Solemnity of the Ascension
75th Annual Lancelotta Family May Procession
St. Joseph Monastery, Irvington
May 16, 2021
It is a distinct pleasure and honor to take part in the 75th annual Lancelotta Family May Procession in honor of Our Blessed Mother. As the number of World War II Veterans dwindles, and the living memory of a world engulfed in war fades, it is right that the Lancelotta family, together with many friends and parishioners from St. Leo’s and beyond, gathers together each year to remember the sacrifices and risks of those years. Yet, we are doing more than keeping old memories alive. Rather, we are keeping alive the faith of Joachim and Elvira Lancelotta who sought the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary as their sons were drafted by the Army and Navy during World War II.
Upon their safe return from the military services, the Lancelotta family did not forget, did not return to business as usual. Instead, when Joachim and Elvira gathered their family together again, they gave thanks to the Lord by organizing this beautiful Mass and May procession, an event that has taken place every year since 1946. And how grateful we are to Father Mike Murphy, Pastor here at St. Joseph Monastery, for your kindness in hosting this beautiful event during this extraordinary year.
The Memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Just as the Lancelotta family remembers the blessings which the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary brought to their family, so too, Mary herself stored in her memory the mysterious events in the life of her divine Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For example, when Mary and Joseph presented the Child Jesus in the Temple, they encountered a holy man named Simeon who prophesied about their Son and foretold that Mary’s heart would be pierced with a sword of sorrow. The Gospel tells us that Mary carefully stored Simeon’s words in her heart.
Indeed, Mary, who was not only the Lord’s Mother but also his first and best disciple, accompanied Jesus throughout the events of his public ministry, culminating in his passion and death, as well as his saving resurrection. As Mary listened to her Son speak the words of spirit and life, and witnessed his miracles of healing, yet sensed the mounting opposition, what thoughts and emotions must have coursed through her mind and heart – perhaps not unlike the turmoil and suffering that Elvira Lancelotta experienced over the prospect of her six sons being sent off to fight in World War II.
Yet, just as Mary accompanied Jesus on the long and painful road to Calvary, so too Mary was present to her Son when, in the Spirit, he was raised from the dead. Mary, whose heart was unencumbered by sin, could see better than all the inevitable triumph her Son would win over the forces of sin and death. As the Risen Lord began to appear to the disciples, we can only imagine the joy the filled Mary’s heart, a joy even greater than that which Elvira experienced as her sons returned from war. While a homily is no place for idle speculation, it is not impossible to imagine that between the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord, Mary was behind the scenes, encouraging the frightened Apostles, sharing the memories of her heart, and helping them progress toward a robust Easter faith capable of receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Advocate and guide. It was not for nothing that Mary was present with the Apostles in the Upper Room when, at Pentecost, the Spirit descended upon them like tongues of fire and the evangelizing mission of the Church began in earnest.
Our Homeward Journey
This afternoon, we will retrace Jesus’ triumph over sin and death as we pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. We will see the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension through the eyes of Mary and accompanied by her prayers, we will await a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Virgin Mary is both the Mother of the Lord and our Mother also. As our loving Mother, Mary recognizes the obstacles and dangers we face in our journey homeward, our journey towards our true home in heaven. Gazing at us with maternal love, Mary recognizes that we too have been “drafted” to engage in a battle that is not merely with the flesh and blood, that is to say, with the forces of this world, but, as St. Paul says, against the spiritual forces of evil at work in the world (Eph. 6:12). No less than Elvira Lancelotta, Mary will not rest until every one of us comes home, home to the peace and joy of the heavenly Kingdom for which we were created.
The Collect, the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass, reminded us that where the Risen Lord has first gone, there we, the Body of Christ, are to follow. Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, nurtured by the Body and Blood of Christ, forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, bolstered by a life of virtue and charity, we are in training to make that homeward journey, the very journey that Mary our Mother made ahead of us in her Assumption. Yes, Mary is anxious for our safe passage into the halls of heaven and the gentle light of the twelve stars in her crown helps light the way.
Remembering and More
How pleased Joachim and Elivra must be to know that there is now a seminarian in the family – no pressure there, James! – and that her family still gathers each May to remember and to give thanks. Yet, we are doing more than merely remembering. It’s not as if we are merely looking at old pictures in an album or a flickering World War II Movietone newsreel. No, we are remembering, that is to say, re-living the Death and Resurrection of Christ and we are sharing in spirit and truth in the Lord’s exaltation at the Father’s right hand, and, as we do so, we are accompanied by the presence and prayers of the Virgin Mary. And in all of this we are reunited spiritually with Elvira and Joachim, as also Eddie, Guido, Victor, Jerry, Charlie, Frank and all our loved ones. Their faith and their love live on in our midst to this day.
May we, in our turn, hand on this same faith and devotion to the next generation and to generations yet unborn, that the young men and women of today and tomorrow may experience the joy of acclaiming Christ as our King and Savior and Mary as our Queen and spiritual Mother. And may God bless us and keep us always in his love!