Blessed Virgin Mary: September 2010 Archives

Spiritual Mothers of Priests in Tulsa

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Spiritual Mothers: The Second Group

Last evening in Tulsa's Cathedral of the Holy Family, on the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows, His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery, received the oblation of ten new Spiritual Mothers of Priests, and conferred upon them the distinctive medal that represents this oblation. His Excellency invited me to preach the homily. Here is my text:

At the Crossroads of Three Mysteries

"O the depth of the riches
and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!
'For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been His counselor?'" (Rom 11:33-34).
"None of the rulers of this age understood this;
for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor 2:8).

We find ourselves this evening, my dear sisters,
at the crossroads of three mysteries,
or rather, at the heart of the One Mystery,
indivisible, and yet too rich to be taken in all at once.

I. The Immaculate Conception

When His Excellency, Bishop Slattery,
first asked me to present the vocation of spiritual motherhood of priests
to women of the Diocese of Tulsa,
we chose to do it here, in this our cathedral,
on December 7th, 2008:
the vigil of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
And so, the spiritual motherhood of priests in the Diocese of Tulsa
received, at its inception, at its conception, if you will,
the imprint of that mystery of dazzling purity and fullness of grace
that is the Immaculate Conception.

Immaculate in the Mind of God

Mary was conceived immaculate in the mind of God
before she was conceived immaculate
in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne.
Spotless, all-lovely, and full of grace from the first instant of her life:
thus was Mary envisioned by God from all eternity,
for only a woman spotless, all-lovely, and full of grace
could be a fit mother for the Son of God,
once come the fullness of time. (Gal 4:4)
A Vocation Originates in Eternity

If a vocation -- any vocation -- is a call from God,
that vocation originates in eternity:
in that moment, outside of every moment,
wherein God takes counsel with Himself,
wills what He has conceived in wisdom and in love,
and decrees what He has willed.

Your vocation to the spiritual motherhood of priests
is not, then, an initiative of yours with its origin in time;
it is a divine initiative, with its origin in eternity.
There was never a moment when God did not see you here,
in this Cathedral of the Holy Family,
at this hour,
ready to offer your hearts, your lives, your very selves
for the sanctification of His priests.

In this, your vocation to the spiritual motherhood of priests
bears a mysterious likeness to the vocation of the Immaculate One,
destined, from before the dawn of time,
to become the all-holy Mother of an Eternal High Priest
and the spotless Mother of a spotless Victim.

II. The Annunciation

When, after a time of gestation and preparation,
the first group of women knew that the hour had come
for their "Yes" to pass from their hearts to their lips
-- and this in the presence of our Bishop,
and before the altar that is first among all the altars of this Diocese--
we chose to do it on March 25th,
the Annunciation of the Lord.
And so, the spiritual motherhood of priests in the Diocese of Tulsa,
received, when first it became a public, ecclesial reality blessed by our Bishop,
the imprint of that mystery of ineffable joy
that is the Annunciation of the Lord,
and His Incarnation as Priest and Victim
in the sanctuary of her virginal womb.

Mary's "Yes" to the message of the Archangel
was an act of utter and unconditional surrender
to the Mystery of her Son's Victimal Priesthood,
to the Mystery in its cruciform "breadth and length
and height and depth" (cf. Eph 3:18),
and in "the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:19).

Fruit of Her Womb, Fruit of the Tree

This is the crucifying and glorious knowledge
of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8)
by which one is "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19).
This is the awareness that, like a sword, pierced the heart of the Virgin Mother,
"standing by the cross of Jesus" (Jn 19:25).
Even she watched Him in the painful spasms of death,
she remembered His first stirrings in her womb,
and somehow sensed obscurely,
"as in a mirror dimly" (1 Cor 13:12),
that He would stir again beneath the shroud.
But first, she she had to see the fruit of her womb
become the fruit of the Tree.

Thirty-three years had passed;
it seemed to her like yesterday.
"Sent by God" (Lk 1:26), that bright, majestic, creature had come to her,
--exquisitely courteous he was, and awful and lovely all at once --
and his greeting still astonished her:
"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women" (Lk 1:28).
She remembered the shock of it,
and how she had "considered in her mind
what sort of greeting this might be" (Lk 1:29).
Now his voice came to her again, and how she needed to hear it,
to lean on it, to steady herself against it, to cling to it
even as Abraham, "in hope believing against hope" (Rom 4:18),
had clung to the wild promises made by God to him:
"Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God" (Lk 1:30).

Her Sword-Pierced Soul

To see what she was seeing --
her Child stretched naked on the wood,
His hands and feet pierced,
His whole body bloodied,
His sweet face beneath a cruel crown of thorns --
to see this and yet believe in the word of the Angel
was to feel the two-edged sword's sharp blade
"piercing to the division of soul and spirit,
of joints and marrow" (Heb 4:12).
Could this be what Simeon meant:
"And your own soul a sword shall pierce" (Lk 2:35)?

The Name of Jesus

The Angel had said more:
"And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb,
and shalt bring forth a son;
and thou shalt call His name Jesus" (Lk 1:31).
This too she remembered, and lifting her eyes, she read "the inscription over Him
in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew" (Lk 23:38):
"Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" (Jn 19:19).
For a moment she thought of her Joseph
she still missed him so -- her friend, her comforter, her rock --
and she remembered what the Angel had said to him as well:
"You shall call His name Jesus,
for He will save His people from their sins" (Mt 1:21).

The Cross, His Throne

"He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High;
and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father;
and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever.
And of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Lk 1:32-33).
Tell me, O Gabriel, is this bitter abjection His greatness?
Is this cross of execution His throne?
Is this defeat the inauguration of His kingdom?

Dismas and the Kingdom

Just then the thief crucified beside Him spoke,
as if in answer to her torment:
"'Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'
And Jesus said to him: 'Amen I say to you,
this day you shall be with me in paradise'" (Lk 23:42-43).

For an instant, she turned from the face of her Jesus
to the face of the thief,
and she felt herself a mother to him.
"For those whom God foreknew
He also predestined to be conformed to the image of her Son,
in order that He might be the first-born among many brethren" (cf, Rom 8:29).

Behold Thy Son

With that, her Jesus spoke,
His gentleness like the breeze in the cool of the day,
His authority undiminished by the scourging, the mockery, and the taunts.
Seeing "His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near,
He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold thy son!'
Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold thy mother!'" (Jn 19:25).

This was a new Annunciation, the second one:
the first, thirty-three years ago by the mouth of the Angel Gabriel;
this second one by the mouth of her Son,
lifted up with bloodied arms spread wide in place of shining wings.
Then, as now and forever, "no word shall be impossible with God" (Lk 1:37).

The Handmaid of the Lord

"Woman, behold your son!" (Jn 19:25).
To this Mary had no answer
apart from the one she had given the Angel then:
"Behold, the handmaid of the Lord;
be it done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).
She was to be mother, mother again and again.
mother to John, to Peter and Paul,
Andrew and James,
Philip, Bartholomew, and Matthew,
Simon and Jude,
mother to "the coming generation" of priests,
mother to "a people [of priests] yet unborn" (Ps 21:30-31).
Mother of Priests until the end of history
and Mother of Priests forever in the glory of the Kingdom.

III. Mother of Sorrows

When we were faced with finding a date
for the public, ecclesial oblation
of you, the second group of Spiritual Mothers of Priests in our diocese,
our choice fell upon September 15th, 2010,
the feast of the Mother of Sorrows at the foot of the Cross.
And so, the Spiritual Motherhood of priests in the Diocese of Tulsa,
receives this evening the imprint of a motherhood
at once sorrowful and compassionate,
a motherhood of tears and of blood,
a motherhood made prodigiously fruitful
by the Mystery of the Cross.

Sons of Her Sorrowful Heart

"Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished,
that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: 'I thirst'" (Jn 19:28)
and Mary knew in herself the torment that is the thirst of God
and tasted in her mouth the bitter vinegar,
and knew too that this new motherhood was given her
in this new annunciation
to quench the thirst of God with the sons of her sorrowful heart:
with holy priests, adorers "in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:23).

It Is Consummated

And as she recalled how at Nazareth the Holy Spirit had come upon her
and the power of Most High had overshadowed her (cf. Lk 1:35),
He said, "It is consummated,' and bowing His head,
He gave up His spirit" (Jn 19:30).
She lifted her face to receive the breath of His mouth,
and remembered that the Angel too,
having accomplished that for which he was sent from God, left her,
leaving God in her womb.
"And the angel departed from her" (Lk 1:38).

Descent from the Cross

Afterwards they took His body down from the cross.
Strange that another Joseph should be there helping.
A strong and tender man.
And she remembered her Joseph, also strong and tender,
lifting that tiny newborn body in his calloused hands
to place it in the manger. And she wept.

They placed His lifeless body in her arms.
He seemed so tired, so spent, so in need of His Sabbath rest.
Bits of a lullaby she used to sing to Him went through her mind.
"Sleep, my Yeshua, sleep.
Sleep my Yeshua, sleep until you wake."
She remembered something He had said:
"I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also" (Jn 14:3).
And she repeated something He had prayed:
"Father, glorify Thy Son that Thy Son may glorify Thee" (Jn 17:1).

They placed Him in the chill of the tomb.
And the stone was rolled across the entrance,
sealing her heart there inside with His body.

With Saint John

To John she said:
"Come, son, take me home.
'He has torn, that He may heal us;
He has stricken, and He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
and on the third day He will raise us up,
that we may live before Him' (Hos 6:1-2)."
And John, saying nothing, looked into her eyes,
just as Jesus had earlier in the day,
and like Jesus, he believed her.

IV. Three Facets of the One Mystery

The history of the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests in our diocese,
is, then, in some way, indelibly marked by
the Immaculate Conception,
the Annunciation,
and Sorrowful Compassion at the Foot of the Cross:
three facets of the one Mystery
that contains, and ever renews
the Sacrifice of the Cross,
the maternal co-redemption of Mary,
and the victimal priesthood
for the life of a Church that can never grow old.

Her Yes and Yours

And so, my dear sisters,
if you would know what it is to be the spiritual mother of priest,
look now into Mary's eyes,
draw near to her maternal Heart,
and receive from her lips,
the "Yes" that, this very evening,
she rejoices to hear repeated on yours.

The Most Holy Name of Mary

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Victory in the Name of Mary

In 1683 Pope Innocent XI extended the existing Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary to the universal Church to thank Our Lady for the victory of John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the forces of militant Islam. On September 11th, 1683, Muslim Turks attacked Vienna, threatening the Christian West. The next day, Sobieski, invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary and placing his forces under her protection, emerged victorious. Pope John Paul II restored the feast of the Holy Name of Mary with the publication of the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal in 2002, one year after the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

The Invocation of the Name of Mary

The Holy Mother of God is no stranger to the struggles of her children in this valley of tears. She is attentive to every situation that threatens this world of ours, to every assault against the Church and, when we invoke her Holy Name, she is quick to intervene. When it comes to calling upon the Name of Mary, there is no struggle too global and too enormous, and no struggle too personal or too little. In the Bible, the name wields a mysterious power. Names are not to be pronounced casually or lightly. Names are not to be taken in vain. The invocation of the name renders present the one who is named. So often as you pronounce the sweet Name of Mary with devotion and confidence, Mary is present to you, ready to help. So often as you pronounce the sweet Name of Mary, you have her full and undivided attention.

As Oil Poured Out

The saints, drawing on a verse from the Song of Songs, compare the Name of Mary to a healing oil. "Thy Name is as oil poured out" (Ct 1:2). Oil heals the sick, gives off a sweet fragrance, and nourishes fire. In the same way the Name of Mary is like a balm on the wounds of the soul; there is no disease of the soul, however malignant, that does not yield to the power of the Name of Mary. The sound of Mary's Name causes joy to spring up; the repetition of Mary's Name warms the heart. If you would touch the Heart of the Father, pronounce the Name of Jesus; if you would touch the Heart of Jesus, pronounce the Name of Mary.

Monastic Devotion

Cistercians, Carthusians, Olivetan, Silvestrine Benedictines, and some others give to each and every monk and nun the sweet Name of Mary, as a sign of mystical identification with her, a pledge of entrustment to her, and a seal and safeguard of the monastic consecration. How precious this custom is! Every time a brother is named, the protection of Mary is claimed over him, and the presence of Mary envelops him.

Of Mary Never Enough

The sophisticated and clever of the world, high and dry in their rationalism, smiled condescendingly at this naive practice of devotion. Not a few reformers of 1968 judged it outdated and superfluous and, in seeking to make it optional, thought themselves wiser than their forbears. But the saints, I tell you, think otherwise. The saints understand the power of the Name of Mary. They understand that he or she who bears the Holy Name of Mary carries a shield against the poisonous darts of the enemy. Even whispered, the Name of Mary rejoices heaven and causes demons to tremble. For the saints there can never be too much of Mary. De Maria numquam satis. Of Mary, never enough! I cannot help but think that the suppression of the Name of Mary in so many monasteries and Congregations was a thorn in her maternal Heart.

Saint Bernard

No one has spoken more eloquently of the Holy Name of Mary than Saint Bernard. At the end of his memorable discourse at the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz on 9 September 2007, the Holy Father quoted Saint Bernard's sermon on the Name of Mary. Allow his words to plant deep within your hearts the gift of an abiding devotion to Mary's sweet Name:

Let us say a few words about this Name
which means "Star of the Sea"
and is so appropriate to the Virgin Mother.

She -- I tell you -- is that splendid and wondrous star
suspended as if by necessity over this great wide sea,
radiant with merit and brilliant in example.

O you, whoever you are,
who feel that in the tidal wave of this world
you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales
than treading on dry land:
if you do not want to founder in the tempest,
do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.

When the wind of temptation blows up within you,
when you strike upon the rock of tribulation,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.

Whether you are being tossed about
by the waves of pride or ambition,
or slander or jealousy,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.

When rage or greed or fleshly desires
are battering the skiff of your soul,
gaze up at Mary.

When the immensity of your sins weighs you down
and you are bewildered by the loathsomeness of your conscience,
when the terrifying thought of judgment appalls you
and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair,
think of Mary.

In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt,
think of Mary, call out to Mary.
Keep her in your mouth,
keep her in your heart.

Follow the example of her life,
and you will obtain the favour of her prayer.

Following her, you will never go astray.
Asking her help, you will never despair.
Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away.

With your hand in hers, you will never stumble.
With her protecting you, you will not be afraid.
With her leading you, you will never tire.

Her kindness will see you through to the end.
Then you will know by your own experience
how true it is that the Virgin's Name was Mary.

Prayer for the Conversion of England

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The forthcoming Apostolic Visit of Our Holy Father to the United Kingdom invites us to pray boldly for the conversion of England: the return of Mary's Dowry to obedience to Peter. I cannot help but think of all those souls, beginning with the English Martyrs, who suffered and prayed for this intention: Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God Barbieri, C.P., Venerable Father Ignatius of Saint Paul Spencer, C.P., Mother Mary of Saint Peter (Adèle) Garnier of Tyburn, Father Benedict Williamson, O.SS.S., Mother Mary Potter, and so many others.

Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother,
look down in mercy upon England thy "Dowry"
and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee.
By thee it was that Jesus our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world;
and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more.
Plead for us thy children,
whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross,
O sorrowful Mother.
Intercede for our separated brethren,
that with us in the one true fold
they may be united to the supreme Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son.
Pray for us all, dear Mother,
that by faith fruitful in good works
we may all deserve to see and praise God,
together with thee, in our heavenly home. Amen.

Nicholas Patrick Stephen Cardinal Wiseman (1802-1865)

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory