Fr. Bryan Recommends
Daughter Zion by Pope Benedict XVI
Before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Munich in Germany in 1951. In 1977 he would become the Cardinal Archbishop of that diocese, but he would only stay in that post for four years. In 1981, Pope St. John Paul II appointed Cardinal Ratzinger as head, or Prefect, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome. His job as Prefect of the CDF was to promote and defend the teaching of the Catholic Church on faith and morals. As Prefect, he would work closely with Pope St. John Paul II on numerous projects, such as putting together the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Ratzinger retired from this post on April 2, 2005, only to be elected Pope himself 17 days later. He took the name Benedict XVI.
As a renowned theologian and biblical scholar, he wrote many books and articles. One of my favorites, however, is Daughter Zion, which is about Mary, the Mother of God, and the Church’s teachings about the Blessed Virgin. He explains how Mary is both Virgin and Mother, how she was kept free from original sin, and how she was assumed bodily into heaven using passages from the Bible and the great teachers in the history of the Church, and he does it in a way that is easy to follow but will give everyone who reads it something to think about.
It may be a good time to read up on Mary, since we’re getting close to the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15.
Next Week: To be decided.
Today is the memorial of St. Mary Magdalen, who was one of the disciples of the Lord during His life and the first person to announce His Resurrection. Everything that we know about her for sure comes from the Bible. We know that she was a friend and follower of Jesus. In her love for Jesus, she anointed his feet with oil and washed them with her hair (John 12). We also know that Jesus exorcised 7 demons from her.
Aside from this, St. Mary Magdalen is one of the most controversial saints there is, not because of anything she did, but because of what has been said about her by others. First, many people are under the impression that St. Mary Magdalen was a prostitute before she became a follower of Jesus. This is probably because of a misinterpretation of the Bible, but there isn’t actually any evidence that she was a prostitute.
Second, there are 2 different cities that claim to have the remains of St. Mary Magdelen. The Greek Church claims that St. Mary Magdalen went with St. John and Mary the Mother of Jesus to Ephesus, where she lived until her death. Her body was moved to Constantinople (now called Istanbul) in 866. The French claim that she went with Lazarus and several others to Marseilles, France, where she became a hermit until her death. These remains were moved around several times and are now at La Sainte-Baume. It’s probably impossible to tell which story is true, but we do know that having the relics of a popular saint like Mary Magdalen brings in a lot of tourists and pilgrims, both in the Middle Ages and now, and can bring a lot of prestige and wealth to the city where they’re kept.
Finally, a line of French kings, called the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled France from about 450 to 750 A.D., claimed to be descended from Jesus Christ himself. They claimed that St. Mary Magdalen was Jesus’ wife and that she was pregnant when Jesus was crucified. They claim that she travelled to France after He ascended to heaven, and that they are descendants of that child. First, there is no evidence that this is anything other than a lie that they told to increase their own importance. Second, if this is true, then they’re claiming that Jesus is basically a deadbeat dad who abandoned his wife and child, which is clearly ridiculous. Finally, we know from the testimony and writings of the earliest Christians, people who actually knew Jesus personally, that Jesus was never married and practiced celibacy throughout His life. You may remember this idea from Dan Brown’s fictional novel, The Davinci Code, or the movie based on it.
Despite these controversies, St. Mary Magdalen herself can be a huge help to people spiritually. She’s the patron saint against sexual temptation, of drug stores and pharmacists, contemplatives, converts, women, people ridiculed for their piety, and of the diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah, among many others. She was one of the few followers of Jesus to remain faithful to Him even through His arrest, condemnation, and crucifixion. When most of the others ran away and hid, she stayed with Him, with St. John, the Virgin Mary, and several other women. May we have her courage and conviction of faith, even when we have to suffer false accusations.
Next Week: Fr. Bryan Recommends
Fr. Bryan Howard
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – 8 July 2018
I was born November 14, 1983, at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. At Charity, they didn’t let anyone go into the delivery room, so my family, including my dad and grandparents, were waiting in the waiting room. Eventually, the doctor came in to announce that I was born, and that I’m a boy. Apparently, my dad said that he was so excited that he could scream. My Maw Maw told him that he couldn’t scream in a hospital but, if he really wanted to scream, he could stick his head out the window, and that’s what he did. He stuck his head out of the window and screamed something unintelligible.
I remember another time, just a few years ago, sitting in a waiting room in Flagstaff, AZ, waiting for news about my second Nephew, Cameron. His dad, Jeff, was allowed in the delivery room because he’s a nurse, but my mom and I were in the waiting room with my oldest nephew, Caleb, who was 5 at the time. Later that day I would get to hold Cameron for the first time, to see Caleb hold his little brother, under the watchful eyes of their father. Life in any form is beautiful, but there’s something especially precious about a newborn.
Today, I want to speak about abortion. It’s well known that the Church is against abortion, and there are many reasons why it is, but it all comes down to the precious gift of life. Life is a gift from God. First of all, God created everything there is, so nothing would exist at all without Him. But more than that, God created each one of our souls individually. At the moment when you were conceived, God directly created your soul, thus giving you not only physical life but also spiritual life, and he’s done the same for every person who’s ever existed, or will exist in the future.
Abortion advocates try to use many different arguments for why abortion should be allowed, but it usually comes back to denying that it’s really murder. The definition of murder is deliberately taking the life of an innocent human being. They’ll say that the unborn babies aren’t really alive, or that they’re not really human yet, or, worst of all, that they’re not really innocent, that they’re invaders in their mother’s womb. If life doesn’t begin at conception, then when does it begin, at birth? Does the location of the baby either inside of the womb or outside of it make that much of a difference? Does my location change the nature of what I am? If I leave this building and walk into another one does that change the fact that I’m alive or that I’m human?
Or the claim that an unborn baby isn’t human? Well, what is it then? The unborn baby, even as a single-celled zygote, has human DNA and will develop, if allowed to, into an adult human being.
Finally, it all comes down to whether the baby is wanted or not. But that’s not really true either, is it? Many women who have abortions, especially young women and teenagers, want to keep their baby but feel like they don’t have any choice, either because they’re being pressured into having an abortion, or because they’re convinced that they’re life will be ruined if they do give birth, or because they just don’t know what to do.
Abortion advocates say they want abortions to be available, safe, and rare, but abortions are anything but safe. In a successful abortion, there’s always at least one life lost, and a lot of times the mother suffers as well. There are the physical effects of the abortion on the mother, the pain, sometimes the loss of the ability to get pregnant again, and, admittedly rarely, the mother dies from complications or botched abortions. There are also the psychological effects. In 2011, Psychology Today reported that women who have an abortion are 81% more likely to develop mental health problems. Some of the problems they are at high risk for are anxiety, depression, and suicide compared to women who haven’t had an abortion. If you’re in this position, I urge you to seek healing. Come talk to me or another priest, call the Women’s New Life Center, or reach out to a friend; you aren’t alone, and you don’t have to bear this burden alone. God loves you, and wants to help you find healing.
If you’re wondering what you can do, we have an unprecedented opportunity right now. Recently, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court. In the 1992 case on abortion, he had switched his vote at the last minute, thus keeping abortion legal. If the Supreme Court Justice who replaces him is pro-life, then we may be able to end legalized abortion in this country. So, the first thing we need to do is pray and fast for an end to abortion. Not this Wednesday, but next Wednesday we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament form 8:30 am to 7:00 pm. Please make a point to stop by the Church and offer prayers for that goal. On the last weekend of this month, the Knights of Columbus will lead a pro-life rosary before each Mass. Finally, you may want to write you our Senators to encourage them to support a pro-life nominee to the Supreme Court.
There have been over 60 million abortions in the US since it was legalized in 1973, and there are thousands of abortions every day in the US. May we always remember that we are all God’s children, we are all made in His image and likeness, and every life is precious.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.