Marian Encounter brings peace and harmony

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(To read this article in Spanish, click here.)

The Virgin Mary was celebrated at a diocesan Marian encounter, "Preparation for the Reign of Jesus Christ," June 28. The bilingual event - organized by the diocesan Legion of Mary, the Legion of Mary of the Archdiocese of Washington and the staff and ministries of St. Antony of Padua Church in Falls Church-drew more than 1,200 parishioners to the fields of St. Anthony for the outdoor celebration.

The goal of the encounter was to "find Jesus through our blessed Mother Mary, the first Christian, humble and obedient, who said 'yes' to the preparation for the reign of Christ," organizers said.

The day included talks about the mother of Jesus, confession, a Holy Hour, songs, the recitation of the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet and a Mass in Spanish and English. The event concluded with a consecration to the Virgin Mary.

Some of the speakers included Father Luciano Ciciarelli, a Montfort missionary from Rome who leads Consecratio Mundi, a worldwide Marian movement; Father Stephen Bilson-Ogoe, who is originally from Elmina, Ghana, and resides at All Saints Church in Manassas; Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church in Washington; and Father Stephen F. McGraw, chaplain of Christendom College in Front Royal and former parochial administrator of St. Anthony of Padua.

"Father Stephen really spearheaded this," said Matilde Alvarado, president of the Hispanic Potomac Curia of the Legion of Mary. "He has been a legionary for 30 years. Without his support this would not have happened."

Alvarado was happy because attendees told them of the peace that the Virgin has brought them. She said that "the environment was filled with harmony, with everybody sharing one voice."

People began gathering under a large white tent at St. Anthony at 7 a.m. and celebrated Mary until 6 p.m., listening to the talks and singing with the Filipino Choir, "Jesus my friend," St. Anthony's choir and the Ghana Choir.

In his keynote address, Msgr. Pope focused on the Gospel account of the wedding feast at Cana. He said it revealed a portrait of the place Mary has and the example of her prayer in her discernment, diligence and deference, when she told her Son that the groom and bride "have no wine."

"She simply observes the problem and places it before her Son in confidence. He knows what to do and will decide the best way to handle things," Msgr. Pope said. "Thus, Mary models prayer for us. She does not only intercede for us but teach us how to pray."

Father Bilson-Ogoe said during his homily that it is important to know of God's unconditional love - which was not earned through merits but through Christ's sacrifice on the cross - because this informs our sense of self-worth. "When you know without a shadow of doubt that you are God's favorite and beloved child all the time, it affects your confidence and ability to walk by faith and never grow weary or defeated," he said.

Father Bilson-Ogoe said that this was true of the Virgin Mary. When God confirmed and affirmed her through the first words of the angel Gabriel - even before her mission was explained to her - it underscored that God's love is unconditional, he said.

"Once Mary has been assured of God's love, she was fully equipped to overcome every adversity that might be associated with her mission in life. Her dignity before God had been established in her heart," he said. "Nothing mattered anymore. She was fully convinced in her immaculate heart that nothing would separate her from God."

Sue Rogus, an attendee from Maryland, wrote to the organizers to express her gratitude for the experience.

"The outpouring of grace and blessings was so apparent to me," she wrote. "Everything went so smoothly. … It was truly a blessed event, a blessed day, with Jesus and Mary so present."

Lea Más

-To read the Spanish version of this article, go to "Encuentro Mariano trae paz y armonía."

-To read more Spanish-language articles, go to bit.ly/HeraldEnEspanol.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014