In the News: Posted July 8, 2015

Read recent items about Mary in both Catholic and secular news, as International Marian Research Institute news and updates.

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Mary in Books, Films, and Music

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M. recommended the following Marian book as noteworthy: The Lady of the Angels and Her City: A Marian Pilgrimage by Wendy M. Wright.

This book recounts the author's visits to her hometown's many Marian churches and shrines.  But it is much more than a personal pilgrimage narrative.  It offers important glimpses into the history of Los Angeles Catholicism, American Catholic culture, and Mary's place in Catholic theology and tradition.

Wendy M. Wright is professor of theology at Creighton University.  She is the author of many books, including The Essential Spirituality Handbook, Heart Speaks to Heart: The Salesian Tradition, and Sacred Heart: Gateway to God.

Click here for a Book Review by Anneris Goris, here for an ten-minute interview with the author on YouTube, or here to order copies from Liturgical Press.

From the Marian Treasure Chest

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M., sent us the article below, noting that Blessed Junipero Serra will be canonized in September, 2015 by Pope Francis when he visits the USA.

Blessed Junipero Serra: The Mexico Years 1749-1769

The canonization of Saint Junipero Serra, O.F.M., (Nov. 24, 1713 - August 28, 1784) by Pope Francis invites us to recall a stage in his missionary life that is often overlooked by Catholics and historians in the USA.

Serra's influence on California history and missions from 1769 until his death in 1784 is generally well known. But few are familiar with his work in Mexico in the twenty years previous. Prior to setting foot in Alta California, Saint Junipero Serra labored lovingly in Mexico for two decades. Millions have visited his California missions, but few have seen those he established and served in Mexico. 

The Franciscans were the first evangelizers in Mexico in the early 16th century. Following a prolonged lull of almost 200 years, a second major thrust of evangelization was mounted in the 18th century. In the forefront were the Spanish Franciscans.

The first churches in Mexico were built by the Franciscans in 1524-1525 in what is now the greater Mexico City region.  Still today Franciscan foundations--churches and convents--are found in most parts of the country. The structures were often massive and imposing, about a block long, and dominated the towns that grew around them. Although the 1848 secularization reform laws appropriated much church property, many locations are still operational parishes.

Serra Arrives in Mexico

Saint Junipero Serra was a major player in the second wave of evangelization launched in the 18th century.

In 1749 Junipero set sail from Spain in the company of two of his former students, Fray Juan Crespi and Fray Francisco Palou, who later became Junipero's biographer. They became an indomitable trio of lifetime companions and co-workers in the world of New Spain.

After 99 days on rough seas, the Franciscan contingent reached Veracruz on December 6, 1749. Records indicate they had endured great hardships at sea: thirst, hunger, near-shipwreck, a leaking ship, a mutinous crew, storms, and other perils and privations. But Palou reported: "Junipero was never heard to complain."

From Veracruz they walked, in imitation of St. Francis of Assisi, 275 miles over four mountain ranges to Mexico City. Upon arrival in Mexico City, Junipero went directly to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to pass the night in prayer. 

The following day the new missionary contingent walked to the Apostolic College of San Fernando, founded in 1734, one of three apostolic colleges in Mexico.   

Orientation to Mexico and Its Mission

These apostolic colleges were outstanding Franciscan training centers for the formation of an elite band of missionaries who were specially selected and rigorously trained. The program was a Franciscan innovation in missiology, the study of evangelization strategy, a 12-month course of preparation for missionary work.

These special centers prepared missionary teams for Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Serra and his companions steeped themselves in these studies.

Serra Assigned to Sierra Gorda, 1750-1759

After only five months into the program at the Apostolic College of San Fernando, Junipero volunteered to answer an emergency call to fill an immediate need in the Sierra Gorda northeast of Mexico City and Queretaro, an area in central Mexico that had resisted colonization and evangelization. He rose to the challenge to evangelize the resistant Pame Indians. With Crespi and Palou, Serra set out on foot to the high altitude mountain ranges of the Sierra Gorda. Some peaks exceeded 10,000 feet.

The Legacy of the Sierra Gorda Missions

Appointed president of this mission territory, Junipero and his collaborators over a period of years erected five baroque-style mission churches: Mission San Miguel Arcangel at Conca, Mission Santiago at Jalpan, Mission San Francisco del Valle at Tilaco, Mission Nuestra Senora de la Luz at Tancoyol, and Mission Nuestra Senora la Purisima Concepcion de Aguas at Landa. Constructing these folk-baroque mission churches was a labor of love. They are considered sermons in stone and stucco. With an eye for elegant style, Junipero and his construction teams made certain these buildings were dressed inside and out with elaborate carvings and bright colors and finely sculptured facades. Enshrinement of our faith called for the best human efforts.  The practice of faith needed to be dynamic and displayed in an exquisite fashion. So the churches were attractive, eye-catching creations. This was Junipero's objective. These glorious edifices synthesized the two cultures of old Spain and the local natives by blending Christian symbolism with native craftsmanship and artistry. So impressive are these gems that UNESCO designated these five mission churches international heritage sites in 2003.

The friars, including the diminutive Junipero (about 5'2"), worked alongside the laborers in the task of construction. But Junipero did not stop at construction skills. He taught himself and others how to sew, and made bright-colored clothing for the children. He hired a music teacher and taught the natives and colonists to sing the liturgy. 

With his flair for the dramatic and solemn, Junipero arranged pageants, dramatic skits, processions, and liturgical celebrations. Every Saturday evening a procession in honor of our Blessed Mother wended its way through each mission town with flowers, candles, torches, singing, and the recitation of the rosary.  

In addition, he cared for the mission population's temporal needs by providing livestock, seeds, grains, fruit trees, and vines. Through his providence the mission peoples were able to learn skills and trades. Part of his missionary strategy included the development of self-supporting agricultural and economic communities.

Serra's parting words to the Pames when he was recalled to the College of San Fernando are now emblazoned on a bronze plaque at a Sierra Gorda museum: "I arrived with nothing. I leave you taking nothing. But I leave you with a great treasure, the faith." Francisco Palou reported of his intrepid missionary superior, "He won the hearts of all."

Serra Faces New Challenges, 1759-1767

After a period of service, Franciscan policy called each missionary back to the apostolic college that had prepared him. Fray Junipero Serra returned to San Fernando in 1758 after nine very productive years in the Sierra Gorda. This was a time of sabbatical, a renewal period, during which he worked as novice master, choir master, counselor, and preacher of retreats and missions. Junipero followed the usual program of six months at the college and six months on the road preaching missions. His reputation marked him as a dynamic and effective preacher with a style that touched the heart of his hearers.

With the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain and its colonies by King Carlos III in 1767, the Franciscans were called to fill the vacuum in the northern missions of the lengthy Baja California peninsula. Junipero Serra was assigned as president of those missions in that year and made Loreto his base.

 Adelante, 1769

Loreto became his point of departure when he was appointed president of the new missionary expedition to Alta California. In 1769 Fray Junipero Serra and his companions headed northward to develop the history of California, beginning with Mission San Diego.This undaunted missionary lived wholeheartedly his motto: Siempre adelante. Nunca atras. Always go forward. Never turn back.

Marian Events

The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary USA (ESBVM-USA) exists to advance the study of Mary, the Mother of Christ, in Christian biblical and spiritual perspectives, and in the light of such study, to promote ecumenical interchange and prayer. Its aim is to show that in Mary, Christians of many traditions may find a focus in their search for unity.

Their 2015 Weekend Conference theme is: The Virgin Mary in Christian Dialogue: Controversy, Convergence, and Vision. The mother of Jesus has stood at the heart of Christianity's most profound truths, passionate devotions, and fiery controversies. For centuries after the Protestant Reformation, the mere mention of Mary's name in certain contexts could ignite hot-tempered disagreements.

By the twentieth century, Christians began trying to repair divisions by coming together in formal dialogues. Marian topics were cautiously included in the later of these dialogues, and joint statements that described new appreciation for each other's Marian traditions--while still noting important areas of disagreement--were signed.

While great progress was made during these dialogues, very few people are aware of them and the way forward is not clear. The purpose of this conference is to continue the important work of Marian dialogues, assessing their relevance to contemporary religious thought and practice within the various Christian traditions and providing some discussion regarding future possibilities.

Join the ESBVM-USA for what promises to be a stimulating and enlightening weekend of conversation about the mother of our Lord!

The annual weekend conference of the ESBVM-USA will be held on the campus of Misericordia University in Dallas, PA, near Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Click here for Directions to the campus from the university's website: www.misericordia.edu or here for more information about the conference.


Mary in the Catholic Press

Church of the Multiplication Reopens in Tabgha from Zenit (Rome) June 23, 2015

On Sunday, thousands of Christians joined in prayer at the Church of the Multiplication, located near the Sea of Galilee. The historic, site of Jesus' miraculous feeding of the five thousand, was targeted last week in an arson attack by extremist Jewish settlers.

According to Fides news agency, hundreds of youth carried crosses and the yellow and white flags of the Vatican near the Church, as well as singing songs dedicated to Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The celebration of Mass was presided by His Beatitude Michael Sabbah, Latin Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem....

Click here to see the complete article from Zenit.


Mary in the Secular Press

The director and editors of The Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature. Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing the secular press.

Rare 250-year-old rosary unearthed at Fort Michilimackinac dig site (Mackinaw City, MI) July 2, 2015

Archaeologists in northern Michigan have unearthed a rare artifact from a historic French and British colonial outpost on the Straits of Mackinac.

On June 23, an intact Roman Catholic rosary was dug from an excavation site at Colonial Michilimackinac, an 18th-century fort and fur trading village that has been reconstructed as an open air museum over the past fifty years.

The rosary--rare for being found intact--is approximately 250-years-old, estimated Lynn Evans, curator of archaeology for Mackinac State Historic Parks....

Click here to read the entire article.


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