Posted April 5, 2002

Mary Page News items give insight into our interest areas, our outreach, and the myriad ways people honor Our Lady. We welcome your input and your comments.

News from the ML/IMRI

Alumni Update

Dr. Annamaria Poma-Swank, who taught numerous courses on Religious Art at The International Marian Research Institute, is now Associate Museum Librarian at The Cloister Library & Archives, a branch of the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  She was recently granted an award for cultural achievement, "Premio Firenze Donna".  The award will be presented in Florence on April 13, 2002.

Also, Sr. Mary Kay Nolan, O. P., the first woman to receive a Sacred Theology Doctorate from The International Marian Research Institute, has accepted a tenure track position as Professor of New Testament Studies at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas.

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International Marian Research Institute Summer Courses

Summer courses begin on June 11.  See the course offerings for the summer academic session of The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute at: Summer Schedule.

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MSA 2002 Meeting in New York City

The 2002 MSA national meeting will be held at the Francis Cardinal Spellman Retreat Center in Riverdale, New York (a suburb north of New York City) on May 22 - 25.  Plans are underway with exciting news that our New York board member, Fr. Myles Murphy, has received word that Cardinal Avery Dulles has accepted an invitation to be keynote speaker at the meeting.  A special event is being planned for those who attend the meeting - a visit to the Cloisters (a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art).  The topic of the meeting will be "The Marian Dimension of the Christian Life: The Middle Period."

Details of the Program

Registration Form


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Personal thoughts and reflections about Mary from our readers 

We've added a section to our Research and Publications section showing selected personal comments from our readers about the Virgin Mary.  Click here to see comments received within the past month.  From this page, feel free to submit your own personal thoughts on Mary.  

We also encourage our readers to submit their opinions on various styles of Marian Art through an on-line art survey.

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News from Around the World

Update on Proposed Marian Pro-Life Monument

By unanimous vote, the 13-member Common Council of the City of Buffalo NY passed a Resolution in support of the Arch of Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and International Shrine of the Holy Innocents, on April 2, 2002.

The Resolution, introduced by Councilman-at-Large Charley Fisher, proclaims "that the good of society depends in part upon the vitality of its religious institutions," and observes that the Association, founded by "leaders of Buffalo’s professional and lay Catholic community, has proposed to construct a monumental shrine in keeping with the tenets of the Catholic faith, which is the religious heritage of the majority of the residents of Buffalo."

Addressing the Pro-Life aspect of the immense shrine project, which drew fire from local individuals when first announced in the summer of 2001, the Common Council stated, "the proposed shrine would also encourage increased respect for human life, including prior to the birth of the individual, a value much needed in the present day notwithstanding that there are differing opinions on the issue of ‘pro-life’ versus ‘pro-choice.’"


1916 Religious Epic Film Is Resurrected

"Christus" Had a Cast of Thousands -- and Latin Subtitles

ROME, MARCH 26, 2002 (

A copy of "Christus," considered to be the first important religious film production, has been rediscovered and restored by parallel research teams.

Giulio Cesare Antamoro, its Roman author with a hobby for making films, had accomplished a true feat in the era of silent movies: He spent three years filming in Palestine and Egypt, with thousands of extras. Three Roman aristocrats went into debt to finance the 1916 production.

The solid, highly cultured two-hour film even had some subtitles in Latin and quotations from Dante. The scenes were inspired in the great masterpieces of Italian painting, such as Blessed Angelico's Annunciation.

Until recently, Antamoro's "Christus" was thought to be lost. However, the Italian newspaper Avvenire revealed Sunday that two cinematographic-research teams have restored two copies that can now be viewed.

Film historians say the original film "Christus" was last shown in 1928. It was projected on the wall of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and watched by kneeling spectators.

Then, all traces of the movie were lost. Two years ago, the Italian producer Titanus, whose director general Goffredo Lombardo is the son of the producer of the original film and of the actress in the masterpiece, succeeded in reconstructing it. He spliced several sections of copies dispersed in film museums around the world. That enormous restoration effort was presented, digitalized, in Venice.

Now, from various film archives around Italy, emerges an unpublished and uncensored rendition of "Christus." It is the version adapted for the popular Spanish market by the well-known Parisian production firm Pathé Frères. In fact, it is a synthesis of the original.

Attilio Mina, professor of cinema at the Art Institute of Giussano, found the film and was able to restore it with the help of his students, who with a computer revised every frame of the archive material that they had previously digitalized.

They reconstructed the frames in a digital video, which was presented on Monday. "The rediscovered copy has only 37 minutes of Antamoro's film, because the film editor, with a decidedly modern inclination, eliminated scenes," Mina explained.

The work "is considered to be the most complete of all religious films," movie historian Lionello Ghirardini writes.

The cast was of the highest order: Leda Gys, one of the best actresses of silent films, is the Virgin; Alberto Pasquali plays Christ, full of feeling; Aurelia Cattaneo plays Mary Magdalene. For the impressive crowd scenes, the troops of the English protectorate in Palestine were used.

Some scenes are masterful even today, such as the one of the temptation of the devil, who seems to emerge from the desert rocks.

The Last Supper is one of the first scenes in history filmed with electric light. The crucifixion had to be repeated in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy because the original film became irremediably moldy during the return trip from Palestine.

The first cinematographic passion of Christ was made in 1896. It is a brief film recorded by someone named Kirchner, known as Lear, for the French Catholic publishers "La Bonne Presse."

A more complete Passion -- 10 minutes long -- was recorded in Bohemia in 1897 by an assistant of the Lumiere, using peasants and painted scenes.


On Saturday night, John Paul II presided over and celebrated the Mass at the "mother of all vigils" of the liturgical year, during which he baptized nine people.

This is a night "truly blessed," John Paul II said during the homily, "when heaven is wedded to earth, and man is reconciled to God!"

The Pope recalled that it was also Mary's night: "This is the night of nights, the night of faith and of hope. While all is shrouded in darkness, God -- the Light -- keeps watch. With him there keep watch all who hope and trust in him.

O Mary, this is truly your night! As the last lights of the Sabbath are extinguished, and the fruit of your womb rests in the earth, your heart too keeps watch! Your faith and your hope look ahead. Behind the heavy stone, they already detect the empty tomb; behind the thick veil of darkness, they glimpse the dawn of the Resurrection.

Grant, O Mother, that we too may keep watch in the silence of the night, believing and hoping in the Lord’s word. Thus shall we meet, in the fullness of light and life, Christ, the first fruits of the risen, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Alleluia!"

From L’Osservatore Romano

Not posted this week.  Expect an update to this section next week.

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Marian Events  

This section lists all of the current Marian Events by geographical position.

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Mary in the Secular Press

The director and editors of Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature. Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing the secular press.

Mary in the secular press March 15 through April 5, 2002

Antoni Gaudi, best known for designing the extravagant Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona, could become the first architect to be made a saint, the London Times wrote on April 5. Backers of the case said that church authorities would use the 150th anniversary of Gaudi's birth in June to begin proceedings that would lead first to his beatification and then to his canonisation. Oggi, the Italian magazine, said that although some of Gaudi's buildings were secular, such as the Casa Mila and the Casa Batllo, he had been a religious man who devoted most of his life to his visionary unfinished church, the Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia, which he began in the 1880s. He had also dedicated the Casa Mila to the Virgin Mary. Vatican officials said that they had been approached by Cardinal Ricardo Maria Carles, the Archbishop of Barcelona, and that initial reactions had been favourable.

The Church of the Nativity, believed to be the birthplace of Christ and epicentre of the present gunbattle between Israelis and Palestinians, is no stranger to conflict, the London Times said on April 4. It has survived repeated conquest and was once blamed for provoking the dispute between Europe's great powers that resulted in the Crimean War. The simple stone basilica, which looks out over the Judean desert a few miles south of Jerusalem, was first recognised as the place where the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus by the Emperor Constantine, who erected a church on the site in the 4th century. Unlike the common Christmas story of Christ's birth in a stable, the actual site is a dark grotto beneath the church floor the size of a large fireplace.

Arising hours before dawn on Easter Sunday, the people of La Antigua, Guatemala, create intricately designed alfombras, street carpets of breathtaking beauty, to mark the day's religious celebration. Composed of flower petals, pine needles and colored sawdust, the brilliantly hued alfombras cover the cobblestones with religious emblems like wine goblets and national symbols such as the resplendent quetzal, the country's national bird. Though it takes up to 20 hours to craft these magnificent works of art, alfombras aren't built to last: Hours, and sometimes mere minutes, after they're completed, they're trampled by Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions commemorating the Crucifixion and recalling the Stations of the Cross. The processions, which culminate on Easter, feature townspeople carrying heavy wooden floats with life-size statues of Jesus or the Virgin Mary.  Several processions, including one the Saturday before Easter, feature women bearing floats with the Virgin Mary. From The Atlanta Journal and Constitution March 31.

Nothing prepares you for the magnificence of Seville's Holy Week celebrations, which reached their climax before dawn Friday with hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts jamming the streets, The Independent (London) said on March 30. The passion with which Sevillans follow vast floats bearing life-sized figures of the Virgin Mary or Christ is difficult for outsiders to understand. Sceptics see the week-long celebrations as an outmoded ritual sustained by fanatics, a perception strengthened by ranks of hooded penitents parading with pointed hats and huge candles tilted from the hip. Even those who love Semana Santa (Holy Week) admit that tradition bears so heavily upon Seville that change or progress seems impossible, something the organisers of the EU summit to be held here in June might bear in mind. The most adored Virgins - the Macarena and the Trianera, laden with jewels, flowers and gilded vestments - made their long journeys through Thursday night and well into Friday. Costaleros, guided by the foreman or capataz, create the dramatic effect of making the pasos (floats) dance: when drums roll and trumpets wail, the costaleros shuffle the paso from side to side, and the Virgin shimmies voluptuously down the street. Francisco, a lawyer, was on Wednesday a costalero - one of the invisible heroes crouched beneath the heavy paso to bear it through the streets. He shows the swollen red sore across his neck. "It's another world under there. You are aware only of the ground, the feet in front and the drum's beat. I feel as though I'm holding up God. I put my heart into what I'm doing," he said.

Prepared to love Schoemperlen’s novel, Our Lady of the Lost and Found, about a middle-aged writer living a quiet life in an undisclosed city who is visited by the Virgin Mary, the Los Angeles Times reviewer on March 30 instead finds that what Mary--one of the best known and most beloved women in history--has to say about Jesus and Joseph, unanswered prayers and miracles, angels and the devil, heaven and hell, asking her son to turn water into wine and watching him die on a cross, is never known. The narrator doesn’t ask the questions while Mary and the novelist together make meals, walk the neighborhood, shop at the mall and watch the evening news. Still, the book has its charms, the reviewer said. Mary, a person most of us know only from statues, paintings and the few Gospel verses in which she is mentioned, walks into our world, carrying with her a pair of running shoes and a good sense of humor. The book also provides a healthy dose of Marian history, concentrating mostly on the apparitions in the last 2,000 years. But Mary doesn't give us many insider details about her visits, sticking mostly with straightforward accounts that can be found in Catholic bookstores. The narrator fills in the holes with research she did after Mary left. In the end, we learn much more about the writer--and her struggle toward a life of faith--than about the Virgin Mary. Which is a problem when you have mysterious and glorious Mary as a prominent character in your book, the reviewer concludes.

Thousands of worshippers come to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City each day to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary and her humble messenger, the Indian shepherd and would-be saint known as Juan Diego. That much is certain. Less clear are the details about Juan Diego's life -- or whether he existed at all -- and whether plans to canonize him stem from his saintly acts or from the church's desire to recognize a crowd-pleasing symbol in a country of nearly 100 million Catholics, The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote on March 15. For those who believe that Juan Diego saw the virgin in the hills above Mexico City nearly 500 years ago, little proof is necessary. The Vatican, too, is satisfied: John Paul II has approved Juan Diego's beatification and is expected to make him a saint at a canonization ceremony here this summer. But a handful of doubters -- including the former abbot, or head, of the basilica -- say the evidence is so flimsy and the record so unreliable that the Vatican is in danger of canonizing a popular legend, not a real person. "If they said they were going to prove it, they should prove it," said the Rev. Manuel Olimon, a professor of religion at the Pontifical University of Mexico, a Catholic college for advanced religious studies, and one of a handful of priests who have protested Diego's canonization. "Frankly, I don't think they can." The danger, says Olimon, is that the Vatican will have to de-canonize Juan Diego as it did Saint George, the legendary dragon slayer whose biography didn't stand the test of time.

Anna Check slowly maneuvered her walker up to the large painted image of Jesus. Hands trembling slightly, the 87-year-old resident of Sacred Heart Assisted Living Center in Northampton reached out and laid her right palm on the image's heart. As tears welled up in her eyes, she moved over to reverently touch the second picture, that of a pregnant Virgin Mary. More than 50 center residents, some clutching rosaries and others pressing religious medals to the images, turned out March 28 to venerate the two 4-by-6-foot Catholic icons that are said to miraculously cry and exude perfume. It is the first time in 10 years the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Jesus, King of All Nations, have visited the Lehigh Valley. Jeanne Schray, a parishioner at Sts. Simon and Jude Church in Bethlehem, said she and five friends who pray together heard about the images that travel all over the world to spread the word of God. They sent a petition to the bishops of Mexico last year asking that the holy images come to the Lehigh Valley. She recently learned that the region would get both images during the church's holiest week. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows Mary as a young pregnant woman, dressed in Aztec clothing, and is a photographic replica of the original image said to have appeared on an Aztec prince's cloak in Mexico in 1531. The second image is of Jesus, King of All Nations, which combines rays of mercy pouring from Jesus' hands, the sacred heart burning in his chest and an atomic scepter. It was created by an artist after two women in Virginia said they saw a vision of Jesus. "Many miracles have been attached to these images," Schray said. Miracles described include tears of water, oil and blood appearing on Our Lady of Guadalupe and a perfume that exudes from the heart and wounds of Jesus. From The Morning Call (Allentown) April 1.

An Israeli tank shell slammed into a church in the West Bank city of Jesus' birth early yesterday, and shrapnel sliced off the hands and nose of a statue of the Virgin Mary, The  New York Post said on March 15.The Israeli army expressed regret for the incident and promised disciplinary action would be taken. Israeli forces began moving into central Bethlehem at around 1 a.m. local time and tanks took up positions some 300 yards from the Church of the Nativity, built on the site Christians revere as the birthplace of Christ. Witnesses said shrapnel from the impact damaged a statue of the Virgin Mary, but the sculpture, with arms outstretched, remained standing.

A simple prayer: "Mary, queen of actors, pray for us." Each Christmas season, Mary Margaret Dowd offered up this unadorned appeal before taking the stage in Richmond's annual Nativity production. From 1946 until she left the role in 1961, Miss Dowd portrayed the Virgin Mary before scores of area residents. It was a role she took as seriously as the whispered prayer to the woman she portrayed. "The first time I took the part, I was very much afraid - partly because of awe and partly because of the great responsibility I felt toward our huge audience," Miss Dowd told The Times-Dispatch in 1958. As the Ave Maria was sung during the Annunciation scene, Dowd said, tears would roll down her cheeks. Miss Dowd, of Richmond, a longtime staple of the Richmond community theater and a devout Catholic, died March 23. She was 87. Her career in the local public eye spanned decades. But her greatest love was mingling her devotion to the church with her love of drama. She was a co-founder of the Catholic Theater Guild of Richmond. For three years, she wrote and directed the Richmond Passion Play at what was then the Mosque. She also played Mary Magdalene in the production. Her devotion did not go unnoticed. In 1954, Pope Pius XII awarded Miss Dowd the Golden Bene Merenti Medal. The award's name literally means "well done."
From The Richmond Times-Dispatch March 26.

In 1961, archaeologists unearthed the remains of an ancient Neolithic city known as Catal Huyuk on the Anatolian plain in central Turkey. Excavations uncovered evidence of elaborate shrines adorned with wild bull horns, skulls and statues of a mother goddess. Thousands of years after the demise of Catal Huyuk, an artist in medieval Italy named Simone Martini bested his mentors with a large-scale panel painting depicting one of the most sacred scenes in Christian art: the moment, known as the “Annunciation," in which the Angel Gabriel announces the Incarnation of Christ to the Virgin Mary. Martini's altarpiece, bordered by an elaborate gilt frame, has served as a focal point for devotion and worship ever since. Now 12 contemporary artists continue this spiritual tradition, creating small-but-powerful shrines, altars and other objects that express belief systems, personal symbology and life experiences. Scheduled to coincide with National Women's History month, an exhibit of their works is currently on view at Inner Visions Community Art Studio and Gallery. Zoe Von Averkamp, one of the exhibiting artists, evokes the color and verve of Mexican folk art in her whimsical assemblages, several of which include images of saints and statuettes of the Madonna. "Chair Altar for Our Lady of the Americas" incorporates a small chair, bottle caps, rickrack, iridescent paint, twisted wire, cherubic figures and iconic pictures in a festive tribute to the work's namesake. Assemblage shrines by Margaret Murphy Reed also feature the Madonna "as a metaphor for the earth mother." She parlays the potency of this symbol into keen expressions of "joy, sorrow and human concern." Her shrines are often housed in makeshift shadow boxes, making them freestanding and portable loci for invocations, prayers or thoughtful meditation. Other works in the exhibit depict a variety of spiritual outlooks and artistic approaches. From Japanese to Hindu, to Judeo-Christian to modern eclectic, each piece resonates with experimental yet attentive craftsmanship and heartfelt meaning. From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune March 17.

A scurrilous thief made off with a 2-foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary from the front yard garden of a Salinas family. The theft occurred March 21 when the Virgin Mary was ripped from her cement base in the garden of Cruzita Dobyns. Dobyns made the statue herself 10 years ago and prayed to it every day for good fortune. "I couldn't imagine why someone would steal the mother of God," she said. It may not qualify as a trend, but it's the second Virgin Mary statue to be stolen from the same neighborhood this year. Dobyns may want to consider a quick replacement for the statue she says has brought her luck and safety. Three times, Dobyns said, cars have missed a stop sign in front of her home and come to a dead stop, crashing into a small tree in her front yard and sparing her house and her family. From The Associated Press March 28.

At least 24 people died and 19 others injured when a bus carrying worshippers plunged off a highway and fell into a river in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, the local Red Cross said March 18. The bus came from the nearby town of Tequila towards Talpa de Allende, about 270 kilometers from Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco, where the pilgrims paid a visit to the shrine of the Virgin Mary. They had just begun their return when a car cut in front of the bus, forcing it off the road and into the river. From the Xinhua News Agency March 19.

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Prayer Corner Requests

You are invited to help us pray for our Prayer Corner intentions.  Please take a look!  This site has been updated and enhanced and now allows users to directly submit prayer requests or to volunteer as a prayer partner for these intentions!

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New Resources

The Academic Program section has been reformatted.  It may be accessed by clicking on Academe from the navbar at the left of the screen.

We have also added an Overview of Black Madonnas and an article on Our Lady and the Column to our Resources index.

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Our Mary Page web site is updated frequently. Please stop in again and see what's new.

Return to March 22, 2002


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