Fr. Daniel Gifford
OUR MOTHER, OUR INSPIRATION
Have you ever considered how others, who personally knew the Holy Family, would have related to the Virgin Mary? Tomorrow (Monday, December 9), we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which honors the mystery that this woman was conceived without original sin and was preserved from ever falling into sin for her entire life long. How might those who knew her have reacted to her? I think it is important to acknowledge that there would have been some who would have found it difficult to get along with her, perhaps even hated her. Of course, this is not a mark of fault on her part, but of the nature of our own sinfulness. Encountering the righteousness, and even holiness, of others has a way of magnifying our own faults and imperfections. It can even evoke resentment within us and all manner of thoughts of unjust judgment. Only by a careful examination of conscience can we recognize that it is not, in fact, the other person who is at fault. This resentment is clearly a part of the deep brokenness of humanity due to original sin, accentuated to greater and lesser degrees depending on our own individual struggles, past experiences and sinfulness. If we can make those crucial examinations of conscience, not only can we recognize that it is not truly the fault of the righteous person, but also that their righteousness is meant, in the Divine Plan, to inspire us to work humbly but persistently to correct those failings that we see so clearly in light of their goodness. Rightly, then, we should also consider, how might Our Lady have inspired others, as well. How might she have inspired greater virtue, greater piety, greater devotion and ultimately even repentance in those whom she met? How can she be an inspiration to you and I? It can be helpful to consider the concrete lived reality of Mary’s life, even in its extraordinary ordinariness, in order to more deeply appreciate how she can be an inspiration to us. One thing that can be lacking in our ability to receive this inspiration that she offers can be the need to relate to her on a human level. For some, her Immaculate Conception can have a way of making her seem distant, unrelatable and inaccessible. But, the reality is that she lived in the same broken world as you and I. Her Immaculate Conception can inspire us to consider how unnatural our experience of humanity really is, since the beauty of God’s design in its original purity has been deformed by original sin. Mary is not less human than you or I, precisely because our brokenness makes us less human, not more. In a very real sense, she is more human than you or I, although it might be difficult for us to see her that way. One of our statues of Our Lady (front cover), which sits in the hallway between the Church and Harkrader Hall, depicts Mary in a manner that might be uniquely relatable to some. There is a kind of motion to this statue that seems to capture a uniquely human moment, in a manner that even seems to represent a bit of distress, which is nonetheless contained within a kind of intangible peacefulness. By her example and intercession, may she teach us to have this same peace, which is rooted in the trust born of living life in communion with God. GRADUAL PREPARATION FOR CHRISTMAS: You may have heard me share before that one of my practical recommendations for Keeping Christ in Advent is to be gradual in our decorations and other preparations for Christmas. Perhaps families and homes could even develop customs of putting out one or two new items every week or every day, throughout Advent, so that the season begins with the kind of peaceful simplicity that is truly meant to define it and Christmas seems to very gradually come nearer and nearer. You might notice we have been doing this by our Advent bulletins in this New Liturgical Year. We have been gradually “filling the nativity scene,” by featuring Saint Joseph last week and Our Blessed Mother, Mary this week. Get ready, because next week, we will add an Angel to our set! SPEAKING OF
MARY: In addition to featuring Mary in the bulletin this weekend, we are now in week two of an Advent homily series, which focuses on the Blessed Mother, her example and her perspective. Sometimes, giving “all this attention” to Mary can prompt some questions, perhaps especially from our non-Catholic family and friends. Perhaps we might relate to those questions or concerns ourselves, or at least we might not be sure how to respond to the questions that others bring to us. Does all this talk of Mary take the focus off of the Lord? Does God want us to have this kind of devotion to her? Is any of this found in Scripture? Before Advent is through, I will address some of these perfectly valid and quite important questions in the homilies. However, other questions will still remain. It is worth taking time to deepen our understanding of the role God planned for Mary to play in our faith and how Sacred Scripture offers us evidence of that. Thankfully, there are a few good series on FORMED.ORG that will help with this. One is “Lectio: Mary with Dr. Brandt Pitre” and the other is “The Bible and the Virgin Mary: Journey Through Scripture.”
REMINDER ABOUT INFORMATION TABLES: Recently, I have had a few more instances of stumbling upon random devotional items left at the information tables. This is a reminder that I periodically have to make again. Everything placed on the information tables must be approved by me. It is not appropriate to place devotional items that have not been specifically approved on the information tables. This is a practice that I suspect is probably done with the good intention of sharing things with others, and may even have been endorsed or permitted in the past. However, the reason it is my preference that the information tables are not the place for that kind of sharing is two-fold. First, it simply begins to clutter the tables, which are meant to be places where approved and important information and resources can be easily found. Second, the content of any devotional materials should be reviewed, as some things might contain elements that are problematic and should not be presented in a manner that implies that they are “endorsed” by Saint Louis Parish. These two reasons combine to make it quite an unmanageable situation, if we were to allow people to bring in any random devotional materials they wished to pass along. On a related note, Living Faith is the only periodic devotional that is approved for distribution in our adoration chapel. Thanks for your attention to this matter.
UNFORTUNATE NEWS: I encourage you to read the press release from the Diocese of Peoria, on our website or through the Catholic Post, regarding the surprising and disappointing news about the postponement of the beatification of Fulton Sheen. May we continue to keep this cause in our prayers, entrusting it into the hands of Our Blessed Mother.
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!