A Journey Continues
By Cliff Garvey
Archbishop Francisco Viti is now eighty-seven years old. Until his retirement, he was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Huambo, Angola. During his early retirement years, he lived in Assisi, helped out at the Basilica of Saint Francis, heard confessions in a handful of languages, and completed the first-ever translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church into his native language of Umbundu (the most widely spoken indigenous language in Angola).
I met Archbishop Viti during my first visit to Assisi in 2007. In fact, I met him in the confessional. As my confession concluded, Archbishop Viti wrote down his name, cell number, and email address. He told me that Jesus and the Blessed Mother had brought us together for a reason. He told me from that moment onward, he would be my spiritual father, I would be his son, and that if I needed him, wherever it might be, anywhere in the world, I could call him or write to him. And so I did. For several years, Archbishop Viti directed my annual Lenten retreat in Assisi. We met every day. He gave me passages from scriptures to read and remember during times of trial. He celebrated Mass with me, for my intentions, at the tomb of Saint Francis.
During our last meeting in Assisi, before Archbishop Viti returned to Angola at the request of the Holy Father, he encouraged me to grow closer to the Blessed Mother. He talked with me about his childhood in Angola. He spoke about how he had been force to work almost like a slave building streets in his hometown; about how he had been taught to pray with the Blessed Mother by his own mother. He told me how much Mary meant to him; how much comfort and strength he took from his relationship with her; how much closer he grew to the Lord by, through, and with her prayers. Ultimately, he told me with the authority of an archbishop that a person cannot grow close to Christ without first knowing his mother.
When he could see that his words were not having their desired effect, he took me by the hand; and he led me through a series of hallways and dark passageways, through the bowels of the Basilica of Saint Francis. Then suddenly, he opened a narrow door. We walked through it and found ourselves in the Lower Basilica of Saint Francis at a side altar dedicated to the Blessed Mother. He pulled a stole from his pocket, put it over his neck, told me to kneel, placed his hands on my head, and began to pray in Latin. In all honesty, I did not understand what has happening. For one brief and scary moment, I feared that I was being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Huambo; and that I would be head to Angola — forever!
I soon realized that my spiritual father was praying for me, for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, so that my heart and mind might be open to her love and her prayers. I felt deeply blessed, consoled, and grateful for Archbishop Viti’s prayers. But I still did not appreciate or fully understand what had happened that day in the Basilica of Saint Francis. Later that year, with help from my best friend, Father Jim, I wrote to Archbishop Viti and asked him to explain what he had prayed for that day. In translation from the Portuguese language, here’s what he wrote back:
“My son, during these last few days, I have been thinking about you and your question. When I anointed you at the altar of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, I said a prayer through which I consecrated your life to Our Lady. It was not from a book but from my heart as a son of Mary. I consecrated you to her as I was consecrated to her at the age of 12 in 1945. The Mother of God has protected me like a mother protects her beloved child. In my sufferings, in my illnesses, in persecution, and in moments when I could not understand my life, I found refuge and comfort in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. My son, I pray that you will have the same confidence in her. On July 14th, I will celebrate fifty years of priesthood. I would so love to see you, my spiritual son, at that Eucharistic Celebration! But we are so far away! With you now only in spirit, I abandon and entrust myself into the hands of God, and with you, I renew my consecration to the Mother of God. Peace be with you, my beloved son in Christ. Your father, Francisco.”
Years later, reading this message still takes my breath away. Pope Francis once said: “With God, nothing is lost! In Mary, the goal has been reached; and we have before our eyes the reason why we journey: not to gain the things here below, which are fleeting, but the homeland above, which is forever.” It has been a long spiritual journey. It continues even now during these troubled times. But that’s how it works. Our journey is Our Lady’s journey. Our journey with her is the journey of the whole Church.
Just as Mary nurtured the child born in a stable, she nurtures us. She nurtures our faith through her love and prayers for us. Just as she walked with Jesus along the dusty roads of Galilee, she walks with us. She walks with us when we encounter love and joy. She walks with us when we encounter pain and sadness. She walks with us when we are strong. She walks with us when we are weak. Just as Mary knelt in prayer at the foot of the Cross, she kneels in prayer with us and for us — when we are happy; when we grieve; when we enjoy good health; when we live with a chronic illness; when we suffer with a terminal illness; when we live life to the fullest; and when we take our last breath.
Just as Mary rejoiced with the disciples when the Lord was risen from death, she rejoices with us — when we find joy in the simple pleasures of life like family, friendship, food, art, books, and music. She rejoices with us when we reach out to the poor, the sick, and the hungry. She rejoices with us when we grow in prayer, fellowship, and service. She rejoices with us when we live the Gospel, share God’s love, and rebuild the Church. She also stands with us when we say ‘no’ to discord and division; when we say ‘no’ to bigotry and hatred; when we say ‘no’ to gossip and detraction. She also smiles when we act on the advice of old ladies and old bishops, when we reach out to her in prayer and when we reach back to the Risen Lord, her Son, who reaches out to us in friendship, love, and mercy throughout our lives.
This is my journey. This is my long and winding road. What’s yours? Pray about your own personal relationship with Mary, with Jesus, with the community of believers that we call the Church. Ask for the grace to recall those moments when you felt closest to our Lord, to our Blessed Mother, to our brothers and sisters in faith. Ask for the grace to remember those men and women, past and present, who helped you along the way, taught you to pray, walked with you in spirit and love — during times of gladness and thanksgiving, during times of sadness and suffering. Give praise. Give thanks. Ask the Blessed Mother to pray for you. Ask her to pray for us. Ask her to pray for our sick and suffering world.
full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of Angels, pray for us! Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us! Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us!
About the Author & Presenter
Cliff Garvey is co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Souther Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a spiritual director, retreat leader, writer, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation.
Thank you for listening to the Living Rosary, Day 2: A Journey Continues. This audio recording is produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project and our programs and ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at email@example.com. Copyright 2020. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!
The Living Rosary Virtual Retreat
- The Living Rosary: Introduction
- The Living Rosary – Day 1: A Journey Begins
- The Living Rosary – Day 2: A Journey Continues
- The Living Rosary – Day 3: A Prayer for Hope
- The Living Rosary – Day 4: A Prayer for Tomorrow
- The Living Rosary – Day 5: A Prayer for Joy
Video Rosary with Father Jim
- Watch & Pray: The Joyful Mysteries
- Watch & Pray: The Sorrowful Mysteries
- Watch & Pray: The Glorious Mysteries
- Watch & Pray: The Luminous Mysteries
- How to Pray the Rosary
Marian Podcast Series
- Assisi Project Podcast: The School of Mary
- Assisi Project Podcast: Mary, Mother of All Peoples (Part 1)
- Assisi Project Podcast: Mary, Mother of All Peoples (Part 2)
- Assisi Project Podcast: Our Daily Prayers
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile (links below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!