Mary Aquin O’Neill is a Sister of Mercy who holds the doctorate in religion from Vanderbilt University. After many years of college teaching, she founded Mount Saint Agnes Theological Center for Women and was its director from 1992 to 2009. Since the center closed in August of 2013, Sr. Aquin is in semi-retirement, writing as well as giving lectures and retreats.
In the Litany of Loreto, Mary is called "cause of our joy." There are many reasons for considering her such; many of them are caught up by the feast of the Assumption. This glorious feast, celebrated today, August 15, is a testimony to the power of the laity and of our devotion to the mother of God. It also underscores Catholic belief in the goodness of the human body and in its promised resurrection. The feast likewise counters any and all tendencies to think that the female human body is excluded from such goodness and from the possibility of glorification with God in eternity.
The feast of the Annunciation coincides with Good Friday this year, inviting us to think about the two feasts together. The liturgy has a marvelous way of collapsing time, making events that are separate in historical time coexist for the participants.
As a young college teacher, I taught the four cardinal virtues with gusto, convinced — as were the ancients — that human beings could, by practicing certain acts, make them second nature. Why would Christians add mercy to the great foursome of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude?
The lesson here concerns the power of true dialog, which has the potential for transforming each of the partners as they come to deeper and deeper understandings of the other. Women of the church ought, then, seek and accept opportunities for dialog related to important ecclesial issues.