May 8, 2012 // Bishop's Column: In Truth and Charity

May, Mother’s Day, and Mary

An artist’s depiction of a scene from the Pentecost appears in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. The feast marks the occasion of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles 50 days after Christ’s resurrection. Pentecost is Greek for the 50th day. It is also referred to as the birthday of the Church because, from that point on, the Apostles carried forth the message of Christ to the world.

May is a month traditionally dedicated to honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. In our churches and homes, we celebrate May as a “Marian month,” with May processions, May crownings, and other popular devotions in honor of the Mother of God. This Marian month falls during the liturgical season of Easter. We thus particularly emphasize Our Blessed Mother’s participation in the Paschal Mystery and her presence with the Church in preparation for Pentecost, as she prayed with the disciples in the upper room while they awaited the descent of the Holy Spirit.

There are many devotions that the Church recommends for honoring Our Lady during her month. During the Easter season, we address the Regina Coeli antiphon to her as we celebrate the Resurrection of her Son. Of course, the rosary is one of the most excellent Marian prayers and especially recommended in the month of May. Litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary (e.g. the Litany of Loreto) are also special invocations for Our Lady’s intercession under her various beautiful titles.

In the month of May, the Church calls us to open our hearts in a special way to Mary. Her presence in our lives is a motherly presence. We call her Our Blessed Mother. Indeed, from the Cross, Jesus gave her to us as our Mother and entrusted us to her as her children. Jesus’ words to John, the beloved disciple, were also addressed to all of us: Behold your mother! From the cross, Jesus gave us the beautiful gift of his mother to be our mother too. He made his mother the mother of all the members of his Mystical Body, the Church. Jesus invites us to accept Mary as our mother and to respond to her motherly love as true children.

Catholic devotion to Mary is, therefore, based on the will of Christ. Blessed John Paul II explained that “the words, Behold your mother!, express Jesus’ intention to inspire in his disciples an attitude of love for and trust in Mary, leading them to recognize her as their mother, the mother of every believer. At the school of the Virgin, the disciples learn to know the Lord deeply, as John did, and to have an intimate and lasting relationship of love with him. They also discover the joy of entrusting themselves to the Mother’s maternal love, living like affectionate and docile children.”

Mary always leads us to Jesus, her Son. When we go to her, we always meet Jesus, our Savior. She helps us follow her Son more faithfully. May we all, like Saint John, take Mary into our home and make room for her in our daily lives. God has entrusted to her the role of maternal intercession for us. She is Our Mother of Perpetual Help: she sees our needs and is ready to come to our aid. She is especially close to those who are suffering. The most ancient Marian prayer expresses Mary’s role as our advocate: We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.” Mary presents our needs to her Son and intercedes continually on our behalf.

It is very fitting that we celebrate Mother’s Day during the Marian month. As we honor the Mother of God, our spiritual mother, we also honor our earthly mothers. On Mother’s Day, we remember with gratitude and affection our mothers, not only through material gifts, flowers, or cards, but also, and more importantly, by our prayers for them. We thank God for the gift of our mothers who conceived and gave birth to us, who cared for us, protected us, taught us, and loved us. Many passed on the precious gift of faith to us. We remember all our mothers, living and deceased. We thank them for their generosity and self-giving love.

Mary is a model for all mothers. Pope Benedict XVI said that “Mary is the image and model of all mothers, of their great mission to be guardians of life, of their mission to be teachers of the art of living and of the art of loving.”

Mary is a model for all of us on our earthly pilgrimage. She who was “full of grace” was “all holy.” She represents the paradigm of the authentic holiness that is achieved through union with Christ. She is our model of faith who adhered to God’s word throughout her life. She is our model of hope who stood firm at the foot of the cross. She is our model of charity who went in haste to visit and help her cousin Elizabeth. Her maternal love for her Son extends to us, her spiritual children. She is our sure guide to Gospel perfection.

On Mother’s Day, let us pray for all our mothers. And let us remember that we have a Mother in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary. We continue to rejoice with her during this Easter season. May the Mother given to us by Christ on the cross be ever at our side!

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