Blessing of the Marian ShrineLaurence Tiblis
Blessing of the Marian Shrine
A Bright Light During Difficult Times
What do you get when you mix a group of quarantined Vincentian priests with antique vestments and a cartload of creativity?
A unique Marian Altar and Blessing, of course.
Stuck in the same situation as the rest of the world—in lockdown due to the coronavirus—our Vincentians wanted to honor Mary in their house during the month of May.
While sitting in his room one afternoon, Fr. Timothy Lyons, CM, (also known as “the sacred artifacts guy”), pondered the conversation he had with some of his confreres about creating a May Altar. As his eyes rested on the statue of our Blessed Mother that adorns his desk, he was immediately whisked back to his childhood. Every year at the beginning of May, Fr. Lyons’s mother would enlist her children as assistant builders and decorators of the family’s annual May Altar. They’d embellish it with crepe paper, paper doilies, and cut roses and lilies from their garden.
Sitting back in his chair at the Seminary, he recognized that, as a Vincentian, he had also inherited a three-pronged devotion to Mary:
In the rule St. Vincent de Paul developed for his Congregation, he told them to “honor the Mother of God with daily devotion.” Those words were written from experience. As a young boy on his family farm, St. Vincent de Paul placed a little statue of Mary in the niche of an oak tree. He would frequently visit her there and offer his own devotion.
St. Louise de Marillac (the co-founder of the Daughters of Charity) also had a love for Mary. It’s not commonly known that she had an artistic talent, but the sisters of her Congregation were well aware of her gifted abilities. To inspire them in their devotion, she would paint little pictures of the Blessed Mother and then give the paintings to the sisters.
And, of course, we all know the story of St. Catherine Labouré turning to Mary after her mother died. She was a child when that happened, and instinctively she ran to the room in which the family had a statue of the Blessed Mother. Standing on her tip-toes, she reached up to the shelf, grabbed the statue, and exclaimed, “Now you will be my Mother.”
Pulling together this wonderful Vincentian blend of what he calls “meeting Mary at a domestic level,” Fr. Lyons worked with his confreres to develop their personal Marian Altar. “I wanted to bring the Blessed Mother closer to us than the chapel,” he says, “I wanted to bring her to our world, our home.”
One of the priests suggested putting a statue outside and adding lights. Another recommended using the ceremony from the Catholic Book of Blessings. While combining those ideas, Fr. Lyons jumped on the opportunity to make this a solemn, yet joyful, occasion by wearing the vestments from St. Catherine’s canonization. They planned the blessing for Sunday, May 3, right before the Shrine’s Carillon would join the rest of Pennsylvania’s houses of worship in ringing their bells to show thanks to the frontline healthcare workers for their dedication during the pandemic.
Their timing couldn’t have been more profound. As our Blessed Mother’s statue stood below the Japanese Maple, she was enrobed with the Vincentians’ love and devotion while the melodious bells permeated the sky. And our Mother has rewarded the priests and brothers with her peaceful presence. “This spot really nurtures us,” Fr. Lyons states, adding that many of the Vincentians stroll to her statue to pray their rosary, reflect, or just sit and be with our Mother.
May Altars for Mary
In celebrating May as the month of Mary, the Vincentian Priests of the Eastern Province blessed a Marian statue in the seminary courtyard on Sunday, May 3. Following the ceremony, the Shrine bells tolled in unison with the Archdiocese to honor and salute those serving on the pandemic front line.
Thank you to all who shared your home May Altars with us to honor Mary throughout the month of May. They are beautiful, reverent, decorative and inspirational. It’s not too late to create your own personal Marian adoration and share with your fellow devotees. Send us your photos via email to email@example.com or post on our Facebook page @miraculousmedalshrinepa. Here are some of the altar photos submitted.
Whether an indoor or outdoor one, you can bring Mary to your home and honor her with your ‘daily devotion.’ “You have the power to bring the Blessed Mother really close,” Fr. Lyons exclaims. “There’s a child-like quality to having a Marian Altar. Everyone can do this.” Just mix this lockdown with your family’s history, your creativity, and your love for Mary. The results will surprise you. As Fr. Lyons claims, “She is a bright light during difficult times.”
While supplies last, we’ll mail you a free altar for the cost of shipping and handling (available only in the U.S.)
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