Tag Archives: lourdes

A small gift

My goal with The Mary Project is to share the stories of many people–Catholic or not, religious or not, born here or there–and how they experience Mary in their lives. Each day, I’m bowled over by the power of this project and how Mary manifests in my life–and in the lives of others.

I offer this as Exhibit A:

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Last week, my neighbor and her boyfriend came to my house to carpool to a polka Christmas dance party. She loves to dance, he’s Slovenian, I’m part Polish. It was a guaranteed good time.

They had just been traveling through the Balkans and handed me a small package when they walked through the door.

“It’s just a little something,” she said. “Do you know Medjugorje?”

My face lit up. What? Of course, I know Medjugorje. It’s a place in the craggy hills of Bosnia where the Virgin Mary appears. They say the sun spins, rose petals fall from the sky, and crosses turn to gold around people’s necks. It has long been on my pilgrimage list.

“Yes, I know Medjugorje. I’ve always want to visit,” I say, as I look around my living room and wonder if they’ve noticed yet.

A white porcelain Mary statue sits on the fireplace mantle with the crumbling Polish lithograph of Mary with angels, a card from the Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre (Mary’s mother). A 3-foot tall plaster statue stands in the corner.

They’ve never been in my house before. They don’t know I collect Mary souvenirs from around the world. And I’ve never talked to them about Mary or The Mary Project.

The small paper package is printed with a blue drawing of Mary. Inside is  a small rosary bracelet, each bead depicting Mary and the Divine Mercy (I’ll get into that another day, but suffice it say that Pope Francis just announced this as a year of mercy, and just a few months ago I visited the very place  in Poland that this image was revealed to Saint Faustina.)

It was beautiful and delicate and sweet with two little crosses cinching the ties. I held the weight of it in my hand and marveled at the gift. Of all things they could have brought me from this part of the world, they brought me the thing that meant the most–and they had no idea.

May is for Mary: A Crowning Fit for a Queen

O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the Mary…

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Eight-year-old Dominic McKenney waves at the two men riding a crane to the top of the golden Virgin Mary statue at the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Equipped in hard hats and smiling to the crowd, they lift a giant crown of silk flowers of red yellow and purple 100 feet in the air and set it on the head of the 25-foot-tall statue that looks over this Catholic mountain shrine devoted to the Mother of God.

“She is the mother of Jesus. She is the mother of everyone,” Dominic says.

Nem_150503_025353Today is a special day here and in Catholic centers around the world. It is the first Sunday in May, a month dedicated to Mary, and statues of all sizes are being crowned in similar ways–but most probably without the need of a crane. The crowd holds up cameras and phones to snap pictures of the men laying the crown on her head, squinting against the sun. They cheer and applaud when the flowers have been placed, silk streamers flowing down her back. A perfect fit.

Thousands gathered the crowning here at this replica of the Lourdes shrine in France, tucked amongst winding paths lined with azaleas bursting with purple blooms, and statues of the Blessed mother.

“For me it’s one of those holy moments that I want to witness,” says Celine Okoh of Gaithersburg. “One of the ways to adore Jesus and the Blessed Mary is to be here as they place the crown.”

Nem_150503_145540The month of May has been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary since Medieval times, honoring her as an example and devotion has been especially emphasized by recent popes who raise her up as an example of how to love and grow ever closer to God.

“To imitate Mary is to be open to God’s surprises,” says Sister Louis-Marie, with a smile and a wink. “Do you know you said that? Pope John Paul II.”

The Mary Project Begins

Finally, The Mary Project begins. An idea that has been whispered in my ear for months, if not years. A multimedia project that explores what Mary, the Mother of God, means to ordinary people like you and me. We will be talking to folks, reading books, visiting grottos and gardens, taking pictures and videos, and bringing them all together in one place to find out the many ways Our Lady impacts the lives of those across America, and the world, today.

It begins in the month of May, Mary’s month, with the crowning of Our Lady’s statue at the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Maryland. There, for the first time, a 12-foot-long flower crown will be raised high into the air, on the top of this meditative mountain, and onto the head of a 25-foot-high golden statue of Mary.

Here is where our journey officially begins, as we not only tell your stories, but begin to discover our own.

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