"The Fourth Joyful Mystery" by Michael D. O’Brien


ACCORDING to Levitical law, a woman who has given birth to a child must bring to the temple:

a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering… If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves…" (Lev 12:6, 8 )

In the Fourth Joyful Mystery, Mary and Joseph offer a pair of birds. In their poverty, it was all they could afford.

The authentic Christian is also called to give, not only of time, but also of resources—money, food, possessions—"until it hurts", Blessed Mother Teresa would say.

As a guideline, the Israelites would give a tithe or ten percent of the "first fruits" of their income to the "house of the Lord." In the New Testament, Paul does not mince words about supporting the Church and those who minister the Gospel. And Christ places pre-eminence on the poor.

I have never met anyone who practiced tithing ten percent of their income who lacked anything. Sometimes their "granaries" overflow the more they give away.

Give and gifts will be given to you, a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap" (Lk 6:38)

The poverty of sacrifice is one in which we view our excess, less as play money, and more as "my brother’s" next meal. Some are called to sell everything and give it to the poor (Mat 19:21). But all of us are called to "renounce all our possessions"—our love for money and love of the things which it can buy—and to give, even, from what we do not have.

Already, we can feel our lack of faith in God’s providence.

Lastly, the poverty of sacrifice is a posture of spirit in which I am always ready to give of myself. I tell my children, "Carry money in your wallet, just in case you meet Jesus, disguised in the poor. Have money, not so much as to spend, as to give."

This kind of poverty has a face: it is generosity.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?  (Mal 3:10)

...this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood. (Mar 12:43-44)


GEERTGEN tot Sint Jans, 1490


WE contemplate in the Third Joyful Mystery that Jesus was born in neither a sterilized hospital nor a palace. Our King was laid in a manger "because there was no room for them in the inn."

And Joseph and Mary did not insist on comfort. They did not seek out the finest, though they rightly could have demanded it. They were satisfied with simplicity.

The authentic Christian’s life should be one of simplicity. One can be wealthy, and yet live a simple lifestyle. It means living with what one needs, rather than wants (within reason). Our closets are usually the first thermometer of simplicity.

Neither does simplicity mean having to live in squalor. I am certain that Joseph cleaned out the manger, that Mary lined it with a clean cloth, and that their little quarters were tidied as much as possible for Christ’s coming. So too should our hearts be readied for the Savior’s coming. The poverty of simplicity makes room for Him.

It also has a face: contentment.

I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. (Phil 4:12-13)

The Visitation
Mural in Conception Abbey, Missouri


IN the Second Joyful Mystery, Mary sets off to assist her cousin Elizabeth who is also expecting child. Scripture says that Mary stayed there "three months."

The first trimester is usually the most tiring for women. The rapid development of the baby, changes in hormones, all the emotions… and yet, it was during this time that Mary impoverished her own needs to help her cousin.

The authentic Christian is one who empties himself in service for the other.

    God is first.

    My neighbour is second.

    I am third.

This is the most powerful form of poverty. It’s face is that of love.

...he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave... becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.  (Phil 2:7)

WHILE meditating in the "school of Mary", the word "poverty" refracted into five rays. The first…

First Joyful Mystery
"The Annunciation" (Unkown)


IN the first Joyful Mystery, Mary’s world, her dreams and plans with Joseph, were suddenly changed. God had a different plan. She was shocked and afraid, and felt no doubt incapable of so great a task. But her response has echoed for 2000 years:

May it be done to me according to your word.

Each of us is born with a specific plan for our lives, and given specific gifts to do it. And yet, how often do we find ourselves envying our neighbours talents? "She sings better than me; he is smarter; she is better looking; he is more eloquent…" and so on.

The first poverty which we must embrace in imitation of Christ’s poverty is the acceptance of ourselves and God’s designs. The foundation of this acceptance is trust—trust that God designed me for a purpose, which first and foremost, is to be loved by Him.

It is also accepting that I am poor in virtues and holiness, a sinner in reality, totally reliant on the riches of God’s mercy. Of myself, I am incapable, and so pray, "Lord, have me mercy on me a sinner."

This poverty has a face: it is called humility.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)


St. Francis of Assisi

"St. Francis of Assisi" by Michael D. O'Brien


THE world is inundated with "Christian words." But what it thirsts for is "authentic" Christian witness.

Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. —POPE PAUL VI, Evangelization in the Modern World

What should the modern Christian look like?

The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice. Without this mark of holiness, our word will have difficulty in touching the heart of modern man. It risks being vain and sterile. —Ibid.

Paul VI also mentions "poverty and detachment". It is this word poverty which speaks to me this morning…

Midnight is Nigh

Midnight... Almost


WHILE praying before the Blessed Sacrament two weeks ago, one of my colleagues had the image of a clock flash in his mind. The hands were at midnight… and then suddenly, they jumped back a couple of minutes, then moved forward, then back…

My wife likewise has a reoccurring dream where we are standing in a field, while dark clouds gather on the horizon. As we walk toward them, the clouds move away.

We should not underestimate the power of intercession, particularly when we invoke God’s Mercy. Nor should we fail to understand the signs of the times.

Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation. –2 Pt 3:15

SO long as you breathe, Mercy is yours.

    Christ is a divine judge with a human heart, a judge who wants to give life. Only unrepentant attachment to evil can prevent him from offering this gift, for which he did not hesitate to face death. –Pope John Paul II, General Audience, Wednesday, 22 April 1998

Quickly! Fill Your Lamps!

Oil Lamp


I RECENTLY met with a group of other Catholic leaders and missionaries in Western Canada. During our first night of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, a couple of us were suddenly overcome with a deep sense of grief. The words came to my heart,

    The Holy Spirit is grieved over ingratitude for the wounds of Jesus.

Then a week or so later, a colleague of mine who was not present with us wrote saying,

For a few days I have had the sense that the Holy Spirit is brooding, like brooding over creation, as if we are at some turning point, or at the beginning of something big, some shift in the way the Lord is doing things. Like we now see through a glass darkly, but soon we will see more clearly. Almost a heavyness, like the Spirit has weight!

Perhaps this sense of change on the horizon is why I continue to hear in my heart the words, "Quickly! Fill your lamps!" It’s from the story of the ten virgins who go out to meet the bridegroom (Matt 25:1-13).

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Conceiving Jesus in You

Mary Carries the Holy Spirit

Karmel Milosci Milosiernej, Poland


YESTERDAY’s liturgy marks the end of Pentecost week–but not the profound necessity in our lives of the Holy Spirit and His spouse, the Virgin Mary.

It has been my personal experience, having traveled to hundreds of parishes, meeting tens of thousands of people–that souls who open themselves to the activity of the Holy Spirit, coupled with a healthy devotion to Mary, are some of the strongest apostles I know.

And why should this surprise anyone? Wasn’t it this combination of heaven and earth over 20 centuries ago, that wrought the incarnation of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ?

That is the way Jesus is always conceived. That is the way He is reproduced in souls… Two artisans must concur in the work that is at once God’s masterpiece and humanity’s supreme product: the Holy Spirit and the most holy Virgin Mary… for they are the only ones who can reproduce Christ. –Archbishop Luis M. Martinez, The Sanctifier