Easter and the Power of the Holy Name of Mary

14 And when she had thus said, she [Mary Magdalen] turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
I6 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

~John 20:14-16

St. Mary Magdalen recognized the Risen Lord only when He called her by her name, Mary. Just saying the name Mary snaps her out of her anxiety and restores her ability to see Christ. I think there’s a mystery here. Catholics honor the Holy Name of Mary (after the Holy Name of Jesus, obviously); we even celebrate a feast day in honor of it (Sept. 12). It seems that almost all of the women who followed Christ were named Mary; there are at least three of them, and it’s hard to keep track of which is which.

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A Nativity Story

As I write this, it’s still the Octave of Christmas where I live. I have a Christmas story to share, one that spans several generations of a family. It’s a story about a Nativity set.

My family was friends with an elderly Catholic lady who passed away a few years ago. My mother drove this lady to Mass every weekend. She had two daughters, one who remained Catholic and one who became a Jehovah’s Witness. The Jehovah’s Witnesses famously reject Christmas as a pagan invention. The JW daughter had a daughter and a son, who was my best friend in high school.

On Christmas Day this year, I attended Mass at my home parish. The priest celebrant was a native son of the parish who was visiting home. He mentioned how happy he was to see the parish’s Nativity scene again. After Mass I saw the daughter of our deceased family friend, the daughter who remained Catholic. I asked her what became of her mother’s Nativity set, which occupied half a room when set up. And I am very happy I asked. Continue reading

The Immaculate Conception, the Messiah, and the Golden Gate

Note: Here in the Driftless Area where I’m writing this, it’s still the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

In medieval art, the Immaculate Conception is depicted by Mary’s parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne, meeting and embracing at Jerusalem’s Golden Gate. According to an apocryphal work called the Protoevangelium of James, Joachim and Anne had been barren, but an angel visited Anne to announce the birth of a child. She then met Joachim at the Golden Gate as he left the Temple after offering a sacrifice. The Golden Gate is the eastern gate of the Temple Mount, and tradition said that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem through this gate. The legend and the image link the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Golden Gate; she is the true “Gate of Heaven” through which the Messiah enters the world. Here’s a painting of the scene by Giotto:

The Golden Gate, known in Jewish sources as the Gate of Mercy, is pretty interesting in its own right. Continue reading

Commemorating the Resurrection on Christmas

(This is the first of two posts about the Solemnity of Christmas. While I had intended to post these on Christmas Day, at least I am doing so within the Octave.)

If you pay attention to the liturgy, then you might be aware that we honor a string of martyrs immediately after Christmas: St. Stephen the Protomartyr on Dec. 26, the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, and St. Thomas Becket on Dec. 30. The joy of Christmas is tied to the witness of the martyrs; the Incarnation of Our Lord calls forth this witness on our part. That is the Providence of celebrating these martyrs within the Octave of Christmas.

In this post, I’ll focus on a martyr of the Christmas Octave who is often overlooked: St. Anastasia. I’ll also explore the significance of her name, which means “Resurrection.” Continue reading

St. Joseph Speaks the Word Incarnate

Many devotional writings about St. Joseph stress his silence. No word of his is recorded in Sacred Scripture. We know the Blessed Virgin’s response to the Archangel St. Gabriel, and we know her Magnificat. But we don’t know what St. Joseph said when the angel reassured him that he should not put away the Blessed Virgin, or when the angel told him to flee into Egypt, or return to Nazareth.

We do know that St. Joseph spoke the Holy Name of Jesus, because it was his task as Our Lord’s legal father to name Him on the day of the Circumcision. St. Joseph said “Jesus,” and this Name (revealed to him and to the Blessed Virgin beforehand) became the Name which is over every other name.  Continue reading