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Introduction to May's Issue:
Mary, our role model

Rev. Mark Connolly

Almost any Catholic knows the word Litany. In Church language it is a series of short prayerful expressions, directed to God and asking His help. Recently in the Litany of Our Blessed Mother, the prayerful expression, Queen of all families, was inserted. And it is so appropriate. If you go back into the life of the Church at almost any age, respect and reverence were always directed towards Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of Christ. Almost every section of Europe has a shrine or a Church which reminds the tourist of a place that once honored Mary. If you look at the words of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and Tintoretto, great painters of the past, there is no doubt of the role Mary played in their lives. If you go back even further, after the death of Christ, when the Apostles were fearful of their future, it was Mary who, with the help of the Holy Spirit, set the stage for the first Pentecost.

Going back even further into her history we recall that her son, Jesus, and her husband, Joseph, experienced tragedies and hardships most families never imagine. Imagine the feelings a new mother must have when she is told in a dream that her son is to be killed. They had just gone through the harsh experience of being forced to give birth in a stable. Then, they being Jewish, had to go to Egypt which at the time was anti-semantic. Imagine Joseph, the carpenter, trying to find a job in a climate such as this. The experience of being lost in the Temple for three days, wondering and searching for him. Wondering whether he was kidnapped, searching and wondering when and how they would find him. Imagine what he must have sounded like when Mary heard the crowd speaking on Good Friday about her son and saying, "Crucify him, crucify him." Go one step further in your imagination and picture Mary watching her son take his last breath on the cross, and then realizing and knowing he was totally innocent.

All of us know from our study of Scripture and history the role Mary played in the plan of God. To be called co-redeemer with Christ, to be known for her work in the First Pentecost, all of these theological titles and honors don't really have the same appeal as Queen of all families. The artists and the architects of the past knew of her great theological importance in the life of Christ and the life of the Church. Their knowledge of Mary was quite limited by comparison to ours. They had inspiration and a culture of faith that helped them produce their masterpieces. Their devotion to Mary, especially up to the Thirteenth Century, found many different inspirational forms of expression. Mary was their role model. But in recent years, even though a great amount of research has been done in Mariology, devotion to Mary is not as constant as it once was. Thank God we still have people who believe in Mary and have their Marian devotions and recitation of the Rosary. John Cardinal Newman once said that if you want to de-emphasize devotion and interest in Christ, first start by de-emphasizing devotion and interest in Mary.

George Santayana once said that those who don't learn from the mistakes of the past, are likely to commit them in the future. That would be a tragedy of enormous proportions if our society lost its appreciation of the role of Mary, the Mother of Christ. She has been a role model for centuries. Almost every great painter, artist, architects, sculptor has recognized her importance.

Each culture of the past has had its own series of problems in raising their families. Mary has had a profound influence in guiding the first apostolic family and the families that followed down throughout history. She has influenced families for the better and helped and guided them by the value system she has handed down.

Our society could not have a better role model. Mary, because of her closeness to Christ, has the same influence in the present that she has had in the past. St. Bernard expressed an idea that all of us should remember. He said, "she who anticipates our petitions will never deny our requests." Mary, for all of us, for greater sanity and sanctity, has to become our role model.



Remember oh most gracious Virgin Mary
That never was it known
That anyone who fled
unto thy protection
Implored thy help
Or sought thy intercession
Was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence
I fly unto thee
O Virgin of Virgins
My mother
To thee I come
Before thee I kneel
Sinful and sorrowful
O Mother of the Word Incarnate
Despise not my petitions
But in thy mercy
Hear and answer them.
-- St. Bernard (1090-1153)

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