Branching-Out

The Everyday Gospel: In Search of Mary (Clone)

Posted by Charles Paolino on Oct 16, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Not long after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, I asked an adult group at my parish if they would like to visit a mosque. The unanimous response was positive, and I arranged for us to spend a Saturday afternoon at an Islamic center that had been established about 30 years before.

            The imam and members of the congregation spent several hours with us; explained the architecture of the building and the content of worship; frankly discussed the attacks, and served us a catered lunch.

The imam said that groups like ours regularly visited the mosque and that an elderly Jewish woman once told him as she was leaving, “I was physically afraid to come here. Now, I know better.”

I am not naïve. I know that there are two billion Muslims in the world, and they are as varied in their opinions and behavior as are the two billion Christians. But my experience at that mosque and at other mosques and synagogues I have visited demonstrates what should be obvious, that the fact that people have fundamental and even unreconcilable differences doesn’t mean that they can’t live together in a civil society.

I’m thinking about this because of the conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas. That’s not going to be resolved by a Saturday afternoon visit and a tray of baked ziti. At my advanced age, I don’t expect it to be resolved in my lifetime. Even if Israel were to eradicate Hamas, the tension between Israel and the Palestinian people would remain.

That might sound like despair, but it is not. I am realistic about the history and nature of that conflict, but I am not pessimistic about human nature.

The afternoon of the mosque and the war in Israel and Gaza are thousands of miles apart, but they exist in the same reality and are carried out by people who share the dignity and the potential that come from being made in the image of God.

We can’t intervene between Israel and Hamas nor solve the issue of a Palestinian state, but we can refuse to allow our relationships to be infected by the intractable divisiveness that has so far frustrated attempts to bring peace to the Near East.

Movements like Hamas do not draw strength only from their internal motivations but also from encouragement they receive from outside, even from our own neighbors.

We can and should pray for peace, but we also can reject stereotypes and help build a culture of mutual understanding and acceptance, hoping to create a world in which those who inspire and support hatred and violence are drowned out—.or, please God, rediscover their humanity.

We have our model in Jesus, who ignored ages-old taboos in his interactions with gentiles and Samaritans and lepers. He meant for us to imitate him. Peace will not begin with Israel and Hamas. If it doesn’t begin with us, where will it begin?   

           

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Topics: Marian devotion, RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, Mary's House

The Everyday Gospel: In Search of Mary

Posted by Charles Paolino on Sep 4, 2023 6:00:00 AM

While we were visiting Turkey recently, we followed in the footsteps of Popes Leo XIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI to the place reputed to be the last home of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is now a small stone chapel on Mount Koressos near the ancient town of Ephesus. The chapel was erected on the original foundation of a structure said to have been the house that the apostle John constructed for the Blessed Mother.

The history of this place is too complicated for me to repeat here, but one might say that it begins with the episode reported in the Gospel of John in which Jesus, from the cross, tells the apostle, “There is your mother,” and the narrative adds that from that moment John took Mary “into his home.” From that exchange and the fairly reliable tradition that John was banished by Roman authorities to Patmos in Greece, many have surmised that he brought Mary with him and settled her on the mountainside, away from Romans and other troublemakers. Residents of a nearby village have believed that for centuries, and they have venerated the spot as Mary’s last home.

The weight of expert opinion on subjects like this, however, leans toward the idea that Mary spent her last years in Jerusalem and was buried there on a spot now marked by the Church of the Dormition. The Vatican has approved the chapel near Ephesus as a place for Catholic devotion—witness the visits by four popes—but the Church has not taken a position on the authenticity of the site.

 Clearly, the crowd we found at the chapel was not concerned about this controversy. They—and we—were part of a constant stream of pilgrims who find their way to “Mary’s house” where they are ushered through the single room in a matter of moments. It takes so much effort to get there, and it’s over so quickly, that some might wonder if it’s worth it.

Perhaps that question answers itself, at least for those who are motivated by devotion to the mother of the Savior. Perhaps it is enough that they take time out on their journeys to find this remote spot where, in their hearts, they are close to Mary.

As the visitors stand in the long queue, they naturally chat with members of their own parties and with strangers. We did that too, striking up a conversation with a young couple from Piscataway. Imagine! We’re from Whitehouse Station, and they’re from Piscataway, and we meet in this place, five thousand miles away. Yet, considering the attraction, spending a moment, in our hearts, in the intimate surroundings of Mary’s home, perhaps such meetings are inevitable.

As folks finally reach the entrance to the chapel, they stop chatting. There is a hush as they step into the room almost gingerly, as though afraid to break something. Most touch the stones, assuring themselves that they are really there. Most, in their own ways, may have something to say to the Blessed Mother.

Did Mary live here? Whether or not she did, her love for us and our love for her was enough to bring us to this mountain, to leave the world outside even briefly, and to pray, “Hail Mary, full of grace!”

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Topics: Marian devotion, RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, Mary's House

Hail, Holy Queen!

Posted by Sharon Krause on May 1, 2023 6:00:00 AM

We all know how it feels to be in awe of a person or an experience. My husband remembers the feeling as a child when he sat in a truck with his dad and watched as Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite, sped by in the dark sky. Many years later, when he and I saw our newborn daughter for the first time, we were filled with joy and wonder. When I woke up feeling surprisingly fine after a serious operation and saw my solicitous smiling family members by my bedside, I knew an awesome feeling of relief and love.

The scripture readings in this Easter season include some intense descriptions of how the disciples felt as the result of Jesus’ resurrection and of their new communal life.

   Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the

   apostles. (Acts 2:43)

 

   …you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your

   faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8c-9)

 

   Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he

   spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us.” (Luke 24:32)

 Awe, indescribable and glorious joy, hearts burning are all very powerful sensations! Those sensations are available to us today in the spiritual realm. Do we pay attention? Are we open? Do we take too much for granted?

Let’s consider the Holy Eucharist. We should be in awe every time we receive this wonderful sacrament. Sure, the host is small and not flavorful, but it is truly Jesus’ Body that is risen after dying a terrible death on the cross for us! Our feast of salvation! We cannot get much closer to him while we are in this world. We consume him, and his love consumes us! After so many Masses and so many times receiving Holy Communion, do we remember whom we are receiving? Only a few minutes go by after we receive Communion until the priest or deacon dismisses us. Why not continue our offering of thanksgiving past the church doors? I am sure we will check our phones right away. Do we rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy? Do our hearts burn? Are we in a rush to go get a meal or a cup of coffee?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if awe would come upon everyone? A good way to nurture that awe is through faith-sharing. It gets easier and easier to talk about our faith when we do it frequently with other Christians. We don’t need halos to do this. It is helpful to find or even start a faith-sharing group. Perhaps groups are available at your parish church, but if not, even gathering with a few close friends and using small-group materials that are available from, for example, RENEW International can help us bask in that precious awe of the Lord. Let’s keep our hearts burning within ustoday!

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Topics: Marian devotion, Hail Holy Queen, Sharon Krause

The Memorare

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 22, 2021 6:00:00 AM

For many years, when I have a real prayer emergency, I pray “Memorare.” It is my 9-1-1 prayer!

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

The Virgin, pure Mary, is truly gracious; she is full of grace, full of God’s life, uncorrupted by original sin. She is always ready to help me and keep me safe. She is ready to hear my cries for her powerful assistance and to ask her son to consider my petitions according to the will of the Father.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee; O Virgin of virgins, my mother;

It is very consoling to know that Mary is there for me. I fly to her; with my prayer, I lift myself higher above my physical world so that I can talk with the holiest of virgins who is also my mother, because Jesus gave her to me and the Church as he hung dying on the cross. Being a mother, I know how strong and compelling a mother’s love can be. There is a unique intimacy between a mother and each of her children.

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Topics: Marian devotion, Blessed Virgin Mary, prayer life, RENEW International, The Memorare

Moments With the Virgin Mary

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 7, 2020 6:00:00 AM

 

 

October is the month the faithful devote to Marian devotions and praying the rosary. Our Blessed Mother deserves all the appreciation and respect we can give her. I offer 10 short meditations and prayers relating to her unique life.

1. The Immaculate Conception. From the very moment of her conception in Anne’s womb, Mary was free from any taint or inclination to sin. Innocent and spotless, Mary was highly favored and being prepared by God for her life of sacrificial love.

O Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who are trying to resist temptation
and to atone for our many small and not-so-small sins.

2. The Annunciation. (Luke 1:26-38) Gentle Mary, bathed in Gabriel’s angelic light, was ready to surrender to God’s will regardless of her youth and inexperience. Her brave openness to God is truly inspirational.

Mary, thank you for your humble generosity.
Help us be ready to do God’s will.
Pray for us that we may understand what is asked of us
and trust in God’s protection in every challenge.

3. The Visitation. (Luke 1:39-56) Mary shared joy with her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. The two women were together one trimester, serving, loving, and encouraging each other as their babies grew within them.

Joyful Mary, be our example of joy as the word of Jesus grows in us,
and we
  endeavor to share it with our families and companions.

4. The Nativity of Our Lord. (Luke 2:1-7) In far from ideal circumstances, Mary gave birth to our Savior. The sights and smells around her must have presented numerous problems in the stable setting as Jesus entered the world.

Mother Mary, intercede for us with your Son.
Please ask Him to help us to make
 the best of bad situations.
May we learn your patience and ingenuity as we strive
to help the helpless in our troubled world.

5. The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. (Luke 2:22-38) Amazed by the words of Simeon and Anna, Mary paid attention to these holy people. Mary followed prescriptions of the Law and treasured the good words in her heart that would eventually be pierced as with a sword.

Sweet Mary, pray for us that we may keep our worries at bay
and try to stay
optimistic with the knowledge that
our merciful God does not abandon us.

6. The Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-15) Most likely with a measure of anxiety and urgency, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderous plan for their Son. Just thinking about that journey that, most certainly, was far from comfortable makes us more aware of how comfortable our life often is.

Mary, pray for us that we may use good judgement
in our care of ourselves and our loved ones.
Remind us not to take our freedom and safety for granted.

7. Searching for 12-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:42-50) Mary and Joseph must have been concerned when, for a while, they could not locate Jesus. Their understanding of Jesus’ mission fell somewhat short, according to their son. We might remember, if we are parents, when our young children’s agendas were not what we expected or encouraged. Parenting is not easy.

Long-suffering Mary, pray for us who sometimes lose close contact
with your son
 through laziness, omission, or sin.
Remind us to see Jesus in the poor and the
 lonely,
especially now as we suffer through the pandemic.

8. The Wedding at Cana. (John 2:1-11) Mary knew her son well enough to expect he would somehow help the host who was caught short on wine. Although Jesus said it was really not his time, he helped after all.

Wise Mary, pray for us as we try to do whatever Jesus tells us to do
to turn our  problems into solutions, to never sell ourselves short.
Ask the Holy Spirit, to bless us with wisdom.

9. Dying, Jesus gives Mary to Us. (John 19:26-27) Jesus gave Mary into John’s care. As Jesus hung on the cross, he thought of others. Mary, in her agony at seeing her son’s suffering, is given a mission to mother all of us.

Mary, mother of all of God’s children, hold us closely as a loving mother does.
Be our model of perseverance.
Keep us mindful of the price your son paid for
our eternal reward.

10. The Assumption of Mary. How ecstatic Mary must have been when she, in her body, was assumed into heaven and reunited with her son! Mary, the Queen of Heaven, had fulfilled her mission of love on earth. And, in heaven, she still loves all of us!

Dearest Mary, we thank you for all you do for us,
for all of your intercessory
prayers.
Hail Mary! Full of grace! Praise to the Queen of Heaven!

Painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

RENEW's two Marian resources, At Prayer With Mary and No Temas, María will deepen your appreciation of and devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary and enrich your prayer experiences. Appropriate for seasonal groups, small Christian communities, and individual reflection and prayer.

 

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Topics: Marian devotion, Virgin Mary, Blessed Mother, catholic program renew, meditation, prayer, RENEW International, rosary

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