Mary is in the Sign of the Cross
At mass one morning Father told a story about a boy. The boy came home from school and said to his mother: “The Virgin Mary is in the Sign of the Cross.” That mother thought to herself: “What kind of catechism is he being taught? I’ve never heard that.” The boy continued: “Yeah, she’s the last part. There’s the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then there’s the Amen. That’s where Mary is. Amen means “Yes,” and that’s Mary’s part.”
Wow. A simple statement explains the truth of Our Lady. She is the yes to God.
Mary always trusted God, even in very difficult circumstances. When He asked her to do something, She did it. Even if it made her look unfaithful (becoming pregnant with a child not of her betrothed) or disreputable (following Her Son as the carried His cross.) When God asks me to do something, my immediate thought is: “What will people think if I do that?” Our Lady’s yesses come from a pure heart devoted to God. My yesses, unfortunately, often come from a vain heart trying to look good. The virtue I need to get rid of my vanity is purity of intentions.
Testifying Saints: Saint Bernadette Soubirous
St. Bernadette Soubirous is one of my favorite saints. That could be because my home parish as a child was Our Lady of Lourdes. Every week I walked past a statue of an enraptured Bernadette kneeling in front of the beautiful lady in the pretty grotto at Lourdes. The scene was so enchanting. I imagined it would be awesome to have visions of Our Lady while in such an idyllic spot. In reality the grotto wasn’t at all idyllic, and Bernadette’s life could be very unpleasant.
Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844 to loving parents Louise and Francois. For the first ten years of her life the family had a decent living in Boly Mill. Her father was a miller until an injury to his eye forced him to seek other work as a laborer. As his income declined, the family was forced to move. Eventually they moved into a dark and dank home, a former prison cell, and there they lived in poverty. At the time of Our Lady’s apparitions in 1858, Bernadette was 14 years old. She suffered from asthma, and due to the family’s poverty and her medical condition she was largely uneducated.
The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette in the grotto at Lourdes. This grotto was nothing like the romantic scene of my imagination. It was a damp, dark, cold and hidden place. The locals called it the “pig shelter” because the pigs often sheltered there when hunting for food. It was filled with rubbish that had washed up from the river. Bernadette went there with friends to collect firewood. As her friends continued in their hunt, Bernadette heard a gust of wind and saw a beautiful lady dressed in pure white. After praying the rosary together, the lady vanished.
The Blessed Virgin Mary had a purpose in her apparitions to Bernadette, but it wasn’t always apparent. She asked Bernadette to do some pretty ridiculous things. At Mary’s bidding Bernadette crawled on her knees to the back of the grotto and kissed the filthy ground. She ate the bitter grass growing there. When Our Lady told her to “drink of the stream,” Bernadette didn’t sarcastically ask “What stream? I don’t see a stream.” as I would have done. Instead she scraped at the dirt until she uncovered a trickle of water and lapped up the muddy liquid. Then she smeared the mud on her face. During four apparitions she carried out this same ritual as an act of penance. People thought she was crazy. She didn’t care what people thought. She just hastened to do Our Lady’s bidding.
Saint Bernadette’s purity of intention helped her put God first in everything. Instead of wondering what other people would think of her, Bernadette wondered what Mary wanted of her. Then she gave all of herself in doing it.
A little help from some friends
Mother Angelica dared to do the ridiculous
Ridiculous Lucille Ball
Down Syndrome kids
Farming with a higher purpose
Being pure of heart means loving God more than anyone or anything else. Even more than candy or video games, or your BFF. If we do love God the most, then loving other people, even the class bully, isn’t quite so hard. Thinking about God helps us make good choices and notice the good in others.
How do you keep your heart pure? By trying to follow the Ten Commandments. When you mess up, go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to get cleaned up. Then stay close to Jesus by reading His book--the Bible--and praying every day.