Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
A few years back the British Broadcasting Corporation aired a three minute story on current affairs during their “Panorama’ program. It was about the annual spaghetti harvest, filmed in a Swiss-Italian spaghetti orchard.
Since some folks believed that spaghetti grew on trees, the BBC decided to confirm their beliefs. The clip showed young girls climbing ladders with baskets in their hands. They were picking spaghetti from the branches of Laurel trees. While playing guitar music, the broadcaster said, “We have this marvelous festival. The first harvest of spaghetti. And now, we the jubilant folks of the Spaghetti Festival say goodnight on this first day of April.”
Next Saturday is April Fool day, a day for practical jokes. But, how did this day come about? Well, for centuries in the late Middle Ages, in much of Western Europe, March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was New Year’s Day. The people celebrated for eight days. When the calendar was reformed and January 1st was restored as New Year’s Day, the folks who refused to change were called “April Fools.” Since the, anyone who will not change is an “April Fool.’
As we prepare for Easter the story of Solomon, adapted from ‘Visions of Mary’ can bring comfort, solace and inspiration to believers.
Around 1830, in Bretagne, France, there lived a kind old man named Solomon. He was a bit strange. He never associated with anyone in the town. The people thought him a weak-minded individual. So they called him by the name ‘Solomon the idiot.’
As he walked through town some folks jeered at him. Others turned away. Little kids would chase after him and call him names. Yet, his only response to the kids or adults was to say “Ave Maria.”
Then Fall came and Winter followed. Every evening Solomon stood outside the church listening to hymns. Dressed in mere rags he stood on the steps of the church during blizzards or ice storms. Yet, one night Solomon was not standing in front of the church. The people searched for him. They found him buried under a pile of snow. When the people reached down to help him he looked up with glassy eyes and said, “Ave Maria.” Those were his final words as he closed his eyes and passed away.
Solomon was buried in a lonely field, near an old oak tree. No one thought his body was worthy of burial in the church graveyard, or even in some consecrated ground. No stone or cross marked the spot. In death he remained as lonely as he was in life.
When Spring came and the snows melted away, a person happened to be walking past the field where Solomon was buried. He noticed that a single snow white lily, more beautiful than could be imagined, was growing out of the grave. As this person walked closer to the grave he noticed that something was written on the lily’s petals. He bent down and saw the words, written in gold, “Ave Maria.”
New spread and soon all the towns folks gathered at the grave site. No one had a clue who might have planted the lily. And no one could explain how the words “Ave Maria” appeared on the petals.
The news spread throughout the neighboring towns. Eventually the bishop heard about the lone lily. The bishop journeyed to the town to see for himself. The bishop began by gathering the people in church as he celebrated the Mass. Then, they formed a procession to Solomon’s grave. The bishop led the people in prayer. The he instructed the people to open the grave. As they opened the casket the people saw a miracle indeed. For out of Solomon’s heart the lily grew.
In years to come the people would call upon Solomon whenever tragedy struck or whenever the folks fell upon hard times. As time went on the town’s folks raised money to build a chapel. They built the chapel directly over Solomon’s grave. The altar in the chapel was located on a spot where Solomon would nap under the old oak tree during the summer months. Nearby was a fountain. The waters of the fountain brought healing to many wounded or diseased people.
The church was known as the Chapel of Folgoat. To everyone the chapel was a reminder that no matter how humble we are in life, if we go about with “Ave Maria” on our lips, there is no telling what glories will be ours when we enter the glorified kingdom of heaven.
“He must increase. I must decrease.”
Remember the mission. Father Peter Schavitz will preach the mission at 6:30 each night. The prayer service and sermon will last one hour and fifteen minutes. Surely we all can spare 1 1/2 hours to nourish our souls with living waters of God’s grace.
Fr. Jim Shea C.Ss.R.