Angels and the Virgin Mary

As we saw in previous Weekly Notes, the title “St. Mary of the Angels” goes back to Mary’s Assumption and to the empty tomb of the Virgin Mary. Angels were waiting at Mary’s tomb to take her body to heaven, where she was received by her Son and reunited with her soul. The Hermits of Josaphat remained to safeguard the tomb. In 364 some of these Hermits came to Rome with relicts from Mary’s tomb and presented them to Pope Liberius, who built a little church for them in Assisi and called the church St. Mary of the Angels. Because the little church was on a little plot of land, it was popularly called the Porziuncola—little plot.

In the year 1045—200 years before St. Francis—there is a record that the villagers heard angels singing in and around the little church, renewing its association with the angels. This seems to mirror what happened at Mary’s tomb about a thousand years earlier.

In 1216, Pope Honorius established August 2 as the day for the Porziuncola Indulgence, when people could receive full pardon for their sins. This was reinforced by Our Lady in several apparitions and miraculous statues.

For example, on August 2 in 1635 in Cartago, Costa Rica, a poor woman went out in the morning to gather firewood when she found a small, black stone statue of the Virgin Mary on a boulder next to a stream. She took the statue home and placed it in a box. She went out again at noon and she found the identical statue on the boulder again. Awestruck, she took the statue and rushed home. The box where she had put the statue was now empty. So, she placed the statue in the box again and locked it. When she returned to gather more wood, she again found the statue on the same boulder. Taking it home again she found her box still locked but with no statue inside. So she brought the statue to her parish priest and told him the story.

Incredulous, the priest locked the statue up in the rectory, telling the woman that he would look into the matter later when he had more time. Relieved, the woman resumed her task of gathering wood and found the statue again on the boulder. This time the woman left the statue at the boulder. She told neighbors as she went to find the priest. The small crowd followed the woman to the boulder. The priest took the statue and all processed back to the parish church where the priest locked up the statue in the tabernacle. But, as you can guess, the statue found its way back to the boulder. The people then built a little chapel there where Our Lady could stay! She is now recognized by Costa Ricans as their national patron: La Negrita—La Virgen de los Angeles.

In 1660—again on August 2nd—people around Lurs, France, saw and heard a choir of angels announcing the presence of Notre Dame of the Angels, as she appeared on a site where they built a little church. Miraculous cures took place then and still take place in the little church built on the site. It is located along one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago del Compostela.

Franciscans would spread devotion to St. Mary of the Angels wherever they went, as they did when they went to California to evangelize the native Americans there. One of their missions, established by St. Junipero Serra, was named Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, which is now the city of Los Angeles.

So, Our Blessed Mother wants to be honored as St. Mary of the Angels, especially on her feast day, August 2. We plan to do precisely that, with our parish celebration.

Fr. John R. Waiss

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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Mercy Sunday, Pope John Paul II and St. Josemaría

Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. This devotion was promoted by St. Faustina and promulgated by John Paul II in the year 2000, when he canonized Sr. Faustina. Yet this devotion also has profound link to St. Josemaría, the founder of Opus Dei.

St. Josemaría encouraged people to have some devotions, but not too many. As he wrote: “Have only a few private devotions, but be constant in them” (The Way, 552). One that he had—of which few people ever knew or heard—was the private devotion to the Merciful Love.

The Merciful Love was a devotion that arose during the First World War from the mystical experience of a French nun, Sister Maria Teresa Desandais. The nun had an image painted of her vision on which the devotion is based. The image shows Jesus on the Cross enveloped by the Eucharistic host; his eyes are serene and opened; his exposed heart is emanating flames that form the word, “caritas.” Sr. Maria Teresa died in during the Second World War. So did Sr. Faustina Kowalska in Poland. She also received a vision from our Lord under a similar title, that of Divine Mercy. She too had a painting commissioned. She saw our Lord standing with rays emanating from Christ’s wounded heart, the fount from which God’s mercy flow. Our Lord asked that a feast in honor of Divine Mercy be established for the Sunday after Easter, which Pope John Paul II did in the year 2000.

The Church doesn’t require Catholics to practice either of these devotions, which is likely why St. Josemaría kept his so private: it was not a required part of the spirit of Opus Dei. The chief message of both devotions is that God is rich in mercy, not a mean, exacting ogre looking for an excuse to condemn us to hell. No. “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). God is the merciful father of the prodigal son (and daughter) who runs out to meet us, giving us a passionate embrace and restoring our sonship to the full (Luke 15:11-32). He shows us his infinite love for us by sending his most precious son to suffer and die on the Cross (John 3:14-21). St. John Paul II said:

“There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy—that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God… It is a message that is clear and understandable for everyone. Anyone can come here, look at this image of the merciful Jesus, His Heart radiating grace…: ‘Fear nothing. I am with you always’ (Diary, 586). And if this person responds with a sincere heart: ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ he will find comfort in all his anxieties and fears… Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium.”

Our Lord told Sr. Faustina that: “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” (Diary, 699). To obtain this mercy, we too need to: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36), since the unmerciful soul will not be forgiven (cf. Matthew 18:23-35). Therefore, we need to forgive all those who have hurt us in any way.

Then we can say with St. Josemaría: “Cheerfulness is a necessary consequence… of knowing that our Father God loves us with a predilect love, that he holds us up and helps us and forgives us” (The Forge, 332). Let’s encourage our friends and family to trust in the risen Lord, abandoning their anxieties to him so as to experience this Easter joy. They will not be disappointed.

Fr. John R. Waiss

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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La Voluntad de Dios—Una Invitación a Amar

La voluntad de Dios es que sean santos, que se abstengan del pecado carnal” (Primera Carta a los Tesalonicenses 4:3). La voluntad de Dios es que cada uno de nosotros sea santo, que seamos verdaderamente felices con Él en el cielo, lo que significa que le amemos haciendo el bien y evitando el mal.

La voluntad de Dios es una invitación a amar. Él no nos fuerza a que le amemos ni a que entremos en unión con Él en el cielo. Dios no nos obliga a que seamos felices, sino que nos deja que elijamos abrazar su voluntad, que respondamos libremente a su invitación de entrar en una relación amorosa con Él. Esto es en lo que consiste la moral cristina.

Por esta razón, Jesús nos enseña en el Padre Nuestro: “venga a nosotros tu reino; hágase su voluntad en la tierra como en el cielo.” Rezamos para que nos ayude a buscar su reino y la fuerza para hacer su voluntad. Jesus ejemplifica esto cuando nos dice: “Mi comida es hacer la voluntad de aquel que me envió y llevar a cabo su obra.” (Juan4:34). Durante la noche de su agonía en la oración del huerto, la voluntad humana de Cristo se rindió a la voluntad divina de su Padre: “Pero que no se haga mi voluntad, sino la tuya.” (Lucas 22:42). Y antes de esto Él nos enseñó: “He bajado del cielo, no para hacer mi voluntad, sino la del que me envió.” (Juan 6:38).

El hacer la voluntad de Dios justo ahí donde nos ha puesto es clave para la santidad, como nos dice el Concilio Vaticano Segundo:

“Por tanto, todos los fieles cristianos, en las condiciones, ocupaciones o circunstancias de su vida, y a través de todo eso, se santificarán más cada día si lo aceptan todo con fe de la mano del Padre celestial y colaboran con la voluntad divina, haciendo manifiesta a todos, incluso en su dedicación a las tareas temporales, la caridad con que Dios amó al mundo” (Lumen Gentium, 41).

¿Cuál es esa voluntad para nosotros? Su voluntad no es otra que nuestra santificación, que seamos santos, santificando todo lo que hacemos. Discernimos la voluntad de Dios escuchando su Palabra en la Biblia, en la Iglesia, y en nuestra oración. Dios desea que nos unamos a Él en una unión eterna que comienza con nuestro bautismo. Él manifiesta su voluntad en los Diez Mandamientos, que nos enseñan cómo amar y cómo no comportarnos si buscamos amar. Dios manifiesta su voluntad en las Bienaventuranzas, enseñándonos que el amor siempre va más allá de lo mínimo, y se sacrifica a sí mismo por Dios y por los demás. Por ultimo Dios manifiesta su voluntad en los dos Mandamientos de amor: “Amarás al Señor, tu Dios, con todo tu corazón, con toda tu alma y con todo tu espíritu… Amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo” (cfr. Mateo 22: 37-39).

La dirección espiritual con un sacerdote o con una persona laica bien formada, puede ayudarnos a discernir la voluntad de Dios en nuestras circunstancias particulares. En otras palabras, la dirección espiritual puede ayudarnos a santificar esas circunstancias al hacerlas por amor. La dirección espiritual es uno de los medios humanos que Cristo nos da para ayudarnos a aclarar y a confirmar la voluntad y el camino particular de Dios para nosotros. La Iglesia siempre la ha recomendado para quienes buscan la santidad.

Así cumpliremos con lo que San Pablo exhorta:

“Como elegidos de Dios, sus santos y amados, revístanse de sentimientos de profunda compasión. Practiquen la benevolencia, la humildad, la dulzura, la paciencia. Sopórtense los unos a los otros, y perdónense mutuamente siempre que alguien tenga motivo de queja contra otro. El Señor los ha perdonado: hagan ustedes lo mismo” (Colosenses 3: 12-13).

El hacer la voluntad de Dios requiere esfuerzo ya que nuestra voluntad humana está sujeta a tentación, debilidad y distracción. Practicar la virtudes—especialmente la fe, la esperanza y la caridad—nos facilita el hacer la voluntad de Dios, desarrollando al mismo tiempo hábitos que nos lleven a amar y a hacer la voluntad de Dios más fácilmente.

Cristo nunca nos abandona, al contrario, nos da a su Madre como Madre nuestra—como lo hizo con el discípulo amado—para ayudarnos a cumplir mejor la voluntad de Dios.

 

Fr. John R. Waiss

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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The Bible and Morality: a Story of Love and Mercy

The Bible contains a story, a love story, the story of man’s relationship with God. This story includes the story of sin—of man’s rejection of God’s love—destroying our relationship with God, enslaving is to selfishness and pride, damaging God’s gift—nature—and our relationship with others.

But the Bible also contains the story of God’s Word—God’s Word of Truth—who takes on our flesh in order to set us free from the slavery of sin. It is thus the story of God’s mercy, which restores man’s ability to love, to truly love both God and other men again.

God’s Merciful Response to Man’s Rejection

The Bible can be a source of moral reflection if we recognize it as a love story. This story begins with creation of Adam and Eve, and with God’s invitation to join him freely in a covenant of love; Adam and Eve rejected that covenant, preferring to seek happiness independent of God. In effect, all sin—all moral evil—repeats this seeking happiness independent of God and of his love.

The Bible continues with the story of God’s response of mercy to man’s rejection, promising Adam and Eve a redeemer—of Eve’s seed—who would conquer the deceiver who led them into sin. The Bible tells us of God’s covenant with Noah, then with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and finally with Moses, where God gave us the Ten Commandments.

These Commandments are a father’s instruction to his children, teaching us about the demands of love. It teaches us to put our Love—God—first, having no other loves before him; to respect the person we love in word and the weekly anniversary of our covenant of love; to honor those who represent our Love, to remain faithful, to respect the life that flows from that Love, and to treat Love’s gifts and expressions in ways that always reflect that faithfulness. Such are God’s paternal admonitions to us.

Yet it is easy to treat those loving instructions as requirements to keep our Father God off our backs—to avoid his wrath and any nagging threats of punishment. Such childish (minimalist) behavior reduces morality to fulfilling the commandments so as to avoid (eternal) punishments.

But Jesus tries to raise our eyes higher, to get us to go beyond doing the minimum. That is why he gave us the Beatitudes: blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit… the pure of heart… the merciful… If our actions arise from love and reflect love, it will make us truly happy and lead to seeing God in the eternal life of heaven. Beatitudes challenge us to give ourselves truly beyond the minimum.

The Beatitudes do not wipe out the Commandments, but help us to fulfill them, as our Lord says—after giving us the Beatitudes:

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them… Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17,19).

Ultimately, all our moral actions boil down to love, which fulfills all the Commandments:

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets’” (Matthew 22:37-40).

So, this love story doesn’t stop with the death of the last apostle, but must continue with each one of us: our response to God’s invitation to love is essential; to love him with all our heart and our neighbor out of love for him. This is what the Bible teaches us about morality.

 

Fr. John R. Waiss

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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