Weeping with the Lord to cleanse the body, mind and soul

Feb 29, 2024
At the Vigil to Dry Tears at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Feb. 27, 2024, Patricia Marques, left, embraces Alex Carey, hoping he can feel the arms of the Virgin Mary through her own. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

ORLANDO | The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe was dim, mostly lit by dozens of candles that flickered at the altar, their flame casting light on a cross and an image of the Madonna. This was the Vigil to Dry Tears, February 27.

Many knelt before the image of Christ crucified and Our Lady, tethered to the altar by a purple fabric flowing from the images to those kneeling – a sign of Lent, of repentance, of healing. Each person bearing their hearts and allowing Jesus and His Mother to cleanse them of their fears, their guilt, their burdens.

“We come to you for healing Lord, of body, mind and soul. And pray that by your Spirit’s touch, we may again be whole,” sang the choir at the opening of the service. Pausing between reflections, the music allowed the words to take root. A reading from the Gospel of Matthew proclaimed, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Bishop John Noonan invites those gathered to pray for their own wounds in need of healing at the Vigil to Dry Tears, Feb. 27, 2024. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

After various reflections, Bishop John Noonan offered a short homily, assuring those gathered of God’s “matchless love”. “To experience God’s mercy in our lives is to know and experience God’s love,” he said. “Tears cleanse the mind, heart and the soul. So that our response to God is simply, mercy Lord. Thank you, Lord, for your love and merciful care for each and every one of us.”

Alex Carey from Corpus Christi Parish in Celebration participated in prayer with several others from the young adult group. As one by one people went to kneel at the steps of the altar to pray, Carey too approached the crucifix and knelt before the image of the Virgin Mary. Overcome, he began to sob. After some time, he rose to find a new friend in Christ, Patricia Marques, reaching out to comfort him. As she hugged him, he began to weep again.

Consecrated to Mary, she said it was Our Mother who gave her courage to go to Carey and give him a rosary and image of Jesus. She told him, “Mary is with you. When you feel alone, hold this rosary and you are holding the hand of Mary. She is with you. And Jesus is with you.”

Marques contained her own tears as she hugged him again. “At a moment like that, the person needs your strength,” said the Resurrection Parish in Winter Garden parishioner. “I wanted him to feel that human affection. I don’t know what he is carrying. The Virgin Mary kept telling me, ‘Hug him’.” Marques said she wanted Carey to feel Mary’s arms embracing him, by using her own.

“The tears are necessary for freedom because we must clean the soul to give that cross to Jesus and Mary. He’s not going to remove it, but will give you the strength to continue as they did,” she said. “What we did here tonight was beautiful. I saw many people crying, and one must cry to cleanse, because Jesus cried, we must too. But there are also tears of joy.”

Carey shared how much the experience helped him. Driving to the shrine with his friend, Carey recalled thinking, “There must be a meaning behind this.” “When I went up to the crucifix, that’s when I experienced it,” he said. “That’s when I knew.” He explained he struggled with great anxieties and fears and that his mother passed away in 2022 from a heart attack. “I was very close to my mom, and I miss her. It’s still hard because I loved her,” he shared. “I really needed the healing. I really needed it. This place is a very spiritual place.”

“I not only felt that I was able to release what was burdening me, but I knew there was something there. And when the woman came up to me and said the Virgin Mary’s with me, I knew what it was. I felt close to Jesus and Mary. I love them.”

His friend, Austin Adams, said simply bringing his friend was probably the most powerful thing for him. “To see his healing… Then when I was up there, I prayed for my friend whose father has chronic pain. It was nice to be able to bear it all out there and trust in the Lord. We can all learn something from Alex.”

Nicole, Marques’s daughter, found the music and the atmosphere led to deeper reflection and an examination of conscience. “It encourages more reflection on how one can grow spiritually, as a brother or sister in their community, as a child of God, as a daughter of Mary.”

During the remaining hour, four priests were available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, offering further healing.

Click here to watch the Vigil to Dry Tears.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, February 29, 2024