Catholic Soup is a food for thought blog based website designed to provide Catholic insight through personal experience.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1531, Our Lady appeared to a lowly, humble man Juan Diego so that he could carry out a message of hope and Christianity to the Bishop. Our Lady sent him out to the Bishop, so that a church be built, a new way to Christianity for the sake of many people. Before Juan Diego he left that morning, he would set out to find a priest so that he could hear his uncle's last confession before death. When Juan got the message from Our Lady to go to the Bishop, he feared his uncle's death. He promised Our Lady he would return and carry out her mission, but at that moment the Blessed Mother spoke to him something that still strikes me today. She confirms him and assures him that she is a Mother who cares and is always by our side, giving us everything we need by the power of Christ, her son. She tells us:

"Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest son, that what frightened you, what afflicted you, is nothing; do not let it disturb your face, your heart; do not fear this sickness nor any other sickness, nor any sharp and hurtful thing. Am I not here, I who have the honor to be your Mother? Are you not in my shadow and under my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hallow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?"

We have assurance from Our Lady, the Mother who welcomed Christ into the world telling us that she is with us under her protection and in the crossing of her arms. Mary is telling this to Juan Diego, but essentially to all of Humanity.

Our Lady appears to a land where there is no Christianity whatsoever, she goes there to place in them a faith, and trust in God her son. The Americas at that time, were sacrificing their own to gods of the cosmos so that they might live. They were placing their trust in false gods. When Our Lady appeared, it wasn't long after, that many people were being converted over to Christianity. This is why in many respects, the people of the Americas have such strong devotions in Our Lady of Guadalupe, because without her they would be nothing and never know God. Mary, literally established Christianity among the land and for the people. She is the patroness of the Americas. Another interesting point is that Our Lady appeared to the Indian people, as one of their own. She is dressed in a tilma that resembles their own culture, what the people saw was a woman who was just like them, leading them to a way out. She appears over the sun and moon, signifying she is greater then these false gods, she is the Queen of Heaven and Mother to all. The people recognized her as a Morenita, which is Spanish for "the dark woman". This is yet another attribute giving for the people letting them know she is one of them, but not only is she one of them, but also appearing as a Mestiza, a woman of mixed European and Indian ties. Many times, these women and children were victims of rape, abuse and so many times neglected because of their color. The Blessed Mother, is identified as one of them, she places her self with the suffering and with the most vulnerable, the children. She is also the Patroness for the unborn.

The universal mission that can be seen is the Catholicity of our Lady of Guadalupe, she places a foundation for people to follow Jesus, people of all race, even the lowliest who were once abused because of their culture. Mary came to place in them a new hope, a hope in Jesus her Son by assuring us that she will always be with us praying for us.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Imitating Mary: 3 Ways

With the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception just two days ago, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe coming up, the whole week in my own reflections have been based on the Blessed Mother Mary and her model of a perfect christian life. For the first time in my life, I feel like God has placed in me a real, authentic desire to be obedient and truly humble with myself and who I am. For me there is an intense calling to radically change who I am internally and abandon once and for all my pride, my own personal ambition, my desires that hurt, my past and even my rule. But at least! what better time to have this reflection come by the Grace of God during the season of advent and even more so in between the feasts and solemnities of Our Lady, who IS the perfect model of obedience and humility by the way. This was the girl who abandon her self so easily, without hesitation and freely to be a holy tabernacle by bringing Christ into the world. I'm sorry but it makes perfect sense to pray to this perfect woman, our blessed Mother and ask for her intercession so that we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ (see what I did there.) So I'm in and I want the few readers I have to join me. As far as God calling me AS WELL AS YOU, here are three things that God has placed in my heart to change in my life starting right now during this very "Mary-week" in the Church. I call them the Marian Virtues.

1. Suffer in Silence.
When I think of Mary, I picture a pretty quiet person, a girl of strong faith and peaceful mannerisms if you would. The call is to live in silence each day, in the stillness and calmness without fast decisions or quick ordering of the senses.  There is discomfort since so often we might be so use to just getting up and going some where really quick, submitting to the passions. Silence brings peace and I think that in silence, it is when we are most actively listening to God and what he has to say to us. It is in silence that we can build up our lives around prayer and conversation with God. Now, so much of silence involves us being quiet, listening and sitting still. Not only sitting our physical bodies still from movement, but silencing and pausing our senses and those passions we have. When we look at the life of Mary, there is a call to silence what hurts us like our sin and learn to control those things that can potentially keep us from Christ. Mary, full of Grace, help me be silent in the night as you are.

2. Being Obediently Faithful
Mary is the ultimate model for obedience in the Church. I always find myself thinking about that, how faithful she was and how complete she was in her surrender to God. The joy is that we can obtain that perfect obedience with the help of God's grace through the blessed Mother who experienced it in the most profound, divine way possible. In the call to obey, on an even deeper level there is a call to die to self and that means letting other people have their way, even God. Thinking about Mary's surrender, we should have a desire to obey God that same way, perfectly, wholly, every bit of ourselves, everything. That means surrendering our lives, our own ways and what we think is best, all of that we should be willing to give up and obey God understanding that he will bless us with so much more in the future. It's okay if things don't go our way, and it's alright if the only trust we have at the moment is in ourselves, because God can restore that trust we once lost in him with the help of his Grace. The person to first experience this faithful obedience knows all about it, ask her to reveal and share with you her trust and obedience in God.  Mary, help me be as obedient as you someday.

3. Humbly Submitting
Mary, humbly submitted herself to God to bring Christ into the world. She also submits herself to us, to offer our prayers and petitions to Christ her son. The call is to humbly submit ourselves to other people, being present to them compassionately. Submitting ourselves to them in our service and doing it only for God's sake, just like the blessed Mother did for us. The great thing about this submitting is that we are not the only ones. God himself, became the least of men so that he might suffer and submit himself to death so that we can live. Being humble means to think less of ourselves, to be submissive and undistinguished. Submissive to those around us, and those who tell us of our faults and remind us of our shortcomings.Thomas Kempis says what does it matter that they bother us with our faults, they are doing the best possible thing for us, that is making us humble. Being humble involves an abandonment of pride and of course help from the one who experienced it firsthand for the sake of the world. Mary, help me submit myself to Christ present in other people through the ministry of his Church.

I think to reflect on this is an invitation to ask Mary for intercession and prayer that we can participate in the fullness of christian life and faithfulness as she has. She alone is perfect in all virtues and can lead us to God by her prayers. In our silence we can grow obedient to God and then we're given grace to submit ourselves to the people and their needs through the ministry of the Church. These are all things that I am called to work on, starting in silence, in prayer, faith and alongside the fervent intercessory prayers of our Most Holy Mother. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mary: The One That Leads

Mary in her holiness and faithfulness places on us a tender, loving aid that comes to us only through the Father, and through this she leads us to Christ her son. The only thing that might be so hard for us male-breeds to understand is that Mary by her role, is someone we are suppose to turn to, and not only turn to but FOLLOW. That's right I said it, we should follow a woman. 

Follow her obedience and faithfulness to seek out a life that she did in holiness, yes. But as a man we should be willing to follow her, because it is by her loving care that she leads us to God and prepares us along the way before we are presented. It can be hard to give into an idea that says we should let the woman lead the way, with all respect. For so long our role as a man on the earth has been to lead the woman, be the man of the house, or work your ass off to provide food for your family and eat meat with meat drink. Following a woman can't possibly be the answer, because that means doing what she says. We're suppose to be tough, chop wood and grow beards right? Sure, but it can be easy to lose sight of the whole purpose of Mary in a bigger perspective. She was a Mother to Jesus, carried him for nine months knowing she could be killed if she had been caught bearing child outside of wedlock. Still, she gave birth to our Savior, raised him and accompanied him even at the time of his death. The message is that Mary as a Mother can raise us the same way she raised Jesus, she can protect us and care for us. All we are called to do, is follow her path of holiness and come to know her in a relationship of prayer and devotion. 

The thing is that God placed Mary as the Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace. Her role in the Church is to lead us to Christ her son, as intercessor to pray for us, and prepare our hearts for the Mercy of Christ available to all.  The Joy is that in her completeness, she perfects us and cleanses us before we are presented to her son, our King. It doesn't matter what we have done or what we still do, Mary still offers us the love of God through herself and by it we return to Christ. Saint Jose Maria Escriva once said, "To Jesus we always go, and to Jesus we will always return, through Mary."

So, calling ALL MEN, to embrace the love that Christ gives us through Mary, to follow her deeply in prayer and devotion, pray to her, ask for her intercession; that she be present in both our lives, mine and yours. She is a Mother placed before us to love us tenderly, to care for us, protect, prepare and lead us to Christ in the same way she brought Christ to us; by her prayer. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Advent: Come & Wait

The word Advent derives from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming. Who is coming, the Christ is coming, our Savior is coming. Jesus, born unto the world from the Blessed Virgin comes to save the world and ransom the captive Israel. However, with this coming of Christ in the Christmas season, there is also a waiting, a preparation, and a renewal. Advent is the season of waiting, with faithful hope for the coming of our Lord, but not only a waiting, a coming to too. Advent in many ways can remind us of the holiness and virtue there is in waiting and being patient. Patience, is a virtue that can lead to holiness, because when we are patient, we are still and we are quiet, and when we are quiet we are thinking, or meditating or praying. See more on patience. This advent season, there is an invitation not only to come to Jesus just as he has come to us. But an invitation to wait for his coming with prayerful, faithful hearts each day of the season. Its two different words with the same meaning, on one side we can come to Jesus, prepare ourselves for the journey, (just as the wise man did) praying, fasting, meditating and even emptying ourselves.When we come to Jesus, we are placing ourselves in His presence and therefore, allowing His presence, Love, Grace and Will to be placed within us. On the other side, we can wait for Jesus, prepare ourselves for his coming (Just as Mary did), be patient and faithful in the hope of his coming just as in his Resurrection and welcome him into our hearts. Both are means of welcoming Jesus into our hearts and into our lives. So in the season of Advent, we are invited, not only to wait for Jesus and prepare for his return, but run to him upon his arrival.