In this section of our Lenten mission, we will explore the special devotion that every Christian should have for the Mother of Our Savior.
The greatest event in the history of the world — the Incarnation — took place in Mary’s womb. Mary is truly the Mother of God. To deny that Mary is the Mother of God is implicitly to deny the divinity of Christ, and that is to deny the very essence of what it means to be Christian. Mary is the Mother specially chosen, prepared, and formed by God to be His! Her mission, given to her by God, is to bring Jesus Christ into our world and into our lives, leading us always closer to Her Son.
Just as it was the Will of God that Jesus should come to us through Mary, so it is also God’s Will that we should come to Jesus in the most intimate way through His Mother! That is why, through the centuries, the great saints of the Church have practiced devotion to Our Lady as a way to give special honor to Christ. The saints knew that Mary always reflects the Light of Christ: Her “soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46). The saints knew that true devotion to Mary always leads to where the Light of Christ shines most brightly upon earth — that is, to the Holy Eucharist!
Let us consider the place of Our Blessed Mother in salvation history. Mary is the first Christian and the supreme witness to the events of the Gospel. She participated in the events of Our Lord’s entire life in a way that no one else could have, especially during the thirty years of Our Lord’s hidden life at Nazareth. From the stable in Bethlehem to the foot of the Cross at Cavalry, no one ever knew or loved the Son of God as His Holy Mother, Mary, did.
Archbishop Sheen used to say that, in the mind of Almighty God, there are two visions of each one of us — one as we are, and one as He wants us to be. The objective in the spiritual life is to bring those two images into accord — to transform, through His grace, what we are into what God wants us to be.
In all of time, there has been only one human person for whom God has had only one image: the Blessed Virgin Mary. She fulfilled the dream. She achieved the perfect fulfillment of God’s Word and God’s Will in Her life. That is why She is always a model of virtue and holiness for us to imitate.
A Unique Woman for a Unique Mission
We honor Mary, quite simply, because Her Son honored Her! The Fourth Commandment tells us to “honor thy Father and thy Mother.” And we know that the One who kept the Ten Commandments most perfectly was Jesus Christ Himself. In so doing, He left us an example to follow in all parts of our lives. Jesus would have given His Holy Mother the most perfect honor a son could ever give, and Scripture tells us that we are to imitate Christ in all things (see 1 Cor. 11:1). The essence of the spiritual life is the imitation of Christ. So, when we honor Mary, we are imitating Christ!
Mary is a unique woman chosen for a unique mission: She was the one Mother Whose Child came into this world not to live, but to die. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, came in order to die for us on the Cross, to redeem us from sin. He came into this world to be the image of the invisible God — all loving and all sacrificing. He came to show us the way to Heaven and to the Father, and He came to establish a New and Everlasting Covenant, a covenant that He sealed in His Blood!
The word “covenant” is very important in our Faith, so much so that Our Lord used it only once in the Gospel — at one of the most solemn moments of His life, the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24).
A covenant is by definition a sacred family bond; it is a blood bond; it is a bond that can never be broken once it has been sealed and ratified. Jesus founded the Catholic Church to be God’s covenant family on earth. So we say rightly that the Church is a true family. All Christians are adopted sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ by virtue of our Baptism, and that makes us true brothers and sisters in God’s covenant family.
But do you think that God would leave His spiritual family without a Mother? What is a family without a mother’s love, a mother’s care, a mother’s help and prayers? No family is ever complete without a mother. A mother is the heart of a family; she is a source of love and consolation and refuge in times of trouble. A mother’s love is one of the most powerful forms of human love in all of creation!
Doesn’t it make sense that God, Whose love is constantly searching for more and more of our love, in return for His infinite love, would appeal to our hearts through one of the most powerful forms of love in His creation — a mother’s love? Doesn’t it make sense that the Sacred Heart of Jesus would appeal to our human hearts through the Immaculate Heart of Mary? God, in His infinite wisdom, gave His spiritual family the most loving Mother of all.
Mary, the Promised Woman
This is key to understanding Catholic devotion to Mary. On Calvary, Mary stood at the foot of the Cross and watched Her only Son die a most horrible death. She suffered there a worse pain than any mother could ever endure. She made the greatest sacrifice God could ever call upon a mother to make. And then Our Lord, hanging in agony on the Cross, looked down upon Mary and upon St. John, the beloved disciple, and He said to St. John, “Behold, your Mother!” (John 19:27).
With these dying words, Our Lord gave one of His greatest gifts to us: His own loving Mother to be a spiritual Mother to us all. The Gospel says, “And from that hour the disciple [John] took her to his own home” (John 19:27). He took Mary to be his own Mother. Is that what we do? Do we take Mary into our homes? Do we take Her to be our spiritual Mother? Do we take Her to be our Queen, our Patroness, our Intercessor with Her Divine Son? Nothing can be more pleasing to Our Lord than when we do these things in humility and thanksgiving for the gift He has given us.
In no way does our devotion to Mary detract from the honor and glory that should be given to Christ alone! That is foolishness! All the praises given to Mary do nothing but glorify God, Who made Her who She is. Mary is in no conceivable way an obstacle blocking the way to Heaven or to Jesus! She leads the way; She clears the way; She lights the way; She guides us on the way to Her Son. That is why we love Mary and honor Her the way we do!
Our Blessed Mother has appeared in our world numerous times since her Assumption — in Lourdes and Knock, Fatima and Akita. Why does she do this? Mary never ceases to be our Most loving Mother: When a mother rushes to her children, it is because she knows they are in danger. And so we need to recognize that the world is in danger; the Church is in danger; families are in danger; souls are in danger. Our Lady is calling upon all of us to become a great force of prayer and reparation in the world.
By the grace of God, Mary has given us a wonderful and powerful weapon to fight with in the spiritual battle of our time: the Holy Rosary. St. Padre Pio, the great mystic of the last century who bore the marks of Christ’s wounds, prayed the Rosary constantly, calling it his shield against Satan. He had a simple motto, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” But the Rosary is also an instrument of God’s mercy — a way to bring about the conversion of sinners, peace in our homes, peace in our families, and peace in our hearts. The Rosary is a lifeline that God holds out to His people today and every day.
We all have to ask ourselves: How important to us is the Faith and salvation of our family? Is it important enough to come together for the fifteen or twenty minutes a day it takes to pray the family Rosary, thereby answering a request directly from Heaven? Almighty God will grant many special graces to those families who come together to pray the Rosary. Is there some special person you need to pray for? Is there some conversion you’re asking Almighty God to grant to you? Is there some special intention you have, some grace you need? Is there some sin you struggle with, some temptation you have to overcome? We all can answers yes to most, if not all, of these questions, and so why not ask for the help of Our Lady?
The Blessed Virgin Mary wants to keep all of us within the secure refuge of Her Immaculate Heart. She wants to lead us and guide us and protect us through the dangerous and difficult days to come. No one who has trusted in Her has ever been disappointed.
This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Casey’s book, Making a Holy Lent: 40 Meditations to Prepare You for the Church’s Holiest Season. It is available as an ebook or paperback from your local Catholic bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.