Liturgical Season 1/30/04 World News
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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 February 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 February.

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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 is now under construction in our Resources index.  The latest addition was "Women in Sacred Scripture."  Expect more articles to follow.

We have added a section on the Shepherd's Field Shrine in the Holy Land under Resources.

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  News from the Marian Library

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

Straw Appliqué Madonnas by Marian Paskowicz 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.

New Crèches will also be on display in our museum through November 2004.

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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



John Paul II will preside at a Mass on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Monday, February 2, the Eighth Day of Consecrated Life, at 5:30 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica, according to a communique from the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

The Pope will preside at the liturgy of the Word: he will bless the candles and participate in the initial procession and, after delivering the homily, will lead prayers of thanksgiving to God for the gift of consecrated life. At the end of the Mass, he will impart the apostolic blessing.

Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic life, will celebrate the Eucharist. The secretary, undersecretary and bureau chiefs of the congregation, as well as the priest members of the Board of Directors of the Union of Superior Generals, will concelebrate.


From Zenit

Not posted this week.

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.

Saturday Review: Body & Soul : A question of faith: Is it right to attribute the origins of Christianity to Jesus, or could it be down to St Paul? Rupert Shortt looks at the evidence: The Authentic Gospel of Jesus by Geza Vermes 440pp, Allen Lane, $20 [Source: The Guardian, 12/20/2003]

Our loss of innocence about the New Testament dates back to the mid 19th century, when Protestant pioneers in Germany published lives of Jesus sharply at odds with the gospel record. These historians disagreed among themselves, as well as with the church establishment. But their core message was disarming. Scripture reveals both more and less than Christians had previously supposed - more about its cloudy historical setting and the tangled process of its composition; but much less about what it actually purports to tell us, given that so much of the text is mythological.

Take the story of Jesus's nativity. The narrative familiar to us is a conflation of two accounts, from Matthew and Luke, which differ at just about every turn. Almost the only substantial points on which they agree are that Joseph and the Virgin Mary travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem before Jesus's birth in a stable. The genealogies at the start of either gospel are contradictory. Luke's story knows nothing of the wise men, the slaughter of the innocents or the flight into Egypt. Matthew is silent about the shepherds and the tale of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Yet most Christian scholars are unfazed by this and other examples of apparent muddle - including in the Passion and Resurrection sequences. When approaching the metaphorical language of the Bible, they say, it is crucial for us to leave behind our modern, literalist mindsets. Matthew and Luke were arguing from conclusion to premise. Everything they wrote was designed to bear out the claim that Jesus was the Messiah of Old Testament expectation. If (as both evangelists believed) the Old Testament prophesied that "a virgin shall conceive" then that is what must have happened in Mary's case. One of Matthew's underlying themes is that Jesus is the new and greater Moses: this explains the early parallels between the Christ child and the Old Testament law-giver, who also escaped a cull of Jewish infants.

Nearly all scholars now believe that Mark's gospel (which ignores Jesus's birth and early life entirely) was the first to be written, and that it was expanded by Matthew and Luke, who employed other sources besides. In the Christian understanding of this process, a sketch was enlarged to provide two full portraits. Later still, an even richer picture emerged in the Gospel of John, where Jesus is described as the incarnate Word of God.

Other observers are sceptical about this scheme. Unfettered by doctrinal allegiances, they are free to ask whether later strands in the gospels represent a betrayal of the primitive message, rather than its consummation. Among those who take this view, none is more eminent than Geza Vermes. His background is very unusual. Born in Hungary, between the wars, into an assimilated Jewish family, he received a Catholic education, was ordained, then lost his faith. Having returned to his Jewish roots, he began an academic career that eventually led to his appointment as the first professor of Jewish studies at Oxford. Probably the foremost world authority on the Dead Sea scrolls, he has also written at great length about the historical Jesus.

Vermes's latest book is essentially a commentary on every word ascribed to Jesus by Matthew, Mark and Luke. It reaffirms the conclusion of his earlier New Testament works - that Christianity rests on a colossal mistake. The carpenter's son from Nazareth performed exorcisms, healed the sick and preached the coming of the Kingdom of God. But he had no message for the Gentiles, still less any urge to found a universal church. He belonged solidly within his Jewish milieu, and his downfall resulted only from an act of prophetic zeal. "He caused a fracas in the merchants' quarter in the Temple a few days before Passover," Vermes writes.

"The nervous priestly authorities . . . sensed danger, and feared that the disorder might start a rebellion ... Pilate, notorious for his cruelty, did not hesitate to put to death the 'king of the Jews', whom he believed to be an insurgent ... Jesus expired on a Roman cross and was buried. But his disciples saw him in repeated visions, which persuaded them that he had been raised from the dead before ascending to heaven."

It follows from this that historic Christianity must have come from elsewhere. Vermes sees the true source of doctrinal development in the writings of St Paul. When the Jewish roots of the gospel were transplanted into foreign soil through Paul's mission, a human prophet addressing a local audience was recast as a divine redeemer for all humanity.

As usual, Vermes argues his case with skill and clarity. Many will find the Jesus depicted in his pages a compelling figure: original, outspoken, compassionate, often funny. The stripping away of apparently redundant layers of doctrine will have a particular resonance for secular readers (Vermes provided much of the scholarly underpinning for A.N. Wilson's attempted debunking of Christianity in his book Jesus)

But being palatable is not the same as being right. For all his strengths, Vermes is a peremptory writer who gives the impression that the mystery of Christian origins has been finally solved. This is misleading. Many of his arguments are familiar, and have drawn credible responses from Protestants and Catholics alike.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it is the study of Judaism itself that has come to the aid of Christian exegesis. Vermes's work is based on the idea that incarnational belief could only have arisen in Hellenistic cultures, because it was foreign to first-century Jewish beliefs. But his complaint that Christians read the New Testament too much through the lens of later church teaching can be thrown back at him: Judaism did indeed become a religion of "unsullied" monotheism from the second century onwards, but before that it was very heterogeneous. Christian scholars are thus happy to confront Vermes on his own ground. They maintain that the roots of later doctrine lie precisely in some of the most Jewish elements of Jesus's proclamation.

Examples of this include his quarrel with the Pharisees over uncleanliness. For an Anglican commentator such as Rowan Williams, Jesus seems to be saying: "How you relate to what I am and what I say is going to shape how you relate to God." By his actions, then, Jesus claims to be rewriting the rule book and redefining what it means to belong to God's people. Here is how Williams sees the landscape: "(Jesus) is acting like the God who chose Israel in the first place. In the Old Testament God had chosen his cluster of slaves to be a people; and Jesus, in choosing his fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes, repeats and re-embodies this moment of choice: he claims a creative liberty for himself that belongs strictly to God."

Two related conclusions spring from this. One is that small differences of gospel interpretation can lead to vastly differing verdicts on Jesus. The second is that no single map of the territory seems adequate. Geza Vermes is a respected guide. But don't consult him in isolation.

Rupert Shortt is author of Rowan Williams: An Introduction. To order The Authentic Gospel of Jesus for ££17 plus p&p call Guardian book service on 0870 066 7979.

Opposition to filming our little Virgin Mary's in their nativity plays is censorship gone mad. [Source: The Guardian, 12/19/2003]

I am the grandmother of the Virgin Mary, a revelation that will not be too much of a headache for the Vatican because there are lots of us. As nativity plays unfold across the nation's schools, Virgin Marys--centre stage, centre of the story--will be conspicuous in their efforts to combine rocking the baby Jesus and waving to their parents.

Thespian disciplines are not part of the curriculum, and, as far as I know, SATs don't measure skills such as standing still during achingly boring proceedings, learning by heart unfamiliar words, and not picking your nose.

The show may be flawed, but there is one group in the audience more doting even than parents - and that's grandparents. They even relish the errors, recounting how the Virgin Mary swung Jesus by the leg, or the angel's wing caught Balthazar one in the eye.

Of course, everyone wants the video, treasured memories that will surface one day as part of an embarrassing wedding montage when the best man is stuck for jokes. Sometimes the passion to capture the moment electronically is outpacing the pleasure in the event itself. There are too many parents recording rather than enjoying. It puts the focus other than where it should be, which is on the touching moment when tiny children, unaware of the larger theological ideas banging around the room, re-enact a simple story that once changed the world.

But there is also a fear in educational circles that such videos could find their way by email to paedophiles who would abuse the images. The Virgin Mary could end up a victim of paedophilia. Some schools ask parents for written permission for their child to be filmed, or suggest that parents who don't want them filmed withdraw them from the show. Has the world gone mad? I have further evidence that it has.

My publishers and I are finalising the design for the paperback of my autobiography, The Centre of the Bed. I'm mentioning the title not to push copies but because it is germaine to what has happened. Inside the dust jacket of the hardback is a small photograph of myself aged about seven in a swimming costume - the old-fashioned knitted kind that sank to your ankles with the weight of water. I am holding an unfurled, waxed Japanese parasol and smiling with shy uneasiness. My clenched knees perhaps suggest I should be some where else entirely. But I am in the garden of the semi where I grew up. How appropriate, we thought, to use this family snap for the paperback cover, suggesting there is more to my story than the vagaries of my life in the 60s.

But put the title and photograph together and you have trouble. From somewhere down the line - marketing, distribution and such - word has come back that the mention of "Bed" in proximity to a small child puts out the wrong message. They advise against it. But on whose part are they alarmed? Surely I'm rather old to be the victim of paedophilia. Besides, I simply don't mind. It is my photograph and I give my permission. I don't care whether some benighted wretch with no comfort in his life uses the crumpled page to conjure up fantasies in his lonely bedsit. It can't do me any harm. Besides, there are images of children everywhere. He - or she - might just as well scoop up a handful of postcards from the National Gallery shop. Are we to censor the whole of Renaissance art whenever it features tempting cherubs, the child Christ, the infant John the Baptist? Do we want to paint swaddling clothes across the loins of the innocently naked Jesus? And didn't they do that once? And haven't we moved on?

This raises the question of just how great a crime is it to look at pictures and have fantasies. And how is it possible to police our thoughts and ideas. The argument goes that it is a slippery slope, that men who brood in private over pictures of children might one day go out and physically abuse them. And of course, that would be appalling. But we live on slippery slopes all the time. In issues such as abortion and euthanasia we no longer talk of banning, but of how to shape moral values so that the humanity of each of us is honoured. The trick is to keep a balance. The school nativity play, with its innocence and eagerness surely shows us just such an opportunity.

Joan Bakewell's memoir, The Centre of the Bed, is published by Hodder & Stoughton. To order a copy for ££17 plus p&p (rrp ££20), call 0870 066 7979.

As the Christmas season approaches, Jerusalem's thousands of Christians have already begun preparations for the sacred day [Source: The Jerusalem Post, 12/19/2003]

While to most Christians, Christmas is a time of social gathering and increased religious activity, for Sister Claire Edith of the Order of the Poor Claires, who lives in a monastery in Abu Tor, neither is true. A nun, she explains, hardly needs Christmas to be reminded of her connection with Jesus. After all, she spends seven hours a day in contemplative prayer throughout the year. Still, the approach of Christmas does mean a change in focus in her prayer life. By the time Christmas comes she will have spent four weeks devoting her prayers and meditation toward the miracle of Jesus coming.

Christmas, of course, is one of the great feasts of the year and part of the rhythm and cycle that joins her life to the life of Christ. During this period, she and her fellow nuns will be drawn into "a mood of expectant waiting," which for them reflects the anticipation of the Virgin Mary for the coming of the baby Jesus.

The somber yet uplifting decor of the monastery will change little during the festivities. But dozens of creches--representations of the nativity scene with small figurines--will appear throughout the monastery and allow each nun a certain measure of creativity as each beautifies her space for the holiday season.

On Christmas Eve, the nuns will gather amid a small number of curious onlookers and conduct a service in Hebrew. The community strongly believes that "Christianity grew out of Judaism," as Claire Edith puts it, and they are committed to deepening Christian-Jewish relations.

'Old Calendarists'

For Archbishop Aristarxos, secretary-general of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, Christmas is rooted in tradition going back to the fourth century. Christmas for the "Old Calendarists" of the Orthodox Church (who follow the Julian Calendar) falls on January 7 and is marked by an age-old procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

For almost half a century, since his early days as a monk, the archbishop has joined that annual procession, which begins at Jaffa Gate. This year too, accompanied by the patriarch and most of the Greek Orthodox clergy, he will set out on the morning of January 6. The first leg of the procession will take the pilgrims to the Convent of Mar Elias in south Jerusalem. The convent is a traditional resting point for the party and is said to be close to the rock where the Virgin Mary rested on her way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The procession there will be met by dignitaries of the Greek Orthodox Church and a mounted police escort. At midday they will arrive in full ceremonial garb in Manger Square in Bethlehem to be greeted by city officials and local Christians.

Later that day, in the Basilica, readings from the Psalms and Prophets will celebrate the expectance of Christ amid the musky smell of incense. Midnight Mass in the Cave and Grotto is presided over by the patriarch.

Finally, in the early hours of the following morning, the procession returns to Jerusalem, where weeklong festivities and social gatherings will be held. Aristarxos speculates that this tradition echoes the Jewish tradition, in which major holidays are a week long.

As a monk, Aristarxos does not have his own family but Christmas remains a joyous occasion for him to get together with friends. It is also a period for him to engage in religious dialogue. He will meet with Christians from other denominations, as well as officials from the city, the military and the police.

Northern exposure

Since December 1, as is the custom in their native South Africa, the Loubser family home has glimmered with Christmas lights. Two and half years ago, James and Michelle Loubser and their two sons, James and David, decided to move to Israel from a farm in a small village south of Cape Town. As a volunteer for a pro-Zionist Christian organization, Bridges for Peace, James repairs the homes of poor Jerusalemites while Michelle teaches at the local Anglican School.

For the Loubsers Christmas is, above all, a time of love and family. Each year they share the cooking and preparations for the festivities, their only regret being the absence of their extended family back in South Africa. Living in Jerusalem, they have learned much about the Christmas customs of other Christians and are happy to share in them. Coming from South Africa, in the southern hemisphere where it is now summer, they celebrate differently. They usually eat cold meats and salads; Christmas choruses about snow sound strangely foreign to them.

This year they will celebrate Christmas by attending the annual office party at Bridges for Peace, where the staff and their families will exchange Christmas presents. On Christmas Eve, the Loubsers will attend a Protestant church on Mount Scopus, The Church of the Redeemer, which boasts the biggest Christmas tree in Jerusalem.

GRAPHIC: Photo: Greek Orthodox Christmas procession. The Greek Orthodox officially celebrate Christmas on January 7.

Thousands celebrate Virgin of Guadalupe [Source: The Houston Chronicle, 12/18/2003]

Thousands gathered at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish near downtown Houston to celebrate with flowers, dances, and cheerful Mariachi music Virgin of Guadalupe Day, the anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary more than 470 years ago.

Beginning on the night of Dec. 11 and throughout the next 24 hours, between 15,000 and 20,000 devotees attended masses in honor of the virgin and visited the altars to pray and place flowers and candles.

"We think that we had between 15 and 20 thousand visitors to the parish this year," said the Rev. Ricardo Dileo.

The priest, who served in the parish from 1981 to 1986, and now for a second time since last year, said that during the celebrations there were native dancers, traditional music bands, and people that went to thank the Virgin Mary for favors received.

"One man, named Juan Carlos, came to share a poem he had prepared for the fiesta and read it to all those wanting to hear it. Various aspects of culture, dance, songs and poetry were displayed during this celebration," said Dileo.

The main mass was celebrated after nine days of prayers at midnight Dec. 12. The mass was performed in the parking lot of the parish to accommodate all those who wanted to attend the event.

Throughout the day, thousands arrived to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary, also known as "La Morenita," or the dark-skinned Lady of Tepeyac, in honor or her dark skin and the hill where she presumably appeared in Mexico City.

"The parking lot was so full you could hardly walk," said Angie Ortiz, a devotee who attended the celebration. "It is a very special day for me."

Another attendee, Sarah Cervantes, explained that the virgin "is the patron of Mexico and we come every year to sing the 'Mananitas' to her."

The Mananitas is the name of the Mexican birthday song that is traditionally sung to the Virgin of Guadalupe in the early hours of Dec. 12.

This year in Houston, the Mananitas were sung by several Mariachi bands that visited the parish located at the corner of Navigation and Jensen, east of downtown Houston.
Dec. 12 is a highly celebrated day, especially by the Mexican and South American immigrants in this city, Dileo said.

"One man told me that most of the people that work at his factory asked for the day off because this is very important for them," said Dileo.

He explained that the virgin gives people who have gone through difficult times a sense of dignity, as is the case for many immigrants that come to this country and have brought with them their Guadalupean faith to American cities.

"Guadalupe renews our dignity. It is what indigenous people needed because they were being subjugated by the Spaniards. And Maria, with the image of Guadalupe, appeared before Juan Diego and gave a new dignity," Dileo said.

He added that the Virgin of Guadalupe is not only the patron saint of Mexico, but of the Americas.

According to Catholic belief, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in 1532 before an Indian named Juan Diego, who was recently canonized by John Paul II in Mexico. The virgin asked Juan Diego to take roses to the bishop Juan de Zumarraga. However, when Juan Diego tried to show the bishop the roses, which he was carrying in his lap inside a mantle known as "ayate," the image of the virgin appeared.

This image is now at a shrine known as the Basilica of Guadalupe built at the same place where it is believed the virgin appeared in Mexico City. Millions of pilgrims visit the virgin's image each year.

In Houston, the Parish was dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1911, when a church was established to serve the needs of the Hispanic population. Back then, it was a wood building, which was replaced in 1923 by a brick church.

New tradition begins at St. Margaret Mary Church [Source: Times Picayune (New Orleans, LA), 12/18/2003]

Catholics began a new holiday tradition last weekend in Slidell, publicly honoring the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a native Mexican almost 500 years ago.

More than 350 people from area parishes united Friday at St. Margaret Mary Church for the Celebration of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadaloupe.

Unified love was the message of the bilingual program, which included a re-enactment of the apparition, Mass and a potluck dinner, said Deacon Carlos Ramirez of St. Margaret Mary.

"One way that God is expressing his divine and maternal love is through Mary, mother of Jesus," he said.

During the re-enactment, Mary appeared several times as a radiant Aztec princess to Juan Diego, telling him to ask his bishop to build a church where she could give love, compassion and protection to all people. The skeptical bishop told the peasant to bring him proof of the woman's identity, but before adhering to the request, Diego was tasked with finding a priest for his dying uncle. Again the woman appeared, telling Diego to take roses inside his cloak to the bishop and that his uncle had been cured. When Diego opened his cloak in front of the bishop, Castilian roses tumbled to the ground, revealing the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadaloupe on the tilma. Later, thousands converted to Christianity, ending human sacrifices to Indian gods.

Slidell resident Jorge Cabrera Basurto said it was an honor playing Diego at his church. The Spanish-speaking migrant worker first acted the part back home in Vera Cruz, Mexico .

Franciscan priest Luis Aponte of St. Mary of Angels Church in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans said he gained a better appreciation of the event by portraying the bishop.

St. Margaret Mary parishioners Chris and Nan Haskins attended with their daughter Kristen, 2, who especially liked the dances.

Dancers from St. Margaret Mary's sister church, St. Monica, and the Komenka ensemble in New Orleans participated in the celebration, which began with a prayerful procession into the Slidell church.

St. Margaret Mary's youth, Knights of Columbus and Respect Life Committee were among the groups in the procession, but its focal point was a statue of Our Lady of Guadaloupe. The statue, with a tear on its face, survived a fire earlier this year at Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Church, St. Margaret Mary Youth Director Lindsay Hymel said.

As in other places, the celebration brought together a culturally diverse Hispanic community that shares the Catholic faith and Spanish language, said New Orleans resident Olga Aguilar. Our Lady of Guadaloupe is the patron saint of Mexico and the Americas.

Like others, Richard and Maria Diaz of Jefferson Parish have visited churches venerating Our Lady of Guadaloupe for many years.

GRAPHIC: STAFF PHOTO BY CARA OWSLEY Emerita Rodriguez of St. Rose holds a candle during the Celebration of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadaloupe at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church on Friday. [159506]

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