Joyful pandemic-inspired rededication of country to Mary Assumed into Heaven
Mary is not a magician, Cardinal John Dew quipped when giving the homily at the Mass to rededicate Aotearoa New Zealand to Mary Assumed into Heaven.
"Last year during lockdowns, many people wrote to the bishops asking us to dedicate the country to Our Lady," Cardinal John told those gathered in a very crowded St Mary of the Angels in Wellington on Sunday 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption.
"There was a strong hint in many of these requests that if we had done this early enough, the Pandemic would not have even started! But, we know that Mary is not a magican!
"That’s how today came about. Aotearoa New Zealand was dedicated to Mary under the title 'Mary assumed into heaven.' Because the Solemnity of the Assumption this year occurred on a Sunday the bishops decided we would come to St Mary of the Angels and renew the dedication of Aotearoa New Zealand to her," said Cardinal John, pictured above while giving the homily.
The country's Catholic bishops gathered with parishioners who had travelled from around the country for the pandemic-inspired joyful special Mass to renew Bishop Jean-Baptiste Pompallier's 1838 dedication of the country to Mary.
Every Catholic parish throughout the country also celebrated the rededication during their regular Sunday Mass.
Below is the full text of Cardinal John's homily during the Mass.
Solemnity of the Assumption, St Mary of the Angels
Homily by Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington
At the first Mass on New Zealand shores, at Totara Point in the Hokianga on 13th January 1838, Jean-Baptiste Pompallier consecrated his mission in New Zealand to Mary under the tile of today’s Feast, “Mary Assumed into Heaven”. That was 183 years ago.
Pompallier was years ahead of his time, the Assumption wasn’t declared a dogma of the Church until 1950!!!
Later we will sing a new version of the Lourdes Hymn, a well-known tune which we are calling the Te Ara a Maria hymn, one of the verses says:
“O hail, holy Mary, abounding in grace,
"O star for the travellers who sailed to this place,
"Awe, Awe, Awe Maria! Awe, Awe, Awe Maria!"
Bishop Pompallier must have had a very special relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus. As he sailed out to New Zealand, she was the star that guided him across the seas. Pompallier had a very close connection with the members of the newly formed Society of Mary, clearly as they travelled, they asked for Mary’s prayers and protection.
Another verse of this hymn names Bishop Pompallier
“By Christ’s parting gift you our Mother became
"While we with Pompallier are children with John”
He was baptised in France, anyone baptised between Cape Reinga and Bluff, or in any part of our world, have become daughters and sons of Mary, she became our Mother as she stood at the foot of the Cross with John, the beloved disciple.
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she poured out her song of praise and gratitude, her Magnificat; she praised and thanked God for his presence in her life and for what God was doing for her “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my Spirit rejoices in God my saviour.” Mary’s joy was born, as Pope Francis says, not from the absence of problems, which come to everyone sooner or later, her joy was born from God’s presence. It is God’s presence that brings joy into our lives. Do we praise God every day for the way God’s grace is at work in our lives?
In this hymn we hail, we greet Mary, we will sing
“O hail Blessed Mother who brought God to birth
"You care for his Body spread over the earth.”
Mary cared for Jesus as a child, washed and fed him, cradled and kissed him. She cares for the Body of the Church today, people spread all over the earth.
Last year during lockdowns many people wrote to the bishops asking us to dedicate the country to Our Lady…… many titles of Our Lady suggested. There was a strong hint in many of these requests that if we had done this early enough the Pandemic would not have even started!!! But, we know that Mary is not a magican!!!
That’s how today came about. Aotearoa New Zealand was dedicated to Mary under the title “Mary assumed into heaven.” Because the Solemnity of the Assumption this year occurred on a Sunday the bishops decided we would come to St Mary of the Angels and renew the dedication of Aotearoa New Zealand to her.
Mary assumed into heaven is an unusual feast, it does have important messages and teaching for us.
This Feast says something about the unbelievable dignity of our human bodies. Mary, the first to believe in the Son of God, was the first to be assumed into Heaven in soul and body. Soon you will be asked “Do you believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting?” We are created to be with God.
The Assumption is about each of us; it concerns our future. This is a day of hope for humanity. Even as we think of many sad situations, we can live in hope and hold out hope to others. Think today especially of women overwhelmed by the weight of life and the drama of violence; women who are slaves to the arrogance of the powerful; girls forced into inhumane work; women forced to surrender in both body and spirit to the greed of men.
Our prayer today is for a life of peace, justice and love to reach these women in expectation of the day in which they finally feel gripped by hands that do not humiliate them, but lead them with tenderness into the presence of God.
Mary helps us think particularly of women who suffer greatly. We ask the Lord to lead them by the hand on the way of life, freeing them from these slaveries and giving hope.
When we sing “You care for his Body spread over the earth” we certainly pray that not only New Zealand will be protected, we pray that all people will be protected from the Coronavirus. It would though be selfish to pray just for ourselves here in Aotearoa, during this pandemic we pray for everyone’s safety, we pray that all people will have the wisdom to keep themselves safe and therefore keep others safe.
I do want to mention briefly two more verses…
“Assumed into heaven to reign with your Son, Announcing the fullness God wants for each one.”
What is the fullness God wants for you? Do we know and give thanks for the fact that God does want fullness of life, fullness of grace for us. Perhaps a simple question for each of us today could be– “what does God really want for me?”
The point of today is to renew the dedication of the Church, and Aotearoa New Zealand, to Mary assumed into heaven, we do that in the presence of this artwork which will eventually be permanently in this Church, it will be known as E Hata Maria, e ta matua wahine o te Atua.
Today’s renewal of dedication can be summed up in these words……
” Heal and sustain now each life in this earth
“Guide and inspire us O Mother of God
"As we strive to love, and live by His Word.
"Awe, Awe, Awe Maria! Awe, Awe, Awe Maria!"