March 18, 2018

This past week I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Jesuit Novitiate in Los Angeles. I have a close friend who ministers at the Novitiate and I try to make it down to see him once or twice a year.

I always enjoy being in that place as it provides me time with my friend, time to get to know a new class of Jesuit novices, and especially because it allows some down time in the midst of a community of prayer.

One of the regular parts of every day is a long, leisurely and prayerful walk through Holy Cross Cemetery which is just up the street. My walk provides me an opportunity to pray the rosary in a more leisurely way than I do in day to day life at home. Although, I must admit, each time I come to the Novitiate and am nourished by more extended time for prayer, I make a commitment to myself to try harder when I get home to set aside this kind of extended time.

I have written in these columns during this season of Lent how fundamental the Lenten discipline of prayer is for us. I know this is true in my personal life, and it is true, as I wrote last week, in our shared life of worship, especially Sunday Mass.

Throughout the history of the Church, various devotions have fed the life of personal prayer. One of the best loved devotions is that of the rosary. To focus on the life of Jesus, through the experience of the Blessed Virgin Mary, can lead us deeper and deeper into the life of our Savior. Mary shows us the way to Jesus. Mary shows us how, from the very first moment of her conception, to be a follower of the Lord.

One of the best things about praying the rosary in Holy Cross Cemetery are the many statues of the Blessed Virgin that are spread throughout the huge property of this holy place. I typically walk through only a small portion of the cemetery. But in that one section there are four beautiful statues of the Blessed Virgin.

The first one I come to is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego. The second is a statue of the Madonna with Child. The third is a beautiful Pieta, with Mary holding the lifeless body of her son. I often linger a little longer here. Finally, at the end of my little daily pilgrimage is a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette. These two statues are situated in a grotto above a beautiful little pond (where I have made friends with two turtles over the years). This restful time with the Blessed Virgin, always calls me to a deeper relationship with her son, and invites me into the discipleship that she models so perfectly.

About a week before I went to L.A., in a decree dated February 11, and made public on March 3, Pope Francis designated the Monday after Pentecost as a new Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. This memorial will be celebrated throughout the Universal Church every year and will highlight another dimension of Mary’s presence in our life of faith. We will hear from St. John’s Gospel on Good Friday how the Lord Jesus entrusts the Beloved Disciple to his Mother, and his Mother to the Beloved Disciple. This mutual giving assured the presence of the Blessed Virgin in the community of disciples and the Church that would emerge at Pentecost.

During these last days of Lent, may Mary, the Mother of the Church, help us all to linger in prayer, and draw us all deeper into the mystery we will celebrate at Easter.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni