everything. It's that person who causes you to spend the entire year thinking and plotting and praying for inspiration before the gift-giving arrives. The Blessed Mother surely falls in this category, but even though she "has" everything, she is a mother.

What mother doesn't open those lovingly wrapped gifts, feeling blessed to be receiving? How can you honor your Heavenly Mother on her birthday? What kind of gift honors who she is, what she's done for you, how she loves you?

Silvia from Colorado sent me an email with her gift for Mary, and if this isn't something that will warm your heart too, then I don't know what will!

Barbara shares weekly liturgical activities (Mary's birthday is the first on the list) that will give you plenty of ideas for things you can do to learn more and celebrate this wonderful day.

Jean's gift to Mary is for the whole year. She writes, "Of course, she has my heart. Several years ago, I made my Consecration to Mary, entrusting my heart to her. Then, when I made my Oblature with the Community of St. John a few years ago, I offered up my life to Jesus through Mary, making promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience. So what's left?" You'll have to go see.

Jesus must have been a toddler, right? (I've pondered the same thing!) In a gift that made me smile, Ginny gives Mary a new title.

Celebrating the Other Places Online
As I was pulling this Mary Moments together, I found some resources I thought you might enjoy exploring.
Celebrating Next Month: the Rosary Edition
The rosary has a special place in my life, and I can't wait for next month's Mary Moments carnival! We'll be celebrating the rosary. Share your stories, your reflections, and your enthusiasm. What is your "relationship" with the rosary? What are some tips you have to share with others? How has the rosary impacted your life?

Submit your posts by October 10 using the online form or by emailing me at peerybingle [at] gmail [dot] com. If you don't have a blog, I'd be happy to host your guest post at my blog. We'll have the Mary Moments live by October 15.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Today, the day following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, is a Marian feast dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. In honor of this feast -- which commemorates the many sufferings of Mary -- please pray with me the Stabat Mater. This is the abbreviated version of the prayer I found here.

No matter how many times we pray the Rosary, the Passion of Our Lord is not something we frail humans can easily contain. How much more horrifying, then, was that suffering in the eyes of the spotless Virgin! And yet, in the mystery that is time, we are invited to "tarry with her," to stand by her as she keeps watch beneath the cross.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us ... now and as we wait with thee.

At the cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword had passed. ...

O thou Mother, fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord;

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother! Pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Saviour Crucified;

Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him Who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live.

By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share thy grief divine.
~(Cf Raccolta, No. 378)

The Best Laid Plans

This month's Mary Moments carnival is going to be on a slight delay. I'll admit to not using all five days between entry deadline and post time, and now we're without power.

My goal is to have it live by the 20th. If, that is, we have power anytime soon...

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Holy Name of Mary (Memorial)

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary to teach us how useful and advantageous it is for us to invoke her holy name in our needs. The name Mary by which we honor the Most Blessed Virgin means star of the sea. It is, says Saint Bernard, very well given to her, because she is indeed a star which enlightens, guides, and leads us to a harbor in the stormy sea of this world.

This feast day was first observed at Cuenca, Spain, 1513, then extended to the universal Church and assigned to its present place and rank by Innocent XI (1683) in thanksgiving to God and the Blessed Virgin for the liberation of Vienna and the signal victory over the Turks on September 12, 1683.

Click here for the Litany of the Holy Name of Mary.

This is a beautiful rendition of Ave Maris Stella (Mary, Star of the Sea).

Cross-posted at Catholic Fire.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mary of the Morn

Through the Gate O'Morn
He came,
In a stable, born,

Where St. Joseph
Held her hand,
Both so tired and worn.

Patient, donkey,
Just outside,
Munching on some corn,

Saw the love
St. Joseph had,
To Mary, he was sworn.

Saw St. Joseph's
Furrowed brow,
Knowing future scorn.

Saw St. Joseph,
In the now,
Fighting 'gainst forlorn.

Then the donkey
Heard with joy,
The herald of a horn,

Angel Gabriel
Announcing wide,
History's curtain torn!

Then St. Joseph
Walking by
Some fleecy, sheep, some shorn,

Behind this wife,
He'd reach new life,
Through Mary of the Morn.

by Long-Skirts
This poem is used with permission of the author.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Birth of Mary

"One is my love, my perfect one...she is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her."
~Canticle of Canticles 6: 8

The month of September, the month of Our Lady of Sorrows, brings us the sacred day when the daughter of St. Joachim and St. Anne, conceived "full of grace," was born into this earth of sin and sorrow. Her birth was the dawn of salvation for all humanity, longing for the coming of the Redeemer. Few persons were aware that in the Child Mary, free from all stain of original sin, God had begun His work of the new creation.
Truly a better paradise than the first is given us at this hour. Eden, fear no more that man will endeavor to enter thee; thy Cherubim may leave the gates and return to heaven. What are thy beautiful fruits to us, since we cannot touch them without dying? Death is now for those who will not eat of the fruit so soon to appear amid the flowers of the virgin earth to which our God has led us." (Dom Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Vol XIV)
The child whose birth we celebrate on the eighth of September would one day be crowned Queen of the Universe by the Most Blessed Trinity. The earthly life of our Queen was characterized by poverty, by manual labor, exile, suffering and humiliation. The greatest, most important woman who ever lived spent her days busy with the thousand mundane, dreary tasks of an ordinary housewife in a backwater town, member of a despised people, living in a conquered nation. Although she was of the Davidic line, her royal descent, and that of her spouse St. Joseph, was seemingly forgotten.

Nevertheless, by reason of her Immaculate Conception, in the least action of the Blessed Virgin Mary there was an unfathomable glory, a treasury of merit which all the collective merits of all the angels and saints could not begin to equal. How contrary to the ways of the world, that such sublimity was veiled from the eyes of men.

In the words of Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD:
Our Lady's origin is wrapped in silence, as was her whole life. Thus, her birth speaks to us of humility. The more we desire to grow in God's eyes, the more we should hide ourselves from the eyes of creatures. The more we wish to do great things for God, the more we should labor in silence and obscurity. (Divine Intimacy, 1964)
"And the virgin's name was Mary." (Luke 1: 27) Let the holy name of Mary, along with that of her divine Son, be an antidote to the poison of vainglory, a light for the darkness of sin and the moral ambiguities which so obstruct the paths of those striving for Christian perfection. May the humility and littleness of the Child Mary be the mark of her children. "O Mary my Mother, teach me to live hidden with you in the shadow of God." (Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen's Divine Intimacy)

A Prayer to Mary on Her Birthday

Dear Mary,

Today Catholics celebrate your birth, but more importantly we celebrate you as a model of steadfast faith. Lately, I've been in a spiritual slump. God seems distant, aloof. Yet, I'm having trouble doing anything to bridge this gap between Him and me. So on your birthday, I give you the gift of my humble prayers and I ask you to give me the gift of faith. Make me believe in God's graces and be open to them.

Help me to not only believe and trust in Him, but help me to be a handmaid of the Lord. My fiats to God may be small in scope and impact compared to yours - in your saying yes to God you not only cooperated with His will for you and all of mankind, but you played a role in our salvation. However, I, too, have a chance to invite God to work in my life and to see how His plans will unfold for me. But the first step is to simply say yes to all that He asks of me. Be with me now and always and open my heart to God's calling.

One of your daughters

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Call for Entries for Mary Moments

Mary Moments: the Birthday Edition
This month, 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 here on my blog.

(Feel free to copy this to your blog to promote MM. We would love to have a truckload (or more) of entries!)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Saving Rosary

Growing up in the Catholic world of upstate New York, I was introduced to all the lovely gifts of Catholic prayer. The rosary was one that I never really enjoyed due to the time it took to sufficiently pray it, however, my grandmother, (many years gone now) taught me something that I didn't understand until being a mother myself.

My grandmother had 5 children, the twins were always into something, good or bad...typical. My mother told me that every time they got into a fix, my grandmother would run to the bathroom downstairs and pray the rosary, then come out later to see how it all turned out. We would laugh about this silly practice. However, I still have my twin uncles, both in one piece, along with the other siblings.

Always a reader, I remember reading about a man who would come home every day during his lunch hour, go upstairs to his room and pray the rosary before eating his lunch and returning to work. He did this for years for his children. The article went on to report that all of his children have since made good life choices, most have gone into the religious life and one married well and had healthy children. Years of prayer seen in fruition.

Another story of the rosary that I read was about a woman who would wake up every morning earlier than her family and quietly, in the dark of dawn, pray the rosary. She talked about how this routine gave her strength and courage that she didn't have before. Praying the rosary each morning didn't "make the day go without problems or difficulties, but it did make her stronger in dealing with them." Makes you think, doesn't it?

From all that I have read, the proof of saving prayer, is exactly what my grandmother taught me so many years ago, that if we fly to her (Mother Mary) in faith, she takes care of us. Totus Tuus!