For Catholics, Mary is the most honored saint—she is the holy Mother of God. She is a perfect example of what love and obedience to God looks like. There exist over 15 official liturgical feasts celebrating Mary! Each focus on different facets of her life and various roles she performs on behalf of Jesus. I like to think of these Marian feasts as theological checkpoint—spiritual stops along our faith journey during the year.
Ultimately, we celebrate and honor Mary because she is the closest human to Christ. She is a holy role model for sinners. Why does the assumption of Mary matter? Let’s first define this event in Mary’s life. Then we will examine three reasons why this feast matters.
What is the Assumption?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 966,
Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”
Logically flowing from the fact that Mary’s was created without original sin, it makes sense that Her body and soul are assumed into Heaven. The faithful who pass from this life will be resurrected at the end of time. Our Blessed Mary is granted the gift of experiencing the fullness of Heaven before time and space pass away.
St. Pius XII infallibly defined this doctrine in his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus. The pope clearly states, “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” While this teaching ultimately remains a Mystery, we at least have a basic understanding of what the Church teaches about the end of Mary’s earthly life.
Essential to Catholic Faith
Belief in the Assumption of Mary is not an option for Catholics. It is one of the hallmarks and chief doctrines of truth. Pope Pius XII explicitly declares in Munificentissimus Deus, “Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith” (no 45).
To jettison the teaching of the Assumption would eventually lead to a decreased faith in our Marian doctrines: the Immaculate Conception, Maternal Mediation, seeing Mary as Mother of God.
Soul and Body Integrity
Another reason Mary’s Assumption plays an important role for us is that it prohibits a purely spiritual view of the afterlife. The body and soul do not remain separated for the faithful that attain the glory of Heavenly.
The Second Vatican Council document Gaudium Et Spes points out that created things of this world, including our bodies are inherently good. “For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured,” the council bishops’ declared (Gaudium Et Spes no 39).
Because there exists some type of temporal and physical reality to Heaven it makes sense that Mary—the holiest of all saints—participates with Her body and soul unified.
Evidence of Her Holiness
Lastly, the Assumption of Mary is evidence that she is a holy and exemplar model of virtue. Mary is the handmaiden of the Lord and most humble servant of God. According to the great French priest, St. Louis de Montfort in his work True Devotion to the Mary, “[The] Blessed Mother… is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus”. The doctrine of the Assumption is assurance for Catholics that Mary is united with God.
Catholics don’t worship Mary. Instead we look to Our Blessed Mother as a guide, a signpost, and a beacon that orients us toward God. The beauty and grandeur of Mary exists because she is the perfect mirror. She reflects God’s love outward toward all of humanity. May we continue to grow closer to God and learn from the humble example of Mary to obey God in all things!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 16, 2018.
Catholics around the world [and throughout time] celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th. Along with the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Motherhood of Mary this feast day is a holy day of obligation for Mass attendance. The reason for this is due to the veneration—NOT WORSHIP—Catholics hold for the Mother of God.
Marian doctrines closely relate and point us to the even greater truth of the Incarnation—God becoming Man. The feasts of Mary, Mother of God and Immaculate Conception relate to the Incarnation. And the feast of the Assumption points toward the Resurrection of Jesus.
Assumption—Logically Flows from the Immaculate Conception
When I taught high school theology one of my favorite lessons involved the subject of the teachings on Mary. I enjoyed showing the interconnectedness between the various Marian dogmas. God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin. Due to this reality, Mary would not suffer the same type of bodily decay and separation of body and soul like the rest of humanity.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 966,
Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.
Divine Providence inspired the office of the papacy to proclaim the infallible teaching Marian dogmas to be viewed in unity with one another. Pope Pius IX in 1854 infallibly defined Mary as being immaculately conceived. Nearly a century later, his successor Pius XII formally declared the infallible dogma of the Assumption.
Assumption Hinting at the Resurrection and Destination of Heaven
Again, I will defer to the Catechism for the best explanation of the Assumption of Mary pointing to the Resurrection,
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians (CCC966).
Saint Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, articulated the fact Mary orients us to Heaven. He wrote, “It is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.”
Mary’s Complete Love for God is a Model for Us
Mary’s whole earthly life centered on obedience and love of God. Because of this, she is the perfect guide to her Son. Marian titles such as Stella Maris [Latin for Star of the Sea] and Morning Star point to this reality as well.
Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, gives Christians hope. Hope in the resurrection of the body at the end of time. I am grateful for the gift of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Advocate in times of darkness. Please pray for us in our time of need!
“Mary shines on earth “until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen gentium, n. 68).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another gift the Holy Spirit granted St. Lawrence was an ability to interpret Scripture both skillful and faithfully.
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).
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.
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” — Luke 2:19
Reflection has been an elusive activity for most of 2020. It appears life continues to slam us with unexpected situation after another (Kayne West is running for President?! What next?)
Reading centers me during times of upheaval. I enjoy learning new information and thinking about it afterwards. My minor in college was philosophy so René Descartes’ maxim “I think therefore I am” has been imprinted in my brain.
Because of the pandemic our local library still has restricted hours. This forced me to visit my living room bookshelf for my next book. Thankfully, I forgot to finish reading Michael Hesemann’s Mary of Nazareth: History, Archeology, Legends.
I finished the book in less than a week this time. I love Mary, history, archeology, and legends. But did I enjoy all those subjects combined into a single book?
Enter into the Life of Mary
Hesemann begins Mary of Nazareth by detailing out a brief history of the oldest surviving Marian icon— the Advocata Nostra. Christian tradition holds this icon is Saint Luke’s painting of the Mother of God after the events of the Resurrection of Jesus.
The author goes on to spend a chapter on each of the significant events in Mary’s life: the Annunciation, Visitation, Christmas, Flight to Egpyt, Wedding at Cana, at Calvary, the Ascension of Jesus, and Pentecost. Hesemann relies on a multitude of sources to provide a complete understanding of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He quotes Scripture, cites early Church Fathers, ancient secular historians, interviews archeologists, and sifts through pious legends.
At the end of the book, Heseman discusses the Death and Assumption of Mary. He sketches out various theories for location of where Mary died and how old she was when she rejoined Christ in Heaven.
The best part about Mary of Nazareth was Hesemann’s ability to draw the reader into the life of the Mother of God. I felt transported to the Holy Land reading this book. He also did a phenomenal job of presenting the information with little to no bias. Hesemann simply presented the information and rarely interjected a personal opinion (even with regard to the legends about Mary).
I highly recommend you buy Mary of Nazareth as your next addition to your personal library. If you’re a Catholic who loves history this book is going to be in your Amazon cart later today (or purchase it directly from Ignatius Press).
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 29, 2017.
A fruit of my consecration to Jesus through Mary in the days leading up to the centenary anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima was reflecting on the heroic life and death of St. Maximilian Kolbe by the hands of Nazi Germany. Aside from St. Athanasius and St. John Paul II, I do not think there is another saint that modeled love and courage to speak the truth with such tenacity!
From an early age, Maximilian promoted devotion to Mary and sought to bring others of God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Ordained in 1918, he continued to work promoting Mary throughout Poland. I believe Divine Providence strategically placed Maximilian in Poland to be a light to the destitute because this nation eventually became an epicenter for Nazi domination.
During May 1941, Maximilian was transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Polish priest died on August 14th, 1941. Despite his short stay, the heroism of St. Maximilian lives on and impacted his fellow inmates and generations to this day. I want to highlight three essential points about Maximilian’s life that compelled me turn to him as a role model.
Maximilian only cared about others. He refused to sign German documents that would have provided protections to avoid sending him to the concentration camps. He heroically volunteered to take the place of a man, with a large family, who was sentenced to death. Such selfless love is powerful. Maximilian allowed the Holy Spirit to be so present inside him that he reflected the love of Christ perfectly and died a horrific death like Jesus to save others!
Sacrifice of the Mass
St. Maximilian once said, “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” The Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium echoes this point as well by calling the Eucharistic sacrifice the “source and summit” of the Catholic life (no. 5).
As a priest, Maximilian lived this reality and he took it to a new level in the concentration camps as well. He celebrated Mass daily and fellow prisoners even attested the Polish priest took crumbs of wheat bread to gather the substance needed to perform the sacrifice of the Mass when times became really desolate in his cell.
Father Kolbe’s theology clarified dogmatic proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in the 19th century about Mary being sinless. Mary’s apparition at Lourdes revealed to Bernadette that she is the Immaculate Conception.
Kolbe expanded on this revelation by making a distinction between the created Immaculate Conception [Mary] versus the uncreated Immaculate Conception [the Holy Spirit]. Maximilian clarified the Catholic understanding of Mary for me personally with this distinction. It is important to realize that Mary is a part of CREATION and it not to be worshipped. I think St. Maximilian provided a good example to help me understand how we honor the Mother of God!
Role models are not merely people that exist in a state of earthly life today. We may all look to the Catholic saints as good examples to mirror when it comes to combating our own selfish wills and desires. St. Maximilian stood up against the malevolent force of Nazism by proclaiming the truth of the Gospel.
In a world of tumult and lack of stability clarity has never been more important. St. Maximilian once said, “No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.” Let us seek truth always!
The Blessed Virgin Mary provides great consolation in time of need.
The stress and unknown due to the coronavirus makes life quite confusing. Here is a prayer I recently learned about that gave me peace. Our Lady Comforter OG the Afflicted is a powerful intercessor. Mary is closest to Her Son—Jesus Christ.
I hope this prayer brings you some comfort like it has for me.
Prayer to Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted
Immaculate Virgin Mary,
Mother of God and our most compassionate Mother,
we present ourselves in thy sight in all humility,
and with full confidence
we implore thee for thy maternal patronage.
Thou hast been proclaimed by Holy Church
the Comforter of the Afflicted,
and to thee constant recourse is had
by the sorrowful in their afflictions,
the sick in their maladies,
the dying in their agony,
the poor in their straitened circumstances,
those who stand in all manner of need
in both public and private calamities;
and from thee they all receive consolation and strength.
Our dearest Mother,
turn upon us also,
wretched sinners that we are,
thy merciful eyes,
and graciously accept our humble and confident prayers.
Aid us in all our spiritual and temporal necessities,
deliver us from all evil
and especially from sin,
which is the greatest evil,
and from all danger of falling into it;
obtain for us from thy Son Jesus
every blessing of which thou seest we stand in need
both in soul and body,
and especially the greatest blessing of all,
which is Divine grace.
Comfort our spirits,
troubled and afflicted in the midst of the many dangers that threaten us,
and the countless miseries and misfortunes that beset us on every side.
This we ask through that immense joy
which filled thy pure soul
in the glorious Resurrection of thy Divine Son.
Obtain tranquillity for Holy Church,
help and comfort for her visible Head,
the Sovereign Pontiff,
peace for Christian princes,
refreshment in their pains for the Holy Souls in Purgatory;
for sinners, the forgiveness of their sins,
and for the just, perseverance in well-doing.
Receive us all, our most tender Mother,
under thy loving and mighty protection,
that we may be enabled to live virtuously,
die holily and attain to everlasting happiness in Heaven.