UNBORN WORD of the day


St. Clare and St. Francis Infants in the womb
October 2, 2010, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Prayer, Saints

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.”

Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 1, north wall) Benozzo Gozzoli 1452 Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

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.



UNBORN JOHN AS A SIGN OF THE SPIRIT-FILLED CHURCH
April 24, 2010, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Saints, Unborn Jesus

John's life11

The Life of St. John the Baptist is depicted in this Icon

You know Luke’s marvelous account of the Visitation, when Mary greets Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s baby leaps for joy within her womb. Let’s look at this from a different angle:

Previously the Angel Gabriel had told Elizabeth’s husband that her son John “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Lk1:15).

Mary is pregnant with Unborn Jesus when she arrives at the home of Elizabeth, greets her and then unborn John leaps for joy. The leap signifies that John has just been “filled with the Holy Spirit”.

Let’s look at how the Catechism of the Catholic Church comments on the scene: “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” (#717). Note carefully that John is filled with the Holy Spirit by Christ himself. It is Christ Unborn – perhaps but a week old within His mother’s womb – who acts, who initiates.

But the Catechism goes on to say that the visit is truly a visit “from God” – that is, Unborn Jesus – “to his people” – that is, primarily to unborn John. So unborn John represents the people of God – that is, the Church.

What happens when “God” visits “his people”? He pours His Spirit into them. One of the greatest documents from Vatican II is Lumen Gentium (“Christ is the light of humanity…” it begins). It refers to the Church as “the people of God” and tells us that Christ “sent the Holy Spirit to all to move them interiorly to love God…” (LG 40). Of course, this is what He did for unborn John the Baptist!

In a section specifically about the laity, Lumen Gentium specifically teaches: “The laity become powerful heralds of the faith in things to be hoped for (cf. Heb 11:1) if they join unhesitating profession of faith to the life of faith” (LG 35). This is what unborn John did! After Mary, he was the first ‘herald of the faith’ through his ‘unhesitating profession of faith’! (For if he experienced joy he must have been given the gift – even if only temporarily – of reason, and thus also the gift of faith in his Redeemer. So the Church Fathers believed.) By leaping, he is heralding the faith. The first layman was an unborn layman!

Lumen Gentium also states: “Every lay person, through those gifts given to him, is at once the witness and the living instrument of the mission of the Church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal’ (Eph 4:7)” (LG 33). After Mary, Unborn John is the Church’s first “witness” and “living instrument of the mission of the Church”.



A Tribute to St. Luke for his infancy narratives
October 18, 2009, 10:23 am
Filed under: Saints, The Incarnation

st-luke-2

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.

George A. Peate, Unborn Word Alliance

gospel.thumbnail

El Greco (1541-1614) St. Luke (detail)



St. Louise de Marillac and Unborn Jesus
October 10, 2009, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Saints, The Incarnation, Unborn Jesus

a16354c045

The Sanctuary of St. Mary of  the Assumption in Altotting Bogenberg on a hill overlooking the Danube is the second largest and oldest pilgrimage site in Bavaria. . The special feature of the arc mountain church, the sculpture of the pregnant Madonna (window in the womb with baby Jesus)

In a previous post on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton we mentioned that both she and St. Louise de Marillac  had a devotion to Christ in the womb. (St. Elizabeth Seton formed her sisters in the Vincentian spirit according to the tradition of Louise de Marillac 1591-1660 and Vincent de Paul 1581-1660.) In that post, we highlighted some quotes from St. Elizabeth speaking of her devotion to Christ in the womb. In today’s post we would like to highlight St. Louise’s devotion.

In the book, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac – Rules, Conferences and Writings, Vie Thorgren writes of St. Louise:  ” They remind us of the importance of the hidden years of Jesus’ life-hidden within the womb and hidden in a village noted only for its insignificance. As early as 1626, Louise began a daily practice of meditation on Jesus within the womb receiving his flesh and blood, which became the means of our redemption. Recognizing the fruitfulness of this meditation, she offered it as an enduring legacy to the Daughters of Charity.

In her Rule of Life in the world, St. Louise enumerates several devotional practices in honor of the Virgin Mary – one of these practices concerns Christ in the womb.

A quarter of an hour of prayer exactly at midday to honor the moment when the Incarnation of the Word took place in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.

In her own words, we learn from St. Louise herself,  of a personal devotional practice she had honoring the unborn Christ Child. St. Louise drew up a little rosary. She wrote to St. Vincent: “This little chaplet is the devotion for which I asked permission of your Charity three years ago as a personal devotion. I have in a small box a quantity of these little chaplets, along with some thoughts on this devotion written on a piece of paper, which with your permission, I wish to leave to all our sisters after my death. Not one of them knows it. It honors the hidden life of Our Lord in his state of imprisonment in the womb of the Blessed Virgin and congratulates her on her happiness during those nine months. The three small beads hail her under her beautiful titles of Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. That is the main thought behind the devotion. By the grace of God, unworthy as I am, I have continued this devotion since the time I mentioned, but I hope to discontinue it, aided by God’s same grace, if your Charity so orders. By means of this little exercise I intend to ask God, through the Incarnation of his Son and the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, for the purity necessary for the Company of the Sisters of Charity and for the steadfastness of this Company in keeping with his good pleasure.” Louise de Marillac, Spiritual Writings, L.303B

It seems that  St. Vincent had agreed to this devotional practice three years earlier but at this point he asked her to discontinue it. Even though St. Louise continued to believe that this was a devotion that Our Lady wanted her to practice – in holy obedience to St. Vincent she discontinued it.

She alludes to this in a letter: “I feel that I must tell your Charity that I was and still am sorry at having to abandon those little prayers because I believe that the Blessed Virgin wanted me to render her this small tribute of gratitude. But with her, I console myself by offering my renunciation to her and by resolving to please her in some other way and to serve her with greater fervor….” Louise de Marillac, Spiritual Writings, L.304



St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and the Unborn Christ Child
August 26, 2009, 11:01 am
Filed under: Saints, The Incarnation, Unborn Jesus

gravida11

‘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)

Elizabeth ann Seton grotto



“God the Son came into her virginal womb…to take his delight there and produce hidden wonders of grace.”
April 28, 2009, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Saints, The Incarnation, Unborn Jesus

virgen_de_la_esperanza_11

Virgen de la Esperanza-Our Lady of Expectation

Tuesday, April 28 is the feast day of St. Louis de Montfort. Here are a few quotes from him about Christ’s time in the womb.

God the Son came into her virginal womb as a new Adam into his earthly paradise, to take his delight there and produce hidden wonders of grace.

God-made-man found freedom in imprisoning himself in her womb. He displayed power in allowing himself to be borne by this young maiden. He found his glory and that of his Father in hiding his splendors from all creatures here below and revealing them only to Mary. He glorified his independence and his majesty in depending upon this lovable virgin in his conception, his birth, his presentation in the temple, and in the thirty years of his hidden life.

The Incarnation is the first mystery of Jesus Christ; it is the most hidden; and it is the most exalted and the least known. It was in this mystery that Jesus, in the womb of Mary and with her co- operation, chose all the elect. For this reason the saints called her womb, the throne-room of God’s mysteries

Our good Master stooped to enclose himself in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, a captive but loving slave, and to make himself subject to her for thirty years. As I said earlier, the human mind is bewildered when it reflects seriously upon this conduct of Incarnate Wisdom. He did not choose to give himself in a direct manner to the human race though he could easily have done so. He chose to come through the Virgin Mary. Thus he did not come into the world independently of others in the flower of his manhood, but he came as a frail little child dependent on the care and attention of his Mother.

From: Treatise on True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin
by St. Louis de Montfort



TWO WOMEN WHO BROUGHT US “CORPUS CHRISTI”: HISTORY & MYSTERY
April 8, 2009, 9:35 pm
Filed under: John Paul II, Mary, Saints, The Eucharist

You may have never heard of Blessed 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. She has been recognized as the person primarily responsible for the introduction of the Corpus Christi feast day during the middle ages. According to Acta Sanctorum, she had a unique and extraordinary devotion. She said the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55) nine times a day; once for each month that Our Lord spent in the womb of His mother. (The Magnificat was proclaimed by Mary while she was pregnant.) One can not help but see the beautiful connection here in Juliana’s spiritual life between her devotion to the Body of Christ in the womb and the Body of Christ upon the altar.

Which leads us to the second woman: Mary the Mother of Jesus. In his encyclical letter ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church, John Paul II discusses Mary and the Eucharist:

“In a certain sense Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist, by the very fact that she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God’s Word. The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord’s body and blood.”

“As a result, there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived “through the Holy Spirit” was “the Son of God” (Lk 1:30-35). In continuity with the Virgin’s faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine.”

“Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church’s Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion?”(#55)

“The Eucharist has been given to us so that our life, like that of Mary, may become completely a Magnificat!” (#58)