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Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple at Jerusalem


According to the tradition in the Eastern Church, when Mary was three years of age, Joachim and Anne took her to the Temple so that she might be consecrated to the service of the Lord. The legend says that they invited the young girls of the town to walk before her with lighted torches. As soon as they had reached the Temple, Mary, alone and unhesitatingly, went up the steps of the sanctuary where she was to remain, living in the contemplation of God and miraculously fed by the Archangel Gabriel, until the day she was espoused to Joseph, shortly before the Annunciation.

The theme of the feast is that Mary the Immaculate One, the Temple of the Living God, is offered to the Almighty in his holy house in Jerusalem. This day witnesses the bond between the Word and the Virgin predestined in eternity: this day is the fountainhead of all her privileges.

A more historical view is that the feast originates in Jerusalem in 543. In the Latin rite, it took many years for the feast to be widely accepted; it entered the Western calendar in 1585. Today, the feast celebrates the recognition of Mary as a temple in whom God dwells. In a very special way, the Blessed Virgin is herself a holy temple when she conceived the very Son of God in her immaculate womb, she became a true temple of the true God; when she cherished the word of God in her heart (see Luke 2:19, 51), loved Christ so ardently, and faithfully kept his word, the Son and the Father came to her and made their home with her, in accordance with the promise of the Lord (see John 14:23).

Basilian logoNovember 21 is the date upon which we celebrate Pro Orantibus Day marking the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple. The day is dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders. It’s a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work. Many contemplative communities throughout the world pray for Salt and Light Television.  For our part, we remember with gratitude these religious women of who as St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote choose to abide in the ‘heart’ of the Church.

Marian devotion has always been important for my own religious family, the Congregation of Priests of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers). Their support of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network has been constant over the past 12 years. In his History of the Basilian Fathers, Fr. Charles Roume, CSB, recalls that it was on November 21, 1822, Feast of the Presentation of Mary, that all the French confrères finally agreed to come together for their first ‘Chapter’.  They elected Fr. Joseph LaPierre as the first Superior General of the Basilian Community. For this reason, Basilians chose November 21 as our foundation day.

Here is a link to the documentary on our foundation in France after the French Revolution: http://saltandlighttv.org/whenithinkofannonay/

In remembering the Blessed Virgin Mary’s presentation in the Temple at Jerusalem on this day, we honour one whose hidden life brings light and warmth to the Church in every place. May her example give all consecrated religious, and those with whom we live and work, the courage to seek wisdom, the strength to radiate light and warmth to the Church, and the ability to become dwelling places of God’s consoling and compassionate presence on earth.


Let us pray:

Almighty and ever living God, today we honour the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose hidden life brings light and warmth to the Church in every place. Her presentation in the temple at Jerusalem reveals her as a temple where God truly lives among us. May Mary’s example give us the strength to radiate that light and warmth to the Church, and help us to be dwelling places of God’s joyful presence on earth. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

Explaining Catholic Teaching on Mary


Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., explains the Immaculate Conception and other Catholic teachings on Mary, the mother of God, and reflects on what an authentic revival of Marian piety and devotion might look like. This video is part of a new series of reflections on Scripture from America and the American Bible Society.

Pope In Cuba: Homily, Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Santiago


On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Minor Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Below, find the full text of his prepared homily.

The Gospel we have just heard tells us about something the Lord does every time he visits us: he calls us out of our house. These are images which we are asked to contemplate over and over again. God’s presence in our lives never leaves us tranquil: it always pushes to do something. When God comes, he always calls us out of our house. We are visited so that we can visit others; we are encountered so as to encounter others; we receive love in order to give love.

In the Gospel we see Mary, the first disciple. A young woman of perhaps between fifteen and seventeen years of age who, in a small village of Palestine, was visited by the Lord, who told her that she was to be the mother of the Savior. Mary was far from “thinking it was all about her”, or thinking that everyone had to come and wait upon her; she left her house and went out to serve. First she goes to help her cousin Elizabeth. The joy which blossoms when we know that God is with us, with our people, gets our heart beating, gets our legs moving and “draws us out of ourselves”. It leads us to take the joy we have received and to share it in service, in those “pregnant” situations which our neighbors or families may be experiencing. The Gospel tells us that Mary went in haste, slowly but surely, with a steady pace, neither too fast nor so slow as never to get there. Neither anxious nor distracted, Mary goes with haste to accompany her cousin who conceived in her old age. Henceforth this was always to be her way. She has always been the woman who visits men and women, children, the elderly and the young. She has visited and accompanied many of our peoples in the drama of their birth; she has watched over the struggles of those who fought to defend the rights of their children. And now, she continues to bring us the Word of Life, her Son, our Lord.

These lands have also been visited by her maternal presence. The Cuban homeland was born and grew, warmed by devotion to Our Lady of Charity. As the bishops of this country have written: “In a special and unique way she has molded the Cuban soul, inspiring the highest ideals of love of God, the family and the nation in the heart of the Cuban people”.

This was what your fellow citizens also stated a hundred years ago, when they asked Pope Benedict XV to declare Our Lady of Charity the Patroness of Cuba. They wrote that “neither disgrace nor poverty were ever able to crush the faith and the love which our Catholic people profess for the Virgin of Charity, for whom, in all their trials, when death was imminent or desperation was at the door, there arose, like a light scattering the darkness of every peril, like a comforting dew…, the vision of that Blessed Virgin, utterly Cuban and loved as such by our cherished mothers, blessed as such by our wives.”

In this shrine, which keeps alive the memory of God’s holy and faithful pilgrim people in Cuba, Mary is venerated as the Mother of Charity. From here she protects our roots, our identity, so that we may never stray to paths of despair. The soul of the Cuban people, as we have just heard, was forged amid suffering and privation which could not suppress the faith, that faith which was kept alive thanks to all those grandmothers who fostered, in the daily life of their homes, the living presence of God, the presence of the Father who liberates, strengthens, heals, grants courage and serves as a sure refuge and the sign of a new resurrection. Grandmothers, mothers, and so many others who with tenderness and love were signs of visitation, valor and faith for their grandchildren, in their families. They kept open a tiny space, small as a mustard seed, through which the Holy Spirit continued to accompany the heartbeat of this people.

“Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness” (Evangelii Gaudium, 288).

Generation after generation, day after day, we are asked to renew our faith. We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did. We are invited to “leave home” and to open our eyes and hearts to others. Our revolution comes about through tenderness, through the joy which always becomes closeness and compassion, and leads us to get involved in, and to serve, the life of others. Our faith makes us leave our homes and go forth to encounter others, to share their joys, their hopes and their frustrations. Our faith, “calls us out of our house”, to visit the sick, the prisoner and to those who mourn. It makes us able to laugh with those who laugh, and rejoice with our neighbors who rejoice. Like Mary, we want to be a Church which serves, which leaves home and goes forth, which goes forth from its chapels, its sacristies, in order to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be a sign of unity. Like Mary, Mother of Charity, we want to be a Church which goes forth to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation. Like Mary, we want to be a Church which can accompany all those “pregnant” situations of our people, committed to life, to culture, to society, not washing our hands but rather walking with our brothers and sisters.

This is our most valuable treasure (cobre), this is our greatest wealth and the best legacy we can give: to learn like Mary to leave home and set out on the path of visitation. And to learn to pray with Mary, for her prayer is one of remembrance and gratitude; it is the canticle of the People of God on their pilgrimage through history. It is the living reminder that God passes through our midst; the perennial memory that God has looked upon the lowliness of his people, he has come the aid of his servant, even as promised to our forebears and their children forever.

The Heart of Cuba: El Cobre

In his fifth apostolic journey outside of the European continent, Pope Francis will visit Cuba and the United States of America, marking his longest trip thus far. He will spend 3 days on the largest and westernmost island of the West Indies, followed by a 5-day visit to the American East. In a series of articles, I will introduce the places that will be visited by the Pope from the perspectives of a Catholic pilgrim. Today, let us travel to Cuba first.

Since its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the island of Cuba has been ruled by the Catholic monarchs of Spain, and briefly by France, England and the USA, until the country gained independence in 1902. Baracoa, the first colony, became a bishopric in 1517, but the seat was transferred to Santiago when the capital was moved there in 1522. The capital again moved to Havana in 1552, and the second Cuban diocese was established in the new capital in 1787. Today, there are a total of 11 dioceses in Cuba organized into 3 ecclesiastical provinces (Havana, Santiago and Camagüey), with a total of 6.8 million Catholics out of 11.2 million people, served by 283 parishes, 16 bishops, 196 secular priests and 169 religious priests, 84 deacons, 35 religious brothers and 624 religious sisters.

Cuba –> Washington –> New York City –> Philadelphia ]

Cathedral of Havana (Photo: Wikipedia)

Cathedral of Havana

Pope Francis will be visiting two cathedrals in Cuba: the cathedrals of Havana and Santiago. The Baroque-style Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the capital was built between 1748 to 1777 with coral rocks, flanked by two asymmetrical bell towers. The interior is neoclassical in style, with black and white marble floor, supported by massive stone pillars. Columbus’ remains once rested under an altar in the cathedral. The cathedral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. On 20 September 2015, Pope Francis will lead Vespers in this church.

Cathedral of the Assumption, Santiago

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, the seat of the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, was first built in 1526 but destroyed by fire merely a year later. The second cathedral was completed in 1555, but it lived only to suffer continuously from pirate sacking, fire, earthquakes and hurricanes. A third cathedral opened in 1690 until its destruction by an earthquake in 1766. Finally, the fourth and present cathedral was constructed from 1810 to 1818, and became the first minor basilica of the nation in 1882. When I visited the cathedral in 2013, it was in bad need of repair. Some reparations were made in 2014, in time for the Pope’s visit on 22 September 2015.

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre

Statue of Our Lady of Charity, in the Basilica of El Cobre

Other than the cathedrals, the Bishop of Rome will also visit an important Marian shrine in El Cobre, the highlight of the Cuban trip. Our Lady of Charity (Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, or affectively called la Mambisa) has a history dating back to 1612. Two Indian brothers and an African child slave set out in a bay in Eastern Cuba to collect salt for the workers in the village presently named El Cobre. A storm appeared and was about to overturn the canoe. With a Marian medallion the 10-year-old slave was wearing, they prayed in fear and devotion for the protection of the Virgin. The skies became clear in an instant, and they saw a statue floating on the sea. On closer look, it was a statue of Our Lady on a small wooden plank, holding the child Jesus, with the inscription “I am the Virgin of Charity” in Spanish. The statue was completely dry to their surprise.

A simple chapel was immediately built in Barajagua to house the statue. On several occasions, the image disappeared for hours, leading to people’s speculation that it was to meant to be placed in a different spot. The statue was later transferred to the top of a small hill in El Cobre where a church was built. The Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, rebuilt in 1927, houses the statue till this day.

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del CobreThe statue made of baked clay measures 40 centimetres tall. The Blessed Virgin, standing on a brilliant moon with angels on a silver cloud, holds the baby Jesus who holds a golden globe on his left hand while raising his right hand to bless. When I was there a few years ago, I saw a lot of local pilgrims, lining up to pay homage to the Blessed Mother and burning candles.

Pope Benedict XV declared Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre as the patroness of Cuba on 10 May 1916. The statue was canonically crowned on 20 December 1936. The national shrine was raised to the dignity of minor basilica on 22 December 1977. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited the shrine during their apostolic journey to Cuba in 1998 and 2012 respectively. The latter pope even granted a golden rose to the basilica, a privilege of which only a few shrines around the world can boast, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue. Pope Francis will be in the basilica on the evening of 21 September 2015 for prayer, and on the next day for Mass.

As the Pope is embarking on his visit to Cuba, let us pray for the reinvigoration of the faith of the Cuban people and Our Lady of El Cobre’s protection on the nation.

Cuba –> Washington –> New York City –> Philadelphia ]


Photo Credit: Gabriel Chow
See Also: Chinese Version

The Miraculous Medal Shrine


James W. Foley, the American journalist and war correspondent that was the first American beheaded by ISIS in August, 2014, once said:

“Drop a pebble in the water:
Just a splash, and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center,
Flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling
Where the end is going to be.”

What ripple effect could a medal made in the image of Mary Immaculate have, either in Paris, or France or even the world?  Yet what was initially called the Medal of Our Lady of Grace became the peoples’ “miraculous medal” by 1836. By 2015, there were 45 national Miraculous Medal Associations and innumerable billions of people wearing this medal. And the ripple of 1830 is still circling!

The Miraculous Medal Shrine of Philadelphia is dedicated to Mary Immaculate, but it is only a piece of the great history of this medal. That history starts with a French sister, a Daughter of Charity, in Paris, France in 1830.

Zoe Laboure was born on May 2, 1806, a French, farm girl. When she was 23 years old, she entered the Catholic group of women called the Daughters of Charity, in January, 1830. Three months later she became a formal member entering their seminary and her first name became Catherine. 

Catherine Laboure received the Miraculous Medal from Mary, the Mother of God, that same year in the summer and fall of 1830 during three apparitions. The first apparition to St. Catherine Laboure happened on the night of July 18th, 1830. 

Sleeping in the roof dormitory with the other young sisters, she was awakened around 11 pm by a young child of about 5 years of age, dressed in white.  “Come, get up” said the child holding a lit candle. “Mary is waiting for you in the Chapel.” Calling Catherine three different times to get up, Catherine noticed that none of the other sisters were awake. Yet the light around the child was bright and vivid. Hurriedly dressing, Catherine, followed the child down the wooden, circular stair case. She saw that all the candles on the walls were aglow with light. When she arrived at the Chapel, it was radiantly lit and reminded her of Midnight Mass.   

The child took her to the priest’s Director’s Chair in the front of the Sanctuary. Catherine knelt there.  Soon she heard the rustling like that of a silk dress in a breeze, and there before her was the Blessed Mother. Sitting in the chair, Mary placed Catherine’s hands on her lap. They spoke for 2 hours. 

This apparition is commemorated at the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia. On the main level, to the left of the altar is the precise replica of that chair where the Blessed Mother sat. In the chair, there is a piece of the cloth from that same chair where the Blessed Mother sat. It is a relic from that apparition. Declared a saint in 1947, St. Catherine Laboure is the only known person to have touched Mary after her Assumption.    

Before we continue on, it is important for you to know why we call it a shrine and not a church. In general a shrine is a place erected or established by people because something very holy and important happened there. 

Shrines of all types are popular today. People place flowers or mementos like stuffed animals or lit candles, at a place where a loved one may have been or may have died. People create shrines on the side of the road. 

People want to remember and venerate that place; it is sacred.  Perhaps a life deeply loved was there and went to heaven. People who go to that place are empowered by the memory and may feel, touch or experience the divine and human life that was there, if only momentarily.

A part of where God has momentarily manifested his love, through his Mother in Paris, has been brought to Philadelphia for the love and veneration of all who go to this shrine, a sacred place. Besides the replica of the chair and piece of cloth denoting this as a place that God has visited, besides the daily Mass and tabernacle of God’s presence, there have been many favors granted to those who pray here. Something very divine and human happens here all the time

People come to this Shrine because the Blessed Mother intercedes with God for people here.  Every public novena prayed in this Shrine, details favors that people prayed for here and were granted or given by Mary Immaculate. Though there are no crutches, etc., I would like to share with you a few of the favors received here. 

One woman wrote to me:  “Dear Father, Please thank the Blessed Mother with me. After praying the novena at the Shrine, my husband received a positive pet scan. He was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in January, and as of present his cancer cells are completely gone.  Thank you Mary for this favor.” 

Or a man wrote to me, “Dear Father, Please Thank Mary for her intercession for my wife. I prayed the novena nightly at the shrine, begging our Blessed Mother to help her. My wife had a nodule on her lung, but after praying to Mary, the second scan showed the nodule was gone.”

More importantly than the cures from Cancer or diseases, people, through prayer here or just walking through, have regained their faith or have been reunited to their family after years of hatred. Experiencing Mary’s open arms of love, many are moved to make a heartfelt confession. It was these “miracles” of everyday life that caused the people in 1836 to proclaim the Medal of Our Lady of Grace as Mary’s Miraculous Medal.  For it seemed to them as it is to us today, that those who put it on, receive many graces of faith and have a change of heart.

Returning to our story that explains the Miraculous Medal, the second and third apparitions of the Blessed Mother to St. Catherine Laboure happened on the evening of November 27, in 1830. That evening, while St. Catherine, was at evening prayer with the other sisters, Mary appeared to her in the Chapel of the Daughters of Charity in Paris, France. The other sisters did not see Mary but knew something was happening from the great light that appeared in the Chapel.

Catherine states that Mary first appeared holding a globe. Mary said that the globe represents the whole world whom she offers to God Almighty. This part of the second apparition is commemorated in the Miraculous Medal Shrine on the lower level with the figure of Mary holding the globe. She is surrounded by many vigil lights. This Shrine is dedicated to Mary under the title of Virgin Most Powerful or in Latin, Virgo Potens. 

St. Catherine explained this vision. Appearing in a white gown and veil and holding the globe, Mary said that this Globe represented the world for whom she constantly pleaded to God for help. Sanctified by His Redemption, the globe represents the Mystical Body of her Son Jesus Christ, whom she gives to God as she gave Jesus Christ to the world. The world still wanting, Mary gives this body to God pleading for his grace and aid to all who ask her for help. 


Mary is considered the most powerful of all human persons because she was chosen by God above all others. Her response to being chosen, her “yes” at the Annunciation, began the redemption of her son Jesus Christ. Through Mary, humanity said “yes” to God entering into their life. 

Mary never said no to God and God never says no to her. Her pleading is always answered. She is our eternal and most perfect model of life in and with God. Thus, many vigil lights, representing hundreds of intentions sent to us at the Miraculous Medal Shrine, are placed in this room for her globe, begging Mary to seek God’s graces for them. 

Vigil lights represent the person because the person owns them before they give them to Mary. They gave something of themselves, such as coins, buying the light for themselves.  They also represent the donor’s intention. They are given to Mary as a gift to her and to keep their intention before her always.

In this shrine also, there are pictures of the events of the apparition and of the life of St. Catherine Laboure. Installed in 1928, they are the sole mosaics in the Shrine.

Returning to our second apparition of November 27, 1830, there was another part of the apparition, sometimes called the third apparition. When St. Catherine looked up, Mary is seen as she is on the medal and in the statue on the main level of the Miraculous Medal Shrine today. 

She stood on the world crushing the head of Satan, the devil, reminding us of the verse in Genesis 3:15 – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between her seed (Jesus Christ) and you. She will crush your head and you will lie in wait for her heal.” 

During this second part of the apparition, Catherine saw around her the words of the famous Miraculous Medal prayer:  “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

The glow around her became streams of light from some of her fingers. “These are the graces that flow to people who have asked for God’s favor,” Mary said. “Those fingers where there is no light, represent graces that no one has asked for from God. Come to the foot of the altar and with confidence ask God, through my intercession, for these graces.”

And as Mary turned, Catherine saw the cross coming up from the large M representing Mary at the foot of the cross. Underneath this were the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Around this were twelve stars representing the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel.

Mary then commanded Catherine, “Have a medal struck in this image. For all who wear this blessed medal around their neck, shall receive special graces eternally from God through me.” 

In 1832, over a thousand medals were struck and promoted by the Congregation of the Mission or Vincentian Fathers and Brothers. They were founded in 1625, by St. Vincent de Paul. They staff the Miraculous Medal Shrine today. 

By 1836 over a million medals were being worn by faithful devotees of Mary. It was around this time that this medal of our Lady of Grace became popularly known as the Miraculous Medal for all the miracles, both physically and spiritually that were reported by its wearers.

Today, Mary commands us to go to this altar too. The use of the word “altar” is also the symbol of the Holy Mass, where Mary’s flesh and blood, her Son, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are celebrated. We too are called to offer ourselves to God at Mass, and there ask God through her, for what we need. This is not a new command for us but the most important command ever given to us. Recall what Mary commanded us to do at the Wedding Feast in Cana, (Jn. 2:5) “Do what he tells you.” 

God worked totally through Mary to give himself to the world in Jesus Christ, and continues to this day, to work through her to give us Divine Life. The open arms of Mary constantly invite us to stand at this altar and see in her, the compassion, the mercy and love of God just for you. 

These great shrines and places of prayer and solitude are all contained in this building that today is called the Miraculous Medal Shrine. It took 4 years to complete, beginning in 1875. The model of the Shrine, first called the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, was very ambitious, imitating on a slightly smaller scale, the great Church of Eastern Christianity, Saint Sophia, in Istanbul, Turkey. Dominated by a large center dome held up by massive archways, the Shrine is a yet a crucifix form with the nave and altar being crossed by a chapel on each side. 

The Shrine seats 400 comfortably and expands with the choir loft to 500+. However, pictures of Novena Services during World War II and later pictures of sermons from the pulpit by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the first TV evangelist, show people sitting on the sanctuary and side steps near the main altar and side shrines. They packed in as many as possible.  As an aside, St. Katherine Drexel, with 5 – 8 African American students, prayed in this Shrine almost every Monday at the Novena Services. She sat in the 3rd pew from the front on right side toward the Marian Shrine. 

The Stations of the Cross on the walls around the Shrine are oil, painted on copper plates with metal frames finished in polished gold. They are imported from France and are unique as the artist never made another set like them. He died before the stations reached this Shrine. 

The Large Rose Window above the choir loft uses a distinct and rare stained glass called Bernardini blue. The window is modeled after the stained glass of Sainte Chappelle, in Paris that was built in 1248 by St. Louis, King of France. The window was installed here in 1935. 

The stained glass windows of the saints that are above and on either side of the pews are presently being evaluated and researched. Initially they were believed to be from the school of the famous New York glass maker, John La Farge. However, recent tests indicate that they may be the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The difficulty stems from the fact that both men trained in the same school of glass-making at the same time.

On a sunlit day, if you go to the side of the window on your right (left side of Shrine as you look at altar) and look up at the window, the cut glass sparkles as if it is a gem. This indicates the Tiffany type and style of inlaid glass.

Most places of worship have one style of stained glass. This Shrine has four different types of stained glass making it very distinct. As we have just said, the Saints are American stained glass; the rose window is French; the Sacred Heart on the left side of the Shrine, is from Germany; and the stain glass that is in the dome above the sanctuary that depicts the seven Christian virtues (faith, hope, love, etc.) is from Italy. 

The Shrine was remodeled from 1979 – 1980, in response to the decrees of the Second Vatican Council that ended in 1964. At this time, the mural painting of Mary, Mother of the Church, the title that the Council gave to Mary, was installed in the great dome in the center of the Shrine. As a tease to viewers Emmanuel F. Utti purposely painted this mural to look like a mosaic which of course, it is not. 

The main altar is the original altar from 1879. It is composed of Italian white Carrara marble from the northern Tuscany region and red marble from the Numidia, Northern African area in Algeria.

The tabernacle, modeled on the onion domes of the Churches of Eastern Christianity, celebrates the unity of Eastern and Western Christianity. It is a reminder to pray for the Eastern Church after the onslaught of Communism.

Finally, the three major mural paintings encircling the sanctuary are nationally registered paintings and are patented. The panels in order from the left depict the Annunciation, the Immaculate Conception the original namesake for the chapel, and the Nativity. They are each 13 feet wide and 18 feet tall. 

The American Italian artist, Virgilio Tojetti (1849 – 1901) was commissioned to paint these three murals. He completed them in the late 1890’s and are some of his last works. 

Tojetti studied with the famed Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins, whose painting of the first surgery, called The Gross Clinic, was bought in 2009 for $68 million by the Walmart Company.

The statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on the upper level to the right, was sculpted by the Italian artist Georgio di Giovanni Udny. He learned marble sculpting from his famous uncle, Giovanni Strazza. It was sculpted in Pietrazanta, Italy in 1925. It is of first quality Carrara marble.

This Shrine is dedicated to the Mother of God, Mary as depicted by this Statue. It is a depiction of the Blessed Mother as she appeared in the second part of the second apparition on November 27, 1830.  

On the lower level of the Miraculous Medal Shrine are other smaller shrines to the Blessed Mother under her different titles. The first is the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, just to the right of the Virgin Most Powerful Shrine. The first apparition of our Lady of Guadalupe was December 9, 1531, almost 300 years before the apparition of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

This is a precise reproduction of the Tilma, the poncho, of St. Juan Diego in Mexico City. It is painted on the same fabric as was his cloak at that time. This is attested to on the backside of the painting. Of special devotion to the Mexican people, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of all of the Americas.

To the right is the statue of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart is on the backside of the Miraculous Medal and holds an honored place in the Shrine. The Sacred Heart represents the Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ for us. Of course, these Virtues were taught to him by his mother Mary.

To the right of this is the Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni. She is the patroness of India.  This Shrine was a gift of the Indian People who come to the Shrine. Mary is very dear to the people who call her “Ma Ma Mary”. The story of her 3 apparitions as this Madonna and Child in India can be found on the left side as you enter this small Shrine. 

To the right of this is the Miraculous Medal itself. Designed by the Blessed Mother, the medal is detailed in this shrine for everyone’s veneration. This shrine reminds us also that the Miraculous Medal is a type of portable shrine, as you are able to place this shrine around your neck to go with you everywhere. 

Just touching the medal reminds you of the Mother who loves you and waits for you with open arms. Hanging on a chain in front of your heart, it denotes the sacred place where God dwells in you. We hope that no one leaves here without one.

Finally there is the shrine with the unique statue of St. Joseph, spouse of Mary. Seated on a chair, Joseph is holding the implements of Christ’s Crucifixion in one hand and the child Jesus in the other. He lovingly looks at Jesus as Angels at Joseph’s feet hold fast to Jesus.

The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a wonderful gift of prayer and solace to all. Celebrating Mary, it intercedes with God for all who enter.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

Written by Rev. Carl L. Pieber, C.M., Executive Director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM) in Philadelphia, PA, USA. 

Pope Francis’ Special Relationship with the Mother of the Lord

A Reflection for Mary’s Birthday – September 8

Anyone who has known former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio understands well that his Marian devotion, far from being a recent manifestation, is a long-established devotion. From the very beginning of his Petrine ministry, he has let us experience his love for Mary, Mother of the Lord. Appearing for the first time to the world, he told us on the night of March 13 “Tomorrow I want to go to pray to the Madonna, that she may protect Rome.” We were moved the following morning by the scenes of the newly elected Pope praying in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.  

This Basilica was built in honor of Mary, Mother of God, which is the first and most important title of Our Lady. It is a living witness to that great moment in the history of the ancient Church, the Council of Ephesus, in which the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary was authoritatively defined. This Church is the first Marian shrine in Rome and in the entire West, in which the image of the Mother of God “Theotokos” (God bearer) is venerated under the title of Salus Populi Romani.

From his very first meeting with his brother cardinals in the Clementine Hall on March 15th, Pope Francis stressed his link with Mary and the role he ascribes to Jesus’ Mother. He said: “I entrust my ministry and your ministry to the powerful intercession of Mary, our Mother, Mother of the Church. Under Her maternal gaze may each one of you walk happy and docile on your path, listening to the voice of Her divine Son, strengthening your unity, persevering in your common prayer and bearing witness to the true faith in the constant presence of the Lord.”

Francis has visited the Roman basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on the eve of every one of his foreign visits, and upon returning to Rome, goes from the airport to the basilica to pray in gratitude for graces and blessings received on the journeys. On the eve of his departure for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for World Youth Day 2013, Pope Francis visited once again the Basilica and entrusted World Youth Day 2013 to Mary’s care. During his unforgettable experience at World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil, he made a side-trip to the famous shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in central Brazil.

Pope Francis in imitation of the Blessed Mother!

Aparecida evokes first of all a major Marian shrine that was the venue of a very important meeting of bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean region back in 2007. During that important continental gathering, in which then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio played a decisive role, bishops were confronted on a daily basis with the traditional piety of Latin America that finds rich, beautiful expressions manifested toward the Mother of the Lord. The Mother of the Lord brings together past, present and future and offers countless opportunities of creativity and fidelity to the millions of people who flock to this shrine.

In a very moving homily in Aparcida during the 2013 Brazilian World Youth Day, he spoke these words about Mary:

“When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: “Show us Jesus.” It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary. …Today, looking forward to the World Youth Day which has brought me to Brazil, I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary – who loved and raised Jesus – that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal. For this reason I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.

…Dear friends, we have come to knock at the door of Mary’s house. She has opened it for us, she has let us in and she shows us her Son. Now she asks us to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Yes, dear Mother, we are committed to doing whatever Jesus tells us! And we will do it with hope, trusting in God’s surprises and full of joy.”

During his recent “tour de force” in Latin America, Pope Francis’ first homily in Quito, Ecuador on July 7, 2015 in the Parco Bicentenario offered another opportunity to speak about Mary, Mother of the Lord:

“Mary is attentive, she is attentive in the course of this wedding feast, she is concerned for the needs of the newly-weds. She is not closed in on herself, worried only about her little world. Her love makes her ‘outgoing’ towards others. She does not seek her friends to say what is happening, to criticize the poor organization of the wedding feast. And since she is attentive, she discretely notices that the wine has run out. Wine is a sign of happiness, love and plenty. How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these is no longer any of that wine to be found in their homes? How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love, from their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren? This lack of this ‘wine’ can also be due to unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families around the world may experience. Mary is not a ‘demanding’ mother, nor a mother-in-law who revels in our lack of experience, our mistakes and the things we forget to do. Mary, quite simply, is a Mother!”

On July 9 as he bade farewell to the clergy of Ecuador in the Marian shrine of El Quinche, the Bishop of Rome said:

“…Something else that Our Lady’s Presentation makes me think of is perseverance. In the evocative iconography associated with this feast, the Child Mary is shown moving away from her parents as she climbs the steps of the Temple. Mary does not look back and, in a clear reference to the evangelical admonition, she moves forward with determination. We, like the disciples in the Gospel, also need to move forward as we bring to all peoples and places the Good News of Jesus. Perseverance in mission is not about going from house to house, looking for a place where we will be more comfortably welcomed.”

On Saturday July 11 at the Marian shrine of Caacupé, Paraguay, Francis again gave a deeply human, moving reflection about Mary:

 “Being here with you makes me feel at home, at the feet of our Mother, the Virgin of Miracles of Caacupé.  In every shrine we, her children, encounter our Mother and are reminded that we are brothers and sisters.  Shrines are places of festival, of encounter, of family.  We come to present our needs. We come to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to begin again.   How many baptisms, priestly and religious vocations, engagements and marriages, have been born at the feet of our Mother!   How many tearful farewells!  We come bringing our lives, because here we are at home and it is wonderful to know there is someone waiting for us.

  1.  The birth of Jesus.  There was no room for them.  They had no house, no dwelling to receive her Son.  There was no place where she could give birth.  They had no family close by; they were alone.  The only place available was a stall of animals.  Surely she remembered the words of the angel: “Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you”.   She might well have asked herself: “Where is he now?”. 
  1. The flight to Egypt.  They had to leave, to go into exile.  Not only was there no room for them, no family nearby, but their lives were also in danger.  They had to depart and go to a foreign land.  They were migrants, on account of the envy and greed of the King.  There too she might well have asked: “What happened to all those things promised by the angel?
  1.  Jesus’ death on the cross.  There can be no more difficult experience for a mother than to witness the death of her child.  It is heartrending.  We see Mary there, at the foot of the cross, like every mother, strong, faithful, staying with her child even to his death, death on the cross.    Then she encourages and supports the disciples.

We look at her life, and we feel understood, we feel heard.  We can sit down to pray with her and use a common language in the face of the countless situations we encounter each day.  We can identify with many situations in her own life.  We can tell her what is happening in our lives, because she understands.”

In one of the touching moments of the visit to Asunción, Paraguay on July 12, 2015, Francis visited Bañado Norte di Asunción, an area where many poor people live and where the Church and the State provide various projects of social assistance.  He reflected on the plight of the Holy Family in the time of Jesus and the plight of poor families today:

“I have looked forward to being with you today. I could not come to Paraguay without spending some time with you, here on your land. We are meeting in this Parish named after the Holy Family, and I confess that as I arrived, everything reminded me of the Holy Family. To see your faces, your children, your elderly, and to hear about your experiences and everything you went through to be here, to have a dignified life and a roof over your heads, to endure the bad weather and the flooding of these last few weeks…

All this makes me think of the little family of Bethlehem. Your struggles have not taken away your laughter, your joy and your hope. Struggles which have not lessened your sense of solidarity but if anything, have made it grow.

I would like to think for a moment about Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem. They were forced to leave home, families and friends. They had to leave all that they had and to go somewhere else, to a place where they knew no one, a place where they had no house or family. That was when that young couple had Jesus. That was how they gave us Jesus. They were alone, in a strange land, just the three of them. Then, all of a sudden, shepherds began to arrive. People just like them who had to leave their homes to find better opportunities for their families. Their lives were affected by harsh weather but by other kinds of hardship too.”

05 Mary Undoer of Knots

Mary, Undoer of Knots

Finally, Pope Francis has introduced the world to the little known Marian devotion to “Mary, Undoer of Knots.” He has a very special devotion to Mary under a title that goes all the way back to the second century. When young Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio was completing his graduate studies in Germany, he was captivated by a Bavarian painting of “Holy Mary, Our Lady Undoer of Knots” that he saw in a Church in Augsburg. In the painting the Virgin is shown in the act of untying a knot on a long white ribbon while crushing the serpent, which stands for evil. Bergoglio obtained a copy of the painting and brought it back with him to Argentina where he helped spread the devotion among his people. While this devotion is relatively unknown in our part of the world, it is known and loved in Argentina. While this devotion originated from a painting executed by the German artist Johann Georg Schidtner around 1700, located in St. Peter am Perlach Church in Augsburg, Germany.

The second-century devotion comes from an historic period less than one hundred years after the death of the Apostles. St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote: “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.” The understanding of Mary’s universal mediation and her subordinate role to Christ in human salvation is beautifully summed up in this saying of Saint Irenaeus. The fact that it goes back to the second century reveals that this is not a medieval accretion. It’s a doctrine going back to the Apostolic period. From the earliest Church, the faithful commit themselves to Mary’s intercession when confronted with a difficult situation in their lives.

Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love,

Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need,

Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children

because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy

that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes

upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. ?

You know very well how desperate I am, my pain,

and how I am bound by these knots. ?

Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted

the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children,

I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. ?

No one, not even the Evil One himself,

can take it away from your precious care.

In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. ?

Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power

with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus,

take into your hands today this knot.

Coast to Coast: August 23 to August 29


Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about across the country:

One Ukrainian seminarian travelled a long way to be ordained a deacon and continue his journey to priesthood.

In Prince Albert, Saskatchewan two other men weathered life’s unexpected twists and turns before realizing their callings to the permanent diaconate.

August is the month for Marian pilgrimages. Many archdioceses have a place where they make pilgrimage on or around the feast of the ascension. For one Alberta couple the annual Skaro Shrine pilgrimage has extra special meaning.

One parish in Thornhill, Ontario got to see (or at least hear about) the results of their relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan victims.

And in Prince Edward Island just when St. Malachy’s parish was preparing to sell the rectory to pay for repairs to the church, they got an unexpected helping hand.

Deacon-structing Marriage part 7: Heaven


Husbands and wives are called to love each other as God loves us. Last week I asked if this is even possible. We spoke about the story of the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) and the story of Tobias and Sarah from the Book of Tobit, both popular Wedding readings. Both these stories teach us a little about how married couples can love each other totally and make sure they don’t run out of wine.

First, we must invite Jesus. Jesus is at the wedding of Cana because he was invited. Just as you or I would not crash a wedding, Jesus is not going to be in your marriage if you don’t invite him. Make sure you invite Jesus into your Marriage every day – not just as you pray on your wedding day, but every day, for the rest of your lives.

Second, we must pay attention. I don’t think that Mary notices that they’ve run out of wine because she’s been going to the bar every half an hour for another drink. She notices because she’s paying attention. In a Marriage, you have to pay attention. Not just to each other – I hope you do – but pay attention to everything. What makes her happy? What annoys him? What can I do to put her needs before mine every time? What can she do to put my needs before hers every time? That’s total love.

Third, we must pray. Mary didn’t try to solve the problem by herself; she went straight to Jesus. And at the beginning of Tobias and Sarah’s story we see them both praying (In fact Sarah is in a bad state, she’s considering suicide; instead she prays). Then when they meet and get married, what do they do on their wedding night? They pray (Totit 8:4-8). How many couples on their wedding night, when they get to the hotel room kneel down and pray? Pray. Invite Jesus into your Marriage and pray apart and together. Marriage is not going to be a sign of our relationship with God if we are not in a relationship with God.

And don’t be afraid of intercessory prayer. It’s OK to go straight to Jesus and it’s ok to ask Mary to intercede for us. Jesus won’t say no to his mother and Mary won’t take no from Jesus.

Sometimes we are afraid to ask for things that we think are not important or that God definitely has more important things to attend to than to worry about our little, petty, insignificant needs. Mary asked Jesus for wine, for crying out loud! Jesus cares about our little, insignificant needs. And he definitely cares that we don’t run out of wine. Don’t be afraid to pray for little things and don’t be afraid to ask Mary for help.

Fourth, we must act. Love is not a feeling. Love is action; it is an act of your will. We must always do – and when we do, we must do whatever He tells us to. That’s why we need to be marriages of prayer. We need to be people of prayer so that we know what Jesus is asking us to do – no matter how ridiculous it might seem: fill those jars with water… might not make any sense. No matter, do whatever He tells you.

And if you’re not sure, ask for help. That’s why marriage ceremonies are public. We surround ourselves with family and friends because a Marriage is a community event. We need support and help from our family and friends. We need to help married couples if they are to succeed at loving each other totally.

Last, we must enjoy. Enjoy the good wine. Wine is a symbol of love, life and joy. Jesus wants you to have his joy in you and that your joy be made full (John 15:11). That’s Heaven.

The Catholic Church teaches that Marriage is a Sacrament. A Sacrament is a visible sign of invisible Grace. Marriage points to an invisible reality; to a greater reality. But Sacraments are Sacraments because they make Christ present. We learn that Jesus is present in the Eucharist and that’s a very real, physical presence, but every Sacrament makes Christ present.

Marriage makes Christ present, not just on the day of your wedding as you exchange your wedding vows, but every day of your married life as you administer the Sacrament of Marriage to each other. Every time a wife and a husband look to each other and they say “I am going to put this man’s needs, this woman’s needs before mine,” they will be making Christ present. And their Marriage will become a sign of God’s love for all.

The Church also teaches that Marriage is a Vocation. That’s because for people who are called to Married Life, Marriage is how they are going to get to Heaven; Marriage is the ordinary way to holiness. Think about that: God gave you your husband; God gave you your wife to help you get to Heaven. A wife’s job is to help her husband get to Heaven and a husband’s job is to help his wife get to Heaven. How beautiful and amazing and scary that is!

But we can do that; we can live Marriage as a Sacrament and we can live Marriage as a Vocation if we keep our eyes on the wine: Invite Jesus, pay attention, pray, pray, pray, (and ask Mary for help), and then always do whatever He tells you to do. Then you’ll be able to enjoy the new wine and His joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. That is Heaven!

As always, email [Write to me] me your comments and come back next week. We looked at wine, so let’s look at what Marriage has to do with the Eucharist.

DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary – August 15


Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

A very significant turning point in Marian piety and devotion occurred with the Second Vatican Council’s renewal and reform of the liturgy. A decade later, Pope Paul VI issued a remarkable Apostolic Exhortation on Marian devotions ‘Marialis cultus’ in 1974. In this landmark document, Pope Paul VI provided guidelines that are as relevant today as they were when first proposed more than 40 years ago. Among the important points in that papal document, we find the following:

  1. Every element of the church’s prayer life, including Marian devotions, should have a biblical imprint. The texts of prayers and songs should draw their inspiration from the Bible and be ‘imbued with the great themes of the Christian message.’ This means that they should be free of pious sentimentality and of the temptation to view Mary as more compassionate than even her Son, who is our one and only Redeemer.
  2. Marian devotions should always harmonize with the liturgy. Novenas and similar devotional practices, including again the rosary, are not to be inserted, hybrid-style, into the very celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharistic celebration is not simply a backdrop for private prayer.
  3. Marian devotions should always be ecumenically sensitive. ‘Every care should be taken to avoid any exaggeration which could mislead other Christian brethren about the true doctrine of the Catholic Church.’ There should never be a doubt in anyone’s mind that Jesus Christ is our sole Mediator with God.
  4. ‘Devotion to the Blessed Virgin must also pay close attention to certain findings of the human sciences.’ This means that the picture of the Blessed Virgin that is presented in devotional literature and other expressions of piety must be consistent with today’s understanding of the role of women in the church and in society.

We must see Mary once again for who she is: not only the Mother of God, her most exalted role in the mystery of Redemption, but also as her Son’s disciple par excellence. When she heard the Word of God, she acted upon it. As the Apostolic Exhortation noted, she was ‘far from being a timidly submissive woman.’ On the contrary, ‘she was a woman who did not hesitate to proclaim that God vindicates the humble and the oppressed, and removes the powerful people of this world from their privileged positions.

Only when Marian piety is liberated from what Pope Paul VI called a ‘sterile and ephemeral sentimentality’ can there be any real hope for a renewal of authentic Marian piety in our time. For many people who do not have the luxury, privilege, money, time or perhaps desire to delve into serious Scripture studies, their only encounter with the Word of God might be through the liturgy or popular piety and devotion.

Let’s consider three important moments of Mary’s life not easily understood and try to discover new meaning and relevance for us. While Marian devotion remains strong in the church, the Immaculate Conception is a complex concept that has interested theologians more than the ordinary faithful. Many people still wrongly assume that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Christ. In fact, it refers to the belief that Mary, by special divine favour, was without sin from the moment she was conceived. The main stumbling block for many Catholics is original sin. Today we are simply less and less aware of original sin. And without that awareness, the Immaculate Conception makes no sense. Through the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, God was present and moving in Mary’s life from the earliest moments. God’s grace is greater than sin; it overpowers sin and death.

When Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he referred explicitly to the biblical story of the Annunciation in Luke’s Gospel. The angel Gabriel’s salutation, “Hail, full of grace,” is understood as recognizing that Mary must always have been free from sin. No other human being collaborated in the work of redemption as Mary did. The Early Church wanted to explain in a plausible manner how God’s Son could be ‘completely human, yet without sin.’ Their answer was that the mother of God must have been without sin.

What happens to Mary happens to Christians. We are called, gifted and chosen to be with Jesus. When we honour the Mother of God under the title ‘Immaculate Conception,’ we recognize in her a model of purity, innocence, trust, childlike curiosity, reverence, and respect, living peacefully alongside a mature awareness that life isn’t simple. It’s rare to find both reverence and sophistication, idealism and realism, purity, innocence and passion, inside the same person as we find in Mary.

The second moment of Mary’s life is the Incarnation. Through the virginal birth of Jesus we are reminded that God moves powerfully in our lives too. Our response to that movement must be one of recognition, humility, openness, welcome, as well as a respect and dignity for all life, from the earliest moments to the final moments. Through the Incarnation, Mary was gifted with the Word made Flesh.

The angel didn’t ask Mary about her willingness. He announced, ‘Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.’ God didn’t ask Mary for permission. He acted ‘gently but decisively’ to save his people from their sins.

The virgin birth shows that humanity needs redeeming that it can’t bring about for itself. The fact that the human race couldn’t produce its own redeemer implies that its sin and guilt are profound and that its saviour must come from outside.

The Church celebrates Mary’s final journey into the fullness of God’s Kingdom with the dogma of the Assumption promulgated by Pius XII in 1954. As with her beginnings, so too, with the end of her life, God fulfilled in her all of the promises that he has given to us. We, too, shall be raised up into heaven as she was. In Mary we have an image of humanity and divinity at home. God is indeed comfortable in our presence and we in God’s. Through her Assumption, Mary was chosen to have a special place of honour in the Godhead.

Mary’s life can be summed up with four words that are found in the Gospels: ‘Fiat,’ in her response to the angel Gabriel; ‘Magnificat,’ as her response to God’s grace at work in her life; ‘Conservabat,’ as she cherished all these memories and events in her heart; and ‘Stabat,’ as she stood faithfully at the foot of the cross, watched her Son die for humanity, and awaited the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy about Jesus‚ mission.

God calls each one of us through scripture in complete love and grace, and the response of the obedient mind is ‘fiat: let it be to me according to your word.’ We, too, celebrate, with our strength, the relevance of the word to new personal and especially political situations: ‘magnificat.’

We ponder in the heart what we have seen and heard: ‘conservabat.’ But Scripture tells us that Mary, too, had to learn hard things: she wanted to control her son, but could not. Her soul is pierced with the sword, as she stands ‘stabat’ at the foot of the cross. We too must wait patiently, letting the written Word tell us things that may be unexpected or even unwelcome, but which are yet salvific. We read humbly, trusting God and waiting to see his purpose unfold.

(CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

Pope Francis in Paraguay: Homily in Caacupé – Cathedral of Caacupé


Following the conclusion of Pope Francis’ morning visit to the pediatric hostipal ‘Niños de Acosta Ñu’ in Asunción, the Holy Father departed to the Marian Shrine of Caacupé to ??celebrate the Mass. Before entering the Basilica, where he was to venerate the “Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepcion de los Milagros”, he received the keys of the city by the Mayor. At 10:30 am the Pope presided at the Mass in the square of the Marian Shrine. Below you will find the complete text of the Popes homily:

Being here with you makes me feel at home, at the feet of our Mother, the Virgin of Miracles of Caacupé. In every shrine we, her children, encounter our Mother and are reminded that we are brothers and sisters. Shrines are places of festival, of encounter, of family. We come to present our needs. We come to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to begin again. How many baptisms, priestly and religious vocations, engagements and marriages, have been born at the feet of our Mother! How many tearful farewells! We come bringing our lives, because here we are at home and it is wonderful to know there is someone waiting for us.

As so often in the past, we now come because we want to renew our desire to live the joy of the Gospel.

How can we forget that this shrine is a vital part of the Paraguayan people, of yourselves? You feel it, it shapes your prayers, and you sing: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”. Today we gather as the People of God, at the feet of our Mother, to offer her our love and our faith. In the Gospel, we have just heard the greeting of the angel to Mary: Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Rejoice, Mary, rejoice. Upon hearing this greeting, Mary was confused and asked herself what it could mean. She did not fully understand what was happening. But she knew that the angel came from God and so she said yes. Mary is the Mother of Yes. Yes to God’s dream, yes to God’s care, yes to God’s will. It was a yes that, as we know, was not easy to live. A yes that bestowed no privileges or distinctions. Simeon told her in his prophecy: “a sword will pierce your heart” (Lk 2:35), and indeed it did. That is why we love her so much. We find in her a true Mother, one who helps us to keep faith and hope alive in the midst of complicated situations. Pondering Simeon’s prophecy, we would do well to reflect briefly on three difficult moments in Mary’s life.

1. The first moment: the birth of Jesus. There was no room for them. They had no house, no dwelling to receive her Son. There was no place where she could give birth. They had no family close by; they were alone. The only place available was a stall of animals. Surely she remembered the words of the angel: “Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you”. She might well have asked herself: “Where is he now?”.

2. The second moment: the flight to Egypt. They had to leave, to go into exile. Not only was there no room for them, no family nearby, but their lives were also in danger. They had to depart to a foreign land. They were persecuted migrants, on account of the envy and greed of the King. There too she might well have asked: “What happened to all those things promised by the angel?”.

3. The third moment: Jesus’ death on the cross. There can be no more difficult experience for a mother than to witness the death of her child. It is heartrending. We see Mary there, at the foot of the cross, like every mother, strong, faithful, staying with her child even to his death, death on the cross. There too she might well have asked: “What happened to all those things promised to me by the angel?”. Then we see her encouraging and supporting the disciples.

We contemplate her life, and we feel understood, we feel heard. We can sit down to pray with her and use a common language in the face of the countless situations we encounter each day. We can identify with many situations in her own life. We can tell her what is happening in our lives, because she understands.

Mary is the woman of faith; she is the Mother of the Church; she believed. Her life testifies that God does not deceive us, that God does not abandon his people, even in moments or situations when it might seem that he is not there. Mary was the first of her Son’s disciples and in moments of difficulty she kept alive the hope of the apostles. With probably more than one key, they were locked in the upper room, due to fear. A woman attentive to the needs of others, she could say – when it seemed like the feast and joy were at an end – “see, they have no wine” (Jn 2:3). She was the woman who went to stay with her cousin “about three months” (Lk 1:56), so that Elizabeth would not be alone as she prepared to give birth. That is out mother, so good and so kind, she who accompanies us in our lives.

We know all this from the Gospel, but we also know that in this land she is the Mother who has stood beside us in so many difficult situations. This shrine preserves and treasures the memory of a people who know that Mary is their Mother, and that she has always been at the side of her children.

Mary has always been in our hospitals, our schools and our homes. She has always sat at table in every home. She has always been part of the history of this country, making it a nation. Hers has been a discreet and silent presence, making itself felt through a statue, a holy card or a medal. Under the sign of the rosary, we know that we are never alone, that she always accompanies us.

Why? Because Mary simply wanted to be in the midst of her people, with her children, with her family. She followed Jesus always, from within the crowd. As a good Mother, she did not want to abandon her children, rather, she would always show up wherever one of her children was in need. For the simple reason that she is our Mother.

A Mother who learned, amid so many hardships, the meaning of the words: “Do not be afraid, the Lord is with you” (cf. Lk 1:30). A Mother who keeps saying to us: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). This is what she constantly says to us: “Do whatever he tells you”. She doesn’t have a plan of her own; she doesn’t come to tell us something new. Rather, she prefers to remain silent, and simply accompanies our faith with her own.

You know this from experience. All of you, all Paraguayans, share in the living memory of a people who have made incarnate these words of the Gospel. Here I would like especially to mention you, the women, wives and mothers of Paraguay, who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by an abominable war. You are keepers of the memory, the lifeblood of those who rebuilt the life, faith and dignity of your people, together with Mary. You lived through many difficult situations which, in the eyes of the world, would seem to discredit all faith. Yet, inspired and sustained by the Blessed Virgin, you continued to believe, even “hoping against all hope” (Rom 4:18). And when all seemed to be falling apart, with Mary you said: “Let us not be afraid, the Lord is with us; he is with our people, with our families; let us do what he tells us”. Then and now, you found the strength not to let this land lose its bearings. God bless your perseverance, God bless and encourage your faith, God bless the women of Paraguay, the most glorious women of America.

As a people, we have come home, to this house of all Paraguayans, to hear once more those words which are so comforting: “Rejoice, the Lord is with you”. They are a summons to cherish your memory, your roots, and the many signs which you have received as a people of believers tested by trials and struggles. Yours is a faith which has become life, a life which has become hope, and a hope which leads to eminent charity. Yes, like Jesus, may you be outstanding in love. May you be bearers of this faith, this life and this hope. May you, Paraguayans, continue to build these up this country’s present and future.

Gazing once more on Mary’s image, I invite you to join me in saying: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”. All together: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises and graces of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


CNS photo/Paul Haring