Let the King Ascend and the Spirit Descend!

The first part of the title of this post comes from a hip-hop song by De La Soul in honor of J-Dilla, late great beat maker. While the song does not have to do with the Ascension of Christ which we celebrated last week, maybe there are some echoes of truth in it, and I don’t think looking too hard. The last verse of the song has a line that goes, “the will of God was To give the man wings and to ascend to make music to blend with the King of Kings.”

Jesus Christ ascended to heaven on his own Divine Power, in other words, he was not assumed. Because he has ascended, the members of the Head await the day when we will all be taken up to where he is and to share in his reign, to make music to praise God (Definitely not playing harps and floating on clouds as disembodied souls). This was and is the will of God.

The Ascension necessitates and leads up to today’s great Feast of Pentecost. It is the 50th day of the Easter season, the culmination of the events of the Exodus, the completion of the Paschal mystery by which Jesus delivered us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. And he gives us the ability to be transformed into him, to be partakers of his Divine Nature through grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit who always makes him present.

At Mount Olivet , before he ascended, Jesus was asked by the disciples if the long-awaited messianic kingdom of God would be established and the Davidic line would finally be restored. He answered that ““It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samar′ia and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1). In other words, “just wait and see what happens when you receive the Holy Spirit.” The kingdom of God inaugurated at Pentecost, the birth of the Church, which is the kingdom of God. Once empowered, the Apostles and disciples of Jesus are to be leaders and ambassadors to all the nations building up the kingdom and introducing the reign of Christ.

The mission of Christ now becomes the mission of all the Members united to his Body. This is the work of the Holy Spirit which began at Pentecost. And we enter into this mystery on this day. We receive the gift of the Holy Ghost who was manifested in tongues of fire.

About the Ascension and the connection with Pentecost, St. Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call,  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.  But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it is said,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

Ephesians 4:4-8

St. Paul quotes a line from Psalm 68,

Thou didst ascend the high mount,
leading captives in thy train,
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.

Psalm 68:18

Actually, it looks like he got it wrong! It says that he, Jesus Christ who is God, ( whom the Psalm is alluding to), received gifts – – – not that he gave gifts. So which is correct? Ephesians or the Psalm? St. Paul continues by explaining the gifts he is talking about:

And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11 – 13

These gifts are contained in the gift who is the Holy Spirit. He equips us to build up the kingdom of God through individual and communal transformation into Christ himself. And the thing is, once we are transformed, once we begin to cooperate with the will of God by cooperating with the Holy Ghost who enables us to keep and do the will of God, we become gifts to Jesus! And he receives us as his gifts. This is why Jesus prays, “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24 NABRE).

Happy Pentecost!

The Visitation of the Holy Theotokos

I just found this awesome image and I thought I should share it. Apparently this image of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin St. Elizabeth is painted, or written, on a wall from Timios Stavros Church in Pelendi, Cyprus.

This icon depicts Mary as the Theotokos, the God bearer. Jesus Christ became incarnate in and of her through the power of the Holy Spirit. God dwelt among us, in the flesh, first living in the holy womb of Mary for 9 months.

Being impelled by Christ living within her, she makes haste to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, as we read in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Not only does she wish to share her joy of receiving such a tremendous gift, she wants to help her cousin with her pregnancy. Elizabeth is an older woman so she would certainly need some assistance.

The whole scene is so brilliant and, can I say it, pregnant with joy… Literally. What a beautiful detail that Saint Luke points out—the pre-born infant, St. John the Baptist, leaps in his mother’s womb at the presence of Mary and Christ Child dwelling within her! He recognizes who is in his midst. This is followed by Mary’s jubilant praise for God “‘who has done great things for her.” As a result, “all generations [call her] blessed.”

I could probably say more and go on. But I think that’s pretty much all I have for now. Just one more thing, the Visitation makes me think of the great work that the Sisters of Life do to support pregnant women in need, “because God lifts up the lowly.” They are very much icons of Mary, who in turn is an icon of the Church.

I’m reminded of a quote I just read:

“I never think of the Visitation to Elizabeth without thinking of some pregnant woman who needs our prayers.”

– Servant of God Dorothy Day

Powerful Silence

Today is a day of great silence. The whole world is in silence. God has died, in his human nature. What a great mystery! God has submitted to death on the cross at the hands of human beings. The depths of his love, mind blowing. In his crucifixion, Jesus Christ, the new Adam has reversed the disobedience of the first Adam, and thus destroyed the curse of sin and death. While his body lays in the stone cold tomb, he has descended to Hades to liberate the souls of the just who have long awaited for the gates of heaven to be opened to them.

It’s great day of silence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about silence since I was hospitalized again in February. This year, thankfully, I was very much aware of my time there. I wasn’t delirious the whole time! It was good to see my friends, the nurses and techs again. Yes, there was noise, there was constant activity— but there was silence and there was peace as well. I’m thankful for the experience. In a mysterious way, I feel that it was a second chance for me to really profit from being in the hospital (because I lapsed into a kind of ingratitude a month or two later). Many graces were poured out for me personally and for those known and unknown, as they were last year as well. And it wasn’t lost on me that the Vatican meeting on the sexual abuse crisis was happening while I was in the hospital. I believe God wanted me to be in the hospital so I could pray and offer sufferings for the cause. My prayer is that I don’t forget the experience.

While I was there, some nights were very difficult. Because I was fully aware, I was also conscious of the pain from being in one position. The nurses would check up on me but it would seem that I was sleeping because my eyes were closed! I had to wait until they would actually come into the room. So, as I lay there unable to speak or move, I offered it up to the best of my ability. I really felt that Jesus was there with me. I felt that I was with him on the cross. He was nailed to the tree unable to move. And, he exhibited such a humble patience and a loving acceptance to the Will of the Father. “He opened opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter… ” (Isaiah 53)

Titian - Christ and the Good Thief - WGA22832
Christ and the Good Thief by Titan

I believe that the “Good Thief” who was crucified alongside Jesus recognized something of his Divinity. He saw power, he saw that this was Someone who had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again. St. Dismas, as he is now known, saw that this was indeed a King who was going forth triumphant into his kingdom. The other thief, the “Bad Thief” didn’t raise his mind upward but rather look down and cried out that the man crowned with thorns should take him down from the Cross with him. But the other thief looked heavenward and believed that Jesus was going to heaven and he wanted him to take him up with him. And he was rewarded for his faith when Jesus looked at him said, “Truly, I say to youtoday you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23).

As I lay there on the cross of the hospital bed, I saw myself as the “Good Thief,”  and interiorly whispered the words, “Jesus remember me, when you come into your kingdom! ”  He was right there in my midst. Even though it was painful, my heart was filled with joy because I knew he heard me. God may seem silent but he always hears us If we cry out to him from our heart. What a blessed silence that afforded such an opportunity!

 The hospital was not a prison, it was a desert where I could find God in silence.  It was preparation for entering into Lent. 

 “The Power of Silence,” by Cardinal Robert Sarah was a book mentioned to me by my sister while I was in the hospital.  Our modern world is in such dire need of  silence, silence in which the voice of God can be heard in the recesses of the heart. As she read me the introduction during the last week of my hospitalization, I was touched by the example of the dying monk who had multiple sclerosis and was confined to his bed, unable to move or even speak. All he could do was smile. This young Carthusian brother’s witness of silent love inspired the Vatican Cardinal to write the book.

 One of the quotes from the book: “The real men of God have no fear of death, because they are waiting for heaven.”

Resurrection (24)

Icon of the Harrowing of Hell

 And so, on Holy Saturday, the world in silence awaits the return of the King, the Resurrection and the Life! Christ our God is victorious over the gates of death. He will rise, never to die! Praise to His Name! 

Have a wonderful Easter!

The Beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris

Facade of Notre-Dame de Paris - 2018-06-23

Yesterday while I was checking my email, I noticed a reference to Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris burning. “That couldn’t be right,” I thought to myself as I scrolled through my messages. But then I did a Google search. In my horror, I saw images of smoke and bright orange flames enveloping the Cathedral. “Oh no!” I called out for mom to quickly turn the TV on.

George Weigel was on with Brian Williams of MSNBC pointing out that this fire was especially tragic because it happened during Holy Week. He mentioned that this profoundly affects people in a way that a fire on the Eiffel Tower could not. The next guest, on phone from Paris, said that the fire hurt all people of the city and of the whole world, including non-Catholics like herself.

What is it about this building that affects both Catholics and non-Catholics alike? Why were people so distraught that it was almost destroyed, reacting as if somebody were dying?

In August of 2000, my family and I found ourselves in Paris. The purpose of our trip to France was actually to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Had we known that Paris was seven hours away from Lourdes, things might have turned out a bit different! Thankfully we did not plan well; instead, we chose to rely solely on Divine Providence and the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a result, we received so many blessings, especially getting to see Notre Dame Cathedral.

As the train to Lourdes was unavailable for three days, we had the opportunity to do some sightseeing in the capital city of France. Of course, we had to see the historic Gothic church we had heard so much about. On a nice sunny day, we set out on our journey. We didn’t have a map but somebody in the hotel we were staying (another unexpected blessing giving us an awesome view of the Eiffel Tower) said that it was right around the corner. A few hours later, we saw arches and flying buttresses and mistook the church dedicated to St. Severin as Notre Dame Cathedral! It was a beautiful church with ornate stained glass windows— but it wasn’t the Cathedral. My sister pulled out her trusty book of French phrases and managed to ask passersby where the it was. “Just keep following the Seine,” “Follow the river, you can’t miss it,” “You’re getting closer,” were the only responses we got. Eight hours later we were at our destination.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! We were right in front of the stone facade that was nearly a thousand years old! Notre Dame Cathedral in all its splendor. There was such a long line of people waiting to get a glimpse of the interior. As we waited our turn, I marveled at the artistry, all the intricately sculpted figures from the Bible. Finally we were inside and the first thing I saw was a sign reminding visitors to maintain modesty, covered shoulders, and a sense of reverence. The Cathedral was dark at first. But then there was the brilliant rose stained glass window! I looked up and marveled at the sheer beauty of it. How did they even get it in place? The next thing we knew, Holy Mass was about to begin. It was the Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What a great grace to be at this church on the solemnity of its namesake, Our Lady!

For as long as I live, I will never forget the experience. I’m so grateful that I was able to see the Cathedral back then. So it was sad to see that it was on fire now. Thankfully, the main rose windows, some artwork, and relics were saved. Many people all over the world are relieved. What is the answer to my question—what explains the attraction?

In the Gospel reading for Monday, the day of the fire, Judas complains that Mary wasted the costly aromatic ointment by pouring it on the Lord’s feet. He said that it could have been sold with the money given to the poor. I’ve heard some people complain that the Catholic Church has so many grand buildings and treasuries of artwork. Like Judas, they say that these things should be sold and money could solve the problem of poverty. But I think that the fire on Notre Dame Cathedral refutes this argument.

Buildings like the Cathedral have a transcendent quality that reminds us that we have eternal souls. They reflect the beauty of God and of his creation. Notre Dame Cathedral gives a glimpse into the reality of heaven. It is fitting Temple of Almighty God. People don’t appreciate beauty and the purpose of good art. Beauty points us to Goodness and Truth. Truth is articulated and goodness is exemplified through beauty. It speaks to our human desires. Beauty is its own argument.

I think of all the countless souls who have had conversions at Notre Dame. Had it been sold, some of these souls could have actually been lost. Generations and generations of people have been able to appreciate the church.

There is so much “art” that dehumanizes us. Buildings are cold, sterile, and uninspired cubes that only serve utilitarian purposes. But who says that utilitarian things can’t be beautiful too? I took a class on the Way of Beauty taught by British artist, David Clayton and I learned so much. Beautiful works of art, architecture, sculpture, poetry, and music lift us up. They humanize us. We can appreciate these things unlike animals. We are different. We have immortal souls with faculties to appreciate beauty. And I think this is why everybody, universally, seems to love Notre Dame Cathedral.

Thoughts on “Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner - The Annunciation.jpg
By Henry Ossawa Tannerhttp://freechristimages.org/biblestories/annunciation.htm, Public Domain, Link

One of my favorite religious paintings is the “Annunciation,” by Henry Ossawa (1859-1937) was an internationally renowned African-American painter and the son of a African-Methodist Episcopal bishop. He painted several paintings of Biblical themes. I read that he painted the “Annunciation” after a trip to Egypt and Palestine.

This painting is such a beautiful work of realism.

The angel:

Where other artists have painted the Archangel Gabriel as a human being with wings, Tanner painted him as a beam of pure radiant light reminiscent of a lightsaber. Indeed, angels have no bodies. What an awesome site it must’ve been for Mary to have beheld. I’m sure she must have been in awe but not frightened out of her mind as some may have been at the sight of an angel. God is bright, living Light which casts out all darkness and is fitting that his messenger should exhibit this quality. The light permeates the whole room with a radiant glow.

The Virgin Mary:

She looks very Jewish, Middle Eastern. Mary has the look of simple, quiet wonder. Her humility shines! Again Tanner comes through with a realistic depiction. I can’t help but think it is like looking in to the actual historical event. It must’ve looked almost like that in reality. Mary’s clothes are also very Middle Eastern looking. There is a detail to the right that I really love. Traditionally, artists have always depicted the Blessed Virgin wearing a blue mantle— and there it is, very much present in this painting!

The entire room looks very historically accurate for a first century Palestinian dwelling. You can also see the jars and such.

I’m not sure if I shared this elsewhere on this blog but I sure should have: in Exodus of the Old Testament, the glory cloud, the Shekinah, came over (“overshadowed” is the Biblical term used) the tent of meeting, the holy place where God (depicted as the cloud) dwelt. Mary is the new tent of meeting, the new tabernacle in which God dwelt for nine months. The Holy Spirit – – God – – overshadowed her, and God the Son, Jesus, was conceived in her womb. Appropriately, in Lourdes there was a tent for Eucharistic Adoration. I had just finished reading from Exodus to Deuteronomy prior toLourdes… So symbolism was not lost on me. As for the indoor Eucharistic Adoration chapel, the tabernacle was in the form of a golden pillar which symbolized a pillar of fire. By night, God took this symbol to lead and guard the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt. I’m kind of reminded of this by the depiction of the Archangel Gabriel as a column of light.

As I am writing this in honor of the Annunciation (March 25), I am also reminded of another image of Our Lady and the conception of Christ: that of the Burning Bush. God spoke to Moses through a bush that appeared to be on fire but yet was not consumed by the flames. This is a type, a symbol that foreshadows Mary. God overshadowed her as he did the bush, she conceived Jesus and gave birth to him while her virginity remained intact, unconsumed. I love this image and have an icon depicting this hanging on my wall. Maybe one day I will write a post about the Burning Bush icon. I believe that I read somewhere that a large icon hangs in a Russian fire department in Moscow or another large city, maybe St. Petersburg.

This painting of the Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner is a powerful window into the moment at which Mary gave consent to become the Mother of God. The intensity of what is happening is captured by the light that pervades the image. I think it’s the warm light, the realistic details of first century Palestine, and the sweet humility of Mary that really make this painting one of my favorites. We owe a debt of gratitude to Tanner for this beautiful work of art.

Gratitude, the primacy of grace, and the existence of God

It may not be a universal thing, but to paraphrase GK Chesterton, atheists find themselves in a dilemma when they find themselves overflowing with gratitude for existence but having no one to thank for it. if somebody is grateful for something, they are grateful to somebody. Nobody can be grateful to themselves for a gift. Neither can anyone be grateful to the “universe,” because that too is a gift which presupposes a gift giver. Moreover, if somebody thinks that nature is itself is the gift giver, that person is referring to nature as a person, using nature as a euphemism for God. I heard the story of an atheist who cried, “thank you,” out of  a surge of wonder and awe over a beautiful sunset – – in that moment she ceased to be an atheist.

Ultimately, everything, all the blessings that we have received come from Almighty God. The next breath we take is a gift. Even the power by which we do good works is a gift – – all is grace. All begins and ends with the grace of God. Grace comes first, God always takes the initiative in reaching out towards us and we respond. He thirsts for our love and so generously makes known the his love towards us; we respond to that love with our love. This is the model for prayer outlined in the Catechism.

This Thanksgiving (and Indeed, every day) I have a lot to be grateful for. Just to be alive, number one. The mercy of God always taking me back even after a relapse  (which should be avoided)—And for keeping me from even worse sin, by his grace. His willingness to transforming into an image of his Son. To have a loving family and friends who support me and make life more pleasant. The list goes on, this is just the beginning. I think of the New York Times best-selling book, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voscamp, in which the author makes such a a list.

In short, gratitude makes us happier. We have an innate desire to give thanks. It is right and just that we do so. Where is this gratitude to be directed if, ultimately, not to God?

Rising Up…

This

Ever since I came back home from the hospital, I’ve been noticing of the top of the persimmon tree peering through the living room window. About 5-6 weeks ago, it was practically dead. The branches looked like sharp and pointy sticks—like thorns. It was a powerful reminder of the crown of thorns that was forced onto the head of Jesus… that’s what they looked like. The image helped me to enter into a prayerful state during the last days of Lent and Holy Week. Eventually, I could see signs of life appear on those branches,  small green buds. Now, the tree is all green and vibrant (spring is finally here).

The same dead tree is now alive, a sign of Easter—the Resurrection of Christ: the reason for my hope, for my supernatural outlook.

On Easter Sunday, I woke up feeling a sense of peace and joy. I had especially been looking forward to Easter after such a physically and psychologically difficult draining time. The Easter season is my favorite time of year—I think that the song, most famously sung by Andy Williams, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” should have been about Easter. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead gives me the concrete hope that I too can live forever and ultimately rise bodily after the Good Friday of life. One day—the eternal day—I will not merely walk, I will fly.

Easter ( Pentecost) is the culmination of everything Jesus was born to do—to bring sinners like me into union with God. He destroyed sin and death, robbing them of power. Jesus Christ is the Sign of Jonah: he entered the belly of the beast and killed it from the inside out, death swallowed up Life and spit it out. I think it’s really fitting that Easter fell on April Fools’ Day this year because the Crucifixion of Jesus and his Resurrection, the Paschal Mystery, fooled the devil and brought about his complete defeat. Easter marks the greatest joke God pulled on his enemies and ours.

There are so many proofs for the Resurrection of Christ, the one that my mind immediately goes to is that the Apostles and early Christians of Rome, “the belly of the beast,” readily went to their deaths for this.  They knew Jesus lives, that he was Divine, that he had the power to raise them up because he overcame death. And within around 200 years, the once-pagan Rome came to embrace Christianity.

While I  felt so joyful during the first two weeks Easter, knowing that one day all the pain and difficulties will fade away and give way to everlasting happiness, it was harder to experience it as all this stuff was thrown at me, especially a threat of losing home nursing care… fighting to keep it, etc. Life is full of so many problems, setbacks, separations, pain—just suffering. Doesn’t make sense!  At the beginning of my recovery from pneumonia, I used to wonder why God just didn’t end it for me in the hospital, it would’ve been so much easier (it doesn’t work like that, the struggle makes stronger like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis! And then it hits me, “I could have died—”

“But I’m alive!”

So many people have been telling me how good it is to see me, that I look and sound much better than I was. All I can do is be grateful and trust (how can i not!?) that God is working through it all…  All I can do is do everything I can, with his help, to do good, to love as he did… AIl I can do is hold on the hope of The Resurrection, to be the sheep of the Good Shepherd who himself became a sheep and walked through the valley of the shadow of death before us, trampling it down, making a way for us to pass through. With him at our side, the whole time, Christ leads me) into the green pastures beside the restful waters—and my cup will (does, even now) overflow.

United to the branch, from the seed that fell to the ground and died, Jesus who lives forever, we will share in his Resurrection in full. May we bear an abundant harvest in the meantime, believing that all things work for good for those who love him.

Where I’ve been, and what I’ve learned (A Lenten journey)

These past few days and weeks have been quite an experience. It all started sometime in late January…  I was hospitalized with aspiration pneumonia, for 40 days. 40. The season of Lent had begun when I came home. A Dominican friar who came to visit me in the ICU Jokingly remarked that had already fulfilled my share of Lenten penance! But as Easter hadn’t arrived yet— it’s almost here— there was a bit more in store!

Those days in the hospital were a difficult time. They drained liters of fluid from my lungs. I would have been released sooner as the great doctors and nurses, as well as CNAs took great care of me. And how can I forget the fact that my parents drove 30 to 40 minutes to Georgetown University Hospital, back and forth, every single day. Also, my sister came from Philly to be with me. And then, of course, I had so many extended family members and friends come to visit. Surely, that would help the healing process… But it wasn’t that easy! While I was there in the hospital, I went into what they called ICU Delirium.

I basically went a little crazy from being laid up in bed and from the strong medication. Sometimes I would imagine crazy things, hallucinate, and say all kinds of things I wouldn’t normally say or even dream of saying to people. Even when I came home, I had all these strange memories, feelings, and all sorts of frightening, nightmarish dreams. I thought that people were out to get me and that they were all the devil in disguise. To my embarrassment, I even acted like they were. Anyway, because of the delirium, I couldn’t do the swallow test to see if I could safely eat without aspirating my food. That set things back. I was given a feeding tube, which had some complications.

So now, I’m getting better, I’m cleared to have liquids and puréed foods. The next step would be the swallow test at the hospital. Making progress. Something else happened though, sometime when I was delirious, probably at home, I broke my arm somehow… I guess a nurse pulled my arm the wrong way? Don’t know exactly when it happened but I had been complaining of serious pain. So… Lent really continued for me beyond the hospital, haha.

In spite of it all, I feel that God is sustaining me. It’s just a piece of his Cross that he is sharing with me. Jesus is here with me even though it’s hard to see sometimes. I have learned again how much God loves me personally, as he does each person reading this. I have experienced it through the great outpouring of love that I’ve received. Friends have been visiting, telling me that they are with me; family members have been coming to help, bringing food so that my mom does not have to cook; my sister and the Sisters of Life keep sending me letters and notes and cards reminding me that God loves me very much and that my suffering endears me to him, providing a means of union with him. It is all the voice of God speaking to me. He speaks, we just need to listen.

It is still difficult. Sometimes I wonder. I wonder, “why suffering.”  Jesus has transformed it… But, “Really, Jesus, you would be willing to suffer to show us that you are with us in our suffering, Father, you would allow the heinous crucifixion to take place to bring about a greater good… For my sake?” Jesus died such a humiliating death, for me, for my sins and yours. The only words that I can say are, “thank you.” But why suffering at all? It is an occasion of love, the means of expressing love, showing it concretely… And, interestingly, it is the occasion of receiving love.

While I struggle, and life is difficult— and yes it’s difficult, today I got the message that the division of nursing services of the state of Maryland will not grant me the 4 hours from the 16 that I was originally receiving and need  (my medical needs necessitate even more)— the Cross of Jesus Christ, my Savior and Life-Giver, is my hope. Through  Good Friday comes Easter Sunday… Easter is coming…  Lent is giving way to Easter… Finally and definitively…

The Star of the New Evangelization

(vector image I made last year)

I love all of the approved Marian apparitions, especially the main three, but I think that Our Lady of Guadalupe makes me the happiest. It is probably the great tenderness of her face and her words to St. Juan Diego that I especially love:

[D]o not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

Who can resist the love of a mother? It was ultimately Our Lady who won over the Aztec Empire to the  Sacred Heart of her Son.  An estimated 9 million people embraced Christianity within 10 years.  This was a feat that the Spanish conquistadors could never have hoped to accomplish. The Blessed Virgin doesn’t make use of our pathetic arms and instruments of war, rather she wields the weapons of peace and love. She appeared as an Aztec, spoke in Nahuatl, and utilized familiar symbols and customs.

There’s so much dehumanization in our world today,  whether it be through abortion,  human trafficking, racism, or injustice towards undocumented immigrants. Laws, politics, and cultural “warmongering” can only do so much, but love––this is secret. We should all try it sometime.

I have given some thought to the fact that it is difficult, if not practically impossible, to argue with love, with goodness and beauty. This is the way that Our Lady teaches. it’s no wonder that she is called the Star of the Evangelization. May she guide us all to the One True Light.

All Saints Day ’17: the Diversity of Saints

There are so many different Saints from so many different backgrounds and walks of life. This is captured in the first reading from today’s Solemnity of All Saints. It’s from the book of Revelation. St. John describes what he saw in a vision of the heavenly reality:

“I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
From every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.”

A great multitude, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. Every one on this earth is called to be a Saint. In fact, it is required, canonized or not, in order to enter heaven.

The diversity of Saints spans a spectrum of different vocations, charisms, and states of life. The Holy Spirit, the Saint-maker, bestows differing gifts to members of the one Church. Just as a physical body has unique members that have different functions so too does the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church, have distinct members that carry out all sorts of different functions. This is the creative genius of God.

I once heard a priest give this analogy: imagine an immense Gothic cathedral with a bright stained glass window. The rays of the sun pour through the panes of glass, illuminating it. And the window casts down colors of all sorts. This is what God does. One baptism, several manifestations, the graces are unique to each and every individual person. God loves variety. St. Benedict is not St. Francis, St. Monica is not like St. Bernadette, neither is St. Paul Miki like St. Charles Lwanga.

There is much more that could be said about today but this will have to suffice!