Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above

Today we celebrate the Queenship of our Blessed Mother Mary. A new-ish Catholic, this concept is still something I am learning about. Maybe we are all always learning about it, though, so I won’t fret over that. I will say when I learned about the connection of the Queen Mother in the Old Testament and Mary, I was thrilled. Actually all the references to Mary I missed as a fundamental Baptist–from Eve to Revelation–rather profoundly struck me as I was learning about Catholicism; I have felt safe, relieved, humbled, and honored to build a relationship with her since and rather sorry that she is skimmed over by many other Christians. I love the rosary, pondering and attempting to emulate her graces, and the Immaculate Heart.

The thing most non-Catholics do not understand is that Mary never takes anything away from her Son. Catholics do not worship her. We love her for the beautiful, wonderful woman, wife, mother, and example she is and we love her for her fateful “be it unto me according to your word” that was the means to bring salvation–her son, our Lord–into the world. She always gently leads us to Him, and like her motherly commands to the servants at Cana, she advises us to do whatever He tells us. She prays for us and loves all of us as her adopted children.

Being the dork that I am, I love to see how other countries and cultures view the Blessed Virgin and the feasts and celebrations held in her honor around the world.

Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes–France

Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima–Portugal

indian virgin mary

Indian Madonna–I have no idea who painted her, I found her on Pinterest. Isn’t she lovely?

Madonna and Child by Tim Ashkar

asian virgin mary

Obviously, being married to a devout Catholic Mexican, I have a special devotion to the Virgin de Guadalupe; we get up early on December 12th for the celebration of that special Mass and the church is PACKED to standing room only and filled with the overwhelming smell of roses. Dances and a procession follow and then tamale season is kicked off in a big tent in the parking lot. Easily one of the best holidays of the year.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

“A woman clothed with the sun” Our Lady de Guadalupe

I also love learning about and having little home celebrations of other Marian holidays throughout our liturgical year, but as wonderful as all of those things are–and our incessant holidays and feast days are some of the best things about being Catholic–I really love pondering just the simple girl, Mary.

My husband had an artist paint a copy of the Polish Madonna for me for Christmas last year. I begged for a copy for months, and being the art snob that he is, no regular re-print would do, so he scoured the internet for someone that could actually paint her. I hang her in a place of honor above my piano in the living room and I can look at her every time I walk through to my bedroom or to the kitchen. I love how little Baby Jesus is just sitting in the dirt like any little baby, playing while his mommy does the laundry.

Polish Madonna

Polish Madonna

I tear up when I think about how she must have felt to have the baby, her God and Creator, moving and kicking inside of her. I imagine the moment his little naked body was laid in her arms and she looked into his eyes that were so innocent and yet held the secrets of the universe. She probably counted every finger and toe, just like any other mother, knowing he would be perfect, but checking all the same. She got up at night, probably several times, to feed him, check his breath, change his nappies. Think of that! She had to CLEAN Jesus. It was to her that he ran when he fell and scraped his little knees, with her he cuddled when he was feeling under the weather. She sang him songs and rocked him to sleep. She made his meals, maybe even some he didn’t like as well as some that he loved and that would remind him of her when he was older.  I think of her in her plain gowns and humble spirit, cooking and all the sudden a bunch of rich kings from the Orient show up at her doorstep bearing gifts richer than she would have ever seen for her little infant son playing in the corner with little blocks of wood. She tossed him in the air and tickled and blew raspberries on his belly to make him laugh. I sort of chuckle when I think about the time Jesus got “lost” in Jerusalem when he was about 12, and she was worried frantic…”Oy vey! I lost the Son of God! What am I going to tell Him???”  I smile when her mama role comes out at the wedding at Cana and she asks him to do something about the hospitality catastrophe about to occur.

Holy Mary and boy JesusMaryplayingwithJesusmarybreastfeeding

And I cry actual tears when I think of her watching her only son get tortured to death, and then his bruised, bloody body lowered into her arms. How she probably kissed his face and wiped the blood from him as she removed the horrid crown they shoved on his head and mocking purple cloth. The simple woman, who knew somehow this was not the end, but still had to go through the absolute worst pain and suffering imaginable. I wonder if she even for a moment had that doubt and fear start to creep in–just  for a millisecond– when she held his broken body that maybe she was mistaken about God’s plan for her and all of humanity. Her beloved baby was taken from her in the most cruel way ever dreamt of by wicked men, and how she lived through it, I cannot fathom. God gave her the grace to squash that doubt that tried to attack her, I am sure, and the strength to endure the pain and offer up her suffering for all of us–the same grace she was given to crush the head of the serpent. But she was fully human, not divine, and had to choose to keep the faith remember that with God “nothing will be impossible”.  I thank God she did.

Michelangelo's Pieta

Michelangelo’s Pieta

Note: I try to source pictures when I can. All photos were found on the internet and remain property of their rightful owners and I thank them for their beautiful masterpieces that share joy in the world.

Our Lord and His Cool Ladies–Ultima Parte

 

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
I admit to being late to the Mary party. I cannot help it, I was raised Baptist. As a rule, many Protestants don’t talk much about her—that would be too Catholicy for them. In all my years in a fundamental Baptist church, having attended services on Wednesdays, twice on Sundays and several revivals a year, I cannot recall one sermon about Mary. There were several sermons about other women in the Bible, though; Esther, Ruth, Hannah and other woman called by name, and some that were not, such as the woman at the well and the one about to be stoned for adultery. Mary, if mentioned, was usually around Christmas only, and usually the emphasis was that she was “just a vessel”, and nothing said at all about her agreement to do God’s will. I am not downing Baptists or any other Protestants, but I do feel sorry for anyone that doesn’t get to know this wonderful, amazing, perfect person and her crucial role in God’s plan for our salvation through Jesus. I do think that we have much more in common than many of us think and a little listening, research, and open-mindedness would prove that and bridge the gap.

 

Lemme just get something straight to everyone real quick before we scratch the surface of the awesomeness of our Blessed Mother, just because I have heard some pretty atrocious things coming from the mouths of misinformed people—Catholics do NOT worship Mary. I wouldn’t even say they pray TO her, necessarily. Catholics love her and treat her as a mother and friend; they ask that she will pray for THEM and intercede on their behalf. If you aren’t aware of whys and wherefores concerning the Communion of Saints, see here. Catholics believe that those of us that have “gone on” before are perfectly alive in Christ. You are still a Christian, on Earth and in Heaven. I think that Protestants and Catholics alike can agree on this. Why not ask for the intercession of those that have “gone on” before to pray for us, in the same manner that I may ask you to pray for me? The Christians in Heaven are in a state of absolute grace (another point we can all agree on, thanks to the Blood of the Lamb), then their prayers are especially powerful (James 5:16). We are encouraged to ask for intercession, even. I fully intend on doing a post later about prayer; my understanding of the definition of prayer is certainly much broader and deeper since reconciling my faith, even though I am still a wee baby Catholic.

 
Anyway…so Mary rocks. She is the role model of all role models for women and people in general. She was made perfect, like Eve, without original sin. This was because she was intended to be the vessel to carry and birth God. God obviously couldn’t dwell in sin or a sinful creature, and sin, by definition is the separation of ourselves from God by free will, so it makes perfect sense that she was born perfect and the way we were all MEANT to be, if not for that fateful bite of fruit back in the day. Like Eve, and like the rest of us, she was given free will. Just because she was BORN sinless, doesn’t mean that she would necessarily have stayed that way, had she chosen to sin and separate herself from her perfect communion with God. But so thankfully, she did not sin and she chose the will of God her whole life, and most especially when Gabriel visited her, so she was able to bring Jesus into the world that so desperately needed Him. Her lack of sin is pointed out in the Bible specifically by the archangel Gabriel when he addresses her “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you” in Luke 1:28. To be FULL of grace, she had to be without sin. This does not make her God-like, anymore than the rest of us, however. She was still a human, in need of a Savior, because at any time she could have sinned because she had free will to do so.

 
Mary exhibits 10 virtues which we would all do well to imitate. The super-awesome ladies that often contribute to Blessed is She did a really profound series, hosted by one of my most favorite-est blogs, To The Heights,  on these virtues and I encourage everyone to read it. They are way more practiced in explaining them and far more eloquent than yours truly. You can click on any of the below and be magically transported. Be prepared to spend hours pondering these things in your heart.

 
•  Ardent Charity: Mary’s love for God was behind her every decision
Profound Humility: Though born perfect, Mary herself did not put herself above anyone…because perfect people wouldn’t do that. She was humbled that God chose her: a woman, a young girl, to fulfill his great promise that had been thousands of years in the making.
Universal Mortification: Mary was willing to lay down her life and her wants to follow the will of God
Constant Mental Prayer: She pondered things in her heart and talked to God. She was aware of God’s presence within her, around her.
Blind Obedience: Mary didn’t count the cost or fear the consequences that might be inflicted on her by other people, she followed God’s will to the letter.
Divine Wisdom: Mary always asked God’s spirit to guide her. Her lack of trust in God was the exact downfall of Eve, who instead doubted God’s promises sought knowledge and wisdom outside of God, so as to attempt to be on par with Him.
Surpassing Purity: Mary had an immaculate heart free from sin
Angelic Sweetness: Being sinless, she was free from pettiness and meanness and brought nothing but joy and love to those around her.
Lively Faith: She always sought God’s will and knew He was greater than any human fears and would protect her. She knew the laws of her Jewish faith would condemn her to death for adultery, and she knew that Joseph would catch on to her being pregnant at some point, but she trusted that God had a plan.
Heroic Patience: Mary had faith in God’s plans, even when she couldn’t understand them. She was worried and troubled at first that God chose her.  She knew that what was happening was divine and special, but even she had to wait and see what the exact fulfillment of prophecy of the Messiah would be. She accepted God’s will and waited quietly, fulfilling her duty in raising Jesus.

 
I know I possess NONE of the above, but it IS within my ability to try. And our Blessed Mother is there to guide me and all of her children every step of the way. Makes you feel warm and cozy, doesn’t it? She is there to pick us up when we stumble and fall, smile upon us when we do well, and take us by the hand, just like a child, to her Son. If you are not familiar with her, you really should get to know her. Regardless of your faith tradition, there is no harm in that. I guarantee you will be so very pleasantly surprised and happy you did!

 

And there you have it! Three Marys for this Martha! I hope that in my journey I can learn my lesson like Martha and work and serve my Lord without complaining and adopt the sweet virtues of her (our) esteemed sisters (and mother) in Christ. I know I will probably fail daily in some way or another, but I know they are cheering me on through to the finish line.

 

Which virtues of the Three Marys are you especially working on?

virgin-mary-mother-of-god-virgo-maria
Blessed Mother, Queen of Heaven, please pray for us and guide us with your gentle way to the open arms of your Son. Help us to adopt your virtues so that we may lead more fulfilling earthly lives and so that we may join you in Heaven to sing praises to Our King!

p.s. I am about to begin my own little Bible study at home (I am very thankful for my Baptist upbringing for fostering my love of Scripture almost from birth) using Father Mitch Pacwa’s Mary: Virgin, Mother, and Queen, which you can buy on Amazon. I bought my copy in person from him about a month ago when he visited my parish and now that I am in the lull of Ordinary Time, I am going to tackle it. If any of you want to read it with me and have discussion via email, feel free! I am always happy to have a study partner 🙂

p.p.s I am so very new at blogging, and I JUST learned how to make a hyperlink yesterday, so if these links should fail, just hop over to Olivia’s blog, To The Heights and search for the virtues of Mary and she shall direct thy paths.

Our Lord and His Cool Ladies–Tercero Parte

I promise I won’t always be all Sunday School on ya, but I have to finish my little series about my three Marys so you will know why I think they are so cool and why I have to learn more about them, so I am hopefully a better person at the end of my journey than when I began it. That being said, you will have one more after this as I always save the best for last 🙂

Mary Magdalene

This is my girl, right here, ya’ll. I love, love, love her. I cannot explain why, but I have always been drawn to her. Maybe because she had more guts in her little finger than I could ever hope to possess. Maybe because she is so mysterious. Maybe because she has always been much maligned. Maybe she is like Jessica Rabbit…she wasn’t bad, she was just drawn that way. If you Google images of her online, you would certainly think she was drawn that way.

Mary M. from the neck up, because those Master painters always make her look a little too...buxom

Mary M. from the neck up, because those Master painters always make her look a little too…buxom

Ms. Magdalene has been speculated about and gossiped about for centuries…nay, millennia, at this point. Her name is mentioned 12 times in the gospels—she is called more often by name than most of the apostles. She has been historically believed to be a prostitute….I have my doubts on this. I think she got a bad rep because she was following a bunch a guys around in the wilderness, but even if she was a prostitute prior to meeting Jesus, it doesn’t really matter, and who only knows what circumstances would have driven her to it, having seven demons cast out of her and all. Jesus redeemed her and brought her up and out of that life.

Traditionally, she travelled the then-known world spreading the Good News. Fearless, I tell ya. Scary Roman soldiers, leering men of all kinds, fear of being tortured and killed, scary snakes and scorpions, filthy boats, hunger, and goodness knows what else. And there was Mary Magdalene, in the thick of things. She was at the foot of the cross and watched our Savior die when many of his men followers scattered and hid. She prepared his body for burial. She was the first person to witness his Resurrection. Just…wow. She is the stuff of legends…and many have been told about her; some nonsensical, some plausible, some mysterious…and I cannot WAIT to ask her in person about her earthly life and travels.

Mary Magdalene may or may not have participated in some wicked sins prior to meeting Jesus, but she was certainly a human girl born with original sin like the rest of us, so she did have to repent—same as the rest of us. Because she repented and because she was so faithful and courageous in her faith, she is the Apostle to the Apostles. God uses people for particular purposes and reasons in ways we cannot fathom. He can take us from the most base position and shiny us all up for a beautiful purpose. He can take someone who would have otherwise been relatively insignificant and long-forgotten and turn her into a symbol of hope and courage for all the world for the ages.

Courageous, valiant and faithful Mary, help us to be as brave and loyal and believing as you. May the amazement and rapture you felt when you realized the Lord was alive on that Easter morning fill our hearts so that we profess it with our mouth and deeds, so that we may be a witness to all that meet us of the saving grace of God.

Our Lord and His Cool Ladies–Segunda Parte

So, I discussed St. Martha the other day and her trials and tribulations with learning to slow it down and listen to Jesus first and attend to her duties second, which is something I struggle with daily myself.  However, there is lots of help in this department because we have several ladies, including Martha herself, to help guide us to the path to Jesus. Martha didn’t have to look farther than her own household to have an example.

Mary of Bethany

Like I said…I assume Mary is the younger sister. Martha sure felt she had to take on the brunt of the burden, which is a feeling older siblings know all too well. I can almost feel the resentment in Martha’s chest as she looks out from the kitchen and sees her perfect little sister sitting rapt-eyed staring into the visage of Jesus, wishing SHE had all the time in the world to sit still and get attention like Mary. I feel ya, girl.  You and I feel like this:

But Mary is not some “perfect”, pesky, lazy little sister. She represents how we SHOULD prioritize our lives. How many days (um..pretty much everyday) do we neglect our relationship with Our Lord? How many times does He call to us and we say, “Oh, yes, I really should go to Adoration…maybe if I get the house cleaned and finish dinner in time…”? And yeah, the person Jesus ain’t chillin’ in our living room right now and bills gotta get paid and people gotta eat…but ..but…There are no buts, really. Did Jesus not say He doesn’t forget the ravens, and how much more He loves us? Did God not say that we should trust in Him for our every need? I wonder how wonderful, or at least very different, my life would be if I could just remember to put God first and trust in Him to give me the time and energy to fulfill my necessary, but not-so-necessary tasks of life? I bet I would be like She-ra or Wonder Woman…or like Mary!!!!

God provided me with the blessings I have, the very breath I take and my ability to work and create…but it was all meant to serve Him. And serving Him is not servitude…it sets us free. Free to work and provide for ourselves and others with the blessings he will heap upon us. Free to join Him in the place He prepared for us with many (spotless) mansions. My dirty floor, hungry tummy, unfolded laundry, and vicious cycle of bills make me a servant in the truest sense of the word, and without the grace of God, I would never be free of them. With His grace and listening to His Word, I certainly will be.

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

Later, after Lazarus was raised the dead, and about a week before Jesus himself would be crucified, Jesus and his disciples ate another fabulous home-cooked meal made by Martha, who did not utter a peep of protest when her sister Mary again showed her profound devotion to our Lord.  Mary did something quite unheard of and quite controversial–she really stuck her neck out, so to speak, to demonstrate her love of Jesus.  Mary anointed Jesus’s feet with oil. It already sounds weird to us today, but her act speaks volumes that would have easily been understood and quite shocking to those present:

  • The fact that Mary, one of the hostesses, was washing anyone’s feet, rather than a servant doing it was absurd to them. She was showing that she was indeed a servant of the Lord.
  • Mary used costly perfume oil that cost about a year’s worth of pay for the average working man.  More than likely, the only steady income these women had came from their brother, Lazarus. As the man of the house, he would have been responsible for providing the dowries for both Mary and Martha, without which they may not find husbands. Often oils and perfumes were an investment because their value could be negotiated in the market. Mary, quite literally, just gave her future to Jesus.
  • Mary then used her HAIR to rub the oil into Jesus’s feet.  A woman did not uncover her head back then in public or in front of any man other than her husband. Mary showed no shame or self-consciousness in this act, not because she was being bold or forward or trying to be imprudent. She believed wholeheartedly that Jesus was the Messiah and she was giving herself, her heart, her future to God, who created her. She knew that Jesus in His flesh and blood form was not long to be with them and she wanted to show Him physically, while she had the chance, that she did believe Him.

Mary did what so many of us are afraid to do even today. Jesus had not yet performed His greatest miracle, but she already believed in Him. We have much more evidence than she had that He was God, and yet we are afraid to give all of ourselves to Him and afraid to live our faith publicly. Mary did not rebuke anyone that chastised her that day. She simply did what she was called to do for her Lord and acted out of love and let Jesus chide the others as He thought fitting. Sometimes if we do try to live our faith publicly and we are chastised by others, we tend to “fight” back and rebuke others, taking matters into our hands. We are not called to do this, but instead to continually love and give our all to God. It is He who gets to judge those who don’t believe, as He sees fit.

Sweet, silent, listening Mary, please tear me a leaf from your book and show me how to be quiet and still and absorb Jesus and His blessings. Teach me also how to give all of myself in love to Christ, and show love and kindness to all, even when I am persecuted. 

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For my next post, I will take a little break from this series to share a deeply personal story in honor of the Respect Life week.  I will pick up with this series after that 🙂

Our Lord and His Cool Ladies–Primero Parte

I don’t know about you, but I am always struggling to be a lady.  I love period dramas with ladies in long dresses with parasols and gloves. It seems like it was much simpler back then to actually be lady because you really couldn’t behave any other way without being ostracized.  Today, there are too many influences that bombard us to almost be anything but be a lady. We idolize movie stars and singers, sex sells almost everything, and you get accused of being anti-feminist if you want to behave in a more traditional manner–which is stupid because the “traditional” manner, to me, is a beautiful expression of femininity.

Now, before you go and get your Irish dander up, lemme explain.  I am not talking about giving up our right to vote and wear pants or work outside the home if we want. Being a lady doesn’t mean you give up equal rights. Ladies have lots of power and way more than men often give them credit for.  A true lady has the means to keep the peace in her little world (Melanie Wilkes), while the vixens start wars and chaos (Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, etc). Being a lady doesn’t mean that you cannot get dirty if the occasion calls for it or that you cannot speak your opinions. It does mean that you learn to manage what is within your control and make sure that you don’t set about to get your own way, whatever the costs, on things you cannot control, but instead seek a higher calling.

Lemme tell you about 4 cool ladies. I love ’em so much I named my blog after them. They can teach us so much about ourselves and the kind of people we ought to be, including how to be a lady when it is hard. A lot of us may know all we think we can know about them, but they actually continually to teach us daily, if we listen with our hearts. Don’t worry, I will break this up into pieces so my posts are not so loooooooong 🙂 because I could probably gush on and on…..

First up: Martha of Bethany

Poor Martha. She gets remembered through the ages for being pre-occupied with housework and chastising her sister for sitting at Our Savior’s feet and doing nothing but being a good listener. She also gets remembered for being a bit snippety with Jesus when he doesn’t show up in time to save Lazarus. Sounds more shrew-like than lady-like, but Martha is a whole lot cooler than that, though. She represents all of us “normal” people and our common struggle.

She was doing all the right things at the wrong time and trying to be everything to everyone, all at the same time: the role model older sister ( I assume she is the oldest considering her remarks—too well I understand that burden), the gracious hostess, an obedient disciple, and still do the everyday, necessary things. Who hasn’t griped at God, “Woe is me! Why did you let bad things happen to me? Why didn’t you just show up when I asked you too?” Pretty much sounds like most of us. But ya can’t do it all, all the time, and we all forget the power (and really cannot fathom the power) of the Almighty. And you gotta be fair to her when considering this: did she KNOW Jesus was God? Probably…likely she had some inkling of it, but really, she doesn’t have the hindsight we have. We have over 2,000 years on her. She loved Him and served Him, but SHE didn’t know everything that was to come due to Him. She was living in the moment with a fervent hope and faith and she very likely witnessed many miracles—the Gospels do say that Jesus did many things that were not recorded—and heard of many more, but the BIGGIES didn’t happen yet when she had this discourse with Our Lord. We do know that Jesus loved her and this fact is recorded for all time in the Good Book. He loved her in spite of her human shortcomings and very likely because of a lot of them. He loved her graciousness, her trust and faith, and probably her cooking. She probably provided Him with the first good, square meal in weeks that day. He loved her for everything she was and wasn’t.

Martha shows off her mad baking skills

Martha shows off her mad baking skills

So, yeah, Martha should have rearranged her priorties on the day of her dinner party…I mean, how many people that ever lived can say that Jesus– in His flesh and blood human form– sat in her house to guide them and instead was worried about the brisket???…but I bet she learned after that and NEVER forgot it, which is something the rest of us could stand to learn and retain. And her walking/talking formerly dead brother would have been a constant reminder that nothing is too late, too unfixable for God. I identify a lot with Martha, with her good and not-so-good qualities. I ask for her intercession pretty often, so that she can help me learn what she learned and help guide me to Jesus when I am too pre-occupied with life or when I am in the “depths of despair” because God “didn’t show up on time”. And also so my brisket doesn’t get dry, my house stays clean and my errands all get ran before company arrives. Jk…but not really.

Lucky for St. Martha, she had not only the Lord God, Jesus Christ, to hold her hand along the rocky path of life…she had THREE Marys in the flesh, too! Now, I know there isn’t anything that specifically states that Martha knew all three…I mean, duh, she knew her own sister…but she very likely did know Mary Magdalene and our Blessed Mother, too.   Jesus didn’t really travel alone, after all, what with multitudes following Him from hill and dell. We know his Mother kept a good eye on Him and would have followed Him around, because she would never have given birth to God and then just send Him on his way and pay Him no never-mind after that. We also know that Mary Magdalene was a faithful disciple and followed Jesus all around. Thus, I think we CAN safely assume that St. Martha did, in fact, know the Mary Trio quite well and had good company. Being Christians, they are all alive in Christ and in communion with us, so we have the benefit of knowing them too, if we want, and are in an even better position to help us and lead us to Jesus. Pretty mind-blowing, right?