Hey everyone! My name is Josh Mansfield and I am a new contributor here at Brent the Byzantine. Before you read my first post, I wanted to introduce myself a little. I am a 4th year student at Youngstown State University, where I am Secretary of the Trading Card Club, President of the Lyden House Dormitory Advisory Council, and a former Spiritual Chair of the Catholic Student Association, going for my BA in Religious Studies. I am a convert from the United Methodist Church and a part of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and a member of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Youngstown, Ohio where I sing in the choir. In my spare time I enjoy writing hymn lyrics, which I eventually hope to get published some day, play Yu-Gi-Oh, watch the Browns, the Buckeyes, and pro-wrestling, enjoy Star Wars, as well as being an avid collector of hymnals. Thank you for taking the time to read this intro and I hope you enjoy my first article!
A couple weeks ago, I was relaxing one evening and praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for the 54-Day Rosary Novena for our Nation and for the Church. When I got to the 5th Mystery, the Crucifixion, I started meditating on our Lord’s words from the Cross to Our Lady and St. John, “Woman, behold your son”. And, “Son, behold your mother”. Now, of course, we know that this was Jesus’ giving His Most Blessed Mother to us as the Mother of the Church and the Mother of us all. She who is the Mother who gave physical birth to the Head, Christ is also, by grace the Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. So, in that sense of those words of Christ, Mary watches over, guards, and protects us. This is what we all know and probably meditate upon every time we read those words in St. John’s Gospel. But, as I was meditating upon that, I started thinking about it in the light of the recent crisis and scandals that Holy Mother Church has been going through over the past year plus. Jesus’s gift and commission from the Cross is a two way street. Yes, Mary is our Mother, and we are her children, but there is a second meaning to this, not necessarily hidden, or as one replacing what we know, but a meaning that adds on and goes deeper into the heart of this gift from our Redeemer. Because at the Cross, St. John not only represents the Church itself, but Mary in a unique way represents the Church and St. John represents the faithful who must take care of her.
After Jesus gives Our Lady and St. John to each other, the Gospel states that from that hour the disciple (John) took her (Mary) into his home. Now, of course, we interpret that as we must take Mary into our homes, into our hearts, as our heavenly Mother. But we shouldn’t forget the other practical and actual part of the passage: Jesus, our God, gave Mary to St. John to take care of for the rest of her life (now, the only way Jesus would have been able to do this, as a law abiding Jew, was if Mary had no other biological children other than Jesus). And here’s where it all comes together: Jesus also gave us, through St. John and Our Lady, the Church to take care of for the rest of her life until Christ comes again in glory. St. John, an Apostle and Bishop, stands there to recieve Mary, Mother of Christ the Head of the Church and Mother of His Mystical Body. In Revelations 12, when St. John writes about the woman, she is at the same time Mary and the Church. Even though the title Mater Ecclesiae only came about during the time of the Second Vatican Council, hasn’t this always been the case? Hasn’t Mary always been our Mother in the order of grace? She is, of course, our Queen both in the order of grace and by Divine command since her Divine Son, Who is both God and Man, Who received His humanity from her, is Christ the King. And, so then, is not the Church our mother by virtue of the sacraments that Christ, through her, gives us? If so, it is our solemn duty as Catholics to watch over and care for both as they both care for us.
When St. John took Mary into his home, he was around his twenties and Mary in her mid to late forties. The tradition is that Mary lived and traveled with St. John for 16 years after the Resurrection, living in Ephesus, but returned to Jerusalem to die in the city her Son did and from there, her immaculate and sinless body and soul were assumed together into Heaven. St. John lived with Mary for all that time, and so learned to take care of her as they years went by. So too, we must take care of the Church. Yes, the Pope, the Successor of St. Peter, is the visible head of the Church on earth to whom the keys of the kingdom have been entrusted, to whom we owe our allegiance, love, and submission to in all things in accord with the truth. Yes, the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, chosen to guide and teach the flock of Christ the Good Shepherd, and yes, there are sometimes Bishops who turn out to be a Judas in disguise. But at the Cross, St. John does not just represent the Church’s Bishops. St. John, even in his episcopal office, represents the laity. In fact, the Church is represented in three different ways by three different people at the foot of the tree of our salvation.
When we look at the scene at the Cross, we see St. John, Our Lady, and St. Mary Magdalene. St. John, the Beloved Disciple, represents our love for our God and Savior Jesus and our unending, undying devotion to Him. Mary, Our Lady, represents our sorrow at what we ourselves have put Him through and done to Him (although Mary had no sin, she still, nevertheless, suffered with Him in uniting her whole self to her Son in all things), but also representing our faith in His glorious Resurrection, which she, and she alone, never doubted. And finally, St. Mary Magdalene, who represents our repentance, in her turning away from sin and our rebirth in the Holy Spirit in being freed from slavery to sin and the devil so that we are able to learn to follow Jesus and recieve His forgiveness in the confession of our sins. But the fact remains: Jesus gave us, the laity, the Church as our Mother to care for us but also for us to care for her by taking her into our homes.
So now, another question remains: how are we supposed to take the Church into our homes? It isn’t hard to do, but it has been so lacking in our world today. We do this by believing her dogmas and doctrines, living by her teachings, caring for our neighbors, protecting those most vulnerable, obeying her laws, praying her devotions, and putting God and our Lord Jesus Christ before all things as our first love. Yet, we have lost this in today’s sinful world (I will give the reason for why later). So, if we have lost these, we must regain them if we are to take care of the Church. And how are we supposed to do that? The answer, I believe, comes from two sources. The first is Jesus’s command to St. Francis of Assisi, “Go and repair my Church, which as you see, is falling into ruin”. We see, all around us, the hurt, the abuse, corruption, and the immorality in the Holy Church, our mother, the mystical Bride of Christ our Head. This is what we are to do. But why us? The “why us” is also my second source for how we are supposed to take care of the Church and it comes from Venerable (soon to be Blessed) Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Sheen said, “Who will save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests, and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and your religious act like religious”. In order to save the Church we must take her into our homes again. We must remember what our primary mission is as Catholics, as Christians, and that is proclaiming the never-ending awesome love of God through the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ for the salvation of the whole world for which Christ gave up His life to redeem by His Blood, shed in place of ours.
When I watch the news, all I hear about in regards to the terrible tragedies of gun violence and the debate on immagration and the terrible pain both have caused to so many is, “policy”, “Restrictions”, “legislation”, “laws” and all the changes that should or need to be made, and I’m not saying that something doesn’t need to be done, because it certainly does, and we can debate all day about what that thing is on both sides of the political aisle, but something that I have yet to hear in the mainstream media and news is this: changing people’s hearts. Changing minds. Helping to change the lives of others with our kindness, with our faith, and with our love, and with the truth of Jesus Christ that God created, cares for, and loves every single human being and desires their eternal salvation. Where is the talk of love?! Love in the midst of this evil. Love in the midst of the terror. Love in the midst of the abandoned. Love in the midst of the abused and hurt. Is there no longer talk of love because we, as a people, no longer know what love is? Have we twisted the word love so that it no longer focusses on the other but on self? As a Church, as a nation, and as a human race, we MUST learn to love again, in truth! Because love is where comes our faith and our hope. When we lose our love, true and authentic love, which is willing the good of the other, we lose everything.
Father Richard Heilman often speaks of the fact that we no longer believe in the supernatural power of God and of His grace. And why? Because we think what the world offers is better. Because we believe the world more than God, because we desire pleasure more than sacrifice, material gain more than spiritual loss. THAT is how we lost what we had when we first took the Church into our homes and into our lives. WE no longer believe that God still does miracles or is active in our world. We lost that because we began to make things more about us and not God. Our focus shifted from worshiping the Creator to exalting the creature. We MUST reclaim this belief, this faith, this knowledge that our God is a supernatural God without Whom everything is impossible but with Whom all things are possible. We must revive the fact that our God is a God of miracles and when we as a people are united together, in faith, in one common goal, that God shows His mighty Hand, for if God is for us than who can be against us?!?! We must reignite the fire of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and in the lives of all Catholics to live their Catholic faith boldly and with faith in the truth of the Gospel, hope of our eternal reward, and the love of God, that in Christ Jesus our Lord, nothing will ever be able to separate us from! So, Catholics: ARISE!!! STAND UP!!!! Christ desires to use us as His hands and feet to bring the hope and healing of the Gospel to a world, as Mother Angelica used to put it, starved for the truth. Bring the Church, the faith, back into your homes. Stand with Christ as He suffers on the Cross and stand by and aid our human family as we suffer now. Go forth and witness and be the light in this world of darkness. Because we know that death does not have the final word, but it is through the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ and in His Resurrection, that our eternal life is gained, Paradise is restored, and the fullness of our hope realized. O Maria, Mater Ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!