Friday, May 23, 2008

Our Lady of Sheshan

Pope Benedict recently made public a prayer he composed for Catholics in China. There is a shrine to Our Lady of Sheshan. This prayer is interesting because the Pope refers to Mary's cooperation in the work of redemption:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians," the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously co-operated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross. Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter. Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trails, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus. In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built. Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Our Lady of Laus

I just saw a news item that the Church has given official approval to an apparition site in southern France, in the Alps. The shrine is at Laus, and the apparitions occurred in the late 1600's. (Which goes to show you that the Church often moves very slowly when it comes to these things!)

The basic message is a familiar one, though, and it's the message of the Gospel: conversion, prayer, penance. I had never heard of this apparition before. The Blessed Mother appeared to a young shepherd girl, Benoite Rencurel. This link has an English version of the story.

Benoite had the gift of being able to read people's hearts, so that she could call them to conversion. Apparently she didn't relish this and sometimes delayed in exhorting them, and Mary would then urge her to do it. I can't blame Benoite for finding this difficult!