Fr. Joseph Sergott, O.P.
It was the summer of 1988. The Marian Year was drawing to a close. I was just a few weeks shy of entering the novitiate of the Western Dominican Province. So, I planned a Marian pilgrimage with my brother Larry (who also became a priest), which covered Fatima, Lourdes, Rome and Medjugorje in three short weeks.
I had yet to learn much about St. Dominic; but I remember that everywhere I went on pilgrimage I discovered a statue or an image of St. Dominic displayed in a prominent place. I remember especially the image of St. Dominic on the façade at the entrance to the main basilica at Lourdes. He was kneeling and receiving the rosary from the Baby Jesus and the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.
Since then I have learned much about the rosary itself. Many people question the use of devotional prayers, claiming that they cloud our focus on Christ. But the rosary is the Gospel Prayer: when we pray it, we enter into the sacred mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother. Traditions that lose their meaning in the Church, die out over the centuries. The rosary is as strong as ever-perhaps because it is a prayer that focuses on Christ and the grace-filled life that he lived for a short time on earth. When we pray it, the Blessed Virgin joins her prayers with ours.
On that pilgrimage, I will never forget the Living Rosary that we prayed on a hot July summer night at Lourdes. There were tens of thousands of pilgrims-perhaps as many as 50,000 that night. As we walked through the darkness with our lit candles and prayed the rosary in five languages, while singing the Lourdes hymn at the end of each decade, chills went down my spine. And as we sang the refrain all 50,000 of us raised our candles in unison in the air. It was a sight to behold.
Why were we all there? What were we hoping to experience? What were we searching for? I remember seeing many, many very ill people pushed in wheel chairs by volunteers. Lourdes was teeming with the sick and the dying, seeking Mary's intercession in their lives; seeking the healing power of the living God who has chosen to work his miracles through a humble, simple maiden that said "yes" to his request to be the Mother of his Son.
Exactly 130 years prior to that occasion, at that very same place, another simple, humble girl was out doing her daily chores gathering firewood for the family hearth when a blowing wind nearby grabbed her attention. Turning, she saw a lady dressed in white at the grotto of Massabielle, with a rosary in her hand. Over the next several months that lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, would appear to Bernadette Soubirous, and give her several requests, i.e., to dig under a nearby rock and to drink from a spring that initially was only a trickle of water and mostly mud, to have a church built upon that very spot, and to tell the priest who asked her name, "I am the Immaculate Conception."
The young 14-year-old peasant girl could never have understood the dogma defined only four years earlier in 1854 by Pope Bl. Pius IX that proclaims that the Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. (Ineffabilis Deus, DS 2803)
In retrospect, the apparitions at Lourdes still pose a challenge to many. Supposedly, Massabielle was a garbage dump before it became famous as being the grotto where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared. This was a point of contention by the civil authorities at the time who doubted the veracity of the apparitions. They asked how the Virgin Mary could chose such a profane place. But keep in mind that the Messiah was born in a stable and afterwards was laid in a feeding trough that had been used for barnyard animals! When the sacred enters the profane, it sanctifies it.
St. Bernadette has many of the attributes of those chosen by the Blessed Virgin Mary over the centuries, e.g. the children of Fatima, St. Catherine Labouré, San Juan Diego, the children of La Salette, etc. They all have been humble people who are simple, detached, without guile, chaste, obedient, faithful, and dismissed by the world as being insignificant. All of these characteristics (and more) represent the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.
I want to dispel the romanticism surrounding the 14-year girl that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to at the grotto of Massabielle. From the day that the apparitions began until the day she died, St. Bernadette suffered tremendously both spiritually and physically. She was chastised by civil authorities, by some ecclesiastical authorities and by many, many people who thought she was a fraud. In many ways, she reminds me of the virgin-martyrs of the early Church. Like them she proved victorious over those who were more sophisticated, brighter and had more standing in the world. If you have noble aspirations of following the example of St. Bernadette, you will need the heart of a lion and a faith that moves mountains.
In the 150 years since the apparitions, many people have tried to debunk or take advantage of the Lourdes story. Early on scientists were commissioned to study the water with the hope that it could be bottled and sold because of some supposed rare healing properties; but, in the end all they could conclude was that it is pure spring water. However, our Church is an Incarnational Church where the Lord himself blesses us through sacraments that use pure elements of the earth, touched by the divine, to cleanse, feed, and heal us and deepen our faith in Him. If pure water from the earth (or from the heavens) can be used with the baptismal formula to wash away our sins and make us children of God reborn in the image of Jesus Christ, perhaps some water bubbling up from a spring near a grotto, mixed with a little mud and a little faith can also work miracles.
by Fr. Peter Do, O.P.
As a campus minister and college chaplain at the University of Oregon Newman Center, I get the privilege of mentoring and ministering with many faithful and talented college students. For many college students, going off to college is the first time in life that they leave their parent’s house to be on their own. It can be overwhelming since they now must juggle the demands of study, work, and other "adulting" responsibilities, such as taking care of car payments and rents. It also means more freedom from mom and dad. With the ability to make their own choices, sometimes they don’t make the best choices and fail to learn from their mistakes.
To help them make better choices, I thought to ask Mother Mary for her advice on what she might give to college students. Here are three things that she would say to college students: First, don’t be afraid to ask for help. At the wedding of Cana, Mary noticed that a newly-wed couple ran out of wine. She was not afraid to ask Jesus for help (cf. Jn. 2:3). As a college student, you will encounter problems and perhaps even a crisis, like flunking a course or losing a first love. It can be paralyzing and devastating. I remember one student walking into the Newman Center one day in tears and shared that she flunked her courses and would be kicked out of school. She asked for help and with the support of the staff and her peers at the Newman Center, she got a second chance and changed her major. She has since graduated and is now the director of youth and young adults ministry.
Second, look for service opportunities. After hearing that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, Mary quickly made the long trip to help her. With the increased use of social media like Facebook and Instagram, one sad consequence is that it breeds narcissism. Students tend to be more concerned about themselves than others, spending a lot of time looking at how many followers and likes they get on social media. Instead, focus on helping others. Like Mary, say "I’m the Lord’s servant." (Lk. 1:38) After hurricane Katrina, many of our college students spent a week helping the community in New Orleans recover and rebuild homes.
Finally, take a digital sabbath. If you are experiencing anxiety and feel overwhelmed, take a break, find a church or a quiet place to rest, and spend quality time talking with Mary’s son Jesus. Mary and Joseph also experienced anxiety when they went searching for little Jesus (cf. Lk 2:48), and found peace when they found him in the Temple. A digital Sabbath is a break and rest from using social media, texting, and other forms of electronic communication. Instead, connect face to face with a friend. During this last Lenten season, many students at the Newman Center gave up social media for the whole of Lent! Try it this upcoming Lenten season and see if you experience more peace.
In this column of Light & Life we are adding the Blessings & Petitions Corner for Confraternity members to share with us either how God has blessed them through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to request prayers from Confraternity members for a pressing need.
All submissions need to be brief and succinct because of limited space. Everything that is submitted for the Corner will be considered public domain.
Please pray for my husband who has been living with leukemia and double pneumonia for over a year now. His strength has been greatly weakened by the cancer and I ask that the merciful Lord relieve him of this suffering, should it be his will.
Elizabeth, Lake Forest, CA
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Mary Fazio who died on November 10, 2017. Mary volunteered at the Rosary Center for 40 hours a week for over 35 years. She was instrumental in supporting the mission of the Rosary Center with her prayers, time and financial assistance.
Cecelia, Portland, OR
It's an honor to be a member of the Rosary Confraternity. I enjoy praying the rosary. Please pray for healing for my husband, Bill, who has leukemia and also suffers from heart blockages and side effects from medications, and for my brother-in-law, Barry, who is recovering from kidney transplant surgery. Please pray also for the donor of his kidney and the donor's family.
Please pray for my son who struggles with addiction and mental illness, and for all families who endure through these struggles, that they will be given the help they need.
AN APOLOGY TO OUR FOREIGN FRIENDS
We regret we can no longer accept foreign cash or checks, as our financial institutions will not deal with banknotes. For some time, the banks have made depositing Canadian and other non-U.S. currency increasingly difficult, but now they have made it impossible. As we move into what appears to be a more and more restrictive financial future, we must ask our non-US. benefactors to make their gifts by credit card, checks or money orders payable in U.S. funds from U.S. banks. We deeply regret this inconvenience, and thank you – sincerely! – for your cooperation.
Certitude of Truth - Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P. summarizes a number of Pope Benedict XVI’s many published works. Topics included are as varied as the liturgy, Christ, philosophy, the relation of faith to reason, moral theology, and conscience.
Mater Eucharistiae - The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, created this beautiful musical recording for your collection. It contains 15 selections of Sacred Music dedicated to Jesus through Mary. CD includes compositions written by the sisters along with a selection of modern and ancient hymns and chants in English and Latin.
The Rosary Mysteries, Meditations & Music - This CD, recorded by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, includes all 20 mysteries of the Rosary, with opening and closing prayers, brief meditations, and concludes with three bonus songs.
Contemplative Rosary - Pray the Rosary like a saint, with St. John Paul II and St. Theresa of Avila as your guides, this book will show you how to transform the rote recitation of prayer into profound worship of Christ, drawing your heart to bow in awe before the Triune God, whom the Rosary reveals to us. (Items available at store.rosary-center.org)
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