In the presence of Mary
Exiled from France during the French Revolution, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade went to Zaragoza, Spain. He arrived there on Oct. 11, 1797, the vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar.
According to tradition, Mary, the mother of Jesus, in A.D. 40 was living in Jerusalem but miraculously appeared in what now is Spain to the Apostle James the Greater who was preaching there. The statue that is now venerated in the basilica in Zaragoza dates from the 15th century, when the basilica was rebuilt after a fire. Made of wood, the 15-inch tall statue sits upon a jasper pillar that is a little less than 6 feet tall.
The exile Chaminade arrived on the vigil as celebrations began with the lighting of 1,000 silver lamps, the ringing of bells and sounds of organ concerts — a stark contrast to the suppression of religion in France. During his time in Spain (he returned to France in 1800), Chaminade is said to have spent much quiet time with Our Lady of the Pillar.
Chaminade had come from the chaos of France to a place where he was able to peacefully pray and reflect. Brother Thomas F. Giardino, S.M. ’65, sees a parallel between Chaminade’s experience and ours. “Today our lives face much disruption,” Giardino said.
“In the midst of disruption in France,” Giardino said, “Chaminade first went underground, then to Spain. And he paused, reflected on the disruption and planned with other priests what they would do when they could return to France.”
He said a key to the Society of Mary, founded by Chaminade, is “reflection in the presence of Mary in the midst of disruption. Don’t avoid the disruption. Reflect and decide what to do.
“And that’s a reason the University of Dayton now exists.”