Novena in Honor of El Dulce Nombre de Maria
Third Day, August 31, 2008

Popular belief has it that when the statue of Santa Marian Camalen landed on the shores of Guam, it came floating upright and surrounded by candleholders. On this belief is based a whole lot of our popular devotion and love for the Blessed Mother under that title.

We do well to keep not so much that story alive, as the meaning behind that story which has to do with our growing sense of attachment and healthy love for whom Scripture passes on to us, as a woman blessed among all women.

Yesterday, I talked to a mostly young crowd about a sense of homecoming. Home, according to popular reckoning, is wherever mother is. We would consider home any place where we see the imprints of our own mother’s care and solicitude. Home is where we experience directly or vicariously, our mother’s cooking, our mother’s care, and our mother’s presence in some way, real or symbolic.

I spoke yesterday about our homecoming to mother Mary whose home is where we can utter the very first syllables that, all over the world, in whatever culture, refer to our earthly mothers: nana, nanay, mama, inay, ima, mommy … Like the word we use to refer to father, abba, dada, daddy, babbo, tatay, mamay, it usually is only bi-syllabic … easy to pronounce, easy to utter, and these syllables are the very first words a child can easily learn to say.

I have it on the authority of object relations psychologists that in the first 36 months of a child’s life, the sense of bonding and healthy attachment happens for a child. This is the time when the child learns to utter nana, mama, nanay, ima, mommy or the like. This is the time when the child gets to experience first hand what it means to be at home, what it means to have a mother to go home to, and what it means to be secure in the presence of a primary caregiver.

What these psychologists basically tell us is that a sense of belongingness, a sense of security and healthy attachment cannot take place without the real or symbolic presence of a mother, whether that mother is biologically or only psychologically so, whether she is biologically one’s mother, or only a significant other substitute, or SOS.

And this is where one’s faith matters a whole lot. What may psychologically or physically be absent is supplied for by one’s faith. What is important is that our mind and heart professes love for someone whom one can aptly call a mother.

Scripture offers us one such woman. Scripture offers us one such mother. And we earned the right to call Mary Mother by the very words of her Son who said whilst dying on the Cross: “Son, behold your mother.” Christian tradition has for long considered John the Evangelist as one who stands in for us and represents us.

The miraculous landing of the statue of Santa Marian Camalen on the shores of Guam appears to me as a possible representation of this generous invitation of Jesus her son, to us: “Behold, your mother.”

But we gather in the liturgy not only to be fed, not only to hear, not only to receive, but also to give, to offer, and to promise to the Lord. Liturgy is, as we all know, dialogical. It is a two-way traffic. We gather together to be nourished by God, but also to offer fitting worship to Godhead. We understand liturgy as a give and take.

What then are we called to do in our days and times?

I suggest that a big responsibility is in our hands. This is the time when we can no longer live in denial and accept the growing reality of a world gone very secular. The tyranny of relativism is all around us. The pull of secular materialism is very strongly and steadily tugging at the hearts and minds of the young. The pull of the mainstream popular culture, strongly based on the information revolution has been, for decades, the single most powerful factor that has kept the young effectively away from Christian catholic culture.

Whilst the Church continues to offer herself as home to the young, the young may no longer feel at home in the Church and in her traditional symbols. The prayers that the “techa” (prayer leaders) of old have been saying with love and devotion no longer attract the young who are most probably even losing the very language that has been the mainstay of their sense of identity as Chamorros, or as ciudadanos de Guajan of yore.

A big challenge is rearing its ugly head before us all, ciudadanos y amantes de Maria. I rue the day when the “puntan dos amantes” (a famous tourism site in Guam) will see more people daily than the home of el dulcissimo nombre de Maria.

Let the passage I quoted from St. John be a reminder for us … The Lord told John “Behold your mother.” But the same Lord told John who represents us: “Behold your mother.” That means there is work for us to do. Liturgy being dialogical, there is something we ought to be doing on our part. We need to get close to Mother. We need to go home to Mother. And we need to call on her as Mother. We need her to remain not only Santa Marian Camalen of the history books, but as a Mother who is part and parcel of our ongoing story as a people so in love with Mary, Mother, Maiden, and Mirror of our the greatness we all are called to.

There are two things we need to do: reconnect with Marian Camalen. Call home to her in prayer. And second: to do a sort of homecoming: come home to where mother is … home where our faith, love, and hope grows. Santa Marian Camalen, rogad por nosotros!