By Connie Berry
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Syracuse’s west side hosted its 41st Annual Rosary Rally on Sunday, Oct. 2. This year’s Marian theme was Our Lady of Hope.
Our Lady of Hope is the name given the Blessed Virgin’s apparition in a small town in France, Pont-Main, in January of 1871. France was at war and the enemy was advancing, typhoid and smallpox were spreading and the future looked bleak at best. It was on a snowy night in the middle of such despair that Our Lady appeared to two young boys, Eugene and Joseph Barbedette. She appeared dressed in a flowing dark blue robe covered in gold stars. She had a black veil and a gold crown on her head. As in other apparitions, Mary appeared to children and the adults who gathered around could not see her. Mary did not speak but a banner was unfurled at her feet which read, “Do pray my children, God will answer you very soon. My Son allows Himself to be moved.”
In homage to the Blessed Virgin, the Rosary Rally consisted of Marian hymns, recitation of the rosary, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Magnificat and litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Andrew Baranski, rector of the Basilica, welcomed everyone and the event began with a blessing of the bouquet of red roses offered to Our Lady. Various groups from the Basilica, including the confirmation students and the Rosary Society, and a number of deacons lead five decades of the Glorious Mysteries. The church was nearly filled.
Father Eric DeLaPina, OFM Conv., from Assumption Church in Syracuse offered a homily that reflected on the message of Our Lady of Hope. He said he had a special affinity for Our Lady of Hope in part because the feast day is his birthday.
“Her message is something that is very relevant today,” Father DeLaPina said, “in our personal lives and in the reality of our times. There is a lot of uncertainty in our world.”
Father DeLaPina spoke about the protests going on all over the world and in the U.S., the unrest in the Middle East, the fear of losing one’s job, the stock market volatility and even the lack of vocations and the closing of churches in the north east. All these factors lead to feelings of uncertainty, he explained. This is when Our Lady of Hope appeared to the people in the small town in France – when they were at a point of despair, when they felt there was no point in continuing their prayers, he said.
“It was at that crucial moment when Our Lady came to encourage the people,” Father DeLaPina said. “She tells us we can find the presence of God even in our darkest moments.”
Father DeLaPina also reminded everyone that Our Lady did not speak during the apparition but instead used symbols. “Our Lady invites us in this apparition to consider the importance of silence in our own lives. Silence is the starting point of prayer. We are too noisy, too busy,” he said. “If we don’t know how to quiet ourselves we can’t be sensitive to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is becoming sensitive, and open to God’s presence.”
Father DeLaPina said that prayer is “transformative.” He said God’s people are supposed to change after prayer. They are supposed to become more like the person they are praying to. “How do we know that our prayers are authentic? Does it make you feel happy or fuzzy? Prayer rather is transformative. It is to make you become more and more like the One you are speaking to when you pray. When we finish and go out the people should see in us that we have changed,” he said.
He said Our Lady of Hope is the most touching of apparitions. When the people present at the apparition began to pray, even those who could not see the Blessed Virgin, the message was revealed at her feet. “My Son allows himself to be moved,” Father DeLaPina repeated the message, “Read and study the story of Our Lady of Pont-Main and find your reason for hope.”