Let worldwide devotions to Mary inspire your faith

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During the month of May, our Church honors Mary, the Mother of Jesus, through traditional devotions. For example, at the end of the opening mass of the New Jersey Knights of Columbus annual convention on May 13 at Saint Ann’s Church in Wildwood, a group of children from Wildwood Catholic Academy who recently received first communion crowned a statue of the Blessed Mother. The Coronation of Mary is a traditional Marian devotion that usually takes place in the month of May.

During the ceremony, the congregation sang: “Bring flowers of the most beautiful, Bring flowers of the rarest… O Mary, we crown you with flowers today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the month of May. As the children, dressed in their First Communion finery, approached the statue of the Blessed Mother, I watched the congregation from the sanctuary and saw men and women wiping their eyes. I confess that I felt a lump in my throat as I was flooded with memories of singing this anthem and participating in May’s coronation ceremonies as a child. Something about the innocence and purity of first communicants and something about the motherly love of the Mother of God touched many of us that morning.

My mother taught me the Ave Maria before I went to school. Prayer and other prayers were a daily bedtime ritual. She was very devoted to the Mother of God, and her love for the Blessed Mother was passed on to her children. She always wore a Miraculous Medal. At Confirmations, I frequently notice the Miraculous Medal on the necks of godmothers who are generally grandmothers. The Miraculous Medal recalls the apparitions of Mary to Saint Catherine Labouré in 1830. On the front of the medal, Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, stands on a globe, crushing the head of a serpent. On the back of the medal, twelve stars surround a large M surmounted by a cross. My mother faithfully attended the Miraculous Medal Novena on Monday evenings in our parish church. She had her intentions, which she presented with dedication and fidelity to the Blessed Mother. I suspect they were about our family.

In high school, the rosary was recited daily, and a class shrine in honor of Mary was appropriately decorated for each of the liturgical seasons. In high school, I was educated by the Marist Brothers founded by Saint Marcellin Champagnat in France in 1855 who named his religious community Les Petits Frères de Marie. The Marist Brothers shared and taught their Marian charism to their teenage students. In a Latin class in high school, I was taught the “Sub Tuum Praesidium,” which is the oldest known prayer to the Virgin Mary. It dates from the year 300 and is addressed to Mary as protector in recognition of her maternal role as protector of her children. In the seminary, teachers began each lesson by reciting the “Sub Tuum” in its original Latin.

“Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix; our deprecaciones ne despicias in necessitatibus; sed a periculis cunctis libera our semper, Virgo gloriosa and benedicta.

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our requests in our necessities, but always deliver us from all dangers. O glorious and blessed Virgin Mary.

As a pastor ministering in New York among Hispanics of different nations, I have witnessed and been impressed by their devotions to Mary, the Mother of God under a variety of national titles. The stories associated with each of these national images of Mary are fascinating. I became familiar with Nuestra Señora de la Providencia (Puerto Rico); Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (Dominican Republic); Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre (Cuba); Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico); Nuestra Señora de Lujan (Argentina), to name just a few of the Latino Marian devotions.

Normally, for the Feast of the Virgin, large open-air processions were held by parishioners with the image of Mary dressed in her appropriate robes – the faithful carrying candles, praying the Rosary and singing hymns to honor their Mother. These processions publicly testified to their faith and love of the Mother of God. Among my Chinese Catholic parishioners at St. Therese in Manhattan, there was also a heartfelt devotion to Our Lady of China.

Although Mary is honored under many titles, she is universal and unites us as our Mother. The Mother of God, the most venerable and ancient title that our Church has given her since 421 AD at the Council of Ephesus.

Recently, on March 25, Solemnity of the Annunciation, Pope Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Holy Father has asked bishops and priests around the world to do the same in response to the war in Ukraine. The Annunciation recalls this event when Mary of Nazareth said “I want” to the message that the Angel Gabriel brought her that she bears in her virginal womb the Son of God and brings him to birth in the flesh. Mary, the Mother of God, who in her life knew suffering, was implored by the Church all over the world in the name of suffering in Ukraine and Russia.

Pope Saint Paul VI, in “Marialis Cultus,” his 1974 Apostolic Exhortation on Devotion to Mary, wrote: “She is held up as an example to the faithful for the way in which, in her own particular life, she fully and responsibly accepted God’s will and did it. And because charity and the spirit of service were the motor of her actions, she is worthy of imitation because she was the first and most perfect of Christ’s disciples.

Mary is a model of faith, charity and service. Cherished traditional devotions to the Mother of God can inspire our faith in the Lord Jesus and our charity and service to all. Mary encourages us to be faithful disciples of her divine Son.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

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