Monthly Archives: May 2021

Mary’s Visits

Our Lady of Lourdes Statue, Lourdes, France

Today’s Feast of Mary’s Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth points to more than the single visit recalled in the Gospel of Luke. In this mystery Mary promises “all generations” the blessing of her presence. Each generation knows her; occasionally over the years she visits some in apparitions. 

Three prominent apparitions of Mary have occurred in the last 500 years resulting in major Marian shrines –in Lourdes, Fatima and Mexico City. In 1858 Mary appeared to 14 year old Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes in France as she was gathering firewood. In 1917 Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima in Portugal. In 1531, she appeared to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego on a hillside outside of Mexico City. These are major pilgrimage sites today. Three liturgical feasts in our church calendar honor these apparitions.

The depictions of Mary in art follow closely, if not perfectly, the accounts the visionaries gave of the apparitions. Mary, arms folded in prayer, prays for her children on earth and she encourages them to pray with her.  

The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes made by Fabisch in 1864 and placed in the grotto at Lourdes in France (above) is a model for the many statues of Our Lady of Lourdes in churches and shrines throughout the world. We have one in our Lourdes Grotto in Jamaica, NY. (below)

Various images of Our Lady of Fatima exist; we have one in our monastery chapel.(above) Her bright white garments witness to the glory the visionaries saw surrounding her. She brings the glory of heaven to brighten the earth, as Jesus did at his transfiguration. “And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” (Mark 9:2-3)

Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe show her in the native dress of the time; she identifies with the native peoples then under colonial subjugation.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Contemporaries of Bernadette and the children of Fatima faced trials of another kind than the native peoples of Mexico. Secularizing governments promoted unbelief in society and wars were increasing in number and intensity. Mary’s appearances were not only the occasion of physical cures and healing. To ordinary people then and afterwards Mary’s appearances brought reassurance and renewed faith in the promise of God’s glorious power and presence. Their faith was real.

In his letter Laudato si’ Pope Francis calls upon Mary to visit us today as we struggle to care for the earth we have neglected. I like this image of Mary, holding in one hand Planet Earth and in the other her Son, Jesus Christ, who holds the Book of his life-giving Wisdom. “We can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom,” the pope says. May she hold in her hand our wounded world.

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary



Faith gives life and sends us on a mission. That’s what it did for Mary, Luke’s gospel says.

Mary believes the angel who announces in Nazareth the coming of Jesus, and she’s empowered by the message. So,  she sets out “in haste” for the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, who also was with child. It’s not an ordinary visit. She goes “in haste” because she’s filled with a sense of mission. She hurries to Judea to announce good news to her relatives serving in the temple of God.

Faith is not a burden; it empowers us. It does not cripple us, it enables.

 “Blessed are you who believed,” Elizabeth says to Mary.

“You too, my people, are blessed,” comments St. Ambrose, “ you who have heard and who believe. Every soul that believes — that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognizes his works.

“Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of you, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh only one woman can be the mother of Christ, but in the world of faith Christ is the fruit of all of us.”

As with Mary so with us, faith gives life and sends us on a mission..

Three years ago today we blessed our Mary Garden here. We will pray there today to Mary, Queen of All Creation..

READINGS for the 9th Week of Ordinary Time: May 31-June 5

     

MAY 31 Mon The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Feast

Zep 3:14-18a or Rom 12:9-16/Lk 1:39-56 

JUNE 1 Tue Saint Justin, Martyr (Ninth Week in Ordinary Time)

Memorial Tb 2:9-14/Mk 12:13-17

2 Wed Weekday [Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Martyrs]

Tb 3:1-11a, 16-17a/Mk 12:18-27 

3 Thu Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs Memorial

Tb 6:10-11; 7:1bcde, 9-17; 8:4-9a/Mk 12:28-34

4 Fri Weekday Tb 11:5-17/Mk 12:35-37 

5 Sat Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr Memorial Tb 12:1, 5-15, 20/Mk 12:38-44 

6 SUN THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (Corpus Christi) Solemnity

Ex 24:3-8/Heb 9:11-15/Mk 14:12-16, 22-26 

A feast of Mary occurs every month in the calendar. This month it’s the Visitation (May 31), placed between the Feast of the Annunciation (March 15) and the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) Mary brings good news to her older cousin Elizabeth, who will give birth to John. Mary always brings the Good News of her Son to us too.Three years ago, we dedicated our Mary Garden.

The memorials in the calendar signify important saints for remembrance. Charles Lwanga and Companions, June 3rd, recall the spread of the gospel to Japan;  Boniface, June 5th, recalls the gospel reaching the Germanic peoples. The Martyr Justin, June 1st, is remembered for introducing the gospel to the philosophers of the Roman world. 

The Book of Tobit is our first reading most of the week. Listen as this good man wrestles with the challenge of exile, blindness and the fears that come from personal loss. In the distance, rescue waits. Great story.

Morning and Evening Prayers: http://www.praydaybyday.org. Week 1

By What Authority?

“By what authority?”
Response to Mark 11:27-33 in a tercet
Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

They returned once more to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached him and said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me. ”They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they feared the crowd, for they all thought John really was a prophet. So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Mark 11:27-33

Learning by Doing

Our selections in our liturgy from the Book of Sirach end today with an old man’s reflections on growing in faith from his childhood. Far from the drudgery of rote learning, Sirach saw it take place in prayer and celebrating the Jewish feasts, bringing him wisdom and joy:

“When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom openly in my prayer. I prayed for her before the temple and I will seek her until the end…My heart delighted in her, my feet kept to the level path because I was familiar with her.”

The journey of faith begins from childhood. Fortunate are those who, like Sirach, get to know faith from the beginning of their lives and never cease to be instructed in her “secrets”. They will keep to the right path.

Sirach, “Ecclesiasticus”, was a staple source for the catechesis of the early Christian church. You can see why. The learning Sirach describes is not knowing short questions and answers and then you got it. Catechesis, as you see in Sirach, is a introduction to the mystery of God, which begins from childhood and carries on until the end.  It’s not a lesson in human behavior. It’s a prayerful search into what was, what is and what ever shall be. It goes far beyond the human world.

It’s learning by doing, and blessed are those who meet with this kind of “great instruction”. 

“Saint” Sirach pray for us and may we follow your example.

Saints Over Celebrities

In today’s readings in our liturgy from the Book of Sirach, the kindly Jewish father and grandfather offers advice on what people to follow, who are examples showing us how to live? He picks saints over celebrities. Some are remembered by society, some are not. 

For 6 chapters (44-50) Sirach cites names celebrated in Jewish history, from Adam to Nehemiah “who rebuilt our ruined walls.” They gave themselves to building up the people of Israel; they’re not just people in the news. They helped others and their nation achieve something. For Sirach they’re Israel’s litany of saints. He tells those who come after him to follow them.

Good advice for us too. In a society today obsessed with celebrities we need to study and follow the saints. Our church calendar offers a selection of them on certain days of the year, some recognized the world over, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the apostles, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa of Avila. They teach us how to live and are examples to follow.

There are saints and blessed men and women from our own countries who guide us too. Here in America, we have saints like St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Elizabeth Cabrini, St. John Neumann, Dorothy Day, the North American martyrs, to name of few.

What’s more, the saints to follow may not be formally recognized, the Book of Sirach notes. They’re saints we know and live with. Like Sirach, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et exultate” calls attention to ordinary holiness in our world found in “the saints next door”:  “Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.” (3) 

Ordinary men and women we’ve known, the “saints next door”,  guide and support us through life. God’s wisdom and grace is given through them. They’re there and they’re never mentioned in the media.