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June 25, 2012

“To Magnify the Lord”: A Triduum in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Four Redemptorists are participating in a special three-day celebration in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. We will share the homilies from each day’s Mass on redemptorists.net.

Day 1: My spirit rejoices in God my Savior — Mary and joy

By Rev. Philip Dabney, C.Ss.R.
 
When I was a young boy, probably younger than Mary in the gospel, I used to like to sing a lot.
 
My mother would often hear me singing and would say: “Someone’s happy!”
 
This may sound strange, but you see, my mother, she knew me really well. She knew that my singing was a sign of joy, especially at those times I was trying to cope with sadness, or boredom of doing a chore, or just being tired.
 
Who was the saint who said that “to sing is to pray twice?” I think that when we are in touch with the deeper dimension of our being, that place where words are too deep to be expressed, a song can say what is deep within our hearts.
 
Mary knew that.
 
She knew from her praying of the psalms, that the psalmist expressed words of prayer in song. Mary also knew that other women poured out their souls before God particularly when they were deeply distressed. Hannah, who longed for a child, and had been blessed with Samuel, sang a song of joy and gratitude, after she had consecrated him to God. And many of the sentiments in her song echo Mary’s Magnificat.
 
Imagine the rollercoaster of emotions that Mary experienced after being asked to be God’s Mother, when she had not yet married. This emotion is greeted with the words: “That the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you.”
 
What does a young woman do with all of this mystery?
 
Well … Mary eventually sang her Magnificat.
 
This may not have been her immediate response. But when she was in the company of the faith of her cousin Elizabeth, Mary sang: “My soul rejoices in God my savior.”
 
We must ask ourselves, what is the cause of her joy? Mary is joyful because she realizes that all the promises of God are now fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the child within her womb. And this joy of hers is always with her no matter what, regardless of what happens to her.
 
I read not so long ago how the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach, returning from a journey, found that his wife and two children had died. That night, in his diary, he wrote: “Dear Lord, may my joy not leave me.”
 
He was not referring to the feeling of joy: that is never in our power. No, he was speaking of an essential joy rooted in his recognition that God is gracious, that the grace of God is made flesh in Jesus, that Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us.
 
Joy comes when Christ comes; joy is where Christ is. We can see this deep joy at work in people’s lives. 
 
All of us know certain people suffering with serious illness who through their faithful relationship with the Lord maintain a genuine joy. Yes, there is a “pain in the body, but deep joy in the soul.”
 
There are those who may lack a physical pain, but in the circumstances of their lives know mental anguish and stress. Again, we see the joy of faith that breaks through their pain.
 
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, meditating on Our Lady’s sorrows, wrote in his diary: “Christ’s joy in spite of sorrow, wish to enter into this.” Joy in spite of sorrow, joy in the midst of pain! How can this be? Because God is gracious and the face of his graciousness, his mercy, his compassion, his love, is the face of Christ, and Christ is Emmanuel, God always with us.
 
Mary can truly be our source of joy. For no one has such an abundance of joy to give as Mary does. She proclaims this joy in every line of her Magnificat. Her soul rejoices, magnifies, exalts in the wonders of God.
 
And she invites us to come to her, so that she might bring Emmanuel into our wounded hearts, to shine on our darkness, so that our nights are no longer dark but bright as day.
 
Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, not only promises to “help” us always, but her title also suggests that she has countless “helps” to offer us, “gifts” to help us live our lives in the fullness of God’s loving embrace.  
 
As we remember our loved ones who are suffering today, in any way, as we become aware of our own suffering, let us remember to ask Mary to help us — gift us with her deep joy.

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Who are the Redemptorists?

Two thousand years ago Jesus said, “He sent me to preach the Good News to the poor.” Since 1732 the Redemptorists have followed in His footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned. Our congregation of missionary priests and brothers was founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Like the first Apostles, our mission—and our joy—is bringing the message of salvation to all people. As Redemptorists, we have a special devotion to crib, cross, Mary, and the Eucharist. To learn more, explore our website and connect with us on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments (4) total

Ed Reyman | Mon 06/25/2012 8:23 AM

Fr. Phil, thank you for the wonderful inspiration and insight. As I was reading the homily, my thoughts embraced a time in my life when I was suffering, and how my prayers to Mary helped get me through this very difficult time. Thank you for the reminder of how loving Our Mother is to each one of us.

Sister Marjorie | Mon 06/25/2012 10:04 AM

"It is my joy, O Lord, to praise you in song." You may recognize this verse as a responsory in the Liturgy of the Hours on certain Saturday mornings; this little verse complements Fr. Phil Dabney's reflection on Mary's Magnificat, joy and the gift of a singing heart and voice. Thank you, Father Phil, you always touch my spirit with your pastoral and creative thoughts. I join you and the larger Redemptorist community of faith as we approach the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. A day on which many of our IHM sisters celebrated the beginning of initiation into Religious Life (Reception) ~ myself included!

Jeff and Brenda | Mon 06/25/2012 12:36 PM

Thank you!

Regina Gribbon-Mooney | Tue 07/03/2012 5:41 PM

I am sure after hearing the four talks in celebration of the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, that Our Dear Lady and her Son smiled graciously, and Saint Alphonsus stood close by beaming. No one does it better. My warmest regards. Regina

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