31 May – Feast of The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The feast of the Visitation recalls to us the following great truths and events: The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation; the cleansing of John the Baptist from original sin in the womb of his mother at the words of Our Lady’s greeting; Elizabeth’s proclaiming of Mary—under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—as Mother of God and “blessed among women”; Mary’s singing of the sublime hymn, Magnificat(“My soul doth magnify the Lord”) which has become a part of the daily official prayer of the Church. The Visitation is frequently depicted in art, and was the central mystery of St. Francis de Sales’ devotions.
The Mass of today salutes her who in her womb bore the King of heaven and earth, the Creator of the world, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Sun of Justice. It narrates the cleansing of John from original sin in his mother’s womb. Hearing herself addressed by the most lofty title of “Mother of the Lord” and realizing what grace her visit had conferred on John, Mary broke out in that sublime canticle of praise proclaiming prophetically that henceforth she would be venerated down through the centuries:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me, and holy is His name” (Lk. 1:46).
—Excerpted from the Cathedral Daily Missal
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
On this beautiful feast of the Visitation, I am reminded of my spiritual journey in the Catholic faith as I was baptised and received my First Holy Communion and Confirmation in the Church of Visitation Seremban, in Malaysia. My parents got married there. My uncles were ordained there. And my grandmother’s funeral was held in that church which I now consider my home parish. Mere memories aside, I see how growing both from childhood and also in my faith is as rich as it gets when Our Mother is its patron. I have many times asked, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” I would like to elaborate about this in three parts: Personal faith, Community and Our Mother’s Intercession.
I was raised devoutly Catholic by my parents and it was hard to even change things related to my Catholic prayer life even when I moved out to live in the city when I was twenty-one. It was more than a personal effort on my part to remain rooted in the faith. As I look back, I realise that Our Mother simply refused to let go of my hand, nor let me lose Her Son.
I was a minority ethnic individual, a junior staff, among majority Muslims in a workplace where colleagues and superiors openly implied that I should embrace Islam. I had my doubts and sometimes felt very harassed. Being a twenty-something year old, I know I did not do it on my own. It was my Mother who protected me and shielded me from leaving her Son.
As children, we used to pray the rosary daily at 8 pm and 12 noon during the school holidays. Things changed when we moved to our own house. I was about eleven at the time and our prayer time was a decade of the rosary. In my heart I knew something was amiss yet I was thrilled that prayer time was shortened. So I never complained about it. The one decade we prayed each day sustained us as a family. Our Blessed Mother is not impressed with how long we spent praying. Just like any loving mother she would love, care and pray for us, no matter what.
In my early twenties when life seemed impossible and there was no where to turn, one night I decided that I would pray the rosary before I went to bed in the hostel room I stayed at. That was the beginning of my prayer life as an adult Catholic and I never once looked back. She has never let me go and kept me faithful to my daily prayer even when my life seemed futile and my choices looked very distant from grace.
The parishes I served were always Marion parishes. In the city, it was Our Lady of Fatima and then Church of Assumption. I learned how to grow with others while serving in these two parishes. It was with the youths at Church of Assumption that I learnt the spirit of Christian community and its necessity. I finally had a family out of my own within my parish. As any family we had our struggles, our joys, our hopes and our laughter and like any Mother she continues to pray for peace in this “family” of ours. She helped us to love, share and care for each other despite our personal differences. This sort of love is impossible yet God and our Mother, gave us glimpses of their love when we were opened to love as they did.
Our Mother’s Intercessions
Our Mother kept watching me and I started praying the 54 days rosary novena. I noticed that during the duration of the novena, how grace filled my life. At every occasion there was an answer to my prayers. My Mother led me to the areas of life that I never knew were within me. She gave me answers that I was not seeking and she loved me just the same when I was doubtful of her precious Son.
I started wearing the rosary bracelet about a year ago. It recently dawned on me that it really felt like the Mother, who held the Lord, now continually holds my hand. Especially when I am fearful and feel unworthy, this bracelet reminds me that the hands which rocked that cradle, continues to be with me, totally claiming the promise of Jesus, “Behold, thy Mother.”
She has calmed my fears, kissed away my sadness, and cheered me on even at my most measly achievements. She was and continues to be my true Mother.
Recently on a rather challenging day at work, I went to visit my parents though I live some sixty kilometers away. It was an impromptu decision. When I parked my car in the driveway, I saw my mother looking at me as she knew that something was not right, though she did not probe. She brought me a cup of tea and we spend hours talking, though not about what was really eating me up at that time. After that time, I felt my whole burden lifted. I feel the same way about Our Mother Mary and praying the rosary. I am praying a set of prayers from the Bible, in the Hail Marys, Holy Marys, Our Fathers and although it can sometimes feel repetitive and irrelevant, I feel that she (in her great mercy and love) not only removed my burdens but she clothes me with grace. And I am convicted of the power of One Hail Mary.
Dear sisters and brothers, there is no pain that she cannot kiss away. No tears of ours compares to the ones she has shed. She knows sorrows and pain and she loves us. Call out to Our Mother as a child would in need. In good times; in times that could have been better. She is filled with grace. She is the most blessed among women and the Mother of the only perfect child, our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary, who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.