Dear Friends of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
“I am the Good Shepherd” our Blessed Lord says in today’s Gospel. He is the Good Shepherd because He “lays down His life for His sheep.” (Jn. 10:11) Our Lord goes on to say that He has other sheep which he must bring into His fold. (Jn. 10:16) This should remind us of a parable our Lord spoke on another occasion: The parable of the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep in the desert to go and seek the one that was lost. (Lk. 15:4-7) Often when we hear this parable, we think of the conversion of the sinner, the one sheep gone astray that our Lord went to find. We do well to think so, because we are all sinners, and, more than likely, our Lord has come in search of us more than once. We should be extremely grateful for His patience and mercy towards us. Yet, it would be beneficial as well to think on the ninety-nine left in the desert. Over these last few weeks we have felt like the “ninety-nine just” left in the desert. Perhaps we are asking ourselves: why? Why is our Lord allowing us to suffer the absence of His Physical Presence in the Eucharist, and the physical assistance at Mass? We know by Faith that God only permits evil when He can bring about a greater good. The parable of the Good Shepherd shows us what kind of good our Lord is seeking. He is seeking the sheep that are lost. He is seeking the conversion of sinners. Just as the ninety-nine sheep do not know where the Good Shepherd went, nor how close He is to finding the lost sheep, so we cannot see how much good the Good Lord is bringing about in the current crisis. We cannot see, (and the media certainly does not report!), how many families have started to say the Rosary, how many people are turning to God, how many souls have repented of their sins and seek to amend their life because of the ongoing pandemic.
So what does this mean for us? It means that if we are one of the lost sheep, we need to repent. Now! We have already had more than a month of chastisement. “Harden not our hearts,” (Ps. 94:8) lest something worse befall us. If, on the other hand we are one of the 99 left in the desert, we must not go astray. If we are in the state of grace, we must not fall. We should rejoice that our Lord is searching for His lost sheep. We must pray that they quickly hear our Lord’s voice and be “converted to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls,” as St. Peter calls our Saviour in today’s Epistle. (I Peter 2:25)
St. Peter also tells us that our Lord set us an example in suffering for us and “that we should follow in his steps.” In other words, our Lord wants us to cooperate in seeking the conversion of sinners, not only by prayer, not only by speaking the truth to our family and neighbours, but also and especially by offering up our sufferings for their conversion. At this time, we need to offer up the sufferings caused by being left in the spiritual desert, separated from the Real Presence of our Lord, and deprived of the Mass and the sacraments.
Please, do not misunderstand. This in not a suffering or penance we should desire; just as we cannot kill ourselves, even if we are willing to “lay down our life for a friend.” As our Lord has permitted this suffering to come upon us, however, we, like the saints, must offer it up “until the appointed time.” (II Kings 24:15) When our Lord has rescued the lost sheep he went to find, He will return to the “ninety-nine just” who have persevered in waiting for Him. Then, we will once again rejoice in His presence. In the meantime, we ought to pray every day that “the appointed time” comes as soon as possible.
One prayer which I especially recommend is the Regina Caeli (which replaces the Angelus during Eastertide). Did you know that the Regina Caeli has a historical connection with epidemics? You can read about that in the excerpt from Dom. Geuranger below. I would encourage you to pray this prayer everyday, even three times a day if possible, to beseech Our Lord that we may have joy of assisting at public Masses again in our churches as soon as possible.
Wishing you a blessed week,
Excerpt from The Liturgical Year of Abbot Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.,
“There is a venerable tradition connected with this joyous anthem, the Regina Caeli. It is related that a fearful pestilence raged in Rome, during one of the Easters of the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great.
“In order to propitiate the anger of God, the holy Pope prescribed a public procession of both people and clergy, in which was to be carried the portrait of our blessed Lady painted by St. Luke. The procession was advancing in the direction of St. Peter’s; and as the holy picture, followed by the Pontiff, was carried along, the atmosphere became pure and free from pestilence. Having reached the bridge which joins the city with the Vatican, a choir of angels was heard singing above the picture, and saying: ‘Rejoice, O Queen of heaven, alleluia! for He whom thou didst deserve to bear, alleluia! hath risen, as He said, alleluia!’ As soon as the heavenly music ceased, the saintly Pontiff took courage, and added these words to those of the angels: ‘Pray to God for us, alleluia!’ Thus was composed the Paschal anthem to Our Lady. Raising his eyes to heaven, Gregory saw the destroying angel standing on the top of the Mole of Hadrian (The Emperor Hadrian’s tomb built circa 130), and sheathing his sword. In memory of this apparition the Mole was called the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, and on the dome was placed an immense statue representing an angel holding his sword in the scabbard.”
Regina coeli laetare, alleluia,
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Oremus: Deus qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus, ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom thou didst merit to bear, alleluia. Has risen, as He said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who through the resurrection of Thy Son Jesus Christ gave rejoicing to the world, grant, we pray, that through His Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joy of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.