Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

Jesus on the Cross

A Prayer Before the Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today. In keeping with the words of the great Doctor of the Church St. Catherine of Sienna, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.

While my sins wound me and damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity, I petition for intercession from the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze from the gutters of the troubles of my life to gaze upward to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.

Focus on God

Mary Intercede for Us

I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.

Mary at Foot of Cross

Despite the failings, trials, and doubts that surround us, be assured that peace and joy can be found in uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 13— Queenship of Mary

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 that claim (http://catholicbridge.com/catholic/martin-luther-on-mary.php).

wow gif

Catholics honor Mary

 

Veneration refers to honor. Catholics honor Mary because she is the Mother of God. In this 13th 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

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 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

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!

Sources:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_11101954_ad-caeli-reginam.html

https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/o/old-testament-types-of-mary.php#anchor14

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031987_redemptoris-mater.html

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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Tsunami of Tiredness—Tips to Stay Afloat During Storms of Life

tsunami wave

Both a blessing and a curse, water exists as a life-giving resource or a potential deadly force—in the form of floods, monsoons, and hurricanes. The universality of hydrogen dioxide always is a great example to compare the stresses and storms of life against. Summer vacation does not always seem like a retreat especially as a father of three young children. Over the past week, my family traveled to a local state park and camped in a cabin, visited our municipal zoo, and went to a children’s museum. While on paper that seems a recipe for a smooth, carefree, and memorable family experience, the reality with having children with special needs do not necessarily match this ideal.

Power Struggles

The power-struggle of putting our four-year old toddler to bed each night combined with daily challenges adapting to two sons on the autism spectrum needs to be frequently prepared for change led to lassitude. Mere fatigue does not adequately capture my wife and I’s emotional, physical, and mental state. In fact, my energy was zapped from me and it felt like we withstood—ONLY by a great miracle—a tsunami of tiredness!

Precisely how did I live through the most recent storm of life?  Reflecting on the course of the past week, I realized some important ways to survive, or stay afloat, maelstroms of life.

Lord is my rock and refuge

The Rock We May Cling To

According to Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The Old Testament also speaks of entrusting your concerns, weariness, and anxieties with the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 describes this, “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Moreover, the Psalmist describes God as a bastion to remain safe: “But the LORD is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide” (Psalm 94:22).

What I find interesting is the description of God as a mighty rock as a place for us to hide. Amid stressful situations it may seem like a copout to go into hiding while the storm passes. However, hiding is not the same as fleeing.

As a parent, I go into brief periods of hiding [into another room or even outside] when the noise, raucous, and whining of my children compound on each other. Taking a five minute break in the form of “hiding” into another room or at least seeking “hiding” through prayer is actually a healthy thing that makes the difference to me parental mindset. Frankly, I need to utilize opportunities to “hide” or cling to the rock of Our Lord much more often that I do currently!

stella maris

Mary—Model to Mirror

Along with the stalwart strength God affords us during the stormy seas of life, looking to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a role model to emulate is another way that I stay afloat during bouts of exhaustion. My family’s favorite appellation for Mary is Star of the Sea. In fact, through this devotion of Stella Maris [Latin for Star of the Sea] that my wife’s faith as. Convert to Catholicism deepened!

A nautical theme exists in our living room and bedroom with the walls decorated with anchors. These aquatic ballasts symbolize the ability to be anchored in the Lord and experience security continual turmoil of daily stresses. As the supreme role model for humanity, the Blessed Mother of God shows us that obedience to God is possible.

Guided back to Shore

My personal favorite quote about Mary’s guidance comes from St. Thomas Aquinas. According to the Doctor of the Church, “As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary” Another sainted doctor, Francis de Sales, provides incredibly powerful words to describe Mary’s intercessory influence, “Let us run to her, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.”

ron swanson ready

Ready, Set, and Prepare for the Next Storm

Together with reliance on God and looking to Mary as a human role model, being prepared is absolutely essential for withstanding a current maelstrom you may be experiencing and for weathering future flurries.  According to St. Josemaria Escriva, “Discouragement is the enemy of your perseverance. If you don’t fight against discouragement, you will become pessimistic first and lukewarm afterward. Be an optimist (The Way, no. 988

Prepare yourself with seeing trials that come into your life as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of being a burden drown you in a sea of depression. I honestly did not realize that the Spanish saint’s feast day was today until I noticed a post from in a Catholic group I follow on Facebook.

Even as I am writing now I struggle with physical stamina and mental mettle to complete this post. Suddenly, looking at an underlined passage that begins the chapter entitled Perseverance—I pause and realize that preparation does pay off! St. Josemaria reminded me, “To begin is for everyone, to persevere is for saints” (The Way, no. 983).

Without God’s previous preparation and my cooperation in that through my learning about the wisdom of St. Josemaria Escriva, there conclusion to this post would be a little rocky [no pun intended!]. I am always willing to seek the advice of the spiritual giants who came before me. I always desire to seek an opportunity to better myself.

Go Out to Sea of the World with God’s Grace

While I failed to exit the most recent life-storm unscathed and with grace  [both my wife and kids know that I lost my patience many times and pledge to be a better husband and father], my  reliance on God as a rock of strength, Mary as a guide, and the rest of the saints as models to emulate I will be better provided to stay afloat with the next  tsunami of tiredness hits. I pray that you find this read helpful and stay afloat with me using these tips during your storm(s) of life as well!

Staying-Afloat

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Mother of God Help Us

This past year has included its ups and downs–my grandfather passing away in January 2018 and our pregnancy starting off scary and ending with a beautiful daughter. Through all the changes, stresses, joys, and everything in between my faith life buoyed me. What buoyed my faith life and deepened my relationship with God was my increased reliance and petitioning to Mary, Mother of God for help and intercession.

The Universal Church celebrates the Feast of Mary as Mother of God. It is a feast to remind us that while Jesus is fully God he is fully human as well. The only difference is he never sinned. However, being fully human Jesus endured hunger, thirst, tiredness, and suffering. The closest way to the Son of God is through a frequent petitioning to his mother Mary. St. Louis de Montfort once wrote, “[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.”

May your new year start off with peace and joy. Below is a short prayer to recite daily as a simple means to grow your Marian devotion.


Mary, our model and mother, by your obedience and patience you have taught us how to be true children of God. Please help us by your powerful assistance to overcome all our weaknesses, and to fulfill perfectly our tasks in life. 


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Season of Expectancy

Christmastime always holds a special place in my life. As a life-long Catholic, I grew up with the understanding that the celebration of Christ’s birth does not end on December 25th, instead it is actually the beginning of a twelve daylong celebration that goes until the Feast of the Epiphany, the arrival of the Wise men. Over the course of the past week, I noticed a ton of memes, gifs, and posts from my fellow Catholic friends about keeping up Christmas decorations and not tearing them down immediately the day after. I am guilty of that liturgical bravado as well!

This year the season of celebrating Christ’s birth contains extra expectation as my wife and I are waiting for the arrival of the birth of our fourth child! 

Being both uber-planners and type-A personalities we have actually been prepped for our daughter’s big arrival for months. To be honest, I really have been ready for another baby to hold, cuddle, and love since our miscarriage last December 2017.

The beginning of this pregnancy started off rocky and scary. Frequent OBYGN appointments, progesterone shots, and nightly petitioning to our Lord through the Blessed Virgin Mary and saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerard became daily routines over the course of the past 9 months. I came across this quote from Indian filmmaker and director Anurag Prakash Ray that applies directly to my attitude about waiting hold my daughter. He wrote, True love is worth waiting for even if it takes a lifetime. Then in return, a lifetime of love will be waiting for you.” Waiting for our rainbow baby truly does feel like it has been a lifetime—I am certain in the case of my wife she may feel like it has been several lifetimes! 

If a person has a negative mindset, waiting, and especially waiting for something with much anticipation, is quite painful and burdensome. However, shifting the focus away from negativity and instead towards hope, that burden of being agog will be bearable. Saint John Paul the Great lived a long life filled with suffering and waiting. Whenever I get anxious I look to him for advice. The great Polish pope declared, “From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s Will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God!

Throughout this season of expectation(s) be sure to always petition the Lord for help. This may be directly or through the effective intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven. I welcome any and all prayers for the safe delivery of my daughter whenever she decides to arrive! 


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Expect Nothing Gain Everything

Author Chris Tiegreen wrote, “Thankfulness is difficult to express when one starts with an attitude of entitlement.”  From my experience, I noticed that whenever people claim to deserve everything– I am including myself as the prime perpetrator of this attitude— rarely do things work out. Since my family starting praying the Rosary on a nightly basis, my attitude and approach to situations outside my control began to change.

After several months in a row where I went into work with high expectations, I quickly discovered rarely did the reality match my ideals. Anger, resentment, frustration and negativity came forth from my unrealistic anticipations. Falsely equating high expectations with my desire to be entitled to high production metrics and quality scores caused me to dive into a den of despair. Oftentimes, I came home from work with these feelings still churning inside me. Lacking patience, I lashed out at my family whenever the kids made messes or my wife made excessive requests for help. I sought to control all facets at home in hopes to gain a sense of control in the workplace. Ironically, by expecting everything oftentimes I gain nothing but disappointment and distress.

Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed, “Everything is a gift from God: it is only by recognizing this crucial dependence on the Creator that we will find freedom and peace.” Shifting my mindset to viewing all things in life as a gift greatly helped lift my gaze upward and in turn raised my hopes. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the most perfect role model as someone who graciously accepted unexpected news that the world would consider an upheaval—an unexpected pregnancy in the most unexpected of all situations!

With my wife being pregnant with our rainbow baby, we viewed this child as a total and completely free gift from God. Moving away from the entitlement mindset, I am able to embrace, ever so slowly, this gift of the sustained and healthy pregnancy. St. Therese of Liseux declared, “I understood that love comprises all vocations – that love is everything, and because it is eternal, embraces all times and places.” Without love all else in life ultimately is moot. Humanity truly deserves nothing. Nevertheless, the Creator of the Universe granted life and even became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Since my move away from my selfish, entitled, greedy mindset, I seek to thank God for the blessings in my life. I ask the Holy Spirit for the graces to continue with this mindset and I pray for you to encounter the same joy that gratitude brings as well!


“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” –G.K. Chesterton

“Gratitude comes naturally when you take so much responsibility that you expect nothing except what you’ve earned through hard intelligent work and always see where you can improve.” –Anonymous

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