Tag Archives: mother

Entrust the cause of life to Mary – the Mother of Life

At the close of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), he begins his prayer to the Mother of God by saying, “O Mary, bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life.”

Dr. Donald Demarco

We can assist in the cause of life by saying the rosary and meditating on three consecutive decades of the Joyful Mysteries. The culture of death has taken direct aim against new life in three ways: through contraception, which negates the inception of new life; abortion, which destroys life already formed; and infanticide (euphemistically called “wrongful birth”), which destroys newborn life. Against these evils, the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity provide a strong remedy.

The Annunciation means saying “yes” to life that has yet to commence. Mary’s “yes” overturned Eve’s “no” and welcomed Christ into the world. It was a momentous event. As St. Irenaeus stated, “Being obedient, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”

The Visitation, when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, occurs while Mary is pregnant with Jesus. It is a time of exultation for both women. Luke tells us that Elizabeth spoke out in a loud voice, saying, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1: 42-45). As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, her own child, John the Baptist, “leaped in my womb with joy.”

The Nativity is the time when Mary delivers her child into the world. It is the first Christmas, an occasion that has been celebrated throughout the world for 2,000 years with great jubilation. It is the third “yes” to life following the acceptance of life and the joy of carrying it to term.

These three decades of the rosary represent not only Mary’s affirmation of life, but offer an instruction for all of us to follow. Mary invites us to hear, cultivate, and express the Word of God.

Saying “yes” to the Word of God imitates the Annunciation. Here, we agree to accept God. Our Visitation period is to carrying the Word of God in our hearts while at the same time cultivating it. Our Nativity is to bring the Word of God into the world, expressing it with love and an affirmation of life. When we recite these three decades of the rosary, we pledge to imitate Mary in our own way by accepting, developing, and expressing our love of life.

Mary, along with our relationship to her, takes on a special significance in today’s world where life is routinely despised and destroyed. As the Mother of God, she is also the Mother of Life. Our relationship with her is a powerful means of counteracting the evils that are transpiring in today’s culture of death.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had great affection for the Catholic Church, once wrote about Mary’s special importance: “I have always envied Catholics their faith in that sweet, sacred, Virgin Mother who stands between them and the deity, intercepting somewhat His awful splendor, but permitting His love to stream on the worshipper more intelligibly to human comprehension through the medium of a woman’s tenderness.” These beautiful words suggest that it should be easy to pray to Mary. Hawthorne’s own daughter, Rose, entered the Church and, as Mother Alphonsa, established a new order within the Dominican community.

We can re-enact the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity in our own way. In so doing, we help to advance the culture of life. Prayer is a prelude to a powerful remedy in the war against life that is currently transpiring.

Dr. DONALD DEMARCO is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is a regular columnist for the St. Austin Review. His latest two books, How to Navigate through Life and Apostles of the Culture of Life, are available on Amazon.com.

A Holy Mother models and encourages heroism

I was raised in a home with a mother who desired sainthood, but unless I was paying attention, I didn’t notice. I’m remembering now, for what it’s worth, that I don’t recall her ever purchasing an item of clothing for herself. She loved the Catholic Faith of her childhood, her priests, her family, and jigsaw puzzles; that’s about it. And wouldn’t you know it, right after the last of her eight children, John, left home, Judy Wells died too young from cancer.

If a single snapshot is able to capture the image of a lifetime, it would be this of Mom: I would occasionally walk unannounced into my parents’ bedroom to find her in the afternoon’s half-light, kneeling alone by her bed, praying the Holy Rosary. She’d look up with hesitant eyes that told distinctly different stories: her self-consciousness at being caught in the raw nakedness of prayer, and her hope that I’d kneel beside her. The openhearted look hangs forever in my mind like a warm remembrance.

Mom was certainly as guileless and meek a person as I’ll ever know, but her love for truth carried her to places most others don’t venture. She knocked on neighbors’ doors, asking fallen-away Catholics if they wanted to join her family for Sunday Mass. She hand-wrote tender, pleading letters to encourage shackingup couples to separate and renew chaste relationships. She worked for decades as a counselor at Mary’s Center, a tiny, poorly funded pregnancy center in a tough area of town, where she continually encouraged calloused women to cast their ringed eyes beyond the veil and into the bright hallelujah of their babies’ tiny heartbeat. If walking the unseen sacrificial path of small daily trials marked the identity of her motherhood, it was the rosary that kept pointing her back into those disregarded places.

More than two dozen priests processed down the aisle at Judy Wells’ funeral, wanting to offer their gratitude for her esteem for their priesthood. I think these priests realized that Mom – like our Blessed Mother – expected only heroism from them. In a stunning visual of Marian ferocity, [our priest] Monsignor Esseff shared with me a mental picture of Mary as related to a priest’s relentlessly heroic duty owed as an alter Christus; it was the same picture Mom could have given me…

…“Mary is relentless with me,” he said. “…I see her on the ground taking me into her arms at the Fourth Station, and I’m already completely beat and broken. …she looks down at me and says, ‘Your Father said, “You go and die.” You better do that, son – you undo it.’ And she helps me up so I can move forward with the cross. That’s who Mary is to my priesthood. …I can’t be a priest without this relationship with Mary.”

Excerpt from Kevin Wells’ book, The Priests We Need to Save the Church (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2019), from Chapter 7, “The Blessed Mother,” pp. 101-104 .

KEVIN WELLS, former Major League Baseball writer and award-winning journalist, is an active evangelist who speaks on Catholic topics. He is president of the Monsignor Thomas Wells Society for Vocations, and his work with youth earned him the James Cardinal Hickey National Figure Award from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. He lives in Millersville, MD with his wife and children.

God rewards faithfulness, Mary helps us keep it

In southern Poland, as World War II was beginning in early September 1939, a man named Franciszek brought his wife and two little daughters to the town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska near Krakow where the Franciscans ran a Marian shrine. While there, he disappeared briefly behind the shrine walls. Only after the war in 1945 did he reveal what he did at the shrine: he had begged the Blessed Virgin Mary for protection during the war, promising in return to bring a group of parishioners there for the Solemnity of the Assumption each year. He kept this promise, and even after Franciszek’s death in 1992 his family and co-parishioners maintain that pledge every August.

His oldest daughter, Weronika, learned from her father’s example. When the youngest of her three children was almost 12, Weronika, then nearly 39, learned she was pregnant again. Her “best” friends urged her to abort, which she thought about – “You don’t need another problem,” they said – but she wanted the baby. She went to her parish priest for counsel, and decided to keep the child. After nine months, on May 28, 1975, Weronika delivered a beautiful boy named Rafal. Weronika and her husband, Edward, would later have a fifth child, a daughter named Monica.

During the pregnancy with Rafal, Weronika did like her father Franciszek: she asked Our Lady for help and protection. In return, she offered the child to the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her son Jesus. Rafal, the same Father Rafal who writes these words, is now 45.

To not have been aborted is a wonderful gift from my mom in cooperation with God. Every gift is a sign of love and proof that someone thinks about us. It is the same in my life.

I have lived my life in a close relationship with God and His mother Mary. Growing up, the parish church was my second home. In Poland, August, like May, is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. During that month you see many groups of people walking to the Shrine of Black Madonna in Czestochowa, the fourth-largest Marian shrine in the world. It is a “Walking Pilgrimage,” and it takes some people 21 days. It is a very old way of penance and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pilgrims carry on their shoulders not only backpacks with food and water, but also many prayer intentions.

Walking Pilgrimage was part of my annual summer vacation. In 1996, after reaching the shrine, my group of 5,000 pilgrims from the Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec celebrated the Eucharist. We then watched as pilgrims from Krakow arrived. A thought came to my mind, like an offer to God and to Mary: “It would be so nice to serve all those pilgrims here at the shrine.” Two years later, I entered religious life in the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit.

Back to the gifts. The second most precious and important gift I have ever received was the one I received on May 28, 2005, my 30th birthday, from God Himself. At the Shrine of the Black Madonna, the same place I had offered myself to God to serve the pilgrims, I and eight other young men gathered around the altar of Our Lady and were ordained to the priesthood.

This reflection is not about gifts we receive from people, but about God, who is faithful. Saint Paul says, “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3). This is exactly what happens to my family: God guards us “from the evil one.” Therefore, I want to sing with Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

FATHER RAFAL WALCZYK, O.S.P.P.E. was ordained a priest in 2005 and is a member of the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit. A native of Poland, he currently serves at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA.

Executive women don’t ‘lean in’ by sidelining family

The pew research center reported in 2018 that despite the overall ‘baby bust’ in U.S. fertility, the education gap in childbearing has been closing rapidly, with the most dramatic changes among women with Ph.D.s and professional degrees. In 1994, only 65 percent of such women aged 40-44 had given birth to a child, compared with 76 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees and 88 percent of women with high school degrees or less. But by 2014, that percentage had reached 80 percent for the most educated group of women, representing a 15-point increase in two decades, and a rate nearly identical with the 82 percent for women with bachelor’s degrees.

These univariate point estimates don’t tell the whole story of fertility among well educated women here, but they hint at important facts often glossed over in the contemporary narrative about women and childbearing. The first is this: education and fertility don’t have to move in opposite directions. If vastly more professional women are having children today compared with20 years ago, then education alone is not responsible for declining U.S. fertility rates. The second is that patterns of fertility in the modern economy are by no means settled. The tired idea that executive-level women will ‘lean in’ to careers by setting aside traditional aspirations for family life simply fails to get it right. We still have a lot to learn about why women choose to have the families they have, and what these choices mean to them.

It seems to me that Catholic women have a tremendous opportunity to bring a certain amount of richness and human interest to the contemporary narrative about women, work, and family. In the first place, we believe that the fundamental vocation of woman in nature and grace is to be a wife and a mother, whether lived out through family life, or a spiritual vocation. This means a woman never ‘sets aside’ her natural gift for nurturing others when she develops her talents and takes on a professional role. In other words, if she is called to a professional vocation – which many women are – it isn’t a question of balancing work and motherhood. Rather, with God’s grace and in prudence, it’s a matter of living her motherly role and her professional work each as fully as possible, while keeping her priorities in right order: God, family, work. When work is necessary for the well-being of her family, it is not a distant third but a very close third.

But another way Catholic women can enrich the conversation is this: since we believe in the eternal destiny of the soul and the infinite value of every child, we are more likely to bear witness to life through having bigger families. It’s not a stereotype for nothing. Going back as far as data exists, U.S. Catholic women have had about one more child per family than others. What this means, I think, is we can give witness to the fact that children are worth choosing for their own sake – we don’t need special reasons or perfect circumstances.

I think many people intuit this but strong cultural norms in our increasingly secular country prevail against it. A friend of mine (with a master’s degree in statistics) recently told me about an African immigrant who visited her home as part of a construction crew. When he met her larger-than-average family he exclaimed: “This is the first time I’ve seen something in this country that I want!” We can relate to this sentiment, but we can also provide its source and foundation: our entire faith is predicated on the blessing and beauty of human life. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer 1:5), and “Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me” (Mt 18:5, Mk 9:37, and Lk 9:48). L

CATHERINE RUTH PAKALUK, PHD is an assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Tim and Steph Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America. She is the author of the #postcardsforMacron viral hashtag. Pakaluk lives in Maryland with her husband Michael and eight children.