Marriage at Cana (detail), Paolo Veronese, 1571-72
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, Germany [Web Gallery of Art]
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
A production of the Lumo Project.
Feast of the Santo Niño
On the third Sunday of January the Church in the Philippines celebrates the Feast of the Sto Niño, the Holy Child. These Sunday Reflections focus on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. You will find Sunday Reflections for the Feast of the Sto Niño here.
I used this material for the same Sunday three years ago. I have made one or two small changes here. I do believe that the lives of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola can speak to all Christians no matter what their state of life or social positions are.
Last Sunday I featured the late King Baudouin of the Belgians. This week I feature him again, with Queen Fabiola, who died on 5 December 2014. The King died suddenly on 31 July 1993. The story of how they met is quite remarkable and the late Cardinal Suenens tells the story in his biography of the King, Baudouin, King of the Belgians, The Hidden Life.
The video above has as background music an Irish song that I learned in Grade Three, The Dawning of the Day, in Irish Gaelic Fáinne Geal an Lae, the version I learned. (The singer in the video is Mary Fahl). An Irish song is not at all inappropriate as the matchmaker of the marriage of Baudouin and Fabiola was an Irish woman, Veronica O'Brien.
Veronica was envoy of the Legion of Mary to France and some other European countries. Much 'cloak and dagger' work was involved in finding a wife and queen for the young king. Much more importantly, much prayer was involved too, prayer that was basically a searching for God's will. They became formally engaged in Lourdes, France, King Baudouin travelling incognito, as he always did when he went there. (There are references online in obituaries of the King and elsewhere to Veronica O'Brien as 'Sister Veronica'. She was not a religious but a lay person. Members of the Legion of Mary address each other as 'Brother' and 'Sister' only during Legion meetings, not elsewhere).
The couple were married in Brussels on 15 December 1960. The video shows photos of both the civil and church ceremonies. In a number of European countries a separate civil ceremony is required by law and takes place before the church celebration. The King wrote in his spiritual diary for that day: Normally we are awake by day and dream at night, but this time it's as if I'm in a dream all day.
On 8 July 1978 Baudouin wrote in his diary: My God, I thank you for having led us by the hand to the feet of Mary, and every day since then, I thank you, Lord, that we have been able to love each other in your Love, and that that love has brown each day.
And Queen Fabiola wrote to Veronica: I knew Our Blessed Lady was a Queen and a Mother, and all sort of other things, but I never knew that she was a Matchmaker!
Quoting the Queen led Cardinal Suenens to quote a Spanish verse:
Cristo dijo a su Madre
el dia de la Asunción
no te vaya de este mundo
sin pasar por Aragón.
Christ said to his Mother
on the day of the Assumption:
do not leave this world
without passing through Aragón.
Before her marriage the Queen was Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón.
The Cardinal quotes freely from Baudouin's diary about Queen Fabiola.
Fill Fabiola with your holiness. May she live her life in your joy and your peace. Teach me to love her with your own tenderness . . .
Fabiola is so loving; she warms my heart. Her silent, yet active presence is a source of great joy to me. My God, how you have spoiled me!
Thank you, Jesus, for having nurtured in me an immense love for my wife. Thank you for having given me a spouse whose love for me is second only to her love for You. May we both grow in you, Lord.
When Veronica O'Brien met Fabiola in Spain she asked the young woman, who had no idea why where things were leading, why she had never married. She replied, What can I say? I have never fallen in love up to now. I have put my life into the hands of God. I abandon myself to Him, maybe he is preparing something for me.
Veronica recounted all of this in a letter to the King and concluded, It was utterly astounding, because I knew exactly what God was preparing for her.
Thirty years later the King wrote in his spiritual diary: Mary, show me what I should do so as not to miss an opportunity of loving, of denying myself for your sake, of living the present moment to the full, as if it were my last, and of loving my darling Fabiola infinitely more. yes, Mother, teach me to love her with tenderness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, respect, and teach me to have faith in here . . .
And Baudouin, addressing the Lord, wrote, Teach me too to respect her personality with its differences and its inconsistencies. Jesus, I thank you for having given me this wonderful treasure.
Both King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola in these extracts reflect the spirituality of a book that Cardinal Suenens had given the King before he met his future queen and wife,Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade SJ. One English translation of this masterpiece has the title The Sacrament of the Present Moment, which captures the essence of the book, that God's will is in the present moment.
Shortly before he left for Motril, Spain, in 1993, where he died suddenly, King Baudouin confided to Cardinal Suenens and Veronica, I love Fabiola more and more each day: what an inspiration she is to me!
This led the Cardinal to quote Jean Guitton, the first lay person to be invited to Vatican II as an observer, Love is always fruitful, were it only because it transforms those who love.
Children's Games, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559-60
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna [Web Gallery of Art]
One of the great sorrows in the life of Baudouin and Fabiola as a married couple was that they had no children. The Queen had five miscarriages. Reflecting on this, the King said to a group visiting the Palace, We have pondered on the meaning of this suffering and, bit by bit, we have come to see that it meant that our heart was freer to love all children, absolutely all children.
In a letter to a young mother the King wrote about a children's party that he and the Queen had hosted at the Palace: In one corner there was a group of handicapped children, several of them with Down's syndrome. I brought over a plateful of toffees to a little girl who had scarcely any manual control. with great difficulty, she succeed in taking a toffee but, to my astonishment, she gave it to another child. then for a long time, without ever keeping one for herself, she distributed these sweets (candies) to all the healthy children who could not believe their eyes. What a depth of love there is in those physically handicapped bodies . . .
One by one the children left. We really felt as if they had become in some sense our children. I think they felt it too. It was a very special afternoon; the presence of the Lord was really tangible. There was such peace and joy. that was pure gift!
I have read Baudouin, King of the Belgians, The Hidden Life, a number of times and each time I am moved by it. I see in it a reflection of what's in today's gospel: his gratitude to God, like the gratitude of all at the wedding feast, not mentioned explicitly but clearly there; his and Fabiola's submission to God's will through Mary: Do whatever he tells you; and the extraordinary generosity of Jesus, God and Man, turning water into the equivalent of about 500 or 600 bottles of the best wine, a generosity that led Baudouin and Fabiola, who couldn't have children of their own, to see that our heart was freer to love all children, absolutely all children.
When we allow him, Jesus can turn the very ordinary in our lives into the extraordinary, just as a little girl with physical and mental disabilities revealed the presence of God to the King of the Belgians, just as Fabiola, his wife and queen, was a daily revelation of God's loving presence to him.
God has the same desire to reveal himself to each of us every day, specifically in the present moment. And He has given us his Mother, who is our Mother also, to guide us with her words of absolute faith, do whatever he tells you.