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Featured Article: Let the Children Come to Me: How We Saved Our Catholic School - It was September 2007. I was three years into my pastorate at the historic St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Washington. Our school had just received its notice of termination: with 175 students, it would close in June 2008 along with seven other parish schools serving predominantly African American students. Flash forward nine years. We did not close but are still here today alive and well! Read Full Story

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SON, THEY HAVE NO WINE!
Reflections on the Importance of Devotion to Mary

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There is a growing trend in some Catholic institutions/communities that should be a cause for alarm to anyone entrusted with the care of souls and particularly with the spiritual formation of the youth. This trend is the ever lessening focus on the role of Mary in the faith journey of the disciples of Jesus. Traditional Marian prayers and devotions too frequently become the exclusive domain of the elders of the community who were formed in a different generation, as if the younger members of the faith community had no need to develop an intimate relationship with the Mother of Jesus. Consequently, the benefits of Marian devotion are lost to those who, often through no fault of their own, simply don't know Our Lady well enough and don't hear about her often enough to appreciate the richness she can bring to their relationship with her son.

Whereas this lack of Marian devotion used to be a primary characteristic of Protestant Christians, whose architects purposely minimized and in some cases rejected the role of Mary based on their own theological and liturgical reconstruction of Christian faith and worship, it now sadly characterizes many communities that identify themselves as Catholic and for some reason or other have simply cast Mary to the side. Usually this has not been done with great fanfare, or even animosity, it has been generally been done through inattention and neglect, or misguided cultural emphasis.

One hears phrases such as "I am not 'in' to Mary," or "The rosary is not my thing." Some go so far as to say that Marian devotions are "Eurocentric" and not suitable for Catholics of African descent, or at least not for African-American Catholics. This, of course, is absurd since Marian devotion in the Church has its origins not in Western Europe, but in the ancient Churches of the east, e.g. Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, and Jerusalem, to name a few. The Church of Rome was an integral part of the affairs of the ancient Churches and was recognized as the Mother of all Churches, but the entire ancient Church embraced the Mother of Jesus in obedience to him, "Son behold your Mother," and in imitation of the beloved disciple who "took her into his own home" (Jn 19:27).

It is true that many of the more popular Marian devotions that have been handed down to us in recent generations have been marked by a western stamp, but it is also interesting that some of the most powerful expressions of these devotions today can be found in non-western cultures, particularly in the Catholic cultures of Africa and Asia. The trans-cultural dimension of these devotions continues to shape the faith experience of Catholics around the globe; so much can still be said in support of fostering them.

It is important to understand why devotion to Mary is so important, for lack of knowledge often leads to these unhappy circumstances described above. One way to approach this is to look to Sacred Scripture to see what can be learned about the role of Mary in the life of Jesus and how her role is continued in the life of his disciples in the Church. One very beautiful and illuminative event in Scripture is found in the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 2, verses 1- 12, the Wedding Feast at Cana.

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."

Weddings are huge celebrations in our culture. Think about the time spent in preparing for them. But they were even greater celebrations in Jesus' culture, as can still be seen in other non-western cultures today. The celebration often lasted for two weeks or so. Hence the preparation for these events was more intense. Keep in mind that there was no corner store to run to at the last minute if something was forgotten or overlooked! Guests traveled long distances and had to be fed several times a day for the duration of the celebration. There were no hotels either, maybe an Inn or two, and we know that these frequently had no room!

Jesus, Mary, and the disciples were going to share in the couple's joy, and as often happens something went wrong, they ran out of wine. Is this a big deal? Does it really matter? Place yourselves in the family's situation. Have you ever run out of anything that was expected to be provided? Have you ever been caught in a bind? Move beyond wedding celebrations. Have you ever had the experience of not having what you needed when you needed it, or of not being what you needed to be in order to accomplish a task? I suspect that we have all "run out of wine" in that sense. The experience can be embarrassing or even humiliating. It can cause great hardship to us or to those who depend on us. It can make us feel helpless and abandoned. Running out of wine is a difficult thing indeed and it happened at this feast.

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