Monthly Archives: October 2011

Pope Benedict XVI on the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady

[The following are some excerpts from the Pope’s Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation entitled Sacramentum Caritatis, the Sacrament of Love, on the Holy Eucharist.  The first part is on the New Covenant and the institution of the Eucharist, and the second part is on the relationship of Our Lady to the Eucharist.  The entire document can be accessed above at—you guessed it—the Sacramentum Caritatis page link.]

 

The new and eternal covenant in the blood of the Lamb

9. The mission for which Jesus came among us was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. On the Cross from which he draws all people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32), just before “giving up the Spirit,” he utters the words: “it is finished” (Jn 19:30). In the mystery of Christ’s obedience unto death, even death on a Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), the new and eternal covenant was brought about. In his crucified flesh, God’s freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact. Human sin was also redeemed once for all by God’s Son (cf. Heb 7:27; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). As I have said elsewhere, “Christ’s death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form.”  In the Paschal Mystery, our deliverance from evil and death has taken place. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus had spoken of the “new and eternal covenant” in the shedding of his blood (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20). This, the ultimate purpose of his mission, was clear from the very beginning of his public life. Indeed, when, on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he cried out: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant. The Eucharist contains this radical newness, which is offered to us again at every celebration.

The institution of the Eucharist

10. This leads us to reflect on the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It took place within a ritual meal commemorating the foundational event of the people of Israel: their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This ritual meal, which called for the sacrifice of lambs (cf. Ex 12:1-28, 43-51), was a remembrance of the past, but at the same time a prophetic remembrance, the proclamation of a deliverance yet to come. The people had come to realize that their earlier liberation was not definitive, for their history continued to be marked by slavery and sin. The remembrance of their ancient liberation thus expanded to the invocation and expectation of a yet more profound, radical, universal and definitive salvation. This is the context in which Jesus introduces the newness of his gift. In the prayer of praise, the Berakah, he does not simply thank the Father for the great events of past history, but also for his own “exaltation.” In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. At the same time, he reveals that he himself is the true sacrificial lamb, destined in the Father’s plan from the foundation of the world, as we read in The First Letter of Peter (cf. 1:18-20). By placing his gift in this context, Jesus shows the salvific meaning of his death and resurrection, a mystery which renews history and the whole cosmos. The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus’ death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in him a supreme act of love and mankind’s definitive deliverance from evil…

The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary

33. From the relationship between the Eucharist and the individual sacraments, and from the eschatological significance of the sacred mysteries, the overall shape of the Christian life emerges, a life called at all times to be an act of spiritual worship, a self-offering pleasing to God. Although we are all still journeying towards the complete fulfillment of our hope, this does not mean that we cannot already gratefully acknowledge that God’s gifts to us have found their perfect fulfillment in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heaven is for us a sign of sure hope, for it shows us, on our pilgrimage through time, the eschatological goal of which the sacrament of the Eucharist enables us even now to have a foretaste.

In Mary most holy, we also see perfectly fulfilled the “sacramental” way that God comes down to meet his creatures and involves them in his saving work. From the Annunciation to Pentecost, Mary of Nazareth appears as someone whose freedom is completely open to God’s will. Her immaculate conception is revealed precisely in her unconditional docility to God’s word. Obedient faith in response to God’s work shapes her life at every moment. A virgin attentive to God’s word, she lives in complete harmony with his will; she treasures in her heart the words that come to her from God and, piecing them together like a mosaic, she learns to understand them more deeply (cf. Lk 2:19, 51); Mary is the great Believer who places herself confidently in God’s hands, abandoning herself to his will.  This mystery deepens as she becomes completely involved in the redemptive mission of Jesus. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, “the blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son until she stood at the Cross, in keeping with the divine plan (cf. Jn 19:25), suffering deeply with her only-begotten Son, associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim who was born of her. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus, dying on the Cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: ‘Woman, behold your Son.”‘  From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary is the one who received the Word, made flesh within her and then silenced in death. It is she, lastly, who took into her arms the lifeless body of the one who truly loved his own “to the end” (Jn 13:1).

Consequently, every time we approach the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic liturgy, we also turn to her who, by her complete fidelity, received Christ’s sacrifice for the whole Church. The Synod Fathers rightly declared that “Mary inaugurates the Church’s participation in the sacrifice of the Redeemer.”  She is the Immaculata, who receives God’s gift unconditionally and is thus associated with his work of salvation. Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist…

96. May Mary Most Holy, the Immaculate Virgin, ark of the new and eternal covenant, accompany us on our way to meet the Lord who comes. In her we find realized most perfectly the essence of the Church. The Church sees in Mary – “Woman of the Eucharist,” as she was called by the Servant of God John Paul II – her finest icon, and she contemplates Mary as a singular model of the Eucharistic life. For this reason, as the priest prepares to receive on the altar the verum Corpus natum de Maria Virgine, [the true Body born of the Virgin Mary] speaking on behalf of the liturgical assembly, he says in the words of the canon: “We honour Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God”. Her holy name is also invoked and venerated in the canons of the Eastern Christian traditions. The faithful, for their part, “commend to Mary, Mother of the Church, their lives and the work of their hands. Striving to have the same sentiments as Mary, they help the whole community to become a living offering pleasing to the Father”. She is the tota pulchra, the all-beautiful, for in her the radiance of God’s glory shines forth. The beauty of the heavenly liturgy, which must be reflected in our own assemblies, is faithfully mirrored in her. From Mary we must learn to become men and women of the Eucharist and of the Church, and thus to present ourselves, in the words of Saint Paul, “holy and blameless” before the Lord, even as he wished us to be from the beginning (cf. Col 1:22; Eph 1:4).

97. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the same ardour experienced by the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) and renew our “Eucharistic wonder” through the splendour and beauty radiating from the liturgical rite, the efficacious sign of the infinite beauty of the holy mystery of God. Those disciples arose and returned in haste to Jerusalem in order to share their joy with their brothers and sisters in the faith. True joy is found in recognizing that the Lord is still with us, our faithful companion along the way. The Eucharist makes us discover that Christ, risen from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his body. Of this mystery of love we have become witnesses. Let us encourage one another to walk joyfully, our hearts filled with wonder, towards our encounter with the Holy Eucharist, so that we may experience and proclaim to others the truth of the words with which Jesus took leave of his disciples: “Lo, I am with you always, until the end of the world” (Mt 28:20).

More from Our Lady of America

[The following are more messages given by the Mother of God to her chosen handmaid Sr. Mary Ephrem, especially for her children in America.  These are not the same ones I posted on the page dedicated to Our Lady of America on this blog (you can get more information there).  I’ve been reading them again recently and have been blessed anew, so thought it would be good to share more of them here.]

“Will my children in America listen to my pleadings and console my Immaculate Heart?  Will my loyal sons carry out my desires and thus help me bring the peace of Christ once again to mankind?  Pray and do penance… that this may come to pass. Trust me and love me; I so desire it.

“I am the Mother of Mercy. Under my mantle I will hide my children. The justice of God will not reach them if they seek refuge beneath the protection of my mercy. My Son gives to me all those souls who come to me with confidence, calling upon my aid. Their salvation is in my hands. I will obtain for them the necessary graces to save their souls.

“Come to me, poor suffering and frightened ones. I am your Mother. Never will I forsake you. Only come to me with a wholehearted and loving trust. Place your souls into my keeping. I am that faithful Mother who never forsakes her children. Honor me by your confidence and love. This I desire and ask of you, my poor children. Do not deny the wishes of your Mother.

“My Heart, my Immaculate Heart, is the channel through which the graces of the Sacred Heart are given to men… time passes, and with it wasted graces and constant refusals on the part of man to cooperate with me in the accomplishment of the Divine Will for his own sanctification and salvation.  What am I to do, child of my Heart, when my children turn from me?  The false peace of this world lures them and in the end will destroy them.  They think they have done enough in consecrating themselves to my Immaculate Heart.  It is not enough.  That which I ask for and is most important many have not given me.  What I ask, have asked, and will continue to ask is reformation of life.  There must be sanctification from within. I will work my miracles of grace only in those who ask for them and empty their souls of the love and attachment to sin and all that is displeasing to my Son.  Souls who cling to sin cannot have their hands free to receive the treasures of grace that I hold out to them… Behold, then, my Heart pierced by a cruel sword!  Oh, what grief my children have caused me! … we must have more souls who love, love unselfishly and without reserve…

“I wish to gather about me… soldiers and valiant bearers of the torch, an army of brave lovers, who as my torchbearers will enkindle the fire of Divine Love in the souls of men.  Only those who are strong in love can become my soldiers to bear aloft, not the sword of destruction, but the sword of fire, the flaming torch of Divine Charity.

“Be careful to say [the Rosary] with great devotion, meditating on each mystery and striving to imitate in your daily lives the virtues depicted therein.  Live the mysteries of the Rosary as I lived them, and it will become a chain binding you to me forever.  They who are found in the circle of my Rosary will never be lost.  I myself will lead them at death to the throne of my Son, to be eternally united to Him.  Write these words upon your hearts, my dear children, because of the compassion I have for you in my Immaculate Heart.  Oh, if you knew the punishments I am holding back from you by my pleading and intercession on your behalf!  Will you do as I wish at last, my children?

“My child, nothing is accomplished without pain.  Prepare to suffer much.  You see the sword in the Heart of your Mother.  Suffering completed the work of divine grace in my soul.  He who refuses to suffer will never abide in the Spirit of Christ, will never be formed into His image… The Father will never recognize a soul as His own unless He sees in it the likeness of His beloved Son.  Souls must attain to the perfection of the Father through the Spirit of the Son… You wonder at the sword and the deep wound it has made in my Heart.  It is the sword of grief plunged therein by my children who refuse to let me teach them the true way.  There is only one true way to the Father, my child, only one way to eternal union.  It is the way of the divine humanity.  It is through my Son, the Only-begotten of the Father, that souls attain perfect union with the Divinity, as perfect as human nature is capable of, aided by divine grace.  But my children will not heed; they will not listen.  Every other way they will take, but not this one.

“I ask greater sacrifices of the most favored and beloved of my children.  I ask in the Name and for the love of my Son, Who so desires this.  If I ask for reform of life, it is first from the chosen that I look for it.  They must, by the example of a sacrificial life, lead the way for souls to union with Christ, honoring the Father by putting on His Spirit and His likeness in all things… Prepare yourself by prayer, penance, and suffering for what is to come.”

[Regarding the medal of Our Lady of America, Sr Mary Ephrem said]:

Those who wear the medal with great faith and fervent devotion to Our Lady will receive the grace of intense purity of heart and the particular love of the Holy Virgin and her Divine Son. Sinners will receive the grace of repentance and the spiritual strength to live as true children of Mary.  As in life, so in death, this blessed medal will be as a shield to protect them against the evil spirits, and St Michael himself will be at their side to allay their fears at the final hour.

It is the Lord!

Fishing all night on the Sea of Tiberias, the disciples drew up nothing but empty nets. Still incredulous over the astounding events of the past few days, they probably had wanted to engage in some familiar activity in order to ground themselves in some accustomed reality, to give themselves a chance to reflect upon what they had so recently experienced. But they could never just pick up where they had left off before meeting Jesus, so their attempt to return to their old way of life was necessarily fruitless. On the advice of a stranger standing on the shore, however, they cast their nets once more and made a catch worthy of the most extravagant “fish story.” So the disciple whom Jesus loved exclaimed to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (Jn 21:7).

How did the Beloved Disciple recognize the Lord? Jesus was a hundred yards away, so he couldn’t see his features. Even if he could, Scripture implies that after Jesus’ resurrection one couldn’t always tell who He was, even by looking Him in the face. Once on shore, “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’, for they knew it was the Lord” (Jn 21:12). It would have been pointless for the evangelist to make such a statement if Jesus was immediately and physically recognizable to them, as He had been before his resurrection. This phenomenon is even more explicit in Mark: “he appeared in a different form to two of them, as they were walking into the country” (16:12). So Jesus didn’t always look like Jesus once He rose from the dead.

The risen Christ was recognized by the miracle He performed. It was upon seeing the unexpected catch of fish that John exclaimed to Peter that it was the Lord. Therefore, says the Scripture, John knew it was Jesus. We learn, then, that it is not necessary to see Jesus with our bodily eyes to be aware of his presence and activity in the events of our lives. We just need to read the signs and credit Him with the wonders. Blessed are those who believe without seeing, but who can perceive and recognize the divine presence by faith and spiritual awareness. This is important for our sacramental life, in which Jesus is present in various forms.  These are the “mysteries of faith,” and as we grow in faith, we “see” more clearly and “contact the mystery,” which, as Blessed John Paul II said, is of the essence of faith.

When we live by faith we realize that our lives are governed by Providence and not by chance. In the Christian world-view, God is not far away but ever-present to our needs and concerns, responding with a generosity that can only be called divine. Have you received a blessing? It is the Lord: “Blessed be God…who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…” (Eph 1:3). Have you ever been treated with compassion or received any consolations? It is the Lord, “the Father of mercies and God of all consolation…” (2Cor 1:3), working directly or through others. Have you received gifts or had any good experiences? It is the Lord, for “every gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). Jesus is standing on the shore, trying to direct our labors on the sea of life, and if we obey his word we will discover unexpected treasures and recognize that they all come from Him.

“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2Cor 5:7). Jesus is with us always, but we have to look for Him with eyes of faith. Often He appears “in a different form,” as He did to the disciples on their way to Emmaus, who recognized Him only “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35). In the Holy Eucharist the Lord appears to us in a different form. He doesn’t look like Jesus; He looks like bread and wine. But when I stand at the holy altar and see the consecrated Gifts, I dare not ask, “Who are you?”, for I know it is the Lord.

Our spiritual senses need to be sharpened if we are to experience the enrichment of life that God wills to grant us through his constant loving activity in and around us. We can leave the complete and visible manifestation of his glory to the Last Day. For now let us live by faith, with the sensitivity it gives us to “see” the Lord in his works, to know his presence in sunsets and sacraments, in little signs and great wonders. Then we can, with conviction and joy, bring the message to others: “It is the Lord!”

Ruth Pakaluk on the Rosary

[Some straight talk from an articulate and devout Catholic mom and pro-life speakerShe died from cancer in 1998, at the age of 41.]

“In the past century… it has become abundantly clear that Mary wants to increase devotion to the Rosary.  Her appearance at Fatima should have been enough to settle the question for all time. [She even identified herself there as “The Lady of the Rosary“]  Those of us who are mothers know that saying something once never suffices for all time, so Mary has taken the trouble to appear numerous times to many different people, reiterating this little piece of maternal advice: ‘Say the Rosary.’

“Now, many people today think the Rosary is too old-fashioned.  They think that, since the time of Vatican II, we have moved beyond simplistic, repetitious, maybe even superstitious vocal prayer into the superior realm of ‘centering’ prayer, or praying in tongues, or conversational, spontaneous prayer.  I do not mean to disparage any other form of Christian prayer—all have their good points, and we should all be developing our prayer life to include other forms of personal prayer.  But people: if the Mother of God, who stands, body and soul, in the presence of God already enjoying the beatific vision; if the Mother of the Church, the creature whom only God Himself is greater than; if this Lady from heaven says, ‘Pray the Rosary,’ well, I think we should do just what she says, no matter what.  Chances are, she has a pretty darn good reason for being so insistent about asking us to say the Rosary.

“Think about the way you deal with your children.  You tell them to brush their teeth.  You tell them to wash their hands before eating.  You tell them to change their socks regularly.  They usually do not see the efficacy of doing what you say.  They complain that it’s too hard, or too boring, or too time-consuming to do all of these dumb little things.  But we know that if we can bludgeon them into forming these habits, then they won’t lose their teeth, they won’t die of typhus or dysentery, and their socks won’t be reduced to shreds in a matter of days.  It takes time, but most children come to realize that their mothers were right about these matters.

“Why don’t we recognize that the same thing applies to our relationship with Mary?  We should do just what she asks and trust that she really does know what is for our own good.  She wants people to say the Rosary each day…

[Concerning May devotions to Our Lady] “…the beauty of the flowering trees, the fresh pale green of the new grass and leaves, the delicacy of the spring flowers—all these things put us in mind of the extraordinary beauty of the Blessed Virgin, the Bride of the Holy Spirit, this youthful Mother of the living.

“Mary is our Mother… You know you love your mother. You know she knows you love her.  And yet it is important to give outward, even somewhat formal, expression to this love.  So when Mother’s Day rolls around, most of us make a point of doing something extra to let our mothers know that we appreciate what they have done for us, even if it is just a small thing like a phone call or a card…

“The reason we love Mary is because she brought Christ into the world.  She is our Mother because she was Jesus’ Mother first, and He gave her to us.  Mary plays an essential role as the spiritual Mother of each and every individual Christian.  It would be obtuse and ungrateful if we were to fail to acknowledge her.  And if we consider that Jesus is fully human, it becomes clear that He wants us to recognize Mary.  ‘Are you not moved to hear some affectionate word addressed to your mother?  The same thing happens to Our Lord. We cannot separate Jesus from his Mother’ [St. Josemaría Escrivá]. To hear praise of one’s own mother: as adults, isn’t this a great joy for us?  So it is for Jesus, as for the Holy Trinity who made her.”

[From a talk on The Rosary and May Pilgrimages, found in The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God: The Story of Ruth Pakaluk—Convert, Mother, Pro-life Activist]

Practicing the Presence of Mary

[The following is an article I wrote for Queen of All Hearts magazine for the May-June 1994 issue.]

I hope it is not plagiarizing but rather honoring Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection by using here a form of the title of his classic book on the spiritual life.  It is meant to refer to living through, with, in, and for Mary, in order to live more richly our life in Christ, as St. Louis de Montfort recommends (True Devotion 257).  Another way of saying this is that we need to be reminded that being consecrated to Our Lady requires some understanding and effort on our part, if we wish to bear spiritual fruit and grow in holiness.

Many people throughout the Catholic world have renewed (or made for the first time) their personal consecrations to Our Lady this past March 25.  This self-offering made at the feet of Mary is an important step in living a more fervent Christian life.  But as those who once came to St. John the Baptizer once heard, “Give some evidence that you mean to reform” (Lk. 3:8), we who have come to Our Lady are asked to give some evidence that we mean to live as her consecrated children.

Having made an act of consecration, we need to go about putting it into practice.  We have to do something as a consequence of being something.  Consecration to Mary “essentially consists in a state of soul” (True Devotion 119), but St. Louis de Montfort still recommends practices which faithfully express this state.  Examples are praying the Rosary and other devotions, meditating on Our Lady’s virtues, making acts of self-denial and doing all things to please and honor her.

Our Lady herself has given us the example that what we do has to follow from the knowledge of who we are.  If Mary were not deeply aware that her very reason of being was to serve the Lord, she would not have been able to accept the words of Gabriel, and would not have been able to do all that God would ask of her once He received her consent.  “Let it be done to me,” she said, because “I am the handmaid of the Lord.”  Likewise, we have to know who we are before we can act accordingly.  If we are aware and convinced that we are children of God consecrated to the Heart of Mary, then we should be able to say, “Let it be done to me,” to whatever the Lord wills for our lives.

Practicing the presence of Mary, that is, living our consecration, has many dimensions, but here I will focus on three: the union of our hearts with Mary’s, standing with her at the Cross, and engaging in “spiritual warfare” under her leadership.

One of the fundamental fruits of belonging to Our Lady through an act of consecration is the union of hearts.  This is a personal intimacy that is more than an external imitation of Mary’s virtues.  It is a sharing of life and love, a being-with, a conscious acknowledgement of her moment-by-moment motherly solicitude.  As we grow in the experience of resting securely in the love of Mary, she is better able to teach us to love the Lord as she does.

Our love for God will develop in several ways through our union with the Heart of Mary.  She will instill in us first a desire for holiness, which is nothing else than the desire to do God’s will in all things.  This will require detachment from earthly things insofar as they might hinder our ascent to God.  As St. Paul says, we need to set our hearts on things of heaven, not on things of earth (Col. 3:1-2).

Once we genuinely desire holiness, we will need to listen to our hearts, that is, to the Holy Spirit speaking therein.  Our Lady is the one who listened, pondered, and treasured the mysteries of God in her heart (see Lk. 1:29; 2:19, 51).  She also was listening long before the Angel appeared, because her heart had to be prepared to discern and to respond when the great moment came.  This interior listening in the solitude of the heart is the basis of contemplative prayer.  Those who are true children of Mary will be led by her into a prayerful participation in her own contemplation, since she has drawn their hearts into hers.

Desiring holiness and listening to the Spirit in one’s heart will naturally lead to an outward expression of this interior state.  This is the practice of virtue.  The Blessed Mother calls all of her children not only to hear God’s call to a deeper spiritual life, but also, in St. Paul’s words, to live a live worthy of this calling (see Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 1:27).

The more that we live in explicit reference to Our Lady’s guiding presence in our lives, the more our behavior will conform to our spiritual understanding (see Rom. 12:2).  With the grace of the Holy Spirit given though the surrender of our hearts to the Heart of the Mother, we will be able not only to know the will of God, but also to do it.  A virtuous life is quite simply a life of hearing the word of God and keeping it, as Jesus reminds us so often in the Gospels.

We prove the genuineness of our union with the Heart of Mary by our willingness to stand with her at the Cross of Jesus.  By the word of the Lord we became children of Mary at the Cross (Jn. 19:26-27), and there we are invited to remain with our Mother as Jesus’ beloved disciples.  This is not to say that she desires our suffering, but we do have to accept the fact that bearing hardships for the sake of the Gospel is part of the Christian vocation (see Acts 14:22; 2Tim 1:8, 2:3).  St. Peter returns to this theme several times in his First Epistle (2:19-24; 3:9; 4:12-19).

True love is often tested through personal sacrifice, so we should not be surprised if the living of our consecration requires our passing through the crucible of suffering.  But we are not alone.  Since Our Lady has already walked the way of com-passion unto the Cross of Jesus, she hastens to be close to us when our own hour of pain comes, as this prayer from the Byzantine Liturgy expresses: “O Blessed Mother of God… you feel and suffer with us in our lowliness; take pity on your people in distress.  Pray for us constantly… for the salvation of our souls” (Lenten Matins).

A friend of mine recently told me that she had a great devotion to St. John, the Beloved Disciple.  At the same time she was experiencing some resistance in her heart to the demands of a fervent Catholic life.  Then in prayer she felt the Lord speak to her heart, saying: if you want to be like the Beloved Disciple, you have to stay near the Cross.  This is a necessary dimension—not merely because inevitable but because so spiritually fruitful—of our life in Christ and our life with Mary.

We are called to go, hand-in-hand with our Mother, through the struggle and pain of the human condition and to emerge victorious by the grace of God.  Jesus chose to endure the trials of life all the way to the Cross.  But He triumphed even over death, the “last enemy,” by his resurrection, and thus opened the way for our broken humanity to enter transformed into the glorious realm of his divinity (see Phil. 3:21).

This victory of Jesus which we are called to share is not only over the brokenness of our own lives, but also over the “principalities and powers… the spiritual hosts of wickedness” (Eph. 6:12).  As Our Lady is the one who guides us in the life of virtue and stands with us at the Cross, she is also the one who leads us in battle against our spiritual enemy, the devil.

In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation, Mary is manifested as the heavenly Queen, adorned with sun and stars, the moon prostrate at her feet.  But her reign has not yet entered into its tranquil fulfillment, because of her everlasting enmity with the red dragon, “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (v. 9).  In his rage he is making war on all of the Woman’s offspring (v. 17).

The times in which we live are marked by increasing evils of every kind, and the devil is rearing his ugly head with unprecedented frequency and fury.  But since Christ is the “stronger One” (Lk. 11:22), He is sending forth his Spirit in such extraordinary ways as to recall that first divine outpouring at Pentecost.  Our Lady, too, has her special role, since her own apparitions throughout the world have multiplied dramatically in the past 1-1/2 centuries or so.  She is gathering her flock together under her mantle, protecting us and preparing us to enter courageously into the inescapable struggle with the powers of darkness.

It is not uncommon for people to contact our monastery with complaints of attacks or other manifestations of evil spirits [we are not trained as exorcists, but we offer our prayer and sacrifice].  California is rife with satanic cults, with those who practice witchcraft and neo-pagan rituals, and with New Age enthusiasts of all kinds.  You can find in the phone book the “church of satan” listed with all the other churches.  (On the other hand, there are many oases of grace and holiness in this West Coast spiritual desert, but the warfare is nevertheless intense.)

Even if you don’t live in a spiritually polluted environment, know that the devil is still after each individual soul (1Peter 5:8).  That ancient serpent will not give up until his loathsome head is definitively crushed by the New Adam through the New Eve.  We look confidently forward to that day of the manifest victory of Jesus and Mary over all demonic forces, and we will sing with the Israel of God: “But the Lord almighty thwarted them, by a woman’s hand he confounded them” (Jdt. 16:5).

If we want to be faithful disciples of Christ and children of Mary, we have our work cut out for us.  But we know where to seek refuge, to find consolation, to be renewed in courage, to feel loved: the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Through living day by day our consecration to her—“practicing her presence” in our lives—our “yes” to God will be made firm.  We will advance in grace and holiness, take up our cross with patience and trust, and be victorious in the day of battle.  If we stay close to the Heart of the Mother now, we will remain close to her forever in Heaven, rejoicing to hear her say: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me” (Is. 8:18).