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Don’t have a one-sided image of Mary

Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju greets parishioners at the Sign of Peace. Photo: Gerard-Paul Wanliss

Vicar General at Lourdes feast day Mass

Our Lady of the dung heap? This isn’t the typical image of the Mother of Jesus but Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju has advised Catholics to think beyond “nice, clean, tidy antiseptic Mary” to see her “walking in all the dirty and stinking places like the dung heaps of the world”.

Fr Sirju shared these observations at Our Lady of Lourdes RC, Maraval last Sunday while delivering the homily at the church’s feast day Mass near the Marian grotto. Parish priest Fr Matthew d’Hereaux concelebrated.

Fr Sirju told the congregation, “Sometimes I think Mary for us in our popular imagination is too antiseptic that is, we associate her with things that are pure, and holy and clean and spotless and so on.”

Mary was pure of heart but she may also be identified with “the dirty, the untidy, the sullied, the foul-smelling and other descriptions”. Fr Sirju added, “If we don’t absorb those descriptions of Our Lady …I think we miss a very important aspect of understanding who the mother of Jesus is, especially since Lourdes is associated with healing. We cannot have a one-sided understanding of Mary; we need to be healed of that and have a more consistent holistic understanding of her.”

Alluding to the word attributed to US President Donald Trump to describe African nations, Haiti and El Salvador, Fr Sirju said he cannot repeat it but will use the synonym “dung heap”.

St John stated God took on flesh and dwelled with the people, “pitched His tent among us”. He explained this also means God will be in the dung heap places of the world and Catholics need to remember this.

Fr Sirju noted research on Galilee found it was like a “backwater and Nazareth was the backwater of the backwater”, a neglected and “dirty place”.  Even the place where Jesus was crucified was “stinking” because persons crucified were left to rot and fall off the crosses.

“We need to find Jesus in places like that and we also need to find Mary in places like that…,” Fr Sirju said.  She must also be found in areas tainted by sin, social failure and injustice.

Mary is called Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima but she is also Our Lady of Beetham and many other places “walking among the dirty, the sullied, the rejected people who have been relegated to the dung heaps of life”.