The Most Holy Name of Mary (Optional Memorial)
First Reading: Sirach 24:17-21
Like a vine I caused loveliness to bud, and my blossoms became glorious and abundant fruit. Come to me, you who desire me, and eat your fill of my produce. For the remembrance of me is sweeter than honey, and my inheritance sweeter than the honeycomb. Those who eat me will hunger for more, and those who drink me will thirst for more.
Responsorial Psalm: Luke 1:46-50, 53-54
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy."
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
I awoke to the sound of rain falling upon the tent. I was freezing. The weather had disturbed my night’s sleep.
The prior day I had spent trekking over 20 miles on a pilgrimage. Not easy for a person who is lucky to get two miles in on a given day.
Pilgrimages are hard. They are meant to give us a glimpse of life’s struggles—the road of sanctity. They are a time taken apart to put us in closer touch with our Creator, as a time to think about and converse with Him. And the suffering reminds us to rely on Him, to seek His help in our lives when times are tough.
I awoke that second morning feeling sicker than ever before. I’ve battled with a chronic case of mononucleosis since I was thirteen. It rears its ugly head in the perfect storm—exhaustion, stress, and lack of sleep—and I had hit that storm squarely in the face.
The first leg that morning, every step felt like a hundred. My whole body was like lead. As hard as the walking had been before, it now seemed impossible.
After a 20 minute rest, I couldn’t get up. Our chaplain sent me to the children’s bus (they rode part of the journey). Somehow I made it there, rode to the midday Mass, but then it was time to walk again.
I just couldn’t.
I had fallen asleep hard and was shaking from exhaustion, but even the doctor was in denial about my condition. I kept asking to be placed on a vehicle going to Chartres because I just couldn’t walk another step.
But no one was listening (or no one understood).
I felt I would never get through this, never make it to the cathedral. This arduous pilgrimage now seemed insurmountable.
I prayed and prayed for assistance.
At the eleventh hour, He rescued me: an American reporter (who was much better with his French than I) was waiting with his elderly mother who had a private van ride straight to Chartres. He explained my situation to the driver and I was able to hitch a ride too.
I barely remember arriving in town, finding the familiar hotel, booking a room, and falling fast asleep. I awoke the next day after almost 24 hours of sleep, right before the pilgrims began making their final steps into the cathedral. I prayed with deep gratitude as I watched the them trudge in. My pilgrimage had been different than how I envisioned, but I, too, had made it.
Later that day, I walked into the quiet cathedral. I made my way to the simple stained glass window depicting the Annunciation—the words of Gabriel to Mary coming to mind: “For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37).
Never doubt that He will carry you through. Have faith without reservation because in Him all things are possible.
Laurel Muff is a creator and appreciator of beautiful things. She resides with her husband and daughters in Northern California. You can find more about her here.