Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Joy Restoring Mary

Do we remember in 2013 Pope Francis wrote an exhortation (a calling forth from within) titled The Joy of the Gospel? I grew up in a Catholic faith that wasn't very joyful. There were the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary alright, but the poor nuns I spent the day with wore headgear made of starched linen boards that prevented them from looking left or right.  I discovered later that this limiting costume was to remind the sister of being in her coffin! You can't very well enjoy being with a classroom of seven-year-olds if you're supposed to be thinking about your coffin all day.

But here is the Virgin Mary in all of her happy beauty. Let's let her cast away sadness and melancholy. Invite her into the inner place where depression lurks, the place of our negativity and futility, our complaining and whining, where we feel victimized, stressed out, defeated, filled with resentment and even cynicism. Ask her to restore joy!

Here's what Pope Francis says about the joyful Mary at the end of the exhortation, paragraph 286.

Mary was able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love. She is the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises. She is the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives. She is the woman whose heart was pierced by a sword and who understands all our pain. As mother of all, she is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God's love. Through her many titles, often linked to her shrines, Mary shares the history of each people which has received the Gospel and she becomes a part of their historic identity...There, in these many shrines, we can see how Mary brings together her children who with great effort come as pilgrims to see her and to be seen by her. Here they find strength from God to bear the weariness and the suffering in their lives. As she did with Juan Diego, Mary offers them maternal comfort and love, and whispers in their ear: "Do not let your heart be troubled...Am I not here, who am your Mother?"


  1. Very beautiful. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

  2. It is sad to say, but I don't think being brought up Catholic is very joyful today either. I can remember being dragged to Church on Sundays and counting the minutes until it is was over. I feel as though this is what my kids to when we bring them to Mass. We continue to go to receive the Body of Christ, but there really is nothing else to hold us to the obligation. We should do something to stimulate growth and joy in our faith. I seek it out here, and in other online forums where others are alive in their faith. But we know that most people don't bother or care to look.

    1. There's an old Mediterranean saying: "The fish stinks from the head." There has to be a reform of the clergy - from the inside out. On the other hand, maybe the people shouldn't wait for that to happen and just take charge where they can. When I was chaplain to a school for kids who had lost their way, I'd often meet young people who started to live their Catholic life again. Some, who had been given no religious upbringing even became Catholic. One boy who after graduation went to daily Mass in his cathedral city college town told me that after going to Mass everyday for a whole year, that not once did someone come over to say, "Hello" or "Hi, how nice to see a young man at Mass," - nothing. Just sitting as far away as possible from each other, what, so we don't have to touch each other at the peace greeting? But let's not get lost in this, though I know exactly what you're saying. Too much talking about sin and it's making us morose. Rather, let's try to catch the joy of this beautiful image of Jesus' Mother - let it transform us. Thanks for following the posts.

  3. Thank you Fr. Stephen. This is why I come to this blog to see what you have to say. I live this image of Mary and will use it to remember that there is joy to be found.

  4. This is a beautiful picture of Mary. I notice Mary always is dressed in heavy robes and veils. They must have been uncomfortable in the warm weather, running after Jesus, cleaning the house doing the wash. Some girls joined semi-cloistered orders. They knew it would be hard but it was their love and desire to please Christ. Most sisters, I saw had great smiles. Whatever way, you choose to follow Christ. You can always expect sacrifice.

  5. "Whatever way you choose to follow Christ, you can always expect sacrifice." To be sure. But when the sacrifices steal away joy - then something is amiss. I'm always glad to meet people who had happy sisters in class. Though the nuns who taught me were not happy, I still admired them and loved them. But there are countless Catholics my age and I expect yours, who have terrible memories of unhappy, even cruel nuns. Some orders have made public apologies for their severity. But that's not what the post is about. Joy-restoring Mary. As for the heavy clothes artists impose on Mary: I don't think they have historical Mary in mind - I mean Mary didn't wear a crown in Palestine. Rather, they are piling on the love with a paint brush.

  6. I understand what you are saying about the sister's habits. It probably took some of the joy out of their daily works. I see Pope Francis bit by bit peeling away the obstacles that have prevented, a true feeling of joy and he sends us to Mary. When Mary addresses Juan Diego, "Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you, let nothing alter your heart". etc. and then ends with "Is there anything else you need?" That just gives me great Joy, that the Mother of God is asking "me" what I need.

  7. The sisters took care of their own reform in the 60's and 70's. It changed their character. A few years ago I buried the nun who had taught me in 8th grade in 1965. The funeral was celebrated in the Motherhouse. The night before the Mass there was a large gathering of sisters in the community room. It was a remarkably happy time. I said to one sister, "When I was a boy in the 60's would this have happened?" She answered, "It would have been much quieter and more subdued." I wish the clergy would renew themselves as deeply as the sisters have. One Jesuit priest told me, "There are men in this community who are embarrassed to say the name of Jesus; they don't think it's manly." How can you be a joyful priest, embarrassed to say, Jesus? I find that kind of stunning.