The Month of Mary

05-14-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

On April 16th of this year, we began our fifty day celebration of Easter. This Sunday is the fourteenth day in May, marking the 28th day of our Easter Celebration. Our altar is decorated beautifully with flowers that remind us of the beauty of nature. The Easter Candle is a simple but powerful symbol of the light, hope, and love the Risen Christ has brought into our world and into our lives. In the Risen Christ, we are reminded of the true meaning of Resurrection. One of the great ways to reflect on the Resurrection is to pray the rosary every day. Our Bishop, John Barres, has asked all of us to pray this prayer every day during the month of May, especially as we note the 100th anniversary of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the three shepherd children in Fatima in Portugal. Through her intercession, we seek to rise from all that distracts us from the love of God in her Son Jesus and to find the way to peace in our hearts and in our world.

As I look at my journey to the priesthood, I see myself praying the rosary every day before I went to the minor seminary of St. Pius the Tenth in Uniondale for class. My mother at times had us kneel in the living room of our home as children and pray the family rosary. Every weekday, we priests at St. Patrick’s gather a half hour before supper to pray Evening Prayer in the Divine Office and the rosary. Our prayers and Mary’s intercession and inspiration are a powerful source of encouragement and strength in our life together as priests and our life with you, the people of St. Patrick’s parish family. One of the treasures in praying the rosary is reflecting on the various mysteries. During the Easter Season, I try to focus on the way the Resurrection is seen in each one of the mysteries. It is very challenging at times to pray the rosary and stay focused. Reflecting on the mysteries opens our minds and hearts to the power of God’s love and the strength of Mary’s faith.

The Joyful Mysteries begin with the Annunciation. All of a sudden Mary, a faithful woman of prayer, was visited by the angel Gabriel. What is her reaction and response? She listens as Gabriel tells her that the Holy Spirit will conceive Jesus in her womb. After listening to God’s message from Gabriel her response was simple and clear, “Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) After her consent to the angel, she had to rise above her fears of what her family and friends would say about her unique conception by the Holy Spirit. Her faith enabled her to rise beyond what others would think and to live with conviction what God asked her to do. Even St. Joseph had to be impressed and inspired by her faith as he rose beyond his doubts, disappointment, and skepticism to believe the message of an angel in a dream that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Yes, the power of the Resurrection was there even before the death of Jesus and His Resurrection from the tomb. Before Mary’s consent to the angel Gabriel’s message he told her: “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:36-37) The next Joyful Mystery is the Visitation where Mary goes to rejoice with Elizabeth over her pregnancy with John the Baptist in what are her years beyond child bearing. As the angel Gabriel said, “For nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary rose beyond her own joy and challenges to go and rejoice with Elizabeth who would bear the final prophet before the Savior. Mary rose to see the love and trust God placed in her and in her cousin Elizabeth. The third Joyful mystery is the Birth of Jesus. This is another challenging experience for Mary. As much as she and Joseph rejoiced in the child in her womb, when the time comes for His birth there was no welcome from others, but even a denial of a human residence for the birth. As we know Jesus was born in a stable. While our manger scenes are almost magical in appearance and played with by children, there was no sterile hospital or doctors to deliver Jesus. Mary rose above the human reaction to be put off and angry at those who did not seem to care to rejoice that Jesus was finally in her arms. Her spirits were lifted and her joy increased by the wonder of the shepherds who came to see the child after being told by the angel of His birth and by the awe and wonder of the Magi. These were Resurrection moments, increasing her joy and solidifying her faith. The fourth Joyful Mystery recounts the Presentation where Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord in accord with Jewish Law. The old man Simeon has a Resurrection moment as He takes the child in his arms and gives thanks and praise to God for this moment. God had promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Savior and now he praised God in a prayer we priests say every night during Night Prayer, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32) Simeon not only rejoiced in this Resurrection moment for himself, but for all people - the Savior promised by God is here!! Simeon also spoke challenging words to Mary: “The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:33-35) As we see in the sorrowful mysteries, Mary rose to believe that God’s way would prevail. The final Joyful Mystery is the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Like any parent who thinks their child is lost, Mary had to be anxious and worried. But her worst fears were relieved when Jesus was found in the Temple speaking with the elders. His presence with them raised her understanding and vision of Jesus to an even more deep understanding of God’s Way, Truth, and Life.

Join with me in saying the rosary every day, especially during this month dedicated to Mary. Through her intercession and example our minds and hearts will be raised and our faith, hope, and love strengthened as individuals and as the people of God.