Thursday, June 17, 2010
Just a few thoughts...
I saw this image of the Woman clothed with the sun [Revelation 12] on Fr. Angelo's blog, Mary Victrix. If you are not familiar with the passage from Revelation it would be good to reread it and contemplate this image while ruminating upon the passage. This image is magnificent and seems to me to speak so directly and urgently to our times, it is almost hair-raising.
Look at the battle between the great dragon and St. Michael Archangel - look at the ferocity with which the dragon threatens Our Lady and the her offspring. It is a great battle, and Michael fights with all of his might. The Virgin grasps the Child and protects him from the assault - as the Apostle says, "there is a great mystery here".
Today, when there is such an emphasis upon peace and justice, some Catholics do not like using the terms, spiritual warfare, combat, battle, or always hearing phrases such as 'we are at war' and so on. Yet that is what the Christian life has always been, it is a struggle - an intense, knock down, drag out fight, a very real spiritual combat: To quote St. Paul, 'Our battle is not just against human forces, but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above.' [Ephesians 6]
This is why true devotion to Our Lady is so important in our day. We need to draw close to the Blessed Virgin in prayer, through some form of daily devotion, be it so simple as the devotion of the Three Hail Marys, the Little Office, or the Rosary. Of all devotions the Rosary is the most highly recommended and something Our Lady herself has requested. Therefore it is accessible to all - it just takes practice to incorporate into our daily lives - especially when most of us are busy with work, daily necessities and family obligations.
It is always good to remember that the desire to pray is in itself a prayer. Then, making the effort to pray five decades of the Rosary is better than not trying at all. Praying the Rosary amid distractions is better than not praying at all. Using a tape to pray along in the recitation is an immense help. Use the tape in the car, while out for a walk or a run, while cleaning - it is a great help to accustom a person to the prayers of the Rosary. Pray the Rosary alone or with others, and use artwork depicting the mysteries - images train the mind to meditate - one is thereby able to focus upon the mystery, upon the person. Don't worry so much about distractions or temptations during prayer - be humble about them - let them come and go while you continue to breathe the prayer - in the Spirit. If you can only pray one decade - it's a good start - in fact you can pray one decade in the morning, another at lunch, another on the way home from work - after which you will only have two left. Eventually you figure out how to pray the Rosary every day.
And when you begin to pray - to really pray - prepare yourself for trials. Whenever you embark upon anything good in the spiritual life, the combat begins. Sometimes that can be a sign to "do even more" as St. Paul says. Frequent Mass and the sacraments - especially confession. And use sacramentals - especially wearing Our Lady's livery: The Scapular of Mt. Carmel along with the shield of the Miraculous Medal, and keep the very best weapon of the Rosary with you at all times. These are tools, weapons, Our Lady herself has given to her children through the saints. These are not foolish devotions or superstitious.
Art: Peter Paul Rubens. Flemish, about 1623 - 1624. Oil on panel
If you are interested in religious life, check out The Franciscans of the Immaculate.