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Friday, September 2, 2016

I Love Being Catholic and Here's One Reason: The Liturgical Year

The 4th Sorrow of Mary: Jesus meets His mother on the road to Calvary
Every month, the Catholic Church offers us a devotion on which to focus. May is the month of Mary when we honor her with May processions filled with all the beautiful Marian hymns center stage. October is the month of the holy rosary.We recall the Battle of Lepanto when Pope Pius V called on all Christendom to pray the rosary to defeat the invading Muslim hordes. June and July are dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to His Precious Blood

September is a special month for me because it honors Mary's Seven Sorrows, a devotion I love.

Every night when I can't sleep I begin meditating on the seven sorrows beginning with Simeon's prediction at the presentation: "This child will be the rise and downfall of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed; and a sword of sorrow will pierce your own heart." Then I say the Hail Mary and go on to the second sorrow, the flight into Egypt. Often before I reach the end, I have fallen back to sleep and when I awake again I recall where I left off and begin meditating on the next sorrow.

Why, you ask, would anyone want to think of all those awful things? Why not meditate on the joys of Mary? Well, in fact, I do. I love the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary and my favorite mystery, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, is from the Glorious Mysters. But, as I grow older, I am more and more aware of the sorrows and sufferings of life which are unavoidable and threaten to sink us into the "Slough of Despond." How easy it would be to "despair and die." Looking at suffering from the world's point of view tempts us to that end.

But we are called to be a people of life and suffering is part of life. How we integrate it into our lives shows one of the ways we, as Catholics, are a sign of contradiction to the world. We don't take Brittany Maynard's way out when faced with terminal illness. Rather we are called to be people of life using our suffering to save and transform the world.

Yesterday, my five-year-old granddaughter fell as she was getting off the trampoline. Her little brother was running and bumped her. Out she tumbled through the exit opening. We do everything we can to keep them safe as they play and the trampoline is surrounded by a net to prevent falls while jumping, but this freak accident resulted in her falling on her arm which was clearly bruised and swollen last night. Today she is off with Mom and Dad for an X-ray which we hope will show nothing broken. But last night she was crying and nursing her hurt arm with a bag of ice. I hugged her and told her about little Jacinta of Fatima and her brother and cousin who rubbed prickly nettles on their skin as a sacrifice to save poor sinners from hell. "You can save poor sinners too, Bianca. Let's say the Fatima prayer." And we did. "Jesus, I offer this for love of you, for the conversion of poor sinners and in atonement for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary." She dried her tears and climbed up on my lap to be my card-playing partner. Little ones can understand the value of suffering for others.

And so, as this month devoted to Mary's Sorrows progresses, I hope to remember every time I'm tempted to complain about my physical aches and pains and mental and emotional suffering not to waste any of it. Since my adoration hour this week, I've been praying the first line of Psalm 18, "I love you, O Lord, my strength."

We do not suffer alone but with Our Lord. When we invoke his aid in our suffering there is nothing beyond us, because our strength is His strength.

Lord Jesus, Savior of the World, give us the courage to "make up what's lacking" in your suffering, i.e., our own willing participation. Christ wants us to be co-redeemers with Him. Are we willing? When we are in any kind of pain, let us remember to say this prayer:

"Jesus, my Lord and my God, I love you. Save souls, especially those in most need of your mercy."

I love the Catholic liturgical year. It invites us into a fuller participation in the life of Christ and His bride, the Church. Just as the seasons offer us different celebrations and events, so the liturgical season enriches our spiritual life with fasts and feasts. Help me enter every day, Lord, into the Church's life. 

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