Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Blessed Virgin Mary
 and Our Spirituality

Father John J. Lombardi

"Thou and thy Mother are the only ones who are totally beautiful in every respect; for in Thee, O Lord, there is no spot, and in thy Mother, no stain." St Ephraim, Poet, Deacon, Doctor

Last week while giving a tour to some children, I announced that we were doing the May-crowning of the statue of Mary the next day. I forgot we were standing under the 120-foot bellower and golden statue of the Virgin. A little girl looked up, and asked: "How will you reach up that far?" She then asked, innocently-"How will you make her come down?" The only response: "Hail Mary, full of grace…" May is Mary's month, a time to affectionately think about, and thank, the Mother of God, under the acronym M*A*R*Y and how she helps us spiritually…

Meditation: "And she treasured all these things in her heart" (Lk. 2:19). The Virgin Mary is frequently seen as a model of prayer. With arms and hands folded over her heart, bowing before God's angel, or at the foot of the Cross, all these postures represent her interiority, prayer and deeper life in God. Mary can help us pray and meditate. Five words characterize meditation: Within, think about, thank Him. Go within your soul and use your intellect to think deeply about God, or Mary or another holy subject. Then thank God from your heart for all the graces you have received. Form aspirations and sentiments of love towards God and connect with Him more deeply. This is the heart of meditation: penetration and loving embrace of spiritual realities.

One of the most tragic parts of modern life is its cantankerousness without contemplation. Mary represents the exact opposite and can help us become contemplatives. Mary is a symbol of integrity- inner spiritual equilibrium-gained thru the disciplined desire of meditation. St. Thomas of Villanova counsels: "We must copy the quietness of Mary, imitate her humility." So: replicate Mary's interior life by giving God at least twenty minutes in the morning and evening to meditation. For instance, think of the Virgin at the Foot of Cross: explore this sad, yet sacred scene with all your senses and think about Jesus' and Mary's thoughts, and their sufferings for your salvation. Then Thank God for the depth of revelations received. Mary will help you to treasure these sacred realties in your heart. Become like her.

Adoration: Mother Teresa's sisters have a crucifix in Calcutta which depicts Mary next to the Cross of Jesus, holding a chalice up to His pierced side to receive His Sacred Blood. Mary leads us to Jesus-to His Overflowing Divinity.

"Adoration is the first act of the virtue of Religion. To adore God is to acknowledge Him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve,' says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy." (Catechism-#2096). The Blessed Virgin -a creature--helps us to love and worship God-the Creator (cf. Rm 1:25). At Guadalupe, Mexico, in 1521, Mary helped the Aztecs, who were worshipping other creatures, and sacrificing human beings to idols, find and worship the Creator, Jesus Christ. Millions converted to pro-life and the Faith. The Virgin points to Jesus, she doesn't replace Him. How can you worship God more, with Mary's help? And she wants you to help others worship God, too!

Mary's heart and soul were Immaculate-without stain of sin. This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This means Mary was conceived without Original Sin. She is "full of Grace" -Lk. 1:28: "The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person 'in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before Him in love'" (Eph. 1:3-4, CCC # 492). Mary is pure in heart (one of the most difficult things for us human beings) and adored God perfectly. So, she can help us in our imperfections, in our partial and conditional love for God. Ask her to help you to be more free, pure and undivided-for God and others. For a meditation think of the Virgin Mary worshipping Jesus at the First Christmas. She kneels purely before her Savior and Son. Vatican Council II counseled: "Devoutly meditating upon her and contemplating her in light of the Word made man, the Church reverently penetrates more deeply into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her spouse" (#65, Lumen Gentium). Thank Mary for her example of worship and trusting in God. In a time when we see tortured prisoners, manipulated youth and neglected elderly, we are reminded by Mary's Immaculateness how God treats humans and "trusts in them". This is His promise. Let us worship Him! People who love Mary love God. How can you worship and adore God more?-thru more prayer, frequent Mass attendance, thru greater love of the heart? Let Mary inspire you aspire to God.

Regina: Mary is Queen of Heaven. The gold statue at the Grotto (actually bronze within, gold-leaf paint outside) is not in Heaven, but it helps people look to Heaven-especially on bright days: the Son/Sun lights up the Lady. -"A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev. 12:1).

The Virgin reminds us of our First Parents unstained dignity-called "original Justice". God created Adam and Eve in supernatural glory, but we lost this thru sin. The Queen of Heaven reminds us that our bodies and souls were meant to harmonize together perfectly, not toxically as they sometimes do (as when passions or emotions overcome us); our bodies and souls are meant to be elegant instruments of God's grace and love, not vessels of lust and hatred. A Queen is not like that. Vatican II reminds us: "Let the faithful remember…we are led to recognize the excellence of the Mother of God and we are moved to a filial love towards our mother and the imitation of her virtues". May our love for the Queen inspire us to be beautified by the practice of virtues-faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, fortitude-so they become dispositions within us. A Queen wants to share with her subjects these virtues so we become beautiful ourselves.

Mary's beauty-as a Queen---can illuminate this earth's veil of tears, sorrows and darknesses. . Display in your home, car, or office, pictures of Virgin and Child, to inspire and remind you of your beautiful calling and the Mystical Realm of the Trinity and Virgin. We are inspired by the cultures of the Philippines and Hispanics who display pictures, make gestures (bowing, kissing) and veneration of the Virgin Mary a precious, natural action. How can you participate in this amidst increasing desacralization and sterilization of piety? Also, because of Mary's humility and beauty, and Pope John Paul's Marian emphasis, people have been re-inspired to "return to modesty" and practice chaste virtues amidst a world of sexual permissiveness. How can you be part of this, and help young girls and boys, and adults, to be "full of grace" and not gritty abnormality? When we love with a "Marian," heart, and pray the Rosary slowly, it is harder to embrace darkness, sin, sensuality, etc. The Virgin Mary as at the apex of a "spiritual symphony to God"- enthroned in a Mystical Communion-she wants us to be beautiful, too.

The Pope has said God shows His love for us thru the femininity of a Mother, and reveals another, exquisite aspect of Himself. When we pray the Rosary in front of the Eucharist, for instance, or in adoration in Church we, too, have a perfect balance of male and female and unite what is sometimes divided. Pope John Paul II has also stressed a "theology of the Body" calling us to remember, like Mary, our bodies have supernal functions and a "language written into them" by God. Opposite this is contraception, illicit drugs and sexuality, murder, etc. Mary's Assumption, body and soul into Heaven, reminds us of the integrity, beauty and supernaturalism of body-soul unity and the way God intended for us. We can at least try to practice and foreshadow this by virtuous living now, with Mary's help.

Yes to God- The Virgin gave some of the finest spiritual advice ever given, at the feast of Cana: "Do everything He (Jesus) tells you" (Jn. 2:5). And she followed it perfectly. Mary responds to God purely. We humans have sluggish thoughts; a balking will, a turbulent mind, all which stymie and compromise God's clear commands to us. Ask Mary to help you to respond more purely, immediately to God's ways, for she said: "Fiat"-"Let it be it done unto me according to Your word" (Lk.1:28). This shows Mary's spontaneous passivity- a holy and needed attribute within all disciples. First, we must receive grace and then join the race! We have been saved, say Yes to God, and let Him fill us before, during and after entering into active discipleship. We will all burnout, and become discouraged without prayer, with Mary, before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Say Yes to this kind of Bliss.

Mary shows us to trust in the Will, action and mysterious Grace of God. She led a life of Faith in Holy Mystery. So she knows how to help you to surrender more to God and His Ways. Say "Yes" and then, like Mary, be freed ("Fiat" also means spiritual freedom) into absolute abandonment. Say "Yes" to God thru your suffering. Mary suffered when Jesus was ridiculed, in the Way of the Cross, in His scourging, nailing to the Cross and death; and then she took His body from Cross. Our Mother of Sorrows can help you suffer and persevere. Ask her to help you.

Mary also helps us to say "Yes" to the teachings of the Bible and Church: today, oppositely, it is respectable to "pick and choose" beliefs and teachings and even to say "no"-like pro-abortion politicians, and people who worship Mammon thru materialism, or who neglect others. The saints who loved Mary loved the Church, accepted her teachings and lived them out: there was no compromise. Mary will help you to discern and decided for the Church and overcome indecision and doubt. After all, she had the hardest decisions to make and accept and decided for Jesus and His Church-so she will help you.

This month of Mary dedicate yourself to her and, sense her spiritual presence as intimated by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

"World air, world mothering air/ nestling me everywhere
Be thou then, O thou Dear, Mother, My atmosphere."

Briefly Noted

The Church decides -with the Holy Spirit's Counsel- how to help people to be saved-discerning that some Jewish laws should not be applicable to non-Jewish converts. Notice: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and us not to place any burden beyond these necessities…" (Acts 15:28).

Two important points: God gives us apostles (popes and bishops) and elders (priests) to decide certain customs. Some people want to reject God's choosing this model of Catholic Unity and mediation. We can help Protestants and Catholics thru these verses of God and clergy uniting to sanctify souls. 2. The book of Revelation intimates there are three Levels of Spiritual reality: first is heaven and God's Blissful realm; second: angels and demons; third-earth, material reality. Our job: connect with Sacred Spiritual Realm. 3. Jesus counsels us to obey the Father as He does. Obey-comes for the Latin word, audire, "to listen."

Are you listening to God speak to you-thru the Bible, others, thru the Church? Three Movements of Obedience: fitting a square peg (our way) in a round hole (God's Will).  At first it seems like this-because we want our selfish, creaturely way. Two: you begin to work with God, and the square-ness is whittled by God's round hole, and we slowly see and embrace God's "rounding wisdom." 3. Perfection: God's Will and Way become more natural, second nature. St Augustine says, now: "Love and do what you will." Listen to the Voice!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi