Pray Tell is pleased to share excerpts of Johan van Parys’ latest book, What’s the Smoke For: And Other Burning Questions About the Liturgy. In the book, published by the Liturgical Press, Johan answers questions from parishioners and other interested readers about Catholic liturgical practices.
The next excerpt is related to the addition of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a historically European parish setting:
I noticed that a new image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was installed in our church. Since our church is dedicated to Mary, we already have several depictions of her, including Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady of Czestochowa. Do we really need more?
The fact that you have representations of Our Lady of Lourdes, Fatima, and Czestochowa makes me think that your church was founded by European immigrants in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. In addition, your town must have been large enough to welcome immigrants from different European countries (France, Portugal, and Poland) yet too small to accommodate three independent national churches. By including a depiction of Mary as she appeared or is venerated in each country, immigrants from different nations were able to feel at home in one and the same church.
It is quite extraordinary that most countries and even many cities venerate a local image of Mary. Sometimes this is a statue or a painting with a long and miraculous presence in a specific locale. Sometimes it is a representation of an indigenous Marian apparition. And to be sure, these kinds of apparitions are numerous and varied. As a matter of fact, Mary has appeared in the likeness of nearly every race and culture known to Christianity.
As such Mary is not only the Queen of the Apostles but also the Queen of the Missionaries. Before the concept of inculturation was even invented, Mary wisely started to inculturate Christianity. Had it not been for Mary in her apparition as Our Lady of Guadalupe, for example, Christianity would have had a much harder time taking root in the Americas. No wonder Our Lady of Guadalupe has since been declared the patron saint of the Americas and thus shrines dedicated to her have appeared in many churches.
The face of your community, not unlike most other Catholic communities in this country, has undoubtedly changed since those founding days to include a much more diverse representation of the world church. By adding the new shrine your pastor responded to the needs of your community today in the same way as the pastor of the community did some one hundred years ago. By accommodating representations of Our Lady of Lourdes, Fatima, and Czestochowa the founding pastor made sure that everyone who worshiped in his church would feel at home and could be spiritually nourished. By adding the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe your current pastor is making sure that today’s community feels at home and is spiritually nourished.
As to your question about the number of Marian shrines you should have and might there be too many, some would say yes. I, however, would like to offer a more nuanced answer. This is really not a numbers question. Rather, you should let yourself be guided by the needs of the community. Do all members have a sense of coming home when they enter your church? If not, no matter how many shrines it takes, by all means, build them.
What’s the Smoke For: And Other Burning Questions About the Liturgy is available for purchase from the Liturgical Press, with an option that includes a CD containing bulletin inserts for parish use.