Voices Online Edition
Volume XV No. 1
Fra Angelico - The Annunciation . Fresco, San Marco, Florence (detail)
In naming the Feast of the Annunciation the special Jubilee Day for Women, Pope John Paul II has caused us to focus on one of the most important observances of the Church Year -- the Feast of the Incarnation of Christ -- and he calls Catholic women to reflect on Mary's "fiat" - her "saying yes to God". Mary's "yes" is the model all Christians to follow in our response to God, but most especially for women. This feast can help us to understand more fully the privilege and responsibility we women have been given for human life. The Holy Father has repeatedly stressed that God has entrusted life -- in all its dimensions -- to women in a particular way.
Women for Faith & Family supports making this Feast of Our Lord's Incarnation a universal Holy Day of Obligation, though this seems unlikely in the present circumstances where the trend seems to be to eliminate Holy Days rather than to add more. But at least it can be our own obligation as faithful Catholic women to make a special observance of this Holy Day -- for our parish and for our own families. And there is no better time to begin than on this Jubilee Day for Women.
Some suggested activities for observing this Jubilee Day:
1. Attend Mass - if possible work with your pastor and/or parish women's group to make the Feast of the Annunciation a special celebration. If your parish has a school, urge that the entire school attend the parish Mass, as for a Holy Day of Obligation. If possible, have girls from the school crown the statue of Mary with flowers before Mass begins. At the very least the Mary altar or shrine should be beautifully decorated with flowers and candles.
2. Gather with other women in your parish, or with a few friends, to say the Rosary together -- and/or the Divine Office for this Feast. (This could be in your church, before or after morning Mass, or you could gather in a home.)
3. Organize a day of recollection for your parish, perhaps focused on study and discussion of Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). This inspiring letter has had the power not only to deepen our understanding of the Church's teachings, but to turn women's hearts from feminist errors -- we know specific instances of this. Copies of this letter are available from the Daughters of St. Paul, 50 St. Paul Avenue, Boston, MA 02130.
4. As part of a "say yes to God" celebration, consider beginning a Novena to the Unborn - in parish women's group, pro-life group, with friends or family -- or on your own.
Copies of this Novena are available from WFF - PO Box 300411, St. Louis, MO, 63130; phone 314 863-8385; or e-mail us.
5. Say the Angelus at mealtime with your family. If this is not already a habit in your family, make it one for every day of the Jubilee Year, beginning today.
Copies of the Angelus in "holy card" form are available from WFF at the above address. Send to friends, give to school children, place in parish info racks, place in parish bulletins, take to pro-life meetings, etc.
6. If you have young children in the family, among other activities that we suggest are:
- Make a Mary shrine in your home -- with a statue or picture of Mary placed on a small table or shelf. On this day and other feasts of Mary during the year, light a white candle and decorate with flowers. Children can help arrange and decorate this.
- On this day, give a statue of Mary to each child to keep in his or her own room.
- Have young children make a colored drawing of the Annunciation, as you read them the Gospel account of the Annunciation in Luke 1:26-56. Post the drawings on the refrigerator or family bulletin board.
- Begin to teach the littlest children to say the Hail Mary.
- Hold a family Rosary and special prayers before bedtime. If your children are very little, start with one decade plus the Glory Be and the Our Father. It is really best if the father can lead this prayer time. This sends a very important message to children that prayer and observance of important Church feasts are not just mom's whim; but a committed decision of the whole family. It also makes it clear that honor given to Our Lord's Mother -- and our imitation of her obedience to God -- is not just a "woman thing". (Mothers will usually have to suggest this to fathers, though, unless it is already a custom in your household.)
- If you have older children, have one of them read aloud (or take turns reading) the entire first chapter of Luke to the whole family, followed by reciting the Rosary together.
- Learn the Hail Mary in Latin -- and teach it to children. Latin is the universal language of the Catholic Church, and all of us should be able to say at least a few prayers in Latin, as part of our heritage. The Ave Maria is a basic. (See text below.)
- We have found that if we begin practices like this on a special feast, it can sometimes help initiate a continuing habit of prayer in our families. But even if we can only get organized enough to do these things on very special occasions, everyone in the family benefits in ways we may not know -- and it is part of our job (especially for mothers) as first teachers of the faith.
7. If possible, get a recording of J. S. Bach's Magnificat, an inspired choral work most appropriate to hear on this day. The words to the Magnificat, Mary's great prayer she proclaims on meeting her cousin, Elizabeth, are found in Luke 1:46:55. Take time to really listen to the music, perhaps following along with the text in Latin and English.
*******Ave Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum,
benedicta tu in mulieribus, et henedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei:
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.*******
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