The Motherhood of Mary

Happy and Blessed New Year! On this first day of the calendar year we celebrate a Solemnity in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. We are celebrating her motherhood. The Responsory in the Office of Readings today says it all:

O pure and holy Virgin,
how can I find words to praise your beauty?
The highest heavens cannot contain God whom you carried in your womb.

Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
The highest heavens cannot contain God whom you carried in your womb.

Mary is the Mother of God. Because Jesus is truly God and truly human we can truthfully call Mary the Mother of God.

Mary is the Mother of Christ. She gave flesh to the Messiah, God's Anointed One.

Mary is the Mother of the Body of Christ, the Church. In Baptism each of the faithful are joined to Christ and become members of His Body. We can truthfully say that Mary is the Mother of the Church and we can say that Mary is the Mother of each member of the Church. She is, in a very real and personal way, my Mother and your Mother.

In 1969 I went on a two week camping trip that changed my life. I and five of my high school classmates and Fr. John Eagan, a Jesuit who taught and mentored us, drove around Lake Superior. From the first morning to the last, when we got into the station wagon to head out, we began the day's journey with a rosary. This was not something we were excited about. We vied for the very back of the station wagon where, behind all the knap sacks, sleeping bags, and tents we wouldn't have to participate in reciting the rosary. But by the end of the trip something had happened to me. It was my turn to be in the back and be free of the obligation to pray the rosary and I opted out. I gave my turn to a classmate and chose to sit up front in order to participate in the recitation of the rosary. I can't help thinking that in a quiet and gentle way Mary heard the reluctant prayers of this youth going into his last year of high school and claimed him as a special son.

I entered into my senior year of high school a different person with a more positive attitude toward myself and toward life. And I began to think: maybe I should do for other young people what Fr. Eagan had done for me. Maybe I should become a Jesuit. The seed of my Jesuit vocation had been planted, but I decided to go off to college first and to experience more of life. I commuted to a small Catholic college a half hour from where I lived. Every day as I drove to school I first prayed a rosary. Sometimes I prayed it very fast in order to get through it as soon as possible so that I could then turn on the radio and listen to the Top 40.

I can't help thinking that this, in a way, is what Blessed Francisco of Fatima did as well. Before Our Lady appeared to him and to his sister Jacinta and his cousin Lucia, they would pray the rosary while tending sheep. But he wanted to play and so he suggested that they shorten their prayers and instead of praying the entire Hail Mary they simply pray the words "Hail Mary." Perhaps this is why when Mary first appeared to the children Francisco could not see her and she told Lucia that he would only be able to if he prayed the rosary. Before he finished the first decade he could see her.

"Hail Mary!" the children shouted. "Hail Mary...." I recited quickly as I drove to school. And Mary answered. She appeared to the children at Fatima and somehow she nurtured the seed that had been planted in my heart. After a few months of college I decided to apply to the Jesuits and was accepted.

Mary, Mother of God. Mother of Christ. Mother of the Church. Mary, my Mother. And that's why I add another title to this little litany: Mary, Mother of my vocation.