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17 May

Saint Pascal Baylon

Marist Calendar - May

A new song to Mary and the new land



18/09/2011: Portugal

To commence a Marial retreat for elderly brothers (Portugal, 22 - 28 August) with a hymn to Mary of the 1950s does not seem the most suitable of things. Especially when one wants to develop the Chapter idea of «Go in haste with Mary to a new land. » To start with so old a hymn may appear almost   anachronistic, out of date, and even anti-conciliar. Anti-conciliar, certainly not; ante-conciliar  obviously.

Still, it did not seem to me as anachronistic as all that. It was not a matter, either, of a moment of nostalgia for a past that has gone forever. Nostalgia does not help us build the future, which is what concerns us. To set out for a new land implies a vision of the future. It was not, either, the fact that numerous brothers had so often sung this hymn: recalling it could be a journey back for these brothers to their youth, with all the apostolic zeal they lived in the places they now reside or the mission lands in the past. The real reason for commencing a Marial retreat with a hymn from the 50s was of a different nature: it was precisely to find in this bygone past, the forces that urge us to go forward, towards the future, the unknown, new lands. And all that is possible in listening to the words of the song. We note simply the refrain: «It is the month of Mary / It is the most beautiful month / To the beloved Virgin /We sing  a new song. » It is a refrain almost naive, like so many other popular refrains to the Virgin. But, at the same time, it is of great depth.

The common point between the Marial invitation of this hymn and the invitation to go to new lands we find in the last verse of the refrain: let us sing a new song to Mary. And just as we often ask what is the « new land » the Chapter is speaking about, we can also ask what could be this « new song » suggested in this popular hymn of the 1950s. Could it not be a question of the same thing? Or, at least, could this new song to Mary not be able to help us discover the new land we are dreaming of? Our study and our spiritual experience during the retreat wishes to demonstrate that: to discover a new song to Mary is, on the final count, to discover where to start out towards the new land.

How did we do it? I thought quite simply of summing up the first three days of the retreat in a  phrase to indicate this way to a new land. In this dynamic, we would contemplate the themes of « Redeem the past », with the texts  Rosarium Virginis Mariae andEvangelii Nuntiandi ; « See the present » with the texts of the Constitutions and Water from the Rock; « Look to the future » with the document of the General Chapter.

On seeing the richness of the Bible texts in the Eucharist for the first three days, however, I changed direction and preferred to find out what the « new land » is, starting from these texts. I shared them with the brothers in the Eucharist.

 22 August, Our Lady, Queen. Readings: Isaiah 9 : 1-6, Luke 1: 26-38. From the text of the Annunciation it is easy to understand that the «new land» is the whole of life oriented towards the horizon. A child born is always a sign of newness. Absolute sign of God’s love for men, it is also a sign of hope for a renewed humanity. How will that happen? The first reading also speaks of the «child who is given us. »

We are always before the newness of God. This infant will be a source of light, joy, justice and right in favour of all. The direction is given: we will equally be a sign of this new land each time we open ourselves to the Spirit of God. It engenders in us Christ himself and gives us the strength to proclaim him to the world. In proclaiming him, we are in train of building the world described by Isaiah. The new land is the one we create around us because the Spirit of God is living in us, because his Word dwells in us. Christ then becomes for us the one in whom we live and breathe. So, «Christified », we become transformers of the world, constructors of a new land.

 23 August, Saint Rose of Lima. Readings: 1 Thess. 2 : 1-8, Mt 23, 23-26. Matthew states clearly that the «new land» is man transformed, renewed from within. It is the man of interiority and intimacy with God. And what are the consequences of a man renewed from within? How is he going to become multiplier of this «new land»? The text could not be clearer: the man who lives in intimacy with God is a constructor of justice among men; he becomes an excellent witness of his mercy; in his fidelity we divine the fidelity of God. Saint Paul adds to these ideas of Matthew two others well adapted to Marist spirituality: on one hand, courage to proclaim the Gospel, even in the most difficult circumstances; on the other hand, gentleness and goodness, expressed as a mother’s love for her children. This reminds us of the "feminine dimension" of our spirituality presented in Water from the Rock.

 24 August, Saint Bartholomew, apostle. Readings: Apoc. 21 : 9b-14, John 1 : 45-51. There are two elements, one from each reading, which present what may be the «new land» of which we dream. And certainly there is a relation between them. The reading from the Apocalypse speaks of "Jerusalem resplendent with the glory of God." And the responsorial psalm, No. 144, adds: «Your faithful proclaim your glory. » That is what Bartholomew did and what we are called to do. The "new land" is the creation of a new world where God’s glory shines out through the mission of the apostles of all ages. And how can one make the glory of God shine out in the world? The second reading provides the response with great clarity: to live in the truth, like Bartholomew, whom Jesus called: "an Israelite in whom there is no guile." The "new land", then, is to live in the truth. There is no doubt: in the measure we live in the truth we proclaim to the world the glory of God. Benedict XVI, quite recently, talking to a group of Spanish intellectuals at the Escorial, expressed this lapidary phrase of great beauty: «Truth is the beauty of God. » In living in the truth, we reveal to the world not only the glory of God but also his beauty. And the world has such need of these values. The «new land» is to make them present in the world. Even at the price of life itself. Saint Bartholomew, the Nathaniel of the Gospel, also shows us the way.

Br Teófilo Minga
Lisbon,  30 August 2011

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