Mary, Our Mother

Today the Church begins an entire month of special devotion to Mary.  In many of our Catholic schools and parishes, Marian hymns such as Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) will be sung and a crown will be placed on a statute of the Blessed Virgin, with flowers at her feet.  It is all part of a custom, which extends back to at least the 13th century, of dedicating the month of May to Mary.

In every part of the world, in every land where the faith has taken root, there are chapels, churches, shrines and sanctuaries dedicated to this humble woman who is “full of grace.”  Here in this archdiocese, we have many splendid parishes bearing her name, as well as the magnificent Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  With its striking bell tower reaching into the heavens, it stands in our nation’s capital as a visible and imposing witness to the role of Mary in the life of Jesus and his Church, and therefore in the unfolding of God’s saving plan.

Added to this is the symphony of praise for Mary in hymns sung in every language across the globe.  From the earliest days of the Church’s worship in Greek, and later in Latin, to the hundreds of languages now used in the liturgy, hearts and lips have given voice to the role of Mary.

Such loving devotion to Mary comes quite naturally to Catholics, but non-Catholics sometimes do not understand.  If someone were to ask us about this, how would we explain?

It might help to remember that during the month of May, we also celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States.  On this day, we express our love and affection for our mothers, the women who carried us, nurtured us, raised us, tended to us when we were sick, and made sure we were fed and clothed and cleaned, the women who will forever be our mothers, even when they have gone ahead to reside with God in heaven.  So it is also, in a certain blessed way, with Mary.

That she is the Mother of our Redeemer Jesus Christ is in itself more than enough reason to respect and venerate her and naturally want to draw near to her.  But beyond being the mother of our Lord, Mary is our mother too because we are caught up through the power of the Holy Spirit as the adopted children of God.  She is Mother of the Church to whom we turn in intercession in asking to become more closely identified with her Son.

Moreover, with Mary, from the moment of her immaculate conception, we have the beginning of a whole new order, a new creation.  While the stories about her life in the pages of the New Testament are few, they are extremely significant.  When as a young woman she said to the angel of God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38), it set the stage for all those events of salvation that were to follow.  At Cana, she showed a mother’s concern in looking out for the wedding party and guests, and in giving the instruction, “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you” (John 2:5).  She is there at the foot of the Cross, where her son extends her spiritual maternity to all of  us.  Then, before Pentecost, we see the Apostles gathered around our Blessed Mother, praying with her that the gift of the Holy Spirit might come down upon us all, as it had with her.

Jesus is our one and only savior and to him belongs all glory.  But it is not hard to see why we have such affection and devotion for Mary.  She is his mother and she is our mother.

To her and to all mothers this month, we express our love and our gratitude for all that they have done and continue to do.  Praise be to God for the blessings of our mothers.