When I was young my favorite passage of Scripture reflected St. Paul’s attitude toward his young protégé, Timothy: “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” (1 Tim 4:12) It was very consoling to me at times when I had something to offer and felt that others did not think I had the ability or understanding for the situation. When I was relatively new at being a spiritual director I would often experience a subtle attitude of disappointment from people who were assigned to me during their retreat. I knew the unspoken sign that said: “What could this young woman possibly have to offer me?” I would try to be gracious, suggesting that if the person wanted a different director I could arrange it, otherwise I would be happy to meet with them. This did not happen every time, but it would happen often enough. I was only in my mid 20’s and looked younger than I was, so I understood to a certain extent. I knew all of us want someone who has experience when we are in need of a service. Yet we have to realize that everyone has to get experience somehow. We all have to begin somewhere, sometime, somehow, don’t we?
This week we celebrate the feast of Saints Timothy and Titus who were bishops in the early Church, appointed by Paul and entrusted with great responsibilities. We really do not know much about Titus except that he was mentored and sent forth by Paul, entrusted with some rather difficult ministerial tasks. Of Timothy, we know he traveled with Paul while still a youth and was empowered to be a bishop while rather young. Both men responded to a call to service and were trained by Paul, and both men had very difficult jobs to do in large cities as leaders of new churches which were in great need of education and discipline.
St. Titus was of Greek gentile origin. Paul helped him to use this lineage to his advantage as he dealt with gentile converts to Christianity. He was sent to Corinth to bring them Paul’s very ‘pointed’ and almost severe letter; the Corinthian church was no doubt the most difficult community in the early church because they were very attached to pagan ways which were not in accord with gospel values. There Titus taught the people the proper way to live according to the message of Jesus and helped them heal that which divided the community. Finally he was sent to the church in Crete, where he was said to be an excellent administrator and peacemaker. He taught and appointed presbyters (priests) and bishops and he was very well respected as a leader. Paul obviously relied greatly upon Titus and the gifts he was able to bring to ministry.
St. Timothy was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother, so he had understanding he could apply to both Jewish and gentile converts to Christianity. St. Paul saw that he was filled with great potential and began to teach him when Timothy was still a boy. As a youth he accompanied Paul on his second and third missionary journeys. This not only gave him exposure to the church as someone destined for leadership, but he also was able to learn from Paul through participation in his ministry. He began to preach during this time, which in those days was incredibly unusual for one so young. Therefore it is clear that Paul had a great deal of trust in the ability of Timothy. Paul sent him on many journeys to spread the faith and it seems he received the most difficult tasks of all of Paul’s protégés. He was with Paul when Paul was under house arrest, and was himself arrested at some point during his own ministry. We know that when Timothy became bishop of the entire church in Ephesus he was still young enough to struggle with credibility issues. In those days his youth would have been significant because old age was associated with wisdom and youth was associated with ‘being seen and not heard,’ more or less. Therefore he must have had great gifts in order to overcome the stereotypes which he faced when he was young.
As I said earlier, it was Paul’s comment to Timothy (quoted above) which was helpful for me when I was a young spiritual director. While I did not have the kind of responsibility which Timothy held, a spiritual director is entrusted with the inner life of another person and this is an incredible trust. One time when a considerably older woman than I was assigned to me during her retreat, and I saw that she seemed disappointed, I offered her the “out” previously mentioned. To her credit she said she would stay with me. Of course, I cannot reveal what she said to me, but I can say that she shared something which was similar to a great suffering I had experienced earlier in my life. I do not remember what I said to her during that meeting, but whatever it was, at the end of our session she confessed to me that she had indeed thought I was too young to ever understand what she wanted to talk about. She said she was amazed, however, that not only did I seem to understand, but that what I said was very helpful. (During direction it is not appropriate for the director to talk about him or herself, so I did not say that I had a similar experience. She could never have known that I had “been there.”) She had underestimated that a young person could have experiences that can help others, though I think she realized that one should not make such an assumption.
I imagine that is what Timothy experienced in attempting to accomplish his difficult tasks. St. Paul had the wisdom to know Timothy would encounter resistance merely because of his youth, so he continually encouraged him to “hang in there,” relying on the gifts God gave him. This is not wisdom only for young people; it is wisdom for all people. All of us have been given a mission by nature of our baptism. That mission is to bring Jesus and His gospel message to all those whom we encounter. We are to teach by word and deed. Paul told Timothy to set an example for all those who believe by being a leader who practiced what he preached. If we live the gospel then we, too, will not only practice what we preach, but we will often preach without needing words.
If we emulate Timothy and Titus and bring the light of our love into the lives of the suffering, we can do much to alleviate pain. We can be like Titus, of whom Paul said, “For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus...” (2 Corinthians 2:12a, 13; 7:5-6). We do not have to be gifted preachers like Timothy, though I believe all of us are potentially gifted ‘preachers’ through the love which we share. Encouraging the downcast takes no special talent: it is simply about being present to those who need our help. It is about loving and caring for those in need. Many suffer losses and are grieving: some suffer through the betrayal of others, others through loss of health or a job; some struggle to make ends meet and others are lonely or neglected.
Therefore, let us be like Titus, lightening burdens and bringing peace simply by reaching out and doing what we can. Let us be like Timothy, offering whatever gifts we have for organization and leadership, recognizing that we should not leave tasks we can do to some other person ‘out there.’ If we were given the gifts, then let us be the doer, encouraging others to work for peace and justice or bringing improvement to a community. And if we are the ones feeling a little beaten up by life, let us take to heart Paul’s suggestion to Timothy: “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1 Tim 5:23) That is, we need to be willing to receive from others as well as to give. For a community to thrive, everyone needs to offer what they can.
Let us imitate Saints Timothy and Titus. Let us remember that there is a time for learning, but there is also a time of sharing the gifts we have. Every one of us can bring something to others, especially the gift of love. Let us be like St. Paul, encouraging the young to take responsibility for using their gifts. This is what building the Kingdom is about. The world has much that is broken within it, so we need to bring healing wherever we go simply by using the gifts we were given, taking up the mantle of these saints.
May we be courageous in our example to those who are young, teaching them to use their gifts! May we be like St. Paul, accepting and nurturing the gifts of those who are gaining experience! May we work with one another, bringing what we can to those in need! May we pray for the grace to be like Saints Timothy and Titus, taking on the difficult work of loving and healing by being peacemakers and leaders! And may we trust in God who is the giver of all good gifts! Let us continue to meet in the heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
Note: Next post will be on February 12.
1. The first icon is of Saints Timothy and Titus.
2. Next is a series of photos, all of which are mine. This one is of the shoreline on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. I chose it because it seemed like it could have been what St. Titus experienced on his travels to far off lands.
3.I took this at the diaconal ordination of some young men in my diocese. Due to their younger age I am sure they had the experience at some point, even after ordination, of being undervalued due to a perceived lack of "wisdom and age." And I am sure they took to heart the advice of St. Paul to Timothy, persevering in their ministries.
4. This is a sunset taken near Noto, Sicily. I chose this photo because it seems to me that at the end of the day, we need to reflect upon what transpired and offer thanks to God where we were blessed and ask for grace where we struggled. (That is to say, make a prayerful examination of the events of the day, such as the Ignatian Examen.)
5. The final image is called I Hold Out My Hand and My Heart Will Be In It, painted by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/i-hold-out-my-hand-and-my-heart-will-be-in-it-225-william-hart-mcnichols.html. If you are interested in obtaining it in one of a variety of mediums, including cards, the web address given will walk you through it.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
– Howard Thurman*
Now that we are at the beginning of Ordinary Time, in the space between the Christmas season and Lent, it is tempting to slip back into the routine of life outside of the holidays as if that was a time in which we somehow act differently than during the rest of the year. Yes, there is more of a sense of holiday cheer during December, and decorations everywhere are a reminder that it is a festive time, but our behaviors during that time should actually be no different than during the rest of the year. Our liturgical year began with remembrance of the birth of Christ, and therefore it should be a time of renewal in preparation for His return no matter when that is. However, sometimes we act as if we should only remember the return of Jesus during certain seasons such as Advent and Lent and their subsequent “destinations” of Christmas and Easter. This attitude is not intentional on our part, or at least I do not believe it to be so. But we do tend to act as if the only time we should prepare for His return is during those times, while during the rest of the year it is back to ‘business as usual.’ As in the above poem, we are called to live the works of mercy all year, every year, to the best of our ability. And thus, we are called to remember to “make music in the heart” whenever we can. And I might add, this music is not only for our hearts, but rather it is meant to brighten the hearts of others.
The gospel message of Jesus is essentially that we are to reach out to our brothers and sisters whether they are poor or rich, ill or healthy, lonely or accompanied, imprisoned or free, hungry or sated, without faith or spiritually alive, and so on. The works of mercy (Matthew 25) are obviously meant to direct us toward those who are poor in some way, (which is not always about material things), and we are to extend kindness and mercy to everyone. Often when we are going about our daily errands or work we come across people of whom we know nothing; we are constantly crossing paths with scores of people who we barely notice. They are strangers to us, so we have no idea what burdens or joys they might be carrying. As a result we basically ignore each other, going about our individual business, hardly daring to make eye contact. Some of these folks might not look poor, hungry, imprisoned, ill, or naked, and we certainly do not know the nature of their spiritual life, and so we do not think of applying the works of mercy to them. It does not actively come to mind unless, of course, it has become a habit.
Jesus, on the other hand, reached out to everyone with whom He came into contact every time He met people. He ate with “obvious sinners” such as prostitutes and tax collectors, but also with the rich and famous. He preached to anyone who gathered, which included the poor and the rich, the religious authorities and those who barely had any sense of the Scriptures, particularly those who were not Jewish. He did not distinguish between people as to who was more in need of His words or deeds. He simply met the crowds as they came. Granted, there were times when He sought out a particular person or ‘audience,’ but much of the time He was attempting to reach anyone and everyone because He came to gather all people to Himself, not only the Jews. When He sent the apostles out to preach and heal He told them to go to those who would accept them; with the exception of carrying nothing, that was the only instruction He gave. In other words, anyone who was open to the gospel message was to be given it, but if the people rejected them, they were to move on so as not to be mired in contentious conversation, and therefore reach as many as possible. And after His death and resurrection Jesus instructed those same apostles to go out to the entire world: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) And again, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:16) Mark’s version of Jesus’ instruction includes all the creatures; perhaps this is what motivated people like St. Francis, who was purported to have even preached to the birds! Either way, the message is clear that as we live our daily lives we are to offer the gospel in word, and (especially) in deed, to everyone.
We need to keep our minds and hearts clear. Even though it is now Ordinary Time once again our commitment to Jesus means that we work at growing in faith, aspiring to continue the process of learning discernment, wisdom, and true discipleship. If our Advent and Christmas reflections are to have any efficacy, what we learned must continue to grow: it is fed through our prayer, continued reading of the Scripture, and pondering things in our hearts as Mary taught us to do. Indeed the challenges remain with us, the struggle, suffering, and continual work, but if Christmas had any meaning at all, then our purpose and mission should be (even in the smallest amount) renewed, and should not remain at whatever was ‘status quo’ prior to the season. Our love, kindness, and mercy are needed as much as ever, and our efforts in spreading the work of justice and peace continue to be essential. The powerful still feel threatened and hunger for more power, the evil still conspire, the greedy still have the insatiable desire for more, the hungry still need food and drink, the ill, rejected, and wounded still need care, the naked still need clothes and the imprisoned still need compassion and mercy. Therefore we need to rely upon the gifts we received during the time of reflection upon the birth of Christ. The hope which was promised to us in Jesus (in all the Christmas mysteries), can propel us outward if we continue to actively work with the graces we were offered. These were the graces present on the road to Bethlehem, in the stable on that holy night, when the Magi and shepherds adored, at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and at His Baptism in the Jordan River. These mysteries remind us that we are never alone: Jesus came to save us and He continues to offer the path as well as the guidance to walk it. He provides us with companions and invites us to be a companion.
Though the Christmas season is now over, we need to remember that people still embrace, babies still leap in the womb, angels still sing, shepherds still rejoice, wise people still seek and find, and parents are still awestruck in wonder at the miracle of new life. These joys also remain with us: they are the beacons which remind us that the mysteries of Christmas do not cease. Perhaps we can look to these things as the light we need when the challenges seem to be more than we can handle. No matter what, we must never despair because we are not alone. We are accompanied by those we see (our friends, family and even strangers) and those whom we cannot see (angels, holy souls, saints, and of course, God). Therefore let us move forward in the hope given us in Jesus so that we might not grow tired on the road and that we might “bring peace to people and make music in the heart.”
May we strive to continue on the path to holiness! May we continue to see the joy in the Christmas mysteries as we enter into Ordinary Time! May we rise to the challenges which come before us, accepting the graces offered by the Holy Spirit! May we find the courage and strength to open our hearts and minds to strangers and friends alike! May we be ardent in our prayer and faithful in our love! And may we turn to Jesus and His gospel message that we might bring peace to people and make music in the heart! Let us meet at the table of the Lord! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* “Howard Washington Thurman (1899 –1981) was an African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. As a prominent religious figure, he played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century. Thurman's theology of radical nonviolence influenced and shaped a generation of civil rights activists, and he was a key mentor to leaders within the movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.” For more information go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Thurman
Note: Next post will be January 29.
1. The first photo is one I took while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. This is modern Bethlehem. I took this photo from the window of the guest house where we were staying. It was appropriate for the beginning of this post because this is well after Jesus was born in this city, certainly reminding us that we need to make peace a priority: in Bethlehem today only 0.5% of the population is Christian.
2. I took this photo one cold afternoon while visiting a local wine bar in my hometown. I chose to use it here because it shows ordinary people doing ordinary things, but especially because there were people enjoying the company of friend and stranger alike.
3. This painting is Jesus missioning the apostles. Its title is Maestà, altarpiece of the Sienese cathedral, back, altar coronation with Pentecost cycle, scene Apparition of Christ to the mountain of Galilee by Duccio Buoninsegna. (1308-11) I chose to use this here because I liked the rapt attention with which the apostles are listening. You can find more on this painting at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_016.jpg
4. This wonderful painting is L'Homme est en mer (The Man is at Sea) by Vincent van Gogh. (1889) The mother is warming herself and her small child by a hearth while her husband is away at sea, or so the title indicates. I love the peaceful expression on the face of both mother and child. I wonder if the mother was pondering over what her child's future life might be like, perhaps similar to the prayerful thoughts of Mary about her child, Jesus, when He was small. For more go to https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Van_Gogh_-_Der_Mann_ist_auf_See_(nach_Demont-Breton).jpeg
5. The last image is the Viriditas Triptych by Fr. William Hart McNichols from his larger work called Viriditas - Finding God in All Things. I chose this as a reminder that we live in a beautiful world; we must not lose sight of the opportunities given us by God to enjoy the beauty of it as well as to work toward keeping it from decay. Also, the earth surrounded by the tongues of fire is a reminder that we are never alone. The triptych can be found at
Even though it feels like the liturgical season of Christmas just began, in reality we are in the middle of it. The true season of Christmas is astonishingly short and so we must savor every moment. While Advent is four weeks in length, the waiting to celebrate Jesus’ birth is actually longer than the season in which we celebrate His arrival. We might wonder why the Church chose to do it that way, but the answer must lie in the very reason for the season: Jesus. Everything that happened in His ministry stems from His entrance into our world and was part of the greater scheme of God’s plan. We celebrate this every day of every year, and therefore the Christmas season is foundational for all that follows. It also should be remembered that it is into a family that Jesus chose to come: He came into the human family, yes, but through a particular family who we refer to as the Holy Family. Without Mary and Joseph and their individual and collective assent to serving God, Jesus would have had no household into which to come. Interestingly, however, for two people who are so essential, Mary and Joseph are also two of the most hidden people in the Gospels. And in choosing to remain hidden we come face to face with true humility.
Love and humility are at the core of the Christmas season. As the Franciscans like to say, God bent low in entering the world. In the ultimate act of love expressed in humility we receive an insight into the goodness of God who chose the quiet path of birth into humanity rather than to come amid trumpet blasts, thunder, and smoke as in many of His earlier manifestations. The angels and shepherds responded in joy in the glory of the occasion of His birth, but the Son of God actually came somewhat surreptitiously. However, the arrival of the Magi aroused attention and therefore no sooner was He born than Jesus had to go into hiding, given threats made against Him by the insecure King Herod. Hiddenness, and the humility that goes with it, seems to be an underlying theme in the story of the Holy Family, that is, until it was time for Jesus to begin His ministry. It may seem odd that the Son of God would come into the world only to hide for most of His life, and yet it needed to be so in order that we might learn something about the virtues of humility, hiddenness, and patience.
Humility is clearly important to God in that He chose two deeply humble people to be the parents of Jesus Christ. They were obedient and unpretentious in every way, spending the first part of their marriage and family life homeless, fleeing, and as aliens in a foreign land, remaining exceedingly patient in their hidden circumstances. Joseph was always to be hidden, given that a large part of his role was to protect his family from danger, a reality which began with Mary’s pregnancy. (See Matthew 1:18-25; Matt 2:1-18; also Luke 2:1-7.) In his book on St. Joseph, Fr. Andre Doze wrote: … “Joseph disappears at the same time as Mary and Jesus, or, rather, Jesus and Mary disappear thanks to him. He keeps in the background and conceals at the same time. He is hidden and he hides.” And again, “Joseph is a veil to cover Him [Jesus], and behind this veil, are hidden Mary’s virginity and the greatness of the Saviour of souls.” * Thus, Joseph remained hidden with his family until his own death. In this, Joseph teaches us the virtue of selflessness: he did everything for others, particularly for Mary and Jesus, in obedience to God.
Mary is also a humble, hidden one. St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1700) used an interesting term to describe Mary as such in the preface of his classic work, True Devotion to Mary: he called her our “Alma Mater.” He explained the usage of this Latin phrase to describe Mary as “Mother, secret and hidden,” which was how de Montfort envisioned her. ** He wrote: “Her humility was so profound that she had no inclination on earth more powerful or constant than that of hiding herself, from herself, as well as from every other creature, so as to be known to God only.” In modern terms we can understand “hiding herself from herself” to indicate that due to her profound love, she was intent on serving God to the extent that she lived without being ruled by her ego. De Montfort did not mean she was oblivious to her own thoughts and feelings, but that on the contrary she was so in touch with her heart, soul, and will that she was able to totally dispossess herself, offering everything into the hands of God: all was for God and whatever He asked of her. In this, she is a model of humility. If we put ourselves at her feet, desiring holiness, she becomes Alma Mater as our mother, role-model, and a source of wisdom. Would that at the end of our lives, the Lord might see that we were her students, ‘learned’ in the art of hiddenness, selflessness, humility, and love!
On January 1st we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Honoring Mary on this day provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the profound humility embodied in her motherhood and it also continues that which we began to celebrate the previous day with the Feast of the Holy Family. Each member of this family was humble in that they were part of the anawim (God’s poor ones) and in what they had consented to do: Jesus as the Messiah, Joseph as the hidden protector, and Mary as the perfect mother. But it is important to understand that we celebrate a solemnity dedicated to Mary on January 1st because she is more than mother to Jesus: this feast celebrates her as our mother. To miss the opportunity to reflect upon these mysteries during the Christmas season would be to miss a great gift which can be our focus long after the season ends.
We can always ask Mary to offer us her motherly assistance in any area, but if we want her to truly be our Alma Mater we must let her teach us. She can help us learn to do as she did: to discern the will of God and then to have the courage to humbly act upon it. We can reflect upon what we see of her in Scripture and therefore imitate her in pondering things in our heart as she did. Another effective way to do this is to pray the Rosary in which we meditate upon the mysteries found in those gospel passages which reveal her role and relationship to the mission of Jesus. We can learn from Mary how to point others to Jesus through acts of humble service and prayer. And she will also be present when we come to realize that something is too far beyond our ability, thus we learn humility when we ask for her intercession. To learn from our Alma Mater ultimately means letting ourselves become hidden ones, sitting at her feet as we ask her assistance, trusting in her love for us and in her relationship with Jesus.
This season would be a good time for us to make (or renew) a commitment to Mary as our mother and to let her teach us in the ways of holiness. Perhaps we can learn to be generous in opening our hearts to children and those who are innocent like children. Like Mary we can learn to be generous in giving to the anawim of our time, the poor materially and in spirit, the lonely, the ill, the displaced, the addicted, the incarcerated, the alien, and the marginalized. Perhaps we can learn to listen to those whose views (religious, political, or otherwise) are different than our own so that we might truly dialogue rather than argue. Perhaps we can learn to offer intercession for those who ask, and to keep interceding long after the request has been made. And perhaps we can learn to sit with God in the silence of a quiet hour rather than turning our attention to that which is not essential and thus leaves no time for the most essential relationship of all, the one with our Lord. These are all the qualities that are found in our Alma Mater, Mary, and they are the gifts she offers to us. It would be good to meet both Mary and Joseph at the manger and to be enveloped in the hidden time with Jesus between the arrival of the Magi and the departure of the shepherds. This is the gift of this season: that we might have some precious time with our family and friends and that our love may invite them to the stable, so together with Mary and Joseph we might adore.
May we imitate Mary and Joseph in seeking the gifts of humility, patience, selflessness and patience! May we find Mary and Joseph in their hiddenness and learn how much courage it takes to remain so! May we turn to Mary as our Alma Mater, personally accepting the gift of her motherhood! And may we have gratitude for the gift of one so holy and wise as our Mary, mother and Alma Mater! Let us meet at the manger and together adore the Christ Child in joy and peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
*St. Joseph Shadow of the Father by Fr. Andre Doze, page 4
**Preface to True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, translated by Fr. Frederick Faber
Note: Happy New Year to All! Next post will be on January 15.
1. This icon is called The Holy Family for the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It is one of my favorite Holy Family icons and it depicts much of what I was trying to express in this entry: Joseph is looking away, as if to be in touch with instructions for how to proceed. He is also hiding and protecting Mary and Jesus, as seen in his cloak held around them. Mary has her eyes totally on Jesus while trusting Joseph to keep them safe. Jesus has His hand on her cloak, but He is playfully squirming in her arms, just as any small child would do. You can find this icon for purchase in one of many formats (or simply to get a better look) at Fr. Bill's website: http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/the-holy-family-for-the-holy-family-hospital-of-bethlehem-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
2. This is one of my photos, taken in the Badlands of South Dakota. I chose this sunset because the sun is low in the sky, about to become hidden. The sun is still there at night, of course, but it is hidden from our sight, symbolic of the hiddenness of Joseph and Mary.
3. I took this photo in the St. Joseph Church in Nazareth, Israel. This church is not far from the Church of the Annunciation; in fact, they are right next door to one another. This icon was on one of the walls and it caught my attention. I love the way Joseph holds the scrolls of the Scriptures and Jesus, one in each arm. He has the Word and the Word in his safe keeping.
4. This icon is called Mother of God Waiting in Adoration by Fr. William Hart McNichols. In this work, Mary is seen in a posture of prayer and great humility. She is pondering everything in her heart and she is learning from the Word within her. (She is pregnant in this icon.) She is totally dispossessing herself to God: "I am the Handmaiden of the Lord!"
You can find this at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/mother-of-god-waiting-in-adoration-248-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
5. I have chosen another of the exquisite icons written by Fr. William Hart McNichols. This is my favorite icon, Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations: I chose it since we celebrate the Solemnity of the Mary the Mother of God on January 1. She is the Mother of All Nations. You can read more about the apparition and subsequent devotion of Mary under this title at http://www.de-vrouwe.info/en. You can find Fr. Bill's unique and beautiful icon at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/mary-most-holy-mother-of-all-nations-080-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
6. This photo is also one of mine, taken in Estes Park, Colorado, (in Rocky Mountain National Park.) It was a scene of peace and serenity and so I chose to use it here because I hope to convey the peace and the prayerfulness that comes with reflection. Perhaps we can find a place in our own town or city, and especially a place within our own heart, to sit with Mary and let her be our Alma Mater, leading us always to her Son, so that we might respond with love, mercy, and compassion toward those in most need, as well as to our own loved ones.
7. This final image is a painting called The Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds by Bernardino Luini, (1480). I chose it because I like the more youthful Joseph, seen on the far right, as well as for the posture of rapt attention of each figure, focused on Jesus. The anawim are gathered, the poor shepherds and the lowly parents, in adoration of Jesus. (Note the foreshadowing of the Cross in the beams behind them, though this should not take away from the joy of the moment. It is a reminder that this Child has a mission which has only just begun.) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bernardino_Luini_-_Nativity_and_Annunciation_to_the_Shepherds_-_WGA13754.jpg
Heart Speaks to Heart