Mary, Mother of the Church

Time continues to fly past, faster than ever these days, as I approach my “expiration date” as pastor here at Mary Queen of Heaven parish. So many things to wrap up with but five weeks to go. Here we are already, at the Memorial Day weekend, as the beautiful Marian month of May winds down. We had our beautiful May Crowning ceremony of our Marian statues at the beginning of the month, and with first Communion of our youngsters, we have been focused on the Real Presence of our Savior in the Communion that we receive in Holy Mass, and His Real Presence awaiting our personal visits to the tabernacle, and especially when He is reverentially exposed in the monstrance each Friday and Saturday.

Has that regular reverent time with Our Lord become part of your life? If you have yet to make that spiritual move, but have been giving thought to doing so, I highly encourage you to come to the second of our four presentations and discussions, this Sunday night (May 26th) in Haryasz Hall. Once again, the title of this program is… “Presence, the Mystery of the Eucharist”. We had a great turnout last week and I would dearly love to see you there. You will find it greatly beneficial.

As we all faithfully know, our Blessed Mother has communicated through many apparitions that she is there by her Son, accompanying Him, in every Tabernacle throughout the world. And all of the apathy and indifference that He and she endure from we well intentioned Catholics, literally breaks their hearts. With a week to go in this special Marian month I would like to dwell a moment on the importance of our maintaining a warm and loving active devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.

 I took a moment this week to peruse the May issue of “Columbia”, the Knights of Columbus’ monthly magazine. In it, the Knight’s Supreme Chaplain, Archbishop William E. Lori, wrote an excellent article entitled “Mary, Mother of the Church”. I was so impressed and found myself in prayerful solidarity with Archbishop Lori’s reflections and counsel, that I would like to share with you most of his insightful words:

“Invaluable to the Christian life is a warm and loving devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. I was blessed to grow up in a home where the rosary was prayed daily, even on the busiest and most difficult days. There was always a statue of the Blessed Mother in our home and other reminders of Mary’s love for us, her children. At school, May processions culminated in the crowning of a statue as we all sang to Our Lady.

In time, I got into the habit of praying a daily rosary, and as I meditated on the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mary, my vocation came into sharper focus. In my final years at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., I often went to the beautiful grotto up the mountain, a national shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. In the quiet of that grotto, my love for Mary deepened as I prepared to serve the Church as a priest.

But it was not until I visited Lourdes, France, for the first time in the 1980s, that I was overwhelmed with the healing power of the Blessed Mother’s intercession. In that holy place, where Mary revealed herself to St. Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception, I experienced a wonderful healing, cleansing and renewal of body, mind and spirit. Over the years, I have returned to Lourdes many times, often with pilgrims, many of whom suffer from serious illnesses. I visit with them before they go into the baths and, when feasible, pray with them after they emerge. The purifying love and powerful intercession of Mary is palpable in those encounters.

My love for the Blessed Mother likewise intensified when I visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City for the first time in 1990 and looked upon her miraculous image. The experience filled me with joy and opened my eyes to Mary’s role in the evangelization of the world.

Inspired by these experiences, Marian devotion has become an essential part of my life. Like every good Knight of Columbus, I carry a rosary in my pocket. My father’s own K of C rosary also remains in the little chapel in my residence. When the house is quiet at night, I often slip into the chapel and pray with my dad’s rosary. As I do so, I think about all the people I met during the day and the many people who asked me to pray for them. As the day comes to a close, nothing is more consoling than to spend a little time in conversation with Mary.

I also look upon a beautiful statue of the Blessed Mother that I received from Cardinal James Hickey, my mentor and friend, when I became a bishop many years ago. When I look upon that image, I never fail to pray for the cardinal, whose example and memory continue to influence my life so deeply.

During the month of May, we honor Mary in a special way, and on June 10th, the Monday after Pentecost, we will celebrate her as the “Mother of the Church”. Her virginity symbolizes the truth and purity of the Church’s teaching and the sacrifice that the Church daily offers. Her motherhood symbolizes the maternal care that the Church gives to us, her children, reborn by water and the Holy Spirit. This love reaches us through many channels, not the least of which are the Church’s ministries of healing and charity. And when [we] live the principle of charity, we help extend the loving care of the Church to the poor and the vulnerable.

These days, though, it is the Church — sinful in her members — that needs healing. Sins against young people and the failure of Church leaders to respond continue to haunt and hobble the Body of Christ. Many practical steps still need to be taken to ensure that bishops and other leaders are held accountable for their actions. But those steps alone, important as they are, won’t fully heal the Church’s wounds. For that, we must turn our gaze toward Mary, asking her prayers that the Church might be purified, cleansed, healed and renewed.”

The words the Archbishop conveys here, could well be my own. The memories of praying the rosary as a youth, particularly the weekly “block” or neighborhood rosary being prayed in the war and post-war years, for the protective intercession of our loving Blessed Mary.  We ask her, and well we should, for a great deal of spiritual and temporal help in our earthly trials.

 Let us consider in this last week of her special month… to respond and answer her prayerful pleas to every one of us, to pray the Rosary daily…particularly for healing and the end of the division that afflicts Holy Mother Church in these current times of trial.

O, Blessed Mother Mary, our mother and model, hear our prayers for your intercession, healing and consolation of the Church…the Body of Christ,