Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Let Mary be your companion (May Crowning)

 We honor Mary, which is quite right to do, 

because of her amazing generosity: she said yes to God. 

We honor her because she acted at the great fulcrum of history: 

everything that matters for us hinged on her yes to heaven. 

So, we have St. Bernard, who wrote a moving appeal 

to the Blessed Mother, as if he – and all humanity – 

were watching in the wings as Gabriel came to her. 

He says, answer boldly, don’t be afraid to answer, we all beg it of you!

Or, we have a Protestant poet, Wordsworth, 

who described Mary as our “tainted nature’s solitary boast,” 

and I confess those words bring tears to my eyes 

every time I call them to mind.

My point being to describe – and defend – 

our extravagant honors to Mary.

I might add, in passing here, that sometimes our friends and family 

who are not Catholic do not understand this. 

They think it goes too far and they suggest we are worshipping Mary 

in a way that only God is to be worshipped.

I want to answer those objections, as someone who – 

when I was in my 20s – would have made those very same arguments! 

Because in my 20s, I was away from the Church 

and bought into many of those ideas.

Let me point out, first, that if you understand clearly 

what IS Catholic worship, 

you will realize how wrong it is to say we worship Mary.

What, after all, is the heart and center of Catholic worship? 

What are we all commanded to do at least on Sundays, 

but attend Holy Mass? And Holy Mass is offered every single day. 

Here is something you will never see; indeed, it makes me shudder 

to think of it: you will never, not ever, see a Catholic Mass 

offered TO Mary. 

When the priest lifts up the Body and Blood, what does he say: 

“Through him, with him, in him, O God almighty Father, 

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is YOURS, 

forever and ever.”

There it is: the Mass is offered TO THE FATHER, 

through JESUS, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Never, not ever, will you hear a priest say these words to MARY. 

Likewise, we believe that as the consummation of Mass – 

if we are in a state of grace, we receive the Eucharist – 

which is Jesus of course. 

But here’s a great way to explain our devotion to Mary. 

We worship Jesus – particularly in the Eucharist. 

But we know that without Mary, there would be no Eucharist. 

She gave us his Body and Blood, when she conceived him in her womb! 

So while we ADORE Jesus, we are GRATEFUL to Mary.

The other point I want to make is this. 

In a prayer of dedication used at baptisms, it says, “our love for you” – 

that is, Mary – “is only a participation in the love of Jesus for you.” There it is.

Who can doubt that Jesus’ own love for his mother 

must be more intense than a thousand suns? 

Each of us feels such great gratitude and love for our own parents, 

who can ever imagine Jesus feeling any less? 

Indeed, it surely must be far, far MORE than our love can ever be.

So I will just say that if you think Catholics get silly 

in our love for Mary, 

all you really have to do is think long and hard 

about how much Jesus must love his own mother. 

She who, after all, was mocked by people who ridiculed her claim 

that the Holy Spirit caused her pregnancy. 

She who suffered in so many ways 

as a result of being the mother of the Messiah, 

and the worst of it, of course, 

was seeing her son tortured and murdered. 

Who could ever bear such a thing?

And what son could see his mother so tormented, 

and not feel a gratitude and love beyond all description? 

If you think Jesus could behold that 

and not love Mary beyond all words, you are basically saying 

he had no human heart at all, but was some sort of emotionless robot.

So, our friends who mean well when they say we overdo it, 

while intending only to honor Jesus, actually end up – 

again, unintentionally – diminishing him. 

But back to the main point which is this.

Yes, we honor Mary, we thank her, we love her. 

But do not make the mistake of thinking she is unapproachable. 

That she is simply to be admired. That would, indeed, go too far.

Mary is a companion, as are all the saints. 

As we are called to be to each other. 

The Scriptures always show her companionship. 

Immediately, she went to visit Elizabeth and Zachariah, 

no doubt because she learned her relative was six months pregnant. 

She accompanied Joseph and Jesus to Egypt 

and to Jerusalem for Passover. 

She and Joseph searched for Jesus when he was missing. 

After Joseph died, 

Mary was with her son and his companions constantly, 

right up until the day he died. 

She was with the apostles, praying for the Holy Spirit, 

in the days after Jesus ascended into heaven. 

And remember, Jesus gave Mary to the Apostle John to care for, 

and tradition tells us that is what he did, 

until her life on earth ended and her body was taken to heaven.

Surely she, too, cared for John?

What I invite you to do is remember this prayer book in the pews – 

on page XX you will find a litany to Mary. 

Some of the titles are obscure – 

although you can look them up online if you like – 

but many are perfectly understandable. 

They are invitations for you 

to see her as a companion in your own troubles:

“Mother most amiable” – that means friendly

“Mother of good counsel” – she will always give you good advice

“Mother of mercy” – 

she will always welcome you and help you seek out her son for forgiveness.

“Mother most prudent” – 

no one has a more level head and calm disposition. 

She’s been through a lot!

“Virgin most powerful” – her Son is God and he’s always listens to her!

She is a companion when you are sick, when you are afraid, 

and when you have lost your way. 

She knows what sorrow is, what missing someone you love feels like, 

and she knows the heartache of losing someone you love. 

She was there when Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist, 

she helped take care of Zachariah, she cared for Joseph until he died,

 and she stood at the foot of the Cross. 

There is no trial, no fear, no pain, she doesn’t know.

Let her be your companion.


rcg said...

Beautiful. In the last few years I have begun a devotion to Mary inspired by our parish priest. It has given me great insight to our Faith and comfort.

MamaM said...

Thank you Father Fox, for this. After having been raised in a Calvinistic environment and belief system in which Mary's contribution's were diminished or ignored and those who supposedly worshiped her were reviled, my eyes and ears were eventually opened to consider and regard Mary in a new way. When I finally had the courage to step away from that system, I began "writing" Icons, (also forbidden as "idol worship") and was particularly moved by one of Mary holding the shroud upraised in both hands, realizing in a new way what she'd experienced and held, inside and out. That icon now sits in my art studio, next to my prayer jar of things I don't know how to fix or hold myself, as my companion.
Ten years ago, I wrote this, which pairs in part with what you've so beautifully and invitingly expressed here. Thank you again for sharing these insights and awareness, MamaM

May it be to me
As you have said.

She who was
Highly favored
What was said
What came upon.

Thenceforth over
She carried Glory
Facing shame

Clear proof
Of innocence
As evidence
Of Spirit
Daily grew
And increased

Body and Blood
In a womb
Set to provide
The elements

For the Word
To become flesh.
And dwell
Among us.