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placeholder February 9, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA

Pilgrims attend a candlelight vigil at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal on May 12. Thousands of pilgrims arrived at the shrine to attend the 97th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to three shepherd children. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, received the first of several visions of Mary May 13, 1917.
Rafael Marchante/Reuters, CNS

Mary: A beautiful mystery to be contemplated and lived

Rev. Lawrence D'Anjou

I was recently given a copy of the 2012 movie "Mary of Nazareth." In one of the opening scenes, Joachim and Ann, the parents of Mary, make this comment about their baby daughter: "Mary is a mystery." In my experience there is much truth to that statement.

One summer another seminarian and I put together a trip to some of the holy sites of Europe. We landed in Frankfurt, rented a car and made our way over a three week period through Germany, Austria, Italy and France.

One afternoon we found ourselves visiting a secluded church in Siena, Italy. This church was off the beaten path of tourists (actually, I think we were lost!). Taking in the nave of the church, I glanced at a statue of Mary and as I walked away I suddenly had the feeling that she was there. I sensed that she was observing me and that she wasn't very pleased with what she saw.

"Is this what you give to me?" I thought I heard her say about me to her son. This experience was mysterious, and not a little bit unsettling. I left that church knowing that it was time for me to revisit and improve my relationship with the Blessed Mother.

In the intervening 25 years my relationship with Mary has deepened amazingly and beautifully. Being in places where Mary has personally appeared, such as Fatima and Lourdes, has been a big part of that experience for me.

In October of this year the diocese is hoping that 60-plus pilgrims will be able to share in a pilgrimage to the holy sites of Portugal, Spain and France. Holy sites where Mary has either appeared or shared her motherly care are on our travel agenda.

It is sure to be a rich and beautiful experience; one that, I hope, will deepen our relationship with her and her son. To find out more about this pilgrimage, mark your calendar to come to St. Raymond Parish in Dublin from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 22. for an informational presentation. Brenda Held, associate director of Religious and Cultural Tours (our tour guide for the pilgrimage) for Unitours Inc. will be on hand leading the presentation and answering any questions you might have.

Since we began publicizing this pilgrimage a few people have told me that they regretfully are not able to go.

Mary has other ways to draw us close to her. One way is through the book and companion DVD named "33 Days to Morning Glory" by Father Michael E. Gaitley, which is available through Lighthouse Catholic Media. Not long ago we used these resources for a 33 day "retreat" at our parish which concluded with a consecration to Jesus through his Blessed Mother.

Whether you are going on this pilgrimage or not, I highly recommend these resources as a way to deepen your relationship with Jesus and his Blessed Mother.

Mary is a mystery. She's not a mystery to be solved, but rather a beautiful mystery to be contemplated and lived. Live the experience, perhaps with us in October as we visit European locales special to her and/or through a consecration to Jesus through the hands of Mary. Both ways can bring us close to her and to her amazing and mysterious love for us.

(Father Lawrence D'Anjou is pastor at St. Raymond Parish in Dublin.)

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