Friday, 24 May 2013

Walking the right path: Jesuit Feast day for Our Lady of the Way, May 24th

File:Madonnadellastrada churchofthegesu.jpg
La Madonna Della Strada, the patroness of the Society of Jesus
    Today I take a break from our trek of the Saintly Calendar to celebrate not just
the Patroness of my Order, but also to share with anyone who will take the time to read this a wonderful metaphor shared with us by our homilist  at our house Mass today.

There's not much I can say about this Icon, except that it can be found in the Mother Church of the Society of Jesus, the Gesu, in Rome, and that she became the patroness and protectress of our community because of Ignatius believes he received her protection during his time as a soldier- even though in those times he had not yet had his experience of conversion. It's only in later years that he realized the presence of the divine in his life at the time -.  I will exceptionally  focus my attention only on the first reading and the Gospel (or my reconstruction of the passage heard during Mass. I can't find the official list of readings for today's Jesuit celebration), and not the Psalm we heard today. 

" the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day."
 This is a lovely quote from our first reading. It may be a bit challenging, especially if people interpret it as saying: 'righteous people won't ever know darkness.'  It's not quite what it's saying. Instead, it brings us back to the point  that we've been hearing all week in the Book of Sirach: Being a Christian is NEVER easy. Such a rich, beautiful life needs to be cultivated, and part of that process may imply struggles.But as we progress through our struggles and darkness, if we remain close to the path that God has set for us,  a certain glow will emerge in the heart of our lives, and over the days, weeks months and years, a light will begin to grow, and this light will only get brighter, as we continue our journey.Nevertheless,  the road is long.  And complicated, and it's comforting to know that we have Our Lady to accompany us along the way, along with the Trinity which guides us through all of life's difficulties.

 And this is where  my imaginary friend, Pete the Protestant, might want to  pipe in. Full of confidence in his own cleverness, he may say: " But if we have the Trinity, why do we need Our Lady? Look, even your Gospel reading from today points to the superfluousness of Mary, as Jesus reminds the lady in the audience who cries out ' blessed the womb that bore you', that it's not her that's important, but really anyone who hears God's word and keeps it". He's not wrong, of course, but I would propose to him that this is only one reading of the text. We could also suggest that 'Yes, Jesus does want us to recognize the blessedness of all who hear and preserve God's word in their lives, but he's also in this moment, saying that NONE did that as perfectly and genuinely as Mary. So basically, he's telling his enthusiastic audience 'don't say the woman who gave birth to me was blessed because she carried me in her womb. Say she was blessed because she Heard. Say she was blessed because she believed, even when there was more reason to doubt than to believe'.

  My buddy Pete may be a little unhappy with that exegesis of the text, and may be preparing for another long debate with me, but let's say for the sake of argument, I don't have time for that today, so I want to keep this short. I would then proceed to explain to him the following: " Our journey of faith is not one that is planned out like some kind of perfect outline of a city map with perfect little borders drawn out. In fact our Journey of faith is not on any map at all...but it is an itinerary." (thanks for that metaphor Fr. Gilles!) What the heck does that mean (might interject a somewhat impatient Pete!).  It means that  we have not been given a perfect little map of where we're going. But we do on the other hand, have many  sign posts and indications along the way. Some use only scripture as those sign posts...and that's fine, in fact, that's absolutely perfect. But guess what? Understanding that our Itinerary is an encounter with God, we Catholics accept that God is not completely  encountered only through scripture. The encounter we have with God in scripture is fulfilling, but it's not the only thing that marks our Christian experience. There are many who have gone before us who understood that the wonderfulness of this itinerary, this journey into the depth of love and hope (another way to talk about that encounter with God!) needs to be lived out through the reading of the Bible, but also through prayer, and listening to what God is telling us personally -i.e. outside of scripture-. Without worshiping these  enlightened and inspired people, we can turn to them as role models of the faith. They become our family, and if we are in perfect enough communion with them, they do protect us. Jesus Saves us, but these fellow travelers seem to also stand up for us and even fight for us along side of the Holy Trinity -which we are celebrating this coming Sunday!!- throughout our entire life. And there can be no better example of this than our Mother. She who has guided and protected so many over the millennia. Like any mother, she can't preserve us from pain or suffering, but she will accompany us spiritually through the good and the bad that lies ahead. It's moments like these when I am so much at peace, when I know that Jesus, God the Father (and Mother!), The Holy Spirit, but also our Mother Mary,  and the entire communion of Saints, constantly look over me, over every single one of us as we journey towards a new dawn that is God's love, and God's  hope for the world. And it's humbling to understand that I could never journey on such a path without Our Lord Jesus, and without Our Lady of the Way!

 As we journey towards another day...
let us say
Our Lady of the way.
Pray for us.

Proverbs 4
10Hear, my child, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.11I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.12When you walk, your step will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble.13Keep hold of instruction, do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.14Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men.15Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.16For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made some one stumble.17For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.18But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

Luke 11
24"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says, `I will return to my house from which I came.'
25And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order.
26Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."
27As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!"
28But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

Shrine of Our Lady of the Way, in Saint Peters, Missouri, USA - inscription
Part of a Shrine to our Lady of the Way in Missouri.


  1. our computer was out of commission today. I wrote a comment this morning but it is gone. I love Pete the Protestant- great way to discuss Mary

    I had a "Pete the Protestant" mind for about 10 years while Mary lived in my heart- a funny postion to be in when i look back but awful at the time

  2. To me, it would be the greatest favor we could do to Christianity if we could convince other Christians to incorporate Mary and the saints in their prayer lives. Apparently, we're not that far off from achieving this either. 10 years ago, there was talk of baptist communities recognizing the figure of Mary as being a crucial feminine figure in our male dominated faith. Not sure if that has continued, but I do hope so. I mean, every evangelist mentions her..I don't understand what the issue is.