Pope Francis prays before the Virgin
of the Gate or La Puerta
The Pope is in Peru, it is the feast day of Our Lady of the Miracle, and the feast of St. Sebastian ...
I've been following the Holy Father on television - I love seeing him interact with people. I noted a photo of one of the Mass celebration which appeared to be sparsely attended - I'm not sure if it was an aerial view after the event, before, or during. From chatter online I believe it was meant to demonstrate that the Holy Father is not 'popular'. It doesn't matter at all to me, nor to those who are following the Pope - they seem overjoyed to meet him.
Liturgically today is the feast of St. Sebastian and the first reading today is about the death of Saul and Johnathan, and the love expressed by David for Johnathan when he said, "... more precious have I held love for you than love for women." Both the cult of S. Sebastian and the friendship of David and Johnathan have been embraced by gay people as signifying same sex love and eroticism. Which makes today a sort of gay feast day, I suppose. I'm against it. It's revisionist.
Nevertheless, the friendship of David and Johnathan, loyal and true, is a good, healthy model of friendship. It is edifying. Devotion to S. Sebastian is an example of courage and faith, in the face of martyrdom. As legend has it, he was martyred 'twice' - first left for dead after shot with arrows. Second, after being nursed to health, he continued his witness and was bludgeoned to death. To be devoted to him based upon how he is depicted in art has nothing to do with his heroic witness and virtue, and is simply vain and fleeting. Just as much as the sentimentalizing of the friendship of David and Johnathan. Today we limit ourselves by such self indulgent interpretations, and we tie up all these loose threads into a tapestry of knots.
Which brings me to Our Lady of the Miracle - Our Lady of Light.
Above is shown a commemorative holy card of the Madonna of the Miracle in the basilica of San Andrea del Fratte in Rome.The Madonna is depicted in the manner she appeared to Alphonse Ratisbonne, an athiest Jew who was converted by the vision of Our Lady, after wearing the Miraculous Medal given to him by a friend, who also prayed for his conversion. (Ratisbonne agreed to wear it to prove to his friend such things were superstitious, although he also agreed to recite the Memorare each day as well, he did not believe.) Within minutes, during the apparition he instantly understood all the truths of the Catholic faith. "Our Lady presented to him the glories of the Faith and instantly educated him in its sacred truths. Ratisbonne stated:
"It is well known that I never opened a religious book and had never read a page of the Bible, and that the dogma of Original Sin, which it is either denied or forgotten by modern Jews, had never for a single moment occupied my thoughts—indeed, I doubt I had ever heard its name. How did I arrive at a knowledge of it? I know not. All I know is that when I entered that church I was profoundly ignorant of everything, and that when I came out I saw everything clearly and distinctly."
On my very first trip to Rome, as soon as I dropped my bags in my room, I wandered alone, a block away from the hotel, and entered S. Andrea through the exact same entrance Ratisbonne used, and entering, I saw the magnificent portrait of Our Lady, splendidly lighted, and I knelt in prayer. It was almost like experiencing a vision myself. Then Mass began, and I was able to receive Communion - my first night in Rome.
Today is Our Lady's feast day. Be sure to wear her medal and cling to her devoutly. She not only teaches us everything, she corrects our conscience, she sees to our every need, untying every knot, removing every obstacle to our salvation. She never refuses to come to the aid of those who ask her - she is a Mother who never ceases to help all of her children, because she is always moved by the loving kindness burning in her Immaculate Heart.
St. Sebastian, pray for us.