Category Archives: Mary Garden

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.

Of Gates and Pearls

Gate of the Mary Garden at the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, NY

12th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)

Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Ever since the gates of Eden closed, the children of Adam have been searching for the tree of life from every corner of the earth. The world was not abandoned to utter darkness, however; the “true light that enlightens every man… was in the world,” though dimly (John 1:9-10). Whatever is true, good and beautiful in every pre-Christian philosophy was a glimpse of that Light shining in the darkness. The intricate design of micro and macro galaxies in the universe sing the praises of the Creator.

The Light shines as through a peephole in a vast, dark room… the “narrow gate” of which Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount. Even after the Light “came to his own home… his own people received him not” (John 1:11). Few find the Cross palatable.

The ego-destroying seed of the Cross does not germinate easily. Sometimes scattered seeds are devoured immediately by birds. Other times, they fall on rocky or thorny soil and have difficulty taking root (Matthew 13:4-7). Jesus warned the disciples to discern the time, place, and condition of hearts before throwing their pearls lest they are trampled underfoot.

Between these two teachings about the narrow gate and the pearls, Jesus inserted the Golden Rule: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets.” He who embodied the law of love perfectly, who was the narrow gate and the pearl, was finally trampled but not defeated. His life is our pattern: if we die with Christ, we will also live with him (Romans 6:8).

Mary, the Theotokos, wants to lead us safely by the hand through the narrow gate. She is our Mother.


Pray for us to God, O Queen of Heaven!

Photo art by Fr. Victor Hoagland, C.P. and Gloria M. Chang

The Regina Caeli is a 12th century antiphon in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary that is prayed during the Easter season in place of the Angelus. A legend records that during a pestilence in Rome, while the Regina Caeli was being prayed in procession with her image, angels were heard singing along and an end was put to the plague. Let us pray to our Queen with the angels to end the COVID-19 pandemic.