Jan 1: Mary, Mother of God: Stories and Illustrations

 From the Collection of Fr. Tony Kadavil and Others

1: Smiling child and his mother: There is a beautiful little story about a long, tedious train journey, made one Christmas day by some elderly residents of a nursing home who were on their way to a vacation spot.  At one station, a young mother with a small child entered the train.  The child smiled at all the grim faces around him and began moving from one lap to another talking, shouting with joy and chatting with everyone.    Instantly, the grim and silent atmosphere in the train was changed to one of joy and happiness.  Today we remember with joy and gratitude, how Mary and her Divine Son Jesus transformed a hopeless, joyless and sinful world into a place of joy and happiness. 

# 2: Is it possible to have a birth without a mother? Monsignor Arthur Tonne tells the story of a Catholic pastor in a small Alabama city of mostly Southern Baptist Christians who decided to put up a Christmas crib in the town square. The priest with some of his prominent parishioners approached some rich people and businesses for donation. When they went to see the rich editor of the local newspaper the priest explained the project: “Many people, especially the children will be inspired to see Jesus, Mary and Joseph and animals right here in the center of the town.” The editor agreed to help on condition that Mary must be left out. Otherwise, it would be promoting your Catholic denomination. The priest said: “Tell you what. Tell me how you can show a birth without a mother, and I will agree to leave Mary out.” The editor had no answer and the Mother was with her Child in the town square.

# 3: # Deciding to jump: A boy asked his father, “Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hangs over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?” The dad replied, “Two.” “No,” the son replied. “Here is the question again: There are three frogs and one decided to jump, how many are left?” The dad said, “Oh, I get the point! If one decided to jump, the others would too. So there are none left.” The boy said, “No dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump.”  Does that sound like our last year’s resolutions?  Great inspiration and great resolutions, but oftentimes we only decide, and months later we are still on the same limb of doing nothing.   

4) “There’s a real big difference between her son and me.”A shoeshine boy was plying his trade in New York’s Grand Central Station. A silver medal danced at his neck as he slapped his shine cloth, again and again, across a man’s shoes. “Sonny,” said the man curiously, “what’s the hardware around your neck?” It’s a medal of the mother of Jesus,” the boy replied. “Why her medal?” said the man. “She’s no different from your mother.” “Could be,” said the boy, “but there’s a real big difference between her son and me.” The boy’s devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, invites me to ask: What role does Mary play in my life? How might she play an even bigger role? (Mark Link in Vision 2000) 

5) “Chivalrous sensibility”: In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said that no subject in our Faith needs to be approached more delicately than this, and one of the reasons he cited was that Catholics have a natural affection for Mary, and when Mary is attacked Lewis says that Catholics respond with that “chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honor of his mother or his beloved is at stake.” Lewis says that Catholics feel this way about Mary “very naturally,” but there is one person who feels that way about Mary even more naturally than we do: her literal Son according to the flesh — Jesus Christ. (http://jimmyakin.com/the-key-to-understanding-mary) As the obedient, infinitely holy Son of God, the Lord Jesus was a very firm believer in the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. Now, what most people don’t know about that commandment is that in Hebrew it literally reads, “Glorify your father and mother.” This means that, since Christ took God’s commandments very seriously, he would glorify his mother Mary, and for us to talk about His mother in a cavalier, irreverent manner is to impugn the glory which Christ himself has given her. As a result, if we were to talk about Mary in an impious manner then we would be offending not only Mary but also Christ by denying his mother the glory that he himself gave her. (Jimmy Akins of Catholic Answers). 

 Additional anecdotes:  

1) “Help of Christians” If you ever have the chance to visit the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians in the northern Italian city of Turin, toward the back of the Church you will find a painting depicting a famous dream of the basilica’s builder, St. John Bosco.  At the center of the painting is a great flagship in the midst of a ferocious battle at sea.  The ship is surrounded by a large enemy fleet bombarding it with cannon balls and incendiary bombs, and ramming their sharp prows into its side.  A man dressed in white stands at the tip of the ship’s bow attempting to guide it safely to the shore.  Separated by a distance equal to the width of the ship are two tall pillars through which the ship must pass to arrive at the shore.  On the top of one of the pillars is an image of Mary with the words “Help of Christians” written below; on the top of the other is a large white communion host, with the words, “Salvation of the Faithful” beneath it.  Each time an enemy ship succeeds in creating a gash in the side of the flagship a breeze arriving from the pillars patches up the hole.  At one point, according to the text of the dream, the captain in white falls down wounded and dies, and the men in the enemy ships cheer and rejoice.  Almost right away, however, the other men on the flagship elect a new captain, also dressed in white, who rises up immediately to continue to guide the ship to safety.  The battle continues to rage fiercely, but the new captain succeeds in steering the ship between the two pillars, bringing it into port.  As soon as it is anchored to the two columns all of the enemy ships that had fought against it flee away, colliding against each other and breaking to pieces.  Suddenly, the waters are still and a great calm reigns over the sea. Contained within this painting are images similar to those which the Church proposes today for our contemplation as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which coincides with the World Day of Peace, and comes at the conclusion of the octave of Christmas.  St. John Bosco, a man gifted with many prophetic dreams during his life, saw the scene depicted in this painting one night in May of 1862.  He understood the flagship as an image of the Church, the captain in white as a symbol of the Holy Father, and the enemy ships as representative of enemies of the Church subjecting her to persecution.  The two pillars and the images resting on them represent the protection and help that Jesus and Mary provide the pilgrim Church on earth.  While maintaining the primacy of this interpretation, one could also make many comparisons between these images and the individual Christian’s experience of moving forward on his pilgrimage to eternity. (Rev David Rider; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala. 

2) Being given a name: In his book Roots, Alex Haley tells how his African ancestors named their children. Eight days after the child’s birth, the father would take the child into his arms and whisper its name into its ear. That night the father would complete the ceremony. Carrying the child out under the stars, alone, he would lift the baby up to the sky and say, “Behold the only thing greater than yourself.” This naming rite helps us appreciate better the two rites that surrounded the birth of Jesus: Circumcision and Presentation. Circumcision initiated Jesus into the community of God’s chosen people. Presentation consecrated Jesus to God.
(Mark Link in Daily Homilies; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala). 

3) The late Erma Bombeck’s memorable resolutions: 1. I will go to no doctor whose office plants have                died.
2. I’m going to follow my husband’s suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our         budget.
3. I’m going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to. 

JOKE OF THE DAY

1) Dad’s resolution: Last year when I called my parents to wish them a happy New Year, my dad answered the phone. “Well, Dad, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” I asked him. “To make your mother as happy as I can all year,” he answered proudly. Then mom got on, and I said, “What’s your resolution, Mom?” “To see that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution.” 

2) Someone once said…”I made 6 resolutions last year and I kept them all year long:  they are in an envelope on the top of my file cabinet.”

3) Giving up cigarettes: Mark Twain wrote: “Giving up cigarettes is easy. I do it a hundred times a week.” Many of us, like Twain, grow easily discouraged from one broken resolution or other. I heard about one poor fellow who decided to make only resolutions this year he could keep. He resolved to gain weight, to stop exercising, to read less and watch more TV, to procrastinate more, to quit giving money and time to charity, not to date any member of the cast of Baywatch, and never to make New Year’s resolutions again.

4) New Year prayer: Dear Lord! So far this year I’ve done well. I haven’t gossiped, I haven’t lost my temper, I haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I’m very thankful for that.  But in a few minutes, Lord, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on ,I’m probably going to need a lot more help. Amen 

5) Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein

6) “In the arms of another man’s wife.” The elderly pastor with poor memory was shocked to hear the well-known televangelist utter the words; “Yes, I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man’s wife.”  He could see in the TV screen the shocked reaction of the large audience. Then, following a pause, the evangelist added, “That woman was my mother.” The audience exploded into laughter.  A few weeks later our old pastor thought that he would surprise his parishioners with the shocking sermon starter of the TV evangelist. So he started his preaching on Mary the Mother of Jesus exclaiming, “My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I think I have to make a public confession before you. I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in the arms of another man’s wife.” The audience, as he expected, were spellbound at the shocking confession of their holy pastor.  Then after a long pause, the old pastor muttered meekly, “But for the life of me, I can’t remember who she was!” 

(The original version:  A senior priest went to his bishop with this complaint: “Now I have great difficulty in preaching. I cannot get the people’s attention.” After stroking his chin His Excellency suggested: “Say something striking at the beginning of your homily.” “Could you give me an example?” begged the old padre. “Well,” suggested the bishop, “you might start like this: ‘I am in love’: ‘I am in love with a married woman’; ‘Her name is Mary'”. Next Sunday the priest started his sermon thus: “The bishop is in love’; He is in love with a married woman’. After an embarrassing pause the priest continued: “But I have forgotten her name.”  (Mgsr. Arthur Tomnne). 

7) Humorous: Resolutions:  Wife to Spouse: “I don’t want to brag, but here it is February and I’ve kept every one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’ve kept them in a manila folder in the back of my desk!” (Orben’s Current Comedy). Some of us make resolutions like one man, named George, I heard about recently. He said to a friend: “There’s nothing like getting up at six in the morning, going for a run around the park, and taking a brisk shower before breakfast.” His friend Bob asked, “How long have you been doing this?” George said: “I start tomorrow.” 

Pope Francis’ prayer on the feast of Mary the Mother of God: As we celebrate Mary this Jan. 1, we can pray with Pope Francis, who ended his recent [Feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2013] exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), with the following prayer: “Mary, Virgin and Mother, you who, moved by the Holy Spirit, welcomed the Word of Life in the depths of your humble Faith:

As you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One, help us to say our own “Yes” to the urgent call, as pressing as ever, to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Filled with Christ’s presence, you brought joy to John the Baptist, making him exult in the womb of his mother.

Brimming over with joy, you sang of the great things done by God. Standing at the foot of the cross with unyielding Faith, you received the joyful comfort of the Resurrection and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit, so that the evangelizing Church might be born.

Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the Resurrection, that we may bring to all the Gospel of life, which triumphs over death.

Give us a holy courage to seek new paths, that the gift of unfading beauty may reach every man and woman.

Virgin of listening and contemplation, Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast, pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are, that she may never be closed in on herself or lose her passion for establishing God’s Kingdom.

Star of the New Evangelization, help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous Faith, Justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our orld.

Mother of the living Gospel, wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, pray for us. Amen. Alleluia!” 

7 Ups for the New Year (Adapted from Rev. Walter Schoedel)

1) WAKE UP–Begin the day thanking the Lord. It is His day. Rejoice in it.
2) LOOK-UP–Open your eyes to the Lord Jesus. Ask for his strength and blessings for the day through the anointing of his Holy Spirit. After all, he is your only Savior.

3) DRESS-UP–Put on a smile. It improves your looks. It says something about your attitude. It enables Jesus living within you smile at others.
4) SHUT-UP–Watch your tongue. Don’t gossip. Don’t be judgmental. Say nice things. Learn to listen to others with love. Be sympathetic.
5) STAND-UP–Take a stand for what you believe. Resist evil. Do good. Have the courage of your Christian convictions by practicing what you believe.
6) REACH-UP–Spend time in prayer by talking to God with your adorations, confessions, thanksgivings and supplications and by listening to Him through attentive reading the Bible and the application of its message to your life.
7) LIFT-UP–Be available to help those in need–serving, supporting, and sharing. Try to find Jesus in others and serve him there by serving them. L/19