Blessed be Mary, because she believed. A saint of our times, St. Josemaria EscrivĂˇ, was fond of saying, "Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per Mariam" (All with Peter to Jesus through Mary). May I suggest that we make these words our own. May all of us respond enthusiastically to the invitation of the Successor of St. Peter to deepen our friendship with Christ through the mediation of our Mother Mary, "excellent exemplar of faith and charity."
LONG BEACH, CA (Catholic Online) "Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed 'blessed because she believed.'" (Lk 1:45)
With these words, Pope Benedict XVI concluded his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, in which he announced the Year of Faith that has just begun. We would do well to respond to the Holy Father's invitation by making a firm resolution to live this time of grace very close to Our Lady.
Providentially, this first Saturday in the Year of Faith has a profoundly Marian tone. Saturday, of course, is particularly associated with the Mother of God. Pope Paul VI noted that the Church's liturgical calendar allows for ".frequent commemorations of the Blessed Virgin.through the use of the Saturday Masses of our Lady." ("Marialis Cultus," 9) This venerable tradition of honoring the Blessed Mother on Saturdays whether in the liturgy or by way of devotional practices has its origin in the contemplation of Mary's unfailing trust in the promises of her Son even while His body lay in the tomb on that first Holy Saturday. While the faith of all the others was shaken to its foundations, the certainty of Mary's faith shone like a brilliant light in those darkest hours. Blessed be Mary, because she believed.
The liturgical readings for this particular Saturday speak about faith in general and specifically about Mary's faith. In the first reading, St. Paul writes, ".through faith in Jesus Christ the promise [is] .given to those who believe." Faith is a gift! In the words of Pope Benedict, ".the first act by which one comes to faith is God's gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within." (Pope Benedict XVI, "Porta Fidei," 10)
In today's Gospel a woman in the crowd is so taken with Jesus' teaching that she cannot contain her praise for the woman who gave Him birth and who nurtured Him from infancy. Jesus immediately seizes the opportunity to add a supernatural depth to those laudatory words by responding, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." No one has heard the word of God so clearly and observed it more perfectly than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Blessed be Mary, because she believed!
In the years following Vatican Council II there was the sad phenomenon observed in some sectors of the Church which saw a weakening of Marian devotion. By no means was this the result of an authentic interpretation of the teaching of the Council which boldly proclaimed Mary to be "a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, [and] its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity." ("Lumen Gentium," 53) In the document, "Note with Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith," we read, "During this Year, it will be helpful to invite the faithful to turn with particular devotion to Mary, model of the Church, who 'shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues.' Therefore, every initiative that helps the faithful to recognize the special role of Mary in the mystery of salvation, love her and follow her as a model of faith and virtue is to be encouraged." (Note, I, 3)
How wonderful it is that this Year of Faith begins in the Month of the Holy Rosary. For those who do not pray the Rosary or who pray it only occasionally, this is the moment to begin praying it. For those who daily or regularly pray this pre-eminent Marian prayer, now is the time to resolve to pray it better, with greater attention and devotion, while meditating deeply on each of the Mysteries. Surely, we will all find encouragement from the following words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI a few years ago:Â "The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic manner - not mechanically and superficially, but profoundly - brings peace and reconciliation. It contains the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the heart of each Hail Mary."
This first Saturday in this Year of Faith also coincides with a significant date in the history of the world: October 13, 1917, when the miracle promised by Our Lady to the three children of Fatima was witnessed by approximately 75,000 people. Even the anti-Catholic newspaper, O Seculo, published a reporter's rather detailed account of how "the sun danced" and included testimonies of people who had witnessed the "miracle of the sun." On this day 95 years ago many came to faith and the faith of the weak was strengthened. Unfortunately, however, not everyone came to believe. This is because faith is a gift that must be received. Our cooperation is needed. "To the extent that he freely cooperates, man's thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed." ("Porta Fidei," 6)
The message of Our Lady at Fatima is the message of the Gospel calling sinners to conversion. May the most powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary help us poor sinners-you and me-to be truly converted. At the start of this Year of Faith may we boldly set out on a journey of faith "that is never completely finished in this life." And in turn, may we be used by God to bring those whose faith is weak and those who have no faith at all to be led "out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance." ("Porta Fidei," 2)
In our day when it appears that the influence of Christianity in the lives of men and women is growing faint and more and more people have no room for God in their lives, Mary, the "Woman of Faith," who "magnified the Lord" in her marvelous canticle of praise will come to our aid. In a homily Pope Benedict gave on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he stated: "But when God disappears, men and women do not become greater; indeed, they lose the divine dignity, their faces lose God's splendor. In the end, they turn out to be merely products of a blind evolution and, as such, can be used and abused. This is precisely what the experience of our epoch has confirmed for us. Only if God is great is humankind also great. With Mary, we must begin to understand that this is so. We must not drift away from God but make God present; we must ensure that he is great in our lives. Thus, we too will become divine; all the splendor of the divine dignity will then be ours. Let us apply this to our own lives." (Homily, August 15, 2005)
A saint of our times, St. Josemaria Escriva, was fond of saying, "Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per Mariam" (All with Peter to Jesus through Mary). May I suggest that we make these words our own. May all of us respond enthusiastically to the invitation of the Successor of St. Peter to deepen our friendship with Christ through the mediation of our Mother Mary, "excellent exemplar of faith and charity."
Fr. G. Peter Irving III is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is pastor of Holy Innocents Church, Long Beach, California
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