It somehow seems fitting for this first National Christ Child blogpost to be published on Mary Virginia Merrick’s birthday, November 2. Really it’s a sort of a trifecta weekend as we also celebrate All Saint’s Day, All Soul’s Day and focus on the Beatitudes. Miss Mary birthed our organization and remains an incredible inspiration for us and for our work in the service of children. “Blessed are the merciful” truly is an instruction to us to engage in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that our chapters perform today. Miss Mary’s example was recognized in her time and continues to gain recognition as her Cause for Canonization develops, which is why the proximity of her birthday to All Saints Day is particularly special to me this year.
I was so lucky that one of the first things I did after my installation in Phoenix was to travel with past national president and current NCCS historian Patty Myler of the Washington, D.C. chapter to visit St. Paul’s in Ellicott City, Maryland. We were invited to participate in the dedication of a walkway St. Paul’s erected in honor of Miss Mary. Miss Mary and her family attended St. Paul’s when they were staying at their nearby summer home called Linwood in the late 1800’s. The walkway stretches between the side entrance to the church, including the handicapped entrance, and an historic building which once served as the St. Paul School. We could tell that there was real excitement at St. Paul’s about the importance of Mary Virginia Merrick’s life and work and her relationship to their parish. One of the 8th graders at St. Paul’s even did a video about Miss Mary’s life filmed from the area in the church which had been the Merrick family pew which Patty and I had the privilege to see.
Knowing we were so close to Linwood, Patty and I had to see it for ourselves. This was because two of the most significant events in Miss Mary’s life took place there: her religious conversion experience out back beyond the house which centered her life around the Christ Child, and her catastrophic fall which resulted in living her life in a reclining wheelchair. The picture to the right is of the house today, which is now a facility to teach and empower children with autism. Since it was a Sunday, I thought it might be ok to go around the back of the house so we could see where Miss Mary might have walked to and from her conversion experience at age 11, about which she once said:
“I was not adoring beauty, nor order, nor the wheat, nor the sun but really and truly He who had made all things, the God of earth and sky. I can vividly recall that I was one with the vast creation. But that I could know him though the wheat could not. So little was I that the tall spears quite covered me as I knelt, and I thought they bowed with me to the great God, whom I loved and to whom I gave myself then and there.”
On a glorious early fall day the best shot I could get is the cloudy panoramic below. I think it catches the beauty of the place even in today’s more developed landscape, and the field in the view seemed to be somewhere you might hear God’s voice just a little more clearly.
What a great inspiration and memory to take back to our work to serve our 43 chapters as we begin the new Board’s 2014-16 term! Next week I’ll post on the 2014 Red Wagon award-winning program Christ Child Treasures from Pasadena, so please subscribe and/or reply with feedback. Thanks!