How Bishop Sheen Helped Me to Reconcile With the Blessed Mother

Have you ever wondered what it means to be a child of God? The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that through baptism, we become “an adopted child of God, who has become a partaker of the divine nature, member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.” (CCCC 1265)   

Similarly, the Church teaches us that when Our Blessed Lord spoke these words from the Cross: “Woman behold your son, Son behold your Mother” (Jn. 19:26), that we were given at that moment, the title, ‘Children of Mary.’

To help explain this spiritual adoption in a deeper way, let’s consider a few words by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. In the book The Cries of Jesus from the Cross, Sheen writes:

​From the Cross, He completed His last will and testament. He had already committed His blood to the Church, His garments to His enemies, a thief to Paradise, and would soon commend His body to the grave and His soul to His Heavenly Father. To whom, then, could He give the two treasures which He loved above all others, Mary and John? He would bequeath them to one another, giving at once a son to His Mother and a Mother to His friend. “Woman!”  It was the second Annunciation!   

“Behold your son!” It was the second Nativity! Mary had brought forth her Firstborn without labor, in the cave of Bethlehem; she now brings forth her second-born, John, in the labors of the Cross. At this moment, Mary is undergoing the pains of childbirth, not only for her second-born, who is John but also for the millions who will be born to her in Christian ages as ‘Children of Mary.’ Now we can understand why Christ was called ‘her First-born.’ It was not because she was to have other children by the blood of flesh, but because she was to have other children by the blood of her heart. Truly, indeed, the Divine condemnation against Eve is now renewed against the new Eve, Mary, for she is bringing forth her children in sorrow.  

Mary, then, is not only the Mother of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but she is also our Mother, and this not by a title of courtesy, not by legal fiction, not by a mere figure of speech, but by the right of bringing us forth in sorrow at the foot of the Cross. It was by weakness and disobedience at the foot of the tree of Good and Evil that Eve lost the title, Mother of the Living; it is at the foot of the tree of the Cross that Mary, by sacrifice and obedience, regained for us the title, Mother of the Living. What a destiny to have the Mother of God as my Mother and Jesus as my Brother!

What a tremendous gift from God to be spiritually adopted! But what does this adoption mean? Our Lord giving us His Mother? Should I embrace this holy Mother and include her in my life, or should I ignore her like so many have done, and leave her uninvited into my home, activities, and my family? 

Quotations are from The Cries of Jesus From the Cross: A Fulton Sheen Anthology, available from Sophia Institute Press.

Life passes by very quickly, and there will come a time when we will have to make an accounting before Our Lord. During the particular judgment, many of us might wonder what questions Our Lord will ask of us. But what if I told you that the one question Jesus may ask is, “Did you love my Mother?”   

“Did You Love My Mother?”

Pondering this question has caused me many a restless night. To be honest, I had ignored Mary for many years. I had given her lip service, with a few half-hearted rosaries and novenas. I had been guilty of saying that Mary was my Mother—but in name only. In actual fact, I had not been letting Mary be my Mother. Eventually, I did imitate St. John in taking her into my home as he did on Good Friday

With time I started to think, did not Christ desire to share with me His Kingdom and all its treasures? Why would I choose to ignore the one person that God chose to be His Mother and mine? Why would I choose to reject the love, guidance, graces, and blessing that the Blessed Mother wanted to give me, as she certainly gave Our Lord during His life?  

Well, after searching my heart and taking stock of my actions (or the lack of) towards the Blessed Mother, I truly started to experience a sense of sorrow. I knew that I needed to apologize to both Our Lord and Our Lady.  But sadly, this apology would take a while to materialize because, as you might know, the three hardest words to say in life are: “I am sorry!”  Fortunately for me, by God’s grace and Our Lady’s intercession, I eventually apologized to the Blessed Mother. But that apology came after a real-life situation, provided a kind of ‘epiphany.’

A Reckless One

We all know stories of drunk drivers who get behind the wheel of a car and kill innocent people. Sadly, this story is repeated time and time again. There are casualties on both sides of these tragic stories: the families devastated by their loss and the drivers who have to live with the consequences of their bad decisions.  

With this thought, I started to asked myself, how would I respond if a drunk driver asked me for mercy after killing my child? For some strange coincidence, while I was pondering on this thought, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a crucifix hanging on the wall in my living room. I looked at it for a few moments, and then my epiphany came. In that moment, I saw the connection between the drunk driver killing an innocent victim and the stark reality that it was my sins that caused the death of an innocent victim, and that was of my Lord. It was my sins that suffered Him to die on the Cross. 

I was in a similar way that drunk driver, intoxicated with the sins of the flesh and the love of the world.  It was my sin that nailed Jesus to His Cross. I was guilty of His death. I was the reckless one that now needed to apologize to the Victim’s Mother for the role that I played in the death of her Son.  That victim was Jesus, and the Mother of the victim was the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Archbishop Sheen writes,

If you can stand the gaze of a Crucifix long enough, you will discover these truths. First, if sin cost Him Who is Innocence, so much, then I who am guilty cannot take it lightly; second, in all the world, there is only one thing worse than sin, and that is to forget I am a sinner; third, more bitter than the Crucifixion must be my rejection of that Love by which I was redeemed.

There is no escaping the one thing necessary in the Christian life, namely saving our souls and purchasing the glorious liberty of the children of God. The crucifixion ends, but Christ endures. Sorrows pass, but we remain. Therefore, we must never come down from the supreme end and purpose of life, the salvation of our souls.

What had she done to deserve the Seven Swords? What crimes had she committed to rob her of her Son? She had done nothing, but we have. We have sinned against her Divine Son, we have sentenced him to the Cross, and in sinning against him, we wounded her.

In fact, we thrust into her hands the greatest of all griefs, for she was not losing a brother, or a sister, or a father, or a mother, or even just a son ​ — ​​ she was losing God. And what greater sorrow is there than this!

Finally, we should mourn for the greatest of all reasons, namely, because of what our sins have done to him. If we had been less proud, his crown of thorns would have been less piercing; if we had been less avaricious, the nails in the hands would have been less burning; if we had traveled less in the devious ways of sin, his feet would not have been so deeply dug with steel; if our speech had been less biting, his lips would have been less parched; if we had been less sinful, his agony would have been shorter; if we had loved more, he would have been hated less.

— Fulton Sheen, The Cries of Jesus from the Cross.

With these thoughts from Archbishop Sheen, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your relationship with the Blessed Mother and see if an apology might be in order. Imagine yourself approaching her at the foot of the Cross with St.Mary Magdalene weeping on her knees and St. John standing there with you. Look up to our Crucified Lord and then take a few moments to reflect. Then, may I encourage you to reach out and apologize to the Blessed Mother for the role you played in the death of her Son and your Saviour Jesus Christ.   

I recall a song written in 2001 by Fr. Eugene O’Reilly, CSsR. The song was entitled ‘Father I Have Sinned’ (The Prodigal Son). The lyrics are beautiful and provide a great consolation to many ‘prodigals’ like myself.  Having made my confession and asking for pardon, I envisioned the Blessed Mother singing the words of the chorus in that beautiful song: I forgive you. I love you.  You are mine. Take my hand.   Go in peace, sin no more, beloved one. 

I knew at once, when I made my apology to the Blessed Mother, my life changed; my relationship with her was strengthened. I rejoice in thinking how great her joy would be, to shelter under her mantle, one more of her Son’s lost sheep! 

Our Mother, Our Champion

I will leave you this one last pearl of wisdom from Archbishop Sheen: ​

May I recommend that if you have never before prayed to Mary, do so now. Can you not see that if Christ himself willed to be physically formed in her for nine months and then be spiritually formed by her for thirty years.  It is to her that we must go to learn how to have Christ formed in us? Only she who raised Christ can raise a Christian.”

And to those Christians who have forgotten Mary, may we ask if it is proper for them to forget her whom He remembered on the Cross? Will they bear no love for that woman through the portals of whose flesh, as the Gate of Heaven, He came to earth?

When we read the scriptures, we see that the Virgin Mary and Christ are inseparable.  Wherever Our Lord is mentioned, she is found there near Him. When Christ comes again in glory and searches for his sheep, would it not be easier for Him to find us if His Mother has taken up residence with us and she is by our side? What a great advocate and companion we will have on that day when we are reunited with our Brother and Lord!”

— Fulton Sheen, The Cries of Jesus from the Cross.

Let us not be afraid to fully embrace the spiritual adoption that God has arranged for us at the foot of Calvary, to become ‘Children of Mary.’ 

God Love You.

Excerpts of Fulton Sheen’s work in this article are from The Cries of Jesus From the Cross: A Fulton Sheen Anthology, which was edited by Al Smith. It is available from Sophia Institute Press

Mr. Smith also edited the latest Fulton Sheen anthology, Lord, Teach Us to Pray. Also check out his previous article, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen – My Trusted Guide for Lent.

You can learn more about Fulton Sheen by listening to our two podcast interviews—“Ven. Fulton J. Sheen as a Lenten Guide” and “What Fulton J. Sheen Can Teach Us About Prayer”—by clicking the play buttons below or searching for Catholic Exchange on your favorite podcast app.

Photo by DDP on Unsplash

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Al Smith is the editor of four best-selling books available from Sophia Institute Press: The Cries of the Jesus from the Cross: A Fulton Sheen Anthology (2018),  Lord, Teach Us To Pray: A Fulton Sheen Anthology (2020), Archbishop Sheen's Book of Sacraments: A Fulton Sheen Anthology (2021), The Greatest Commandment: A Fulton Sheen Anthology on Love (2022). He is a husband, father, grandfather, a man of trade, and a business owner. Al has served the Church for fifteen years as a Catholic evangelist, radio host, writer, Internet broadcaster, and retreat director. He is the founder and director of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Mission Society of Canada and has served on the Board of Directors of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation in Peoria, Illinois, which promotes the cause of Fulton J. Sheen's canonization process. Al is the creator of the website Bishop Sheen Today, which features the life and works of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

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