Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

So here we are on October 7th, this Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. You didn’t think I’d escape posting something, right?

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll probably recognize this picture of a well-worn (um, make that well-prayed rosary) which I had for many years before finally giving it away. It was a Rosary Army rosary, which meant it was destined to be given away, but I held onto it for many, many, many years before passing it along to someone whom I knew loved the prayer, the Blessed Mother, and her Son as much as I do.

Timing, they say, is everything, and I was granted one last very important prayer on that rosary before passing it along to someone who would use it, even if it was only rarely, to think of me and my intentions. As it happens, I couldn’t have entrusted that rosary to a finer friend and prayer buddy.

Which of course leads me to today’s prayer on a new rosary —  made by the same beloved friend who made the blue and purple rosary above. The new one hasn’t been entirely broken in, and by that I mean, it’s still stiff in places where the twine doesn’t have much give.

It’s getting comfortable in my hand, but there are many, many, many decades left on it, where I’ll worry the twine “beads” a little more, sweat a little more, maybe cry a little more, and forget it in my jeans and run it through another wash a time or three.

And that’s ok. Because the rosary is meant to be used. It’s meant to be prayed, over and over again. And again. And again.

I admit that I have sentimental attachments to some of these little sacramentals. I get comfortable with one or another for a number of reasons — whether I like the particular clink of one, or the feel of another, or like this black and gold one that has that Steelers pin on it. I know you noticed it. I’m not praying for the Steelers, ok? Really. It’s a sentimental reminder to pray for a deceased friend who maybe did pray for a Steelers win a time or two. I won’t judge him. But I do smile and pray for his soul.

So whip out that rosary you have tucked away somewhere. It deserves to be used. Momma Mary deserves a little “phone call” today. Like the loving Momma that she is, she’ll quickly turn the conversation away from her, and to her Son.

Happy Birthday Momma Mary

On September 8th Cubans everywhere will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba and, in a special way, advocate for all who feel displaced, far from home, or living in exile.

Caridad, as she is affectionately known, wants nothing more than to gather her children together and bring them to her son, Jesus. It seems such a simple desire – corrupted now in popular culture with the ironic “Can’t we all just get along?”

But Charity’s message is clear. It is first a message of Love. She holds the Child Jesus in her arms, close to her heart, and we are reminded that she is mother to us all because she is mother to the One.

Her appearance 400 years ago to three young men adrift in a stormy sea by the Bay of Nipe, off the coast of Cuba, inspires hope. Charity’s presence in our lives today is just as relevant as we navigate the stormy seas of the 21st century.

With the infant Jesus in one hand, and the cross in the other, we are reminded, literally, of the message she carries. Our salvation is present and accessible through her, always – every time we turn to her for guidance or succor, as those young men did centuries before us.

She is, for me, a symbol of the faith for which my parents sacrificed so much. As a Cuban-born American, much of my cultural identity connects with Our Lady of Charity. She is iconic, a symbol for the Cuban people, but she is so much more.

As a child, my mom often whispered into my ear as she hugged and kissed me goodbye, “Que la virgen te acompañe.”  No matter how old I get, and how far away I live, I can count on my mom’s blessing before I travel. Instead of a whispered caress, today I get a text message, “May Our Lady accompany you .”

This gentle reminder that Our Lady would accompany me on my journey, to my child’s mind, was just one of those things moms said. To my adult heart, the knowledge that Mary does indeed accompany me buoys me when I feel adrift in my own Bay of Nipe. Consoling and calm, Caridad stands as a beacon…always calling me to safety, showing me the way home to her Son.

The little icon of Our Lady of Charity has been traveling throughout the island nation of Cuba these past three years in a beautiful pilgrimage awakening a dormant faith, inspiring hope, and spreading love to a nation thirsty for Christ’s message.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2012 address at the Shrine of Our Lady Of Charity of El Cobre, called on the Cuban people to look upon the Blessed Mother as a model.

Following the example of the Most Holy Virgin, I encourage all the sons and daughters of this dear country to continue to build their lives on the firm rock which is Jesus Christ, to work for justice, to be servants of charity and to persevere in the midst of trials. 

The theme of this pilgrimage, indeed, the theme for the 400th anniversary celebration is “Charity Unites Us/Caridad nos une”. This lovely play on words, in both English and Spanish, speaks a great Truth, that Love unites us in the Body of Christ. All of us.

Que la virgen te acompañe.