Mary, the Mother of God is an Advent study presented by Brother James Dennis during November and December 2015 at Church of the Holy Spirit in Dripping Springs, TX.
This week has a bonus: sermon preached by Brother James on December 20. Listen the sermon here.
Or read the text of the sermon on Brother James’ blog.
- To listen to the presentation, click on the left arrow on the audio file below. The recording is about 46 minutes long.
- To view the accompanying PowerPoint presentation in Adobe Acrobat, click on the file name Mary, the Mother of God week 5
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Mary’s Continuing Ministry
St. Augustine describes three types of apparitions: corporeal, imaginative and intellectual.
In the corporeal vision, a person or object is supernaturally manifested to the eyes. The vision either really is there, or creates a sensation in the visual organ of the presence.
In the imaginative vision, the imagination alone (without the sensory organ) perceives the representation of a person or object. We know they come from God by their lights and graces of sincere sanctity, and the subject’s inability to determine or fix the elements of the vision.
In the intellectual visions, one perceives the object without a sensory image. Here, the object perceived exceeds the natural range of understanding: the essence of the soul, the intimate nature of the Trinity. St. Teresa said these might last for more than a year. They are generally recognized by effects: persistent light, Divine love, peace, and an inclination towards the things of God.
Common threads of Marian apparitions
Frequently involve appearances to children, social outcasts.
Generally, met with suspicion or disbelief by the local clergy.
Often associated with healings, either at the time or later.
Mary often directs the creation of a shrine.
Site becomes a place of devotion; the lives of those sharing the vision are changed.
Physical contact is rarely reported, although sometimes an artifact is reported (Juan Diego’s cloak).
Generally, revealed to a few, with the exception of Zeitoun, where thousands claim to have seen her over a three year period.
Our Lady of the Pillar
This occurred while Mary was alive, and resulted in the first church dedicated to Mary.
James was struggling with his ministry, until her appearance.
James returned to Jerusalem, where he was executed by Herod Agrippa in c. 44 A.D., the first apostle martyred for the faith.
Our Lady of the Snows
On August 5th, Mary appeared to them and to Pope Liberius, telling them to build a church and she would mark the location with snow.
To commemorate the miracle, the locals drop white rose petals from the dome of the basilica on the day of the feast.
The Virgin of Guadalupe
He lived a simple life as a weaver, farmer and laborer. He was, in short, a humble illiterate Aztec campesino.
Hernan Cortez arrived in Tenochtitlan in 1519.
Cortez systematically destroyed and leveled the city.
Population decimated by smallpox and other diseases. By 1600, only 1 in 25 will survive.
As he crossed a barren hill called Tepeyac, he saw a blinding light and heard heavenly music. A beautiful brown-skinned girl, about 14 years old, appeared to him.
She called him “my son” and asked to have a church built on Tepeyac hill and asked him to tell the bishop. “All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother’s Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace.”
Somehow, he got an audience with the bishop, who was skeptical and demanded proof of the encounter.
Juan Diego avoided Tepeyac hill for several days, but on December 12 he had to cross there to find a priest to attend to his uncle who was dying.
The Virgin appeared again and said: “Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not within my fold? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
He gathered the roses in his cloak (tilma), which to everyone’s surprise bore the Virgin’s image.
The cloak still survives and the image still remains.
The name she called herself by, Guadalupe, remains mysterious.
The name Guadalupe is Spanish; there is a statue of our Lady of Guadalupe in Spain.
Coatlaxopeuh means the one who crushes the serpent.
The feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12th.
The Psalms tell us, “The Lord looks down from heaven and sees all the sons of men.” What sort of man was Juan Diego?
He was canonized in 2002. John Paul II performed the beatification ceremony at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Upon independence, Morelos inscribed the Virgin’s feast day (December 12th) into the constitution.
Octavio Paz wrote that “the Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery.”
Our Lady of Fatima
Continues on the 13th day of the month for 6 months.
Takes place against the backdrop of World War I and the Russian Revolution.
A woman appeared to them, “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”
The woman instructed them to do penance and make sacrifices to save sinners.
She confided to them three secrets, known as the Three Secrets of Fatima.
In 1917, the provincial administrator (a freemason) jailed the children and threatened to torture them unless they revealed the secrets, but the children refused.
The Lady of the Rosary promised a miracle on October 3, her final apparition.
The event was reported in newspapers across Portugal, including many hostile to the Church.
Some observers saw the event from miles away.
The Three Secrets of Fatima
The heavenly Mother had already promised she would take the children to heaven and this vision lasted only an instant.
2ndSecret: To save the souls from hell, God wants you to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart.
“The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.”
“God is about to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, famine, persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart…”
“If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.”
Interestingly, the apparitions at LaSallette, Fatima, and Lourdes, all involved children.
Our Lady of Lourdes
She saw “a lady” in the cave of Massabielle.
There were 17 other appearances that year.
She saw a light in the grotto and a little girl, dressed all in white, with a blue belt around her waist and golden yellow roses on each foot.
On February 18, the lady told her: “I promise to make you happy not in this world but in the next.”
The lady asked for a chapel on the site.
She returned on February 25, despite her parents’ prohibition.
As the word spread, the waters were given to all sorts of medical patients, many of whom reported miracle cures.
On March 25, the lady told Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
The Church was highly critical during this process.
In 1933, Pius XI canonized Bernadette during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
About 7,000 people have reported miraculous cures from the waters of Lourdes, of which 68 have been declared scientifically inexplicable by the Lourdes Medical Bureau (under medical and not ecclesiastical control).
On September 24, 2008, (the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham) a Welsh priest gave a sermon at Lourdes.
Mary appears to us at the Annunciation “as the first missionary, the first messenger of the Gospel.”
“When Mary came to Bernadette, she came at first as an anonymous figure, a beautiful lady, a mysterious ‘thing’, not yet identified as the Lord’s spotless Mother. And Bernadette—uneducated, uninstructed in doctrine —leapt with joy, recognizing that here was life, here was healing.”
“Our first and overarching task is to carry Jesus, gratefully and faithfully, with us in all our doings.”
“And if we are faithful in thus carrying Christ with us, something will happen, some current will stir and those we are with will feel, perhaps well below the conscious surface, a movement of life and joy which they may not understand at all….because Jesus speaks always to what is buried in the heart of men and women, the destiny they were made for.”
The story of Mary and Elizabeth teaches “that the Incarnate Word of God is always already on the way to us, hidden in voices and faces and bodies familiar and unfamiliar. Silently, Jesus is constantly at work, and he is seeking out what is deepest in us, to touch the heart of our joy and hope.”
“Mary’s mission tells us there is always a deeper dimension, grounded in the Christ who is at work unknown and silent, reaching out to the deeply buried heart of each person and making the connection; living faithfully at the heart of the Church itself, in the middle of its disasters and betrayals and confusions, still giving himself without reserve.”
“True mission is ready to be surprised by God.”
“Bernadette’s neighbors and teachers and parish clergy knew all they thought they needed to know about the Mother of God —and they needed to be surprised by this inarticulate, powerless, marginal teenager who leapt up in the joy of recognition to meet Mary as her mother, her sister, bearer of her Lord and Redeemer.”
“Here today, with Elizabeth and Bernadette, we say, in thankful amazement, ‘Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ And we recognize that our heart’s desire is met and the very depth of our being stirred into new life.”
And those of course, are some of the reasons why Mary matters so very deeply.
About Brother James:
James R. Dennis, O.P. is a member of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio and of the Anglican Order of Preachers. He frequently writes, preaches and teaches around the Diocese of West Texas on spiritual matters. He lives in San Antonio with his two silly dogs.