Voice from the Valley

VFTV: August 23, 2017

OUR MOTHER MARY

A constant prayer in the back of my mind during the summer months is the safety of all children as they go about enjoying their summer vacations. I’m sure that prayer is also in the mind of each and every mother not only during the summer months but in every day of the entire year. On the cross, Jesus gave his own mother Mary to be our mother and Mary holds that same prayer for each of us as she constantly watches over all the children of God entrusted to her care. “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly… Taken up into heaven she did not lay aside this saving office, but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 969).”

During the summer, we remember Mary in marvelous ways. By the time you read this, we will have celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15. It is the faith of the Church that Mary, when her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, sharing in the glory of Christ’s resurrection, and “anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 974). We hold this truth to be so important that the Assumption of Mary is a Solemnity, a Holy Day of Obligation.

On Sept. 8, we celebrate Mary’s birthday, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the course of the Church year, we celebrate only three birthdays: Jesus’, John the Baptist’s, and Mary’s. Like all birthdays, Sept. 8 is a special day, a festival day, a day in which we join Mary and all God’s family in celebrating and giving thanks to God for the life of Mary.

Our new deacon, Nate Brunn, shared with me a moving experience he had this summer. He and Father Xavier Ilango were visiting the hospital. Father Ilango administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to an elderly gentleman. Afterwards, while they were praying the Hail Mary for the sick man, the words came true. At the end of the prayer, while praying the words: “… pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death …,” at that exact moment, the man died. Mary did indeed intercede for that sick man at the hour of his death.

During one of the Masses at the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in St. Louis at the beginning of August, the choir offered a reflective song after Holy Communion. They sang a motet composed by Henryk Gorecki, one of Poland’s greatest contemporary composers. They sang in Polish, but the English translation carries the beauty of the prayer-song: “Your heart, Mary, is filled with mercy, our constant joy and consolation, in the hour of need and suffering, refuge of sinners, pray for us. And at the end of our days, Mother of God, wipe the last tear and close our eyes with your holy hands forever: Refuge of sinners, pray for us.”

Yes, what a delight to remember Mary during our summer days; Mary remembers us each and every day.

BORED?

As a kid on a hot summer’s day, I can remember feeling “played out” and asking mom for “something to do, cuz I’m bored.” I thought of that as I recently picked up a little book entitled: Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life. It’s written by Timothy P. O’Malley who teaches in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He asks why we come to Mass in the first place and answers that we don’t come to be entertained but to become fully engaged!

“For Catholics, fruitful participation in the Mass requires this ability to let the mind wander and wonder alike.” Do you find Mass boring sometimes? The contention of Mr. O’Malley is that we come to Mass to pray and think; to think and pray, and that, if we use them well, even moments seemingly so boring to us can give rise to contemplation and become moments of spiritual growth. We know that the Eucharist is the center of our life in Christ. Here God draws us deeper and deeper into the mystery of life and love.

“To let our minds be distracted by the way that incense fractures the colored light, revealing the beauty of a beautiful God, or let our imagination wander during the homily, may be less a matter of fritting away the time and more often a moment in which God’s voice speaks in the stillness of our hearts.”

In the next editions of OND, I want to review with you some thoughts about the Mass, using as a springboard this interesting little book. We need to know what is happening at the Mass to pray the Mass well and mine its spiritual riches. Christ calls us, we know, to evangelize the world. But to do that, Pope Francis reminds us, we need to begin with ourselves. A good place to begin is with our own understanding and involvement at the central event of our Christian life, the Eucharist. It’s true: “… the beauty of the Mass can change not only us but the entire world.”