So many ways of honoring Mary at the Woods
Editor’s note: A version of the following reflection was offered during Vespers Service celebrating the annual May Crowning in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, May 14, 2023.
In Mary’s Magnificat recorded in Luke 1:47-48 she declares to her cousin Elizabeth:
“Oh, how my soul praises the Holy One.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For God took notice of this lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.”
Why are you hearing this today?
Mary’s own words in her Magnificat provide some answer: “from now on all generations will call me blessed.” We gather precisely because we are part of the present generation who wishes to call her blessed.
Saint Mother Theodore and Mary
And we stand on the shoulders of countless other Sisters of Providence who have praised Mary. Beginning with our Mother Theodore Guerin, who wrote in 1840:
“Returning to the moment in which we entered the chapel: having prayed, wept, and thanked Almighty God for past favors and begged his assistance for the future. Having prayed for you, dear Sisters, and for you all, dear friends and benefactors in France, and having placed ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we went to embrace the postulants who were awaiting us.
Her first words on Indiana soil were in praise of Mary. Three years later in 1843 she returned to France seeking funds. It was the Queen who came to their aid with much tenderness and kindness. Mother Theodore’s response? She wrote in her Journal …
“My heart full of gratitude, longed to go to the sanctuary of Mary Immaculate to thank her for having granted this day of consolation to us. Happy to be free, we went straightway to the church of Our Lady of Victory, to pour out our hearts in tears of joy in the presence of our heavenly Protector and Mother.
Shrines and statues
Seventeen years later, in 1860, the Congregation erected the first Our Lady of Lourdes shrine on north campus, the first of several Marian shrines. The Congregation built many more through the ensuing years. They commissioned the statue of Our Lady of the Campus, erected in 1904. As if to provide an exclamation point about whose Woods these are, it towers over Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Mother Theodore’s words much earlier could well be our prayer today as we gaze on it. “O Mary, protect your children of the Woods! Protect thy house of the Woods …We owe you everything! Everything!”
Calling Mary blessed
This brief trip through some of our Marian history captures only the tip pf the iceberg. Marian shrines are now throughout the campus. Countless rosaries have been offered here individually and communally through generations of sisters. For years the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary was sung solemnly before Sunday’s High Mass. And I haven’t even touched on devotion to Our Lady of Providence. Or the many special Marian feasts we celebrate each year. Or the countless images of Mary, be they paintings, statues or stained-glass windows. And now, this month, we celebrate our annual May Crowning praising Mary. We add yet another way to honor her life in the life of our Congregation.
Indeed, we are part of all the generations that call Mary blessed!
Please comment and share below your experience of “… all generations will call me blessed.”