Celebrate your love for Mary during month of May

| April 25, 2013
Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

I have always looked forward to the month of May, which is marked with significant celebrations: First Holy Communions, confirmations, Mother’s Day, graduations and ordinations. And after an excruciatingly long and hard winter, I look forward this year to see the natural budding of trees and the appearance of spring flowers.

Moreover, the month of May has, since my youth, been associated in my mind with devotion to Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church. And Mary always brings hope, warmth and joy.

The learned theologian, Father Karl Rahner, was once asked why there was a decline today in devotion to the Blessed Mother. He replied that all Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike, face the common temptation of turning the central truths of the faith into abstractions, “and abstractions have no need of mothers” (see Cardinal Suenens, “Mary in the World of Today,” L’Osservatore Romano, June 15, 1972).  I am afraid this is exactly so.

Loving Christ

The Easter event that we have recently celebrated proclaims that “Jesus lives!” Raised from the dead by the Father, Jesus lives for you and me.  We cannot afford to relegate Jesus to a position of past history or to be solely the object of theological inquiry. Jesus lives, and his life is offered in a personal and direct way to us through his Body, the Church.  Christ, therefore, is no abstraction!

Our response to the life he offers is to embrace him, to know him and to love him. In loving him, we love what he loves, first among which would be his mother and the poor.  And by loving them, we learn to love Jesus more.

Before entering the seminary in college, I was afforded the opportunity to date young ladies throughout my high school years.  I always made a special point of getting to know the mothers of the girls I dated. On a few occasions, one of those young ladies accused me of liking her mother more than I liked her! Be that as it may, the mother trusted me and that made for a better relationship with her daughter.

I think something of this same philosophy has accompanied me in my relationship with Mary — while, of course, Jesus would never be jealous of my love for his mother, as my lady friends perhaps were. But the basic point remains — because I know Christ’s mother with some familiarity, I can know her son even better.

Some accuse Catholics of “worshipping” Mary or otherwise equating her with the Triune Godhead.  While at times some Catholics may in fact emphasize devotion to Mary in such a way that an exaggerated viewpoint is given, nevertheless, most Catholics are able to draw distinction between asking Mary’s intercession with her Son and our worship of him. They understood that devotion to her necessarily leads to worship of him. Therefore, to know her is to know him. To love him is to love her. This knowledge, this love is not abstract, but deeply personal.

Voice your support for traditional definition of marriage

The bill to redefine marriage sits on the floor of both chambers of the Legislature. It could be voted on at any time. Its sponsors want this action to be bi-partisan, which is why pressure is being placed on the Republicans. Please contact your legislators and ask them to support the traditional definition of marriage.

You may go online to the Minnesota Catholic Conference website (http://www.mncc.org) and click on the MN Catholic Advocacy Network icon.There you will find easy directions for emailing your own specific legislators.

Marriage needs to be supported, not used as a human experiment.  Children need to be raised in a home with a mother and a father. Again, please contact your legislator today!

— Archbishop John Nienstedt

Furthermore, our love for Mary should motivate us to a greater sense of prayer. St. Augustine reminds us that Mary conceived Christ in her heart before she conceived him in her womb (“De Sancta Virginitate,” 3 PL 40, 398). She was totally devoted to the Word. In this sense, following Mary’s example, the Scriptures ought to have a unique and integral part in our daily prayer lives. The Bible should do more than tell us about God; it has the power to transform us into the image of Jesus and, indeed, to “give birth” to him in this world through lives of mercy and goodness.

I am a big promoter of “lectio divina,” which is a meditative reading of Scripture. By this method (which I will describe in a subsequent column), we actively insert ourselves in the sacred text, recognizing that the Word is alive through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We take a “word” (or phrase) with us for the day and repeat that word as often as we can, thereby allowing the Word to sanctify all we do. Following Mary’s example, then, the Bible becomes my daily friend and my heart’s focus.  Every Catholic should have one to use for such daily “reading.”

In addition, our devotion to Mary leads us to pray the rosary. Cardinal Dearden, my mentor, was talking with one of the lay observers of the Second Vatican Council one day about the practical details of marriage. The man said that when he awoke in the morning, he told his wife, “I love you.” Before going to work, he kissed her and said, “I love you.” During the morning, he would take a break and call his wife by phone to see how things were and always finished by saying, “I love you.” When returning home, before going to sleep, he repeated the expression, “I love you.” Then the man commented, “You know my wife never tires of my telling her, ‘I love you.’” In this way, expressed love deepens love in the heart.

Just so, each bead of the rosary is a spoken “I love you” directed to the Trinity through Jesus or through Mary to Jesus. Our “Hail Mary” deepens our love for the one who shows us how to trust in God’s plan, to be close to her son and to endure the cross until we experience his resurrection. By meditating on the mysteries of our salvation, we gain strength for living our role in that saving plan today. Again, this prayer is not abstract; it is highly personal and vividly dynamic. I urge families to pray the rosary together each week during the month of May.

Finally, the place of Mary is always at the foot of the cross of Jesus. She walks with Christ, and stands by him, eager to comfort and to obey. So when I pray to Jesus or through Jesus to the Father, I am not surprised to find Mary by my side.

She is our “tainted nature’s solitary boast” and as such she is a profound source of our joy as well as a practical help to our salvation. Mary, Mother of the Church and my Mother, pray for us!

I invite you to celebrate your love for Mary during this month of May by joining our rosary procession on Sunday, May 5. We will begin at the State Capitol at 2 p.m., process to the Cathedral of St. Paul while praying the rosary, and then conclude the ceremony with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I hope to see you there!

God bless you!

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Category: Only Jesus

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