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Filtering by Tag: Marian Devotion

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

alec vanderboom

(continuation of the 40 days of prayer)

The Joyful Mysteries

The Annunciation: As Mary and Joseph accepted with faith her unexpected pregnancy and trusted God to work things out, may all mothers today accept the life within them and trust God to help them work through their problems.

The Visitation: As Mary and Elizabeth ministered to each other and shared their joy together, may we serve pregnant mothers who are in need.

The Birth of Christ: God came to us at Bethlehem in the form of a baby. May God come to each mother who conceives a child. May the love she learns to have for her baby open her heart for receiving the love of God.

The Presentation: Mary and Joseph presented the child Jesus in the temple in accordance with the prescriptions of Jewish law. May we never fail to observe the moral prescriptions of our Church in our lives.

Finding of The Child Jesus in The Temple: Mary and Joseph were distressed to have lost Jesus in the temple. May those who have lost, or never found Christ, open their hearts to Him.

Hymn: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (To Beethoven’s Ode to Joy)

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
God of Glory, Lord of Love
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee
Opening to the sun above

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

alec vanderboom

"Mount Carmel, in what is today northern Israel, has always been a place rich in mystical tradition. The word hakkarmel means "the garden" in Hebrew, and true to its title, there is a remarkable profusion of plants and wildflowers on this mountain. It is considered a natural paradise and a sacred place, and in biblical times it was forbidden to disturb any of the natural life on it. Those who wanted to ascend the mountain for meditation lived in caves so as not to intrude on the landscape with unnatural structures.

In about 860 B.C., the prophet Elijah (also known as Elias) arrived on this holy mountain to begin a life of contemplation and prayer. The First Book of Kings is filled with tales of wonders he performed and prophesies he gave. In his prophetic visions on Mount Carmel, Elijah became aware of the coming of the mother of the Messiah. He and his followers mystically dedicated themselves to her, setting an example as the first monks. The descendants of these ancient contemplatives were among the first to accept the teachigns of Christ and to be baptized by His apostles. Upon meeting Mary after Christ's Ascension, they were so overcome by her sanctity that they returned to the mountain to build a chapel in her honor. For the next thousand years, Mount Carmel continued to be a place where hermits devoted themselves to prayer. By the twelfth century, pilgrims from Europe who had followed teh Crusades to the Holy Land settled with the ascetics on Carmel and started a religious holy order known as the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Their rule, which was given by in 1209 by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, says that all converges towards the contemplation of God. The Rule of Mysticism exhorts those who follow it to live a life of continual prayer, obedience to a superior, perpetual abstinence and fasting, manual work, and total silence.

Simon Stock, an English pilgrim, had joined the group on a visit to Jerusalem. At this time, Saracen invaders forced the monks out of their spiritual home on Mount Carmel. All those who would not leave were murdered. Simon Stock was instrumental in getting the order to move to Aylesford, England, where the Baron de Grey gave them a manor house. The Carmelite lifestyle of contemplation, poverty, and silent prayer was not easily accepted in Europe, particularly among the clergy who enjoyed almost the same status as royalty. Reading into the life of Mary, Simon Stock was inspired by her unquestioning acceptance of all that befell her; her virgin pregnancy, her raising and loving a child doomed to be executed; and her staying at the foot of the Cross while others ran away. It was through his insistence that the Carmelites evolved from a band of hermit ascetics who regretted the loss of their home on Mount Carmel into a traveling society of mendicant friars, opening schools and mission houes in the major capitals of Europe. Still it was difficult for many monks to accept the alteration of the rule fo the order to adapt to European conditions. Their presence was also shunned and not easily tolerated by other religious orders. The peopel thought the hermits strange and did not accept that they chose to live in such absolute poverty and isolation. In order to preserve what was left of their order, teh Carmelites invoked their patroness, the Virgin Mary, for help in establishing their new life.

The answer came in a vision to Saint Simon Stock on July 16, 1251, when he was alone in his cell. Mary appeared to him holding the scapular of his order. She told him, "Receive my beloved son, this habit of thy order; this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire. . . It shall be a sign of slavation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace."

The scapular, two pieces of brown wool joined at the shoulders and hanging down the back and breast, was not new to the Carmelite order. For hundreds of years before Saint Simon Stock's vision, monks in Europe had worn scapulars. But it is thought that the brown scapular that Mary delivered was referencing Elijah's camel-hair garment on Mount Carmel. Eventually, the brown scapular became reduced in size for laypeople to wear under their clothing. This is a special devotion to Mary worn as a sign to commemorate her faith in both God and humankind.

This gift from Mary helped the Carmelites explain the historical significance of their order to the laypeople; it served as a reminder that belief in Mary as the Mother of God extended back to the Old Testament with the prophet Elijah. After Pope John XXII (r.1313-1334) had a vision of Mary where she promised those wearing the brown scapular, "I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of everlasting life," the scapular became extremely popular among the common people By the end of the sixteenth centurey it had become smaller in size and very similar to the one that is worn today. Admiration for the Carmelite Order spread as their adherence to teh rules of solitude and prayer produced some of the greatest mystical saints in Catholicism, all of whom had visions of or openhearted communications with Mary. Among them are Saint Simon Stock, Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Therese of Lisieux.

Wearing the scapular is a form of prayer and is considered a visible sign of consecrating oneself to Mary and to accepting her maternal protection."

(Visions of Mary, pg 27-29).

Our Lady of Czestochowa

alec vanderboom

Black Madonna of the Polish Nation

"Historical legand says that St. Luke painted this icon from life. The Virgin Mary sat for while she was living in the house of Saint John the Evangelist. The cedar wood the icon was paointed on was from a table made by Jesus Christ when he was a carpenter. During the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the early Christians hid the painting. It was rediscovered in 326, when Saint Helena, the elderly mother of Constantine made her trip to the Holy Land in search of the True Cross." This painting was revered by the citizens of Constantinople for five centuries. It escaped destruction by the Iconoclasts (746-843). "This movement of the Eastern Church strictly forbade the existence of religious images."

After Constantinople fell, the painting was moved first to a castle in Belz, Russia, and later to the Church of the Assumption, in Czestochowa (Poland) on August 26, 1382.

"The followers of a heretic priest John Hus of Prague stormed the church in 1430. In an attempt to rob the jewels embedded in the icon, one of the men started slashing at the icon's face. [He took out his sword and slashed the Madonna's face once and then twice.] As he was about to slash it a third time, he fell dead. This terrified the invaders into leaving."

The icon was restored and in 1434, completely repainted. "however, the two slashes in the face have continually reappeared despite repeated attempts to repair them." (Calamari, Barbara, "Visions of Mary," pg 121-22)

Last night, we had two members of our parish's Legion of Mary come and enthrone our home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The prayer service was so touching, despite the antics from three grouchy, tired kids. Afterwards, Brother Noel brought me a picture of "Our Lady of Czestochowa." I had just read about this venerated Polish image, a favorite of JPII, in my new "visions of Mary" book. Seeing the three sword slashes on her face remind me to continually offer up reperations for those who slight our Lady's heart and her image. Let us offer up many "I lOVE YOU" during the month of May to make up for our Blessed Mother's many sorrows.

The Merry, Mary Month of May

alec vanderboom

This month marks the first May that I've celebrated as a consecrated daughter of Mary.

I became a Catholic in 2002, yet I've always had a "block" when it came to Marian devotion. I remember clearly my first Holy Day Celebration in 2001. As a new RICA member I slid into a pew at the evening service of the Immaculate Conception. "This feels pretty weird, what am I getting myself into?" as I struggled to understand why I needed to be in church at night to celebrate an "invented" doctrine from 1950 which I'd never heard before in my 25 years of being a Christian.

May 2005 brought the heart attack which signaled the imminent death of my grandmother. Mother's Day 2005, was the first time I could bring myself to sing any of the beautiful Marian hymns with any sense of interior devotion. I sang from the heart for my dying grandmother and for our Blessed Mother in Heaven.

This year, I formally consecrated myself to Marian, through the method of St. Louis de Montfort on the feast of the annunciation. It's been a slow-a pathetically slow- process. I stumble along in darkness, groping through the nightly rosary, staring a devotional pictures, trying on unfamiliar concepts like "Mediatrix" and "Assumption."

This year is the 150 anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes. I feel a special kinship with Saint Bernadette. Her "dullness" at the her catechism consoles me. Just as her trust and faithfulness in suffering inspires me. I've gradually gone from viewing Mary as this strange, fearful BVM, to my Blessed Virgin Mother too.

Through this journey, I've always felt this "Mary block" must be mine alone. "I must have some weird mother issues" I thought. I could figure out why so many other Catholics leaped confidentially into the lap of Mary, why I always felt shy and uneasy.

Our Blessed Mother has grace my home these past two weeks with a special presence. Our parish has a "visiting Pilgrim Statute program" where a lovely 32 inch statute of Our Lady of Fatima comes to your home. The Legion of Mary teaches the entire family how to say the rosary and leaves lots of inspirational videos.

On Sunday, we had finally tracked down a neighbor's VCR and started watching the video on "First Saturday's making reparations to our Blessed Mother's Heart." The premise behind this devotion is beautiful. The faithful devote the first Saturday of five consecutive months to going to Confession, Daily Mass, saying the rosary and my favorite "keeping our Mother company for fifteen minutes."

The reason for choosing the number five, has to do with the five major ways the world hurts our Blessed Mother's heart. First, we deny the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Second, we deny the perpetual virginity of Mary. Third, we deny Mary the title of "Mother of God." Fourth, we desecrate the holy images and statutes of Mary. Fifth, we "uprooted the devotion of Mary, particularly among the young."

The priests on the video carefully explained how each of these "hurts" harm our relationship with God. The Immaculate Conception was God's first gift of redemptive grace. Mary is "the dawn of Christ's perfect day." Her quiet, hidden sanctification was God's signal to the world that we will able be saved through Christ.The perpetual virginity of Mary, was Mary's gift back to God. He accepted that gift and insured that she remained forever a virgin, even through the birth of Jesus.

At this point, I gasped openly. I felt this sting in my heart. My Methodist faith, which I'd always seen as sort of sweet and harmless, was actively promoting four of the five harms to Mary. The Methodists (and most other Protestants) recognized Mary as "the Mother of God" and trotted her out in nativity scenes at Christmas. Otherwise, my religion was actively seeking to destroy devotion to Mary as "incompatible with the true worship of Jesus Christ alone."

We denied that Mary remained a virgin and taught that she had other children beside Jesus. We denied that she was special or above us, through the special circumstances of her conception. We tore down her "idolatrous" shrines and built crisp white churches with plain walls. We "uprooted" Marian devotion, particularly among the young, particularly among ME.

This month I'm renewing my Marian devotions with fervor. I'm taking joy in sharing her prayers with my children. It's been 350 years since my ancestors traded devotion to Our Blessed Mother, for the pale, pasty imitation of devotion to Queen Elizabeth, "The Virgin Queen." I'm proud to have moved both literally and figuratively from "Virgina" to "Maryland."

What are you doing to make your domestic churches a Mary land this May?

New Years Eve Redefined

alec vanderboom

I spent my twenty-fifth birthday dressed in long underwear, new earrings and a damp felt hat. I’d dragged a bottle of champagne to the banks of the Thames River. My friend, Gloria and I, didn’t bring glasses, so we took swigs straight from the bottle, surrounded by a crowd of two million.

It was December 31, 1999. Deciding to celebrate the junction of the millennium & my first quarter century with a hop across the pond seemed glamorous and exciting as I discussed it with my housemate at 2 AM in snowy Madison, Wisconsin. The dream in actuality was not so glamorous.

The weather, as winter weather always is in London, was that awful spitting rain that somehow chills to the bone far worse than an actual blizzard. I wore three layers in anticipation. Still, every piece of me ached with cold. The crowd, which seemed gloriously thrilling as I rode the Underground into the city, now turned into an overwhelming force. People pressed up against me with inches to spare. There were drunk, rude guys trying to “cop a feel” and no room to move to avoid them. I realized that if I slipped on the wet pavement, there would be no way Gloria could ever get me back on my feet. I’d be trampled by the massive crowd, which kept surging forward in unpredictable waves.

Gloria and I popped the champagne cork to celebrate my birth-time at 10:31 PM. She took a picture of me waving underneath Big Ben. After a few happy swigs, we realized mournfully that we had an hour and a half to kill before midnight. What were we going to do?

Looking around, I realized that we were close to Westminster Abbey. “Want to hang out in a church?” I asked her. “Yes” was her enthusiastic answer.

We filed into the famous church at about 10:45 PM, happy to unwrap ourselves from our wet coats and soaked mittens. I said a quick prayer of thanks and then lost myself in my own daydreams. (Church sanctuaries were a homey, familiar place for both Gloria and I. Back in Madison we were housemates at an inter-faith Episcopal College Dorm called “St. Francis House.”)

Within a few minutes an organ started playing, and then a few parishioners filed in. “They are having a special service tonight?” I asked. Gloria, who was a Catholic from Columbia, knew all about New Years Eve vigil. I, as an American Methodist, had no idea what was going on. Gloria helped me find my place in the prayer book. We were happy to find an honest reason to stay out of the rain.

The memory of that night made an impression on me. Inside the ancient stone church, there was warmth, music, calm, a comfortable space to move around and to be myself. Outside, was the large, chaotic crowd. I felt as though the church was a safe ship amid a stormy sea. I said my prayers for world in the new millennium. “Why was Mary involved in ushering in world peace?” I wondered.

Before this past New Years Eve, I always thought the story of Jon and I started with two New Years Resolutions. (On January 1, 2000, the shy Jon decided to “start asking girls out” for the first time. Meanwhile, after reading “She’s Come Undone, my 2000 year resolution was to “drink people’s milkshakes accept the love that is offered.” A mere three weeks later, Jon decided to uncharacteristically send a free drink to the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. I was about to decline, since I’m clearly “not a girl who accepts drinks from strange men in a bar.” Then the “accept people’s milkshakes” line came into my head, and so over the objection of my friend and five of her burly brothers, I went to the bar to get my free shot. The bartender was a girl named Beth, “the guy that sent that to you is down there, in the orange baseball cap. He’s really nice if you want to say thank you.” I started to walk towards the guy in the orange cap. He was so shocked to see me that he promptly fell off his bar stool. That sheepish grin as he climbed back on his barstool went right to my heart, and gave me courage. “At least, he’s not a Casanova!” I thought happily. “My name is Jon & I have two dogs,” so started the conversation, which is still going on eight years later, only now its over the din of teething babies instead of the roar of Wisconsin beer drinkers.)

So, I’d always credited our marriage to two lonely people making a resolution to look harder to find love in a New Year. Celebrating vigil at midnight with my family this year, I’ve come to a different conclusion. I clearly remember that night on Dec 31, 1999. I remember feeling scared, and jostled, and needing a safe refuge from the maddening crowd. I remember finding a quiet church, and spending the night in an earnest prayer for peace—asking the aid of a Blessed Mother I never knew I had.

Our Blessed Mother heard my prayer for world peace. She didn’t direct me to start an inter-faith summer camp or send shoeboxes of school supplies to Africa. Instead, she guided me to my husband, a shy boy who had been living two blocks from me the entire two and half years of my falling, flagging, time in law school. She guided Jon and I into Holy Matrimony and towards a conversion of faith to the Catholic Church. A peaceful family life is the building block of a peaceful society. Now Jon and I are humble bricklayers in tasks that we never knew the world always needed.

In 2007, I capped off my birthday celebration by waking three sleepy children, dressing them in their Christmas best, and packing them into a church pew. Mass began at 11:30 and ended to 12:38. It was the first time that Jon and I had ever skipped the 10, 9, 8 . . . countdown to midnight. We prayed. We sang. We didn’t know the clock had turned until our priest gave us the time at the close of Mass. My birthday was officially over. Then I realized that I’d been born just in time to celebrate Vigil Mass on Our Blessed Mother’s special feast day. It didn’t matter that I didn’t learn how to say a rosary until age 28. I’d been a Mary’s girl, all along!