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Mary and the Saints

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Among the titles given to Mary is "Queen of all the Saints". In one of his reflections on this woman whom he loved with such devotion, Blessed john Paul II proclaimed "This woman of faith, Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God, has been given to us a model of our pilgrimage of faith. From Mary we learn to surrender to God's will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ, her Son, and the Son of God. For Mary is not only the Mother of God, she is the Mother of the Church as well" (Oct. 6, 1979).

John Paul's devotion to Mary is characteristic of holy men and women throughout the history of the Church. As one who returned to the practice of the ancient faith, I spent much time studying the lives of the saints. I discovered something which forced me to examine my own understanding of Mary. They loved Mary personally and had a special devotion to her. As I dug into the lives of many of my heroes of the faith, such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis of Assisi, I discovered that this devotion to Mary informed their lives.

We are all "saints" in the sense of having been set aside for the Lord to live holy lives and called into communion with Him, and through Him, with one another for the sake of the world (CCC # 946 - 952). However, from the earliest centuries of the Church, those Christians who lived lives of intimate communion with the Lord and demonstrated heroic virtue; those who reflected the radiance of Christ were honored, both during life and after they entered into eternal communion with the Lord. They were given a place of honor within the "communion of saints." This is the fertile field from which the practice of canonizing some of those members of the Body of Christ began. The Catholic Catechism explains,

Madonna and Child with Saints - Andrea del Castagno - 1445

Madonna and Child with Saints - Andrea del Castagno - 1445

"By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. "The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church's history." Indeed, "holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal" (CCC #828).

Among them all, the "God-bearer", the Theotokos, the Mother of the Lord, was always given the place of honor at the side of the King of Kings, her Son and Savior Jesus Christ. In the next paragraph the Catechism explains "But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. And so they turn their eyes to Mary:" in her, the Church is already the "all-holy" (CCC #829).

My study over decades has confirmed what I discovered as a young man. The great saints of the Church - canonized or not - had a special devotion to Mary, the Queen of the Saints. The Cistercian Abbot, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) once preached words which we still reflect upon during the Advent season in the Liturgy of the Hours, "You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us. The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

"Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

"Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word. Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.

"Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word."

This great teacher of prayer reminds us in another homily, "In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer; neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal."

To St. Bernard and for all who seek to grow closer to Jesus Christ, Mary points the way. In her "Yes" we find the way of surrendered love. He reminds us in another homily, "Love is sufficient of itself; it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in the practice. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return. The sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him."


More Mary, Mother of God



Appearances of Mary

Apparitions and Appearances

Apparitions and Appearances Image

The term "appearance" has been used with Marian apparitions and visions of Jesus Christ. The Church will confirm an apparition as worthy of belief, but belief is never required by divine faith. Read More

Evaluating Apparitions

Evaluating Apparitions Image

A Roman Catholic approved Marian apparition is one that has been examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and has been granted approval by the local Bishop or the Holy See. Read More

Approved Appearances
Traditionally
Vatican
Bishop
Coptic
Un-Approved Appearances
Approval of Faith Expression
Unapproved Apparitions

Mary as Mother

Mother of God (TheotoKos)

Mother of God (TheotoKos) Image

From antiquity, Mary has been called "Theotokos", or "God-Bearer". The word in Greek is "Theotokos". The term was used as part of the popular piety of the early first millennium church. Read More

Daughter of the Father

Daughter of the Father Image

Mary is "full of grace," because it is precisely in her that the Incarnation of the Word, the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature, is accomplished and fulfilled. Read More

Mother of the Redeemer

Mother of the Redeemer Image

Mary was there at the Incarnation, Birth, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of God Incarnate. She was there throughout the often called "hidden years" in Nazareth. In the life of the Redeemer... Read More

Spouse of the Spirit

Spouse of the Spirit Image

Throughout God's relationship with Israel He promises to espouse His people to himself (See, e.g. Hosea 2:19). This language of spousal love, of nuptiality, is also present in this overshadowing... Read More

Mother of the Church

Mother of the Church Image

Since the Virgin Mary's role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. She is acknowledged as... Read More

Mother of the Domestic Church

Mother of the Domestic Church Image

Mary is the mother of every domestic church, of every Christian family. She fully understands the naturally supernatural realities of family life because she lived them. Read More

Our Mother

Our Mother Image

I found that every one of the great influences in my Christian life from that communion of saints to which we are all joined was profoundly "Marian". Francis of Assissi, Bernard of Clairvaux... Read More



Mary as Model

Mary in the Scriptures

Mary in the Scriptures Image

Christian Scripture calls the "more excellent way", the way of Love. Mary understands this Way and walked on it with extraordinary humility. Follow her in journey through the Scriptures. Read More

Mary in the Tradition

Mary in the Tradition Image

To understand Mary in the Tradition of the Church we have to understand what is meant by the word "Tradition" - and why it matters. In his second letter to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul... Read More

Mary and the Councils

Mary and the Councils Image

A Bishop named Nestorius objected to the title of Theotokos, Mother of God or God Bearer for Mary. The Council of Ephesus met in 431AD and affirmed Mary was the "Mother of God"... Read More

Mary in the Liturgical Year

Mary in the Liturgical Year Image

The Second Vatican Council did not offer one particular document on Mary, the Mother of God. Rather, the Council fathers incorporated the meaning and mission of Mary, as well as her... Read More

Mary East and West

Mary East and West Image

Devotion to - and love for . Mary, the Mother of God, is a foundational part of the Christian Church both East and West. The Eastern Christian emphasis, both doctrinally and devotionally, is... Read More

Mary and the Early Fathers

Mary and the Early Fathers Image

Among the multiple and profound references to Mary, the Mother of God, found in the writings of the early Church Fathers is one of my favorites in the Cappadocian, Gregory of Nyssa... Read More

Mary and the Saints

Mary and the Saints Image

Among the titles given to Mary is "Queen of all the Saints". In one of his reflections on this woman whom he loved with such devotion, Blessed john Paul II proclaimed "This woman of faith... Read More


Mary as Disciple

Mary as Disciple

Mary as Disciple Image

We were made to give ourselves away to the Lord and, in Him, for others. Mary's choice, her response to the invitation of a God, is a singularly extraordinary event in all of human history. Read More

Handmaiden of the Lord

Handmaiden of the Lord Image

"I am the handmaiden (servant) of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word." (Luke 1:38) When Mary spoke those few words, human history was forever changed. Read More

Model of Holiness

Model of Holiness Image

From antiquity the early Christians reflected on a "mystery" of the faith- how the Incarnation of Jesus Christ came about through the free cooperation of this little Virgin of Nazareth... Read More

First Disciple

First Disciple Image

She was the first evangelizer and the first disciple of her Son Jesus. She gave the first Gospel testimony to her cousin, Elizabeth, without words, as the Redeemer in her womb drew the child in her womb... Read More


Way of Mary

The Message of Mary

The Message of Mary Image

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (The Gospel of Luke 2:34-37) Read More

The Meaning of Mary

The Meaning of Mary Image

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." "At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without... Read More

The Prayer of Mary

The Prayer of Mary Image

Mary's Prayer teaches us to stay afloat in the ocean of life, with all of its undertows. Mary's way is to become an ark within, where the same God who became incarnate within her... Read More

The Song of Mary

The Song of Mary Image

"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you... Read More

The Titles of Mary

The Titles of Mary Image

From the earliest theological reflections in Christian history we find the defense of the most important of the titles of Mary, "Theotokos" in Greek. It is translated God-bearer... Read More


Mission of Mary

Mary and the Eucharist

Mary and the Eucharist Image

In a beautiful apostolic exhortation entitled the Sacrament of Love, issued in 1997, Pope Benedict XVI wrote these words under a section entitled The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary... Read More

Mary & the New Evangelization

Mary & the New Evangelization Image

Throughout his pontificate, Blessed John Paul II called for this "New Evangelization." Pope Benedict XVI made this a central pillar of his pontificate. He erected a Pontifical Council... Read More

The Path of Mary

The Path of Mary Image

Before they were called Christians (Acts 11:26), at Antioch, they were referred to as "the Way". A Rabbi named Saul spoke of persecuting "the way" (Acts 22:4) before he was profoundly converted... Read More

The Marian Moment

The Marian Moment Image

Over the last two decades a recovery of the significance of the life and witness of Mary has occurred among many Christians, even those who descend from the communities of... Read More

Mary's Mission

Mary's Mission Image

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother... When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son." Read More

Marian Prayer and Piety

Marian Prayer and Piety Image

Marian prayer and piety developed very early in the history of the undivided Christian Church of the first millennium. It has been kept alive in a myriad of piety practices in the both the Catholic... Read More


Message of Mary

What Does She Say?

What Does She Say? Image

The message of Mary is the message of the Gospel, to repent and believe the Good news. The message of Mary is conversion to Her Son by saying "yes" to God's invitation. That is the path to true... Read More

Marian Prayer and Devotion

Marian Prayer and Devotion Image

The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs the faithful on just how Mary prayed. Mary still prays. She has a special role in the plan of salvation and is a model for all Christians... Read More

Marian Consecration

Marian Consecration Image

To consecrate means to dedicate. It is used in reference to worship and means to be set aside or set apart for God. It is also a word which speaks to the very core of the Christian... Read More


Devotion of Mary

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary Image

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them... Read More

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary Image

My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid; For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed... Read More

Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary Image

But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered... Read More

Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary

Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary Image

While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory... Read More

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