Brother André had, like many people still today, his share of misery and misfortune. Orphaned by father and mother at the age of 12, sickly and uneducated, he had to work hard to earn his living and make his way. But he wasn’t destitute for all that.
One day I was visiting an old friend of mine. Long before I met her – when she was a mother of eight children and pregnant with a ninth – she lost her husband in a car accident. She was distraught and threw herself at the foot of her crucifix, begging, “Lord, don’t let me down! “At over 85 years of age, Alice was testifying to me that the Lord had never abandoned her. She told me, “You know, even though I live alone in my house, I am not afraid. In fact, I am never alone. The Lord is there, I feel Him very present at my side and with Him I am never worried about what may happen.” Her heart was full of hope and serenity about the future.
One day, Jesus led the apostles up a high mountain and he was transfigured in their presence. A voice was heard, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” The apostles felt within them such strength that they eagerly descended the mountain, ready to follow Jesus, putting their trust in him in their everyday life. They had understood the import of “Listen to the Father’s beloved Son.”
The month of May makes me recall a beautiful memory I have from my childhood — a hymn: Tis the month of Mary, the loveliest month; to the Dearest of Virgins let us sing a new song. In many homes, a statue, a picture, a rosary evokes her presence. Let us call upon her motherly protection, given the human drama we are presently experiencing.
Mary in the midst of our sorrow. Mary in the midst of our current preoccupations. A discreet presence, yet how reassuring and beneficial. Just as on the road leading to Calvary, the presence and the gaze of Mary gives us the stamina not to flail about despairingly in the face of the terrors of COVID 19. Mary’s gaze illumines and transforms every Way of the Cross into a Way of Hope, Resurrection, and Life.
“’Tis the month of our Mo-ther; the bless-ed and beau-ti-ful days.” When I was a child I often sang this well-known hymn with my family and neighbors on Collines Lane in the little village of Brébeuf where I was born.
Every evening during the month of May, we gathered around the Cross by the roadside with the neighbors to pray to Mary.
We recited the rosary, sang hymns, made prayer intentions, and had a good time together.
It was on May 13 1917, while they were tending a flock of sheep and goats, that three children aged ten, nine, and seven, saw a lady above an oak tree. The lady, they said, was clothed in light brighter than the sun, yet whose rays did not dazzle, but were rather soothing to the eyes and imparted a sort of serenity. It was difficult to describe because they had never experienced anything like it before. These three little sheepherders were named Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta.
Dear friends, well before the pandemic, the people that are now called guardian angels were already embodied in home caregivers, many of whom have taken Saint Brother André as their patron. Following him, home caregivers know that no matter what the ordeal we experience now, life cannot overmaster hope… when you want to believe. Believing is like an immense Yes to life.
“Behold, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:1,2)
That is how Lent begins.
But, is it an “acceptable” time when we are struck down by catastrophe, anxiety, or doubt? When a pandemic hits the entire world, we can recognize at what point we become vulnerable and unsteady about that which we cannot control. The power of nature seems stronger than the power of science. Sometimes, there is panic. Fear presses us towards someone or something which can bring a feeling of security to our lives.