It’s been a fun summer. I’ve been able to spend much more time teaching and interacting with parishioners and youth from local schools and parishes. This has given me the opportunity to hear funny stories, family histories, and future dreams from many people living outside the immediate confines of the seminary. I hope that the longer I stay here the beautiful brushstrokes created by each person I meet continue to paint a more complete picture of the cultural complexity that is Vietnam.
Now, a new school year is beginning at the school of theology. The Brothers recently returned from their seasonal assignments at various parishes around the country. I heard reports that for a few months a statue of Mary had been weeping blood in a poor rural farming village in the south. The Brother that was assigned to that particular parish is one of my closer friends in the community and we often joke. As I headed of out of church after Mass, I caught a glimpse of him for the first time since he’d been back:
“Ah *clicking my tongue and shaking my head in disapproval*, what did you do to make Our Mother cry?!”, I jested.
He replied sullenly and without hesitation, “No. Me, you, all of us. All of us make her cry.”
*What a wise reply*, I thought.
I reached out to shake his hand and said in agreement, “It’s true. Me, you, all of us.”
As he shook my hand he said. “You don’t know what it’s like to see those tears. I can’t explain the feeling. Seeing that changed something inside me.” He was serious when recalling that memory, quite unlike his jovial, care-free self.
I told someone back home this story and they asked, “What does that mean?”
Maybe this is a better way to explain. Perhaps, the most well-known case of a weeping statue of Mary happened in October of 1973 in Akita, Japan. A nun at the convent where this was occurring, Sister Sasagawa, received the following message from Mary:
“The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them.”
Mary is a mother. The Mother of God, but also the Mother of us all. She cries for each soul, each child that is lost. The pains of losing a child in this life must be devastating. There are no words to properly express condolences. I cannot even begin to imagine what grief those parents go through every day. However, I do have faith. The faith that that one day that child and those parents will be reunited in heaven. But, to lose a child for eternity with no hope of reunion, well that suffering is infinitely more incomprehensible. This is why Mary sheds tears of blood. For the pain caused by the careless (and not so careless) sins of each one of us. We must turn from evil and do good while there is still time for reparation.
But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8.
While the Brothers have been preparing for classes I’ve had some additional free time to download and devour a number of great books on Kindle. I was especially inspired and impressed with, The Shed that Fed a Million Children, by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow. It’s the story of Mary’s Meals, God’s Providence, and the tremendous transformation tiny tangible acts of love can make in the lives of others. If you have the time I highly recommend the read, but if you’d like the cliff notes a link to a video showing a brief overview of their work is below:
Maybe you’ll feel compelled to learn more about their mission, get involved in a volunteer effort, or make a monetary donation ($19.50 feeds one child for a whole year).
Let’s pray that our lives are measured in smiles, not tears.