ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP This Lent, a group of faithful at St. Clement Pope & Martyr Parish here are getting better acquainted with Mary by taking an emotional and insightful spiritual journey with the mother of God — not only as she experiences the deep sorrow of Jesus’ suffering and death, but also many of the happy times, starting at the beginning of her story with the Annunciation.
About 15 parishioners have been meeting on Wednesdays in Lent at 7:30 p.m. at St. Clement’s for an interactive Bible study, “Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother,” by Ascension Press. The eight-part “pilgrimage” promises that participants will “experience what she felt at each dramatic moment in Scripture” and “see the significance of Mary as you explore the Biblical roots of our beliefs about her, deepen your devotion to Mary as you discover our Blessed Mother in a uniquely personal ways and be drawn closer to Christ as Mary leads you to a more profound and personal relationship with her Son,” according to Ascension Press’ website, www.ascenionpress.com.
“We as Christians know that Jesus accepted his fate. But [in the ‘Mary’ series] we also learn more about the Blessed Mother and her very human life of joy and pain. She went through a lot of trials, many we don’t even know about,” said Father Rick Hardy, St. Clement’s pastor, who has been leading the Bible study with Deacon Harry Dachisen. “We are learning that Jesus came from a loving family. Mary has a special love for her son — and for us, which is a blessing and inspiration to all families,” the priest said.
Each session starts with participants viewing a 20-minute DVD video, hosted by Edward Sri, a Scripture scholar. He presents a segment on one of the important moments in Mary’s life on location from the grotto of Mary’s home in Nazareth, the cave where Christ was born in Bethlehem, the site of Our Lord’s victory on the Cross and other rarely seen places in the Holy Land. After, the two leaders guide the group, answering questions in the workbook that the publisher has provided and facilitating lively discussions.
So far, participants have explored some of Mary’s important moments through the Scripture stories of the Annunciation and the Nativity. They also will cover the Presentation and Finding Jesus in the Temple, the Wedding at Cana, Mary at the Cross and Mary Crowned with Glory, according to the course materials for “Mary.”
“We often don’t think about all the difficulties that Mary went through. God always asked her [to take on tough challenges] and she always said ‘yes’ — ‘Thy will be done,’ ” Deacon Dachisen said.
The Beacon visited the St. Clement’s parishioners while they studied the Annunciation. In Luke 1:28, the Angel Gabriel greets Mary as being “full of grace,” which means that she already in her the grace to help bring about the salvation of the world, Sri said from the site of the Basilica of the Annunciation in the Holy Land.
At first, Mary was greatly troubled, not by the sight of Gabriel, but by what he said — “The Lord is with you.” She understood that, in Old Testament terms, such as declaration meant that God was giving a person a critical role in salvation — that “something big is going to be asked of me,” Sri said.
“Mary responds by rising above her emotions. She is open to God’s will,” Sir said. “Mary is at the Lord’s total disposal. She is motivated by love — like that of a lover, who wants to please his or her significant other. She asks, ‘How can I serve you, Lord?’ ” he said.
Then, Gabriel tells Mary that she will become a mother to a special child — the fulfillment of prophesies in the Old Testament. The angel makes Old Testament references that Mary understands — that her son “will inherit the throne of David” and “his kingdom will have no end,” Sri said.
During discussions after the DVD presentation, Deacon Dachisen made the point that miracle of Jesus’ conception — without any human sexual relations — demonstrates that “With God, anything is possible.”
“Say ‘yes’ to God and work your way through it. Go beyond what you think you can do. Trust God,” Deacon Dachisen said.
The Lord has a special role picked out for us, even if we don’t know what that role is yet. Father Hardy suggested that Catholics get involved in our parishes — as a catechist, lector or some other ministry.
“Opportunities will present themselves,” Father Hardy said. “God makes a path. He gives you the strength to do it. Don’t take the easy way by saying, ‘No,’ ” he said.
The “Mary” series continues St. Clement’s deep exploration into Bible study, which in the past, included the Book of Matthew and the “The Great Adventure: A Quick Journey through the Bible.” Next, the group will examine the Book of Mark, Deacon Dachisen said.
“The series helps see that, if we understand Mary, then we can closer to God and his son. Somebody recently told me that he loves Mary because when he prays to her, whatever he asks gets done. Mary talks to her son,” Father Hardy said.