Our Lady of Lourdes

Monday, February 11, 2019

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Tota Pulchra

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the lovely feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, commemorating Mary’s appearance to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, and her subsequent presence in the life of the faithful through devotion and miracles.

Therefore, today’s feast raises before us two important elements of our faith: our devotion to Mary, and our understanding of miracles.

MIRACLES
Scripture and tradition are replete with miracles, occurrences when some extraordinary reality points us clearly to God. Michael O’Neill in his book, Exploring the Miracles, writes this:

“No matter how strong we think our faith is or want it to be, we always want to know that God is there for us, and miracles are that sort of element that bridges the gap between our faith and our connection with God.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia offers an extensive and erudite definition of miracles for those interested. But, leaving a theological discussion of miracles aside, I would offer this quote for our consideration:

“There are only two ways to live your life:
as though nothing is a miracle,
or as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein 

MARY
As we pray with Mary today, specifically in her role as loving intercessor for us, we reflect on Mary’s total openness to grace. Free from the “original sin” that limits all humanity, Mary possessed a faith without shadow of doubt, a hope without burden of uncertainty, a love without taint of self-interest. She was the means through which Divine Breath was restored to us in Jesus Christ.

Some of you may be familiar with the book “The Reed of God” described on Amazon this way:
Caryll Houselander’s beautiful and profound mediation, The Reed of God, depicts the intimately human side of Mary, Mother of God, as an empty reed waiting for God’s music to be played through her. Houselander shares her insightful and beautiful vision of Mary on earth, Mary among us, Mary as a confused but trusting teenager whose holiness flowered with her eternal “Yes”.

Houselander says this about Mary, and it seems to capture perfectly Mary’s appearance to the world at Lourdes:


In the world as it is, torn with agonies and dissensions, we need some direction for our souls which is never away from us; which, without enslaving us or narrowing our vision, enters into every detail of our life. Everyone longs for some such inward rule, a universal rule as big as the immeasurable law of love, yet as little as the narrowness of our daily routine. It must be so truly part of us all that it makes us all one, and yet to each one the secret of his own life with God.

To this need, the imitation of Our Lady is the answer; in contemplating her we find intimacy with God, the law which is the lovely yoke of the one irresistible love.” 


Music: Tota Pulchra Es is an ancient Catholic prayer, written in the fourth century. The title means “You are completely beautiful” (referring to the Virgin Mary). It speaks of her immaculate conception. It takes some text from the book of Judith and other text from Song of Songs. (Latin and English lyrics below.)

Tota pulchra Es
Tota pulchra es, Maria.
Et macula originalis non est in Te.
Tu gloria Ierusalem.
Tu laetitia Israel.
Tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tu advocata peccatorum.
O Maria, O Maria.
Virgo prudentissima.
Mater clementissima.
Ora pro nobis.
Intercede pro nobis.
Ad Dominum Iesum Christum. 

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain of sin is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
you are the joy of Israel,
you give honour to our people.
You are an advocate of sinners.
O Mary,
Virgin most prudent,
Mother most merciful.
Pray for us,
Plead for us,
To the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Find Yourself in This Feast

Saturday, February 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

Presentation
Icon from The Menologion of Basil II, an illuminated manuscript designed as a church calendar or Eastern Orthodox Church service book (menologion) that was compiled c. 1000 AD, for the Byzantine Emperor Basil II

This event is layered with human and Divine dimensions. It is filled with memorable characters and key moments in their lives. One or more of their stories may touch your own experience as you pray today.

The infant Jesus, just forty days old, is presented and dedicated in the Temple, setting in motion his whole life as the fulfillment of Jewish expectation. We may reflect on the power of our own Baptisms. If we were infants when baptized, we may recall who carried us to the font and who stood for our dedication to Christ.

Mary and Joseph came to the Temple that day for the ritual of Purification. They place their young marriage, and their beginning parenthood, into the circle of their Jewish faith. We may reflect on those points of religious dedication in our own lives – marriage, religious profession, ordination, Confirmation, and just how much the sacred nature of these events impacts our daily living.

Anna and Simeon, long-faithful servants of God, rejoice in the fulfillment of their hopes for the Messiah. Those of us richer in years might gratefully reflect on God’s fidelity to us over the course of our lifetime, and what sacred hopes we still might long to have fulfilled.

Simeon, so completed by seeing his Savior, intones the moving prayer Nunc Dimittis – “Now You may dismiss your servant in peace.” We might pray for those who are nearing their life’s close that they may be blessed with peace. We might also pray for ourselves that we will experience peace and joy at the end of our lives.

And finally venerable Anna who, woman to woman, stood beside young Mary as Mary faced Simeon’s painful words:

Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

For a beautiful meditation on Anna, click here.

Music: Bach – Cantate BWV 125 – Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the cantata Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin With peace and joy I depart), BWV 125, for use in a Lutheran service. He composed this in 1725 for the feast for the Purification of Mary which is celebrated on 2 February and is also known as Candlemas. The cantata is based on Martin Luther’s 1524 Hymn.

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
In Gottes Willen,
Getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,
Sanft und stille.
Wie Gott mir verheißen hat:
Der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden.

With peace and joy I go on my way
in God’s will.
My heart and mind are comforted,
peaceful and calm.
As God promised me
death has become my sleep.

 

What! Jesus Insensitive?

Tuesday,  January 29, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel describes a scene that has always nettled me a bit.

mk3_35 mother_brothers

Jesus is teaching a group inside his small house in Capernaum. He has moved there as he begins his public ministry. Word of his preaching and miracles has created a hubbub all around him, to the point that he can’t get a chance to eat or to rest.

Just a few lines earlier in the Gospel, Mark describes how concerned Jesus’s relatives are about his well-being. Mark 3:21 goes so far as to say:

“When his relatives heard ( how besieged he was) they set out to seize him,
for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’.”

In today’s passage Jesus’s “mother, brothers and sisters” arrive at his home, prevented from entering by the large crowd. They stand outside asking for him. When Jesus hears this, he delivers the nettling remark:

“Who are my mother and my brothers?”

It seems so insensitive, doesn’t it? These people have loved Jesus, played with him, grown up with him! And his mother! My goodness, we all know to listen to, respect, and welcome our mothers!

Praying with this passage though may reveal another dimension in our understanding of Jesus. What Jesus may be saying is this:

All of you, my followers, are closer to me than even the most precious human ties. My  family is now the all-encompassing family of my Father. My path is now the Father’s will, not my human family’s hopes and expectations.

Jesus is, at once, acknowledging to his family, his followers and, no doubt, himself that the Father is about to use his life in ways that will transform, awe and shock the world.

He is telling his disciples to be prepared for the same thing if they truly follow him.

I have always imagined Jesus, in the unrecorded memory of this passage, taking Mary aside afterward, gently explaining his purpose. I see her hand on his maturing lightly-whiskered cheek, tears both of pride and fear in her eyes, and a perfect mutual understanding in their smiles.

Music: Perfect Love – Mary’s Song

There is No Wine

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012019.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we read about Jesus’s first public miracle at Cana. It is a story that has always fascinated me, mostly because of what is left unsaid – what is written between the lines.

jn2_1 can

The Gospel begins by telling of a wedding and “the mother of Jesus was there”. The suggestion is that Mary had been staying at the wedding site and that she had a special role in the preparations. Perhaps she was the aunt or good friend of the bride or groom. Whatever the case, Mary seems to have had some unique responsibility for the ceremony’s success.

This responsibility motivates her to solicit Jesus’s help when she notices the wine is running out. Did she expect a miracle in return for her remark? We don’t know. Perhaps she just wanted Jesus and his young friends to run down to the local wine store for replenishments.

It was Jesus who decided to turn the request into an occasion for a miracle. Why? It seems like a frivolous miracle when there were sick to be cured and dead to be raised!

The final lines of this pericope might help answer that question

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

Jesus decided to first reveal his glory at a wedding feast, a party, an ordinary celebration of life and love. The dramatic, life-saving miracles would come – demons grabbing pigs and diving headlong into the sea.

But this first one, the one his closest family and friends would especially remember, was all about joy, dancing, music, friendship – the divine strength of our shared and graced humanity.

Probably most of us don’t expect to encounter a really eye-popping miracle in our lives. But maybe in our challenges we, like Mary, could walk up behind Jesus and whisper, “This situation needs your touch”.

Oh, how Jesus might surprise us!

Music: Everyday Miracles ~ Sara Groves

Today ~ “Hodie”

Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Christmas Day

hodie 12_25

Click here for Readings from three Masses

Hodie Christus natus est
Christ is born today

The miracle of Christmas lies in this Latin word, “hodie”. 

The Divine Immediacy of it!
The Eternal Regeneration of it!
The Omnipotent Presence of it!
Hodie – Today!  Now!

Christ is born in this moment, in this effort, this thought, this choice, this breath of my life.

As this Christmas morning dawns, indeed we commemorate an historical event that has redirected history toward Grace. But hidden in that sacred observance is the deep mystery of what we truly celebrate.

The birth of Christ, Eternal Love, is not contained by time. Every breaking moment bears Christ to the world. As history rolls on beneath this mystery, every generation – every human being – becomes the agent of His birth.

Christ was born in Bethlehem, and we rejoice.

But Christ is born in me – today, and today, and today. And we are awe-struck by Eternal Love.

I open my heart in humility, readiness and worship for Emmanuel’s Presence in my life.

This is the “Christus Moment”, where those passing vagaries of time which conspire to break our hearts, to break our lives, to break our world, are rendered soulless.

This is the moment when death is eviscerated, sin erased, division healed, brokenness  soothed, and hope blazingly restored. This is the “Hodie Moment” of Christ’s eternal birth in my heart, in our Church, in our world.

As we listen to the glorious chant of Christmas morning, “Christus Natus Est”, may we let our lives proclaim its transforming melody by:

  • every peaceful word we speak
  • every forgiving glance
  • every courageous stretch to hope
  • every grateful generosity

May Christ be born in us today

  • by our active love for Him in suffering humanity
  • by the vigor of our merciful justice
  • by our steady dismantling of selfishness to allow Him the fullness of glory

May Mary, who carried Jesus to life, teach us and guide us to be Bearers of Christ today – “hodie” – and every day.

Music: Hodie Christus Natus Est

Merry Christmas and God’s blessings to all of you and your loved ones!

Today is Christ born; today the Savior has appeared;
today the Angels sing, the Archangels rejoice;
today the righteous rejoice, saying: Glory to God in the highest. Alleluia!

Hodie Christus natus est hodie Salvator apparuit:
hodie in terra canunt Angeli, laetantur Archangeli:
hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo, Alleluia.

Mary, Sacred Chamber

Sunday, December 23, 2018

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MAry 12_23

Today, in Mercy, our readings offer a harmonious exultation of Mary, beloved mother of Jesus.

The prophet Micah foretells the time “when she who is to give birth has borne.”

Even the ancient voices spoke of Mary, long before time knew her name. Their hope depended on her cosmic “Yes”, long before she spoke her first childish word.

Hebrews speaks of the Body of Christ, that physical place where the grandeur of God took flesh, that tabernacle woven of Mary’s own body and blood, that temple made possible by her “Fiat”.

The Gospel gives us two loving women, Elizabeth and Mary, rejoicing in God’s power manifested in their lives. They need no proclamations, executive orders, bills, or injunctions. Just a soft greeting, a leap within, a confirmed trust carried in each other’s eyes.

This poem by Mark Strand captures their moment for me. These two women had waited with all Creation for the redeeming Messiah. Now it was about to happen within their lives:

The Coming of Light
Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

Music: Agni Parthene (Greek: Ἁγνὴ Παρθένε), rendered “O Virgin Pure”, is a Greek Marian Hymn composed by St. Nectarios in the late 19th century. The dulcet melody is sung here in both Greek and English. Lyrics are below.

O Virgin Pure
by St. Nectarios

Refrain: O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

O Virgin pure, immaculate/ O Lady Theotokos
O Virgin Mother, Queen of all/ and fleece which is all dewy
More radiant than the rays of sun/ and higher than the heavens
Delight of virgin choruses/ superior to Angels.
Much brighten than the firmament/ and pure than the sun’s light
More holy than the multitude/ of all the heav’nly armies.
O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

O Ever Virgin Mary/ of all the world, the Lady
O bride all pure, immaculate/ O Lady Panagia
O Mary bride and queen of all/ our cause of jubilation
Majestic maiden, Queen of all/ O our most holy Mother
More hon’rable than Cherubim/ beyond compare more glorious
than immaterial Seraphim/ and greater than angelic thrones.

O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

Rejoice, O son of Cherubim/ Rejoice, O hymn of angels
Rejoice, O ode of Seraphim/ the joy of the archangels
Rejoice, O peace and happiness/ the harbor of salvation
O sacred chamber of the Word/ flower of incorruption
Rejoice, delightful paradise/ of blessed life eternal
Rejoice, O wood and tree of life/ the fount of immortality

O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

I supplicate you, Lady/ now do I call upon you
And I beseech you, Queen of all/ I beg of you your favor
Majestic maiden, spotless one/ O Lady Panagia
I call upon you fervently/ O sacred, hallowed temple
Assist me and deliver me/ protect me from the enemy
And make me an inheritor/ of blessed life eternal.

O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Readings: Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, commemorating the apparitions of Mary to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego in 1531. 

OLofGuadalupeJPG

It is also on this date, 300 years later, that Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. 

Both Mary and Catherine found their joy in total commitment to God’s will and presence in their lives. May they inspire and help  to make God the center of our lives. May that discovery fill us with joy.

Perhaps  by increasing our spiritual simplicity, trust and humility like Juan Diego, we can grow closer to Mary and to her Son.

Today’s beautiful readings can lead us closer into Mary’s arms.  Zecharia, even without knowing her, named Mary the Holy Dwelling from whom Christ would come forth.

Revelation captures multiple images from the Hebrew scriptures, fashioning a glorious picture of Mary’s significance in salvation history.

And our treasured passage from Luke — can we not read it like a beloved family story that gives us roots and wings?

Mary is not so far away from us.  She chose to enter Juan Diego’s life, looking like a queen he would recognize in his own culture. She has chosen to do the same thing in many other struggling cultures. 

How is Mary present to us today? How was she present to Catherine McAuley? A homeless woman? An immigrant mother? An incarcerated young woman/? A sickly neighbor? An annoying, lonely grandmother?

What language is Mary speaking to us?

Music: Tota Pulchra Es Maria – Latin words and translation below. This lovely hymn reflects our responsorial psalm for today.

Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tota pulchra es, Maria.

 

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honour to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary.

The Immaculate Conception

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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murillo_MBASE_12_mgtCE0118P.jpg_1306973099
‘La Colosal (Immaculate Conception)’. Seville Museum of Fine Arts

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the belief that Mary was conceived without the mark of Original Sin.

Beyond the intricate theology of the feast, what we treasure is that Mary made a holy place for Christ to dwell.

We pray that, with Mary’s love and guidance, we too may make choices that sanctify our hearts, readying them to receive God.

God will come to us today – not on angel’s word – but in the human form of someone poor, sick, desperate, heart-broken or lonely. May our faith allow us to respond as Mary did.

Music:  Magnificat – sung by The Daughters of Mary nuns

She Stood by Jesus

Saturday, September 15, 2018

     Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091518.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we pray with Our Mother of Sorrows.

sorrows

Mary’s greatest sorrows came, not from circumstances she bore personally, but from her anguish at the sufferings of Jesus. Like so many mothers, fathers, spouses, children and friends, Mary suffered because she loved.

It is so hard to watch someone we love endure pain. We feel helpless, lost and perhaps angry. We may be tempted to turn away from our beloved’s pain because it empties us as well as them.

This is the beauty and power of Mary’s love: it did not turn. Mary’s devotion accompanied Jesus – even through crucifixion and death – for the sake of our salvation.

Today’s liturgy offers us the powerful sequence “Stabat Mater”.

Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time. It is based upon the prophecy of Simeon that a sword was to pierce the heart of His mother, Mary (Lk 2:35). The hymn originated in the 13th century during the peak of Franciscan devotion to the crucified Jesus and has been attributed to Pope Innocent III (d. 1216), St. Bonaventure, or more commonly, Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), who is considered by most to be the real author.

The hymn is often associated with the Stations of the Cross. In 1727 it was prescribed as a Sequence for the Mass of the Seven Sorrows of Mary (September 15) where it is still used today. (preces-latinae.org)

Music: Stabat Mater Dolorosa – Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
This is a glorious rendition. If you have time, you might listen to it on a rainy afternoon or evening as you pray.

For English translation, click here.

Dance!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

       Readings:  Click here for readings.

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

Ps13_6 bountifully

It is a special day for me and many of my Sisters, as September 8th was one of the traditional entrance dates for young women joining the community.  Fifty-five years ago, the sun rose bright as gold at my bedroom window. Its rays fell along the hem of my long, black postulant’s dress hanging in expectation on the door. 

On that day, I would step into an unwritten future, every possibility already joyfully given to God. Like Mary, I and my companions were being born into a God-destined life. It was a thrilling moment for me.

fam
Taken about nine months after Entrance Day.                                          ( Notice the guy still crying in the back!)

What I really didn’t think about that day was my mother. Yes, there was joy, but there was some pain watching me be born into a second life beyond her.

On this Feastday, I think about St. Anne and wonder what blessings and hopes she whispered over young Mary. I think about how Anne felt as she watched Mary choose her own path to God; how she felt as Mary’s awesome life unfolded. And I pray in thanksgiving for my own mother.

This morning, I stand in amazed and humble gratitude to see time’s long cast over the years. Decades seem folded into moments, a thousand stories bound in a single, grateful prayer. God, indeed, has dealt bountifully with me. But somehow I believe that God was encouraged to do so by my mother. 🤗🙏

The music today may seem an unusual choice, but I think it captures a hope every loving mother has for her child. Anne may have hummed the hope over Mary in Aramaic tones; my mother over me in a 1940’s ballad. May we sing a melody of grace over all our children, freeing and blessing them to dance with God.

Blessings and love to my “Band of Sisters”, shown here as we marked our Golden Jubilee five years ago. (Missing our dear Arizona contingent who was unable to join us that day.)

May you continue to be bountifully blessed, beloved companions in Mercy!

Band_Golden

Music: I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack