Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

At Mass this morning, our pastor mentioned in his short homily that he had heard a talk given once, which he couldn’t go into detail about in such a limited time, but that he wanted to just share with us something he had found very interesting. 

He related how, with Noah, the rainbow signified an ark (arc) of promise; with Moses, the Ark of the Covenant signified God’s presence; and with Mary (and through her), since she herself is the Ark of the New Covenant, we have not only God’s presence but union with Him.

So this is what I’ll be reflecting on as I go about my day, this beautiful feastday of our Lady’s, which is the fourth anniversary of my consecration to Mary.  This 33-day renewal period has been a real challenge for personal reasons at home – I’ve been scattered, distracted, and living with much emotional upheaval, but plodded through with Mary’s encouragement and, I suspect, much help from the Holy Spirit.  I am eternally grateful.

From:  “In the End My Immaculate Heart Will Triumph”, page 79:

“To the souls who are consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary…. She [Mary] will bring all hearts into union and lead them into the embrace of Jesus.  Each one of us will become the sign of unity to all the world.”

Consecration Renewal – Day 33

Day 33 of Consecration Preparation from 2008 (or renewal)

Well here we are, Day 33. It’s been a joy and a challenge. During the span of my renewal period I lost my job, have been sick for about three weeks and weathered a few demanding situations on the homefront. On the other hand, I had some cherished hours in the garden, an unexpected visit from a long-time friend, and the peace that came from doing my renewal readings and prayers every day.

In terms of the blog, there were times when I had a good part of the day to myself, and I thought about doing a week’s worth of posts all at once to get a bit ahead, but Mother Mary said, “No, that is our daily time together,” and so it was. One evening last week, while I was praying, I believe Bishop Bello came to me; I felt a very strong presence, and I believe it was he. I have turned to him quite often over these past few weeks of sharing his work with you, to talk with him.

I want to thank Bishop Bello for his life and his work; the Holy Trinity and Mother Mary for sustaining me and guiding me through my renewal and here on this site, and all of you for sharing this renewal period with me, especially Carol, Pia, Ann, Terry and Ken – thank you for your prayers, support and comments. It means so much to me. 

On Day 23 I had a bit of a struggle with “the dance”, and Pia kindly came to my aid. As I was re-reading Luigi Santucci’s Foreword to Bishop Bello’s book (I had quoted from the Foreword on Day 1) I noticed something that had escaped me earlier, and so I share it now – it is a most fitting way to close:

In his love for Mary, Bello humbly and joyfully associates himself with that extraordinary personage of Anatole France: the jongleur de Notre Dame, who as a friar, wanted to offer the Virgin Mary no other veneration than dancing before her image – expressing his exuberant love in leaps and somersaults.

Thank you everyone, and do keep dancing.

Consecration Renewal – Day 32

Day 32 of Consecration Preparation from 2008 (or renewal)

From “Mary, Human and Holy” (Antonio Bello)
Chapter 31: Companion On Our Journey

[This is the last chapter]

Previously, the first half of each chapter consisted of Bishop Bello discussing Mary, and in the second half he spoke to Mary in a beautiful reflective prayer-like fashion. This final chapter is entirely addressed to Mary. I wish I could share it all, but here are a few selections; Bishop Bello helps us to realize that Mary is not only our companion on our lifelong journey, but very close to us throughout the course of each day.

Holy Mary, tender and strong mother…. Accept our wish to take your hand, and increase the pace of such weary travelers.  As pilgrims in faith, we seek the Lord’s face and contemplate you as an icon of human solicitude toward those in need.

Holy Mary, virgin of the morning…. give us the joy of sensing, even under the mist of dawn, the hopes of the new day… Give to our voices the joy of the Easter alleluia.  Fill with dreams the sands of our realism.  Help us to understand that it counts more to point out the buds sprouting on branches than to lament the fallen leaves.

Holy Mary, virgin of midday, give us the gladness of the light… Water our drought of grace in the palm of your hand… fill our jars with oil destined to burn before God…

Holy Mary, virgin of the evening, Mother of the hour when we return home and taste the joy of being accepted, sharing the gladness of sitting at supper with others, give us the gift of communion…. We ask it for the entire world, so that solidarity among peoples may be rediscovered as the only ethical imperative on which to base human society. Let the poor take their places, with equal dignity, at the table of all, and let peace be the aim of our daily tasks.

Holy Mary, virgin of the night…. Free us from the terror of shadows…. comfort with the strengthening glance of your eyes, anyone who has lost trust in life…. Do not leave us alone in the night to sing of our fears. Rather, if you come close to us in the darkness and whisper that you too are waiting for the light, the tears will dry on our faces. Then we will wake the dawn together. Amen.

Consecration Renewal – Day 31

Day 31 of Consecration Preparation from 2008 (or renewal)

From “Mary, Human and Holy” (Antonio Bello)
Chapter 30: Woman of the Final Hour

“Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

The Hail Mary…those few words…are they, “…pushing one toward the line separating time from eternity. Or are they drawing one back into a remote past laden with memories?”

Holy Mary, woman of the final hour, when the great evening comes for us and the sun sinks into twilight, come to our side to help us face the night. You have already experienced this with Jesus when, at his death, the sun was eclipsed and a great darkness fell over the whole earth. Stay with us too when we die. Place yourself under our cross and watch over us at our hour of darkness. Free us from the terror of the abyss. Even in the eclipse, give us rays of hope. Let death, however, find us alive!…

When our time comes to give ourselves over to the Father, and none of those present can respond to our pleas, as we sink into that loneliness which even our dearest loved ones cannot fill, offer us your head as our last cushion.

Consecration Renewal – Day 30

Day 30 of Consecration Preparation from 2008 (or renewal)

From “Mary, Human and Holy” (Antonio Bello)
Chapter 29: Woman of Our Time

Bishop Bello opens this chapter by describing our longing to have Mary in our midst in a way that was so foreign to me that it bothered me for hours. There are too many examples to list, but here are a few; he prefaces most of them by saying that we want to see Mary:

  • immersed in the town news
  • wearing modern clothes
  • shopping in the same supermarket
  • earning her bread like everybody else
  • parking her car next to ours
  • coming back from the beach
  • going skating
  • having one of our surnames
  • going to our highschool
  • having her name in the phonebook

I read the chapter three or four times, struggling with my feelings of discomfort at Bishop Bello’s images of Mary in these various everyday modern roles and circumstances and his insistence that “we want” to see her like this.  He’s being ridiculous, I told myself.  Who thinks of Mary or visualizes her like this?  

I was much more comfortable with language and a concept of Mary such as from this passage, a little further on:

She is always ready to give us a hand, to share her hope with us. With her impressive purity, she makes us feel our need for God. We want her to share with us moments of celebration and of tears, work in the office and at home, aromas of oven and laundry, tears of departures and arrivals.

Yes, this was better, for me.  I could relate to this.  Yet something continued to gnaw at me.  Why had I reacted so negatively to his words?  What was really at the bottom of my discomfort?  And then I realized what Bishop Bello had accomplished – he had gotten me to acknowledge to myself that I do indeed still have a comfort zone with Mary.  Never mind whether those early examples of Mary were truly the way Bishop Bello thinks of her or whether he used them as a way of expanding our viewpoint; the fact was, they affected me viscerally – they got me out of my head. 

Yes, I want Mary in my life in so many ways – to protect me, to intercede for me and my loved ones and even strangers, to help me and guide me, to sanctify me, to bring me closer to Jesus and the Holy Trinity.  Yes, I want her to be with me, to love me, and to allow me to serve her and the Lord. 

 But how often do I only allow her to be a witness to the events and circumstances of my life, rather than be a part of them?  How have I kept my distance?  From what areas of my life have I either failed to include her or downright excluded her?  Mary is a person, after all.  She wants a relationship; she wants to be somebody to us.  How many times have I caused her to cry because she was right in the room with me and I ignored her?  How many times has she wanted to accompany me somewhere and I went alone without inviting her?  How many times was she ready with advice but I asked others instead?

 Thank you, Bishop Bello. Your words were gentle but the impact was hard, as in giant wake-up call.

Holy Mary, when Jesus gave you to us as our mother, he made you our contemporary. Come to our side and listen to us as we confide in you the everyday anxieties that assail our modern life: low income, stress, an uncertain future, doubts, fears, loneliness, fractured relationships, lack of love and communication even with those dearest to us, the dullness of sin…. Make us feel your reassuring presence, so we will know that you always stand by our side.

Consecration Renewal – Day 29

Day 29 of Consecration Preparation from 2008 (or renewal)

From “Mary, Human and Holy” (Antonio Bello)
Chapter 28: Elegant Woman

Although the Book of Revelation portrays Mary as being clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars, and also wearing “fine linen, bright and pure”, Bishop Bello writes that Mary’s earthly elegance flowed from her “interior refinement”.

In the previous chapter we spoke of Mary’s beauty, both spiritual and physical, and we often link beauty with elegance. In her earthly life Mary did not wear elegant clothing or expensive jewels, yet I think of her elegance as manifesting itself externally in her calmness, her gentleness, her tone of voice and patience, and the contemplative manner in which she performed her daily tasks.

Just as we saw in the previous chapter that Mary’s physical beauty was linked to the beauty of God’s creation and was a means of drawing people to the knowledge of God, so too we see in this chapter that Bishop Bello must have had the same line of thought as he reflected on her elegance:

Perhaps in the intimacy of their home, Jesus might have enjoyed bestowing on his mother the names of the most perfumed plants, as the Church would come to do: rose of Sharon, lily of the valley, cedar of Lebanon, palm of Kadesh…. Perhaps Jesus was thinking specifically of her, the flower of beauty, when he said to the crowd: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these” (Mt 6:28-29).

Holy Mary, elegant woman, give us your apparel, acquaint us with your tastes. You know well that we are referring to those interior “garments” which adorned your earthly existence: gratitude, simplicity, kind words, transparency, tenderness, and wonder….

Help us discover in the splendor of nature and art the signs of God’s elegance.

The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother

In the comment section of the post for Day 25, Pia has done much research and left fascinating links regarding the way Catholics over the centuries have expressed their belief that Jesus appeared firstly to His Mother after His Resurrection.

In the space of a few short days, Pia has found this in the revelations of the mystics, the saints, in art and in contemplative reflections on the life of Christ and the Rosary.  I cannot help but think this is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, in terms of examples.

The image above is entitled “Resurrection of Christ and Apparition to His Mother”, by Roger van der Weyden (circa 1440). I am thrilled to see this work of art, for in it we see Jesus just stepping out of the sepulchre yet simultaneously appearing to His Mother in her room, just as we read in the revelations of Venerable Mary of Agreda, which I entered in the comment section of Day 25.

On the link that Pia left for us regarding this artwork, I was not able to save the image, but I am grateful to have also found it at this Pauline site, so that I could show it to you here. But what I am even more grateful for is that at that same site, we are guided to ponder a sentence from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, from #23:

Contemplating the Risen One, Christians rediscover the reasons for their own faith (cf. 1Cor 15:14) and relive the joy not only of those to whom Christ appeared – the Apostles, Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus – but also the joy of Mary, who must have had an equally intense experience of the new life of her glorified Son.

So while I am excited and avid to learn more about the Blessed Virgin’s mystical encounter with Jesus after His Resurrection, as it has evolved through our Catholic tradition in so many diverse mediums, what is far more important is that Mary will help us to experience what she experienced. Just as Mary helps to birth Jesus in us each day, so too will she help us to experience the intense joy of knowing a new life in the risen Christ, every day. The more we open our hearts, the more Mary can help us approach the level of intensity she experienced; she will lead us to Jesus, her risen and glorified Son.