“I put myself on the side of childhood….I am, above all, on the side of the Infant God….”
The Son of Man
“…. I wondered what name I would be given in Carmel.
I knew there was a Sister Therese of Jesus; however, my
beautiful name of Therese could not be taken away from
me. All of a sudden, I thought of Little Jesus whom I
loved so much, and I said: ‘Oh! how happy I would be if
they called me Therese of the Child Jesus!’”
St. Therese of Lisieux,
Doctor of the Church
Story of a Soul
On several occasions Christ counseled us to have a childlike faith, even going so far as to placing a child in front of His disciples, so that His teaching would have the sacred and personal imprint of a living child.
As it turned out, it was but a small ‘baby step’ for many saints, to move from childlike faith to devotion to the Christ Child. Examples abound, but for the sake of brevity, let’s mention three saints: Francis of Assisi (so drawn to the newborn baby Jesus, that he created a living nativity scene to supplement his personal devotion), Anthony of Padua (who held the Child Jesus in his arms) and Therese of the Child Jesus (“I cannot fear a God who made himself so small for me!”[LT 266])
The personal devotions of holy Christians to the Christ Child have multiplied a hundredfold to engulf Catholic communities and cultures throughout the world. For the purposes of this discussion, we take it as a given fact that devotion to the Christ Child is tenderly woven into the devotional fabric of the Church, that it is to be encouraged (while being in conformity “to the doctrine, legal discipline and norms of the Church”) and that each individual Christian can enter into it with confidence.
Which leads us to the Unborn Christ Child. The devotional step from adoring Christ lying in a manger, to contemplating Him lying in His mother’s womb is intellectually tiny, even though it may challenge the imagination slightly…
But why bother ourselves with a study of the Unborn Christ Child? John Paul II explains: “The conception and birth of Jesus Christ are in fact the greatest work accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the history of creation and salvation: the supreme grace – ‘the grace of union,’ source of every other grace, as St. Thomas explains.” The nine month continuum, from Christ’s conception to His birth, is an exceptional time of grace for the world and humanity – of utmost significance to the Church generally, and to expecting mothers and unborn babies particularly.
Filed under: How are we to honor Unborn Jesus, Incarnation, Saints, The Incarnation
Unborn John honored Unborn Jesus by expressing joy at His Presence (Lk 1:44).
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’ ” Luke 1: 41-44.
“John was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb’ by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 8, 717.
“… He (John) inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 3, 523.
We can honor Unborn Jesus by our recognition of Christ’s love for the unborn and our joy in His incarnation as an unborn baby. We can also honor Unborn Jesus when we share the pro-life message joyfully and give witness to the sanctity of each unborn child made in the image and likeness of our Unborn Lord.
The Bishops of the U.S. are asking us to join them in prayer for our country in a campaign called the Fortnight of Freedom.
“The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.” From the USSCB Website.
We would like to encourage everyone to get involved. Pray, fast, call your representatives in Washington to let them know how you feel about this issue.
It is interesting to note that this fortnight of freedom began on July 21 the vigil of the feast day for both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher who were martyred for their faith. They were martyred because they would not accept the decrees of Henry the Eighth who in order to marry Anne Boleyn made himself head of the Church of England. Neither of these men would accede to his decrees and both went to their death rather than compromise their faith. Like them we are slowly but surely facing an uphill battle for our faith today. They are models for our us.
Many people have heard about St. Thomas More – but Bishop, St. John Fisher is less well known. One of my favorite observations about St. John Fisher was made by the inspirational Father Vincent McNabb in his biography about St. John Fisher, published in 1935. He writes:
“In reading the authentic records of how the Bishop (St. John Fisher) bore himself in his bishopric we are perhaps surprised to find him praised for qualities which might be expected of any good bishop. But as there are times of general moral depression when the average layman’s practice of the ten commandments demands heroic virtue, so there are circumstances when a bishop’s fidelity to the ordinary duties of his office argues the saint.”
It seems to us that many of the 10 commandments are at the forefront of our society’s most grave battles – moral battles about the dignity and value of human life and marriage. We can see that the 10 commandments were a divine gift intended to elevate human living and direct it towards God and virtue. So today, for believers to live according to the 10 commandments, in this time of moral crisis, is no small accomplishment. Let us encourage each other continually to meet this challenge of our time, seeking opportunities to lift up these and other noble moral principles which point towards the Culture of Life. And let us pray for our families and our children an join our Bishops in this Fortnight of Freedom.
There is a story that St. Anthony was seen holding the Christ Child in his arms. Many images and statues of St. Anthony depict him holding the Christ Child. One variation of these images is of St. Anthony holding a Bible with the Christ Child on it. The most unusual one is El Greco’s St. Anthony. Here are 2 other images in this tradition.
Perhaps this is because St. Anthony was also known as a great preacher – and especially for his knowledge of scripture. Following are 2 quotes from St. Anthony’s sermons which pertain to the Christ Child.
“The fruit of the bee is the Son of the Virgin. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb [Lk 1.42], it says; and Canticles 2: His fruit was sweet to my palate [Cant 2.3]. This fruit is sweet in its beginning, middle and end. It was sweet in the womb, sweet in the crib, sweet in the temple, sweet in Egypt, sweet in his Baptism, sweet in the desert, sweet in word, sweet in miracles, sweet on the ass, sweet in the scourging, sweet on the Cross, sweet in the tomb, sweet in hell and sweet in heaven. O sweet Jesus, what is more sweet than you are? ‘Jesu- the very thought is sweet…sweeter than honey far.’ “
The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Anthony of Padua
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son: and his name shall be called Emmanuel. [Is 7.14]
“…that is, God-with-us. This God is made a little child for us, is born for us today. There are many reasons why Christ is called a little child; and for briefness’ sake here is just one: if you hurt a child, make him cry… but then show him a flower, a rose or something like that, and after showing it give it to him- then he will not remember the hurt, he will put away his indignation and run to embrace you. In the same way, if you offend Christ by mortal sin, or inflict any kind of injury on him, but then offer him the flower of contrition or the rose of tearful confession (“Tears are the soul’s blood”), then he will not remember your offences, he will take away your guilt and run to embrace and kiss you.“
The Nativity of the Lord, St. Anthony of Padua
The Pregnancy of Mary
“All our tribulations were present to our merciful Saviour at the very first moment of His life and He resolved so firmly, ardently and steadfastly at that time to help us free ourselves from them and He so faithfully preserved this intention in His heart from the first to the last instant of His life, that all the most atrocious cruelties and tortures that wretched men, to whom Christ was so wonderfully good, caused Him to suffer while He was on earth, as well as all His prescience of the ingratitude, outrages and crimes with which we would repay His adorable mercy, were not capable of cooling even slightly the ardor and strength of His will to show mercy to mankind.”
The Admirable Heart of Mary by St. John Eudes
“…. if someone intends to build a house or a palace he must first consider whether it is to be a lodging for a vine dresser or peasant or if it is for a lord, since obviously he would use entirely different plans depending on the rank of the person who is to live there. Now the Eternal Father did just that when He built this world. He intended to create it for the Incarnation of His Son, the Eternal Word. The end or goal of His work was thus its beginning, for Divine Wisdom had foreseen from all eternity that His Word would assume our nature in coming to earth.” St. Francis DeSales Sermon for Christmas Midnight Mass
O My God, please bless us as we contemplate the newborn Baby Jesus, all holy, full of innocence, the Son of God. May we realize on this Christmas day, the absolute dignity of each human person who is “fearfully and wonderfully made” in Your ”image and likeness”.
“Inseparable from the Gospel, for St. Thérèse the Eucharist was the sacrament of Divine Love that stoops to the extreme to raise us to him. In her last Letter, on an image that represents Jesus the Child in the consecrated Host, the Saint wrote these simple words: ‘I cannot fear a God who made himself so small for me! […] I love him! In fact, he is nothing but Love and Mercy!’ (LT 266).”
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Pro-life, Quotes from Great Christians, Saints
I recognize that not everyone will like this picture and I myself used it with some hesitancy. But it highlights a theme that quite a few saints and spiritual authors have written about which actually seems very relevant in our time (because of abortion), namely that Christ’s time in the womb was a time of suffering for our sins. Here are four quotes for our Lenten meditation:
Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb… John Donne, The Annunciation
“The third characteristic then of the obedience of Christ is that it was tried by suffering and humiliations. To accomplish the Will of His heavenly Father, the Infant Christ, with the full use of every faculty, consented to be enclosed for nine months in the dark prison of His Mother’s womb. Other infants feel not this privation as they have not the use of reason, but Christ had the use of reason and must have dreaded the confinement in the narrow womb, even of her whom He had chosen to be His Mother.
Through obedience to His Father, and from the love He bore to man, He overcame this dread, and the Church says: ‘When Thou didst take upon Thee to deliver Man, Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.’ Again, our dear Lord needed no small amount of patience and humility, to assume the manners and the weaknesses of a child, when He was not only wiser than Solomon, but was the Man ‘in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ ” St. Robert Bellarmine, The Seven Words on the Cross
“Consider the painful life that Jesus Christ led in the womb of his Mother, and the long‑confined and dark imprisonment that he suffered there for nine months. Other infants are indeed in the same state; but they do not feel the miseries of it, because they do not know them. But Jesus knew them well, because from the first moment of his life he had the perfect use of reason….The womb of Mary was therefore, to our Redeemer a voluntary prison, because it was a prison of love. But it was also not an unjust prison: he was indeed innocent himself, but he had offered himself to pay our debts and to satisfy for our crimes. It was therefore only reasonable for the divine justice to keep him thus imprisoned, and so begin to exact from him the due satisfaction.
Behold the state to which the Son of God reduces himself for the love of men, he deprives himself of his liberty and puts himself in chains, to deliver us from the chains of hell.” St. Alphonsus de Liguori,The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ
“He was filled with compassion for all the miseries of creation, and this never left Him henceforward; and most of all did He feel for sin, the greatest and the truest of our miseries, and He distinctly and separately pitied the sins of each one of us in particular.
…He surrendered Himself as a prisoner in His Mother s womb, for crime, for debt, and as a prisoner of war, as if He were a delinquent threefold by all those three liabilities. He only left His prison to suffer and to expiate, and it seems as though He loved it so, that He repeats His state of imprisonment in the Blessed Sacrament.” Father Faber, The Blessed Sacrament
When I think of Christ suffering in the womb for our sins it gives me great hope. Hope that He has obtained for us a special grace during His time of suffering in the womb – a grace that will enable us to overcome abortion in our time.
Here is how most people celebrate their birthdays!
But the great St. John Eudes didn’t look at it quite like that and wrote an extremely lengthy prayer for Christians to recite on their birthdays. Here are a few excerpts:
Prayer to Jesus for the Anniversary of Your Birth
“O Jesus, I adore Thee in Thy eternal birth and Thy divine dwelling for all eternity in the bosom of Thy Father. I also adore Thee in Thy temporal conception, and in Thy presence in the sacred womb of Thy most pure mother, for the space of nine months, and in Thy birth into this world at the end of that time. I adore and revere the great and admirable occurrence of these mysteries…
Again I adore and glorify Thee, O Good Jesus, as performing all these things for Thyself, and for me and for everyone in the world. On this anniversary of my birth I give myself to Thee, O my Dear Jesus, that I may now repeat the acts Thou didst perfect while dwelling from all eternity in the bosom of the Father, and for nine months in the womb of Thy mother…
Such, O my Lord, is the rightful homage I ought to have rendered to Thee, had I been able, at the moment of my birth, and indeed from the first moment of my life, that I now endeavor to render to Thee, although very tardily and imperfectly…
In Thy temporal birth, Thou didst render for me to Thy Father all the rightful homage I should have rendered Him at my own birth, and Thou didst then practice all the acts and exercises of devotion that I should have practiced. Be Thou blessed for ever!”
St. John Eudes, The Life and the Kingdom of Jesus in Christian Souls
The Vision of St. Juliana (1191-1258) of Mont Cornillon (about 1645/50)
Philippe de Champaigne 1602 – 1674
You may have never heard of St. Juliana of Cornillon (Juliana of Liege), 1192 -1258. She was an Augustinian nun who was the first promoter of a feast day in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. In his November 17, 2010 audience Pope Benedict spoke eloquently about St. Juliana.
“The Pope explained how the Belgian saint “possessed great culture, … and a profound sense of the presence of Christ, which she experienced particularly intensely in the Sacrament of the Eucharist”. At the age of sixteen she had a vision which convinced her of the need to establish a liturgical feast for Corpus Christi “in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist so as to augment their faith, increase the practice of virtue and mend the wrongs done to the Blessed Sacrament”, said the Holy Father. Click here to read more.
What many people don’t know is that she also had a profound devotion to Christ in His Blessed Mother’s womb. Here is an excerpt from a book about her life written in 1873 detailing this devotion.
“She had also a great devotion for the feasts of our Lady, but of all her feasts, the one she celebrated with most ardent devotion and piety was the feast of the Annunciation. It seemed as if she could never cease from meditating upon and admiring the celestial simplicity of the words of the angel Gabriel; the trouble that his salutation at first gave to Mary, the consent that she gave to become the Mother of God, the profound humility, the more than angelic modesty, and the ardent love, our Blessed Lady displayed upon this occasion.
At the thought of the Eternal Word descending from the bosom of His Father, and becoming man for love of us, her heart became so inflamed with love, that it seemed to her she could no longer contain it within her breast…
A devotion that she frequently recommended to the other religious, was to recite the ” Ave Maria,” and the canticle ” Magnificat,” nine times every day, in honour of the nine months our Lord dwelt in the womb of His ever Blessed Mother; and she assured them that she was indebted to the practice of this devotion for many favours and graces she had obtained from heaven.
When ever she recited or sung the “Magnificat,” she was accustomed to contemplate the fatigues our Blessed Lady suffered in her journey from Nazareth to the house of her cousin Elizabeth. She then considered the tender embraces of those two women so beloved by God, the joy with which St. John the Baptist leaped in the womb of his mother, at the approach of Mary, who bore his Saviour within her womb; then she meditated upon their holy salutations and the thanksgivings they afterwards rendered to God.”
From: The Life of St. Juliana of Cornillon by Brother George Ambrose Bradbury, O.C. 1873. pp 24-25
He was called Jesus (Luke 2:21)
The third chapter of Bringing Forth Christ: Five Feasts of the Child Jesus by St. Bonaventure is entitled: The Third Feast: How The Infant Jesus Is Named Spiritually By A Devout Soul.
The chapter starts with this quote:
Thirdly, we come to consider how this holy Infant, now born spiritually, shall be named. And I think there is no name more fitting for him than Jesus, for scripture says: He was called Jesus (Luke 2:21). This is the most sacred of all names. It was foretold by the prophets, announced by an angel, proclaimed by the apostles and desired by all the saints. 0 powerful name! 0 grace-filled and joyous name! 0 delightful and glorious name!
To read the entire chapter: click the link below:
The Nativity, by Gerard van Honthorst (1590-1656)
The second chapter of Bringing Forth Christ: Five Feasts of the Child Jesus by St. Bonaventure is entitled: The Second Feast: How The Son of God is Born Spiritually in a Devout Soul.
The chapter starts with this quote:
“Secondly, let us consider and mark well how the blessed Son of God, already conceived spiritually, is born spiritually in the soul. He is born when, after good advice, due thought and prayer for God’s protection, we put into practice our resolution to lead a more perfect life. That is to say, he is born when the soul begins to do that which it long had in mind, but was afraid to undertake through fear of its own weakness. The angels rejoice at this most blessed birth, they glorify God and announce peace (cf. Luke 2:13).”
To read the entire chapter: click the link below:
Filed under: Advent, Biblical Reflections, Evangelium Vitae, Saints, Unborn Jesus
Our Lady of Hope
This beautiful statue can be purchased at Mother Angelica’s gift shop – click here for more information
St. Bonaventure wrote a small treatise called Bring Forth Christ: Five Feasts of the Child Jesus.
The First Feast: How Christ Jesus, The Son Of God, May Be Conceived Spiritually By A Devout Soul is a beautiful meditation on the Annunciation and Visitation. To read the entire chapter click below
Here are 2 quotes from this chapter.
“Once a devout soul has been touched or moved by the hope of heavenly bliss, the fear of eternal punishment or the weariness of living long in this vale of tears (Ps. 83:7), it is visited by fresh inspirations, set alight with holy desires and taken up with godly thoughts. When at length it has rejected and despised previous imperfections and former desires for worldly things, and has resolved to lead a new life by the gracious kindness of the Father of lights from whom is every good endowment and every perfect gift (Jas. 1:17), it conceives mystically by the gift of grace.”
“Now, with Mary, the soul begins to climb the hill country (cf. Luke 1: 39) because after this conception earthly things lose their attraction, and the soul longs for heavenly and eternal things. The soul begins to flee the company of those with minds set on earthly things (Phil. 3:19) and desires the friendship of those with hearts set on heavenly things. It begins to take care of Elizabeth, that is, to look to those who are enlightened by divine wisdom and ardently inflamed by love.”
These next chapters (or feasts) all pertain to the Christmas season so we will cover each of them in the days to come.
The Second Feast: How The Son of God Is Born Spiritually In A Devout Soul
The Third Feast: How The Infant Jesus Is Named Spiritually By A Devout Soul
The Fourth Feast: How The Son Of God Is Sought and Adored Spiritually With The Magi, By The Devout Soul
The Fifth Feast: How The Son Of God Is Presented In The Temple By A Devout Soul
Mary is the ‘Holy House’ who bore God in her womb and is forever to be honoured by Elizabeth Wang
The unique St. John Eudes wrote many diverse prayers during his lifetime demonstrating his desire to offer every action of each day to God in a special and meaningful way. This is reflected in prayers such as this:
“O Jesus, I offer Thee the rest I am about to take, in honor of the eternal rest Thou dost enjoy in the bosom of Thy Father, and in honor of the sleep and temporal rest Thou didst take in the bosom of Thy Mother, as well as during Thy whole life on earth.”
His reference to the “bosom of Thy Mother”, is an endearing term for the womb of Mary as we see in the following instruction he gave elsewhere to retreatants:
“Your retreat ought to be made with these chief ends in view: 1. To continue and honor the various retreats of Jesus, for example, His retreat from all eternity in the bosom of His Father; His retreat for nine months in the bosom of His Mother…”
During his times of rest, sleep and even retreat John Eudes was reminded of Unborn Jesus within Mary’s womb. As he instructs us above, we can honor these acts of Jesus to the extent that we join ourselves to Him with these mysteries in mind.
Quotes taken from: St. John Eudes, C.J.M., The Life and the Kingdom of Jesus in Christian Souls
Michele Tosini (1503-77) St. Luke
October 18 is the feast day of St. Luke.
In chapters One and Two of the Gospel of St. Luke we have 127 verses of narrative concerning the infancy and childhood of Jesus Christ and mysteries surrounding His infancy (Lk 1:5 – 2:52). These verses are unique to Luke and outline the earliest vignettes known about the childhood of Jesus Christ. The verses restricted to the infancy period are slightly less: 114 verses (Lk 1:5 – Lk 2:39).
The extraordinary account of the Annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel, for example, is presented only in Luke and no where else. Likewise, the remarkable Visitation event (and Magnificat “song”) and Bethlehem birth saga are Lukan treasures only. Which might lead us to wonder how would Christianity be different if there was no Luke? Would we celebrate Christmas? (Matthew also provides 47 verses of invaluable introductory information as well concerning Mary, Joseph and Jesus, before and after the birth. Mt 1:18 – 2:23)
We are indebted to Luke in a thousand ways, but especially for the first two chapters of his Gospel which are in a way a “prologue”, comparable to the famous “Prologue” to the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1-18): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…” But while the Prologue of John is about Mysteries and realities concerning the Word Incarnate, this “prologue” of Luke’s is focused on biological and historical events which reveal the Child Incarnate. While John is mystical, Luke is highly personal yet supernatural. All of this is to say that, the Incarnation Mystery of faith is so wondrous, that we need both Luke and John to unfold for us its beauty and reality. We can listen to John’s Prologue and see it with the eyes of the heart, but Luke’s we visualize all in fabulous images.
But it is only Luke who reveals to us the babyhood of Jesus and the attendant mysteries thereto. Luke is one of the Church’s great “Pro – Life” saints! There is no way around it. He alone tells of the conception of Jesus Christ, paints for us the tender mother who opens up her heart and soul to God’s plan and Spirit, then recounts the mysterious encounter between pregnant mothers and unborn children and finally recounts in all its poverty and glory the birth of humankind’s Savior in a manger.
St. Luke we thank you for the little details you carefully recorded about our Savior’s first nine months in the womb and then in the manger. You, St. Luke, have brought more tears of joy to human eyes than any other author in human history. You have revealed to us the mother of the baby Jesus and have transported us in our thoughts to kneel beside the beasts and shepherds, beneath the angels’ meditative gaze. It was first your descriptive words which gave rise to those Christmas hymns we sing now that cause our hearts to bow down in adoration again.
St. Luke, when we see you in heaven, we will get in that very long reception line of pro-life Christians who want to shake your hand, the hand which wrote down the sacred events of our Savior’s babyhood, events which gave us hope for all our earthly days.
El Greco (1541-1614) St. Luke (detail)
Église paroissiale Saint-Pierre, Saint-Pierre-lès-Nemours
Commenting on the passage where “a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts that You sucked!” (Lk 11:27), the holy doctor (St. Anthony) says
“Blessed, therefore, is the womb of the glorious Virgin who for nine months was worthy to carry all goodness, the highest goodness, the bliss of angels and reconciliation of sinners.”
Elsewhere he writes that “She possessed within Her the compactness of love—for nine months She carried Love Incarnate in Her womb.”
October 4th is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. To celebrate the day we would like to recount two obscure stories about St. Clare and St. Francis while they were still in the womb or about to be born.
Hortulana, St. Clare’s Mother Praying for a Safe Delivery.
Note unborn Clare
It is said that St. Clare received the name Clare, which means clear or bright, for the following reason. While her mother Hortulana, was kneeling before a crucifix, praying that God might aid her in her hour of delivery, she heard the words : ” Do not fear. You will give birth to a light which shall illumine the whole world.”
There is a legend about the birth of St. Francis. Lady Pica, (his mother) was finding her labor to be particularly difficult. Her husband was abroad in France on one of his business trips, and she was at home with only her household staff in attendance. Whether it was her idea, or another’s, the thought came that perhaps a walk would be good, and so she set out a short distance to the nearby stable. Apparently it did the trick. The baby Francis hastened his entrance into the world, and ended up being born in the stable.