25 Dec

Three Christmas Miracles

There were three very significant conversions on Christmas Day 1886 in northern France. They could, in fact, be characterized as Christmas Miracles.

In Lisieux, a thirteen year old girl overheard her father remark, “Well, thank heaven this will be the last year.” He was referring to the practice of his children leaving their shoes by the fireplace for him to fill with candy. He had five daughters and was tired of the childish custom. Thérèse, up until this point, was overly sensitive and obsessed with pleasing others. She did not break down when she heard this comment, but acted like an adult and overcame her need for approval. She considered this moment “the greatest miracle of her life.”

18 Dec

A Downton Abbey Church

Fitting and helpful a comparison between Downton Abbey and the Catholic Church? Pope Francis might say no, but I say yes. Let me explain. If you've seen Downton Abbey, you know it is a show that is as much about the servants as it is about the masters. The Earl of Grantham and his family are the centerpieces of the story, yes, but receiving just as much attention—and plot lines—are the servants: Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, Bates and Anna, and so on.

If the Catholic Church's "characters" were compared to those from the show, you might be surprised at who would be who. Priests and ministers would not be the aristocrats. Rather, they would be the servants. The head butler on the show, Mr. Carson, would be the Pope. This figure is in charge of all the other servants and responsible for them. He names lower positions (valet, footman, chauffeur, etc), hires and fires, and talks predominantly with the proprietor, the Earl. Mr. Carson could be called “the servant of the servants”—another title for the Holy Father. Bishops and priests, then, would be the lower positions. (Note the hierarchy among the servants at Downton Abbey, similar to the ecclesiastical hierarchy.) While clergy may dress in fancy vestments at Mass, just like the servants' livery is elegant, those are not their clothes. They wear those in formal public settings, but most of the time otherwise they wear simple black clerics. The servants may walk through and see the beautiful rooms and gardens of the palace at Downton Abbey, but their quarters, where they spend the majority of their time, are simple. It's similar to a church versus a rectory.

There's more to compare, but let's end with the final comparison: the masters. Who is the Earl and his family? You all. You are who we serve.

11 Dec

Mystical Rose

Mystical RoseThe Mystical Rose. That's one of the titles we give Mary, and it's understandable why. The rose is the most heavenly of flowers: perfect and beautiful at all stages, giving off pleasant fragrance and tender to the touch. A rose is also symmetrical, with all petals radiating out from the center. The center is usually red, symbolic of the heart of Christ. A relationship with Mary not only keeps us balanced, but centered in Christ, since Jesus is the center from which all else flows.

A rose grows out of a stem of thorns. Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, cannot be separated from the pain of seeing her son suffer (cf. Lk 2:25-35). Finally, roses can be white, gold, red, or purple. White would reflect Mary's purity; gold her royalty; red her suffering; and purple her humility, since purple traditionally represents that virtue.

04 Dec

Most Powerful Woman in the World

Mary: The Most Powerful Woman in the WorldWho is the most powerful woman in the world? Sorry, it's not Hillary Clinton. It's our Blessed Mother. I'm borrowing this from the December 2015 issue of National Geographic cover story titled, “Mary: The Most Powerful Woman in the World.” The article discussed Lourdes, Medjugorje, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, among other apparition sites and Marian practices. When we see the devotion that millions of people from all over the world, and not even just people who are Catholic, but many faiths, even Islam, have to Mary, there's no question she is powerful. She is literally powerful too. Her prayers and intercessions for us, not to mention the grace she summons forth from her son, impact the world.

But what struck me about this National Geographic article was an anecdote at the end of the piece. The journalist traveled to many of the Marian apparition sites and spoke with pilgrims. She encountered at Lourdes in France a retired U.S. Army colonel, Dorothy Perkins. This incredible woman spoke of her relationship to the mother of God. “She loves you as much as you want,” said Perkins. “Through her to him, she focused me on making closer relations with Jesus.”