Catholic Exchange: The Freedom of Mary’s Immaculate Conception

Today the Church celebrates the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is the day we celebrate how Our Heavenly Mother was the first to receive the merits of her Divine Son’s Paschal Mystery. Unlike us, she was conceived without the taint of Eve’s sin coursing through her. Do we contemplate this great mystery? What it is to be conceived without Original Sin? To be free of the enslavement of sin is a tremendous gift Christ bestowed upon His mother.

We live in an age largely devoid of a true understanding of sin. There is no good or evil because each individual decides truth. If it is true or good for me, then it is not evil. In essence, this creates a system and moral law devoid of any truth. In fact, it is no moral law at all. In reality, sin makes us want to live in the mud. We think being human requires frolicking in the slop of evil. We call this good. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in 2005 points out this error.

Precisely on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life:  the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say no, to descend into the shadows of sin and to want to do things on one’s own is part of being truly human; that only then can we make the most of all the vastness and depth of our being men and women, of being truly ourselves; that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves.

How often have we experienced this temptation? How often have people told us the exact same thing? According to far too many people, to be fully human is to sin. ‘You Catholics must live no life at all.’ It is “boring” to work towards sainthood. Our Heavenly Mother must have had no life at all. In reality, her life was much fuller than yours or mine because of the gift of being born without Original Sin.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The Annunciation: Antithesis to Terrorism and Nihilism

It should be apparent to the world that Islamists like those in ISIS are at war with everyone who does not submit to their prescribed religious tenants. Terrorists are not nihilists. There was an article published about a year ago on how terrorists are nihilists. This is false. The only thing nihilists and terrorists have in common is the use of violence and power to achieve an end. Nihilists believe in nothing. They believe there is no objective truth and that the strong must prevail over the weak. Islamists believe that the world must be brought to Allah through violence and war and that Islam is predicated upon violent domination. There is a great chasm of difference between these two ideologies, but the author is correct in seeing commonalities in violence.

As Catholics we are doing battle with both nihilism and Islamism at the same time because they are both opposed to the Living God. While force is necessary in certain circumstances in response to great evils in the world, we must also remember the spiritual weapons at our disposal. We must remember to turn to Our Heavenly Mother and to show the world God’s love. We must pray, fast, and give alms to those in need.

Mary is the antithesis of both nihilism and Islamism. Both use force, coercion, and violence in order to achieve their goals. The Triune God does not force us to come to Him. This is clearly demonstrated through the power, beauty, and love of the Annunciation.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26-38

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: The Maternal Love of Our Lady and the Church

The Church celebrates two Marian feast days in August: Assumption and The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is an inextricable link between the Church and Our Heavenly Mother, Mary. In fact, much of what has been said about the Church can also be applied to Our Lady. One of the closest connections between Our Lady and the Church is in the sanctifying maternity of both.

Mary carried Christ for the salvation of the world, just as the Church carries Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Mary has always been an example to the Church that is only superseded by Christ Himself. Lumen Gentium 53 states:

The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is “the mother of the members of Christ . . . having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head.” Wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

Month of Mary GIVEAWAY WINNERS

maywinnersThank you to everyone who entered my Month of Mary Giveaway. The random number generator tells me the winners are Maria and Maryann. Please email me your full name and address at swimmingthedepths@gmail.com so that I can order your copies of The Little Book of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Congratulations! Check back next month for another fun little giveaway. God bless.

Catholic Exchange: Mary, Mother of the Persecuted

Today I am writing for Catholic Exchange on how Our Lady can be our guide during periods of persecution.

There is little doubt that the situation for Christians in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Kenya, and other countries is dire. The number of martyrs for this year alone has reached well into the thousands. In the West attacks on Christian conscience have left multiple business owners with no livelihood or exorbitant fines. To the person who is paying attention to the times, there can be little doubt that the persecution promised by Our Lord is very real in our present age.

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-el’zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
Matthew 10:24-25 (RSV)

Persecution of the Church has been a reality since the beginning of the Church. If Our Lord and Savior was crucified, what makes us think that our fate should be any different? That persecution may come in a variety of forms, but one thing that is certain, there will be periods in our lives in which we will be maligned for our faith. In those moments we should turn to Our Heavenly Mother. She is the Mother of all Christians and she is the Mother of the persecuted.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Don’t forget to enter my Marian book GIVEAWAY for the month of May. Details can be found here.

Leaving 2013 Behind

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Hail Mary, full of grace.

Happy Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God!  Happy New Year and Merry Christmas (still!!!)!  This morning my husband and I went to Mass for this holy day of obligation that always falls on January 1st.  We are still smack in the middle of Christmas season and we celebrate Jesus Christ through His mother.  She is the Theotokos, mother of God (both his divine and human natures).  Our priest gave one of those homilies that made me feel like it was meant for me.  He did not focus so much on Mary, but on new starts and moving forward on the path to holiness.  If anyone can show me the way in my vocation, it is Our Heavenly Mother.

You see, 2013 was a very rough year for me.  It was filled with grief and loss, medical emergencies, bills, anxiety, depression, and stress.  I woke up this morning and thought, “I survived 2013”.  I might make a t-shirt.  Okay, not really.  Our priest said that we must put 2013 behind us.  We must leave the bad and bury it.  We can take the good from 2013 and use it to help us on the path to Sainthood, but the bad, it must go.  We must also look at our failings in 2013 and figure out how we can improve in 2014.  What is it that I need to do better in this year that God has given me?  And, yes, I was so grateful to be here for 2014, when so many are not.

I am not talking about resolutions that lead us to 3 month fitness club memberships that we abandon.  I am talking about our sins.  The ones we hold onto so tightly.  We must learn to let them go.  God has given each one of us another day to be guided in His loving correction.  I fail daily.  As Father gave his homily, I asked for God to make me a better wife and mother.  I am finding that my primary vocation is deeply difficult, but comes with great joy.  My secondary vocation of Lay Dominican, only strengthens my first through prayer.  There are things about myself that are not pretty, but God’s grace “can make me white as snow”.

So, yes, 2013 still hurts.  I miss the baby I lost and the friend I lost, but 2013 increased my prayer life, especially an awareness of how much we need to remember to pray for the dead.  Losing people I love has shown me that my love for them does not die because they are behind the veil and I am not.  I think of them during Mass when I partake in the Heavenly Liturgy.  I think of my babies when I see another child in a mother’s arms.  I pray for the dead each time I pass a cemetery.  So, in a way, my grief has strengthened my resolve and understanding that this is not the end.  Even though 2013 was one of the hardest years of my life, as always, God has used it for His good.  I pray you have a very blessed 2014.  Where are some areas that you need to improve on your path to holiness this year?