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by Rev. Mark Connolly

Almost every Catholic who has been raised in the Catholic Church from childhood knows that the month of May is the month devoted to Mary, the Mother of God. Those trained in the Catholic tradition are familiar with the May Crownings, the May Processions. All of these religious customs have come down from the time when Mary was singled out by artists and architects. Churches, Cathedrals, Universities, poetry, art - all show the influence of Mary. She inspired the artist, she motivated the architect of history in a way that memorialized the role she played in history as the woman who had no equal. Mary, the mother of Christ, Mary the mother of the Church, Mary in her role at Calvary, Mary at Pentecost, all indicate her leadership qualities, her importance to the people who honored her in their own cultural and different ways.

It is almost impossible to figure what was her most important role throughout the centuries. A leader, a teacher, a motivator, all were characteristics of Mary throughout history.

And in addition to these roles, there was always the recognition of her role as Mother, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church, Mother of the human race.

Mary, throughout history, becomes the role model for the Mothers of each generation. She became in prayerful language the hope, the life and the sweetness of many who knew her as one to be reverenced and respected. People of each generation knew that from Mary comes values for life. Mary taught generations the importance of having priorities -- a sound relationship with God, a sound relationship with family, a sound relationship with oneself.

Cardinal Newman once wrote that if you wanted to hurt the Catholic Church do it by attacking our Blessed Mother. And so throughout the centuries all sorts of attacks by philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau became common place. Yet, Mary not only survived these attacks, she triumphed over them. Places like Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje and Knock in Ireland find millions of people going year after year to honor Mary. She not only gave inspiration to the world, but also hope and inspiration to those who trust and believe in the Mother who brought Christ into the world.

Mary today is just as meaningful as she was when she inspired Cathedrals and works of art. Mary is the one who gave hope and meaning to the lives of the apostles. Mary is the one who knew the difficulties of keeping a family together. Mary is the one who knew the pain caused by bigotry and prejudice. Mary is the role model of every mother. Mary has a power because of her closeness to God that no other person has.

It would be a great loss in life to live many years and not have fostered a devotion to this unique woman. St. Bernard has written a beautiful line about Mary. He said, "she who anticipates our petitions will never deny our requests."

It was true then. It is true today.

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