Mary and Us

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

August 15, 2006



            This summer I traveled with a Presbyterian minister. It was fun. We talked about many things. Among the topics of our conversation was Mary, the mother of Jesus.

            To Protestants our devotion to Mary seems strange. Our language about her sounds odd. They do not use terms which like “the Blessed Mother” or “Our Lady.” We Catholics use those terms almost automatically and speak of her familiarly.

            My minister friend was intrigued by the rosary. He had heard it recited at a high Anglican church. (We are not the only ones who say the rosary.) 

            To my friend, the rosary seemed repetitious but somehow attractive.

            I told him my uncle Bill, a Jesuit priest, used to call the rosary his “resting prayer” because it put the soul at peace as he repeated the words of the prayers.

            Our reference to Mary as “Mother of God” seemed odd to my friend. I pointed out that it is the Protestants who are out of step with most of Christianity on this point. The title of “mother of God” has been used since the fourth century. It is not so much meant to define Mary’s role as to define Christ’s nature, as both God and true man. He is really God, therefore Mary is “Mother of God,” but Christ is also human because he is son of Mary.

            My friend got me thinking about Mary and her role in my own spiritual life. I am grateful for Mary.

            I am grateful for the fact that she is like us, an ordinary human, but that God’s plan depended on her. Almighty God needed the cooperation of a weak, poor, simple, young human being. That is wonderful. If he had a role for her, he may have a role for me.

            She saw how her role reflected God’s plan when she said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”           I remember once visiting Nazareth. The poverty of the place struck me. Mary lived in a cave really. The place were Mary dwelled was a place of poverty and hardship. She must understand the poverty and hardship of countless billions around the world. The ranks of the poor have an ally.   

            Once on a visit to Mexico this was made real to me. I was walking up a hill leading a procession carrying a cross and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The people in the procession were all very poor, mostly native people. 

            As we walked they sang, “Oh Virgin Mother, our defender and protector. Hear us.”

            Those poor people knew they had a friend in Mary. She who had appeared to them as “la Morena” the dark one, a poor Indian woman, like themselves, would listen and defend them.

            Sometimes the image of Mary as “mother of sorrows” is a huge comfort.   

            Recently I was called to the hospital to pray with the family of a three year baby who had just died. He was only child of a young couple.

            When I got to the emergency room the whole family was arrayed around the young mother was sitting in a chair, holding the lifeless body of her little son. Everyone was weeping.  I thought to myself, this is a real “pieta.”  

            What could I say to this young mother?             After the prayers for the dying I thought of Mary.

            “There are no words to lessen your pain,” I whispered to her. “But there is someone who understands. Mary. The Blessed Mother knows what it is to hold the body of her only son. Just like you she is a mother of sorrows. Go to her.  Ask her to be with you.”

            The young woman nodded.

            At that moment I was grateful for our Marian piety.