This statue in Venice is very like that of Mary at Lourdes, and as we see, it is surrounded by passport photos and little notes, petitions and thank-yous. We saw a similar crop of photographs around the statue of Our Lady of Valencia. The Basilica of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers also receives photos and notes from Muslims as well as Christians.
Prayer, we were taught at school, is the raising of the heart and mind to God, but it is also a physical activity. Sitting, kneeling, bowing, walking or riding on pilgrimage, even the physical act of going to the parish church of a Sunday; any of these can enable us to raise our hearts and minds to God.
So prayer can be going to church and leaving a prayer request on a board or in a basket. Or leaving a prayer request before the tomb of a saint, or in this case a statue. We can ask for the prayers of the Church, not just the Church on earth today but also the saints triumphant who have all the time in eternity to pray for us: Mary included.
Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. What are people seeking there? Can it be put into words? Perhaps peace and healing of the heart and mind, if not of the body, is what I hear most often as the gift of the pilgrimage. An on-going process, not always to be rushed.
Those who leave photos or candles in front of Mary’s statue commend their loved ones to our prayers as well as Mary’s: let us pray then for all who will make the Lourdes pilgrimage this year, as sick pilgrims or helpers, and for all who ask our prayers, directly or through such gestures as we see in this photograph.
Anna and Simeon, the old people forever in the Temple cloister, were blessed to see and to caress the Baby who was the Salvation of the Lord, the Light of the nations and the Glory of Israel.
Simeon knew this, and he was at peace. But he broke off his song of praise, lapsing into prose to warn Mary of the sword that would pierce her heart; as sharp a sword as any parent feels who sees a child die early or run off the rails through addiction, avarice or broken relationships.
But every child should be a sign of hope. By now, 40 days old, Jesus would be taking notice of the world he is being carried through by his loving parents. He will have felt safe in Simeon’s hands, but he would have registered the sudden emotional switch between the old man’s prayer and his warning advice to Mary; he would have been glad to return to her. She, too, would have been disturbed, but she surely made the effort to be positive for her son.
She stored all these things in her heart; Joseph, meanwhile, was about to receive another dream, pick up his tools, and lead the family to safety in Cairo, because this child was a sign of hope in dark times.
2nd Image from Missionaries of Africa.
The process by which the human personality is formed is the hidden work of incarnation.
The helpless infant is an enigma. The only thing we know about him is that he is an enigma, but nobody knows what he will be or what he will do. His helpless body contains the most complex mechanism of any living creature, but it is distinctly his own.
Man belongs to himself, and his special will furthers the work of incarnation.
Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, pp32-33.
Do we accept that there is more to being human than flesh and blood? That there is a will, soul or spirit animating each one of us?
We could say that parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers are charged with enabling the work of incarnation to take place in the child; not to break the child’s will but to provide a fertile ground for it to grow.
Of course we refer to the Incarnation especially in regard to Jesus. His humanity was shaped in his relationship with Mary and Joseph; we have to thank them for their part in his development, his incarnation.
In this statue from the church of Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam, Mary is supporting her Son as he reaches out into the world, to you and to me. Let us pray for the grace to perceive how to support the children we live and work with.
She said those words, ‘Thy will be done’.
In her God’s gracious will had won.
Simon’s couplet sent me to this painting from Plowden Catholic Church in Shropshire. Mary seems to be having a moment of weariness, such as any parent will have undergone, and her Child seems anxious to comfort her.
Here they are, far from home in Egypt. Is Joseph his own boss, self employed as he had been in Nazareth, or is he out all day, at the beck and call of an employer, who might expect him to work extra at short notice? Does Mary sew or launder to help make ends meet in the big city?
At any point after she said those words, Mary’s life will have had problems. There were many more difficult years after the Holy Family returned to Galilee; if Mary thought her troubles were over, they had only just begun.
Most of her appearances in the Gospels are challenging. Even heartbreaking. She was not mentioned on the day the mob tried to throw Jesus off a cliff near Nazareth, but she must have been there. And so it went on until Good Friday.
Thy will be done: giving birth in the stable probably also meant Mary didn’t have her little home-made layette with her. All her preparations apparently wasted; no doubt some other family benefited, but she and Joseph had to start from scratch: that gold the Wise Man brought must have come in useful!
Thy will be done: it will be, but it probably won’t be done smoothly!
More from Simon soon!
We reflected on the passion flower story back in June and in November last year, after we’d spotted gravestones in Chartham with carvings of them, and again on the capital of a column at a doorway in St Thomas’ church, Canterbury. This one, well, let’s say it’s very close to home, but I only found it thanks to Chartham.
A few weeks ago the L’Arche Kent community, with friends and relations on weekend vacations, did a 3 mile sponsored walk – we sponsored ourselves – from Chartham to Canterbury, in particular from Saint Mary’s church, Chartham to Saint Dunstan’s church in Canterbury. My companion and I had time for a coffee on arrival before joining the others, so I had my eyes open walking through the graveyard. And:
Here’s a passion flower, flanked by a daffodil and a rose, with blooms above that I’ve not yet identified. The rose for Saint George and England, the daffodil for Saint David and Wales, and the passion flower? This is how we concluded last year’s post:
When you see a passionflower let it remind you that Jesus is real, his death was real, as indeed will ours be – but so, too, will our rising. And when you see a passionflower on a gravestone, send us a picture to put in the blog!
The rest of that post, describing the story told by the passion flower, can be found here.
Thank you for following Agnellus Mirror or just looking in and reflecting with us.
Will Turnstone and Co.
When Saint Francis had returned to Saint Mary of the Angels, he sent two of his companions to the said Orlando; who when they were come to him, were received of him with exceeding great joy and charity. And desiring to show them the mount of Alvernia, he sent with them full fifty men-at-arms to defend them from the wild beasts of. the wood, and thus accompanied these brothers climbed up the mountain and searched diligently and at last they came to a part of the mountain that was well fitted for devotion and contemplation; for in that part there was some level ground; and this place they chose out for them and for Saint Francis to dwell therein; and with the help of the men-at-arms that bore them company, they made a little cell of branches of trees: and so they accepted in the name of God, and took possession of the Mount of Alvernia and of the dwelling-place of the brothers on the mountain, and departed, and returned to Saint Francis.
And when they were come unto him, they told him how and in what maimer they had taken a place on the mount of Alvernia, most fitted for prayer and meditation. Hearing these tidings, Saint Francis was right glad, and praising and giving thanks to God, he spake to those brothers with joyful countenance, and said, “My sons, our forty days’ fast of Saint Michael the Archangel draweth near; I firmly believe that it is the will of God that we keep this fast on the mount of Alvernia, which by divine decree hath been made ready for us, to the end that to the honour and glory of God and of His Mother, the glorious Virgin Mary, and of the holy Angels, we may, through penance, merit at the hands of Christ the consolation of consecrating this blessed mountain.”
Today is the Feast of Saint Michael.
We are looking at some of Maria Montessori’s ideas on The Child in the Family in the light of Mary and Joseph’s experience of parenting. Bearing in mind our own experience and observations, how do we feel about this statement? (p25).
Clearly it is useless to correct defects that the child will no longer have when he is an adult.
How did Mary react to the ‘misbehaviour’ of Jesus stopping to listen and talk with the wise men in the Temple? A gentle reproach, and she stored all these things in her heart. Let us pray for discernment in all our dealings with children and young people.
Another extract from Maria Montessori’s ‘The Child in the Family’. Mary and Joseph had to treat Jesus in a less than ideal way, born in a stable, then a quick flight into Egypt. Parents should not feel too guilty if all is not ideal when the baby is born. But we should all feel guilty that we do too little to help and receive so many babies, such as those born every day,to start their lives as refugees.
At birth [the infant] is ejected from his home [in the womb] to live in the air. Without the least transition, he is pushed from perfect repose to the exhausting work of being born. His body is crushed almost as if he had passed between two millstones, and he comes to us wounded, like a pilgrim who has journeyed from a distant land.
Death, like birth, is a law of nature, and one to which we must all submit. Why do we seek to ease that terrible moment of death in every possible way? Why, knowing that we cannot conquer death, do we at least want to render it less painful? Yet we never think to alleviate the suffering of birth. But what do we do to help and receive him?
Maria Montessori, ‘The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, pp20-21.
Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury
Of course we have no idea what date Mary’s birthday should be celebrated, she probably didn’t know herself. It was celebrated on this day in the VIth Century as an important stage in Salvation History; nobody is obliged to hold this feast, but we should always be thankful that Mary said ‘Yes’ to God, not just at the Annunciation but also in all those decisions a parent has to take when rearing a child.
Education Sunday is held in England and Wales by many churches. A time to pray for all involved in education, from Nurseries to Universities; indeed today’s writer, Maria Montessori, would have totally agreed with the Catholic Church’s assertion that parents are the first teachers of their children. Read her words and imagine Mary and Joseph’s parenting.
We must come to a full understanding of the state of being of the newborn child. Only then will the absolute necessity of rendering easy his initiation into life become evident, The newborn child must become the object of knowledgeable care. Even holding him requires the utmost gentleness, and he should not be moved except with great tenderness. We should understand that in the first moment, and even in the first month, he should be kept very quiet.
Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, p23.
The diocese of Clifton is based in Bristol, England, but right now a party from there are on pilgrimage to Lourdes. For anyone who would like to be there but can’t, try this link for a virtual pilgrimage. Thanks to Independent Catholic News for the link.