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One of the most interesting news items from last week was the announcement that a First Folio of William Shakespeare’s plays had been discovered in a library in Saint-Omer, in northern France. It was missing its frontispiece and a portrait of Shakespeare, hence it was thought to be an 18th century edition not one from 1623.
The First Folio was compiled by Shakespeare’s friends seven years after his death and is the only source of a number of his plays including Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar and As You Like It. Only 233 copies are known to exist.
Saint-Omer was a place of refuge for English Catholics escaping persecution in England. A Jesuit school, founded in 1593 after Catholic schools were outlawed in England, thrived there until it was expelled from France in 1762. In 1794, it moved to Stonyhurst in England, where it remains today. Stonyhurst has become a warehouse of precious Catholic artifacts including the rope that bound St. Edmund Campion at the time of his execution and a crucifix belonging to St. Thomas More. The First Folio was left behind when other books were sent to Stonyhurst because it was not recognized for what it was.
What does this have to do with the Immaculate Conception? During Mass this morning, the priest said that a First Folio is the most important edition of an author’s works. It is an authentic and true representation. The Blessed Mother is like a First Folio, a perfect example of what God wants us to be. We should all strive to be like First Folios, loving the Blessed Mother’s Son with our whole hearts and allowing that love to infuse all that we do and all that we are.
A blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception to all.
Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we reflect on this title of Our Lady as the patroness of the Carmelite order, under which she appeared to St. Simon Stock and presented to him the brown scapular. The Carmelites, who began as a community of hermits on Mount Carmel, Israel, in the 1200s and who point back to Elijah (hermit and prophet) as the first to be fired with the zeal of Mount Carmel, have spread throughout the world and continue to live the charism of seeking a direct and intimate experience of God.
But this kind of intimate union is purely a gift from God, which raises the question, how do we go about seeking it? How do we attain it? The answer is that we simply ready ourselves for it, so that if God seeks to give it, we are there with open hands. St. Teresa of Avila explained our hearts as a garden, which we weed and seek to water, so that if God wishes, He may come into it and take His delight. Carmelites characteristically have a deep-seated desire to be touched by God in this way, and so they accept many purgations and challenges of growing in virtue, that their hearts might become a beautiful and inviting dwelling place for the God Who placed this desire within them.
This union with God is the end goal of all of our lives, although most of us will experience it only in heaven. But St. Teresa tells us that many of us are called to experience it to varying degrees here on earth too. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us, that we might also desire interior intimacy with God and be willing to do what it takes to be receptive to it!
We wish all the friends and affiliates of the Institute on Religious Life a most blessed solemnity of the Immaculate Conception today.
In a particular way, we send our prayerful best wishes to the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, based in Northridge, California.
These Franciscan sisters’ mission is to be in the Church and for the Church. The members live their vocation through a total surrender of themselves to the poor and humble Christ in prayer, sacrifice, and apostolic action, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are involved in catechesis, education, health care, and retreat ministry.
The congregation was founded in 1874 in Mexico City by a Franciscan Priest named Fray Refugio Morales and three young women. Guided by the Holy Spirit and, in the midst of religious persecution, they started to teach the Christian life to children and to take care of the elderly in their own homes, encouraging everyone not to be afraid of living their Catholic faith as sons and daughters of God.
For more information on this wonderful community, click here.
Today, as we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, I thought I would offer you the following excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Wednesday Audience last week, in which he continued his series of reflections on prayer, which truly is the lifeblood of all vocations in Christ:
“Today, I do not wish to speak about the whole journey of faith, but only about a small aspect of the life of prayer, which is a life of contact with God; namely, about meditation. And what is meditation? It means to ‘remember’ all that God has done and not to forget all His benefits (cf. Psalm 103:2b). Often, we see only the negative things. We also need to remember the good things, the gifts that God has given us; we need to be attentive to the positive signs that come from God, and remember these. Therefore, we are speaking about a kind of prayer that the Christian tradition calls ‘mental prayer.’ We are more familiar with vocal prayer, and naturally the mind and heart must also be present in this prayer, but today we are speaking about a meditation that consists not in words but in our mind making contact with the heart of God.
“And here Mary is a true model. The Evangelist Luke repeats numerous times that Mary, for her part, ‘kept all these things, pondering them in her heart’ (2:19; cf. 2:51). She keeps them; she does not forget. She is attentive to all that the Lord has said and done to her, and she ponders; that is, she makes contact with diverse things–she dwells deeply upon them in her heart. Read the rest of this entry »
While today is the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, it is not a holy day of obligation this year because it falls on a Monday. Still, it’s a special feast day and we do well to celebrate as much as our state in life allows.
The dogma that Our Lady was taken body and soul to heaven upon the completion of her earthly life was pronounced in an ex cathedra statement by Pope Pius XII in a 1950 bull entitled Munificentissimus Deus and is also found in paragraph 966 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
At the close of Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII tells us why this feast should matter to all of us:
“[T]his solemn proclamation and definition of the Assumption will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it redounds to the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God was bound by such singular bonds. It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother, and that the souls of all those who glory in the Christian name may be moved by the desire of sharing in the unity of Christ’s Mystical Body and of increasing their love for her who in all things shows her motherly heart to the members of [Christ’s] Body. . . . In this magnificent way, all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Finally, it is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.”
Some interesting vocation news items from this past week:
Founder of Vocationists is beatified (Zenit) Don Justino Russolillo formed “a religious family dedicated wholly to the formation and education of vocations to the ecclesiastical-religious state.”
African bishops say they need help forming flourishing vocations (Catholic News Service) We are well aware of the fact that vocations are flourishing in Africa, but they do have a “shortage” when it comes to having people qualified to form them. The African bishops have invited U.S. seminary professors to come teach in Africa. They also would like to send more seminarians to the United States, where some could remain for awhile after graduation, while others would return to Africa to teach.
Fr. Clemente Vismara, “Patriarch of Burma” to be declared blessed (Asia News) This new blessed was a missionary who lived for 64 years in the forests and mountains of Kentung.
KC young adult ministry offers many opportunities to deepen faith (Catholic News Agency/Catholic Key) Kansas City is known not only as the home of world-class barbecue and the AFC West champion Chiefs, but also for its fantastic outreaches to young adults that are making a difference for the good. Examples include City on a Hill, Catholic Challenge Sports, Theology on Tap, Tuesdays at the Boulevard, Reservoir (monthly holy hour for young adults), and Band of Brothers.
Opus Dei: The Good, the Bad, and the Albino (NCRegister blog) Interesting discussion of real-life experiences (as opposed to Da Vinci Code-type caricatures) of Opus Dei, one of the most intriguing organizations in the Church today. By way of full disclosure, while not a member or “cooperator” of Opus Dei, I have benefited greatly from their ministry and everyone I know who is actively involved with it strives the best he or she can to be a faithful Catholic. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Relic of “Blessed” nun to return to Hawaii (Wall Street Journal) This week we celebrated the feast of St. Damien of Molokai, the “Leper Priest.” What many people don’t know is that shortly before his death Mother Marianne Cope and other Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse came to carry on his amazing work in the leper colony. Mother Cope herself was beatified just a couple years ago.
Preserving a way of life (Worcester Telegram) I suppose even Trappists have to make ends meet!
Catholic priest nominated as chaplain of the House of Representatives (Washington Post) Jesuit Father Patrick J. Conroy was recently named to succeed another Catholic chaplain for the House, Fr. Daniel P. Coughlin. What seemed to be a non-partisan process got a little ugly, as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (a Catholic) and others opposed Fr. Conroy’s nomination for a time because his community has paid out a large sex abuse settlement. (Never mind that Fr. Conroy was not personally involved in the activity or any alleged “cover up” and in fact blew the whistle on one of the offending priests!) The issues have been resolved, however, and his nomination now looks secure. One does wonder how Fr. Conroy’s nomination can be opposed on moral grounds by the same people who are actively opposing efforts to cut government subsidies for Planned Parenthood. Mother of God, pray for us!
The Mother of God is the defender of orthodoxy (Catholic Online) Short, well-written article on Mary’s vocation as “Theotokos” by Fr. Dwight Longenecker.
When my daughter Virginia was about a year old, I twice received calls that she was unconscious and being rushed to the hospital. (I hope you fathers out there never receive such a call.) Thanks be to God, on both occasions, by the time I arrived at the emergency room, she was awake and fine.
The second time she was knocked out, however, the doctors understandably wanted to do a CT scan to ensure that she didn’t have any lingering internal head injury. The problem is keeping a one-year old still during the procedure. The nurses suggested sedating her, but instead I asked if I could just sing to her.
So, I started gently singing various Marian antiphons, from the Ave Maria to the Alma Redemptoris Mater and Regina Caeli. These chants calmed her so that she was perfectly still and relaxed during the medical procedure.
I mention these chants here, because now that it’s Easter, the “Marian antiphon” of choice is the Regina Caeli (”Queen of Heaven”), which our family sings each evening after our Rosary. Here are the words for this beautiful chant:
|Simple tone (Mode VI):|
The English translation is:
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia.
Marian antiphons like the Regina Caeli are not only part of our rich Catholic patrimony, but they can also become part of the daily rhythm of our own families’ lives as well as the lives of religious communities.
As the episode with Virginia shows, even on a natural level, these antiphons can be “holy lullabies,” gently leading our children to a deep, filial love for our Blessed Mother.
This article was originally published by Catholics United for the Faith.