September comes softly; for some of us maybe with a glistening tear because that is what beauty can do. Lyrics from the musical “The Fantasticks” come to mind: “Try to remember the days of September when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow.” How can we look into all this golden beauty and not be drawn to honor Mary, our Mother? We can never seem to find the precise words in any language that can fully describe the beauty of Mary’s presence to us.
Artists and poets in every age and place have tried to paint her image in oils, watercolors, words, and symbols. Each new generation creates paintings or sculptures or prayers or poems for the world to see. Then too, there are ancient psalms and music that are forever new. All these efforts reflect an attitude of loving prayer that is truly contemplative.
Can we bring together in contemplation the golden beauty of September with the treasure that is Mary for our prayer today? Perhaps, connecting the thought of St. Augustine who called Beauty, “ever ancient, ever new,” with the Litany of Loreto can help us in our own reflections of Mary as our model, guide, and Mother. Scores of people who have walked before us have sung the titles of Mary contained in the Litany of Loreto. We also invoke them today in response to the needs of our world, which is filled with so much uncertainty and trepidation.
The Litany of Loreto takes its name from the Marian shrine in Loreto, Italy, where it is believed to date back to the early 1500s. Officially affirmed in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V, over the years new invocations have been added. For example, Pope John Paul II added, “Mother of the Church” and “Queen of Families.” Pope Francis has added 3 more: “Mother of Mercy,” “Mother of Hope,” and “Solace of Migrants.”
With this awareness of the Litany of Loreto as an expanding and inclusive prayer, we return to our theme of praying the Litany as an interactive, contemplative prayer. We are not introducing something new. Rather, we are in communion with those who have praised God for centuries, while filled with gratitude for the blessings in our time.
The trees here in Sparkill are magnificent in all seasons but the golden shadows they cast in September are part of the glow of Mary, our Mother. Contemplation means taking a long, loving look at the real. We can rest our hearts in that golden glow and the prayers of the Litany will flow from us like a running stream to a world thirsting for beauty.
Let yourself rest in beauty…where does it take you?
– Sister Bridget Kiniry, OP
A resident of Dominican Convent, Sister Bridget is a preacher and
coordinator of the Days for Girls program there.