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The Virgin Mary compared to the air we breathe

Why would Our Blessed Lady have given the task of preaching the Rosary to St. Dominic and the Order he founded 800 years ago? We can get all caught up in the veracity of the ancient tradition which tells us that Our Blessed Lady appeared to St. Dominic and gave him the mission of preaching the Rosary. However there is no historical doubt that the Rosary as it is now prayed and preached is in large part due to the preaching of the Dominican Order through the centuries. Why did she choose an Order of Preachers?

We know from the Wedding Feast of Cana that Our Blessed Lady’s evangelical spirit desires that everyone know her Son and go to him in all their needs. Therefore it is of the utmost importance to her that people know her son.  Pope Paul VI wrote of the rosary that it is “a prayer inspired by the Gospel and centred on the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption should be considered a prayer of deep Christological orientation.” With this in mind we can see why Mary would want the Rosary preached.

It is not simply about knowing about Jesus but of coming to know him as she knows him. The Rosary is our communion with Mary in getting to know Jesus. None of our race knows him more deeply than Mary, his mother, the perfect disciple.  It is by praying in her company we ponder over the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection and come to know him deeply and spiritually. Therefore we can see why Mary would want her Rosary prayed.

Why Dominic? I think there are two possible reasons; one personal and one more public. Dominic had a great personal love for Our Blessed Lady and always turned to her in times of trouble and found her a true source of protection and strength. Secondly the preaching of the Rosary and the faithful daily recitation has been the greatest gift given to the Order to help us in our mission. It keeps our preaching on message and reminds us that all our preaching is to bring us into a prayerful relationship with Christ in the midst of his church.

It also gives our preaching its joyful, caring and positive impetus because our theology comes from praying with Mary and coming to know Jesus and his mission from her perspective. Maybe as Dominicans we don’t realise how deeply she has affected how we preach, pray and study. She pervades our lives and our preaching, coming from the praying of the rosary as a constant in our lives.

Did Our Blessed Lady appear and give St. Dominic the Rosary maybe she did for she loved him and the Order he founded under her protection. But that’s not the point of the legend, the truth of the legend is that the Order would not be what it is, its preaching would not be focused, its theology would not be affirmative without Mary and the praying of her Most Holy Rosary.

Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem, giving the title of this article writes: Be thou then, O thou dear Mother, my atmosphere.

Fr. John M Harris. O.P.

St. Saviour’s Priory, Dublin.

Lourdes, the Fount of Mercy

In the seventh apparition at Lourdes which occurred on the 25th of February 1858, St. Bernadette was asked by the Blessed Mother to go to the fountain and wash. Mistakenly Bernadette went towards the river Gave but the Lady pointed to a spot beneath the grotto. Bernadette scratched the soil and some muddy water came forth. She cupped it in her hands covering her face with mud, much to the horror of onlookers. Finally, she was instructed to eat some bitter tasting herbs beside the little pool which again horrified and amused the onlookers who declared the little girl was insane. One of the onlookers would in time say about Bernadette in such a filthy state that, “We could have said that she bore all the sorrows of the world.”

We must remember that Bernadette resembles here Christ who spat on the ground making mud with his saliva in order to daub the eyes of the blind man in St. John’s Gospel. That poor muddied faced man was asked by the Lord to later wash in the pool of Siloam. (Jn 9:6-7) If we remember back to the book of Genesis it was with the soil of the earth that man was created, and in the waters of baptism we were washed into a new creation. The Blessed Mother asked that Bernadette would pray for sinners, and these small acts which brought her condemnation were a physical and yet symbolic reparation for the offences of mankind. The crowds that gathered at the grotto, jeered and mocked the young seer who was obedient to instructions of the Lady dressed in white. Christ Jesus too was jeered and mocked by his accusers both at the pillar of scourging and lastly upon the cross. Christ was offered bitter vinegar in his last moments of life again as a mockery but to fulfil the scriptures and here Bernadette eats bitter herbs, which symbolises the bitter herbs used to stuff the paschal lamb during the Passover feasts.

To scratch the soil and bring forth water reminds us of Moses striking the rock in the desert which brought forth water to refresh the people of Israel in the midst of their desert journey. Christ Jesus upon the cross will have his side pierced through with a spear bringing forth blood and water, the symbols of baptism and Eucharist, cleansing and nourishment for our life’s journey. Bernadette of Lourdes in this single apparition takes upon herself in obedience the face which becomes the icon of Christ in the world. Here in this muddied dark Grotto she will be instructed to have a church built where people will come with lighted lamps in honor of the Mother of God and for the worship of Christ our Redeemer. The Grotto is a place where Bernadette was ridiculed and laughed at, yet she was obedient to the words of the Lady. In that place where the waters continually flow, millions of people, both sick, suffering and sinners have washed in the waters which now run clear. In this great year of Mercy, let us draw near to the sacrament of reconciliation. Let is bring our muddied and stained souls to the fount of grace, the rock which was pierced out of love for us. The Virgin of Lourdes and her handmaid Bernadette invite us to repentance and to become the face of Christ in our world. All of us have the heritage of mud in us, but in Christ Jesus we have been set free and washed clean in the baptismal fount of his blood. Come to the water anew, which is Christ Jesus. The Virgin points to him, the true source, may his kingdom reign in our hearts, our families and our world.

Fr. John Hyacinth Walsh, O.P.

The Mother of God

In 431 AD, in the beautiful city of Ephesus in modern day Turkey, the bishops of the Church met to discuss various issues most notably the nature of Jesus. Interestingly, Mary had lived in Ephesus for some time after the events of that first Easter. In John’s Gospel we learn that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..” (John 1.14). So the council fathers affirmed (after not a little lively debate just like a recent gathering of Bishops in Rome)  that Jesus was made man, He was the Son of God and the Son of Mary. Thus the Dogma of the Mother of God was instituted.: Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus,” Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord,”  In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity,  Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God (Theotokos) (CCC 495).

Just over 100 years previously in 325 AD at Nicea, Bishops met to discuss the tradition that had been handed down from the time of our Lords life, that Mary, His mother was a virgin, when Jesus was born and she remained a virgin. The perpetual virginity of Mary is expressed in 3 parts: in her virginal conception of Christ; in giving birth to Christ, and her continuing virginity after His birth: we read from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that Mary was virginitas ante partum: virgin before birth, virginitas in partu: virgin giving birth virtinitas post partum: virgin after birth: ‘Mary “remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin”  “ with her whole being she is “the handmaid of the Lord”’ (Lk 1:38). (CCC 510). Of the three, the virginity “before giving birth” is crucial because it relates to the time of the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary and is the moment of the mystery of the Incarnation (see CCC499).

So from its foundation this has been constantly present in the Church’s belief. When the second Council of Constantinople met in 553 AD the truths which had been handed down from the foundations of the Church, the council fathers presented their affirmation thus; ‘If anyone does not confess that God the Word was twice begotten, the first before all time from the Father, non-temporal and bodiless, the other in the last days when he came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the holy, glorious, God-bearer, ever-virgin Mary, and born of her, let him be anathema. The birth of Jesus, the Son of God from a virgin, free from sin was necessary “The virgin birth is the necessary origin of Him who is the Son and who as Son first endows the messianic hope with a permanent significance extending far beyond Israel”, (St Augustine).

Mr. Damien McDonnell, O.P.

Lay Dominicans, Kilkenny.

Rosary Letter – Winter

Dear Rosarians of the Rosary Apostolate.

Dominicans throughout the world have begun to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the founding of our Order in 1216. We have proclaimed a Jubilee Year, which is in thanksgiving for eight centuries of preaching the Incarnation of Christ and his love for us in the world, first begun in the man whom we call our father, St. Dominic De Guzman.

Dominic was a priest totally immersed in the person of the living Christ. He was an Icon of the Word made Flesh, in the midst of a darkened world. It was in this world that a light appeared and set fire to Europe with his preaching for the salvation of souls. This preacher of grace, aflame with the Holy Spirit and under the protection of the Blessed Virgin preached the mysteries of Christ which we to this day contemplate in the Holy Rosary. It is a celebration not only of the founding of such a great Order but also a Jubilee of the Rosary meditated, recited and preached by Dominicans for 800 years.

Early Dominicans referred to the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of Mercy, and so it is very fitting that the Church around the world has begun a Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is to Mary we return in order to learn of Christ and his Incarnation. It is to the Mother of Mercy that we turn that she may pray with us and intercede for us while we meditate on the mysteries of her Son, which so preoccupied her heart. St. Dominic De Guzman the great preacher of mercy and grace found solace and strength in the company of the Virgin of the Rosary, may we too in this double Jubilee year find that same solace and strenght while meditating on Christ, the merciful Redeemer who came to save souls.

Fr. John Hyacinth Walsh, O.P.

Director.

I didn’t expect that!

DamoIn the 1990s there was a famous TV ad for an orange soft drink. It showed a man drinking the soft drink and then in a slow motion replay a small man covered in orange paint is seen running up to the man drinking, unbeknownst to him. After the man has taken a drink, the orange man suddenly appears in front of the man drinking and slaps him on the face with both of his hands. Needless to say the man drinking is left with a bewildered look on his face which clearly says ‘I didn’t expect that!’. In a strange ‘marketing strategy’ way this sudden shock to the system, brought on by the slap to the face, was supposed to represent the unexpected great taste sensation that the soft drink gave.

I couldn’t help but think of this ad when reading today’s Gospel. When Jesus taught through the use of parables He had a unique ability to leave many of his hearers saying to themselves ‘I didn’t expect that!’. As Jesus begins the parable in todays Gospel it seems like a simple story but then Jesus says something which must have registered like a slap in the face for the chief priests and elders He was speaking to. Jesus tells them that ‘the kingdom of God will be taken’ from them. But these were God’s chosen people, a holy nation set apart. How could this be? This would be the result of their rejection of Jesus whom they would have killed just like they had done with the some of the earlier prophets that God had sent to call his chosen people back to him. With teachings like this, it was no wonder that Jesus faced such opposition from the Jewish authorities and ended up being treated so harshly by them, to the point where He received many real slaps to his sacred face.

The parable in today’s Gospel was like a slap in the face for me too when I read it, reawakening me to the reality of God’s great patience with and love for each of us. It highlights the great lengths He has gone to to save us from sin and death. Each of us has the freedom to accept or reject Jesus. Realising the ultimate sacrifice that He has made out of love for us should lead us to love him with all our heart. If we choose to reject Jesus, who is the source of all love and life, we will, as the Gospel tells us, come to ‘a wretched end’.

Today is Rosary Sunday and in the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary we mediate on the terrible reality of what happened to Jesus, ‘the keystone’, when He was ‘rejected by the builders’. During this month of October, which is dedicated to the promotion of the Rosary, let us make a real effort to pray the rosary each day as an offering of love to Jesus who has loved us to the end. A rosary intention for the month could be to pray for the conversion of the people we may know who have rejected Jesus in their lives. May Our Lady help us to love her son as she does.

O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech Thee, that while meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Lady, Queen of the Rosary, pray for us.

Gospel Reflection: Mt 21:33-43

‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them thinking, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this is the Lord’s doing and we marvel at it? ‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

Pope St Pius V

Pius v

 

Born in a town called Bosco in Northern Italy, and raised in the humblest surroundings of poverty and obscurity, Anthony Ghislieri was born to poor parents in the year 1504.  His Baptismal Name was Anthony, as he was born on the Feast of St Anthony of the Desert (Jan 17th).

After entering the Order of Preachers as a young man he became renowned for his holiness, and Fr Michele Ghislieri soon attracted the attention of the hierarchy in Rome. In 1566 he was elected Pope, taking the name Pius V. The new Pope led the Church with the deepest sanctity; a holiness of life that would inspire all those who encountered him. Pius V was a man intent on interior spiritual renewal of the Church. In this desire we see many similarities between him and our present Holy Father, Pope Francis. Pius’ first public act as Pope was to give all the money that was received for the installation ceremonies of the new Pontiff to the poor and neediest. The thousand crowns usually given for the banquet for the Cardinals and ambassadors were sent to hospitals and the poorest convents in the city: “For I know,” said the Pope, “that God will not call me to account for suppressing a feast for the wealthy, but he may punish me severely if I neglect His poor.”

From the first moment of his election Pius V saw as his top priority not so much the battle from without but the need for spiritual renewal within, starting with the hierarchy. Leading by example he endeavored to inspire the Cardinals to a renewed life of Christian simplicity and fervor.  He established regular life in the apostolic palace, gave conferences to his court and the Cardinals on the life of virtue that would be needed to reform the Church. Always clothed in his Dominican habit, he slept on a hard pallet and he kept continual fasts according to the rules of the Order, knowing that only sacrifice and a life of holiness would draw down the graces necessary for the re-invigoration of the Church. His table was characterized by its extreme frugality so all saw in him a man devoted to the imitation of the life of Christ shown by his Holy Father Dominic. He had a deep love for the Rosary and for this he was called ‘The Pope of the Rosary.’ Likewise he was called the “The Pope of the Crucifix” loving with all his heart the Sacred Humanity of Christ crucified. In the Saviour’s crucified humanity he saw the deepest expression of Divine love.

On May 1st 1572,  Pius V clothed in his old Dominican habit, and clutching his Rosary beads made one last request of his Lord: “Increase my sufferings but also increase my patience.” This saintly Dominican Pope shows us that the path of renewal remains the same in our day; interior conversion of life and the life of holiness practiced by all the faithful who are called by their Lord to be light to the world. He challenges us not to settle for mediocrity but to strive to be the saints of the third millennium, echoing the challenge given to us by Pope St John Paul II.