Faith and Family

In September, we have three Marian Feast days: the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated Sept. 8, the Most Holy Name of Mary on Sept. 12 and Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15. The entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary and the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary Oct. 7. Why does the Church put so much emphasis on one person? Why do they want us to remember her throughout the year? Why were all of these beautiful feast days developed over the centuries? It all has to do with the special place that the Blessed Virgin Mary has in our Catholic faith. When you look back into the earliest times of our Christian faith, you will find the Blessed Virgin Mary playing an important role: the Annunciation, the birth, the flight to Egypt, the Holy Family in Nazareth, the wedding feast at Cana, the preaching and miracles of Christ, and the Passion of Christ. Even in the Old Testament, she could be found represented in some of the most important women in the Bible: Eve, Sarah, Rachel, Judith, Ruth. We could study and write about the Blessed Virgin Mary in books and books, but for this brief article I just want to focus on her heart.

A Heart Open to God (The Annunciation)

We see at the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she had a heart ready to obey God. She said to the angel that just announced to her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) She did not say she was ready for such a big job, she did not say she deserved it, she did not say she would be good at it; she said that she was a handmaid, a servant of God, and if this was what he wanted, then she wanted it, too. She was humble, she desired to do the will of God, no matter what it might be, and her heart was open to God.

A Heart Open to the Mission of Jesus (The Visitation)

As soon as the angel Gabriel departed, Mary was moved to start participating in the mission of Jesus. The Holy Scriptures tell us the Angel Gabriel had revealed to Mary, “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:36) In response, Mary takes action. “During those days, Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:39-40) At this encounter, we see a profound movement of the Holy Spirit, because Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and St. John the Baptist in St. Elizabeth’s womb “leaped for joy.” The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Theotokos, the God-Bearer, the Mother of God, and in this role, she brings Jesus in her womb to John and Elizabeth. In this same way, at Christmas we celebrate that Mary brings Jesus to the entire world.

As Jesus ages, Mary continues to be by his side. She teaches him, she takes him to the Temple, she listens to him preach, she is even the one who cooperates with Jesus in his first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. She knows that Jesus cares for us, she knows that he wants to help us, she knows he has the power to help us. Therefore, full of confidence and trust, she says to the servants at the wedding, and she says to us, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) The Blessed Virgin Mary is committed to Jesus and his mission. She remains by his side through it all even through the painful passion and the final sacrifice on the cross, where she stood at the foot of the cross, giving all she had — her love, her broken heart and her divine son — for his sacred mission, our salvation. (John 19:25)

A Heart Open to You and Me (The Coronation of Mary)

It was at the foot of the cross where the Blessed Virgin Mary took her place in the ongoing plan of God. “Standing by the cross of Jesus (was) his mother … When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:25-27) Jesus, knowing the plan of God, knowing he had completed his part of the plan, puts in the final piece of the plan and gives us a mother like he had for 33 years. He knows that one day she will be assumed into heaven and will be seated by his side as Queen of Heaven and Earth.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is seen in the Scriptures after the Crucifixion, after the Resurrection and after the Ascension fulfilling her role as mother to the disciples. “When they entered the city, they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus.” (Acts 1:13-14) She accompanied them, she prayed with them and prayed that what Jesus promised the disciples would soon be accomplished. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This happened for the disciples at Pentecost, and for you and me it happens at our Baptism and Confirmation. The Blessed Virgin Mary continued to teach, encourage and serve the disciples until she took her rightful place next to her son at the Assumption.

This is the privilege of the Blessed Virgin Mary: to continue to help us, the new disciples of Jesus, her children and children of the Father. In this month of the Rosary, let us remember that in heaven we have the heart of a mother who loves us. Let us honor her, let us show her a little of our love by giving her a crown of roses, which is what Rosary means, let us give her our prayer, our rosaries, and crown her as she deserves.