Celebrate Life like Elizabeth and Mary

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Visitation by Jaques Daret

 

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:41-45

By: Ashley Blackburn

I was picking up my daughter from elementary school when I was stopped by an old friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. She was unaware that I am pregnant with baby number 5 on the way. The woman approached me and in a sympathetic tone said she didn’t know I was pregnant again.  Despite being a little taken aback, I quickly responded with joy and excitement over this new life that was going to come into the world! My friend proceeded to try to sympathize with me, although I was not sad about being pregnant, and asked how I was feeling and how my husband was “handling” the fact that we were going to have another baby. I then began to realize just how countercultural it is to bring forth new life after you’ve already had your 2.5 kids. Upon this realization, I wanted my friend to know how excited we all were as a family… my husband included. I told her the kids were ecstatic and I was really looking forward to sharing in this joy of new life with my now somewhat older children (ages 12, 11, 8, & 5). As we were about to part ways, she asked when I was due. I told her in July and she told me that it was going to be really hot… another attempted opportunity to show how sorry she was for my being pregnant. “Yes, it is going to be hot in July” was my candid response.

 

I walked away feeling sorry for my friend and for all women with this view. No, pregnancy is not pleasant. Except for those few strange mothers who say they love being pregnant, for the most part it is uncomfortable, often painful, and completely humbling. Mothers sacrifice their bodies, their emotions, their energy, and so much more in order to bear new life within them. It is no small feat. But what are we as women doing to lift up and support pregnant mothers? What are we doing to remind them of the miracle of life that they bearing in their womb? How are we helping them see in this time of self sacrifice how they are cooperating in the creative work of God Our Father?  It is no wonder abortion rates are on the rise and couples are choosing every option available to avoid pregnancy. Expectant mothers are often times left unsupported and often criticized by her peers.

 

Where are pregnant mothers able to find the support and encouragement they need in this culture that views pregnancy and motherhood as an unwanted heavy burden? The answer lies in the example of the Visitation. Mary is no doubt inconvenienced by becoming pregnant and Elizabeth her cousin is pregnant in her old age. Both of these circumstances are not ideal for pregnancy. Both women can be expected to be filled with shame or sympathy. But the Visitation plays out very differently. When Mary approaches Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with joy and surprise… even the infant in her womb leapt for joy. Mary then proclaims the glory of God and rejoices even amidst her unideal situation in the world’s eyes.  In God’s eyes, it was the perfect ideal.  

 

The exchange between Mary and Elizabeth shines a light on the tremendous influence that we women have upon one another. It reminds us that our response to each other’s life story, no matter what the circumstance, is of utmost importance. Women have been given the unique ability to bond with one another on a deeply spiritual and emotional level. These bonds of friendship are what sustain and uplift women in their time of need. When we stop supporting and encouraging each other, we in essence abandon a major part of who we are as women and the unique gift given to us by our Creator.

 

My encounter with my friend was a definite eye-opener for me. It was God’s way of showing me the importance of my own responses, as well as the perception of our culture when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood. It was a way for God to give me the opportunity to be joyful despite what one would expect of someone in my circumstance. It was a way for the light of Christ to break forth into this world filled with so much darkness. I am truly grateful for this opportunity that God has given me today and I am completely humbled that He would choose to use me in this way. May we as women always remember to imitate Mary and Elizabeth in the Visitation story when sharing all of our life events with one another.  Choose joy. 

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Don’t deliver yourself to the Torturers

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The Unmerciful Servant – Domenico Fetti

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  Mathew 18:32-34

Have you ever really read, I mean really read, what Jesus is saying in the parable of the unmerciful servant?  We all know the story, Peter asks the Lord how many times he should forgive, 7 times, and Jesus says, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  And then he tells the story.  It’s the story of the forgiving King, but the servant who won’t forgive.

The ending is astonishing, “In his anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured….”

What does this tell us?  If you remember, I have taken classes on Kingdom and Covenant.  When you are in covenant, you have exchanged enemies.  You let your covenant partner take care of your enemy, and you take care of his.  There was also a Walk of Death. This Walk of Death tells you curses get put upon you if you violate covenant.  What does this mean in our covenant with God?  It means, our enemy is not people, but the devil, and we let him handle the people.  So when we put our hatred on people, instead of the demons that are whispering to the people, we are actually violating covenant and inviting curses, or handing ourselves to the torturers.  We have asked for this upon ourselves.

Just look at the Lord’s prayer; Forgive us our trespasses, AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US…. If we don’t forgive, we are asking God to treat us in the manner we have treated others.  How did God forgive us? He forgave us everything.  If we in turn don’t forgive, we hand ourselves over to the torturers.

Deliver us from Evil…. Deliverance is letting go of the trauma and hurt that people have caused us.  This kind of forgiveness is hard.  There are a lot of people who have had major hurt in their lives.  Major trauma to forgive.  But this is the kind of forgiveness that sets you free and places you in the hands of Christ.

This forgiveness does not mean people don’t receive consequences.  Or that we turn a blind eye to the crimes people commit.  It simply means that the victimized person let’s God handle the human being;  His judgment, and eternal consequences.  And that the victim actually wishes in their heart that everyone know the love of God and will one day be in his glory.  A converted heart is something to rejoice over.  Damnation to hell is not.  How do we forgive like this?

Divine Mercy.  We cannot do it without asking God for help and receiving what he wants to give us.  We must ask Him to teach us to love like he does.  To teach us to Forgive like he does.  This enables us to close the door on the devil and take back our domain.  Our hatred should be at sin and the devil, this is holy hatred.  It should not be directed at people.  Take back authority over our own lives from the devil and live and walk in true freedom.

I went to the visit Father’s of Mercy last week.

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As I sat in the church looking at the image God told Saint Faustina to bring us, all I can say is God impressed upon me how much mercy is poured over us.  It was as if I could palpably feel his mercy, and the communion of Saints, those that lived in his mercy.

I began to ask God to pour any mercy people reject over me, so I can be a conduit of His mercy in the world.  I think that’s what he wants for all of us.

I asked God to show me the areas in my life where I need to forgive, and where he wants to heal me.  He wants to set me free.  He wants to set you free too.  Ask Him to show you who you need to forgive.  Then close that door to the devil, and live in the freedom of God’s mercy and love.

When I look at the news today, I see a whole lot of anger and rage, and not a lot of mercy and forgiveness.  We can’t control what’s going on out there, but we can make our own hearts living sanctuaries of mercy and love.  And we can spread it to each person we encounter.  Don’t hand yourself to the torturer’s.  Get on your knees and ask God to show you how to forgive.  Start with your own family.  And let’s change the world one heart at a time.

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The Marriage Covenant

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Gerard David – The Wedding Feast at Cana

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27

***Warning*** I have written some graphic content in this piece. This is not for children.

In my prayer, as I am sure many people have also felt, the Lord has impressed upon me the importance, to an overwhelming degree on my soul, of marriage.

You all know I have been taking classes on Kingdom and Covenant.  I learned a lot in this last class discussing marriage. In learning about covenant, we understand that a blood sacrifice is made, and we know that the Eucharist is the most Sacred and Profound covenant God made with us.  His own Son giving us His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  We are able to renew this covenant every single day at Mass.

Jesus gave us this outward sign of His love when he stated, “This is my body given up for you.”  And we know that the Mass is known as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.  His outward gift of love presented to us, and we, the Bride of Christ (whether male or female) receive this gift of love.

Have you ever wondered about that marriage analogy?  About the fact that Jesus spoke of it?  Marriage must be important to God.

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. Mark 2:19-20

Like the Eucharistic covenant, marriage is also covenant.  Two Sacraments gifted to us by God.  Now bear with me for a moment because I am going to get R rated here to some people, though what I am going to say is meant to show the beauty of God’s creation.  The covenant of Sacramental Marriage is written in the very body of the man and woman.  When a man, in love with his wife, is passionate for her, his very body has the outward expression of this.  And a woman can see it. On his wedding night, a groom says with his body, “this is my body given up for you”.  An outward expression of love for his wife.  Additionally, since marriage is covenant and covenant requires blood sacrifice, when a a virginal woman sheds blood on her wedding night through intercourse, this shedding of her blood, is just as a covenant sacrifice, and the covenant is made.  Her body receives him, receives his love.  A husband and wife renew this covenant again and again throughout their marriage.  And the two become one flesh.

No longer two but one. These couples together, when they center their lives on Christ, their power grows exponentially.  Where one puts 1000 to flight, two puts 10,000.

“How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up?” Deuteronomy 32:30

This is why the devil tries SO HARD to pervert sexuality.  If he can do this he perverts the beauty of the Sacramental covenant God created.  When marriage is strong societies flourish and spread love, joy and beauty.  The devils goal is to destroy.  And in our day and age, he set his sights on the destruction of marriage.

When we have sex outside of marriage, we give a part of ourselves away.  Pre-marital sex takes part of our soul and gives it to another.  Then, when we enter into marriage later, we only can give what we have left of ourselves, it is not a complete giving, because of what was left behind.  When we are not whole from the start, it makes it harder to live a Godly marriage.  Sex before marriage is a way that we actually can destroy other souls and our own soul.  I think this is why God impressed upon me how deadly of a sin lust is.

The devil wants to pervert what God created beautiful as much as he possibly can.  This is why he tries to get you to have as much sex as possible before you’re married and as little as possible with your spouse after you are married.  Having sex a lot in marriage is healthy and powerful in the eyes of God because just like we renew Eucharistic covenant in Mass every day, we also renew the marriage covenant each time we have sex with our spouse.  But the devil has attacked marriage from every angle; divorce, pornography, masturbation, prostitution, contraception,  adultery, homosexuality, abortion, you name it, he has thought of it and tried to attack us with it.

But lest ye despair, especially if you were one that committed these sins of perversion, you must know that our God is powerful enough to overcome your sins.

When Saint Paul was in Corinth, he was preaching to a people that worshipped Aphrodite.  Every woman was required at some point to be a temple sex slave.  Paul was preaching to whores and whoremongers.  Men and women who worshipped a goddess of sex.  And yet he said this to them;

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” 2 Corinthians 11:2

How could he say this to them?  How could he promise them to Christ as pure virgins?  Paul could promise this because Paul knows Christ is a RESTORER who can DELIVER you.

If you have these past sins and you’re struggling in your marriage, Christ can deliver you.  Ask God to show you where you need healing.  Confess your sexual sins, forgive yourself, forgive those who took a part of you, and ask God to close those doors where the devil has an entrance to attack your marriage.  Christ can make you whole again.  You can be presented as pure before Christ.  The church shows us the way.  Confession is healing.

If you don’t have these sins, ask God to protect your purity everyday.  Hand Him your purity to guard.

We must all of us get on our knees and pray for marriage.  For our own, and for others.  May God make us holy and pure.

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God works all things for the Good

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St. Therese of Lisieux

“If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

By: Ashley Blackburn

The other morning I was at mass when the Emmaus Story really came alive for me. In this gospel account, the resurrected Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus and at first the disciples were unable to recognize who Jesus was. Jesus walks with them and listens to their story, in which he realizes they had a very limited understanding of scriptures and thus a limited understanding of his death and resurrection. After the disciples finished speaking, Jesus then began to explain the scriptures to them, which opened up their understanding to the fullness of Salvation History and gave them a thirst for more. What the disciples were given in this moment was the Truth. Their hearts were open to hearing it and thus they became so captivated by Jesus that they invited him to stay and dine with them.  For when we hear the Truth being proclaimed, it give us a yearning and thirst in our hearts and it urges us to share this gift we have received in charity for others. After inviting him in, while at dinner with Jesus, their eyes were opened and they recognized who this man really was, Jesus Christ risen from the dead.

This story got me thinking more about my own faith journey and how this story is really all of our stories. In my life, Jesus found me where I was, in the throes of sin and self destruction. I can now attribute this to the many prayers of my family for me as they watched me attempt to ruin my life.

At the point when Jesus met me on my journey, I was not ready or able to see him fully revealed.  He first listened to my story, my misunderstanding of things. He allowed me to speak and he listened. But then something changed as we walked together and he began giving me glimpses of the Truth.  This is what gave me a thirst for him. A deep yearning to learn more, to know him better, to understand more fully.

In my early journey I did a lot of reading.  I was mainly drawn to the modern day contemplative authors which I felt helped me to develop my relationship with Jesus. These authors, who have a wide following of people, taught me how to pray, how to look inward at myself and see where I needed to change, how to not be afraid of the silence, how to rid myself of the anger that I was carrying with me.  They taught me that silence was where I would meet Jesus most intimately and get to know him better. So this became my consolation and I began spending hours in prayer, going on silent retreats and joining bible studies. It was during this time that I first truly met Jesus and began to have a relationship with him through prayer.

There was so much healing that took place during this time. My experience of Jesus was compassion and mercy.  He spoke to me of unconditional love and with that I was healed from my past. This I can see now as a gift. I often come across others who struggle with this.  They are either still living in the shame of their past and are not convinced that Jesus could ever forgive them, or they are living in scrupulosity where nothing they do will ever be enough to earn forgiveness.  All of these people are relying on their own efforts instead of falling into the arms of Jesus and letting him do the work. Once we realize that God is the giver and we are the receiver, we can begin to heal.

God always holds up his end the deal… he perpetually gives. But we are not always the best receivers. Whatever the obstacles that we continue to place in the way, we are only able to receive when we let go of it all, bear our souls to the Lord and turn to him with open hearts. For me this also included handing him all of my past sins and allowing him to transform them and heal me from all of my wounds. So often we tend to ignore, hide, rationalize or discount our sins. When we do this we are placing obstacles in the way of receiving all that God wants to give us. It’s only through presenting our weakness to the Lord that His mercy is able to rain down upon us.

At this time I found myself in a really good place spiritually. But as my life got busier and busier I began to find less and less time for prayer.  Less and less time to read. Less and less silence. And this is where I was left on my contemplative journey; relying solely on prayer, silence, and self reflection. What I can see now is while this part of my journey was completely necessary and healing, it only took me so far.  The books I had read did not speak of the fullness of the Truth and though they were a part of my journey of healing, I was still left wanting more. There was something missing.

As humans we are both spiritual and physical beings.  Just as we cannot deny our spirit, we also cannot deny that we are tangible creatures. Often times we need tangible things in order to relate to the spiritual, especially when life gets busy or when we are thrown for a serious curve. When there is no time for the silence, when there is no energy or desire to pray, when we are in the pit of despair, we need tangible things to help us navigate our path and keep us in union with God.  

This tangibility is exactly what the Catholic Church provides.  Christ knew our humanness and thus he knew what we needed for our salvation. Through the Sacraments, the Church is a tangible means of dispensing grace to us. Although the Sacraments are not the only means by which we receive grace from God, they are a clear and tangible means for us. They allow us to see and know in a real way, God’s desire to gift us with his grace at any moment. If only we would remain open and willing to humbly come to him in order to receive these gifts. If we stop believing in the Sacraments, we will eventually stop believing in God’s grace.

The other tangible thing the Church is for us is an Authority. The Catholic Church continues on through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. She is here to help us navigate our way, especially when things get confusing and unclear.  We must recognize that this is the work of the devil, to confuse us, to trick us, to make things unclear, to divide us. He is very clever in his attempts, we don’t always recognize that it is him whispering in our ear a distorted version of mercy and love because it sounds somewhat good in nature.  So this is where the Authority of the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, is there for us in a tangible way to help us navigate this world. What a gift this is that we don’t have to have all the answers on our own.

As I journeyed on, trying to navigate my spiritual journey, my life took a turn when I finally began saying yes to God.  In prayer, I felt him asking me to do certain things, but I was never quite brave enough or thought myself worthy enough for the task.  One of the first things I said yes to was beginning to help in the R.C.I.A. ministry at my parish. I definitely did not feel worthy of this calling.  I was not knowledgeable about my faith, I was terrified of speaking in public (let alone teaching adults) and I was already so busy… how could I fit this huge commitment into my already busy schedule?  But Jesus was loving and persistent in his attempts. I finally said yes and began sitting in on R.C.I.A. classes, trying to figure out where I could help out.

Through this ministry my eyes were opened to the full Truth of Jesus.  I already had a relationship with him, but now he was feeding me Truth. And suddenly I found myself praying again, reading again, but this time the authors were a bit different, they were contemplative but steeped in the Truth of the Church.  I discovered the saints. Saints like St Therese of Lisieux and St Bernadette, who both had a very deep prayer life, but who also clinged to the Catholic Faith. I learned the teachings and history of the Church. Jesus had opened my eyes, much like he had done to the two disciples at table with him in the Emmaus Story. I was able to recognize him in a new way through the Catholic Church and it was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

In my prayer and reflection further about this new phase of my journey, I have found that God is actually calling me deeper. He is asking more of me everyday, while also giving me tremendous consolation in my obedience to him. He has widened my view and revealed a much fuller picture to me than I previously had. While I don’t feel I ever have struggled with scrupulosity, which comes with its set of dangers and misguidance, I am now seeing where being solely spiritual and focusing on looking inward at self is actually at the other end of the spectrum, also with its own set of dangers and misconceptions. Both ends of the spectrum can focus on being critical of the other, they can look to the people living at these opposite ends and get judgemental and even condemning. But Jesus calls us to walk the narrow road between these two. The true contemplative has a conversation with God, it’s a relationship.  This relationship, this mental prayer, coupled with the Authority of the Magisterium and Scripture, enables you to obey God and to surrender to him in a way modern day contemplation didn’t call me. I am thankful for my journey and I realize that God worked all things for the good in order to bring me closer to Him. I love Jesus AND I love the Church. And I am grateful for having found Jesus ever more present through my journey back to the Church.

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The Authority of God

Holy Family Fatima

“The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.”  Genesis 2:15-18

by: Ashley Blackburn and Susan Skinner

Have you ever noticed that there is a clear order to everything God created? The very universe we live in, it has order.  We are considered by God, to be at the top of his chain of authority, of order.  He loves us immensely. And when we take a closer look at this order we begin to see the loving plan God has for us.  God gave Adam and Eve 4 commandments;

  1. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  Genesis 1:28
  2. Have dominion over the earth. Genesis 1:28
  3. Don’t eat the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:16-17 (Eve received this command through Adam)
  4. Cleave to one another. Genesis 2:24

When we look at these commands, we can see the Authority God passes onto Adam and Eve.  And we can see that clearly, the role of Fatherhood and Motherhood are upheld and valued by God, as he commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth.  This is their purpose.  And it is a spiritual purpose.  Motherhood and Fatherhood are spiritual.  So though not every man or every woman is called to literally have children, we are all called to this spiritual realm of Motherhood and Fatherhood when we interact with others in our daily lives because this helps us to fill the earth with God’s presence.

It is very important to note, God’s own authority was given to Adam.  It is Adam who God reveals himself through by giving Adam the authority to name the animals.  God’s very nature of love revealed in the man who was called to be Father. Through Fatherhood men are given the Authority of God. To protect and lead their family. Fatherhood ignites in the man his true espousal to his wife, his respect for her, his care and attention for her in the miraculous gift she has given to him and the world through childbirth. But this authority is weighted with a tremendous amount of responsibility and pressure, which can result in fear and anxiety in the father. Without the support and encouragement and nurturing of his wife, who is called to be mother, the man is left abandoned. He is overcome with the heavy burden.
On the other hand, this authority can also lead to an abuse of it. Man can make his wife and children out to be his servants instead of his family. But our Father in Heaven is merciful. His authority is not one of forced servitude, but one that instead evokes voluntary respect and charity. This is the authority the man is given in his role as merciful father.

God’s authority is only manifest in our freely choosing to serve Him, out of loving charity and respect for Him. Fathers cannot force their authority upon their family, it must be earned first and then supported thereafter.

The last command God gave them, to cleave to one another, shows that when properly ordered, the married couple reveals the image and likeness of God.  When children spring forth from the love of a man and woman, we gain a complete whole picture. Just as the spirit proceeds from the love of the Father and the Son. The family mirrors the Trinity.  We are fully aware that God created men and women physically complimentary, but we have also been created mentally, emotionally and spiritually complimentary. This is not so we would make a competition out of our gifts and try to rank one as more important than another, but that our gifts would be of aid to one another, giving where the other is lacking and receiving where we are in need. When we do this we flourish.
Today women are trying to procure this authority of men. Abandoning their own role as bearers of new life and spouses of the Holy Spirit, in which they have uniquely cooperated with God in order to bring forth new life. Women are uprooting themselves and trying to live as those having the authority of God. It’s exactly what Eve did in the garden. She was trying to gain authority to be like God, but this authority to reveal God was only granted to Adam. It’s as if it wasn’t just Satan who stole Adam’s authority, Eve did also.  And where was Adam when she was speaking to the serpent?  He had relinquished his duty that God had given him.  He should have been looking out for her and he wasn’t.  It isn’t much different today.  History has shown that men abused woman in an effort to reassert their authority.  This was not how God intended it.

When the woman steals the authority from man, or when he relinquished his own authority, it leaves the man without a purpose. Without the support of women to help empower him to live up to his role and the responsibility that comes with it, the man abandons his role and the authority given to him from God altogether. This is what Adam did in the garden, he abandoned his role as guardian of Eve and gave into temptation.

We see this so clearly today with the grave evils of abortion and contraception.  With contraception, it is the rejection of the command of God by both parties to be fruitful and multiply.  With abortion, the woman, the mother, has denied her purpose all together, choosing instead to bring death to her womb.  The father has no say, unable to do his duty, to guard and protect the woman and his child.  We see both men and women rejecting what they are called by God to do… their divine purpose. But God keeps chasing us, beckoning us back to the order of His Kingdom;

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  Isaiah 49:15

It is through motherhood, the woman finds her dignity as beloved daughter of the Father and spouse of the Holy Spirit. By bringing forth new life from her womb, participating in the miracle, saying yes to all that motherhood entails (sacrifice, love, suffering, and rejoicing), the mother is led to a deep sense of gratitude and charity that springs forth like a fount from within her. This participation in motherhood is ongoing in that openness to it should never be thwarted. In this abundance of charity, the mother is empowered to extend this charity to her spouse, who has left his own mother, but still longs for a mother’s encouragement and nourishment.

Although not all women will become natural mothers, all women are created to live out their motherhood in some way. Denying her motherhood is denying her purpose in life, thus leaving a gaping hole in the divine unity between man and woman. Likewise, not all men will become natural fathers, but all men are called to live out their authority given to them by God in this fatherly role. The image of the merciful father, the FIAT of St Joseph, the servant role that Jesus displays at the last supper, as well as the self sacrifice of Christ on the cross are all models of this divine fatherhood. When man and woman live out their unique purpose that has been grafted into them upon creation, harmony will be restored.
Without the encouragement and nourishment of mothers, fathers will continue to fail in their attempts to exercise their authoritative role granted to them by God. Additionally, without men standing up and living their lives in restored authority, lives full of honor and holiness in which their gaze remains on Christ as the center of their lives, women will continue to take care of man’s unfinished business.  After years of this cycle we have culminated in a place where women are bitter and resentful, making a society filled with rage.  It is only through the cooperation of both male and female, living out their unique Divine purpose that will restore the dignity of mankind.  Let us get on our knees and pray, that each of us, male and female alike, will embrace the purpose God created us for.

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Saint Joseph – Terror of Demons

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Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.  Matthew 1:19-24

I was pondering the state of the world today, thinking about how we had gotten to where we are.  As I prayed and sat in the chapel, I thought about all the rage I see in society. I thought how it seems to be coming from every direction.  God whispered, “I made them male and female.”  I thought about recent events.  How men seem to have used women, and how women march in the streets in anger at men.

“Lord,” I said, “why does it have to be this way?”  He whispered, “it doesn’t.” I looked up at the altar at that moment and to the right I saw a statue of Saint Joseph.  I realized, I don’t often ask for his intercession when I pray for myself or my family. Though I do ask for it for a Priest I pray for.  Perhaps it’s because as a female, I relate to Mother Mary and to the female Saints, I wasn’t sure why. I asked God to tell me about Saint Joseph.  

As I sat contemplating, a thought poured over me.  We all know Jesus came and was the “new Adam.” It was through our King, Our Lord and Savior, that these chains of sin were broken on the Cross.  O happy Fault, the sin of Adam, that gave to us a Redeemer.

But God asked me to look closer at what it took for Jesus to get here.  It took the Fiat of Mary, which made her a true Queen.  But it took something else too, it took a Fiat of Joseph.  Things would have been vastly different if Joseph had not said yes and trusted God as well.

A little while back I wrote about how men are the Guardians of the Divine Life.  It was Adam who named the animals and revealed God spiritually in the world.  His job in the garden was to protect it and to protect Eve and guard the Divine.  We see the male Priesthood reveal this as well.

And so it is here, when a righteous man wakes up from a dream, we actually see JOSEPH doing something Adam didn’t.   His yes, protected Mary from evil and guarded the Divine Life in her.  Joseph becomes the example of what a human man should be. A protector from evil and a guardian of Divine Life.  Because he was born with original sin, this yes of his was most definitely courageous. Though as noted in the verse above, he was righteous, and so we can glean that God chose him because of this.   It is the Foster Father, Joseph who is the head of the Holy Family, and who by taking Mary into his home, together with her, helps to bring us our Redeemer.   They are BOTH needed, male and female, working together to bring us our Redeemer;  in perfect acts of submission to the will of God, and in fulfillment of the roles God created for them.  

God had originally brought forth creation and we lived in harmony with His Kingdom. His Kingdom was lived on earth as it is in heaven through a married couple. Adam with the authority to name the creatures of the Kingdom, and Eve, from whom human life would come forth.  It is as if God’s creation was itself a Tabernacle, housing His Divine Will where His creation lived in harmony with it and Adam, who was given Dominion, was the Guardian of this. After the fall, God had to send His Son, as the means for us to gain back the harmony with His Will that we had lost.  God didn’t ever leave us, but there was a disruption of the unity. So it is by the merits and grace of Christ, we can be restored. But it goes beyond that, because His merits and His Grace, when applied to Mary and Joseph, what we see again is God using the married couple to help restore the unity of Kingdom by working together in harmony to usher in the Redeemer.  Joseph was the Guardian of the Living Tabernacle, Mary, through whom God in us can be restored.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

This is why the family, the Domestic Church, is so important.  It is where we can begin to see the Kingdom of God at hand. Rebuilding the family rebuilds the community, which rebuilds the nation, which rebuilds the world.  One heart at a time. Mary is Co-Redemptrix and Joseph is a co-redeemer. We can actually all participate in this. We follow their example, we sacrifice, we suffer, through the cross we become detached from the worldly and we move back towards unity with God.

And so, Saint Joseph is the terror of demons. It isn’t just Mary who steps on the head of the serpent, he does also.  Mary and Joseph took back domain from Satan that had been stolen in the garden,  and ushered in a Savior, who would truly crush evil. Jesus was the Savior of them both, but it does reveal the Mighty power of God and how he applied the merits of the Redemption.  Two human souls working together in the complementary way they were made, to bring about the Redemption of all of us, through the Son of God placed in their midst.

It is said that the only Man made thing in heaven are the wounds of Jesus Christ.  It is there that we can pour our sin and un-forgiveness for the offenses others have committed against us, and be set free from the evil man has chosen.  Imagine, for a second, the embarrassment Joseph must have felt for Mary’s pregnancy. He knew she could be killed for it. In his compassion, he was going to divorce her quietly.  But he listened to the angel in the dream, and despite what must have been the whisperings and gossip of others, the calumny against him, he did what God asked. It required forgiveness of others, and righteousness.   If we can love God like him, if we can forgive the trespasses against us, we can regain our dominion from Satan, and following the way of the Cross we can live in a world of love where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.  We will see Oceans of mercy pour forth over us from those man made wounds of Christ, when we live like this.

Instead of using and marching against one another, let us learn to love and sacrifice for one another, like Mary and Joseph.

St Joseph, terror of demons.  Pray for us.

I saw this is my prayer after writing this;

Four Hearts Sacred and Complete

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True Flourishing – the Queenship of Mary

Queenship – Botticelli

Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’? The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’” But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.  Genesis 3:1-7

After reading the above excerpt in Genesis, I began to wonder why Eve was speaking to the serpent at all.  After all, the serpent was her enemy.  The answer is perhaps because Eve didn’t recognize her enemy. She simply didn’t know he was her enemy.  Additionally, we know that the original sin is called the “Sin of Adam,” even though Eve ate the fruit from the tree first.  This is because when God told Adam not to eat of the tree, Eve wasn’t created yet.  This information was given to Eve by Adam, not by God.  Adam’s relationship with God was deeper and longer.  He was her Guardian. What she did know was that Adam told her that God had commanded them not to eat the fruit from the tree.  And that listening to the serpent was gravely wrong because it meant she trusted the serpent over God. But she listened to the serpent anyway.  At this point in time she didn’t have any idea of what evil was.  She had never seen it. The serpent to her was just another of God’s creatures. And in this moment in the Garden, he, like God, like Adam and Eve, they are ALL in the Garden together.  Adam is the head of the human family so the sin is attributed to him, though it came through her first.  It should have been enough for her to know not to disobey God at the word of her husband.  

The account also says the serpent was the MOST cunning of all of the animals.  This means he was really convincing to her. A creature God created, who was cunning and wise, convinced her.  And as for Adam, his desire for Eve seemed to outweigh his desire to obey God. He was the one who heard from God not to eat from that tree.  Yet, he was there when she did, and he made a decision to go along with her.  He must have desired her more than God.  Both of them had the sin of disobedience. Her desire was to be like a god because she was convinced by the serpent.  Adam’s desire to be with Eve more than God. The disobedience was grave and led them to experience evil for the first time. The punishment gets inflicted AFTER the choice is made to disobey, and the worst punishment goes to the Serpent, which makes sense, HE KNEW exactly what he was doing.  His free will choice was to disobey, not serve and steal dominion from them.

We recognize the serpent in this story as being Lucifer, who was once the highest angel. He was created by God, though he did not have the beatific vision. St. Thomas Aquinas and Mary of Agreda tell us he was shown the incarnation coming through Mary.  He didn’t want the hypostatic union to come through her, but through him and so he cultivated the disordered desires of envy and pride that were allowed because of his own free will, and acted on them. He probably wanted to show God how stupid the humans were and how weak and easily convinced they could be to give up their dominion, their authority, to him the serpent.  He probably thought, then God would stop loving them, realize how weak they were, and not ask a human woman to carry the incarnation. He thought he was better and he was envious. Lucifer didn’t want to serve the humans as God asked. He was the first to give into disordered desire. And he knew better.

But the serpent, Lucifer, was wrong.  God didn’t stop loving us. Because even though Adam and Eve disobeyed and were punished for it, God was still right there in the midst of them.  He even called out for them to return to Him when they ran and hid in their nakedness. Then we see God clothe Adam and Eve better than they could clothe themselves, and we know too, he provides a way back to full union with him, making covenants, that culminate with the sending of His Son.  Even though we created a rift, God didn’t leave or abandoned mankind.

“The LORD God made for the man and his wife garments of skin, with which he clothed them.” Genesis 3:21

This is a God who loves us.  God, who is wholly perfect, doesn’t really need anything from us, but he knows our obedience to him is good FOR US.  He is constantly asking us to obey, not because he is an egoist who needs it from us, but precisely because when we obey, we flourish with life and our experience is of joy, not of evil and death.  Their disobedience was grave and brought death into the world.  Obedience is also an act of self-sacrificial love. When we obey God, we are in essence placing our full trust in Him, believing that He knows what is best for us. We are also setting our own agenda and plans aside, sacrificing our own will in order to do God’s will.  The obedience that God calls us to is always open to our own free choice and always a call to imitate Christ by demonstrating self-sacrificial love.

After the fall, when God punishes both mankind and the serpent, we can see that the worst punishment was reserved for the serpent.  This is because HE KNEW what he was doing. Unlike Eve, who didn’t have full knowledge of what evil was, even though she knew what she not trusting God was gravely wrong. This gives a whole new meaning to, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”  Luke 23:34

The serpent is given enmity between us and him as a punishment. The one who received hatred was not us, but him.  Instead of God dismissing us like Lucifer would have hoped, God exacted upon Lucifer what Lucifer had wanted for mankind. (Genesis 3:15) Enmity is hatred. It is an active hatred.  So in order for us to gain back our authority from the devil, we must actively hate sin. We must repent and confess when we do it, and hopefully feel revilement when we see it. It is a “holy hatred” that we are to experience.  A holy hatred of all that is sinful, all that is cultivated and now embodied in the spirit of Lucifer.

Lucifer was handed over to his disordered desires and as a result poisoned his eternal union with God.  Because of free will, God allowed it. Lucifer is pure spirit, he cannot revoke this choice to deny God, just as once we die and are in the spiritual realm, we cannot revoke our choice to deny or accept God.  At our particular judgement, God exacts the judgement, but we choose, based upon our actions in life, where we want to spend eternity. While we are living, we have the opportunity to heal the rift between us and God by turning back to Him in obedience.  And in order for us to do this, God sent us His Son, through whom we can receive the grace to actively fight sin.  Our battle in this life is a continual battle to regain our dominion.  To not listen to the father or lies, and gain back the authority God had given to us.  And God wants us to achieve this, that is why he came to earth in the incarnation.  He came to destroy the works of the devil.  (1 John 3:8)

The incarnation came through a human woman. Mary’s original sin was withheld, before her conception by God, she was in the exact same position as Eve was before the temptation.  But there was one difference, Eve had no experience of original sin when she was tempted. The serpent was cunning and convinced her to give up her domain, her authority, and disobey God.  Eve didn’t know evil or sin. She hadn’t experienced the consequence of sin, neither her own sin nor the sin of others. This is precisely why Mary’s FIAT is so amazing. Mary and Eve had the same choice, obey God or not, but unlike Eve, Mary obeyed God despite the known consequences. For it was even under threat of death by stoning that Mary chose to obey.  Eve on the other hand would have known nothing of death because it didn’t yet exist.  It should have been easier for Eve to trust God, and this is why what she did was so gravely wrong.  She let desire overcome trust when she had no reason not to trust.  Mary on the other hand, seeing the effects of sin, could have not trusted, but she trusted unequivocally.  

Mary truly is the Queen of heaven and earth. Her obedience shows us what true womanhood is. It is precisely through Mary’s surrender to God and her profound humility that we see how fierce and courageous she is.  Mary placed all of her trust in God. She desired to only do God’s will, sacrificing her own will over and over again. She lived on this earth in continual preparation and hope for her eternal destiny. Mary set all pride, vainglory and sensual desires aside in order to fulfill our Heavenly Father’s mission.  She was secure in her identity as a beloved daughter of a good Father and lived that identity to the fullest.

Mary is the archetype of true womanhood.  As the sinless woman, Mary understands exactly where all authority comes from, and thus she remains the Queen of her Dominion. Because of her perfect obedience to the Father, she now holds the highest place in heaven, something that had once been Lucifer’s. No wonder he hates her.

In our culture today, we are being force fed a very different image of what it means to be a woman.  Not only are the lines being blurred between manhood and womanhood, but women and girls alike, are being sold a lie.  Our society tells women to act like Eve, give into your disordered desire and you will have the power of a god in this world.  For women and men are the same and should thus act, look and have the same duties and purpose in life. Not only does our anatomy tell us otherwise, but our innate strengths and weaknesses also clue us into this fact. Unfortunately in our human nature, we are prone to compare each other based upon the standards of this world instead of based upon our eternal destiny.

But we can make a different choice.  Through the grace of the Sacraments we can hand ourselves to God.  We can trust God.  Jesus came to give us this grace.  And we can look at Mary, and ask for the grace to be like her, and we can flourish.  When desire gives way to obedience to God, life becomes a joy and a flourishing unlike anything you have ever seen.

 

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