Category Archives: Environment

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Noah

Thanksgiving is a good time to remember our blessings, starting with Creation itself . “All it takes is one good person” like Noah, Pope Francis says in “Laudatory Si’. Here’s his prayer:

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty,
not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Mother Cabrini

Mulberry Street, New York City, ca.1900

From 1880 to 1920 more than 4 million Italian immigrants came to the United States, mostly from rural southern Italy. Many were poor peasants escaping the chaotic political situation and widespread poverty of a recently united Italian peninsula.

Almost all the new immigrants came through Ellis Island; many settled in the crowded tenements of the New York region, where men found work in the subways, canals and buildings of the growing city. The women often worked in the sweatshops that multiplied in New York at the time. Almost half of the 146 workers killed as fire consumed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911, were Italian women.

Over time, the immigrants moved elsewhere and became prominent in  American society, but at first large numbers suffered from the over-crowding, harsh conditions, discrimination and cultural shock they met in cities like New York. Many returned to Italy with stories of the contradictions and injustices lurking in “the American dream.”

Mother Maria Francesca Cabrini

Mother Maria Francesca Cabrini (1850-19170), founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an order of women missionaries , came to America in 1889 at the urging of Pope Leo XIII to serve the underserved poor. Her work is succinctly described on the website of the Cabrini Mission Foundation.

“She proceeded to found schools, orphanages, hospitals and social services institutions to serve the needs of immigrants in the United States and other parts of the world. Despite poor health and frailty, Mother Cabrini crossed the ocean 25 times during 29 years of missionary work, and with her sisters founded 67 institutions in nine countries on three continents – one for each year of her life.

Mother Cabrini was a collaborator from the start of her missionary activity. She was a woman of her time, yet beyond her time. Her message – “all things are possible with God” – is as alive today as it was 110 years ago. Mother Cabrini lived and worked among the people, poor and rich alike, using whatever means were provided to support her works. She was a progressive, strategic visionary, willing to take risks, adaptable to change, and responsive to every opportunity that arose to help others. In recognition of her extraordinary service to immigrants, Mother Cabrini was canonized in 1946 as the “first American saint,” and was officially declared the Universal Patroness of Immigrants by the Vatican in 1950.”

Be good to have leaders like her today in the church, as well as in society, wouldn’t it? “… a progressive, strategic visionary, willing to take risks, adaptable to change, and responsive to every opportunity that arose to help others.”

Her feastday is November 13th. “Mother Cabrini, pray for us.”

St. Martin of Tours, November 11

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Martin of Tours is a saint worth reflecting on. Saints are the antidotes to the poison of their times, Chesterton said,  so what poison did Martin confront?

One was the poison of militarism. Martin was born into a military family in 316,  his father a Roman officer who arose through the ranks and  commanded the legions on the Roman frontier along the Rhine and Danube rivers. When his son was born his father saw him as a soldier like himself. He named him Martin, after Mars, the god of war.

Rome was mobilizing then to stop invading barbarian tribes, and soldiers, like the emperors Constantine and Diocletian, were its heroes.  But Martin wanted nothing to do with war. As a young boy he heard a message of peace and non-violence from Christians he knew. Instead of a soldier, he became a Christian catechumen, over his father’s strong objections.

Martin was a lifelong peacemaker. He died on his way as a bishop to settle a dispute among his priests.

Another poison Martin confronted was the poison of careerism. Elected bishop of Tours by the people, Martin adopted a lifestyle unlike that of other bishops of Gaul, who were increasingly involved in imperial  administration and adopting the privileged style that came with it.

Bishops set themselves up in the cities;  Martin preferred to minister in the country, to the “pagani”, the uneducated poor.

Are the poisons of militarism and careerism around today? We remember our war veterans today.So many died in terrible wars these 100 years and many bear the scars of war. Militarism, the glamorizing of war, is still around.  So is careerism .

The story that epitomizes Martin, of course, is his meeting with a beggar in a cold winter as he was coming through the gate in the town of Amiens, still a soldier but also a Christian catechumen. He stopped and cut his military cloak in two and gave one to the poor man. That night, the story goes, Christ appeared to him in a dream, wearing the beggar’s cloak. “Martin gave me this,” he said.

Pope Benedict XVI commented on this event.

“ Martin’s gesture flows from the same logic that drove Jesus to multiply the loaves for the hungry crowd, but most of all to leave himself to humanity as food in the Eucharist… It’s the logic of sharing.

May St Martin help us to understand that only by a common commitment to sharing is it possible to respond to the great challenge of our times: to build a world of peace and justice where each person can live with dignity. This can be achieved if an authentic solidarity prevails which assures to all inhabitants of the planet food, water, necessary medical treatment, and also work and energy resources as well as cultural benefits, scientific and technological knowledge.”

Well said.

In medieval Europe farmers, getting ready for winter at this time, put aside food and meat for the cold days ahead. Martin’s feast day was a reminder to them to put aside something for the poor. The poor are always with us; are we remembering them?

Today  Veterans’ Day in the USA honors those who fought in our country’s wars. It was originally called Armistice Day celebrating the end of fighting between the Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918. The United States lost 116,516 troops in the 1st World War; other countries lost millions more. The wars that followed added to that count.

St. Martin de Porres

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November 3rd we remember St. Martin de Porres. Born in Lima, Peru, in 1579, Martin’s father was Spanish and his mother a freed black woman. He entered the Dominican order in 1603 as a brother and tended the sick poor in the neighborhood as a nurse and pharmacist.  He’s often shown with a broom, surrounded by animals, because he took care of the cats and dogs and birds that came looking for something to eat, as well as the sick whom he attended to.

In his wonderful encyclical Laudato Si, devoted to preserving and enhancing the environment, Pope Francis observes that sometimes the poorest environment can be changed by individuals bringing love and care into it.

“A wholesome social life can light up a seemingly undesirable environment. At times a commendable human ecology is practised by the poor despite numerous hardships. The feeling of asphyxiation brought on by densely populated residential areas is countered if close and warm relationships develop, if communities are created, if the limitations of the environment are compensated for in the interior of each person who feels held within a network of solidarity and belonging. In this way, any place can turn from being a hell on earth into the setting for a dignified life.” (LS 148)

I think that’s what Martin de Porres did. He turned places that were “a hell on earth into the setting for a dignified life.”

Extreme poverty, the pope continues, “can lead to incidents of brutality and to exploitation by criminal organizations. In the unstable neighbourhoods of megacities, the daily experience of overcrowding and social anonymity can create a sense of uprootedness which spawns antisocial behaviour and violence. Nonetheless, I wish to insist that love always proves more powerful. Many people in these conditions are able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome.”

You get the impression Pope Francis speaks from his own experience in these words. He probably would say today: that’s what saints like Martin de Porres do. They bring love where it’s needed.

Wikipedia has an excellent article on Martin de Porres

Martin de Porres, from an original portrait

Native Peoples, Colonists and Missionaries

H.Hudson halfmoon

For the injustices against the native peoples and the land God provided,“Lord, have mercy.”

For the brave missionaries that ministered to them. “Thanks be to God.”

The native peoples are often forgotten in the story of the “discovery” of America. Our heroes tend to be the settlers who came on ships, built towns and cities, explored the land and gave us what we have today. But it came at a price.

If you ever visit New York harbor by way of the Staten Island Ferry look at the  shores now crowded by the buildings and piers of today.  Native peoples once fished, hunted and traded in large numbers here. The water was fresher then, fish and shellfish plentiful, the air cleaner, the earth less damaged by human activity.

The National Museum of the American Indian , located in the old customs house across from Battery Park near the ferry, is a good place to remember the role of the native peoples in the story of America. They traded with the Europeans; they were their guides into an unknown land; they provided many of the foods that fed growing populations in Europe and America. They respected  the land more than those who came after them.

A young Indian woman, Kateri Tekakwitha and a Jesuit priest, Isaac Jogues, are figures to remember  in the customs house. They represent the clash of civilizations that occurred when Europeans and native peoples met. Across the street from the customs house is the statue of Christopher Columbus.

Europeans brought disease.  Smallpox  disfigured and partially blinded Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk woman who lived along the Mohawk River past Albany, NY. The native peoples had no immunity to small pox and other diseases. Three out of ten died from it. By some estimates 5 million native people lived in North America when the first Europeans arrived. Within a hundred years there were only 500,000. Besides disease, the major cause of their diminishment, the native peoples also suffered from wars and greed.
Museum of American Indian

At the museum, besides Kateri Tekakwitha remember Father Isaac Jogues, the Jesuit missionary who, while attempting to advance peace-keeping efforts with the Mohawks at Ossernonon (Auriesville) was killed by a war party on October 18, 1646. Previously, in 1642  Jogues had been captured by this same tribe. He escaped in 1643, fled here to New Amsterdam (New York City) and then was put on a ship for France by a kindly Dutch minister.

The French missionaries came to the New World out of the turmoils of the Old World expecting a new Pentecost among the native peoples here, but it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, disease and political maneuvering made the native peoples suspicious of  foreigners and the seed of the gospel fell on hard ground.

Letters back to France from the early Jesuits–marvelously preserved in “The Jesuit Relations”–often express the missionaries’ disappointment  over their scarce harvest, but it didn’t stop them. They were well grounded in the mystery of the Cross.

 “My God, it grieves me greatly that you are not known, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to you, that sin has not been driven from it. My God, even if all the brutal tortures which prisoners in this region must endure should fall on me, I offer myself most willingly to them and I alone shall suffer them all.” St. John de Brebéuf

The Indian woman and the priest persevered. We forget how difficult it is when civilizations clash– like now. We remember the Christian missionaries: Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests and their compassions on October 19th..

Columbus, Central Park, NYC
Indian behind symbols of European trade and expansion: Customs House, New York City

Here’s a video on the Jesuit Martyrs at Auriesville:

Saints of Auriesville

The Season of Creation, September 1st -October 5th

1 September 2022, Pope Francis writes:

Dear brothers and sisters!

“Listen to the voice of creation” is the theme and invitation of this year’s Season of Creation.  The ecumenical phase begins on 1 September with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and concludes on 4 October with the feast of Saint Francis.  It is a special time for all Christians to pray and work together to care for our common home.  Originally inspired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this Season is an opportunity to cultivate our “ecological conversion”, a conversion encouraged by Saint John Paul II as a response to the “ecological catastrophe” predicted by Saint Paul VI back in 1970. 

If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance.  On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home.

The sweet song of creation invites us to practise an “ecological spirituality” (Laudato Si’, 216), attentive to God’s presence in the natural world.  It is a summons to base our spirituality on the “loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion” (ibid., 220).  For the followers of Christ in particular, this luminous experience reinforces our awareness that “all things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (Jn 1:3).  In this Season of Creation, we pray once more in the great cathedral of creation, and revel in the “grandiose cosmic choir” made up of countless creatures, all singing the praises of God.  Let us join Saint Francis of Assisi in singing: “Praise be to you, my Lord, for all your creatures” (cf. Canticle of Brother Sun).  Let us join the psalmist in singing, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” (Ps 150:6).

Tragically, that sweet song is accompanied by a cry of anguish.  Or even better: a chorus of cries of anguish.  In the first place, it is our sister, mother earth, who cries out.  Prey to our consumerist excesses, she weeps and implores us to put an end to our abuses and to her destruction.  Then too, there are all those different creatures who cry out.  At the mercy of a “tyrannical anthropocentrism” (Laudato Si’, 68), completely at odds with Christ’s centrality in the work of creation, countless species are dying out and their hymns of praise silenced.  There are also the poorest among us who are crying out.  Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent.  Likewise, our brothers and sisters of the native peoples are crying out.  As a result of predatory economic interests, their ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated on all sides, “provoking a cry that rises up to heaven” (Querida Amazonia, 9).  Finally, there is the plea of our children.  Feeling menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions, today’s young people are crying out, anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.

Listening to these anguished cries, we must repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems.  From its very first pages, the Gospel calls us to “repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt 3:2); it summons us to a new relationship with God, and also entails a different relationship with others and with creation.  The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars.  “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (Laudato Si’, 217).

As persons of faith, we feel ourselves even more responsible for acting each day in accordance with the summons to conversion.  Nor is that summons simply individual: “the ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion” (ibid., 219).  In this regard, commitment and action, in a spirit of maximum cooperation, is likewise demanded of the community of nations, especially in the meetings of the United Nations devoted to the environmental question.  

The COP27 conference on climate change, to be held in Egypt in November 2022 represents the next opportunity for all to join in promoting the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.  For this reason too, I recently authorized the Holy See, in the name of and on behalf of the Vatican City State, to accede to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, in the hope that the humanity of the 21st century “will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” (ibid., 65).  The effort to achieve the Paris goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C is quite demanding; it calls for responsible cooperation between all nations in presenting climate plans or more ambitious nationally determined contributions in order to reduce to zero, as quickly as possible, net greenhouse gas emissions.  This means “converting” models of consumption and production, as well as lifestyles, in a way more respectful of creation and the integral human development of all peoples, present and future, a development grounded in responsibility, prudence/precaution, solidarity, concern for the poor and for future generations.  Underlying all this, there is need for a covenant between human beings and the environment, which, for us believers, is a mirror reflecting “the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”.  The transition brought about by this conversion cannot neglect the demands of justice, especially for those workers who are most affected by the impact of climate change.

For its part, the COP15 summit on biodiversity, to be held in Canada in December, will offer to the goodwill of governments a significant opportunity to adopt a new multilateral agreement to halt the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species.  According to the ancient wisdom of the Jubilee, we need to “remember, return, rest and restore”.  In order to halt the further collapse of biodiversity, our God-given “network of life”, let us pray and urge nations to reach agreement on four key principles: 1. to construct a clear ethical basis for the changes needed to save biodiversity; 2. to combat the loss of biodiversity, to support conservation and cooperation, and to satisfy people’s needs in a sustainable way; 3. to promote global solidarity in light of the fact that biodiversity is a global common good demanding a shared commitment; and 4. to give priority to people in situations of vulnerability, including those most affected by the loss of biodiversity, such as indigenous peoples, the elderly and the young.

Let me repeat: “In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries – mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness – to stop destroying forests, wetlands, and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people”.

How can we fail to acknowledge the existence of an “ecological debt” (Laudato Si’, 51) incurred by the economically richer countries, who have polluted most in the last two centuries; this demands that they take more ambitious steps at COP27 and at COP15.  In addition to determined action within their borders, this means keeping their promises of financial and technical support for the economically poorer nations, which are already experiencing most of the burden of the climate crisis.  It would also be fitting to give urgent consideration to further financial support for the conservation of biodiversity.  Even the economically less wealthy countries have significant albeit “diversified” responsibilities (cf. ibid., 52) in this regard; delay on the part of others can never justify our own failure to act.  It is necessary for all of us to act decisively.  For we are reaching “a breaking point” (cf. ibid., 61).

During this Season of Creation, let us pray that COP27 and COP15 can serve to unite the human family (cf. ibid., 13) in effectively confronting the double crisis of climate change and the reduction of biodiversity.  Mindful of the exhortation of Saint Paul to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (cf. Rom 12:15), let us weep with the anguished plea of creation.  Let us hear that plea and respond to it with deeds, so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 16 July 2022,  Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

St. Teresa Benedicta and St. Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe
Teresa Benedicta

A number of martyrs are remembered in our liturgy in mid-August. August 9, we remembered Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, who died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz on today in 1942.

August 10th, we remembered Lawrence the Deacon, one of the most important martyrs of the early church.

August 14 we remember Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan priest, who also died in Auschwitz about a year before Edith Stein, August 14, 1941.

Peter Brown, an historian of early Christianity, says it wasn’t the bravery of Christian martyrs that impressed the Romans. The Romans were a macho people; war was in their blood. They prided themselves on dying bravely.

What the Romans marveled at was how Christian martyrs approached death. They saw something beyond death. They considered themselves citizens of another world, who followed Jesus Christ in how they lived. They believed in his promise of everlasting life.

Lawrence the deacon, for example, could have escaped Roman persecution, but he wouldn’t abandon the poor of Rome in his care. Jesus said take care of the poor.

Centuries later, Maximillian Kolbe was a priest who wouldn’t abandon the vocation God gave him.

Before World War II, Kolbe was active as a Franciscan priest, promoting devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. He ran a large, successful Franciscan printing enterprise in Warsaw.

In 1939, after invading Poland, the Nazi arrested him and a number of other Franciscans and imprisoned them for some months. They ransacked their printing place, probably hoping to intimidate them. Then, they left them go.

Instead of being intimidated, Kolbe began to house refugees from the Nazis, some of them Jews. That got him into trouble, so he was arrested again, on February 14th, 1941, and sent to Auschwitz to do hard labor.

Concentration camps like Auschwitz where Maximillian Kolbe and Sr.Teresa Benedicta died are the nearest thing to Calvary in modern times. More than 1500 of them were spread mostly through German occupied territories in Europe. Twenty million people died in the camps in the Second World War, 6 million were Jews. 1.3 million people went to Auschwitz; 1,1 million died there.

Five months after Kolbe entered Auschwitz, in July 1941, a prisoner from his barracks escaped. In reprisal, the Nazis took 10 men from the barracks to put them to death by starvation. One of them cried out that he had a wife and children who would never see him again. Father Kolbe stepped forward and offered to take the man’s place.

He was the last of the ten men to die of starvation and an injection of carbolic acid two weeks later, on August 14, 1941.

Many stories of Kolbe’s ministry among the prisoners in Auschwitz were told after his death when Auschwitz was liberated. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1983, who called him “Patron Saint of Our Difficult Age.”

He was a sign of God’s love in a place where God seemed absent.

Maximillian Kolbe’s death on the vigil of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven has been seen as a further sign. God’s hand reached into the dark horror of Calvary to save his Son. God reached out to Mary to bring her, body and soul, to heaven. God reached into Auschwitz and other camps of horror to bring suffering human beings to glory and peace.

Calming the Storms (Matthew 14:22-36)

Jesus storm at sea
The giant waves on the Sea of Galilee in Rembrandt painting would be hard to survive, let alone walk on, but that’s what Jesus did, Matthew’s gospel today tells us. Jesus walked on the waters and tamed them. Only God does that, the psalms say.

“You uphold the mountains with your strength.
You are girded with power.
You still the roaring of the seas
And the roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples. “ Psalm 65

We usually read the stories of the disciples in the storm at sea as stories of rescue, and they are. God saves us from the storms we face on our life journey. But first, the stories testify to Jesus’ mastery over creation. On the shore his power touched human beings, like the leper, the deaf and those who could not speak; on the sea he rules creation. “Truly, you are the Son of God,” his disciples say after he gets into the boat and the wind dies down. (Matthew 14,22-36)

In his encyclical on the environment “Laudato Si” Pope Francis emphasizes the power of God over creation. As creator and savior, God gives all things their dignity and purpose. Human beings are not lords of this world, God alone is.

The story of Peter in our gospel takes on new interest in that perspective. Jesus invites him to walk on the water, giving him a share in God’s power. But Peter’s fear and lack of faith overcomes him. He begins to sink.

In our unfolding environmental crisis (storms, winds, floods) are we like Peter, called to share God’s power but turning away from our responsibility to calm the waters? Too big for us to take on. If that’s so, we sink.

Sustainable Development Goals


We are living in a time of wars and climate change. Can we do anything? Let’s not be afraid of big ideas. Why not think big?

In September 2015 world leaders at the United Nations agreed to work for 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The goals aim to “eliminate poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change, while ensuring no one is left behind. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while also tackling climate change and environmental protection.” https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/

Cities have become an important focus for Sustainable Development, because today more than half the world’s population lives in cities and that number is expected to reach two-thirds by the year 2060. In cities “the battle for sustainability will be won or lost,” one UN expert remarked. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2018/07/un-forum-spotlights-cities-struggle-sustainability-will-won-lost/

The 11th goal of Sustainable Development is “making cities safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable by 2030. Sustainability differs from city to city, but quality of life means among other things, adequate housing, work and employment, clean water and air, access to public transportation.

Mayors throughout the United States have recognized the important role that cities can play in achieving the SDGs. In 2018, New York City was the first city to issue a report on its progress towards sustainability. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/international/downloads/pdf/NYC_VLR_2018_FINAL.pdf

Governments, civil society and the private sector are all called upon to contribute to the realization of these goals. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/05/mobilizing-citizens-of-the-world-to-achieve-the-2030-agenda/

At a time when countries are building walls and thinking only of themselves, why not think big? What can we do? Our church, at least here in the US doesn’t seem active enough.

Mary’s Visits: Fatima

When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth she said “all generations shall call me blessed, the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” All generations know her; occasionally over the years Mary visits some in apparitions. 

Three prominent apparitions of Mary have occurred in the last 500 years commemorated in major Marian shrines –in Mexico City, Lourdes and Fatima. In 1531, she appeared to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego on a hillside outside of 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. 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 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.

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 her Son, which we have in our Mary Garden. Creation seems to raise its voice in praise. Her Son, Jesus Christ, offers us 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.