Liturgical Season 3/16/04 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 March 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 March.

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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 Magisterial Documents on Women.  Expect more articles to follow.

Under Prayers we have added a Litany of Mary which was recited during the recent meeting of our Mary Page Advisory Board.  We have also posted our answers to the following reader questions: Do you have any information about a shrine or devotion to Mary as the "Madonna of the Street"?; and Is there Marian symbolism related to the moon?

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  News from the Marian Library

IInternational 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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IMRI's Media Specialist comments on Gibson's Passion

Michael Duricy, who specializes in the Virgin Mary in Film, viewed Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ on March 4 and offered the following considerations:

There has been a great deal of commentary on Mel Gibson's film which couldn't help but send me to the theater with a certain expectation.  I imagined that I would see the equivalent of a banal pre-conciliar fervorino, neither as objectionable as some pre-release criticism suggested, nor as commendable as supporters claimed.  Based on my experience with film review, I wanted to publish a commentary only after viewing the finished product.  I was strongly engaged throughout the film's length, more than two hours, which left me with the feeling of having just watched a truly special work of art.

Before discussing details of the film, let me mention a few general observations about the genre and style of this Passion.  It is a well-crafted studio production, replete with an array of conventionally established cinematographic techniques [and, of course, musical scoring in the background].  It occupies the opposite end of the spectrum from Pasolini's also-superb Gospel According to Matthew (1964).  In general, it resembles those fantasy epics made during the 'Golden Age of Hollywood.'  But, to be more specific, its style resembles the horror genre more closely than a traditional 'Life of Christ' film.  The opening scene in Gethsemane shows a full moon and bluish fog, more like the British moor in Hound of the Baskervilles than documentary footage of the Holy Land.  The Devil is visibly present, accompanied by a phantom snake and by childlike imps [not mentioned in the Bible, but familiar from the nightmare visions of slasher fare].  There is as much Hollywood in this film as there is Gospel.  But, this should not be taken simply as criticism, since the film is plainly a dramatic narrative intended for mass-market consumption rather than a catechetical statement from the Vatican.  The Gospels themselves are narrative texts designed for pastoral use, not newspaper reports or courtroom transcriptions.  Awareness of such facts [which are so obvious that it seems patronizing to state them] should go a long way towards resolving controversy and bad feelings.  This also points out the value of supplementing such audio-visual material with Bible reading, spiritual reflection, and further religious study.

Moving on to specifics, the story seems to be a good-faith effort to present the most central points about Jesus' life using the Bible and elements from Catholic tradition and popular piety.  Whatever elements remain in the final cut from non-canonical sources were, for the most part, beneath my threshold of notice.  The plot centers on the struggle which Jesus [played by James Caviezel] faced in choosing between personal welfare and higher calling.  This higher calling [we are explicitly told from the opening scene, then repeatedly throughout] involves the responsibility for repairing the catastrophic effects of sin, at the cost of personal torment.  Our protagonist seems more authentically human than any Christ which I recall seeing on the silver screen [H. B. Warner in DeMille's 1927 King of Kings was noteworthy in this aspect].  The divinity of Caviezel's Jesus was manifest largely in his interior certainty of the personal presence of God and of a transcendent significance to his vocation which were deep enough to withstand the worst trials.  A couple of miracles, taken directly from scripture, were shown (e.g. healing his captor's severed ear, cf. Jn18:10).  Of course, each miracle shown tends to emphasize a divine side to Jesus as contrasted with his humanity.

Knowing the protagonist, and the conflict which was used to drive the dramatic narrative, further organization follows typical lines for those familiar with 'structural analysis.'  Characters are defined primarily by whether they support or hinder Jesus' decision to accept the sacrifice demanded by his vocation.  Their affinities and antipathies among each other are determined by their choice on this question.  Whatever their personal relationship might have been, Mary, the Woman taken in adultery [Magdelene in the credits], Veronica, and John, are all united in following Jesus as he willingly walks the via dolorosa.  Caiaphas, and Pilate, the Jewish mob, the wildly brutal Roman guards, the Devil, and even Peter, are bunched into an aggregate opposed to Jesus' altruistic commitment.

Mary [played by Maia Morgenstern] shows a mystical empathy with her son throughout.  She senses his angst in her troubled dreams, and seems to feel his presence beyond the barrier of cell walls.  Yet for all this, she is courageous and composed.  This Mary does not manifest the physical beauty of Olivia Hussey [in Zeffirelli's 1977 Jesus of Nazareth].  She commands our attention and earns our respect with her strength and character.  This is not the swooning Madonna of medieval legend; this is Stabat Mater, standing bravely at the cross beside her captain, a soldier in a mystical battle on behalf of the whole human race.  Pernilla August offered a similar portrayal in her excellent portrayal of Mary, Mother of Jesus (1999).  But there was also a theological element worth noting.  As there is unity among characters based on their choice, so too does antipathy arise between those on opposite sides of it.  I found particularly striking a scene in which the Devil and Mary glare at each other across the via dolorosa, diametrically opposed over the quite-literal crux-of-the-matter between them.  The notion of Mary as Satan's opponent has been a part of Catholic teaching, receiving special emphasis in the century or so leading up to Vatican II (e.g. Mary standing on a serpent in many representations of the Immaculate Conception).  This roadside encounter is the clearest and most dramatic example of that theme being portrayed visually, but it was not the only one in the film.

The action proceeded mostly in a conventional linear fashion from Gethsemane to Calvary.  However, competent use of flashbacks added considerable spiritual depth to the film.  For example, after Jesus falls on the way to the place of crucifixion, we see a flashback in which Mary watches her child take a less-hazardous spill.  After he reaches the hill of Calvary, a flashback shows him preaching the Sermon on the Mount from a hillside.  And, of course, Jesus' death on the cross is inter-cut with scenes from the Last Supper which Christians will later reenact in order to commemorate that event down through the centuries.  These parallels and metaphors are common themes in Christian Tradition, and many are already present in the Scriptures.  What impressed me most was the director's attempt to Christian Tradition visually.

After the deposition of Jesus, the film uses its only 'fade' [I only recall cutaways for the other transitions].  A few seconds in black dissolve back to show the interior of the 'empty tomb,' then a brief shot of the Lord, risen and alive.  The Resurrection is portrayed discretely, but clearly.  The intensity of the film had started to diminish even before the death of Jesus.  The understated ending is enough to gently ground the viewer for return to the real world.

In closing, I would like to encourage my readers to view this excellent film.  However, I must add that it contains scenes of violence which are intense, prolonged and quite graphic, far more than any previous film about Jesus, though no more so than many other features of mass-market entertainment.  I do not invite sensitive viewers to watch it hoping that its good outweighs these problems.  Certainly, adults must consider this aspect of the film in deciding on its suitability for the youth in their care.

For those who do watch, I hope that the film encourages tolerance, virtue and hope.  I hope that it provides incentive for study, dialog and spiritual growth.  I hope that its artistic accomplishments and commercial success pave the way for more features based on the great Christian stories.  And I hope that Gibson is not simply 'preaching to the choir,' but to a larger [and more pluralistic] audience.  To this end, I welcome correspondence from my readers about this film and related topics.  I would particularly benefit from the opinions of those not 'in the choir,' so to speak, from non-Catholics, non-Christians, and the non-religious.  Feel free to email me at Michael.Duricy@notes.udayton.edu

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New Exhibit

Faith Meets Art

The Artist and the Bible: 20th Century Works on Paper will be on display in the Marian Library and Roesch Library galleries from March 1 to April 10, 2004.  The Galleries are open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm weekdays and 10 am to 6 pm on weekends.  For more information, or to arrange for viewing at another time, call (937) 229-4214.  A virtual exhibit may be seen on our Gallery section under Current Exhibit.

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

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Marian Events

Vatican Art Exhibit

After the very successful Vatican exhibit, The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary, Cincinnati's Museum Center (Union Terminal) offers another exhibit of Vatican treasures under the title of Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes.  The exhibit will be running through April 18, 2004.  For those interested in visiting the display, we offer a general introduction and some samples of the various sections of the extensive exhibit.

Celebrate the Annunciation and Incarnation of the Lord

Saint Peter Catholic Church
6161 Chambersburg Road, Huber Heights (OH)
Thursday March 25, 2004 at 7 p.m.

Sponsored by St. Peter Parish, the International Marian Research Institute, Knights of Columbus and One More Soul.  Musical Rehearsal and Prelude begin at 6:15 with celebration of Holy Mass at 7.  A reception will follow in the church basement at which Brother William Fackovec, SM, will present a display of Annunciation art from The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.  For additional information, please call Steve Koob, One More Soul, at (937) 279-5433.

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



On Saturday, March 13, in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father will pray the Rosary with a group of European university students at the culminating moment of their daylong meeting in Rome on the theme "The Pope and University Students, Together for Europe."

This European Day of University Students is being held to mark the May 1 entry into the European Union of ten new countries. The meeting is promoted by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and by the office for university ministry of the Vicariate of Rome.

The encounter will start at 5:45 p.m. with the entrance of the Cross, accompanied by a choir of 1,700 youth from Italian universities and conservatories. Before the Pope’s arrival, and in a television linkup with university students from cities in countries about to enter the European Union--Prague, Nicosia, Gniezno, Vilnius, Tallinn, Riga, Bratislava, Budapest, Valletta and Ljubljana--the young people will reflect on the Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Europe" and welcome the delegations from these ten nations.

Pope John Paul, following his arrival at 6:30 p.m., will lead the Rosary, address the university students and then inaugurate the pilgrimage that the Cross will make to the church of St. Agnes in Rome’s Piazza Navona.


From Zenit

"Passion" Star Caviezel Has a Papal Audience

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2004 (Zenit.org)

John Paul II received Jim Caviezel, the actor who plays Jesus in the film "The Passion of the Christ," in private audience. Caviezel was accompanied by his wife and parents-in-law. Vatican sources told ZENIT that the Pope blessed Caviezel at the end of today's audience.

Caviezel became internationally known after playing in roles such as the pensive soldier Witt in "The Thin Red Line" (1998). He has also acted in the films "Angel Eyes" (2001), "The Count of Monte Cristo" (2002) and "High Crimes" (2002).

Cardinal Sfeir Says Gibson's Film Isn't Anti-Semitic

BEIRUT, Lebanon, MARCH 15, 2004 (Zenit.org)

Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, says that Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" is "not anti-Semitic at all."

The prelate also said the film is "very tied to the facts, very moving and painful" to watch, according to AsiaNews.

Some Jewish groups branded the film, which depicts Jesus' passion and death, as anti-Semitic.

The Lebanese patriarch commented on Gibson's film after attending a special screening in Jounieh.

"The scenes of Christ's last 12 hours of suffering before being crucified are very realistic indeed," he said. "Now, Lebanese have the opportunity to see just how much Christ suffered and had to pay to forgive all the sins of mankind."

In Brazil, Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo of São Salvador also lent his support to the film.

"The film is a faithful rendition of Jesus Christ's passion and death," said Cardinal Agnelo, president of the Brazilian bishops' conference. He saw it in a private viewing Tuesday in the capital, Brasilia.

By the third weekend after its release, "The Passion" took in a staggering $264 million in North American theaters, according to Agence France-Presse.


University Students Urged to Protect Christian Values in Europe

Pope Prays Rosary With 9,000 Youths, and 10 Cities Linked by Satellite

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2004 (Zenit.org)

John Paul II prayed the rosary with 9,000 European university students, and asked them to keep the legacy of spiritual values that shaped the Old World.

Saturday's prayer vigil in Paul VI Hall concluded the 2nd European Day of University Students, promoted by the Council of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe.

University students in 10 cities were linked by satellite. The cities were Prague, Czech Republic; Nicosia, Cyprus; Gniezno, Poland; Vilnius, Lithuania; Riga, Latvia; Tallinn, Estonia; Lubiana, Slovenia; Budapest, Hungary; Valletta, Malta; and Bratislava, Slovakia. Those countries will become members of the European Union in May.

"This Marian vigil has an intense symbolic character," the Pope said. "You also, dear university students, are entrusted with an important role in the building of a united Europe, firmly established in the traditions and spiritual values that have shaped it."

"In this connection, the university constitutes one of the typical realms in which that culture, which has been formed through the centuries, has exerted a characteristic Christian influence," the Holy Father said. "It is necessary not to lose this rich legacy of ideals."

The young people responded to the Pope's address with loud applause and encouraging cries. The Holy Father concluded with a greeting to the youths, of the 10 European cities linked by satellite, in their languages.

The young people's cross, which John Paul II gave them for the first World Youth Day, was present during the vigil.

When the vigil ended, the cross was taken in procession by youths from the Vatican to Piazza Navona, to the Church of St. Agnes. The Pope recently declared the latter the church of young people in Rome.


In Wake of Madrid Attacks

Pope Calls for Harmonious Solidarity and Commitment

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2004 (Zenit.org)

Here are excerpts of the address John Paul II delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. The address was in Italian.

1. The Gospel page that the liturgy proposes to us this Sunday makes reference to accounts in Jesus' time of two tragic events: the bloody repression of a revolt and the collapse of the tower of Siloam on a crowd (see Luke 13:1-9). It makes us think of events in our days, marked unfortunately by repeated news of violence and death. ...

2. While confirming the absolute condemnation of such unjustifiable acts, I express once again my participation in the sorrow of the victims' relatives and my closeness in prayer to the wounded and their loved ones. ...

3. In the maternal hands of Mary, Virgin of Mercy, we place in a particular way the victims of the terrible terrorist attack of Madrid. We ask her to protect and watch over the beloved Spanish nation, Europe and the whole world.

"The Passion," as Seen by a Woman Religious

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz on 3 Key Moments

ANN ARBOR, Michigan, MARCH 13, 2004 (Zenit.org)

As a special ZENIT feature, a woman religious offers her view on key parts of the film "The Passion of the Christ."

* * *

Three Moments of "The Passion of the Christ"

By Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP

Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

Viewing "The Passion of the Christ" affects each person in an individual manner. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the film's portrayal of the last 12 hours of Christ's life on earth, the majority of this depiction of these most sacred hours is rooted in the various Evangelists' accounts found in Scripture.

As a woman religious, I viewed "The Passion" through the eyes of my own feminine nature and the spousal vigilance proper to one whose freely made avowal of the evangelical counsels identifies me as "sponsa Christi." Through such eyes, I have chosen three scenes which have become as the heartbeat of my reflections.

From the opening scenes, I realized that I could not identify with Christ as such. That identification would be more fitting for a priest, who, as "alter Christus," finds his likeness in the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

For me, Jim Caviezel's portrayal of Christ elicited tears wrung from the heart which, I soon understood, was beating as one with Mother Mary's and with all the women portrayed in the film: Mary Magdalene, Veronica, Claudia, the weeping women.

1st: "All Things New"

I watched Christ, I walked with him, I desired to wipe the dirt (which as a woman so bothered me) plastered with ever increasing thickness upon his holy face.

My admiration of Christ's Mother grew as, deep within my own being, I reacted to the bloodthirsty crowds which swirled in mad frenzy throughout the film in their physical and mental brutality toward Christ.

I felt my own body lean toward the screen and had to hold myself back to prevent the release my heart sought. I wanted to shout Simon's later words: "Stop! Haven't you done enough? Stop!"

But she, the Mother, did not; neither did he, the Son and innocent victim. Rather, when the Mother, following the manly logic of John's directions, was able to approach her Son, she tenderly said, "I am here!" And he responded by gifting her (and us) with the secret of obtaining the strength necessary for propitious redemptive suffering: "See, Mother, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).

St. Louis de Montfort must have rejoiced anew in heaven at this poignant scene culled from the spiritual reflection of Mel Gibson. Can we not summarize the Marian entrustment which John Paul II's coat of arms has displayed to the world for a quarter of a century now as the simple suggestion, "Through the Mother to the Son"?

Perhaps the greatest moment of a mother's love is known when her resolute strength emboldens her children for a suffering the world cannot understand but one rooted, by the redemptive value it offers, in the opened heart of the Christ.

2nd: His Presence

A personal spousal moment for me was epitomized when the Mother was wildly running through the streets in search of her bound and already brutally beaten Son.

Upon crossing over the ground which hid his physical presence from her eyes, as he was held in the dungeon below on that fateful night, she instantly knew his presence; and, bending down, she touched her cheek, her heart, to the ground.

Jesus, too, knew his Mother's closeness and, as the cameras fell below the dust to the hollowed and dirty tabernacle below, the viewer is able to catch Jesus reaching out his hand in an invisible embrace with the woman he loves. The One whom "the rocks like wax melt before his glance" (Judith 16:15) was separated from his Mother, but they still knew a oneness beyond the things of this world.

Similarly, as "sponsa Christi," I am not gifted with the marvelous sensible affects a bride comes to know in her husband. Therefore, the interior communication is heightened, and through this I know Christ's presence with me: each morning in Eucharistic adoration with my community, in each holy Communion, and by reaching out to each person my Spouse sends me.

Through my embrace of all people, regardless of their individual strengths and weaknesses, I know the touch of my Spouse and that touch spiritually fructifies our union as I, with him, behold all humanity as my spiritual children.

3rd: The Pietà, and priests

The third moment which I wish to point out is that immortalized by Michelangelo's famed Pietà. The Son lies in the lap of the Mother once again. Though the Man of Sorrows is now dead, I cannot view this scene as anything but Hope Personified.

As a woman and as a religious sister, this scene calls me to carry, support and love each individual priest whom the Almighty Father places within the radius of my heart's care; ultimately, all priests.

As the wife is made, by holy marriage, the helpmate of her husband, I, a religious sister, become, by virtue of my vocation, the helpmate par excellence of each priest.

When the priest is young, healthy and dynamic, my love is there to prayerfully support him, as Mary supported her Son, oftentimes from what might appear to others as afar.

When the priest must carry his cross for the salvation of the world, I wish to accompany him in my role as co-martyr for the fecundity of the children of God.

And when he appears broken, spent, given, I wish that it be my heart -- through my prayers, sacrifices and support -- upon which he might find peaceful rest. Without him, I have no Eucharistic Spouse; with him, the Church is given Christ until the end of time.

In his role at daily Mass, the priest shows me, again, what it means to be Mary: at the birth in Bethlehem, during her Son's public life of preaching and healing, in the silence of unitive prayer, and, finally, in receiving his Body when Calvary is completed.

With "alter Christus," the religious woman as bride awaits the promised resurrection even as she hears a familiar voice within assuring her: "Mother, behold I make all things new."

Would I advise everyone to experience this movie, even those who have no Christian background? My answer is "yes" without hesitation.

All persons are made in the likeness of God and thus are "imago Dei." The Angelic (Dominican) Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, assures us: "The light of your face, Lord, is signed upon us" ("Summa Theologiae," I-II, q. 91, a.2). The Apostle John gives us a one-word name for God: "Love."

We were made by Love; for Love; and to receive and give this Love who is God.

I submit this movie has the power to resonate in all hearts because it is the greatest Love story. With faith, one can only fall back in adoration ... knowing here is a Man who loves me.

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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.

A clear change [Source: St. Petersburg Times (Florida), 3/9/2004]

Workers with A & B Glass & Mirror Services of Dunedin install the last of three glass panels at an office building on U.S. 19 near Drew Street in Clearwater on Monday. The new windows replace those that included the head and veil of an image that many Christians believed to be that of the Virgin Mary. Clearwater police said someone shot three ball bearings at the iridescent windows last week, shattering the three panels. Rosie Reed, site leader for Shepherds of Christ Ministries, which owns the building, said the ministry received divine instruction to replace the panels with clear glass. "We have a messenger," Reed said. "She got a message from Jesus to put the clear glass in the window." After the image was discovered in December 1996, thousands flocked to the site. Later, Shepherds of Christ Ministries bought the building and called it "Our Lady of Clearwater."

Russian Orthodox icon on tour here to inspire faithful [Source: Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), 3/7/2004]

Parma - Worshippers welcomed a venerated Russian Orthodox Church icon into their midst Saturday evening, as it made a stop on its tour through Ohio.

The Kursk Root Icon of Our Lady of the Sign was the centerpiece of a 21/2-hour vigil at St. Sergius of Radonezh Russian Orthodox Church in Parma, where about 80 people participated in the service.

The service and the presence of the 10-inch-square painting on wood of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus, surrounded by images of the prophets and encased in a silver- and gold-plated cover, was significant because of the Lenten season, said Father Victor Boldewskul, rector at St. Sergius. Lent, a period of reflection and penance, began Feb. 25 and will end Easter Sunday, April 11, for all Christian denominations this year.

The icon depicting the Mother of God and Jesus Christ was present to "strengthen the faithful" who are facing a demanding 61/2-week season, one that requires that they give up meat and dairy products and attend lengthy services, Boldewskul said.

The icon, on tour through the church's vast Midwest diocese, has been to Russian Orthodox churches in Erie, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Parma, and to one Serbian church in Akron during the last week.

Its presence in the church "means that the person of the Mother of God is here," said Sergi Kaminsky, an 18-year member of St. Sergius.

Elena Miller, a native of Moscow, brought her family from Twinsburg to see the icon for the first time.

Miller, who came to the United States with her twin, Olga, in 1991 to attend a Twins Day celebration in Twinsburg, met and married a man who also has a twin. The couple are raising their daughters, Kara, 10, and Nadia, 7, as Roman Catholics but Miller wanted them to see the icon and the service.

"It means a lot to the Russian people," she said, recalling the stories of miracles she heard as a child.

One of the five most venerated icons in Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution and still highly regarded today, it has survived more than seven centuries, sometimes miraculously, according to church history. It is said to have worked miracles - often healing the infirm - since its discovery by a hunter in the woods near the city of Kursk on Sept. 8, 1295.

"It has served as the protectress of Russian immigration since the revolution," Boldweskul said.

Church members took the icon out of Russia in 1919 to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. They later took it to Germany near the end of World War II and other parts of Europe. They brought it to the United States in 1950, where it has permanent homes at the New Kursk Hermitage in Mahopac, N.Y., and the Synod of Bishops' Cathedral Church of the Mother of God of the Sign in New York City.

Church members have taken the icon throughout the world to bring inspiration to the faithful, including to South America and Australia. It will make stops at about 30 parishes during its tour of the Midwest diocese, Boldweskul said.

On Saturday, the worshippers gathered in the ornate sanctuary filled with images to see, kneel before and even kiss the icon on display in the center of the room. Their lighted candles sometimes provided the only illumination.

They watched as Midwest Bishop Peter Lukianov circled the icon, blessing it, and heard him read the Gospel in the service, which was in Russian and English. Later they received his blessing.

More people are expected to attend this morning's 9:40 worship service.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: achatman@plaind.com, 216-999-4115

Vandalism Only Fuels Faith Of Mary Fans [Source: Tampa Tribune (Florida), 3/6/2004]

I saw her for the last time last weekend.

My dog and I had spent a glorious day at Honeymoon Island in Dunedin participating in a Humane Society fundraiser. Then we played on the beach all afternoon.

That was the good part. The lousy part was heading home to Tampa on U.S. 19, one of the worst roads in America. By the time I got to Drew Street, I was frazzled by the traffic and depressed by the downright ugly jumble of nondescript buildings, fast-food joints and construction clutter.

Then the "vision" of the Virgin Mary, a shimmering rainbow image on the windows of a towering former bank building, caught my eye. Ah, I thought, something of beauty along this strip-mall alley. A few people were gathered out front, no doubt out-of-town visitors come to pay their respects and to pray.

You don't have to believe the image was divinely inspired to appreciate its beauty. I felt better, if even for a few seconds, as I drove by.

Now it's gone.

All it took were three small ball bearings. Police suspect a slingshot was the weapon of choice early Monday morning. It shattered the three upper panes; in effect, beheading the image that emerged Dec. 17, 1996.

Image Caused No Harm

You don't have to be a Catholic, or even a believer, to be sickened by this wanton act of vandalism or direct attack against religion. That window meant something to many people all over the globe. If you didn't give a hoot for it, its presence certainly caused no one any harm.

A colleague dismissed all the fuss.

"It's just a stain on a window," he grumbled. "'It's been turned into some religious icon by a bunch of nuts."

That's the beauty of America. We're allowed to express opinions like that, and we're allowed to freely practice any faith we choose. Which is why the demise of this "vision" by human hands, and the soiling of what some believe are holy grounds, was so wrong.
Shepherds of Christ Ministries, an Ohio-based Catholic lay community, purchased the 22,000-square-foot building for $2 million in July 1998. Members felt called to protect "Our Lady of Clearwater," even if scientific experts pronounced the image the result of a chemical reaction.

Since then, the ministry maintained the site with spiritual diligence. Volunteers ran a nightly 6:20 prayer service, selling rosaries and other Virgin Mary artifacts in the gift shop to offset costs. Donations were never enough, as crowds began to dwindle over the years, but supporters from around the country made sure the $10,000 monthly mortgage was always paid.

Desecrated But Not Destroyed

I spoke by phone this week to John Weickert, president of Shepherds of Christ, at ministry headquarters near Cincinnati. After getting the call Monday about the vandalism, he says he was "completely speechless" for about a half-hour. Then he called up the ministry Web site (www.sofc.org), which has a live Web cam that broadcasts the image 24 hours a day.

"It was devastating," he recalls. "You get used to turning on the computer, anywhere in the world, and you can see her. Now she's gone."

Weickert insists a sacred place may have been desecrated but not destroyed. The panes bearing Mary's shoulders and upper body will remain, and the shattered ones will be replaced with clear panes at a cost of $1,100. He says that directive "came directly from God." The 18-foot cedar crucifix that was carved for the site also remains.

He believes "pilgrims," as he calls visitors to the site, will continue to make the journey. Some claim to see the face of Jesus at night in the lower panes.

"It's the sorrowful face of Jesus they see," Weickert says solemnly.

To the criminals who did this, shame on you. This was an oasis of peace on the highway from hell. If your petty act was supposed to make people doubt their faith, you were sadly wrong. If anything, you fueled it.

A bolt of lightning [Source: The Times (London), 3/6/2004]

A BOLT of lightning has decapitated a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in South Africa. The marble statue at Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Mulbarton, south of Johannesburg, was struck during a storm on Tuesday night. Parishioners were shocked to discover the detached head, which had tumbled down a spire, damaging part of the church's brickwork.

Displaced weeping Mary no longer dripping oil: Believers flood church with calls after building manager hands off icon to parish [Source: The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), 3/5/2004]

Abderezak Mehdi's problems are over.

The St. Laurent building manager has handed off the Virgin Mary icon that he claimed wept tears of oil and drew hundreds of phone calls and visitors to a tiny shrine in his lobby.

But the headaches are just beginning for its new owner, Michel Sayde, a priest at the Greek Melkite Catholic parish of St. Sauveur in north-end Montreal.

Mehdi had no sooner told callers yesterday he gave away the icon than they contacted Notre Dame des Anges parish - which shares its Gouin Blvd. church with St. Sauveur--about the "weeping" Mary.

Sayde was not there, and staff and clergy at Notre Dame des Anges were caught off-guard by the demand to see the icon.

"We don't know anything about this," Marcel Bircher, a pastor at Notre Dames des Anges, said yesterday. "The icon is not here at the church."

Sayde could not be reached yesterday for comment.

But believers - and the merely curious - should know the icon no longer drips oil, Mehdi said. It was a fate he and Sayde had predicted before the exchange took place on Wednesday.

"Pere Michel had warned me of this, but it was becoming impossible to keep it here," said Mehdi, who looks after a 96-unit apartment complex. "It was an imposition for other tenants, and there were security concerns."

Mehdi, who had found the icon of Mary and another, of Jesus Christ, in the rubbish, said he was both relieved and sorry to see the icons go.

"It was becoming very difficult for me," Mehdi said, adding that he lost weight, opened his door to strangers at all hours, and took no money for his efforts.  "But, for all that, I was thrilled by the experience. What touched me most was the emotion--people came with their worries and tears, and left with a smile."

In a last-ditch effort to keep the portraits, Mehdi said he talked to police and the apartment block's owners about setting up the icons in a vacant unit at the rear of the building. But they rejected the idea, he said, citing public safety and crowd control.

Mehdi, a Muslim, says he cannot explain the significance of the icons or why they would have come into his possession.

"It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence," he said, before correcting himself.

"There is another one in the basement, where I found the first two," he said, with a hint of a smile. "I don't dare touch it."

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