DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     September 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 170

APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH

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    INTRODUCTION
      Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.

      It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

    Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.

THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

The Second Eve was Immaculately conceived

        The Blessed Virgin Mary is the "Second Eve" for God promised to send into the world a Savior to free man from his sins caused by the first parents and by sending this Messiah God would reopen the gates of Heaven. The promise was first made to Adam in Genesis 3: 15 when the Lord chastised the serpent, "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head." In this passage the woman spoken of is, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her seed is Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior. He was the Redeemer promised by God. The complete enmity God was speaking of was the enmity between Our Lord with his Mother Mary on one side, and the devil with his followers on the other.

        To prepare the perfect Tabernacle to bear the Son of God, the Father created Mary immaculate in the womb of Saint Anne so that Anne's daughter would be free of original sin and therefore provide the holiest of holies to house the Lord of Lords. This is called, of course, the Immaculate Conception a Dogma of the Church declared in 1854 by Pope Pius IX.

        God also gave all mankind a free will and so it was left to the young Mary to exercise that free will. She could have said 'no' to the Archangel Gabriel when he appeared to her in Nazareth at the Annunciation. She was certainly startled, but she realized the gravity of the question and what stood in the balance. Her fiat was "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy Will" (Luke 1: 38). At these words by Our Lady, the Holy Spirit mystically conceived in Mary's womb the Son of God; thus the Incarnation as He became a human fetus growing through the nine-month gestation period until the joyful Nativity of the Man-God Savior on Christmas in a cold, damp stable in Bethlehem. The mystery of the Incarnation is commemorated daily in the Angelus prayer said three times a day - morning, at noon and again at night.

        Mary's fiat continued forever for it couldn't have been easy,

    1) Being with child and not officially married; yet Mary accepted.

    2) The human emotions a mother-to-be goes through; yet Mary never questioned her decision or challenged God.

    3) Trying to assure her betrothed spouse Joseph that she was still a virgin, never defiled; his natural skepticism had to hurt her for she was telling the truth, but she was patient and understanding.

    4) Bearing up under the extreme weather conditions and harsh travel conditions in journeying by donkey to Bethlehem to register the family. Modern doctors would agree that such upheaval and constant motion would induce labor earlier than normal. Yet Mary accepted.

    5) Putting up with the scorn of rejection at the Inn when she could have told Joseph to go back in there and tell them just who she was and Who she was carrying. But pride never entered her heart or mind.

    6) Accepting the meagre and unsanitary conditions of a cold, sterile stable to deliver the Son of God. Any modern doctor or mother would be alarmed at such conditions for fear of infection both to the mother and child. But Mary knew God would provide.

    7) Being subservient to Joseph who awoke her in the middle of the night and just said, "get up, we're going!" Going where? Mary knew intuitively and responded obediently.

    8) The sorrowful times of her life, beginning with the prophecy by Simeon, then losing her Son in the temple. Imagine what could have been going through her mind. Any mother of today would be beside herself. Then the death of Joseph, who had been so pure and chaste and always provided the strong, assuring arm of love, leadership and protection in a quiet, unassuming way. Most widows today would be devastated and lost. Yet Mary pushed onward.

    9) The day Jesus left the home at 30 to go into the world. Any mother would have a tear and a fear after being with that child for as long as Christ lived at home, but Mary realized what had to be done and gave Him her blessing.

    10) Throughout His public ministry she knew when people were sincere and when they were merely caught up with the crowd. It had to thrill her heart when they cried out in belief and had to hurt her to the quick when they badgered Him or rejected His teachings.

    11) Imagine the emotions Mary experienced when she saw her Son, the Savior of the world, reduced to the resemblance of a common criminal with caked blood and dirt clinging to his matted hair and crusted to His body beneath fresh blood spurting from open wounds in His skull, hands, body and feet. The crucifixion would be bad enough but consider the condition Our Lord must have been by the time He arrived at the top of Calvary. How do you think Mary felt about all the Apostles save Saint John who seemingly abandoned her Divine Son during the Passion. Any one else would have held huge resentment toward them. But Mary found forgiveness in her heart, even for Judas Iscariot and the Romans and Jews who put Him to death.

    12) Think of a mother's emotion when her son is breathing his last breath and the crowds are eager for his death. Just like an execution today, so also on Calvary Mary had to feel so lonely and hurt but no more alone than when the dead corpse of her Divine Son was laid in her arms, forever perpetuated through Michelangelo's Pieta. A moment in time that tells volumes of a mother's love.

    13) Mary knew Scripture and the prophecies but, being human, she had to wonder like the rest. Was this truly the end? She knew in her heart it wasn't and because of her faith and trust in God, was able to survive the tremendous storms that came into her life. The calm after the storm came on that Easter morning when she quietly celebrated His Resurrection. She could have shouted from the rooftops, "I told you!" but instead remained in the background as the Apostles all came running back to Him. A lesser woman would have held resentment, asking "Where were you when He needed you?" But Mary realized human nature for what it was and because of that is the perfect messenger that God has sent over and over for the past two millenniums to reassure man that God is the ONLY WAY!

    14) When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left His mother with His chosen Apostles to help get them established. It was yet another fiat Mary totally accepted through her death or dormition period and Assumption into Heaven when God called her home.

    15) There have been many instances of the dead appearing to the living. In the Gospel, Moses and Elias appeared on Mount Thabor to Christ at the Transfiguration. At Christ's death, many who were dead rose and appeared in Jerusalem. The Blessed Virgin has, throughout the centuries, continued to appear to men; such instances are almost innumerable. She has remained a constant as the chief messenger from Heaven. But Saints have also returned to earth to comfort or instruct the living; even souls in Purgatory have returned, to beg for prayers. We must, however, be very careful about believing in particular instances of appearances by the dead; the devil can and often does use this instrumentality to trick the gullible. That is why the Church is so cautious regarding apparitions and private revelation. Holy Mother Church would like to believe, she would like the faithful to believe, but if it is a trick of the evil one it will defeat and deflate. You can imagine Mary's consternation at times when true words from her are met with skepticism by the Church and her officials, the bishops - successors of the Apostles. But she realizes caution and obedience are the wisest course and satan loves to imitate, mock and urges disobedience. Therefore she asks all to pray for discernment and is continuously urging us to obey the Magisterium of her Son's Holy Church and focusing all attention on her Divine Son, guiding us as a loving Mother will.

        The most confusing issue with non-Catholics is Our Lady. As converted professor and Mariologist today Scott Hahn puts it, there were three things that prevented him from joining the Church earlier: "Mary, Mary, and Mary!" The non-Catholic mentality is that Catholics put too much emphasis on the Mother of God and treat her as God. That is a mistaken assumption and nothing could be further from the truth for Mary is totally human. There is no divinity in her except when she housed the Divine in her human womb for nine months. Catholics treat Mary just as Jesus asks us to: with reverence and respect. We ask Mary to intercede for us. Mary can do nothing on her own, but there is no one in Heaven more persuasive who has God's ear first and foremost than His Holy Mother. That is why Catholics always joke about having the inside track because we go through His Mother and God can't say 'no' to His Mother because God has elevated her to the highest place in Heaven reserved for humans - as Queen of Heaven which incorporates Queen of Angels and Saints as well as Mother of His Church on earth. Every title attributed to her is inspired by the Most Blessed Trinity for she is the Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. When questioned by non-Catholics about how we treat Mary, our reply should always be: Jesus obeyed and respected His Mother all His life, should we do less?

      Tomorrow: We return to the Successors of the Apostles - the Bishops

Sep 8, 1999       volume 10, no. 170
GREAT DEPOSIT OF FAITH

DAILY CATHOLIC

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