"May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why;
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good, Nature's motherhood.
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored/ Magnify the Lord."
Gerard Manley Hopkins
A pilgrim recently asked me, "Why is May Mary's Month?" I tried to give an answer that sounded like-but didn't
quite sound like-the extract below, given to me by a Friend of the Grotto, by John S. Stokes, from:
"The month of May, with its profusion of blooms was adopted by the Church in the eighteenth century as a
celebration of the flowering of Mary's maidenly spirituality…With its origins in Isaiah's prophecy of the Virgin birth of the
Messiah under the figure of the Blossoming Rod or Root of Jesse, the flower symbolism of Mary was extended by the Church Fathers,
and in the liturgy, by applying to her the flower figures of the Sapiential Books-Canticles, Wisdom, Proverbs and Sirach
In the medieval period, the rose was adopted as the flower symbol of the Virgin Birth, as expressed in
Dante's phrase, 'The Rose wherein the Divine Word was made flesh,' and depicted in the central rose windows of the great gothic
cathedrals-from which came the Christmas carol, 'Lo, How a Rose 'ere Blooming.' Also, in the medieval period, when monasteries were
the centers of horticultural and agricultural knowledge, and with the spread of the Fransiscan love of nature, the actual flowers
themselves, of the fields, waysides and gardens, came to be seen as symbols of Mary…"
This month of May
- Honor the ever-beautiful and fertile Virgin with a Rosary, or at least a decade of the Rosary, each day.
- Read some inspiring poetry on, or about, her.
- Set up a little Shrine to her outside or inside your house.
- Love her!
"Nothing is so beautiful as spring
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;/ What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning/ In Eden garden." Hopkins
Well, we're not in Eden (the biblical word means "delight") but, perhaps, we're closer here than in most places.
A pilgrim just said to me on the phone, describing the Grotto, "This is my favorite place on Earth." That was quite a statement!
Some Spanish pilgrims, when visiting, use a great word to describe the Grotto-"Preciosa,"-precious. But it
sounds so much more evocative in Spanish (and captures the reality moreso, too-Italians say, belissima, and the French tre belle
During this time of year when we do have so many important things to do (after all, we're Americans!), and as
the present purifications occur to the priesthood and our Holy Catholic Church, let's never forget the ever-present-beauty that God
surrounds us within His springing creation and fertile Grotto. A pilgrim recently said, in effect, "This is a beautiful area…Well, I
know it's not God-the world and creation-it's not an idol; but God did give it to us to enjoy…"
He explained how he was once an workaholic, always going about accomplishing and "tasking" -not enjoying the
graces God gave to him…Now, he said, he is more able to enjoy them, to put off certain things for later, and be more grateful for all
God has given…
Think of how often our Savior-God Himself-went out to the desert, mountains and the sea, to re-create and
refresh Himself in His Father's peace, and so to show us how to live by frequent grace periods in the created world. Christ consistently
went into fields, town squares, valleys and vistas, and amongst the people, and was not deterred by sterile space or mental ensnarements
which prevent us from getting off the treadmill of everyday life and enjoying what God has so bountifully given.
How about you-Can you stop enough, and be still enough, to enjoy the "weed in the wheel?…+Will you enjoy and
"immerse yourself in the gentle humidity" of the Spring evenings surrounding you …+The dogwoods-do you stop to smell their perfume and
see their radiant splendor ?
That's right: God is giving us, right here and now, under our noses, the form and contours of His love in
Springtime…The ten-thousand creatures-they're all preaching sermons-are you listening? (See Daniel ch. 3-"Birds of the air, bless the
FAMILIES, LOVE and FORGIVENESS
I was struck by two families recently. One couple witnessed important truths to a retreat group wherein the
husband poignantly "confessed" to still appreciating his wife's affections after thirty years of married life. He humbly said when his
wife invited some overnight guests, and while she was going about preparing hearth and heart for this company, amidst all the tasks she
still gave heart and attention to him and his affections and he liked it. I was very struck by his admission, the ongoing nature of
their mutual communion, her heroism and humility-and their both working at love, their vocation and relationship, after so many years.
They both witnessed that we should never take anything, or anyone, for granted.
Another couple, very much struggling, came for spiritual help. Within their relationship is a lot of history
which is presently difficult to overcome and forget. After some challenging discussion of this and seemingly finding "no way out," we
reminded ourselves that, amidst these trials, we all were actually there, meeting, close to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and later
agreeing to come back. When reminded that God will help en-grace them and their marriage, even thru all the resentments and endless
challenges, what was then needed was dedication and desire-to the marriage, the children and to God's covenant. When we spoke in those
terms it seemed things took on a new perspective and, despite difficulties, it was all worth suffering because God and family are the
most important things, not anything else, even one's feelings and hurts. We thought: if you don't have the picture frame (God as a
"spiritual glue") then the picture (marriage and family) falls apart.
- How do you need to work at loving someone?
- How do you need to forgive more in relationships?
- How can bringing God into the picture help you bear burdens?
Ascension Sunday: Cardinal Keeler has affirmed transferal of Ascension Thursday to next Sunday. After some
consideration, and this being a Shrine of pilgrimage, I have decided to celebrate-for the various "unawares" pilgrims-Ascension Thursday
on both Thursday (May 9) and Sunday, May 12th.
Holy Hour and Mass for Church Healing and Reconciliation: Next Thursday, May 16: 6-7pm, w/ Mass at 7pm, and
Spiritual Conference and conversation following: to pray for victims of clergy abuse, to pray for the priests and bishops and the
Catholic Church-within context of the Eucharist. All are welcome to dialogue, discernment and a spiritual perspective.
Music in the Woods: On May 24, 7pm, we will have the music group, Pure Heart, and also Peabody-trained, classic
guitarist, Steve Nodar performing Christian music at the Grotto.Come yourself, listen to beautiful, faith filled music, Christian
Healing Mass: will be celebrated by Fr. Sal Livigni, Chaplain of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Tuesday, June 4, 7pm.
Special homily and healing prayers, Eucharistic adoration and procession.
The Resurrection Body: It's still Easter (!) We continue reflections on attributes of the glorified body (cf.
Phil 3:20ff): "Clarity (claritas) that is, being free from everything deformed and being filled with beauty and radiance. Jesus assures
us: 'The just shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father' (+Mt. 13:43). The archetype is the Transfiguration of Jesus on
Tabor (+Mt. 17:2), and the Resurrection (cf. Acts 9:3). The intrinsic reason for the transfiguration lies in the overflowing of the
beauty of the transfigured soul on to the body. The grade of the transfiguration of the body, according to I Cor. 15: 41ff, will vary
according to the degree of clarity of the soul, which is in proportion to the measure of the merits." (Source: Fundamentals of Catholic
Dogma, L. Ott)
Prayer after Communion. Distracted after Holy Communion? Anchor yourself and use-then memorize-this classic
prayer of St. Ignatius. Mother Teresea would pray this prayer every day after Mass-imitate the saints.
"Soul of Christ, sanctify me/ Body of Christ, save me/ Blood of Christ, inebriate me/ Water from the side of
Christ, wash me/ Passion of Christ, strengthen me/ O Good Jesus, hear me/ Within they wounds hide me/ In the hour of my death call me/
and bid me come unto Thee/ That with Thy saints I may praise Thee/ Forever and ever: Amen."
Our Lady of Lourdes, Saints Bernadette and Elizabeth Ann Seton: Pray for us!
other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi