When the Passionists came to New York City in 1924 they looked to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to guide their new foundation. Signs of her are prominent here. A statue stands outside the front door of our church. She’s there at the front door of our monastery.
The great window in the back of our church honors Mary, flanked by St. Catherine Laboure and St. Bernadette, in the mystery of her Immaculate Conception, the title of our parish and monastery.
When Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1850 and St. Bernadette at Lourdes in 1858, she brought a gift to their troubled age, an age battered by the skepticism of the Enlightenment, the anti-religious activity of the French Revolution and by the threat to human dignity that came from the Industrial Revolution.
Free from original sin, Mary brought the wisdom of God which she gained from her Son, Jesus Christ, to that world. Her message was that God “scatters the proud and lifts up the lowly.” God’s wisdom is greater than the wisdom of this world.
In the 1950s retreatants from our monastery retreat house memorialized Mary’s appearance at Lourdes by building a beautiful grotto in her honor in our garden. “All generations will call me blessed,” Mary said. The generation of the 50s and 60s, facing the threat of continuing wars and nuclear destruction looked to Mary’s appearance to Catherine Laboure and Bernadette as a sign that God is still with us.
Today, next to our Lourdes grotto, we have a sign of Mary’s presence to our generation, a generation facing the threat of climate change– a Mary Garden, which we blessed on September 23, 2018
Mary Gardens originated in Europe following the Black Death, a pandemic that caused millions to die in Europe in the 14th century. Mary Gardens, begun in monasteries and churches, reminded people that God brings life, not death, from the earth.
Recalling the Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis, the Mary Garden with flowers, medicinal herbs and edible plants reminds us of the beauty, healing and nourishment we have in God’s gift of the earth. Mary stands in the midst of the garden, promising life and hope. “Make us worthy of the promises of Christ,” we ask her.
Today we’re threatened by climate change. Our earth is changing. We only have to look out the window to see something is happening to our environment..
Pope Francis in his letter “Laudato Sī” pleaded with the world to hear the cries of our sister, the earth, “ because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” (LS 1)
Our Mary Garden is a reminder to love and care for the earth. It can teach our generation God’s way of caring for this precious gift. We’re asking Mary to take her place among us, as she always does, and teach us the wisdom of God.
Come and see our garden.
Victor Hoagland, CP
Here are some pictures from the blessing, September 23, 2018.