Loui, Cec, Rex and Martin attended the Gathering at the Parish Centre, Narellan 1 May 1999. About thirty members representing some twelve fraternities were present. Also present were Fr. Carl Schafer, OFM, National Spiritual Assistant and Fr. Alan Hartcher, OFM, Regional Spiritual Assistant. During the business session, chaired very competently by Sandie Tilley, Regional Minister, the following matters arose.
This is a brief summary of Fr. Carl's address.
We should study the references to Our Lady in Article 9 of our Rule and in Article 16 of our Constitutions. Fr. Carl outlined his approach under four headings, viz.,
This is still a vital element in Catholic Christianity but excesses in devotion should be avoided. Two extremes to be avoided are:
We need to be properly informed about about the place of the Mother of God in the life of the Church. Our attitude should be based primarily on the Gospel references to her which is the revealed truth about her. She should not be isolated from Christ and his Church. He is the mediator between us and and God the Father. Mary is one of God's many instruments of grace and mediation. All Christians are such instruments of mediation between God and humans. Referring to Article 7 of our Rule, Fr. Carl emphasised that we are called to take an active role in the Apostolate of the Laity. The Fathers at Vatican II resisted the idea of a document dealing particularly with Mary but instead chose to place references to her within the documents dealing with the nature of the Church.
She is a model for us in her way of living. There is little in the Gospel record about Mary's prayer life. It seems that she was just another human being who had to search for God's will in her life. (She was of course conceived without sin and never did sin.) We can get some idea of her search for God's will by two Gospel references to her thinking, namely, the Presentation in the Temple (Simeon's prophecy) and Jesus' words after the Finding in the Temple. We are told, "Mary pondered these things in her heart".
The Gospels show Mary as a person of faith. She put her whole life in God's hands. She lived exactly the same spiritual life as we do. There were unexpected, fearful events in her life. Our Lady's faith enables us to appreciate Jesus as Son of Man to Son of God.
The Annunciation shows us how the power of God came upon Mary; she is the model of an individual instrument of God's salvation. She knows our strengths and weaknesses and what we are capable of.
It is important to note that Our Lady was present with the Apostles when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost on both Mary and the Apostles. Mary stayed with the Apostles after the Resurrection and after Pentecost to help them. She became the model of a group instrument of God's salvation.
Fr. Eugene Boyle, OCSO, has said that we should give Our Lady the opportunity to help the Church.
In 1983 the Servites of Our Lady identified three ways in which Our Lady shows her concern for the Church:
Catholics are free to accept, to doubt or to reject private apparitions. Fr. Carl said that he relies on the Gospels: do the alleged messages from Our Lady have a basis in the Gospels? He asks three questions in considering the authenticity of an "apparition", viz.,
In summary, our salvation cannot be assured by any particular devotion; reliance on devotions shows a lack of trust in the Gospels which are God's word.
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