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Mary’s Mantle of Divine Mercy

Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But the name of this tree was deceptive. They already knew the good, indeed, it was all they knew. Really, the fruit of this tree was the knowledge of evil, not in an academic appreciation but by an actual participation in it. Innocence is destroyed and ashamed of their nakedness they hide themselves.

We should ask ourselves, are we like the old Adam and Eve or like the new, Jesus and Mary? Full of grace, Mary has not been touched by sin. She is utterly devoted to her Son, the source of her holiness. She brings all her spiritual children to Jesus. She would invite them to put on the wedding garment of the Lamb. We do not have to be fearful or ashamed anymore. Forgiveness is available. But, without the Lord, we remain naked and exposed. We are called to put on Christ.

When I imagine Mary’s mantle, my mind races back to my childhood. My mother would tuck me in when I went to bed. She would check on me on cold nights and adjust the blanket. She desired to keep me safe and warm. Mary wants the same.

Mary’s mantle of mercy does not merely protect us from the justice of God; its very fabric is the Divine Mercy, himself.

Black Sheep Dog or BLACK WOLF?

SOLT PRESS RELEASE – July 5, 2011

HOW IT STARTED

Father Corapi made his first announcement in March 2011:

On Ash Wednesday I learned that a former employee sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women. I have been placed on “administrative leave” as the result of this… All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned.

EWTN removed his programs from the cable network:

In EWTN’s thirty years of existence, the Network has never knowingly aired programming featuring any priest whose priestly faculties have been suspended. The Network has always responded consistently and immediately in such situations by removing such programs from the air. We are obliged to do so in obedience to the discipline of the Church. Father John has long been a friend of EWTN and many of us have worked closely with him throughout the years. He is a tremendously gifted preacher who has led many souls to Christ. We are doing exactly as he has asked and supporting him and everyone involved in the situation in the best way possible, through our prayers.

Many of us were unfamiliar with the nature of his SOLT religious community:

The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity is a community of disciples of Jesus and Mary composed of all vocations: priests, deacons, brothers, sisters and single and married laity. The Society was founded in 1958 and has been approved by Rome as a Society of Apostolic Life. ‎Ecclesial Teams are the basis of our community life as well as the means by which our missions are staffed. A complete Ecclesial Team is composed of at least one priest, religious and lay person or married couple. At the present, the International Headquarters of Our Lady’s Society is located in the United States, in the city of Robstown, Texas under the Diocesan jurisdiction of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas. In looking forward to when The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity achieves Pontifical Status within the Church, the International Offices will be transferred at that time to Rome, Italy.

There was a clarification from the lucrative company, Santa Cruz Media, over which Fr. Corapi was identified as the CEO:

Santa Cruz Media, Inc. is the owner of all of Fr. John Corapi’s intellectual property and the DVDs, CDs, and books that flow from it. We are a secular corporation and not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way. As such, we are not under the jurisdiction of any bishop or other official in the Catholic Church, although we have the utmost respect for Church authority.

Here is my FACEBOOK comment from March 2011:

FATHER JOE: Priests are men under authority. Fr. Corapi, himself, says that they cannot play games with their promise of obedience and others should respect this. If Father Corapi’s faculties have been removed and his ministry suspended, then EWTN was morally required to take the action they did. Hopefully the matter will be resolved and he will be restored to his place on television and radio. Having said this, the sale of media (audio, video, web and print) would also fall under “ministry.” Given the situation, Fr. Corapi could certainly require Santa Cruz Media, Inc. (an extension of his ministry) to suspend sales and distribution of his materials. I suspect that the good priest is innocent, but there is much to which we are not privy. Prayer is our proper posture at this time, not ridicule of episcopal jurisdiction in the Catholic Church.

WHERE IT STANDS NOW

ON JUNE 17, 2011 AN ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE BY FATHER CORAPI THAT HE WOULD CONTINUE MINISTRY BUT NOT AS A PRIEST IN GOOD STANDING. IT IS A VERY SAD DAY.

FATHER JOE:

(June 2011)  I have not blogged about this matter until now and I am not comfortable about posting on it.  This issue has gone beyond Father Corapi and could harm the very souls for whom he has confessed concern.  Already on the social network sites, his fans are taking sides with him and attacking the Church. This has quickly become a very dangerous situation, another reason why cult worship of religious media personalities should be discouraged. Our faith is in Jesus and the Church, not in preachers with impressive rhetoric and militant attitudes.

This business has gone sour and Father Corapi, as much as I hate to say it, is duplicitous in saying (on one hand) that the bishops have a right to do what they are doing and then (on the other) to malign them for violating his rights and daring to impose discipline upon him. He is a priest and cannot pretend to be anything else, as with this pathetic “black sheep dog” foolishness. His failure to shut down his multimillion dollar business was an early sign that he would not obey the demand of the bishops to suspend public ministry. Now he is taking it to the next level. Faithful Catholics have no choice; in tears and anguish, we must leave Father Corapi. Pray for him but do not participate in his pretense of obedience while he is actually disobedient. True humility would have him submit and accept the Cross. His obstinacy insists that no one will tell him what to do– that was the trouble with his independence all along.  More grievous than any genuine or false indiscretion with a woman, the skirting or outright violation of obedience is the greatest possible failing for any priest.  Everything from his assignments to the moral life is covered in his fidelity to the Church and Christ.  He is to discern God’s will in his obedience to the bishop and his superiors.  Evidently, he has become a dissenter on the nature of priesthood and its obligations, as well as upon Catholic ecclesiology.   While on “administrative leave,” a suspended priest can neither preach nor teach religion; his intention to do so anyway would be a movement toward the Protestant camp, no matter what the message.

REMARKS ON HIS STATEMENT

FATHER CORAPI:  All things change, only God stays the same, so I have to tell you about a major change in my life. I am not going to be involved in public ministry as a priest any longer. There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone, and I shall be gone. I have been guilty of many things in the course of my life, and could easily and justifiably be considered unfit to engage in public ministry as a priest.

FATHER JOE:  The problem is that priesthood is not merely a job we can change or a hat we can trade for another. Even if the priest is laicized, he is configured to Christ as a priest, forever. If he cannot engage in public ministry, then he cannot do so in any fashion, even if he drops his priestly title or goes under a pseudonym as in a superhero’s secret identity. [It is rarely permitted, but sometimes a laicized priest can give religious instructions with permission of the bishop if it is generally not known that he was a priest and no scandal would result.  Fr. Corapi is too well known for this exception ever to apply.]  The label “Black Sheep Dog” is a literary fiction without meaning. It says nothing that would grant him an escape from Church censure. He is a suspended priest who has no faculties for preaching or publicly teaching the faith. That means he cannot do it— even on the Internet or with books or with audio/visual media. If the Church authorities want him gone, and it is uncertain who he really means, then he should pursue his canonical rights in private. He has opted not to do this. Suspensions can take a year or more to resolve. He did not last three months! That is hardly the image of a tough former Special Forces military man. (But wait, we found that this part of his biography was a fabrication. We will let that fact check go given his more serious troubles.) Of course, he may acknowledge one important grain of truth; he may indeed be “unfit to engage in public ministry as a priest.” It should be said that all priests are unworthy.  The best of priests fall short.  If he were sincere then he should fight for his priesthood, no matter how much time it might take to be restored to ministry or good standing.  However, such must be done within the system and among the fraternity of his brother priests.  He should hold his tongue about how he feels about the process and treat the bishop, his superiors and the Church with trusting respect.  A priest who caricaturizes the Church as the enemy is burning his bridges.  These latest remarks have ignited a fiery inferno.  Fame and fortune should mean nothing to a good and humble priest.  He might argue that the Church has forced his hand, but every faithful priest knows this not true.  The laity may not clearly understand this situation.  Our lives and obligations are very different.  He may want to step away from his priesthood, but a priest he is, and that means that any public ministry without ecclesial approbation will be PROTESTANT ministry, not Catholic.

FATHER CORAPI:  I did not start this process, the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas ordered my superiors, against their will and better judgment, to do it. He in fact threatened to release a reprehensible and libelous letter to all of the bishops if they did not suspend me.

FATHER JOE:  Notice how quickly Fr. Corapi uses the word libelous. Would he resort to the civil courts to punish any in the hierarchy who would dare challenge him, his importance and his resources? He says that he loves the Church and so I am hoping that he will not.  Nevertheless, are the assets of his “for profit” company fully his or do they belong to the Church?  I suspect they are in his name.  We might see a fight about this yet.  In his own mind, he is the Church’s great defender. He is Superman, Batman and the Green Lantern all rolled up into one. His fans echo his own conviction— “Oh how will the Church survive without him?” In truth, the Church will fare perfectly well without him. But, if he decides to pursue this BLACK SHEEP DOG nonsense, it is possible that he could inflict great harm upon the Church and cost good people their salvation. As for the bishop’s actions, it confirms what I suspected, that SOLT was impotent in reigning in this isolated Lone Ranger priest who had made religion into his own personal big business.  Let me be fair, he may not have started out expecting this happen.  But the media can make celebrities of anyone, even religious leaders.  When fans tell you that you are wonderful, their praise can be seductive and the person can become addicted to adulation.  This is deadly for the minister of God.  Everything we have is gift.  Every priest should be the poor man– the sinner who seeks to bring God’s mercy to other sinners.  Fr. Corapi did some incredible work.  My fear is that everything might now be undone.

FATHER CORAPI:  My canon lawyer and my civil lawyers have concluded that I cannot receive a fair and just hearing under the Church’s present process. The Church will conclude that I am not cooperating with the process because I refuse to give up all of my civil and human rights in order to hold harmless anyone who chooses to say defamatory and actionable things against me with no downside to them. The case may be on hold indefinitely, but my life cannot be.

FATHER JOE:  And who are these canon and civil lawyers? Was there an appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome? No, I doubt it. My suspicion is that Fr. Corapi refused to cooperate with the process. Maybe he never understood what the Catholic priesthood was really about? His promise of obedience was not selective and he had indeed surrendered certain rights. He promised celibacy and gave up an important natural right to marry. His overall promise of obedience meant that he would speak for the Church and not for himself on matters of faith and morals. In a negative way, it also meant that he would not speak if the Church so deemed. His faculties to say Mass, to hear Confessions, to preach and to publicly teach, all fell under lawful authority. He was to function as an extension of the Church and his bishop. Now he is claiming that such a promise of obedience conflicts with his “civil and human rights.”  He should reflect more intensely upon the biblical scene where Jesus washed the feet of his apostles.  The first must be last.  He was called to be a servant, not the Master.  Demanding large audiences and tens of thousands of dollars for talks is not the way of humble priests.  The Pope could give him a lesson.  We call the Holy Father the “Servant of the Servants of God.”  This word “servant” can be translated as SLAVE.  In any case, I guess Fr. Corapi wants his own version of freedom, but he will pay a terrible price for his alienation from the true Church.

FATHER CORAPI:  I shall continue, black sheep that I am, to speak; and sheep dog that I am, to guard the sheep—this time around not just in the Church, but also in the entire world. I am, indeed, not ready to be extinguished. Under the name “The Black Sheep Dog,” I shall be with you through radio broadcasts and writing.

FATHER JOE:  The sheep dog has no occupation separated from the chief shepherd or bishop. A dog that runs after the sheep on its own is not a true sheep dog, but rather we use another name for that canine… we call him a wolf. If people leave the Church or attack our bishops over this scandal then I would suggest that Fr. Corapi change the name of his blog and new label to BLACK WOLF.

FATHER CORAPI:  I hope you stay with us and follow us into our new domain and name of “The Black Sheep Dog.” Through writing and broadcasting we hope to continue to dispense truth and hope to a world so much in need of it.

FATHER JOE:  Those who collaborate, defend and buy his products will be offering material support to a suspended priest. In other words, he will be making his sin, their own.

Dear Fr. Corapi, reconsider what you are planning to do.  Speaking as a brother priest, (if I were in your shoes), before bringing spiritual harm to others and scandal to the Church, I would have preferred to “quietly lie down and die.”   But in actuality, the Church is not asking you to do this.  We want you to live and to offer oblations for God’s people.  You are a priest and your prayers to heaven have power even if they are said from a lonely monastic cell.  You do not have to shout from the housetops  to be a good priest.  I know my words are critical and I might sound harsh, but I am thinking both of you and of your followers.  We all make mistakes.  We are all sinners.  Sometimes we speak out of turn.  We become frustrated and afraid.  Old demons try to reclaim us under new guises.  Be strong!  Be a man!  Be a priest!  Be a faithful son of the Church, no matter what the personal cost.     

The complete statement by Father Corapi is available on THE BLACK SHEEP DOG site.

CALLING BLACK SHEEP DOG BACK HOME

UPDATE

Joan Frawley Desmond writes a masterful and eye-opening article for the National Catholic Register (June 19) on the Fr. John Corapi scandal.  Not only his fans, but his dear friend retired Bishop Rene Gracida were apparently duped by the famous media priest.  Incardinated into the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), Fr. Gerard Sheehan, his religious superior, revealed that the process and investigation into possible misconduct was complicated by Fr. Corapi, himself.  The priest had gone ahead and filed a civil suit against the former employee who accused him of sexual misconduct.

“When she left the company, she signed a contract that she would not reveal anything that happened to her while she was at Santa Cruz Media. Fr. Corapi paid her for this. Father was suing her for a breach of contract.  In canon law, there can’t be any pressure on witnesses; they have to be completely free to speak. The investigation was compromised because of the pressure on the witnesses. There were other witnesses that also had signed non-disclosure agreements.  The canon lawyers were in a difficult situation, and Father does have his civil rights and he decided to follow his legal counsel, which he had a right to do.  We tried to continue the investigation without speaking to the principal witnesses.”

If innocent of wrongdoing, why did Fr. Corapi pay employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement?  About what were they not supposed to speak?  Evidently he did not like where things were going and so he sent SOLT in writing his resignation from “active ministry and religious life.”  This brought the investigation to an end.  This insures that no report will be published.  Fr. Sheehan noted that he sent him a letter in return asking for confirmation.

As I suspected, the society was offering him ways to save his priesthood and he decided not to do so.  He refused to leave Montana and live within a SOLT community.  He refused to meet or talk with his superior.  He refused to live according to their rule of life and the changes approved by the Holy Father.  It seems that his failure at obedience went far deeper than anyone could have imagined.  He maligned a Church that was very patient and fair with him.  He cast himself as the victim while orchestrating something entirely different behind the scenes.  It makes me want to weep and weep and weep.

His superior stated:

“We wanted him to come back to the community, and that would have meant leaving everything he has. It would have been a drastic change for him.  We will continue to move pastorally and charitably, taking steps to protect his good name.”

His autobiography, BLACK SHEEP DOG, was in the works for some time which indicates that this break from ministry as a priest was planned all along.

I mentioned earlier that this business brings into question the oversight or lack therefore over members by such societies.  Why was Fr. Corapi not living in conformity with SOLT’s 1994 constitution?  There is no good answer, except that the society looked the other way. Fr. Sheehan assures us that the rules will be enforced in the future:

 “The founder’s arrangement with Father Corapi was established before that time, when Father Flanagan believed that every mission should take care of its own needs.  Now, according to our constitution, a different way of life has been established for members. All the money we make is turned over to the society, which gives us an allowance.”

I also mentioned months ago on FACEBOOK that while his home and operations were in the Helena diocese, he had no faculties from the bishop to engage in ministry there.  This shows the depth of his free reign and lack of ecclesial supervision.  All the Church is insisting upon now is what should have been in place initially.  Despite what Fr. Corapi says against the bishop of Corpus Christi, the official diocesan news release stated “that SOLT authorities had initiated the action to temporarily remove him from active ministry.”

I suspect that Father (Mister?) Corapi will have a spin on these new revelations, with an appropriate marketing pitch for his media products and books.  This tragedy may make a cynic of me yet.  But I hope not, such is also not befitting a priest.

A PRAYER FOR FR. CORAPI

I have offered Mass and prayed for Father. There is a frenzy about this subject that I did not really anticipate and which makes me uncomfortable. We really need to love him. If he has disappointed us, we need to forgive him, too. Below is a prayer I will share with you. I sometimes compose my prayers and will be saying this regularly on his behalf. God bless you all!

Dear Heavenly Father,

We want to bring to you in prayer our beloved priest, Father John Corapi. It is hard to know what is going on and our trust has been sorely tried.

He has inspired us with his example of reform and instructed us with his sound Catholic teaching. He has proclaimed the Gospel without equivocation or apology. He quickly became a rock of truth in a world filled with compromise and deception. He defended the rights of the unborn when so many were silent. While the Church was rocked with scandals involving the clergy, here was a towering figure that seemed to epitomize both real manhood and priestly courage. We listened to him on the radio and watched him on television. While a few saw him in person, most of us came to know and to love him through the modern communications media. Millions had the opportunity to encounter him, and through him, the Christ whose kingdom is breaking into the world.

We desperately wanted him to be a saint and yet he himself reminded us again and again that like all the rest of us, he was a sinner. We all fall short of the glory of God. Today, however, he faces a serious personal trial and perilous choices. Many of his friends have abandoned him. Others deride him with no regard for his priestly dignity and all the good work he accomplished in your name. Still others seek to defend him by defaming the Church he has always loved.

The facts are becoming clearer, but we do not know what is going though his heart and mind. If he is angry, please Lord— grant him the gift of a tranquil heart and the patience to endure all things for Christ Crucified. If he is fearful, please Lord— let him know that you are with him and that he need not be afraid. Many temptations face us all, but priests in particular face the worse assaults of the devil. If he has fallen, pick him up. If he remains standing, then give him the courage to embrace humility and truth in the coming storm. Even brave men sometimes need a greater share of courage. Do not allow him to run away from his high calling. He participates in the high priesthood of Christ; there is no more crucial vocation. Let him know that even if he should be reduced to poverty and have to minister alone in prayer or to the smallest congregation, that the oblations of such a priest still have infinite meaning and power.

Promises are made to be kept. Father often spoke about this in regard to the sanctity and dignity of the marriage covenant. He made promises as well— to be a servant of all by embracing a life of celibate love and of obedience to the voice of Jesus in the bishops and his superiors. Preserve him in your grace and defend him against the sins that afflict him, particularly that of pride and of despair. As long as there is the breath of life, there is hope. Let him embrace this hope and put on the mind and the heart of Christ in the Church.

When it seems that a great defender of the Church is suddenly in an adversarial relationship with her, it is easy to see that something has gone terribly wrong. It is our prayer that this beloved priest will surrender his life and his work, all that he is and all that he has done, into the loving arms of the Church over which the Blessed Mother gives the protection of her mantel of mercy. Dear Lord, we know you are not finished with him yet; but we also know that no service to you can be authentic and fruitful if there is a denial of his priestly office. Help him to see this and to know the graces that will testify to your truth and glory.

Amen.

Polygamy OUT, Monogamy IN

Msgr. Pope writes a good post on his blog about the seeming conflict between the monogamous plan of creation in Genesis and the practice of polygamy by the ancient patriarchs.

Msgr. Pope’s Blog Article: Don’t Do Polygamy

In passing, he notes that marriage is defined by God as a relationship between a man and a woman. The core purposes of marriage are also espoused:

  1. Adam is lonely and is given a helpmate who complements him in a shared nature.
  2. Adam and Eve are told to be fruitful and multiply.

The unitive meaning (fidelity) and procreation are stressed. There is nothing capricious about this bond. It is expected that it will be lasting and life-long. They are no longer two, but one.

But as we hear from our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew, there is a problem with their hardness of hearts. The early believers are much like their pagan neighbors. The marriage bed is compromised with many would-be spouses and Moses would even allow a writ of divorce. This is not the way things were supposed to be.

It may be that primitive men of faith lacked the capacity to receive the fullness of truth and God tolerated or even used a situation that would later be remedied. Further, as with various Islamic men today, such extended households were usually reserved to the wealthy and/or to the leadership. Most men had their hands full caring for one wife and family. By the time of Jesus, polygamy was frowned upon and the sin of adultery was attached to any who would compromise a singular union. We must learn from God’s Word, not by extracting isolated proof texts but by an integral approach which respects progressive revelation. The people of God grow in the ways of God and the fullness of truth.

Msgr. Pope argues that the rivalries between the wives and the place of their children are illustrative that polygamy was always frowned upon by God. It is fraught with problems. I would concur, although even having one wife can be a source of both joy and heartache, going back to Adam, the first man. When ladies lament that they feel sorry for priests and wish we could get married, I often respond (somewhat tongue-in-cheek), “Why would I want to get married; I have enough penance in my life!”

Today, our society is indeed returning to the transgressions and abuses of the past. Divorce and remarriage, or the practice of cohabitation and fornication, is essentially serial or successive polygamy. Similarly, just as certain Greeks tolerated and institutionalized homosexual liaisons, there are efforts today to condone and legalize same sex civil unions. When will we learn?

Pic:  Adapted from National Catholic Register Blog, America’s Most Complete Catholic News Source.

Mary as an Antidote to Sin & Temptation

There are innumerable temptations and sins which afflict modern men and women. Honor given to Mary may be an antidote to many of these. Mary says YES to God when so many say NO. God was at the center of her existence. We push God off into the periphery of our lives and sometimes with a loss of faith, under the rug. We pretend that we do not need God and that we have a large level of control over our lives. This is a lie, though, and sooner or later mortality fails us.

Mary, on the other hand, humbly submitted herself into the hands of God. She trusted in his providence which called her forth and imbued her with the mystery of mysteries, the incarnate Christ. She was chaste and pure, qualities no longer deemed as having value. She accepted her miraculous motherhood. Today many women run away from this noble vocation and either medicate their fertility away or destroy the child in the womb.

Where do we find ourselves in the story of Jesus and Mary? Are we defenders of decency and champions for the Gospel of Life? It may be that some of us have compromised ourselves. Mary, like Jesus, will always embrace the prodigal who comes home.

We should not dismiss the guilt and shame we feel; rather, there should be acknowledgment of fault, repentance, conversion, renewed faith and healing.

The Receiving & Giving of Mary

There is something strangely dynamic about Mary in that she receives within her the Christ so that she might give him to the world. It was with this insight that some of the Church fathers spoke about her as a tube or straw. Her personal virginity is not infringed upon and yet the one who is the Way comes into the human family by “way” of this maiden of Israel. She is there at the very beginning and she will be there when his saving work is accomplished. It is on Golgotha that she takes back to herself, into her arms, the Son that she gave to mankind. He is abruptly gone but she remains, given to our emissary John. When others ran away, she sought to be near her Son. She will always be near him.

After the Lord rose and ascended, the early Church cared for her in the desire of believers to be near Christ. They knew that respect and honor given her would be looked upon kindly by Christ. There was confidence that the bond she had with him had not been severed by his passion and death. Motherhood, and I should hasten to add, fatherhood, are not temporary jobs but lifelong vocations. This holy vocation of love lasts as long as there is life; and of course, in Christ, life is eternal.

The apostolic community saw in Mary’s intimacy with Christ something of its own hope for life and desire for union with Jesus.

A Private Litany for Mary

Response: Hear our prayer.

Mary, the maiden of prophecy, R.

Mary, conceived immaculately in the womb, R.

Mary, entrusted by your aged mother to temple service, R.

Mary, approached by God’s angel at the Annunciation, R.

Mary, watching over the Christ Child in a manger, R.

Mary, fleeing with Joseph and Jesus into Egypt, R.

Mary, warned of the piercing sword at the temple presentation, R.

Mary, searching for Jesus among the crowds, R.

Mary, weeping at the foot of the Cross, R.

Mary, holding the dead body of your Son, R.

Mary, witnessing the resurrected Christ, R.

Mary, matriarch over the whole Church, R.

Marian Hymns Without Mary & Jesus?

There are beautiful Marian hymns, ancient and modern, everything from Ave Maria and Immaculate Mary to the more modern, Sing of Mary, Pure and Lowly. But some have attempted to censor Mary and Jesus out of Christmas and Marian hymns. Austere Protestants might sanitize beautiful melodies of Marian references. Secularists and non-Christians would subtract Jesus. There are also new melodies and songs which portray Mary in ways that Catholics might find offensive. Desiring a larger audience, critics might mean well and no slight, but informed Catholics are still understandably disturbed.

Ending traditionally, I am reminded of Barry Manilow’s nondescript English “maiden’s prayer” substitution for the Latin, Hail Mary in the AVE MARIA. Subtle but problematic is the popular song, MARY, DID YOU KNOW? It has been claimed that the composer (Mark Lowry) intended a denial of the Catholic teaching about Mary as the Immaculate Conception (already saved). Sadly, Catholic parishes and schools sometimes perform songs without really reflecting upon the doctrinal content. We are so preoccupied with entertainment and performance that we have neglected the appreciation that hymns can teach and function as expressions of prayer.

Let us never forget that we must worship God and honor his saints in truth.

Women Like Mary are Not Ordinary

I read a defender of Mary’s dignity and singular role in the Church, assert that we cannot treat her like ordinary women. I would not dispute this but I would object to the word, “ordinary.” Is there really such a thing as an ordinary woman? The women in our lives prove themselves to be quite extraordinary. Indeed, those who model themselves on Mary and who fulfill the counter-cultural exhortations from St. Paul and other Scriptural authors, illustrate both holiness and an intense capacity for sacrificial love. Married women honor and serve their husbands as they would Christ. Their husbands are to demonstrate a reciprocal love that is modeled on Christ’s acceptance of the Cross for his bride, the Church. There may be nothing in this world more moving and vital than the Christian woman. She is the heart of the home and of the Church. Mary is inseparably connected to these women as the supreme exemplar.

Mary testifies to holiness and unity with Christ. His flesh had been joined and dependent upon hers in the womb; but there was a spiritual connection which could never be severed. As the Immaculate Conception, she responded to the saving works of God like no other human being ever could.

The YES of Mary was not just a personal response but one for the sake of the whole world and all who would come to believe.

Mary & Other Women Will Not Be Discarded

We live in a world where we make people disposable. They are often treated as a means to an ends. Oriental sweat shops keep our prices down and the profits up while costing American workers their jobs. There is a mounting national debt and we seem all too willing to pass it on to the next generation so that we can sustain our standards of living and government bureacracy. Disasters happen every day around the world but we never seem to care as much as when something bad happens here at home or to people we love. While human life is incommensurate we tend to put a price tag upon the value of persons and their dignity.

The Virgin Mary remains important and was not simply a minor character in the history of salvation about whom we can forget. Just as Mary is not discarded or dumped as someone who has served her purpose; all women, indeed all people, must be regarded as having immeasurable dignity and worth. Every day is an opportunity to make a difference and to live out our calling. Our commitment to God and to one another is not simply a onetime act of faith, but a continual surrender and cooperation with God’s will. Mary’s role stretched throughout the life of Jesus, his hidden private life and later his public ministry.

Indeed, Mary continues to have a maternal role to play in the lives of all believers.

We Love Our Mother Mary

Can we love Mary too much? I doubt it. The late Pope John Paul took as his motto, “Totally Yours,” in reference to the Blessed Mother. He had lost his mother when he was a child. The only real mother he ever knew was the Virgin Mary. He would even credit her with saving his life from an assassin’s bullet.

Could Jesus love his Mother too much? If the divine love is infinite then it would seem that whatever measure we can weigh in her regard will always be lacking. Nevertheless, we seek to imitate Jesus.

Some critics act as if they are embarrassed that Jesus ever had a Mother. This is not the Catholic stance. Jesus kept the commandments, including the honoring of his parents. If Jesus could love and honor Mary, who are we not to do likewise? We love Mary and she loves us with a Mother’s heart.

Imitating Mary, women of faith are essential to the life of the Church, but they need the heart of the handmaid and not the feminist terrorist who comes to tear down. Mary loved her Son, the Great High Priest.

Women with a maternal love for priests are at the heart of the Church. Mary’s strength was creative, not destructive.