Mary Page News

February 23, 1999

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Lenten Meditation:
Our Lady of Sorrows
Lenten Resources
A Message to Young People
Church Recognizes 1987 Healing at Lourdes Shrine
Painting by Susana G. Barral
Mary, Compassionate Servant
From Sarajevo to the World

Lenten Meditation: Our Lady of Sorrows

Mary Page presents a meditation on Mary, Mother of Sorrows: The Mystery of Comfort and Hope The Marian Library Newsletter previously printed a short version of this article by Louis J. Cameli which appeared in Chicago Studies, 27, 1 April 1988. You will find the reflection at:

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Lenten Reflections

A Message to Young People

During his recent trip to St. Louis, Pope John Paul II spoke to a large gathering of young people, on Tuesday, January 26, 1999. In the context of a prayer service with the young people, the Holy Father made the following statements:

4. You are children of the light (cf. Jn 12:36)! You belong to Christ, and he has called you by name. Your first responsibility is to get to know as much as you can about him, in your parishes, in religious instruction in your high schools and colleges, in your youth groups and Newman Centers.

But you will get to know him truly and personally only through prayer. What is needed is that you talk to him, and listen to him.

Today we are living in an age of instant communications. But do you realize what a unique form of communication prayer is? Prayer enables us to meet God at the most profound level of our being. It connects us directly to God, the living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a constant exchange of love.

Through prayer you will learn to become the light of the world, because in prayer you become one with the source of our true light, Jesus himself.

5. Each of you has a special mission in life, and you are each called to be a disciple of Christ. Many of you will serve God in the vocation of Christian married life; some of you will serve him as dedicated single persons; some as priests and religious. But all of you must be the light of the world. ...

On the horizon of this city stands the Gateway Arch, which often catches the sunlight in its different colors and hues. In a similar way, in a thousand different ways, you must reflect the light of Christ through your lives of prayer and joyful service of others. With the help of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the young people of America will do this magnificently!

Remember: Christ is calling you; the Church needs you; the Pope believes in you and he expects great things of you!

[Source: L'Osservatore Romano, February 3, 1999]

Church Recognizes 1987 Healing at Lourdes Shrine

LOURDES France (CNS) -- Church authorities declared that a "sudden and complete'' healing of a paralyzed man occurred at the Marian shrine at Lourdes 12 years ago. Bishop Claude Dagens of Angouleme announced the Catholic Church's official recognition of the healing in a statement at the shrine Feb. 10. "In the name of the church, I hereby recognize publicly the genuine character of the healing of which Mr. Jean-Pierre Bely was the beneficiary at Lourdes on Friday, Oct. 9, 1987. This healing, which was sudden and complete, is a personal gift of God for this man and an effective sign of God who is savior, and which was accomplished through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes,'' said Bishop Dagens.

Painting by Susana G. Barral

Born in Havana, Cuba in 1959, the year of the revolution, the family of Susana Barral left the beleaguered homeland in 1961 for New York City. As a small child, Barral noted that she was mysteriously drawn into the church after school, entranced by the jeweled light that filtered through stained glass windows. Her desire was to replicate that light and beauty in artistic creation.

Miami became her home in 1969. She married, pursued a BA in Fine Arts and became an artist. Barral says about her art:

Painting with a sense of the interior life offers a source of self-revelation, of exploration and of exciting potentiality. My interest in the analogies and contrasts between the passions and the spiritual is connected with the early influence in my life of the catholic church, the separation from and subsequent re-affirmation of my birthplace, heritage and family, my college foray into psychology, and the challenges of marrying young. Themes that examine religion, myth, faith, passions and pain, as well as concepts I have considered on an intellectual level may fuel ideas and reflect inner connection. Although I prefer to use the human figure to explore these elements, I have in the past used abstraction or landscape as my emotion or subject dictated.....Factors behind the visible and obvious captivate me, demanding expression when sometimes neither I, nor others desire or like the final result. In this sense I have been true to my inner promptings, expressing my art without regard to style or method. This manner of working has benefitted my artistic development, changing and refining itself as the years have passed. Painting with this love for art's sake with its gift to reveal yet transcending the personal, I hope to be able to touch others the way the spirit of art has touched me.
The piece featured here, "Mother & Child," was donated to St. Benedict Catholic Church, 1990.

Mary, Compassionate Servant

1. The Marian charism or imitation of Mary, is at once Compassion and Service. To understand Mary's title as Servant is to see her as an image of the Compassion of God revealed by Jesus, the Servant of God.

2. The New Testament Jesus models for us, as God's servant, how to be holy, i.e. how to be conformed to what God our creator planned for us. This is the "work of the Holy Spirit" who conforms us to the image of Christ, the true image of God as the New Adam (II Co 3:18; 4:4). This work of the Holy Spirit, begun at Baptism, is the Creator's plan for us from the beginning. We were called into being for this purpose ( Rom 8:29). We are conformed to Jesus, who images God to us, when we are servants of God like Jesus (Jn 12:26). At Jesus' baptism and at the Transfiguration the Father calls Jesus the Beloved Son in the words of God to God's servant ("This is my beloved Son/servant") in Isaiah's servant songs. Jesus is God's son and servant, and reveals something about God as Son and Servant (the double title so dear to the prayers of the Liturgy).

3. Jesus reveals to us that God is our Father and is compassionate to the point of being our servant. Jesus is servant, compassionate to us, doing the Father's will as Creator, by dying for us as our ransom. Jesus expects us to serve God by serving each other (Mt 25: 31-46). When we serve God as Jesus did, we are compassionate to each other. And we realize that Jesus reveals to us how compassionate God is: to the point of dying for us and being our servant. "Our God is a servant God" write Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison in Compassion (New York, Doubleday, 1982), p. 24.

4. Mary is God's servant. She calls herself servant twice in Luke. She is conformed to the image of Christ by the Holy Spirit, and is model to us of how to be servants of God as Jesus was. The Holy Spirit overshadows her in her conception of Christ who is not only Son of David by human conception but Son of God by the power of the Spirit, evidenced at the resurrection (Rom 1:3-4). The "work of the Holy Spirit" is to give us the power to eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and to be holy (the two epicleses at Mass show this: the power of the Spirit changing the bread and wine, and us ), i.e. to be servants.

5. Servants are more than that. They are friends of God. They are children of God. They are like Christ. They are images of God, doing what the loving Creator requests. Servants, doing the ministry or works of Jesus, are compassionate. They reveal the compassion of God in Christ to all. Mary as a servant, doing the things of Christ still, is compassionate like Christ. She reveals the work and the love of God, the compassion of God. Mary is model of Christ to us in His service and in His compassion.

[Source: Fr. Walter Brennan, OSM, Marian Update, #57 January 1999]

From Sarajevo to the World

On Pilgrimage for Peace

Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, was on a pilgrimage for peace in October 1998. The pilgrimage brought him to Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, DC, and to Baltimore, Maryland, USA. In this dossier, the cardinal's two addresses that reflect upon the prospects for peace in his war-torn country are preceded by a pastoral letter issued by himself and the auxiliary bishop of Sarajevo. The letter draws the analogy between working for peace and the pilgrimage of faith, particularly that of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The message contained in this dossier remains current.

The head of the Archdiocese of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, along with Auxiliary Bishop Pero Sudar, issued this letter Aug. 15, 1998, the feast of the Assumption of Mary. Reviewing the continued "injustices" experienced by the Church throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, the bishops call on their faithful to visit the nation's Marian shrines and to deepen the understanding of their plight in the light of Mary's own "pilgrimage of faith." The prelates urge loral Catholics to persist on "the way of the cross, going our pilgnm way to the dawn of the resurrection."

Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Sarajevo to Priests and Lay Faithful
Mary the Pilgrim of Faith

Dear brothers in priestly ministry,
Dear religious of our Archdiocese,
Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina remained present in this country and preserved the Catholic faith in our people through centuries thanks to its firm fidelity to God and its fervent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary which is marked by pilgrimages and deep commitments. With children's dedication and trust, we have been performing our pilgrimages to her attractive image on our alters and in our shrines throughout our long turbulent history. In her we saw the most perfect model of pilgrim faith and of generous surrender to God. Special times for prayers and devotions to our mother Mary were not only the months of May and October but especially on the occasion of our pilgrimages to the shrines of our Lady on the Feasts of the Assumption and of her Nativity. We all remember how our people love these pilgrimages. A sign of this is the phenomenon that each of our regions have their own Marian shrines.

Pilgrims with Mary, The Pilgrim of Faith

Mary s entire life was a pilgrimage of faith. She "traveled to the hill country in haste (Lk 1:39) to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Her Journey to Bethlehem where Jesus was to be born was a pilgrimage of faith. Her flight from the criminal hand of the powerful Herod was also a pilgrimage of faith and so was her return to their home in Nazareth. At the foot of the Cross of her Son and our Divine Brother she stood by courageously and so became our Mother. She did not stop there but joined the missionaries of the first church after the Pentecost. This woman of faith and mother of hope has been receiving her children throughout the centuries at the thresholds of her shrines accompanying them after the Pentecost on their way of faith until the fullness of time.

This is why our ethnic community was able to recognize in Mary its advocate and intercessor by fostering its devotion and fidelity toward her shrines. When the dark clouds covered more intensely our people and when the pains became more unbearable, our pilgrimages to our Mother Mary became more devout and more numerous. The greater the danger for the children, the closer and more protective is their mother. Through their pilgrimages to Mary, Catholic believers were strengthening their roots and their faith, and gaining more hope to not break down. This is what enabled them to remain here until today. This was a simple, but fruitfully lived theology of pilgrimage in faith with Mother Mary who became the most faithful advocate of her devoted people and "the soul of our soul."

Today as in the past, when the clouds of insecurity overshadowed our very survival, we feel a deep need for reawakening this spirit of pilgrimage. These clouds have shaken many people in their endurance, persistence and the hope that we would remain what we are and what we want to be despite the fact that many of us have been seduced by false hopes or bribed by selfish political promises. In this time of spiritual confusion we have an existential need to experience through prayer and penance our roots from which we sprout, we need to strengthen our faith and confirm our hope so that we should not permit ourselves to be uprooted. Our common prayer and penance should help us to remain and survive in our homes because we are at home only here where we have so many shrines of Our Lady.

Facing the New Elections

Political parties and candidates kept promising us before every election "a better tomorrow," but the sad fact is since they took power most of us became victims of political intrigues and our general situation worsened. And not only this! The Church and the simple people who remained in their localities are being singled out as responsible for all failures and political frustrations of domestic and foreign policy makers. So many times we have experienced the bitter fruits of the instigating machinery, political re-tailoring and immoral arrangements which would like us to disappear from this region denying us this right to this land of our ancestors. Political leaders, by leaving our respectable population for years in a hopeless political and existential condition tried by all means and are still trying to destroy our ability to live in self-determination in an orderly society. They would even like to forbid us from shouting that these injustices are hurting us. They are wondering why are we crying for justice, truth and real peace with reconciliation.

It is painful to admit that some Croats Catholics, burdened by these "games," are succumbing to the conviction that this native soil of ours and this state are not their homeland and not worthy of their remaining here, despite the fact that we Croats have more than others irrigated this country with our sweat, our tears and even our blood. How can we explain the fact that some members of our people, after having defended their homes are now rotting tn prisons for months and even for years without trial or sentencing and are condemned by the military and civil representatives of the international community? How can we understand the fact that this same international community, three years .after the termination of war has not been able to provide us with safe visits to our shrines and our homes? We can hardly believe that such negligence is contributing towards the disappearance of our people from this region or towards denying our identity. Unfortunately the efforts to make us forget our identity are also being done in the name of global politics of the Croatian people; this supports the actions of others who are doing the same in the name of global, domestic and foreign politics. We are being called by some people "nationalists" only because we love our identity in the similar way they love theirs. Those who deny what we are, usurp their position to impose on us the criteria according to which we should recognize ourselves. But despite everything and after everything, we are still here on our "way of the cross," going our pilgrim way toward the dawn of the resurrection. We know of numerous persons who have been violently driven out from their homes and from their native places and who quietly wait for the day of their return. All of us long for the day of peace and the cessation of all trading the destiny of small people, their security and their lives. Recognizing Ourselves as Children of Mary

We have many reasons and needs to make our pilgrimage to our shrines, with all our fervor as in the old times, in order to recognize ourselves in this journey as children of Mary, brothers of Christ and brothers and sisters to each other. As the pilgrim church on earth we want to take on our way the fight of hope and the fervor of love by deepening our pride for standing at the foot of the cross. We will gather around Mary's paintings or statues in our destroyed or desecrated shrines, repenting, forgiving and asking for forgiveness. We will pray for all persons of good will and also for those who are manipulating or degrading us. We will pray also for those who are practically denying our presence and would like us to disappear from this native soil. We will pray that for every person of this beloved homeland of ours may shine the sun of justice and dawn the day of truth, peace and freedom. May we all meet the day which cannot dawn without leaving other people's property and returning to one's own home. We will pray for our continued living in this land so that we may remain what we are and bring up our future generations in the same identity.

Let Us Open Our Eyes

As shepherds of this local church of Vrhbosna-Sarajevo Archdiocese, we invite and encourage you to open the eyes of your spirit and the ears of your heart in this period of pre-election promises. We are tired of being defrauded and deceived by all those, mostly "the ours," who are taking us away from our only homes or doing nothing to prevent it. It is time to tread courageously the path of peace and love for this beloved homeland. It is our human and Christian obligation to think well and to decide to whom we shall give our trust! This is the occasion when for the sake of our future and the future of coming generations, we must be strong to swim against the current, aware that courageous persons accept sacrifice and that persistent ones make the way for a better future.

Let Us Renew Our Pledge of Fidelity

We renew our pledge of fidelity kneeling at the foot of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the faithful pilgrim who is with us to protect us as the church community and as individual believers. Having her in mind as our model of faith we want to be open to the will of God and to all human persons in their needs. We want to contribute personally to building up peace and reconciliation in this shared homeland while respecting the others who are different and at the same loving our own identity always ready for sacrifices. In the light of our faith we were able to wipe the tears of many, satisfy their hunger and raise our voices against injustices, and we are proud of all of this. Let us not be discouraged by the wrongs but let us, with courage and persistence, go our way towards which God invites us, with a firm conviction for the final victory of good, truth and equal rights for all. This is the way to the goal for which every just heart is yearning. This is the way of our pilgrimage of faith in this beloved land and in this difficult time.

Inviting you once again to love and fidelity to God. our Church and the native soil of our ancestors, we implore upon all of you God's blessing with the strength and consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Sarajevo, on the Solemnity of the Assumption, 1998. [Source: Dossier provided by Cardinal Vinko Puljic. Subtitle by CI.]

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