How an Elementary Student Taught Me More Theology than My Master’s Program


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 31, 2017.


A few years ago, I started volunteering as a mentor to an elementary student at a local Catholic school. I was nervous at first because this was the first time I served as a mentor to a young student. On that first day, the school counselor thought it would be nice for the student to give me a tour of the school. On this tour, I was making small-talk and the topic eventually led to saints [Icons of saints are present at every classroom door].

I posed this simple question to the student, “Who is your favorite saint?” The reason I received from him was simple but also tightly packed with theology! The student quickly responded with a sheepish grin, “Fr. John is my favorite saint!” Though I was half-tempted to qualify his statement by saying, “Well, I meant technically a canonized saint…”  I stopped myself. Since that day I have pondered this revelatory statement at least once a week.

The more I reflected on my mentor student’s statement the more and more theology I realized was packed into it. Here are a few truths I gleaned from his statement:

Holiness can start now

Sanctity is not reserved for after our death or even later in our earthly lives. To reference my recent post on purgatory, I used to believe purgatory was a “period” similar to an extra period in a sports game. Yet, my student’s reply is simple and true, our priest is like a saint to him because he knows holiness when he sees it.

Priest, like saints, reflect God’s light

The moon, which reflects the sun’s light, is a common image the early Church Fathers used to describe Mary, who reflects the son’s light. Similarly, we are called to be that same reflection. Christ even goes further when he calls his followers in Matthew 5:14-16 to be the “light of the world”. Perhaps the best truth that came forth from my student’s statement is summed up best when placing it next to St. Athanasius’ famous quote from On the Incarnation. He says, “God became man that man might become God”. I truly believe our parish priest is on that same path.

My parish is doing something right

I should qualify this by saying our parish is doing something right by allowing God’s grace to work in the people I have encountered there. My student’s proclamation, “Fr. John is my favorite saint!” is certainly a testament to our priest’s strong faith and reverence for the sacrament of Holy Orders. But I am sure he will agree with me in saying there is another source at work besides himself. It is the work of the Trinity. Not only at work in my student’s heart, but God is working through the dedicated teachers, administrative staff, and parishioners alike.

Many people tell me I am having a positive impact on that elementary student’s life each week I meet with him over lunch. What I do know for certain is that I get more graces than I give in mentoring. This “living theology” is something I never experienced during my graduate studies.  I thank God every day for the joy He gives me each week in serving Him.

Related Links

3 Things about the Holy Trinity I Learned from Elementary Students

3 Childhood Experiences that Taught Me about Purgatory

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 11— Queenship of Mary


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 12, 2019.


According to Martin Luther, “The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.”  Wait! Stop the presses!

Is this the same Martin Luther that incited the Protestant Reformation with his 95 theses?

Yes. Martin Luther recognized the significance of Mary. In a sermon on September 1st, 1522, he made this claim (read Martin Luther (founder of the reform), speaks on Mary for more information).

wow gif

Catholics honor Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veneration refers to honor. Catholics honor Mary because she is the Mother of God. In this 11th installment of Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D., we will examine another important Marian theme— her as Queen of Heaven. Old Testament queens prefigured the intercessory role of Mary. We will also look at New Testament evidence supporting Mary as Queen. Lastly, evidence from Sacred Tradition will be outlined to demonstrate the significance of Mary’s title as Queen of Heaven.

Old Testament—Queen Figures

In ancient times, queens acted as a mediator between the king and the people.  Understanding the role of the queen in the time of the Old Testament requires use to examine the culture during that time. We cannot determine the queen’s authority based on current governmental structures. According to George F. Kirwin in his work Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother,

 I believe that Mary is best understood as the “Gebirah,” the Queen-Mother
who as mother and queen is intimately associated with Jesus in the establishment
and maintenance of God’s kingdom among the men and women of this world.
It is the formality of motherhood which best describes her relationship with
her Son, the King, and with his subjects, members of God’s redeemed people
who form the Church of New Testament times (p. 9). 

Bathsheba: Foreshadowing of Mary’s Queenship

The most famous queen-mother in the Old Testament is Bathsheba—mother of Solomon. Her role as advocate for the people is evident in 1 Kings 2:19-20: “Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right. 20She said, ‘There is one small favor I would ask of you. Do not refuse me.’ The king said to her, ‘Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.'” Kirwin points out that although the queen-mother did not exist at the beginning of the Israelite monarchy that Bathsheba certainly was the  first in this role (Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother, p. 30). 

Along with Bathsheba’s intercessory role in the Old Testament, she even is implicitly mentioned within the genealogy of Jesus. According to Father Johann Roten, S.M., “In Matthew’s genealogy, without mentioning her name, (1:6) Bathsheba is described as the “wife of Uriah.” Bathsheba is essential to the genealogy in Matthew” (Old Testament Types of Mary). Such a reference hints at the importance of the queen-mother (Mary) as an advocate— later in the Gospels and throughout Church history!

Queen Esther

Esther: Another Marian type

Another example of a queenly figure is Queen Esther. Just like Bathsheba, Esther intervenes on behalf of her people. “Esther is the heroine and is the paradigm for a fully liberated woman who places all her confidence in God. Through prayer and fasting she is able to challenge the evil perpetrated by the Persians and to intercede for her people Israel before King Ahasuirus,” writes Fr. Roten (Old Testament Types of Mary). Esther’s trust in God mirrors Mary’s faith in the Holy Spirit (cf Luke 1:38). 

New Testament Hintings

While clear examples from the Old Testament point to the authority of  the queen within Israelite government, the New Testament does specifically call out Mary as queen. As Monsignor Ferdinand Vandry put, “Although the Scriptures afford our faith no clear testimony of Mary’s queenship, nor of its universal nature, that dignity of the Mother of God is nevertheless acknowledged unanimously by Christian tradition (The Nature of Mary’s Universal Queenship). John’s Gospel presents Jesus as a king. Not specifically mentioned Mary as queen we can deduce her role as queen-mother because she is mother of Jesus. 

Kirwin discusses the need to view Scripture as a whole in order to truly see Mary’s queenly role. He purports in Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother, 

Peinador believes that if there is any hint of Mary’s queenly prerogatives
in the text of the Apocalypse, this will depend upon the relationship one can
establish between it and the Proto-gospel. In order to show how the Protogospel supports the doctrine of Mary’s queenship it is necessary to insist upon
the victory over sin and death and as a result the establishment of a kingdom
on the part of Christ and Mary. He has no doubts about the Marian sense of
Genesis 3:15. There Mary is depicted as the partner of the divine Redeemer in
the battle and victory over their common enemy and consequently we find in
this text the foundation for her queenship (p. 36).

Thus, isolating Mary’s intercessory role from the Old Testament foreshadowings and lens of Sacred Tradition limits our ability to view her as queen-mother. Next, we will examine how the Church viewed Mary as queen.

Mary Queen of Heaven

Church Tradition on the Queenship of Mary

From the beginning of the Church, Christians always viewed Mary as the Mother of God. During the 4th century, a rampant heresy called Nestorianism rejected that claim.  To clear up any confusion, the Council of Ephesus in 431 formally declared Mary as the Mother of God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 495, referencing the fourth ecumenical council,

Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus’, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as ‘the mother of my Lord’.144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).

St. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam (On Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary) logically flows from the Council of    Ephesus’ charge as Mary as Theotokos (the God-bearer). Pius XII declared, “In this matter We do not wish to propose a new truth to be believed by Christians, since the title and the arguments on which Mary’s queenly dignity is based have already been clearly set forth, and are to be found in ancient documents of the Church and in the books of the sacred liturgy (no. 6). Lumen Gentium points out Mary’s role as queen as well, “exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death (no. 59). 

Conclusion

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 22nd, 2012 Audience, “Mary is Queen because she is uniquely conformed to her Son, both on the earthly journey and in heavenly glory. Ephrem the Syrian, Syria’s great saint, said of Mary’s queenship that it derives from her motherhood: she is Mother of the Lord, of the King of kings (cf. Is 9:1-6) and she points Jesus out to us as our life, our salvation and our hope.”

Mary leads to Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Testament queens Bathsheba and Esther prefigured the intercessory authority of Mary as queen-mother. The proto-evangelium of Genesis 3:15 foreshadowed the battle between the Woman (Mary) and Satan. As partner to the King of the Universe (Jesus), Mary rightly is called Queen of the Universe (Redemptoris Mater, no. 41). Catholics honor Mary because she brings us closer to her Son! Benedict XVI wrote, “The title “Queen” is thus a title of trust, joy and love. And we know that the One who holds a part of the world’s destinies in her hand is good, that she loves us and helps us in our difficulties.” Let us thank God for the gift of our Queen, Mary Mother of God!

Related Links and Sources

AD CAELI REGINAM― Encyclical of Pope Pius XII on Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary

Old Testament Types of Mary

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 10— Moses and Jesus

REDEMPTORIS MATER― Pope John Paul II on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Pilgrim Life of the Church

https://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1143&context=ml_studies

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/queenship-has-its-privileges

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Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 10

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday:

Some Sundays this is my five year old. 😅🤦
Holy Spirit: Matt wait! Wait! Delete those paragraphs now.
This is truly an accurate depiction of my theological library. 😁😊
Now I want to play Pac-Man after praying…
Food for the journey. 🍞♥️
#truthbomb

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog

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Review on Christ’s Descent into Hell: Theology of Holy Saturday

Jesus descends to hell Holy Saturday

In this book, Lyra Pitstick tackles the doctrine of Holy Saturday in Christ’s descent into hell.  Pitstick, seeks to answer the question concerning the approval of Balthasar’s general theological contributions, by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Balthasar on Holy Saturday

Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Chapter one contains Balthasar’s treatment on the significance of Holy Saturday, and his theology of this creedal event. Pitstick highlights four main points that underpin the priest’s theology: Christ’s descent completes redemption; Christ’s suffering increases in his descent; Christ became sin and literally underwent the Father’s wrath; and sin is expiating within the Trinity. To quote Balthasar, “Holy Saturday is…a kind of suspension, as it were, of the Incarnation…” (p. 4). Pitstick will focus on this point that Christ suffered after the descent as a major difference between John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s theology, using this approach throughout the rest of the book.

Ratzinger on Holy Saturday

Joseph Ratzinger

The next chapter relates to Joseph Ratzinger’s theology of Holy Saturday prior to his papal election in 2005. Pitstick shows that the German theologian moves away from the extremity of Balthasar’s theology. Using evidence from Introduction to Christianity (1968), Eschatology (1977), “Meditations on Holy Week,” Introduction (1997), The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000), Mediations on Holy Week (1967) and Behold the Pierced One (1981), Ratzinger’s Holy Saturday theology distances itself from his mentor, Balthasar. According to Pitstick, the major differences between the two theologians is that Ratzinger focuses on God’s apparent, but not real, abandonment of Christ during his descent, while maintaining that there is no suspension in the Incarnation.

Continuing with the theology of Ratzinger, chapter 3 examines his view of the descent, after Ratzinger’s papal election. Here, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas graduate makes use of homilies, encyclicals, and books Benedict XVI wrote to survey his theological development on Holy Saturday. Like his view prior to becoming the Vicar of Christ, Benedict XVI continues to diverge from Balthasar by stressing the apparent abandonment of God in the descent.

How Ratzinger Differs from Bathasar

Another difference Pitstick found is “Ratzinger never asserts as Balthasar does, that the redemption was incomplete on the Cross, that Christ’s suffering intensified after his Death into abandonment in His filial relationship to the Father, that He was literally made sin in His descent, and that the whole Trinity experienced that event” (p. 53). Many times throughout the pages on Ratzinger, Pitstck points out that he utilizes metaphorical language to refer to the descent, and is not quite as clear as he could be with his descent theology (p. 41).

Pope John Paul II on Holy Saturday

John Paul II

Chapter four charts out John Paul II’s Holy Saturday theology. Similar to Benedict XVI, the Polish pope diverges from Balthasarian thought. Where John Paul II differs from Ratzinger is that the former is more direct. According to Pitstick: “John Paul II’s clarity makes his beliefs about Christ’s descent easy to see” (p. 59).

Three specific aspects of John Paul II’s descent theology are highlighted:

  • The meaning of “descended into hell” relates to Christ experiencing a separation of body and soul
  • Christ’s descent begins his glorification
  • Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a non-metaphorical salvation of the just men and women.

Safest Theological Interpretation on Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday

Referencing the Catechism of the Catholic Church heavily in this chapter, Pitstick maintains that John Paul II’s descent theology remains the closest to the official church teaching. His belief that Christ experienced a separation of body and soul after death is in line with the Catechism number 632. Pistick states, “The RC [Roman Catechism and John Paul II] is also explicit that Jesus did not suffer in His descent” (p. 69). This is in stark contrast to Balthasar’s view that Christ suffered during the descent.

Between the analysis of chapters six and seven is a brief tangential section on Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in regards to a parenthetical mention of Balthasar in the Introduction to the The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pitstick provides the content of what Schönborn said about Balthasar, the cardinal’s Holy Saturday theology, and the possible impacts that it has for Balthasar’s theology moving forward.

To be honest, this chapter was a “red herring”. It didn’t add much to the rest of the book. In her comparison of the three theologies of Holy Saturday, Pitstick focuses again on the differences. She provides a clear standard of measurement as she details definitions about the Church’s varying degrees of teaching authority.

Finding Theological Consistency 

In chapter seven, Pitstick handles the popes’ praise of Balthasar, and provides ways to reconcile such accolades with the conflicting thought on the descent of Christ. She concludes her analyses with the following position: “There is certainly praise of the theologian, but there is no approbation of specific theses, least of all his theology of Holy Saturday, with which Ratzinger explicitly said he could not concur, and with which John Paul II took an incompatible position in his papal audiences, and promulgation of the CCC” (p. 106).

Summary

Christ's Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Theology of Holy Saturday

Pitstick presents a clear and concise summary of the entire book. She reiterates how the three theologians differed on the doctrine of the descent. John Paul II ‘s theology aligned closest to traditional Catholic doctrine, as outlined in the catechism; Balthasar’s view of the theology was the most controversial, and Ratzinger’s theology landed in the middle.

Despite the unnecessary chapter on Schönborn, this treatment on the theology of Christ’s Descent into Hell was an enjoyable and insightful read. Pitstick did a great job of focusing on each theologian individually. She contrasted the differences in their theology well too. Priests and deacons will acquire a new depth and understanding of the Mystery of Holy Saturday. This book will be invaluable to any homiletic and theological toolbox. 

Click on this link to purchase Christ’s Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Theology of Holy Saturday

 

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6 Epic Facts About The Saint Behind Santa Claus

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” I certainly think that he would have (and hopefully you will) chuckle at the following joke: What do you call Santa when he has no money? Saint ‘Nickel-less’. Get it? Nicholas?

If you enjoy wordplay, you’re welcome! However, if you find such repartee revolting, I apologize, and implore you to still read on.

Ironically, Nicholas came from a wealthy family (more about that later). Some believed his family riches provided means for him able to make generous visits through the night delivering anonymous gifts to the less unfortunate in his city.

Below are six common (or maybe not so common!) facts about the Catholic saint later popularized and associated with Santa Claus. Regardless of whether you heard of these facts before or not, they are still epic!

Santa Clout punched the heretic

saint nick arius meme

Nicholas had such a fervor for the faith that he slugged the heretic priest Arius in the face as he was leading Christians astray by denying the divinity of Christ.

Hearing things like this about saints also gives hope that Heaven is possible even those with quick and short-fused tempers.

He participated in the Council of Nicaea

Nicholas was  among the bishops who attended the 1st Ecumenical Council at the city of Nicaea in the early 4th century.

The significance of this council includes the formal declaration of the faith in the Nicene Creed—a profession uttered every Sunday Mass!

Saint Nick Arian meme

Imprisoned for his Catholic faith

Similar to his contemporary, Saint Athanasius, Nicholas also was jailed for his persistence in pursuing and evangelizing the truth of the Gospel.

This should not be of great surprise since Nicholas lived in the most tumultuous times in Catholic Church history. Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 312 A.D. But the Diocletian persecution of the turn of the century in 303 A.D. led to Nicholas being among numbers of Christians sent to prison for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ.

His tenacity for refusing to commit apostasy even in the face of persecution  is legendary. Nicholas’s faith and strength is on par with Saints Peter, Paul, Athanasius, and other bold proclaimers of the Good News!

The manna of Nicholas

manna of st. Nicholas

A legend began in Myra that every year on the feast day of Nicholas, the bones of the saint secrete a hyaline watery substance.

Known as the “Manna of Nicholas,” this substance is believed to have healing effects. If you want to find out more information about this interesting relic, check out this site.

He had philanthropic parents

The generosity of the bishop of Myra is well documented. However what you may not have known is that his parents’ generosity strongly influenced him.

According to Lumen Gentium, “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.”

Nicholas’ parents both perished as a result of an epidemic. But the morals, character, and faith they instilled in him at a young age served him for the rest of his life.

A panoply of patronages

The final of the six epic facts about Nicholas relates to his ability to appeal to a variety of individuals. Along with being known as the patron saint bringing joy to child, Old Saint Nick also helps the following groups: merchants, haberdashers, longshoremen, brewers, pawnbrokers, judges, and archers.

Saint Nicholas

Nicholas exhibited true love of God and neighbor through his anonymous gift-giving, especially to impoverished children. The bishop of Myra exuded holiness in all facets of his life.

Together with his ability to give, and give generously, Nicholas withstood persecution and staunchly defended the divinity of Christ against the assault of Arianism.

Some may call him magical, but the true charm of Nicholas came from his profound love of Jesus.

Let us all model Nicholas this Advent and Christmas seasons mirroring the love of God for others to see!

Related Links

Who is St. Nicholas?

How St. Nicholas was the first “Secret Santa”

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Why the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Neck of the Body of Christ

Saint Paul wrote, “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ  and individually parts of one another” (Romans 12:4-5).  We often hear priests and bishops tell us, the laity, to be the hands and feet of Christ. The analogy of the many parts making up a whole body makes sense to me. Everyone has an individual role based on your gifts and state in life. 

What I never thought about until recently was the specific role Mary plays (using this analogy of the Body of Christ). The Mother of God connects the faithful to her Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. In this post, I will share a few more reasons why Mary is the neck of the Body of Christ.

Her Humble Role in Salvation History

Mediatrix of Grace- Mary

There’s nothing flashy about the neck. It’s a humble muscle whose primary focus is to link the head to the rest of the human body. Likewise, Mary is the connector of the Body of Christ with Christ the Head. Saint Bernard said, “It is not hard to be humble in a hidden life, but to remain so in the midst of honors is a truly rare and beautiful virtue.” 

No other person in the history of Christianity (except for Christ) has as many titles or honor given as Mary. The angel Gabriel declared, “Hail, Mary full of grace” (Luke 1:28). To the average person this type of praise could lead to the sin of pride. Verse 29 referred to Mary as being “troubled” by the angel’s claim. According to St. Alphonsus’, “Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise, and desired that God only be praised.” 

The humble neck is an appropriate analogy to speak of the Blessed Virgin’s humility.

Testifies to Jesus’ Full Humanity

Incarnation icon funny meme

In the fourth century, there arose a heresy, or false teaching, that denied that Mary was the mother of Jesus. Named after the bishop Nestorius who promoted this belief, the heresy formally became known as Nestorianism.

The Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 declared that Mary is theotokos (the God-bearer). Led by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, the council fathers, wrote about Mary:

“Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh.” (DS 251).

Mary Mother of God

Catholics honor Mary as mother, and celebrate her motherhood on January 1st because:

  •  Jesus entrusted us into the care of Mary as our spiritual mother (see John 19:26-27).
  • Honoring the motherhood of Mary reminds us of the humanity of Jesus
  • Mary as Mother of God protects against heresies claiming Jesus wasn’t fully man

Necks and Nourishment

To Jesus thru Mary

Saint Bernard of Clairvoux  fittingly wrote about Mary, “‘channel’ or, even, the neck, through which the body is joined to the head, and likewise through which the head exerts its power and strength on the body. For she is the neck of our Head, by which all spiritual gifts are communicated to His Mystical Body.”  Saint Pope Pius X echoed the same sentiment in his encyclical Ad diem illum.

Food enters the mouth of the body and is carried down the neck (more precisely the esophagus) into the digestive system. In an analogous manner, Christ’s nourishing grace is channeled through Mary to the rest of the Church’s members.

During my first Marian consecration, I experienced a closer relationship to Jesus. Saint Louis de Montfort said,

[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.

Notice how the saint didn’t say Mary was the ONLY pathway to Christ. You can still pray directly to Jesus. It is in my experience that anytime I reflect on the life of Mary or ask her for help I always end with only thinking about her Son.

All analogies fall short of the reality they try to explain. But analogies help us understand things beyond our full comprehension. Mary is like the neck of the Body of Christ. Jesus entrusted the Church to his Mother (John 19:26-27). Examples from Church Tradition (Saints Bernard and Pope Pius X) and Scripture display how Mary’s primary role in salvation history is to give birth to Jesus and connect us with Him.

Related Links

Saint Pope Pius X’s Encyclical AD DIEM ILLUM LAETISSIMUM (On the Immaculate Conception)

How the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God actually teaches about Jesus

 

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Spiritual Surgeons—St. Lawrence of Brindisi


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 24, 2019.


What are the qualities of a good doctor? Is it talent alone? Medical training? Ability to communicate? Or a combination of these skills plus others?

Medicine is a broad field and so is the term doctor. I always have been interested in the process of healing, treating, and combating infirmities. I even contemplated getting thought about pursuing a science degree in college! Lately, my wife and I have been re-watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning of the series. While I don’t condone the morality of many of the characters, I do admire their strong desire to best care for their patients.

spiritual surgeons

Humanity Needs Healing

Humanity is a broken race in need of healing. People suffer from physical, mental, and spiritual illnesses. Outwardly and historically, physical ailments have been most obvious and most attention focused to resolve. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I am pleased with the efforts made in the 21st century to spread more awareness of mental illnesses. What has definitely fallen by the wayside is spiritual health.

Spiritual Doctors Help Lead to the Divine Physician

Side effects from failings to treat spiritual health include the following: selfishness, greed, envy, laziness, lust, despair, and self-doubt to just name a few. We need spiritual healing just as much, actually more so than other kinds of healing. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 386,

Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

The false philosophy of materialism rejects the idea that humanity is in need of spiritual healing. This is a dangerous and slippery slope to follow. While Jesus is the Ultimate Divine Physician, God sometimes raises up particular saints whose writings provide prescriptions to remedy sin. These individuals are known as the Doctors of the Church. This third installment of Spiritual Surgeons will focus on probably one of the least known Doctors—St. Lawrence of Brindisi.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Capuchin Franciscan’s ability to promote peace amidst strife, Scriptural shrewdness, and voluminous insight on the Virgin Mary rightly place him among the greatest spiritual specialists.

Deft Diplomat

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his March 23rd, 2011 General Audience, “Thanks to his mastery of so many languages, Lawrence was able to carry out a busy apostolate among the different categories of people.” Living during the 16th century, the Franciscan priest was a key figure in refuting the heresies of the Reformation. Benedict XVI described the diplomacy of Lawrence as effective against the Protestants arguments. “With his calm, clear exposition he demonstrated the biblical and patristic foundation of all the articles of faith disputed by Martin Luther.

Catholic Diplomacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with the German pope’s accolades, St. Lawrence maintained the peace promoted by his predecessor and spiritual father—St. Francis of Assisi. In his First Sermon for the Feast of St. Francis St. Lawrence declared, “‘God is wonderful in his saints’ for if the works of nature are marvelous much more marvelous are the works of grace.” At select points in history God raises up saints to combat the errors of the time. Just as St. Francis was raised to fight the corruption of the 12th century, St. Lawrence fought charitably against the errors of the Protestant reformation.

Bible Brilliance

Another gift the Holy Spirit granted St. Lawrence was an ability to interpret Scripture both skillful and faithfully.

studying the bible

 

 

 

 

The Apostolic Doctor’s Three Sermons for the Feast of St Francis displays his penchant for reading and applying the Bible. He  makes frequent references to Old Testament figures such as Jonathan, Jacob, Daniel, Mordecai, and Moses to describe how God clothes a “lesser” figure with grace. Lawrence wrote in his First Sermon, “As the servant is sometimes dressed in nobler clothes than the Lord, so it will be permissible for me to say that Francis is the more wonderful Crucified than Christ, as God has so arranged for His greater glory.” Wow! His high praise of Francis definitely resonates with the biblical tradition that God selects the imperfect to testify to Divine Love and Truth.

Master of Mariology

Before researching this post, I honestly knew very little about St. Lawrence of Brindisi. As impressive as his diplomacy and academic knowledge are what impressed me most about the Apostolic Doctor is his mastery on the subject of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict XVI referred to the Capuchin saint as “a highly qualified Mariologist” (March 23rd, 2011 General Audience).

According to Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M. Cap, S.T.D. in St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Apostolic Doctor, “Specialists in Mariology declare that the sixty-two sermons of Lawrence’s Mariaele form a complete summa of this matter, prominent in Marian literature not only at his time, but ever since!” (emphasis mine).

Mary Clothed with the Sun

 

 

 

 

 

A reflection on the Annunciation demonstrates Lawrence’s masterful understanding of the significance of Mary. Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with you.’ This is a new form of greeting, never heard by another, never encountered before,” Lawrence writes. What makes the Capuchin priest exemplary in his study of Mary is the combination of simplicity and unwavering truth.  In his First Sermon in the Mariale, Lawrence reflecting on Revelation 12 tells us,

Moreover, for this has She been clothed with the Sun, that we might know, that just as the Sun, one though it be, nevertheless illumines each and every man and warms with its heat as if it had been founded by God for each individual man, for there is not one who can hide himself from its heat;94in the same manner the Virgin Theotokos is the Mother of each and everyone, thus common to all as the very own Mother of each.

 Here in this sermon Lawrence seamlessly discusses all four major doctrines pertaining to Mary: Her Virginity, Motherhood, Assumption, and Excellent Virtue (Immaculate Conception). Never have I read such a clear, consistent, and intriguing homily on Mary.

Although St. Lawrence of Brindisi is not a household name like an Augustine or Therese of Liseux, his sundry of vocations throughout his life as a diplomat, teacher, preacher, and scholar are second to none!

 Collect Prayer from Feast Day for St. Lawrence of Brindisi

O God, who for the glory of your name and the salvation of souls bestowed on the Priest Saint Lawrence of Brindisi a spirit of counsel and fortitude, grant, we pray, that in the same spirit, we may know what must be done and, through his intercession, bring it to completion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Related Resources

http://www.franciscan-archive.org/laurentius/lau01005.html

http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110323.html

https://napcc.net/images/uploads/documents/Threesermons.pdf

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