My Jesus, My Home.

Home is Where the Heart Is. I am sure you have heard this saying many times, but have you ever taken the time to contemplate its Christian implications? As we approach December 25th, the celebration marking the birth of Jesus in a rustic home away from home, let us pause to reflect upon its deeper meaning.

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The Christmas Creche or Nativity Scene. The scene of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem has been pictured and used in church services since the first century. The nativity scene we think of today finds its origin in Greccio, Italy, where St. Francis of Assisi set up the first live Christmas Creche on Christmas Eve, 1223.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a home is one’s place of residence. To me this defines a house not a home. In regards to a home, I sense a deeper, more intimate meaning, one involving personal belongingness and happiness. The physical location of our house may change but the emotional constancy of our home usually travels with us. This emotional connotation, in my opinion, best reflects the nativity scene pictured above. There, in the small town of Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph and their new born Son, Jesus, found themselves far from their town of origin or house in Nazareth.

I can easily relate to the Holy Family’s experience as I recall my own son’s birth on Jan 6, 2001. It was two weeks before Christmas and my husband, Tom, and I had traveled to Daytona Beach, FL in anticipation of our son’s upcoming birth and adoption. Away from home, but not alone, we welcomed the birth of our only son, Joseph, three weeks later, on the Feast Day of the Epiphany. He was and is our greatest gift from God, more precious than gold, frankincense and myrrh. That special day, our family of three found a temporary home away from home in a Holiday Inn Express located two miles from the Daytona Speedway. Despite the noise and multiple distractions, our hearts were filled with love and gratitude. We were right where we longed to be. We were home.

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The Grotto (or cave) of the birth of Our Lord, located in the lower level of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

About 8 years back, I had the privilege of going to the Holy Land and visiting the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem. As I walked in His footsteps, and those of His mother, Mary, I actually touched the very spots where Love was born; born in a stable in Bethlehem and perfected on the Cross in Jerusalem. Included in my pilgrimage was a visit to the ancient remains or foundation of Mary’s home in Nazareth, the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. In Nazareth, I not only saw the remains of Mary’s house but also the Grotto of the Annunciation. This cave, connected to the backside of Mary’s house, was where Mary gave her “fiat” or yes to God, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say,” (Luke 1:38).

Mary’s loving obedience, trust and joy, in the face of such confusion and fear, provides us with a deeper understanding of the meaning of home and an intimate peek into her Immaculate Heart. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a name used to refer to the interior life of Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, but most of all, her virginal love for God the Father, maternal love for her Son, Jesus, and compassionate love for each of us. Near the Grotto and remains of Mary’s family house, I once again found a home, for there, my heart was filled with the love of my spiritual mother, Mary. There, in Nazareth, I found my spiritual home safely tucked away within the chambers of her Immaculate Heart.

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The Grotto of the Annunciation, located within the lower level of The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

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The foundations of Mary’s house in the ancient town of Nazareth.

This past November, I traveled to Italy with Teresa Tomeo, Kelly Wahlquist and the women of WINE (Women In the New Evangelization), as we walked in the footsteps of many Catholic female Saints, including St. Claire, St. Katherine of Sienna, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. Perhaps my favorite of all our destinations was the small town of Loreto, located in the mid-western Italian province of Ancona. In this small town, we found the walls of Mary’s Nazarene House, the home where Mary raised her Son, Jesus.

How, you may ask, did Mary’s house from Nazareth find it’s way to Loreto, Italy? According to Church tradition, it was in 1221, during the Crusade time period, that this ancient domicile was transported by angels to Loreto. I have no trouble believing this story, for just as the angels announced the coming of the small babe, Jesus, in Bethlehem, so too, could the angels have transported Christ’s original house to the home country of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. A second rendition of this miraculous story tells of a royal family named, the Angels, who meticulously transported the Holy House of Mary to Loreto for safekeeping. The House of Mary is pictured below.

 

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Pictured above: The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy House of Loreto, otherwise known as Mary’s House.

Our group spent over two hours in the Holy House that morning. It proved an unforgettable experience for me. Quietly, I leaned up against the very walls where Mary raised her Son, Jesus. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. “This is my home,” I thought. “This is the place that I long to be, where I want to spend my time.”  Amidst the ancient walls of Jesus’ childhood home, I found spiritual warmth and safety. As I pondered these feelings in my heart, I suddenly found myself, once again, within the confines of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. There too, was my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for Mary always points me toward’s her Son, Jesus. My home is with Jesus, deep within the confines of His Most Sacred Heart. He goes where I go. Present too was His mother, Mary, and her Immaculate Heart, for the two Hearts are bound together in love, the love of the Holy Spirit.

 

Yes, home is where the heart is, however, the question remains: Where is your heart this Christmas Season? Is it with the Lord and His Mother Mary? This is an appropriate question to ponder this Christmas Season, for as St. Augustine of Hippo says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God.”

“Home and Jesus! The two should be inseparable. Husband and wife need the clasp of that infinite love to keep their hearts true to each other. Parents need the guidance of that infinite wisdom and the power of that infinite strength to keep them patient and long-suffering and gentle and wise in the training of immortal souls,” (Albert Elliot Kittredge).

“It is to Jesus Christ we owe the truth, the tenderness, the purity, the warm affection, the holy aspiration, which go together in that endearing word – home; for it is He who has made obedience so beautiful, and affection so holy; it is He who has brought the Father’s home so near, and has taught us that love is of God.” (James Hamilton)

May the love of the Lord fill your home and your heart this Christmas Season. Amen

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

South America’s Love for Mother Mary.

Celebrating the Queen of Heaven and Earth. After my three-week vacation in South America, and my necessary two-week catch up period, it feels good to be back as your spiritual safari guide. Thank you again to Jodi Awbrey and Cathy Cresson for “guiding” in my absence. I invite you to join me on a virtual pilgrimage as we visit the countries of Ecuador and Peru, and explore South America’s unique and colorful devotion to Mary, the Mother of God (Maria, Madre de Dios). Enjoy!

The majority of South and Central American Catholics are highly devoted to the Virgin Mary (Virgen Santisima). In fact, over 20 Latin American countries have crowned and declared Mary as Patroness of their country. She has received various names, depending on where she has appeared or manifested herself, and is often depicted with a crown on her head carrying the Child Jesus.

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Pope Francis paying homage to Our Lady of Quinche, during his 2015 visit to the small town of El Cisne, in the mountains of southern Ecuador. This popular Marian Shrine and Basilica was first built in 1742 and declared a National Sanctuary in 1985.

The Catholic Church arrived in Latin America in the early 1500s during the Spanish colonization time period. The Spanish conquerors were soon joined by Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit missionaries eager to evangelize the native Inca and Aztec populations. Although Marian devotions were brought from Europe to South America, many local adaptations began to develop. A well-known example is found in Mary’s miraculous 1531 appearance to St Juan Diego in modern-day Mexico City (Guadalupe). Appearing as a physical combination of all cultures, Our Lady of Guadalupe made a big impression on the locals. Over 8 million converted to Catholicism within 6 years.

The Virgin continued her work of evangelization and eventually appeared throughout the remaining colonized regions of South America. Local forms of Catholicism soon appeared, as native customs found expression within its accepted practices and beliefs. In fact, many modern-day South American Marian Feasts, including but not limited to the Annunciation, Assumption and Immaculate Conception, often involve colorful public processions, fireworks, dances, banquets, decorated streets, and/or vigils held in Mary’s honor. These practices, far from being viewed as wasteful or idolatrous, are merely seen as extensions of the Church’s Sacramental System and joyous celebrations of motherhood, family life, the birth of a child, a wedding, or a soul’s journey to heaven.

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An outdoor procession of Mary, Our Lady of Mercy, in commemoration of the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in Cusco, Peru.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is known by many names and is claimed to have miraculously appeared to many believers throughout the world over the centuries. Some of her names or titles find a direct scriptural basis, such as “Queen Mother“, denoting her direct descent from the Jewish King, David, “Virgin Mary“, indicating her virginal conception of Jesus, and “The Woman Clothed in the Sun“, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Other titles, such as Mother of God, Immaculate Conception, and Our Lady of Sorrows, find their origin in the Catholic Church’s Sacred Tradition. Others arise from reported miracles or Marian apparitions. Many such names find expression within Latin American Catholicism, including Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Quinche (described above), and Quito, Ecuador’s Our Lady of Good Success, Sorrowful Virgin, and Dancing or Winged Madonna, shown below.

Our Lady of Good Success originally appeared to two Spanish friars in Rome, and subsequently appeared to Sister Mariana de Jesus Torres in Quito, Ecuador in the year 1577. There, Our Lady requested that a statue be made to her likeness.

“So that men in the future might realize how powerful I am in placating Divine Justice and obtaining mercy and pardon for every sinner who comes to me with a contrite heart. For I am the Mother of Mercy and in me there is only goodness and love. When tribulations of spirit and sufferings of the body oppress them and they seem to be drowning in this bottomless sea let them gaze at my holy image and I will always be there ready to listen to their cries and soothe their pain. Tell them that they should always run to their Mother with confidence and love.”  

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Statue of Our Lady of Good Success in Quito, Ecuador’s Conceptionist Convent where, to this day, the incorrupt body of Venerable Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres is housed.

The Sorrowful Virgin of the College.  Ecuador was the first Spanish colony in the New World to rebel and gain independence from Spain in 1822. Although it started out as a just cause, this revolution soon fell under the dominion of an anti-Catholic regime. In 1901, the government occupied the Jesuit college of St. Gabriel and launched a furious attack against the Church, Catholic culture and educational system. Churches and tabernacles were profaned, the Sacred Eucharist was trampled, and all public religious practices were prohibited. It was at this time, in the year 1906, that the Church approved the miraculous movement of eyes and shedding of tears of St. Gabriel’s image of The Sorrowful Virgin of the College. 

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An image of the Sorrowful Virgin of the College in The Church of La Compania in Quito, Ecuador.

 

Devotion to the Sorrowful Virgin of the College quickly spread throughout South America, Europe, America and Australia. The miracle has been commemorated every year with the recitation of a solemn and fervent novena. On April 22, 1956, Pope Pius XII approved the solemn coronation of this sacred image, and in 1978, the National Shrine of the Sorrowful Mother was blessed and dedicated.

The Dancing or Winged Madonna. The original Dancing or Winged Madonna, currently displayed in Quito’s Church and Convent of St. Francis, was sculpted by Bernardo de Largarda in 1734. This 12 inch high wooden sculpture, depicting the Book of Revelation’s “Woman Clothed in the Sun” (Rev. 12:1-2), wears a crown of 12 stars and stands atop a crescent moon and serpent. The Madonna’s upraised arms and wings indicate Mary’s Assumption, while her blue and white garments point to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

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A 147 foot tall aluminum replica of the Dancing or Winged Madonna which sits atop El Panecillo hill in Quito, Ecuador, as it’s intercessor and protector.

There she stands, the woman clothed in the sun, as Quito’s protector and our’s, against earthquakes, volcanic eruption and any other misfortunes outside human control.

Closing Prayer. 

Mary, Our Mother, I come to you with my needs and beg you to help me.

I honor you as my Mother and helper and trust in your love for me.

Lead me on the path of virtue, and preserve me from every evil.

Let me enjoy your protection and walk in your love and peace.

Guide me closer to Jesus, Who gave you to me to be my Mother.

Amen

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

Click on the link above to learn more about Karen’s non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about her upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Call Her Mother?

The Queen Mother: Beautiful and Pure by Jodi Awbrey, this Friday’s guest spiritual safari guide. Join us on a virtual pilgrimage as we discover the precious gift, promised and bestowed upon each of us and the entire human race.

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The Queen Mother: Beautiful and Pure.

How do you call her Mother, Mom, Ma’am, Ma? We all have our own ways of affectionately calling out to our mothers. Whatever yours may be, it is your own way of giving her that distinct title that says, “you are special to me and I love you.” Being from the south, we called our mother “Mamma”.

I was fourteen when she lost her battle with breast cancer. I have lived most of my life without her physically present here with me on earth. And since I was so young when she passed, I often think about who she was and who she might be today. With every new season of life that I enter or milestone I reach, I feel that I get to know her more deeply because of my own new insights gained into this earthly journey. When I became a mother, I was flooded with memories and a fresh perspective on things she had said or done. I find peace and joy in being able to connect to her in this way.

This past Mother’s Day, I gathered with my brothers that live nearby for a dinner in her honor. It was a wonderful evening and we really enjoyed being together. On the way home I continued reflecting happily on memories of our family and thoughts about all that our mother had done for us in her life. Anyone that knew her would tell you she was beautiful and funny, but we were the only human beings blessed enough to be on the receiving end of her motherly love. She gave her all to us. Everything. She loved us so much, she sacrificed her wants so that we would not need for anything.

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My Mother, she gave her all to us. Everything.

About one month later during my morning prayer meditation, I was abruptly lead to a question in my mind. I have this knowledge of who my earthly mother was, but what about my heavenly mother? Do I really know who she is? Sadly, my answer was “No, I don’t”. So my prayer quickly changed into a simple request of the Holy Spirit. I asked Him to tell me who my heavenly mother is. And this is what He whispered into my heart.

My Mother

My mother is a handmaid, She is a faithful servant, obedient to her master;

My mother is beautiful and pure, She is not tarnished by the brokenness that surrounds her;

My mother is filled with grace, She has been blessed and showers her motherly love upon me;

My mother brings the light of Love and Mercy to me, She gave up everything so I could be called daughter;

My mother freely accepted the sword that pierced her heart, She suffered great pain so that I would be saved from death;

My mother desires only good things for me, She leads me to the heart of Love so I can know what it means to be cherished;

My mother teaches me to pray, She shows me the path to righteousness and joy;

My mother is the Queen Mother, She intercedes on my behalf and draws me into relationship with the King of Kings;

My mother is Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant, and her Son is Jesus, My Lord.

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She suffered great pain so that I may be saved from death.

Jesus, hanging in agony and excruciating pain on the cross, uttered these words to John, “Behold, your mother”. Scripture goes on to tell us “from that hour the disciple took her into his home,” (John 19:27). On that plain and regular morning, from a place deep within prayer, Jesus told me who my heavenly mother is and asked me to take her into my home. My home is my heart, and there is where I will continue to grow in love and appreciation for all that she has done, is doing and will do for all of us……..She gave her all to us. Everything. She loved us so much, she sacrificed her wants so that we would not need for anything.

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My Mother: she gave her all to us. Everything.

Jodi Awbrey is a Catholic wife and mother residing in Mandeville, LA. After 20 plus years working in the Information Technology field, she felt called in 2014 to leave her post in the business world to focus on living out her vocation with her family and actively participate in the New Evangelization.  She is passionate about spreading the Gospel message through facilitation of Bible studies in her Parish.

Jody Awbrey’s FaceBook Page

Closing Prayer. 

Mary, Our Mother, I come to you with my needs and beg you to help me.

I honor you as my Mother and helper and trust in your love for me.

Lead me on the path of virtue, and preserve me from every evil.

Let me enjoy your protection and walk in your love and peace.

Guide me closer to Jesus, Who gave you to me to be my Mother.

Amen

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

Click on the link above to learn more about Karen’s non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about her upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!