Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Look of Love- My Encounter with Pope John Paul II

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

This is the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday and of the Beatification of Pope John Paul II. There is so much that could be said about our beloved and soon-to-be Blessed JP II, but since so much has been said already by so many more learned than I, may it suffice for me to share the one thing that no one else could share: my one small encounter with the Pope.

I know people who had the pleasure of knowing John Paul II personally, or of going to a private Mass with him, or other amazing encounters. My one brief moment with him was nothing like that -- in fact, it was an encounter so small, so ordinary, so unexpected that it was clearly a moment of daily life being intersected by divine grace.

It was the summer of 2002, and I was part of a group of international alumni for NET Ministries who were serving as volunteers at World Youth Day in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We had gathered together with an intimate crowd of, oh, say half a million other young people from around the world to greet Pope John Paul II as he rode in on his Pope-mobile for the opening Mass.

The path that the Pope would take for his entrance could not be known ahead of time for reasons of safety, but shortly before he entered Exhibition Place my friends and I realized that he would be coming on a path not far from us. I was excited -- I had been to a previous World Youth Day, but had been nowhere close to the Holy Father. However, my excitement was short-lived as people started to crowd close to the movable fences that had been put up along his driving path. I decided that it was probably not in keeping with the spirit of World Youth Day to push people out of my way to see the Pope, and resigned myself to staying where I was and patiently awaiting his arrival into our area.

Soon, I could see the top of the Pope-mobile over the heads of the crowd in front of me. We were so close to the Pope, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to see him because of the crowd. Then, in an unforgettable and entirely unexpected moment, it happened -- the crowd parted in front of me. I saw Pope John Paul II. He saw me! He looked directly into my eyes and smiled. I cried.

There was only one way to describe the look the Pope gave to me. Pope John Paul II described Jesus' encounter with the rich young man so beautifully in his encyclical on The Splendour of Truth, Veritatis Splendor, and when Pope John Paul II looked me in the eye, I knew it was the same look that Jesus had given the rich young man (Mark 10:21) -- it was the look of love. It was a look so profound, so sincere, that it will never be forgotten.

In his final World Youth Day homily given in Toronto and in his life, Pope John Paul II spoke these moving words:
You are young, and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22 or 23. But the Pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. You are our hope, the young are our hope.
Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.
I finish with a prayer.
O Lord Jesus Christ, keep these young people in your love. Let them hear your voice and believe what you say, for you alone have the words of life.
Teach them how to profess their faith, bestow their love, and impart their hope to others.
Make them convincing witnesses to your Gospel in a world so much in need of your saving grace.
Make them the new people of the Beatitudes, that they may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium!
Mary, Mother of the Church, protect and guide these young men and women of the Twenty-first Century. Keep us all close to your maternal heart. Amen.
Almost-Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Peace and all good,

Friday, April 29, 2011

Catherine of Siena, Saint and Doctor of the Church

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Today is the Feast Day of one of my favorite saints, Catherine of Siena! She is one of the three women to have been named 'doctor of the Church' (St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila are the other two), and Catherine has a truly inspiring story. [FYI: That she is called 'Doctor of the Church' means that the Church has benefited from Catherine's contributions in the realm of theology and doctrine, not that she practiced medicine!]

I first learned St. Catherine of Siena's story from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, and I'll share with you their brief recounting of her life excerpted from their beautiful website. Enjoy!
I, Catherine, write to strengthen you in the precious Blood of the Son of God, desiring to see you consumed in the fire of His charity. (From the letters of St. Catherine of Siena)
That is the way Catherine of Siena, the fiery young Dominican of the mid-fourteenth century, might well have chosen to introduce herself to readers today. It was typical of this Dominican saint always to think and speak of herself only in connection with Christ and to present herself that way to others. For Catherine, as for Dominicans before and after her, “communication” was all-important; the single most important communication was Christ—with Him and of Him. Who was this woman, and why does she still have the ability to communicate with us, even today?

Catherine was born in 1347 in the Italian city of Siena. The twenty-third of twenty-five children in a loving Catholic family, Catherine realized, even at a very young age, God’s call to give herself totally to Him. Having known the Dominican friars of Siena from childhood, she herself felt drawn to live the Dominican life. At the age of 16 or 17, she joined a group of Dominican laywomen who lived in their homes while dedicating their lives to prayer and active works of charity. Though Catherine’s family at first opposed her wishes, and the sisters themselves thought her too young to persevere, Catherine steadfastly grew in her conviction that God had called her to be a Dominican.

Catherine’s first years as a Dominican were spent in seclusion in her family home, where Christ formed her in the “communication skills” of deep prayer and conversation with Him. Fired with His love for her and her love for Him, Catherine then prepared for an active life of service to others. As the years went on, this service took the form of caring for the sick and poor, nursing plague victims, and counseling others who wished to grow spiritually. Gradually, the Lord let Catherine know that He wished her to bring her spiritual communication skills to bear on the political life in her country. This she did, growing at the same time in her own prayer life.

Finally, the Lord gave Catherine the task of influencing the Holy Father, Pope Gregory XI, to return to Rome from France, where he and the papal court had been residing for some years. This was perhaps her most difficult and painful mission, but always she was motivated by her love for the Church along with her profound respect for the Holy Father as the Vicar of Christ.

Catherine died in Rome in 1380 at the age of 33, having spent herself completely for the good of the Church. Dominicans today are called to communicate the same urgent truths as did St. Catherine of Siena: That we are made for eternal life, that the desire to know God is our deepest hunger, and that love for Christ and His Church should be a fire that burns in us. Because she loved Our Lord, Catherine loved His people. Her example of active zeal fired by contemplation continues to stir the flame in Dominican men and women even today.

Feast: April 29
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

Peace and all good,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Confirmation...and Pants for Dogs!

Howdy, Coffee Talkers!

Our youth confirmation Mass was celebrated tonight -- what an exciting time! I love being around people who've just received all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and who smell of chrism oil.

But to continue on with the theme of being too weary to get theological on ya and wanting to, instead, share very funny yet pointless websites I've come across, here you go!  
Maybe it's because I'm delirious, but I really can't stop laughing when I look at this picture. Man, this website is almost as good as yesterday's CAT PRIN.

Thanks for stopping by! We'll get back to more serious things at some point, I'm sure, but for now enjoy the cats and dogs in silly clothing.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Tailor of a Cat -- CAT PRIN!

Hello, my dear Coffee Talkers!

I'm too tired for any theological or philosophical insights tonight, my friends, so please allow me to share with you perhaps the funniest website that I have come across in my entire life. Really. Introducing: CAT PRIN.

Now, it's really hard to decide what makes this website funnier -- is it the pictures of cats dressed in ridiculous costumes...

...or the descriptions translated from Japanese into very bad English? Seriously, the syntax could keep me in stitches for hours on end. Like this:
1. You need to dress a cat. And you will say to a cat together with a family. "It has changed just for a moment". [ "it being very dear" or ] You will pass pleasant one time. 2. If a family and a cat become fortunate, you will take a commemorative photo! Therefore, please photo your cat lovelily with much trouble.
3. If it finishes taking a photograph, you will make it remove clothes from a cat immediately. You will say then, without forgetting the language of gratitude to a cat. "-- be flooded -- a way -- good -- having done one's best -- ! -- "
Uh, WHAT?!?! But now that I really think about it, though, I think the best part is that people can (and apparently do!) purchase these costumes and make their cats wear them. Three words to describe my sentiments: I. love. it.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Be assured of my prayers. And please pray for the youth of my parish who are preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation tomorrow -- hooray!

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Your Life is His Affair

"Your life is His affair; it is produced by His steady attraction. It consist in being drawn, at His pace, and in His way, to the place where He wants you to be, which is often not the place you fancied for yourself. It is trying to see things, persons, and choices from the angle of eternity, and accepting them as part of the material in which the Holy Spirit works."
~ Sister Rose Marie Masserano, O.P.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's the Vigil of the Anniversary of My Birth!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

This might be the busiest week of my life. But it's a great busy! In the midst of the madness, my birthday is tomorrow, and it falls this year during the Octave of Easter -- hooray! You know, I was so pre-occupied with Confirmation rehearsal and the other happenings of this week that I'd almost forgotten that my birthday was only a couple hours away. But then, through the power of Facebook, I was reminded that people in other time zones are already celebrating the anniversary of my birth! For their well-wishes, I give thanks.

And don't worry -- as a Catholic, I fully intend to celebrate my birthday with a vigil and a full octave, at least. Shoot, why not extend it to a full season like Easter? It's good to be Catholic and liturgical! So you can pray for me throughout the season. I would ask for candy, too, but I already have plenty from Easter.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Octave, a Season, and a Sequence - EASTER!

Happy Easter, Coffee Talkers!

Ahhh, I love Easter! Especially because it is not only a day, nor just an octave (did you know Easter and Christmas are both celebrated with 8 days of liturgical solemnities, or high feasts?), but a fifty day liturgical season! The party goes longer than Lent, my people! All the way through Pentecost Sunday. Isn't it great?

I also love Easter Sunday in particular because it is one of the two Sundays of the year which have an obligatory 'sequence,' liturgical hymn used on certain feast days before the Gospel in the Mass. It is beautiful! Listen, read, and enjoy!


laudes immolent Christiani.
CHRISTIANS, to the Paschal Victim
offer sacrifice and praise.
Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb;
and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners
to his Father reconciled.
Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.
Death with life contended:
combat strangely ended!
Life's own Champion, slain,
yet lives to reign.
Dic nobis Maria,
Quid vidisti in via?
Tell us, Mary:
say what thou didst see upon the way.
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis:
The tomb the Living did enclose;
I saw Christ's glory as He rose!
Angelicos testes,
sudarium et vestes.
The angels there attesting;
shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Surrexit Christus spes mea:
praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Christ, my hope, has risen:
He goes before you into Galilee.
Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
Tu nobis, victor Rex miserere.
Amen. Alleluia.
That Christ is truly risen
from the dead we know.
Victorious King, Thy mercy show!
Amen. Alleluia. 


Ahhh, Coffee Talkers!

Good Friday. Holy Saturday. Easter Vigil. Easter morning fast approaching. Jesus died, descended into hell, and rose again from the dead! Whew, what a weekend!

So many thoughts, no time to blog! Must sleep!

I will write more soon, but for now be assured of my prayers!


Friday, April 22, 2011

This Night Full of Silence, Full of Hope

Here are Pope Benedict XVI's closing reflections given at the close of tonight's Good Friday Way of the Cross at Rome's Colosseum:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This evening, in faith, we have accompanied Jesus as he takes the final steps of his earthly journey, the most painful steps, the steps that lead to Calvary. We have heard the cries of the crowd, the words of condemnation, the insults of the soldiers, the lamentation of the Virgin Mary and of the women. Now we are immersed in the silence of this night, in the silence of the cross, the silence of death. It is a silence pregnant with the burden of pain borne by a man rejected, oppressed, downtrodden, the burden of sin that mars his face, the burden of evil. Tonight we have relived, deep within our hearts, the drama of Jesus, weighed down by pain, by evil, by human sin. 
What remains now before our eyes? It is a crucified man, a cross raised on Golgotha, a cross which seems a sign of the final defeat of the One who brought light to those immersed in darkness, the One who spoke of the power of forgiveness and of mercy, the One who asked us to believe in God’s infinite love for each human person. Despised and rejected by men, there stands before us "a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity, one from whom others hide their faces" (Is 53:3).

But let us look more closely at that man crucified between earth and heaven. Let us contemplate him more intently, and we will realize that the cross is not the banner of the victory of death, sin and evil, but rather the luminous sign of love, of God's immense love, of something that we could never have asked, imagined or expected: God bent down over us, he lowered himself, even to the darkest corner of our lives, in order to stretch out his hand and draw us to himself, to bring us all the way to himself. The cross speaks to us of the supreme love of God and invites, today, to renew our faith in the power of that love, and to believe that in every situation of our lives, our history and our world, God is able to vanquish death, sin and evil, and to give us new, risen life. In the Son of God’s death on the cross, we find the seed of new hope for life, like the seed which dies within the earth.

This night full of silence, full of hope, echoes God’s call to us as found in the words of Saint Augustine: “Have faith! You will come to me and you will taste the good things of my table, even as I did not disdain to taste the evil things of your table... I have promised you my own life. As a pledge of this, I have given you my death, as if to say: Look! I am inviting you to share in my life. It is a life where no one dies, a life which is truly blessed, which offers an incorruptible food, the food which refreshes and never fails. The goal to which I invite you … is friendship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is the eternal supper, it is communion with me … It is a share in my own life (cf. Sermon 231, 5).

Let us gaze on the crucified Jesus, and let us ask in prayer: Enlighten our hearts, Lord, that we may follow you along the way of the cross. Put to death in us the "old man" bound by selfishness, evil and sin. Make us "new men", men and women of holiness, transformed and enlivened by your love.
Triduum blessings to you all,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A New Commandment I Give Unto You

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

We have entered the Triduum, the Holy Days leading up to Easter, and I am already exhausted. I work for the Church, so this is undoubtedly the busiest time of year. A good, but tiring, busy. So I'll share just a brief reflection on Holy Thursday.

Many people know that Catholics see Holy Thursday as a commemoration of the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist, and it is both. But one another very significant aspect of the day can be more clearly seen from the older name for the day -- Maundy Thursday. The term 'Maundy' comes from the Latin mandatum, which is the first word of Jesus' words to the Apostles when explaining to them the significance of washing their feet: "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" -- "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34).

This is Jesus new commandment -- LOVE. Let us enter into this mystery as we journey toward Easter.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Confession: Power to Forgive & Grace to Change

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Tonight, a question!

Dear Leslie,

Do you go to confession? This is something that I am struggling with. I've never actually gone and I have been a Catholic officially for 5 years and been going to the Catholic church my whole life. As Easter quickly approaches it is heavy on my mind. I want to improve my relationship right now and I am feeling very blocked right now. Advise please.

Seeking God

Dear Seeking,

Yes, I go to confession. For many years, I did not go very frequently, but I had an experience in college that allowed me to experience an aspect of the sacrament that I had never understood prior to that time. There was a particular professor who I'd been having a very difficult time with, or should I say that the professor had been having a very difficult time with me? In either case, it was a problem that was ongoing, since we had to see one another very frequently at the time and I knew something had to be done to change the situation. At first, I tended to blame the professor for being the cause of most of our difficulties (since it is generally easier to examine someone else's conscience than my own!), but after some more serious reflection and introspection I realized that  I also had a part in the problem and had done some things wrong. I knew that I could not talk to the professor about my realizations, and that even an apology probably would have ended in yet another misunderstanding or disagreement. But I also knew there was one place that I could always go to confess my wrongdoing, be completely forgiven, and get a fresh start. As it was a Saturday, I walked to the local Cathedral and got in line for confession.

I went behind the screen so I didn't have to think about who the priest was, and I confessed all of what I'd done wrong. I made my act of contrition, went into the church to pray and make my penance, and walked back to campus. I felt more peaceful about the situation, but although a burden had been lifted for me personally, I still had no idea what effect this could possibly have in my daily life.

A few weeks later, that same professor pulled me aside one day and said, "Leslie, I don't know what's going on in your life, but I can see that something has changed. And it's something good. I have found you much easier to work with recently, and just wanted to let you know."

Two points to be made here: 1.) this professor was certainly not one to be lavish in praise, to say the least, so this conversation was nothing short of a minor miracle, and 2.) while I had always understood that sacramental confession had the power to forgive our sins, I had never before understood that the sacrament also gives us the grace to change. And suddenly that reality, through my own experience, was huge, personal, and powerful. Trust me, I had tried and tried on my own to make things better in my relationship with this professor, and with no success. The only thing different that time was I gave the problem to Someone else who actually had the power to change the situation through the grace to change me!

After that experience, I started to go to confession more frequently. At one point in my life, I was blessed to have a priest to whom I regularly went for confession and spiritual direction. It bore great fruit in my spiritual life to have a priest with whom I could share my particular struggles and who could give me guidance in ways to grow in faith and virtue. While I don't have a regular confessor now, I still try to get to the sacrament once or twice a month. Even beyond confessing serious sins (when confession is necessary), I find it helpful to regularly examine my conscience even for venial (or less serious) sins and to ask God where I can grow.

I'll be honest -- I hate going to confession. There are few things more distasteful on a natural level than confessing all of the things I've done wrong, than bringing my thoughts and deeds of darkness into light. But while I hate going to confession, I love leaving confession! I love the mercy of God, the forgiveness of sins, and most of all the grace to change those things about myself that I absolutely cannot change on my own. In short, I love becoming more the person God made me to be, and I see that happen when I frequent the sacraments, especially confession.

I think it's wonderful that you want to become closer to God, and I think that confession will get you there. It is customary for Catholics to make a confession during Lent in preparation for receiving communion at Easter time, and so many churches have reconciliation services where all the priests of an area come together and offer the sacrament to the faithful gathered there.

Remember, all priests are bound to the seal of the confessional, so anything that you tell them in the context of confession (whether face-to-face or behind the screen) will never be told to anyone else. Never. Priests have given their lives rather than break this seal. And if you tell them that it is your first confession, they will help you. Here is a Guide to the Sacrament of Confession that you might find helpful in preparing for the sacrament; it includes an examination of conscience based on the Ten Commandments. Also, the Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas made a good video on examining your conscience and frequency of confession:

One practical challenge that you might face right now is that we are about to begin the Triduum -- Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday -- and so the Lenten penance services are all done now. Also, no confessions are heard in parishes on Holy Saturday. So the next time your local parish would likely be offering confessions would be the Saturday following Easter.

Still, most priests will hear confessions by appointment, especially if you explain to them that it would be your first confession and you feel compelled to confess before Easter. Be warned -- Holy Week and the Triduum in particular are among the busiest times of year for priests, so if at first you don't succeed in making a confession appointment, try, try again! Call another priest. Or better yet, go into the local parish offices tomorrow. Most parish offices will be closed on Good Friday through Easter Monday, so go tomorrow!

Thanks so much for writing! I hope this has been helpful. Be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thank you, Fr. Michael Scanlan!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I want to share a beautiful video tribute to Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR.

Fr. Mike is the former president and chancellor of Franciscan University of Steubenville (where I completed graduate school and worked for several years) who is now retiring after 50 years of faithful service. There is so much that I could say about his wonderful man and priest, but for now I'll let the video speak for itself. It is a very worthwhile investment of 12 minutes of your time. Enjoy, and Fr. Mike, thank you!

Peace and all good,

Monday, April 18, 2011

My New YouCat, and What the Pope Did NOT Say About Condoms

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Two things tonight: 1. I got my new copy of YouCat, the new youth catechism for the Catholic Church! It is so great. I love it. Not only are the format and content excellent from what I've seen so far, but it also has a flip book inside of it! I'm not kidding. There's a little stick man on the bottom corner of each page, and you can flip the pages to watch him do fun things!

2. You know, I really thought that the confusion about the Pope's remarks about condoms had been dispelled, but not so, my friends, not so. Someone, trying to justify condom use as being reconcilable with Catholic teachings, wrote this to me in a message:
"In one of his most recent books, Pope Benedict gives the example of how condom use among male prostitutes is beneficial in stopping the spread of disease. Although that is an extreme example, I can think of other less extreme instances where within a marriage, other types of health issues might come into play as well."
[My initial thoughts: ARGH!!! NO, NO, NO! The pervasive influence of the secular media who is completely uninformed about the teachings of the Catholic Church makes me CRAZY! Alright, let me settle down now, and share the calmer and more rational response I actually gave.]

I am quite familiar with what you are speaking of in regard to the Pope, and I'd like to clarify the matter a bit since the media made a big mess of what was really said. It was in the context of an interview that our Holy Father made his statement about condoms (not in a book that he wrote), and here's a little more of the context and the quote:
The German Reporter conducting the interview with Pope Benedict XVI, Seewald, asks: "Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?"

The Pope answers: "She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more humane way, of living sexuality."

And he goes on to clearly state that, "the use of condoms by prostitutes are a first step toward moralization, even though condoms are not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection".
In other words, the Pope is saying that, in the case of a male prostitute who has HIV, it would be a step toward moralization to use a condom, since that person is currently living a life with very little regard for the well-being of others. Using a condom in that situation would, indeed, be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more humane way, of living sexuality."

Clearly, the Holy Father is not advocating for the use of condoms by male prostitutes as some sort of solution to the world's moral problems. He is not promoting condom use any more than he is condoning male prostitution! Still, he is right to say that, in this extreme case, use of a condom could be seen as a step toward moralization, thus leading people to consider the interior dimension of will and freedom, rather than viewing the Church's teachings as some sort of imposed legalistic norm.

In short, Benedict definitively says that condom use is never a REAL or MORAL solution. He was absolutely not changing the Church's long-standing teachings on the transmission of human life.

As always, thanks for stopping by! A blessed Holy Week to all of you in the blogosphere.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Nine - Death Through Eve, Life Through Mary

Happy Palm Sunday to you, Coffee Talkers!

Tonight we will continue on in the "Hail WHO? - What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary?" series, with this final (and brief!) section of my paper on Mary as the new Eve! (It's taken a while to get through it, huh?) This final portion sums up all of the major points I presented throughout the paper which support the theological concept of Mary as the New Eve. [Note: I've included brief footnotes to cite my sources, but if anyone want the full bibliography, e-mail me and I'll pass it on!] After concluding the paper tonight, I will continue the series from time to time to cover other hot Marian topics like apparitions and what the Catholic Church believes about private revelation.

For now, the final section of the paper -- enjoy!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

Death Through Eve, Life Through Mary

St. Bonaventure describes that while "that woman (namely Eve), drove us out of Paradise and sold us, ... [Mary] brought us back again and bought us." (57) In every way that Eve, the first woman failed, Mary, she who is blessed among women, gloriously surpasses even Eve's original state of holiness and justice, thanks to her free and active participation in the salvific and redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the new Adam. "In fact, just as Eve caused the death, so Mary, with her 'yes,' became 'a cause of salvation' for herself and all mankind (cf. Adv. Haer., III, 22, 4; SC211, 441)." (58)

Mary, the new Eve, shines as a model for all women. As Fr. Xavier Leon-Dufour explains, "The Lord willed to be born of a woman (G 4,4). Mary, virgin and mother, fulfills in herself the feminine hope of fruitfulness." (59) In Mary, the new Eve who gives birth to Christ and His body, the Church, we see "the prototype of the woman, whom each woman longs in her heart to become." (60)

Mary's role in the plan of salvation, however, extends far beyond being a model for all women and all Christians. As the new Eve with the new Adam, Mary is the faithful, obedient, and Immaculate adversary of Satan. She is the spiritual mother of all people and Mediatrix of all graces and through her co-redemptive suffering with Christ Mary re-opens the gates to paradise and gives men access to the fruit of the new tree of life. As the Second Vatican Council beautifully describes, 
"The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life. That is true in outstanding fashion of the mother of Jesus, who gave to the world Him who is Life itself and who renews all things, and who was enriched by God with the gifts which befit such a role." (61)
 Mary's role as our intercessor, mother, and co-redeemer are an inexhaustible source of spiritual richness. May we sit always at the school of Mary, Mother and model of the Church, as we journey toward our heavenly home where we shall see her and Christ, the new Adam, face to face.
57. Miravalle, p. 111.
58. Calkins, p. 26.
59. Leon-Dufour, p. 665.
60.Leon-Dufour, p. 666.
61. Lumen Gentium, #56.
As always, thanks for reading. Be assured of my prayers for all of you as we enter into Holy Week!

Peace and all good,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

BXVI's Birthday and Bernadette!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Today is Pope Benedict XVI's 84th birthday, which also happens to fall on the Feast of St. Bernadette! Bernadette was a poor, sickly, and uneducated girl who became a messenger for Mary, who appeared to young Bernadette and revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception.

Here's a little info about this interesting saint from Catholic Online:
St. Bernadette was born at Lourdes, France. Her parents were very poor and she herself was in poor health. One Thursday, February 11, 1858, when she was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood, a very beautiful Lady appeared to her above a rose bush in a grotto called Massabielle. The lovely Lady was dressed in blue and white. She smiled at Bernadette and then made the sign of the cross with a rosary of ivory and gold. Bernadette fell on her knees, took out her own rosary and began to pray the rosary. The beautiful Lady was God's Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She appeared to Bernadette seventeen other times and spoke with her. She told Bernadette that she should pray sinners, do penance and have a chapel built there in her honor. Many people did not believe Bernadette when she spoke of her vision. She had to suffer much. But one day Our Lady told Bernadette to dig in the mud. As she did, a spring of water began to flow. The next day it continued to grow larger and larger. Many miracles happened when people began to use this water. When Bernadette was older, she became a nun. She was always very humble. More than anything else, she desired not to be praised. Once a nun asked her if she had temptations of pride because she was favored by the Blessed Mother. "How can I?" she answered quickly. "The Blessed Virgin chose me only because I was the most ignorant." What humility! Her feast day is April 16th.
 Oh, and her body is incorrupt! Pretty rockin'.

We'll return to our series on what Catholics believe about Mary tomorrow, and I thought today's Feast Day was a nicely related commercial break.

So happy birthday to you, Holy Father, and Saint Bernadette, pray for us!

Peace and all good,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Eight -- O Sacred Banquet

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers!

Tonight we'll continue in in the "Hail WHO? -- What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary" series. I'll present the second to the last section of my paper (I told you it was long!) on Mary as the new Eve. This section gets into some Eucharistic theology, as well, and presents Jesus himself (especially in Eucharistic communion) as the fruit of the new tree of life, the cross. As always, thoughts, feedback, and questions are welcomed. Here it is!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

O Sacred Banquet - Mary Re-opens the Gates to Paradise

The fruit of the tree of life, once accessible to man, is now off limits due to Adam and Eve's defiance. This, too, Irenaeus sees as God's gift to man, since allowing him to eat from the tree of life would no longer have meant eternal life, but rather an immortality of sin:
"Wherefore also He cast him out of Paradise, and moved him to a distance from the Tree of Life: not grudging him the Tree of Life, as some dare to say, but in pity to him, that he might not last forever as a sinner; and that the sin which was in him might not be immortal, and an infinite and incurable evil." (47)
Therefore, while men, "being all implicated in the first formation of Adam, ... were bound to death through disobedience," (48) God has not bound men to be forever separated from eternal life.

That we might have eternal life, Christ, the New Adam, atones for the disobedience of Adam and all humanity through His obedience "unto death, even death on a cross." (49) Thus, "the sin that was wrought through the tree was undone by the obedience of the tree, obedience to God whereby the Son of man was nailed to the tree." (50) The cross of Christ is the new tree of life, on which Jesus gives His own body and blood as the new fruit of this tree, restoring man's access to union with God and eternal life. Irenaeus says that, "because as by the disobedience of one man sin had entrance, and by sin death prevailed; so also by the obedience of one man should righteousness by brought in, and bear the fruit of life to those men who were long ago dead." (51)

Similarly, just as through one woman death made its entrance into the world, so through one woman would the fruit of life be born for all mankind. As the Church prays in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Eve shut all her children out of Paradise; the Virgin Mary opened wide its gates." (52) Pope Benedict XV affirms this, saying that "Just as the first Adam had a woman for accomplice in his rebellion against God, so the new Adam wished to have a woman share in His work of re-opening the gates of heaven for men." (53)

It is Mary's unique cooperation in willingly suffering with her Son that allows her to be the bearer of the fruit of the Cross, the new tree of life. It is the sacrificial love of Jesus and Mary that restores us to life, and which constitutes the very image and likeness of God which we are called to live out as disciples of the One who "by obedience ... undid the old disobedience wrought in the tree." (54)

Mary re-opens access for all men to the fruit of the tree of life not only in the life to come, but in our earthly lives where we can now receive Christ's own body and blood in the Eucharist, a perpetual memorial of his passion. As Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P. explains, "The mystery of the Eucharist, as foundation, sacrifice and presence is centred on the Cross, the Tree of Life." (55) and through Mary, the new Eve, we have access to the fruit of the new tree of life, which Pope John Paul II describes as "the sacrament in which our new being is most completely expressed." (56) It is only through Mary that we are able to receive the fruit of Christ's sacrifice in such an unimaginable way, partaking of His own body and blood that by receiving Him, we might be transformed into His own image, the image in which we were created in the beginning.
47. St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses (AH). Book 3, #6.
48. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #31.
49. Philippians 2:8
50. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #34.
51. St. Irenaeus, AH, Book 3, #10.
52. Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Divine Office, Vol. IV, p. 1643.
53. Calkins, p. 52.
54. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #34.
55. Nichols, Aidan, O.P. The Holy Eucharist - From the New Testament to Pope John Paul II. p. 123.
56. Redemptor Hominis, Art. 20.
Thanks for stopping by, my friends. Be assured of my grateful affection and prayers for all of my readers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Seven -- And Your Heart, Too Shall Be Pierced By A Sword

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

We are getting back to our "Hail WHO? -- What Do Catholic Really Believe About Mary" series. For those of you just joining, the Mary series started out with some great questions on Mary sent in by a reader. In response, I am laying out the Catholic Church's teachings on Mary in a systematic way. Thanks to those of you who've given me good feedback on the series -- I was anticipating more questions (which, of course, are still welcomed!), and since I haven't gotten too many so far, I'll conclude that: a) you're still considering what's been laid out, and waiting to see where I'm going with all of this; b) you've stopped reading, because the series has gone on so long and you ran out of coffee; c) you fully intended to continue reading, but then fell asleep (again, because you ran out of coffee?); or d) you're afraid to ask a question that might seem silly. If you chose 'd', please know that I love questions (even 'silly' ones!), and that it was my own questions and the questions of others that led me to study the history of the Church's teachings and doctrinal developments on Mary. So feel free to read, pray, and ask away!

Tonight, I'll continue on with next section of my paper on Mary as the new Eve. This section briefly addresses perhaps the most controversial and misunderstood title of Mary -- 'Co-Redemptrix.' Let's dive in!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

And Your Heart, Too Shall Be Pierced By a Sword -- Mary, Co-Redemptrix

Mary is inseparably united to her Son in the work of our salvation. As John the Geometer describes, "'The Virgin, after giving birth to her Son, was never separated from him in his activity, his dispositions, his will.'" (42) Not only are Jesus and Mary united in will, but also in heart, as Mary's Immaculate heart is pierced by the same sword of suffering as her Son's at Calvary. This union of the sinless hearts of Jesus and Mary allow for their union in the work of redemption. As Pope John Paul II explains, "It was fitting that like Christ, the new Adam, Mary too, the new Eve, did not know sin and was thus capable of cooperating in the Redemption." (43)

Herself a creature, Mary could only participate in Christ's redemptive work after having herself been redeemed. Christ's own merits were applied to Mary in a way that preserved her from Original Sin and allowed her to participate in His work of redemption in a profound and singular way. Pope John Paul II describes this, saying that
"Sin, which washes over humanity like a torrent, halts before the Redeemer and his faithful Collaborator. With a substantial difference: Christ is all holy by virtue of the grace that in his humanity derives from the divine person: Mary is all holy by virtue of the grace received by the merits of the Saviour." (44)
Indeed, Mary's willingness to embrace suffering out of love, her free and active participation in Christ's own suffering, gives her also the role of redeeming with Christ in a subordinate though significant and unique way. Mary is thus rightly called Co-Redemptrix, she who redeemed with Christ through the union of her own Immaculate heart with His Sacred Heart, both hearts pierced by a sword at Calvary to bring forth spiritual life for the world. As Pope Pius XII asks, "are not Jesus and Mary the two sublime loves of the Christian people? Are they not the new Adam and the new Eve whom the Tree of the Cross unites in pain and love to atone for the sin of our first parents in Eden?" (45)

Mary is the model of redemptive suffering, showing all people that the capacity to willingly unite our sufferings with Christ's out of love can bear great spiritual fruit. Mary is the perfect example of creaturely suffering, she who embraced Jesus' Cross of pain in her own maternal heart and preferred the Father's will to her own. In Salvifici Doloris, Pope John Paul II describes that
"after the events of her Son's hidden and public life, events which she must have shared with acute sensitivity, it was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. And the words which she heard from His lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers." (46)
42. Calkins, Rev. Msgr. Arthur Burton. "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium." In Mary Co-redemptrix - Doctrinal Issues Today. 2002. p. 65
43. Calkins, p. 85
44. Ibid.
45. Calkins, p. 52.
46. Salvifici Doloris - "On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering." Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, 1984. (Pauline Books and Media, Boston). #25.
 As always, thanks for stopping by. Be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beatifications, Blogmeets, & Video Contests!

Hello, my dear Coffee Talkers!

Whew -- it's been an exciting day in the world of an indie Catholic blogger! I guess it's partly because my girls and I stayed home sick today (nothing plague-like -- we're already feeling much better), but I came across so many wonderful and blog-worthy things to tell you about that it's hard to choose. Let me give a brief (but action-packed!) recap of my favorite finds of today:

1. In preparation for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1 in Rome, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has prepared a 17-minute video commemoration of JP's pontificate -- it is lovely! So get out your coffee (or tea ... and maybe a tissue), and enjoy:

2. October 22 has been set as the date for the Feast of Blessed John Paul II, beginning this fall!

3. Archbishop Timothy Dolan recently announced a video competition called "iConfess" -- and a student from John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego made an amazing 1 minute video called "Get Clean." I hope she wins! I tried to embed the video here, but technology troubles have prevented me -- and perhaps it's just as well, because if you click here, you can see it on YouTube and click 'like' (if, of course, you did in fact like it) to help this student and JP Catholic win the competition!

4. The day after the Beatification of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communication will be holding a meeting of Catholic bloggers...
...and after some friends had told me about the blogmeet, I decided to send a shot in the dark e-mail saying that I was interested in learning more about the event, and included a link to little old Coffee Talk. Well, lo and behold, I (along with hundreds of others around the world, but hey) got an e-mail from the Vatican early this morning! Here's what it said:
Dear Friends
By 8am Monday morning we had received over 400 requests.
On Wednesday 13 April we will close the application process and sort out requests into categories of language, geography, typology etc. and where necessary we will draw lots to make the final selection.
On Saturday a list of participants will be posted on We are heartened by the widespread interest, and ask you all to be patient with this effort to increase dialogue with the blogging community, and also to support us with your prayers.
Richard Rouse & Ariel Beramendi
This means three crazy things: 1. I am considered among the nine trillion applicants; 2. someone from the Vatican is going to be reading my blog; 3. since this business of drawing lots might be taking place, I guess there is perhaps a little more than a snowball's chance in Louisiana of hitting this Catholic blogger lotto!

In any case, the e-mail alone was excitement enough for me, and you sitting in your pajamas reading this from home is just as good as a Vatican official, so no matter how this all plays out, I'll be more than satisfied. And for whatever bloggers do get chosen -- how very exciting! The meeting holds a lot of wonderful possibilities for Catholic social communications, and I commend the Vatican for thinking in this direction. Truly, the blogosphere is the place where, for so many people, faith meets the modern world.

I do promise to continue on with the "Hail WHO? - What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary" series tomorrow night. We'll talk about Mary as co-redemptrix (a term that is often controversial and misunderstood, among Catholics and Protestant Christians alike!), so be sure to stay tuned.

As always, thank you for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Like A Prayer for Albino Assasins -- Madonna and Opus Dei???

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I am taking a brief commercial break from the series about Mary to talk about the 'creative journalism' that has spread through the blogosphere like wildfire -- has Madonna abandoned Kabbalah for Opus Dei?

A few thoughts --

1. who cares?
2. Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church that helps people seek holiness in their work and ordinary activities [gasp!], so if she's interested in the movement, good for her.
3. from personal experience, I can attest to the fact that Opus Dei is not some sort of freaky secret sect, and the claims of the Da Vinci Code were largely baseless and ridiculous, so even if the story was true, it becomes far less interesting when you understand anything about the reality of Opus Dei.
4. apparently, press representatives for Opus Dei and Madonna have said that the story is totally untrue.

But still kind of entertaining, right? Here are my two faves of all the blogs and stories I saw about this, first from Catholic Vote and next from Creative Minority Reports.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Peace and all good,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Six -- Behold, Your Mother

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

We're back to our "Hail WHO? - What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary." In this sixth installment, we'll continue on with the next passage of my paper which examines the theological concept of Mary as the new Eve. Whenever Jesus refers to his mother, Mary, as 'woman,' he is referring to the woman referred to in Genesis 3:15, the 'protoevangelium' or first gospel in which God declares that "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers." When Jesus calls Mary 'woman,' he is indicating her role as the new Eve -- as Eve was to be mother of all the living but fell, Mary is given the role of mother of all people as Jesus is about to die on the cross, and she restores and gloriously transcends all that was lost through Eve's disobedience. Let's begin!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

Behold, Your Mother - Mary, Mother of All Peoples 
and Mediatrix of All Graces

"In calling his wife 'Eve' Adam signified her vocation to be 'the mother of the living' (Gn 3,20)." (32) However, although Eve would still be the bearer of physical life for all generations after the Fall, her disobedience led to death's entrance into human history, a death that was both physical and spiritual. The fullness of motherhood, then, was left to be fulfilled by the new Eve promised in the Protoevangelium.

Indeed, "As Eve received natural life from Adam, Mary received spiritual life, the life of grace, through her Son," (33) Jesus Christ, the new Adam. The Church Fathers affirm this by "comparing Mary with Eve, ... call her 'the Mother of the living,' and still more often they say: 'death through Eve, life through Mary.'" (34) Mary accepts a motherhood that will bring forth the fullness of life, a motherhood that embraces profound suffering out of love for the life of the world.

This complete motherhood "is valid only through that of the woman who is ceaselessly in labor and in the joy of childbirth, a figure behind whom all other mothers stand in profile -- from Eve, the mother of the living, to the Church, mother of believers: through the mother of Jesus, Mary our mother (Ap 12)." (35) Indeed, not only does Mary willingly accept the full extent of motherhood in order to give birth to the Church through Christ, but she also gives up her maternal rights out of submission to the will of the Father and in this way allows a spiritual birth as the fruit born of deeply suffering with her Son. Pius XII, in his Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis, says of Mary:
"She it was who, immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever more closely united with her Son, offered him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love, like a new Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall, and thus she, who was the mother of our Head according to the flesh, became a new title of sorrow and glory the spiritual mother of all His members." (36)
Because of Mary's profound union in suffering with her Son on the Cross, it is fitting that from the Cross, Jesus would give Mary, His mother, to John the beloved disciple and to the whole world: "Behold, your mother." (37) As Pope Benedict XV describes, "From the cross, He addressed His own Sorrowful Mother as the 'woman,' and proclaimed her the new Eve, the Mother of all men, for whom He was dying that they might live." (38)

She who suffered with with Christ most intimately as Hid mother now becomes the mother of all people, mediating the graces of His redemption to all of her spiritual children. As Dr, Mark Miravalle describes, "At the cross, her spiritual suffering united to the redemptive sacrifice of her Son, as the New Eve with the New Adam, leads to universal spiritual fruits of the acquisition of graces of the redemption." (39)

Miravalle continues, explaining that "The Redeemer's gift of his own mother as spiritual mother to all humanity leads to the spiritual nourishment from the Mother to her children in the order of grace. This constitutes her role as Mediatrix of all graces which perpetually continues her unique sharing in the one saving mediation of Jesus Christ." (40) Mary's mediation of the graces of Christ's saving work continues even now, as Pope Paul VI explains:
"the blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ's members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed." (41)
32. Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 370.
33. Novena to the Immaculate Conception. In Treasury of Novenas by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SVD. p. 203.
34. Lumen Gentium, #56.
35. Leon-Dufour, p. 371.
36. Calkins, p. 68-69.
37. John 19:27
38. Calkins, p. 52
39. Miravalle, Dr. Mark. "Mary Co-redemptrix: A Response to 7 Common Objections." In Mary Co-redemptrix - Doctrinal Issues Today. p. 106.
40. Ibid.
41. Calkins, p. 53.
More coming tomorrow! As always, thanks for stopping by.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

We Will Rise Again!

Happy Sunday to you, Coffee Talkers!

I'm taking a Sunday break from the series on Mary, but wanted to offer you some reflection on today's Scripture readings from Mass. However, I just don't have the stamina. Lucky for you, my professor friend, Dr. John Bergsma, did have the stamina (and a doctorate to boot!), so I hope you enjoy his reflections as I did. And in case you're as tired as I am, here's my favorite excerpt to give you a little something for tonight:
The First Reading is an excellent choice: Ezekiel 37.  This is the famous vision of the dry bones, in which an entire army of skeletons is resurrected before Ezekiel’s eyes.  I only wish the Lectionary included the entire story.  However, it does preserve the most important verse:

“You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!”  Ezek 37:12

Most study bibles will have notes in the margin or the bottom of the page informing the reader that this passage from Ezekiel has nothing to do with resurrection from the dead, but only pertains to the restoration of the national hopes of Israel. 

It is true that it pertains to the national hopes of Israel, as Michael points out below.  However, the ancient manuscripts of Ezekiel were circulated without the notes in the RSVCE2 or NAB, etc., and the ancient readers tended to assume that, since the text explicitly describes resurrection from the dead, it actually concerns the resurrection of the dead.
HA! I love it.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

P.S. Thanks to those of you who heard about the upcoming gathering of Catholic bloggers at the Vatican this May, and who suggested that I might be among them! Really, y'all are too kind. I hardly consider myself among the ranks of the 150 bloggers who will be chosen (that would be like hitting the Catholic lottery!) -- my blog is pretty new, simple, and small-time at this point, but I am grateful for the encouragement that I have received from so many readers from all over the world! The realization that something that I started just because I love writing and answering questions about the faith has helped others (and me!) in their spiritual journeys is blessing enough [though if I get an e-mail from a Cardinal inviting me to Rome for the blog meet and the beatification of Pope John Paul II, I certainly won't say no]. In any case, I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate you all, and to thank you for your kind words - flattery is the sincerest form of... Wait... Oh, nevermind. Time for bed!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Five -- Do Whatever He Tells You

Hello again, Coffee Talk friends!

I went to a concert tonight at the local community college -- it was great! They did a very good performance of Dido and Aeneas, among other things, and it makes me want to get back into singing and playing serious music more often. Exciting possibilities loom on the horizon!

But back to the topic at hand -- part five of "Hail WHO? - What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary." Tonight, we'll cover the next section of my paper on Mary as the New Eve which focuses on Mary's faith and obedience. And just when I thought I was the Queen of run-on sentences, I must now acknowledge St. Irenaues as the King -- he totally rocks a theologically amazing run-on in this passage. Check it out!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

Do Whatever He Tells You - Mary's Faith and Obedience

"The Lord gave man this order: 'You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die'." (18) In giving man freedom, God gives him a choice. From the beginning of human history, God, through His commandments, lovingly reveals the good to man that he might freely choose it.

St. Irenaeus views God's prohibition as an expression of His loving concern for Adam and Eve,who might otherwise misuse the power and freedom granted them by the Creator. Irenaeus explains that,
"so that the man should not have thoughts of grandeur, and become lifted up, as if he had no lord, because of the dominion given to him, and the freedom, fall into sin against God his creator, overstepping his bounds, and take up an attitude of self-conceited arrogance towards God, a law was given him by God, that he might know that he had for lord the Lord of all." (19)
God laid  down for man certain conditions that would allow him to "always remain as he was, that is, immortal." (20)

However, "this commandment the man did not keep, but disobeyed God;" (21) despite the Lord's warning, Adam and Eve abused their freedom. Through the disobedience of Adam, the first man, and the participation of Eve, the first woman, "death makes its entrance into human history." (22) As the Lord God explains, this is "because you ... ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat." (23) The Lord God also banished the man and his wife from the garden of Eden (24) -- "the man He put away from His face, and sent away to dwell by the road into the Garden, since the Garden does not admit a sinner." (25)

The first man and woman, through pride and disobedience, preferred their own choice over the word of God, their maker. And so, St. Irenaeus explains, that man might be saved,
"the Word was made flesh, in order that sin, destroyed by means of that same flesh through which it had gained the mastery and taken hold and lorded it, should no longer be in us; and therefore our Lord took up the same first formation for an Incarnation, that so He might join battle on behalf of His forefathers, and overcome through Adam what had stricken us through Adam." (26)
Christ, the new Adam, becomes flesh through Mary, the new Eve, herself the model of humility and faithful obedience.
Just as Eve's role in the Fall was secondary but active and free, so Mary's role in the plan of redemption is subordinate to Christ's, but significant as she freely and actively participates in God's redemptive plan through pure faith and obedience. The Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church describes the significance of Mary's participation in the divine plan, saying,
"Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she 'being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.'" (27)
Mary's faithful obedience to the will of the Father is evident throughout her life, as her Fiat Mihi echoes clearly from the Annunciation to Golgotha. St. Irenaeus again affirms Mary's unique role in the work of salvation, seeing
"the value of Mary's consent at the time of the Annunciation, recognizing in the Virgin of Nazareth's obedience to and faith in the angel's message the perfect antithesis of Eve's disobedience and disbelief, with a beneficial effect on humanity's destiny." (28)
Eve's disbelief in God's promise is reversed by Mary, who questions the angel ("How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"(29)) but believes completely and recognizes herself as "the handmaid of the Lord," sincerely desiring for all to be done to her "according to your word." (30)
Mary's obedience and faithfulness would be put to the test throughout the life of her Son, and the new Eve never faltered in freely exercising the pure submission and fidelity that God had bestowed upon her. Mary's faith and obedience were put to the test at the foot of the Cross, where she steadfastly stood, suffering with her Son. Pope John Paul II describes the profound effect of Mary's faith and obedience, saying,
"Yes, truly 'blessed is she who believed'! These words, spoken by Elizabeth after the Annunciation, here at the foot of the Cross seem to re-echo with supreme eloquence, and the power contained within them becomes something penetrating. From the Cross, that is to say from the very heart of the mystery of the Redemption, there radiates and spreads out the prospect of that blessing of faith. It goes right back to 'the beginning,' and as a sharing in the sacrifice of Christ - the new Adam - it becomes in a certain sense the counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our first parents." (31)
18. Genesis 2:16-17
19. St, Irenaeus, Proof, #15.
20. Ibid.
21. St, Irenaeus, Proof, #16.
22. Catechism of the Catholic Church #400.
23. Genesis 3:17
24. Genesis 3:23
25. St, Irenaeus, Proof, #16.
26. St, Irenaeus, Proof, #31.
27. Lumen Gentium #58.
28. Calkins, Rev. Msgr. Arthur Burton. "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium." In Mary Co-redemptrix - Doctrinal Issues Today. 2002. p. 26.
29. Luke 1:34
30. Luke 1:38
31. Redemptoris Mater - "Mother of the Redeemer - On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church." Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II, 1987. (Pauline Books and Media, Boston). #19.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Until next time, be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Four -- I Will Put Enmity Between You and the Woman

Greetings, Coffee Talkers!

We're now on the 4th night of the "Hail WHO? -- What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary" series.  For any who are just joining us, this series began in response to many questions that I have received about Catholic devotion to Mary, mother of Jesus, and in particular to a well-articulated and complicated question about Mary, which you can read here.

I offer my sincere thanks to all who have been reading the series so far around the world, and for the positive feedback I have received. I hope that clarifying what Catholic Christians believe about Mary will help to serve as a bridge toward greater Christian unity. As always, I also welcome any clarifying comments, questions, or concerns you have about the Catholic understanding of theology of Mary, especially since I'm bring out the Mariological big guns here. Read, pray, and ask away!

Tonight, I'll present the second part of my paper "Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve," in which we'll examine the verse "I will put enmity between you and the woman" and what this means in regard to Marian theology. So grab your coffee, and enjoy!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

I Will Put Enmity Between You and the Woman --
Mary, Immaculate Adversary of Satan

"Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully 'divinized' by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to 'be like God,' but 'without God, before God, and not in accordance with God.'" (14) Eve, confronted by the cunning words of the serpent, did not call upon God for help. Rather, she preferred her own will to the will of God and, obeying the serpent rather than her Creator, betrayed God's friendship. In a sense, Adam and Eve established an alliance with the serpent when they believed him over God. This alliance with the evil one was passed on to all generations through concupiscence, the inclination toward sin.

The disobedience and disbelief of Adam would be reversed by Christ, fully God and fully man, He who was like us in all things but sin. Similarly, Eve's alliance with the serpent could only be reversed by the one who was sinless. The one creature who remained untouched by Original Sin would reverse Eve's disbelief and disobedience, the woman whose enmity toward the serpent would crush his head and re-establish the spiritual life lost in the Fall. Through this woman and her offspring, the serpent would no longer have mastery over humanity; rather, the restoration of grace and holiness would come about through her. As Fr. Xavier Leon-Dufour beautifully describes, the mystery of the restoration of humanity by Christ
"is concretely accomplished in Mary; and ... this woman, this mother, is not merely a symbol, but thanks to Mary, she has a personal existence[.] Likewise on this point, the connection between Mary and the Church is brought out with such striking force that Mary, as well as the Church, is drawn in outline behind the woman snatched by God from the attacks of the serpent (Ap 12, 13-16), the counterpart of Eve, deceived by the same serpent (2 Co 11,3; Gn 3,13). Such was Mary's role in the plan of salvation." (15)
While Eve, in preferring her own will to God's, established an alliance with the serpent, Mary, in her perpetual Fiat to God, established a complete enmity between herself and Satan and therefore re-established the Divine intimacy lost by Eve. This intimacy is not only restored, however, but gloriously surpassed as Mary receives the Living Word into her very womb, becoming the Go-bearer through her humble submission to the will of the Father and complete receptivity to the Holy Spirit. The Second Vatican Council affirms this, saying,
"Thus Mary, a daughter of Adam, consenting to the divine Word, became the mother of Jesus, the one and only Mediator. Embracing God's salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption." (16)
As Eve was instrumental, though secondary, with Adam in the Fall of the human race, so Mary was instrumental, though secondary, in the restoration of grace. By submitting to God's will in full freedom, Mary is granted surpassing dignity and an essential role in the Trinitarian work of salvation and redemption. Mary's significant role in the plan of salvation is possible because of her humble obedience and her active participation in God's providential design. Indeed, as Fr. Jean Galot, S.J. describes,
"the divine plan provided for the maternal cooperation of Mary, assigning to the woman an essential role in the work of salvation. There was here a congruity with the divine intention of conferring on the woman all her dignity and to commit her fully in the undertaking of the restoration of the world." (17).
14. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #398.
15. Leon-Dufour, Xavier. Dictionary of Biblical Theology. (The Word Among Us Press: Ijamsville, 2000). p. 341.
16. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (LG), 21 Nov, 1964. (New York: Costello Publishing Company, 1996). #56.
17. Galot, Rev. Jean, S.J. "Mary Co-Redemptrix: Controversies and Doctrinal Questions." In Mary Co-Redemptrix - Doctrinal Issues Today. p. 22
To be continued tomorrow!

As always, thanks for joining me here, and know of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Three - Mary as the New Eve

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers!

We are now on part three of the "Hail WHO? -- What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary" series. In tonight's post, I am going to introduce the theological concept of Mary as the new Eve. I am going to use a paper I wrote called "Open wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve" to lay the groundwork for this theological explanation of Mary's role in salvation history.

The paper is rather academic (you know, with many sources and footnotes and such), but I think it's pretty easy to read and will introduce some important concepts in Marian theology that are necessary for understanding Catholic Christian teachings on and devotion to Mary. Also, it's is pretty long, so I'll include one section per night until we make our way through it. I thought about holding off on sharing the paper, but since almost every Marian doctrine and dogma can be derived from the image of Mary as the new Eve, I've decided just to bring out the Marian big guns and hope you'll stay with me for the ride. Also, I find the images of Jesus as the new Adam and Mary as the new Eve to be theologically interesting and exciting, and I hope that you will, as well!

The basic idea is this -- just as Eve was instrumental, though secondary in the Fall of the human race, so Mary was instrumental, though secondary in the restoration of grace. And note well, it is through Mary that we receive the saving graces of Christ -- she is never and end in herself, but she also cannot be ignored when God so clearly chose her as an instrument to give birth to the Savior. Her coming was foretold along with Christ's in the beginning.

[Warning: This paper was for a graduate level theology course on Mary, and I use the terms "Co-Redemptrix" and "Mediatrix" at the end of this passage -- the terms will be given more attention and explanation later. I just don't want you to be scared away by the terminology of Mariology (theological study of Mary) that may seem to indicate Mariolatry (idolatrous worship of Mary) if you are unfamiliar with them. By the end of the paper, I think you will find all terms and teachings to be well supported by Scripture and other relevant sources, and please ask questions as we go if you have any.]

Without further ado, let's dive in!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

In the Beginning

"God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." (1) God, the creator of all things, chose to make man alone in His own image and likeness and allowed man a personal share in His own Divine life. God even prepared for man "a place ... better than this world," namely, "the Garden," where "He would walk around and talk with the man." (2) Such was the intimacy man enjoyed with God "in the beginning." (3)

However, the image and likeness of God in man was tarnished by sin, which finds its origin in Adam, the first man. Adam, however, was not alone in his disobedience. Eve, the "one who ... is bone of [his] bones and flesh of [his] flesh," (4) submitted to the temptations of the cunning serpent by herself eating of the forbidden fruit of the tree of life and "also [giving] some to her husband, who was with her." (5) Through Adam and Eve's disobedience, all would experience the loss of the state of original justice and holiness enjoyed before the Fall. All men, burdened under the weight of sin, would now experience a profound separation from God and thus a diminishment of their vocation, namely to be in the Divine image and likeness and to be personally united to their Creator.

Even after the fall, God does not abandon man or leave him without hope. Along with the consequences of their disobedience, God gives Adam and Eve a promise of restoration when He says to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." (6) The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this promise wherein
God calls [man] and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevengelium ("first gospel"): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of a final victory of a descendant of hers. (7)
This passage is seen in Christian tradition not only as an announcement of Christ, who "makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience of Adam," but is also viewed by many Fathers and Doctors of the Church as the announcement of "Mary, the mother of Christ, the 'new Eve'." (8)
Indeed, the harmony of creation that had been destroyed by Adam's dissonant exposition would be restored and supremely transcended in Christ who, "for the recapitulation of all things, is become man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and bring light to life, and bring about the communion of God and man." (9) However, Christ's glorious recapitulation, which consists of "a taking up again and restitution of God's original plan for man by the reproduction in the incarnation of the features of the original creation, and the reversal of the features of the fall," (10) does not stand alone. As St. Iranaeus explains, "it was not enough for Adam to be redeemed in Christ, but 'it was right and necessary that Eve be restored in Mary' (Demonstratio apostolica, 33)." (11)

Indeed, God, in walking around and talking with Adam and Eve in the Garden, foreshadowed His means of reconciliation; He prefigured "what was to come to pass in the future, how He would become man's fellow, and talk with him, and come among mankind, and teach them justice." (12) As St. Iranaeus describes, "the Lord, summing up afresh this man, reproduced the scheme of his incarnation, being born of a virgin by the Will and Wisdom of God, that He too might copy the incarnation of Adam, and man might be made, as it was written, according to the image and likeness of God." (13)

That Christ, the new Adam, was to be born of a woman, namely Mary, the new Eve, has great significance in God's providential design for salvation history and for every human life. In this paper, I will examine Mary's antithetical parallelism to Eve, wherein the Blessed Virgin can be clearly seen as the Immaculate adversary of Satan, the obedient and faithful woman, the Co-Redemptrix, the spiritual mother of all people and Mediatrix of all graces, and the one through whom the gates of paradise are re-opened and access to the fruit of the tree of life is regained.
  1. Genesis 1:27
  2. St. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. #12.
  3. Genesis 1:1
  4. Genesis 2:23
  5. Genesis 3:6
  6. Genesis 3:15
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #410.
  8. CCC #411.
  9. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #6.
  10. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #36.
  11. Calkins, Rev. Msgr. Arthur Burton. "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium." In Mary Co-redemptrix - Doctrinal Issues Today. 2002. p. 61
  12. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #12.
  13. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #32.
To be continued!

Until then, be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,