Saturday, October 12, 2013

Our Lady of the Pillar

Tomb of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade
Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar

About 200 years ago, France was in the middle of a revolutionary war. The focus of the conflict was a struggle of power between politics, government and religion. By virtue of being a Roman Catholic priest, Blessed Chaminade was forced out of France and exiled to Spain. He arrived on the evening of October 11, 1897 in time to witness the vigil celebration of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragosa.

Over the next few years, while waiting to return home to France, Blessed Chaminade spent a lot of time in prayer at the basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar; it was there that he received a vision from God through Mary.

Although the exact nature of that vision never was revealed in detail, it resulted in the founding of the Marianist Family—the Lay Marianists, Sisters and Brothers / Priests.

While 200 years and a different country may seem far away from us here today, our world is quite similar to that of revoluationary France in the late 1800s. We don’t need to read too far into the current news headlines to find that our world is in need of healing.

So, what can we do, in our own little ways, to help our world in need of healing? Blessed Chaminade’s mission was clear and it involved two parts: 1) the salvation of souls and 2) to build communities centered in faith.

The idea behind the first part—the salvation of souls—echoes that of today’s first reading where the ark of the covenant, a container of God, is to be revered and considered as sacred. Just as we are created in God’s image, we, too, are reminded that we are loved by God and containers of Christ.

This sacred respect for the soul present in the human body is reflected in the Hawaiian concept of Aloha. Aloha is more than just a greeting or farewell; aloha is also translated as love, affection, mercy, grace. It also is combined from two other words—‘alo’ (face) and ‘hā’ (breath, which contains one’s sacred spirit and soul). So when greeting one another in Hawai‘i, an embrace and exchange of ‘hā’ is the true meaning of aloha—a way of recognizing and respecting the life force, God’s spirit, within whomever we encounter.

The idea behind the second part—community—echoes that of the Gospel. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” As valuable as our faith is to us, it is not meant to be kept to ourselves; it is meant to be shared; this means to give the gift of our talents, our selves and our charism to one another as our response to God’s love for us.

In our zeal to share this charism, I think the biggest temptation we need to be aware of is that of doubt, disappointment and discouragement. When we doubt our abilities, when we think we aren’t good enough or talented enough, when we are discouraged because we don’t perceive results from our efforts—that’s the greatest sin because it goes against our mission of “glorifying God in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary.”

It has been said that the Marianist charism seems to be the Church’s “best kept secret.” In some ways, I can understand the thought behind that statement, although I find myself thinking that our way of life is too good to be kept a secret. Just in this chapel alone, I believe we have more than enough talent, creativity and energy to share this with others and not keep it the “Church’s best kept secret.” And that’s why, as different as we are, we come together in community to share in our common mission as Marianists.

So, as we prepare to receive the eucharist, let us pray in gratitude for our Marianist vocation, the vision that Blessed Chaminade passed on to us, and for the strength to be faithful to our mission of “glorifying God in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.”