Your faith-filled crew at ParishWorld.net is taking a one week break from producing your Sunday homiletics email magazine this week. We apologize for any inconvenience but we promise to be back in full force and fully energized next week with your usual full edition of Catholic Living Today. In the meantime, allow us to share with you a series of reflections on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary which we celebrated yesterday, August 15.
Feast of the Assumption
But while the dogma of the Assumption is a relatively new declaration by the Church, made by Pope Pius XXII in 1950, the belief in the Assumption is one of the oldest and first beliefs in the Church regarding Mary. It is celebrated each year on August 15. Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio explains this feast and why the Catholic Church observes it as a holy day of obligation.
Until about 500 years ago, the Church was unified in its belief and devotion to the Blessed Mother. And believe it or not, even the founders of the Protestant Reformation movement held deep devotions to the Virgin Mary before they decided to take her away from many Christians. And so today, the mere mention our Blessed Mother to our Protestant brothers and sister brings about what Mark Shea refers to as Mariaphobic Response Syndrome. He offers some solid suggestions on how to deal with the deep fears Evangelicals still have today about the Blessed Virgin Mary.
"Blessed are you among women"
Mary is a unique creature, the highest of all creatures. This is not just because she was born without the handicap of original sin. Eve and Adam were born free of sin as well, but it did not stop them from sinning as soon as they had the chance. Mary instead chose, with the help of God’s grace, to preserve her God-given purity throughout the whole of her life.
Father Cusick explains that this gift of God - her glorious Assumption into heaven - is the fulfillment of His grace in her. She goes before us to intercede with her Son that we may join her in praising Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit forever in heaven. The Assumption therefore is not a mythical statement of fancy. It salutes God's trust and openness in Mary. Her assumption into heaven, Fr. John Foley, S. J. points out, is an acknowledgment of how close the Blessed Mother had been to Jesus all life long, and especially in his death.
Mary has thus been given the highest place among all of creation. And it is she, a woman, who ranks highest in the most important hierarchy: the hierarchy of holiness. This feast is therefore a day of joy. God has won. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says it is proof that love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love. It is important because it provides us with an opportunity to reaffirm our faith in God's promises. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. reminds us that it is proof that God really does intend to "lift up the lowly" and to "fill the hungry with good things."
In Mary, Humanity and Divinity Are at Home
Throughout Christian history it has become quite clear that those who seek Mary’s love and care find something that only a Holy Mother can give. Try as the worldly may, they cannot rid us of Mary’s holy presence, a presence that always, truly, and surely, gives us the presence of God and the sanctity of human life that comes to us in her Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So is Marian devotion necessary in Christian life? What is true devotion to Mary according to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council? It's not sentimental piety or gullible preoccupation with every rumored apparition, according to Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio. But rather, it's the imitation of her virtues, particularly her faith. And for this reason, Fr. Phil Bloom confesses his love for this beautiful woman - the Blessed Virgin Mary - not as a projection of the qualities of women he has admired. No, he says he loves her as a real person, someone who walked this earth and knows the kind of struggles real people face.
So, does our Church's dogma of the Assumption have meaning for you and for me? You bet your life it does, exclaims Fr. Charles Irvin! The Assumption of Mary, is a consoling sign of our hope. In looking to her, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says we are carried up amid the rejoicing of angels, human life is opened to the perspective of eternal happiness. Our own death is not the end but rather the entrance into life that knows no death.
So we pray to our Mother in Heaven. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino explains that we don’t worship Mary. But we do pray to her. We say the Rosary meditating on the mysteries of her Son and we ask Mary to pray for us sinners. We recognize that it is Jesus’s life and power that saves us, but we also recognize that Mary was given to us at the foot of the cross as our mother. We call upon her to pray to her son, Jesus, to extend the various manifestations of His Love to us.
Sexuality, Creativity and Theology of the Body
Mary’s question to the Angel, Gabriel, at the time of the Annunciation, is more than a simple query in biology: “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Fr. Ron Rolheiser points out that her question is indeed a good one, a deep one: “From what source can this life spring, given the limited way that I am living out my sexuality?”
And ultimately everyone asks Mary’s question: “How can I truly bring forth new life, given that I can’t sleep with the whole world?” How should we live so that our sexuality properly fuels our creativity? Fr. Ron Rolheiser suspects that the answer will involve three things: a certain grieving, a certain mysticism, and a certain trust. To complement this discussion, Cardinal Rigali at a 2010 convention in on Theology of the Body affirmed the importance of John Paul II's teaching on human sexuality. Why all the hype? He explains what it means.
Prayer, Gestures of Worship & More
Fr. John Bartunek, LC anwers a practical question from a housewife who finds herself too busy juggling both home and career. It's a question we all have asked ourselves at one time or another: Can a Busy Life Be Prayerful? The good father offers some really sound advice. And Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. offers another reflection on "Why Humility Opens Doors." He says that in order to understand why the humble get ahead and why the meek shall inherit the earth, we need to be sure that we understand what humility and meekness really are.
Helen Hull Hitchcock laments how the vocabulary of ritual gestures Catholics make during worship is by now, quite clearly, endangered — as has happened with other unwritten languages. As there are relatively few explicit rules (and even these are often not followed), little uniformity of practice, and considerable confusion, she says it seems worthwhile to compile a sort of “dictionary” of ritual gestures, their meaning and grammar, in order to relearn our historic language of ritual worship. Check out her well-documented piece: Gestures of Worship, Re-learning Our Ritual Language.
And here's "8 Tips for Catholic Men" by Randy Hain. In a conversation with other Catholic men, he confirmed that we all struggle to break out of repetitive sinful behaviors and avoid self-created obstacles to drawing closer to Christ. So where do we slip up? Why do we fall short? He offers some useful insight which will help Catholic men (and women) take the necessary steps to overcome these self-created challenges.
Stoplights, a Botched robbery & Living Longer
A woman was in the news a few years for stopping a robbery by preaching about Jesus. She decided to preach faith in Jesus Christ as a better way for the would-be robber and she succeeded (or should we say God succeeded) in preventing a robbery. Check out this story.
Here's one we've all seen before: those lone, scruffy figures at intersections and freeway underpasses holding bent cardboard signs, asking for a handout. Their faces are as cracked and blistered as the sidewalk. In "What I Learned at the Stoplight," Marion Fernandez-Cueto talks about how opening your hands can open your heart.
Finally, here's a list of six daily habits for living longer. Whatever your daily habits are, there’s no denying that they impact your health. Even though the things we do as part of our daily routines might seem small, over time the small things can add up. So, by keeping your daily habits healthy, you can literally add years to your life. Great simple tips for us all.
Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Do Catholics "worship" the Virgin Mary?
FEATURED BLOG: Relearning Our Catholic Ritual Language
PASTORAL HISPANA: El triunfo de Maria es el nuestro tambien
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