By Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Anchor Correspondent
TIVERTON, R.I. — Sometimes Our Blessed Mother reveals herself to us in apparitions, other times through contemplation, study and prayer. This time she was in the neighborhood.
“Mary of Nazareth is coming to Holy Ghost Church,” said Father Jay Finelli, pastor of the Tiverton, R.I. parish. “We have the great privilege of being the only setting for the showing of ‘Mary of Nazareth,’ a film about the life of Our Lady.”
A few weeks later, I file into the church hall with a hundred others who share a devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Sitting on a metal chair in the back of the “theater,” I am greeted by a man with a long beard whom I recognize at once as Friar John of Our Lady’s Chapel in New Bedford. Three other Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate are seated across from me.
I think most film critics at this point would add a spoiler alert, but there will be none here. We know Our Lady intimately in the Gospels through the Annunciation and the Visitation, at the temple in Jerusalem and the wedding at Cana, at the foot of the cross, and in the upper room amongst the disciples at Pentecost. She is family.
The screen flickers to life, and a mob with dogs are searching throughout Nazareth for a young girl. We watch St. Anne and St. Joaquim hide Mary. But the dogs are unable to discern her scent. Her parents are incredulous that she has been spared.
“Mary is a mystery too great for us,” they say.
The happy child grows in beauty and holiness.
Fast forward 10 years, Joseph asks Mary’s parents for her hand in Marriage.
Mary sits on a rock in a pasture, and a snake slithers through the grass. Just as it reaches her, she stares it down.
Joseph arrives at the field and asks Mary to marry him. She smiles and reaches for his hand.
The light-filled, barely discernible outline of the Angel Gabriel announces the Holy Birth.
“Let it be with me according to Your Word,” she says.
An ecstatic Mary wanders through the streets of Nazareth unable to contain her joy at the news.
She visits Elizabeth and the mute Zechariah and witnesses the birth of John the Baptist as foretold by the angel.
Mary returns to Nazareth visibly pregnant, but she proudly walks through the streets amid her neighbors who look at her with disdain.
She tells Joseph about the child: “Our Son is the Messiah we have all been waiting for.”
Her father rebukes her; her mother cries.
With bleeding hands Joseph tears down the scaffolding of the house he is building for Mary. He falls asleep, and the angel tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. He awakens, and his hands are no longer bloody.
No one comes to the wedding. Mary and Joseph dance.
Following the emperor’s edict the couple journeys to Bethlehem. At the inn Joseph asks each of the guests to give up their place for his wife who is in labor. No one cares.
Joseph leaves the stable in search of water, and Mary gives birth to Jesus.
Sent by the angels, shepherds arrive at the manger. They pass Jesus around, kiss Him and cuddle Him.
Three kings come to worship the King of Judea. The Holy Family escapes to Egypt.
Fast forward 30 years. Mary makes a red cloak for Jesus and initiates Jesus’ public ministry at the wedding at Cana, where He changes water into wine.
After a carpentry accident, Joseph dies.
Jesus returns home with His disciples. He tells them He will die and rise after three days. Mary prays to God, “Let me be the one to suffer.”
Jesus tells Mary that all will need her faith.
Everyone is waving palm branches in the streets of Jerusalem, where Jesus passes by.
Mary comforts Peter after he denies Jesus three times.
Jesus takes off the cloak she made Him. Mary feels the lashes.
Mary watches Jesus carry the cross. She walks past the guard and climbs the rocky ledge to Calvary. She falls over in agony when they nail Him to the cross.
Mary is at the foot of the cross. “My mother,” says Jesus, wracked with pain. “Here I am,” she replies.
Thunder erupts, the earth quakes. Mary is holding her Son’s broken body. She kisses Him and weeps.
There is a flashback. We see Mary holding the Baby Jesus in the manger. My eyes tear, and I hear sniffles around me.
Mary gathers with the disciples and tells them He will live again. She shares the story of her young Son taking care of His Father’s business in the Temple when He was 12 years old.
Mary Magdalene returns from the tomb and cries, “He’s alive!”
We hear Jesus call out, “Mother!”
“Here I am,” Mary answers.
The film credits begin to roll. The movie is dedicated to all mothers.
Fast forward 2,000 years. Blinking, I realize I am in a church hall. I walk over to the friars.
A seminarian, Friar Gabriel, hands me a medal imprinted with the Virgin and the message: “O Mary Conceived Without Sin Pray For Us Who Recourse to Thee.”
“There were some very positive aspects that I saw in the movie,” says Father Gabriel. “One was that of Our Lady as co-redemptress. She asked for the grace to feel the experience of Our Lord’s Passion in her body.”
“In many ways, they did fairly well,” adds Father Guardian Maximilian. “It’s got to be very hard to portray Mary, who is far beyond any of us. She sustained not only herself but everyone else.”
“She still does,” I think to myself, as I walk out into the dark parking lot clutching the medal tightly in my hand.
For more information about future screenings of “Mary of Nazareth,” call Holy Ghost Church at 401-624-8131.