Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19, 2011 Tuesday: Divine Mercy - Mother of the Redeemer, Part 2

Click to hear audio homily

I'm sometimes asked, "Is there a book on Blessed Mother that you recommend?" Without hesitation, I recommend a book titled Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady--Sharing Mother Teresa's Mystical Relationship with Mary. Now-deceased Fr. Joseph Langford MC who co-founded the Missionaries of Charity Fathers with Mother Teresa in 1984 wrote it. In this book, Fr. Langford describes the visions that Mother Teresa received prior to founding her order.

Mother Teresa's visions began and ended with the mystery of Jesus' self-gift even unto death, made visible on Calvary and hidden in the poor of Calcutta. Mother Teresa's entire life was directed toward returning the Father's measureless love poured out in Jesus crucified, present in the Eucharist, dwelling in her heart, and hidden in the needy. In this vision Mother Teresa saw a large crowd of the poor of every kind, young and old. She could make out the great sorrow and suffering in their faces. Our Lady was there in the midst of them, and Mother Teresa was kneeling at her side. Mother Teresa heard Our Lady say to her, "Take care of them. They are mine. Bring them to Jesus. Carry Jesus to them. Fear not. Teach them to say the Rosary--the family Rosary--and all will be well. Fear not. Jesus and I will be with you and your children." In the last vision, Mother Teresa saw Jesus on the Cross in the midst of the same crowd, and Jesus said to her, "I have asked you. They have asked you, and she, My Mother, has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for me--to take care of them, to bring them to me?" Another time, Jesus spoke to Mother Teresa, "They don't know Me, so they don't want Me. You come, go amongst them, carry Me with you into them. How I long to enter their holes--their dark unhappy homes."

For this priest, there are days when entering into a person's dark, unhappy home leaves me in sadness. There are times when I hear about violence or abuse inflicted by spouses, or an addiction that ripped the family apart, or about selfishness and self-absorption that replaced a spouse's total commitment of self to the other. It is Our Lady, under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows, who understands the hearts that are pierced with swords of suffering and the tears that stream from her children's faces. Without a doubt, I know that Our Lady of Sorrows is near me as she guides me to bring her Son into darkened lives.  (Side note: Interestingly, our St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge was originally began in the late 1700s as Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.)

For John Paul II, it was during the dark years of the Nazi occupation of Poland that he discovered the role that Mary had in his life. It was during this tumultuous time that he experienced Our Lady's hand guiding his life. He said, "Then I understood that I could not exclude the Lord's Mother from my life without neglecting the will of God-Trinity, who willed to begin and fulfill the great mysteries of the history of salvation with the responsible and faithful collaboration of the humble handmaid of Nazareth." A private secretary of John Paul II at the Vatican recalls his great devotion to Our Lady. He wrote, "Once around 11:30AM, we realized that the Holy Father had not left for his 11:00 audience. We found him in the hall, gazing intently, with his hands crossed on his chest, at an image of the Madonna on the wall. At that moment he seemed like a little child gazing lovingly at his mother." Cardinal Giovanni Coppa, the former papal nuncio to Czech Republic, noted that John Paul would write the prayer of St. Louis Marie de Montfort on each page of his encyclicals. On the top of the first page, he would write "Totus tuus ego sum" (I am all yours); on the second, "Et omnia mea tua sunt" (And everything I have belongs to you); and on the third page, "Accipio Te in mea omnia" (I put you at the center of my life"; and on the fourth, "Praebe mihi cor tuum" (Give me your heart).

John Paul II, like Mother Teresa, had complete confidence in Our Lady's intercession and aid. Reflecting his trust in Our Lady, he took for his papal motto, "Totus tuus", a shortened form of the prayer of St. Louis Marie de Montfort--I am totally yours Jesus, through the hands of Mary.  Just as John Paul II and Mother Teresa stood close to Our Lady before the Cross of Christ, Our Lady invites us to do what she has done: to bring all aspects of our lives, including our pain and hopes, to the Cross so that Jesus can lift the cup of our lives to the Father. In doing so, He will transform all that we bring to Him into seeds of Resurrection. I close with the prayer that Pope John Paul II prayed at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes on his visit there: 

Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows,
Mother of the living!
Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve,
Be our guide along the paths of the world.
Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ,
to stand with you before the innumerable crosses
on which your Son is still crucified.