The times are hard. Clouds of change overwhelm the life of the Lebanese population and the Christians who live in the run-down neighbourhoods; they are shocked, exhausted, discouraged, even despairing. They go through the streets in search of someone to guide them to a door of help, discreetly holding a rosary in their hand and praying to the Virgin Mary.
Mary is so close to us, that she is part of our daily life and is invoked under every possible name: “Our Lady of the Street”, “Our Lady of the Well”, “Our Lady of the Good Seed”, “Our Lady of the Mountain”, “Our Lady of the Door”, “Our Lady of Lebanon”,“…of Zahlé”, “…of Maghdouché”…The whole land has been dedicated to the heart of Mary and to that of her Son.
In contemplating the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we find light, strength, courage and comfort in these exceptional times. Like us, she experienced great changes from her youth. With an open heart she accepted the upheavals in her life: contradictions, mystery, incomprehension. She was open to hearing the voice of the Spirit. She was adaptable and receptive, to give flesh to Jesus. Her heart and her eyes are directed towards Him.
Her attitude of simplicity and of transparency to grace inspires us amid events which crush our life’s plans and make anger simmer in our hearts. She encourages us to listen to others with patience and goodwill. When each morning sick people stand at the door of our clinic with tears in their eyes, worried, confused and despairing, I call on the heart of Mary, so that I am able to listen, to understand, to welcome, to guide. When people’s needs become more and more numerous, I turn to Mary and call on her kind heart; I contemplate her in Cana, ready to serve, to bring joy and to trust in her Son.
Mary guides us in our choices and our decision making. Every day the situation changes: no electricity, no water, no bread, no drugs, no medical care, no baby milk, old people abandoned…What should I do? I hear how the Virgin Mary whispers into the ear of Jesus: “They have no wine, no water, no electricity. They have no joy anymore, no strength to fight, they are bent under the burden of evil”… and Jesus acts.
In the face of so much injustice and oppression, in the face of the heavy consequences of corruption, in the face of the stains of egoism and indifference, the pure heart of Mary lights up the darkness. It inspires, strengthens, calms and encourages in the struggle against evil in us and around us. She stands at the foot of the Cross and has tasted the triumph over death. With her we hope to receive the Holy Spirit, to pursue the path of renewal in our hearts and our society. Her pure heart allowed her to see the victory of love over so much hate and violence.
How many wounds in the hearts of people, who come through the door of our clinic! What heartbreak! How many groans! But also, how much faith, how much strength, how much forgiveness and compassion! What gifts! What service! How much is shared…The Virgin Mary is there. Her compassionate and tender heart rejoices to welcome and comfort people. She takes us in hand and leads us to her Son. The Immaculate One sanctifies everything which she touches. She sanctifies time. She sanctifies work. On many days it seems that we wear ourselves out in vain, that time passes without results. We turn back to Mary and contemplate her: she is serene, cheerful, lively, enterprising, helpful and discreet. She changes our labours into selfless gifts and makes our struggles bear fruit.
Mary stored up everything in her heart. In the evening, when we come home and back to ourselves, laden with so many looks, words, and silences, I lay the complaints, the groaning, the faith, the trust and the hope of the people before the pure heart of Mary and draw courage, patience, endurance and attachment to her Son.
Mary trembled with joy. In the clinic there are many occasions for joy; the joy of recognising the presence of God among us through gestures of giving, generosity, mutual help and solidarity. In their struggle for survival, people trust us in order to preserve faith, to witness to God, and to remain Christian in this country. In the name of this faith in God many other people, organisations, groups and volunteers offer their support, to help, to participate, to give, to share. I often hear from visitors and friends the sentence: “What can we do to help? How can I help?” Their questions incite me to find the time and means to help others, to alleviate their suffering and give them courage and hope.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, inspire us to words and gestures which protect life, which give back life, which make us love life, for it is a gift of your Son. Make us full of creativity and joy so that we can reflect the beauty and goodness of the Holy Trinity which you welcomed into your pure heart.
Featured Image: Our Lady and the contours of Lebanon - Christmas in the destroyed hospital of the Sisters of the Rosary. The statue survived without damage from the explosion, while all things around were destroyed. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.