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Mary, Mother of the Church

What I want to do is fall to my knees at her feet, to take hold of, and touch to my face, the hem of her long blue skirt. But I can tell she doesn’t want me to do this. What she really wants is some help in the kitchen.

She motions to me to join her in what she is doing. As my mother did when I was young, she hands me my own ball of dough to roll out with my own rolling pin.

She’s busy. She doesn’t want to talk, but to have me do what she does. So I watch her and together we roll out several large, oblong pieces of flat dough. She hands me one of my mother’s biscuit cutters (where did she get that?) and together we make small rounds of all the dough, placing each circle on a long baking sheet.

When the first batches are in the oven, and we have mixed more dough, she puts the kettle on, and motions for me to sit down at the kitchen table.

I look around with interest at the house we are in. It is a plain, comfortable house, probably built in the early 60’s, a combination of wood, brick and worn linoleum, a small window over the kitchen sink, honey suckle vine growing across it. There is a stack of books on the round kitchen table, next to a flowerpot with ivy spilling out of it.

She sets down a cup of a spicy black tea in front of me, and sits down with me. She seems thoughtful as she sips her tea, looking out into the back yard at her garden.

I notice that the books on the table are copies of the various documents of Vatican II.

I tell her I’ve been reading Lumen Gentium and that it is my favorite Vatican II Document. She smiles.

I ask her about Chapter VIII, which was written about her in the life of the Church. She said that as we grow as God’s children, we will see her, in clearer and clearer light, as the Holy Spirit leads the Church. She says that in different ages, different emphases are needed for us to grow in our faith, and understanding, and therefore, love.

 

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I am thinking about this as the kitchen timer rings.

It’s time to take more bread out of the oven and put the next batch in. Fortunately it is a big oven, and this is our last batch.

She makes me a sandwich, pats my shoulder, and goes out to clip some roses from her garden. She then arranges these in the box she packs the now cooled little rounds of bread into.

She washes her face, straightens her kerchief, and motions for me at the door, to come put my sandals on as she is doing.

Soon we are walking down the front path with the boxes of the flat little circles we have baked and crossed on the top.

We head through the neighborhood and then turn onto a down town street. We find a small, simple Catholic Church. (Did that sign really say St. Everyone?) The Church office is closed for lunch, but the door is open, so we leave our boxes inside.

She wants to pray in the main church, so we head back out and around the corner. A side door is open. I whisk my veil onto my head, she pulls her mantle up over her kerchief, and we walk into the cool silence, genuflecting. When she stands up to look at me, I notice a slight glow from the tabernacle and then I glance at her, standing still in the middle of this little church. She is gazing at me, her hands out, the growing glow from the tabernacle illumining her, until she seems made of that light.

In her dark and lovely eyes, I am suddenly lost in a mighty ocean. I understand the immense capacity of her heart to praise and love God continually. In the thundering roar of waves and the groaning of the deep, I understand her longing for her children to know the joy of Jesus and the conversion of their hearts to Love.

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I close my eyes, and it seems she takes me through the whole world. Together we move like a gust of wind among people of all ages and races and nations; the suffering, the unfairly treated, the persecuted, the poor, the imprisoned, the used and abused the addicted, the mentally ill, the troubled, the sick, the ignored, the unloved, those who know not how to love, the violent, the hateful, the selfish and the weak, the afraid, the judgmental, the prideful and the powerful. Together we touch them all. Sometimes she takes my hand and touches people with my fingers. The cool, sweet wind of the Spirit blows around us and through us, blessing us, blessing those we walk among.

“Jesus is Love, Jesus is Life. Jesus is Peace. Jesus is Truth. Jesus is the Way,” she says. “My children, pray. Pray. Pray.” She presses small crosses into each hand. Her heart glows with that same light I saw flowing from the tabernacle at the little church, the light of Jesus, who is the Light of the Church, Light of the World.

This Divine Breeze, as well as this humble touch and presence of Mary, too, transforms and unites everyone in Christ, bringing all toward His Love, Redemption, Mercy. This is what she does all day. This is her dream for us.

 

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Now we walk along with the  people of God, a holy nation, the Christ light of the world, as they are praying, working, being sanctified and sanctifying the world in all they do.

Then with  flashes of lightening and with peels of thunder I see Mary standing on the moon, her crown of stars on her head, clothed with the sun. I hear her wailing in the pains of childbirth and I realize I am crying out with her.

And then we are again standing in this little church, two women of small stature, each a little dusty with flour, in spite of our best efforts. But people are coming in to mass now. I try to recover myself, and breathe normally. I shake my head to clear it.

“If you went to Mass, where would you sit?” I ask her, looking around, wondering what to do.

“I do come to Mass. And I sit with everyone else. Today I will sit with you.”

We sit near the back, and she attends devoutly, listening carefully to the Word of God, saying the responses and making all the gestures with us. She receives Holy Communion with quiet devotion, and prays intensely afterwards. She sings all the hymns with us.

She holds my hand.

I had recognized the bread we had made as it was consecrated and changed by the priest in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) into His Body and Blood.

I am beginning to understand Chapter Eight of Lumen Gentium as it has unfolded in our day together. She squeezes my arm.

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We greet people as we walk out into the fresh air and sunshine. She kisses the hand of the priest and he lets her, humbly. Does he know who she is? I wonder.

She puts her arm around me as we walk home. I reflect on the fact that she is the greatest woman who ever was or who ever will be, yet she is also a simple servant of the Lord, walking beside me in worn sandals.

I fall to my knees at her feet. I take hold of the hem of her long blue skirt, touch it to my face, and kiss it.

 

This time she lets me, though. And she laughs.

 

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O God, Father of mercies, whose only Begotten Son, as he hung upon the Cross, chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother, to be our Mother also, grant, we pray, that with her loving help your Church may be more fruitful day by day and, exulting in the holiness of her children, may draw to her embrace all the families of the peoples. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen. ~ Liturgy of the Hours for May 21 Morning Prayer

Happy first ever Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church. 🙂

Pentecost Novena Day 7

Come, Holy Spirit, illumine the dark and painful corners of our minds with Your gentle, healing light. You have said in Your Holy Word that You count our tears and hold them close to Your Heart.

Awaken in us a deep sense of hope and trust in Your holy presence and in Your love for us. You have said, “Behold, I do a new thing!” Come, Holy Spirit, open our hearts that You may do a new thing. Lord of Mercy, touch the anguish of the minds of those who suffer and set them free in Your peace. Finger of God, lay your healing hand on them. Set all in Divine Order. Leave all that is dark and disordered in us, pure and clean and healthy. Cleanse each discouraged heart in the waters of Your joyous love.

Father of the Poor, bless our littleness and weakness with Your loving protection. As the Eagle coaxes its nestlings forth, come and carry us on Your wings and teach us to fly.

Holy Mother Mary, Bride of the Spirit and compassionate advocate of your children, pray for us, especially those among us who live in fear and in sorrow. You waited in darkness for the Resurrection of Your Son with faith. Intercede for us that we too may have a faith like yours. 
We ask all this
 in the Name of Jesus Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.
 Amen.

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Pentecost Novena Day 4

Come, Holy Spirit, Giver of Life, to heal and renew us. You who set the number of the stars and call each one by its’ name also inhabit the temples of our bodies.

Help us to be Your extended hands of Love, service, healing, and grace in this world. We pray that You will activate Your creative power in our bodies, Your holy temples… that we might be renewed and continue to serve You.

O Lord of Love who unifies and connects us all, grant the sick and the sorrowing, a strong sense of the loving support that surrounds them. Help them to see Your hand in the love of their family and friends. Help them to see their value and their place among us.

Voice of the Prophets, Author of Holy Scripture, and Spirit of Truth, help all of us to trust Your speaking in our hearts. Help us to listen and respond to the Silent Wind of Your inspirations and to trust them with the perfect trust of Mary, Your Bride. Grant us her pure and beautiful heart- completely open, responsive and given to You.

In the Most Holy Name of Jesus,

Amen.

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Pentecost Novena Day 2

Day 2

Descend, O Holy Spirit, like rain on the meadow. Like a dew fall on the crops, nourish our hearts that we may contemplate Your Holy Word and become vessels of Your Grace. Like a gentle wind awaken our souls to Your tenderness and enliven us to run lightly in the path You set before us.

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photo by Maire Manning- Pauc

Pour over us the brightness of Your Light. Enable us to know peace and the deep inner healing only You can give. Transfigure us in the dawn of Your compassion and in the unfathomable depths of Your transforming Love let us be renewed.

Guide every decision we make. Inspire the way to our healing. Grant your full power and blessing to us and all that we do in the Name of Jesus. Calm any fears that may arise, Lord, and help us to trust in the Words of Jesus that You, our Advocate, will always be with us. May our hearts and minds be open to Your holy inspirations and to the movements of Your empowering, creative grace.

Mary, Bride of the Spirit, intercede for us. May your prayers draw the Spirit to rest on your children, revealing Christ in our midst as you did at the wedding at Cana… that we may do whatever He tells us.

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We ask all this in the Holy Name of Jesus, Beloved of our souls. Amen.

*Italicized phrases are from prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours

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Pentecost Novena Day 1

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Glorious Descent of the Holy Spirit

 

Special Novena to the Holy Spirit

Day 1

Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts and kindle in us the Fire of Love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and You Shall renew the face of the earth. O God who instructs us by the light of the Holy Spirit grant us in the same Spirit the gift of Holy Wisdom.

Lord, you promised in your Holy Word that the Father will not deny the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who ask for Him. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord to recreate and to deeply heal us in every way.
You are close to those who suffer and near to all who call. The only thing impossible with you is that you would remain distant and inactive. Grant that we may expect all things from you.
Still small voice within, you are the same Spirit who parted the Red Sea and guided your people through the desert in the pillar of cloud and fire. Help us to trust you completely and keep us in peace as we wait to see what you will do. We know you will do something.

Mary, Bride of the Spirit, pray for us that the Spirit will overshadow our lives and reveal Christ in our midst. May your prayer, the gift of a grateful heart, draw the Holy Spirit to rest on your children.

Oh God we praise you, we adore you, we bless you, we thank you, we pour out our hearts before you.

Amen.

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How to pray the Prayer of Recollection

 

Today I gave a talk about the Prayer of Recollection of St. Teresa of Avila, a prayer she said the Lord Himself taught her. She confessed that she had never known what it was to pray with satisfaction until the Lord taught her this method.

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How to pray the Prayer of Recollection

First, go somewhere that is quiet enough you can concentrate, and private enough that you can close your eyes without worrying anyone, and where you’re not likely to be interrupted for a few minutes. Hide if you have to. Tell your phone you won’t be answering calls for a while. Take a timer that doesn’t tick loudly or have a jarring alarm. I use a timer so I can let go and not worry about time for a while. I know the little bell will call me back to my day when it is time to go back to it.

Set your timer for the amount of time you plan to spend in prayer; such as five minutes, 15 minutes, or thirty minutes. Thirty is standard, but do what you can!

Sit in a comfortable, supported position.

Calm the faculties. Put your hands in your lap. Close your eyes. Slow down your breathing. Pay attention to all the sounds around you; sounds outside, sounds in the room, the sound of your breathing. You might think to yourself as you breathe in, “I let go,” and as you breath out, “and I let God.” Relax anywhere you feel tense. Some people will become uncomfortable physically just by trying to sit still. It will help to imagine your in- breath soothing and calming the anxiety throughout your body. Then send the stress out with your exhale.

Do what works for you to relax, and get centered;  to step out of the mad pace of life for a while and do something to ease your overwrought body and mind so you can best pray and be receptive.

Make an examination of conscience pray an act of contrition. If you don’t have much time,  a heart beat or two of contrition will do. This is simply putting yourself in reality and letting go of any barrier or mask between you and God so He can see your beautiful face, even if, like a good parent, he has to wipe your nose a little. He doesn’t mind. He loves you. Allow Him to tend to you. Then put your burdens and worries in His hands for a time so you can be all His.

Pray a slow, silent, attentive Our Father.  Pay attention to  the words you are “saying”, and to Whom you are saying them, fixing your inner gaze on the Lord in whatever way works for you. In this way go over the words of the prayer silently, keeping your awareness with Jesus.

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Next, let yourself say whatever you need to say to Jesus. Is here anything you need to tell Him? Your troubles, your questions, your gratitude? Would you like to tell him that you love Him? Tell Him whatever you like to now.

Then, drop off into interior silence.  Just be quiet with God, staying present to Him.

Your mind is going to go everywhere. Don’t worry. When your brain starts worrying, remembering, planning, dreaming, gently bring it back each time you notice it straying.

Use some simple means of “looking” again at Jesus.

Silently say His Name.

Imagine Him with you or sit in the cave of your heart with Him.

Or just remember His tenderness and love is with you in this moment.

Repeat a phrase from Scripture such as, “Come, Lord Jesus,” or say “My God and my all,” with the Apostle Thomas to the risen Lord, to help yourself remain in conscious contact with God.

Put yourself into a Gospel story and imagine it. Be Nicodemus asking for wisdom in the dark of night and hearing the surprising answers of Jesus.

You might pretend you are the Samaritan woman at the well and Jesus is thirsty. Give Him something to drink. Ask Him for living water.

Be Mother Mary holding the baby Jesus in her arms.

Or  you may wish to choose a prayer word to softly draw yourself back again and again to being with God attentively such as “God…. God…. God.”

Choose a way that works for you to maintain your focus on God; not to reason about Him or think about Him, but to be with Him.

Recognize your distractions, let them go and use one or more of these tools mentioned above to bring yourself back again and again. Take heart that St. Teresa says that even if our intellects are running wild at times, our souls can be fixed on Jesus and in communion with Him.

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Carmelite wisdom would say your prayer is even more meritorious before God when you had to fight for it but you did it anyway for love of your Lord.

You can’t sit in the sun and not get a tan whether you are thinking about the sun or not. You can’t be in the rain, set down your umbrella, and not get wet! Just put down your parasol and umbrella, that’s all.  It’s your intention, your will, to remain in His presence for this little bit of time, that matters. His power can’t be limited by your own perception of how “well” you are praying. Just keep turning your attention back to Him.

Allow Him speak to your heart or sit silently with Him and have a conversation without words. It feels like work. But after a while you realize it’s love; love worth fighting for. So try to be patient when it’s a lot of work in the beginning. Bring yourself back to the love.

Continue in this loving awareness until your time for prayer is up.

To close, pray a slow, attentive set prayer that you like and have memorized, such as the Hail Mary or the Glory Be, again being attentive to whom you are speaking and what you are saying.

Make the sign of the Cross and step back into the stream of life. Know you are better for this time you took to be with Christ. The stream of life itself will be bettered too by the grace you just let flow into it by your prayer and availability to God.

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Pause a while and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10

Novena to the child Mary for the feast of her Presentation in the Temple, day nine

To begin, make the sign of the cross and pray the Sh’ma, a prayer the little Mary would have grown up reciting every day with her Jewish family and community:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)

 

Reflection:

I wonder…. what did Little Mary see at the top of the Temple steps that made her ascend them so quickly, dancing with happiness? I think she saw what is promised to the pure of heart, not in the same way she later would in glory, but as she could on earth as the littlest and most clear-eyed of God’s children. Eve could see and talk to God originally. Mary reasonably could have too. Jesus offers this sight to us, when we believe and have hope that what we see dimly now we will see face to face as perhaps Mary did in that moment she looked up the Temple steps.

Maybe we can remember our Little Mother and try to “grow down, instead of up” as Shel Silverstein put it. Maybe we should carry this picture of Our Lady’s childhood close to our hearts that we may remember who we are and where we are going, that we might enter the Kingdom of God in the same way she ran up those steps. If the Kingdom is within us, why not start now? Ready, set… GO!

Last one up is a rotten egg!

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Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God. 

Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you.  Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.

Then pray, “Hail Mary…”

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Suggestion: Make an act of consecration to Mary today, or renew the one you have made. Do something or say something kind to a little girl in your life, and/ or donate to an organization that educates or benefits girls.

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A consecration to the Child Mary: 

My Little Mother, Sister, and Queen,

I give myself entirely to you;

and to show my devotion to you,

I consecrate to you this day my eyes,

my ears, my mouth, my heart,

my whole being without reserve.

Wherefore, Little Mother,

as I am your own,

keep me, guard me,

as your property and possession,

Make my heart like yours,

and let me live in the sweet companionship

of your brave and joyful spirit,

in constant awareness

of the tender

presence of the God.

Amen.

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Nina Maria

 

 

 

 

Novena to the Child Mary for the feast of her Presentation in the temple Day Two

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)

Reflection:

The little Mary also models beautifully the Kingdom virtues we should cultivate, strive and pray for in the present: love, purity of heart, poverty of spirit, authenticity, and the Christian ideal of spiritual childhood; the wisdom given to the little ones that confounds that of the world. These are some of the things we see as we look into the eyes if this child and she looks into ours.

Mary was a child of God par excellence, aware of her littleness, and that all her shining gifts were God’s incomparable graces poured into her. I like to think of Luke 1:48 like this: “He has looked upon me, His handmaid in her littleness; all ages to come shall call me blessed.” She didn’t deny her gifts. As John Paul II said of her, when speaking of the Visitation, “She is amazed at her own glory,” even as she knows well her nothingness, littleness, and complete dependence on God. “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.”

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Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God. 

Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you.  Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness, and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.

Then pray, “Hail Mary…”

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Novena to St. Philomena (Day 5)

 

The only accounts we have of the life of St. Philomena are two corroborating private revelations (from different people in different places) that have been approved by the Church, but are not as certain as written testimony from her contemporaries would be of course. According to these private revelations and the hints from the drawings on her tomb, she had been through and survived several humiliations and tortures to try  to break her down and many attempts by her captors to kill her before she was finally beheaded. 

She gave herself to God bravely one life-threatening moment after another. Her trust converted many of the people who witnessed it. I am sure God was speaking to St. Philomena, too, in the way He is said to have saved her miraculously from two attempts to execute her, once by drowning, once by arrows. God often sends us messages in our lives, as well, often when our suffering is deepest, and our challenges urgent, to let us know, “I am with you.”

Because of her union with God, and her willingness to follow His lead wherever it might take her life, her moments of fear and suffering became her finest.

A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians 

Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that… you are standing firm … struggling for the faith of the Gospel,not intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is proof to them of destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing.For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.

The Word of the Lord

-Thanks be to God.

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St. Philomena, pray for us that our pivotal moments may be transformed in Jesus, and that in these we might glorify His love. May God increase the strength of our souls, and exceed all we have ever known of Him. [Here mention your petitions.] Trusted Saint, lead the way for us bravely, and help us to see the movements of the Holy Spirit in the events of our lives, that every one of them will become sign posts of the way forward. Pray to God for us, that He may turn darkness into light before us, and make crooked ways straight. May we shine with the power of the Lord when we come to moments of decision, and may God bless our efforts to be faithful, as you were unfailingly.

Our Father…

Mother of God, may the sweet companionship of your spirit make our paths bright with meaning and love and grace. As you accompanied St. Philomena to such great bravery, we ask that you also accompany us, especially in times of trial and discouragement. Shine the brilliant light of the Gospel on our paths, that we may see our way through our troubles, and that the grace we will know may, in turn, strengthen the faith of others.

Hail Mary…

Radiant girl, courageous and free of heart, our friend and guide, protect us, lead us, for the glory of God.

Glory Be…

St. Philomena, be blessed and pray for us.

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