It is quite fitting that Mother’s Day in the U.S. is celebrated during May, the month in which we especially honor Mary – Mother of the Redeemer, Mother of the Church and our Blessed Mother.
Mary is often called the first disciple, but she is much more than that. Mary not only follows Jesus perfectly; she leads others to Him with maternal love. Pope Francis, in his apostolic letter The Joy of the Gospel, calls her the “star of the new evangelization.” We see her evangelize in the New Testament when she points away from herself and toward God in Christ.
Any correct veneration of the Blessed Mother recognizes that, though sinless and conceived without sin by God’s special grace, she is still a human being like us. In St. Luke’s Gospel, the angel’s greeting – “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you” – understandably has her “greatly troubled at what was said” (Lk. 1:28-29). However, she ultimately steps out in faithfulness with her fiat that echoes down the centuries: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38).
Because of her unique role in salvation history, and her special status as “full of grace,” Mary may seem too remote to be a model of faith as we struggle to do God’s will in the busyness of our lives. And yet, like her, each of us was created by God for a special purpose, and God gave us sufficient grace to accomplish that purpose. He also gave us the Church, the scriptures and the sacraments. We do not travel alone.
When St. Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk. 1:45), Mary’s response is not about herself. In immediately praising God with one of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible, the Magnificat, she is an exemplar of humility as well as faith.
In addition to seeing Mary as a role model, Christians from the earliest days have asked her to intercede with God for their needs. The perfect example of this is the wedding feast of Cana, where Mary informs Jesus “They have no wine,” and then, with perfect faith, instructs the servers, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn. 2:3-5).
Pilgrims to the Holy Land, myself included, note that Mary’s spirit infuses Cana, Nazareth and Bethlehem. Unfortunately, over the past year, Israel, Palestine and Jordan have been closed to travelers in response to the pandemic. Now, however, comes an opportunity to participate in a Marian pilgrimage without leaving the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Our “Radiate Christ Through Mary” pilgrimage will begin with a Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Russells Point on Sun., May 16, and end at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains when I re-consecrate the archdiocese to Jesus through Mary on Sat., June 19, the beginning of our bicentennial year. Over the course of those 33 days, pilgrims will carry a blessed statue of Our Lady of Fatima to nearly 40 parishes in every deanery of our archdiocese. In this issue of The Catholic Telegraph, you will learn more about this historic pilgrimage, the four cornerstone events that will highlight it and how you can participate.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I am especially mindful of the extra burden it has placed on mothers with children at home, the heartache of mothers and grandmothers who could not be near those they love, and the sorrow of those who have lost mothers and grandmothers to the coronavirus. To all of you, I extend my prayers for a happy and blessed Mother’s Day, and for a better year ahead.
Holy Mary, Mother of God and our mother, pray for us!