Part I : Our Lady Full of Grace
In regard to the Blessed Mother, we actually looked at a few different titles, and through the whole summer of last year tried to sort through them to see which title was best for us. We came down to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and Perpetual Virgin. We knew this was too many so we tried to figure out which would be best, and we came upon an idea that incorporated all of them.
The idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity flowed through all three ideas, but we wanted to make sure that we expressed more than just her spiritual virginity or her virginity before, during, and after the birth of Christ. That’s when we came upon the idea of Our Lady, Full of Grace.
Looking at the importance of the Incarnation in light of the Theology of the Body, we couldn’t get past what must have happened when the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Mother. The thoughts that must’ve gone through her head. The questions she must’ve had. All the confusion. All the hope and joy. Her fiat, her yes to the Lord, shows just how willing she was to become a gift of self for the salvation of mankind. She was willing to be ostracized, to claim that she had conceived God by God. She was willing to give away all her hopes and pleasures because she knew that this is what God wanted of her. She was willing to offer everything up, including her body.
Thus, the Incarnation took place, and God became man. Let us again ponder Mary. As St. Augustine mentioned, she had already conceived Christ in her heart, and at the Incarnation, she conceived Him in her body. This fiat had amazing affects. Just look at our Lady. She bore God in her womb. The Word of God became a human reality inside of her body. And, at the moment of her conception of Christ, she must’ve been living within the inner life of the Trinity. Just think…she was at the same moment allowing for the conception of Christ and was conceiving by the power of the Holy Spirit. All this was out of subjection to the will of the Father. She was experiencing the Trinity’s love for the world in a most profound way at the moment of the Incarnation. How much joy and love she must’ve experienced for she was caught in the midst of love itself!
So please join us in our devotion to Our Lady, Full of Grace as you pray for the Missionaries this summer.
Intro to our Patrons, Part II : St. Joseph
St. Joseph, how wonderful a saint he is. And, how often we don’t appreciate his role in Christ’s life and our own as he is the patron of the Universal Church.
St. Teresa of Avila writes:
“I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honour and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favours which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succour us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succours us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth, just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks.” (Autobiography, chapter 6)
It is this simple, if we allow if to be. St. Joseph holds such a high place in heaven, and he is so underrated. So many people only know of him because they’ll bury him upside down in their yard so that they can sell their house. Yet, there is so much more. As St. Teresa wrote, “To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succour us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint…he still does all that he asks.”
This should be enough to make St. Joseph one of our patrons, however, our reasoning does not end here. St. Joseph embodies the theology of the body so well. Just like Mary, he became a gift of self. Just like Mary, he lived a virginal life (obviously not perfectly like her though). And just like Mary, he continues to show us the path to holiness so that we may one day see the face of God.
St. Joseph lived a gift of self so well. Pope John Paul the Great, in his Apostolic Exhortation on St. Joseph – Redemptoris Custos, wrote:
““‘The obedience of faith’ must be given to God as he reveals himself. By this obedience of faith man freely commits himself entirely to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him.” This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth.” (4)
He gave everything over for the Holy Family to thrive. He gave all his earthly actions to the raising of the Christ child. He gave all of his work for the protection of the Blessed Mother. And he gave his life as an example for Christ on how to love.
St. Joseph’s submission to the angel’s words in his dreams confirms this. At a moment’s notice, St. Joseph got up in the middle of the night and fled with Jesus and Mary into Egypt. The angel commanded, and he acted. This total laying down of one’s will for the Father must’ve had a profound affect on Mary and Jesus.
Furthermore, St. Joseph lived a life surrounded by the Word Incarnate and the Immaculate Conception. How much grace must’ve flowed through the house in Nazareth? After all, St. Joseph was living with Grace itself. Thus his actions and the desires of his soul would naturally have come to be the same or at least nearly always the same. This is so amazing to think about. St. Joseph was a man whose job was to care for God and the Mother of God. And as St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “Those whom God chooses for an office, He prepares and disposes in such a way that they become suited to it” (Summa Theologica, III. 27, 4). Thus, we can say with Pope Pius XI, “[God] enriched [Joseph] and filled him to overflowing with entirely unique graces in order that he might execute most faithfully the duties of so sublime a state” (Inclytum Patriarcham, ASS, 22, 65). How much then must his actions have reflected the holiness of his soul!
So, please pray to St. Joseph for us and thus fulfill the scriptures, “Go to Joseph” (Gen. 41:55)
Intro to our Patrons, Part III : Venerable Pope John Paul the Great
There should be no question why the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul the Great, is one of the patrons of the Missionaries of the Eucharist. After all, he wrote the theology of the body. Yet, just as the great graces given to St. Joseph were not the only reason that he was chosen as a patron, so too with the writings of John Paul the Great. In other words, there’s more to this man than meets the eye.
Pope John Paul the Great quoted two sections of Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes over and over. The first of which says, “Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (22). Now, when John Paul quotes this in his theology of the body, he often leaves out the middle section: “by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love.” Why he does this, I am not sure, but I believe that he was inferring that section whenever he invoked the text. In other words, for us to understand John Paul’s love for this quote, we should take it in context with the section often left out, namely how God reveals His great love for us. That revelation is at the root our understanding the humanity of man, and it is that revelation that makes man’s “supreme calling clear.”
Why is this so? The answer is in the First Epistle of St. John:
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (4:9-11).In other words, just as God’s love is manifested through the cross, so too should man’s love be manifested in his self-sacrificial love for God and man. And, what does this have to do with John Paul the Great? Everything. This idea of self-sacrificial love pervades his writings. Still, not only was it at the heart of his theology, but it was also manifested constantly in his life. Most visibly, we can see this in his last years as Pontiff. He showed the world what the power of redemptive suffering looked like. He showed the world how great is the dignity of man, even in the face of death. What he was not able to write in the theology of the body, he wrote through the will and actions in his own body. He not only gave the world a theology in his words, but he also gave a theology in his deeds. This great witness showed how he had taken his other favorite quote to heart: “Man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes, 24). And this is exactly how he found himself through his whole priesthood: he gave himself away out of love for God and neighbor.
Intro to our Patrons, Part IV : St. Thomas Aquinas
With having written so much and lived a life full of the odor of sanctity, it would be too great a task to fully treat the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. His writings, along with those of St. John of the Cross, are at the foundation of the entirety of the theology of the body, and his story is a living witness to the truths contained therein. Thus, rather than try to treat it all, it will be best to look at one of the prayers he composed that nicely brings both his teachings and his life together: O sacrum convivium.
O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis ejus:
mens impletur gratia:
et futuræ gloriæ nobis pignus datur.
O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory to us is given.
In examining the richness of this prayer, which comes from Second Vespers of the Office of Corpus Christi, I think that we shall see how greatly St. Thomas’ thought coincides with that of Pope John Paul the Great’s theology of the body.
“O sacred banquet…” – These words, which are at the heart of the prayer, bring to mind the wedding feast of the Lamb in the Book of Revelations (chapter 19). Christ’s gift of Himself in the Eucharist can then be seen as our means to enter into the heavenly banquet while still on earth. This then signifies Christ’s continued love for us through His constant and daily giving Himself to us in the Most Holy Eucharist. Here, we can see that at the center of the Christian life for both St. Thomas and Pope John Paul the Great lies the Most Holy Eucharist as the continual sign of Christ’s sacrificial love for man.
“…in which Christ is received…” – Here, the words show us that we truly enter into this mystery. We become one with Christ through the receiving Him in the Eucharist. Thus, we are divinized (cf. TOB, audience of Dec. 9, 1981) and, in a profound way, enter into the sacred banquet following the wedding of the Lamb of God.
“…the memory of his Passion is renewed…” – This Eucharist and marriage feast cannot be understood apart from the Cross. The Mass is a holy sacrifice and the victim offered is Christ Himself. Through the Eucharist, this sacrifice is celebrated, and we too are able to unite ourselves to Christ’s great act of love by our entrance into these mysteries. Our “Amen” when receiving communion can be seen as our acceptance to offer our own lives in conformity with Christ, even if that means shedding our own blood. In other words, by consuming the Eucharist, we pledge to give the total gift of ourselves in imitation of Christ and for the sake of His Church.
“…the mind is filled with grace…” – Some might say that this reference to the mind is where the Dominican in St. Thomas comes out. But, there is more here than simply the development of the intellect. One of the things that St. Thomas is trying to communicate is that the Eucharist affects us on a very real level. Using “mind” to translate “mens” would lead us to see that the human person is actually affected by the reception of Eucharist. Another translation has “soul” which would show that the Eucharist also unites us with Christ spiritually in a very real way. Most importantly though, that union comes through grace, which is God’s free gift to us in which He begins to communicate Himself. No wonder, these words are used to describe our union with Christ through the Eucharist.
“…and a pledge of future glory to us is given.” – This last section shows that the Eucharist is also a foreshadowing of the heavenly realities we will, God-willing, all enter into after our death. This pledge is God’s free gift to us, to which our response will hopefully be the gift of ourselves back to God.
Thus, we can see that in this one prayer, St. Thomas has already laid down many principles of his Eucharistic theology that very easily mesh with John Paul’s theology of the body. Being named the Missionaries of the Eucharist, is only made sense for St. Thomas to be one of the patrons.
Intro to our Patrons, Part V : St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
When the time came to definitely pick the patrons, those listed above made so much logical sense that the decisions were quite easy. The reasons were clear-cut, and the choices were not straightforward. When it came time to discuss the Little Flower, however, the decision was not so straightforward. We could not really put a finger on why to choose St. Thérèse. However, regarding the work of the Missionaries of the Eucharist, it almost seemed as if the Little Flower wanted to let fall those heavenly rose petals she promised to send once she was born up on the wings of the Divine Eagle (cf. Story of a Soul, Chapter 11).
To cut to the chase, there was not really an immediate consensus as to why St. Thérèse should have been chosen. There was much disagreement over the issue, and the only thing in her favor is that some of the Missionaries felt she should be patron. When the time came to make the decision, she was chosen simply in good faith. There was no clear-cut reason, no manifestation through favors, nothing that stuck out immediately in her writings. She was accepted simply on faith, simply by a humble act of resignation to what might be the will of God. That’s when things started to make a little more sense. It was as if she was trying to teach us to imitate her great “little way.” What better way to resolve ourselves to a patron than by living out what she taught? In Story of a Soul, she wrote: “Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less” (Chapter 9). The basis of her writings did indeed come out in the end to reveal how she wanted to choose us so that we might be taken under her wing and fly with her up to heaven on the wings of the Divine Eagle.
Yet, there is more to St. Thérèse than her little way. She also eloquently described her victimhood: “If Thy Justice—which is of earth—must needs be satisfied, how much more must Thy Merciful Love desire to inflame souls, since ‘Thy Mercy reaches even to the Heavens’ ?” (Ps. 36:5). O Jesus! let me be that happy victim—consume Thy holocaust with the Fire of Divine Love!” (Chapter 8). This victimhood is so important to understand the resolution to make a gift of oneself to the Lord. In being able to imitate our Lord who was the victim on the Cross and continues to be the victim in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we too should be willing to resolve ourselves to give away all that the Lord asks us. Obviously, He will not ask anything that is contrary to our vocation. Nor will He ask anything that will be detrimental to us. Yet, He might ask things that are difficult for us, and this is where we should imitate Him and follow St. Thérèse’s advice by becoming little and following the Lord’s providential plan. This act of faith is one of the chief ways that we can follow the saints and work with the Lord Himself to become a saint. Even if I am little cup and not a large pitcher, I can still be filled to the brim with grace. In this little way of victimhood, I will surely be able to make a total gift of myself to the Lord.