The Feast of the Assumption in Carey, Ohio
By Friar John Bamman OFM Conv.
It had not rained during the Procession of Mary as far back as any local could remember. Although our weather radar had indicated we were in the clear, with a 0% chance of rain, a considerable storm approached the evening before the Assumption. Under normal circumstances, we would be preparing for our candlelight procession that starts at the Basilica and stretches to the Shrine Park. When you look out, all you can see is this river of candles. It is beautiful.
But this year was different in many ways. Lightning and thunder were all around us as it stormed and hit close enough to make the Basilica’s bells sound off. Surely it wasn’t a coincidence that they rang out when usually, during a typical year, our doors would be opening for Our Lady to be carried down the steps and into the streets.
Of course, it is not only the weather that has made this year different. Covid-19 has changed the way we can celebrate. Many entities, including the friars, Diocese, and State Government, decided it was not a good idea to bring a large group to camp and parade in the streets. It would be impossible to keep a safe distance. And while we know, it was the right decision; to be responsible, to protect us all from this terrible disease, we hunger to see our pilgrims again, to hear their stories of miracles fulfilled, and to witness their gratitude and devotion to Our Lady.
The Chaldeans, one of our largest groups of pilgrims, comes down from the Detroit area. They are Catholics from Iraq, and they come to the shrine with multiple Generations in tow. They all come together, and traditionally they camp, share food, dance, and pray, and we witness that baton of faith passed on from one generation to the next. It inspires.
So, as lightning strikes and rain pours, some see it as a sign that Our Lady was sad, pilgrims could not come. To others, it was a sign she had been holding back the rain all these years, keeping them dry. As we all struggle with this pandemic, remember, She is the one who heals us and consoles us. It is only fitting, this year, She weeps.