Why Mary Matters

I didn’t grow up with a relationship with Mary.  I didn’t hear about her, nor experience Marian devotions.  But when I was twenty-seven, I became a missionary in Bolivia, teaching English to 6th to 12th grades.  I had wanted to go to Africa but civil wars redirected my plans.  I was afraid to go to a Spanish-speaking country because I’m not proficient in languages, but God had things He wanted to show me.  Unbeknownst to me, Central and South America have a great devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.

Artwork by Tom Mussio
Artwork by Tom Mussio

I lived in a small village called Loma Alta, meaning “high hill.”  During the month of May, the rosary was prayed each night in a different family’s home.   After the rosary, someone played guitar and we sang lively songs of praise.   After this, we ate.  Families prepared delicious empanadas, fruit, flan or cakes.   We’d try to guess what would be served the next night.

As I started feeling more of a connection with Mary as my “heavenly mother,”  I thought of different times in my life when I had felt lonely, lost, or sad and realized that I could have picked up a rosary, “contemplated the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mary,” as St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary,  and been comforted.

The Salesian order, with whom I served as a Lay Missionary, also has a very down-to-earth way of relating to Mary.   They use the title, “Mary, help of Christians” and see her as Mother of their Salesian family.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,”  Pope Francis writes, “popular piety enables us to see how the faith, once received, becomes embodied in a culture and is constantly passed on.”  Through the people’s great faith and devotions, I learned to love Mary.  I came to understand that she’s my mother, who prays  for me.

She’s your mother also, who prays for you.  Why not pray a “Hail Mary” or decade of the Rosary today?

If you’re asking the question, “Why do I need a relationship with Mary when I already have one with Jesus?”  let me ask you a question.  Would you like to grow closer to Jesus?  Mary’s sole goal is to lead us closer to Jesus, so that we might listen to Him.  Think of the wedding feast of Cana.  What did she tell the stewards when they discovered there was no more wine?  “Do whatever he tells you”  (John 2:5).   She was looking out for the best interest of the wedding couple, who were in the embarrassing predicament of running out of wine!  Jesus initially told Mary that this situation didn’t concern Him.  But when she persisted, He performed his first public miracle.  Jesus apparently realized God was prompting Him through his mother.

With Pentecost approaching, here is one more reason to call on Mary’s intercession.  St. Luke tells us in the  Acts of the Apostles, that Mary was present and praying, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles.  This is not merely a detail.  It is recorded so that we may know that Mary will pray with us for the all the gifts that the Spirit wants to bestow upon us.

Come Holy Spirit, and pray for us, Mother Mary!

Why Ten Days Longer?

 

Are you different? Has your faith in Christ deepened? Is the Easter Season changing your life by bringing you into a new experience of joy?

Since the Season is fifty days – ten days longer than Lent – the Church emphasizes the importance of continuing the celebration.  For most people, Easter has long been in the “rearview mirror.”   So wrong and so sad!

When Jesus rose from the dead, a new dawn came into this world, and for those of us who believe, today is just as bright and meaningful as that first Easter morn.  How much joy should fill our hearts at the thought of the victory Jesus won for us!

Does the Church exaggerate the importance of the Resurrection and our need to truly celebrate it?

Hardly.

On June 4, Pentecost Sunday, we will hear once again at Mass, how the Apostles were so filled with the Holy Spirit’s joy, not to mention courage, that their proclamation of the Gospel brought 3000 new believers into the fold.   Some in the crowd that day thought the Apostles were drunk.  Of course they were…inebriated by the Spirit of God (Eph. 5:18) and the new wine that God had “saved for last.” (John 2:10)

The Apostles were jubilant in their witnessing to Jesus’ Resurrection.  Rising from the dead was the final ‘word’ of Jesus for them, and so it is for us.  Heaven is our final destination, yes, but  eternal life breaks into our day-to-day life in several ways.

From Sligo's Cathedral

Do we dare share our faith in the Risen Jesus with others?

What if we are rejected?

To the church at Laodicea, a community which Jesus rebuked for being ‘lukewarm,’ Jesus made this compelling invitation;

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”   -Rev. 3:20

If we open our  hearts to Jesus, we can expect change.  At the Last Supper, He promised;

“Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name.  Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  – John 16:23-24

Could it be that simple?

In a word, “yes.”  But when we ask, we should ask with all the faith we can summon.  However big or small our faith, Jesus will answer.

When Maeve was a  LAMP Missionary, she asked the children in a youth group that she directed if they felt happy upon awakening each morning.  Surprisingly, many said, “no.”  She thus encouraged the children to thank God each morning for all His blessings and to praise Him for His goodness.

“Angels and saints sing praises to God constantly,” she told them, “And though none of us has halos or wings, it doesn’t stop us from joining the heavenly chorus!”

Brothers and sisters….the Lord invites us to celebrate all of life as if it were Easter.

THE TRUTH IS  …IT IS!!!

PS  We hope you enjoy the hymn in the Youtube video at the top of this post.  It’s been a  wonderful theme for our continuing Easter celebration, and we sing it in our prayer time together.