Pope Benedict XVI's comments this past Sunday on the suitability of May (in the Northern Hemisphere) as the month of Mary struck me as most apt; it also helps prepare for his trip to Portugal and its Marian Shrine at Fatima.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
May is a month that is loved and its arrival is welcome for several reasons. In our hemisphere spring advances with so many and colorful blossoms; the climate is favorable for walks and excursions. For the liturgy, May always belongs to the Easter Season, the season of the "alleluia," of the revelation of the mystery of Christ in the light of the Resurrection and of the Easter faith; and it is the time of expectation of the Holy Spirit, who descends with power on the nascent Church at Pentecost. With both these contexts, the "natural" and the liturgical, the tradition of the Church is well in tune in dedicating the month of May to the Virgin Mary.
She is, in fact, the most beautiful flower to blossom in creation, the "rose" that appeared in the fullness of time, when God, sending his Son, gave the world a new spring. And she is at the same time humble and discreet protagonist of the first steps of the Christian community: Mary is its spiritual heart, because her very presence in the midst of the disciples is a living memory of the Lord Jesus and pledge of the gift of his Spirit.
This Sunday's Gospel, taken from Chapter 14 of St. John, offers us an implicit spiritual portrait of the Virgin Mary, where Jesus says: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). These expressions are addressed to the disciples, but they can be applied precisely to her who is the first and perfect disciple of Jesus.
Mary in fact observed first and fully the word of her Son, thus demonstrating that she loved him not only as his mother, but first still as humble and obedient handmaid; because of this God the Father loved her and the Most Holy Trinity made its dwelling in her. Moreover, when Jesus promises his friends that the Holy Spirit will assist them, helping them to remember and understand profoundly every word of his (cf. John 14:26), how can we not think of Mary, who in her heart, temple of the Spirit, meditated and interpreted faithfully everything that her Son said and did? In this way, already before and above all after Easter, the Mother of Jesus became also the Mother and model of the Church.
Dear friends, in the heart of this Marian month, I will have the joy of going in the forthcoming days to Portugal. I will visit the capital, Lisbon, and Porto, the country's second city. The principal objective of my trip will be Fatima, on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Beatification of the two little shepherds, Jacinta and Francisco.
For the first time as Successor of Peter I will go to that Marian Shrine, so dear to the Venerable John Paul II. I invite everyone to accompany me on this pilgrimage, participating actively with prayer: with only one heart and one soul we invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary for the Church, in particular for priests, and for peace in the world.
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The Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins approaches the same theme in poetic form.
The May Magnificat
MAY is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—
Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.
Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—
This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.
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The Easter Season is the season for CONFIRMATIONS, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to draw Christian disciples into the Mission of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Here are some photos from recent parish celebrations in May:
Paroisse Saint Matthieu, Hammond
Paroisse Sainte Félicité, Clarence Creek
Paroisse Saint Thomas d'Aquin, Ottawa
For those keeping track, this is the 400th post on The Journey of a Bishop.