I did a spot for At Home with Jim and Joy for today’s show that featured the feast of the Annunciation and a special story of how this is celebrated in the Middle East where the populace is, of course, predominantly Muslim. I’d like to share that with you now.
For Christians, Mary is the Mother of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For Muslims, Mary is a much-revered figure as the Mother of the prophet Jesus. In September 1995 I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the UN conference on Women in Beijing. On September 8, a member of the Iran delegation came to our office with a beautiful picture of Mary, saying their delegation wanted to celebrate her birthday that day and this was their gift to us!
Years later, specifically on February 18, 2010, I was in Lebanon on my way to Iraq when the government made March 25 a national Christian-Muslim Day, something that had never occurred before in the history of Christian-Muslim relations. The decision was confirmed two days later during a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. That day I was in the offices of a Catholic newspaper in Beirut where people were scurrying to get this announcement in the press! The first joint celebration occurred a month later on March 25 as an official national holiday sanctioned by the government of Lebanon. All public buildings, schools, banks and university were closed and the government encouraged private businesses to do the same.
Last year, 2018 in Amman, Jordan, for the first time Christians and Muslims held an inter-religious celebration to mark the Annunciation. Patriarchal vicar Bishop William Shomali said the celebration was part of the “theological, religious, spiritual dialogue” that accompanies everyday life in Jordan. “We want to show the common points between Christians and Muslims on the Annunciation, in which even Muslims believe.”
“HIC VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST”: HERE THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH
If ever I could have bilocated, today would have been the day and Loreto, Italy, the place. I am in Chicago for some days for work, appointments and interviews but I would have loved to be next to the Pope, or at least in the crowd of faithful who greeted him today in Loreto at the Shrine of the Holy House. Loreto is one of my absolute favorite shrines in all of Italy.
The last time I was there was on November 14, 2017 with the pilgrimage women of WINE, Women In the New Evangelization. I posted a column a day later. Unfortunately the story appears but the photos do not as wordpress only saves photos for a few days. I don’t have access to them in Chicago as they are on my external hard drive in Rome. Here’s the story of this very special home (if you can add Loreto to your Italian travels, do so!): https://joansrome.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/loreto-hic-verbum-caro-factum-est-here-the-word-was-made-flesh/
Loreto had to be extra special today for another reason. After Pope Francis recited the Angelus, all the church bells in Loreto and throughout the Marche region where Loreto is located rang simultaneously! How glorious that had to have been!
POPE IN LORETO: MARY’S HOUSE A HOME FOR YOUTH, FAMILIES, SICK
By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto on Monday, to mark the Feast of the Annunciation.
Tradition holds that the Virgin Mary lived within the relocated walls housed in the Sanctuary, and there received the Angel’s message of the Annunciation.
Following Mass, the Holy Father spoke to the 10,000-strong crowd of the faithful gathered in the square in front of the Basilica.
Pope Francis said the Sanctuary is “a privileged place to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God,” since it is “the house of Mary.”
Many pilgrims, he said, come from around the world to the “oasis of silence and piety” to draw strength and hope, calling the Holy House of Loreto a home for the young, families, and the sick.
Home for the young
Pope Francis said it is a home for young people, because the Virgin Mary “continues to speak to new generations, accompanying each one in the search for his or her vocation.”
It was for that reason, the Pope said, that he had chosen to sign his post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on young people in Loreto. The document is entitled “Christus vivit – Christ lives”, and is the culmination of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment that was held in October 2018.
“In the event of the Annunciation the dynamic of the vocation appears, expressed in the three moments that marked the Synod: 1) listening to the Word-project of God; 2) discernment; 3) decision,” he said.
Home for families
Pope Francis said the House of Mary in Loreto is also a home for the family.
“In the delicate situation of today’s world,” he said, “the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman assumes an essential importance and mission.”
He invited Catholics to rediscover the plan traced out by God for the family and to reaffirm its central role in society.
Within those walls, the Pope said, Mary lived out the many facets that characterize family relationships, “as a daughter, fiancée, and mother,” saying that her experience shows that the Church must care for families and young people in tandem and not separately.
Home for the sick
Finally, Pope Francis said the Holy House of Loreto is a home for the sick.
“Here are welcomed those who suffer in body and spirit, and our Mother brings to all the mercy of the Lord from generation to generation.”
The Holy Father said illness wounds the family, but that the family must welcome the sick person by loving, supporting, encouraging, and caring for them.
And the Pope sent his thoughts and prayers to people around the world who suffer from various illnesses and maladies. “Your suffering can become a decisive collaboration for the coming of the Kingdom of God,” he said.
Pope Francis closed his visit to the Basilica of the Holy House of Loreto with the Angelus prayer, asking all to pray for young people, families, and the sick.
LORETO: POPE SIGNS APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION TO YOUNG PEOPLE
By John Waters (vaticannews)
On the Feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis signed his Apostolic Exhortation for the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.
“Christus vivit – Christ lives” is a letter to the world’s young people that represents the fruit of the October Synod. The Vatican will release the full text in the near future.
The Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto contains the walls of what tradition holds to be the house in which the Virgin Mary lived when the Angel Gabriel announced that she was to give birth to Jesus.
During his visit to Loreto, Pope Francis spoke about the Exhortation and explained that there are 3 sections to the document, which mirror 3 phases of the Synod process. To explain this further, he outlined this process whilst referencing the story of the Annunciation.
“The first moment, that of listening, is manifested by the words of the angel: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’ It is always God who takes the initiative in calling people to follow Him”, said the Pope.
He went on to explain that young people need to find moments of quiet and stillness to listen to God’s call and that God’s voice will not be heard amongst noise and agitation.
Instead, quiet and stillness will help young people discover that “His plan for our personal and social life is not perceived by remaining on the surface, but by descending to a deeper level, where moral and spiritual forces act. It is there that Mary invites young people to come down and tune in to God’s action.”
Then comes the phase of discernment, which is “expressed in Mary’s words: ‘How will this happen?’ Mary does not doubt; her question is not a lack of faith; on the contrary, she expresses her own desire to discover God’s ‘surprises’. In her there is attention to grasping all the demands of God’s plan for her life, to knowing it in its facets, to make one’s collaboration more responsible and complete.”
Pope Francis said this is the proper attitude with which to follow God’s call in our lives, since this attitude allows people to discover not only what God’s plan is for their lives, but also how God’s grace will help them to develop the skills and abilities needed to live out his call for them.
“Decision is the third step that characterizes every Christian vocation, and it is made explicit by Mary’s response to the angel: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’ Her ‘yes’ to God’s plan of salvation, implemented by means of the Incarnation, is the handing over to Him of her whole life. It is the ‘yes’ of full trust and total openness to God’s will,” said the Pope.
He highlighted the Virgin Mary as the model Christian disciple and suggested that today’s young people try to imitate her example as they search for God’s plan for their lives.
The Pope pointed out that Mary had lived a multitude of family relationships.
She was a daughter, a fiancée, a bride and a mother, so all young people, no matter what their role in life and calling from God, can find an example and inspiration in her.