God’s Mirror – The Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

Pope Francis has chosen December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, as the opening of the Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, “because of its rich meaning.” “After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil.  So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer.  When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy.” Pope Francis (Face of Mercy)

Mary was “Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing,” (cf. Eph 1:3) chosen by God from all eternity to be the Mother of the Redeemer.  It is she who leads us to Jesus, so that we may contemplate, together with her, the Face of Mercy.  As the Immaculate Conception, Mary bears in herself the most perfect reflection of the face of God.  Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Blessed Virgin saw shining upon her, as no other creature, the face of the Father, rich in grace and mercy.”

As the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins, let us fix our gaze on Mary rather than on the profane things of the world. We keep Mary before our eyes in order to contemplate in her everything that is good and true and beautiful. “She is the proclamation of a merciful God who does not surrender to the sin of his children,” Pope St. John Paul II tells us “in Mary shines forth God’s sublime and surprising tenderness for the entire human race.  In her, humanity regains its former beauty and the divine plan is revealed to be stronger than evil…” In Mary “the Creator has kept the original beauty of creation uncontaminated” so that in the Immaculate Conception, “the Father’s original, wondrous plan of love was reestablished in an even more wondrous way.”

A Little Litany by G.K.Chesterton

Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Our Lady, in whose face – more than any other creature – we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” –Pope Benedict XVI Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art

When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven – and saw the earth.

Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.

Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.

Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In the strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.

Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.

Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem
God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose,
Of your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.


The Coming of the King and Living Face of the Father’s Mercy

“As a deer yearns for running streams, so my soul is longing for you, my King and my God.  My soul is thirsting for God, the living God, when shall I see Him face to face?” (Ps. 42)

Jesus Christ King of the Universe..."and living face of the Father's Mercy."--Pope Francis
Jesus Christ King of the Universe…”and living face of the Father’s Mercy.”–Pope Francis

“I would like to ask many of you to think about this: “There will be a day in which I encounter the Lord face to face.” And this is our goal, our encounter. We do not await a time or a place; rather we are going to encounter a person: Jesus. Thus, the problem is not “when” these premonitory signs of the last days will occur, but rather that we find ourselves prepared. It’s also not about knowing “how” these things will happen, but instead “how” we have to act today, in awaiting these things.”–Pope Francis (Angelus Address November 15, 2015)

On the last Sunday of the liturgical year before Advent, November 22, 2015, we celebrate the coming of the King  – “The Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe,” the majestic title given by Pope Paul VI in 1969. When referring to this feast day Pope Francis has added seven words, “– and living face of the Father’s Mercy,” in Misericordiae Vultus, the document declaring the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The Feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to the world’s increasing secularization.  He wrote in Quas Primas:

“While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim His kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm His rights.”

The virtue of Christ’s claim to kingship, which embraces the whole of mankind, as Creator and Redeemer, Pope Pius XI explained, is that societies as well as individuals owe Him obligations as King.  Pope Pius XI also asserted the Church’s right to be free from secular authority.

“When we pay honor to the princely dignity of Christ, men will doubtless be reminded that the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state; and that in fulfilling the task committed to her by God or teaching, ruling, and guiding to eternal bliss those who belong to the kingdom of Christ, she cannot be subject to any external power.”

This assertion was true and necessary to proclaim in 1925 and even more true and necessary today as the Church’s freedom to govern itself and proclaim the Gospel is seriously threatened. We must also defend and honor the name of our God and King as well, particularly when the name of God is used to carry out barbaric and horrific acts of violence against mankind, made in His Image.  As Pope Francis stated in his Angelus address, “to use the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy.” Blasphemy is the greatest sin against the face of God.  (Prayers of reparation may be found here.)

Our Crucified King of Mercy
Our Crucified King of Mercy

The date for the Feast of Christ the King, which was originally set by Pope Pius XI as the Sunday preceding All Saints Day, was moved  by Pope Paul VI to the end of the liturgical calendar, the last Sunday preceding Advent, to more perfectly anticipate the “Coming of the King,” and look forward to His coming, that day when we will see our King  face to face in hope.

“Hope: this virtue that is so hard to live.” says Pope Francis. “The smallest of the virtues, but the strongest. And our hope has a face: the face of the Risen Lord, who comes “with great power and glory,” and this will manifest his love, crucified and transfigured in the Resurrection. The triumph of Jesus at the end of time will be the triumph of the cross, the demonstration that the sacrifice of oneself for love of neighbor, in imitation of Christ, is the only victorious power, the only stable point in the midst of the upheavals of the world.”

While earthly “kings” may forcibly impose their power over their subjects, Jesus Christ Our King comes to us as a Good Shepherd and Servant of all.  Though “All power in Heaven and on earth has been given Him ,” the Almighty King of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega is also our Crucified King.  When we turn back to His Face in repentance and love, He “Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood,” turns His Merciful Face towards us.

We can look forward in hope to His coming again.  But He must reign in our minds, in our wills, and in our hearts. We must desire to love and serve Our King, Christ Jesus alone, for “Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.  All the peoples of the earth will lament him.  Yes.  Amen.”  (Rv 1:7)

Prayer to Christ the King

O Lord our God, You alone are the Most Holy King and Ruler of all nations.
We pray to You, Lord, in the great expectation of receiving from You, O Divine King, mercy, peace, justice and all good things.
Protect, O Lord our King, our families and the land of our birth.
Guard us we pray Most Faithful One.
Protect us from our enemies and from Your Just Judgment
Forgive us, O Sovereign King, our sins against you.
Jesus, You are a King of Mercy.
We have deserved Your Just Judgment
Have mercy on us, Lord, and forgive us.
We trust in Your Great Mercy.
O most awe-inspiring King, we bow before You and pray;
May Your Reign, Your Kingdom, be recognized on earth.


The Next Solemnity of  Christ the King will be at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year  November 20, 2016, on the Sunday dedicated to “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe–and living Face of the Father’s Mercy.” (The Face of Mercy, Bull of Indiction–Pope Francis) 




Pope Francis – Discovering the authentic face of man through the Face of Jesus

On November 10th, during his visit to the beautiful city of Florence, Italy, Pope Francis spoke about the Holy Face of Jesus and the authentic face of man:

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

“We can speak about humanism only by starting from the centrality of Jesus, discovering in Him the features of the authentic face of man.  And the contemplation of the face of the dead and risen Jesus that recomposes our humanity, fragmented as it may be by the hardships of life, or marked by sin.  We must not domesticate the power of the face of Christ.  The face is the image of His transcendence…. I do not wish here to draw an abstract image of the ‘new humanism,’ a certain idea of man, but to present with simplicity some features of Christian humanism, which is that of the sentiments, the mind of Christ.  These are not abstract temporary sensations but rather represent the warm interior force that makes us able to live and to make decisions:”


“The first sentiment is humility. The obsession preserving one’s own glory and ‘dignity,” one’s own influence, must not form part of our sentiments.  We must seek God’s glory, that does not coincide with ours.  God’s glory that shines in the humility of the stable in Bethlehem or in the dishonor of Christ’s cross always surprises us.”


“Another sentiment is selflessness; The humanity of the Christian is always outward-looking.  Please, let us avoid ‘remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits that make us feel safe.’  Our duty is to make this world a better place, and to fight.  Our faith is revolutionary because of the inspiration that comes from the Holy Spirit.”


“Another of Jesus Christ’s sentiments is beatitude.  The Christian is blessed.  In the Beatitudes, the Lord shows us the path.  By taking it, we human beings can arrive at the most authentically human and divine happiness.  For the great saints, beatitude is about humiliation and poverty.  But also in the most humble of our people there is much of this beatitude:  it is that of he who knows the richness of solidarity, of sharing the little he possesses.  The Beatitudes we read in the Gospel begin with a blessing and end with a promise of consolation.  They introduce us to a path of possible greatness, that of the spirit, and when the spirit is ready all the rest comes by itself.”

“I want to gaze on God always” Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity

Elizabeth, a strong-willed three year old.
Elizabeth, a strong-willed three year old!

Elizabeth Catez, known to her family as “Sabeth,” was born July 18th, 1880, near Bourges, Frances, the daughter of a military officer.  Early in life she lost her father. Under the firm guidance of her mother, Elizabeth, a very strong-willed child, learned to master her temper.  At the age of fourteen, Elizabeth heard in her heart a call to be a Carmelite nun but due to her mother’s objections she was not able to enter Carmel until the age of 21.  Her life was “a praise of glory” of the Most Blessed Trinity present in her soul and loved amid interior darkness and excruciating illness. A praise of glory ” is a soul that dwells in God, loves Him with a love that is pure and disinterested… a silent soul, which remains like a lyre beneath the mysterious touch of the Holy Spirit…a soul that gazes steadfastly upon God in faith and simplicity.” IMG_0944

In the mystery of the divine indwelling she found her “heaven on earth.”

“It seems to me that I have found my Heaven on earth because Heaven is God, and God is in my soul.  The day I understood this, everything became clear to me, and I would like to proclaim this secret aloud to those whom I love, so that they also may always cling to God in everything.”

Elizabeth suffered greatly from the effects of Addison’s disease.  As she was dying she realized that God had also chosen her to be “conformed to the image of His Son” and that this meant “sharing in His sufferings and becoming like Him in His death.” She died on November 9th, 1906, after five brief years in Carmel.  Her Feast day is November 8th.

Bl. Elizabeth of The Trinity
Bl. Elizabeth of The Trinity

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore,  help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.  May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery. Give peace to my soul, make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place.  May I never leave you there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative action.  O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You…even unto death!  But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to clothe me with Yourself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to posses me, to substitute Yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your life.  Come to me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior, O Word Eternal, Word of my God.  I want to spend my life listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You.  Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light.  O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that that I may not withdraw from your radiance.  O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come upon me, and create in my soul a kind of Incarnation of the Word; that I may be another humanity for Him, in which He can renew His whole Mystery.  And You, O Father, bend lovingly over your poor little creature; cover her with your shadow, seeing in her only the Beloved in whom You are well pleased.  O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I love myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey.  Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.  November 21, 1904 — Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity




Longing to see His Face – The Souls in Purgatory

FullSizeRender-38“Every family has an Uncle Louie.”  I was told this fact while discussing funerals with a priest.  “Uncle Louie” represented those “black sheep,” who, though beloved by their family and friends, we all knew were no saints and unless Heaven had lowered the bar considerably, didn’t stand much chance of walking straight through the Pearly Gates when they died.  However, as Christians we hope that through the mercy of God and the prayers of the Church that “Uncle Louie” did make it into Purgatory.  Perhaps before he died, “Uncle Louie” mumbled a heartfelt pray from childhood and turned back to God.

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030)  The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of souls that they may attain the beatific vision, or gaze on the Face of God.  Theologians have said that the purification or suffering of the souls in Purgatory is their intense longing for the Face of God.  This is expressed beautifully in Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is recommended reading by Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy.  In the poem, a soul in Purgatory proclaims:

“We were all sinners till our latest hour/… when light from Heaven made us wise to see our sins,/ and we repented and forgave,/ leaving our lives at last in peace with God,/ who now torments our hearts with the desire,/  to see His Face.”

Since the faithful departed being purified are also members of the communion of saints, we can help obtain indulgences for them, so that temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted through the merits of Jesus Christ.  (Explanation of indulgences here.) Throughout November the Church, in charity, remembers the Faithful Departed in its prayers.  “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Macch. 12, 46) There are many ways to obtain indulgence from God through the Church such as visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead. A plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory can be obtained by visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8 or by a visit to a church or public oratory on November 2nd and reciting the Our Father and The Creed.  A partial indulgence can be obtained for the souls in Purgatory, especially in the month of November, when we recite:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

In your charity, please pray for the souls in Purgatory, so that they may soon see God face to face.

Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Paul Badde