Honoring Our Blessed Mother, Mary

In keeping with the month of May, I thought it might be helpful to reflect together on the role of Mary in our Christian life. It is important for us, as Catholics, to know our faith with regard to Mary, for our protestant brothers and sisters are very concerned about us on this point. Many of them think, for example, that we worship Mary, that we place her on an equal footing with God, and with her son Jesus Christ. They wrongly think that our relationship with her diminishes Christ’s role as the sole mediator between God and man. Asking Mary or any of the saints to pray for us is for them the same as saying that Christ’s work of redemption was not sufficient to save us. If we did in fact believe these things, we would be in error. But thankfully the problem is not our faith, but rather misconceptions about our faith that circulate around in our culture. If only those who accuse us of heresy would actually pick up our catechism or read any of the official documents of the Church, they would find out for themselves what we truly believe and how misinformed they are.

Personally I have never found Mary to be a hindrance to my faith in Christ; if anything, it has only helped and enhanced it. Mary has never put herself forward in such a way that she distracted me from her Son. When I became Catholic at the age of 21, to welcome Mary as my Mother seemed the right and most natural thing to do. Later on I learned that this was actually what Jesus himself wanted me to do, revealing His wish upon the Cross when He gave Mary to John, and John to Mary: “Woman, behold your son; John, behold your Mother.” As John welcomed Mary into his heart and home, Jesus asks us to do the same.

As far as honoring Mary, I do not see the problem. God asks me to love and honor my earthly mother, a mother whom I will also love and honor when she goes to heaven. This is what God asks us all to do in the 4th commandment. If this be the case with my own mother, why would I not love and honor in a special way the Mother of God, who bore Jesus, the Son of God, in her womb? Mary said herself that “all generations will call (her) blessed.” (Lk 1:48) By the very fact that she bears the title ‘Mother of God,’ she deserves special honor: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Lk 1:42) Elizabeth, her cousin, felt this great honor: when she said to Mary: “How is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me.” (Lk 1:43)

Perhaps some have issue with the notion of “consecration to Mary,” which we find in the writings of certain Saints. I too struggled with this concept for a time, for the word “consecration” seemed a bit too strong, a word that should only be used for ones relationship to God. But as with other misunderstandings, it’s often a matter of understanding how a certain word is being used and how it is understood in a given context. A priest I met while living in Texas helped me with this by saying that what is meant by “consecration to Mary” is really about accepting Mary’s motherhood and its influence over our lives. Any one who has done this will find by drawing near to Mary, she will draw you near to God. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord . . . Holy is His name.” (Lk 1:47, 49)

Among all our Catholic practices, the one that really makes the hair stand up on the necks of some people is our praying to Mary. But here too it is a matter of understanding this practice correctly. When we pray to Mary, we are well aware that she is not God. We do not see her as a 4th person of the Blessed Trinity, and we are not putting her in God’s place. When we ask Mary to pray for us, we are simply following another beautiful teaching: the communion of Saints. St. Paul exemplified this beautifully throughout his life, often telling the first Christian communities that he and his close companions were praying for them, and Paul too would ask them to pray for him and his mission. (1Th 1:2 / 2Th 1:11) We too ask for each others prayers. If we do this with each other, why would we not also ask those who are most fully alive in God in the Kingdom of heaven, those perfectly united to God’s will, who love as God loves? Mary, because of the special privilege granted to her by God, is rightly hailed as the greatest among the Saints in this Blessed Communion. It is through her loving intercession that she often exercises her unique maternity over us, leading us to her Son, helping us to know and do the will of God, and encouraging us on the way of salvation. “Do whatever He tells you.” (Jn 2:5)

Let us not be dissuaded by those who disagree with our love and devotion to Mary. Let us pray for them, that they too may discover one day the gift of Mary in God’s design and plan of salvation and the blessing of her motherhood. “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

 

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