Another Mary

Today was a most unusual start to Advent.  I spent most of the day venerating a 1st class relic of St. Mary Magdalene which was on exposition at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA.  This is only the second time the relic has ever left France and its first trip to the United States.  Mary Magdalene, I believe, is an appropriate Saint to begin Advent.  As we look forward to Christ’s second coming, we can look back to the garden of resurrection and recall that Mary Magdalene stayed when others left.  She sought Jesus and was the first to see the risen Savior.  I pray for her intercession that I might know her true devotion to Jesus.

1st Class Relic of St. Mary Magadelene -- tibia bone

Relic of St. Mary Magdalene to visit U.S.

Georgia Bulletin article



Full Circle

It has been a very busy couple of weeks for me.   My Secular Franciscan fraternity and friars of my parish were planning and preparing our celebration of the Transitus of St. Francis.  It was the most solemn celebration I can recall in recent memory.  As part of our service, we had six characters who encountered Francis speak about their relationship.  I went first, speaking in the person of St. Clare–the first woman to follow his simple way and whose community is the Poor Clare nuns.  I feel that I really bonded with her last year–even taking a book with me to Rome last October that I’d begun and couldn’t put down.  Her encounter with Francis was life changing to her and I have a feeling she approached things one day at a time.  When she first heard his preaching in the piazza near her home, I don’t think she could have imagined how it would all play out in the end.  I don’t know that she saw her days lived out in a cloister.  Francis’ way of life — for a woman — was unheard of in that day.   At the end, Francis told his brothers that “I have done what was mine to do.  Now you do what is yours to do.”  Clare went the way that was hers to go–cloistered at San Damiano–the church most special to Francis as it is the first church he repaired — where the Cross spoke to him.

Then, there is Lady “Brother” Jacoba, a widow who lived Francis’ way of life of the Secular Order.  Besides the Blessed Mother Mary and is own mother, Lady Pica — Clare and Brother Jacoba are probably the two most important women of his poor little way.  Brother Jacoba delivered the items needed for burial — a new habit, candles, incense, and her own special almond cookies that Francis loved.  Brother Jacoba is recorded to be there when he died — Clare was not.  Poor Clare.  But, Clare did see him one last time as the brothers brought his body by San Damiano.   Surely there are facts and there are legends — but it is written there, as we read our character accounts at our Transitus — St. Clare and Lady “Brother” Jaboba.  We venerated a first class relic and shared bread — bread that I gave away since I just found out I am wheat intolerant.  We had a wonderful reception following the Transitus.  I went home to begin again early on Sunday, October 4th……

I feel that I came full circle in my faith life — the Feast of St. Francis on Sunday, October 4th coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Baptist church where I grew up.  I began the morning at 9:00Am Mass and stayed through the 10:45Am Mass homily — I wanted to hear both on the Feast of St. Francis.  Being a Franciscan parish, we had permission to celebrate the Feast at all the Sunday Masses.  After that,  I did what I had not done in ten years — I headed up to the Baptist church to join in the anniversary celebration.  I saw people I had not seen in over ten years.

One of my old youth group members is now a pastor.  He delivered a sermon that asked, “Jesus paid a great price on the cross for our salvation — when Jesus bought you, did he get a lemon?”  He went on to describe the ways in which professed Christians become “lemons” — wanting it all for no effort of their own.  I’ll remember that little analogy for a long time.  Lemons want great church programs but do not want to participate when they are provided.  Lemons want a beautiful sanctuary but do not tithe.  Lemons think the homeless should be fed but do not want to ladle the soup.  All the lemons expect to be in heaven one day.

The day was nearly over before one person — only one person the whole afternoon — sidled up next to me and whispered, “I hear you are Catholic?” Yes. ” What is it about the Catholic Church?”  I had mere nanoseconds to respond that it is the celebration of Mass — Jesus is not just a symbol.  I told him that a Catholic friend had helped me with some questions and suggested I go to a Mass.  It was the one Mass I attended and knew I wanted that Communion.  Jesus is not just a symbol — and — we do predate the Protestant Reformation.  That is as good as my nanoseconds allowed for a semi-thoughtful response.

So, at the end of the day, I’d heard two homilies and two and a half sermons and avoided wheat at the buffet lunch.   I saw three eras of youth ministers, my prom date, and a couple other crushes from my teens.  I’ve kind of lived my life one day at a time.  I never would have expected to be where I am today.  I live more on the interior than the exterior.  God has illumined my path one step at a time.  I have been to amazing places and seen great things — especially in the last ten years.  At the end of the day, I was very happy with my life.

I began this year writing about Mary and how Secular Franciscans should “express their ardent love for the Virgin Mary” (The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, 9) My fraternity received a precious gift this year — the gift of a beautiful — and large — statue of Mary.  We brought her to our Fall retreat at the Monastery in Conyers.  We brought her to our fraternity meeting yesterday.  We decided that she will go home with a different person every month along with a prayer journal — kind of like the Elijah Cup for priestly vocations.  I got her this month and set her up in my bedroom.  I wonder if she will talk to me like she talked to St. Therese of Lisieux?


Bringing Mary home

Holy Land Pilgrim Journal Day 6

Continuing with Day 6 of excerpts from my February 2000 Jubilee year Holy Land pilgrimage journal.

Mary visits Elizabeth at Ein Karem

Mary visits Elizabeth at Ein Karem

Day 6 – Sunday, 2/20/2000 – Old Jerusalem/Wailing Wall/Holocaust Museum/Ein Karem

Our day started with a visit to the Temple Mount and Wailing Wall.  Shoeless, we visit Al-Asqa, the Dome of the Rock.  At the Wailing Wall, I am able to place a small paper with my prayer petitions.  We visit the Dormition Abbey, the place of Mary’s “falling asleep,” which is a beautiful church.  The other Peter’s Way group from New York was also there and we all sang Ave Mariatogether.  Afterwards, we go to the Franciscan Church of the Cenacle to hold our Mass.  I do the first reading here also.  It is located near the traditional site of the Upper Room. 

After lunch, we visit the Holocaust Museum and this is my most emotional point of the day.  We visit the Children’s Memorial in memory of the children who died.  In the History Museum, they have many relics of the victims on display.  I paused before a case contain a young girl’s suitcase,  coat, and glasses.  I can’t take any more and hurry to the exit thinking I will never find it.  This epitomizes my inability to understand God.  I think about this all the way to Ein Karem where we visit the hometown of John the Baptist.  It is the place of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth at the Church of the Visitation.

I still get emotional when I recall and reflect on my visit to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.   There was a  school group on an educational guided tour during our visit.  They were young but of age to be wearing military fatigues and carry a rifle.  I couldn’t understand what they were being told but I didn’t really need to in order to have an idea.    It is inconceivable that anyone can deny the horrors happened.   The case with the young girl’s items was over half way through the museum.  I’d seen two thirds of the exhibits when I quickened my pace.  I was crying.  The closest I can come in my own genealogy is my Native American Cherokee ancestors who were unceremoniously removed from Georgia — the Trail of Tears

The web site for Yad Vashem includes photo exhibitions.   Make your own virtual visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.  This link will take you to the history museum 2 minute video.  [I viewed them fine without installing Hebrew language] We traveled a short distance to Ein Karem, the place of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth.  It is a peaceful place suited to the somber mood in which I’d left Yad Vashem.

Holy Land Pilgrim Journal – Day 2

Continuing with excerpts of Day 2 of my February 2000 Jubilee pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Day 2 – Wednesday, 2/16/00 – Nazareth/Yardinet

I am wide awake at 4 AM.  There is a lightning storm and it is raining hard.  I pull the curtains back to watch the storm over the Sea of Galilee.  I’m thinking of the words to a song my dad likes to sing called, “Walking the Sea.”  The verse goes, “out upon the Sea of Galilee one night, angry waves dashed in maddening height as the disciples sailed in fright over the deep.  Rowing against contrary wind, knowing not what might be the end, Jesus came He their dearest friend, walking the sea.  Walking the stormy sea, walking the rolling sea, Jesus at night came unto them walking the sea.”  I open my Bible to read Mat. 8:23-27.  I hear Jesus more often reminding me that “Lo’ He is with me always.”  Though I feel especially close to Him at church, meditating before the crucifix, or, in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel during Adoration; Jesus reminds me that I should not lose sight that He is always with me.  He comes to us just as He came to His disciples so many years ago.  He walks with us and I feel that presence more every day.

Today Mass was at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  I slipped back down to the grotto of Mary’s house after Mass and prayed a decade of the rosary.  Today we also visited the Jordan River.  Some like to be re-baptized here.  But, my childhood baptism is so etched in my memory [and a Polaroid photo] that I’ve no desire to be dipped in the Jordan.  I even surprised myself to realize I feel that strongly about it.  We are all baptized in the same water – once for all time.

I’ve been reflecting on the words I wrote in regards to feeling especially close to Jesus in church.  I do feel the presence of Jesus in the Catholic Church in a way I never felt it in my Baptist church.  In February 2000, it was all still so new to me.  It is hard to describe.  I was on staff at my Baptist church and had a key.  I spent time in the sanctuary alone.  After completing my weekly bulletin printing, I would often walk in to the sanctuary and sit.   It was a profound emptiness when compared to the feeling I get upon entering a Catholic Church.   I can’t stress enough the fact that Jesus is fully present in the Catholic Mass and in the Tabernacle.  We are invited to a meal, a banquet, and the Host is there. 

There are things I recall which I did not write.  We were scheduled for Mass at the Church of the Annunciation.  When we arrived, another pilgrim group from New York, led by our same tour company, was preparing to begin Mass in the same chapel.  After some quick inquiries about the schedule conflict, it was decided we would join them and our priests con-celebrated.  Never in my life could I have imagined myself in Nazareth, at the place venerated for the Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary, with a group of strangers from New York — celebrating Mass.  That may have been my first “a-ha” understanding of the Universal Church.

The other thing I recall and did not write — the baptismal site at the Jordan River smelled really bad.  I wrinkled my nose and managed to get close enough to fill a few small bottles.  That was close enough for me.

Mary Follows Me Into 2009

Happy New Year!  My first blogpost of 2009.  I am finally coming out of the fatigue I seem to get the last two weeks of the year.  It is a blur of Christmas, my birthday, and then the New Year arrives.  I seem to celebrate my birthday for an entire week.  I always celebrate New Year’s Eve by attending our Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God.  On New Year’s Day, I join with friends to celebrate the birthday of a friend whose birthday is January 1st.  This year on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, I watched the Vespers and Solemnity of Mary Mother of God from St. Peter’s on EWTN. Mostly because my Deacon friend said he was to be in the choir on Wednesday and serving communion on Thursday.  I may have seen him once.  I came closer to recognizing some of the security officers — from when I attended his deacon ordination in October.  I find that I do not make New Year resolutions — my SFO fraternity sort of does that for me.

In January, at our first SFO meeting of the year, we draw a name to pray for, a Franciscan saint to journey with, and a verse from scripture, or the Rule for the year.  The way this works is a person draws a name and that becomes the person to pray for all year.  Then, the person draws the saint and verse for the person whom they will pray for — make sense?  You do not draw your own saint or verse.  We begin this process by praying over the three baskets.  The person who just got their saint and verse then draws the next name. 

If you have been following my previous articles, it should not surprise you that I received this to follow all year–

“The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for [the Virgin Mary] by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.” — The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, 9

If there are two things that characterize 2008 for me, it is first a re-commitment to praying the daily office, well, daily; and secondly, a new devotion to the rosary.  The commitment to the liturgy of the hours has been accomplished simply by not turning on the TV when I first wake up and not turning it on when I first walk in the door from work.  I then discovered I could add Night Prayer.   I add my own petitions before praying the Our Father.  I am praying for people now in ways I never did before – and praying for them every day — twice a day.

The rosary — I had only been a random prayer of the rosary.  Various encounters had me rethinking this early last year.  My SFO fraternity decided to add a Franciscan Crown rosary apostolate.  Every Wednesday after our 7PM Mass, a few of us meet in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to pray the Crown.  We’ve been doing this every week for several months now.  The glorious thing is that it got me back to attending weekly Wednesday night Mass and I’m lectoring again.  [I took a long ministry break while I was finishing my college degree – graduated May 2006 – partly why I got out of the habit of praying the office – all the textbook reading and paper writing]  When I was in Rome in October, I prayed the Crown on Wednesday night — well — because it is what I do now.  While in Rome, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was celebrated.  In the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, I prayed a rosary where they had set up a special place for veneration of a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary.


Our Lady of the Rosary - Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Our Lady of the Rosary - Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva


In December, I really celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  On Fridays, I go to Holy Trinity, a nearby parish that has adoration every Friday and Mass every week night at 7PM.  On that Friday, it was a Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe.  There were some bilingual parts — but certainly weighted toward more Spanish.  This is what I love about the Catholic Mass — it didn’t matter.  I pick up words here and there and celebrate anyway.  I was with a few of my SFO friends.  I followed the procession around their parking lot and stayed for the pageant — the dramatization of Juan Diego and his visit to the bishop regarding Mary.  This was all Spanish — again — it didn’t matter.  I can follow the story.  At my parish on Sunday, it was decided to perform the drama in English at all the English Masses that weekend.  What a treat!   I bought a small Our Lady of Guadalupe statue at the Abbey Store yesterday.

Throughout the year, I also used Praying the Rosary with the Daughters of Paul in my car to pray the rosary every morning in my commute to work. 

What about my saint for the year?  I have St. Angela Merici 1470-1540 — a Third Order Franciscan whose feast day is January 27th.  I’ll post about her later this month. 

Praying that you have a wonderful and blessed 2009.