40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #3 The Blessed Mother

“Hail Full of Grace, the Lord is with you.”

When the Lord spoke these words to Mary, her life was changed forever.  She was to become the Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  When she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who was also with child, even in her old age, her words were prophetic as well.  When Mary entered Elizabeth’s home the child in her womb leapt for joy and Elizabeth said,

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”  

Of course, these two sentences from Luke’s Gospel are the beginning of the “Hail Mary”, the tribute to the Blessed Virgin that every Catholic learns early in life and continues to pray as long as they live.

We discussed earlier, in our post on saints, that we don’t worship Mary.  We venerate her.  How else should we treat Jesus’ mother?  Without her, there would have been no Messiah.  Obviously Mary could have said no.  In fact one reason we do venerate her is because she said yes.  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  Mary could have refused.  She could have told Gabriel to leave her alone.  She was young.  She was engaged to be married.  The last thing she needed was a surprise pregnancy.  Nazareth was a small town.  What were the neighbors going to think?  What was Joseph going to say?  But she had faith in God and she agreed to do His will.

Don’t forget, Mary was born without sin.  God had been preparing for this event for years.  If Mary had refused to go along, He couldn’t just go get another woman.  He would have had to start over.  But, of course, He knew that she would never refuse to do His will.

But why do we Catholics have such a strong devotion to Mary?  After all, other faith traditions believe the same Nativity story that we do.  They understand that Mary was Jesus’ mother, but they don’t seem to hold her in the high esteem that we do.  We pray for Mary to intercede for us with Jesus.   Every Catholic church has at least one statue of her.  Until recently, Mary was the most popular girl’s name in the United States.  There are thousands of Catholic Churches named after her, either as Saint Mary, or as one of her other appellations.  We Catholics love Mary.

Mary carried our Lord in her womb for nine months.  She raised Him from a baby and held Him in her arms after He was crucified.  She was assumed into heaven so her sinless body wouldn’t have to lie in the ground.  She was Jesus’ mother and I think we can all agree, if you love someone as much as we love Jesus, you have to love their mom.

Mary said “yes” to God and gave birth to His Son.  As He hung on the cross, Jesus gave her to his beloved Apostle John, and so gave her to us.  Mary was very cool.

Here’s a trivia question for you.  What is the only US city named after the blessed mother?  

 

 

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #18 Saint Joseph


Saint Joseph

Today is the feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin.  Like many Catholic men, Saint Joseph is my hero.  Here’s a man who was the step-father of the Son of God yet we don’t know a single word he ever said. We don’t even know when he died.  The last reference we have to him in scripture is the incident where he and Mary found Jesus in the temple when He was still a young boy.  Yet he was a key player in our salvation.  Without Joseph’s participation God’s plan for our salvation would have come to a screeching halt.  We don’t know how old he was at the time he took Mary as his wife though legend has it that he was an older man.

One thing we know is that he had tremendous faith.  He accepted God’s call.  He accepted Mary’s explanation of her pregnancy.  He agreed to allow Mary to remain a virgin, even after their marriage.  At the angel’s command, he abandoned what we assume to be a successful carpentry business and move his family to Egypt.  Then, after he must have restarted his business there, the angel came again and told him to move back to Nazareth.

When the child was left behind in the temple, he helped Mary search for him, and when they found Him, what did Jesus say?  “Didn’t you know I must be in my FATHER’S house?”  How painful must that have been for him?  Yet, he followed his calling and did everything he could do to raise God’s son.  As his human role model, Joseph taught Jesus how to be a man.

When I think of Jesus, I’m reminded of my late father-in-law.  He was a devout Catholic but he didn’t make a big deal out of it.  He did what he thought God wanted him to do in a simple, humble way.  If he had been born a generation later, Harold would have made a much better deacon than his son-in-law.  He lived his faith and, as Saint Francis said, he preached the Gospel every single day without using words.

In spite of what the media and anti-Catholic pundits would like us to believe, the Catholic Church is not dominated by men.  Granted the ordained leadership is male-only, as Jesus wants it to be.  But take a look around you on Sunday at mass.  Women are in the majority.  Our society makes it much more difficult for a man to be a devout Catholic.  It’s just not “manly”, especially in the United States.

One example, and it may not be particularly insightful but it’s still a common occurrence, would be professional sports.  Catholic athletes from other countries, particularly those from Latin America, regularly make the sign of the cross before stepping into the batters box in baseball, and when they’ve had a successful at-bat.  Hispanic goal keepers kiss the goal posts and cross themselves before every game.  But, when was the last time you saw an Anglo-American do the same thing?  Not often.

We men are very blessed to have Joseph as our spiritual role model.  He may not have said anything that the Gospel writers felt was worth writing down, but his actions spoke volumes.

So, here’s to you, Saint Joseph, on your feast day.  You answered God’s call.  You suffered much hardship and raised God’s son to be a man.  You went about your faith and your business with quiet dignity.  Thank you for your example.  It couldn’t have been easy to be you.  Being the only member of the household who was capable of committing sin must have been quite a challenge. Whenever anything went wrong, it had to be your fault.

Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and mentor to the Son of God, thank you for showing all of us what it really means to be cool!