Emmitsburg Council of Churches

October is Mary's Month

Father John J. Lombardi 

"The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the word of God in her heart and in her body, gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer." (Vatican Council II: #53 Lumen Gentium).

When I was pilgrim in Russia a decade ago, a wonderful thing happened as I went to a famous museum in Moscow to see an equally famous icon, Our Lady of Vladimir. Of all the museums I've been fortunate to visit, I've never seen anything like this: Approaching the hauntingly beautiful, enticingly simple, one-thousand year old portrait of Virgin and Child, there was, immediately beneath it, a large vase of fresh and colorful flowers springing up towards the Madonna and Child-- I realized intuitively this was not a sterile museum, but, rather, a real shrine to Jesus and Mary for pilgrims to visit. Such devotions help us to know and realize, as Christians, we are a family of Faith.

As Catholics we don't worship Mary, we venerate her because she is the Mother of the Redeemer-the God-bearer (theo-tokos, in Greek). She, just like everyone else, worshipped God Himself and received a savior (see Lk. 1:46ff). This model of faith and spirituality is given by God to help us become more holy and belong to a family of Faith.

This solidarity is called a mystical communion, which means we are like a spiritually connected, interactive web of faith, a harmonious and loving union of God's creatures, all trying to help each other: we are a like a living interdependent body, a house of faith, all helping each other towards holiness-whether in Heaven or on Earth (on the mystical body, see: Rv. 8-9, Rm.12, I Cor, 12, Eph. 4). This prayerful and loving union is always accessible, and unbreakable, even in death (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4-8)--Love never fails or ends, it endures all things. As Moses prayed for, and is depicted as a key intercessor for others (Ex. 8:4), and likewise Abraham (Gn. 18:23), and Jeremiah (18:20) , St. James counsels: "Pray for one another that you may be saved, for the continual prayer of a just man avails much" (5:16). And so Mary, who was so close to God on Earth, being now close to Him in Heaven, intercedes for us who are on Earth.

To God alone is due worship. To the saints we give veneration, esteem, and to the Virgin Mary we may give much esteem.

Jesus Christ Himself obeyed God's commandments by honoring His earthly mother and His foster father, Joseph (thus fulfilling the Third Commandment: honor thy father and mother)-if He did, why not us?! This is extraordinary in its ordinariness!

The theologian Ludwig Otto describes our Faith and practices this way (following quotations are from his book, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma: Tan, 1974): "In view of her dignity as the Mother of God and her fullness of grace, a special veneration is due to Mary. This is substantially less than the cultus latriae, (adoration) which is due to God alone, but it is higher than the cultus duliae, (veneration) due to the angels and to the other saints. The special veneration thus given to Mary is called hyperduliae. The scriptural source of special veneration due to the Mother of God is in Luke 1:28: 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,' in the praise of Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit; in the prophetic words of the Mother of God: "All generations shall call me blessed" (Lk. 1:48); and in the words of the multitudes, Lk. 11:27: "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and blessed are the breasts which nursed You."


She is the Mother of God-literally! This title has been fought over for centuries and to this day is still controversial. Why? Because it seems a little grandiose--how could God have a mother (the Creator subject to a creature?). He-Jesus-chose to come to us as a little Baby, and so He wanted a worthy, beautiful Vessel, a Mom, and we're thankful for her saying "Yes" to God's call.

"Scripture implicitly affirms Mary's divine Motherhood by attesting, on the one hand, the true Divinity of Christ and on the other hand, Mary's true motherhood. Thus Mary is called 'the Mother of Jesus' (Jn. 2:1); 'His Mother' (Mt. 1:18; 2:11) 'Mother of the Lord' (Lk. 1:43). Mary's true motherhood is clearly foretold by the prophet Isaiah: "behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and his name shall be called Emmanuel' (7:14). In similar words the angel transmits to Mary the message: ' Behold you shall conceive in your womb and shall bring forth a Son and call Him Jesus'( Lk. 1:31). The motherhood of God is included in the words of Lk. 1:35: 'the Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And therefore the Child born of you shall be called the Son of God,' and in the words of Gal. 4:4: 'God sent His Son made of a woman.' "

The Bible: In many places Mary is described, alluded to, or held up as a model of Christian witness, including: -As defeating evil- in Gn 3:15, where the woman "crushes the head of the serpent"-is often interpreted by early Church Fathers as referring to Mary. -Mary is the model of contemplatives and prayerful persons: "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Lk. 2:19).- She is also known as giving the wisest spiritual counsel, when directing servers to Jesus at the wine-wedding feast of Cana: "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn. 2:5). -In Rev. 12, a woman is described as clothed with the sun, with a child, and in exile from the evils of the cosmic battle. Traditional interpretation intimates this symbolizes the Virgin Mary as a "mother of the Church"…

She gave us the Magnificat and truly glorified the Lord God, in Lk 1:46-48: "My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior." What more beautiful words can be said by a creature of the Creator?! Pray it and live it yourself…

She is the first and perfect disciple: Since Christ made a dwelling in her body, she literally bore Him to the world, after saying 'Yes" to the angel's invitation, and then embracing discipleship, she nurtured, for thirty years (we think), the young Child- and Man-Jesus, and then followed Him in His teachings-all the way to the Crucifixion: from beginning to end she was faithful. One of the reasons St. Elizabeth Ann Seton became a Catholic (in addition to the Holy Eucharist) was the Church's beautiful, venerable devotion to Jesus' Mother, Mary.

In conclusion, remember these simple, essential facts: Mary herself loves, serves and worships God …She is the Mother of God…Our Lady can lead us to God, deeper holiness and discipleship…The Blessed Virgin Mary is venerated, not worshipped…The splendid Virgin wants us to become just like her-immaculate, and bearers of God….

How to cultivate a devotion to Mary…

Be open to Mary's intercession, her love for you (even as she is in Heaven ("Love never ends"-I Cor 13: 7)…Ask her to bring you to Jesus (since she is nearer than anyone to Jesus, in Heaven)-beseech consistently…Pray one decade of the Rosary a day-esp in this month of October: pray slowly, lovingly, reverently…Secure a beautiful icon of Our Lady and Jesus-place it nicely in your home where you can frequently see, visit it: light a candle near it…Make a pilgrimage to a Marian Shrine (Immaculate Conception in Wash., DC; the Basilica of the Assumption in Balt.), and continue to walk with her and Jesus in your daily life.

Essential Marian Prayers

Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. (Notice: The whole Trinity is invoked in this prayer, and resides in the Immaculate Virgin: the "Lord" is God the Father; "full of Grace" is an indication of the Holy Spirit; "Jesus" is the fruit of the Spirit's conception).

Magnificat (The Canticle of Mary): "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has looked upon His handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him. He has shown might with His arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry, He has filled with good things; the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped Israel His servant, remembering His mercy, according to His promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to His descendants forever. (Lk. 1:46-55)

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we send up our sights, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Memorare: Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help of sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins my Mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful; O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy clemency hear and answer me. Amen.

CARDINAL KEELER'S COMMISSION ON ALLEGED APPARITIONS recently made public its investigation in The Catholic Review, reporting that there is no basis for supernatural content in messages received by Mrs. Gianna Talone-Sullivan in recent years, involving a prayer group at St. Joseph parish, Emmitsburg. This prayer group and others is prohibited from meeting there or at any other public places. Let us pray for all to receive this report gracefully and also for healing and reconciliation: that many will experience God's revelations in the Holy Eucharist, in Marian devotions, and service to the poor, sick and dying: in essence, as the Bible, our Sacred Tradition and Vatican Council II has called for: answering the call to holiness through holy mother Church and becoming saints for the Kingdom

CATECHISM @ CONFESSION "Priests must encourage the faithful to come to the sacrament of Penance…When he celebrates the Sacrament the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep…The confessor is not the master of God's forgiveness but its servant." (#1464-5)

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi