Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
This second week of Advent the prophecy of Isaiah shows us a New Exodus more marvelous than the first. God does not provide water for the people in the desert; water is everywhere, and the hand of God is planting; we are in a new Eden. The fertility of which Isaiah speaks looks to the coming of the Messiah.
This Advent day we honor two holy men. The humble Juan Diego, whose feast falls close to his ‘mother’, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Although Mary’s feast will be largely celebrated in the Mexican communities this year because if falls on next Sunday, there will still be the portrayals of the appearance of Mary to her "little Juan", processions, pinatas and feasting. The Virgin of Guadalupe is pregnant, full of maternal solicitude for her little ones.
The other holy man is quite different than Juan Diego. He is Blessed Bernard Mary Silvestrelli, C.P. who died in 1911 at the age of 80. His devotion to Mary would have been expressed through our Mother of Sorrows, patroness of the Passionists. Bernard was a priest and for his 54 years as a Passionist served his religious order in roles of leadership, being its superior general for 25 years.
Juan was hesitant to ask about the building of a church for the ‘beautiful lady’, but Bernard established the Passionist community in Spain, Mexico, Chile and Argentina. Unlike Juan who didn’t get beyond the hills of Mexico, Bernard crossed the ocean to be the first General to visit the United States.
He appears a strong man, outspoken like John whom we meet in the gospel today. Paul Boyle, a former General of the Passionists, wrote the introduction to Fabiano Georgini’s biography of Bernard. He describes him as living faithfully the Passionist rule of life as an expression of obedience to the will of God. He held to the contemplative and community aspects of the Passionist way of life, at a time when many wanted to lay them aside for pastoral reasons. He was strong at a time when there was need for strength as the Church revived from a period of suppression throughout of Europe.
John the Baptist is a model of faith. He stands in a certain balance against Jesus, desiring to decrease that He may increase. We might see today two holy men, models of faith, different weights in the balance; one strong, the other humble. Both in their unique way showing God’s will that was manifest to them, helping others arrive at the goal of their journey.
Fr. William Murphy, CP, is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, MD.