Mother Mary’s Birthday: A Day to Celebrate

A Day to Celebrate

Every September 8, we celebrate Mother Mary’s birthday!  It should be a festive day, just like any birthday.  But how can we celebrate the birthday of someone who lived so long ago and is in Heaven now?  Well, there are several ways.

My mom never wants any presents on her birthday.  She tells us that all she wants is for us to behave!  On Mary’s birthday, we can think around the same lines.  It would be really special to place flowers before her statue or to sing Happy Birthday and bake a cake.  However, there are other more spiritual exercises we can do in Mary’s honor on this special day.

Children might enjoy celebrating Mary’s birthday with one of our Blessed Mother Magnets: Our Lady of Guadalupe, The Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Fatima, or Mary Mother of God!

Giving the Gift of Ourselves

Since Mary loves to draw us closer to her Son, Jesus, a great way to celebrate her birthday would be to attend Mass.  While Mary was on earth, she loved helping others and giving the gift of herself, her time, and her talents.  Spending time helping others on Mary’s birthday can be an excellent gift.  We could also use this day to give ourselves to Mary and entrust our hearts to her care.  She loves us more than we can imagine and the gift of trust is one of the greatest gifts of all.

The Rosary is one of the greatest and most beautiful prayers in the history of the Church and it is a beautiful meditation on the lives of Jesus and Mary. Praying the Rosary on the birthday of Mary can draw us closer to her and her Son and make them both very happy.  Mother Teresa said that praying the Rosary was just like holding Mary’s hand – and what better way to show Mary we love her than by praying the Rosary and holding her hand on her birthday!

And so, on this special day when we celebrate the birthday of Mary, let us put our trust in our Heavenly Mother and give her all of our love.

Happy Birthday, dear Blessed Mother!

“If you knew how much I love you, you would cry for joy!”                                           Our Lady of Medugorje

Mother Teresa: Saint of the Poor

Early Life

Mother Teresa, also known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was born on August 26, 1910, and given the name of Agnes.  She was baptized on August 27, and she always considered this her “true birthday.”

At the age of eighteen, Agnes joined the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland.  She hoped to learn English so she could become a missionary with the Sisters of Loreto in India.

On May 24, Agnes made her first profession and took the name of Saint Therese of Lisieux, the patron of Missionaries.  Since another sister had taken the name Therese, Agnes chose the Spanish spelling and became known as Sister Teresa.  During this time, Sister Teresa worked as a teacher.  On May 14, 1937, Sister Teresa made her final profession.

“You can help your children celebrate the feast of Saint Mother Teresa with her magnet!” – Theresa 

Serving the Poor

Sister Teresa was transferred to the convent school of the Sisters of Loreto in Calcutta, and she taught there for almost twenty years.  During her years teaching, she became disturbed by the poverty that abounded in Calcutta.

On September 10, 1946, Sister Teresa experienced “the call within the call.”  She describes the experience in the following way,

“I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them.  It was an order.  To fail would have been to break the faith.”

In 1948, Teresa donned a cotton sari (traditional Indian garb) with a blue border.  Armed with Indian citizen and basic medical training, Teresa ventured into the slums.  She founded a school and began caring for the poor and the hungry.  Women began joining her in her work in 1949.  Teresa then began formulating the groundwork for a new religious community dedicated to serving “the poorest of the poor.”

Missionaries of Charity

The road to founding a new community was filled with difficulties but that did not discourage Teresa.  On October 7, 1950, the Vatican approved Teresa’s new community of thirteen sisters which would care for those who had no one to care for them – “the poorest of the poor,” the unlovable, and the burdensome, and the shunned.  Teresa became Mother Teresa and served as superior general of the Missionaries of Charity from 1950 until her death in 1997.

Each member makes the customary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  However, they also make a fourth vow – to give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.  In 1963, Mother Teresa also founded the Missionaries of Charity Brothers.

At the time of Mother Teresa’s death, the Missionaries of Charity had grown to more than 4,000 sisters and 300 brothers working at 610 missions in more than 123 countries.

Honors and Awards

Mother Teresa gave so much to so many people.  In her own words,

“By blood, I am Albanian.  By citizenship, an Indian.  By faith, I am a Catholic nun.  As to my calling, I belong to the world.  As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

Mother Teresa was fluent in five languages and traveled often.  Her work quickly gained global recognition and she received many awards including:

India’s highest civilian award (the Bharat Ratna) in 1970; the Inaugural Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971; the Albert Schwitzer International Prize in 1975; the Pacem in Terris Award, the La Storta Medal for Human Service, and the Poverello Medalin 1976; the Balzan Prize in 1978; the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979; the Order of Merit in 1983; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985.

Mother Teresa’s official biography was published in 1992 and on November 16, 1996, she was given honorary United States citizenship.  Over the years, Mother Teresa received several honorary degrees and many more awards than those that are listed here.

Lasting Legacy

In 1983, Mother Teresa had a heart attack while she was visiting Pope Saint John Paul II.  In 1989, she had another heart attack.  After an attack of Pneumonia and more heart problems in 1991, Mother Teresa offered to resign as superior general, but the sisters voted for her to stay and she agreed.

Mother Teresa fell and broke her collarbone in April of 1996.  In August she contracted malaria and had heart failure.  Her health steadily declined and on March 13, 1997, Mother Teresa resigned as superior general of the Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997 at the age of 87.  She was beatified on October 19, 2003 by Pope Saint John Paul II.  On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis canonized Blessed Mother Teresa!  Saint Teresa’s feast day is September 5 and she is the patron Saint of World Youth Day and The Missionaries of Charity.  On September 6, 2017, she was also chosen as the co-patron of the Archdiocese of Calcutta along with Saint Francis Xavier.

Her love for the poor and the marginalized should inspire us to serve others and to find Christ even in those we consider unlovable.  Love is a choice and every day, Mother Teresa chose love and service.  She found Christ in the poorest of the poor and we can find Christ in all those around us.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, please pray for us!

“Intense love does not measure.  It just gives.”  Mother Teresa

“We also have a simple version of Saint Mother Teresa’s story for the kids. Plus a free coloring sheet!” – Theresa 🙂

Saints Monica and Augustine: The Fruit of Many Tears

A Difficult Marriage

Saints Monica and Augustine are powerful Saints!  We learn almost everything we know about Saint Monica from her son, Saint Augustine of Hippo.

Monica was born around the year 331 in present-day Algeria.  Even though she was a Christian, when she was still very young, Monica’s parents married her off to a pagan named Patricius.  Both Patricius and his mother (who lived with the couple) had violent tempers and this presented a challenge to the quiet and peaceful Monica.  Patricius did not share his wife’s Christian beliefs and he criticized her virtues but he respected her nevertheless.

Patricius and Monica had three children: two boys and one girl, the eldest of which is now known as Saint Augustine.  Augustine was born on November 13, 354.  Monica was never given permission to baptize any of her children and this greatly distressed her.  Monica never worried about her two youngest children.  Augustine, however, led an immoral life and wanted nothing to do with Christianity.

Conversion and Prayers

After many years of praying, Monica was grateful when Patricius and his mother both converted to Christianity.  Patricius’ mother converted on her death bed and Patricius died one year after his conversion.  The conversion of her husband and mother-in-law did not distract Monica, who continued her fervent prayers for her wayward son.

Augustine went to school in Carthage and studied rhetoric.  While there, he embraced the Manichean way of life which said that “all flesh is evil.”  When Augustine came home from school and shared his troubling beliefs with his mother, she banished him from her house, and only reconciled with him when prompted to do so by a vision.  Monica prayed and cried and fasted constantly for the conversion of her son.

Many legends say that Monica cried every night for many years because of Augustine.  When Monica spoke to a bishop about her distress over her son and about her fears for his soul, the bishop reassured her,

The child of so many tears shall never perish.

Once he finished school, Augustine spent many years teaching grammar and rhetoric.

Onward to Rome

When he was 29, Augustine decided to teach rhetoric in Rome.  Monica was determined to go with him.  Augustine tricked his mother and left without her but she was not discouraged.  When she arrived in Rome, she discovered that Augustine had left for Milan so she traveled to Milan also.  There, through the preaching and guidance of Saint Ambrose, who was, like Augustine, a master of rhetoric, and the encouragement and prayers of Monica, after about 17 wayward years, Augustine finally embraced Christianity and changed his ways.  Augustine was baptized on Easter Sunday in 387.

In 391, Augustine was ordained a priest and he later became bishop of Hippo.  Augustine is known for his writings including The Confessions of Saint Augustine and City of God.

Mother and Son Live On

Monica died around the year 387, about a year after her son’s conversion.  Augustine died on August 28, 430.  Both Saints Monica and Augustine were recognized as Saints before the official process of canonization came about.  Before 1969, Saint Monica’s feast day was celebrated on May 4.  However, it is now celebrated on August 27 and she is the patron Saint of wives, mothers, conversion, and difficult marriages.  Saint Augustine’s feast is celebrated the day after his mother’s on August 28 and he is a Doctor of the Church.  He is the patron Saint of the Augustinians, printers, and theologians.

We can turn to Saint Monica as an example of patience, fortitude, and perseverance.  We can also turn to Saint Augustine to see that there is hope for us all!  No sin is too great and no sinner is too far gone – Jesus wants us ALL to be in Heaven with Him!  Our prayers are powerful and we must always pray for others with the same dedication Saint Monica prayed for Saint Augustine.  Even though for many years it looked as if her prayers were not working, Saint Monica never doubted that her prayers were bearing fruit.

Saints Monica and Augustine, please pray for us!

“There are few things more powerful than the prayers of a righteous mother.”  Boyd K. Packer

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

A Special Feast Day

The Assumption of Mary is also known as the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Dormition of Mary.  It is a Holy Day of Obligation (when it is not celebrated on a Monday) and is celebrated annually on August 15.

Every year, Christians celebrate when Our Blessed Mother was taken up into Heaven body and soul at the end of her life.  On November 1, 1950 Pope Pius XII infallibly declared the doctrine of the Assumption a dogma:

“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the every Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

Sleeping or Dying?

It has not been dogmatically defined whether Mary actually died or not – Pope Pius XII left this question open when he said “having completed the course of her earthly life.”  Many people, however, believe that she did not die.  However, there is a tradition that Mary died in the presence of all of the apostles.  Saint Thomas, however, was absent.  When he arrived, the other apostles opened the tomb for him and found it empty.  The apostles then concluded that she had been taken up into Heaven.  A later tradition says that Mary then dropped her sash down from Heaven for Thomas as proof that she really had been assumed into Heaven.

What is the difference between the Ascension and the Assumption?  Jesus ascended.  Mary was assumed.  Because Jesus is God, He went up into Heaven by His own power.  Mary, however, is a creature.  She is not God.  Thus, she could not ascend to Heaven by her own power.  Thus, she was assumed – taken up into Heaven.

In Heaven but With Us

Even though Mary was assumed into Heaven, she is always with us.  Heaven is our home and Mary wants us to be with her and her Son for all eternity.  On the Solemnity of the Assumption, let us remember our Mother who is in Heaven and who loves us very much.  The Assumption is the fourth Glorious Mystery in the Rosary.  So, every time we pray the Rosary we can remember that she is always with us and that she loves us more than anyone else on earth could!

“Mary, give me your Heart: so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate; your Heart so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the in the Bread of Life and love Him as you love Him and serve Him in the distressing guise of the poor.”  ~ Saint Mother Teresa

The Transfiguration: Walk With Us, Lord

On the Mountaintop

The Feast of the Transfiguration is the day that we remember the day Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John on Mount Tabor.  In Matthew 17: 1-5, the Bible says:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him […].  Behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The Transfiguration is also the fourth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary and in the Bible!

Bringing Jesus with Us

Because of the Transfiguration, the mountaintop became a place where humanity meets God.  In many ways, life is filled with mountaintops and valleys.  There are times when we can feel the presence of Jesus very strongly, and we feel that nothing can take away our peace.  We want to stay on the mountain forever.  But life is not like that.  Life requires us to leave the mountain and go into the valley, where things are hard and we do not always feel the presence of Jesus.

In the valley, it is important to remember that even though the mountaintop feelings are missing, Jesus never leaves us and He is always with us.  There is a beautiful hymn entitled: Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here.  The final verse is:

‘Tis good, Lord, to be here.  Yet we may not remain.  But since Thou bid us leave the mount, come with us to the plain.

Every day can have a little bit of the mountain in it, if we remember to invite Jesus into our every day activities.  Life is not always about the feeling.  We should know and believe that Jesus is always with us not only when life is right and beautiful as it was at the Transfiguration.  He is also with us when life is hard and difficult.

And so, every Feast of the Transfiguration, let us turn to Jesus and invite him into our lives wherever we are – mountaintops or valleys.  He is there and will be there and He never tires of helping us along life’s difficult journey.

“God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way.  He wants you to be just like Jesus.”  Max Lucado

First Saturday: A Marian Day

First Saturday Devotion

Honoring the First Saturday of the month has its origins in the Fatima apparitions.  The devotion is also known as the Act of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Our Lady of Fatima promised many graces and blessings to those who would dedicate five consecutive first Saturdays to praying for sinners and offering reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Our Lady promised that she would:

“You at least, strive to console me, and so I announce: I promise to assist at the hour of death the graces necessary for salvation, all those who on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months confess, receive Holy Communion, pray a Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter or an hour meditating on the 15 mysteries with the intention of offering reparation.”

In many ways, First Saturday devotion is very similar to First Friday devotion.

Honoring Five First Saturdays

The requirements for honoring each first Saturday are fairly simple.  One must go to confession – at the earliest eight days before and at the latest eight days after the first Saturday of the month.  Confession is important, because the second requirement is receiving Holy Communion worthily.

The third requirement is praying the Rosary with the intention of making reparation.  Finally, one must make a 15-minute meditation on the Mysteries of the Rosary (in addition to the Rosary).  All, one, or a few of the Mysteries can be chosen for specific meditation.  As long as the meditation is held separately from the Rosary.  It is recommended to meditate on one mystery per month, but this is only a suggestion!

The most important aspect of First Saturday is doing all in a spirit of reparation to the Heart of Mary.  Once one collection of five First Saturdays is finished, the cycle can begin again!  There is no end to the need for reparation!!

Saturday Significance

Why five first Saturdays?  Why not nine – like First Fridays?  Jesus explained to Sister Lucia on May 29, 1930 hat there are five kinds of offenses and blasphemies committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary: blasphemies (1) against her Immaculate Conception; (2) against her perpetual virginity; (3) against the divine and spiritual maternity of Mary; (4) involving the rejection and dishonoring of her images; and (5) the neglect of implanting in the hearts of children a knowledge and love of Mary.

Honoring five consecutive First Saturdays should make us more aware of the need to pray for sinners and console the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.  In a world that is filled with violence, hatred, and so many other bad, sinful, and terrifying things, turning to Mary every First Saturday should help us form a pattern of turning to her every day of the year.  She is our Mother and she loves us so very much!  By turning to her we show her how much we love and trust her.  And by offering our prayers and sacrifices in reparation, we are helping to change the world and convert sinners one prayer and one sacrifice at a time.

“Pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to Hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them.”  Our Lady of Fatima

First Friday: A Day of Reparation

An Act of Reparation

First Friday devotions are an excellent and simple way to make reparation and console the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  The first mention of First Friday devotions is in the apparitions of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.  He also made several promises to those who honored nine consecutive First Fridays.  Jesus told Saint Margaret Mary:

“In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that all my powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

The purpose of this devotion is to console the Heart of Jesus for all of the injustices committed against Him.  It is also a way for us to draw close to our beloved Lord.  He does not want us to be far from Him and so we have this wonderful opportunity to make reparation for our sins and for the sins of others and to console His heart.

A Simple Practice

The conditions for honoring the Nine First Fridays are simple.  One should attend Mass and receive communion with the intention of honoring and making reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  If necessary, one should also attend confession before going to Mass.  This is not necessary but going to confession may also help to properly prepare for First Friday.  Going to a Holy Hour on First Friday or the Thursday before, is also encouraged.

Some people think that the conditions for honoring First Friday are too simple but they are not so easy as they might seem at first.  How many of us receive Holy Communion absentmindedly, not paying any attention as to whether we are receiving Jesus worthily?  Going to confession is a form of laying down pride and acknowledging our sinfulness.  At the same time, we are also placing ourselves in God’s hands and asking for His mercy and forgiveness.

Prayers

There are many beautiful prayers in honor of the Sacred Heart including: The Golden Arrow and A Prayer of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This website has other beautiful prayers!

Behold This Heart

In one apparition, Jesus told Saint Margaret Mary:

My Divine Heart, is so inflamed with love for men…that being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning Charity, It must needs spread them abroad…and manifest Itself to [mankind] in order to enrich them with the precious treasures…which contain graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition.

Jesus’ Heart was pierced for us.  His love is too great to even imagine!  And yet, so often, He is ignored or pushed to the side.  In an apparition to Saint Margaret Mary, Jesus held out His Sacred Heart as He said these words:

“Behold this Heart which has so loved men, that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself in order to testify to its love.  In return, I have received from the greater part only ingratitude by their irreverence and their sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this sacrament of Love (the Eucharist).”

It is easy to become so familiar with the Mass that we begin to ignore the great mystery that is taking place!

As we celebrate this First Friday and every Friday, the day of the Lord’s Passion, let us make a home for Him in our hearts.  This way, we will be open to receiving the priceless gift of His love.  Let us shower Jesus with love and gratitude and carry the reminder and gift of HIS love and mercy with us every day, every year, and everywhere!

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I implore that I may ever love thee more and more!

Saints Joachim and Anne: Parents of Mary

Number One Grandparents

Most grandparents boast about their grandchildren, but no grandparents have more right to boast than Saints Joachim and Anne – the parents of Mary and the grandparents of Jesus.  We don’t know much about the Blessed Mother’s family.  Even the names of her parents, Joachim and Anne, belong more to legend than to history.

Every legend agrees that Joachim and Anne were childless for a long time before an angel told them that they would have Mary.  After she was born, she was consecrated to God.

Joachim and Anne represent the importance of fostering and nurturing younger generations in faith, morals, and in an atmosphere of love.  We learn from those who go before us, and while we don’t know much about Mary’s family, it is most likely that they had a great influence on her and raised her to love God and be devoted to Him.  The way Joachim and Anne brought up Mary, prepared her to say “yes” to the Angel Gabriel.  Thus, they also helped to prepare the way for Jesus, just in a different way than might be expected.

A Day With A Reminder

Saints Joachim and Anne are the Patron Saints of grandparents.  Saint Anne is also the patron of mothers and she is often invoked by women looking for a husband!  Saint Joachim is the patron of fathers.

The feast of Saints Joachim and Anne is celebrated on July 26 and it has been referred to as “the feast of grandparents.”  This day should remind grandparents and older generations of their duty to ensure that they pass on their faith and love to those who come after them.  However, this day also holds a grave reminder to younger generations to respect the wisdom and experience of those who are older than them.  When old and young work together and appreciate and learn from each other, wonderful and powerful things can happen!

We all have a special place in this world and a special calling.  God will help us find our calling and He will also guide us as we strive to live our vocation.  However, when times are touch, it might help us to turn to our spiritual grandparents – Saints Joachim and Anne.  They loved and guided Mary and they also love us and will guide is if we ask them!

Saints Joachim and Anne, please pray for us!

“We all carry inside us, people who came before us.”  Liam Callanan

Saint Christopher: Please Protect Us Always

A Popular Intercessor

Most of Saint Christopher’s life is shrouded in mystery, speculation, and legend.  There are even doubts as to whether he really existed.  Saint Christopher may actually be an amalgamation of two or more historical figures.  Many pictures and legends portray Christopher as extremely tall and muscular.

Roman Catholicism and Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher is one of the most popular Saints ever, and yet he is not officially recognized as a Saint by the Catholic Church.  In the Latin rite, his feast day is celebrated on July 25 but in Eastern Churches he is remembered on May 9.  In 1970, the Church sorted through the Roman calendar and removed the names of some Saints whose legitimacy, like Saint Christopher’s, was questionable.  Despite not being officially recognized, there is no harm in having a devotion to Saint Christopher or asking for his intercession.  Devotion to this saint is not going against the Church, since there is no heresy involved in this devotion.

Whom Shall I Serve?

One day, Christopher decided he wanted to serve the greatest king possible.  For a time, he served his own king until he realized that the ruler was afraid of the devil.  Thus, Christopher decided that it was the devil he should serve and for a time, was in the service of a bandit who called himself “the devil.”  The bandit, however, was afraid of a Christian cross.  It was at this point that Christopher decided there was someone greater than the Devil.

A hermit taught Christopher all about Christ and Christianity.  Christopher wanted to please Christ, but found fasting difficult.  Instead, he helped travelers cross a dangerous river.  One day, a little child asked Christopher to help him cross the river.  The boy was very heavy and with much difficulty, Christopher brought the child safely to the other shore.  He then asked why such a little child was so heavy.  The boy answered:

“You had on your shoulders not only the whole word but Him who made it.  I am Christ, your king, whom you are serving by this work.”

The child then disappeared.

Largely because of this story, the name Christopher means “Christ-bearer.”

Saint Christopher Lives On

After the experience of carrying Christ across the river, it is believed that Christopher traveled, witnessed to Christ, converted many people, and comforted Christians who were facing persecution and martyrdom.  Christopher himself was eventually captured and beheaded around the year 251.

Saint Christopher is often pictured as a giant carrying Jesus.  He is the Patron Saint of bachelors, athletes, transportation and travelers, storms, gardeners, mariners, children, a holy death, and many others!

There are many virtues present in Saint Christopher that we can imitate including his courage, service, sacrifice, and perseverance.  The most important lesson we can learn, however, is that it is not only Saint Christopher’s job to carry Christ.  We are all called to carry Jesus in our hearts to those we encounter every day.  Not one of us is beyond hope or redemption.  When the waves of life are too rough, and when the journey through this “Valley of Tears” is too much to handle, we can turn to Saint Christopher and ask for his intercession.

Saint Christopher, please pray for us and protect us!

May the Lord go with you on your journeys…and may peace always follow your path.  J. C. Sullo