St Mary of Cleophas

(entered heaven some time in the first century)

Dear Marty,

I am glad to hear that your renovated liturgy committee is so successful.  Reverence, beauty, elegance and mystery are important elements of Christian worship, because they help elevate our hearts and minds beyond the petty concerns of the world.  I just hope your enthusiasm for such elements doesn’t lead you to the other extreme – which turns worship into a show.  The example of today’s saint can help you keep the balance.

We don’t really know much about her.  In fact, scholars clash when they try to go into detail.  The Bible indicates she was married to Cleophas.  It also calls her the Blessed Virgin Mary’s sister and the mother of the Apostle James the Lesser (son of Alphaeus) and Joses (aka Joseph).  These latter two are identified as Jesus’ relatives.  Without going into all the ins and outs, historical sources (especially the early historian Hegesippus) seem to confirm that Cleophas was St Joseph’s brother.  So the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mary of Cleophas were sisters-in-law.  (It would be odd if the Bible’s calling them “sisters” meant they were blood sisters, since both had the same first name.)  So that would make James and Joses Jesus’ cousins.  Get it?

I bring all this up not to confuse you, but to make a point.  Jesus, our Lord and God, didn’t save us by staying aloof from the nitty-gritty details of life in this world.  He lived in the midst of all the normal demands and mundane realities of family, work, politics, and culture that every person has to deal with.  He weaved the divine splendor right into our earthly tapestry.

Sometimes we can forget that.  We can stop talking to Jesus and Mary as intimate friends.  True, he is the King and she is the Queen – but baptism has made you and me members of the royal household.  If we lose that person-to-person dimension of our faith and prayer, the reverence and mystery of our liturgical worship can sometimes become merely spectacular instead of authentically inspiring.  And the devil loves when that happens.

Your loving uncle,


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