Mary, God’s most beautiful rose, is example of faith for all to follow

Attendance at this summer’s Mass of Thanksgiving at ‘Grasshopper Chapel’ was testament to the important place it holds in the spiritual heritage and Marian devotion of Catholics in Stearns County

Sadly, no one asked me a liturgical question via my mailbox or inbox this past month, so I offer you my homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving at the “Grasshopper Chapel” on the lovely evening of July 24.

Nearly 100 people participated in this Mass celebrating this summer’s novena of rosary and Mass on Thursday evenings and also 25 years of this tradition.

This was testimony to its important place in the spiritual heritage and Marian devotion of Catholics in Stearns County. The Mass prayers were for “Mary, Cause of Our Joy” from the “Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The Scripture readings were Isaiah 36:9-11 (I exult for joy in the Lord); responsorial psalm: Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 (Mary’s “Magnificat”); Luke 1:39-47 (the Visitation).

Here’s the homily:

“It is high summer, and our flower gardens are shouting for joy, especially the rose bushes. Unlike the proud iris — one of my favorites —roses share their color and fragrance with us all summer long. They are some of God’s best poetry.

“In the spiritual realm, God did not give up on gardening after what happened in Eden. For many centuries before Christ, God had been preparing a rose garden much greater than the one at the White House. It was planted by God’s desire to form a people of God’s own, one that would know, love and serve God, and it was watered and nourished by God’s grace and favor.

“Through the preaching of the prophets, God had been preparing the hearts of the chosen people for the appearance of a very special rose: Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. She was the finest flower of those poor ones, humble and holy, who placed their hope in God alone, not in human resources.

“Mary was God’s best, most beautiful rose, a ‘mystical rose,’ as we name her in her litany. She was the one in whom justice and praise sprang up, as the prophet Isaiah foretold in our first reading. And, God made Mary the most glorious rose in God’s garden, to be seen as one most blessed by God. That is why God, as it were, singled her out, placed her in the crystal vase of the church’s liturgy, so that we could admire her beauty and purity and holiness, God’s work in her that makes her renowned in every age.

“That is what Mary sang about in her Magnificat, her song of praise. But Mary also knew great sorrow, and so St. Bridget of Sweden could write of her: “this blessed rose … bore so stout a heart that however sharply the thorns of tribulation might have pierced her they could not change her in any way, for she remained always most ready to suffer and to do the will of God.”

“Today, as we celebrate this Mass of thanksgiving for 25 years of the annual novena in this holy place, we rejoice in the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we ask her to help us rejoice in God, our Savior, both now and for ever. Amen.”