Today, September 15, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It is part of the genius of the Liturgical Calendar, in my opinion, that we take into account not just the joy but also the extreme sorrow Our Lady felt at different times in her life. We all know that sorrow and suffering will be part of our lives. Despite our best efforts to live well and make choices that will avoid suffering, we will never be able to escape it entirely. The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows reminds us of this simple fact. Although Mary is the Mother of God and was privileged in raising Jesus and being close to him his whole life, she was nevertheless not preserved from overwhelming suffering and sorrow. We note her sorrows, and, because of them, we know that she understands our own sorrows.
This is especially poignant this fall, as children go back to school. In my school district, students across the county are wearing “Uvalde Strong” shirts, to remember the 19 children and 2 adults who will not be returning. As a mother who watched her own son die slowly and painfully across the span of three hours, Mary knows firsthand the deep sorrow of those parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers. Yet it is the story of Mary and her son, who died and then rose again, that gives hope to them and to us. Without Mary’s sorrow, we would not know Easter joy.
I was reflecting on these thoughts last Sunday. I was out of town and happened to go to Mass, rather serendipitously, at a parish called Our Lady of Sorrows. Sitting in the quiet for a few minutes before Mass began, I noticed the lovely altar setting in the small church. High up in the alcove of the roof is painted a mural of God the Father, in the midst of creating in the heavenly realm, looking down with care and interest at the earth below. Directly under God the Father is a dove, representing the Holy Spirit. The mural, being painted, is two dimensional. But in a straight line beneath the Holy Spirit is a three-dimensional sculpture of Christ on the cross. It’s as if the second person of the Trinity leaps out of heaven onto the cross, becoming visible, incarnate, flesh. Standing beneath the cross are Our Lady of Sorrows on one side, and John the Beloved on the other.
Under the feet of Christ is the tabernacle. Directly in front of the tabernacle is the altar, from which hangs an altar cloth proclaiming “Holy! Holy! Holy!” And the final piece of the puzzle is in front of the altar - the people who come to Mass, sit in the pews and participate in the story of salvation, beautifully represented through art.
Here in front of me was the entire economy of salvation, the overcoming of death and destruction through the lavishness of the Trinity, the reason for our hope in the midst of sorrow. The Father who gives his Son, the Son who gives himself, the Spirit who assists, while the Mother looks on, distressed, suffering, but accepting. This drama is replayed every time we go to Mass, as the birth, death and resurrection of Christ is again made incarnate for us, under the form of bread and wine. Surely, in that moment, the suffering of Our Lady contributed to the overall holiness of the sacrifice. Her suffering was accepted as an offering.
The prophet Jeremiah proclaims “‘I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow…my people will be filled with my bounty,’ declares the Lord.” (Jer 31:13-14) The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, coming the day after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, reminds us that although we suffer and are sorrowful now, our tears will eventually be turned into joy. From her post at the foot of the cross of her son, Mary shows us the way.
One of the most powerful Catholic actions that can happen in a home is the simple act of giving a blessing.
Blessings are considered sacramentals, meaning that they are “sacred signs or sacred actions” (Youcat 272) that help us to grow more like Christ and receive the graces available in the sacraments. Blessings typically consist of prayer, the use of Scripture and a corresponding sign, usually the Sign of the Cross. Although we are accustomed to seeing and/or receiving blessings in church by the presider or deacon, there are many instances in everyday life, especially within the home, where it is appropriate for families to bless each other. This is especially true of parents blessing their children, where parents exercise their function as priestly people who participate in the priesthood of Christ through their baptism.
The Priestly Blessing
Scripture is full of examples of God blessing his people and fathers blessing their children. One of the best loved blessings is given by God to Moses in the book of Numbers, sometimes referred to as the Priestly Blessing. God said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them:
‘The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!’
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites and I will bless them. “ (Numbers 6:24-27)
The footnotes of the NAB (New American Bible) explain that the word “peace,” translated as shalom in Hebrew, refers to “the idea of happiness, good health, prosperity, friendship, and general well-being.” To bless someone in the name of peace was to pray for all of these things to descend upon the person. Simply put, blessings call down God’s favor and protection upon the one who is blessed. It is to look upon a person with love and delight, to recognize the goodness in him or her, and to want that goodness and grace to multiply.
Just as God looked upon Adam and Eve in the garden and blessed them (Genesis 1:28), so we are also called to imitate God in being people who bless, In fact, the Catechism reminds us that “every baptized person is called to be a blessing and to bless.”
Blessing at Home
The easiest way to incorporate blessings into everyday life is to print out the Priestly Blessing above (or just memorize it) and tape it on the back of the door your family uses most, ie. garage door, front door, back door, etc. As you leave for school, work, sports practice, dance practice or anywhere else, just take about 3 or 4 seconds to bless each other. Recite the blessing while you make the sign of the cross on each other’s forehead. If you do this consistently, you’ll be surprised at the results.
I will share that my husband was fortunate to grow up in a home where he was blessed almost every time he left the house, and this was one of the traditions he passed on to our children, blessing them in their comings and goings. It is such a powerful, yet simple, sign of conveying favor and love to another person that it wasn’t long before our children’s friends, having watched this ritual a few times, started lining up to get a blessing as well when they left our house! Additionally, introducing parents to the practice of giving blessings is something I do at our church formation sessions. It really is quite something to see the look on many parent’s faces when their child blesses them, and prays that the peace of God will descend upon them.
As with most of our Catholic traditions, it is the repetition and practicing over time that allows these practices to bear fruit. The habit of blessing reminds us that God is with us, and goes out with us as well. It also shows us that each of us is a God-bearer, made in his image. Inserting God into the few seconds before we leave is an opportunity to breathe a little, pray and hope. As this school year ramps up, consider adding the practice of everyday blessings into your home life.
Now that the first week or so of school has come and gone, let’s revisit the idea of taking on some Adult Education to further our own growth in faith and build our relationship with God, as well as model life-long learning to the children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and/or neighbors who may be in our lives. I wrote about several different options in my last article, and with a little thought, prayer and planning, everyone can find the level of activity and commitment that best works for them.
An additional trick I’ve learned through working with parents over the last decade and a half is to put a visual reminder of the goal you want to complete in a prominent place somewhere in your home. To that end, I’ve created the simple “Parent Pledge'' (or "Grandparent Pledge") form above. After you’ve decided on your goal, here’s all you need to do:
1. PRINT out the form above.
2. FILL it in.
3. POST it somewhere you and your family will see it every day.
4. Then just DO it!
Besides the classes, online courses and books I listed in my previous article, I would like to offer two additional books for consideration. Both of these books especially tie into the National Eucharistic Revival.
1. Making the Mass Come Alive At only 35 pages in length, this booklet is easy to read in one or two sittings, but packed full of enough quality material that you will want to read it another couple of times. Written by John H. Hampsch, C.M.F., and published by Queenship Publishing Company in 2000, the booklet explains why the Mass should be celebrated, not just passively attended - or worse, simply endured. With chapters like “Don’t Be a Party Pooper” and “Every Body Needs Prayer” this tour through the Mass is well worth your time and offers a good introduction to Eucharistic theology.
2. Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist Published in 2011 by Doubleday, this full-length book (135 pages) is a collection of essays approaching the Eucharist from different perspectives. Written by Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I., past president of Oblate School of Theology and well-known author, the book is a compilation of Fr. Ron’s many musings and teachings on the Eucharist. Ultimately, the Eucharist is a great mystery of God’s presence and love. The essays work together to try to explain some of this mystery, culminating in the fact that the “one great act of fidelity” that we can offer back to Jesus is to receive him in the Eucharist - to just keep showing up. The essays are only two or three pages long in most cases, and are written in Fr. Ron’s clear, pastoral style. This book will easily keep you company in the fall evenings.
Both of these books are available on My Bookshelf. Have you decided what you will learn this season? Let’s pray for each other as we continue on this Eucharistic Revival journey, that we may be people who “know wisdom and discipline, may understand intelligent sayings, may receive instruction in wise conduct, in what is right, just and fair, [so] that resourcefulness may be imparted to the naive, knowledge and discretion to the young. The wise by hearing them will advance in learning, the intelligent will gain sound advice.” (Proverbs 1:1-5)
Hail Mary, seat of Wisdom, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death, and pray for those who never pray to you.
The annual back-to-school trek has begun in earnest around the country this week. Schools that didn’t start a week ago are getting going this week. That means early mornings, stray papers in the kitchen, school buses on the road and, of course, homework.
Now that the kids are back to studying, what about us? Shouldn't we also be revving up our brains again and flexing some of our mental muscle? We definitely know that those who routinely exercise and stretch their brains to learn new things will retain a much better quality of life as they age. Besides, there are so many interesting things to learn about!
Another reason to seriously consider learning something new is to model that learning about our faith is a life-long journey. We don’t graduate from growing in our faith, as though we’ve learned all we need to know at Confirmation. One parent told me she started going to Bible study because her child looked at her one day and said "You're making me go to RE class, but you don't do anything. I guess I can quit, too, when I get older." If we want our children and grandchildren to take their faith seriously, then we have to show them how to do it, and that it’s important in the midst of our busy lives.
Model Life-long Learning
So, I would like to propose a "Back to School, Back to Study" Pledge for Parents. Like all my faith formation suggestions, adding something new is NOT intended to overwhelm or cause guilt. It's really more about finding a bit of time, or reorganizing a little space, to fit in something new that adds great value. It's finding an inch, not a mile. In other words, this pledge has to be pretty simple. It really involves just 2 things: 1. finding a study that interests you and fits into your schedule and 2. sticking with it.
So, where should you look to find a good Catholic study? Most parishes have good Bible studies that start around this time of year, and they use solid resources that you can trust. My favorite Bible series is from Stephen Binz, published by Twenty-Third Publications. It's called the "Threshold Bible Study" series, and it covers many fascinating topics. Many parishes use the "Little Rock Scripture Study" series, or the "6 Weeks with the Bible" series from Loyola Press. Both of these are also good.
Some parishes also offer courses in the "Echoes of Faith" series, a program published and produced by RCL Benziger, a well-known Catholic textbook publisher. This program can be done in group settings or individually and has recently been updated. The current version is called "Echoes of Faith, Emmaus," signifying that it follows the Biblical story of Jesus walking with his disciples on the road to Emmaus. It's very well done and is often used for catechist certification. This is a good option if you are just starting to learn about Catholicism. Ask your Director of Religious Education at your local parish about it.
But if committing to another outside activity makes you feel overwhelmed, you can also consider learning on your own. The St. Paul Center, at www.stpaulcenter.com, offers several online courses for free and they are a great place to start.
However, if you're not sure you can make it through a full course - even a free, self paced one- you can always pick up a new book and commit to finishing it by Christmas. There are several books that I highly recommend on My Bookshelf, such as John Bergsma's Bible Basics for Catholics or Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing. Shorter autobiographies, like St. Therese of Lisieux’ The Story of A Soul, are also perfect Fall reading.
Whatever option you choose is not nearly as important as actually choosing something and sticking with it. Take a few minutes today to think about the season ahead. At Christmas time, what would you like to look back and have read or learned during those 3 or 4 months? Then, just pick something and get going, and model life-long learning to those around you.
St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of students of all ages, pray for us this school year!
In keeping with the intention of the Eucharistic Revival, to be a grass-roots effort focused on reigniting our love for Jesus in the Eucharist especially at the local level, many dioceses across the U.S. have adopted their own, particular motto for the next three years. The Diocese of Fall River chose “My flesh for the life of the world” from the Gospel of John. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis decided on “They recognized him when he broke the bread” for their theme. My own diocese of Austin chose “That they may all be one,” taken from the Farewell Discourse in John’s Gospel.
This particular verse of John 17:21 immediately brought to mind another group who is also very committed to praying for and working toward the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer to the Father, the prayer that all of his disciples may be a unified whole. “That all May Be One” is also the special charism and calling of the Franciscan Friars and Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, in Garrison, New York.
The founders of the Friars of the Atonement, Fr. Paul Watson, S.A. and Mother Lurana White, S.A., were especially focused on the idea of wholeness, achieved through At-One-Ment, meaning being at-one within ourselves, being at-one in our relationships with others, and being at-one with God. At-One-Ment is achieved through Jesus’ Atonement, and the friars and sisters strive to live out their call to heal and reconcile by giving special attention to the unity of all and seeking out “the broken and those who have lost their way.” They are guided in their efforts by Our Lady of the Atonement, whose feast day is celebrated every year on July 9, the day that Fr. Paul was inspired to begin the society back in 1898.
Our Lady of the Atonement is portrayed wearing a golden crown of 12 stars. She is dressed in a red mantle, symbolizing the Precious Blood of her son, through which we are reconciled to the Father. She holds her infant son in her arms, lovingly smiling down on him. The Christ Child holds a small cross in his right hand, and his arms are stretched wide, as though he wants to embrace the whole world. His left hand is arranged in the traditional Trinity blessing - three fingers are held together. Our Lady is also shown wearing white and blue garments, symbolizing her purity and her protection and intercession.
The members of the Atonement society have a special devotion to Our Lady of the Atonement. Fr. Dennis Polanko, S.A., writes on the society’s website that “Her garments are the colors of our country’s flag and remind me every day how desperately her intercession is needed in our divided country at this time.” Fr. Jerry DiGiralamo S.A., states that “The uniqueness of Our Lady of the Atonement, as compared to Our Lady of Sorrows, is that she took an active part in the Sacrificial Offering of her son. We, too, are called to be active participants in the Atonement of Christ by our offering of ourselves to the Will of the Father for the salvation of the world.”
Mary’s title of Our Lady of the Atonement can help us reflect on Mary’s role at the foot of the cross, a time of deep suffering for her when all seemed hopeless, cruel and overwhelming. Mary’s steadfast courage and conviction shows us the depth of her love for her son, whom she never left. In the same way, she remains with us as our mother, helping, guiding and comforting. She invites us to join in her Son’s offering of himself back to the Father, in our own small ways, in our daily lives, for the continuing atonement and At-One-Ment of the world. How will you join with Our Lady of the Atonement during the Eucharistic Revival?
Our Lady of the Atonement, pray for us and pray for those who never pray to you! Especially those who are broken or have lost their way.
Fans of the Bible In A Year podcast, hosted by Fr. Mike Schmitz and produced by Ascension Press, will be happy to hear that a new podcast is being planned. The new podcast series will be called the Catechism In A Year. It will begin on January 1, 2023, and will walk listeners through the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in 365 days.
This new podcast is aimed at helping all listeners understand the essential teachings of the Catholic Church and why they matter. Each podcast will also include commentary and interpretation by Fr. Mike, one of the elements that made his Bible In A Year podcast so popular.
Ascension Press hopes that this new effort will assist everyone in transforming our relationship “with the Church that Christ founded” and help us to see how Church teaching reflects Sacred Scripture. Like the Bible In A Year podcast, there is no fee required to subscribe to the new Catechism In A Year podcast, although donations are always gratefully accepted. Fr. Mike will be using the second edition of the CCC, which includes the revision to paragraph 2267. This is the paragraph revised in 2018 by Pope Francis, concerning the death penalty and capital punishment.
For more information, visit Ascension Press. On their site, you are able to sign up for the podcast and join the Catechism In A Year Facebook group, as well as preorder the CCC edition which Fr. Mike will read from. This new edition will be available this fall.
Considering that the original Bible In A Year podcast was one of the top podcasts in America, being downloaded millions of times with hundreds of thousands of faithful listeners (and even a billboard in New York’s Times Square), let’s hope that this new podcast will also be a great tool of evangelization, promoting the Church’s teaching with clarity, charity and hope.
As I wrote in my last article, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops has officially inaugurated the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year grassroots effort taking place across America, with the aim of restoring the Eucharist as the center of our lives. The Revival calls for conversion not just from the “top down,” at the national, state, and county levels, but more particularly from the ‘bottom up,” in our neighborhoods, families and personally, individually, in the way each of us responds to the Heart of Jesus.
The Divine Heart
In fact, a good way of thinking about the Eucharist is by perceiving it as the Heart of Jesus, that divine heart beating at the center of the Church. In recent years, several miracles have attested to the fact that, indeed, the Eucharist is the very heart of Jesus, himself. One of the most complete Eucharistic miracles took place in Argentina in the late 1990s, when Pope Francis was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
A host was discovered in the tabernacle of the Church of Santa Maria y Caballito Almagro which appeared to have changed into a piece of bloody tissue. A small part of the host was eventually sent to New York for analysis, without revealing the particulars of where it had come from, so as not to influence the results of the testing in any way. Cardiologist and forensic pathologist, Dr.Frederic Zugibe, testified that:
"The analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest." (emphasis mine)
This one host, miraculously changed, speaks volumes to us. First of all, it tells us that it is Jesus, acting as the heart, who supplies the blood to the entire body. In the ancient world, blood was seen as the sustaining principal of life, a mysterious force which somehow kept a person alive. Even today, we know that if one loses too much blood, life will eventually fade away. So, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we are also receiving his very life, literally. Secondly, the tests showed that this piece of heart muscle showed signs of extreme stress. This implies a couple of things. Not only does it remind us of Jesus’ crucifixion, when we know he endured great suffering, but it also tells us that the Heart of Christ is still suffering today, right now. How do we know this? Because of the third finding - the sample was taken from a living heart. The Heart of Jesus is still suffering, and suffering greatly, today, in our time.
Other tests performed on recent Eucharistic miracles have revealed that the blood in this heart tissue is consistently the rare AB blood type, the same blood type found on the Shroud of Turin, and DNA tests showed that half of Jesus’ chromosomes came from his mother, Mary.
What is Jesus Saying?
The abundance of Eucharistic miracles that have taken place in our times, some as recently as 2013, invite the question “What is Jesus saying?” What does he want us to understand from these miracles? The answer is pretty simple. In the Bible, Jesus performs miracles in order to show he is God, to prove that he is who he says he is. Because he is God, Jesus has power over nature, the ability to forgive sins and especially the ability to give health to the sick and life to the dead. So today, the Eucharistic miracles are telling us once again, Jesus is God. He is who he said he is and he is doing what he said he would do. He is again showing that he has power over nature, by transforming simple bread and wine into his body and blood, through which he can forgive sins and bring health to the sick and life to the dead. And just as the miracles in the Bible caused a reaction by the people who saw them, so too, the Eucharistic miracles are calling us to respond.
How Can We Respond?
We can respond to the call from the Heart of Christ through Prayer, Service and Learning. Sign up to be a Prayer Partner for the Eucharistic Revival. Serve by volunteering to help your parish or diocese host and promote the Eucharistic Revival. Finally, learn more about the Eucharist and the many Eucharistic miracles in our time. For more information about the findings of these miracles, consider purchasing the 2021 book A Cardiologist Examines Jesus: The Stunning Science Behind Eucharistic Miracles, written by cardiologist Dr. Franco Serafini, available through my blog. Just remember that how we respond to Jesus’ self-revelation is as important as what Jesus is doing. Jesus' miracles are always an invitation, just as much as they are a revelation.
Blessed Carlo Acutis, patron saint of the Eucharistic Revival, pray for us!
One of the ways we can participate in the Eucharistic Revival is by turning the next three years into a personal pilgrimage.
Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? Loaded up a backpack, put on some sturdy shoes, and headed out with the intention of eventually arriving at a specific destination? The answer for all of us is “Yes!” The truth is, every person on earth is on a pilgrimage, all the time. We all put on a backpack, loaded with things we believe are vitally necessary to take, things that we carry with us every day. We dress ourselves in our beliefs and attitudes and we show these to everyone who sees us, for good or for bad. We all have a starting point and we will each arrive at an endpoint, a moment when our journey will be completed. Those of us fortunate enough to be participating in the Eucharist Revival, however, have the ability to elevate our everyday journeying into a holy pilgrimage. We can be intentional about what we carry with us, who we will travel with, how we will travel, and most importantly, our final destination.
Pope St. John Paul II said that “All of the spiritual life is a pilgrimage to the heart of the Father.” A holy pilgrimage takes place across three dimensions, sacred time, sacred space and sacred place. We are invited to journey with Jesus in all three areas for the next three years.
There are two different ways of looking at time. We are all used to living in chronos time, moving through sequential hours, minutes and seconds. God’s time, however, is called kairos time, meaning the “opportune or appointed moment,” the time for God’s action. In the incarnation of Jesus, both chronos and kairos times are united. The next three years give us an opportunity to unite both chronos and kairos times in our own lives, to use the hours and minutes of our days seeking to make God known and loved more in the world.
A sacred space is simply a holy area where we can experience an encounter with God. Sacred spaces are associated with quiet, with being set aside. Think of wide open spaces in nature that inspire wonder and awe, or the quiet, peaceful interior spaces of churches. We are each called to become a holy space ourselves, a place where God resides within, where we can facilitate an encounter with God for others. Sacred spaces are concerned with the spiritual and the unseen.
While sacred spaces mediate the spiritual, sacred places are physical. A sacred place is usually reserved for a particular, holy, ritual action, a place set apart to do something special. It might be a place where an action of God was demonstrated in the past, such as the home of a saint or a location where something good happened, or a place of God’s continued presence today, like our churches. Sacred places reveal God in the physical, in specific locations we can visit and see, made holy through specific actions.
Taken all together, sacred time, sacred space and sacred place represent the totality of our lives. It is in these three places we are invited to journey in a special way for the next three years. What might that look like?
Maybe that means you commit to changing your morning commute into a pilgrimage. Turn your car into a vehicle of pilgrimage by repeating a ritual action, such as prayer or listening to Scripture. Notice the people who are passing by around you and attempt to provide an encounter with God by being generous and patient. Offer the time in your car for a special intention or for the work of God.
Or perhaps you can create a dedicated prayer space in your home and commit to using it once a day, and invite your family to use it together once a week. Or your pilgrimage might be promising to visit or call a neighbor you know could use extra attention, at the same time each day or week. Pray for this person, even if you don’t pray together.
There are so many ways we can create pilgrimages in our lives, of elevating our chronos time, the ordinary moments of our everyday lives, into kairos time, opportunities to be in the presence of God, by intentionally uniting our time, space and place.
To help you get started, check out the free online series on Pilgrimage created by Franciscan University, hosted by Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR. What will your pilgrimage be?
On June 19, 2022. the Eucharistic Revival officially began in dioceses across the United States. In my diocese of Austin, we kicked things off the morning before on Saturday, June 18, with Mass at 8:30am, presided over by the Bishop of Austin, Bishop Joe Vasquez.
After Mass, the Bishop, accompanied by the laity and dozens of priests and deacons, led us out of the church on a one-mile procession through the downtown streets of Austin, holding the Blessed Sacrament high in a monstrance, ending with adoration and benediction at the historic “red doors” on the hilltop at St. Edward’s University. The morning concluded with Bishop Vasquez lifting the monstrance and blessing the entire city of Austin, which was laid out in front of us from our view on the hilltop. It was a powerful and visible way of beginning the Eucharistic Revival, and - literally - going forth and bringing Christ to our community.
What is the Eucharistic Revival?
The Eucharistic Revival is a three-year invitation and call to renewal that will take place across America. More than simply a series of meetings or events, the Eucharistic Revival is a “grassroots call and a challenge for every Catholic across our country to rekindle the fire of love and devotion for the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus,” Bishop Vasquez explains.
The first year of the revival runs from June 19 to June 11, 2023, and will focus on revival at the diocesan level. The second year goes from June 12, 2023 to July 17, 2024, and will focus on fostering devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist at the parish level. The final year, July 18, 2024 to Pentecost 2025, called the “Year of Going Out On Mission,” will include a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.
How Can I Participate in the Eucharistic Revival?
We all know that our families, our cities, and our country are broken and in need of repair, of restoration. Our church is also wounded and in need of healing. Remember, Jesus himself told the apostles that some things “can only come out through prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:28) Jesus reminds us that true reconciliation back to himself takes time and effort, over the long haul.
Let us each take full advantage of these three years to immerse ourselves in the Sacred Heart, on display in the Eucharist, and intercede for our church, our country and all those we carry in our hearts.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Today, the last day of the month of May, the month dedicated to Mary, is also the Feast of the Visitation of Mary when she goes “in haste” to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who has “conceived a son in her old age.” In this episode from Scripture, we see Mary described in the role of the Queen-Mother. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Elizabeth, the elder of the two women, nevertheless receives Mary as a person of greater stature, of higher importance. Elizabeth proclaims:
Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45)
Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord,” and the one who is “blessed among all women.” These designations are a way of referring to the special title and role that Mary holds in the Kingdom of God. In the Jewish tradition, the role of the Queen-Mother stretched all the way back to the time of King Solomon, around 950 BC. The Queen-Mother had three very specific tasks. First, she had a certain amount of authority in her son’s kingdom, secondly, she was an advisor to the king and lastly, she was an advocate for the people who belonged to the kingdom of her son. We know that Mary keeps all three of these tasks. In fact, she appears like a glorious queen during her apparitions at Fatima, when she is dressed in the colors of gold and white, the colors typically associated with the glory of God during the liturgical calendar.
The Visitation itself is one of the mysteries of the rosary, being the second decade in the 5 Joyful Mysteries. Even though Mary is usually referred to as Our Lady of Fatima, her official title for these May apparitions is “Our Lady of the Holy Rosary at Fatima.” That name change makes a big difference. Calling Mary “Our Lady of Fatima” emphasizes the secrets and the supernatural aspect of Fatima. These are indeed notable, to be sure, but they can also quickly become overwhelming. Remembering that Mary is actually named "Our Lady of the Holy Rosary at Fatima" gets to the heart of her message. It enables us to carry out the message that she relayed - Pray, offer sacrifices and repent. In other words, get out your rosary beads. The solution to war, strife and suffering - literally- lies in your own hands. It is not beyond reach, or too high above us. It is in the humble act of daily prayer.
It is helpful to remember the words of Pope Pius XII who said ""The gates of hell will never prevail, where Mary offers her protection. She is the good mother, the mother of all, and it has never been heard that those who seek her protection, will not receive it. She will help! Error will be overcome with her assistance and divine grace." She is our great Queen-Mother who will come “in haste” to aid us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death, and pray for those who never pray to you, now and at the hour of their death. Amen.
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