The month of May gives us opportunity to reflect on our relationship with the Blessed Mother. The Second Vatican Council emphasized Mary’s role in salvation and in the lives of Christians. In Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, we are taught that Mary is:
- Truly the Mother of God – Who in her heart and body gave life to the world;
- Mother of the Church – Whom Christians honor with tender affection and piety;
- A real participant in our salvation – her ‘yes’ to God brought salvation to the world;
- The New Eve – Her obedience undid the disobedience of our first mother;
- The Handmaid of the Lord – She actively shares in God’s mission of salvation;
- Queen of the Universe – She sits at her Son’s right hand in glory and majesty;
- The Model of Virtues – Contemplating Mary fosters holiness in the faithful;
- A Sign of Hope and Solace – Her powerful intercession is a source of strength for Christians.
Clearly, love for Mary and veneration of her is still very much a part of our faith, not simply something “for the old-timers”! I’ve shared this sentiment from Fr. Maximilian Kolbe before, but it bears repeating whenever the Blessed Mother comes up: “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much; you can never love her as much as Jesus did.” Catholics can get a bit “nervous” about Mary sometimes, because in our culture – marked as it is by much misunderstanding about Catholicism and even overt anti-Catholicism – Mary is one of those “weird” things Catholics are “hung up on”. But love for Mary is in a real way love for Jesus. He loves her immensely, and our closeness to someone often coincides with our ability to love the same things they love. So, if Jesus loves Mary, loving Mary will ultimately bring us close to Jesus.
Mary is a powerful friend and intercessor. Her will is so closely united to God’s will that it is truly the case that no request she makes can ever be denied her. That is not just pious sentiment – it makes perfect logical sense. Mary never wants anything other than what God wants; when she asks Him for anything, it is always so perfectly conformed to His will that He grants her request willingly. This doesn’t mean her requests can compromise our freedom or divine justice; there is an old anti-Catholic trope that “when God shuts the gates of heaven against someone, Mary lets them in through the back door”. This is false. Mary wants nothing more than that we all are saved and come to Heaven someday. But even though God will dispense graces as the Blessed Mother asks for them, that doesn’t mean we will be open to receive them or active in responding to them. God’s graces are abundant, but our freedom must cooperate for them to be effective in our lives, and that’s true even when the Blessed Mother seeks them for us. Nonetheless, her will and her prayers are so perfectly attuned to the Heart of Jesus that we can be confident that when we entrust ourselves to her prayers, we are in the best hands.
Because Mary is so concerned with bringing us to God in time and in eternity, we want to stay close to her in this life. When it comes to our salvation and the eternal destiny of our souls, the Church is clear that certainty about one’s predestination in the life to come can be known only by a special revelation from God. Scripture confirms this, when St. Paul enjoins Christians to “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), and that “He who imagines he will stand should take care lest he fall” (1Cor 10:12). We cannot know with absolute certainty the destiny of our souls or the souls of others unless God directly reveals it to us (which, it should be stated, He almost never does). But the Church teaches there are certain “signs” indicating a high probability we are on the road to Heaven: persevering in the virtues as recommended in the Beatitudes; frequent reception of Holy Communion; active love of one’s neighbor; love for Christ and for the Church; and veneration of the Blessed Mother. Love for the Blessed Mother – in addition to these other signs – is an indication we are on the path that leads to Heaven! While we can’t quite say that “everyone who loves Mary goes to Heaven” (although, truly loving her would almost inspire everything else that Heaven requires), we can say for certain that “everyone who goes to Heaven loves Mary” – even the most cursory study of the lives of the saints would prove this to be true; certainly the Life of Jesus confirms this without question.
As we celebrate mothers this month, in a special way we celebrate the Mother of all Mothers: Mary. This Blessed Lady can teach us many things, most importantly the art of loving her Son more and more perfectly each day. Stay close to her, and she will keep you close to Him. May God bless you in the week ahead and may Mother Mary lead you more deeply into the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus. I remain,
Affectionately Yours in Christ,