The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary| S. Adrian| Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Church has celebrated Mary's birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 (nine months earlier).
Scripture does not give an account of Mary's birth. However, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child that will advance God's plan of salvation for the world. Such a story (like many biblical counterparts) stresses the special presence of God in Mary's life from the beginning.
St. Augustine (August 28) connects Mary's birth with Jesus' saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. "She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed." The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary's Son as the dawn of our salvation and asks for an increase of peace.
We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God's love and peace to the world.
This is all true in a magnificent way in Mary. If Jesus is the perfect expression of God's love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of salvation, Mary is its dawning.
Birthday celebrations bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary's birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large.
"Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is queen and the Father's immaculate bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse" (adapted from Byzantine Daily Worship).
Today in the Latin Calendar we commemorate S. Adrian, Martyr.
St. Adrian lived in Nicomedia around the year 300 and was martyred at age 28.
During those times, Catholics were cruelly persecuted under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Thirty-three Catholics in Nicomedia were denounced, and soldiers were sent to seize them. They were brought in iron chains before the tribunal of the Emperor.
“Can it be you have not heard what manner of torments await them who call themselves Christians?” asked the judge. They replied: “We know of them, but we cannot obey unjust orders. We do not fear the fury of Satan and his ministers, of whom you are one.”
Three men were ordered to savagely beat the Catholics with whips made of bull nerves. But while they were undergoing this treatment, the holy martyrs told the judge that whatever number of torments he might devise, he would but increase their crowns awaiting them in Heaven, while he would receive his due for his cruelty in Hell.
They were then brought before Galerius, the prepared successor of Diocletian, who ordered new torments. The soldiers took up stones and struck the martyrs about the mouth. The martyrs berated Galerius, telling him that an angel of God would punish and destroy all of his impious household. Enraged, he ordered that their tongues be cut out. In face of this new torment, they told the ruler: “Even if we are unable to speak, the protests of our hearts will rise to the throne of God proclaiming that we are suffering in innocence.”
Hearing this, Galerius was filled with hate and ordered that they should all be taken to prison to see if any of them would become fearful and apostatize. With this, he left. One of those present was a high dignitary named Adrian. Seeing the great honor of the Catholics, he rejected paganism and said to a functionary: “Write down my name among these admirable persons, for I too am now a Catholic and shall die for Christ God in their company!”
One of Adrian’s servants went to warn Natalie, his wife, about what had happened. She ran to the prison and, falling down at the feet of her husband, she said, “Blessed are you, my Adrian, for you have found a treasure. I ask Christ to give you strength, courage and perseverance in the fight. The goods of this earth are nothing; God desires to give you eternal riches. Therefore, be not weak, but strong and generous like these saints who surround you.”
When Galerius heard this, he became further enraged, and ordered that Adrian be weighed down with iron chains and cast into prison with the other martyrs. They greeted him with great joy, and even those who could no longer walk because of the tortures dragged themselves to him to offer him the kiss of peace. Then Natalie cleaned and bandaged their wounded and bloody bodies.
Adrian was beaten and tortured, returned to the prison, and finally his legs and arms were smote off with an anvil.
The first point that catches the attention is that these are polemic martyrs. They argued with the judge and threatened him with eternal damnation. They displayed nobility of spirit, telling him that the scourge was but a means for them to gain more pearls in their heavenly crown. Later, they also disputed with Galerius, the man who had been prepared to succeed the Emperor Diocletian.
Second, you can imagine the shock these pagans felt upon receiving these challenges from the Christians. Every man by his nature knows that Heaven exists. The pagans said the contrary: No, it doesn’t exist. Even though they denied it, they had considerable internal insecurity. Then a pagan judge came and tortured the Christians, who showed an extraordinary assurance not only that Heaven exists but also that they would enter there by means of the very suffering he was causing them. You can imagine the doubt this generated.
Third, one sees the sudden action of the Holy Ghost in the soul of St. Adrian. Instead of being fearful of suffering the torments the martyrs were undergoing, he felt invited to share the honor of being one of such an extraordinary society. Through them, he saw Heaven, and he was moved to join them and die with them.
Fourth, there is the marvelous position of Natalie, who was probably a secret Catholic. When she received the news that her husband had also become a Catholic, she rushed to the prison to give him all the support she could. You can imagine the beautiful scene in the prison, their meeting, the joy of the martyrs who saw that their good example had caused a high imperial official to convert. Even with the tortures, all the wounds and blood, a supernatural joy filled all of them. They came to greet the new convert, even dragging themselves over the floor, to give him the kiss of peace. No natural joy is comparable to this supernatural happiness.
Fifth, from this description and the conversion of St. Adrian, a high dignitary of the Empire, you can realize the perplexity and despair of the Roman Emperors, who realized that Catholicism was invading and undermining their whole world. Taking energetic measures and using violence could not destroy Catholicism. On the contrary it continued to grow. In a certain way, the violence of the persecutions that increased until Constantine was a consequence of this despair.
Let us ask St. Adrian to give us the same grace he received when he saw Heaven and victory in a situation of persecution, torture and martyrdom. Today, in many ways we need a similar grace in our fight when the enemies of the Catholic Church persecute true Catholics. We need the grace to see the victory of the Reign of Mary, the restoration of Christendom, in such persecutions.
We evangelize because of love for others. As we have experienced Jesus's love, we want to share it. The gifts we have received from God are not gifts for us alone, but build in us a desire to bring all people to the Good News.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
Jesus is always with you, even when you do not feel His presence.
Divine Mercy Reflection
Reflections on Notebook Four: 237-262
We continue to the fourth notebook that Saint Faustina filled with reflections and revelations from Jesus. As we enter into this notebook, allow yourself to seek God in the silence. This chapter begins with Saint Faustina revealing that she was experiencing a “dark night” (Diary #1235). She lacked the sensory feelings of closeness to God. By analogy, it would be as if you were in a dark room filled with treasures and someone told you that all the treasures of this room were yours. You could not see them but you trusted the person who spoke about all that was around you. Knowledge of these treasures filled your mind even though the darkness hid them from your eyes.
So it is with God. Saint Faustina loved our Lord with all her heart and with every beat of her heart. She knew His closeness and love. But it appears that she could not sense this through her human senses. This gift of darkness allowed her to enter into a relationship with God on a spiritual level far deeper.
Seek this depth of relationship with God as you read through this chapter. Move beyond a desire to feel close to God and allow yourself to become close to God. He wants to enter your heart on a much deeper level than you ever knew possible. Be open to the newness of a relationship shrouded in darkness and allow the Lord to communicate His Mercy to you on this new level of love.
Reflection 251: The Inner Dwelling of Your Heart
The Lord desires to come to you and make His dwelling within your heart. But when He comes to you, what does He find? What is the condition of your heart? Some hearts are like a fragrant rose garden. There is light, beauty, magnificence and radiance. It’s a place of peaceful repose and a place made holy by the presence of our Lord. Other hearts are like a dark prison cell, cold, isolated and dreary. These are the souls who are trapped in a cycle of sin and have failed, over and over, to allow the Lord to enter in. But He does choose to enter your heart, no matter the condition. Be it a fragrant field of roses or the darkness and isolation of a prison, the Lord wants to enter (See Diary #1280).
Ponder the inner chamber of your heart. What does this dwelling place look like? Be honest and reveal this hidden place to our Lord. If your heart is more like a dreary dungeon, cold, dark and isolated, then know that you, more than any other, are invited to receive the Mercy of God. He desires to come to you and open the door to that prison in which you feel trapped and isolated. He does not shy away from you in this darkness and will enter in. But when He enters, He does so to break you free. He desires to transform your soul into a place of sweet delight. This takes work, surrender, honesty, humility and trust. But God can do all things and can transform the most wretched soul into a garden of beauty and love. His Mercy produces the soil, the Sun, the seed, the water and everything needed to recreate the inner chamber of your soul. Ponder this fact and begin your transformation today.
Precious Lord, I give to You the inner chamber of my soul. Come and rest within me, transforming my heart into Your holy dwelling place. I give to You, dear Lord, all that I am and all that I have. Recreate me and make me new. Jesus, I trust in You.