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A “Very Marian” Advent lands in San Francisco

Icon of Mary and Jesus with Angels

Zvonimir Atletic | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 12/09/23

Archbishop Cordileone asks Catholics to accompany Mary in her expectancy in the weeks before the Nativity.
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With two Marian feast days in Advent, and several Christmas carols reminding us about the maternity of Mary, the Blessed Mother is certainly at the forefront of Catholics’ minds during this season.

Still, the archbishop of San Francisco believes Catholics can better prepare for Christmas by focusing on Mary in a new way.

On December 10, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone is launching the “Very Marian Advent Prayer Service,” based on the premise that Advent is a time when we can wait with Mary through the last difficult month of anticipation for the coming of the Christ Child.

“Every year, many of us (including me) struggle to keep Advent in its proper liturgical sense: a season of preparation for the coming of our Savior marked by fasting and other penitential acts, in addition to special prayers, rituals, and symbols,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “It’s not just the distractions of the secular and commercial; the sheer joy at the anticipation of Christmas keeps bursting through.”

But mothers know full well the challenges of the last month of pregnancy, he said: the anticipatory joy amid what is often physical suffering or fears of the suffering that childbirth brings. 

“It is the perfect metaphor for what we should be feeling during Advent: the incredible joy of knowing that God humbled himself to become one of us out of his great love for us — a joy, though, mixed with sadness from the realization that it was our own sins that caused this to happen; the cross lies ahead,” he said.

New musical works

The first “Very Marian Advent Prayer Service” will be held at Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco, organized by the archdiocese’s Benedict XVI Institute. The congregation will have a chance to sing classic hymns with a Marian focus, but also hear the world premiere of two Advent carols, the work of two living Catholic artists “who create in the great, high sacred music tradition of the Church,” Cordileone said.

Cordileone commissioned the two hymns/motets through the Benedict XVI Institute. The first is a parish setting of Chesterton’s Carol by composer Mark Nowakowski. The original version, released during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Vos Omnes Virtual Choir, requires an orchestra and two high sopranos, making it difficult for most parishes. The new version is for mixed choir, making it possible for the carol, which garnered 17,000 views on YouTube, to spread to more parishes.

The second world premiere is a new hymn, “Our Lady Expectant: An Advent Carol,” which sets to music a poem by Roseanne T. Sullivan. The hymn is in Mary’s own voice, expressing her longing for her Son using the titles of Jesus highlighted in the O Antiphons.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Archbishop Cordileone will continue his Marian focus on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when he will join the Benedict XVI Institute and Sophia Institute Press in a Zoom event to highlight Guadalupe and the Flower Prophecies: How God Prepared the Americas for Conversion Before the Lady Appeared.

Joseph and Monique Gonzales, the authors of this new book will speak about what the Lord did “for no other nation” through Our Lady.

The event will also feature Frank La Rocca’s “Aue Maria,” sung by 13-year-old boy-soprano Anselm Decker. The Aue Maria is a particular tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe, written in the Nahautl language in which she spoke to St. Juan Diego.

This link to the new recording will go live December 12:

The public can register to receive the Zoom link for December 12 at this link.

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