Tag Archives: Faith

Doing Church A Whole New Way

How do you like to worship God?  That question gets many different answers.  Some might say, “I like to worship God through music.”  Others might prefer to sit on the beach or hike through the woods observing the majesty of God’s creation.  Still others will relate how being at church or reading the Bible is their favorite way to worship God.  All of these are good.  God is certainly pleased by our desire to focus on Him in some way.  Now, let’s ask a different question.  How does God want us to worship Him?

We don’t have to read very far in the Bible before realizing that our worship preferences often depart from what God asks of us.  Cain killed Abel out of jealousy because God accepted Abele’s offering.  The Israelites made a golden calf as a form of worship.  Moses wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land because he departed from God’s instructions.  Saul got in trouble because he didn’t honor God the way the prophet said he should.  There are plenty of examples.  The point is that there is God’s way and there is our way.  We tend to do things our way.  Worship is no exception.

The other day I saw a yard sign that had been placed near a public park.  The sign was an advertisement for a church.  The sign said, “Doing church a whole new way.”  I understand completely the reason for the sign.  They are trying to attract people to their church through creative marketing and new methodologies.  I have been a board member and a minister in churches that were faced with the same challenge of how to increase attendance.  Many churches have tried creative things to draw people in.  While it is not bad to use creativity, it creates problems when God’s preferred method of worship is neglected, abused or even eliminated.

One problem is that we have become a society of spectators.  We like to sit in front of screens or stages and be entertained too much.  Hence, many churches are akin to attending a concert or going to a movie or a sporting event.  Get your coffee or other refreshment, take it with you into the venue, sit down and observe and listen.  Church has become primarily a spectator event.  Participation in such church events might consist of singing a song (if you feel like it) or maybe giving an occasional shout of approval.  But that is something one can also do at a baseball game.  One can sing the national anthem at the start of the game, sing Take Me Out To The Ball Game at the seventh inning and give a shout when one’s team scores.  And, of course, one can have a drink and a hot dog while enjoying the event.  This is what many churches have become modeled after: a venue for spectators to enjoy.

Worship is not for spectators.  Worship is for participants.  True worship also cannot be invented by us because it has already been instituted by God.  Jesus Christ Himself instituted Christian worship at The Last Supper.  He took bread and wine, turned it into Himself and instructed His disciples to eat and drink of His Body and His Blood (“this is my body, this is my blood”).  The Last Supper was the first Mass.

The Mass is not for spectators.  The believing Christian participates in every aspect of the Mass through his/her universal priesthood (not to be confused with the ordained priesthood).  Many Catholics don’t even realize that they are members of the priesthood of believers by virtue of their baptism.  We are not supposed to be merely observing the Mass and the actions of the ordained priest, but joining with the priest and every aspect of the supreme sacrifice of Christ (“through Him, with Him and in Him”).  The Mass unites us with Christ and with each other.  This is the worship that God wants from us.  He wants us to be conformed to Christ by partaking of the entire Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity).

People that are bored with the Mass do not understand the Mass.  The Mass does not depend upon the quality of the music or the dynamism of the preacher.  The Mass does not depend upon how well or how loudly the congregants sing.  The Mass does not depend upon how socially outgoing or how shy the people may be.  The Mass does not depend upon how entertained or inspired people may or may not “feel.”  The Mass is no place for coffee or other refreshments because the food that is offered is The Word of God made flesh, The Living Bread, Jesus Christ Himself.  You don’t need to bring your own food to a banquet supplied by God!

“The Mass” is the answer to the question, “How does God want the Christian to worship?”  The answer has been the same for 2000 years, ever since Jesus Christ instituted the first Mass in the Upper Room with His newly ordained priests.  Jesus showed them how He wanted them to worship, and they passed it down through the centuries.  No other form of worship needs to be “invented” by us.  Whatever we may come up with is less than what God asks of us.  Any other form of worship ultimately becomes more about us than about God.  We may even fall into idolatry as we seek our own worship “preferences.”

If we are in any way unsatisfied with God’s method of worship, the problem is with us, not with the worship method.  We don’t need to “do church in a whole new way.”  We need to be converted and see God’s true form of worship the way He wants us to see it.  Our creativity should be focused not on changing God’s method of Christian worship, but on finding ways to help people understand and love the worship that Christ instituted.

Help people understand and love Christ’s Holy Mass!  It will change their lives!

A Therapist’s Question

The question that is famously associated with therapists is, “How does that make you feel?”  There is a time and a place for that question (or a variant of it), but answering it is certainly not all there is to therapy.  There are many questions to be asked and processed.  One question that seems to probe the heart of the matter quite often is, “What are you afraid of?” or “What are you afraid will happen then?”

So many people are driven by fear.  I don’t mean the healthy kind of fear that causes one to avoid genuine danger, but a nagging sense of emptiness or discontentment (I am not necessarily discussing anxiety disorders here).  It is a fear described by Tillich as a fear of “non-being,” although few people draw that conclusion as they move through their fearful lives.  People generally attempt to ease the fear by means of acquiring material goods, pleasures, or by investing in relationships.  Since people, pleasures and things are imperfect and finite, they will eventually disappoint, deteriorate or disappear.  Therefore, the fear remains below the surface.  It is Thoreau’s life of “quiet desperation.”

I have seen many couples, for example, that found in each other what they initially perceived to be the antidote to their fear of non-being.  Yet, they failed to resolve that fear in each other.  They discovered that it is not possible for one person to be “everything” despite what the lyrics of romantic songs may suggest.  They have somehow failed to “complete” each other and now they sit before me, their therapist, wondering what is wrong with their relationship.  Generally, each partner wants me to change the other partner into someone that will ease their underlying fears and make them feel whole.

One of the most repeated phrases in Scripture is, “Fear not,” or, “Do not be afraid.”  Having created us, God understands us to the core.  God also knows that our fear of non-being cannot be entirely eased by people, pleasures or things.  Only God can fill that void.  We are designed that way.  Hence, people of all places and times have turned to some form of religious expression.  As St. Augustine said, “We are restless until we rest in You, oh Lord.”  The admonition to “fear not” is a constant reminder to be adequately unattached to people, places and things, and to place our ultimate “OK-ness” in God alone.  Having placed our trust in God, we become free to fearlessly enjoy God’s gifts without desperately clinging to them as our source of being.  Relationships, pleasures, places and things take on new meaning.

The beauty of Christianity is not that it is one religion of many that seeks after God to resolve the fear of non-being.  The beauty is that through Christianity, God seeks after us.  God, knowing our fear, has revealed Himself to us as the antidote for fear.  We do not need to scratch and claw our way to the peace of God.  God has come down to us, embraced us, and told us to rest in Him.  Jesus shows us that we can live lives of faith, not fear.  There is more to our existence than this short life.  Through Christ we can live abundant lives instead of quietly desperate lives.

Christian Unity: When Will We Learn?

My fellow Christians, why are we divided?  Do we not all believe that Jesus is the Messiah?  Do we not all have access to the same Bibles?  Do we not all know the Apostles’ Creed?  Do we not all read the words of Jesus and the Apostles?  Why are these things not enough to keep us united in spiritual battle?  What do we lack?  Why are we not “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” as Paul admonished us to be?

We lack that which transforms a great horde into a well-oiled, disciplined, effective army:  allegiance to a central chain of command.  We also lack the holiness that comes from being disciplined and united.  How can we preach holiness while maintaining division?  The two are not compatible.  A divided army simply does not fight well.  Holiness is what we use to wage spiritual warfare.  Division is not holy.  Our lips profess allegiance to Christ, but our actions show division, contention and strife.

When will we learn that Jesus established a visible Church hierarchy, a chain of command for all Christians to follow and be accountable to?  We cannot be united while preaching and teaching different doctrines.  We cannot be united while following leaders that oppose each other.  When will we learn that unity requires humility and the swallowing of pride?  Soldiers must learn to follow orders that they may not agree with or fully understand.  When will we learn that we cannot worship wherever and however we want?  Worship cannot be invented by us.  Christian worship has been instituted by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  We cannot effectively function as different parts of the same Body if we are not fully united to that Body.  When will we learn that being Christian is not about choosing one’s preferences from a smorgasbord of doctrinal options, but about being obedient to the Faith?  One Lord, one Faith, one baptism.

When will we learn that genuine Christian unity will elude us until we reverse the perpetual, explosive trend of protest and division and return to the central command of Peter’s chair?

Rom 16:17, 1Cor 1:10, 1Cor 3:3, 1Cor 11:18, Matt 16:18

So, What’s Your Opinion?

Jesus called his Disciples to follow Him and they dropped everything and followed Him.  Then He spent three years teaching them.  I don’t recall Jesus ever asking His Disciples for their opinions.

I don’t see any indication that Jesus’ time with the Disciples was like many modern day Bible studies where people sit around sharing their own impressions of what this verse or that verse means to them.  I can’t imagine Jesus asking the Disciples for opinions on how to interpret Scripture.  If He did ask them, I certainly can’t imagine that Jesus would be satisfied with two or more opposing interpretations.  It is hard to imagine Jesus responding, “Well, that’s fine if you guys can’t agree on what it means, as long as it’s not essential to your salvation.”  It seems that Jesus taught them and they listened.  They may not have understood everything completely, but they had to accept what Jesus taught them.  Nothing was subject to personal opinion.  Even when Peter had the correct answer to a question (“You are the Christ”), Jesus didn’t say, “I like your opinion about me, Peter!”  Jesus didn’t give Peter any credit.  Jesus made it clear that God provided that correct answer, not Peter.

We need to have Jesus teach us while we listen.  That’s why Jesus gave us the Church.  He didn’t give us lots of different churches with opposing views and opinions.  Jesus gave us the Church with a successive hierarchy led by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus spent three years teaching His Disciples what He wanted them to know.  After Jesus ascended to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to make sure that they (the leaders of Church) would be able to “connect the dots” and continue the process of teaching until the end of the age.  To listen to the Church is to listen to Jesus.  God still provides the correct answers.

There is nothing in the Bible that says, “And Jesus told them to go and write a book to guide people’s opinions after the Apostles die off.”  The Bible itself does not claim to be our ultimate guide and authority.  Obviously, having access to the Bible has not resulted in Christian unity or concensus.  There are too many opposing opinions in play.  I can’t recall Jesus ever being interested in everyone having a right to their own opinions.  He seemed very interested in obedience, though.

There’s an old hymn I recall from my Protestant days.  “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.”  The key is deciding who, and/or what, to obey.  There are so many opinions.  There are so many churches teaching so many different things about Jesus and Scripture.  Jesus knew this would happen.  It’s human nature to muddy the water.  That’s why Jesus gave us His Church with a Spirit-led, successive hierarchy.  To obey His Church is to obey Jesus.  If we wait until we understand every teaching clearly, we will never step forward in faith.  Like the Disciples, we must accept things we do not fully understand.

Sound scary?  I have yet to know of someone whose life or soul was brought to ruin by faithfully following what is taught in the Catholic Catechism.  Challenged, perhaps, but not ruined.  It’s all about Jesus, after all.  And that’s more than simply my opinion.

Becoming One Flesh: Eucharist And Marriage

Dr. Scott Hahn recently posted an excellent Facebook response to a question about the Eucharist being closed to non-Catholics.  His answer reflected on his own spiritual journey from Evangelical Christian to Presbyterian minister to Catholic.  Each step in his journey brought him closer to understanding the sacramental aspect of both marriage and the Eucharist.  Each relationship is a “one flesh” union requiring fidelity and integrity.

As I reflected on Dr. Hahn’s answer, it occurred to me that perhaps a lack of understanding about the Eucharist and marriage contributes to the wide acceptance of contraception.  For example, if marriage is not viewed as a sacrament, it becomes only a symbol and loses integrity.  It can be manipulated according to the will of anyone desiring to make use of its symbolism.  If Holy Communion is only a symbol, it loses any need for fidelity.  Anyone can “join in.”  There is no need for full union between participants.  The Eucharist becomes merely a symbol of common feelings rather than a reality of a “one flesh” union.  Since everyone “feels good” about Jesus, they should all be allowed to partake of the Eucharist, right?

Ironically, few married people would be comfortable becoming one flesh with someone they were not fully united to in marriage.  That’s called infidelity and it is rightfully frowned upon by most married people.  We don’t let everyone “join in.”  So, why should we be ok letting people “join in” the one flesh union of the Eucharist if those people are not fully united with Christ’s Church?

And why should we let people partake of the Eucharist if they don’t even believe that what they are participating in is an actual, “one flesh” union?  That’s like being in a contraception marriage.  There are lots of “good feelings” that feel like bonding, but there is not a one flesh union taking place in the marriage.  It is a lack of integrity.  The marriage is only symbolic of the feelings they have about each other.  They do not take the marriage to its full realization of a one flesh, life giving union.

One of the best ways for the devil to mess up our relationship with Christ is to promote the following errors:

–          The Holy Communion is only symbolic.  The bread and wine are not transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  We don’t need to become one flesh with Christ at Communion.  All we need is our good feelings about Jesus and the Bible.

–          Contraception is fine and even preferable.  Sex and marriage are mostly about bonding and “good feelings,” not primarily about becoming one flesh and creating new life.

–          Anyone that believes in Jesus should be allowed to participate in Holy Communion.  No fidelity to the Church or her Christ-given authority is necessary.

The two Sacraments of Eucharist and Marriage are intimately connected in such a way that an attack on one serves as an attack on the other.  A deeper understanding of one leads to a deeper understanding of the other.  “Becoming one flesh” is a critical theme that connects the two Sacraments in a unique way.

Catholics are not mean, snobbish “elitists” that refuse to let other Christians “join in.”  We simply hold to the understanding of Jesus and the Church Fathers who saw the need for covenantal integrity and marital fidelity within marriage and within the Church.

C’mon, Jesus, Cut To The Chase!

The Gospel is simple, right?  Just believe in Jesus and you will be saved.  Well, it may be simple, but it’s not simplistic.  After all, Jesus spent three years teaching His disciples what He wanted them to teach us.  Then, the Apostles spent years teaching others through oral Tradition and written letters.  So, there must be more to learn and do.  The new birth is just that…a birth.  After birth comes growing and learning.  In other words, maturing in the Faith is just as important as being born into it.  Having the faith of a child is not the same thing as remaining immature and ignorant.  Childlike faith is not childish faith.

It seems many folks leave Catholicism (or avoid converting to it) because they are turned off by the complexity of it.  They want to “simply believe” without all the “extra stuff” that seems to complicate matters.  Imagine the Apostles saying to Jesus, “Umm, Master, can you just cut to the chase, please?  Why is it taking you years to tell us what we need to know?  Isn’t it enough that we believe in you?”  Yes, it was a “simple” step to drop everything and follow Jesus.  No, it was not “simplistic” in the sense that nothing else would need to be learned or accomplished after that initial step.  As Paul said, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

Take, for example, how Jesus healed a certain blind man.  The man believed Jesus could do it.  The faith was there.  Jesus could have simply said, “You’re healed.”  Instead, Jesus spit on the ground, made some clay, rubbed it in the man’s eyes and told him to go wash it off (John Chapter 9).  After following Jesus’ directions, the man was healed.  For some reason, Jesus “complicated” things.  Notice, the blind man did not object and say, “Forget all this mud and washing business!  Why are you making me jump through all these hoops?  Just heal me, for crying out loud!”  The blind man did not insist on simplicity at the expense of heeding Christ’s words.

Catholicism is about following the directions of Christ in some very particular ways that go beyond the initial step of the new birth.  If you are avoiding the Church because of “all the rules and extra stuff” what you are actually doing is dismissing the directions of Christ.  What the Apostles learned from Christ and handed on to us is filled with depth and richness.  It has also matured over 2000 years.  It takes a lifetime to scratch the surface.

Nevertheless, if you insist on focusing on simplicity, even Catholicism offers that.  Believe in Christ and then, like the blind man, “do whatever He tells you” (as Mary said in John 2:5).  In other words, go to Mass.  Go to confession.  Partake of the Sacraments that Jesus gave us.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  It’s really not so complicated after all.  Yet, at the same time, it is extremely deep and complex.  We just have to stop the excuses and all the attempts to practice Christianity on our own terms.  Let’s be honest.  Sometimes we demand simplicity because we are simply being lazy.

And The Truth Will…Make You Feel Good?

There is, as far as I can tell, no “great commission” to spread the New Age message.  There was no single founder of the New Age movement that said, “Go into all the world making New Age disciples of all nations.”  Thus, it seems ironic to me that there are so many people willing to “spread the New Age word” by posting messages on social media and the bumpers of their cars.  The Disciples of Christ spread the Gospel not simply to voice their beliefs, express their opinions or make people feel good, but because Jesus commanded them to do so.  They also mostly died in the process.

We now live in a world of relativism where “truth” is subject to the individual’s whim.  People no longer want to seek the truth, find it and die for it.  Rather, people want to believe whatever feels best to them and call it truth.  Then they seek validation of that truth from others who also feel good about it.  One can post a New Age quote or sentiment on Facebook, for example, and the more “likes” it receives the more “true” it must be.  This is truth based on feelings and popular concenses, not divine revelation.

There are elements of truth sprinkled throughout different religions and philosophies.  One of the beautiful things about Catholicism is its ability to assimilate these truths and include them within the deposit of divine revelation.  Hence, Catholicism is not one belief pitted against all other beliefs, but an inclusive Faith that recognizes truth, filters it and places it in its proper order.

Ultimately, truth is not a feeling or a philosophy but the person, Jesus Christ.  The world has largely “domesticated” Jesus and turned Him into just another feel-good, New Age, religious guru who taught some nice stuff.  But, that is not the radical, subversive, divine Jesus that was killed for all the trouble He stirred up.  That is not the Jesus that the Apostles died following.  They knew Him best.  They knew the Truth.  Truth doesn’t always “feel” good.  There is suffering involved at some point.  People want Jesus, but not His cross.

Before you post some “spiritual truth” on social media, you might ask yourself, “Am I willing to die for what I’m about to post?”  Is it really the Way the Truth and the Life?  Or, is it just a way to make me feel good?

The Little Flower

I received the ten part documentary DVD set Catholicism for my birthday last week.  I had already seen some of the episodes on PBS and EWTN, and also in the men’s group at my parish.  It’s nice to have my own set, though.  I think Fr. Barron did an excellent job on the series.  I love how he traveled all over the world, even to my home town, to demonstrate the universality of the Church.  He also did a good job of going into some theological depth without completely losing the viewer.

Today I watched an episode that highlighted St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower.”  She has become an important influence in my spiritual journey.  It’s funny when I think back on my cradle Catholic days as a young man.  I used to ride my bicycle across town to visit a high school buddy of mine.  On the way I sometimes passed a Catholic Church called “Little Flower.”  I didn’t even know what that name meant.  I had no idea it was even named after a person.  I never visited that parish and I never learned about St. Therese and her nickname.  Now The Little Flower is a role model for me.  Just shows how clueless I was about my own faith back then.

In the episode, Father Barron talked about the “little way” of St. Therese and her view of holiness.  He related how St. Therese imagined that she could lift her arms up to God like a little child and He would, of course, reach down to lift her up.  In this way, she sensed that God could raise her up so very high because of her “littleness.”

While I was watching this episode, my toddler twins would periodically come into my room to see what I was doing and to say some childlike things to me.  My little daughter came in and, like she and her brother so often do, said with a smile, “You pick me up?”  I immediately saw in her the very essence of The Little Flower’s “little way.”  I reached down, picked her up, and to her delight and mine, lifted her high above my head.  Then I gave her a big hug and told her I loved her.

St. Therese, The Little Flower, pray for us!

lilfleur[1]St_Therese1[1]

Whose Conscience Are We Following?

It seems to me that one very misunderstood idea within Christianity is the idea of conscience formation.  While people are generally willing to do what they feel is right, they are less apt to consider how they came to know right from wrong in the first place.  People usually don’t think about what formed their conscience.  None of us totally “think on our own.”  We all borrow and exchange ideas, opinions, beliefs, values, principles, etc.  We learn things from parents, schools, churches, media, politics, friends, etc.  These sources all influence or “form” the conscience.

When presented with questions of morality and justice, which sources do we turn to?  What if parents taught that something is immoral, but school taught that it is moral and normal?  What if it is politically correct to normalize and embrace a certain lifestyle or behavior but Church teaching says it is wrong?  Who or what gets to have the preeminent spot in the conscience?  Out of all the competing forces inside the human heart, which one has the final say?

I have heard it said that if I follow the teachings of the Catholic Church I am not thinking for myself.  I am blindly going along with oppressive, religious teachings that marginalize or hurt certain peoples and populations.  Those who would make such an accusation apparently feel that I would be better off following their teachings instead of the Catholic Church.  In other words, they want to do my thinking for me.  They want to be the force that forms my conscience and teaches me right from wrong.  Why should I submit my will to theirs?

There is also a popular notion that one should be able to pick and choose which Church teachings to follow and which ones to reject based on one’s conscience.  However, the purpose of the Church is not to form the conscience and then produce a smorgasbord of rules for us to choose from in order to give us practice using our conscience.  It’s not like the military where soldiers are trained and then put through simulated battles to practice their skills.  The conscience is trained within the Church in order to fight battles that oppose the Church (i.e. Christ).  Put simply, the Church teaches us how to be good so we can fight evil.

It doesn’t help much in the fight against evil to have a conscience formed by the world rather than by the Church.  If the conscience is formed by the worldly, secular, politically correct culture, then following it will simply perpetuate the worldly, secular, politically correct culture.  A conscience that has been formed in opposition to the Church has been deformed.  It struggles to operate as a force against evil because it does not function properly.  It is more likely to assist evil ends than good ends, even if it does so blindly.

When we encounter a teaching of the Church that is difficult, we have choices.  One choice is to assert our conscience over and above that teaching, thereby potentially letting in the other conscience-forming forces that oppose good.  The other choice is to obediently allow our conscience to be formed by the Church.  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach the Church all things.  Following Church teachings is placing faith in the promise of Christ.  Faith requires a reasonable, obedient act of the will, not just feelings or hunches.  A properly formed conscience is not a “gut feeling.”  It is an obedient act of faith.

It also does not help the battle against evil to have multitudes of Christians believing and teaching different things.  While Christians vie against each other with, “The Bible says this,” or “The Bible says that,” evil exploits their distractions.  When all Christians are willing to follow the Church instead of their individual, misinformed consciences and private biblical interpretations, evil will cower.

God’s Magnifying Glass

Last night I had a spiritual “Aha!” moment.  It was one of those times when so many things come together at once that it takes a while to let it all sink in.  It is still sinking in, but I can safely say that it is a pivotal point in my spiritual journey.  I have a fresh awareness of someone I have known all of my life.  I heard, for the first time, a verse of Scripture that has been read to me all of my life.  I don’t know why it took me so long to finally hear it with my heart and not just my ears.

 

I was watching The Journey Home television program on EWTN.  The show interviews people that have converted or reverted to Catholicism and allows them to tell their stories.  The guest was Marie Romine, an actress and former Presbyterian.  In the midst of telling her story, she suddenly said, “Mary is a magnifying glass.”  I slightly cocked my head like a confused dog and wondered for an instant, “What does she mean by that?”  In the next moment, she quoted Luke1:46, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”  Then she said, “If you really want to know Jesus personally, look through Mary.  She magnifies her Son.”  Then, it hit me.

 

I suddenly realized that I had never heard that one, little verse explained so simply, so eloquently and so powerfully.  All of the technical, apologetic, theological explanations about Mary that were in my head suddenly captured my heart and embraced it.  Of course, I knew that Mary is all about Jesus, her Son.  I knew why we Catholics honor her as we do.  I knew how to argue the Protestant view and the Catholic view of Mary.  I knew the purpose of praying the Rosary.  Then Mary wrapped her arms around me, quieted my brain, and opened my heart to hers.  After all these years, my head and my heart finally connected.

 

I looked through the magnifying glass of Mary’s heart and saw Jesus, nothing else.  I was looking at The Master through the heart of the perfect disciple.  It was like looking through pure glass, free of dirt, dust, defects or deformities.  The glass magnified Jesus wherever it was aimed, and nothing could obstruct the view or distract from His beauty.  This magnifying glass was a heart full of grace, and it brought new focus to my faith.

 

Every question that my heart had ever asked about Mary was answered by, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”  Every Catholic devotion, prayer and teaching about Mary could be summed up in her words.  I realized that the heart of every disciple is destined to be like her grace-filled heart.  Before John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, or any other disciple, Mary knew Jesus personally and loved Him perfectly.  Her soul, like ours, was created to magnify the Lord, yet she has always fulfilled her purpose to this day.  That is why, as we gaze through her soul’s magnifying glass, we can truly say,

 

Hail, Mary, full of grace!

The Lord is with you!

Blessed are you among women

And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

 

Holy Mary, mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

Now, and at the hour of our death,

 

Amen.

From now on, I will see Mary in a wondrous, new way.