Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Stairway to Heaven

 I have had marriage on my mind a great deal recently.  My sister is getting married this summer, as are three of my cousins.  Recently, my husband, Chris, and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary, which is such a tremendous blessing!
A number of years ago, my husband and I attended the wedding of some friends.  A Dominican priest whose name I cannot recall now gave the most beautiful homily, reflecting on the sacrament of matrimony.  I often think about his words and find inspiration in them.
He said that we should always thank God for the gift of marriage.  Just think about how good God is to us. For those of you called to marriage, God in His great love and generosity has created an entire, other person—just for you!  As He formed Eve to be the perfect complement to Adam, God has created a whole other soul, made and molded specifically for you. As I have said to my husband before, he is not a perfect person … but he is perfect for me.
Beginning from infancy with your baptism day, God has formed you to be the person you are, through the good times as well as the bad.  God did the same for your spouse, too. And while you may never have even known each other growing up—perhaps living in completely different areas of the country—God knew you belong together.  Slowly and carefully, like a master-craftsman, God prepared you for the day you would meet your future spouse and fall in love.
All of us should rejoice whenever a man and woman come forward before the altar of God to be married.  Why? What the couple is about to do has eternal ramifications. They are, by exchanging their vows, literally changing the face of heaven!  The purpose of their union is to create—with God—new life, new little souls who will hopefully one day be with all the saints and angels in heaven.  Marriage is a gift to all of us!
When the man and woman marry, their lives are forever changed.  Marriage only begins at the altar. The sacrament of marriage isn’t just the moment of saying, “I do.”  Once the couple exchanges their vows, they live continuously in a sacrament.  It is always there!  A husband and wife, joined in matrimony, are always living in the grace of the sacrament.  Just consider: their wedding rings are sacramentals. This is why my husband and I, when saying goodnight each evening, kiss each other’s wedding ring.
Of course, those of us who are called to marriage know that living this sacrament can sometimes feel like a crucifixion.  Marriage is hard. It’s a process of dying to self and living for the other. And sometimes it can feel like we are running on empty.  But Christ gave us the model of what to do during those times of difficulty: we should go to our Blessed Mother and then go to Jesus.
Reflect on the wedding feast at Cana.  Like that new couple, sometimes in marriage the “wine” runs out.  But if we go to Mary and then to Jesus, we will find that God will always refill the jars.  We may go to him one thousand times with empty jars.  No matter: He will refill them. And not just that! He will refill them with even better wine than what was there before.  Ten years into marriage, my love for my husband has definitely changed: it is richer and fuller, like wine that has aged and become more perfected in time.  God has refilled our jars again and again.
A man and woman must exchange their wedding vows before a priest, who is the “witness” to their marriage.  But what, exactly, does that mean? Well, the man and woman are expressing one kind of love. But the priest is witnessing to another kind of a love, a higher and more perfect love: the supernatural love of God.  As much in love as a man and woman may be, it is just a small reflection of God’s divine, perfect love.  The priest reminds us of this love and invites the husband and wife to lead each other closer to the One who is Love.
This week we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, when Christ was lifted up into heaven.  Someone once said to me, “Your stairway to heaven has a name and it’s Chris.” For those called to the vocation of marriage, our whole goal and purpose is to help our spouse grow closer to God.  If we are going to be with Christ in heaven one day, it is through our marriage.
That is reason enough to say, “I do” in every moment of every day!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Best Mother's Day Present

I've been trying to think of a good present to give to my Mother for Mother's Day.  I could give her a bouquet of flowers. Something tangible is always good. But I also thought about giving her the gift of time—just being present with her and talking with her.  
What about you?  Did you pick out a gift for our Mother?
It's a little tricky, since our Mother is the Queen of Heaven and Earth.  In a sense, she doesn't need anything. Yet, she is a true mother and, as such, she desires the love of her children.
May is the month of Mary, which seems only fitting, since it's when we celebrate Mother's Day.  It is a special time to reflect on Mary's role in each of our lives and to honor the great gift Christ gave us in His most perfect Mother--our helper, our protector, our model, our mom.
When I think about the Blessed Mother, I don't always have an emotional response.  I'm not filled with a warm and fuzzy feeling all the time, so to speak. However, there is not a single doubt in my mind that she has been watching over me and with me.
I particularly call to mind an experience I had while in college.  I was sitting in a practically-empty chapel, praying before the Blessed Sacrament.  My heart was in turmoil over some particular problem. As I spoke with Our Lord, the door to the chapel opened and a young man came in.  I didn't recognize him and tried to put him out of my mind as I returned to prayer. Yet, a few minutes later, the young man walked up to me.  He held out a Miraculous Medal and said simply, "This is from your Mother. She is praying for you."
During the big moments of my life, I definitely see our Mother's loving presence.  My husband and I began our relationship on the Feast of the Assumption. On our wedding day, we placed a bouquet in front of the statue of Our Lady.  I knew that she had worked behind the scenes to bring us together. When I was in labor with our children, I prayed the Hail Mary through each contraction.  
If ever there is some trouble or distress, I run to her ... just like our toddler seeks me out when she is upset.
And why not run to her?  She is our Mother. As Our Lord hung on the cross, He looked down upon Mary and St. John, the beloved apostle.  "Behold your son ... behold your Mother." In these words, Christ gave His Mother to all of us, represented in John.  Why would we ever reject this gift from our Lord? He wants us to love Mary and to be devoted to her.
Besides, drawing closer to our Mother means drawing closer to Our Lord.  St. Louis de Montfort urged devotion to Mary, explaining that such devotion is the surest, the easiest, the shortest, and the most perfect way to Christ Himself.  Mary's intercession for us is so powerful: just remember the wedding feast at Cana. Our Lord performed His first miracle at His Mother's request. Jesus "began and continued His miracles by Mary, and He will continue them to the end of the ages by Mary" (St. Louis de Montfort).
Perhaps, as a gift to our Blessed Mother during this month of May, you may consider praying the rosary—whether alone or as a family.  The word "rosary" comes from Latin word rosarium, or rose garden.  Our rosary prayer is like a wreath of roses we are presenting to our Mother.  For those less familiar, here’s a helpful summary of how to pray the rosary. There are lots of rosary apps out there as well.
This might just be the perfect gift, since it's the one our Mother especially requested!  When the Blessed Virgin appeared at Fatima in 1917, she asked that the rosary be prayed every day.  If that isn't enough motivation, every pope for the past 400 years has encouraged this devotion. The rosary is our opportunity to sit with our Mother and to ponder those great events of her life and that of her Son. While we finger the rosary beads and speak the vocal prayers, our hearts can contemplate those mysteries of our salvation.  “The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you will be amazed at the results” (St. Josemaria Escriva).
Our Mother is with you.  She watches over you, prays for you, loves you, and desires to bring you ever closer to her Son.  Let us all be better children of this most perfect Mother and, this month of May, may we come to love her even more.