I would like these reflections to be crowned by Mary, because she lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other. She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us. Our converse with her consoles, frees and sanctifies us. Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need do is whisper, time and time again: “Hail Mary…” - Pope Francis
More Mother than Queen - S. Therese
I'll never forget when I was painting a replacement icon* of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for a church in Albany, Minnesota. I was working intensely, finishing highlights, and it seemed to me Our Lady said, "I'm venerated as Queen, but when I lived on earth I was ordinary and did very ordinary things. People need to know this." I kept working of course, pondering the words, and considering how true they were, the Holy Family was very hidden, very ordinary, dutiful and very much part of the community. They modeled the 'domestic church' but they were not isolated or self-sufficient, rather they were united, or incorporated into the Jewish community in which they lived.
I mention that because of the Holy Father's new Apostolic Exhortion, Guadete et exsultate, released today. After a quick read, it strikes me as the jewel of his pontificate. Many will discuss and critique the letter with great insight, but for me, I am deeply touched and thrilled that the Holy Father has articulated - or summed up - his 'little way' of holiness for the Church. He answers questions, he completes the thoughts and aspirations of so many of the 'ordinary people of the streets' so to speak. I can't wait to ponder the document in prayer. What a wonderful gift to the Church on this Our Lady's extraordinary feast day.
59. Once we believe that everything depends on human effort as channelled by ecclesial rules and structures, we unconsciously complicate the Gospel and become enslaved to a blueprint that leaves few openings for the working of grace. Saint Thomas Aquinas reminded us that the precepts added to the Gospel by the Church should be imposed with moderation “lest the conduct of the faithful become burdensome”, for then our religion would become a form of servitude.
The summation of the Law
60. To avoid this, we do well to keep reminding ourselves that there is a hierarchy of virtues that bids us seek what is essential. The primacy belongs to the theological virtues, which have God as their object and motive. At the centre is charity. Saint Paul says that what truly counts is “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). We are called to make every effort to preserve charity: “The one who loves another has fulfilled the law… for love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:8.10). “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Gal 5:14).
61. In other words, amid the thicket of precepts and prescriptions, Jesus clears a way to seeing two faces, that of the Father and that of our brother. He does not give us two more formulae or two more commands. He gives us two faces, or better yet, one alone: the face of God reflected in so many other faces. For in every one of our brothers and sisters, especially the least, the most vulnerable, the defenceless and those in need, God’s very image is found. Indeed, with the scraps of this frail humanity, the Lord will shape his final work of art. For “what endures, what has value in life, what riches do not disappear? Surely these two: the Lord and our neighbour. These two riches do not disappear!”
62. May the Lord set the Church free from these new forms of gnosticism and pelagianism that weigh her down and block her progress along the path to holiness! These aberrations take various shapes, according to the temperament and character of each person. So I encourage everyone to reflect and discern before God whether they may be present in their lives. - Gaudete et exsultat
Happy Feast Day!
*The original Perpetual Help image above the side altar was paper under glass, although it was deteriorating, so the pastor commissioned the icon painted on wood. I also made a crown studded with semi-precious stones and diamond chips, in the style of the Roman icon.