Mary, Full of Grace

The Octave Day of Christmas

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

IMG_2003
Theotokos, a mosaic mural from the Gelati Monastery, Georgia, (1125-1130 AD)

January 1, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate Mary, Mother of Jesus.

I begin my prayer today by asking a question posed by distinguished theologian, Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ:

What would be a theologically sound, spiritually empowering and ethically challenging theology of Mary, mother of Jesus the Christ, for the 21st century? This question has no simple answer, for the first-century Jewish woman Miriam of Nazareth, also held in faith to be Theotokos, the God-bearer, is arguably the most celebrated woman in the Christian tradition. One could almost drown surveying the ways different eras have honored her in painting, sculpture, icons, architecture, music and poetry; venerated her with titles, liturgies, prayers and feasts; and taught about her in spiritual writings, theology and official doctrine.

To see Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s excellent article, click here.


In my own prayer today, though, I am not reaching for a deeper theological understanding of Mary. I simply want to talk with her as my Mother, my older Sister, my Friend. I want to seek her guidance and her inspiration. I want to thank her for her continual willingness to bear Christ into the world, and into my life.

How significant it is that the Church begins the year inviting us all to Mary’s Light! Our first reading blesses us in a way that Mary might bless us:

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!

Mary was all about giving us the LORD, not giving us herself. We see Mary best when we see her holding Christ toward us – the “God-bearer” or “Theotokos”.

IMG_2004
Theotokos Vladimirskaya icon, Vologda, Vladimirskaya Church, mid-end 16 century

This title, used especially in Eastern Christianity, originated in the 3rd century Syriac tradition. It affirms Mary as the Mother of Jesus, Who was both human and divine in nature.

Our reading from Galatians assures us that we too, by our Baptism, are the daughters and sons of God – thus becoming Mary’s own. She is our Mother too by the power of this sacrament.

Our Gospel reveals the spirituality of Mary who “pondered” all the mysterious workings of God deep in her heart. This Mary is my revered sister, guiding me as I meet the unfolding of God in my own life.

Today, let us pray with Mary, our Mother, our Sister, Bearer of God. Let us pray for the whole Church, the whole world – all of whom she tenderly loves.

Music: Two selections today.

A Peaceful Hymn to the Theotokos – Nuns of the Carmazani Monastery in Romania

Prayer of Pure Love – Leddy Hammock and Sue Riley

Holy Family – 2019

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

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December 29,2019

(I published this reflection on last year’s feast. It seemed to touch people deeply, so I thought it bore another look. God bless you all, dear readers, and God bless your families here and in heaven.)


Holy-Family

Today, in Mercy, our prayer is turned to the Holy Family, that unique configuration of love which nurtured the developing life of Jesus. Can you imagine how tenderly the Father shaped this triad, this nesting place of love for God’s own Word?

We look to the Holy Family so that we might be strengthened in the virtues that will help us build our own families: sacrificial love, reverence, courage, unfailing support, committed presence, shared faith, gentle honesty, unconditional acceptance.

“Family” is the primordial place where we learn who we are. The lessons it teaches us about ourselves – for better or worse — remain with us forever. 

Not everyone is blessed by their family. Family can ground us in confidence or undermine us with self-doubt. It can free us from fear or cripple us with reservation. It can release either possibility or perpetual hesitation within us.

Some families are so dysfunctional that we spend the rest of our lives trying to recover from them. But some, like the Holy Family, allow God’s dream to be nurtured in us and to spread to new families, both of blood and spirit.

The challenge today is to thank God for whatever type of family bore us. Lessons can be learned from both lights and shadows. Let us spend time this morning looking  at our own families with love, gratitude, forgiveness, understanding. Where there are wounds to be healed, let us face them. Where there are belated thanks to be offered, let us give them. Where there are negligence and oversights to confess, let us use them as bridges to a new devotion.

For some, it may seem too late to heal or bless our family. Time may have swallowed some of our possibilities. But it is never too late to deepen relationships through prayer, both for and to our ancestors.

May this feast strengthen us for the families who need us today.

Music: God Bless My Family ~ Anne Hampton Calloway (Lyrics below)

GOD BLESS MY FAMILY
Words and music – By Ann Hampton Callaway
1. It’s Christmas time
Outside the snow is falling
Like a million stars
Like a million dreams
All dressed up in white
I’m writing Christmas cards
A joy that’s tinged with sadness
As I think of friends
Some are here and some are gone
But our love goes on and on
Like the snow tonight
CHORUS
And oh, what a family
My life has given me
From the corners of the earth
To the reaches of the sky
We touch eternally
And though my heart aches ev’ry day
This Christmas I will find a way
To let each face I’ve ever loved
Shine out in me
God bless my family
2. As years go by
The carols we sang as children
Gather memories
What was just a song
Now feels like a pray’r
Welcoming us home
To fathers, mothers
Sisters, brothers ev’rywhere
Some we’ve lost and some we’ve found
As love circles us around
In the songs we share
CHORUS
So fly, angels of my heart
We’ll never be apart
Tonight I say a pray’r
For loved ones ev’rywhere
CHORUS/CODA
You’re a part of my family
That life has given me
From the corners of the earth
To the reaches of the sky
We touch eternally
And though my heart aches ev’ryday
This Christmas I will find a way
To let each face I’ve ever loved
Shine out in me
God bless my family
You’ll always live in me
God bless my family

Christmas 2019

Christmas Day 2019

Click here for readings at Dawn Mass

Today, in Mercy, may you, your families, communities and loved ones be blessed with every grace and happiness.  Merry Christmas, dear friends!

This is a reflection I wrote for the Catholic Health Association in 2015. I hope it blesses you on this holy day.


word made flesh

“Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:11

We knew only his name, not his story. Leon, just 37 years old, was one of those rootless souls who, by life’s violent incisions, become severed from their history and their future. He had come to us from a local boarding home, comatose and dying. He came with no friend or family to attend his imminent passage. So, through the night of Christmas Eve, Kathy, a young, off-duty nurse, sat silently with Leon, adamant that he should not die alone.

Leon had a quiet death. Very little changed in him except for stilled breathing and the relaxed mask that follows expiration. It was Kathy who changed. In that sterile hospital room, grey-lit with early morning, the palpable breath of God embraced her. She knew, and from that Christmas moment will always know, that all life beats within the Divine Heart; that we are sacred and immortal within its mysterious rhythm.

Over these celebratory days, we will orchestrate a series of Christmas moments in our decorations, carols, gifts and feasts. We will visit our treasured memories and revered mangers. We will be blessed by the love of family and friends who are the face of Christ to us.

May we also receive this singular grace: to know that any true Christmas moment comes only when the Spirit of Christ passes through us into the heart of another person. To receive this grace, we may, like Kathy, need to sit in a silent room with a dying stranger. We may need to welcome that ostracized family member who has carelessly injured us. We may need to rediscover, in our own quiet contrition, the radiant Gospel commitment that has paled in us.

Meister Eckhart, seven centuries ago, sought such a Christmas moment:

Today we celebrate the Eternal Birth
which God the Father has borne
and never ceases to bear in all eternity.
But if it takes not place in me, what avails it?
Everything lies in this, that it should take place in me.

Music: Two Hour Playlist for Christmas – Tim Janis

Prophecies and Dreams

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our scripture readings lay down before our prayer the long line of salvation history. It is a line that we can walk in wonder, winding from Isaiah’s prophecy, through the House of David, down to Joseph dreaming in the Nazarene night.

line

It is a story filled with words we love because, ever since our childhood, they have carried to us the fragrant scent of Christmas. These readings are the thrilling stuff of prophecies and dreams, all the more wonderful because we know them now fulfilled.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.
Isaiah 7:14


Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.

For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:20


O Emmanuel

This long wick of Promise, burning slowly through the biblical years, bursts into light with the birth of Jesus Christ, the Fire of God.

Through our faith, that Divine Light kindles us – we who now, through our Baptism, carry the sacred DNA of Jesus into our times.

On this final Sunday of Advent, when the world’s “crazy Xmas” tries to hijack our  souls, let us be very intentional about the true meaning of these days. Let us take the time to “go into our heart cave” and prepare for Jesus. (Heart Cave poem to follow in a second post)

Music: Emmanuel – Tim Manion (Lyrics below)

Baby born in a stall.
Long ago now and hard to recall
Cold wind, darkness and sin,
your welcoming from us all.

 How can it be true?
A world grown so old now, how can it be new?
Sorrow’s end, God send,
born now for me and you

Emanuel, Emanuel
What are we that You have loved us so well?
A song on high, a Savior’s high, angel hosts rejoice
Thy glory to tell

 Lord, lead us to know.
You lay like a beggar, so humble, so low;
no place for Your head and straw for a bed,
the glory of God to show.

 Babe on mother’s knee,
child so soon to be nailed to a tree;
all praise, till the end of our days;
O Lord, You have set us free

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, is a day of loving celebration.

First, we commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

OL Guadalupe
Virgen de Guadalupe con las cuatro apariciones by Juan de Sáenz (Virgin of Guadalupe with the four apparitions by Juan de Saenz)

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Catholic title of Mary associated with an apparition and a venerated image enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  Catholic tradition asserts that the Virgin Mary appeared to a native Mexican peasant Saint Juan Diego, asking that a Church be built at the site.

The shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destination in the world. Over the Friday and Saturday of December 11 to 12, 2009, a record number of 6.1 million pilgrims visited the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the apparition.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the Patroness of Mexico and the Continental Americas; she is also venerated by Native Americans, on the account of the devotion calling for the conversion of the Americas.
(Information from Wikipedia)


Not everyone is comfortable with the concept of religious apparitions. But whatever our personal feelings regarding them, there is no doubt that they have animated the faith of millions over the centuries. For me, their factual reality is less important than the devotion they inspire. If such devotions help us love God and our sisters and brothers, they are a source of blessing.

What images, devotions and understandings of Mary help you to exercise a more vigorous faith and generous charity?

Today is a good day to spend time with these inspirations.


 

Mercy word

The Sisters of Mercy celebrate a second blessing on this date.

On December 12, 1831, exactly 300 years after the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in Mexico, three women – Catherine McAuley, Mary Ann Doyle and Elizabeth Harley – took vows to become the first Sisters of Mercy, beginning a religious community dedicated to serving those who are poor, sick and uneducated.

( Information from Mercy Education System of the Americas. See their website for excellent materials on celebrating these special days.)

Click here to go to Mercy Education System of the Americas


To view an inspiring summary of Catherine McAuley’s life, click below. (You’ll love the beautiful Irish accent)

Click here to learn about Catherine McAuley


Music: Buenos Dias, Paloma Blanca (Traditional Mexican song for Our Lady of Guadalupe) English lyrics below.

Good morning, White Dove,
today I come to greet you,
greeting your beauty
in your celestial kingdom!

You are mother of the Creator
that enchants my heart,
thanks I give you with love.
Good morning, white dove!

Beautiful girl, holy girl,
your sweet name praised,
because you are so blessed
that I come to greet you.

Resplendent like the dawn,
pure and sensitive and without stain,
what pleasure my soul receives.
Good morning, white dove!

 

Let Mary Be Mary

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(December 9th this year because the 8th fell on the Second Sunday of Advent)

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Today, in. Mercy, we celebrate one of the many feasts honoring Mary, Mother of Jesus.

Today’s feast can be confusing to people. It is sometimes mixed up with the Virgin Birth – the moment when Jesus was born. What we celebrate today, however, is the moment Mary was conceived by her parents, Anna and Joachim.

275px-Santi_gioacchino_e_anna

From a young age, I have had a tender devotion to Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Some of my local readers will be familiar with the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Established in 1915, the Shrine promotes this devotion through its well-known novena and other means.

medal

My Mom and Dad said that novena every day. Most Monday evenings, Mom and I would walk to our parish church where the community gathered to pray the novena together, celebrate Benediction, and sing the rousing hymn to Mary entitled, “O Mary, Conceived Without Sin”. ( I know some of my old friends are humming the tune right now🤗) When I received my First Communion, I was given my first Miraculous Medal which I treasured.

( A little reminiscence about that coming later today. Hope you enjoy it.)


These remembered devotions were the foundation on which the legacy of faith was planted in our young hearts. But as with any good foundation, a rich garden of understanding has grown from that early soil. Over the intervening years, many graced theologians have helped me grow in understanding of, and relationship with Mary.

One powerful impetus for this growth has come from Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph and Professor Emerita at Fordham University. Her magnificent work Truly Our Sister opens with this sentence:

“ This book proposes that one fruitful approach to the theology of Mary, historically the mother of Jesus, called in faith the Theotokos or God-bearer, is to envision her as a concrete woman of our history who walked with the Spirit.”

Tanner Annunciation
Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Reading Johnson and others has let me see Mary more fully, allowing Mary to move from an isolated perfectionism to a womanly humanity transformed by the Holy Spirit. Johnson says:

“ I am proposing that one fruitful way to work out a liberating feminist theology of Mary is to locate her in the communion of saints and there to remember her, dangerously and consolingly, as a woman with her own particular history among her contemporaries and before God. At first glance placing Mary in the company of the saints may seem strange to those accustomed to more traditional Catholic practice, even though the title ‘Saint Mary’ adorns many churches, schools, and other institutions. It may even seem a diminishment of the honor that is her due as the Theotokos, or bearer of God. But at root it grants her the greatest honor the Christian tradition acknowledges for a human being, namely, the core dignity of being created in the divine image and likeness and gifted, in community with others, with a graced relationship to the living God.”

Today, as we pray with our many images, devotions and understandings of Mary, may we open our hearts to be inspired by her singular witness to God’s desire to be among us.

Music: The Magnificat – Mary’s radical prayer for justice and mercy, sung here in Latin by the Daughters of Mary (English below)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their seat s
and has exalted the humble and meek.
He has filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he has sent empty away.
Remembering his mercy, he has helped his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his posterity forever. 

St. Luke

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

Friday, October 18, 2019

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Jan Fossaert: Luke Painting the Virgin
Jan Fossaert: Luke Painting the Virgin

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Luke who gave us so many inspiring stories and insights not in the other three Gospels. Here are just a few:

  • the Visitation
  • the Magnificat
  • Zechariah’s Canticle
  • the Christmas angels
  • Simeon and Anna
  • the Miraculous Fish Catch
  • the Anointing of Jesus’s Feet
  • Mary and Martha
  • Zaccheus in the Tree
  • the Emmaus story
  • and many other stories and teachings

When we examine these unique stories, we can see many reflections of Mary’s viewpoint on various incidents. Indeed, Luke, from the outset, sets Mary as first of disciples and a model for all who desire to follow Christ.

Today’s Gospel is one of those passages unique to Luke. It must have been a cherished memory of the disciples as they continued Jesus’s preaching after his Ascension. As they met challenges in their lives and ministries, these words could keep them focused.

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way…

Perhaps this, or another favorite passage from Luke, has encouragement to offer us today. Do you have favorite?

Music: my favorite – the Magnificat, the ultimate prayer of social justice sung here by the Daughters of Mary (Latin and English below)

Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum. 

Et exultávit spíritus meus: in Deo salutári meo. 

Quia respéxit humilitátem ancíllae suae: 

Ecce enim ex hoc beátam me dicent omnes generatiónes. 

Quia fécit mihi mágna qui pótens est: et sánctum nómen eius. 

Et misericórdia eius in progénies et progénies timéntibus eum. 

Fécit poténtiam in bráchio suo: dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui. 

Depósuit poténtes de sede: et exaltávit húmiles. 

Esuriéntes implévit bonis: et dívites dimísit inánes. 

Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum: recordátus misericórdiae suae. 

Sicut locútus est ad patres nostros: Ábraham, et sémini eius in saecula. 

Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto, 

Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.

My soul doth magnify the Lord. 

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. 

Because He hath regarded the humility of His slave: 

For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 

Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name. 

And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him. 

He hath shewed might in His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. 

He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. 

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. 

He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy: 

As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. 

Glory be the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, 

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forever and ever, Amen.

Transparent Prayer

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

Monday, October 7, 2019

Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, our first reading is from the Book of Jonah, a drama with which we are all familiar.  Because of the fantastical nature of the tale, we may tend to read it simply on the level of allegory – the way we might read Aesop’s fables. But there is much spiritual depth to be found in this well-known story.

As I pray with the Jonah passages for these three days, I am using an article by Walter Bruggemann to inform my prayer.

You can access Bruggemann’s article here

Since today is the feast of the Holy Rosary, a prayer which has blessed the Church for centuries, Bruggemann’s consideration of Jonah’s prayer caught my attention:

The complexity of (Jonah’s) prayer is reflective of the complexity of all prayer.  Prayer purports to be single-minded in its communication with Yahweh.  Everyone who prays is complex, given to deception, distortion, and willfulness; our prayers are most often thick with mixed motives, distortions, and exhibits, even if only to the self.  There are “saints” who are more mature and more disciplined than this in their prayer.  But evidently Jonah is not among those mature, disciplined saints.  For that reason his compromising and manipulative maneuvers are highly visible in the prayer.  We may spot such maneuvers in his prayer and be driven to reflect on our own acts of seduction in prayer whereby we deceive ourselves, even if God is not deceived.

The Rosary, intended as a contemplation not a recitation, allows us the silence and time to sort out the complexities of our own prayer. It is a prayer not to be rushed. Praying it well requires us to lay aside our busy existence and excuses, and to place ourselves in the stillness of Divine Transparency.

rosary

The Rosary invites us to enter more deeply into the truth of Christ’s life, but also into our own. Seen in the light of Mary’s and Jesus’s lives, what is our own life teaching us?

So many of us have a Rosary in our drawer or purse that we haven’t touched for a while. Many of these beads were given to us by, or belonged to, someone who loved us – who wished us the blessings that come from its devotion. Perhaps we might like to rekindle our love for the Rosary today while remembering that beloved person. In the drawer beside my bed, my Dad’s well worn rosary is waiting for me.

Music: Ave Maria – Bach, sung by Jessye Norman

All That Is Withered

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest

September 9, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Paul and Jesus share a similar situation.

Paul is imprisoned in Rome. Visited by Epaphras, a citizen of Colossae, Paul seizes the chance to write to these Christians whom he has never seen in person. Paul tells the Colossians that his singular intention is to preach the truth of the Gospel so that they, and all the world, may be transformed in Christ.

to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.

That “mystery” is the nature of God as Love, only fleetingly accessible before its full revelation in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Luke6_10 withered hand

Jesus too, in today’s Gospel, is in a sort of prison. The prison consists of the entrenched resistance of people like the Pharisees. They are so entangled in the deceitful and self- serving interpretation of Law that they are blind to the revelation before them. They wait to pounce on Jesus if, contrary to the laws of the Sabbath, he heals a man’s withered hand.

Jesus tries logic in today’s account:

Then Jesus said to them,
“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”

Unable to resist the logic, the Pharisees retreat to anger. They begin to plot the removal of this Truth they cannot counter. The saddest part of these resistances is that they estrange the resisters from their own good, from their own freedom, from their own salvation.

In our world, we see so many places closed off to the Mystery of Love.  We see people imprisoning themselves in their own resistance and hate while they plot to build barriers against others. We see it in our geo-political world, in our Church, in our workplaces, in ourselves.

It takes courage to recognize and turn from such self-destructive fixations. We must be alert and brave to cooperate with our own transformation in grace.

This is why Paul writes of …

the great struggle I am having for you
and for those in Laodicea
and all who have not seen me face to face,
that their hearts may be encouraged
as they are brought together in love,
to have all the richness of assured understanding,
for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ,
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

This is why God continues to offer grace in the gift of Jesus Christ, healing all that is “withered” in us when we lift it up in faith.

Music: God Will Make a Way – Dan Moen

Understanding the Assumption: Maturing in Faith

Readings: Click here for Reading

Rev 12_1 Assumption

 (Republishing last year’s reading. I’m on retreat and trying to keep my time empty. Praying for all my dear followers.)

Many of us grew up in households where we were surrounded by a strong devotional faith. I am happy to be one of those people. These simple, sacramental practices awakened and engaged my young faith and offered me a visible means to respond to its stirrings. These practices also gave my parents and grandparents the tools to teach me to love and trust God, Mary, the saints, and my Guardian Angel.

I remember with gratitude the many parameters of that deep devotion which accompanied our fundamental practice of a sacramental and liturgical life.

  • Our home had a crucifix in every room to remind us of God’s Presence
  • Over the main door was the statue of the Infant of Prague and the first Christmas card we had received depicting the Three Kings to bless us on our journeys.
  • All year, Dad’s fedora sported a tiny piece of straw tucked into its plaid band. He had plucked it from the parish Christmas crèche, near to St. Joseph who was his patron.
  • During a really violent thunderstorm, we might get a sprinkling from Mom’s holy water flask kept for especially taxing situations.

And, maybe because we live not too far from the east coast, we had one special summer practice. We went into the ocean on the Feast of the Assumption, believing that, through the water, Mary offered us special healing and graces on that day.

wedding-of-sea-mike

I can still picture young boys helping their elderly grandparents into the shallow surf. I remember mothers and fathers marking their children’s brows with a briny Sign of the Cross. There was a humble, human reverence and trust in these actions that blesses me still.

While that August 15th ritual, like similar devotions, might seem superstitious and even hokey to some today, the memory of it remains with me as a testament to the simple faith and deep love of God’s people for our Blessed Mother.

It was just such devotion and faith, expressed over centuries by the faithful, that moved Pius XII to declare the dogma of the Assumption:

“We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
(MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS 44)

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus(The Most Bountiful God). The world at that time was still healing from the horrors of World War II. The Pope himself, no doubt, was wounded beyond description by what he had witnessed. One can hear his deep pain as he begins his letter by saying:

“Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life.

This belief is complementary to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. These two articles of faith embrace the totality of Mary’s life which was uniquely blessed among all humans. Mary gives us, in our humanity, both a model of and a supportive invitation to holiness.

Marie T. Farrell, RSM presents a scholarly and insightful essay on the Assumption here. Her work gives us a rich understanding of the theological layers within this teaching.

Click here for Sr. Marie’s article

Sister Marie closes her essay with these words:
Mary assumed into heaven and Spiritualised in her whole personhood is a prophetic symbol of hope for us all. In his Resurrection-Ascension, Jesus has shown the way to eternal life. In the mystery of Assumption, the Church sees Mary as the first disciple of many to be graced with a future already opened by Christ, one that defies comprehension for ‘…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…(1 Cor 2: 9)

Musical Reflection with Song below: Prayer of Pure Love ~ Letty Hammock and Sue K. Riley