Saturday, August 14, 2010

Miracles through mysterious ways!

When the Feast of the Assumption rolled by each year, it announced that summer was almost at its end. It was August and the summer was coming to a close. On the shores of Long Island some summer rituals would also occur on this great feast. Annually, people would wade out into the water and fill bottles with it, and apparently use it like regular holy water.

I have always wondered where this tradition came from and how it made its way to the Long Island shores. When I was growing up, the Feast of the Assumption was always a time for relatives to visit at the beach. Everyone wanted to get themselves into the ocean for a good dip into the sea on Mary’s day. I never realized that the celebration was so widespread…I honestly thought that the notion was just one of Catholic voodoo that had developed in my family. I never quite understood from which side of the family it came. At first, it appeared to be an Italian Catholic ritual, but the other side of the family participated as well. It just shows how various cultures and traditions really do spread their beliefs just about everywhere.

When people visited on the Feast of the Assumption they indeed did fill bottles with salt water and took it home for use like holy water. What I could never understand was this…if water on that day was blessed…why people didn’t sprinkle water from streams or rivers around town. Why did they travel to the beach for Atlantic Ocean water?

Regardless of place, traditions like the annual plunge into the ocean are good reminders of our ethnic and cultural roots as Catholics. Today in the 21st century there is little time dedicated to devotional aspects of our Catholic faith. August 15th is a great example of a devotional practice that not only brings us closer to our Catholic heritage, but it gives us a time to step back, relax and spend time with our brothers and sisters in faith.

I guess the reality of the gesture really isn’t about the aquatic plunge into the sea, miraculous powers associated with water, or even celebrating the Assumption of Mary…it is ultimately about Catholic fellowship and sharing of our common beliefs in the Divine Mystery.

However, we choose to celebrate Mary on August 15, the notion of water will always make me remember summers at the beach, Mass in the morning of August 15, and a people running to the beach to partake in the benefits of the water, made holy by not only Mary, the Mother of God, but by our common Catholic desire to share our faith in any way possible among ourselves and to the world.

God does indeed work miracles through mysterious ways!

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Pray for the Canonization of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

"The august Mary, you may be sure, will derive great glory from your generous sacrifice. God had predestined you for the service of his divine Son, under the banner of his Most Holy Mother. To Mary Jesus presents you as his faithful minister and valiant soldier."
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade