Ave Maria, Gratia plena!

This blog is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is my hope that all Christians who visit this site - Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or evangelical - will be encouraged, filled with joy but also challenged by the fact that they have not just a Father, but a Mother in Heaven.

For all who are seeking the deepest possible intimacy with God, with our Lord Jesus Christ, may we look nowhere else, in the end, than the one human being who has, since the Incarnation of Christ, experienced the most superlative closeness - physically and spiritually - to God-in-human-flesh. She is the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of Jesus Christ herself: the Daughter of God the Father, the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit, and the Mother of God the Son.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us!

One of my all-time favorites of Catholic Marian art: the virgin and martyr, St. Catherine of Alexandria (c. 282-305 AD) kneels before Madonna with Child to kiss the hand of Baby Jesus.

Not much is known for certain about St. Catherine, the namesake and forerunner of many holy and blessed women from Church history - St. Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Catherine Laboure, to name just a few of the most popularly venerated. What's known for sure is that at the height of the Middle Ages, St. Catherine was the object of a particularly strong devotion, as one of the 14 "Holy Helpers" whose intercession was constantly invoked by the Church and her children. Like so many other hagiographies of the time period, that of St. Catherine is almost certainly the product of myth and legend overlaying the actual historical figure.

Nonetheless, it is now widely accepted that along with her fellow virgin-martyr, St. Margaret of Antioch, and St. Michael the Archangel, she appeared to St. Joan of Arc in the 1420s as one of that young girl's personal guides, to strengthen and prepare her for the humanly impossible task of turning the tides of the Hundred Years' War in France's favor.

Interestingly, veneration of St. Catherine was banned altogether in 1969, owing to lack of historical foundation, but was reinstated in 2002. It is now most commonly believed that while St. Catherine did in fact exist and was both virgin and martyr, the romantic details and elements of her life and heroic death were later additions which, though not exactly good history, served the important purpose of bolstering the faith of the masses who heard her story recounted. Like some of the other early martyrs, St. Catherine can be thought of as a Judith for the Catholic Church: an idealized figure for contemplation by the faithful, more so than an actual historic individual.

The "Catherine Wheel" remains a legendary device associated with her, and the St. Catherine Monastery which was named in her honor, in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, contains the oldest complete volume of the New Testament found anywhere in the world, dating back to the 6th century.
St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Immaculate Heart of Mary, be my constant refuge

Sweet Mother of God, you know the depths of the disorder and panic that can seize my heart all of a sudden, without warning, with the full consent and knowledge of my sinful nature, which so stubbornly clings to its own will and turns every small imperfection into a multitude of sins, one piled upon another, until I can see no way out of my mess. . .

Have mercy on me, O Most Precious Immaculate Heart of Mary, and be my immediate and sure help when I fall to my disordered thoughts, so that no sooner do I turn to you do I realize that I am already aligned with you - the sword that pierces you is the sword of my sin that pierces the living Word which your intercession has so painstakingly begun to plant within me.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for me! For the sake of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with whom you are intimately united with, and for the sake of Christ's sorrowful passion, have pity on me!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mother Mary, surely you can provide

My own eyes have begun to see the injustice against your suffering Son, the Savior and Lord of the human race. . .

He is poor, He is broken, He is hungry and desperately needy - and the world has all but abandoned Him.

Mother Mary, as surely as you live and reign in splendor with your Divine Son, open the doors through Holy Mother Church such that the desperate family I have been called to help will find relief and comfort, physical and spiritual, via your maternal intercession and the provision it leads the Catholic Church to miraculously create.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If only all knew. . .

what joy it is to have an Immaculate Virgin Mother.

What peace it brings to young men who struggle with impure thoughts toward young women. . .

What hope it brings to young women seeking a sure role model of devotion to God. . .

Our Blessed Mother, pray for us! Especially for the young singles and adolescents of our faith communities!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Be my strength, be my joy

Especially as I experience the brokeness of weakness, the lowliness of sorrows. . .

When I am pierced, Mother Mary, be my hope and my refuge of mercy. . .

Make me your child again today.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mother Mary, give me compassion for the poor!

You care deeply and tenderly for the poor and desperately needy, as only a mother can care so much about her children. . .

Please have mercy on me, that I may become a vessel of mercy to those who need a lifeline. . .

Give me this gift: of preferential option for the poor, as you so earnestly express in your Magnificat. Make the poor rich in the poverty of Christ - and accomplish this through me, as God wills!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

True holiness is not cheap

Blessed Mother,

Is it not true that the sanctity you wish your children to attain is as a priceless jewel hidden in the middle of a vast desert? That all the world has to offer is literally worthless compared to the holiness of your Immaculate Heart?

Grant me courage and strength, that I may seek after this sanctity and throw off all that hinders this pursuit.