JESUS YOUTH-As the image of “Mary, Queen of Apostles”
In 2013 Jesus Youth requested the Pallottines for permission to use the beautiful image of ‘Mary, Queen of the Apostles’ within the Movement in connection with its formation programs. Raiju was the International coordinator at the time, and he wrote to Fr Jacob, the head of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, as the Pallottine priests and brothers are formally known. Quite willingly the congregation gave us permission and Jesus Youth started using the image from that time onward, in connection with its formation programs as well as Jesus Youth Household.
For the first time I came across this image in a special way at Nagpur, India in 1997. Shelton and I were giving a training to Pallottine brothers at their seminary in this central Indian city. We had a very enjoyable time with the Pallottine community and Fr Mathew, their Provincial who had invited us for the program, shared with us the congregation’s mission. St Vincent Pallotti, who lived a long time before the Second Vatican council, had a prophetic vision of lay involvement in the evangelistic mission of the Church. Later, Fr Mathew showed us the big painting of Mary, Queen of the Apostles and explained its significance. For me that was really a ‘wow’ experience. Mother Mary in the full glory of Pentecost, surrounded by apostles, some of them well known but some others unknown. The themes of Pentecostal experience, missionary sending, and community participation are all so very beautifully depicted there.
The painting well represents the great saint’s vision for Christian mission. In the 1840’s he made the Italian painter Serafino Cesaretti do this image. The original painting is kept at the Regina Apostolorum Parish in Rome. Many of the Jesus Youth leaders had the joyful opportunity to view it when we all went to Rome in connection with the Canonical approval of the movement in 2016. Now its copies are there all over the world, and recently also in most Jesus Youth homes, after the movement took her as our patroness.
An inspiring image
As the image well represents, Mary is at the center of the Pentecost. After the departure of Our Lord she was there to hold together the dissipating little flock, encouraging them and praying for and with them. Their hope-filled waiting bore fruit in the outpouring of the Power from on high.
The glory of the Pentecost shines on every one of them. All of them are engulfed in that heavenly anointing and blissful experience. They are all visibly transformed by that heavenly touch. Mary is aglow with the Spirit and a tongue of fire representing the Heavenly Spirit rests on top of everyone.
This Marian leadership as well as the transforming touch of the Spirit knit them up into a community. They are one in heart and mind, gathered around Mary. This gentle circle brings them close to one another, packed into a close body, and they are ready to be sent out.
The presence of a couple of young women at the inner circle was quite important for St Pallotti. The great mission of the Kingdom is entrusted not only to the ‘high and mighty’ Apostles, but even to the ordinary lay men and women, who have significant roles. The presence of the ordinary ones in the picture, is thus of special importance.
Today, after the Council there is much talk about the ‘hierarchical’ gifts of the clergy and the ‘charismatic’ gifts of the ordinary faithful. In the image, in front of the senior apostle are a set of keys left on the floor. Surely when the Holy Spirit befalls, there comes about a levelling of the high and the low and all become one in the mission of Christ.
This is also the great moment of sending forth. Yet, as we can see in the picture, the Christian mission is not the hustle and bustle of restless activity but the joyful and gentle movement of the Spirit impelling the apostles to go forth together to welcome all others into the Cenacle.
An inspiring image of Jesus Youth
When I had the first close look at this image at Nagpur, my immediate thought was, ‘Wow, this has to be Jesus Youth’, filled with the Spirit, united as a community, presided over by the mother and sent forth in mission.
Usually our Catholic response to any holy image is to quickly recollect and offer our needs and say, “Prayer for us . . .”. But shouldn’t we go a little further? This beautiful image is for us to look at it gently, and in the silence of our hearts to allow it to speak to us. My thought is this – what we need might not be a growing devotion to Mary, Queen of the Apostles or more prayer to the Holy Mother, but a contemplation of her and the Pentecost, a greater reflection of its beauty and mystery leading to a deep inspiration that grows into mission.
There are different representations of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, but in St Vincent Pallotti’s inspiring image we found a befitting reflection of the core vision of Jesus Youth. As we look at it and allow it to speak to us, may the Lord fill us with a greater measure of His Spirit and allow us to grow into the image of His holy Mother.