Monday was the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Before Monday morning, I didn’t know there was such a memorial. But, I didn’t feel too bad when I discovered that it had only been established in February 2018. By Vatican decree, its date will always be the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, emphasizing the connection between Pentecost as the “birthday” of the Church; and the role of Mary, through whom the Church was born.
I’ve meditated much about Mary over the last week. As I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary last Friday, I found it, as always, impossible to imagine the pain Mary endured as she witnessed her son being tortured and crucified unto death. I wondered if she was in some way privy to the idea that Jesus, her son and God Incarnate, had to die and be resurrected to demonstrate God’s true love for us. If so, I wondered if it eased her suffering.
As I read the day’s Gospel (John 19:25-27), I imagined myself at the foot of the cross along with Mary and “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Jesus, as His final act of love, entrusted His mother to that disciple. But, by not actually naming the disciple, Jesus entrusted His mother to all disciples, not just the Apostles, but to you and me and all the Church’s faithful. And, in His infinite wisdom and love for us, Jesus knew that we all would need the loving care of a mother – not just any mother, but His very own, the holiest of all mothers.
I’ve thought about the role Mary might have played in the days after her son’s crucifixion. She, and the other holy women, remained with the Apostles. Was she the glue that held them together as they struggled to process what had happened and what was yet to come? Did she bolster their strength and encourage them to be patient and persevere?
On Saturday, as we approached Pentecost, I was thinking about the Apostles gathered together with Mary in the upper room waiting for the Holy Spirit to come as Jesus promised. I’m sure they didn’t know what to expect. I doubt Mary knew what to expect, but I’m sure she knew it would be a profound moment when He did come. She would know. Because thirty three years earlier she welcomed the Holy Spirit and, with and through Him, she conceived and gave birth to the Son of God. Through Mary, the Holy Spirit brought Christ into the world. Through Mary, the Holy Spirit brought Christ to us, you and me. (CCC 723)
I believe Jesus knew what He was doing when He entrusted his mother to us. Because just as Mary, in union with the Holy Spirit, brought Christ to us, it is through Mary that the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ. (CCC 725) Just as the Holy Spirit brought Christ to us through Mary, He brings us to Christ through Mary.
Just as our natural mothers gave their love as they cared for and nurtured us, Mary, our spiritual Mother, cares for and nurtures our souls by lovingly bringing us to her Son, Jesus.
I must admit that, as a convert, devotion to Mary has been a difficult concept for me to comprehend. The seed was planted with my baptism but there’s been a cloud of doubt that asked, “What’s so special about Mary when I can go straight to Jesus?” But, my time meditating this week on Mary has been like warm sunshine on a garden that has ripened the fruit to it’s fullness! Our Lord entrusted His mother to us so that she, united with the Holy Spirit, may bring us to Him!
That seed received a welcome watering last week when my wife and I attended a Robinson family reunion at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri from June 1st to the 5th. On Sunday, we attended mass in the nearby town of Laurie, Missouri at what I thought was St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. But, during the summer mass is held outdoors on property adjacent to St. Patrick’s at The National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church. (Coincidence? I think not.)
The shrine was set in the beautiful Ozark Mountains on a terraced hillside amidst tall oak and hickory trees. The altar was at the foot of the hill with a lake and fountain as the backdrop. The “center aisle”, where one might normally find a baptismal font, consisted of an elevated reflection pool beneath a tall, rotating statue of a woman, a mother, with outstretched arms and palms turned upwards to receive the Holy Spirit. The granite walls surrounding the reflection pool were engraved with the names of over 4,000 mothers, the mothers of those who donated the funds to create the shrine.
Nearby was a stone memorial upon which was engraved a passage from Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty, titled, Behold Thy Mother:
“The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral – a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation. What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?”
May God bless all our mothers as He has blessed His own, Mary, Mother of the Church.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for Mary, Your all-holy ever-virgin Mother, the masterwork of Your mission of Your Son and Spirit in the fullness of time. In Mary, You prepared a dwelling place in which Your Son and Spirit could dwell among us, Your beloved. (CCC 721). And, Lord, thank you for our natural mothers and their love for us. May they both always know our everlasting love. Amen.”
(Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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