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Liturgical Season 1/21/04 World News
New Resources  Marian Events  Mary in the Secular Press
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Marian Library
 Prayer Corner News Archives

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

Liturgical Season

To celebrate the month of January with Mary:

Marian Commemoration Days

Mary Page offers a variety of resources inviting study, reflection and meditation.  We also list important Marian dates for each month of the year.  Please see Marian Commemoration Days for the month of January.

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New Resources

A section on international stamps with images of Mary has been added to our Resources index.  The latest added was Guyana.  Expect more countries to follow.

A section on Mary and Women has also been added to our Resources index.  The latest addition was an Introduction.  Expect more articles to follow.

We have revised The Hail Mary in Various Languages and Marian Shrines in India.  We have also added a meditation on the Marianist Three O'clock  Prayer as well as our answers to two reader questions, Is there such a title as Mary "Reparatrix"? and What are locutions?

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  News from the Marian Library

Creche Video for Broadcast TV

A video about the Marian Library's creche collection was made last year and released as a "b-roll" to air on television around the country.  Below is a status report on these broadcasts.
N.B.  An online copy may be viewed at http://www.udayton.edu/mary/resources/videos/crechesvd.html.

To date, Medialink (the video distributor) has confirmed 263 local broadcasts, covering all 210 Nielsen markets with a total of over 10 million audience impressions. The majority of placements came by way of Fox Net cable or Telemundo/Univision. A few additional stations that aired the story probably took it off the CBS Newsfeed, which also carried the b-roll package.

Most of these placements are a result of having the video air on Fox Net's group of cable stations in each Nielsen market. When you look at the breakout, you'll note that the time and date are the same for every market. Medialink works closely with the producers of Fox Net to supply them with news and feature programming under the "30 Second Update" moniker. These 30-second news briefs are played throughout the day and each one is unique in that it focuses on a single story. In the case of your Nativity Scenes B-roll, the story that aired was characterized by a piece that leads off with an on-camera news anchor, then video from your B-roll is rolled in under narration, then the on-camera anchor appears again to wrap up the story. It’s very similar to the CBS "Up To The Minute" news breaks that aired on most CBS affiliates for so many years. The difference here is that the Fox Net system currently times out the distribution of these news breaks in such a way that the story airs at the same time in each market. Medialink is sending me an aircheck of the story, which I will pass around to all of you so you can see how it was presented.

For a little background on Fox Net, it's Fox Broadcasting Company’s cable-delivered program service and is the #1 rated cable network in its coverage area. Fox Net delivers Fox programming via cable and satellite to areas of the country unable to receive a Fox over-the-air affiliate.

One advantage of having a UD story air on Fox Net is that its audience is younger than the national average, more likely to be married and own their own homes, and Fox Net families have more children than the national average.

Additionally, there were hits on local affiliates outside of the Fox Net group. Significant among this group is strong pickup from Hispanic stations, including national placement on Telemundo/Univision in the States and Canal 11 in Mexico. The audience for Canal 11 in Mexico alone is over six million viewers. The Telemundo program, "Al Rojo Vivo Con Maria Celeste," is a nationally syndicated show that airs on all Telemundo affiliates at various times. Medialink does not have the complete list showing exact times this show airs within each market, which is why it lists as "Various." To use an example, this syndication pattern is similar to that of "Oprah," rather than "The Tonight Show."

I think we have a very strong report showing our reach to be in excess of 10 million viewers ... and during a very busy holiday season at that.

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International Marian Research Institute Course Schedule

IMRI courses for the Fall 2003 semester concluded on Nov. 14.  The schedule of future IMRI courses will be posted on the Mary Page when available.

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Current Exhibit

Golden Madonnas will be on display in the Marian Library Gallery from January 15 to February 20, 2004.  The Gallery is open 8:30 am - 4:30 pm weekdays.  A virtual exhibit may be seen on our Gallery section under Current Exhibit.  For more information, or to arrange for viewing at another time, call (937) 229-4214.

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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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Marian Events

The Immaculate Conception and the Life of the Church

A Theological Symposium in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception will be held on February 20-21, 2004 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.

For questions, please call 413-298-2284 or email: jp2@marian.org

Click this link for a list of all of the current Marian Events by geographical position.

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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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News from Around the World

TREATISE ON VIRGIN BY ST. GRIGNION MONFORT MARKS 160 YEARS

VATICAN CITY, JAN 13, 2004 (VIS)

On the 160th anniversary of the publication of the "Treatise of true devotion to Our Lady" by St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, John Paul II wrote a letter to the religious men and women of the Montfort families on the Marian doctrine of their founder.

In the letter dated December 8, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Pope says that he wants to share with the saint's families a meditation "which consists of a few lines of the writings of St. Louis Marie that will help us to nourish our faith in the maternal mediation of the Mother of the Lord in these difficult moments."

The Holy Father recalls that 160 years ago "the work which was destined to become a classic of Marian spirituality was published." Despite the fact that St. Louis-Marie wrote the treatise at the beginning of 1700, the manuscript was "virtually unknown for more than a century," until it was "discovered by chance in 1842 and published in 1843."

"I myself, in the years of my youth, received great help from the letter in this book in which I 'found the response to my questions' due to fear that devotion to Mary 'would end up compromising the supremacy of worship due to Christ'. My motto, 'Totus tuus,' is inspired by the doctrine of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort. These two words express total abandonment to Jesus through Mary."

St. Louis-Marie, he affirms, "contemplates all the mysteries starting with the Incarnation which occurred at the moment of the Annunciation." The Holy Father indicates that "in the Monfort spirituality the dynamism of charity is expressed in a special way through the symbol of the 'slavery of love for Jesus,' following the example and maternal aid of Mary." "Like St. John of the Cross, St. Louis Marie insists especially on the purity of faith and on its fundamental and often painful obscurity."

Referring then to Our Lady as a sign of hope, John Paul concludes: "The Church awaits the glorious coming of Jesus at the end of the world. Like Mary and with Mary, the saints are in the Church in order to make its holiness radiate and to extend the work of Christ, one and only Savior, to the ends of the earth and till the end of the world."

JPII-LETTER/TREATISE VIRGIN/GRIGNION MONTFORT

From Zenit

John Paul II Fondly Recalls Louis de Montfort's Marian Doctrine

In a Message on 160th Anniversary of "True Devotion"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org)

The 160th anniversary of the publication of "True Devotion to Mary" has given John Paul II the chance to recall the doctrine of its author, St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. It is to the saint that the Pope owes his episcopal motto, "Totus Tuus," an expression of his total belonging to Jesus through Mary. In his youth, Karol Wojtyla received "a great help" from the work.

"I found the answer to my perplexities due to the fear that the devotion to Mary, if excessive, might end by compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ," the Pope said in his message to the religious of the Montfort family, which the Vatican press office published today.

"Under the wise guidance of St. Louis-Marie, I understood that, if one lives the mystery of Mary in Christ, such a risk does not exist," the Pope said in his letter dated Dec. 8, solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

St. Louis-Marie wrote "True Devotion to Mary" at the start of 1700, but the manuscript was practically ignored until it was rediscovered in 1842 and published a year later. Re-read in the light of the Second Vatican Council, the Montfort doctrine retains "its substantial validity," the Holy Father said. "As is known, in my episcopal coat of arms [...] the motto 'Totus Tuus' is inspired by the doctrine of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. These two words express total belonging to Jesus through Mary," John Paul II explained.

"'Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt,' St. Louis-Marie wrote; and he translates: 'I am all yours, and everything of mine belongs to you, my beloved Jesus, through Mary, your holy Mother,'" the Pope said. According to the saint's thought, Mary "accompanies us in our pilgrimage of faith, hope and charity toward an ever more intense union with Christ, only Savior and Mediator of salvation," the Holy Father said.

For St. Louis-Marie, true Marian devotion is Christ-centered and becomes a privileged means "to find Jesus Christ perfectly, to love him tenderly, and to serve him faithfully." In this connection, Mary becomes the faithful echo of God, the Pope said: "Every time that you honor Mary, Mary praises and honors God with you."

The Holy Father continued: "St. Louis-Marie contemplates all the mysteries beginning with the Incarnation, which takes place at the moment of the Annunciation," in such a way that in the treatise "Mary appears as 'the true earthly paradise of the New Adam,' the 'virgin and immaculate earth' from which he has been formed."

"She is also the New Eve," John Paul II added, "associated to the New Adam in the obedience that repairs the original disobedience of man and woman. Through this obedience, the Son of God enters into the world. The cross itself is already mysteriously present in the instant of the Incarnation."

St. Louis-Marie wrote: "All our perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. ... Now, from Mary being the creature most conformed to Jesus Christ, one learns that, among all the devotions, the one that most consecrates and conforms a soul to Our Lord is devotion to Mary, his holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to Mary, the more consecrated it will be to Jesus Christ."

The cross, the Pope said, is the culminating moment of Mary's faith: "Through this faith, Mary is perfectly united to Christ in his despoliation. ... This is, perhaps, the most profound kenosis of faith in the history of humanity."

For more information, see www.montfort.org.

Pope Points Military Personnel to Prince of Peace

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org)

John Paul II invited Italian military personnel to begin the year by contemplating Christ as the one who brings peace to the world.

The papal message was given to officials of the 31st Division of the Italian Air Force, who accompany the Pope on his trips outside Rome, and who were welcomed to the Vatican this morning by the Holy Father who wished them a happy new year.

"In recent days the liturgy has invited us to contemplate Jesus who became man and came among us," the Pope said. "He is the light that illuminates and gives meaning to our existence. He is the redeemer who brings peace to the world."

"Let us welcome him with trust and joy!" the Holy Father added. "The Blessed Virgin Mary who, as a thoughtful mother, presents him to us, also watches over us. I invite you to turn to her at every moment and to entrust the just-begun year of 2004 to her."

John Paul II thanked the officials for "the dedication and commitment with which you have for years facilitated the ministry of the Successor of Peter."

Church's Social Doctrine Could Aid Cuban Society, Says Pope

Sends Message for Bicentenary of Archdiocese

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org)

Cuba's laity should be educated about the Church's social doctrine in order to enlighten the island nation "through peaceful dialogue" where freedom and love can prevail, says John Paul II.

The Pope made that point in a message sent for the bicentenary of the Cuban Archdiocese of Santiago. Celebrations marking the bicentenary began Nov. 23 with a Mass in the cathedral of Santiago, presided over by Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiu. Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino of Havana was among those on hand for the Mass.

The Holy Father encouraged Cubans "to always be witnesses of unity and fidelity to the message of Christ," commending "the people of God on pilgrimage in Santiago de Cuba to the protection of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre."

Mexico Looks Ahead to Eucharistic Congress

MEXICO CITY, JAN. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org)

Mexico's bishops have declared 2004 the "Year of the Eucharist." This was one of the messages that Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop primate of Mexico, gave to the official New Year's Pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe last weekend. The cardinal invited the faithful to live their Christian life in view of the International Eucharistic Congress scheduled to take place in Guadalajara from Oct. 10-17.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls confirmed that the Church in Mexico and the government have invited John Paul II to participate in the event. No decision has been announced on whether the Pope will go.

On the Baptism of Jesus

"He Comes as the 'Lamb of God'"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2004 (Zenit.org)

Here is a translation of the address John Paul II delivered today before praying the Angelus at midday.

* * *

1. Today is celebrated the Baptism of the Lord. The Gospels recount that Jesus went to John the Baptist near the Jordan River, and asked to receive the baptism of penance from him. But immediately after, while he was praying, "the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:21-22).

It is the first public manifestation of the messianic identity of Jesus, after the adoration of the magi. This is the reason why the liturgy relates the Baptism to Epiphany, with a chronological leap of some 30 years: The Child, whom the magi worshipped as the messianic king, is consecrated today by the Father in the Holy Spirit.

2. In the Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus' messianic "style" is already clearly perceived: He comes as the "Lamb of God" to take upon himself and to take away the sin of the world (see John 1:29,36). This is how the Baptist presents him to the disciples (see John 1:36). In the same way, we, who at Christmas celebrated the great event of the Incarnation, are invited to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, the human face of God and the divine face of man.

3. Mary Most Holy is the unsurpassable teacher of contemplation. If she had to suffer humanly in seeing Jesus leave Nazareth, from his manifestation she received new light and strength for the pilgrimage of faith. The baptism of Christ constitutes the first mystery of light for Mary and for the whole Church. May it shed light on the path of all Christians!

Photo Exhibition of Michelangelo's Pietà Coming to Vatican

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org)

A photographic exhibition of Michelangelo's Pietà has arrived in Rome after a 10-year successful tour of Europe.

Its author is Austrian photographer Robert Hupka, who died in 2001. Hupka had the opportunity to take thousands of unpublished photographs of the statue during the New York World's Fair in 1964.

The photographs are of various types, in black and white, in color, with lenses that range from 35 to 400 millimeters, taken during the day and at night. According to the exhibition's organizers, "the photographer succeeded in discovering the Pietà as no one can now see it, and as only Michelangelo had seen it until then."

Michelangelo Buonarroti was only 25 when he sculpted the Pietà from a single block of Carrara marble.

A mentally disturbed man hammered it 15 times in 1972, disfiguring the face. Following its restoration, the sculpture has been kept behind bulletproof glass in St. Peter's Basilica.

The exhibition will be held in the Charlemagne Wing, a Vatican exhibition hall that was closed to the public for 10 years. Organized by Arstella Publishers, the show will be open from March until July.

Dozens of photographs and more information on the photographer may be found at www.arstella.fr.

From L’Osservatore Romano

Not posted this week.

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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.

Hung out to dry by the sponsors: Art's corporate backers decide what we can see in public spaces [Source: The Guardian (London), 12/30/2003]

Five weeks ago I was asked, along with the artist Banksy, by Damon Albarn to produce an image symbolising peace and Christmas, to be projected on Trinity House in the City of London as part of the Brighten Up London campaign. I was told it was a project organised by Bob Geldof and sponsored by Orange. There were expenses but no fee. To make a public artwork was my spur, to make an image of hope after a year of war.

It was a chance to use a public place to make an iconic image that would reflect the hopes of millions. I tried to visualise the phrase "peace on Earth" by using a painting of the Virgin Mary, replacing her face with an image of the Earth and turning her halo into a peace symbol - a simple juxtaposition creating a photomontage that does not contradict Christian belief but interprets it for a world in danger.

After this - silence. The day for the projection came and went with no projection, followed by a series of confused messages about problems with the image. Eventually, Niamh Byrne, head of media relations at Orange, told the Guardian on December 24 that even though she found the image "absolutely fantastic . . . what we were looking for was something that people from little children to grandparents could appreciate". My picture did not, apparently, fall into this category.

I will leave it to the grandmothers who recently risked their lives disarming nuclear submarines in Scotland, and to the many thousands of elderly people and children who went on peace marches in 2003, to respond to the condescension of that remark. I will turn instead to the mission statement on the Orange website: "We are ready to push the boundaries and take risks; we are always open and honest; we say what we do and we do what we say; we want to make a difference to people's lives."

I read on and find that Orange linked up with Index on Censorship this year to launch the Orange/Index debates to discuss issues of free expression, aimed particularly at university students (one hopes no little children or grandparents unwittingly attended). I hereby award the Orange prize for fiction to Orange.

Orange have created a lot of publicity for themselves by sponsoring the Brighten Up London campaign. We Londoners have been lucky enough to see images of mince pies freshly baked by Nigella projected on to one building, and hearts projected on to another. (You guessed it, Heart 106.2 is one of the project's sponsors.) In all, nine buildings were used as screens for a variety of Christmas-type baubles that did not even reach the aesthetic levels of the cheapest Christmas cards.
The patrons of contemporary art, the Medicis of today, are the corporations. They give the impression of supporting dissident views and freedom of expression, but if there is any danger that your sponsored work encourages even a modicum of critical debate, you're out the door. The sponsors are in it to ratchet up "the buying mood".

Censorship of culture is something one does not speak of in the free market - it brings back images of Lady Chatterley and the Lord Chamberlain. But in the visual arts it is an increasing determinant of what people are allowed to see in public spaces. Exhibitions cannot take place if they are not sponsored. A few years ago, the Tate even had trouble finding a sponsor for a Francis Bacon show, as the work appeared a bit too visceral for shareholders to support.

In the case of an exhibition of my own work, entitled Images against War, at the Barbican Centre in 1985, two of the works were censored at the last minute. One was hastily unscrewed from the wall and the other, which could not be moved quickly enough, was covered with an old grey blanket. The censorship of these two works only lasted for one morning. It was the morning a high-ranking Chilean official was scheduled to address a group of bankers at the Barbican. The directors of the Barbican thought that he might be offended by two of my paintings, which were symbolic representations of the barbarism that had taken place directly after the military coup of 1973. Q. Who finances the Barbican? A. The Corporation of London.

Artists are being hung out to dry. Don't take my word for it - go and see the illuminated buildings for yourselves. Tomorrow, they will all have a special New Year celebration stamp projected on to them. Can't wait.

Painting is restored, returned to church [Source: Houston Chronicle, 12/28/2003]

SAN ANTONIO - A larger-than-life glimpse of the Virgin Mary, removed more than 200 years ago from a Central Texas mission, is back in its church home after restoration.

The 9.4-by-6.6-foot painting was seriously damaged and required more than two years of repairs, one thread at a time, before its return to Mission Concepcion this month.

"It's kind of the theme painting for the mission," Monsignor Balthasar Janacek, archdiocesan director for the Spanish missions, told the San Antonio Express-News in Wednesday's editions.

The Immaculate Conception painting left the mission with other original paintings when they were given to priests at San Fernando Cathedral for safekeeping in 1794, as secularization of the missions began. After the 1860s, the paintings were moved to the auditorium of the San Fernando Cathedral School.

Mother Angelique, dean of Our Lady of the Lake University, was permitted in 1949 to move the Immaculate Conception painting to the university's art department. It went back to Mission Concepcion for storage 16 years later, only to be moved to National Park Service storage in 1983.

Janacek said that, by the time it reached the Art Conservation Laboratory in San Antonio in 1999, the painting was in bad condition.

The chief conservator, Esther Schmidt Siegfried, spent about two years restoring the art to its original condition.

"I knew when I saw it that it was in serious condition," said Siegfried. "But I knew that it was a worthwhile project and was very valuable for the history of the mission."

Funded by the Scanlan Foundation in Houston, her work cost about $ 25,000, said Janacek. Siegfried restretched the canvas and repaired holes and a 1 1/2-foot triangular tear in the fabric by weaving in linen threads one at a time. She restored areas of the work where paint had peeled away and studied the original artist's brushstrokes and paint color to make sure her restorations matched.

Although the painting's original location at the mission is unknown, it again occupies a plaster wall, hanging behind the main altar of one of the four 18th-century Franciscan missions strung out along the San Antonio River south of downtown.

Sermon serves it up [Source: The Mercury (Australia), 12/25/2003]

THE head of the Anglican Church in Australia has used his Christmas sermon to hit out at government schools which refuse to stage nativity plays and carol concerts for fear of offending non-Christian students.

Archbishop Peter Carnley said the downplaying of traditional Christian Christmas gatherings in government schools was due to a "creeping secularism" in Australian society. And the Anglican Primate said that he found the censorship of references to the birth of Jesus, and the replacement of carols with "the mythology of a red-nosed reindeer," unbelievable.

Speaking at the morning service at Perth's St George's cathedral, Dr Carnley pointed out that the Koran included explicit references to Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

Once Banned, Christianity Withers in an Old Stronghold [Source: New York Times, 12/25/2003]

In 1865 a group of 15 Japanese peasants cautiously approached Bernard Petitjean, the first Christian missionary to work in Nagasaki since 1614.

Speaking in the sanctuary of the new church, the peasant leader confessed, "Our hearts are the same as yours." He asked to see an image of "Maruya-sama," or the Virgin Mary.

It had been a long road for Japan's "hidden Christians," descendants of people converted by Portuguese missionaries in the late 1500's during a brief window of religious freedom in Japan.

They survived some 300 years of bannings, burnings and beheadings. The repression began to ease in 1853, after the arrival of Commodore Perry, and was ended officially with the legalization of Christianity in 1873. In the late 19th century, missionaries returned to the remote islands of southern Japan and coaxed about 50,000 hidden Christians into the open.

"Santa Maria, Santo Filio," four elderly men dressed in indigo blue robes chanted here on a recent Sunday afternoon in this fishing village north of Nagasaki, their voices rising and falling like an ancient Gregorian chant planted half a millennium ago on this rocky island. Their long "orasho," or oration, included a "conchirisan," or contrition, and a vaguely familiar "Abe Maruya," or Ave Maria.

While Ikitsuki has had a Catholic church since 1912, the ceremony was held at the Ikitsuki Island Museum, in a wing devoted to Christian history. Shigeo Nakazono, the museum's curator, said after the ceremony, "By my research, their faith is pretty much well preserved as it was in Europe in the 16th century."

But the hidden Christians now are facing perhaps the greatest challenge to their faith. It comes not from official persecutors but from a force perhaps more powerful and less easily resisted: indifference.

For young people, hours spent learning ancient chants and rituals detract from time spent driving over a new half-mile bridge to Kyushu Island and on to Nagasaki for the weekend. With only 7,500 people, the island has lost a third of its population since the 1960's.

"The ceremonies are on Sundays, but young people just want to enjoy their day off," said Masatsugu Tanimoto, who at age 47 is perhaps the youngest person on the island to learn the chants and rituals of the faith. "People are brought up in an affluent environment. I don't think my children will take it over."
Christianity came to Japan with St. Francis Xavier in 1549, during a time of weak central government. Spreading fast through southern Japan, Christianity counted as many as 750,000 converts, or 10 percent of the population, by the 1630's. Today, by contrast, about 1 percent of Japan's 127 million people are Christians.

Alarmed by Spain's colonization and conversion of the neighboring Philippines, Hideyoshi, the general who united Japan in the late 16th century, banned Christianity and ordered the expulsion of missionaries as early as 1587.

The heaviest repression took place in the early 1600's, when about 6,000 Christians were killed, largely in Japan's southern fringe, an area most influenced by missionaries sailing from the Portuguese colony of Macao.

In contrast to the stereotype of the samurai dying for his beliefs--an image popularized by the current Hollywood movie "The Last Samurai"--records show that most samurai and noblemen renounced their Christian faith under pressure. It was mostly peasants, artisans and merchants who died for their new faith, often after enduring horrible tortures.

To root out Christians, officials administered an annual loyalty test in which peasants were required to trample a cross or an image of the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus. At the museum here, a copper medallion with the image of the Mother and Child appears buttery and smooth, worn down by thousands of bare feet.

Because of this ceremony, hidden Christians placed a high value on the prayer of contrition and elevated the veneration of a compassionate Mary.

During nearly 300 years of separation, Ikitsuki's Christians masked their faith with the rituals of Buddhism and Shintoism. In the museum, a "magic mirror" projects an image of Buddha to the outside world. But taken from the wall and held to a light, it projects the shadow of a cross.

"Because of the repression we used Buddhism as a camouflage," Mitsuyoshi Okawa, 72, said over a dinner of dumplings at the pastor's house. While the ceremony was held openly at the museum, the prayer leaders recalled that as teenagers they had learned the chants in secret, under blankets, out of earshot of snooping neighbors.

But now the only young people studying the chants are students and professors.

"No one is taking over," lamented the Rev. Tomeichi Ohoka, the 85-year-old pastor. "I am worried about the future. I am not sure it will last."

Faith Flows Around Image Of Virgin Mary In Clearwater [Source: Tampa Tribune (Florida), 12/25/2003]

CLEARWATER - For seven Christmas seasons, the faithful have been drawn to a former bank building on U.S. 19.

But the massive crowds that flocked to see the image of the Virgin Mary upon its discovery in December 1996 have not returned in recent years.

Instead, a small but steady stream of faithful flows to the corner of Drew Street and U.S. 19 to lay flowers, say prayers and light candles in front of the 60-foot image that mimics the shape of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Catholic patroness of the Americas who left her image on the frock of a Mexican peasant in 1531.

"When I come here, it gives me happiness," Gennet Tekelhaimanot said this week as she visited what has become known as "Our Lady of Clearwater." The Ethiopian immigrant credits the image with answering her prayers to help her mother recover from a stroke.

"My mom was sick, so I went to pray and I got an answer from God," Tekelhaimanot said. "It is a miracle. God is good."

Tony Cipolla said one visit to the Virgin Mary's image was enough to change his life.

En route from Pennsylvania to the Florida Keys, where he planned to retire, Cipolla said he made a detour to Clearwater after hearing about the Madonna image.

Now, Cipolla has retired to Pinellas Park and visits daily to help maintain the hundreds of candles and dozens of flower arrangements that adorn the side of the former bank building.

"That was a sign in itself," Cipolla said of his decision to retire here rather than in the Keys.

Long Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant, credits the Virgin Mary image with curing illnesses he and his wife, Phuc, suffered.

"This is faith healing," Nguyen said. "We feel like we are blessed, and we come see her every day."

Clara Yon, who lives in Miami but has relatives in Clearwater, said she makes it a point to visit the image "every time we are passing through."

"This was a parking lot for a bank, but now it's almost a church," Yon said.

Thousands Once Visited

The evolution of the Virgin Mary site has been gradual but dramatic.

Within days of the image's discovery by a bank customer, tens of thousands of people began flocking to the site. Nearby merchants began hawking T-shirts and trinkets, Clearwater police assigned a squad of officers to direct foot and vehicle traffic, and the city formed a Miracle Management Task Force to deal with the crush of unexpected visitors.

When the holiday season ended, police estimated that more than 400,000 people had visited the Virgin Mary image. The city had spent more than $40,000 on police overtime, a temporary signal light on Drew Street, and amenities such as portable toilet rental.

Meanwhile, visitors donated more than $30,000 that was distributed to local charities and All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Over the years, detractors contend the rainbow-tinted shape that suggests a stylized image of the Virgin Mary was nothing more than a water stain from an irrigation sprinkler that blew out its nozzle and showered the glass-paneled south side of the bank building.

But the image proved resilient.

In 1997, vandals sprayed the image with an acidic liquid, staining it badly and obscuring a large portion of the face and left shoulder. But a month later, a downpour washed away that stain and the image re-emerged.

The following year, the Cincinnati-based Shepherds of Christ Ministries began renting the building, which the bank had vacated. The group, which prays for Catholic priests, bought the property in December 2000, said Rosie Reed, the ministries' site leader.

Also in 1998, work began on a 21-foot-tall, 11/2-ton wooden crucifix that now dominates the shrine built around the glass image. Texas artisan Felix Avalos said God told him to take a giant cedar log to Clearwater and to carve the crucifix. It took Avalos 21/2 years to finish his work, which for that period of time stayed hidden behind a blue shroud.

It was unveiled in July 2001.

In A Word, "Cool'
Now, Shepherds of Christ Ministries stages a prayer service at 6:30 p.m. daily, Reed said. A prayer room is set up behind the image in the old bank building, and Reed's group sells religious items, prayer candles and on-the- spot framed photographs of visitors to raise money to pay the mortgage, she said.

On Monday, 12-year-old Chris Toney, vacationing from New York, paid a visit to the Virgin Mary image along with other family members.

"I heard all my family members talking about it and saying we should come and see it," Toney said. "It's nice. Really cool."

(CHART) KEY DATES
DECEMBER 1996: The faithful turned out in droves to see a 60-foot image that mimicked the shape of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a bank building on U.S. 19.
1997: Vandals sprayed the image with an acidic liquid, staining it badly, but the image recovered.
1998: Cincinnati-based Shepherds of Christ Ministries began renting the building, which had been vacated. Also, work began on a 21-foot-tall, 11/2-ton wooden crucifix.
2001: Wooden crucifix was unveiled.

POPE: REMEMBER CHRISTMAS IS JOY [Source: The Toronto Sun, 12/22/2003]

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Amid Christmas preparations worldwide, Pope John Paul reminded the faithful in his weekly address yesterday of the holiday's religious meaning.

John Paul argued that to understand the true meaning of Christmas, it was necessary to consider the Virgin Mary and her response to Christ's birth: "Humility, silence, amazement, joy."

"She indicates to us the value of silence, which knows to listen to the singing of the angels and the wailing of the child, not stifling them in din and confusion."

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