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,
The Month of Mary and the
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
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
Devotion to Mary
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.
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
is faith there is the example of Mary, because she lived by faith as the
Scriptures remind us....
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
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
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