Tuesday, October 4, 2011

There is something about Mary

For the past two weeks here in Catholic Peekskill, we’ve had a very special visitor in our midst—La Virgen de El Cisne, Our Lady of the Swan!
Pilgrims kneel at the feet of the Virgen de El Cisne at the Peekskill Riverfront
She travelled here from Loja, Ecuador accompanied by two priests, Fathers Jose Gustavo Diaz and Damian Vargas, who have been her companions as she visits various Churches throughout the tri-state area, while making her home-base here at Assumption Church.  For many of our Ecuadorean parishioners, seeing Our Lady here has brought them a touch of home.  She is a travelling version -- an exact replica -- of  the original image that revernced in the Basilica the Virgin of Cisne in the small village of El Cisne, in the province of Loja. 
This is a photo I took in 2008 of the original image found in the Basilica in Ecuador
In 1594, there was a devastating drought in the province.  To make matters worse, Loja was also overrun with a plague of rats that ate what little food was left.  In their desperation, peasants of the town decided they would have no choice but to leave their homes in order to survive.  As they prepared to leave they prayed to Our Lady one last time, begging her for an end to the drought but, also begging her protection if they must flee.  Soon afterward, the Virgin appeared to teenage girl instructing the villagers not to leave but to build a Church and practice their faith and, she, in turn, would never allow them to hunger.  Rains came, ending the drought and restoring the earth.  From that day forward, La Virgen de El Cisne became known as the patroness of the province of Loja and the patroness of all those in exile. 
Here I am (with Deacon Carlos Campoverde) celebrating Mass in the Basilica in Ecuador in 2008, the statue is above. 
Patroness of all those in exile.  We are so often a “people in exile” aren’t  we?  No, we may never have to flee our homeland but, we know all too well the pain of isolation, the pain of alienation, the pain of loneliness…the pain of exile.   This pain, this desolation, is often a byproduct of our modern age leaving us to feel orphaned and very much alone.   
How beautiful it is, then ,that the Church gives us a spiritual mother in Mary to lead us out of exile.  God, in his infinite Wisdom, knew His children, knew of their need for a Mother to guide them, to protect them, to love them.
October, the Month of the Holy Rosary, is a great time to come to know Mary better.  Maybe it’s been awhile but,  fear not, dust off those beautiful beads and pray…(check out this link for a guide on how to say the Rosary http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/rosary/how_to.htm ).   Spend some time with your beautiful Mother who is always reaching out to you.  She longs for you to know her better, she longs for you to love her more.  She longs to lead you out of exile and, into her loving embrace!

The Virgin of El Cisne at Assumption Church
 This beautiful image of the Virgin of El Cisne will stay in our Church until the night of October 10, 2011 -- Columbus Day. Closing Mass in Spanish will be at 7:30 PM.