“Having no doubts about the true nature of the disease, I am calm, resigned, and very happy in the midst of my people. God certainly knows what is best for my sanctification and I gladly repeat: ‘Thy will be done.’”
“I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.”“A parent’s first duty is to provide for the children. I have the obligation of giving my children, newly born of water and the Holy Spirit, the things that are necessary for spiritual life.”“Jesus Christ treats missionaries in a very special manner, for it is He who guides their footsteps and preserves them from all danger.”“I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Saviour in the Holy Eucharist… .It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content… . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.”

“Having no doubts about the true nature of the disease, I am calm, resigned, and very happy in the midst of my people. God certainly knows what is best for my sanctification and I gladly repeat: ‘Thy will be done.’”

“I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.”

“A parent’s first duty is to provide for the children. I have the obligation of giving my children, newly born of water and the Holy Spirit, the things that are necessary for spiritual life.”

“Jesus Christ treats missionaries in a very special manner, for it is He who guides their footsteps and preserves them from all danger.”“I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Saviour in the Holy Eucharist… .It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content… . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.”

From a particularly moving homily this past Sunday.  The Dominicans aren’t called the Order of Preachers for nothing!

From a particularly moving homily this past Sunday. The Dominicans aren’t called the Order of Preachers for nothing!

THE TEKTON & THE APPRENTICE
As you know, I have a great devotion to St. Joseph.  He has been so good to me, and I am very blessed to have him as my patron and father.  It is a joy to spread devotion to the Guardian of the Redeemer and the most chaste spouse of Our Lady. 
In previous posts I have mentioned an amazing book that all spiritual sons and daughters of St. Joseph should own, The Life of St. Joseph by Sr. Maria Cecilia Baij, O.S.B. in which she recounts her private revelations of the hidden life of our beloved Patriarch and his relationship with Jesus and Mary in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth.
Here is how Sr. Maria Cecilia describes the Boy Jesus working along side his foster father whom the Gospels describe with the Greek word, tekton, a craftsman or person who works with his hands like a carpenter or masonry worker.

As soon as the Divine Youth grew up sufficiently to be able to render some assistance to Joseph, He sought of His own accord to go and help him in his work and to console him by His presence.  The happy Joseph never considered that Jesus actually wanted to humble Himself to such an extent as to perform this menial work, and when Jesus offered His willing assistance, the Saint was so deeply moved and declared he would never allow it unless the Heavenly Father Himself had actually ordained it.
Turning to Jesus he exclaimed:  “Oh, Eternal Wisdom, why do You wish to humiliate Yourself to such a degree?  How can I, Your servant, consent to see You devoting Yourself to such work as this, delicate as You are, and engaged as You are in continually treating with Your Heavenly Father concerning the vital business of man’s redemption?  How could I look on and see You being thus humiliated?”
The holy Youth set his mind at rest by declaring that this was the will of His Heavenly Father, and that in reality He Himself had come into the world not to be ministered unto, but rather to minister, wherefore, it was necessary that He should give an example of disdain for all ostentation and worldly esteem.  Joseph submitted to the will of the Heavenly Father and no longer made any objection.  Instead, he pondered over the joy that would be his by having his Jesus with him in the workshop.  He became exceedingly consoled, and proclaimed his unbounded happiness.  Turning to Mary, he expressed to Her his regret that She would, necessarily, be deprived of the loving presence of Jesus during those periods of time in which He would now be with him.  The Mother of God, being always conformed to the divine will and with a heart brimming with love, assured him that She was happy about the consolations that would be his, and that the divine will would be accomplished.
One can well imagine what spiritual joy the happy Joseph must have experienced, and how filled with consolation he must have been, as he took his beloved Jesus with him.  When he started to work it seemed to him as if he was in Paradise.  Was not the Son of God Himself there beside him, seeking to be of assistance to him?  Sometimes, the Boy Jesus would hand him tools, at other times pieces of lumber, even though He was only about five or six years old, He apparently wanted to carry on like a strong, grown-up man, as was indicated by the efforts he made to lift up the heavier boards.  The Saint was deeply touched by this and tried in every way possible to limit these exertions.  Besides all this, the Divine Youth was always so obliging that He even anticipated Joseph’s needs; and He performed everything in a most gracious spirit.

Oh, my friends, let us be like Jesus:  apprentices of Joseph, diligently performing our daily work under the guidance and close to the side of the holy Tekton of Nazareth!

[Image:  not mine.]

THE TEKTON & THE APPRENTICE

As you know, I have a great devotion to St. Joseph.  He has been so good to me, and I am very blessed to have him as my patron and father.  It is a joy to spread devotion to the Guardian of the Redeemer and the most chaste spouse of Our Lady. 

In previous posts I have mentioned an amazing book that all spiritual sons and daughters of St. Joseph should own, The Life of St. Joseph by Sr. Maria Cecilia Baij, O.S.B. in which she recounts her private revelations of the hidden life of our beloved Patriarch and his relationship with Jesus and Mary in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth.

Here is how Sr. Maria Cecilia describes the Boy Jesus working along side his foster father whom the Gospels describe with the Greek word, tekton, a craftsman or person who works with his hands like a carpenter or masonry worker.

As soon as the Divine Youth grew up sufficiently to be able to render some assistance to Joseph, He sought of His own accord to go and help him in his work and to console him by His presence.  The happy Joseph never considered that Jesus actually wanted to humble Himself to such an extent as to perform this menial work, and when Jesus offered His willing assistance, the Saint was so deeply moved and declared he would never allow it unless the Heavenly Father Himself had actually ordained it.

Turning to Jesus he exclaimed:  “Oh, Eternal Wisdom, why do You wish to humiliate Yourself to such a degree?  How can I, Your servant, consent to see You devoting Yourself to such work as this, delicate as You are, and engaged as You are in continually treating with Your Heavenly Father concerning the vital business of man’s redemption?  How could I look on and see You being thus humiliated?”

The holy Youth set his mind at rest by declaring that this was the will of His Heavenly Father, and that in reality He Himself had come into the world not to be ministered unto, but rather to minister, wherefore, it was necessary that He should give an example of disdain for all ostentation and worldly esteem.  Joseph submitted to the will of the Heavenly Father and no longer made any objection.  Instead, he pondered over the joy that would be his by having his Jesus with him in the workshop.  He became exceedingly consoled, and proclaimed his unbounded happiness.  Turning to Mary, he expressed to Her his regret that She would, necessarily, be deprived of the loving presence of Jesus during those periods of time in which He would now be with him.  The Mother of God, being always conformed to the divine will and with a heart brimming with love, assured him that She was happy about the consolations that would be his, and that the divine will would be accomplished.

One can well imagine what spiritual joy the happy Joseph must have experienced, and how filled with consolation he must have been, as he took his beloved Jesus with him.  When he started to work it seemed to him as if he was in Paradise.  Was not the Son of God Himself there beside him, seeking to be of assistance to him?  Sometimes, the Boy Jesus would hand him tools, at other times pieces of lumber, even though He was only about five or six years old, He apparently wanted to carry on like a strong, grown-up man, as was indicated by the efforts he made to lift up the heavier boards.  The Saint was deeply touched by this and tried in every way possible to limit these exertions.  Besides all this, the Divine Youth was always so obliging that He even anticipated Joseph’s needs; and He performed everything in a most gracious spirit.

Oh, my friends, let us be like Jesus:  apprentices of Joseph, diligently performing our daily work under the guidance and close to the side of the holy Tekton of Nazareth!

[Image:  not mine.]

A Muslim’s “Turning Point” Standing Before Michelangelo’s Pietà
The Pietà by the young Michelangelo is one of the world’s most recognized and priceless works of art.  This past Lent and Holy Week, I’m sure that you’ve seen many images of the Pietà which depict that moment when the pierced and blood Body of Jesus is placed in Mary’s arms.  As the literal name for this most lamentable scene implies, many people’s reaction is “pity” or “compassion”.
I remember taking the photo above when I made a pilgrimage to Catholic Disneyland Rome last October.  Sadly, upon seeing this famous sculpture, I am ashamed to admit, that my first reaction was not one of pious devotion.  Rather, I was a little annoyed that so many people were gathered around the small chapel (next to Bl. John Paul the Great’s tomb) where the Pietà is displayed behind bullet proof glass.  As I maneuvered my way through the crowd of tourists, all I was focused on was getting the shot.  Once I got to the front of the crowd, I was struck by the great cultural, historical, and artistic significance of this piece.  Then, I was moved by the broken, lifeless body of Christ held in the lap of His Mother. With her left hand, Mary tenderly bears the Savior of the World, and with her right hand, she raises her palm up to heaven, every ready to accept and follow the will of God.
While still basking in the joyful light of the Resurrection, I cannot help but see Michelangelo’s Pietà as an image of the Church:  our ancient but ever youthful Mother who embraces the cross and presents the Body of Christ to the Body of Christ. 
For us Catholics, art is more than church decoration, something pretty to look at.  Art can provide us with an encounter with God who is the source of all that is True and Good and Beautiful. 
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of artists in another of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, his incredible Sistine Chapel.  Before the Last Judgement and under the Creation of Man, our Holy Father—a great lover of beauty—spoke these very poetic words:

Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair. The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature. What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation — if not beauty? Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.
Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy “shock”, it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum — it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it “reawakens” him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft. Dostoevsky’s words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: “Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here.” The painter Georges Braque echoes this sentiment: “Art is meant to disturb, science reassures.” Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.
Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day. In this regard, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes the following verse from a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid: “Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up” (no. 3). And later he adds: “In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, the artist gives voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption” (no. 10). And in conclusion he states: “Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence” (no. 16).
These ideas impel us to take a further step in our reflection. Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality.

An example of the powerful effect of beauty is Ilyas Khan, a British philanthropist, soccer team owner, and former Muslim.  In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Khan describes how Michelangelo’s Pietà, a piece of art over 500 years old, helped to bring him home to the Catholic Church.

Were Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI also influential? Both have been described as so-called Balthasarians.
That’s a really good question. I’ve never been asked that question before. Yes, well, Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope, definitely qualifies as being “Balthasarian,” and Blessed John Paul II raised Balthasar to becoming a cardinal. Obviously, John Paul II was an influence beyond his regard for Von Balthasar — how could one not be influenced by such a great man? Like a great many people, Balthasar himself was not just a gigantic intellect, but also articulated how the mystery of faith is central to our lives as Christians. And, in that regard, the single most moving moment for me happened when I was in my mid-30s. I was walking past the Pieta in St. Peter’s, and I remember being literally arrested in my tracks by a combination of four or five things all at once. You asked me about my relationship with the Blessed Mother of God — well, that moment in time was really important. That can be described as being the turning point.
Was it the beauty of the Pietà that struck you?
Yes — and the context. This is God, I thought. This really is God. You must remember that one of the big things when we look at traditional Islam is the heresy — in their opinion — of equating the mortal Jesus with God. And if there is ever an obstacle that a Muslim convert has to contend with, intellectually and emotionally, more than anything else, that is it. At that moment, in front of the Pietà, I realized, through sheer emotion, that the truth of our religion is so simple and so direct.

A Muslim’s “Turning Point” Standing Before Michelangelo’s Pietà

The Pietà by the young Michelangelo is one of the world’s most recognized and priceless works of art. This past Lent and Holy Week, I’m sure that you’ve seen many images of the Pietà which depict that moment when the pierced and blood Body of Jesus is placed in Mary’s arms. As the literal name for this most lamentable scene implies, many people’s reaction is “pity” or “compassion”.

I remember taking the photo above when I made a pilgrimage to Catholic Disneyland Rome last October. Sadly, upon seeing this famous sculpture, I am ashamed to admit, that my first reaction was not one of pious devotion. Rather, I was a little annoyed that so many people were gathered around the small chapel (next to Bl. John Paul the Great’s tomb) where the Pietà is displayed behind bullet proof glass. As I maneuvered my way through the crowd of tourists, all I was focused on was getting the shot. Once I got to the front of the crowd, I was struck by the great cultural, historical, and artistic significance of this piece. Then, I was moved by the broken, lifeless body of Christ held in the lap of His Mother. With her left hand, Mary tenderly bears the Savior of the World, and with her right hand, she raises her palm up to heaven, every ready to accept and follow the will of God.

While still basking in the joyful light of the Resurrection, I cannot help but see Michelangelo’s Pietà as an image of the Church: our ancient but ever youthful Mother who embraces the cross and presents the Body of Christ to the Body of Christ.

For us Catholics, art is more than church decoration, something pretty to look at. Art can provide us with an encounter with God who is the source of all that is True and Good and Beautiful.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of artists in another of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, his incredible Sistine Chapel. Before the Last Judgement and under the Creation of Man, our Holy Father—a great lover of beauty—spoke these very poetic words:

Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair. The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature. What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation — if not beauty? Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.

Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy “shock”, it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum — it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it “reawakens” him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft. Dostoevsky’s words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: “Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here.” The painter Georges Braque echoes this sentiment: “Art is meant to disturb, science reassures.” Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.

Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day. In this regard, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes the following verse from a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid: “Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up” (no. 3). And later he adds: “In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, the artist gives voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption” (no. 10). And in conclusion he states: “Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence” (no. 16).

These ideas impel us to take a further step in our reflection. Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality.

An example of the powerful effect of beauty is Ilyas Khan, a British philanthropist, soccer team owner, and former Muslim. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Khan describes how Michelangelo’s Pietà, a piece of art over 500 years old, helped to bring him home to the Catholic Church.

Were Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI also influential? Both have been described as so-called Balthasarians.

That’s a really good question. I’ve never been asked that question before. Yes, well, Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope, definitely qualifies as being “Balthasarian,” and Blessed John Paul II raised Balthasar to becoming a cardinal. Obviously, John Paul II was an influence beyond his regard for Von Balthasar — how could one not be influenced by such a great man? Like a great many people, Balthasar himself was not just a gigantic intellect, but also articulated how the mystery of faith is central to our lives as Christians. And, in that regard, the single most moving moment for me happened when I was in my mid-30s. I was walking past the Pieta in St. Peter’s, and I remember being literally arrested in my tracks by a combination of four or five things all at once. You asked me about my relationship with the Blessed Mother of God — well, that moment in time was really important. That can be described as being the turning point.

Was it the beauty of the Pietà that struck you?

Yes — and the context. This is God, I thought. This really is God. You must remember that one of the big things when we look at traditional Islam is the heresy — in their opinion — of equating the mortal Jesus with God. And if there is ever an obstacle that a Muslim convert has to contend with, intellectually and emotionally, more than anything else, that is it. At that moment, in front of the Pietà, I realized, through sheer emotion, that the truth of our religion is so simple and so direct.

That’s it, folks!  This is my last post (at least for a while).  May Our Most Holy Mother always shield you under her mantle.
A hui hou!
[Picture:  Painting by James Langley for the FSSP Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary Chapel.]

That’s it, folks!  This is my last post (at least for a while).  May Our Most Holy Mother always shield you under her mantle.

A hui hou!

[Picture:  Painting by James Langley for the FSSP Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary Chapel.]

Got prayer intentions or questions about Catholicism?

Then ask the Certified Basic/Master Catechists at est33.tumblr.com

See the latest (and last) Lady’s Night.

See the latest (and last) Lady’s Night.

LADY’S NIGHT - The Encounter

Happy Easter, everyone!  I apologize for my tardiness in posting this Lady’s Night that was originally intended for Easter Sunday.  I know that I missed my target date (and the entire Octave!), but at least we’re still in the Easter Season.

Recall from my previous posts that in many Catholic countries, Holy Week is marked by processions (as in Sevilla and Jerez de la Frontera, Spain) where the faithful bear life-size statues posed in vignettes of Christ’s final moments through the streets of town as a public expression of faith.  It is a sorrowful occasion where Nazarenos dress in the traditional garb of a penitent and the haunting strains of the mournful saeta float through the air. 

These statues, these processions are signs that speak to the human heart in ways that words cannot.  They remind the community that we have sinned and have lost the friendship of God; yet, they also give a most eloquent testimony that He would rather die that spend eternity without us.

As God’s little children, to whom did we turn as we walked the Via Crucis of our own lives, as we walked it in community about a month ago?  We mourned with and were comforted by the Blessed Mother whose Immaculate Heart—as prophesied by Simeon (cf. Luke 2:35)—was pierced by sorrow as with a sword. 

However, Our Lady of Sorrows who stood at the foot of the cross and witness the death of her Child would also witness the empty tomb.  On Good Friday, our Mother embraced the cross and crown, the nails and reed to share in the suffering of her dying Son and, in union with Him, surrender all to the Father’s will.  She truly taught us how to kiss the cross in bearing an agony so incredibly intense and profound. Likewise, who can ever imagine the ecstatic joy that she experienced on Easter Sunday when Life triumphed over death, Light defeated darkness, and when Love conquered all?  The Glorious follows the Sorrowful as dawn proceeds the night.

Joy is one of the marks of a Christian, for we are indeed Easter people.  Who better to give us an example of a joyful life of a Christian than the very first disciple of Christ, Our Lady.  At that first Easter encounter, the words of her Magnificat seem to be fulfilled:  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

In the Regina Caeli, which replaces the Angelus in the Easter Season, we recall the glorious Resurrection of Jesus and seek to share His Mother’s joy:

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

There is an ancient tradition, popular especially among Franciscans, which holds that, although it is not recorded in the Gospels, Jesus first appeared to His Mother after the Resurrection.  In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, there is even a Chapel of the Apparition to commemorate this event.

Bl. John Paul the Great spoke of this pious tradition in his address at the General Audience on May 21, 2997.

The expectation felt on Holy Saturday is one of the loftiest moments of faith for the Mother of the Lord: in the darkness that envelops the world, she entrusts herself fully to the God of life, and thinking back to the words of her Son, she hopes in the fulfilment of the divine promises.

The Gospels mention various appearances of the risen Christ, but not a meeting between Jesus and his Mother. This silence must not lead to the conclusion that after the Resurrection Christ did not appear to Mary; rather it invites us to seek the reasons why the Evangelists made such a choice.

On the supposition of an “omission”, this silence could be attributed to the fact that what is necessary for our saving knowledge was entrusted to the word of those “chosen by God as witnesses” (Acts 10:41), that is, the Apostles, who gave their testimony of the Lord Jesus’ Resurrection “with great power” (cf. Acts 4:33). Before appearing to them, the Risen One had appeared to several faithful women because of their ecclesial function: “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28:10).

If the authors of the New Testament do not speak of the Mother’s encounter with her risen Son, this can perhaps be attributed to the fact that such a witness would have been considered too biased by those who denied the Lord’s Resurrection, and therefore not worthy of belief…

It seems reasonable to think that Mary, as the image and model of the Church which waits for the Risen One and meets him in the group of disciples during his Easter appearances, had had a personal contact with her risen Son, so that she too could delight in the fullness of paschal joy.

Present at Calvary on Good Friday (cf. Jn 19:25) and in the Upper Room on Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:14), the Blessed Virgin too was probably a privileged witness of Christ’s Resurrection, completing in this way her participation in all the essential moments of the paschal mystery. Welcoming the risen Jesus, Mary is also a sign and an anticipation of humanity, which hopes to achieve its [fulfillment] through the resurrection of the dead.

Thus, it is fitting that there should be one more procession following the somber pasos of Holy Week. This time, instead of recalling to mind the 4th Station of the Cross, the people announce the Risen Christ by enacting this first Easter encounter between Mother and Son.  In fact, you might remember this video and this teaser pic.

On Easter morning, two processions the leave church and follow different routes:  one carries an image of our Risen Savior, the other bears a statue of Our Lady, still wearing the black mantle of sorrow.  At a designated time and location (usually the main street or plaza), the two processions meet.  Sometimes an image of St. John or St. Peter is carried back and forth between the two processions as they make their way towards each other, expressing our anticipation for this reunion after the tomb.

Then in some communities, especially in Italy, as Our Lady rounds the corner and first spots her living Son, she does as any mother would do:  she runs to Him, casting off her cloak of sadness.  Depending on the local custom, Jesus may also run towards His Mother as well. 

The streets that only days before witnessed the faithful carry an image of their crucified Savior in a slow and mournful procession as in a funeral march, now tremble beneath the running feet of those overflowing with Pascal joy in encountering the Risen Lord.

There are some who treat such examples of popular piety as mere quaint, folksy customs for old women and simple people, but I think there is some deep spiritual significance in these outward expressions of faith.

Such beautiful processions depicting the Easter encounter of Mary and Jesus communicate more than just a natural, familial response between a mother and her son.  They signify the relationship of the Church and her Risen Bridegroom.  Such processions speak of our desire to encounter and embrace our God and to continue living with Him forever even after the grave has swallowed our mortal bodies. 

Like our Blessed Mother, the Resurrection has filled us with great joy.  For as the psalmist joyfully sings, “You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Psalm 30:12).  What else could be our response but to imitate her reaction in seeing her glorified Son?  Easter is a time to cast off our sluggish spirits and sinful habits which weigh our feet down.  Now, is the time to fly towards Jesus with wings of faith, as St. Paul says, like runners in a marathon who run, not aimlessly, but so as to win the race (cf 1 Cor 9:24, 26).

Although as I’ve said before, this post-Resurrection meeting between Jesus and His Mother is not mentioned in scripture, the Gospels do record other people’s reaction to the news of the empty tomb. 

In his homily for Easter Sunday, His Excellency, Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, points out that everyone in John’s Resurrection narrative seems to be running.  When Mary Magdalene discovers the stone of the tomb rolled away and Jesus’ body gone, she runs to tell the other disciples (cf. John 20:2).  At this astonishing news, St. John and St. Peter literally race to the tomb to see for themselves (cf. John 20:4). 

Why do they run?

First, their sprinting feet communicate their excitement and astonishment, as Archbishop Gomez states in his homily.  As St. Mary Magdalene’s wondrous news reaches the ears of St. John and St. Peter, I like to imagine that their hearts literally lift them to their feet and draw them to the tomb that they may see and believe (cf John 20:8).

They run because they have the first glimpses of the reality of the Resurrection.  They run because they can taste the victory won by Christ and are eager to experience first hand the glory of His triumph over sin and even over death itself.  They run because they are filled with hope that their Friend, their Lord and Savior, is truly alive again.

Psalm 42 very poetically speaks of our desire for God and the disciple’s desire to encounter the Risen Christ:  “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God” (Psalm 42:2).  Water is a basic necessity for life; without it, we die.  If you were in a desert without water, and you saw an oasis in the distance, what would be your response?  Probably you would muster all the energy you had left and run to the life-giving spring.  Psalm 18 also says that God has given us “feet like a deer’s” (Psalm 18:34); that is, He gives us the means and motivation to run to Him who is the Living Water, our Refreshment, our Salvation, and our Hope. 

Therefore, like St. Mary Magdalene, St. Peter, St. John, and Our Lady, let us run to encounter the Risen Lord.  Apathy and complacency may attempt to slow us down, and Satan will try to steal our joy, but keep running; set your gaze on the empty tomb and the glorious cross, and run with all your strength.  However, if by chance you should stumble or fall, know that our Victorious Savior is running towards us as the father of the Prodigal Son ran towards his repentant child the moment he caught sight of him walking towards home (cf. Luke 15:20). 

[Photos:  not mine]

From Our Lady of Sorrows to La Virgen de la Alegria (The Virgin of Joy).  I love seeing our Mama smile; she looks so beautiful.
[Photo:  from Artencodoba]

From Our Lady of Sorrows to La Virgen de la Alegria (The Virgin of Joy).  I love seeing our Mama smile; she looks so beautiful.

[Photo:  from Artencodoba]

From the website of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico:

The history of the Loretto Chapel began when Bishop Jean Baptisite Lamy was appointed by the Church to the New Mexico Territory in1850. Bishop Lamy, seeking to spread the faith and bring an educational system to this new territory, began a letter writing plea for priests, brothers and nuns to preach and teach. In one of his letters he is said to have written, “I have 6000 Catholics and 300 Americans.” The first acceptance of his general plea was from the Sisters of Loretto.

In 1852 the Sisters of Loretto responded to Lamy’s pleas by sending seven sisters who agreed to make this arduous journey to Santa Fe. Their trek was through St. Louis, then up the river to Independence, Mo. This small group was beset by a cholera epidemic, the Mother Superior died, and another nun was too ill to continue the journey and returned to Kentucky. An additional story continues that they traveled by wagon through bad weather, and Indian country.

The Sisters arrived in Santa Fe in 1852 and opened the Academy of Our Lady of Light (Loretto) in1853…The school was started in 1853 and grew from very small beginnings to a school of around 300 students. The campus covered a square block with 10 buildings. Through tuition’s for the girls schooling, donations, and from the sisters own inheritances from their families, they built their school and chapel…

When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.

Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters’ prayers.

The stairway’s carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today.

The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs.

Also, it is interesting to note that the number of steps of unusual staircase is 33, the traditional age at which Jesus was crucified and resurrected.  Also, the wood used to construct the staircase is not native to that region of New Mexico. 

Whoever the mysterious carpenter may have been, this staircase in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe is a powerful reminder that God is so good and to always “Go to Joseph" (Genesis 41:55).

St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us!

Introducing the Altar Gang:  liturgical items that come to life and help kids learn about the faith.  I wish I could live in an enchanted sacristy!

Meet Thomas the Thurible, a brilliant theology scholar whose hero is the large Botafumeiro which hangs in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and swings incense above the heads of the faithful.

His friend is AJ the Aspergillum, a devise used to sprinkle holy water (and liturgically much better than Brandon the Tree Branch).

See the rest of the Altar Gang and the talented team of Catholic artists over at Lumen Entertainment.  I think this is an excellent way in which Catholics can use their gifts to impact our culture and be part of the Church’s New Evangelization.

St. Joseph the Worker and his little Apprentice

[Photo:  Drawing by Anthony Van Arsdale from The Catholic Illustrator’s Guild]

St. Joseph the Worker and his little Apprentice

[Photo:  Drawing by Anthony Van Arsdale from The Catholic Illustrator’s Guild]

Queen of the May
[Photo:  not mine]

Queen of the May

[Photo:  not mine]