Gaudete Sunday: Rejoice!

Third Sunday of Advent

December 13, 2020

The day takes its name from the Latin word Gaudete (“Rejoice”),
the first word of the Introit prayer for this day’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. 


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we prayerfully rejoice with Mary’s courageous and hopeful song:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed.

Today is a break day midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming. On Gaudete Sunday, the Church is no longer inviting us to adore merely “The Lord who is to come”, but calling upon us to worship and hail with joy “The Lord who is now nigh and close at hand“.


While the whole Church is called this Sunday to rejoice in the approach of the Christ-event,  Mary’s Magnificat calls us to celebrate a specific “nearness” – God’s preferential affinity for those who are poor:

The Lord has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
remembering the promise of mercy.

The Gaudete message is not about a cheap and frenzied Christmas celebration. It is a profound reminder that Divine Joy seeks its home in a holy emptiness – in a heart space that has been reflectively cleared of spiritual arrogance.

His mercy is from age to age
to those who bow in awe.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

Luke 150-51

How do we become, like Mary,
poor and humble before our God,
open to the Awesome Joy who is Christ?

We can pray according to Paul’s blessing to the Thessalonians in our second reading:

May the God of peace make us perfectly holy
and may we entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The One who calls us is faithful,
and will also accomplish it.


Poem: Heart Cave – Geoffrey Brown

I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And sweep it clean, make it warm, with fire on the hearth
And candles in their niches
The pictures on the walls glowing with quiet lights
I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And make the bed with the quilt from home
Strew rushes on the floor
And hang lavender and sage from the corners
I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And be there when you come.

Music: Gaudete – Steeleye Span 

This British folk rock group had a hit in 1973 (No. 14, UK singles chart) with an a cappella recording of the song. Guitarist Bob Johnson heard the song when he attended a folk-carol service with his father-in-law. 
This single is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung fully in Latin (the others were both recordings of “Pie Jesu” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s
Requiem)

Guadalupe: The Largesse of Mercy

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray in praise of Mary, with a passage from the Book of Judith as our Responsorial Psalm:

Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the LORD God, 
the creator of heaven and earth.

Judith 13:18

Judith rescues her people’s future by an act of heroism against the enemy. That “deed of hope” saves the whole community from deadly oppression.

You are the highest honor of our human race.
Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God.

Judith 13:19

Judith’s deeds foreshadow Mary’s sublime obedience to the power of God. Her dynamic faith and trust free Mary to respond to God’s outrageous willingness to become flesh for our salvation.

Mary said,
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38

Down through history, Mary continues to inspire that kind of faith in God’s People. Today, we remember two such inspired individuals:

Saint Juan Diego who, in receiving graces from Our Lady of Guadalupe, offered a “deed of hope” for the Mexican people.


Venerable Catherine McAuley who, in responding to her founder’s call, released the “deed of hope” ever afterward known as “the Sisters of Mercy”.


What “deed of hope” wants firing
in your heart today?

Let’s look to Mary and the Saints she has inspired, to encourage us.

Poetry: from Hafiz

Light
Will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage,

For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown in an ancient fertile plain
You hold the title to.

Love will surely burst you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy…
A life–giving radiance will come,
The Beloved’s gratuity will come…..


Music: Sub Tuum Praesidium- “Beneath Thy Protection” – is the oldest preserved extant hymn to the the Blessed Virgin Mary. (mid 3rd century)

Sub tuum praesidium
confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

Psalm 98: Mary’s Echo

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 8, 2020


Sing to the LORD a new song,
Who has done wondrous deeds;
Whose right hand has won victory,
God’s holy arm.

Psalm 98:1

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we pray with Psalm 98, a song foreshadowing Mary’s prophetic Magnificat.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has looked with favor on His humble servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, describes the Mary’s Magnificat like this:

… in the line of the great biblical singers Miriam, Moses, Deborah and Hannah, Mary launches into divine praise. Her spirit rejoices in God her Savior, for poor and common woman though she may be, the powerful, living, holy God is doing great things to her. Not to her only but to all the poor, bringing the mighty down from their thrones, exalting the lowly, filling the hungry with good things, sending the unrepentant rich away empty all of this in fulfillment of the ancient promise. In her very being this is happening, for she embodies the nonentities on whom God is lavishing rescue. This great prayer, a revolutionary song of salvation, places Mary in solidarity with the project of the coming reign of God whose intent is to heal, redeem and liberate.


Psalm 98 focuses us on the point that our prayer today with Mary is about God’s power for the poor, the lowly, the hungry, the bereaved, frightened, lost, lonely and sorrowing — all the beloved aching children of God.

Mary says there is a Power much greater than the one that oppresses any of us. Look to that Power with hope. Draw strength from that Promise.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his mercy and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

Psalm 98: 2-3

Mary and Psalm 98 invite us to a “new song”
in a world that seems to have forgotten how to sing.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

Psalm 98: 3-4

Poem: Segments of a poem “A New Magnificat” by Hillary Watson, Pastor of Shalom Community Church, Ann  Arbor, MI.

And why should I not be smiling,
knowing what I know now
about what comes after all this
when all the evil falls down,
when justice bursts like a sweet flood through the streets
and all the pennies thrown into all wishing wells
rise up like miracles?

Let me tell you the Good News:
There is Good News.
That’s it:
goodness, somewhere, rushing toward us
in the place where future meets present tense.
Hope unwinds across the fragile world
and whispers its nightmares away.

There is a good day coming, I can see it,
when the walls built up between countries
crumble back into the earth they rose from
and all the people run free where they want
like every contour of every nation was shaped by the same God,

there’s a day coming when bullets freeze themselves
in the policeman’s guns, when all the Border Patrol cars
stall out in one breath, their guns and tasers
melt into plows and paintbrushes,

and the children trapped in desert camps
sing down the walls that hold them,
they sing back the road to their mothers and their fathers.

Music: The Magnificat- sung by the Daughters of Mary

Psalm 144: My Mercy!

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saturday, November 21, 2020

From 2018 Post:
We celebrate the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This feast memorializes a story not present in Scripture. We know of it only from apocryphal writings, those considered of unsubstantiated origin. It tells of Mary’s dedication in the Temple at the age of three. Some versions say she remained there until the age of twelve, thus giving her life fully to God even from youth.

On the day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “we celebrate that dedication of herself which Mary made to God from her very childhood under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who filled her with grace … .” (Liturgy of the Hours)


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on Mary’s holy feast, we pray with Psalm 144, a song attributed to David as he thanks God for his war victories.

Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war.

How strange that the Church would use this psalm to celebrate gentle Mary as we commemorate her Presentation in the Temple. The traditional story, not included in scripture, is that Mary’s grateful parents brought her, at age three, to be dedicated to God.

The Presentation of Mary by Titian

Psalm 144 reminds us, as we pray with Mary today, that life can be filled with daunting challenges. It can even, at times, seem like a war. Pope Francis has described our times as beset by a “culture of death’:

It is difficult both to recognize and to contradict the overwhelming barrage of selfish, materialistic messaging our culture throws at us. It really is an ongoing battle.

But it is a battle we face not with weapons of violence. We stand up, like Mary, by the power of the God in whom we trust.

My mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
My shield, in whom I trust,
who rallies strength around me.


We pray with Mary:

  • to discern the path of grace for our lives 
  • to turn our whole lives over to God, 
  • to become a portal for God to enter our world

We pray for the courage to be God’s new song of hope for our times.

O God, I will sing a new song to you;
with a ten stringed lyre I will chant your praise,
You who give victory to your beloved,
and deliver us from the grasp of evil.


Poem: To the Immaculate Virgin, On a Winter Night – Thomas Merton

Lady, the night is falling and the dark
Steals all the blood from the scarred west.
The stars come out and freeze my heart
With drops of untouchable music, frail as ice
And bitter as the new year's cross.

Where in the world has any voice
Prayed to you, Lady, for the peace that's in your power?
In a day of blood and many beatings
I see the governments rise up, behind the steel horizon,
And take their weapons and begin to kill.

Where in the world has any city trusted you?
Out where the soldiers camp the guns begin to thump
And another winter time comes down
To seal our years in ice.
The last train cries out
And runs in terror from this farmer's valley
Where all the little birds are dead.

The roads are white, the fields are mute
There are no voices in the wood
And trees make gallows up against the sharp-eyed stars.
Oh where will Christ be killed again
In the land of these dead men?

Lady, the night has got us by the heart
And the whole world is tumbling down.
Words turn to ice in my dry throat
Praying for a land without prayer,

Walking to you on water all winter
In a year that wants more war.

Music: Blessed Be the Lord, My Rock – by Abbie Betinis sung by St. Pius X Choir, Atlanta, Georgia

Blessed be the Lord, my rock and my fortress, 

  my stronghold, my deliverer, 

  My shield and he in whom I take refuge. 

We are like breath, 

  our days are like a passing shadow. 

Bow thy heav’ns, O Lord, 

  come down! 

Stretch forth thy hand from on high, 

  rescue me, deliver me. 

I will sing a new song to thee, O God. 

– Psalm 144

Our Lady of the Rosary

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

October 7, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117. Since it is also the Memorial of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, I’ll refer you to a previous post on Psalm 117.


For today, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, we may wish to focus on that venerable prayer which had its origins in the very early Church. In fact, those early versions of a rosary are connected to the Psalms:

Prayers with beads like the rosary may have begun as a practice by the laity to imitate the Christian monasticism of the Liturgy of the Hours during the course of which the monastics prayed the 150 Psalms daily. As many of the laity could not read, they substituted 150 repetitions of the Our Father for the Psalms, sometimes using a cord with knots on it to keep an accurate count.
(The Catholic Encyclopedia)


The shape of the rosary as we pray it today emerged more clearly in the 13th century as Marian devotion blossomed in the Church. The tendency of that devotion was to place Mary, and other saints, between us and God. They, having already gained heaven, were deemed to have intercessory power we lacked. So praying the rosary became an “asking prayer” rather than a meditation on the whole of Christ’s life. In many ways, our relationship with Mary also took on a sentimentalism which lessened her true and unique power as witness and companion in the Communion of Saints.


Theotokos of the Passion – 17th century

Today, Marian theology, as well as rosary devotion, looks to a clearer understanding of Mary’s role as participant in the continuing redemptive act of Jesus. Praying with her, in any form, is an opportunity to experience Jesus from her perspective and to apply that grace to our own life and world.

“Remembering Mary as a friend of God and prophet in the communion of saints, a woman who is truly sister to our strivings, allows the power of her life to play in the religious consciousness of the church, encouraging ever-deeper relationship with the living God in whom our spirits rejoice, and allying us with God’s redemptive designs for the hungry, the lowly, and all those who suffer, including in an unforgettable way women with their children in situations of poverty, prejudice, and violence.”

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ – Truly Our Sister

I try, as I pray the rosary, to imagine Mary within each particular mystery or circumstance of Christ’s life. What did she experience? How did she grow in grace? What is she guiding me toward in my relationship with God?

I also ask Mary to allow those graces and insights to bless and heal not only my life but the life of the world, particularly where there is great pain or suffering for women and children.


In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being
~ Denise Levertov
(Reading this poem, we may think of our prayer as a “breathing” enveloped in the Presence of God. The “holy ones”, like Mary, easily ride that breath of prayer. When we pray with them, as in the Rosary, they “rock” us into the silent rhythm of God.)

Photographer: Johannes Plenio
Birds afloat in air's current,
sacred breath?  No, not breath of God,
it seems, but God
the air enveloping the whole
globe of being.
It's we who breathe, in, out, in, in the sacred,
leaves astir, our wings
rising, ruffled -- but only the saints
take flight.  We cower
in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly
on branches close to the nest.  The wind
marks the passage of holy ones riding
that ocean of air.  Slowly their wake
reaches us, rocks us.
But storms or still, 
numb or poised in attention,
we inhale, exhale, inhale,
encompassed, encompassed.

Music: Beneath Your Compassion (Sub Tuum Praesidium) performed here in Russian by the PaTRAM Institute Singers

The oldest known devotion to Mary can be found in the words of a hymn that is documented to have existed and been sung before the middle of the 3rd century. 

Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Theotokos:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble;
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.

Psalm 100: Joy Hides in Sorrow

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 100, the “Jubilate Deo” – “Rejoice in the Lord”. These verses, on the feast of our Sorrowful Mother, might seem a bit contradictory:

Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.

But I think the seeming contradiction reveals a deep truth.

For those who live in God,
no sorrow can eradicate their resolute joy.


La Dolorosa (Lady of Sorrows or Mater Dolorosa) is a work by Cristóbal de Villalpando at the Musep Soumaya in Mexico City.

Certainly, like Mary, the faithful heart feels sorrow for both personal pain and the pain of all Creation. But the pain and sorrow is not the end of their feeling. There is a joyful hope because God abides with us in any suffering, promising that no evil can defeat the one who believes.

Mary believed that with all her heart and lived it. She invites us to the same courageous faith. As Psalm 100 assures us:

Know that the LORD is God;
Who made us, whose we are;
God’s people, the flock God tends.

For the Lord is good, 
whose kindness endures forever,
and whose faithfulness is to all generations.


Poem: Today’s poetic passage is from one of the great classics of Christian literature, A Woman Wrapped in Silence by Father John W. Lynch.

The book is a masterpiece best appreciated in reflective contemplation. I have chosen a sliver of its beauty today, one of many that captures Mary’s joy born of faith-filled suffering. This selection imagines what it was like when Mary remained in the Upper Room as the others, not knowing what to expect, went to the tomb early on Easter morning. The Resurrected Jesus comes to Mary first, before any other appearance.


Or is 
it true or thought of her she found no need
To search? And better said that she had known
Within, they’d not discover him again
Among the dead? That he would not be there
Entombed, and she had known, and only watched
Them now as they were whispering of him,

And let them go, and listened afterward
To footsteps that were fading in the dark.

To wait him here. Alone. Alone. A woman
Lonely in the silence and the trust
Of silence in her heart that did not seek,
Or cry, or search, but only waited him.

We have no word of this sweet certainty
That hides in her. There is not granted line
Writ meager in the scripture that will tell
By even some poor, unavailing tag
Of language what she keeps within the silence.
This is hers. We are not told of this,
This quaking instant, this return, this Light
Beyond the tryst of dawn when she first lifted
Up her eyes, and quiet, unamazed,
Saw He was near.

Music: Jubilate Deo – Mozart

Psalm 13: Mary’s Trust

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on our Blessed Mother’s birthday, we pray with the beautiful final verses of Psalm 13.

These verses embody an immense shift in form from the psalm’s early lines. Early on, the psalmist cries out four times, “How long, O Lord?”.

How long: 

  • Will you forget me?
  • Will you hide your face from me?
  • Must I carry sorrow in my soul?
  • Will my enemy triumph over me?

Referring to these early verses reminds us that Mary’s life was full of sorrow as well as joy. On a feast like today, we think of Mary in her heavenly glory. But in her lifetime, Mary suffered many sorrows. She was an unwed mother, a refugee, and a widow. She was the mother of an executed “criminal” and a leader of his persecuted band.

The Julian of Norwich, “Her Showing of Love”

What was it that allowed Mary to transcend sorrow and claim joy? Our psalm verses today help us to understand. They show the psalmist turning to heartfelt prayer., trusting God’s abiding protection.

Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God!
Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death,
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.


That deep trust ultimately yields not only peace,
but joy.
Mary, singer of the Magnificat,
is the quintessence of that holy joy.


But I trust in your mercy.
Grant my heart joy in your salvation,
I will sing to the LORD,
Who has dealt bountifully with me!

Today, in our prayer, we ask Mary to love and guide us through the challenges of our lives.


Poetry: Three Days – Madeleine L’Engle

Friday:
When you agree to be the mother of God
you make no conditions, no stipulations.
You flinch before neither cruel thorn nor rod.
You accept the tears; you endure the tribulations.
But, my God, I didn't know it would be like this.
I didn't ask for a child so different from others.
I wanted only the ordinary bliss,
to be the most mundane of mothers.

Saturday:
When I first saw the mystery of the Word
made flesh I never thought that in his side
I'd see the callous wound of Roman sword
piercing my heart on the hill where he died.
How can the Word be silenced? Where has it gone?
Where are the angel voices that sang at his birth?
My frail heart falters. I need the light of the Son.
What is this darkness over the face of the earth?
Sunday:
Dear God, He has come, the Word has come again.
There is no terror left in silence, in clouds, in gloom.
He has conquered the hate; he has overcome the pain.
Where, days ago, was death lies only an empty tomb.
The secret should have come to me with his birth,
when glory shone through darkness, peace through strife.
For every birth follows a kind of death, and only after pain comes life.

Music: Magnificat – Daughters of Mary

(To see Latin and English verses, click the little arrowhead just below the picture on the right.)

Psalm 85: Listen!

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 22, 2020

by Bartolome Murillo

Indeed, Mary herself was a song of hope to God, sung for us and for all generations. That passionate song opened her heart to receive the Word and to carry its redeeming power to each of us.

She was the greatest prophet of all time who not only proclaimed God but enfleshed him.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD– Who proclaims peace.
Near indeed is salvation to those who fear God,
glory dwelling in our land.

As we pray to Mary today, let us ask for listening hearts and hope-filled spirits. Let us ask to enflesh love and hope in our lives in imitation of her. Let us ask to believe as she did:

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him, 
and salvation, along the way of his steps.


Poetry: Annunciation – Denise Levertov




Annunciation
_________________________________________
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, 6th century
_________________________________________
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished, 
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
       Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
       The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
         God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
                 ____________________
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?

         Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
More often
those moments
      when roads of light and storm
      open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from

in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
                                 God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
                  ____________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
  only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light 

                     Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,
                                Spirit,
                                          suspended,
                                                            waiting.
                  ____________________

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Music: Tota Pulchra Es, Maria

The Feast of the Assumption

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 offered my parents and grandparents the tools to teach me to love and trust God, Mary and the saints.

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.
  • Over the main door was the statue of the Infant of Prague and the first Christmas card we had received depicting the Three Kings. (Under the statue was a single dime – so that we wold never completely run out of money!)
  • 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 ocean, we had one special summer practice. We went into the ocean on the Feast of the Assumption, believing that Mary offered us special healing and graces on that day.

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.

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. 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.“

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

“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)

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 offers us, in our humanity, both a model of and a supportive invitation to holiness.

Jan Van Eyke – Ghent Altarpiece

Sister Marie T. Farrell, RSM closes her scholarly essay on the Assumption with these words:

Mary assumed into heaven and Spiritualised in her whole personhood is a pro- phetic 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: Prayer of Pure Love – Letty Hammock

Psalm 102: God’s Time

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2020

From 2018: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 102, one of the seven penitential psalms. It is introduced as “the prayer of the afflicted”.

Yet, I find our verses today full of hope. They look with confidence to a better future.

You, O LORD, abide forever,
and your name through all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion,
for it is time to pity her.

That last line, “for it is time to pity her”, is particularly touching as the psalmist nudges God to move forward with healing. Don’t we  pray like that sometimes?

  • Dear God, I’ve had all I can take! Please fix this — now!
  • Lord, I’ve learned my lesson. Please relent and rescue me.
  • Jesus, please let this trial be over and let us survive.
  • Lord, it is time for this to be over!

The bedrock of this prayer is the psalmist’s deep trust that God will act as God has promised:

The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.


You may find your heart filled with a prayer like this today. Surely, our whole human community voices a longing for the pandemic sufferings to be over. Or there may be other afflictions you carry that are testing the limits of your endurance.

Psalm 94 holds out encouragement and hope. Reach for it and let it strengthen you.

But you are forever the same, Lord, 
without beginning or end, 
infinite in your compassion, 
fathomless in your love. 
You rebuild the desolate city; 
you bring the exiles back home. 
You grant the poor your abundance; 
you guide the nations toward peace.
You hear the cry of the destitute 
and the sobbing of the oppressed. 
You soothe the pain of the captive; 
you set the prisoner free. 
Come to me too in your mercy 
and set my soul at peace.
from A Book of Psalms by Stephen Mitchell

Poetry: from Burnt Norton – T.S. Eliot

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future, 
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction 
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been 
Point to one end, which is always present. 
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take 
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. 
My words echo 
Thus, in your mind.

Music: On Time God – Deborah Kline Iantorno