August 22, 2019

Our Lady, Health of the Sick: Honoring Mary as the Ideal Model for Care of all People

Blessed Virgin Mary                        en-wikipedia.org
 IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson


It was in December of 1531 when  Juan Diego, alone on Tepeyac Hill (in the area which is now called Guadalupe),  was praying to the Blessed Mother asking if she could cure a sick relative. Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego and said this to him, "Do not worry about this illness or about any other misfortune. Am I, your Mother, not here at your side? Are you not protected by my shadow? Am I not your safety?"


We celebrated the great feast of The Queenship of Mary on August 22nd. This feast is so important that there are those who believe it should be declared a Holy Day of Obligation replacing the Assumption celebrated on August 15. What is not so celebrated and well known is the feast day that follows. It is always held on the Saturday before the last Sunday in August. This feast day is known as Our Lady, Health of the Sick.

If we stop to think about it, we can quickly see that our Blessed Mother stands out in the gospel readings as someone who was always there to help others. She gives herself over starting at the Annunciation. A teenager, she is asked to be a mother to the Son of God. She said to the Angel Gabriel, “but I know not man.” She understood the ramifications of what she was accepting. But she embraced God’s calling willingly not worrying about herself.

Next, it is on to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. Why? To assist her aging cousin in giving birth to her child. Mary must have stayed for about six months before leaving for home. Unselfishly, she stayed until Elizabeth was healthy enough to take care of baby John, by herself. Mary would have been almost six months pregnant when she returned home.

Classic artwork always depicts Mary’s parents, St. Joachim and St. Ann, as loving parents who took wonderful care of their special child. It is not written in the gospels, but it is safe to assume that Mary was with them when they were old, caring for them and even being with them as they passed on to their waiting reward.

We see her and her Son, Jesus, sitting with St. Joseph as he is old and dying. St. Joseph, the Patron of the Dying, has his true love by his side wiping his brow, wetting his lips, keeping vigil, and not leaving her husband’s side until his time is done. There are those that believe that it was these actions which first brought her to be called, “Health of the Sick.”

A true Angel of Mercy, Mary’s greatest challenge, and heartbreak came as she had to watch her Son, who was immune to sickness and death, willingly allow Himself to be whipped, beaten, crowned with thorns, mocked and ridiculed. Then she had to follow Him, bloodied, and battered, as He carried His cross to Calvary. She watched Him die and held His blood-soaked, lifeless body in her arms before he was buried.

Jesus gave his Mother to all of us as He lay dying on the cross. Mary gave her all to Him and, as our Mother, will do so for us. This is why she is called Our Lady, Health of the Sick.”

The magnificent Stabat Mater (translated means Sorrowful Mother), was written to describe the pain and suffering Mary had to endure during her Son’s crucifixion and death.  What follows are the first two and the next to last verses of the Stabat Mater. They are quite poignant and frame the entire hymn. The link above will give the entire hymn, considered among the top seven hymns ever written.

At the Cross, her station keeping
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
be Thy Mother my defense,
be Thy Cross my victory;

As She said to Juan Diego at Guadalupe, 1500 years later,  Am I, your Mother, not here at your side? Are you not protected by my shadow? Am I not your safety?"

Our Lady, Health of the Sick; Please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson2018

August 19, 2019

Saint Paschal of Baylon…Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him the Seraph (Angel) of the Eucharist

St. Paschal Baylon                                       en.wikipedia.org
IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson


On May 16,1540, a baby boy was born to Martin and Elizabeth Baylon in the Kingdom of Aragon, located in Spain. This day also happened to be the Feast of Pentecost. Since the people in Spain refer to the Feast of Pentecost as the Pasch (Passover) of the Holy Ghost., his parents named their new son, Paschal.

Paschal’s parents were poor tenant farmers and, while only a young boy, Paschal began working in the fields and tending to the sheep. His regimen of work was seemingly never-ending, and he rarely took part in the activities of other kids his age.
 However, he possessed an obvious spirituality that was noticeable to others, and the other boys would come to him for advice and requests for him to settle their quarrels. Paschal had innate wisdom that was marveled at by all who came to know him.

The boy was unable to go to school, so he carried a notebook with him when he was working. He would ask other kids and even strangers going by to show him different letters and how to use them. He took his tidbits of information to heart and literally taught himself how to read. Soon his favorite books were those about his Lord.

When Paschal was working in the fields, he always fell to his knees when he heard the bells ringing during the Consecration.  He was not only rich in piety and virtue, but he was also quite humble. It was just the way he was and people who knew him could not help but notice.

Paschal had always harbored a deep desire to enter religious life. Now and then he even wondered if that might ever happen. He had been offered spots in several richly endowed monasteries, and some prodded him to enter the priesthood. He had said, “, “I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance.”

His quest for simplicity came to fruition when, in 1564, he was able to enter the Franciscan Monastery of the Friars Minor at Monteforte. It was located in Orito, Spain and those who were there lived a no-frills, austere existence. It was what Paschal had hoped and prayed.for. The young man professed his vows at the monastery on February 2, 1565.

St. Paschal was frequently found before the tabernacle, at times even prostate with his arms outstretched. The humble brother, who had taught himself to read and had no known education possessed a deep knowledge and insight into the mysteries and teachings of the faith. Learned men marveled at him, and most figured he was guided by the Holy Spirit. He was so knowledgeable that during the height of the Calvinist heresies he was chosen to travel to France to defend the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence.

Once God even demonstrated the high esteem he had for Paschal by using the Blessed  Sacrament. Paschal was out in the field tending his flock. When he heard the bells ringing, signaling the Consecration was taking place, he immediately knelt down. As he did the Blessed Sacrament appeared before him in the monstrance. Incredibly,  it was held aloft by angels hovering above. Others saw this and were in awe. Word spread quickly about the miraculous Brother Paschal and his visions, which became more frequent.

Brother Paschal Baylon passed away on May 17, 1592. The custom of the time was for the deceased to be placed on an open stretcher in the church. This was done, and when the Consecrated Host was elevated at his requiem Mass, Paschal’s body sat up, and bowed to the Sacred Host. It remained like that and repeated the bow as the chalice with the Precious Blood was elevated.  Then Paschal’s body lay back down. Witnesses to this miraculous event also testified that his eyes were open watching the priest during the entire Consecration.

Paschal Baylon was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1618, and he was canonized a saint by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16, 1690. He is the patron of all Eucharistic Congresses and Eucharistic Associations. Paintings of St. Paschal usually are shown with him in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which was the greatest love in his life.
Saint Paschal Baylon, please pray for us.




 copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

August 14, 2019

Prior to Mary’s Assumption, did she actually die? What is the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God?

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary                                           www.wikiart.org         
IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson


On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, writing and speaking ex-cathedra, solemnly defined in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, the dogma that  “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of  her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” We know this as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation.

The sidebar to this solemn definition is the fact that it does not address the question of whether or not Mary physically died before being assumed. All the document says is, “having completed the course of her earthly life."

Interestingly,  we are not bound to a definitive answer. However, the  Feast of The Dormition (Sleep)  of the Mother of God is a major feast in the Eastern Catholic Churches and in the Armenian Apostolic Church. They celebrate the feast on August 15. So, did Mary actually die first before being assumed? Did she simply fall asleep?  Is it possible that she was buried?

We Roman Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. Does the Roman Catholic Church accept or reject the Dormition of the Mother of God?  Two of our greatest popes accept it. Venerable Pope Pius XII refers to Mary’s death at least five times while Pope St. John Paul II stated  Mary experienced natural death before her Assumption into Heaven. Lastly, let us go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 966) which gives us these words from the Byzantine Liturgy:

“In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition, you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.”

What follows is this beautiful testimony from the early Church. This example is from the sixth century and gives us insight into what Christians believed in the ancient church about Mary’s Dormition and Assumption:

“The course of this life having been completed by Blessed Mary, when now she would be called from the world, all the Apostles came together from their various regions to her house. And when they had heard that she was about to be taken from the world, they kept watch together with her. And behold, the Lord Jesus came with His angels, and taking her soul, He gave it over to angel Michael and withdrew.

At daybreak, however, the Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, he commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord’s chosen ones, and is the enjoyment of the good of an eternity that will never end.” (Saint Gregory of Tours, Bishop; A. D.595-A.D. 594); Eight Books of Miracles; A.D. 575-593;

We must remember that the Ascension of Jesus was accomplished through Jesus’ own power as God. The Assumption of The Blessed Mother was done for her by the Power of God, not under her own power. It is also said that Mary’s death lasted forty hours, the same as her Son’s and that during that time her soul visited the souls in Purgatory to release some and comfort others.

No matter what actually transpired so long ago we know that Our Blessed Mother was taken into heaven body and soul after passing from this life. Once more, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 967):

By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to His Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” of the Church.

As people of Faith, the recognition of the splendor and importance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary can take your breath away.


copyright©Larry Peterson 2019 

August 6, 2019

A Summer snowstorm resulted in the First Church ever built in honor of the Blessed Mother

Basilica of St. Mary Major                               en.wikipedia.org
IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson


This is about the first church ever built for Our Lady. Today it is called the Basilica of St. Mary Major (LatinBasilica Sanctae Mariae Maioris). It did not start out that way.

I have a pre-Vatican II, St. Joseph Daily Missal which I use for reference.  Its Liturgical Calendar lists  August 5, as the Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. If you look in the current 2019  Missalette, you will note that August 5 has the optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The name change occurred in 1969 when the General Roman Calendar was revised. It is actually the same feast with a different name.

Historically, (part of which is considered legend) the story goes like this:

There was a patrician man named John, and he and his wife were a devout Christian couple but had not been blessed with children. They did, however, possess a large tract of land. They went to see the
Pope, whose name was Liberius. He was the 29th successor to St. Peter and had just been elevated to the Papacy. They told the Pope that they had decided to donate their worldly goods to the Mother of God. They asked him what he thought about that idea. The Holy Father told them to pray and ask the Blessed Mother for a sign to help them decide.

The couple did as the Pope suggested and during the night of August 4th and into the morning of August 5th, 352 A.D., snow fell on the largest of the Seven Hills of Rome; the one known as the Esquiline Hill. This is where John’s land was located. Even though it was during the stifling heat of summer, the snow did not melt.

The snow landed, making an outline on the ground. The same night Our Lady appeared to John and his wife and also to Pope Liberius. She told them she wanted a church built in her honor on the property. The church would be built on the outline laid out by the snow. The land was owned by John.  He and his wife happily donated the land to be used for the church as requested by the Mother of God. The Holy Father joyfully accepted.

It is a rare occurrence for snow to fall in Rome in winter, no less in mid-summer. The Pope, along with John and his wife, explained to the gathering crowds what had happened. The news spread like wildfire, and soon the people were chanting, over and over, “Our Lady of the Snows!”  “Our Lady of the Snows!”

Pope Liberius ordered that a church be built in Mary’s honor on the site. Work began but was not completed until a century later, under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). Its dedication coincided with the ending of the Council of Ephesus of  431 when Mary was officially declared to be the Mother of God. The finished church was called the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. It was also called the Church of St. Mary of the Crib because it was said that pieces from the crib Our Lord was placed in when he was born were kept in the church.

History tells us that Pope Gregory the Great led the first procession carrying an image of Our Lady from the Church of Our Lady of the Snows to the Church of St. Peter in the year 597 to ask for prayers for the people of Rome who were being decimated by the Black Plague. It is written that St. Michael the Archangel appeared and the plague ended. Over the centuries many other miracles have been attributed to interactions with the church.

It was Pope St. Pius V who inserted the feast day of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Snows into the General Roman Calendar in 1568. It remained there until 1969 when, because of
ambiguities in the 4th-century historical accounts of the “summer snowfall,” the feast day was officially changed to the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Over the centuries many churches have been dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows. There are over 152 in Italy alone. There is the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois and other places in the United States and around the world.

Lastly, on August 5 of each year, upon the conclusion of the Solemn Mass celebrated at the Basilica in Rome, the people commemorate the miraculous snowfall of  352.A.D. by having a shower of white rose petals dropped from the dome of the Chapel of Our Lady. It must be a beautiful sight to behold.


copyright©Larry Peterson 2019