Dear Friends in Christ:
This weekend we have the crowing of the image of our Blessed Mother at all of our weekend masses. For some of us, this devotional practice brings back wonderful memories of childhood while it may be totally unknown or not mean much to others. Devotion to Mary has always been one of the beautiful hallmarks of our Catholic Faith. In the wake of Vatican II (1962-65) and with the rise of secularism, Marian devotion, like many other aspects of the faith, has declined. While never intended by the Council, many people (clergy, religious, theologians and parents) erroneously thought and taught that devotion to Mary was not important. They did this by word and example. With the pontificate of St. John Paul II, there was a renewed appreciation of the important role of Mary in our lives. This was continued by Pope Benedict and now by Pope Francis. Unfortunately, much damage has been done. Many Catholics no longer regularly pray the rosary or Marian prayers. Many families fail to teach their children to turn to our Blessed Mother as a heavenly intercessor with her Son. Quite simply, many Catholics fail to love and honor Mary as we should. This is extremely sad because when we fail to love and honor Mary, we are not following Jesus!
Two of the biggest reasons for this failure are that people don’t know how to pray to Mary and don’t know why we pray to Mary. The ancient dictum Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi (the law or praying is the law of believing) applies here perfectly. The reason many people don’t believe is because they don’t pray! Prayer is the oxygen of faith! The adage, the family that prays together stays together is a great help for us. To have a good family and to make our families better, happier, healthier and holier, we must pray and pray together. Every family should have some time every day where they pray together. Ideally, more than one time. Families strengthen their bonds with God and each other when they pray before meals and together at night. We should pray together at home, at church, in the car and wherever we find ourselves. Parents should pray with their children and also with each other. Just as we train and discipline our children with life lessons (say “Thank you” and “Please”, make up your bed, do your homework, brush your teeth, tell the truth, be respectful and polite) throughout their youth and adolescence, so too should we train our children to pray every day (Dt 6.7). Praying the rosary together as a family is important when children are young but even more important when children are in their teens. Learning the Hail Mary is not enough. Every Catholic should know and pray the Hail, Holy Queen (Salve Regina), Queen of Heaven (Regina Caeli), the Memorare (Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary) and the Angelus. Of course, not every time we pray these prayers will we be lifted into spiritual ecstasy. We have to learn the words and learn the meaning of the words. We should pray them regularly and frequently. They should become part of the fabric of our lives. After they become part of us, these prayers can lift us up and express what our hearts and minds yearn to say. This is no substitution for practice.
This all begs the question of why should we pray to Mary. The simplest and truest answer is so that we can be closer to Jesus. Praying to Our Blessed Mother is not a substitute to praying God the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit. It is a help to us.
Mary will always lead us and bring us closer to God. She says of herself, I am the Handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1.38). She is the model of how to freely love and humbly serve. She is the model of fidelity and obedience, Be it done to me according to your word! (Lk 138)
Notice how similar these words are to what Jesus taught us to pray in the Our Father Thy will be done (Mt 6:10) and his very own prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Not what I will but what you will (Mk 14:36). Mary’s love for God is manifested in her love and care for us. This is most beautifully and profoundly seen in the very last recorded words of Mary in the entire Bible, Do whatever he tells you! (Jn 2:5) What solid motherly advice! Knowing and loving Mary more than anyone who ever lived on this earth, Jesus, while dying on the cross and thinking of Mary and us, says, Behold your mother! (Jn 19.27). To love and honor Mary is to follow and imitate Jesus! To love and honor Mary is obey Jesus! To have Mary as our mother and to love her as our mother is to accept the gift of Jesus. We are given to Mary to be her children by her son, Jesus. Jesus makes Mary our mother because he loves her. Jesus gives Mary to us because he loves us and wants us to experience the gift of Mary’s motherhood and maternal love. To love Jesus is to love those he loves! So, we love Mary and she loves us! May each one of us always love Mary and together with her, love Jesus with an ever greater love!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately