On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Our Lady of Charity”

Maria Morera Johnson’s new memoir, Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban devotion to Mary helped me grow in faith and love (Ave Maria Press), is a beautiful testament to the ways the patroness of Johnson’s native Cuba helped her grow in faith even after she moved with her family to the US.

This quick read introduces la virgencita — Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba. Johnson traces the history of devotion among Cubans to this depiction of Our Lady, a devotion that has continued within the Cuban-American community to this day.

Johnson found in devotion to la virgencita a connection with her ethnic and spiritual heritage. I particularly enjoyed the chapter “Ermita de la caridad” (Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, in Miami), not because of the description of the shrine itself, but because of the discussion of Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, and the ways in which immersing herself in her ethnic traditions has enriched her.

our lady of charity

I have to admit, this left me more than a little envious of the rich traditions Johnson observed with her family. As an Irish cradle Catholic from the Northeast, I didn’t experience much in the way of that kind of tradition. There was plenty of Marian devotion (my grandmothers had the well-worn rosaries to prove it, and one grandmother prominently displayed a picture of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon in her home) but there really was no food, music, particular devotion, or patron saint we could call our own. I don’t know if that’s an ethnic or geographical phenomenon, or if it’s because the most recent immigrant in my immediate family tree arrived in New York in the 1930s.

But — and this is the point of Johnson’s book, I think — the kind of devotional tradition she describes here nurtures faith. When you look beyond the externals of statues, paintings, rosaries, hymns, and food, there’s a deep tradition of faith that underpins all of it. As Johnson notes in the final chapter, devotion to Mary can lead us to Jesus:

Mary is the first disciple. She brought the Good News of salvation to Elizabeth and then the world! If I’m going to learn all I can about Jesus and how to be a disciple, what better teacher is there than Mary? (100)

I highly recommend Our Lady of Charity. You’ll learn about a beautiful devotion to Our Lady, but more than that, you’ll learn how she can bring you closer to her Son.


Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Advertisements

Inside, She Weeps

There is an image in the Adoration Chapel this week: an artist’s depiction of the Pietá — but unlike Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, this one portrays Mary looking straight ahead as she cradles Jesus in her arms, holding him so that His face is next to hers.

Her eyes are not downcast as she holds her crucified Son. They are wide open, staring back at the beholder, filled with emotion.

But what emotion, exactly?

Defiance? I can imagine that her inner Mama Bear comes into play here. She grasps her Son’s body and looks straight ahead, daring anyone to take Him from her.

Shock? She has just watched her only Son complete his earthly mission, culminating in a death so horrible that no one would wish it on his worst enemy, and she witnessed it all. Is she numb from the shock of it?

Grief? Surely. Those eyes, partially in shadow from the veil that covers her hair, are deep pools of grief and pain. Her heart has, indeed, been pierced.

Strength? No tears are on her face. She is hanging on, not allowing herself to give in to those other emotions, sitting straight and not crumpling to the ground, holding Jesus and not letting go.

She will have to let go soon enough. She will have to allow Joseph of Arimathea to take Jesus’ body from her for a hurried burial before the sun goes down.

But not yet. Not at this moment.

For now, she holds on — to her Son, to her composure. She looks straight ahead.

But inside, she weeps.

"Inside, She Weeps" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com) #MondayBlogs
William-Adolphe Bouguereau [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

#WorthRevisit: Pray the Franciscan Crown Rosary

Since the month of May is a time when we honor the Blessed Mother, I’m looking back at a CatholicMom.com post explaining my favorite Franciscan way to pray the Rosary.

Here’s a how-to for my favorite variation of the Rosary:  the Franciscan Crown.

It’s got that name because, according to legend, the Blessed Mother asked an aspiring Franciscan friar to weave her a crown of prayers.

While the Dominicans are credited with the creation of the Rosary, Franciscans also have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother:

In his devotion to the Mother of Christ, the Franciscan, who is united with and transformed into Christ, makes Mary his own Mother. How can it be otherwise, for it was Mary who begot Christ, and hence it is Mary who has given the True Life to the Franciscan. Mary is our Mother because she is the Mother of the Head of the Mystical Body, of which we are members — she is the one Mother of the One Christ. Thus Francis “embraced the Mother of Jesus with an indescribable love, because she made the Lord of Majesty our brother.”

My favorite "pocket Rosary." Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch!
My favorite “pocket Rosary.” Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch! Get yours at Mary Devotions, an Etsy shop.

The Franciscan Crown is a 7-decade Rosary. If you don’t have a 7-decade set, use your regular Rosary and just backtrack a bit. Unlike the regular Rosary, you start at the medal and end at the cross.

For each decade, pray 1 Our Father, 10 Hail Marys and 1 Gloria.

Here are the meditations for each decade:

  1. The first Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Annunciation. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.” May I become your humble servant, Lord.
  2. The second Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Visitation. “Rising up, Mary went into the hill country and saluted her cousin Elizabeth. Grant us true love of neighbor, Lord.
  3. The third Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Birth of Jesus and the Adoration of the Magi. “She brought forth her first-born son…and laid him in a manger.” Give us true poverty of spirit, Lord.
  4. The fourth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Presentation and Purification. “They carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…as it is written in the law of the Lord.” Help me obey all just laws.
  5. The fifth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. “Not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking him.” May I never lose you through serious sin, Lord.
  6. The sixth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Resurrection of Jesus. “The Lord is not here; He is risen.” May we share your glory, Lord.
  7. The seventh Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at her Assumption into Heaven and her Coronation. “A woman clothed with the sun; upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Mary, may we share your crown of eternal life.
After you have prayed the seven decades, pray two more Hail Marys to make a total of 72–honoring the 72 years of Mary’s life (according to legend). Then, for the intentions of the Holy Father, pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Gloria.
You don’t have to be a Franciscan to pray this beautiful devotion.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!