Lectio: Mary with Dr. Brant Pitre on Formed.org
Throughout my eight years in seminary I had a number of classes on the Sacred Scriptures taught by different professors. Most of these professors certainly knew their subject and knew the Bible, but they way they presented the information seemed to suck all of the life out of it. They mainly focused on the facts and on the intentions of the human authors of the Bible, sometimes to the point of neglecting the fact that God is the primary author of the Bible and there is also a spiritual meaning to every passage of Scripture. As St. Augustine put it, “In every page of these Scriptures, while I pursue my search as a son of Adam in the sweat of my brow, Christ either openly or covertly meets and refreshes me” (Contra Faustum 12.27). That is, since the entire Bible is the Word of God, Jesus Christ is present in the entire Bible, not just the New Testament.
At Notre Dame Seminary I had one class with Dr. Brant Pitre, Pentateuch. If you’ve read any of his books or listened to any of his talks, then you know that Dr. Pitre loves to show the unity of the Bible by showing how to read the Old Testament in light of the New and how the New Testament opens up the Old. That is exactly what you’ll get in the Lectio Bible Study on the Blessed Virgin Mary that Dr. Pitre did for Formed.org. In this Bible study Dr. Pitre talks about Mary as the New Eve, the New Ark, the Mother of the Messiah, the Queen Mother, the Perpetual Virgin, the Mother of Sorrows, and the New Rachel. In each 30-40 minute talk he shows the continuity of the Old and New Testaments and how the Church’s teaching on Mary is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, fleshed out in the New Testament, and present in the ancient Tradition of the Church.
If you’ve had trouble answering questions from non-Catholics about the Church’s teachings on the Mother of God, or if you simply want to dig into the Scriptural roots of those teachings, then you need to watch this series. It can be found on Formed.org, in the Bible Studies section. If you are a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, then you can use our subscription for free.
To Sign-up for Formed.org
1. Go to the Formed.org website or download the app.
2. Click Sign Up.
3. Click “I Belong to a Parish or Organization.”
4. Put in the Zip Code of Church: 70092
5. Put in your email address.
As I write this we’ve just had the first termite swarm of the season hear around the rectory. It wasn’t a very big one compared to what we had last year, but I imagine it’s going to get worse. Imagine my surprise as I was sitting in my chair reading and a termite falls right into my lap. I checked the doors and found that they were crawling in through the cracks in the front and back doors. I turned off all of the exterior lights and as many of the inside lights as I could spare, and that helped a lot. I imagine we’ll be seeing swarms of termites around the light poles soon.
The way termites are attracted to light got me thinking. Why are they attracted to light? Scientists aren’t actually sure, but many of them think it’s because they mistake artificial lights for natural lights and get confused. If, for example, they’re trying to use the sun or moon to help navigate, they can get confused by a light bulb and end up flying circles around it, which makes them easy pickings for predators or bug zapping lamps.
This is a great example for the spiritual life. We are attracted to the light of Christ and naturally want to move towards Him. When we follow the light of Christ we find meaning, joy, and true life. Unfortunately, we often confuse mere reflections of the light of Christ for Christ Himself. These are genuinely good things that truly reflect the light and goodness of Christ, like human sexuality, food and drink, the respect of other people, money, and so many other things. These are all good things and gifts from God, but they are mere reflections of God, Who is the source of all goodness.
If we confuse them for the true Light of Christ, then we end up circling our lives around them and don’t get to where we’re meant to end up, which is union with God in heaven. We should use these things as God intended them, and see His own light and goodness reflected in them, but keep our eyes fixed on the true Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the past 2 months we’ve been practicing social distancing, staying at home, and/or quarantined. At times it’s felt like the world is on hold while we deal with Covid-19, but now, things are beginning to start back up again. We’re not completely back to how thing were, and we probably never will be in some ways, but in many places we’re seeing the new cases and hospitalizations dropping, businesses beginning to open back up, and people starting to go our and about. Now is the time to reflect on the spiritual lessons of this time and how we can truly take these lessons to heart and not just “go back to normal.” Some of the things that I’ll be working on, in the coming weeks and months, are being more comfortable with silence, having a greater appreciation for the community of the Church, and having a deeper reverence for and reliance on the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
In the past two months, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in Church or sitting out on my porch. Some of that time has been spent watching TV and some of it reading, but a lot of it has been spent in silence, with only the sound of the wind, the birds, and the occasional passing car. I’ve come to realize that I was accustomed to always having some sound going on. Even if I was just working around the house, I would turn on the radio or listen to a podcast. The silence has allowed me to hear myself thinking again. Silence can be uncomfortable or make us feel anxious because we’re not used to being alone with ourselves. When become comfortable in the silence, we begin to realize that we’re not alone, because God is with us. God doesn’t usually come with a light show and a spectacle, and it can be hard to hear His voice even in the silence, and He’s much harder to hear when we never allow the silence to linger.
I’ve also come to realize just how much I need the community of the Church. I’ve always focused on prayer, teaching and preaching, and the sacraments, and I might have taken the community aspect of Church for granted. It’s not that I thought it was unimportant; I just never really thought much about it at all. This time without the Church around me has reminded me why I love being a parish priest and why I chose diocesan or parish priesthood over joining a monastery. The monasteries are extremely important, but the ordinary life of the Church is in the parish and in the day to day lives of ordinary Catholics, coming together in Church to worship God together, to be strengthened through that worship, and then going out to bring the Word of God into the world.
Finally, I think that we, and I mean the Catholic Church throughout the world, not any specific individuals, have taken the sacraments for granted. In these two months I’ve seen a growing desire for the Eucharist, I’ve seen people spending hours each week in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, just to be close to our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, and I’ve seen multiple people brought to tears because they’ve finally been able to receive Communion again. Even, and especially priests, can fall into the trap of taking the Sacraments for granted, because we handle sacred things on a day to day basis and sometimes we don’t stop to think just what it is that we’re doing. We must remember that we don’t go to the Sacraments for ourselves, but to give ourselves to God, but we must also remember that what we receive in the Sacraments is far greater than what we give, because we receive God Himself, the Most Holy Trinity.
From the Pastor’s Archive
First Published October 22, 2017
Even though you probably can’t remember it, your baptism is one of the most important moments in your life. In that moment you were freed from the tyranny of sin, claimed for God through the sign of His Cross, and filled with His Holy Spirit. Just before the baptism of an infant, the priest or deacon turns to the parents and godparents and tells them, “See that the divine life which God gives them is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in their hearts.”
Holiness is not just for priests and nuns. Everyone is called to a life of holiness. It may be intimidating at first, but it simply means that God wants us, with the help of His grace, to strive to follow Christ. It’s not always easy, but, with God’s help, it is possible. So, how do we do it? How do we answer God’s call to live a holy life?
First, go to Mass. What happens to your body when you don’t eat enough good food? First, you start to get weaker. Next, you start to get sick. Then, you die. Exactly the same thing is true in the spiritual life. If you don’t eat spiritual food (that is, the Eucharist) you won’t have the strength to live a spiritual life. You won’t have the life of God within you. Think I’m exaggerating the importance of Mass? Well, listen to what Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:53-54).
Second, pray every day. How do we know what Jesus wants us to do? How do we know how to follow Him? We have to get to know Him, and we get to know Jesus the same way that we get to know anyone else: through spending time with Him, talking to Him, and listening to Him. People often ask me to tell them how to pray, but the “how” of praying is easy. Just talk to Jesus and listen to Him. The hard part is actually doing it.
Finally, go to confession. All of us, every one, sometimes fails to follow Jesus, to listen to Him, and to love Him. That’s why He gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is where we repair our relationship with God when we’ve damaged or broken it through sin. When we read the lives of the saints, we see that all of them went to confession regularly. Let’s try to follow their example.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.