“I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the Stormy Sea.”
– Pope Francis
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, never fails to recommend us to the Blessed Virgin Mary, nor to recommend that we approach Her with simplicity and with confidence, like little children. After all, that is precisely what we are – the children of Mary. And no child should ever hesitate to approach his or her mother, particularly at moments of great need.
Pope Francis leads by example. Before every one of his foreign trips, he goes to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and prays silently before the ancient Icon of Our Lady which is called ‘Salus Populi Romani’ (Salvation of the Roman People). And as members of the Catholic Church, every one of us is part of the ‘Roman people’ and so this Icon is for every one of us. And at his extraordinary ‘Urbi Et Orbi’ given from the Vatican on Friday evening, the Holy Father had this Icon brought to the Basilica, where it was prominently displayed. Before adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the Pope venerated this Icon – a picture of that moment is at the top of this page.
Our present Holy Father, at the beginning of his papacy, consecrated his own Petrine ministry to the Mother of God under the title of Our Lady of Fatima. He follows in the footsteps of all the Popes who have preceded him, and who were similarly devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Benedict was deeply devoted to the Mother of God; and few will have forgotten that St John Paul II was a shining light of deep and authentic Marian devotion, his own example lighting a fire in the hearts of a great many of the faithful across the world.
Indeed, the Church herself similarly recommends all of us to be devoted to the Mother of God. The Catechism tells us –
“The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. The Church rightly honors the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs..” (Catechism, para.917)
The great Church council of our times, the Second Vatican Council, spoke at length about Marian devotion; the eighth chapter of ‘Lumen Gentium’, the ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’, speaks very eloquently about Her. Beginning this chapter, the Council Fathers wrote –
“Wherefore this Holy Synod, in expounding the doctrine on the Church, in which the divine Redeemer works salvation, intends to describe with diligence both the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body, and the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God, who is mother of Christ and mother of men, particularly of the faithful.”
It is notable that the Catechism tells us that Marian devotion is ‘intrinsic to Christian worship’, and the Council Fathers speak of our ‘duty’ toward the Blessed Virgin – put another way, it is something we should all be doing, for this is the will of the Eternal Father; He very deliberately chose that the Saviour would come to us through Her and by doing so, He made the entire plan of salvation for mankind dependent upon Her acceptance of that plan through Her consent to become the Mother of God .
In other words, Marian devotion is not something we should consider ourselves free to choose or to decline; rather, it is expected of the redeemed people of God, for God wills that it be so.
You can read the entire text of Lumen Gentium here.
Writing on the fiftieth anniversary of the first appearance of the Mother of God at Fatima, Pope St Paul VI wrote a beuatiful and prophetic Apostlic Exhortation called ‘Signum Magnum’ (The Great Sign). Addressed to the Catholic Bishops of the entire world, this Exhortation deals with Marian devotion, looking particularly at what constitutes authentic Marian devotion. It is an exceptionally beautiful document and I heartily recommend you to read it. At it’s conclusion, the Holy Father noted his hope for the Church –
“..We express the trust that, thanks to your encouragement, the clergy and the Christian people entrusted to your pastoral ministry will respond in a generous spirit to this exhortation of ours so as to demonstrate toward the Virgin Mother of God a more ardent piety and a firmer confidence. Meanwhile while we are comforted by the certainty that the glorious Queen of Heaven and our most sweet Mother will never cease to assist all and each one of Her sons and will never withdraw from the entire Church of Christ Her heavenly patronage.”
Likewise, so very many of the great Saints of the Church have heartily encouraged us to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin, both by their example and by their words. Indeed, it is difficult to find a Saint who was not so devoted. And that is as it should be.
In these days when such heavy gloom has descended upon the entire world, still the Blessed Virgin is placed before us by the Church as that luminous and radiant figure who so clearly reflects the Light of Christ, in the same way that the moon reflects the light of the sun; and whose task it is to do all in Her not inconsiderable power to lead us safely, like ships tossed about on the stormy seas, to the safe port of Heaven. She is the compass that will get us there.
Throughout these days – and far beyond – let all of us to go our Heavenly Mother without fear or hesitation, knowing with the confidence of little children that She will take us by the hand and lead us to the Lord.