If you strengthen your relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, you will almost certainly build an even greater relationship with Jesus and the Father.
Many clerics and laypeople have written about the importance of Marian Devotion over the years, and undoubtedly many will continue to do so in the future. This may be because there are many paths to Mary.
Michael Cretaro’s recent essays here at CS, Devotion to Mary Brought Me Closer to God was a first-hand account of how his devotion to Mary brought him closer to God. My devotion to the Blessed Virgin, however began after reading the book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Father Michael Gaitley. In reading it, I became aware that fostering a relationship with the Blessed Mother would indeed strengthen my relationship with Jesus and God. Since reading it, I have made it a practice to re-read it each year as sort of a retreat and a spiritual recharge.
The book outlines a notion of “True devotion” to the Blessed Mother, and uses the relationships formed by Sts. Maximillian Kolbe, Theresa of Calcutta, John Paul II, and Louis de Montfort, who Gaitley credits with its inception. Fr. Gaitley’s book is a powerful tool in helping us see the value in establishing a relationship with the Blessed Mother.
Mary our Mother
Why is a relationship with Mary important? Rooted in the Biblical passage (John 3:16), “God so loved the world, that he gave us his only begotten son,” is the idea that before He was given to us, He was first given to Mary. What I take from this is that the story of the Blessed Mother is rooted in the Promise of God to His people. By acknowledging Mary as the Mother of Jesus, we accept that she was chosen by God to be the Mother of His Son. Therefore, we acknowledge her as our mother and view her role as extremely significant in our faith.
The insights I gained from Gaitley’s book helped me understand the Blessed Mother’s importance in my daily life. St. Louis for instance, believed that our relationship with the Blessed Mother takes form in prayer and actions. Our prayers and sacrifices are in reality graces offered to the Blessed Mother to distribute as she sees fit. The caveat is that we offer these graces to the Blessed Mother unconditionally, and in return we realize that in much the same way Christ sacrificed for us, our sacrifice will not be in vain. This falls in line with our tradition of being “other centered.”
It is through St. Louis de Montfort’s writings that St. John Paul II chose his apostolic motto “Totus Tuus” (Totally Thine), symbolizing his devotion to the Blessed Mother. De Montfort’s devotion gives us hope, and his devotion is a recipe for us to experience a truly deep and meaningful relationship with Mary, Jesus, God and others.
May, Fatima, and the Rosary
May is traditionally dedicated to Mary, and, appropriately, we also celebrate Mother’s Day in May as well. This is all together fitting because our mothers, like Mary, give us hope. Hope is the virtue that offers optimism in our lives. Hope promises that no matter what we are experiencing, there is a positive outcome ahead. In the same way we can turn to Mary, we turn to our mothers in times of trouble or when we are scared.
This year, however, we have a second opportunity to invite Mary into our lives, because we will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Miracle at Fatima. We should really give some thought to Fatima’s significance. Fatima reminds us that the Blessed Mother is still ever present in our lives. Some 2,000 years later Mary continues to care for her children. When Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the three children, she showed them a vision of Hell and the forgotten souls, those for whom we should be praying as faithful members of the Body of Christ. She also instructed them to pray the Rosary daily.
We cannot really celebrate the Blessed Mother without discussing the importance of the Rosary. The Rosary is the symbol of hope to us as Children of God. Even before Fatima, the promises of the Blessed Mother to St. Dominic revealed the benefits of a daily devotion. A faithful recitation of the Rosary grants spiritual nourishment and an increase in graces. We also increase our protection against sin and grant divine mercies to the souls awaiting Heaven.
Clearly, the love of Mary parallels the love from our own mothers. She wishes spiritual safety and success for us, in the same way our own mothers do. As children we often wish the approval of our parents, shouldn’t we strive to do the same for our spiritual parents?
Apparitions such as Fatima show us just how much our lives as Catholics are interconnected. The vision of Hell, which the Blessed Mother revealed, reminds us that we must continue to pray for the souls of those who have left us. “Love one another as I have loved you” is necessary for us.
Just as an aside here, the day after my father in law died, I went to morning Mass, and following Mass I remained and prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet. There were only a handful of others there with me, but it made an impression. How amazing is it that people pray for both loved ones and complete strangers in need of help. It touched me, but I also realized that I need to make an effort to pray more often myself.
As Catholics, we all need to continue the practice of praying for others, the living, the deceased, and most importantly, all sinners. The Divine Mercy reminds us that God is loving and merciful, but it also reminds us that we must be merciful as well. “Blessed are those who give mercy, mercy shall be theirs.”
Mary Comforts Us
The Blessed Mother serves as a constant reminder to us that she will protect us and intercede on our behalf. We need only ask. Much like our own mother, she is there to help us and guide us consoling us when we are distressed. The Rosary is our “Hotline” to her, praying it has always been a therapeutic experience for me. I feel a one-on-one connection with her, like the “heart to hearts” I have with my own mother. Some nights just holding a rosary in my hand puts me at rest. I feel at peace and calmed in the knowledge that she is there.
In many images of Our Lady there is a look of empathy in her face. This is the same look we often get from our own mothers when we are hurting. Many images also show outstretched arms ready to embrace us. It’s no surprise that her messages stress redemption, proof that she wants us to believe in God’s mercy, and that she wants us to come to her for spiritual strength. How peaceful is it to gaze upon her image and find comfort from our troubles?
Change the World
Thinking about these themes, and all those who don’t have God in their lives, saddens me. How can we help them to see God and experience his benevolence and love? How can we help them to know that they are not alone in this world, that they need only see the promises of Christ? Praying to Mary on their behalf is a start.
In hope, we are reminded that things do get better, that God is always with us, and that the Blessed Mother, is always just a call away. Faith, hope and love together will change the world. And by the way, have you called your Mother lately just to say ‘I love you?’