Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
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Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
The Annunciation is the first joyful mystery of the Holy Rosary. It was also the first Holy Communion. It was the first time Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity entered into another human body. And just as He is in the Eucharist, He was hidden when he entered into Mary’s body. But by faith she knew that He was there, and His presence moved her. Literally. His presence in her body caused her to move with haste and joy.
The Visitation is the second joyful mystery of the Holy Rosary. Here we see that Mary’s humble “fiat” - her simple but resounding “yes” to the Lord - became The Magnificat. By the grace of God, this poor girl from Galilee was destined to become the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and like the Child in her womb, Mary chose to serve rather than to be served. Mary’s decision to go help Elizabeth is an immediate reaction to the great Divine Love that was poured into her soul when Christ came into her body. How do we react when Christ comes into our bodies after receiving Him in Holy Communion? Are we any different? Are we more charitable? More loving? More patient? More compassionate? More forgiving? We should be. If not it’s to reevaluate some things.
In her book, The Habit of Being, Flannery O'Connor writes, “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” I could not agree more. This is exactly what happens to so many of us after we receive communion. We resist the grace infused in our souls because we do not want to change our habits, behaviors, or attitudes. We’re not willing to trade our vices for virtues so we ignore His grace and hold on to our pride. Yet The Eucharist demands that we change. The physical presence of Jesus within our bodies grants us the graces we need to live and love like saints – to rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, and persevere in prayer (cf. Rom 12:12) – if we so chose. But even if our human nature is resisting the path to sainthood, the more we frequent the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and Holy Communion, the more unavoidable this path will become, for His grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses (cf. 2 Cor 12:9). And where sin increases, grace abounds all the more (cf. Romans 5:20).
"Listen: there are two things the devil is deadly afraid of: fervent Communions and frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament." - St. John Bosco
The New Evangelization In Fr. Robert Barron’s series on The New Evangelization he reports that it takes one generation of inadequate adult catechesis to go from weekly church attendance to non-church attendance and then it only takes one more generation to go from non-church attendance to non-belief. This is the frightening possibility to think about, especially when you also consider the fact that of the one million teens confirmed each year in the U.S., approximately 85% will stop practicing their faith within seven years. However, in spite of all that, the Church still retains almost 70% of its members from adolescence to adulthood - this is the highest retention rate of all Christian denominations.
Being a former fallen away Catholic myself, I believe our high retention rate is because we love Christ crucified and Christ in the Eucharist. Therefore we understand why bad things happen to good people and why sacrificial love is the only true love. We do not promote the “Prosperity Gospel” that some Christian denominations preach, but instead encourage each other to live the beatitudes with joy, charity, and laughter. We are the Church of the saints and the sinners, but the saints know how to suffer well. Through praying the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and Divine Mercy Chaplet, we meditate on the passion of Jesus and come to beauty in such a terrible sacrifice. This appreciation and the consolation of Mother Mary in times of trouble sustain our faith. The “Prosperity Gospel” gives no value or meaning to suffering, and thus causes non-Catholic Christians to lose their faith when faced with the sorrowful mysteries.
“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Love in action is harsh, but it is pure joy – it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Love goes out from itself and gives itself totally to another. Love is meant to grow and to be shared - that is why we evangelize. But truth be told, the New Evangelization is hard work. It forces us to reach out as far as we can to seek out all the lost and the lonely, the sick and the suffering, the cold hearted and the brokenhearted, the persecutors and the persecuted, and all the prodigal sons and daughters.
Sub Tumm Praesidium is one of the oldest earliest Marian prayers in Church history; it dates back to at least the third century. In English it translates to:
“We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.”
Unlike the Hail Mary, the words to this prayer are not found directly in The Bible yet it has been passed down from generation to generation for the past seventeen hundred years. Why? Because the early Church Fathers and the great saints throughout Church history have all had a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother. They all looked up to her as a model of unwavering faith, constant hope, and authentic love. They also saw her as a refuge for sinners and sought her intercession in times of temptation. We too should seek to imitate her virtues and take refugee under her protection.
My devotion to her increased greatly while after I read the book “33 Days to Morning Glory” in preparation for my Marian consecration a couple of months ago. Three of the four saints that the book uses to explain Marian consecration were priests: St. Louis De Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and St. John Paul II. All of these holy priests had an extremely strong Marian devotion that helped them love and serve Jesus to the best of their abilities. Mother Mary walked with each of them throughout their lives as she walked with St. John the Apostle all the way up to the foot of the Cross. She is the mother of all Christians, but especially of priests.
So let us pray for the four men that are being ordained today in the Diocese of Dallas, that they may always seek Our Blessed Mother’s intercession in their ministries and always turn to her in times of distress.
This mediation was written by Stephanie Juarez. She is a confirmation teacher and a member of the youth ministry core team at St. Monica Catholic Church in Dallas, TX. For more of her writings please visit her blog Lover of the Light.