A Beautiful Assumption

By Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC

"Quality time," they call it. During the coronavirus lockdown, I have had the privilege of spending much of my time back home on Cape Cod caring for my recently widowed mother.

I was raised way, way out at the Cape's farthest-flung spit, upon a sun-kissed, pint-sized artist colony of cedar-sheathed, weather-beaten shacks leaning upon one another along narrow, crooked streets. I have memories of live music somersaulting out of every little dive bar while seagulls perched atop the rooftops, facing the wind and snickering like monkeys. 

From my third-floor bedroom window down near the wharf, I could track the comings and goings of old salts, saints, and eccentrics. I have my mother to thank for keeping me on the straight and narrow, for instilling in me a love for the Catholic faith. I was a good boy, if you can believe it. 

I was raised in a family that set its schedule to the liturgical calendar. These recent months with my mother have made me a little nostalgic for those bygone days.

I'm remembering how, each June, the town would celebrate the Feast of St. Peter, beginning with Mass, followed by a procession down to MacMillan Wharf for a blessing of the fishing fleet. Those big-shouldered, rickety old boats, kept afloat by the grace of God, would line up, one by one, and putter past the pier to be sprinkled with holy water. Most were piloted by Portuguese-Americans who affixed statues of Our Lady of Fatima within their pilot houses.

On the most special day each summer — the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Aug. 15 — my family would attend Mass in the morning, have breakfast, and then spend a few hours together at the beach, swimming, before my parents would set off to work. They ran a hot dog stand and a gift shop. The Assumption was the one time of the season when they would start work later in the day. It was a treat.

We would look to this little respite — this dip in the water — as an annual time of spiritual renewal, of reconfirming that we are creatures of God, that our hope is in Him, and that we might grow in goodness and organize our lives by uniting ourselves to Jesus on the Cross and living the Evangelical Virtues of Our Lady, who was immaculately conceived and assumed, soul and body, into Heaven.

That may all seem like a lot to ask of a simple feast day dip into the ocean, but that was how we did things in my home, and I'm deeply thankful for that.

A grand design
Turns out, Mary's Assumption would play a key role in my calling to become a priest of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I would come to realize how these matters of our faith, these matters of our salvation, are all beautifully and intricately interwoven.

We can best understand Mary's Assumption by first understanding her Immaculate Conception. Mary, the "favored one" (Lk 1:28), was born without the stain of original sin by the merits of her Son's Passion. By her Immaculate Conception, she became a channel of graces and living proof of God's love and care for all of humanity.

That she was immaculately conceived inevitably leads us to acknowledge another critical truth: that she was therefore preserved from the bodily corruption that accompanies death. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, she shares in the glory of Christ's own Resurrection, "anticipating the resurrection of all members of His Body" (974), which, I pray, will someday include you and me.

By means of explaining Mary's role as our spiritual mother, the Founder of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, St. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701), said, "[S]he is concerned for us in the same way that she was concerned for Christ the Lord."

To this day, for me, each Solemnity of the Assumption serves as a reminder that Mary is a mother to my own family. Just as she has preceded us into Heaven, so she intercedes for us so that we might come to be with her as loyal children of so gracious a mother.

To apply an even finer thread to this unfolding masterpiece, this all ties in with Pentecost when Mary, along with the disciples in the Upper Room following the Ascension of Christ, prays for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She, of course, was ideally suited to the task. After all, at the Annunciation, she had experienced the working of the Holy Spirit, which made it possible for her to become a virgin mother. But here in the Upper Room, she prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that would mark the birth of the Church.

She herself was filled with this outpouring of grace that enables her to fulfill her mission in the Church as our gracious advocate. With her motherly love, she leads us to renewal and formation as brethren of Christ.

And so, that's what that dip in the ocean came to represent for my family. That's why we viewed the Assumption as a time of spiritual renewal and reconfirmation of our role as creatures of God and children of a loving mother.

This opportune time
Back to my nostalgia: In this rather bewildering year marked by a pandemic and great social and political unrest around the world, it becomes more important than ever that we, as families, spend prayerful time together.

Make the Solemnity of the Assumption matter in your life. Pray to Our Blessed Mother that she would help bring about a new Pentecost in your heart, in your family, and in our Church.

Let's call out for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit "who works with Mary to open our eyes to see Jesus, our ears to hear the Gospel, and our hearts to receive Divine Mercy," as Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, writes in his new book, 33 Days to Greater Glory: A Total Consecration to the Father through Jesus Based on the Gospel of John (Marian Press).

Call out to the Holy Spirit with confidence knowing that God has a plan. By means of our very lives, may His intricate weaving continue. 

Happy summertime. Stay safe. Seek holiness. Continue to pray for the souls of the living and the dead. And if you take a trip to the seashore, please put on sunblock!