17th October 2013
Greetings from Aparecida!
This is now day 4 of the Assembly and we were working in groups this morning and so there is not much to report today.
This afternoon, we visited the great shrine of Our Lady Aparecida. But first we went, by boat, to the place where the statue was found in the river near to where the shrine now stands. In 1717 on 7th October two fishermen were ordered to catch a lot of fish for the visiting Portuguese Governor of the territory. The fishermen caught nothing at the first two attempts, but on the third attempt they caught a broken statue of Our Lady with the head missing. It was 36 cm high and made of terracotta. The next attempt to catch fish rendered the head of the statue, quite some distance away. On the next casting of their net they got an enormous catch of fish which threatened to sink the boat.
One of the fishermen kept the statue in his house for a number of years. Gradually devotion to Our Lady Aparecida grew and graces and favours were received. A shrine was built on high ground not far from the river. Now there is an enormous shrine which has become the national shrine of Brazil.
At Mass in the chapel of Confessions, Fr Flavio spoke about the theology or Mariology of devotion to Mary in the Church. It is not idolatry, as Christ alone is the Redeemer and Saviour of humanity, but Jesus himself gave us Mary as our Mother and as the Mediatrix of His grace. She leads us to Jesus in the Church and helps us in many ways to remain close to Christ in our lives as Christians, religious and priests. Don Orione had great confidence in the tremendous help that Mary can and will give us if we ask her, in every aspect of following Christ our Lord and her Son. Don Orione was confident that those students who had firm devotion to Mary would be good and faithful religious and priests. Fr Flavio told of how young Luigi Orione entered the diocesan seminary of Tortona. His mother accompanied him to the door of the seminary. They were met by Monsignor Daffra, the rector of the seminary, and then left the mother at the door and went to the chapel where Luigi received the cassock and said three “Hail Marys” for perseverance. The rector said to him, “your mother brought you to the door of the seminary. I will now bring you to the altar and ordination. But then your heavenly mother, Marry will lead you through your life faithfully to Heaven”.
It is a tradition in the congregation that we say three “Hail Marys” before going to bed for perseverance and for purity.
I think that we have had a good lesson about Our Lady in our lives from the General Assembly and from Fr Flavio, our superior general.