Tag Archives: Marian Feasts

The French, the Spanish, and the Marian

20 May

Week Two in Madrid brought with it two new projects for me in the Department of Communications for World Youth Day 2011. Most recently, I have been researching a few of the many titles and places in which Mary, Mother of God, is venerated in Spain. With the goal of eventual publication on the official World Youth Day website, http://www.madrid11.com, I have begun to write a series on these Spanish Marian devotions with the first article focusing on Madrid and this city’s patroness, the Virgin of Almudena (la Virgen de Almudena).

Construction of Madrid’s cathedral, El Catedral Santa María la Real de La Almudena (literally, The Cathedral of the Royal St. Mary of the Almudena), was begun in the late nineteenth century, interrupted by the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, and completed in 1993. In the same year, the cathedral of Madrid was consecrated by Pope John Paul II.

Santa María la Real de La Almudena also houses an iconic statue of its namesake. That statue has a fascinating mixture of history and legend behind it. An image of Mary was, according to legend, brought in about 40 AD/CE to Iberia, which has become contemporary Spain and Portugal, by the Apostle St. James the Greater, also a patron of Spain and of the famous pilgrimage, city, and cathedral Santiago de Compostela. Seven centuries later, the Moors invaded Iberia, and the statue was hidden for fear of its desecration in the wall of Madrid, then a small village in the shadow of Spain’s capital, Toledo. In 1085, after Christian troops under King Alfonso VI of Castile and León had re-taken Madrid, the Archbishop of Toledo ordered the statue of Mary found at the bidding of the villagers of Madrid. The task of finding la Virgen de Almudena, who is named after the Moorish granary (in Arabic, almudin) behind which the icon had been hidden, proved to be daunting. Then, again perhaps by way of a miracle or perhaps  according to legend, the wall hiding the image of Mary crumbled, revealing not only Our Lady but two candles, still burning three centuries after they were placed in the wall along with the statue.

The story of Our Lady of Almudena is not without controversy, even if it is to be considered mostly legendary. One must place it within the larger narrative of Spain’s history, which has included much conflict between people purportedly advancing the cause of several faith systems: in Spain, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism among them in Spain. Within Spain as beyond, religion has been used as a cover for violent conquest and warfare. Just as I cannot condone violence in the name of faith, which has been characterized especially by Benedict XVI (Deus Caritas Est, 1, 28, and Caritas in Veritate, 29) as opposed to reason itself, I believe that such violence ought not to be identified with any creed or with religious faith itself.

Religious faith in its true sense respects the freedom of religion of each person and of all people. With almost as much conviction as I have in the right to freedom of religion, I also take to heart what a relative once told me: Religion is not religion without a sense of humour. On that note, I should mention my second “new” project this week in the Department of Communications. While still searching for interesting stories from youth from around the world and their preparation for World Youth Day in August, I have been asked to focus my search especially on French-speaking countries and their young pilgrims.

Alors, oui, on travaille en Français ici à Madrid. Aux jeunes: On cherche vos histoires de comment vous préparez pour les Journées Mondiales de la Jeunesse ici en août. Cette semaine, j’ai été en communication avec plusieurs diocèses de France et du Canada, notamment le lieu de naissance du Curé d’Ars, Saint Jean Vianney, et le petit Vicariat du Territoire d’Outre-Mer de France près de la côte est du Canada, Saint Pierre et Miquelon. De ce dernier provient une petite blague religieuse qui a donné joie à notre pause café l’autre jour et qui satisfait aussi mon goût pour l’humour sur l’informatique (voir http://www.cheznoo.net/paroissecatholiqueSPM/humour/index_humour.html). Ma traduction en Anglais est suite à la version française originale.

Yes, we work in French here in Madrid. To the youth: We are searching for your stories about how you are preparing for World Youth Day here in August. This week, I was in communication with several dioceses of France and of Canada, notably the birthplace of the Curé d’Ars, St. John Vianney, and the small Vicariate of the French Overseas Territory off the East Coast of Canada, Saint Pierre et Miquelon. From the latter, I found a little religious joke that added joy to our coffee break the other day and that also satisfies my taste for computer-related humour (see http://www.cheznoo.net/paroissecatholiqueSPM/ humour/index_humour.html). My English translation follows the original French version.

1. Au commencement Dieu créa le bit et l’octet. Puis il créa le mot.

2. Et il y avait deux octets dans un mot; et rien d’autre n’existait. Et Dieu sépara le zéro et le un, et il vit que cela était bon.

3. Et Dieu dit: Que les données soient! Et ainsi cela fut. Et Dieu dit: Plaçons les données dans leurs lieux respectifs. Et il créa les disquettes, les disques durs et les disques compacts.

4. Et Dieu dit : Que soient les ordinateurs, pour qu’il y ait un lieu pour y mettre les disquettes, les disques durs et les disques compacts. Et Dieu créa les ordinateurs.

5. Mais le logiciel n’existait pas encore. Mais Dieu créa les programmes ; grands et petits… Et Dieu leur dit : allez et multipliez-vous, et remplissez toute la mémoire.

6. Et Dieu dit : je créerai le Programmeur ; et le Programmeur créera de nouveaux programmes et gouvernera les ordinateurs et les programmes et les données.

7. Et Dieu créa le Programmeur, et il le mit dans le centre de données ; Et Dieu montra au Programmeur le répertoire et il lui dit : tu peux utiliser tous les volumes et sous-répertoires, mais N’UTILISE PAS WINDOWS.

8. Et Dieu dit: ce n’est pas bon que le Programmeur soit seul. Il prit un os du corps du Programmeur et il en créa une créature qui regarderait le Programmeur; qui admirerait le Programmeur ; qui aimerait les choses faites par le Programmeur. Et Dieu nomma la créature “Utilisateur”.

9. Et il laissa le Programmeur et l’Utilisateur nus dans le DOS, et il vit que cela était bon.

10. Mais Bill Gates était la plus maligne de toutes les créatures de Dieu. Et Bill Gates dit à l’Utilisateur: Dieu t’a vraiment dit de ne pas utiliser TOUS les programmes?

11. Et l’Utilisateur répondit: Dieu nous a dit que nous pouvions utiliser n’importe quel programme et n’importe quel bloc de données, mais il nous a dit de ne pas utiliser Windows parce que nous pourrions mourir.

12. Et Bill dit à l’Utilisateur : Comment peux-tu parler de quelque chose que tu n’as même pas essayé ? Des que tu utiliseras Windows tu seras égal à Dieu. Tu seras capable de créer tout ce que tu voudras rien qu’en touchant la souris.

13. Et l’Utilisateur vit que les fruits de Windows étaient meilleurs et plus faciles à utiliser. Et l’Utilisateur vit que toute connaissance était inutile, puisque Windows pouvait la remplacer.

14. Et l’Utilisateur installa Windows dans son ordinateur; et il dit au Programmeur que cela était bon.

15. Et le Programmeur commença à chercher de nouveaux pilotes. Et Dieu lui dit: Que cherches-tu ? Et le Programmeur répondit: Je cherche de nouveaux pilotes, parce que je ne peux pas les trouver dans le DOS. Et Dieu dit: Qui t’a dit que tu avais besoin de nouveaux pilotes? Aurais-tu utilisé Windows, par exemple? Et le Programmeur dit: C’est Bill qui nous l’a dit…

16. Et Dieu dit à Bill: Pour ce que tu as fait, tu seras haï par toutes les créatures. Et l’Utilisateur sera toujours mécontent de toi. Et pire encore, tu
seras condamné à toujours vendre Windows.

17. Et Dieu dit à l’Utilisateur: Pour ce que tu as fait, le Windows te trompera et consommera toutes tes ressources; et tu ne pourras utiliser que de mauvais programmes que tu utiliseras dans la douleur et l’angoisse; et tu seras toujours sous la tutelle du Programmeur.

18. Et Dieu dit au Programmeur: Pour avoir écouté l’utilisateur tu ne seras jamais heureux. Tous tes programmes seront farcis d’erreurs et tu seras condamné à les corriger et les recorriger jusqu’à la fin des temps.

19. Et Dieu les expulsa tous du Centre de Données et il en bloqua la porte avec un mot de passe de 999 octets.

 1. In the beginning, God created the bit and the octet, and then he created the word.

2. And there were two octets to a word; and nothing else existed. And God separated the zero from the one, and he saw that it was good.

3. And God said, “Let there be data!” And so there was. And God said: “Let us put the data in their proper places. And he created diskettes, hard drives, and compact discs.

4. And God said: “Let there be computers, so that there might be a place to put the diskettes, the hard drives, and the compact discs. And God created computers.

5. But the network did not exist yet. But God created programs, great and small… And God said to them: Go forth and multiply, and fill all the memory.

6. And God said: “I will create the Programmer; and the programmer will create new programs that will give order to computers, programs, and data.

7. And God created the Programmer, and he placed him amid the data; And God showed the Programmer the system and said to him: “You may use all the volumes and sub-systems, but DO NOT USE WINDOWS.”

8. And God said: “It is not good that the Programmer should be alone.” He took a bone [Here the French word for bone is “os,” a pun not translatable into English on the Macintosh Operating System] from the body of the Programmer and he created a creature who would esteem the Programmer; who would admire the Programmer; who would love the things made by the Programmer. And God called the creature, “User.”

9. And he left the Programmer and the User naked in DOS [Disk Operating System, a kind of electronic Eden I suppose], and he saw that it was good.

10. But Bill Gates was the most cunning of all God’s creatures. And Bill Gates said to the User: “Did God really tell you not to use ALL the programs?”

11. And the User answered: “God told us that we could use whatever program and whatever block of data, but he told us not to use Windows, because we could die.”

12. And Bill said to the User: “How can you speak of something that you haven’t even tried? As soon as you use Windows you will be equal to God. You will be able to create everything you want at the touch of a mouse.”

13. And the User saw that the fruits of Windows were better and easier to use. And the User saw that all knowledge was useless, because Windows was able to replace it.

14. And the User installed Windows on his computer; and he said to the Programmer that it was good.

15. And the Programmer began to search for new drivers. And God said to him: “What are you searching for?” And the Programmer answered: “I am searching for new drivers, because I cannot find them in DOS.” And God said: “Who told you that you needed new drivers? Would you have used Windows, by any chance?” And the Programmer said: “It was Bill who told us that…”

16. And God said to Bill: “For what you have done, you will be hated by all creatures. And the User will always be unhappy with you. And worse yet, you will be condemned to sell Windows forever.”

17. And God said to the User: “For what you have done, Windows will trick you and consume all your resources; and you will only be able to use bad programs, which you will use in pain and anguish; and you will always be under the control of the Programmer.”

18. And God said to the Programmer: “For having listened to the User, you will never be happy. All your programs will be filled with errors, and you will be condemned to correct them and to re-correct them until the end of time.”

19. And God expelled them all from the Data Centre, and he blocked the gateway with a password 999 octets long.

From Madrid (De Madrid malencontreusement utilisant Windows; Desde Madrid, desafortunadamente usando Windows), using Windows, unfortunately: Warren Schmidt, CSB.

The Visitation and Messianic Joy- Reflection for Mass of Monday, May 31, 2010- Feast of the Visitation of Mary

31 May

Monday, May 31, 2010
Feast of the Visitation of Mary
Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18a or Romans 12:9-16; Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6 (Responsorial Canticle); Luke 1:39-56

The Passionist Carroll Stuhlmueller characterizes the Gospel of Luke, based on its vocabulary and literary style, as “the ‘Gospel of Messianic Joy’” in his chapter on Luke in the Jerome Biblical Commentary.[1] Stuhlmueller’s description of Luke’s Gospel is fitting, and we might understand why particularly in today’s reading, the story of the Visitation.

Luke uses several Greek synonyms for joy, exultation, or gladness, especially in his infancy narrative, that are rare in the other Gospels. One of these words, αγαλλιάσει (agallia’sei), appears only twice in Luke,[2] in today’s Gospel reading to describe John the Baptist, who leaps for joy at Mary’s greeting,[3] and in the angel’s announcement to Zechariah of his wife Elizabeth’s pregnancy: “You will have joy and gladness.”[4] This word and its cognates are used only once in the Synoptic Gospels outside of Luke, in Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”[5]

Thus, the theme of joy surrounding the coming of the Messiah is repeated in Luke more than in any other Gospel. However, as Stuhlmueller emphasizes, Luke’s account is not one of joy without emotional or theological depth. Stuhlmueller writes of Luke’s tendency to precede or to follow a joyful passage with one that allows the hearer “to ponder the wonder of what has taken place.”[6] The people featured in Luke’s infancy narrative themselves take time to ponder and to be awed by the Incarnation. Luke, for example, uses that very verb twice to describe Mary’s contemplation of the mystery of God made man: “And Mary pondered all these things… in her heart.”[7]

Mary’s example of discipleship to us is to ponder the joy of our journey with Christ. Sometimes, even amid that joy, Mary ponders that which troubles her. So must we ponder and discern the will of God that brings us tremendous joy but can also be troubling to us.

Elizabeth, too, is one who ponders the mystery of the Incarnation, coupled with the miracle of her own pregnancy. Her question in today’s Gospel reading of the Visitation never ceases to give me pause: “Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”[8]

Why, we ask, should God have come to us at all? Jesus was not obligated to take our human form, but He did so out of love for us. He came to dwell in the womb of a human mother, to be born, to live and to minister among us, and to die and to rise to complete the long-anticipated act of salvation. We are now given the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that God’s mystery becomes our vocation.

We carry the Spirit of the Lord within us as Mary once carried Jesus within her. When that Spirit is disseminated among us, when we act in the name of the Lord whom we receive in the Eucharist, we make the Visitation a perpetual and actual reality. Let us then live the Visitation by recognizing Christ in those around us, and in our prayer and acts of charity may we ponder the reality of Christ among us and within us, and may we be to this world a people of great joy.


[1] Carroll Stuhlmueller, “The Gospel According to Luke,” in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 2:117.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Luke 1:44

[4] Luke 1:14

[5] Matthew 5:12. The Gospel of John uses cognates of αγαλλιάσει twice, in 5:35 and 8:56. This word and its derivatives appear eleven times in the New Testament. Outside the Gospels, it appears twice in the Acts of the Apostles (2:26 and 16:34), three times in the first letter of Peter (1:6, 1:8, and 4:13), and once in Revelation (19:7). See Heartlight’s Search God’s Word, “The New Testament Greek Lexicon.” http://www.searchgodsword.org/ lex/grk/view.cgi?number=21. Accessed 29 May, 2010.

[6] Stuhlmueller, “The Gospel According to Luke,” 2:117.

[7] Luke 2:19. See also Luke 1:29.

[8] Luke 1:43

Basilian Anniversary and Feast of the Presentation of Mary- Reflection for Mass of November 21, 2008

21 Nov

Vincent Duret, Joseph Lapierre, Augustin Payan, François Polly, Pierre Tourvieille, Julien Tracol, André Fayolle, Henri Martinesche, Jean-François Pagès, Jean-Antoine Vallon…

One hundred eighty-six years ago today, these ten men gathered in Annonay, France, to elect Jean Lapierre as the first Superior General of the Association of Priests of St. Basil. We celebrate the anniversary of our foundation as a religious community on this day, and we also commemorate the Presentation of Mary, Mother of God and Patroness of our Order.

No Biblical record exists of the Presentation of Mary, but the Book of Leviticus and the Gospel of Luke contain details about Jewish rituals surrounding the presentation of a newborn child to the religious leaders. This was an occasion of great joy, of peace, and of hope. When Jesus was presented by Mary and Joseph in the Jerusalem temple, the Divine Child gave lasting hope to the aged widow and prophetess Anna and to Simeon, whose beautiful Nunc Dimittis hymn has become a part of the Church’s tradition during Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours: “Lord, now you have let your servant go in peace.” (Lk.  2:29) One can imagine a similar sentiment expressed at the Presentation of Our Lady by her parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim. Little did Anne and Joachim know that their daughter would be God’s ideal instrument to bring Jesus Christ, humankind’s saving hope, into the world.

Yet this is precisely what each of us is called to do as Christians, as religious, and as Basilians. Christ dwells in each one of us; it is up to us to bear witness to His presence within us and therefore to present Him to the world. We are the temple within which the Child is shown, much to the hope and wonderment of others.

I can think of many instances when I have derived hope from Basilians and from the people we encounter. One experience stands out, though: that of my first Sunday Mass after my arrival in Cali, Colombia, last January. I attended this Mass with Fr. Wally Platt, CSB. It was held outdoors on a hot day in a very poor part of Cali in the hills overlooking the city. That Mass included the final professions of a small group of Franciscans. Unfortunately, I knew very little Spanish, having just arrived in Colombia, but a children’s choir opened with a resounding hymn to faith and hope: “La fe y la esperanza.” This is the only part of the song that I understood, but it was all I needed. The  small children had little to give- they had come from such poverty- except for their voices and their smiles. But faith and hope are their own language.

Jesus impels us to speak and to act in that language. For most of us, that can be a great challenge. Similarly, the angel in Revelation tells John in his vision to eat a scroll that will be sweet as honey in his mouth but will be bitter in his stomach after he has swallowed it. (cf. Rv. 8:9) Prophets withstood persecution while they proclaimed the sweet message that God planned to send His people a Messiah. The message itself was often received with bitterness. Not long after Jesus had entered Jerusalem, He was in the temple angrily overturning the tables of those selling worldly objects there. This was not a message the people who were desecrating the temple wanted to hear, but those who sought to kill Jesus could not find a reason to do so. Jesus was acting as a messenger, as a prophet, and as a witness to hope, therefore St. Luke wrote that the people who listened to Jesus teach were “spellbound by what they heard.” (Lk. 19:48)

We must carry on as Christian messengers of faith and hope. Our testimony begins with fidelity to prayer: Are we making our interior temple, thus the whole Church as the Body of Christ, a house of prayer, or do we make of ourselves “a den of robbers?” The message of hope that our Basilian forerunners enkindled at our foundation starts in each of us and radiates outward into the world. As St. Anne and St. Joachim presented their daughter Mary to the world- so much bright but unknown promise to behold- so we as Christians, as religious, and as Basilians are to present ourselves as carriers of a prophecy: Faith and hope, la foi et l’espérance, la fe y la esperanza. Amen.

On the Feast of your Presentation, Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. St. Basil, pray for us. All our deceased Basilian brothers who await us in Heaven, pray for us.