I didn’t mean to get involved. I was there as a photographer, and to do the job properly I need to be an observer, not a participant. I need to concentrate on the best angle and ensuring that the focus is sharp, without being distracted by the event I’m documenting.
But Saturday at the May crowning at St. Florence Mission in Huntsville my professional objectivity went out the window. The event started with Mass, at which I actually did participate, listening to the homily, trying to feel in full communion with my fellow worshipers, praying that I would be open to the Spirit moving in my life. That, I suspect, was my mistake, because God took up my invitation.
I found that out right after Mass, when I shifted into photographer mode. In the Marian grotto outside the church I stationed myself, camera in hand, at a strategic angle so that I could get a good photo of the kids as they placed flowers in front of the statue of Our Lady. The event began as planned, but then came this little blond girl, maybe 4 years old, who, with a beautiful smile, handed me her white carnation instead of putting into the vase. For a moment I held onto it, but I knew the gift wasn’t meant for me, so when the child turned again to me I gave it back. She accepted the flower with another smile, and placed it at Our Lady’s feet.
Watching her, I realized I had brought nothing that day for the Blessed Mother, and this prayer came completely unbidden into my mind: “Hail Mary, I’m here for work. Holy Mother, I have no flower. Blessed are you. Please pray for me as well as these children now and after the flowers fade.”
In his homily during the Mass that preceded the May crowning, Fr. Joseph Minuth pointed out that the day was not only the beginning of a month dedicated to Our Lady, but also the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. For some reason, that prompted me to attend that evening’s anniversary celebration at St. Joseph’s namesake parish in West Jordan. I went as a participant, not for work; another of our reporters was scheduled to cover the event.
In his homily at the anniversary Mass, Bishop Oscar A. Solis said that “God always provides us the opportunity to reflect on our life and our relationship with him” – words that reminded me of the incident of the little girl and her white carnation.
A few hours after that Mass, I watched Pope Francis open the month-long global rosary to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, and I realized I’d spent the day with the Holy Family. We appeal to Mary for her intercession with her son, whose foster father placed himself “at the service of the entire plan of salvation,” as St. John Chrysostom said. I’d honored Our Lady at the May crowning, and St. Joseph at the anniversary Mass, and of course through the two Eucharistic celebrations offered latria, the supreme worship reserved to God alone. I felt that day that for once I’d been fully Christian; as Bishop Solis said in his homily, “Christianity, as Christ taught us, is not simply about observing and keeping the commandments and laws, but it is about communion and our relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ and with one another.” Christ is found, he said, through personal and communal prayers, the reception of the sacraments, reflection on the Word of God, and in works of charity toward those in need.
I had done all that, and so when I closed my eyes I felt a touch of the peace the world cannot give.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic. Reach her at email@example.com.