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Posts Tagged ‘Mary’

Ite ad Joseph

Ite ad Joseph! (Go to Joseph!)

It’s the great Latin admonition of the Church, to seek the intercession of the Patron Saint of the Church, and a powerful intercessor at that. Against the backdrop of the new aggressive eugenics that has taken solid root in American medicine, and against the war on the Catholic Church declared by the Obama administration, this Feast Day of Joseph requires some contemplation of his life and example.

Being engaged to Mary was probably a safe, peaceful, and hopeful period in the life of the holy older man whose betrothal to the holy younger woman was suddenly upended when she announced to him her pregnancy, and that it was God’s baby. Such obvious infidelity compounded by blasphemy could have merited Mary death, but Joseph chose to divorce her quietly, that was until things really became interesting.

Joseph heard from Heaven, as Matthew recounts:

20 He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’
22 Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:
23 Look! the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’.
24 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home;
25 he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

If that weren’t enough, there would be the shepherds coming after the birth and describing the great Theophany, when Heaven opened and the Angels sang. There would be the Magi who journeyed quite a distance bearing their great treasures for this newborn King.

And then there was Herod.

Another dream with an angelic message, and the flight into Egypt to avoid the wholesale slaughter of the innocents. As the scriptures note, there was no intercourse. Joseph was Mary’s chaste spouse through it all, and a fearless adoptive father to her child.

That’s virtue, and an example for our time.

Joseph was called upon to make extraordinary sacrifices in his life in order to ensure the unfolding of God’s plan. If tradition that holds Joseph to have been an older widower is true, his plans for uneventful domesticity with a holy young woman were shattered. As the father of an autistic child, who was on a very different trajectory professionally until our Joseph was given five major diagnoses, I can relate to Saint Joseph.

Our life with our son Joseph has reordered my priorities in ways unimaginable. From seeming tragedy emerges hope, and hope is realized in triumphs great and small. In the eight years since his diagnoses, I thought that I was the one who was in the lead, and indeed I have been through orchestrating and executing Joseph’s therapeutic regimen. In a larger sense, it is Joseph who has been the one leading as his autism has been the portal into the new eugenics claiming countless lives of handicapped children through abortion.

It is inspiring seeing the possibilities for children with autism as Joseph continues to excel in bowling at the competitive level with ‘typical’ kids his own age; as he continues to advance in rank, skill, and socialization in Boy Scouts, as he continues to excel in Irish Step and Street Tap dancing; as he continues to thrill his teammates in baseball; as he continues to inspire his peers in altar serving; as his academics continue to improve. Hope transformed into joy.

But there is a price to be paid for that transformation. It requires death to self, in much the same manner as the successful parenting of typical children. The nuclear fuel for the eugenic engine is the misperception on the part of parents, and the outright lie told by obstetricians and genetic counselors, that life with the child will be a living hell for all concerned, that the parents will lose themselves, their identities, their futures, in the needs of this child.

In truth, the problem of the past thirty years is that all too many parents are unwilling to spend themselves for their children’s health, education, and welfare.

Ite ad Joseph!

Joseph did all that he had to do to secure the safety of his adopted son, including leaving the promised land and returning to the land of his people’s former slavery. He left his business, his friends, family, neighbors, and took the young woman who became pregnant apart from Joseph’s embrace; so Joseph also left behind his good name.

Some might be tempted to suggest that Joseph’s was an extraordinary case, as he was instructed by angels in dreams. A good counter would be to suggest that we don’t need angelic visions when we have the Dei Verbum which spells it out for us.

Joseph is the model of masculine virtue for all fathers. Perhaps we don’t read much about him in scripture because those virtues are supposed to be ordinary. We men plead all sorts of romantic-sounding promises when we court our wives. Jimmy Stewart lassoing the moon for Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Today it’s considered heroic virtue to keep the child of our marital embrace if it is less than perfect, if that child will make demands on our time and resources. Regina and I aren’t heroic for embracing Joseph in all of his frailty and doing all within our power to lift him up. That’s just our job, the fulfillment of vows we made to accept children willingly and lovingly from God, and to raise them in the faith.

Ite ad Joseph!

We need to contemplate the life of Joseph, the ordinary virtues he lived that today make him seem superhuman. We need to offer our lives as witnesses to the power of God’s grace to take the weaknesses of our children in stride, and to make them part of the ordinariness of our day-to-day lives. We need to make people understand that authentic freedom consists in having the ability to do what we must, and not what we want. It’s the only escape from the narcissism and hedonism that have overtaken and enslaved so many, and which fuel the growing eugenic wildfire.

Ite ad Joseph!

I took his name for Confirmation, in no small measure because of the great example of my grandfather, Joseph, who was the living embodiment of Mary’s husband; and gave it to the baby boy who has led me to a place I resisted going for decades before his birth. It is the place we must all work to bring our nation before the eugenic fire overtakes us all.

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Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into Heaven. Sidestepping the issue of whether Mary actually died, this day is one of the divisive issues between Catholics and Protestants. There is much wisdom in the Church’s veneration of Mary, and much in Mary’s life of perfect obedience to the will of God for all pro-lifers to ponder.

Beginning at the end, why would God spare Mary from bodily corruption in the grave? Consider this vision of John the Apostle in Revelation 11:19 ff.

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery…”


The text goes on to reveal the birth of Jesus, Satan’s attempts to destroy Him (through Herod’s slaughter of the innocents) and Mary’s flight into Egypt. In two verses, back-to-back John discusses the Ark of the Covenant. Mary is that Ark of the New Covenant. Just as the first Ark housed the word of God, Mary’s yes meant that for nine months she contained within herself and nurtured The Word, who IS God. Her assent began the final chapter in God’s plan for our salvation, and the dignity of women would be forever changed.

Bearing in mind that Jesus was as St. Paul tells us, “a man like us in all things, but sin”, it’s worth contemplating that the perfection of His human nature required Mary to be the best of teachers in raising Him, by word and by example. Her assent to be the mother of the Messiah was one more act of obedience in a lifetime of perfect obedience to God’s will, and continued to the foot of the cross and beyond.

Though Jesus felt His time to reveal Himself had not yet come, he acquiesced to Mary at the wedding feast in Cana and performed his first miracle; the Creator in obedience to His mother. As my nine year old daughter presciently observed, “Even God has to obey His mother.”

Mary Revealing the Christ Child Within Her.

Mary was preserved from corruption, not merely for allowing her body to be used in the birth of the Messiah, but because Mary never sinned. Jesus couldn’t sin because His divine nature would not permit it. Mary wouldn’t sin because she loved God with every fiber of her being. The only human to achieve human perfection was a woman.

For that achievement, for her role in salvation history, God preserved the Ark of the New Covenant. He did so not only for Mary, but as a sign of promise to us, the foreshadowing of the Resurrection on the Last Day.

How easy it could have been for Mary to say no using all of the modern day rationale used for abortion. She was single, a teen, poor, could lose her betrothed, faced certain ridicule as impure… But her selfless “Yes”, her sorrows that would come with that yes meant salvation for the world.

With close to 2 Billion abortions worldwide since 1960, how many poor teens and other young mothers facing ridicule and enormous self-sacrifice said no, and in so doing have deprived the world of the scientists and physicians who would have discovered cures for diseases such as cancer, HIV, malaria, etc. How many leaders have been aborted who would have prevented wars and brought greater justice and equanimity to their people? How many Priests, Deacons, Religious, Ministers, Rabbis will we never know? The list of thwarted good is endless.

Mary is the archetype for authentic feminism. Not even God refused her request at a wedding. She was powerful precisely because of her submission. She was strong and brave, standing at the foot of the cross when 10 Apostles fled in terror. She was gathered with the Apostles on Pentecost and received the Holy Spirit with them. She lived among them until her day of Assumption, not as a guest or a ward, but as their Mother, with all that goes with that role.

So today we honor Mary for the good and graces that flow through our lives because of her lifetime of saying yes to God’s perfect plan. We look within ourselves at the pridefulness that keeps us from being all that God wants us to be, and we take renewed strength from those graces that flow from Mary’s life, through her Son, and are brought to perfection in us through His Holy Spirit.

It’s a great day.

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Today is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.

Many non-Catholic brothers and sisters object to the title and don’t understand whence it comes. An excellent, brief essay here tells the story.

In light of our focus here these past few days, today’s Solemnity throws two very different women into stark relief: Mary, Mother of God and Margaret Sanger. A study in contrast if ever there were one.

Both women looked out upon a broken and wounded humanity. Both heard the call to action. One embraced life as the answer to healing humanity. The other embraced death as the solution.

Through her acceptance of the Archangel Gabriel’s message, Mary invited God Himself in the person of Jesus to take on human nature through her womb. Thus, the dignity of women was forever elevated in God choosing to cloak Himself with our humanity through woman. Mary chose a lifetime of scorn by others. Having her son referred to as a bastard child was an implicit condemnation of Mary as a less than virtuous woman, to put it politely. The indignity of a feeding trough as a cradle, a barn as lodging. They were chased out of their homeland. Jews going back to Egypt, setting up the second Exodus, this one for all humanity. The gifts of the Magi, God’s providence manifest through the faith of strangers, no doubt secured safe passage and sustenance in the land of their former slavery.

Mary’s acceptance of being Mother of the Messiah didn’t make her the Jewish Doris Day of the first century. Life for Mary was hard. And then she saw her son die the most excruciating death.

The lesson for us, suffering is redemptive. Jesus’ suffering redeemed us all. Mary’s suffering is a model for us. She could have had a much easier life-a home, social acceptance, economic security-all of the things Sanger would later cite as the justification for her war on life.

Mary’s reward for being the Mother of God, not merely His incubator, but fully His Mother, was not to be here on earth. She enjoys pride of place in paradise with her son.

Margaret Sanger’s approach was the converse of Mary’s. To be fair, the widespread grinding poverty that Sanger lived with and witnessed exists in small pockets in America today. Most Americans cannot imagine the poverty of which she spoke. None should begrudge her the genuine revulsion she felt staring into the face of that poverty. Such revulsion is very healthy indeed.

Then came her response. Death and nonexistence. Sex divorced from responsibility and consequence. The lie that pleasurable sex could only be had by deliberate and artificial means of thwarting the transmission of new life. The lie that suffering is meaningless, that pleasure and ease are to be sought after to the exclusion of any suffering along the way.

Suffering is not easy, but it helps us to grow. We learn from suffering, if we are open to her lessons.

Sanger’s was a life of narcissistic self-indulgence that poisoned everything it touched, the very operational definition of neurosis, which is the attempt to avoid suffering. Unrestricted pleasure slowly twists and distorts us. It removes us from human suffering by inducing us to disengage from those who suffer, ultimately causing us to objectify them. Sanger chose to scorn charity as a means of relieving the suffering of others, of healing them, of lifting them up and ameliorating poverty. She objectified not poverty, but the poor themselves. She loathed them. The result of such objectification when we do so, is that they lose their humanity in our eyes, as they did for Sanger.

Then we are free to contraceive and abort them into oblivion, all in the name of relieving their suffering, which is really to say, our own.

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