Greetings and An Update

Greetings!

Gosh…its been well over a year since I last posted…

You can now follow me on Twitter @CindyTrainque but unfortunately, I have no idea how to link this with that…hence I do not post often here.

I have also just had published a series of 8 essays entitled Eight Things To Love About the Catholic Church found here: http://catholicexchange.com/tag/eight-reasons-to-love-the-catholic-church

NOTE:  The essays are archived in reverse order…Scroll down to the bottom to the one called Our Bishops, Our Church and then read them going up to read them in order.  I refer back to previous essays in a few of them.

I have now been asked to write an article for Catholic Exchange on my favorite saint, Catherine of Siena…can’t wait to get into it.

So…off to find someone to help me to do a better job with this site.  Thanks for your patience!

In His Peace,

Cindy

Posted in Catholicism

BOOK REVIEW: Mary, Mirror of the Church – Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press), 1992; 214 pp. Translated by Frances Lonergan Villa

  Greetings!  Follows is a book review assignment I had to do for a course in Ecclesiology…

Since 1980 Raniero Cantalamessa has been “the Preacher to the Papal Household”1.  The book is a collection of sermons/reflections given to the Papal Household.  The book is not so much simply about the Virgin Mary in narrative form but a grand exercise in how to live our lives in imitation of her.  It is far from a “beginner’s book” on either Mary or on the spiritual life.  A fairly good background in philosophy, theology and spirituality would be needed to work one’s way through such chapter topics as Full of Grace; O Woman, What Have You To Do With Me?, Persevering in Prayer With Mary, the Mother of Jesus; The Holy Spirit Will Come Upon You – to name but a few.  The book, overall, is very deeply spiritual, and according to this reviewer’s experience of the book, life changing.

The chapters/sermons are not, therefore, independent of each other whereby a reader can start with any of the essays and read them in any order.  The book is divided into three parts, I, II and III and finishes with an Epilogue.  Each part is further divided into chapters – nine in all –and further still by topic. Thus there are a total of 52 sections – this reviewer makes the assumption that each of these sections are what would constitute one sermon/reflection.

The three chapters in Part I speak of Mary as Full of Grace; Blessed is She Who Believed and You Will Conceive and Bear a Son.  But again, the book is not a simple narrative.  For example in the first reflection in chapter one, By the Grace of God, I Am What I Am Cantalamessa describes grace as “God ‘leaning forward’ and stooping toward man” (p. 17), reminiscent of God stooping down to his child Ephraim in the Old Testament Prophet Hosea (cf. Hos. 11:4).  Cantalamessa continues in his treatise on grace and then invites the reader (later in the chapter) to reflect on moments of grace in one’s life.  He writes (p. 35),

“Through grace we can have even in this present life ‘a certain spiritual contact’ with God, which is much more than anything we could have through speculation on God. Each one has his own means and way of establishing this contact with grace, like a kind of secret way that he alone knows. It might be a thought, a memory, an interior image, a word of God’s, an example received”. 

In Part II (this reviewer hesitates to do commentary on each of the nine chapters due to the theological/spiritual richness found therein) Cantalamessa gives powerful discourse to topics such as Mary, the ‘Pure Lamb; Accomplices of the Child Hope; She Learned Obedience From What She Suffered amongst 17 sections in Part II.  He tells that Mary’s Passion starts quite early with the Prophet Simeon telling Mary that “a sword will pierce your own soul” (Lk. 2:35) and that for us “Mary is our guide and model precisely in how we should behave when it is ‘pruning time’ in our lives” (p. 81).  In describing Mary as the ‘Pure Lamb’, Cantalamessa brings forth one of the most powerful passages in the entire book.  Here he is describing Mary’s utter anguish as she stands at the foot of the cross of her beloved Son, Jesus.  Taken to refer also to our own life’s anguish(es), it is thus:

“She suffered in her heart what her son suffered in his body…Just as Christ called out: My God, my God why have you forsaken me – so Mary must suffer through something similar on the human level.  A sword will pierce through your soul – and reveal the thoughts of your heart, yours also, if you still dare believe, are still humble enough to believe, that you truly are the one chosen among women, the one who has found grace before God!” (p. 110)

In the section called The Marian Synthesis in Vatican Council II Cantalamessa makes the following statement about May’s role in the Church to non-Catholics:

“My Protestant brethren, the words ‘All generations shall call me blessed’ (LK 1:48) were not put into Scripture by us Catholics but by the Holy Spirit! Should these words not also be taken as a command given by God to history, like the words uttered to Abraham ‘By you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves’?  If we attribute the role of mediator to Abraham, how can we possibly not attribute it more rightfully to Mary?” (p. 128)

 In Part III the various reflections take on a decidedly mystical tone – not for the faint of heart nor for those unaccustomed to the spiritual life. For example, in reflecting on Mary During Pentecost and After Cantalamessa assures us that we can come to some idea of what Mary’s prayer life had been after the Pentecost event “in the lives of the saints” (p. 147).  He tells of this experience:

“An ancient Syrian mystic…said, ‘I am not fainting for the banquet but because I desire the Spouse’.  He meant that the soul doesn’t yearn for heaven to receive its reward but simply out of pure love for God.  Such is the longing and need at this point to be reunited with God and to possess him totally that…it becomes a true martyrdom to go on living on this earth”. (p. 147)

Part III gives way to teaching the reader how to pray by having the reader consider the following in his reflections Pray to Obtain the Holy Spirit; Persevering in Prayer, (by far the longest of Cantalamessa’s reflections, going for ten pages), When Prayer Becomes an Effort and a Struggle, and Forced Prayer. In Forced Prayer, Catalamessa quotes the Blessed Angela of Foligno who once said, “forced prayer is pleasing to God” because “You do your part, my child, and God will do his” (166).

On and on Cantalamessa instructs us (the soul) on how to become deeply Marian in our life and in our prayer.  This book is indeed exceedingly rich if one considers all that this reviewer has thus far described.  Yet Cantalamessa also includes – and refers to –throughout his various sections meditations on four striking icons depicting Mary in various Christocentric events in her life:  Great Panagia (all holy), Virgin of Tenderness (Vladimir), Crucifixion (School of Dionisij) and Ascension (School of Rublev, 15th Cent.).  All four are found to be in the Tretjakov Gallery in Moscow. Each icon is a feast for the eyes and for the soul.  Again, this book is so very rich as to be quite difficult to write a simple review for it.  With 52 sections, it would be most appropriate for a reader who wishes to do a retreat with Mary to take one section each week for the 52 weeks of the year.  There is absolutely nothing sugary nor overboard about Mary in this book — nor is it impossible to get through it as long as it is not rushed through nor entered into by someone just beginning their spiritual journey.  It is quite the journey for the heart and it is, by far, the best book written this reviewer has read on the Holy Virgin, Mary Most Holy. 

http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Mirror-Church-Raniero-Cantalamessa/dp/0814620590

 

Posted in Catholicism

MARY MOST HOLY

So just what is it that makes Mary so holy?  Lumen Gentium (hereafter referred to as L.G.) makes clear (in ¶53, §1) that Mary “received the Word of God in her heart”. Herein is part of what I refer to as a three-fold process to holiness:  receive, believe, and conceive.  As just stated, Mary first received the Word of God in her heart — “Be it done unto me according to thy Word”(Lk 1:38). Her ability to receive – and openness to that word — allowed her to believe in it: “Blessed is she who believed”(Lk. 1:45). Having openly received and believed she was ready for the third step – Mary conceived “in her body” (L.G. ¶53, §1).  In his book entitled Jesus: A Historical Portrait, Fr. Daniel J. Harrington describes Mary (p. 54) as “one who accepts the word of God, believes that it is being fulfilled in her…”  In other words, Mary first had to conceive of Christ in her heart before conceiving him in her womb.  It is in this three-fold process of receive, believe and conceive that allows others to grow in imitation of Mary.  The saints certainly did this – and did it to a high degree.  They all knew themselves to be very unworthy of God’s favor to them – yet each of them replied with all the abandon of a five-year-old about to ask for a puppy when “the word of the Lord came to them” (cf. Jer. 1:4). God was able to do great things in them and through them because of their openness and their faith.  They also believed greatly in Love itself. The question to ask then is Do we believe in Love to this great height?  Do we truly believe that God has a plan for each of us whereby Jesus can be made present in the lives of others through us?  Ecce Ancilla. Fiat. Amen.

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Mary — The Source of Our Salvation

“For He has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

Behold, from now on will all ages call me Blessed.

The Almighty has done great things for me,

And holy is His name.

His mercy is from age to age on those who fear him.”

 

“The Almighty has done great things for me”…Has He?  Can you list a few ways in which He has blessed you?  Do you ever acknowledge his blessings – acknowledge them to yourself?  To others?  To God in prayer?   

Let’s look at the singular most important reason why God chose Mary as his mother to begin with.

I suppose it would be all too easy to say that God chose Mary because of her holiness…but that’s putting the cart before the horse, really.

Rather, the young virgin maiden – Mary – was chosen because of her openness to all that God wished to bestow upon her.  Unlike Mary, when the vast majority of us are offered goodness from God, our response is more like that of Peter in Luke’s gospel (5:8):  “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man”. We greatly emphasize our weakness and then determine that we are not worthy enough to receive from God’s bounty.

 Eve had the same problem way back in the beginning. In truth, when the cunning serpent Satan tempted Eve with the words, “you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5), her answer should have been, “But we are like God – for we have been created in his own image and likeness” (1:26).  The original sin, therefore, was in not believing in our own inherent goodness – or, rather, God’s goodness in us.

Not so with Mary.  She knew of her own lowliness – not in terms of sinfulness of course, but in her status: a poor, young, uneducated woman living in a patristic society.  Yet she accepted her role in society with great dignity and humility – and she constantly offered her all to God out of love of Him.  She knew of God’s goodness – and of her own goodness. 

Further, she allowed the movement of the Holy Spirit within her.  The angel Gabriel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would “come upon her” (1:35).  Those of us here who are baptized and have received the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation – regardless of how many years ago – we, too, have access to that.  While it is true that we cannot ever be re-confirmed, we can at any time renew the commitment that we made back on that day.  We, too, can allow the Holy Spirit to come upon us and work mighty deeds within and through us.

In his book entitled Jesus: A Historical Portrait, Jesuit Father Daniel J. Harrington says that in the various episodes of Mary in the life of Jesus, she is described as “one who accepts the word of God and believes that it is being fulfilled in her…” (p. 54).

It was Mary’s openness to God’s word and her willingness to receive it that led to her holiness and allowed her to grow in Grace.  She was able to recognize that, because of God’s choice of her in her lowliness to bear His Son, she was able to proclaim, “from this day all generations will call me Blessed” (Lk 1:48) – but again…not because of any accomplishment on her part but because of God’s great mercy toward her. 

Mary’s yes, however, was not for her alone.  Mary had a great love of her people and she knew that they needed a Savior…thus her yes was primarily for them and not just for herself.  Abraham, too, undertook all that he did for love of his people – and Moses did likewise.  Although Mary did not have the stain of original sin, she still rejoiced in “God her Savior”.  Here the Greek for Savior is SwthrSoter — which means both “deliverer” (as in to deliver from after the fact) and “preserver” (as in one who preserves from before the fact).

Unfortunately, too many people get caught up in Jesus’ statement in Mt. 5:48:  “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The Greek translation of this reads, “You must be brought to perfection” – which essentially means that all is of God’s initiative – not our own. Indeed the original Greek uses the word Teleios which does indicate “being brought to its end” We cannot do anything outside of God. In the imagery used in John 15 in his teaching about the vine and branches, Jesus makes clear that, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (v. 4). It is God who will lead us if we but make an act of surrender to him and give him our permission like Mary did: “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38).  It must become an act of filial surrender out of love – not an act of resignation. But “how can this be”, we ask? It will come about not just by spending time in prayer and in meditating on God’s word in our heart but also in frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist at Mass and of the Sacrament of Reconciliation; in time spent in Adoration, in following the teachings of the Church, in doing “little things with great love” as St. Thérèse of Lisieux taught; in loving God and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (cf. Mk 12:31) and in being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. 

The great Dominican Saint, Catherine of Siena says** that

 “The experience of our weakness becomes God’s own gift to us, since in realizing our poverty we come to know God’s infinite goodness to us.  Rather than unfolding to us a self-knowledge filled with despair, the inner cell (of our heart) in this way opens us to the truth of our strength and beauty in God.  Those who find this treasure are able to cry out with Mary and with all of God’s poor ones – ‘from this day forward, all generations will call me blessed’.”

 Let us with courage, then, always seek to “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).

 

 ** (Fatula, Mary Ann O.P; Catherine of Siena’s Way; p. 80-81).

 

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So….what do these popular TV shows — Law & Order and Criminal Minds — have to do with a Catholic blog? They are my favorite shows for a reason. I love the entire lineup of Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Intent, L.A.; U.K. Have you noticed? NOT ONE of the characters on any of these shows ever needs to end up in bed with a co-worker, a victim or even a date. Not one of them — zip, zilch nada. There is no sexual tension or any innuendo; nothing implied. The 2011-2012 episodes are even bleeping out swears and the raunchier sexual references.

As a Catholic this is how I like my TV shows. Characters do not need to be in bed or involved sexually in order to be a good cop or investigator. It doesn’t take away from their role. Even Dr. George Huang, the psychiatrist on SVU admitted once to being gay – but it is not something he flaunts or even expresses. The “news” came out only once in one episode. Period. This proves that shows of this caliber can indeed be extremely popular without sex. How else can there be an original show — Law & Order – that lasts for so long and end up with a record four spin-offs?

The same goes for Criminal Minds. A real psychological thriller with real good acting…that’s the way I like my TV. Congratulations to NBC for being able to show quality TV without needing the sexual exploits of their characters. Congratulations, too, to the writers and producers. I’d love to nominate them for a good Catholic version of the Emmy’s. Special thanks to actress Mariska Hargitay who portrays Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order SVU. Thank-you for neither degrading yourself or the role of women on TV! You are quite the blessing for the many who long for good acting with a strong female in a lead role without needing to be in bed in order to crack the case or to keep your job as a detective!

Now let’s see what Hollywood can do with other shows.

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So…How Will You Spend Your 40 Days of Lent?

Looking for something special to do during Lent this year? Consider joining the great national Pro-Life event called 40 Days for Life. This year’s campaign will coincide with the days of Lent — simply go to this link, find a campaign in your area and make a commitment to pray and to fast…and save a life or two!!!! http://www.40daysforlife.com/ — you’ll be glad you did!

Posted in Catholicism

COMMENTARY ON FAITH IN LIGHT OF HEBREWS 11:1-2

Our topic in this writing is on Faith – your journey of faith and your response to God’s call. We will look at the biblical passage of Hebrews 11:1-2 which states, “(Now) faith is assurance/evidence of things hoped for, a conviction (evidence) of things not seen.” We will unpack these two verses as experienced by our ancestors in faith.

We will begin by saying that it was not enough for God to have created you and me. In the a reading from the book of Wisdom (11:27), that we call God, “O Lover of (our) souls”. In his immense love for us, he not only created us but chose in freedom to reveal himself to us. From there, He chose – again, in freedom — to take another step toward greater intimacy with us in calling us to Himself – calling us to enter into an ever-deepening relationship with him. Faith, then, is our response to that call to divine intimacy.

The writer of Hebrews goes through a long list of people in the Old Testament that God had called to himself. He begins with Abraham – revealing to Abraham that he is the One True God. From there he calls to Abraham – calls him into a relationship after laying down the basic ground work: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you” (Gn. 12:1). “You want me to WHAT, Lord?” That’s how I would have reacted. What did Abraham do? “Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him…took Sarai his wife…and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan” (Gn 12:4-5). Oh…and…Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran”!!! Look at a map sometime and check the distance from Haran in what is now Iraq to Canaan/Palestine.

But why on earth would a 75-year-old man even consider doing something so…well…radical?

We are up to our next step in the call to intimacy. God calls and makes a promise of a great blessing: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing” (Gn 12:2). But…WHY?????????????? Sheer gift!!!!!

So…God creates, God reveals, God calls…we, like Abraham respond. But the response is not just with our lips – we respond with our whole being. Abraham packed all of his belongings and family and great herds – and literally headed south – not knowing for quite some time, by the way, where the so-called “place” was that he was heading to. Kind of like today’s soldiers who get a call and are told to be ready to deploy – but then they must await another call to find out where!!!

Anyway, Abraham went in faith. He had no idea where he was going; he knew that he and his wife Sarai were both beyond child-bearing years and yet he placed his trust in God who assured him, “…count the stars if you are able to number them…So shall your descendants be” (Gn 15:5).

Abraham had to use both his intellect in agreeing to all of this and his affect…that is, faith in the heart and faith in action. Did Abraham and the others whom the writer of Hebrews refers to ever experience any doubts or unbelief? I am sure that they did. In fact, Abraham fell on his face with laughter at the thought of a child being born to him at the age of 100 (Gn. 17:17). His wife Sarai/Sarah had laughed, too (Gn 18:12). In fact, the name Isaac means laughter.

Now –imagine Abraham’s thoughts especially when God called him a “second” time by further testing Abraham’s faith: “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gn 22:2). Again, Abraham responded in faith. Hebrews says that “he reasoned that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (see 11:19). At this point, Abraham was already familiar with God and knew that God would – and did! – keep his promises.

Let’s fast-forward to the New Testament for a moment…let’s ponder the great question of Mary to the angel Gabriel: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Lk 1:34). It’s ok to not have all the answers or complete understanding. What matters is that we respond in faith. In order to do so, we must have humility and trust in the One who calls us to Himself. All three – Abraham, Mary and Jesus (as well as countless others) endured great hardship for love of God and for the sake of their people….a people not even yet called into being. Abraham did so for the offspring he hadn’t even had yet; Mary did so for the sake of her people and for all people for all time: “he (Jesus, the child to be born) shall save them from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Jesus Himself struggled, too, when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Mt 26:39). In fact, Matthew describes Jesus as “sorrowful and very distressed” (26:37).

I could go on but let’s end here with a quick review again of the steps: God created, God reveals, God calls to relationship – and promises a blessing (or blessings) in return for that faith-filled response; we respond in faith using our intellect and our will. We understand and accept our frailty if we do not fully understand and look to Jesus who, though he was God cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) Why? “For the sake of the joy that was still in the future, He endured the Cross, despising its shame and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God” (Hb 12:2). This He endured that you and I might have life and have it to its fullness.

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