Joy in Finding Jesus

When meditating on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, I cannot help but think about how there is something ordinary about this family. They are living out their daily lives, doing everyday things together, and in this passage they are traveling. So much of this is reminiscent of our own family life, doing unremarkable things together day in and day out, even taking a trip once in a while together. 

One thing I often contemplate, when reading this passage from the Gospel of Luke, is how Mary and Joseph noticed that Jesus is missing. In all this living, even though we strive to be holy and live our lives as God wants us to do, it may happen that we do not notice when Jesus is missing from our lives.

I would like to think that when this happens and we do notice that He is missing, that we would, like Mary and Joseph, go searching for Him. Searching for Him with the hope of experiencing His presence once again. My prayer even finds me asking for those in my family that have lost faith to notice that Jesus is missing, hoping that they, too, will go in search of Him.

For three days Joseph and Mary went searching for Jesus. Sometimes our life’s present circumstances are buried in endless activities and filled with various worries. However we should not let these challenges prevent us from continuing our search. Mary was afraid that her Son had disappeared. Overwhelmed with anxiety, she and Joseph continued their search with the hope that they would be reunited with Him again.

Then they experienced such joy at finding Jesus! There He was, among the teachers, captivating them all with His wisdom. May His wisdom captivate us once we have rediscovered Him and renewed our efforts to listening to Him teach us through His word and sacraments.

Once they found Him, they returned to their home in Nazareth to resume their lives and daily living with Jesus. The life of this holy family was unseen and filled with love and work.  Mary lovingly contemplates all the events that happen in her Son’s life, pondering them in her heart.

If it should happen that Jesus seems to be missing, let us strive to remove the obstacles that may be preventing us from truly knowing Jesus and His presence in our lives. And when we have found Jesus again, let us wonder once more at the mystery of our life in and with Christ.

“Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” Luke 2:41-52

 

 

The Most Holy Name of Mary

Today’s feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus celebrated on January 3rd. Mary’s exalted role glorifies the Father; therefore, her name is to be honored and reverenced as we call upon her with devotion and trust. The name of Mary occurs in both parts of the Hail Mary giving us ample opportunities to say this beautiful name with love and sincere affection.

The origin and meaning of the name of Mary is debated. In the Old Testament the sister of Moses was named Miryam. But this was not a common name used in the Old Testament. What does the Hebrew name Miryam mean? It may have an Egyptian origin. In Egyptian mer or mar means “love”. The Egyptian meaning of Miryam is “cherished or beloved”. Given this meaning it is an appropriate name for a daughter. Combine this interpretation with the Hebrew name for the Divine name of God yam or Yahweh. Then the meaning could be “one beloved by Yahweh”.

Many believe the name is of Hebrew origin. They see the word as the combination of two words. Mar which means “bitter” (myrrh) and yam meaning “sea”.  Seeing the name Miryam as one word could give “hope” as the meaning.

Another popular interpretation dates back to St. Jerome. St. Jerome adopted the meaning of the name to be Stella Maris, or “star of the sea”. Mary has been invoked under the title of Stella Maris or “Star of the Sea” by seafarers to calm storms or the ocean waters. Under this title she could even be invoked to calm the storms in our lives.

St. Bernard of Clairvoux wrote of her: “If the winds of temptation arise; If you are driven upon the rocks of tribulation look to the star, call on Mary; If you are tossed upon the waves of pride, of ambition, of envy, of rivalry, look to the star, call on Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of your soul, look at the star, call upon Mary.

St. Louis de Montfort uses this prayer to Our Lady, Star of the Sea in his consecration to Jesus through Mary:

Hail, bright star of ocean
God’s own Mother blest
Ever sinless Virgin
Gate of heavenly rest

Taking that sweet Ave
Which from Gabriel came
Peace confirm within us
Changing Eva’s name

Break the captives’ fetters
Light on blindness pour
All our ills expelling
Every bliss implore

Show thyself a Mother
May the Word Divine
Born for us thy Infant
Hear our prayers through thine

Virgin all excelling
Mildest of the mild
Freed from guilt, preserve us
Pure and undefiled

Keep our life all spotless
Make our way secure
Till we find in Jesus
Joy forevermore

Through the highest heaven
To the Almighty Three
Father, Son, and Spirit
One same glory be. Amen.

Polaris, the North Star, is also given the name Stella Maris because it was this star that was used to guide travelers, just like Mary. We can use this feast day dedicated to the Holy Name of Mary as a way to reflect on how she is a hope for all Christians and a guide for us, leading us on our way to her son, Jesus. May Mary help us to open our hearts to God and His ways.

We should honor and praise the name of Mary because she is the Mother of Jesus, who is truly God; therefore, we can call her the Mother of God. Her name reminds us, as we say in the Hail Mary, that she is full of grace, blessed among all women and a woman who has found favor with God. We should also honor the name of Mary because she is our Mother, since the Lord gave her to us when he was dying on the cross.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

Feast of the Nativity of Mary

St. Therese had to wait to make her profession. As she waited for this day, she told God she would wait as long as he desired. Until that day she resolved to carefully “make a beautiful dress enriched with priceless stones”. Therese began applying herself to practicing little virtues, by doing little penances that especially mortified her self-love. She was not practicing these virtues alone. St. Therese stated that the Blessed Virgin, “was helping me prepare the dress of my soul; as soon as this dress was completed all the obstacles went away.”

The Bishop finally gave his permission and the community voted in favor of receiving St. Therese. The date set was September 8, 1890, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. St. Therese writes of this occasion,  “What a beautiful feast on which to become the spouse of Jesus! It was the little Blessed Virgin, one day old, who was presenting her little flower to the little Jesus. Everything was little that day except for the graces and peace I received.” (Story of a Soul, Ch 7)

St. Therese was set on mortifying her self-love and practicing little virtues and said that the Blessed Virgin Mary was helping her do this. The Blessed Mother teaches us to live these virtues hidden and under God’s shadow. Her birth was unnoticed, yet without her the greatest mystery of our faith could not have taken place. It is because of Mary that the Incarnation of the Son of God and Redemption of man was made possible. Her birth is like the dawn projecting new light over the new day. Yet her birth is unknown, unnoticed and not even mentioned in the scriptures.  She remains hidden to the world except for the eyes of God, who see her in the silence and obscurity of her life.

Today’s feast invites us to imitate this hidden life of Mary and even that of St. Therese, who was enclosed in the cloister and unknown to all expect for God. A hidden life that focuses on the interior by quietly practicing virtue and doing little penances keeping in check the selfish ego. Putting to death the need to be noticed or seeking praise or making excuses for failures, these can be done under the shadow of God, just like Mary. St. Therese knew this and put this ideal into practice in the convent. We too can do this in the ordinary circumstance of our days under the watchful patronage of the Blessed Mother, whose birth we celebrate today.

Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God, heralded joy to all the world.

A Little Habit

The Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a little habit. It is the Blessed Mother’s habit. The Brown Scapular is an outward sign of the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our sister, mother and queen. It is a symbol of her protection given to the Carmelite Order which includes all its members and associates. Anyone who wears the scapular and practices the spirituality of the Carmelite Order has an affiliation to the Carmelite family and shares in the graces traditionally associated with the Brown Scapular.

Wearing the scapular indicates that the wearer, devoted to Mary, will follow Mary by living a deep interior life. The Blessed Mother is our model for the contemplative life. She is the ideal of this life consecrated to seeking God and toward an intimate union with Him. Everyone who wishes to imitate Mary will soon realize that her soul was a beautiful garden of virtues. Silence and peace reigned in her soul even amidst the turmoil of the world around her. We too must strive for this interior peace and silence.

Silence and peace in the soul comes when the noise of our passions and attachments have ceased within us. This comes with a habit. St. Teresa of Jesus exhorts us in this truth when she wrote, “Remember the importance of habit and of starting to realize what a serious thing it is to offend God.”  She reminds us that God is within our soul, and we should take great care in avoiding all occasions of sin and anything else that might keep us from growing closer to Him.  Even with this determination we can fail from time to time due to weakness and not having confidence in God. However we should remember “the Lord will help us and the habits we have formed will be of assistance to us so that we shall not offend him; we shall be able to walk in holy freedom.” (Way of Perfection, ch 41)

Detachment and control of the passions can help our soul to be like Mary’s – silent and solitary- and filled with the presence of God.


“O, Mary, Beauty of Carmel, make me worthy of your protection, clothe me with your scapular, and be the teacher of my interior life.” (Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD)

Compline with Mary

Eastern Orthodox icon of the Praises      of the Theotokos

Before ending this month of May devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a remembrance of the Holy Mother as the day ends seems to be a good thing to recall for those of us devoted to the Virgin.

As Seculars we are exhorted to “try to recite Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer of the Hours in union with the Church spread throughout the world. When it is possible they will also recite Night Prayer.” (Constitutions III, 24)

Night Prayer, also known as Compline, is said as the last prayer of the day. It is at this time that a brief examen of the day is also to take place. At the end of this prayer there is a hymn to the Blessed Mother. The breviary lists several popular Marian hymns to choose from.

During the Easter season the Regina Coeli is appropriate and can be sung throughout Eastertide and through Pentecost. During Ordinary time the Salve Regina or Hail Holy Queen is an appropriate night time hymn. The Advent season is a good time for focusing on the Alma Redemprois Mater which beautifully connects the Incarnation theme of that part of the liturgical year and can be recited until February 2nd (Candlemas). Then from Candlemas to the end of Lent, the Ave Regina Coelorum is most fitting. For more on the singing of these seasonal Marian hymns go here. To hear these check out the chants here.

St. Joseph

Next to Mary St. Joseph is the second greatest saint. He is a saint we can imitate. Through our devotion to this great saint we can renew our desires to be faithful. What was St. Joseph like? What is there to imitate?

St. Joseph, according to what we know of him in Scripture, never said anything. He is a man of great silence. Instead we see him simply doing the Lord’s commands. The angel told him to take Mary as his wife and to not be afraid. This is what this just man did. He loved Mary and was self-sacrificing and generous.

He was also obedient. In Matthew’s Gospel we are told that “when Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” and took Mary as his wife. Joseph was also obedient to the commands of the legitimate secular authorities. Luke chapter 2 says, “ That a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.” “And Joseph also went up from Galilee… to Judea, to the city of David… to be enrolled with Mary.” He was also familiar with poor and lowly conditions as he witnessed the birth of Jesus that took place in Bethlehem where Mary “gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2: 1-7)

St. Joseph spoke the holy name of Jesus. Luke 2:21 tells us that at his circumcision, “ he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived”. By doing this St. Joseph proclaimed the mission of his foster son as Savior! Jesus will save us from our sins. We too can speak His name like St. Joseph remembering that “there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved”. (Acts 4:12)

Like St. Joseph and Mary we can marvel at what was said about Jesus and at what He says when we read the sacred scriptures and hear Him preached. St. Joseph, along with Mary, most certainly did this. When they took the infant Jesus up to the Temple, Simeon referred to the child as the salvation which God had “prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of the people of Israel”. (Luke 2:31-32) The child was also to be a “sign that is spoken against.” (verse 34)  It is God’s will that all be saved and have access to the Father through His son, Jesus Christ, and to become sharers in the Divine nature. It is at this moment that St. Joseph was reminded of his mission to be the first guardian of this mystery. Later when Jesus was twelve years old and “ supposing him to be in their company… they sought him.” (Lk 2: 43-44) Then after much searching they found him in the temple. Mary speaks. Again Joseph is silent. “Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” (verse 48)  Mary’s concern is for St. Joseph. Jesus reminds St. Joseph once again, as he contemplates the situation, that he is the guardian of that mystery foretold by Simeon – that Jesus is to save people and to be that “light to the Gentiles” – when Jesus replies that he “must be in my Father’s house.” We too, like St. Joseph, are guardians of this Divine mystery.

St. Joseph was the head of the Holy Family, and it was his job to protect his family by fleeing from dangerous situations. When Herod was searching for the child to destroy him, St. Joseph rose and took the infant Jesus and his mother to Egypt. As a father it was St. Joseph’s mission to protect, lead and head the family. Later when things had calmed down with Herod, he took the child and his mother back to Nazareth.  “The child grew and become strong, filled with wisdom: and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2: 40) During these hidden years the whole family lived the hidden human virtues we are all called to live. Simple, humble virtues like: work, religion, family life and activities. These virtues are ways to sanctify our daily lives. There is nothing great here, just ordinary things done daily and lived authentically. St. Joseph can help us with his intercession to live our ordinary family days with devotion and growth in the human virtues, especially the virtue of work.

We can imitate St. Joseph and renew our desires to be faithful. We can strive to be obedient, generous and self-sacrificing. We can be devoted to our family by protecting them and growing daily in the human virtues. We can be silent and marvel at all that Jesus has said and done and is still doing for the salvation of souls. Finally we can guard the mission of Jesus by proclaiming his holy name and praying for the salvation of souls.