All posts tagged: Virgin Mary

The Assumption and Gender

On November 1, 1950, Venerable Pope Pius XII in His Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Generous God) solemnly defined and decreed the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the teaching that Mary−because she was preserved from the stain of Original Sin inherited by the Fall of our first parents—did not undergo the corruption of the body at the end of her earthly life, but was lifted body and soul into Heaven. It is really an incredibly bold dogma, and one which can even scandalize our separated Protestant brothers and sisters, but it is very reasonable and meaningful, and is in need of particular attention in today’s world. It is important to realize that this dogma was not invented in the 1950’s. As Pope Pius XII’s encyclical points out, this tradition is found in the ancient liturgical books of both East and West. It is also attested to by St. Sergius I, Pope in the late 17th century, who even prescribed a litany to be prayed on the feast. But …

The Virgin Mary, Birth, and Philosophy

Everything begins with the question that Nicodemus asks Jesus: “how can a man enter anew into the womb of his mother and be born?” (John 3:4). It is an excellent question, if not the best question that could be asked. For Nicodemus is not one who fails to understand the “birth from above,” but rather he understands perfectly that one cannot understand the “birth from above” without relating it to the “birth from below.” It is in coming back and describing the significance of “being born from the womb of his mother” (by means of paths “from below”) that one will be able to decipher what it means “to be reborn by water and spirit” (by means of paths “from above”). It is not a question of thinking that Christ’s response is an opposition—“that which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit” (John 3:6)—but rather thinking of it as an analogy: just as that which is born of flesh is flesh, so that which is born …

The Mysterious Miriam of Nazareth

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and several verses later the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This seismic shift in the orientation of creation, this cataclysmic re-location of the logos into the corruptible world of mortality took place not in a hermetically-sealed scientific laboratory or in the archetypes of myth, but in the flesh-and-blood of a human person. And the person’s name was Mary. When imagining Incarnation—in both our intellectual and pious imaginaries—we too often recite a story something like this: notional God theoretically unites to abstract human nature. The story is more like a mathematical formula. 1 + 1 = 2, and Incarnation remains simply a more subtle cosmic algebraic formula in which 1+1 = 1. But this is not what it is to be or to take up flesh. To become a human person means to be born: a physical, messy, risky business. To be born means to be thrown into the world drama in a specific time (e.g., 1991, …

The Annunciation and Vocational Fear

  Mary said: My soul is deeply troubled; what can this greeting mean? Am I to give birth to my king and yet remain a virgin forever? –Antiphon for Daytime Prayer, Advent I prayed these words most days last Advent. It looked like my bishop would be ordaining me as a deacon this May. At least for diocesan seminarians, at diaconate we make our lifelong promises to be celibate, obedient and faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours. It comes up fast and raises a lot of questions. Is it commitment possible and worth the risk? Mary’s heart was full of questions—Luke’s gospel and this suggest as much. These are not necessarily questions of pious wonder:  she was deeply troubled, utterly unaware of how this Annunciation was going to happen or what might happen as a result. This year Church observes the Annunciation on April 9 because March 25 fell on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday evokes Abraham, who was willing to offer his son. Both Abraham and Mary show us how to approach celibacy, commitment …

The Very Human Fears of the Saints

“Am I to stay here alone?” This question, posed by Servant of God Lucia Santos to the Blessed Mother during a 1917 Fatima apparition, introduced a raw, intimate urgency to their dialogue. Having just been informed that her two cousins and fellow seers, Jacinta and Francisco, would soon succumb to illness and pass into communion with God, Lucia learns of her own mission to remain on earth, continuing a hidden life of prayer and evangelization. Her immediate, reactionary question reveals a fundamental human, and particularly Christian, insecurity.[1] Created for communion with God and with one another, the fear of abandonment—of being left to face our existential realities alone—lingers in the recesses of the human heart, surfacing during times of insecurity, transition, and uncertainty. It is tempting, at times, to convince ourselves that saints like Lucia were somehow exempt from these human insecurities. Perhaps the saints were granted a sort of supernatural clarity to dispel crippling doubts and inhibitions, or a keen sense of spiritual sight that allowed them to identify and respond to human need, …

Bestowing Charity Hastily

Mary of Nazareth is at once the Mother of God and the first, perfect disciple of her son. In her willingness to patiently await the arrival of God’s word in her life, and her subsequent haste in acting upon God’s word, Mary enfolds the pattern of receiving and responding to the Lord within her hidden life of grace. Those who devote themselves to Mary discover the beauty of this hidden life, learning to receive as she receives and respond as she responds. Two of the most beloved modern saints discovered their own sanctity in this Marian rhythm: Thérèse of Lisieux and Teresa of Calcutta. Childhood devotions to the Blessed Mother shaped the religious imaginations of both Thérèse and Teresa, resulting in a vivid comprehension of Mary as a living mother whose beauty calls for a response of the body and soul. Both proceeded to pattern their lives after Mary, maintaining a posture of generosity to the Lord, participating in the “hasty” bestowal of charity, and thereby experiencing a foretaste of the eternal joy of divine …

The Sex Life of Joseph and Mary

I wonder if any of you have ever seen the film, “Bambi Meets Godzilla?” If so, you know that it opens, as most movies do, with a long series of credits, naming everyone who purportedly had anything to do with the film, including Bambi’s hairstylist, as we see Bambi dreamily walking through a spring meadow. When the credits are over, a huge, fashionably monstrous leg with a clawed foot steps massively and carelessly into the set while the music simultaneously thunders one single chord. It happens so fast, we do not even see Bambi disappear; end of movie. Perhaps, in like manner, the title of this paper might lead one to believe that after a few preliminary observations and teasers, the monstrous foot of tradition will ensure that the glimmers of seemingly humane and enlightened sympathy for Mary and especially for poor Joseph, her “most chaste spouse,” will be stamped out as decisively as Bambi was stamped out by Godzilla. Joseph and Mary did not have sex. In fact, this paper does begin from the …

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Apocalypse

The Church’s liturgical year celebrates on August 15th the Woman of the Apocalypse, “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”[1] The feast is better known in Catholic talk as the Assumption, and the first liturgical reading in the celebration of the Mass contains the above-quoted description of the Woman of the Apocalypse. The feast of the Assumption is hardly the only feast in the panoply of Marian celebrations on the Church’s liturgical calendar. It is rarely, however, associated[2] with the optional Marian memorial celebrated December 12th, Our Lady of Guadalupe, though it should be, because both feasts are emblematic of the same thing: apocalypse. The message and story of Guadalupe is apocalyptic, since it reveals God’s will for God’s Church at a particular place in history, Tepeyac, through the Virgin Mary at Guadalupe, clothed and enfleshed in the beauty of the native peoples, and through God’s own servant St. Juan Diego, a Christian who nonetheless responds to the “sweet music”[3] he …

Mary’s Role in the Spiritual Life

Luke Donahue, a 2017 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is now a postulant with the Congregation of Holy Cross. While at Notre Dame, Luke studied Theology and German with a minor in Medieval Studies. In the following interview, he speaks on his relationship with the Blessed Mother, generously sharing graced insights gathered from years of devotion. This post is part of the Notre Dame – My Mother series. Can you describe your relationship with Mary, and how it has changed over time? My relationship with Mary has definitely grown throughout my life. When I was a child, I prayed the Hail Mary most days, but it was kind of just another prayer. I appreciated Mary’s role as Mother of God, but I didn’t realize the extent to which she, as mother of all Christians, can have a personal relationship with us. I think the first time my family prayed the rosary together was after St. John Paul II passed away. He had really promoted the rosary, so my mother gathered us around the table …