Archbishop William E. Lori
May is a beautiful month. As the season of spring comes into full bloom, the month of May is marked by confirmations, first holy Communions, Mother’s Day, graduations, and so much more. May is also a time to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. Many parishes schedule May crownings or special times to recite the rosary as we fittingly associate this lovely time of year with the beauty and grace of God’s mother, Mary.
Of course, devotion to Mary should be a regular part of our faith lives. Sometimes, though, people claim that popular prayers dedicated to Mary somehow cloud the centrality of Christ in our lives or obscure the overarching role of the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life. I assure you that the opposite is true, for the Blessed Virgin Mary always leads us to Christ and provides us with the model for the Church’s life of worship. Furthermore, Mary is inseparable from the Church’s mission of spreading of the Gospel.
‘TO JESUS THROUGH MARY’
In his Treatise on True Devotion, St. Louis de Montfort taught that we are led “to Jesus through Mary.” He wrote, “You never think of Mary without Mary’s interceding for you with God. You never praise or honor Mary without Mary’s praising and honoring God with you.”
Praying the rosary is one way that I have experienced Mary drawing me closer to Christ. As I proceed through each decade, meditating with Mary leads me to Jesus and helps open my heart more widely to the mysteries of Christ’s life.
Think of it this way: Christian perfection consists in becoming like Christ. This is not something we can take for granted. To attain this goal, we need to pray each day and spend time reflecting on who Jesus is and what he did and said to save us. No one was more closely associated with those saving events or more closely conformed to the will of Christ than Mary. The more our hearts are consecrated to Mary, the more they will be consecrated to Christ our Redeemer.
In addition, Mary provides us the pattern of the Church at prayer. To understand this, we need to reflect on the fact that Mary prayed with the apostles, as well as on the way in which she remembered all that happened in the life of Christ. Mary was present with the beloved disciple John at the foot of the Cross. From the Cross, Jesus entrusted John to Mary as her son, and he entrusted Mary to John as his mother. Scripture says, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:27). Later, Mary prays with the Apostles in the upper room in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit. She surely also joined the Apostles in prayer at the earliest celebrations of the Eucharist. Even today, the Eucharist is never celebrated without invoking Mary’s holy name.
THE CHURCH’S MEMORY
In several places, St. Luke’s Gospel tells how Mary carefully treasured in her heart those events she witnessed in the life of Christ (see Lk 2:19, 2:51). This gives us the sense that Mary’s heart was like a repository where she could return again and again to encounter and ponder what Jesus said and did.
With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church’s own memory and life of worship has become like Mary’s heart, a treasure house of the living memory of Christ and his mysteries. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the Church in her liturgy “remembers” all that Christ did to fulfill his Father’s promises. Like Mary’s memory, the Church’s memory is alive in the Holy Spirit, such that when the Church remembers events in the life of Christ, they are present before us. We, in essence, can share in these mysteries, becoming actors in the great drama of our salvation. Whenever we go to Mass and truly enter into the Scriptures proclaimed and the offering of the eucharistic sacrifice, Mary’s memory sets the pattern.
Not surprisingly, then, the Blessed Mother is intimately connected with the mission that Christ entrusted to the Church — namely, to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. St. Louis de Montfort notes again that the Christian faithful ask that Mary, “exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede for us before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints, until all families of people, whether they are honored with the title of Christian or whether they still do not know the Savior, may be happily gathered together in peace and harmony into one People of God” (Treatise on True Devotion).
In accord with this teaching, Blessed John Paul II referred to Mary as “the Star of the First and New Evangelization.” And we, the family of the Knights of Columbus, have become familiar with how the Americas were evangelized through the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego. In the years following Mary’s visitation on Tepeyac Hill, the Gospel spread rapidly throughout the New World.
From time to time, as supreme chaplain I am privileged to bless the rosaries that are distributed to members of the Knights of Columbus. As May dawns upon us, let us resolve to increase our devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, by praying the family rosary and by asking Mary’s help in all of our needs. Most especially, let us ask her to intercede for the Church that her mission of evangelization may be blessed with fresh energy and effectiveness in this Year of Faith.