Archive for the ‘Childhood’ Category

Believe Like Children

June 5, 2021

Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Earlier this week was the last day of classes for another academic year at St. Paul’s Catholic School. This pandemic-impacted year posed challenges, but we prevailed. Our school met in-person throughout and gave our children a full education – focused on forming not only their minds but also their souls as well. This aspect is so important, it is the reason the Catholic Church has schools. A true education is not complete unless a person learns about God, about Jesus’ saving words and deeds, and how to live, both now and forever, as a Christian like him.

This is why I encourage any of you who have children attending public school to enroll them into Catholic school for this fall. Ask our school families about how excellent a school it is. They’ll tell you. Pray on this decision, ask the Lord where he wants your sheep to be. And realize that a great Catholic education for your children is much more possible than you might think.

My favorite part of being the pastor of a Catholic school is teaching and speaking with the children. Their openness to the things of God is beautiful. In their classroom or in church, you can teach these little ones holy truths and they joyfully believe them. This openness is part of why Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” and “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Sometimes I’ll meet with a class of youngsters and their teacher in the church outside of the Mass. We remind the children how to use the Holy Water at the doors to bless themselves and to genuflect when they reach their pews. Then I love to teach them and ask them questions, questions like, “Where is Jesus here?

Sometimes kids point to the big crucifix on the wall and I tell them, “That’s only a statue of Jesus. Seeing it reminds us of Jesus and can help us pray to him, but that’s just a statue which looks like him. Where is Jesus really, truly present in this room?

The children then point to the golden box at the foot of the cross – the Tabernacle – inside of which, I explain, within a special container called a ciborium, is kept Sacred Hosts consecrated at previous Masses. At the priest’s words of consecration at Mass, these Hosts became Jesus Christ, his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, really and truly present, really and truly him.

In our Catholic churches, what is typically located front and center? Not the priest’s chair, not a donation box, not even the baptismal font, but Jesus’ Tabernacle and the altar. This is because Jesus Christ and his Holy Sacrifice are at the center of our Catholic Faith. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, This is my Body, and Do this in memory of me. And his Bride the Church has listened, believed him, and obeyed him, celebrating his Real Presence at the Holy Mass throughout the centuries to this day.

It has been humorously observed that for second graders preparing for and receiving their First Communion it can be harder for them to believe that the round, flat, unfluffy, Consecrated Host was ever bread to begin with than it is for them to believe it is Jesus. This is because they believe that Jesus can do, and does do, the things he says. On this feast of Corpus Christi, let’s humbly turn and become more like those children, who accept that their good and loving friend, our Lord Jesus Christ, is truly here before us.

A Treasured & Entrusted Child — Funeral Homily for Adelaide Marie Borofka

April 26, 2021

The dominant culture in the days of Jesus’ public ministry oftentimes did not treasure children. A firstborn baby boy might have value to a Roman father, but a baby who was a girl, or malformed or disabled, or simply unwanted might be killed or abandoned in the woods, exposed to die. The early Christians, however, rejected infanticide and adopted foundlings, raising them as their own. This is reflected by a first century Christian text called The Didache (also known as “The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations”) which commands: “You shall not procure an abortion, nor destroy a newborn child…” From where did the Christians get this countercultural concern for all children, born and unborn? From our Lord Jesus Christ, of course.

Adelaide Borofka feetThough children are small and weak, Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” They have no wealth or worldly power, but Jesus says, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus, calling a child over and putting his arms around it, says, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says that children are to be treasured and loved like himself: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In just the same way as a good shepherd hates to lose even one of his many sheep, Jesus says, “it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” Indeed, ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world.’

So even when a child dies without baptism, we can entrust them to God’s mercy with great hope, that the love of God which has brought us into being will transform the painful mysteries of the Cross into a reunion of Easter joy. In the midst of any tragedy, we always have a general Christian hope that God will bring good out of what is bad. But in regards to little Adelaide it appears that God has granted us a special, particular consolation. This is Veronica’s story, which she has given me permission to tell you, and which she wants me to share for your benefit.

On Easter Sunday, Veronica began to feel severe abdominal pain. She was admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire with a blood pressure so high that she was in grave danger of suffering a stroke, even dying. Then, through an ultrasound, it was discovered that the child within her, the child she lovingly carried for seven months, no longer had a heartbeat. Around 2 AM on Monday, April 5th, while she was in great physical and emotional pain, her husband Zach and their gathered family members were praying a Rosary with her. Veronica was praying along with them, off-and-on, as she could manage. And in the midst of all this painful suffering, as she paused with her eyes closed, she saw something. Even though Veronica is certain that she was awake at that moment, she beheld something remarkable. Before I describe Veronica’s experience and what she saw, I will speak briefly about private revelation.

As Catholics we believe that Jesus is not dead, but risen and living. We believe that his saints in heaven are all alive with him. We believe that Jesus and his saints and angels know us, that they care about us, and that they continue to lovingly help us here on earth. We believe visions, messages, and miracles still happen in our day. And sometimes instances of these phenomena are judged by the Church’s authority to be “worthy of belief.” However, unlike public revelation (which consists of Sacred Scripture and the apostolic teachings in the Deposit of Faith) private revelation, even when officially recognized by the Church, is not binding to be believed by all the faithful. I am not personally qualified to make any official judgment for the Church about private revelations, but I tell you: if I did not personally believe that what Veronica saw was of a heavenly origin, I would not be about to share it with you.

Veronica, with her eyes closed during that Rosary in the hospital, saw a woman standing before her bed. There were pretty, puffy, white clouds behind the woman and to each side of her. And rays of sunlight from the left peaked through gaps in the clouds. The woman wore a dazzling, bright white gown. The fabric of her beautiful, full-length dress looked like satin. It had a modest scoop neckline and sleeves that went down to her wrists. The woman also wore a blue, cathedral-length veil of traditional lace, which extended down to the floor. She was dressed similarly to a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Germany which Veronica’s grandfather had given her years before; a statue Veronica used to play with as a girl.

The woman had long, curly, dark hair, snow white skin, and beautiful blue eyes which gazed at Veronica. The expression on the woman’s face was very pleasant, calming and peaceful, concerned for Veronica and reassuring. Veronica says “she looked absolutely beautiful and gorgeous,” such that, “no model could compare.” The woman’s lips moved as she slowly spoke with a very feminine, light and calming, beautiful voice, which echoed with some reverberation. And this is what she said: “Veronica, do not be afraid. I will take care of this child as I have taken care of my Son, Jesus. Do not worry and do not cry.

In this vision, Veronica held in her hands her swaddled baby, wrapped in the gray swaddling cloth she had bought for its birth. (Veronica did not yet know whether she had a girl or a boy, since Adelaide had not yet been delivered.) Hearing the Virgin Mary’s words gave Veronica great relief, for who could be better than the Blessed Mother to care for her lost child? Veronica raised up her arms in the vision, completely entrusting her child to Mary. Mysteriously, Mary remained where she stood but seemed to come closer. Veronica says, “I handed her my child and then she was gone.” The entire vision was very brief, perhaps just ten or fifteen seconds, about the length of one Hail Mary prayer.

Veronica was left with feelings of peace, calm, reassurance that everything was OK, and wonder that the Blessed Mother would make herself known to her. Veronica did not share her story right away—she was worried people might think she was crazy—but after this vision she began comforting those gathered around her bedside. When her mother began to cry, Veronica told her, “Don’t cry, you don’t have to cry.” As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “[God] encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Veronica is saddened, of course, still grieving and mourning, but not crushed or depressed like one might expect. She always had faith in God and Jesus Christ, but this experience has reinforced it, and she desires the same growth in Christian faith for you. “There’s beauty in the suffering,” she told me, adding, “I just want everyone to know what I know and to feel the peace that I feel with God and his love.” This the Lord Jesus Christ’s wish for you, too. Clouds may limit our vision in this world, preventing us from seeing all that God is up to, but even in the hardest times rays of light still shine through. This light comes from the Lord Jesus who loves us, who treasures little Adelaide and who also treasures you.

God’s Divine Plan

December 26, 2020

Feast of the Holy Family
By Deacon Dick Kostner

Today I would like us to reflect on what the “Holy Family” really is. I want to begin by dissecting our definition of “family” and try to expand upon that definition to reveal the gift that God has given us. If I were to ask you to define “family” I believe most of us would say it’s a union of people consisting of a father, a mother and children. Now if I were to ask you to define what the “Holy Family” is, I believe most of us would say, “Well, that’s Joseph, Mary and Jesus.” But I think that if we reflect upon this a little bit we would realize there is something missing with our formula for “Holy Family”. How did all this begin? Well like everything its origins begin with the creator, with God. It was through a divine plan for the building of the kingdom, that God put together this relationship we call “family”.

Within the traditional family we have a “father”,  a head or lead person for this relationship. Let’s look at Joseph for some characteristics. Joseph was a humble person; a man who provided for his family; he was a listener to what God was saying to him, he was a listener to the concerns of the other family members. Joseph was trusting of what God had planned for him and his family even though he could not understand the details of the plan. Joseph was loving and cared deeply for Mary and for Jesus and was the primary teacher for his family for the laws of his Jewish faith. He was committed to obeying the laws of God and of his faith and in being the lead person to teach his family those laws.

Also within the traditional family there is a “mother”. a person committed to be the love glue of the family. Let’s look at Mary for some characteristics of this family member. Mary was a great listener. She had a tremendous faith that allowed her to trust in God; this faith allowed her much courage and she not only listened to God but was fearless in going out into uncharted waters. Mary was wise and loving and could read the will and needs of her family. She always put the welfare of her family first over her needs and desires.

Also within the traditional family there are children. Let’s look at Jesus to see what characteristics this family member has. Jesus was also a great listener. He listened to his parents and to his heavenly father. He was a student, a person thirsty to learn about his faith and his roots. Jesus was obedient to the will of his family and to the will of his heavenly father. Jesus was like the other family members, loving and caring about the welfare of his family and the welfare of others.

This relationship we call “family” was a creation of God with the purpose and design to help foster and grow the kingdom of God. So what is missing from our traditional definition of “Holy Family” is a very important member, that member being God, the Father, the creator of this entity. When God is so recognized we are no longer just a family we are now a “holy family” for we recognize that we were brought together through the divine plan of the Father!

Within our culture we see many attacks on the family. We find so called experts who are trying to re-define what a family is. We find a culture trying to re-define the roles of mother, father and children within a family, and even telling us that certain positions are not necessary to have a family. Whenever humans try to alter God’s divine plan there are going to be malfunctions and problems. If we remove for example certain parts of an automobile, we find that it does not run as good. Why, because we are altering what its creator intended. If certain key parts of a car are removed at some point it will no longer function or run. So it is with God’s creation of family. If we try and alter what the creator intended at some point it breaks down and will no longer function. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians today, tells it all, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.

As members of the Holy Family of God our spirits are joined so that we can receive the benefits of intimacy both in this life and in the next. That means death becomes non existent. Those of you who have experienced the loss of a loved one know what I am talking about. While body presence may be missing the spirit of Holy family members lives on and time is no longer relevant. Members of God’s Holy Family continue their presence with us even after death. During the Advent Season I pondered this point when I was feeling bad that our Churches could not be filled to capacity because of Covid limitations. But during Mass I realized that our Church’s are still filled to capacity not just on Christmas and Easter but at every Mass because our deceased Holy Family members are still here with us in Spirit filling our Churches with standing room only. You know I am a Student of the Spirit. I’m going to share a quote from a favorite website of mine, Spirit Daily. Jeannie Ewing is a Catholic spirituality writer who writes about the moving through grief, the value of redemptive suffering, and how to wait for God’s timing fruitfully. She says this about the mystery of the Holy Spirit:

When you’ve learned to attune yourself to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, you will be aware of His presence in you at all times. Sometimes God chooses to sleep in us, and we don’t notice Him moving or working. Other times, we have a distant but keen awareness that God is accompanying us through a difficult decision or terrifying prognosis.

One day we come to a realization that all we do throughout our days are done in and with Him. Even when we do not consciously or formally make an offering to God, the union we share with Him is so obvious that we don’t need to speak but just be. In that being, we discover the place where we end and God begins is a very short thread.

We are told by our Church Leaders that it is believed that during Christmas that God releases the most family members from Purgatory and welcomes them into heaven. I believe that is because of our Prayers and Masses that are offered up for those Souls who have joined us to celebrate Eucharist. So to all of the deceased Holy Family spiritual members with us today we need to say “Merry Christmas” and thanks for joining our Holy Family celebrations.

Tips for Raising Faith-Filled Children

April 13, 2016
  • Tell your children every day that you love them and that God loves them too.
  • Listen attentively and respectfully to what your child says.
  • Forgive frequently. Ask forgiveness when you have done wrong. Look for the humor in stressful situations and hug often.
  • Ask children to consider “what if…” when dealing  with challenging situations. Help them find creative, peaceful, and moral responses.
  • Tell your child that you pray for them every day and DO it. Thank God for the gifts they are.
  • Share your faith beliefs so your child can understand your hopes. Also share your doubts so they understand that doubts do not overwhelm faith.
  • Bless your child before bedtime by tracing the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads and saying: “God love you and keep you safe” or some other blessing. Teach your child to respond. “Amen.”
  • Encourage your child to value others for who they are – not what they have. Help them to develop Christian virtues and to treat others kindly and with respect.
  • Once a week, have a family night when you “unplug” to play board games, do crafts, read stories, or take time to talk together.
  • Honor family  dinner. The benefits are amazing and establish a sacred time to share the joys and trials of life with each other.
  • Pray before meals, before bed, during holidays and family celebrations, and any time when one needs guidance or comfort.
  • Have a family Bible and read the Gospel passages before Church.
  • Decorate your house for the liturgical seasons with an Advent wreath, purple during Lent, and a prominently placed crucifix.
  • Take time to ponder the beauty of creation with your child. Easter is a wonderful time to appreciate the new life of springtime.
  • During the fall and spring, help your child sort through their clothes and toys to donate to a shelter. Bring the child with you when you drop off your donations.
  • Select a patron saint to watch over your children when they become involved in a sporting activity. Pray to that saint every time they are at a practice or event.
  • Participate in the Catholic Relief  Services Rice Bowl program: read the prayers during Lent, look up the featured countries, and donate coins in the box provided.
  • Introduce your child to older people or those with disabilities in your neighborhood. Find out if they need assistance with chores or shopping.
  • When you can’t physically help someone, pray for them.
  • Choose sporting events that do not conflict with your Sunday Mass attendance.
  • Encourage “secret” good deeds.
  • Contribute to a food bank. Ask your child to help you with the collection and delivery.
  • Watch TV with your child and explain during commercials or afterward what you found to be good, wholesome, and valuable. If you find a program objectionable explain why when changing the channel.
  • Encourage your child to use their God-given talents to serve others.
  • Help your child find ways to participate in the of the parish, such as being an altar server, choir member, greeter, or reader.
  • Invite your parish priest over for dinner.
  • Volunteer in your child’s religious education program or Catholic school.
  • Have the sporting equipment your child uses get blessed.
  • Read stories from the Bible and biographies of saints to your child. Several great videos can also be found online.
  • Ask grandparents, godparents, and extended family to share stories about the family their faith lives.
  • On the anniversaries of your children’s Baptism, light their Baptismal candles and tell stories about that special day.
  • Display religious items in your home, such as a cross, artwork, or a picture of your child’s patron saint. Talk to your child about them.
  • By the way you live, let your child know that life is good, that your values and faith guide your decisions and how you interact with others, and that the happiness you experience is a direct result of your personal relationship with God.

Adapted from the pamphlet “Raising Your Child With Faith” by Cecilia P. Regan.

They Ran For Him — Easter Morning

April 24, 2011

When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early Easter morning, she found the stone removed and the body of Jesus gone. She ran to Peter and John, because her love demanded that something must be done. “They have taken the Lord from the tomb,” she said, “and we don’t know where they put him!” So Peter and John went out and ran to the tomb. They both ran, but John ran faster and arrived at the tomb first; not because he loved Jesus more, but because he was younger than Peter.

Some adults run for exercise, but they are the odd exception. Generally, grown-ups just don’t run; except under special circumstances. For instance, my mother doesn’t jog, but she’ll sprint to answer a ringing phone. She loves her friends and doesn’t want to leave them hanging on the line. So, love can make a grown person run.

One time, when I was a boy, I saw my mother run outside in her nightgown and dive into our swimming pool. My mother saved the life of my younger sister, who was floating there facedown.

In all my life, I can only remember ever seeing my father run once. A few years later, during a family walk around a camping resort in my hometown, where we had never walked before, we came upon a tragic emergency. While Mom did CPR, Dad and I ran for the phone at the front office to call for an ambulance. I ran as hard as I could, but Dad was much faster than my ten-year-old legs. I remember seeing his back, his arms rapidly pumping, and thinking to myself, ‘I had no idea he could move that fast.’ And so, from my youth, I’ve known that for the love of another, or in matters of life and death, adults will run. If something is important to them, they’ll run for it.

Mary Magdalene, Peter and John ran to and from an empty tomb out of concern for a dead man’s corpse. So great was their love for Jesus, so great was their admiration for Him, that they ran for Him, even though they thought He had nothing more to offer them. But we are here this morning because Jesus wasn’t dead. He is risen and still active in peoples’ lives today. (To the latter, I am an eyewitness.) He has much to offer to us, our families, our children. But do we run to Him? Do we run to His Church, His sacraments, worship and teachings; or do we run from them? Whether we run is a question of love, and in a world subverted by sin and temptation in so many ways, it’s a matter of life and death. Jesus is risen. So let’s run to Him.

Wine and Drunkenness — Tuesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time—Year I

February 8, 2011

“God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. … Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.”

Everything that God has made is good, but anything can be misused or abused in ways that are wrong. A volleyball-sized amount of Uranium can provide electrical power to 200 U.S. homes for a year, but it can also be used in a single bomb to level a city like Hiroshima. The complimentarily of man and woman is very good.  They were made for each other, but they sometimes use each other in painful and unloving ways.

What about alcohol in its many forms? Is it good or bad? On the one hand, the Scriptures praise God for it as a gift: “You bring bread from the earth, and wine to gladden our hearts.” (Psalm 104:14-15) Yet throughout, the Scriptures also caution about the sin of drunkenness: “…Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, [instead] be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) You’ll recall that Jesus provided wine for the wedding feast of Cana, yet He would not be pleased if the guests used His gift for getting trashed.  If we are adults we may only drink alcohol in moderation, and if we are still minors we may only consume it under our parents’ direct supervision. Anything else is misuse, abuse, immoral and dangerous.

But what about illegal or recreational drugs? Can they be used in moderation? No, there is no moderation in this, for the entire goal of using them is to get high, to become intoxicated. If you have never abused drugs or alcohol, I hope you never start; and if you have, I hope you never will again.

Please do not dismiss this teaching as merely the tradition of your elders; for it is God’s command that we should never get drunk or high. God forbids it, just as every good parent forbids it of their children, because getting intoxicated is harmful and dangerous for us. The Scriptures say, “Honor your father and your mother,” and, “Whoever curses father or mother shall die.” Indeed, those who spurn their parents in this can taste sin and death in many forms.

When you’re intoxicated you make dumb decisions. (I don’t know about you, but I already make enough dumb mistakes in a day as it is.) Someone who is drunk or high will do impulsive, stupid things that they would never do otherwise. You lose control of yourself and become vulnerable to others. I don’t want any of you to wake up a morning after, regretting some serious thing done the night before. I don’t want any young woman here to find herself with child, and be tempted to do something terrible.

Imagine which experience would be worse as a consequence of getting intoxicated? To die alone from driving your car off a road into a tree, or to survive a head-on collision that kills a stranger or a friend? Go too far just once and alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose can have you pass out and never wake up again, put you in a coma or make you drown in your own vomit.

Or consider the risk and costs of addiction. Any recovering alcoholic can tell you a story about how much addiction costs, and any smoker can tell you how hard additions are to break. Of course, not everyone who gets drunk or high will become an addict, but some will, and after the first use of certain drugs, addiction is all but certain. With addiction, even if drug or alcohol abuse never sends you to prison, it can still cost you your freedom. And even if drug use never takes your life, it can cost lives of people far away.

Did you know that since 2007 there have been over 35,000 deaths in Mexico from the violence of their organized crime drug cartels? That’s almost ten times the number of American troops who have died in combat since 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why so much violence? It’s because the Mexican drug cartels make more than one hundred billion dollars a year from selling marijuana and other drugs to Americans, and they will murder or assassinate whoever stands up to them. When we buy their drugs, we’re supporting their terror.

Today I set before you life and death; choose life. If you have never abused drugs or alcohol, I hope you never start; and if you have, I hope you never do again. May no one ever say of Columbus Dons as Jesus said of the Pharisees: their hands are clean in public and ‘they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’

God’s Icon, The Family — Feast of the Holy Family

January 5, 2011

Our Catholic Faith is full of mysteries, but what is a “mystery?” In the world, or in a novel, a mystery can be completely solved once important clues are found. “It was Cornel Mustard, in the Library, with the Candle Stick”–case closed. But in the Church, a mystery is something rather different. Is not something that one more clue could solve, nor something so dark and impenitrable that we can know nothing for certain about it. We can know many things with certainty about Christian mysteries, but they are parts of our Faith which are so rich that we will never completely exhaust them. The Trinity is perhaps the greatest of these mysteries, but by God’s revelation (through words and deeds and created things) truths about the Trinity have been revealed to us. Invisible realities can be known through the things that God has made. One great window into the mystery of the Trinity is the human family.

In the beginning, the Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, took out one of his ribs, and built it into a woman.  When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” The two came together, and brought forth new life.

In the Trinity, the Son is of the Father; “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” The Son is “begotten, not made,” He is a person from a person; not a lesser, created thing. From the everlasting, mutual self-gift of love shared between the Father and the Son, God the Holy Spirit proceeds.

The human family is an icon of the Trinity, like the icon of Mary and Jesus on our Marian altar. An icon can teach us about, and actually connect us to, the events and holy people they depict; however, it is also possible to misunderstand their metaphor. Gazing and meditating upon the Holy Mother and Child can help us to know them and relate to them better, but it would be foolish to think that they are made of wood and paint like the icon. Not everything found in a human family applies equally to the Trinity, but the family is perhaps the greatest icon of the Trinity, sharing many of its realities.

The Trinity is one; three persons sharing the same divine nature. Jesus said, “The Father and I are one,” and, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Likewise, in the family, husband and wife are one flesh and their children are their very flesh and blood. No matter what, your biological parents and siblings will be related forever, for there is a special oneness to your nature.

There is equality in the Trinity. Jesus accepted peoples’ worship, something only God can justly receive, and the Holy Spirit does the same: “With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.” Likewise, there is equality (or at least there should be) between husband and wife in marriage. Though there are natural differences between them, the two are equal in dignity.

Though there is equality among the persons of the Trinity, there is also an order among them. Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me…. The Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.” Though equal in dignity, the Son follows the Father’s lead.

Notice in the Gospel how three angelic messages come to Joseph in three separate dreams: first, to flee to Egypt; second, to return to Israel; and third, to settle in Nazareth. Now God could have chosen to send His angel to Mary. He had done it before, Mary would have certainly obeyed God’s command, and Joseph (following her miraculous pregnancy) would have believed her, but that’s not what God did. God wanted Joseph to lead his family, and when Joseph woke his wife up in the middle of the night and said, “Mary, I had a dream–we need to leave, right now.” Mary said, “Ok,” because she knew that he loved her and trusted him. As Mary was to be the heart of their home, Joseph was to be the head of their family.

Mothers and fathers, in sometimes different but complementary ways,  reflect the divine attributes of God. Our moms and dads were distant likenesses of God, but through them we first came to conceptualize about God. Through them we first experience beauty and strength, the firmness of justice and the tenderness of mercy, the immanent love that braces what we are and the transcendent love that calls us to be more.  Parents are icons of God. That is why bad parents can be such a scandal to a life of faith. If our own parents were poor, let us recognize that it is the ideal they failed to live up to, not their behavior, which is the actual likeness of God.

We are all called to marriage, either natural or spiritual. We are all called to raise up biological or spiritual children for God. We are all called to be icons of God. Let us pray for the grace for our own married and parental love to be a worthy icon of the Trinity. That may seem intimidating, but don’t be afraid. You were made for this.

The Child Mary — September 8 – Nativity of Mary

September 8, 2010

Nine months ago we celebrated Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Today we celebrate her birthday. By my estimation, Mary is now about two thousand, twenty-five years old, but if you saw her I’m sure she wouldn’t show her age. How old does Mary seem when you picture her in your mind? I’d bet that you think of her as fully-grown up; like your mom or your teachers. But today’s feast reminds us that she was once your age too.

Mary was little once too, and just because Mary lived a life without sin doesn’t mean that her childhood was a bed of roses. I think adults sometimes forget how hard and stressful things can be when you’re little, but Mary remembers everything perfectly well.

She remembers what it was like to be little like many of you. How she got scared when Nazareth’s big, neighborhood dogs would bark at her. How loud cracks of thunder frightened her at night and made her hide under the covers. She remembers how other girls made fun of her, for being different or weird, and she remembers how she cried. But even when she got sad or scared, Mary knew that she was loved and not alone. Not only did her parents love her, but she was convinced of God’s love, too, and understood that He was never far from her. This consoled Mary and reassured her that everything would be alright.

After our resurrection, when we get glorified bodies like Mary has now, we will have some new abilities. We will be able to go anywhere we want in an instant. And our glorified bodies should allow us to be more than one place at once. (It only makes sense that if saints on earth can bi-locate, then the  saints in Heaven should be able to as well.) And I also suspect that we will be able to change ourselves back and forth to whatever age we choose.

All this is to say that if at any moment you want Mary to be with you for consolation and support, you only need to ask her. Knowing her abundant love, I can’t imagine she would refuse. And when you think of her with you feel free to picture her at your age, even if you’re little. She understands you, loves you, and can relate to your situations more than you know. Like her Son, Mary is always with us, especially when we ask her be.