Woman Saint of the Week: Our Lady of Sorrows

Is there a mother who has not been caught in this position? Really, has there been any human being who has not been there? Face full of tears, looking toward anything, anyone to come an put all the pieces back together.

This is one of the titles of Mary that are directly related to Scripture. When Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the Temple to present him, Simeon and Anna are there to witness this miracle. Simeon prophesized, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the hearts of many may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34b-35)

immaculateheart

Hence the traditional iconography of Mary’s Immaculate Heart with swords through it.

Or, as St. Alphonsus Liguori paraphrased:

let us consider the reasons, for which Mary’s martyrdom was greater than that of all martyrs. In the first place, we must remember that the martyrs endured their torments, which were the effect of fire and other material agencies, in their bodies; Mary suffered hers in her soul, as Saint Simeon foretold: “And my own Soul, a sword shall pierce”. As if the holy old man had said: “O most Sacred Virgin, the bodies of other martyrs, will be torn with Iron, but thou wilt be transfixed, and martyred in thy soul, by the passion of thine own Son”. Now, as the soul is more noble than the Body, so much greater were Mary’s sufferings, than those of all of the martyrs, as Jesus Christ Himself said to Saint Catherine of Sienna: “Between the sufferings of the soul, and those of the body, there is no comparison”. Whence the Holy Abbot Arnold of Chartres says, “that whoever had been present on Mount Calvary, to witness the great sacrifice of the Immaculate Lamb, would there have beheld two great altars, the one in the Body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary; for, on that mount, at the same time that the Son sacrificed His body by death, Mary sacrificed her soul by compassion.”

Mother Mary, pray for us!

As I was writing this blog, this song came up on Spotify. Although the lyrics are problematic (don’t look too closely at them), I thought the tone was appropriate for our Lady of Sorrows:


Ellie Goulding- Explosions

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The Self-Sacrifice of Mary

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A statue of Mary, hollow and open to the world.

Today on the Feast Day of Mary’s Birth, I want to share with you a reflection I wrote on Mother’s Day over a year ago:

Imagine for yourself: A 13-year-old middle-eastern girl sitting at home, minding her own business. Maybe she’s doing chores. Maybe she’s studying. It won’t matter in a few moments what she is doing, because her life is about to change forever.

An angel comes to her. Now, she’s heard about angels from her parents and from services in the synagogue. She knows that angels are messengers from God. She’s heard about Abraham and the three messengers (Genesis 18). She knows that angels bring news of new life (Genesis 18:10) and of destruction (Genesis 18:20). What will this angel tell her?

The angel says, “Hail! The Lord is with you!”

The Lord is with you, what is that supposed to mean?

“Don’t be afraid,” the angel adds, “you have found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the 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.”

Mary had heard of the Lord opening wombs that are barren (Genesis 18:10, Genesis 25:21, Genesis 29:31, Genesis 30:22, Judges 13:3, 1 Samuel 1:19), but to make a virgin pregnant? She asks, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”

“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.”

The angel points out that her cousin who was barren is now pregnant. If God can do this, surely He can do as He has promised to her.

In this time period, pregnancy outside of marriage was not as common is it is today. Mary’s pregnancy would be taken as evidence that she had committed adultery and she could be stoned to death. But Mary believed in what the angel had said and believed that God would protect her. She said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Hence began the most important chapter in the history of the world. Mary risked her own life bringing Jesus into the world. Let alone the risk of stoning, the maternal mortality rate was through the roof in this time prior to modern medicine like antibiotics and blood transfusions.

She wasn’t just agreeing to 40 weeks and a dangerous delivery either. She was agreeing to a lifetime of change. She had to raise him. She had to follow him as he traveled the countryside preaching and healing. She had to watch her Son die.

Today is Mother’s Day. Women daily make sacrifices like Mary made in giving birth, raising a child and, sometimes, even tragically seeing that child die. Motherhood requires a complete self-sacrifice, a complete emptying of the self, to make room for new life to grow and prosper. It is one of the hardest, and the most rewarding, things that a woman can do.

Originally appeared at Ignitum Today.

Dynamic Women of the Bible: A Review

dynamicwomenofthebible

Awesome, awesome book! When I received this book from the publisher, it was in a format that I could only read on my computer. Honestly, I blew off reading it for a month because the last thing I wanted to do was read a book on my computer. Three hundred pages? Staring at a computer screen? Please! Once I started, however, I had a hard time stopping. The writing was entertaining and engaging. I was easily able to read all 334 pages on my computer, and thankfully, you won’t have to.

In this book, Tucker systematically looks at many of the women mentioned in the Bible. From Eve to the women mentioned in Paul’s letters, she takes their stories and breathes into them new life. She tells their stories using modern words and concepts. She uses her imagination to fill in the all-too-many gaps.

As a faithful Catholic, however, I do unfortunately need to add one caveat. I really wish I didn’t, I generally loved this book so much. Several times in the last 6 chapters, she said things that are offensive to Catholic sensibility. You can’t entirely blame her. She has an evangelical Calvinist background. It should be no surprise that her views on Mary and the deuterocanonical texts do not align with Catholic views. It is impressive that she even mentioned the deuterocanonical heroine, Judith. Many Protestant scholars wouldn’t have done that.

But I’ve spent enough time on my regrettable caveat. Yes, she does add things that are not found in the Biblical texts. Once or twice, she even says things that seem to go against the texts, but she is upfront about it when she does so. The book is also peppered with interesting quotes taken from other scholars and writers about the various women. I think the quotes really added another dimension. The quotes led me to adding even more books to my reading list. She really placed herself in the stories and encouraged the reader to do the same.

She has made me want to crack open the stories of some these Biblical women again. I hope she does the same to you. I fully intend to buy this book myself so I can read it again, this time not on a computer screen.

Dynamic Women of the Bible is available now. I have been given the opportunity to read this book in advance in exchange for an honest review. I thank Baker Books for this opportunity.

I was able to do this through my membership with NetGalley. If you’d like the opportunity to read good books and review them for your audience, membership to NetGalley is completely free and easy to sign up! I highly recommend it!

If you would like to read more about the Catholic views on the deuterocanon and Mary, I recommend the following articles:

5 Myths about 7 Books

The Old Testament Canon

Mary Ever Virgin

Immaculate Conception and Assumption

 

Woman in the Bible: St. Martha

Tell me: Doesn't she look totally bad-ass?

Tell me: Doesn’t she look totally bad-ass?

Martha often gets a bad rap. She’s the woman in the kitchen complaining about her sister. She’s the busybody that has no time for prayer. She’s the woman that we all are sometimes when what we really want is to be is Mary.

She doesn’t deserve all that, though. As one reflection notes, she’s not an “unrecollected activist.” She’s not being busy for the sake of being busy. While she’s working in the kitchen, she’s fully aware of what is going on in the front room.

“Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” -St. Martha (John 11:27)

Yes, she’s a bit of a worrier. And like anyone else, she’s angry that her sister is just sitting on her butt while she’s running around trying to be hospitable. Hospitality has historically been a very important Jewish virtue.

You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God.

-Leviticus 19:34 

Martha was a good and faithful woman who tried to live out her faith in her everyday life. How many of us can say that? St. Martha, pray for us!

Woman In The Bible: Mary Magdalene

Beside the tomb wept Magdalen at dawn, —
She sought to find the dead and buried Christ;
Nothing could fill the void now He was gone,
No one to soothe her burning grief sufficed.
Not even you, Archangels heaven-assigned!
To her could bring content that dreary day.
Your buried King, alone, she longed to find,
And bear His lifeless body far away.

Beside His tomb she there the last remained,
And there again was she before the sun;
There, too, to come to her the Saviour deigned, —
He would not be, by her, in love outdone.
Gently He showed her then His blessed Face,
And one word sprang from His deep Heart’s recess:
Mary! Hisvoice she knew, she knew its grace;
It came with perfect peace her heart to bless.

One day, my God! I, too, like Magdalen,
Desired to find Thee, to draw near to Thee;
So, over earth’s immense, wide-stretching plain,
I sought its Master and its King to see.
Then cried I, though I saw the flowers bloom
In beauty ‘neath green trees and azure skies:
O brilliant Nature! thou art one vast tomb,
Unless God’s Face shall greet my longing eyes.”

-St. Thérèse of Lisieux, found here

 

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Woman from the Bible: Unnamed Woman Who Anoints Jesus

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When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her.Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me.The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Mark 14:3-9

 

Her story is one of only a very few that is told in all four of the Gospels. Only John names her as Mary, the sister of Martha (Luke 10:38-42). The other three writers leave her unnamed. But, Jesus’ words remain true. Her actions have been proclaimed throughout the whole world, even if her name has not.

Maybe there is a lesson in that. After we die, it will be our behavior that people will remember most about us. How we treat others has a much more lasting impact than our names. Think about your own life. Can you think of any experiences in which you were treated with great kindness or great cruelty, but you don’t remember the person’s name (or you never knew their name in the first place)? I know I can.

So, keep that in mind as you go about your day today. Your actions are like a stone thrown into a pond. They have repercussions that you could never imagine and even after you have dropped below the waters of this life, the waves still live on.

stoneinwater

Woman from the Bible #2: Abigail

I took a quiz on Buzzfeed a couple days ago called “Which Bible heroine are you?” and I got Abigail. At first, I didn’t recognize the name, so I had to look her up. Once I found her, I discovered that 1) I had read her story recently and 2) the comparison is quite apt.

Unless his stupidity is about to get you all killed. (Photo Credit)
Abigail appears in 1 Samuel Chapter 25. Her husband is a stubborn man. When David and his men are coming through his land, they ask for food and lodging. He refuses to help them. This makes David angry and he makes plans to burn the man’s property down and kill everyone in his household. His wife, Abigail, catches wind of this and she makes a feast of the finest things that her farm has to offer and she brings it to David and his men. She apologizes profusely for her husband, asking David to have mercy on him because “he can’t help it, he’s just a jerk” (my paraphrase). David grants his mercy. A few days later, when her husband dies, David brings Abigail into his household as one of his wives.

Lately, I have found myself needing to clean up a lot of other people’s messes. And I’m not just talking about diapers. There are college students that I work with that sometimes do foolish things or neglect things and I have to pick up the pieces. There are household messes to clean up. My son has taken to having an accident in our bed a couple times a week, so the bedding needs to be changed. Sometimes I’m lucky to get to do the dishes once a week. And if I’m really lucky, I get to go to the bathroom and close the door.


I have gotten into a position where I’ve had to learn a lot of people skills the hard way and quickly. And that’s what Abigail uses in her story, people skills. She shows intelligence, initiative and courage to go behind her husband’s back and appease the King. Remember, this is still a very strictly patriarchal society. She could have gotten in big trouble for going behind her husband’s back. The King could have refused to see her or hear her request. But, like the honey badger, she didn’t care.* She did what she had to in hopes of saving her family and livelihood. May we all show such courage and initiative in our lives. 

*Pardon the language in the link. I just wanted to explain the reference