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Priest Under Fire — An Interview of Father Michael Rodriguez

[ED.] Where in the entire world of Catholicism are more priests like this to be found?

(www.RemnantNewspaper.com) Michael J. Matt (MJM): First off, Father, I’d like to thank you for the stand you’ve taken in recent months in defense of the Church’s moral teaching, especially with respect to so-called ‘gay marriage’.  Catholics all across the country have been following your case, and we’re delighted to have a chance today to ask you a few questions. Before we get into the “controversy”, however, I wonder if you’d mind telling us a little something about your personal background?

Father Rodriguez (FR): Not at all. I was born in El Paso, Texas, on August 23, 1970, the middle child of five. Many years later my parents adopted a sixth child, my youngest sister. As I grew up in the early ’70s, I was completely unaware of the disastrous post-Vatican II revolution that was sweeping throughout our beloved Catholic Church. Thanks be to God, I was raised by parents who were staunch Catholics with their childhood roots in the pre-Vatican II Catholicism of México. An example of the depth of these roots is that my maternal grandmother (born in 1906, in Aguascalientes, México) never accepted the Novus Ordo. She left this passing world in August 2002, always true to the Ancient Rite. Requiescat in pace. Even though my parents had accepted and adapted to Novus Ordo Catholicism during their post-collegiate years, they nevertheless raised us similar to how they had been raised: fidelity to Mass (albeit the Novus Ordo) and Confession, praying the Holy Rosary at home in the evenings, praying novenas and the Stations of the Cross, etc. As I reflect back on my childhood, it was a time of great grace and blessings. Even though my parents failed to hold fast to all the venerable traditions of our Faith and the Ancient Rite, they still did an excellent job of instilling the Faith in us. Interestingly enough, we four older children (born between ’67 and ’74) are now ardent supporters of the Traditional Latin Mass, even more so than our parents.

MJM: And are there one or two persons in your life that mentored you and helped you to remain open to God’s call?

FR: My parents, Ruben and Beatrice, were the ones who were most instrumental in my eventual discernment of a vocation to God’s holy priesthood. Through my father, God blessed me with discipline, fortitude, perseverance, and a love for study. Through my mother, God graced me with the convictions of faith, awe for the Catholic priesthood, a tender devotion to our Blessed Mother, and a love of religion.

MJM: At what point in your life did you know you had a vocation?

FR: I was raised in El Paso, TX, but spent four years (1981-1984) living with my family in Augsburg, Germany. We returned to El Paso, and I began high school. Following my junior year, I spent the summer (1987) at M.I.T. University in Cambridge, MA. I was participating in a special program for gifted minority students from around the nation. The program was geared to recruiting us to study engineering and science at M.I.T. as undergraduates. Well, our good God had different plans for me! I left El Paso that summer thinking I’d study electrical engineering (like my father) upon graduating from high school, only to return from Boston six weeks later, announcing that I wanted to enter the seminary! My mother was overjoyed.

MJM: Clearly, someone was looking out for you. Do you have a favorite saint, by the way?

FR: My favorite saints are: St. Michael the Archangel, St. John the Baptist (largely due to my 9 1/2 years at this El Paso parish), St. Paul the Apostle, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and, to no surprise, the holy Curé of Ars. I have a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under three of her specific titles: Immaculate Conception (I was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 8, 1996), Mater Dolorosa, and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.

MJM: And, liturgically—where would you place yourself?  I know you offer the traditional Latin Mass, but is it accurate to describe you as an outright “traditionalist”?

FR: Liturgically, I’m 100% behind the Traditional Latin Mass, which is without question the true Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. Theology, liturgy, Catholic spirituality and asceticism, and history itself all point to the obvious superiority of the Classical Roman Rite. Unfortunately, all of my seminary formation was in the Novus Ordo, and I only “discovered” the Latin Mass about six years ago, so I still have a lot to learn in terms of “real Catholicism,” i.e. “traditional Catholicism.”

MJM: What was it initially that led you to begin offering the old Mass?

FR: About six years ago, several members of the faithful began asking me if I would be interested in offering the Traditional Latin Mass. At the time, there was serious concern on the part “El Paso’s remnant” of traditional Catholics that the Jesuit priest who was offering the Latin Mass twice a month (under the 1988 Ecclesia Dei “Indult”) was going to be transferred. Thus, they were looking for another priest who would be willing to offer the Latin Mass. At first, I declined, not so much because I wasn’t interested, but due to the immense workload which I was already carrying.

As the weeks passed, I began to study the prayers and theology of the Traditional Latin Mass. The more I studied, the more my awe and amazement grew. I was “discovering” not only the true Catholic theology of the Mass, but also the true Catholic theology of the priesthood, and so much more! Throughout my first nine years of priesthood, I had struggled to make sense of the very serious problems which exist in the Church. At this point, it was obvious that anextreme crisis pervaded the Church and her hierarchy, but why? I just couldn’t quite understand how all of this “diabolical disorientation” had come to pass . . . until the brilliant light of the true Catholic Mass (“Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam . . .”) began to penetrate my priestly soul. This “discovery” of the Traditional Latin Mass has been, by far, the greatest gift of God to my poor priesthood.

MJM: So this gives us an idea of how Pope Benedict’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum can and does impact priests who might otherwise never  have had the opportunity to discover this great treasure. Given how it impacted you, how do you believe Summorum Pontificum will impact the Church long term?

FR: Unfortunately, both Summorum Pontificum and Universæ Ecclesiæ have plenty of weaknesses. Nevertheless, these documents do represent an initial step in what will probably still be a long and arduous “Calvary,” i.e. the quest of traditional Catholics to restore the Cross, the Mass, the kingship of Jesus Christ, and true Catholic doctrine, outside of which there is no salvation. In Article 1 of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI writes that “due honor must be given to the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V for its venerable and ancient usage.” This directive of our Holy Father is currently being disobeyed almost universally. In the accompanying letter to the world’s bishops (July 7, 2007), Pope Benedict XVI writes, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” These remarkable words of our Holy Father are also being disrespected and disobeyed almost universally, especially by many bishops. Finally, Universæ Ecclesiæ, No. 8, states very clearly that the Ancient Rite is a “precious treasure to be preserved” and is to be “offered to all the faithful.” Where in the entire world of Catholicism is this directive actually being obeyed? The same number fromUniversæ Ecclesiæ emphasizes that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy “is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favourable to the faithful who are its principal addressees.” This is an astounding statement. This statement from Rome means that the use of the 1962 Missal doesn’t depend on a particular bishop’s liturgical views, preferences, or theology. It’s not about the bishops! On the contrary, it’s about the faithful! Where in the entire world of Catholicism is this directive actually being obeyed?

MJM: Are you now able to offer the old Mass exclusively? 

FR: Since I began my new assignment (Sept. 24, 2011) out in the rural, isolated missions of the El Paso Diocese, I’ve offered the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively. I consider this to be a marvelous and unexpected blessing from Providence in the midst of a very difficult trial. I hope to continue offering the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively. If it were strictly up to me, I would never celebrate the Novus Ordo Missæ again. However, the sad reality of having to “obey” in the Novus Ordo Church that has largely lost the Faith, and the need to reach out patiently to Novus Ordo faithful who have been so misled, means that I will probably be “forced” to celebrate the Novus Ordo occasionally. In these instances, however, it will be the Novus Ordo ad orientem, with the Roman Canon, the use of Latin, and Holy Communion distributed according to traditional norms.

MJM: Up until last year, I believe, things were pretty quiet in your priestly life.  What happened to change all that?

FR: The local, and even national, “controversy” that has engulfed me is due to the fact that I have been vocal in promoting what the Roman Catholic Church teaches in regard to the whole issue of homosexuality. It’s a disgrace, but the City Council of El Paso has been adamant in trying to legitimize same-sex unions. This goes completely contrary to Catholic Church teaching. I’ve made it clear to the Catholics of El Paso (and beyond) that every single Catholic has a moral obligation before God Himself to oppose any government attempt to legalize homosexual unions. A Catholic who fails to oppose this homosexual agenda, is committing a grave sin by omission. Furthermore, if a Catholic doesn’t assent to the infallible moral teaching of the Church that homosexual acts are mortally sinful, then such a Catholic is placing himself / herself outside of communion with the Church. These are the Catholics who are actually excommunicating themselves, not the Society of St. Pius X!

MJM: I can understand why the civil authorities and media might find this “controversial”; but why would your ecclesial superiors find it so?

FR: The dismal response of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities to the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church in regard to homosexuality demonstrates how extreme the current crisis of faith actually is. It really can’t get much worse. There’s hardly any faith left to lose! Even a pagan, bereft of the light of faith, can arrive at the conclusion that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil. Reason, natural law, and consideration of the male and female anatomy more than suffice to confirm this moral truth.

MJM: And yet you must go where the bishop tells you to go.  Is this difficult for you?

FR: In my particular circumstances, obedience to my bishop has been incredibly difficult. Nevertheless, obedience is essential to the priesthood, and I intend to be obedient. One consoling aspect of “sacrificial,” “death-to-self” obedience, is that the Holy Ghost will always come to one’s assistance. I’m reminded that my poor sufferings are nothing compared to those of Mater Dolorosa and our Divine Redeemer. If I’m counted as one even slightly worthy to suffer for the Faith and the Traditional Latin Mass, I will consider myself profoundly blessed. God is so good.

MJM: As you are already living through a form of persecution, I assume you foresee more to come not only for you personally but for all Catholics who stand in defense of Church teaching. But what about the future?  Any hope?

FR: Yes, I do foresee plenty of persecution still to come for all those who remain steadfast in the Faith and in their adherence to the Ancient Rite. However, the promise of our Savior cannot but fill our souls with hope, “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.” (Mt 5:10-12)

MJM: How can lay Catholics best survive this crisis of faith?

FR: In order to overcome this crisis of faith, we must (1) do everything in our power to recover the Catholic Faith: the Ancient Rite, traditional Catholic teaching in doctrine and morals, the theology and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, traditional Catholic piety and devotions, and a traditional Catholic “code of living” or “rhythm of life.” (2) On a daily basis we must strive to pray, study, fast, do penance, and practice charity with the aforementioned goal in mind. Finally, I strongly urge all faithful Catholics to (3) pray the Holy Rosary daily and heed our Blessed Mother’s Message at Fatima.

One of the hallmarks of the Traditional Latin Mass is its exquisite and concentrated focus on eternity. If we are to survive and overcome this terrible crisis of faith in the post-Vatican II Catholic Church, we have to keep our intellect and will focused on eternity. We cannot lose hope when, from a worldly perspective, all seems lost. Jesus Christ promises “the kingdom of heaven” to those who endure persecution, and “a great reward in heaven” to those who suffer for His sake. (Mt 5:10-12) The final goal is heaven! Like St. Paul, we must press ahead towards the ultimate “prize” (Phil 3:14) and never cease to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.” (Col 3:1)

MJM: Like so many others, Father, I find myself deeply moved by your powerful witness not only to the Faith itself but also to the Catholic priesthood, which, as you know so well, is under diabolical attack. Thank you for this example of what it means to be a Catholic in an era of persecution. May all of us have the courage to follow your lead through the rough seas still ahead.

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VENERATION OF THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD (#3): Pious Exercises Recommended by the Magisterium

fatimabvm.gifPious Exercises Recommended by the Magisterium 

192. This is not the place to reproduce the list of Marian exercises approved by the Magisterium. Some, however, should be mentioned, especially the more important ones, so as to make a few suggestions about their practise and emendation.

Prayerfully Hearing the Word of God

193. The Council’s call for the “sacred celebration of the word of God” at significant moments throughout the Liturgical Year(227), can easily find useful application in devotional exercises made in honour of the Mother of the Word Incarnate. This corresponds perfectly with the orientation of Christian piety(228) and reflects the conviction that it is already a worthy way to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, since it involves acting as she did in relation to the Word of God. She lovingly accepted the Word and treasured it in her heart, meditated on it in her mind and spread it with her lips. She faithfully put it into practise and modelled her life on it(229).

194. “Celebrations of the Word, because of their thematic and structural content, offer many elements of worship which are at the same time genuine expressions of devotion and opportunities for a systematic catechesis on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Experience, however, proves that celebrations of the Word should not assume a predominantly intellectual or didactic character. Through hymns, prayers, and participation of the faithful they should allow for simple and familiar expressions of popular piety which speak directly to the hearts of the faithful”(230).

Angelus Domini

195. The Angelus Domini is the traditional form used by the faithful to commemorate the holy annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary. It is used three times daily: at dawn, mid-day and at dusk. It is a recollection of the salvific event in which the Word became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the salvific plan of the Father.

The recitation of the Angelus is deeply rooted in the piety of the Christian faithful, and strengthened by the example of the Roman Pontiffs. In some places changed social conditions hinder its recitation, but in many other parts every effort should be made to maintain and promote this pious custom and at least the recitation of three Aves. The Angelus “over the centuries has conserved its value and freshness with its simple structure, biblical character […] quasi liturgical rhythm by which the various time of the day are sanctified, and by its openness to the Paschal Mystery”(231).

It is therefore “desirable that on some occasions, especially in religious communities, in shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and at meetings or conventions, the Angelus be solemnly recited by singing the Ave Maria, proclaiming the Gospel of the Annunciation”(232) and by the ringing of bells.

Regina Coeli

196. By disposition of Benedict XIV (2 April 1742), the Angelus is replaced with the antiphon Regina Coeli during paschaltide. This antiphon, probably dating from the tenth or eleventh century(233), happily conjoins the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word (quem meruisti portare) with the Paschal event (resurrexit sicut dixit). The ecclesial community addresses this antiphon to Mary for the Resurrection of her Son. It adverts to, and depends on, the invitation to joy addressed by Gabriel to the Lord’s humble servant who was called to become the Mother of the saving Messiah (Ave, gratia plena).

As with the Angelus, the recitation of the Regina Coeli could sometimes take a solemn form by singing the antiphon and proclaiming the Gospel of the resurrection.

The Rosary

197. The Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one of the most excellent prayers to the Mother of God(234). Thus, “the Roman Pontiffs have repeatedly exhorted the faithful to the frequent recitation of this biblically inspired prayer which is centred on contemplation of the salvific events of Christ’s life, and their close association with the his Virgin Mother. The value and efficacy of this prayer have often been attested by saintly Bishops and those advanced in holiness of life”(235).

The Rosary is essentially a contemplative prayer, which requires “tranquillity of rhythm or even a mental lingering which encourages the faithful to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life”(236). Its use is expressly recommended in the formation and spiritual life of clerics and religious(237).

198. The Blessing for Rosary Beads(238) indicates the Church’s esteem for the Rosary. This rite emphasises the community nature of the Rosary. In the rite, the blessing of rosary beads is followed by the blessing of those who meditate on the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord so as to “establish a perfect harmony between prayer and life”(239).

As indicated in the Benedictionale, Rosary beads can be blessed publicly, on occasions such as a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, a feast of Our Lady, especially that of the Holy Rosary, and at the end of the month of October(240).

199. With due regard for the nature of the rosary, some suggestions can now be made which could make it more proficuous.

On certain occasions, the recitation of the Rosary could be made more solemn in tone “by introducing those Scriptural passages corresponding with the various mysteries, some parts could be sung, roles could be distributed, and by solemnly opening and closing of prayer”(241).

200. Those who recite a third of the Rosary sometimes assign the various mysteries to particular days: joyful (Monday and Thursday), sorrowful (Tuesday and Friday), glorious (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday).

Where this system is rigidly adhere to, conflict can arise between the content of the mysteries and that of the Liturgy of the day: the recitation of the sorrowful mysteries on Christmas day, should it fall on a Friday. In cases such as this it can be reckoned that “the liturgical character of a given day takes precedence over the usual assignment of a mystery of the Rosary to a given day; the Rosary is such that, on particular days, it can appropriately substitute meditation on a mystery so as to harmonize this pious practice with the liturgical season”(242). Hence, the faithful act correctly when, for example, they contemplate the arrival of the three Kings on the Solemnity of the Epiphany, rather than the finding of Jesus in the Temple. Clearly, such substitutions can only take place after much careful thought, adherence to Sacred Scripture and liturgical propriety.

201. The custom of making an insertion in the recitation of the Hail Mary, which is an ancient one that has not completely disappeared, has often been recommended by the Pastors of the Church since it encourages meditation and the concurrence of mind and lips(243).

Insertions of this nature would appear particularly suitable for the repetitive and meditative character of the Rosary. It takes the form of a relative clause following the name of Jesus and refers to the mystery being contemplated. The meditation of the Rosary can be helped by the choice of a short clause of a Scriptural and Liturgical nature, fixed for every decade.

202. “In recommending the value and beauty of the Rosary to the faithful, care should be taken to avoid discrediting other forms of prayer, or of overlooking the existence of a diversity of other Marian chaplets which have also been approved by the Church”(244). It is also important to avoid inculcating a sense of guilt in those who do not habitually recite the Rosary: “The Rosary is an excellent prayer, in regard to which, however, the faithful should feel free to recite it, in virtue of its inherent beauty”(245).

Litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary

203. Litanies are to be found among the prayers to the Blessed Virgin recommended by the Magisterium. These consist in a long series of invocations of Our Lady, which follow in a uniform rhythm, thereby creating a stream of prayer characterized by insistent praise and supplication. The invocations, generally very short, have two parts: the first of praise (Virgo clemens), the other of supplication (Ora pro nobis).

The liturgical books contain two Marian litanies(246): The Litany of Loreto, repeatedly recommended by the Roman Pontiffs; and the Litany for the Coronation of Images of the Blessed Virgin Mary(247), which can be an appropriate substitute for the other litany on certain occasions(248).

From a pastoral perspective, a proliferation of litanies would not seem desirable(249), just as an excessive restriction on them would not take sufficient account of the spiritual riches of some local Churches and religious communities. Hence, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments recommends “taking account of some older and newer formulas used in the local Churches or in religious communities which are notable for their structural rigour and the beauty of their invocations”(250). This exhortation, naturally, applies to the specific authorities in the local Churches or religious communities.

Following the prescription of Leo XIII that the recitation of the Rosary should be concluded by the Litany of Loreto during the month of October, the false impression has arisen among some of the faithful that the Litany is in some way an appendix to the Rosary. The Litanies are independent acts of worship. They are important acts of homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or as processional elements, or form part of a celebration of the Word of God or of other acts of worship.

Consecration and Entrustment to Mary

204. The history of Marian devotion contains many examples of personal or collective acts of “consecration or entrustment to the Blessed Virgin Mary” oblatio, servitus, commendatio, dedicatio). They are reflected in the prayer manuals and statutes of many associations where the formulas and prayers of consecration, or its remembrance, are used.

The Roman Pontiffs have frequently expressed appriciation for the pious practice of “consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary” and the formulas publicly used by them are well known(251).

Louis Grignon the Montfort is one of the great masters of the spirituality underlying the act of “consecration to Mary”. He ” proposed to the faithful consecration to Jesus through Mary, as an effective way of living out their baptismal commitment”(252).

Seen in the light of Christ’s words (cf. John 19, 25-27), the act of consecration is a conscious recognition of the singular role of Mary in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the universal and exemplary importance of her witness to the Gospel, of trust in her intercession, and of the efficacy of her patronage, of the many maternal functions she has, since she is a true mother in the order of grace to each and every one of her children(253).

It should be recalled, however, that the term “consecration” is used here in a broad and non-technical sense: “the expression is use of “consecrating children to Our Lady”, by which is intended placing children under her protection and asking her maternal blessing(254) for them”. Some suggest the use of the alternative terms “entrustment” or “gift”. Liturgical theology and the consequent rigorous use of terminology would suggest reserving the term consecration for those self-offerings which have God as their object, and which are characterized by totality and perpetuity, which are guaranteed by the Church’s intervention and have as their basis the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

The faithful should be carefully instructed about the practice of consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. While such can give the impression of being a solemn and perpetual act, it is, in reality, only analogously a “consecration to God”. It springs from a free, personal, mature, decision taken in relation to the operation of grace and not from a fleeting emotion. It should be expressed in a correct liturgical manner: to the Father, through Christ in the Holy Spirit, imploring the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom we entrust ourselves completely, so as to keep our baptismal commitments and live as her children. The act of consecration should take place outside of the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, since it is a devotional act which cannot be assimilated to the Liturgy. It should also be borne in mind that the act of consecration to Mary differs substantially from other forms of liturgical consecration.

The Brown Scapular and other Scapulars

205. The history of Marian piety also includes “devotion” to various scapulars, the most common of which is devotion to the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Its use is truly universal and, undoubtedly, its is one of those pious practices which the Council described as “recommended by the Magisterium throughout the centuries”(255).

The Scapular of Mount Carmel is a reduced form of the religious habit of the Order of the Friars of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel. Its use is very diffuse and often independent of the life and spirituality of the Carmelite family.

The Scapular is an external sign of the filial relationship established between the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Mount Carmel, and the faithful who entrust themselves totally to her protection, who have recourse to her maternal intercession, who are mindful of the primacy of the spiritual life and the need for prayer.

The Scapular is imposed by a special rite of the Church which describes it as ” a reminder that in Baptism we have been clothed in Christ, with the assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, solicitous for our conformation to the Word Incarnate, to the praise of the Trinity, we may come to our heavenly home wearing our nuptial garb”(256).

The imposition of the Scapular should be celebrated with “the seriousness of its origins. It should not be improvised. The Scapular should be imposed following a period of preparation during which the faithful are made aware of the nature and ends of the association they are about to join and of the obligations they assume”(257).

Medals

206. The faithful like to wear medals bearing effigies of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These are a witness of faith and a sign of veneration of the Holy Mother of God, as well as of trust in her maternal protection.

The Church blesses such objects of Marian devotion in the belief that “they help to remind the faithful of the love of God, and to increase trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary”(258). The Church also points out that devotion to the Mother of Christ also requires “a coherent witness of life”(259).

Among the various medals of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most diffuse must be the “Miraculous Medal”. Its origins go back to the apparitions in 1830 of Our Lady to St. Catherine Labouré, a humble novice of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. The medal was struck in accordance with the instructions given by Our Lady and has been described as a “Marian microcosm” because of its extraordinary symbolism. It recalls the msytery of Redemption, the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Sorrowful Heart of Mary. It signifies the mediatory role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mystery of the Church, the relationship between Heaven and earth, this life and eternal life.

St. Maximillian Kolbe (+ 1941) and the various movements associated with him, have been especially active in further popularizing the miraculous medal. In 1917 he adopted the miraculous medal as the badge of the “Pious Union of the Militia of the Immaculate Conception” which he founded in Rome while still a young religious of the Conventual Friars Minor.

Like all medals and objects of cult, the Miraculous Medal is never to be regarded as a talisman or lead to any form of blind credulity(260). The promise of Our Lady that “those who were the medal will receive great graces”, requires a humble and tenacious commitment to the Christian message, faithful and persevering prayer, and a good Christian life.

The “Akathistos” Hymn

207. In the Byzantine tradition, one of the oldest and most revered expressions of Marian devotion is the hymn “Akathistos” – meaning the hymn sung while standing. It is a literary and theological masterpiece, encapsulating in the form of a prayer, the universally held Marian belief of the primitive Church. The hymn is inspired by the Scriptures, the doctrine defined by the Councils of Nicea (325), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451), and reflects the Greek fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries. It is solemnly celebrated in the Eastern Liturgy on the Fifth Saturday of Lent. The hymn is also sung on many other liturgical occasions and is recommended for the use of the clergy and faithful.

In recent times the Akathistos has been introduced to some communities in the Latin Rite(261). Some solemn liturgical celebrations of particular ecclesial significance, in the presence of the Pope, have also helped to popularize the use of the hymn in Rome(262). This very ancient hymn(263), the mature fruit of the undivided Church’s earliest devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, constitutes an appeal and invocation for the unity of Christians under the guidance of the Mother of God: “Such richness of praise, accumulated from the various forms of the great tradition of the Church, could help to ensure that she may once again breath with “both lungs”: the East and the West”(264).

VENERATION OF THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD (#2): Times of Pious Marian Exercises

fatimabvm.gifTimes of Pious Marian Exercises

Celebration of feast

187. Practically all Marian devotions and pious exercises are in some way related to the liturgical feasts of the General Calendar of the Roman Rite or of the particular calendars of dioceses and religious families. Sometimes, a particular devotion antedates the institution of the feast (as is the case with the feast of the Holy Rosary), in other instances, the feast is much more ancient than the devotion (as with the Angelus Domini). This clearly illustrates the relationship between the Liturgy and pious exercises, and the manner in which pious exercises find their culmination in the celebration of the feast. In so far as liturgical, the feast refers to the history of salvation and celebrates a particular aspect of the relationship of the Virgin Mary to the mystery of Christ. The feast, however, must be celebrated in accordance with liturgical norm, and bear in mind the hierarchal difference between “liturgical acts” and associated “pious exercises”(217).

It should not be forgotten that a feast of the Blessed Virgin, in so far as it is popular manifestation, also has important anthropological implications that cannot be overlooked.

Saturdays

188. Saturdays stand out among those days dedicated to the Virgin Mary. These are designated as memorials of the Blessed Virgin Mary(218). This memorial derives from carolingian time (ninth century), but the reasons for having chosen Saturday for its observance are unknown(219). While many explanation have been advanced to explain this choice, none is completely satisfactory from the point of view of the history of popular piety(220).

Prescinding from its historical origins, to-day the memorial rightly emphasizes certain values “to which contemporary spirituality is more sensitive: it is a remembrance of the maternal example and discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, strengthened by faith and hope, on that great Saturday on which Our Lord lay in the tomb, was the only one of the disciples to hold vigil in expectation of the Lord’s resurrection; it is a prelude and introduction to the celebration of Sunday, the weekly memorial of the Resurrection of Christ; it is a sign that the “Virgin Mary is continuously present and operative in the life of the Church”(221).

Popular piety is also sensitive to the Saturday memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The statutes of many religious communities and associations of the faithful prescribe that special devotion be paid to the Holy Mother of God on Saturdays, sometimes through specified pious exercises composed precisely for Saturdays(222).

Tridua, Sepinaria, Marian Novenas

189. Since it is a significant moment, a feast day is frequently preceded by a preparatory triduum, septinaria or novena. The “times and modes of popular piety”, however, should always correspond to the “times and modes of the Liturgy”.

Tridua, septinaria, and novenas can be useful not only for honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary through pious exercises, but also to afford the faithful an adequate vision of the positions she occupies in the mystery of Christ and of the Church, as well as the the role she plays in it.

Pious exercises cannot remain indifferent to the results of biblical and theological research on the Mother of Our Saviour. These should become a catechetical means diffusing such information, without however altering their essential nature.

Tridua, septinaria and novenas are truly preparations for the celebration of the various feast days of Our Lady, especially when they encourage the faithful to approach the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist, and to renew their Christian commitment following the example of Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of Christ.

In some countries, the faithful gather for prayer on the 13th. of each month, in honour of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima.

Marian Months

190. With regard to the observance of “Marian months”, which is widespread in the Latin and Oriental Churches(223), a number of essential points can be mentioned(224).

In the West, the practise of observing months dedicated to the Blessed Virgin emerged from a context in which the Liturgy was not always regarded as the normative form of Christian worship. This caused, and continues to cause, some difficulties at a liturgico-pastoral level that should be carefully examined.

191. In relation to the western custom of observing a “Marian month” during the month of May (or in November in some parts of the Southern hemisphere), it would seem opportune to take into account the demands of the Liturgy, the expectations of the faithful, their maturity in the faith, in an eventual study of the problems deriving from the “Marian months” in the overall pastoral activity of the local Church, as might happen, for example, with any suggestion of abolishing the Marian observances during the month of May.

In many cases, the solution for such problems would seem to lay in harmonizing the content of the “Marian months” with the concomitant season of the Liturgical Year. For example, since the month of May largely corresponds with the fifty days of Easter, the pious exercises practised at this time could emphasize Our Lady’s participation in the Paschal mystery (cf. John 19, 25-27), and the Pentecost event (cf, Acts 1, 14) with which the Church begins: Our Lady journeys with the Church having shared in the novum of the Resurrection, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The fifty days are also a time for the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation and of the mystagogy. The pious exercises connected with the month of May could easily highlight the earthly role played by the glorified Queen of Heaven, here and now, in the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist(225).

The directives of Sacrosanctum Concilium on the need to orient the “minds of the faithful…firstly to the feasts of the Lord, in which, the mysteries of salvation are celebrated during the year”(226), and with which the Blessed Virgin Mary is certainly associated, should be closely followed.

Opportune catechesis should remind the faithful that the weekly Sunday memorial of the Paschal Mystery is “the primordial feast day”. Bearing in mind that the four weeks of Advent are an example of a Marian time that has been incorporated harmoniously into the Liturgical Year, the faithful should be assisted in coming to a full appreciation of the numerous references to the Mother of our Saviour during this particular period.

 SOURCE : Directory of Popular Piety

 

VENERATION OF THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD (#1): Some Principles

Some Principles

fatimabvm.gif183. Popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is an important and universal ecclesial phenomenon. Its expressions are multifarious and its motivation very profound, deriving as it does from the People of God’s faith in, and love for, Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, and from an awareness of the salvific mission that God entrusted to Mary of Nazareth, because of which she is mother not only of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, but also of mankind in the order of grace.

Indeed, “the faithful easily understand the vital link uniting Son and Mother. They realise that the Son is God and that she, the Mother, is also their mother. They intuit the immaculate holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in venerating her as the glorious queen of Heaven, they are absolutely certain that she who is full of mercy intercedes for them. Hence, they confidently have recourse to her patronage. The poorest of the poor feel especially close to her. They know that she, like them, was poor, and greatly suffered in meekness and patience. They can identify with her suffering at the crucifixion and death of her Son, as well as rejoice with her in his resurrection. The faithful joyfully celebrate her feasts, make pilgrimage to her sanctuary, sing hymns in her honour, and make votive offerings to her. They instinctively distrust whoever does not honour her and will not tolerate those who dishonour her”(208).

The Church exhorts all the faithful – sacred minister, religious and laity – to develop a personal and community devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the use of approved and recommended pious exercises(209). Liturgical worship, notwithstanding its objective and irreplaceable importance, its exemplary efficacy and normative character, does not in fact exhaust all the expressive possibilities of the People of God for devotion to the Holy Mother of God(210).

184. The relationship between the Liturgy and popular Marian piety should be regulated by the principles and norms already mentioned in this document(211). In relation to Marian devotion, the Liturgy must be the “exemplary form”(212), source of inspiration, constant reference point and ultimate goal of Marian devotion.

185. Here, it will be useful to recall some pronouncements of the Church’s Magisterium on Marian devotions. These should always be adhered to when elaboration new pious exercises or in revising those already in use, or simply in activating them in worship(213). The care and attention of the Pastors of the Church for Marian devotions are due to their importance, since they are both a fruit and an expression of Marian piety among the people and the ecclesial community, and a significant means of promoting the “Marian formation” of the faithful, as well as in determining the manner in which the piety of the faithful for the Blessed Virgin Mary is moulded.

186. The fundamental principle of the Magisterium with regard to such pious exercises is that they should be derivative from the “one worship which is rightly called Christian, because it efficaciously originates in Christ, finds full expression in Christ, and through Him, in the Holy Spirit leads to the Father”(214). Hence, Marian devotions, in varying degrees and modes, should:

  • give expression to the Trinitarian note which characterises worship of the God revealed in the New Testament, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the pneumatological aspect, since every true form of piety comes from the Spirit and is exercised in the Spirit; the ecclesial character, in virtue of which the faithful are constituted as the holy people of God, gathered in prayer in the Lord’s name (cf. Mt 18, 20) in the vital Communion of Saints(215);

  • have constant recourse to Sacred Scripture, as understood in Sacred Tradition; not overlook the demands of the ecumenical movement in the Church’s profession of faith; consider the anthropological aspects of cultic expressions so as to reflect a true concept of man and a valid response to his needs; highlight the eschatological tension which is essential to the Gospel message; make clear missionary responsibility and the duty of bearing witness, which are incumbent on the Lord’s disciples(216).

 SOURCE : Directory on Popular Piety

Pope Benedict XVI: The Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes: Message for World Day of the Sick

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

grotte_1024x768.jpg1. On 11 February, the memorial of the Blessed Mary Virgin of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated, a propitious occasion to reflect on the meaning of pain and the Christian duty to take responsibility for it in whatever situation it arises. This year this significant day is connected to two important events for the life of the Church, as one already understands from the theme chosen ‘The Eucharist, Lourdes and Pastoral Care for the Sick’: the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions of the Immaculate Mary at Lourdes, and the celebration of the International Eucharistic Congress at Quebec in Canada. In this way, a remarkable opportunity to consider the close connection that exists between the Mystery of the Eucharist, the role of Mary in the project of salvation, and the reality of human pain and suffering, is offered to us.

The hundred and fifty years since the apparitions of Lourdes invite us to turn our gazeprocession_1024x768.jpg towards the Holy Virgin, whose Immaculate Conception constitutes the sublime and freely-given gift of God to a woman so that she could fully adhere to divine designs with a steady and unshakable faith, despite the tribulations and the sufferings that she would have to face. For this reason, Mary is a model of total self-abandonment to the will of God: she received in her heart the eternal Word and she conceived it in her virginal womb; she trusted to God and, with her soul pierced by a sword (cf. Lk 2:35), she did not hesitate to share the passion of her Son, renewing on Calvary at the foot of the Cross her ‘Yes’ of the Annunciation. To reflect upon the Immaculate Conception of Mary is thus to allow oneself to be attracted by the ‘Yes’ which joined her wonderfully to the mission of Christ, the redeemer of humanity; it is to allow oneself to be taken and led by her hand to pronounce in one’s turn ‘fiat’ to the will of God, with all one’s existence interwoven with joys and sadness, hopes and disappointments, in the awareness that tribulations, pain and suffering make rich the meaning of our pilgrimage on the earth.

2. One cannot contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ and one cannot look at Christ without immediately perceiving the presence of Mary. There is an indissoluble link between the Mother and the Son, generated in her womb by work of the Holy Spirit, and this link we perceive, in a mysterious way, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as the Fathers of the Church and theologians pointed out from the early centuries onwards. ‘The flesh born of Mary, coming from the Holy Spirit, is bread descended from heaven’, observed St. Hilary of Poitiers. In the Bergomensium Sacramentary of the ninth century we read: ‘Her womb made flower a fruit, a bread that has filled us with an angelic gift. Mary restored to salvation what Eve had destroyed by her sin’. And St. Pier Damiani observed: ‘That body that the most blessed Virgin generated, nourished in her womb with maternal care, that body I say, without doubt and no other, we now receive from the sacred altar, and we drink its blood as a sacrament of our redemption.320px-mass_at_lourdes.jpg This is what the Catholic faith believes, this the holy Church faithfully teaches’. The link of the Holy Virgin with the Son, the sacrificed Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, is extended to the Church, the mystic Body of Christ. Mary, observes the Servant of God John Paul II, is a ‘woman of the Eucharist’ in her whole life, as a result of which the Church, seeing Mary as her model, ‘is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery’ (Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 53). In this perspective one understands even further why in Lourdes the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary is joined to a strong and constant reference to the Eucharist with daily Celebrations of the Eucharist, with adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament, and with the blessing of the sick, which constitutes one of the strongest moments of the visit of pilgrims to the grotto of Massabielles.

The presence of many sick pilgrims in Lourdes, and of the volunteers who accompany them, helps us to reflect on the maternal and tender care that the Virgin expresses towards human pain and suffering. Associated with the Sacrifice of Christ, Mary, Mater Dolorosa, who at the foot of the Cross suffers with her divine Son, is felt to be especially near by the Christian community, which gathers around its suffering members, who bear the signs of the passion of the Lord. Mary suffers with those who are in affliction, with them she hopes, and she is their comfort, supporting them with her maternal help. And is it not perhaps true that the spiritual experience of very many sick people leads us to understand increasingly that ‘the Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of his holy Mother, the first and the most exalted of all the redeemed’? (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici doloris, n. 26).

rosaire_1024x768.jpg3. If Lourdes leads us to reflect upon the maternal love of the Immaculate Virgin for her sick and suffering children, the next International Eucharistic Congress will be an opportunity to worship Jesus Christ present in the Sacrament of the altar, to entrust ourselves to him as Hope that does not disappoint, to receive him as that medicine of immortality which heals the body and the spirit. Jesus Christ redeemed the world through his suffering, his death and his resurrection, and he wanted to remain with us as the ‘bread of life’ on our earthly pilgrimage. ‘The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World’: this is the theme of the Eucharistic Congress and it emphasises how the Eucharist is the gift that the Father makes to the world of His only Son, incarnated and crucified. It is he who gathers us around the Eucharistic table, provoking in his disciples loving care for the suffering and the sick, in whom the Christian community recognises the face of its Lord. As I pointed out in the Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, ‘Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become “bread that is broken” for others’ (n. 88). We are thus encouraged to commit ourselves in the first person to helping our brethren, especially those in difficulty, because the vocation of every Christian is truly that of being, together with Jesus, bread that is broken for the life of the world.

4. It thus appears clear that it is specifically from the Eucharist that pastoral care in health 18.jpgmust draw the necessary spiritual strength to come effectively to man’s aid and to help him to understand the salvific value of his own suffering. As the Servant of God John Paul II was to write in the already quoted Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, the Church sees in her suffering brothers and sisters as it were a multiple subject of the supernatural power of Christ (cf. n. 27). Mysteriously united to Christ, the man who suffers with love and meek self-abandonment to the will of God becomes a living offering for the salvation of the world. My beloved Predecessor also stated that ‘The more a person is threatened by sin, the heavier the structures of sin which today’s world brings with it, the greater is the eloquence which human suffering possesses in itself. And the more the Church feels the need to have recourse to the value of human sufferings for the salvation of the world’ (ibidem). If, therefore, at Quebec the mystery of the Eucharist, the gift of God for the life of the world, is contemplated during the World Day of the Sick in an ideal spiritual parallelism, not only will the actual participation of human suffering in the salvific work of God be celebrated, but the valuable fruits promised to those who believe can in a certain sense be enjoyed. Thus pain, received with faith, becomes the door by which to enter the mystery of the redemptive suffering of Jesus and to reach with him the peace and the happiness of his Resurrection.

5. While I extend my cordial greetings to all sick people and to all those who take care of them in various ways, I invite the diocesan and parish communities to celebrate the next World Day of the Sick by appreciating to the full the happy coinciding of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes with the International Eucharistic Congress. May it be an occasion to emphasise the importance of the Holy Mass, of the Adoration of the Eucharist and of the cult of the Eucharist, so that chapels in our health-care centres become a beating heart in which Jesus offers himself unceasingly to the Father for the life of humanity! The distribution of the Eucharist to the sick as well, done with decorum and in a spirit of prayer, is true comfort for those who suffer, afflicted by all forms of infirmity.

May the next World Day of the Sick be, in addition, a propitious circumstance to invoke in a special way the maternal protection of Mary over those who are weighed down by illness; health-care workers; and workers in pastoral care in health! I think in particular of priests involved in this field, women and men religious, volunteers and all those who with active dedication are concerned to serve, in body and soul, the sick and those in need. I entrust all to Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, the Immaculate Conception. May she help everyone in testifying that the only valid response to human pain and suffering is Christ, who in resurrecting defeated death and gave us the life that knows no end. With these feelings, from my heart I impart to everyone my special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 11 January 2008

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI