Did you say "anniversary"?
We all like anniversaries. We prepare for them a long time ahead, and we never want to neglect them. Look, dear nuns of the Order, at our celebration of your jubilee last year: it became the pretext - an excellent pretext! - for recalling what our specific Dominican vocation has been throughout all the eight hundred years, what makes us live, what our beautiful Dominican family can call its own.
There are many ways of celebrating anniversaries. Often they give us an occasion for re-visiting the past, shaking off for a few moments the dust which photos have collected as the years have passed. But an anniversary is not the time to add one more number to the years, or to count the additional wrinkles that have come with another year. Nor is it a time just to look back with a sigh, telling ourselves that the "good old times" were better times...because that is not clearly true!
A Marian anniversary
For the past seven years I have been living in Toulouse. This year I was especially touched by an anniversary: the 150th year since the apparitions of our Lady to Bernadette at Lourdes. Our convent is less than two hours away from the Marian city, and we gave special attention to all the celebrations going on there during this great jubilee year.
Since the beginning of 2008, Lourdes has been full. On February 11, the anniversary of the first apparition, tens of thousands of pilgrims converged on the Grotto of Massabielle. Dominican Friars from some ten provinces of the Order were present. What could they all have come to look for at this Grotto?
They came joyful and ready to celebrate, certainly. Thanks to God for having given us Mary. Thanks to Mary for deigning to come toward her children at the foot of the mountains, to lead them to God. They came not only to look back at the past, but also, and even more, to go ahead toward Mary. They were on their way "to Jesus through Mary."
And here is where the anniversary had its power: We were at the edge of the Gave, remembering the little Bernadette who crossed the icy current on this very date, the eleventh of February - in 1858. She took off her shoes. She heard a rush of wind, but the trees were not moving. It was at that moment that she saw a beautiful lady. And she was afraid. What did our little Lourdes girl do then? Her hand moved instinctively to her pocket and she took hold of her rosary. It was a spontaneous movement. The Rosary is "anti-fear"!
The Rosary, an aid against fear
Our societies are deeply marked by fear. The nonchalance we sometimes show scarcely hides our real terror in the face of death -- the death we wish neither to see nor to name, the face of the suffering that we do not wish to encounter. Especially in the western world, incessant attacks against the family and against life are weakening the social fabric. The young are not serene as they face the future. Fear seems to lead the world: fear of oneself, fear of others, fear of the devil, sometimes also fear of God.
So we can profit from the anniversary of the apparitions of the holy Virgin Mary at Lourdes, as well as from the anniversary of our Order, by looking toward this little saint -- the smallest God could find. We can learn from her example about how to conduct ourselves, and that can be summed up in these words: in the hands of every Christian, a rosary! Every Christian should have a rosary in his/her pocket, so that it can be grasped when we are dominated by fear. Grasping her rosary was what Bernadette did. Why not we too?
If the rosary banishes fear, it is not because it is like a charm or an amulet but because it is a bond linking us to the good God. It is a sweet chain which keeps us in the hands of the Virgin Mary as she surrounds us with her solicitude. Mary had many reasons to be afraid; yet she was not afraid, because she lived the Gospel fully. Mary knows very well that real love drives out fear and is stronger than death.
In the hands of every Christian, a Rosary!
A conviction was born beside the Gave, at the grotto of Massabielle, on February 11th in 2008: every Christian must be given the means to live the prayer which pleases Our Lady so much. Besides, did she not herself appear with her rosary at Fatima and at Lourdes?
This conviction was re-enforced some days later during a tour of the Holy Land, the land of the Rosary! A land where fear causes impenetrable walls to be built, concrete walls, walls of hate and of incomprehension, walls which entrap hearts in a desire for vengeance.
This is how two projects met -- that of a friar who wants to put into everyone's hands (and hearts!) the prayer which has been confided to our Order, and that of Dominican Sisters International who have bought more than two hundred thousand rosaries to circulate throughout the world so that Christians of the Holy Land may live.
A meeting of two projects. A meeting of two dreams.
We commend all this to your prayers, dear nuns, our sisters.
Pray that the two projects may mature, that the dreams may grow ....and we will tell you more about them in the Fall.
Ask that the prayer of the holy Rosary may always be known and loved, beginning in our monasteries!
Pray that Christians in the Land of the Rosary, the land of Christ and of Mary may live!