I arrived in Brazil this past Sunday to give an eight day retreat on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to members of St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity that are living here.
In preparation for the retreat we made a pilgrimage to Aparecida, to visit the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the patroness of Brazil. We were in great company with the history of pilgrimage, the Shrine having been visited by St. John Paul, II, Pope Benedict, and most recently, Pope Francis. God is good. It was a deep joy to journey by bus some four hours north of Rio De Janiero towards Sao Paulo, with 30 of Mother Teresa’s sisters, singing, praying the Rosary, and enjoying a time of relaxation after a 10 day workshop on the spirituality of their foundress.
The high point of the pilgrimage for me was to stand at the altar in the massive Basilica, the largest Marian shrine in the world and can hold 45,000 visitors, concelebrating the Eucharist with the Redemptorist guardians of the shrine. Beautiful artwork of the local flora and fauna of Brazil decorate the sanctuary. The faith of the people was quite touching, one woman made her visit to the image of the Virgin crawling on her knees, tears of joy pouring down her face.
The image of Our Lady is small, less than three feet in height. The impact of the devotion is immeasurable. As in so many things, “God makes great things from small beginnings.” This is true of the mustard seed, the child in the womb, of Mother Teresa’s order, and of our own Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer). May the Lord grant us every grace necessary to our mission.
We returned to Rio De Janeiro that same evening to a home where the MC sisters care for addicts, alcoholics, and those living with HIV. Pictured above are three young women who are “aspirants,” discerning to enter Mother Teresa’s Missionaries Of Charity (MCs). As part of their program they live and pray with the sisters, and work with the addicts, alcoholics and individuals living with HIV in the house of hospitality here.
During the retreat I am staying in the rectory of the adjacent Immaculate Conception Parish, the sisters hostel is named for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These two great devotions of mine, make the trip all the more agreeable for an Apostle of Prayer. The retreat begins Wednesday evening. Please keep us in your prayers.