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.
To celebrate the month of May 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 May.
The Eucharist with Mary
Eucharist with Mary is an answer to John Paul II's proclamation of "a special Year of the Eucharist" (2004-2005). This feature will explore facets of Mary's relationship with the Eucharist and will be updated frequently throughout this year. Our latest addition is Praise and Thanksgiving.
A section on Marian Spiritualities has been added to our About Mary page. The latest addition was Distinctive Traits of Marianist Spirituality: Mary, Mission, Community. Expect more articles to follow.
We have updated Marian Shrines in Poland. We have also posted our answers to the following reader questions: What is the History of the May Devotion?; Smelling Roses--What is the meaning?; and What is the black scapular (Our Lady of Dolors)?
New Web Addresses for The Mary Page
In order to make our web site more accessible, The Mary Page may now be reached at the following URLs: marypage.org; themarypage.org; and themarypage.net. The original address on the University of Dayton site remains active as well.
Two important Catholic websites have added The Mary Page to their list of Media Partners. CatholicWeb.com highlights items from The Mary Page in their section on Catholic News. Catholic.net includes a Mary Channel on their navrbar with Mary Page articles. Please visit these site in return. We expect continued collaboration with them in the future.
Available at The Marian Library
The ML/IMRI recently produced, Symbols of Grace, a pamphlet showing many emblems representing Mary's Immaculate Conception along with explanatory text for each. The emblems featured in this booklet were reproduced and restored by The Society for the Preservation of the Roman Catholic Heritage. Robin Smith designed the layout, while Fr. Johann Roten and Br. William Fackovec contributed the text. These booklets are available for $1.00 per copy.
The Marian Library also offers Marian screensavers. You may buy one (on CD for Windows PCs) for $3.00 or two for $5.00.
The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute (ML/IMRI) has created three different Marian PC screensavers. The first is called "Symbols of Grace" and is a series of 11 classical emblems symbolizing the Immaculate Conception. The emblems evoke a sense of mystery, with scenes of people, angels, animals, and nature representing God's supreme gift of grace to Mary. Each emblem is accompanied by the Bible verse which inspired it.
The second is entitled "Visions of Grace" and is a collection of 13 different art pieces, ranging from 17th century Mexican to modern Chinese to classical European. Each piece is a unique artistic interpretation of The Immaculate Conception, and is accompanied by a Marian verse from the Bible.
The newest is Litany of Flowers: A Floral Tribute to our Lady, which includes twelve images by Wislawa Kwiatkowska from the book Madonny z Poezji Polskiej (Madonnas in Polish Poetry), published by the Diocesan Museum of Plock , Poland.
You may purchase these items at The Marian Library, which is located on the 7th floor of U.D.'s Roesch Library. The Marian Library is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, closed on holidays. For more information, call 937-229-4214.
Polish Madonnas in Art and Poetry
An exhibit of Marian paintings by renowned Polish artist, Wislawa Kwiatkowska, will be on display in the Marian Library Gallery on the 7th floor of Roesch Library until September 8 from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm weekdays (except holidays). A portion of the fifty paintings will also be display in the Gallery on the first floor of Roesch Library from 8am to 10 pm Monday-Thursday, 8am - 6 pm Friday, and 12-6 pm weekends (except holidays) through July 31. For further information, or to arrange a special visit during other times, call 937-229-4214. Click here for a virtual exhibit.
Creches and Straw Art are also on display in our museum.
Dr. Virginia M. Kimball, IMRI graduate, Vice-President of ESBVM-USA, and MSA President, will speak on "Theotokos, Bearer of Christ, Nurturer of His Church" on June 10 during the Annual Meeting of the Orthodox Theological Society in America. She will also present, "Hope in a Hurting World: The Assumption/Dormition of Mary, Eschatalogical Icon of God's Promise," on May 19 at the Annual Meeting of the Mariological Society of America. Also, on May 7, Dr. Kimball spoke on "The Eucharist and Mary" at the Annual Meeting of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary (USA).
International Marian Research Institute Course ScheduleIMRI courses for the Summer 2005 semester will start on June 13. The course schedule through Fall 2005 is now available.
Mary, Model of Justice (Wednesday, May 25 7:30-9:30 pm)Celebrate the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians, and explore the call of Mary's Magnificat and her model of discipleship for living justly at Bergamo's MEEC Center. Presenters will include Carol Ramey, Br. Don Geiger, and Sr. Leanne Jablonski. RSVP by May 23. Free will offerings accepted. For more information call 937-429-3582.
Click this link for a list of all of the current Marian Events by geographical position.
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!
John Paul II: Theologian and
Bard of the Virgin Mary
"Totus Tuus": "totally Yours!" These are the words that accompany John Paul II’s coat of arms, a golden Crucifix against a blue backdrop, next to which--in the lower right hand section--a golden M stands out, Mary’s initial. The coat of arms first of all is inspired by Christianity’s central mystery, that of the redemption fulfilled by the Son of God on the Cross, the revelation and gift of infinite love, thanks to which once and forever Heaven descended on earth and put down its roots here. The vertical part of the Crucifix has however been moved to provide room for the majestic capital M that reminds us of the Mother’s presence below the Cross and her singular participation in the Redeemers work. Hence two decisive elements of the Polish Pope’s spiritual identity and mission are expressed in this coat of arms; first of all His passionate following of Christ, the real center and heart of everything he has been and achieved, a following that has become increasingly transparent until the current and mysterious participation in the Master’s Mystery. Secondly, next to Christ’s central position and primacy, there is the intense love for Mary, the Virgin Mother to whom he has totally offered himself: "Totus Tuus." In no way does Mary take the place of her Son; she stands next to Him until the terrible and supreme hour of the Crucifixion; she welcomes Him as a gift and in turn gives Him away; when He dies she receives from Him her mission as the Mother of the beloved disciple, and in Him also of each disciple of the redeeming love. John Paul II therefore ardently loves Mary; from Her and with Her he learns the intimacy and the amazement of a totally singular relationship with God; in Her he sees himself as a son of the Son; thanks to her example and her intercession he draws strength for his mission as the servant of the servants of God until the very end, well beyond all measure of tiredness. In its intensity and profoundness this relationship with the Virgin Mother, although it studied less in-depth by the interpreters of this papacy compared to the other decisive relationship with Christ, is none the less the key for understanding this Pope’s work and his message.
At the school of Mary, Wojtyla learns and bears witness to intimacy with God, he learns the constantly renewed capability to be amazed when facing the Mystery, he learns his mastery of the "maternal" language that is the language of the heart, capable of being heard beyond the sandbanks of self-imprisoned reason, evoking eternity in time, the invisible within the poor marks on the stage of this world that passes. It is an ancient language that young Karol learned from an adored presence, which too soon became an absence: "On your white grave--he wrote in the springtime of his nineteen years when visiting his mother’s tomb--the white flowers of love are in bloom. / How many years have already vanished / without you--how many years? / On your white grave / now closed for years / something as inexplicable as death / appears to rise. / On your white grave, / Mother, my lost love, / lost to my filial love / a precious …" Later he was to write intensely moving verses, lending his voice to the Virgin Mary in that "maternal" language, which is the language of intimacy with the invisible Loved One: "My difficult and grown-up son. My simple son, / In me no doubt you become accustomed to the thoughts of men / and in the shadow of these thoughts you wait for the profound moment of the heart / which happens at a different time for each man / … Enclosed within this moment you do not change / and to this great simplicity you bring each thing that is in me / so that, if mothers recognize the lightning of the heart in the eyes of their children, / I should remain totally engrossed in your Secret" (The Mother, from Karol Wojtyla, Poems). To Mary John Paul II entrusts both himself and each of us, that She may help us to learn the maternal language of love, the language of unity with God that changes the heart and also life.
At the school of the Mother, Wojtyla learns to experience his own mission, understood as a gift received and passed on; the listening Virgin becomes the Mother of love. United with Her, he discovers he is loved by the Son who came in time, that he is a brother for all His disciples, the shepherd of a people born from the generation of the Word in our flesh. "I am John, the fisherman. There is very little / in me for You to love" says the Poet Pope speaking for all of us. And this voice is the memory of an encounter: "I still feel the thin gravel under my feet, on the shores of the lake--/ and all of a sudden--Him". It is from that encounter that a life, a new life, is forever born; a life he will yet again request for himself and for each of us in Pompeii: "But He wished me to call you Mother. / And I pray that it is thus and that this word shall not use its value… / it is really difficult to fathom the words / the meaning of which He has instilled in both of us / because it is in them that all ancient love is hidden" (ib.). Life invoked for all is a gift and a promise for everyone, as the words Wojtyla wrote when he was thirty years old tell us, and that today assume the fascination of a prophecy: "Your intense tranquility will stay with me forever / the only outlet for my journey, and one day will be mine / so much that I will experience this as a river transported by its transparent bed / even should the body remain inert". hence as a theologian and as Mary’s bard, the Pope sends this message of hope to all of us, a message stronger than any darkness and any interruption: hope in God, in His justice, in His peace; the hope expressed in the "Magnificat," the ancient and yet always new hymn to the Virgin, Mother of the Son, and our Mother, Mary.
Anglican-Catholic Commission Unites on Mary
Mary need no longer be an obstacle to union between Anglicans and Catholics, according to a document published by a joint council of the two Churches.
The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) released on Monday their latest statement, a document that is the fruit of six years of discussions on the figure of Mary, entitled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ." The text was written by a mixed group of 18 Roman Catholic and Anglican theologians.
The statement was released in a celebration at the Catholic cathedral in Seattle, and attended by the ARCIC co-chairs, Roman Catholic Archbishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle and Anglican Archbishop Peter Carnley, primate of Australia.
Also called 'The Seattle Statement,' the text is not an authoritative declaration by either the Catholic or the Anglican Church, but is intended for wider discussion by both.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, commented that the statement "is a major achievement in the ongoing dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans worldwide."
It is a "considerable achievement in increasing the depth of understanding of each Church's position," he added.
Catholic Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, also said that the section on the devotion to Mary in the Anglican tradition will help to show both Catholics and some Anglicans the importance of the Marian Anglican tradition.
"Anglican-Catholic understanding has been greatly strengthened by this dialogue," Bishop McMahon said. "What we have done is put down a paving stone on the road to Christian unity."
The theologians, coming from 10 different countries, were appointed by the Vatican's Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Anglican Communion.
The commission, begun in 1970, has also written statements on the Eucharist, ministry authority in the Church, salvation and justification and the nature of the Church.
Mary Document Advances
The statement on Mary released by the Catholic-Anglican commission marks a step forward in unity between the two churches, according to the Roman Catholic co-secretary of the commission.
Father Donald Bolen, Roman Catholic co-secretary of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and assistant for the Western section of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, released the following answers to some common questions regarding the joint statement entitled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ."
Q: Who are the authors of this document?
Father Bolen: The text "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ," also known as the Seattle Statement, is the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which is the official instrument of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion.
The dialogue, which was first called for by Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury in 1966, was established in 1970. The first phase of ARCIC's work (1970-1981) resulted in statements on the Eucharist, ministry and two statements on authority in the Church. ARCIC's second phase of work (1983 to the present) included statements on salvation and justification, the nature of the Church, morals, further work on authority in the Church, and now, on the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the doctrine and life of the Church. The commission that prepared the Mary document was constituted of 18 members. ARCIC began its work on Mary at its 1999 meeting, and completed the text in 2004.
The Anglican members are appointed by the archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Anglican Communion Office, while the Roman Catholic members are appointed by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The co-chairs of ARCIC are Roman Catholic Bishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle, and Anglican Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth, who is also the primate of Australia. The document on Mary brings to completion the second phase of ARCIC's work. It is anticipated that a third phase of work for ARCIC will be initiated in due course.
Q: What authority does the text carry?
Father Bolen: "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ" is the work of ARCIC, and is published under the commission's authority with the permission of the Anglican Communion Office and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It is not an authoritative declaration by the Catholic Church or by the Anglican Communion, who will study and evaluate the document. The authorities who appointed the commission have allowed the statement to be published so that it may be reflected upon and discussed.
Q: Why was the place of Mary in the Church chosen as a topic to be studied?
Father Bolen: The Seattle Statement is the first international bilateral dialogue to take up the subject of the role of Mary in the Church. The opening paragraph of the document indicates that ARCIC was asked to prepare a study of Mary by Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders. While Mary has held an important place in the life and liturgy of Anglicans and Roman Catholics alike, the two Marian dogmas and Marian devotion within the Catholic Church have been seen as points which have separated the Anglican and Catholic Churches.
Q: What were Anglicans and Catholics able to say together about Mary prior to the present document?
Father Bolen: ARCIC had briefly addressed the subject of Mary once before, in the 1981 statement "Authority in the Church II." Paragraph 2 of the Seattle Statement outlines the significant degree of agreement about Mary in 1981, then proceeds to quote the earlier text in pointing to remaining differences which the present document sets out to address, focusing in particular on the Marian dogmas: "The dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption raise a special problem for those Anglicans who do not consider that the precise definitions given by these dogmas are sufficiently supported by Scripture."
Q: How does "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ" set forth foundations from which to address the two Marian dogmas?
Father Bolen: Since its inception, ARCIC has sought to carry out a dialogue "founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions" ("Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury," 1966), thus attempting to "discover and develop our common inheritance of faith" (4). This attentiveness to our common foundations gives shape to the first two sections of the document.
The first major section of the document (6-30) traces the place of Mary in the Scriptures. Constituting almost one-third of the entire statement, this section could be used independently of the rest of the document, as a study of the place of Mary in Scripture (cf. 80). The text notes that the Scriptures 'bear normative witness to God's plan of salvation', so they are the natural starting point for ARCIC's reflections. The text concludes by noting that 'it is impossible to be faithful to Scripture without giving due attention to the person of Mary' (77).
The treatment of Mary in the Scriptures is summarized in paragraph 30: "The scriptural witness summons all believers in every generation to call Mary 'blessed'; this Jewish woman of humble status, this daughter of Israel living in hope of justice for the poor, whom God has graced and chosen to become the virgin mother of his Son through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. We are to bless her as the 'handmaid of the Lord' who gave her unqualified assent to the fulfillment of God's saving plan, as the mother who pondered all things in her heart, as the refugee seeking asylum in a foreign land, as the mother pierced by the innocent suffering of her own child, and as the woman to whom Jesus entrusted his friends. We are at one with her and the apostles, as they pray for the outpouring of the Spirit upon the nascent Church, the eschatological family of Christ. And we may even glimpse in her the final destiny of God's people to share in her son's victory over the powers of evil and death."
The second section of the text deals first (31-40) with Mary in the ancient common traditions, that is, in the early Church Councils which are authoritative for both Anglicans and Roman Catholics, and in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, theologians of the first centuries of Christianity. The text stresses the central importance of the early Church's understanding of Mary as "Theotókos" (the Mother of God the Word incarnate, the "God bearer"). The text then proceeds (41-46) to review "the growth of devotion to Mary in the medieval centuries, and the theological controversies associated with them," showing "how some excesses in late medieval devotion, and reactions against them by the reformers, contributed to the breach of communion between us" (77). Finally, the section concludes (47-51) by tracing subsequent developments within both Anglicanism and the Roman Catholic Church, and notes the importance of seeing Mary as inseparably linked with Christ and the Church.
Q: How does the Mary document approach the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (defined in 1854) and the Assumption of Mary (defined in 1950)? What agreement is ARCIC able to reach in this regard? What can we affirm together?
Father Bolen: The convergence which is set forward in the first two sections of the text provides foundations within which to approach the two dogmas. The third section begins by looking at Mary and her role in the history of salvation within the framework of "a theology of grace and hope." The text appeals to St. Paul's letter to the Romans (8:30), wherein he sets forward a pattern of grace and hope operative in the relationship between God and humanity: "those whom God predestined he also called; those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30).
This pattern is clearly seen in the life of Mary. She was "marked out from the beginning as the one chosen, called and graced by God through the Holy Spirit for the task that lay ahead of her" (54). In Mary's freely uttered fiat -- "let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) – we see "the fruit of her prior preparation, signified in Gabriel's affirmation of her as 'graced'" (55). In paragraph 59, the text links this affirmation to what is being professed in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: "In view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One (Luke 1:35), we can affirm together that Christ's redeeming work reached back in Mary to the depths of her being, and to her earliest beginnings. This is not contrary to the teaching of Scripture, and can only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize in this what is affirmed by the dogma--namely 'preserved from all stain of original sin' and 'from the first moment of her conception.'"
In turn, the document proposes that just as grace was operative at the beginning of Mary's life, so too does Scripture offer foundations for trusting that those who follow God's purposes faithfully will be drawn into God's presence. While "there is no direct testimony in Scripture concerning the end of Mary's life" (56), "when Christians from East and West through the generations have pondered God's work in Mary, they have discerned in faith ... that it is fitting that the Lord gathered her wholly to himself: in Christ, she is already a new creation ..." (58). Again making a connection between this understanding of grace and hope operative in Mary's life and the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, the text notes: "we can affirm together the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture and that it can, indeed, only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize that this teaching about Mary is contained in the dogma" (58).
The Commission does not entirely resolve the differences between Anglicans and Catholics regarding the two dogmas, for the above conclusions pertain to the Marian content of the dogmas, not the authority by which they were defined. Nonetheless, ARCIC's drafters feel confident in proposing that if the arguments laid forth in the Mary document were accepted by the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church, this "would place the questions about authority which arise from the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context" (78; cf. 61-63).
Q: What does the text say about Marian devotion?
Father Bolen: The final major section of the document (64-75) addresses the place of Mary in the life of the Church, touching on questions pertaining to Marian devotion. The section begins with a strong affirmation: "We together agree that in understanding Mary as the fullest human example of the life of grace, we are called to reflect on the lessons of her life recorded in Scripture and to join with her as one indeed not dead, but truly alive in Christ" (65). The text stresses that Marian devotion and the invocation of Mary are not in any way to obscure or diminish the unique mediation of Christ.
It concludes: "Affirming together unambiguously Christ's unique mediation, which bears fruit in the life of the Church, we do not consider the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us as communion dividing ... we believe that there is no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division on these matters."
The conclusion (76-80) pulls together what the dialogue commission is convinced that it has achieved in "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ." After reaffirming the agreements that were set forth in the 1981 document referred to above, the text concludes by expressing ARCIC's conviction that "the present statement significantly deepens and extends these agreements, setting them within a comprehensive study of doctrine and devotion associated with Mary" (76).
On Psalm 133 (112)
Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at Wednesday's general audience, which he dedicated to a reflection on Psalm 113 (112), "Praise the Name of the Lord."
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Before we begin a brief interpretation of the Psalm we just heard, I would like to remind you that today is the birthday of our beloved John Paul II. He would have been 85 years old and we are certain that he sees us from on high and is with us. On this occasion we wish to say a profound thank you to the Lord for the gift of this Pope, and we wish to say thank you to the Pope himself for all that he did and suffered.
1. Psalm 112 has resounded in its simplicity and beauty, which serves as an introduction to the small collection of Psalms that goes from 112 to 117, conventionally called "the Egyptian Hallel." It is the alleluia, that is, the song of praise, which exalts the liberation from Pharaoh's slavery and the joy of Israel in serving the Lord in freedom in the Promised Land (cf. Psalm 112 (113)).
It was no accident that the Jewish tradition linked this series of Psalms to the paschal liturgy. The celebration of that event, according to its socio-historical and above all its spiritual dimensions, was regarded as a sign of liberation from evil in the multiplicity of its manifestations.
Psalm 112 is a brief hymn, which in the Hebrew original is made up of some sixty words, all suffused with sentiments of trust, praise, and joy.
2. The first stanza (cf. 1-3) exalts "the name of the Lord" that--as is known--in biblical language indicates the person of God himself, his living and acting presence in human history.
Thrice, with passionate intensity, resounds "the name of the Lord" at the heart of the prayer of adoration. All being and all time--"from the rising of the sun to its setting," says the Psalmist (verse 3)--is united in one act of thanksgiving. It is as if an incessant breath rises from the earth to heaven to exalt the Lord, creator of the cosmos and king of history.
3. Precisely through this movement toward the heavens, the Psalm leads us to the divine mystery. The second part (cf. 4-6) in fact, celebrates the Lord's transcendence, described with vertical images that go beyond the simple human horizon. It proclaims: the Lord "High above all nations," "enthroned on high," and no one can be his equal; he must even look "down" upon the heavens, because "his glory" is "above the heavens!" (4).
The divine gaze looks upon the whole of reality, on earthly and heavenly beings. Yet his look is not haughty and detached, as that of a cold emperor. The Lord--says the Psalmist--looks "down" (6).
4. We thus come to the Psalm's last movement (cf. 7-9), which shifts our attention from the heavenly heights to our earthly horizon. The Lord lowers himself with solicitude to our littleness and indigence which would impel us to withdraw in fear. He directs his loving gaze and efficacious commitment towards the least and miserable of the world: "The Lord raises the needy from the dust, lifts the poor from the ash heap" (7).
Thus God bends over the needy and the suffering to console them. And this expression finds its ultimate meaning, its greatest realism at the moment that God bends down to the point of becoming incarnate, to become like one of us, like one of the poor of the world. He confers the greatest honor on the poor, he "sits them with princes"; yes, "with the princes of the people" (8). To the lonely barren woman, humiliated by ancient society as if she were a dry and useless branch, God gives the honor and great joy of having several children (cf. 9). Therefore, the Psalmist praises a God who is very different from us in his greatness, but at the same time very close to his suffering creatures.
It is easy to intuit in these last verses of Psalm 112 the prefiguration of Mary's words in the "Magnificat," the canticle of God's chosen one who "regards the lowliness of his handmaid." More radical than our Psalm, Mary proclaims that God "has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly" (cf. Luke 1:48,52, Psalm 112:6-8).
5. A very ancient "Evening Hymn," preserved in the "Constitutions of the Apostles" (VII, 48), takes up and develops our Psalm's joyful beginning. We recall it here, at the end of our reflection, to shed light on the Christian rereading that the early community made of the Psalms:
(S. Pricoco and M. Simonetti, "La Preghiera dei Cristiani," (The Prayer of Christians), Milan, 2000, p. 97).
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.
Feminine Mystique in Masculine
In Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," the henpecked cock, Chauntecleer, talks out of both sides of his beak, declaring that woman is man's ruin and also his "joy" and "bliss." His namesake, San Francisco's 12-man choral ensemble Chanticleer, pulled off a similar feat of conceptual legerdemain Friday in "Women, Saintly and Otherwise," their Metropolitan Museum of Art program exploring the ever-shifting images and voices of humanity's feminine half.
The concert opened with works honoring the Virgin Mary. To "Gaude virgo, mater Christi," a motet by 15th century composer Josquin Desprez, Chanticleer brought a lean but multi-layered sound and a spry rhythm befitting a song of praise and joy. The group's 12 voices sounded miraculously as one in an austere plainsong version of "Ave Maria," then blossomed with the radiant colors of a rose window in Tomáás Luis de Victoria's ecstatic setting of the same prayer. Chanticleer's basses mustered a respectable Slavic buzz in an Eastertide hymn by 17th century Russian Vassily Titov.
Profane concerns dominated the next set. Chanticleer's normally crisp enunciation was muddied by the Temple of Dendur's vast dimensions in Thomas Weelkes' "As Vesta Was," a tribute to Britain's Elizabeth I. Maurice Ravel's "Nicolette" showcased the group's enormous range: scampering cadences, chromatic slides, a page's fey allure and a fetid old man's pecuniary charms. Chanticleer lavished expressive clarity upon the tortured dissonances and dense imagery of four sestinas by Claudio Monteverdi: chilly tones for the "cold earth" covering a dead lass, cries of anguish and whispers of resignation for the closing prayer at her tomb.
Robert Lucas Pearsall's "Lay a Garland," a 19th century evocation of Renaissance polyphony, featured lushly beautiful harmonies and a gorgeous bloom of sound that swelled and tapered to a single, vibrant point. The group stopped time in John Tavener's "Song for Athene," commingling words from "Hamlet" and the Orthodox vigil service. Chanticleer created the illusion of a single, prolonged drone, over which they wove plaintive, questioning phrases punctuated by alleluias. Their tones faded imperceptibly into nothingness, winning a roar of gratitude from listeners loath to leave the meditative space that Chanticleer so magically had wrought.
Contemporary works, including Cary John Franklin's gnomic "The Uncertainty of the Poet" and a voluptuous Byron setting by Eric William Barnum, rounded out the program. "Purple Syllables," a world premiere collection of Emily Dickinson settings by Augusta Read Thomas, honored Chanticleer's avian ancestry with poems evoking the "lonesome glee" of nature's songsters. The ensemble responded with purrs and trills, glassy whistles and shimmering harmonies, ideally responsive to Thomas and Dickinson's ingratiating but severe muse. Arrangements by Jeeyoung Kim of traditional Korean works--a lilting lullaby and a raucous love song full of guttural chants and raspy flights into falsetto--brought the official program to an end.
The world's suavest and sexiest version of Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" and other choice encores left the audience in joyous anticipation of Chanticleer's December return to New York.
Marion Lignana Rosenberg is a freelance writer.
CHANTICLEER: "Women, Saintly and Otherwise." Attended Friday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur.
Renewal in the Birthplace of American Catholicism
When and if Pope Benedict XVI decides to visit the United States, the Archdiocese of Baltimore hopes to be the first to greet him. In fact, representatives say, it would only be fitting if Baltimore were the first U.S. city to be visited by the new pope. Baltimore is, after all, the site of the first Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States--the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, considered the mother church of Roman Catholicism in this country.
Construction began in 1806, which means the cathedral will mark the 200th anniversary of the cornerstone-laying next year. That's also when the building is scheduled to reopen after a $32 million restoration, a project that received strong support from Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II. The local group guiding the work, the Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust, whose president is Cardinal William Keeler, intends to issue a formal invitation to the pope to visit the restored cathedral, and perhaps even preside over its rededication, according to executive director Mark Potter. "What a perfect first visit it would be for the new pope to visit the cradle of Roman Catholicism in the United States on his first trip" as pope, Potter says.
Even before John Paul II died and Germany's Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was chosen to lead the church, the historic trust had made remarkable progress in repairing and upgrading the basilica in time for a scheduled reopening in early November, 2006. Construction work began on April 12, 2004, and the church has been closed to the public since late November, so that interior renovation could move ahead. As designed by John G. Waite Associates and Beyer Blinder Belle, the project involves "returning" the building to the way it was envisioned by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who died before construction was substantially complete in 1821.
Workers have replaced 24 skylights in the dome that were removed in the 1940s. They're substituting clear glass windows for stained glass ones in the nave, in keeping with Latrobe's design; installing a new white marble floor, and peeling away layers of additions completed over the years. Eighty percent of the construction activity entails extensive improvements to the building's infrastructure, including new mechanical systems and installation of an elevator and wheelchair-accessible public restrooms.
Because the basilica has been closed, it's been impossible for passers-by to see the progress inside. But during a recent tour by Potter and Nolan McCoy, director of facilities for the Archdiocese of Baltimore and "owner's representative" for the basilica restoration, it was clear that practically every square inch of the building is being transformed. The pews have been taken out and conveyed to four different parishes; they will be replaced by new ones inspired by Latrobe's design. Paintings and statues have been either restored or targeted for conservation. The undercroft has been partially excavated and underpinned to create space for a lower-level chapel--a Latrobe idea that was never realized. Part of the non-original apse has been cut away to provide room for a stairway leading to the undercroft.
On the north side of the cathedral, an underground room has been created to house mechanical equipment, and old duct-work and other systems have been taken out of the stair towers and other areas that were never designed for them. The roof is being rebuilt to follow the profile Latrobe specified. It needed to be replaced to prevent leaks, McCoy explained, which provided the opportunity to take it back to its original shape. As part of the reconstruction, the existing roof was raised approximately five feet, and a new one is being built just beneath it. The old roof will be dismantled when the new one is complete.
The historic trust wants the site to become more of a destination for visitors--America's version of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome or the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Its master plan calls for construction somewhere on the block of a full-fledged "pilgrimage center" and museum to tell visitors about Roman Catholicism in America and Baltimore's role in it. Another addition within the church will be a bust of John Paul II, a work by sculptor Aharon Bezalel, donated by the Center for Religious and Public Understanding in 2001.
Potter says he and other members of the historic trust are convinced that many people will want to visit the same cathedral that drew John Paul II and other dignitaries, including Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. "It's a European thing, if you think about it," he said. "When people go to Europe, they visit cathedrals. Here, they don't do that. They go to Camden Yards or Harborplace. We think a lot of people will want to visit the places [John Paul II] visited. ... It's one more piece of the history of the basilica, and I think it gives people more of an appreciation of what we have in Baltimore."
Henry H. Lewis Contractors Inc. is the construction manager for the restoration. The historic trust has raised $23 million of the $32 million needed to complete the work. Part of the money raised, $1.5 million, was earmarked to complete renovation of the Archdiocesan Archives at St. Mary's Seminary and University. Pope endorsed plan Pope John Paul II was instrumental in launching the basilica's restoration in several ways.
When local officials learned that the pope might visit Baltimore and its basilica in 1995, they didn't have time to raise funds and carry out a full-blown restoration. But they had planned some repairs, such as resurfacing the onion domes that frame the Cathedral Street entrance, and improving lighting and landscaping of the grounds. That work, and the attention the basilica received during the pope's visit, showed the potential for a more comprehensive restoration effort.
In October 2001, John Paul II further aided the restoration effort when he met in Rome with a delegation from Baltimore and endorsed the project. "I remember well my own visits to the first Cathedral of the Catholic Church to be built in the United States," he told the group. "May God bless the efforts you are now making to restore this historic shrine as a worldwide symbol of religious freedom." John Paul II never lived to view the results of the restoration effort he supported. It would be entirely in keeping with the spirit of the project if his successor, Benedict XVI, were among the first to see it complete.
Some gaze at viaduct Virgin but
forget concrete world
'Dozens of people have gathered near a Chicago motorway to see what they believe is an image of the Virgin Mary on the underpass wall ...--from the New Zealand Herald. In New Zealand. The woman in the turquoise pants leans forward and reaches up to touch the Virgin Mary. With a circular motion, she slowly massages the stain--I mean the holy image--on the concrete wall. She is clutching rosary beads in her hand. Around her, digital cameras whirrrrr and flassssshhhh.
Behind her, another young woman makes the sign of the cross. She's on the verge of tears. When the woman in turquoise has finished her prayer, she steps away, so the next believer can have an audience with the stain. I mean the holy image. On a gorgeous afternoon--a summer-preview day that seems like a gift from God--the faithful and the curious are streaming to the Kennedy Expy. underpass at Fullerton.
Few stay for more than 15 minutes, but there's always a line, always a crowd. At this point--three hours after the news from Vatican City that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany has been elected pope--there are about 100 people gathered around an image that some believe is the Virgin Mary. Also, three squads. One Chicago Police car, one Illinois State Police car and one unmarked car with door open and lights flashing. Usually this underpass is stained with graffiti. One imagines some news-impaired tagger making his way over, spray paint can tucked away. He comes around the corner--and sees three squad cars and about 100 people praying, taking pictures of the wall and making the sign of the cross. Probably would get him to re-think the whole graffiti thing.
At first, the white smoke wafting from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel was so wispy and wimpy that the crowd in St. Peter's Square wasn't sure a new pope had been elected. I've seen more impressive clouds of smoke emanating from a couple of fireworks "snakes" in a suburban driveway on July Fourth. It was also a bit grayish. Vatican Radio at first speculated that it was black smoke. Charles Gibson of ABC News cautioned viewers there wasn't yet confirmation it was white smoke puffing out of that little chimney. I had the image of a cardinal in a Vatican kitchen, burning some toast by accident and frantically trying to put out the white-gray smoke wafting toward the ceiling. But it really was white smoke, as the bells of St. Peter's confirmed about 10 minutes later. Pope Benedict XVI. A German pope. A 78-year-old pope. A pope who will no doubt follow the conservative blueprint left behind by his friend John Paul II.
The election of the pope was of great interest to millions, but will ultimately mean very little to the daily life of the average citizen of the world. Still, one can understand why tens of millions watched on TV, and thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square--some weeping with joy. They believe not only in their God and their church but in the tangible elements of their faith--the pomp and pageantry and traditions, the glittering gold crosses and majestic architecture. Whether it's a man in vestments and a red cape appearing on a balcony in Vatican City, or a salt-and-water stain on a Chicago underpass that resembles the Blessed Virgin--the faithful are moved by these things. Their passion might not be understandable to outsiders, but it's undeniably heartfelt.
It appears as if someone has recently scrubbed the walls around the supposed image of the Virgin Mary. She is flanked by Christian-themed flags and signs and posters. At her "feet" are dozens of flickering candles and several bouquets of flowers. The impromptu shrine is larger than the one that appeared near the entrance to Holy Name Cathedral in the days following the death of John Paul II. Yet those two shrines combined would be about 1/50th the size of the flower-candle-card mountain that grew outside the British Embassy on Michigan Avenue after Princess Diana's death. I stop taking digital photos and observing the crowd for a few moments, and I focus on the image itself.
Sure, it sorta-kinda looks like the Virgin Mary. At any given moment, there are about 100 million stains forming on walls and on shower floors and in refrigerators. Occasionally you'll get one that looks like Jesus or the Virgin Mary; just as often, you'll get one that looks like Cedric the Entertainer or Kelly Clarkson. Just a few steps west of the holy image, leaning against a streetlight pole on Fullerton, there is a homeless man, holding up a small cardboard sign that says:
HELP I'M HUNGRY You'd chastise a screenwriter for such easy symbolism, but there the man sits, squinting against the sun and holding up his sign. In clusters of two and three and four, the faithful who are flocking to and from the image of the Virgin Mary--they walk right past the homeless man. They walk right past him, as if he's not even there.
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