ITALY, Fr. Rolando G. Montes de Oca Valero •
Being a Pilgrim Mother missionary presupposes allowing her to choose the methods. I expected my brother, Marwan – a Maronite rite priest with whom I know at the University – would return the picture with more “solemnity”. She had visited him the previous week, accompanying him at an important time; he was grateful and was willing to “return the visit.” When he took the Pilgrim Mother books out of his backpack and placed them in my hands, along with a “Thank you very much,” I was surprised. I asked myself concealing my bewilderment: How could someone from the Eastern Rite not choose a more sacred setting?
To offer them something better than a meeting: an experience
The answer came to me from the Blessed Mother herself when Fr. Gintaras, a Lithuanian priest, who is a classmate, recognized her joyfully and said: “Schoenstatt!” Yes, he learned about it in Switzerland, beautiful… Fr. Grzegorz from Poland asked: “Schoenstatt, what is that?…” “Uh, a Marian apostolic movement, a spiritual family of the Church; we seal a covenant of love with the Blessed Mother…uh,” I said as I tried to come up with an answer in the two minutes that we had left before the professor began his class, and I was convinced there was much more to say.
During the next break between classes, I concocted a plan so that the Blessed Mother herself could offer something better than a meeting: an experience.
Thus, little by little, Brazilian, Fr. Rodrigo, Filipino, Fr. Nathaniel, and Colombian, Fr. Edgar, joined in. Then Fr. Gintaras asked if two other Lithuanians could come: the transitional deacon, Elias, and Fr. Andres. The entire plan assumed the name and the challenge of being a “Marian morning.”
She even organized the trip by car
There was still another difficulty: getting to Cor Ecclesiae Shrine without a car is very challenging. Moreover it is even a little dangerous because the street has no sidewalks, it is narrow, and there is a lot of fast moving traffic. So I returned to my incomplete plans and when I told Fr. Eduardo, from the Spanish School, what we were preparing, I commented: “I am thinking that the best thing would be to take a taxi and…” “…No, he interrupted me – if you want, I will take you in my car.” He was also in the “Missionary’s” plans.
On the morning of 5 November, ten communication students from “Holy Cross University” and some other friends departed for the home where the Blessed Mother waited for us. The aesthetic impact was inescapable. “What a beautiful place!…” and the size of the Shrine was also a surprise. Before entering the Shrine, we gathered in a hall that the Sisters of Mary had prepared for us, to share a little about Schoenstatt, the meaning of “another shrine” and to enter into the spirit for encounter.
The Rosary united us
I relived my first steps as I heard the same questions I had made out of the mouths of my brothers. After clearing up any uncertainties, we went into the Shrine, we gave ourselves about fifteen minutes of personal dialogue with the Blessed Mother, and then we took out our rosaries.
A Marian song proper to the places we represented preceded the meditation of each mystery. Although we did not understand the lyrics, the love for Mary, and the welcome that the Blessed Mother gave to her people’s devotion was expressed in an atmosphere full of God’s beauty, which moved the heart.
Then after realizing that there were ten of us, each one prayed a Hail Mary always beginning in his native tongue, and we ended together in Italian. At the end, we offered the capital of grace that we had prepared during the week, and we closed this moment of grace with the consecration prayer.
A priestly community gathered around the Blessed Mother
Since we still had some time, we sat to share the experience of what the Mother of the Lord had worked in our lives. What richness and diversity! At that moment, Fr. Valentíno, a Uruguayan from the Latin American Pius School, joined us. He sealed the covenant of love; he goes on pilgrimage to the Shrine every Saturday. A priestly community gathered around the Blessed Mother, sharing the invaluable richness of their own experience: some, like Elizabeth came to Jesus because Mary visited us. Others like John, learned about Mary because Jesus gave her to him, and then they remained together forever, but everyone recognized that it is impossible today to continue to be loyal to the Lord without the friendly hand of our Mother and Educator.
I was mistaken once again when I thought that our “Marian morning” had ended with the pizza, brotherly time, along with the joy and laughter that took place afterwards. But no, awhile after the farewell, Fr. Rodrigo sent me a Whatsapp: “Thank you for today, my heart is filled with Mary’s presence…” In another message, Fr. Grzegorz said, “Thank you…this encounter was a good idea…” Nathaniel and Gíntaras saw me two days later at the University and they expressed gratitude, while someone else suggested: we should do it again… I think that our “Marian morning” hasn’t ended at all; I will let her have the last word.