The feast of the Presentation, February 2, also celebrates in a quieter way Mary’s purification. In fact from the 7th century The Purification of Mary was the name of this feast. These days the focus is on the Presentation of little Jesus in the Temple. That Mary was “purified” used to puzzle me as a new Catholic and maybe it puzzles you too. Why would she need purification and what did that entail?
Leviticus Chapter 12
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. 5 If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.
6 “‘When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.7 He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.
“‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. 8 But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’” NIV
As Catholics we know Mary was free from both original sin and personal sin. She was the the Ark of the New Covenant. She was never unclean for even a second. Her womb is sacred and pure in a way we can hardly fathom. She had just born the Son of God. So what’s going on here?
“As with Jesus, so with Mary.” Jesus was baptized though he was divine and free from sin. So maybe Mary’s purification isn’t anymore puzzling than his baptism. Jesus’ baptism inaugurated in a beautiful ritual way the beginning of his ministry like a dedication, an intentional acceptance of who he was and what he was brought into the world to do. The Father responds in a wondrous way, and the Spirit descends on him as John the Baptist tells us.
Mary fulfilled the requirements of her religion in this purification regardless of her personal lack of need for it. God renewed its meaning and made it what he wanted it to be. Like much of Mary’s life how she would have experienced this requirement is hidden. We can however, learn more about the process she would have undergone.
After a woman’s period ended and the days of her ritual impurity (Niddah) were completed, during which no one could eat what she cooked or use what she touched and definitely not touch her at all, or become ritually impure themselves, she would have gone to the mikveh (pronounced MIK-vah). This was a special pool of naturally occurring water such as a spring or a well or collected rain water, enclosed for a ritual bath for the purpose of purification. All married women would have done this monthly and also after childbirth. Many Jewish women still do. She would have gone the night before the Presentation.
Mary would have bathed beforehand, to make sure there was nothing on her skin or hair or under her nails so that as much of her could be exposed to the water as possible. She would have brushed out her hair to get rid of any loose hairs and she would have clipped her nails. Once there she would have undressed privately and wrapped in a towel or loose robe around herself. A female attendant would have checked her nails and hair for cleanliness. Mary would have taken off the towel and walked down the seven steps ( representing the seven days of creation) into the water. The attendant would have made sure she was completely submerged including every bit of her hair. She would have come up and sank back into the water three times, praying:
Barukh ata Adonai Elohenu melekh ha’olam asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al ha’tevillah.
Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the immersion.
After this the attendant would give her the towel and Mary would have gone aside and prayed. We can imagine she had so much to pray about with all that was before her.
Maybe God used this ritual to open her heart even more and strengthen her before the presentation of Jesus. Maybe she recommitted herself to her mission, and to her family and to her love of God. I bet she was glad she would be able to hug Joseph again.
I loved learning about the mikveh because I love Mary and I want to understand as much about her life as I can. As Christians we no longer immerse in a mikveh. Instead we believe in “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”
Maybe now in the depths of winter we could use renewal and rededication too. We have the Sacrament of Reconciliation for that. And with Lent fast approaching this is a good time to begin our preparations and our intentions for it so we can come to Lent with a free heart ready for whatever God wants to communicate to us during this special time of grace.
We submit ourselves to the requirements of our faith with joy as Mary did, knowing that God will respond to us and grant us the graces we need to follow Jesus.
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (NIV)
This novena is intended for the nine days leading up to the memorial of the Presentation of the Child Mary in the temple, celebrated November 21. Of course you can pray this any time you like or leading to any of the feasts of Mary’s girlhood.
We don’t usually think of Mary as a little girl in our country though devotion to little Mary is more common in Mexico, Italy and Spain.
To me she represents the way of spiritual childhood, or as St. Therese coined it, The Little Way. We can also consider this Little Way of St. Therese as simply the way Mary lived, with a pure and open heart free for God, a boldness of trust and childlike faith, a spirit of offering and the practice of the presence of God, all rooted in the most free and generous love ever known before that of her Son. Following the Little Way in Mary’s footsteps could be called the Marian Little Way.
So let us spend these nine days with little Mary and let us pray.
Day One: Mary in the Mind of God
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. And before you were born I consecrated you.” Jeremiah 1:5a
Before God made Adam, he held Eve hidden in his heart where she lay curled in hidden beauty until the time came for her to be part of life, the mother of life on his beautiful garden planet newly created. After the fall of Adam and Eve God already knew he would bring us the New Eve and Mother of Life. She would be the dawn of our salvation. Until that future sunrise she remained in the depths of the Divine Consciousness like a hidden jewel.
Let us spend some time in her quiet radiance there.
Little Mary, deep in God’s Heart, invite us into those silent depths of Divine Love where we can rest with you.
Pray with Mary a slow, reflective Our Father imagining yourself with her in God.
Day Two: Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Immaculate Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
A fond memory of mine is of teaching my children to meditate. They sat quietly on the floor, little legs crossed, eyes closed. Closing my own eyes I told them to imagine their hearts opening to God’s love like a flower opening to the sun petal by petal. They were silent for a surprising amount of time. I opened my eyes and they were sitting very still in prayer concentrating with peaceful faces. My two little girls were also holding their shirts up. It was hilarious!
As we ponder the child Mary’s profound innocence of heart we can remember too, the simplicity of childhood, it’s freedom and clarity. A pure heart is a simple heart. A simple heart is clear enough for God to shine right into. A heart full of the sunshine of God’s face is also open to God’s light everywhere and in everyone. Mary’s pure and open, simple heart really sees us and she sees us with joy.
Take a moment now and join little Mary in opening your heart petal by petal to let the sunshine of God’s love in to light up every part of it. Then take some time to look at the child Mary and let her look at you.
Little Mary, pure and simple of heart, help us to see the smile of God in all things.
Say to her, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Day Three Birth of Mary
“Who is she who comes forth like the dawn; radiant as the sun, as awe inspiring as an army in battle array?- Song of Songs 6:10
She will crush your head alleluia – Little Office of the Blessed Virgin
A baby girl is born just before sunrise. She comes at the thinnest edge of dawn when stars retain their glitter for a few brief moments and the moon begins its transition to translucence. She is washed by the women of the family helping at the birth, rubbed with salt to protect her from infection, and wrapped snugly. She is handed to her mother and breast fed in flickering lamp light. The women neighbors take up bedding to be cleaned and straighten the house. Every room is full of the love and wonder that attends the birth of a new life. Everyone goes home. The father of the baby meets his child he never thought he would be able to have. He crawls onto the sleeping mat next to his wife and the family sleeps. But God can’t stop smiling about his secret surprise for the world and every soul he created, past present and future a surprise unfurling in and through the baby now lying between her parents, rooting sleepily for her mother’s breast. Heaven holds it breath. Rose petals drop gently down over the family even as the new father begins to snore.
And God said, “It is good, “ as a ribbon of brightness graced the horizon and the sun began to rise for everyone.
Take a moment now to love and be grateful for the gift of Mary in your life and to everyone everywhere. Feel her baby breath on your face. Smile with Heaven.
Little Mary, you are our life, our sweetness and our hope. I hold you close in my heart.
Day Four: Holy Name of Mary
Your name is ointment poured forth Song of Songs 1:3
I’ve read that in Jewish culture the name of a person is the key to their souls. The naming of a child is prophetic and represents their destiny. We know the Name of Jesus means “Yahweh saves,” which makes perfect sense. We know saying his Name or doing something in His Name has the effect of making him more present. We pray in the Name of Jesus. His is the only Name by which we may be saved. (Acts 4:12)
As Mary is not divine but 100% human, her name is given gracious power is relation to her Son’s. There are several interpretations of Mary’s holy name. “Bitter” is most common which makes sense because of her bitter suffering during the torture and death of Jesus, and her three days of desolate sorrow. “Star of the Sea” is a popular interpretation. It seems to be based on the Latin word for sea which is “mar. ” Mary spoke Aramaic so she would have been called Maryam. This name in Egyptian of the time meant “love,” which is how I have experienced Mary the most so that one is my favorite. What meaning of the name of Mary do you like best?
A spiritual practice of mine that is profoundly helpful to me is repetition of the Names of Jesus and Mary. I do believe saying Mary’s name brings her closer to me and keeps me connected to her. I mentally repeat it during the day, when I wake up and as I am going to sleep; any time I think of it. When I am upset it has a great effect on my state of mind. It helps me come into deeper prayer when I am distracted.
Your name, O Mary, is a precious ointment, which breathes forth the odor of Divine grace. Let this ointment of salvation enter the inmost recesses of our souls. [St. Ambrose +397]
Mary would have been named quietly at home and most likely without ceremony although I’m sure with love. She was most likely named after a relative as was customary. I like to think though that she was named after the prophetess Miriam, sister of Moses. This would have made sense since names are prophetic and Jewish parents are seen as cooperating with God in bestowing names on their children. Jesus was the new Moses, leading and freeing his people, and Mary was a new Miriam at his side as his support, raising her voice in praise of God after their deliverance from Egypt much as Mary did in her Magnificat, her song of praise in Luke 1:46-45.
Little Mary, we honor your holy name. Inspire us to pray it many times today with love, staying close to you. May your name be a precious ointment poured into the hidden recesses of our souls. Ave Ave Ave little Maria.
Day Five: As a child has rest
Truly I have set my soul in silence and in peace as a child has rest in [her] mother's arms, even so my soul. - Psalm 131:2
You have been invited to dinner at Joachim and Anne’s house. When you come in, you see their little girl playing in the courtyard where her mother says she has been all afternoon with the other kids. She runs into the house with a gaggle of them screaming and laughing and you can’t help but smile. Mary is filthy and her dress is frayed. Mother Anne dismisses the other children, washes her little girl’s face, hands and feet carefully and has her help to serve dinner.
All of you smile at Mary’s childish patter and even more as she grows sleepy, speaking more and more hapharzardly and slowly until she crawls into her mother’s lap, almost asleep.
As Joachim recites a Psalm, Little Mary gazes at you contentedly from her mother’s arms. Maybe you were worried about something or burdened with some sorrow. Somehow you can’t remember what it was and are happy just to sit peacefully and look back at Mary.
Let’s settle in and listen to Joachim’s voice as we smile at his little girl.
O Lord, my heart is not proud,
Nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
Nor marvels beyond me.
Truly I have set my soul
In silence and in peace,
As a child has rest in [her] mother’s arms,
Even so my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord forever.
In the prayerful silence that follows, Mary’s eyes gently close. You feel her little hand in yours and close your eyes too, to pray.
Day 6 Learning to Pray with Little Mary
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6
She wants you to hold her and when you do, she messes up your hair. “You need to pray,” she says. She waits. “Go ahead. Pray.” Maybe you ask her, “What do you want me to pray?” To this she asks to be put down. “Stand like this by me.” When you do, she pulls your head down to her level, making you crouch. She becomes very solemn and and you can’t help but smile. Mary puts your hands over your eyes, telling you, “Don’t look on the outside, look on the inside.”
She says, in her sweet child’s voice, “Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad.” She gives you a shove. “You’re not looking in!”
So now try, really try to turn within yourself where the Lord truly lives and try again.
Say with her,
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One
She goes over the rest with you, nudging you any time you start to open your eyes. She tells you she prays this daily with her family, that everyone does. “But you have to be quiet in your heart and look inside.” Once she knows you have paid close attention to the words you are saying and to Whom you are saying them, she throws her arms around you, kissing your face.
Day 7: Being Little
Let the children come to me for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14
We forget to be little before God. Remembering brings a joyful peace because it really is that simple. We complicate things and create obstacles for ourselves that aren’t true. Spending time with the child Mary and adopting her approach to life and the love of God gives us a clarity we lacked before. When the archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary she needed only to understand what was being asked of her to embrace it. God was everything to her and all she wanted. She trusted completely, bold and brave and sweet before God as the Holy Spirit ruffled her hair and Jesus stole her heart. She was glad to be small and humble; seeing herself as God’s littlest. She didn’t change at the Annunciation. She had always been this way from childhood.
Let’s remember that we are God’s littlest children so we can find the clearest sweetest peace by living in his heart letting ourselves be loved.
Child Mary help me to understand myself as little and dear that I may love God with bold trust and complete freedom.
Day 8 The Way of Spiritual Childhood with Mary
Day 9 Consecration
At this writing today we celebrate the memorial of the Presentation of the Child Mary in the Temple. This was Mary’s consecration.
Let’s consecrate ourselves to God through and with her.
Find some quiet time you can spend with the child Mary. Let her throw her arms around you. Say to her, “O Mary I give you my heart, my hands, all of me, my whole life is yours. Do with me and build with me what you will, that I may run up the steps of the Temple with you into the arms of God.
Today is All Soul’s Day, the day we remember and pray for our beloved dead on their journey. It is a day to light candles for them, wash their head stones in the cemetery, to bring flowers. There will be masses and rosaries prayed for them in Catholic cemeteries all over the world today and every country has its own additional customs as well. Around here in some churches people bring pictures of their dead to leave there during the month of November. There will be a Book of the Dead placed near the door at church today so we can write their names in it and we will all pray for them during November at every mass.
Everyone is alive in God and we are still in communion with those who have gone before. I remember my husbands, my grandparents, my mother and my step father, my brother, and my friends who have died every day and I know they are with me. Love is stronger than death. And God is the God of both the living and the dead. All things are alive to him and therefor to me as one who loves him, and to you.
“… the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God. 1 Corinthians 3:22b-23
And Christ is all in all.
God bless you today and all of your loved ones who have died. May the tears you have cried for them be blessed. God holds every one of them close to his heart.
“You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them. ” Psalm 56:8b
*The reason it says God keeps your tears in a bottle is because of the custom at that time to wear a small bottle around your neck when you were in mourning in which you stored your tears.
An aspect of the rosary I love is that praying the mysteries, the stories of the lives of Jesus and Mary helps us remember that the Virgin Mary was and is a real human being. Her life, entwined with her Son’s was an actual earthly life just as ours is. That seems like an obvious thing to say about her but do we really think of her as a real person? Sometimes, though our stylized and symbolic depictions of her are pretty, I wish at least sometimes her Immaculate Heart would be drawn or painted more anatomically, like a Frieda Kahlo heart perhaps. I think this type of image would bring us closer to the everyday very real Mary who had a beating human heart in her chest.
Or maybe we could see her represented working hard with sweat under her arms for once!
Don’t you feel closer to her if you imagine her feet in the dirt of her garden or the weave of the rough fibers of her homespun dress, or when you imagine her laughing? I do. I always do.
I want her to be a sister and a friend to me as well as my teacher of prayer, mystical queen and holy mother.
I love the way Our Lady is presented in all of those gorgeous poetic prayers. But I need a hug. I want to put my face on her shoulder and smell that Mary smell.
I want to love Jesus as completely as she does. I want to see everything and everyone through God’s heart as she sees all of us.
I want to pray simply as clear morning light, pondering Jesus in my heart and the law of love continually in all I do, in all Mary and I do together. I want her always with me and I want myself always with her.
I want to practice Marian mindfulness, being always aware of the presence of the Lord and his beauty.
I want to be ready for anything God gives or calls me to, and to “arise with haste” and joy to go and act on it, share it with people and all of life as Mary did and still does from Heaven. I want to help her with her work for the kingdom, wherever she wants to take me. She is always reminding me to listen and to do whatever Jesus tells me.
I want to come home to Mary and cook dinner with her. I want to listen to her concerns for her children and I want to be able to comfort her. I want to walk with her, hear her stories and share her happiness.
I hope to plant more roses in her garden. I’d like to pick some too, and sprinkle the petals over her head and watch her laugh.
It’s so easy to make her smile.
When you think of Mary, when you pray the rosary and let her guide you through the mysteries of Jesus, let her be real to you. It will make all the difference. It will make you smile too.
In The Way of the Pilgrim, the Pilgrim (who remains anonymous throughout the story) tells of meeting an army officer who had at one time struggled with hopeless alcoholism. The officer had met a monk who said his own brother had suffered from the same thing but was cured by reading a chapter of the Gospel whenever he felt the urge to drink. It had worked and the brother was 15 years sober. The monk had urged the soldier to try the same and gave him a copy. The soldier said no because this copy was in Old Slavonic and he could’t understand it. He was told, “You may not understand the Word of God, but the devils do, and tremble.”
So the officer tried this and eventually was cured. In his gratitude he had this copy of the Gospels bound with silver and kept it close to his heart under his uniform. He made a vow to God to read a chapter of the Gospel every day for the rest of his life.
If he was too tired to read, he would ask his wife or daughter to read it to him. I want to try the same thing. It would be even better to read a commentary alongside it. If you don’t have anyone to read it to you when you’re tired, audio recordings of the Gospel can help.
Another great way to put Scripture in your life is to pray the Liturgy of the Hours through the day. Universalis has a free online version and an app as well. Otherwise known as the Divine Office, it is made of of Psalms, prayers, Scriptural Canticles and brief readings arranged in a pleasant orderly way in tune with the theme of the current Church season. It takes me about 10 minutes to pray Morning or Evening Prayer. The other ones are much shorter. This habit puts me in contact with the Word at least three times a day. The Divine Office app has audio of the various hours if you are busy. In a pinch I listen to these in the car.
Start a Bible study with your friends. Lots of people like to go to their parish Bible studies held at church. But a fun way to do Scripture study in a more intimate informal way is to start your own with your friends. This is actually what got my inner circle of friends together in the first place. Years ago we started doing Bible studies as a group. We met once a month rotating whose house we met in. The conversation was friendly but deep and always supportive. Somebody usually brought wine, we had food, coffee, laughter and prayer. We called ourselves “The Pontifical Biblical Institute of the Holy Hippie Sisterhood.” Why shouldn’t it be fun as well as enlightening to study the Bible? No reason at all!
There are so many great Catholic Bible Studies available now. We liked the ones from Turning to God’s Word, and the Come and See Catholic Bible Study on the Wisdom books.
I really like the Navarre Bible series and the Sacra Pagina commentaries. There are so many more that are good. Some are written about certain themes, others about particular books, some are arranged as daily readings.
If you attend daily mass you are hearing holy Scripture and getting a reflection from your pastor every day. Over three years you would hear the entire Bible. Attending Sunday mass regularly you would hear the entire Bible over five years. The mass itself brims over with Scripture in the parts of the mass and the responses and antiphons as well. So go to mass! 🙂
On days I am not going to mass I make sure to read the readings for the day. These are great for choosing a passage for Lectio Divina and keeping the spirit of the Church season as well as connecting with the Church all over the world reflecting on the same readings together. You can find the daily mass readings with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Most parishes print the readings for the week in the Sunday bulletin as well.
I try to memorize various passages of Scripture that are important to me so I can meditate on them or think about them during the day. When I am in line somewhere or filling up at the gas station I can recite them mentally. This is a fruitful practice for me.
At night I sometimes listen to audio of the Scriptures, especially one of the Gospels. I think of it as my bed time story. I have a few different versions so I don’t stop hearing it in a meaningful way. I have one that is more like a performance with actors reading the parts and sound effects and everything. I have others that are more in a quiet reading style by one voice. Sometimes I just want to hear these when I am doing house work or walking.
I like to copy out passages I am working on memorizing, writing them out over and over. The copying itself can be meditative.
I also at times write verses I want to carry in my pocket during the day on small pieces of paper to look at from time to time.
Nobody needs to carry out all of these ideas for all time or every day. I don’t. Some are habits that are helpful for a while at different times. Others have become life habits for me. Some things I stop doing but come back to later.
The bond I had with Yeshi was, I felt, even more deep that one of blood. A blood father is chosen by God to be the parent of a child. As my wife said to me so often, I was chosen for Yeshi by God. The Lord gave me such a powerful attachment to this son of mine I was wild with terror at the angels’ news. I sat up, jumped to my feet, immediately on full alert. My wife was asleep next to him. I tried to wake her gently. I watched as her face hardened when she understood. Quickly she strapped the protesting baby to her back and helped me load the donkey. We had become a good team and she was nearly as strong as a man. In only a few minutes we were on the road.
We were frightened about passing the watchman. But we were both ready for anything, ready to give our lives if we had to. As we drew near I tried to walk calmly and confidently,though I was so taught with fear I ached to break into a run. I knew Mary was frightened too. I heard her trying to slow her breathing. I was conscious of the knife at my belt, praying to God I would not have to use it.
I needn’t have worried. The guy only greeted us and remarked on the fact that we were leaving in the wee hours. I managed to laugh and say that with a newborn we couldn’t sleep anyway so we thought we may as well be our way. We passed without incident.
Fortunately I had been curious about the beautiful maps the wise men had poured over before they left. For some reason I remembered a side rout to Egypt. We needed to avoid the Northern Way most people took. There had been a lot of talk about the Child around Bethlehem, certainly about our fantastical visitors on camels who had followed a star to our son, saying he was a long expected king. We knew if they got a lead Herod’s soldiers could pursue us into Egypt, also part of the Roman Empire.
I walked as fast as I could, leading the donkey with Mary and the baby on its back. We kept our voices low. I tried to squeeze Mary’s foot now and then to reassure her. She was grave and resolute whenever I looked at her. If anything she seemed angry rather than afraid most of the time.
We traveled in this way until we were sure we were well away. Hours after sunrise we hid as best we could behind a large rock and took turns sleeping and keeping watch.
Again we left in the night.
The way was treacherous. I tripped several times on rocks and brush. Finally one trip sent me flying. The pain in my ankles was bad enough I could not walk at all no matter how I tried.
Mary got down from the donkey, running to me. We still had plenty of frankincense and she spread the fragrant oil over my fast swelling ankles. My wounded leg she cleaned with water and then healing myrrh. The oil and ointment helped but not enough for me to walk, even with her help. What to do?
“We have to get you on the donkey and let me walk,” she said. I was opposed.
“Joey,” she insisted, “there is no other way!
After several painful tries, together we pushed, pulled and lifted me onto the little donkey. I felt ashamed that she had to do this. Also, “I’m a big hairy man on a donkey!” I complained. “I look ridiculous!”
She laughed. “You DO look ridiculous.”
“I’m worried about you,” I said. I was. I could feel it in the pit of my stomach.
“Take this,” I said, handing her the knife which she solemnly took. “Remember how to use it if you have to, the way I showed you before?” I asked her. She nodded.
“OK now make yourself useful,” she said, handing me the baby. I could see his eyes shining in the dark. I pressed him to me.
We went ahead bravely.
She insisted on stopping now and then to put more oil and ointment on my injuries. She tried to joke with me to make me feel better. I told her she was my warrior queen.
We were scared but we trusted God. There was nothing else to do. We tried to encourage one another. We had a saying together: “God is it.” Our lives were for God. “Everything will be OK,” we said to one another, “and even if it’s not OK, it will be OK.”
We belonged to God.
We had to stop to nurse and change the baby every few hours. Soon we would need supplies. We had gold from the wise men. We knew that a poor young couple trying to buy food with foreign gold was going to cause a stir but it couldn’t be helped.
We continued to travel by night, exhausted and afraid. Our minds started to fill with every possible thought. We talked about King Herod. How could any grown man, a king no less, be so insecure about his power, so angry, hateful and afraid, he would seek to harm a child? Why would anyone obey such a man?
The wise men had told us they were warned in a dream that Herod had become hostile about their mission, and that they must leave by another way themselves. How could anyone fear the signs of God and fight God himself instead of being joyful that God was coming to his people? What kind of person dares to fight God?
“Satan, “ Mary whispered with certainty. “He is possessed by Satan.”
At one point we were trudging along on a seemingly endless night and I began to worry about my sanity.
“Mary?” I whispered tentatively. “I see them too,” she said.
All around us we saw fellow travelers, people of all colors in various costume as if they were from far away or from another age. They carried children, belongings, what food and water they could. They too were fleeing something, trying to protect their children; frightened, determined, doing their best to trust in God. Some of them died or fell to robbers along the way. Others pressed on because they had no choice.
“Mary,” I said after an awed silence between us, “I think God is trying to tell us something.”
She nodded in understanding.
Even after the vision ended we talked about it for a long time.
We concluded that God was showing us peoples of the ages who would be refugees like ourselves.
We resolved together that in time to come, we would always be with these people in whatever way God allowed us to be. We would walk with them, ease their suffering, protect them, pray for them, be their advocates before the throne of God. We would see their children as our own.
There would always be mad kings, we knew, until the age of the Lord would come fully.
Eventually my ankles were in good enough shape I was able to relieve Mary, and take that knife back.
The night we were sure we were in Egypt their was a beautiful full moon. Mary was happy. She jumped off the donkey and danced, holding Yeshi high, singing,
“Lift up your heads, O gates;
be lifted, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may enter.
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in war.
Lift up your heads, O gates;
rise up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may enter.
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD of hosts, he is the king of glory!”
Let’s talk about the sexual abuse crisis in the Church again.
I don’t see anything changing.
I don’t see survivors of abuse being put first. I hear innocuous (at best) statements from the hierarchy that sound as if they consulted lawyers before they composed them. I have even heard murmurs that the Church is being persecuted. I am ashamed to say I have even heard this from the pulpit.
I have heard some of the laity blaming the abuse crisis on whatever their pet issue is with the Church.
As a survivor of child rape and various types of sexual abuse from different people throughout my childhood and adolescence, and after years of therapy, I feel I have some authority on this subject though my abuse was not Church related. It is not gay people priest or lay that caused this. It is not celibacy. It is not the lack of female power in the Church. As we are finding out, nuns have also sexually abused children as well, and nuns have been raped and forced into abortion.
The origin of sexual abuse is the sickness of the offender. Not everyone in power becomes a sex offender just like everyone at a party doesn’t become dangerously drunk. There are s lot of things going into this.
I have learned that when there is sexual abuse, similar to someone with an addiction, the problem becomes a family “disease.” A certain configuration happens in the family. There are roles everyone starts playing in order not to speak truth about the problem or to cover it up to protect the whole (or the image of the whole.) Everyone begins to protect the addict or abuser. Anyone who is evidence of the problem or tries to deal with it in an honest way will be silenced in one way or another. The Church is a family. We are sick with this problem.
The Bishops have played their roles and protected the whole (or so they thought) at the expense of the victims and really, in the end, at the expense of the whole.
Some things I think we need to deal with are first figure out how to protect children, seminarians, and nuns in a way that does not just please lawyers or cover for us, but really does something.
Then we need to deal with the enablers of abuse and make sure there is no more of that through education and support perhaps. Maybe we need to bring in other people for them to be accountable to about this rather than just one another. Obviously that is too hard for the bishops to do. They have tried and massively failed again and again. I am not an expert on fixing this problem. I mostly know how not to fix it.
It seems to me we then need to look at the abusers themselves. What’s going on with these people? What makes them do that? What needs to happen to permanently stop their behavior? They need to be stopped. We have to protect others. I also believe the Church is about redemption. What needs to be done for their healing? Once they are removed from access to children and the vulnerable, and they are willing to take responsibility, face just consequences, pursue treatment they should be helped to redeem their lives somehow though they should never be around children again if they have abused a child. If they are not helped in an effective way to heal they will continue to find ways to offend as surely as an alcoholic will find ways to drink.
As a Catholic abuse survivor I feel responsible to speak up. Also people should know it is hard for me (and I can only imagine how hard it is for survivors of clergy sexual abuse) to hear about all this without being triggered into my P.T.S.D.
People say ridiculous things on social media about sexual abuse and they don’t know what they are talking about and how much their attitude hurts survivors to hear.
I have started not to want to see Bishops and Cardinals in their regalia. Seeing their black robes, red hats and big crosses, or their crosiers and miters makes me feel nauseated now even though there are three Bishops I know personally and love dearly. It’s not them personally- I feel better the ones I know are there actually. The nausea is what has happened and how I don’t see anything changing. “Put it all away,” I think.”Why not wear the simple robes of poor Friars as a sign of repentance?”
The clothes they now wear are signs of status and power that just seem so inappropriate right now. I used to like the outfits because they were historic. I don’t like them anymore.
As I have said before all this behavior of secrecy and self/institutional protection even when it comes to how they have at times treated victims of abuse like enemies is very typical also of a family or any group in which the sickness of sexual abuse has or is occurring. This is what humans do when there is sexual abuse. They protect themselves even at the expense of the abused. They protect the group. They protect the perpetrators. It happened to me and it’s happening to the survivors of clerical abuse too.
I have read about and spoken to clergy abuse survivors who met with their Bishops and came away really upset, feeling unheard and uncared for and that nothing has or will change. “Come forward,” they say, seeming to have no idea how hard that is for people like us. Most of us have had more than enough of people who don’t listen and don’t help. Sometimes I think that part of my experience has been worse than the abuse itself. It’s re-traumatizing.
The hierarchy does not seem to understand how angry the laity is, either. We want to see Jesus purifying the Temple with a whip cord and overturning some tables. Now. Now.
We don’t see that. Don’t they understand? People are losing their faith. People are leaving the Church they love.
I am deeply Catholic. I am an obedient daughter of the Church (though obviously not perfect) and I am having thoughts like, “How dare you? Why should we listen to y’all anymore? How can you tell US what to do? How can you ask us for money?”
I have to drag myself to mass sometimes. I don’t want to leave Jesus because of Judas. I believe the Church is true. So do so many of us. What are we supposed to do? This is our home, and the Eucharist is at the center of our Catholic life. I refuse to leave. I never will.
I don’t know what to do with all this. I don’t want to read this stuff in the news anymore. It literally makes me sick.
I resent how I had to stop being a Eucharistic Minister because I can’t handle the classes they make us take about sexual abuse in order to serve. This rule is well meaning I know. But….why do WE have to take those classes? YOU take them!
I don’t, as a survivor, think classes would have had any effect on my abusers or their enablers.
After years of inner struggle about those classes I made a call about it. It was hard for me to explain my problem but I got the Diocese to let me take an alternative one- on- one class with a kindly gentle person. She didn’t even hardly mention abuse to me, just the ethics guidelines. But I broke out in hives immediately afterward and felt terrible emotionally for days.
I don’t think those classes help. I worry about other survivors taking them, especially those who don’t realize yet the reality of what happened to them and aren’t ready to deal with it. Those in charge should have trained psychologists available in case someone has a breakdown.
Something like this happened to me before in a different way early in my process when I was young. I was not ready at all. I went home suicidal and feeling like cutting myself. What business do they have risking traumatizing abuse survivors anyway? It is cruel and irresponsible.
I have seen nothing from our leaders that gives me any hope of any meaningful change. I want to see them in sackcloth and ashes. I don’t see that.
My socioeconomic status is fairly low. I do not wield worldly power.
I have been praying, though. Praying and starting to avoid news about the crisis for now.
Here’s what I have prayerfully come up with, and I hope some of you will join me. Starting on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15, I am going to start wearing black to mass, every mass I attend. I will wear black next to Our Lady whose children have been crucified and continue to be crucified.
I am an obedient and loving daughter of the Church and I mean no disrespect. But I am in mourning with Our Lady. I want Judas to see and repent. I want to never forget and for no one to forget the victims. I want children and nuns protected. I want actual change. I want to see humility and repentance not the protection of power.
#Wearblacktomass in honor of Our Lady’s tears. When they see us they will see her and all her wounded children.
Have you ever wanted to witness a living miracle? The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is in Mexico City and is one of the most-visited holy sites in the world. This is an opportunity to visit with others from the Diocese of Austin and led by clergy that knows the story and culture… [Read More]
JOIN US FOR A 9-DAY PILGRIMAGE (SEPT. 12-20,2021) TO THE SHRINES OF MEXICO! The pilgrimage will be led by Fr Juan Carlos López and Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez Lady of Guadalupe also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a venerated image enshrined within the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City…. [Read More]
Excerpts on St. Michael the Archangel, Conductor of Souls were taken from the messages from a Soul in Purgatory [Sister M.G.] to Sister M. de L. C. who was under the care of a spiritual director (priest) when receiving the messages. The messages were published in a book called: AN UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT ON PURGATORY The… [Read More]
One of my favorite sections in the book “CONSECRATION TO ST. JOSEPH, THE WONDERS OF OUR SPIRITUAL FATHER” by Fr. Donald Calloway is Day 21 – St. Joseph Most Faithful, Pray for Us. This section and meditation show St. Joseph’s faithfulness in rescuing Jesus and Mary in different life and death circumstances (Mat. 2:13 &… [Read More]
One of my favorite parts in the book Consecration to St. Joseph, The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Fr. Donald Calloway is Day 29 – St. Joseph, Hope of the Sick, Pray for Us. This is and was a powerful part of the book during the consecration because it covers the miraculous physical healings… [Read More]