‘Maria Gravida’-Institute of St. Philip Neri in Berlin ( It is a reproduction of the original in Malta) Click here to see the original.
In his book entitled The Soul of Elizabeth Seton, Joseph I. Dirvin (Ignatius Press) writes that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had a devotion to the motherhood of Mary and the hidden life of Jesus in his mother’s womb. Here are quotes from his book detailing her devotion:
“The saint shared her delighted contemplation of the love of Jesus and Mary as he lay hidden in her chaste womb with St. Louise de Marillac, foundress with St. Vincent de Paul of the Daughters of Charity, whose Rule and spirit Elizabeth had chosen for her own community and who like Elizabeth was a widow and mother. It was an established devotion of both, nurtured by their motherhood, as Elizabeth bore witness in a note to Brute perhaps at Christmastime: “Blessed, it would please your so kind heart to know that this week past or more, our Soul’s dear Baby has been much more present to me than the beloved babies of former days, when I carried and suckled them. He, the Jesus Babe, so unspeakably near and close, hugged by His poor, silently delighted wild one!” ” (pg. 84)
“The maternity that united the Virgin Mary with Elizabeth Seton is especially strong in an exquisite meditation for the feast of the Assumption. “Jesus nine months in Mary, feeding on her blood- Oh Mary! These nine months”. Elizabeth wrote in remembrance of a like joy she herself had known in carrying her children. Now she was savoring it again in transcendent communion with the divine motherhood.” (pg. 83)
“Elizabeth also pursued her mother’s intuitions of Mary with her Sisters. As an outline of a conference attests. “We honor her continually with Our Jesus.” she told them. “His nine months within her” – the thought inspired a fresh spate of spiritual insights – “what passed between them-she alone knowing Him. – there was indeed a time when Mary alone of all mankind knew that the Messiah had come – He her only tabernacle…Mary full of grace, Mother of Jesus! Oh we love and honor Our Jesus, when we love and honor her.” “ (pg. 84)
“…she did not hesitate to close one letter (to her daughter) with these exalted words: “My Rebecca, we will at last unite in His eternal praise, lost in Him, you and I, closer still than in the nine months so dear when, as I told you, I carried you in my bosom as He in Our Virgin Mother’s – than no more separation.” “ (pg. 120)
I have always admired those on the front line. Compassionate heroes who counsel women at pregnancy crisis centers and courageous pro-lifers who week after week pray in front of abortion facilities. God has a special place in His Heart for all of these dedicated pro-lifers.
If you haven’t seen this video (click here) – you might find it interesting. It shows the great evil happening at the abortion facility in Rockford Illinois. But it also shows the grace of God (through the dedication of committed pro-lifers) that is being poured into this sad situation. Here is a blog detailing the efforts made to save lives at this abortion facility during the last 40 days for life.
Another wonderful witness for the unborn that just concluded is in an annual walk for life across the country called Crossroads. Every summer a group of young people walk across the U.S. giving witness to the humanity of the unborn. Along the way: “Each walker averaged over 1,000 miles and spoke to parishes and youth groups. They also engaged in “peaceful, prayerful” protests and sidewalk counseling at abortion (facilities).” Click here to find out more about this wonderful effort.
When we are discouraged we should remember what Saint Paul said in Romans 5:20, “…where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more”. In many cities and towns across our country there are good people who have started pregnancy crisis centers. At most if not all of the abortion facilities across our country – pro-lifers come out to pray.
Grace pours forth as each of us lives with love and dedication for the unborn – with prayer for them always in our hearts and often on our lips.
Filed under: Poems
God’s Fatherhood as I see and sense it.
by Sister M. Linus Coyle
At night, alone, with the Lord and Mary,
I look up to the Fatherhood of God
How many children again that day, O God,
willfully torn from a mother’s womb
deprived so brutally of its own life
with all the hopes that life possessed
but unable to encounter or to develop
that purpose for glory God had created!
Each, a child, yes a child:
never to know or to teach;
never to choose or to give;
never to belong or to accept;
never to be loved or to love others;
never to trust or to offer hope;
neither to find nor to show goodness;
neither to praise nor to thank God for
beauty with happy, joy-filled smile
with human voice or song,
and all the while fulfilling God’s plans
to be glorified within this personhood.
No, Christ had no chance to enter, nor to
achieve His Father’s plan within.
… and I weep for them, for all of us.
For life would never know that which was God’s desire
for those whom they’d companion or generate.
Lord of mercy, Lord of love,
forgive and transform all hearts,
this day, this night. Amen
God the Father, holding Christ Crucified in His arms (embroidered image) (detail)
Sister M. Linus Coyle belongs to the order of the Sisters of the Presentation. She receives our e-newsletter and sent us this poem/reflection on the dignity of each unborn child conceived in the image and likeness of God and on the sadness we all feel because of abortion.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Incarnation, Mother of the Lord, Unborn Jesus
Our prior six posts* have considered the mystery of Mary’s contemplation and remembrance of all the significant events, revelations and Divine inspirations that occurred in her life, and in the lives of others nearby, during the course of her nine month pregnancy. With Christ alive just inches beneath her listening heart, she was the living echo of God’s abundant grace during those initial months of the Incarnation.
It fell upon her, that is, it was an integral part of her office as Mother to the Incarnate Word, to be exquisitely attentive to every event, revelation and inspiration concerning her Son during His entire life, but especially during the sacred months of her pregnancy while she was the only one in direct communion with Him.
Before the apostles had ever been chosen or an Apostles Creed had been formulated, she was the contemplative memory of the Church (as John Paul II would say). Before the great St. Paul was converted, Mary was pondering in her heart the deepest mysteries of Christ, and marveling at the Plan of Salvation as it was unfolding – first, within her body, as a softly lit light, and later as a glowing beacon for all of Israel to behold. She carried the church’s forming Creed in her heart while carrying humanity’s developing Unborn Redeemer within her womb.
With the birth of Christ came yet another cloudburst of inspired witnesses: the angels spoke to the shepherds and the shepherds came to worship and told Mary and Joseph what they had been told. Next, the three wise men from the East came and also shared their wisdom. At the Temple, holy Simeon and the prophetess Anna were inspired to speak of the Christ child. An angel appeared to Joseph to instruct him. As Mary and Joseph fled with their newborn Son, Christ now became a political problem and death for young children was the King’s answer to the problem of Christ.
We do not have time here to sift through all of these wondrous happenings in this “fourth trimester” – the months immediately following the Nativity – but the Holy Spirit was extremely active and gracious during this hallowed time as well.
*This 7th post concludes this series.
This is our sixth post in a series exploring the Creed of Christian faith being revealed to Mary during her pregnancy, trimester by trimester, event by event. We now come to the third trimester. Lk 2:1-7 explains that Caesar has inadvertently determined the place for the Christ Child to be born. According to the census (enrollment) ordered by Caesar, Joseph would have to travel to Bethlehem to fulfill his obligation. Mary (and Unborn Jesus) would accompany him.
Micah the prophet had prophesied this eventuality (see Micah 5:2, Mt 2:4-6):
“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel.” Mt 2:6
Before hearing of the enrollment, Mary probably did not know for certain where her Son would be born. This news from Rome was like a piece of a puzzle, which enabled Mary to connect the dots and it is very possible she related the above text from Micah to her specific travel itinerary, and praised God. The verse not only identifies the place of the birth, but states that her Son will be “a ruler who will govern my people Israel”. Mary can now add this information to all of the prior information she had been receiving from angels (Gabriel and the angel of the Lord), remnant Saints (Elizabeth, Zechariah, Joseph) and the Holy Spirit. Now politicians and prophets are enlightening her concerning the Will of God and the mystery of the Incarnation.
It is worth noting also that during these nine months Mary clearly would have ascribed other Old Testament prophecies to her Son (and herself) and would have been thereby further enlightened. One example should suffice: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). If nothing else, she could derive from this verse the fact that she as virgin Mother held a Messianic office and the prophets through the centuries were preparing the people for this great dawning of the Messianic Age.
The third trimester ends when the child leaves the womb and is born. So we still have another third trimester event to consider. Mary and Unborn Jesus, along with Joseph, were turned away at the Inn “because there was no place for them”. Here is a profound message for Mary about the difficulty and rejection in store for her Son. Like many of the prophets before Him, her son would no doubt meet with some rejection. (Mary may have even gone so far as to possibly relate the Messianic Psalm 22 to her Son even now, before He had even been born: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”; verse 1).
So they end up in a manger, in humility, and she senses the meekness of God’s Plan for her Son, even now before He is born. She intuitively senses here in this manger, the order of Creation, and perceives that her Son has come indeed to restore a proper order to all things; from the animal kingdom to the angelic realms. She will no longer be heavy with child, but her heart will remain full of Incarnation truths and mysteries, both lived and believed.
We all know of Joseph’s dilemma. But when did this occur? Mary (and Unborn Jesus) probably returned to Nazareth after visiting Elizabeth (unborn/newborn John) and Zechariah, just as the second trimester of Mary’s pregnancy was getting underway. The first page of the New Testament presents this huge problem and holy solution: somehow Mary “was found to be with child” (Mt 1:19). An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream:
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”.
Joseph does as the angel instructs him. And he tells Mary what he was told by God’s messenger. This is the pattern, each person drawn into the Messianic Mission shares his or her inspiration or spiritual experience with Mary (or she in fact witnesses it) and as John Paul II says “Mary is the contemplative “memory” of the Church…” Message for 77th World Mission Day #3. She cherishes the revealed information within her heart and memory. Let’s consider four points from the angel’s instruction.
“Son of David” – this is how the angel addresses Joseph. It is as if Joseph is given a “Messianic office” while he will faithfully do the will of God, parenting the true Son of God. Mary can see in this the supernatural dignity of Joseph’s role as adoptive father of her son. Her relationship with Joseph is solidified and they will act as a team, in harmony with God who is closely watching over their lives. Thirty years hence, Joseph’s son will be called by the same title on many occasions (Mt 9:27, 12:23, 21:9, Mk 10:48). This title then is shared between father and son; perhaps Mary sensed that this would be one of her son’s titles.
“Holy Spirit” – this reference to God is a New Testament term, and here it is on the very first page of the New Testament, revealed for the world to hear, by the angel of the Lord to Joseph. But the same term, “Holy Spirit”, had already been spoken to Mary in the same context, by Gabriel. For Mary this is not a coincidence, not even a mere confirmation, it is a holy revelation of the first order – it was fitting that it was revealed to Joseph not by human lips, but by the breath of an angel, commissioned to deliver the message for the glory of God and for the particular good of Mary and her Unborn Son. The angel’s words to Joseph were a sign for him, a sign for Mary and a timeless sign for the universal Church.
“Jesus” – we spoke earlier about this name. Mary sees here the intimate detail revealed to her alone thus far, now being shared by God with one other special person. The family of three is now complete, built up around this Name, this Person; “Jesus”.
“He will save his people from their sins” – finally, here is the reason for the Incarnation, the reason for this Messianic Mission! This is a supernatural remedy for the fallen condition of humanity. Adam and Eve’s misdeeds will be undone by this Savior. Mary is given a ringing proclamation to ponder, a motto for her life which will always give perspective to every event, every question, every hope. Mary can read between the lines here and see one word loud and clear: MERCY. Her Son, as Savior, will embody God’s Mercy.
The early Creed of Christianity, in its embryonic statement is taking shape within the heart of Mary, encounter by encounter, methodically, trimester by trimester. But one other sign came to Mary during this second trimester, not mentioned in the bible, but mentioned by every woman who has ever carried an unborn baby to term; the Unborn Son of God poked her, pushed at her, prodded her – with His hands, His feet, even His elbows – what did she think of that?