Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 2, 2020

The 2nd Step Toward Defeating Sin and its Bitter Fruit

When will it be over?

Is covid-19 the first of more plagues to come?  The day may come when this plague is gone, is over.  Then will the Church awaken to her call, her sacred vocation to the holiness worthy of her Master and Lord?  He entrusted her with potent graces and divine Truth – and a mission: take the holy saving Truth of God in Christ to the utmost ends and corners and peaks of the empty arrogance of fallen and dying mankind!  

Will the Church stand up and be the Body of Christ for this world?  Or will she return and relax to business as usual: a lukewarm comfortable compromise with the status quo – an unspoken deal with the spirit of this world – an exchange: the soul of the apostolate, for her continuing silence on the world’s broad godless path to hell?

There is a path to be walked, a Gospel to be preached, a Life to be lived, a Sacrifice to be embraced.  A bit more than a hundred years ago, near Fatima in Portugal, the Blessed Mother Mary brought the message anew to us through the simple and obedient – to children.  Mary appeared and said to Lucia:

Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart…. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. (Fatima Apparitions, 13 June 1917)

Mary also warned, that if this call is not heard and obeyed – if this devotion is not established as God desires – there will be more wars, and persecutions, and martyrs.  Much suffering will come, but…. “But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

There seems to be no shortage of contemporary “programs” (for a fee) offered to dioceses and parishes in the U.S. to help ignite a renewal of vitality and activity among Catholics.  A summary of my conclusions about these offerings, discussed in more detail in an essay in HPR (see ref. below) expresses what’s missing in broad terms: “We have been trying to build (1) using plans that are incomplete, (2) with materials inadequate to the task, and besides that, (3) upon sand.” 

What Happened to The Catholic Faith?

In this essay, I want to focus on what I am beginning now to see is one simple but essential “factor” that is missing in some very popular programs of renewal: Mary, and devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

Heart-felt devotion to Mary in the Church, to her Immaculate Heart, has continued to decline since shortly after Vatican II.  Today, as new programs for parish evangelization and renewal emerge and fade and reappear, circulating around dioceses in America, we see a painful work of the minimization of Mary, of rightful Marian Devotion, among some popular programs du jour.  It ought not be surprising that the fruit of such programs is lacking in depth, zeal and power when Mary is either omitted or mentioned only in a perfunctory, passing way, almost reluctantly, lest anyone be “offended” by bringing her up.  A very, very well-known teacher and writer and “lay authority” on Catholic evangelization once told me, rejecting any supposed need for Marian devotion for Catholics (please forgive me while I recount these words very painful and hard to hear):

The Church teaches that all approved devotions including Marian devotions are encouraged but not in any way required of disciples. We are free to participate and integrate devotions into our prayer life and spiritual practices or not.

All that is required of any faithful Catholic is belief in the Marian Dogmas like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. There are many legitimate and fruitful spiritual paths with the whole of the Catholic Tradition. Some are deeply Marian and some are not. … I will not tolerate any implications that one cannot be a true discipleship without participating in Marian devotion because it does not reflect the Church’s teaching on our freedom in this area.

Marian Devotion: Intrinsic to Christian Worship

The Catechism (#971) reflects anything but such a minimizing of the need for Mary in our lives: ““The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” (Pope St. Paul VI, MC 56). “Intrinsic” is a very strong word.

The intrinsic need for Mary in our life of devotion to Christ becomes clear in the light of our call far beyond mediocrity, lukewarmness and tepidity in imitation of Christ.  Such a life is an insult to Christ, to His Cross, and to our call into the holiness of life worthy of God’s Holy Kingdom.  Indeed, “Your decrees are firmly established; holiness befits your house, LORD, for all the length of days.” (Psa 93:5). 

Pope St. Paul VI wrote, concerning the place Mary has as model, example, guide for Catholics:

 In her earthly life, she realized the perfect image of the disciple of Christ, reflected every virtue, and incarnated the evangelical beatitudes proclaimed by Christ. Therefore in her, the entire Church, in its incomparable variety of life and of work, attains the most authentic form of the perfect imitation of Christ.  (Pope St. Paul VI, 11/21/1964 close of Vatican II 3rd Session)

A Brief Conclusion: The Rosary

We need – need – to recover in the Church an authentic, personal and ecclesial devotion to Mary, and more specifically, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Our hearts, still wounded and confused in the darkness of a fallen nature, are mixed and unclean.  The heart of Mary, mother of our Savior and our mother in Him, is pure, simple, unconfused, immaculate.  Our prayer, our worship, our moral lives, our reception of the saving sacraments – all is mixed, impure.  A wholly pure – immaculate – intercessor and mediatrix between us and Christ our Lord is thus an immense simplicity in our life-journey to Him and thus to our salvation.  The more we learn of her place in our salvation (that is, her maternal role as Mother of God and our Mother in Christ), the more we can seek and welcome her active role as intercessor and mediatrix – a unique divine gift of a loving and self-giving bridge to and into her Son.

One suggestion, to begin to incorporate Marian devotion into Christian discipleship: pray the Rosary daily, slowly, when you have a full hour of time to complete – without rushing, without interruptions, without worrying about the time – the five decades of the Mystery of the day.  I would almost say that it is a waste of time to rush, when praying.  An excellent way to meditate on the mystery while praying the vocal prayers of the beads, I have found, is by adding a phrase within the 10 Hail Marys that expresses the mystery.  For example, in the Rosary of the Joyful Mysteries, the 1st decade, modify each of the 10 Hail Marys by adding the phrase:

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who became incarnate within you.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

In praying this decade of Hail Marys, consciously strive to pray – not merely recite – but pray, intending to mean every word you say.  Pray with attention and devotion every word you utter in prayer!  Seek to be present to both – conscious of both – Mary and Jesus, divine Son and human Mother, both living their roles given by the Father in the work of salvation.

For example in the 4th Sorrowful Mystery, perhaps adding the phrase:

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who carried His Cross for us.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

And, another example, in the 3rd Luminous Mystery, perhaps adding the phrase

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who proclaimed the Holy Gospel.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

And I repeat: pray slowly enough to hear and to say meaningfully, intentionally, prayerfully every word you are saying.  I think you will begin, in time, to experience the union of Jesus and His Mother in the one divine will in the work of salvation.  The Rosary is all about Jesus and Mary.  It is about Mary the perfect disciple and thus model for Christians; Mary the Mother of the Church, forming Christ in each faithful one, Jesus walking the path in front of us, Mary intrinsic to our life in Him as she was intrinsic to His Life among us from the beginning.

In praying through all the four Mysteries of the Life of Jesus and the Church in this deliberate way, day after day, week after week, month after month, a work of God can be proceeding within you, forming you interiorly as is His will.  This is the fruit of authentic Marian Devotion, united to the Son, beginning to come forth. 

_______________________________________________________________

Reference for Homiletic & Pastoral Review (HPR) essay — https://www.hprweb.com/2017/09/disciple-making-with-mercenary-love/#fnref-20178-1


Responses

  1. Forgive me if I say this so bluntly. How pleased the evil one must be to have such a statement made from this very well known teacher and the promotion of this. It is very very sad to hear that. I thank God that I grew up before Vatican II in a home where we prayed the rosary and had a real Marian devotion. Since coming back to Holy Mother Church 12 years ago I have noticed many Catholics don’t talk about the Blessed Mother. I thank God for you Thomas and Deborah for the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to awaken the people of God their desperate need for our Blessed Mother and her role in our salvation. She brought me back to the Catholic Faith. Without her we will not receive the fullness of graces she grants through Jesus her Son.

    >

    • Thank you Chris for your comment. I especially appreciate your witness to the importance and power of faith experienced in childhood. Faith within the marriage and the family is an atmosphere of grace that the growing child cannot miss. It is breathed in, and like seeds in the ground, waits until the right season, sometimes, to flower and bear fruit.

  2. Dear Thomas,

    Thank you so very much for bringing our Mother Mary into your blog essay as “The 2nd Step Toward Defeating Sin and its Bitter Fruit”.

    The world needs to hear deep within, Jesus’ words from His Cross: “Behold your Mother!” So many Catholics seem to have forgotten Mary — for as you pointed out: “Heart-felt devotion to Mary in the Church, to her Immaculate Heart, has continued to decline since shortly after Vatican II.”

    Pope Benedict XVI in his homily at Fatima May 13, 2010 said: “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete.” We need to remember Mary’s words: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” He said this almost 10 years ago and the bitter fruit of our neglect is obvious.

    By God’s Grace may we be renewed in love, turning again to Jesus through Mary! As He came to us through Mary in His First Coming, so He will come again in triumph in His Final Coming at the end of time.

    • Yes I agree – Pope Benedict XVI spoke prophetically of Fatima, and the Truth it continues to proclaim. People tend predictably, habitually, to fall back when the danger seems to pass. The time will come, however, when God will no longer permit His Truth and Judgment to fade into mere memory. It will come and continue, as the plagues did in ancient Egypt, until Pharaoh finally released God’s People. God is working still for our freedom from the captivity of sin.

  3. Once again, thank you very much Thomas for taking some of your precious time in writing these worthy blogs.
    You mentioned several times about praying the Holy Rosary slowly and meaningfully, One person that stands out in my mind is the way, “future Saint” Mother Angelica recites the Holy Rosary. She takes her time praying, word for word and I can feel the conversation between her and the Blessed Virgin Mary!

    • It is true, is it not? – that when we slow down, become quiet, enter into the silence not as a thief but as a friend, what holy beauty we can discover! God has surrounded us with His hidden glory.

  4. Thank you Thomas. Our Mother Mary is so ignored today. Jesus told us to Behold your Mother….He did not have to tell me twice. She is a beautiful, kind loving Mother who is the epitome of a believer in her Son. We only have to look to her, pray to her to come to know and love her Son. Covid virus is a wake up call. I hope and pray that the world will pay attention to God, will read His Word and change their lives. Lord Jesus have mercy on us.

    • It is, I believe with you, a “wake up call.” God made us in such a way that we must “pay attention” – we must focus – we must clear our mind for a moment of anything but one reality: the eternal and absolute reality of God and His Truth. When we do – oh the view of all things, seen in the light of His grace and Presence – in Him, all will be well. May He give us the grace, then, to remain there with Him.


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