Our response to Mary
Woman Clothed with the Sun
Mary is often viewed as the woman mentioned in Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse). She is the model of the Church: virginity (keeping the Faith intact from error), and maternity (while simultaneously bringing forth new members through the preaching of God’s Holy Word and the administration of the Seven Sacraments). “In the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle” (Lumen Gentium, #65). Our Lady is also a sign, a realization of what the Church will become. Mary is the icon—“the sacred image”—of what the Church will be in Heaven.
Assumed into Heaven and Crowned
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary, upon the completion of her earthly existence, was assumed body and soul by the Almighty
into Paradise. Our Blessed Mother was rewarded by God for her fidelity to His will; she already shares—soul and body—in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection. Her Assumption anticipates our resurrection from the dead. Crowned as Queen of Heaven and earth, Our Lady prays for us near her Divine Son. Neither has forgotten us. Rather, Christ and His Mother await our entrance into celestial glory. The Solemnity of the Assumption occurs on August 15.
Grounded in the Church’s teaching about the Blessed Virgin Mary, we express, by our devotion, our love for this kind Mother. Venerating Mary is reasonable because of her involvement in the sacred mysteries of Jesus. She has been honored since the earliest days of the Church. True devotion to Our Lady leads to greater love for Jesus Christ.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest prayer of the Church. The Mother of Christ is mentioned several times during the Mass: the “I Confess” (Confiteor), the Creed (Credo), and the Eucharistic Prayer. Her name is often used in the hymns, orations, homily and General Intercessions. We may suppose that Mary attended Mass, especially when she was under the care of Saint John the Evangelist (+c. 100). What reverence she must have displayed when this “Beloved Apostle” offered the Mass! An excellent spiritual practice is to “invite” Mary with us to Mass. She knows from Calvary what is needed to participate well in her Son’s Sacrifice and will teach us. Since Christ is present at each Mass, Mary, Mother of the Most Blessed Sacrament, cannot be far removed.
Our Lady, model of the spiritual life, has a natural connection to the Sacraments. Each of the other six Sacraments was instituted by Jesus her Son in order to confer the grace that it signifies. Again, because of her affinity to Jesus, she is supportive of the Sacraments as treasures granted by the Master to His friends here on earth for their spiritual growth.
Liturgy of the Hours
The Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office) form the Church’s “official prayer.” As in the Mass, frequent reference is made in the Liturgy of the Hours to Our Blessed Mother. Evening Prayer (Vespers), for example, includes the chanting or reciting of the Magnificat—the Gospel Canticle of Mary. This prayer of thanksgiving may be used at other times by Christians. Father Jean Gerson (1363-1429), the Chancellor of the University of Paris, indicated that based upon his research, Mary herself repeated the Magnificat in a spirit of deep gratitude daily immediately after receiving her Son in Holy Communion (Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, The Secret of Mary).
Seven of the twenty-seven New Testament writings refer to Mary: the four Holy Gospels; the Acts of the Apostles; the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians; the Book of Revelation. Reading these passages will afford the reader fresh insights into the place of the Madonna in the early Church and her meaning in our contemporary era.
Apostolic Tradition and Writings of the Church Fathers
The Apostles—inspired by the Holy Spirit—pondered the role of the Ever-Virgin and inherited from that Holy Spirit a wealth of revelation concerning the Mother of God. Furthermore, many Fathers of the Church treated Our Lady and her mission. The teachings of the Fathers are important because they trace the development of the Church’s understanding of the Madonna. Studying these works, which are not always complex, offers numerous rewards.
The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, acclaimed by Pope John Paul II as his “favorite prayer,” is well known and very valuable. The “Hail, Mary” is the simple but forceful salutation found in part in Sacred Scripture. Some other prayers referring to Our Lady that may be recited privately or communally are the “Remember” (Memorare), the Stations of the Cross, the “Hail, Holy Queen” (Salve, Regina) and the Litany of Loreto. Prayer through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother has been cherished for years as a special aid for the living out of the virtue of chastity according to one’s state in life.
Both classical and modern authors have produced scores of volumes concerning Mary. It would be difficult to give a sufficient overview. But, certainly Saint Louis
Marie Grignion de Montfort, Saint Alphonsus Mary Liguori (1696-1787), and Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941) rank among the very best.
The General Roman Calendar, which lists the various Solemnities, Feasts and Memorials of the
Liturgical Year, includes several days on which Mary is particularly honored. Furthermore, the Season of Advent, the
months of May and October, Saturdays and especially the First Saturdays—thanks in large measure to the request of Our Lady of Fatima—are dedicated to the Mother of God. Attending Mass, receiving the Sacrament of Penance,
fasting, abstaining from meat, lighting a candle, and making a donation to the poor are appropriate ways to adore Jesus and revere His heavenly Mother.
Churches, Chapels and Shrines often have a unique Marian focus. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and the Shrines in Guadalupe (Mexico), Lourdes (France) and Fatima (Portugal)
deserve particular mention. In our Diocese we are blessed to have many parish churches named for Mary as well as the House of Mary Shrine in Yankton and the Fatima Family Shrine in Alexandria. Making a pilgrimage to a holy site dedicated to Our Lady is an ancient and venerable custom that is especially valuable for young adults
The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Green Scapular and the Miraculous Medal are perhaps the most popular external signs of devotion to Mary. These sacramentals are richly endowed by the Church
with indulgences; each has been highly recommended by both Saints and Popes. Wearing these with sincerity demonstrates a genuine love and veneration of the Madonna. The devout practice of displaying and adorning
with flowers statues and pictures of the Ever-Virgin in our churches (according to authoritative liturgical norms) and our houses is laudable and to be encouraged. The tradition of a new bride during her Nuptial Mass placing flowers by an image of Mary and consecrating herself to the Blessed Virgin is exemplary, as is the consecration to Mary of a newly baptized baby. The wearing of blue to honor Mary is another excellent exterior sign of devotion.
The education of our intellects and the formation of our wills in the spirit of Mary is testimony to our affection for her. The aforementioned Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort propagated the devotion known as “To Jesus Through Mary” (Ad Iesum Per Mariam). This practice is really a way of life in which a disciple of Jesus entrusts himself to and imitates Our Blessed Mother, who is the sure path to her Son.
(Text adapted from God’s Echo, Queenship Publishing Company, 2002.)
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God and our Mother, too. We
are called to venerate her as her own Son did and does now in Heaven.
PRAYER TO OUR BLESSED MOTHER
SUB TUUM PRAESIDIUM
(The oldest known prayer in honor of Mary, dating back to the second or third century)
We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our prayers in our necessities,
but ever deliver us, O holy and glorious Virgin.