M. Maria de Anima Christi, SSVM
October 4, 2023
In the land of the eternal blue sky, a woman found in the garbage a statue of the Virgin Mary wrapped in paper. The little Virgin was about 50 cm tall and was a beautiful wood carving, with three roses on the hem of her dress, a belt and a rosary on her arm. Her face was very vivid and her eyes seemed to look at you.
The woman kept the statue in her “yurt” (tent) and eventually presented it to the Catholic Church, where both she and the statue found their home. The woman was baptized and the statue was placed in the presbytery on a column in the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Ulan-Bator, the capital of Mongolia. The faithful people gave her a mantle. Each one brought a small piece of cloth and joined it into a colorful patchwork cloak, which adorns the column where Our Lady stands. The presence of Our Lady was for everyone a sign of a particular privilege from God: that in a country that is mostly Buddhist and pagan, the Mother of God manifested herself in a totally unusual and surprising way. Undoubtedly, it is Our Lady who loves to be with her people and who prepares hearts to receive her Son Jesus Christ. This image of the Virgin received the name of Queen of Mongolia.
It was on the occasion of the first visit of a Pope to Mongolia, September 1-4, 2023, that Pope Francis blessed the statue of Our Lady and prayed in front of it for a long time. We all experienced a special joy, not really common in the circumstances of fatigue in which we found ourselves, due to the pilgrimage, the accumulation of people, the unfamiliarity of the place and the language, but which marked the presence of the Divine Spirit in a very eloquent way.
Pilgrims had come from many different parts of Central Asia, from Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, the Philippines and Korea to attend the visit of the Holy Father. From Russia there were twenty of us who overcame the long journey (for us, from Khabarovsk, it was two and a half days by train and one more day by bus) to meet Pope Francis. For our seven parishioners it was a unique occasion to see him up close and experience what it means to be with the Successor of Peter on earth. Vladimir, a young man who entered the Catholic Church three years ago, told us that what struck him most was experiencing the unity and joy of seeing the Pope among people of very different nationalities, languages and customs. It was something extraordinary, something that could not have been achieved with simple human good will, because what united us was a very spiritual, supernatural joy, it was the fruit of the Holy Spirit, who wanted to speak to us through the mouth of Pope Francis.
The Church in Mongolia opened its doors to all pilgrims coming from small missions hidden from the eyes of the world. “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” the Holy Father said, quoting Psalm 34. Many members of the suffering Church found in Ulan-Bator an oasis of peace and a touch of consolation in the common and public celebration of the Eucharist. The head of the Church was present, surrounded by her cardinals, bishops and priests to consecrate the sacred host, bread of new life and blood of salvation. We shared together the same bread that united us into one body. The obstacles of languages and cultures seemed to disappear, exchanged for a moment of great unity.
In Mongolia sheep are free. They walk through grassy pastures, hills and valleys, rocks and rivers under an eternal blue sky. The freedom to express and live the faith in Jesus Christ around the Good Shepherd filled everyone with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Being able to greet the Holy Father as a member of the missionary Church made me experience the action of the Holy Spirit in a new way. Under the eternal blue sky of Mongolia, the crossroads between the West and the East, Mother Church was present in fullness, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The first Christians of this young and rejuvenated Church, after years of oppression, persecution and great hardship, are simply and beautifully seeking to practice the love of Jesus in the simplicity of their daily lives. It was a most beautiful and unforgettable Church experience.
Maria de Anima Christi
Misionera en Jabarovsk, Extremo Oriente de Rusia