Month of Mary - May 2012

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From the desk of Fr. Andrew Manickam OFM Cap. 

Month of Mary 

The month of May  is the "month which the piety of the faithful has especially dedicated to Our Blessed Lady," and it is the occasion for a "moving tribute of faith and love which Catholics in every part of the world [pay] to the Queen of Heaven. During this month Christians, both in church and in the privacy of the home, offer up to Mary from their hearts an especially fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In this month, too, the benefits of God's mercy come down to us from her throne in greater abundance" (Paul VI: Encyclical on the Month of May, no. 1).

The Month of Mary and the Popes

The pious practice of honoring Mary during the month of May has been especially recommended by the Popes. Pius XII made frequent reference to it and in his great Encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy (Mediator Dei) characterized it as one of "other exercises of piety which although not strictly belonging to the Sacred Liturgy, are nevertheless of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult: they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the Bishops" (no. 182).

Paul VI wrote a short encyclical in 1965 using the Month of Mary devotion as a means of obtaining prayers for peace. He urged the faithful to make use of this practice which is "gladdening and consoling" and by which the Blessed Virgin Mary is honored and the Christian people are enriched with spiritual gifts" (no. 2).

In May of 2002 Pope John Paul II said, "Today we begin the month dedicated to Our Lady a favourite of popular devotion. In accord with a long-standing tradition of devotion, parishes and families continue to make the month of May a 'Marian' month, celebrating it with many devout liturgical, catechetical and pastoral initiatives!"  

Devotion to Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of the Church and therefore the example, as well as the guide and inspiration, of everyone who, in and through the Church, seeks to be the servant of God and man and the obedient agent of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, as Pope Leo XIII reminded us, is the soul of the Church: All the activity and service of the members of the Church, beginning with the supreme participation of the Blessed Mother in the work of the Church, is vivified by the Holy Spirit as the body, in all its activities, is vivified by its soul. The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, Advocate, and Comforter which Christ Himself sent to be our consolation in the sorrowful mysteries of life, our source of moderation in the joyful mysteries of life, our added principle of exaltation in the glorious mysteries of life.

So He was for the Blessed Mother; so also He is for the least of us; so also He is for the rest of the Church, even for those who are its unconscious but conscientious members.

Wherever there is faith there is the example of Mary, because she lived by faith as the Scriptures remind us....

If, then, piety is the virtue which binds us to the sources of all life, to God, to our parents, to the Church, to Christ, certainly Christian piety binds us, in grateful love, to Mary ¡ª or our acceptance of Christ and of the mystery of our kinship with Him is imperfect, partial, and unfulfilled. ¡ª Cardinal John Wright 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that ¡°Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God¡± (#2226) and that ¡°They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation¡± (#1656).

The first seminary is in the home

Fostering a vocation starts from your child's earliest years, in the atmosphere that you and your spouse create in the home.

Pope John Paul II writes, "Christian parents, demonstrating a loving care for their children from their earliest years, communicate to them, by word and example, a sincere and lived-out relationship with God, made up of love, fidelity, prayer and obedience. In this way, parents encourage the holiness of their children and render their hearts docile to the voice of the Good Shepherd, who calls every man to follow him and to seek first the kingdom of God.

"In the light of this horizon of divine grace and human responsibility, the family can be considered a "garden" or a "first seminary" in which the seeds of vocation, which God sows generously, are able to blossom and grow to full maturity.

"The task of Christian parents is as important as it is sensitive, because they are called to prepare, cultivate and protect the vocations which God stirs up in their family. They must, therefore, enrich themselves and their family with spiritual and moral values, such as a deep and convinced religious spirit, an apostolic and ecclesial consciousness, and a clear idea of what a vocation is." (Pope John Paul II,XXXI World Day of Prayer for Vocations)

Parents: called to be ¡°living models of mature humanity.

A vocation is a call to radical self-giving, and to limitless generosity of heart. Where do children learn these attitudes? In most cases, their first education in the art of loving begins at home, in the way their parents model an attitude of generous self-giving.

"The Christian family, as the 'domestic church,' forms the original and fundamental school for training in the faith. The father and mother receive, in the Sacrament of Matrimony, the grace and the responsibility of providing Christian education for their children, to whom they bear witness and transmit, at one and the same time, human and religious values. In learning their first words, the children also learn to praise God, whom they feel to be very close as a loving and provident Father. As they learn the first expressions of love, the children also learn to open themselves to others, perceiving in their own self-giving the meaning of human living.

"Here is Jesus, who returns to Nazareth and is obedient to them, to Mary and Joseph. That 'obedience' signifies filial obedience, but also, at the same time, an obedient opening to humanity, which always needs to learn, above all in the family. Parents must behave in such a way that children can find in them a living model of mature humanity - and can, on the basis of this model, gradually develop their own human and Christian maturity." (John Paul II. Rome, Italy, December 26, 1982)

Share in the marvelous adventure

If your child's vocation comes as a complete surprise, and as something that you were not directly intending to foster, perhaps these words of wisdom are for you.

In the text below, Pope Benedict XVI invites parents to imitate Mary and to embrace their son's calling as an adventure in which they, too, have a part to play. Their vocation is now your vocation, too.

¡°Dear parents, you are probably the most surprised of all at what is happening in your sons. You probably imagined a different career for them than the mission for which they are now preparing. Who knows how often you find yourselves thinking about them: you think back to when they were children, then boys; to the times when they showed the first signs of their vocation or, in some cases on the contrary, to the years in which your son's life seemed remote from the Church. What happened? What meetings influenced their decisions? What inner enlightenment guided their footsteps? How could they then give up even promising prospects of life in order to choose to enter the Seminary? Let us look to Mary! The Gospel gives us to understand that she also asked herself many questions about her Son Jesus and pondered on him at length (cf. Lk 2: 19, 51).

¡°It is inevitable that in a certain manner, the vocations of children become the vocations of their parents too. In seeking to understand your children and following them on their way, you too, dear fathers and dear mothers, very often find yourselves involved in a journey in which your faith is strengthened and renewed. You find yourselves sharing in the marvelous adventure of your sons. Indeed, even though it may seem that the priest's life does not attract most people's interest, it is in fact the most interesting and necessary adventure for the world, the adventure of showing, of making present, the fullness of life to which we all aspire. It is a very demanding adventure; and it could not be otherwise since the priest is called to imitate Jesus, who ¡®came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many¡¯¡± (Mt 20: 28). (Pope Benedict XVI, February 1, 2008)

Recognize that your children belong first to God

As parents, it may be difficult to let go and to allow your child to pursue a dream that is so radically different from the future you envisioned when they were small. Pope John Paul II encourages parents to recognize that every child is a gift, and that they belong first of all to God. We are not owners of our children, but stewards.

"For man, to generate a child is above all to 'receive it from God': it is a matter of welcoming from God as a gift the child that is generated. For this reason, children belong first to God, and then to their parents: and this is a truth which is rich in implications for both parents and children.

"To be instruments of the heavenly Father in the work of forming their own children - here is found the inviolable limit that parents must respect in carrying out their mission. They must never consider themselves 'owners' of their children, but rather they must educate them, paying constant attention to the privileged relationship that their children have with their Father in heaven. In the last analysis, as with Jesus, it is his business that they must 'be about' more than that of their earthly parents." (Plato, Italy, March 19, 1986)

Above all, be thankful for God's gift

In these times, a vocation is a precious gift ¨C and in some cases, a miracle. Pope John Paul II encourages parents to be deeply thankful for this gift, and to understand that it is a blessing that will shed light and graces on the whole family. Your child is not leaving you forever. He or she will be closer to you than ever, in a spiritual way.

"I address parents as well. May faith and readiness never be lacking in your hearts, if the Lord should bless you by calling a son or a daughter to missionary service. May you give thanks to God! Indeed, see that this call is prepared through family prayer, through education rich in spirit and enthusiasm, through participation in parochial and diocesan activities, through involvement in associations and volunteer work.

¡°The family that cultivates a missionary spirit in its lifestyle and in education itself, prepares good soil for the seed of the divine call and, at the same time, strengthens the loving ties and Christian virtues of its members." (Pope John Paul II, May 22, 1994)

The Three Easter Days

Easter, the greatest solemnity of the Christian liturgy, is celebrated step by step on three great days, a triduum, as they are called. These three great days, from Holy Thursday evening, through Good Friday, until vespers [later afternoon or evening prayer] on Easter Sunday, the Church commemorates the Paschal Mysteries, that is, the passion, death, and resurrection of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
At the second Vatican Council, the first document to include a statement on Mary, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, states:

In celebrating this annual cycle of Christ's mysteries, holy Church honors with especial love the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son. In her the Church holds up and admires the most excellent fruit of redemption, and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless image, that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be [SC103].

Not only was Mary present at the Crucifixion, the Church teaches that she was and continues to be "joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son." Mary herself is "the most excellent fruit of redemption."
The Constitution on the Church from Vatican II also describes Mary's place in the Easter mysteries:

He [Jesus Christ] declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God, as she was faithfully doing. After this manner, the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth [LG 58].

Later in the Constitution, the Church teaches:

She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ; she presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back the supernatural to souls [LG 61].

During the great Triduum, the liturgies of the Church -- for example, the intercessions at vespers for Marian feasts -- refer to Mary as one who is filled with joy because of the resurrection of her divine Son. The Marian antiphon sung during the Easter season, Regina Coeli, also celebrates her joy: "O Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia! For he whom you did merit to bear, alleluia! Has risen as he said, alleluia!"
Regarding the Paschal days, however, popular devotion stresses Mary's sorrow more than her joy, as can be found in countless versions of the Stations of the Cross and numerous images of the sorrowful mother and Piet¨¤. Mary's place is stressed during the first part of the triduum, with apparently less note of Mary in connection with the resurrection. This would seem to be in accord with the fact that there is no mention of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in the gospel resurrection passages.
In keeping with this Marian note, according to Article 74 of the circular letter concerning the preparation and celebration of Easter [January 16, 1988], the Congregation for the Sacred Liturgy noted that Marian images such as the sorrowful mother, the Piet¨¤, and other devotional images referring directly to the suffering of Christ and Mary's share in it, may be placed in churches on Holy Saturday.
The question arises, do we and may we incorporate our love for Mary in the great mystery of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? In order to answer that question, we need to prepare for its answer by looking into the traditions of the past, which incorporate Mary in the Easter mysteries.

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