Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Our Lady's feast-day: make a spiritual pilgrimage

Unless one lives in Britain, it would be near impossible to make it to the actual village of Walsingham to venerate Our Lady's shrine today. But one can make a spiritual pilgrimage!  Find a quiet spot, acknowledge the Presence of the Lord, and offer these prayers:—

* * *

to the SHRINE of

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

V. Our help is in the Name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

Ant. The rod of Jesse has blossomed; the Virgin has brought forth one who is both God and man. God has restored peace, reconciling in himself the depths and the heights. 

V. Lord, have mercy.

R. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Our Father... (and the rest, until:)

V. And lead us not into temptation.

R. But deliver us from evil.

Let us pray.

O Mary, O glorious Mother of my Savior, behold me at my journey's end, kneeling within [my heart at] this venerable sanctuary where, through the centuries, thou hast been the object of devotion and confidence of the faithful. In this place where thy name is so great, thy protection so assured, where thou hast showered so many notable favors upon those who have sought thine intercession, I humbly claim a share in thy prayers. O Mary, our Lady of Walsingham, I have undertaken this [spiritual] journey in order that I may obtain from thy Divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through thy powerful intercession, the favor of... (name the request).

Pray, dear Mother, that our Lord may make good all that is imperfect in my requests and obtain for me the crowning favor of a heart completely surrendered to his Will. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Then is said thrice:)

V. O Lord God, thou Word incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth:

R. Have mercy upon us.

(To conclude, the following is said:)

V. May the Divine Assistance remain always with us.
R. And with our absent brethren.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

* Adapted from A Walsingham Prayer Book. Oxford, UK: Family Publications, 2009. p. 25.

Our Lady's shrine at Walsingham

The restored image of Our Lady
of Walsingham blessed by

Pope Leo XIII, from my
pilgrimage there in 2012.
Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of Walsingham.  From the Catholic Encyclopedia:—
Walsingham was the most celebrated of all the English sanctuaries of Our Lady. So great was the veneration in which it was held that it was called the "Holy Land of Walsingham". About 1061 a little chapel, similar to that of the Holy House of Nazareth (not yet translated to Loreto) and dedicated to the Annunciation, was built here by Rychold (Recholdis) de Faverches, a rich widow, in consequence, it is said, of an injunction received from Our Lady. Within the chapel was a wooden image of the Blessed Virgin and Child. Pilgrims flocked from all parts of England and from the Continent to this sanctuary, and its priory became one of the richest in the world. Among the royal and noble pilgrims were: Henry III, who came in 1248; Edward I in 1272 (?) and 1296; Edward II in 1315; his consort, Isabella of France, in 1332; Edward III in 1361; Edward IV and his queen in 1469; Henry VII in 1487; Henry VIII in 1511, walking barefoot from Barsham Hall, on which occasion he presented Our Lady with a necklace of great value; and finally Queen Catherine of Aragon in 1514. About 1538 the venerated image was brought to London with that of Our Lady of Ipswich, and both were publicly burnt at Chelsea in presence of Cromwell. Fifteen of the canons of Walsingham were condemned for high treason; five were executed. All the jewels and treasures left by the piety of the faithful found their way into Henry VIII's coffers.
Devotion to Our Lady was revived in 1897 with a replica of the original statue blessed by Pope Leo XIII, and the Catholic Slipper Chapel in the village was designated the national shrine of Our Lady by the Bishops of England & Wales in 1933.

I made pilgrimage to this shrine in the Norfolkshire countryside in May 2012, and I have had special devotion to Our Lady under this title since my conversion to the Catholic Faith in 2009.

Our Lady of Walsingham: pray for us!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Top 12 highlights from Pope Francis' interview in America magazine

It isn't often that the Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Bishop of Rome, and Servant of the Servants of God gives an interview.

But when he does, it seems to me we ought to pay attention: especially if it is as in-depth as this one!

Follows are my Top 12 highlights of Pope Francis' interview with Fr. Antonio Sparado, S.J., in August 2013 and published 30 September 2013 by America magazine:—

1. Who is Pope Francis? "A sinner whom the Lord has looked upon."

2. Pope's governing of the Church: he will consult -- actual, not ceremonial consultations -- and then make a decision.  But the Pope's the decider.

3. We must all, including the Pope, think with the Church: "[A]ll the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together.

4. Thinking with the Church, means the whole Church, including the hierarchy: "And, of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism. No; it is the experience of ‘Holy Mother the hierarchical Church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the Church as the People of God, pastors and people together. The Church is the totality of God’s people."

5. The Church is a field hospital for the wounded and dying after a battle: "I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. ... And you have to start from the ground up."

6. The Church's most important proclamation: Jesus Christ saves! "The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds."

7. What did the Pope mean by his comments on moral questions on the flight from Rio to Rome? "During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the Catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."

8. Proposing Jesus Christ, then, but not interfering spiritually -- what can the Church do? "This is also the great benefit of Confession as a Sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better."

9. What about the Liturgy & Vatican II? "There are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today—which was typical of Vatican II—is absolutely irreversible. Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation."

10. God never abandons anyone: "I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God."

11. The Pope keeps his breviary on his desk; it is in Latin, and worn from use. He uses it to answer a question, opening it to the 2d reading from the XXVII Friday in Ordinary Time: a passage from the Commonitorium Primum of St. Vincent of Lerins.

12. The Pope's life of prayer: "I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the Rosary. What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying. In the evening then, between seven and eight o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day."

* * *

There's a lot to digest in the whole of the interview, and I'm certain others will emphasize other aspects of it.  For me, however, these are the most important points to be drawn.

I also find reassuringly ordinary the Pope's response to his interviewer's question about his prayer life. Pope Francis prays his breviary, says his Mass, tells his Beads, and goes to adoration.  That's a rule of life by which we can all abide!

V. Oremus pro Summo Pontifice nostro Francisco.

R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

Pater Noster.  Ave Maria.  

Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum Franciscum, quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus praeest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Walking with Mary through the life of Jesus

The sound of the heart monitor was nothing like I had always imagined it would be. Growing up, I had been a fan of Star Trek, and I always thought the heart monitor in Dr. McCoy's Sick Bay sounded really cool. On that beautiful spring day in rural Indiana, however, the sound of the heart monitor was the opposite of "cool." Instead, it was the sign of my grandmother's fight for her life.

It was April 8, 2012, the Monday after Easter.  I was physically tired, as was the rest of my family.  We had travelled six hours north from Nashville on Easter Sunday after receiving the devastating news that my grandmother was most likely on her deathbed at a hospital in Kokomo.

When we had arrived in the intensive care unit, the scene was even worse than we expected. As she lay in the hospital bed, my grandmother—a woman I had known as vigorous and full of life—was withdrawn and wracked with pain and suffering. Each breath she took was labored, and the breaths got noticeably further and further apart. As I sat with her, my mother, and my aunt, a feeling of helplessness began to stalk our hearts.

In the midst of this anguish, my left hand found the Rosary I keep in my pocket. As soon as I touched it, I knew what I had to do.

Not wanting to offend the sensibilities of my Protestant relatives, I discretely stepped into the corridor outside my grandmother's room, and I pulled out my Rosary and began to pray.

Offering my prayers for my grandmother's recovery or, failing that, a holy death, I started the rhythm of the Sorrowful Mysteries, recalling Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his Scourging at the Pillar in the Praetorium, his being Crowned with Thorns, his brutal Carrying the Cross to Calvary, and finally his Crucifixion and Death.

Even as I brought each one of these mysteries to mind, I was no longer alone.  As surely as I was holding my Rosary beads in my hands in the Intensive Care Unit at Kokomo's hospital, the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom our Lord Jesus gave to his beloved disciples as He hung from the Cross dying for our sins (cf. Jn. 19:27), was holding my hand in hers as I walked with her through the last hours of her divine Son's earthly life.

That is what the Holy Rosary is all about: walking with Mary through Jesus' life.  Recalling, from the point of view of Jesus' most perfect disciple, the saving events of His incarnation, his nativity, his earthly ministry, his passion and death, and his glorious resurrection and ascension.

The Rosary has a transcendent aspect that is difficult to explain to those who have never prayed it.  One is both praying to God, offering the pious good of a prayer from the heart, united to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ crucified, while at the same time praying to and with Mary—asking her to pray to her divine Son and intercede on one's behalf. All the while, there is on-going meditation on the history of salvation as Mary herself lived it at Jesus' side.

Back in the corridor outside the room where my grandmother lay dying, I whispered the Our-Fathers, Hail-Marys, and Glory-Bes of the Rosary, contemplating the depths of agony to which Jesus would descend while the cries of my dear loved-one's suffering filled my ears. With Mary, I walked the road of vicarious, helpless pain, clinging to the grace of God while at the same time hoping against hope that the faith upon which I had built my life was true.

After I had finished the Rosary, I returned to my grandmother's bedside. Her condition was unchanged; I was not.

With the eyes of faith, I could see that my grandmother's struggle, pain, and suffering was neither pointless nor hopeless. I could see, having walked the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Tears, with the Mother of God, that it was human suffering that had brought about the salvation of the world: Jesus' torture and death in his Sacred Humanity. Having knelt at the Cross with Mary in the Rosary, I could kneel by my grandmother's deathbed with hope for her purification and resurrection.

That is the grace of the Holy Rosary: yes, it is a devotional prayer par excellence that brings us out of ourselves and invites us to ask the human person who knew Jesus better than any other to petition Him on our behalf, but it is more than that. It is a path to meditating on the Truth of the Gospel through prayer: an intimate union with the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is a sharing in the communion of the saints with our sister and our mother: the first human person to experience the fruit of Jesus' salvation and grace, won by his shed-Blood on the Cross.

The Holy Rosary is, as soon-to-be-Saint John Paul II taught, "the school of Mary," in which the Christian people "is led to contemplate the beauty of the face of Christ and to experience the depths of His love" (Pope Bl. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae ¶ 1 (2002)). With the saintly pope, I say: "confidently take up the Rosary" and "[]discover the Rosary in light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives" (id., ¶ 43).


1. Get the beads. Or don't—God has given us a built-in Rosary: ten fingers.

2. Figure out which Mysteries you're going to contemplate. There's a weekly cycle that can get you started: Sunday, Glorious; Monday, Joyful; Tuesday, Sorrowful; Wednesday, Glorious; Thursday, Luminous; Friday, Sorrowful; & Saturday, Joyful (there's a complete list of the mysteries below).

3. Or, if you're praying for a specific situation, you can use the series of mysteries that makes the most sense.  For example, the Sorrowful Mysteries were poignant for me as I prayed for my grandmother. But the Joyful or Glorious Mysteries would be great for prayer of thanksgiving to God.

4. Once you've chosen the Mysteries, make the Sign of the Cross, and begin to pray:

  • On the crucifix, the Apostles' Creed (see below for prayers).
  • On the big bead, the Our Father.
  • On the 3 little beads, a Hail Mary on each bead for the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.
  • On the next big bead, the First Mystery: announce it, "The First [Sorrowful] Mystery is the Agony in the Garden."
  • Then pray the Our Father.
  • On the next ten little beads, pray the Hail Mary (10 times: once for each bead).
  • After the tenth Hail Mary, pray the Glory Be.

5. Remember to contemplate the Mystery you've announced while you're offering the prayers associated with the beads.

6. Repeat Steps 4 & 5 for all five Mysteries.

7. After the fifth Glory Be, pray the Hail, Holy Queen & the Rosary Prayer.  Close with the Sign of the Cross.


Apostle's Creed

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.

Our Father

Our Father
who art in heaven
hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, 
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Hail, Holy Queen & Rosary Prayer

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God:
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death, and resurrection has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life: grant, we beseech thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.


Joyful Mysteries (Mondays & Saturdays)

1. The Annunciation - The angel of God appears to Mary and tells her she is to be the Mother of God - humility.

2. The Visitation - Mary, on hearing of Elizabeth's own pregnancy goes to visit with Her cousin - charity.

3. The Birth of Our Lord - Away from home and with no where to stay Mary and Joseph welcome Jesus into the world - poverty.

4. The Presentation - Mary and Joseph present Jesus to His Heavenly Father in the temple 40 days after His Birth - obedience.

5. The Finding in the temple - After searching for three days Mary and Joseph find the 12 year old boy sitting among the learned doctors of the temple - piety.

Luminous Mysteries (Thursdays)

1. The Baptism of Our Lord - As Christ descends into the waters the heavens open wide and the voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son, while the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out.

2. The Wedding Feast at Cana - The first of the signs, given at Cana, is when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers.

3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God - Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust, the inauguration of the ministry of mercy which He continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

4. The Transfiguration - During the Transfiguration the glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to “listen to him” and to prepare to experience with Him the agony of the Passion, so as to come with Him to the joy of the Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit.

5. The Institution of the Holy Eucharist - At the Last Supper we see the the institution of the Eucharist, in which Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies “to the end” his love for humanity, for whose salvation he will offer himself in sacrifice.

Sorrowful Mysteries (Tuesdays & Fridays)

1. The Agony in the Garden - The thought of our sins and His impending, horrible death make Jesus sweat tears of blood - contrition.

2. The Scourging at the Pillar - Jesus is stripped of His clothing and dignity and is lashed repeatedly leaving His body a mass of bloody wounds - purity.

3. The Crowning of Thorns - Jesus is ridiculed for claiming Kingship when they place a crown of thorns on His head - courage.

4. The Carrying of the Cross - Jesus shoulders His own cross, carrying it and dragging it to Golgotha, our sins were the weight of that cross - patience.

5. The Crucifixion of Our Divine Lord - After three hours of agony, watched by His Beloved Mother, Jesus dies - self-denial.

Glorious Mysteries (Sundays & Wednesdays)

1. The Resurection - Jesus rises from the dead three days after His cricifixion as He had said He would - faith.

2. The Ascension - Forty days after His Resurection Jesus ascends into Heaven to sit at the right hand of His Father, there to judge the living and the dead at the end of the world - hope.

3. The Descent of The Holy Spirit - Jesus sends the Holy Spirit on His apostles and disciples in the form of fiery tongues - love.

4. The Assumption - Our Lady is assumed Body & Soul into heaven at the end of her natural life - eternal happiness.

5. The Coronation - Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth, of Angels and Saints, to rule over our lives forever and into eternity - devotion to Mary.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Order of prayer for the Pope's Vigil for Syria

His Holiness the Pope proclaimed a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and around the world for Saturday, September 7.

I have worked with a seminarian from the Diocese of Arlington to put together this order of prayer for the vigil, timed to correspond with the Pope's vigil at St. Peter's Square in Rome.

The readings, psalms, and prayers are drawn from the Mass in Time of War or Civil Disturbance and the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice; the intentions for the Four Series of Mysteries of the Holy Rosary are original compositions.

Feel free to use this order to observe the vigil of prayer called for by the Pope.