“Let Us Allow Ourselves to be Gazed Upon.” ~Pope Francis

Jesus and Mary, a painting by El Greco (1585).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, the mystery of the Mother of God being assumed body and soul into heaven, I would like to share my reflections on spiritual motherhood. First of all, the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary is essential for our lives of faith and union with God. She is our loving Mother who holds us in her heart, who embraces us, protects us and prays for us. We need to allow ourselves to be gazed upon by her, to be embraced by her and be lead by the hand with her guidance. She is our role model to love purely. Religious Sisters and Consecrated Women each have a special role of being a spiritual mother with a heart for her children, to pray for the Church, for the Priesthood, and for vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life. We bring each prayer intention requested of us to the Lord before the Blessed Sacrament with fervor and total confidence in His merciful, healing love. We share this vital role with all women of faith who are called to pray for vocations, the sanctification of the Priesthood and the salvation of souls in Eucharistic Adoration.

Yesterday, I received an unexpected phone call from a pastor of one of our Parishes in Phoenix, AZ. There are a significant number of women in his Parish from different walks of life and past experiences who wish to be consecrated to the Lord, to be dedicated to Him in a special way with a special role to support, to pray for and to serve the Church. There are various forms of public Consecrated Life: monastic (contemplative) Religious Life, active Religious Life, Societies of Apostolic Life, Secular Institutes, eremetical life and Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World. There is also the vocation to live a private consecration in which a layperson under the guidance of a spiritual director can make a private vow to be consecrated to the Lord, which is only witnessed by the Priest. All faith-filled women desirous of praying for vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Consecrated Life have a calling to be a spiritual mother. This is so needed in our Church today. To promote spiritual motherhood, I have formed the Saint Therese Vocation Society in Phoenix to pray for vocations, which you can sign up for to become a member and receive our Saint Therese Vocation Society Prayer Calendar to pray daily for our seminarians and religious sisters and brothers in formation before making Final Vows.

There is a beautiful publication from the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican entitled, Adoration, Reparation, Spiritual Motherhood for Priests (2007), which is a collection of inspiring stories of the effects of the prayers of mothers and women from all over the world who prayed for vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious Life. Mothers’ prayers are very powerful!

Let us turn to Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of God, who was assumed into heaven, body and soul, as our role model for spiritual motherhood.

The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Fra Angelico, 1424-1434 kept at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in the Fenway in Boston, MA.

From Pope Francis “Reflections on Mothers” given 1 January 2019:

“The Church too needs to renew her amazement at being the dwelling place of the living God, the Bride of the Lord, a Mother who gives birth to her children. Otherwise, she risks turning into a beautiful museum of the past. A “Church museum”. Our Lady instead gives the Church the feel of a home, a home in which the God of newness dwells. Let us receive with amazement the mystery of the Mother of God, as the inhabitants of Ephesus did at the time of the Council. Like them, let us acclaim her “Holy Mother of God”. From her, let us allow ourselves to be gazed upon, to be embraced, to be taken by the hand.

“Let us allow ourselves to be gazed upon. Especially in times of need, when we are entangled in life’s knots, we rightly lift our eyes to Our Lady, to Our Mother. Yet first, we should let ourselves be gazed upon by Our Lady. When she gazes upon us, she does not see sinners but children. It is said that the eyes are the mirror of the soul; the eyes of Mary, full of grace, reflect the beauty of God, they show us a reflection of heaven. Jesus himself said that the eye is “the lamp of the body” (Mt 6:22): the eyes of Our Lady are able to bring light to every dark corner; everywhere they rekindle hope. As she gazes upon us, she says: “Take heart, dear children; here I am, your Mother!”

“This maternal gaze, which instils confidence and trust, helps us to grow in faith. Faith is a bond with God that engages the whole person; to be preserved, it needs the Mother of God. Her maternal gaze helps us see ourselves as beloved children in God’s faithful people, and to love one another regardless of our individual limitations and approaches. Our Lady keeps us rooted in the Church, where unity counts more than diversity; she encourages us to care for one another. Mary’s gaze reminds us that faith demands a tenderness that can save us from becoming lukewarm. Tenderness: the Church of tenderness. Tenderness is a word that today many want to remove from the dictionary. When faith makes a place for the Mother of God, we never lose sight of the centre: the Lord, for Mary never points to herself but to Jesus; and our brothers and sisters, for Mary is mother.

“The gaze of the Mother, and the gaze of every mother. A world that looks to the future without a mother’s gaze is shortsighted. It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters. The human family is built upon mothers. A world in which maternal tenderness is dismissed as mere sentiment may be rich materially, but poor where the future is concerned. Mother of God, teach us to see life as you do. Turn your gaze upon us, upon our misery, our poverty. Turn to us thine eyes of mercy.”

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Perpetual Adoration Chapel of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale, AZ.

Soon to be a Consecrated Virgin of the Diocese, Kimberly Zeeman, is the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel Coordinator at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale. Below is her reflection about her devotion to the Eucharist:

“My name is Kimberly Zeeman and I am the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel Coordinator at Blessed Sacrament parish in Scottsdale.  I will be consecrated as a Diocesan Virgin Living in the World by Bishop Olmsted in just a few days.  For me, it is a ‘vocation within a vocation’.  I will be living as a Consecrated Virgin, who has been in love with Eucharistic Adoration for many years, always feeling drawn to be in the Lord’s presence.  During my days of vocation discernment, I wasn’t clear about what kind of Religious God was calling me to be, but I knew it most certainly would have to include Adoration.  Before our chapel was built, I spent a lot of time visiting neighboring parishes who had Eucharistic Adoration in place. 

“Then in 2014, our chapel was completed at Blessed Sacrament and we have had 24-7 Perpetual Adoration since then.  In 2018, I accepted the role of Coordinator and began to truly recognize the graces and blessings for our priests, our parish community, and our diocese – the fruits of praying before the very Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ – who is truly present in the Eucharistic species – body, blood, soul, and divinity.  The efficacious gifts of intercessory prayer for others become tangible for those who believe and who trust in the Lord to hear our prayers and answer them according to His holy will.

In the wonderful book, In Sinu Jesus, I can echo the words of the Benedictine monk author:

          “My beloved Jesus, I thank you for having called me to a life of Adoration.”

“The best prayer is to go before the Lord in silence – God is always acting and working in our lives, we just need silence in order to see this.  Eucharistic Adoration is truly a gift from Jesus Christ to His Church, so the chapel is the place where we go to gain strength and perseverance for the journey, and hope for a future filled with joy.

“We know there is much to pray for!

“There isn’t much we can do about all the social unrest in the world, in our country, and in our own community…but we can pray for peace to be instilled in each soul on Earth.

“Do we need holy young men and women to respond to God’s call for the priesthood and consecrated life? (Yes!)  Then let us invite, and then pray – God will do the rest.

“Do we need Catholics on fire for their faith and willing to evangelize their brothers and sisters?

“We can pray that God’s strength and courage be instilled in such souls.

“Do you know someone who is ill and in need of healing?  Then we can pray, and allow God’s Will to be done.

“A wayward child, an aging parent, the death of a loved one…there are countless needs and concerns that we bring to our Lord in prayer each and every day.  Yes, we can pray in the quiet of our homes (and we understand that currently many must do this),…but why not avail ourselves to the graces, silence, and profound peace that can be found while n the very presence of Christ?  He is truly present there in the Adoration chapel and He calls each of us to spend time with him.

“We can think of it this way… if we strive to build a relationship with someone and want to get to know them, then we spend time with them.  We can use this analogy as we work on building a strong relationship with our Lord.  If we wish to imitate Him, we must learn about Him and get to know Him.  And if we are in right relationship with Christ, then all of our other relationships easily fall into place.

“We need Eucharistic Adoration now, more than ever.  It is the remedy for the restlessness, and anxiety in our world today.  I always invite those who are not currently adorers, to pray with an open heart and mind, and hear God’s personal invitation to commit to a Holy Hour of Adoration each week.  It is the best place to pour out our hearts to the Lord in His very Presence.

“I give thanks with a grateful heart each and every day and wish to make Eucharistic Adoration known to everyone I meet.  Our chapels could be filled and overflowing if but Catholics would answer the call to Adoration.”

                        O Sacrament most Holy,

                        O Sacrament Divine,

                        All praise and all thanksgiving

                        Be every moment Thine.

                        May the heart of Jesus

                        In the Most Blessed Sacrament

                        Be praised, adored, and loved

                        With grateful affection

                        At every moment

                        In all the tabernacles of the world

                        Even until the end of time.

                                                                        Amen

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Kimberly recommends an excellent book, The Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle. It is about an inspiring Priest, Saint Manuel Gonzalez Garcia, who was born in Seville, Spain on February 25, 1877. St. Manuel felt called to the Priesthood at the age of 12. After his ordination, he was sent to preach at a church which he found to be unclean and abandoned. In prayer, before a dusty tabernacle on torn altar cloths, he dedicated his life to Jesus’ Eucharistic needs. This abandoned tabernacle taught the young priest more about the Love of Jesus than his year of theological study. Until his death, St. Manuel loved to spread devotion to the Eucharist, proclaiming his eventual epitaph: “Jesus is here! He is here! Do not abandon Him!”

A reflection by Saint Manuel Gonzalez Garcia, “Jesus is Looking at Me”:

The Heart of Jesus in the tabernacle looks at me. He looks at me always. He looks at me everywhere. He looks at me as if he doesn’t have anyone else to look at but me. Why?

“Because he loves me. When two people love each other they yearn to look at each other. Inquire of the mother who, without talking and barely breathing, spends hours next to her son as he sleeps. Why does she do this? She will answer, “I just want to look at my son.”

“Why? Because she loves him with all her heart, and her love prevents her from getting tired of looking at him. And do you know what causes her sadness? It is that she will not be able to follow her beloved son with her gaze, all the way through his life, now a child and later as a man. If she could somehow never lose sight of him for a moment, how happy she would be; how she would defend him and how she would accompany him!

“How sorry mothers feel for not having an omnipotent love! The Heart of Jesus loves us, and all the more. He love me and everyone with a love as great as his power, and his power does not have limits! It is an omnipotent love!

“Yes, he follows me with his gaze, as my mother would do if she could. Soul, stop for a moment to ponder these words: The Heart of Jesus is always looking at me.

“How does he look at me? In the world there are looks of fear, of persecution, of vigilance, of love. How does the Heart of Jesus look at me from His Eucharist?

“Above all, I tell you that his look is not that of a judging eye, like the eye of Cain, the bad brother. It is not the frightened look, of remorse without hope, or of constant judging. No, that isn’t how he looks at me now.

“How, then, does he look at me? The Gospel gives me the answer: There are three looks of the Lord. One is a look upon the friends who have never fallen away. Another one is for the friends who are falling or who have just fallen away but who want to rise. The third one is for the ones who have fallen and will not rise because they do not want to.”

May this be an inspiration for you as you grow ever closer to Our Lord who is present with us in the Eucharist. May we allow Him to gaze upon us.

Your Sister in Christ,

Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life

Diocese of Phoenix, AZ

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