Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Slave To The Blessed Mother?

Most people outside of the Catholic church - and unfortunately, even a good number of actual Catholics - are completely mystified by this "Mary thing" that Catholics have.  Many people think that some Catholics are more devoted to Mary than to Jesus.  After all, you pray ten Hail Mary's to one Our Father on the Rosary, right?  This is nothing less than idolatry! Or so many people believe.

I was recently talking to a Third Order Dominican.  Third Orders are groups of lay people who belong to different orders:  Franciscan, Carmelite, Dominican, etc.  The Domonicans, of course, were founded by St. Dominic, who was given the Rosary by our Blessed Mother herself to fight heresy.  So Marian devotion plays a very important part in the life of a Dominican, as it actually does for all the different orders.  Having just done the Total Consecration to Mary, I asked this person if she had done the consecration.  The Total Consecration to Mary comes from St. Louis Marie de Montfort (a Catholic priest who lived from 1673 to 1716, and who was one of the Church's greatest, if not the greatest, teacher of Marian devotion).  St. Louis de Montfort defines Total Consecration to Mary as "surrendering oneself in the manner of a slave to Mary, and to Jesus through her, and then performing all our actions with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary."  My Dominican friend replied that she had never done this, and when I asked why, she said she didn't like the idea of being a slave to Mary.  When I asked why that bothered her, she replied forthrightly and honestly:  "I'm an American," implying in a rather humorous way, I think, that Americans are free and not enslaved to anyone or anything.  But is it really possible for a human being, even an American, to be so free as not to be enslaved to anything?

As Bob Dylan once sang:

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

The reality of life is that human beings are either serving the devil and on their way to hell, or serving the Lord and on their way to heaven.  There really isn't anything in between (Purgatory is just a stopping point to heaven).  Whatever we do, say or think, we have to put it in terms of:  is this serving God and the way of Life, or am I serving the devil and the way of death and destruction.

There was only one person outside of Jesus Christ who never struggled with that question, and that is the Blessed Mother of Jesus.  God created Mary in absolute perfection - that is the definition of "Immaculate Conception" - and she stayed that way her entire life, never once sinning.  She was, in some ways, Satan's greatest adversary, even more so than Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is God.  He always was God, He will always be God.  There was nothing Satan could throw at Jesus to trip him up.  But Mary - she was just one of those frail, ugly, miserable human beings who are always such easy prey for Satan.  And yet, no matter what he did, Satan never once got to her.  We can only imagine how much Satan hates this most beautiful and most perfect of all of God's creation.  He threw everything at her that he could - chasing her from her home with her newborn baby, becoming the target of rumors and cruel innuendo, and at the end, turning her son into a bloody pulp, hardly recognizable as a human being.  Yet, in all this, she praised God, remaining in her perfect, sinless state.  She is the one prophesied in Genesis 3:15:

 I will put enmity
between you
[the serpent] and the woman [Mary],
and between your offspring [those enslaved to sin]
 and hers [Jesus Christ and his disciples];
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel
[for an excellent discussion on this verse, go here]

So what has all of this got to do with our becoming slaves to Mary?  And even if she was a perfect human being, why do we need her to go to Christ?  There shouldn't be anything between us and Jesus, right?

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, breathing his very last, so completely spent that he had no energy left in his body, he still managed to look down at his mother and his beloved apostle, John, and say:  "Woman, behold your Son.  Son, behold your mother."  (John 19:26-27)  Why did Jesus say that?  He could have just as easily said to John, "Take care of my mother."  It's less words, would have taken a lot less energy, and would have gotten the point across.   And why did Jesus wait till the last few moments of his life to say this?  He knew he was going to die.  He had been telling his disciples all along that this day was coming.  He could have made arrangements with John to take care of Mary long before this time.  And why did he only say this to John and none of the other apostles?

As pointed out, Jesus did not say, "Take care of my mother."  Christ never just "said" anything.  This is especially true when he was hanging from the cross with his life blood quite literally pouring out of him and barely enough energy to breathe, let alone make cogent statements.  Look closely at this statement.  Why did he call his mother "Woman?"  This is most obviously a reference to Genesis 3:15: "I shall put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman.

What was happening at this point?  In the following verse in Genesis, verse 16, the term "woman" is again used.   Verse 16 says: 
To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Notice, this is directed to "the woman", not to "Eve."  We know that Mary did not go through any kind of physical labor when she gave birth to Christ because she remained a virgin,  "ever sealed."  Yet, here she was at the birth of the Church, going through an agony unequaled in even the most painful of physical childbirth. Mary's pain was prophesied by Simeon when Christ was presented at the temple as a baby.  Simeon told Mary, "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce." Shortly after his statement to Mary and John, Christ died and his side was pierced with a sword.  Christ and Mary were so united as one that when Christ's side was pierced, our Blessed Mother felt it just as if it had been her own heart.  And like Eve being taken from the side of Adam, the Church was born from the side of Christ with Mary as an active participant.

It can be no coincidence that at the birth of the Catholic church - the one and only true Church of God - Christ makes this strong  pronouncement about the relationship between Mary and the Church, in effect saying. "My mother is now your mother.  You are now her children, just as much as I am her Son."  To find out the full meaning of being Mary's children, her offspring, we need to look at the relationship between Jesus and Mary.

Mary and Jesus were together from the very first moment of his incarnation.  She was specifically chosen to be the Temple of God, the Ark of the Covenant, the Gate of Heaven.  Mary was the one through whom God came into the world.  Jesus was, as St. Augustine has told us, "begotten not of the will of the flesh, but of the obedience of the mind."  And Mary never left her Son.  They were never separated. She was with him in the stable at Bethlehem when she had nothing but bandages to put on his tiny body and dirty straw to lay him in, right up to those awful moments at Calvary.  She was crucified spiritually just as much as Jesus was crucified physically.  Her labor came not when she gave birth to the physical Jesus, but when he died.  And she suffered in a way that no woman has ever suffered in giving birth.  She took each and every step with Jesus.  She held his bloody, torn, mangled and unrecognizable body as lovingly at his death as she did when he was a newborn babe cooing in her arms. And just as she wrapped his body when he was born and laid him in the manger, she wrapped his dead body at Calvary and laid him in the tomb.  And despite the horrendous pain she was experiencing, she never once stopped praising God.

And so it is with all of her children.  We become her children, not through a physical act, but through obedience, just as the apostle John did by standing beside Mary at the foot of the cross.  And once we are her children, Mary will be just as faithful to us as she was to the First Begotten Son of God.  She will never leave us.  The harder our trials become, the closer she will be to us.  She will walk each step with us just as she did with her Son.  She will tenderly care for us and support us, far more deeply than any human being, including our own mother, is capable of doing.  And just as Christ was Mary's Son and the Son of God, so it is that when Mary is our mother, God is our Father.  From St. Louis Marie de Montfort's The Secret of Mary: 
As in the natural life a child must have a father and a mother, so in the supernatural life of grace, a child of the Church must have God for his Father and Mary for his mother. If a man prides himself on having God for his Father but does not give to Mary the tender affection of a child, he has made a presumptuous error. The grace of the Holy Spirit, through which a Christian becomes a member of the mystical Body of Christ, always comes from God through Mary. Those who despise her, or who do not acknowledge her as their spiritual mother, can never grow into the fulness of the stature of Jesus Christ. To despise Mary is to despise the glass from which radiates the Light of the World. To despise Mary is to despise the fountain from which flows the water of eternal life. Though God definitely loves all such souls, they grieve him greatly! They erect within themselves great obstacles of resistance which makes them incapable of receiving the full out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. Mary is their mother in grace whether they acknowledge her or not. In so far as a soul despises Mary, they are unknowingly rejecting the fulness of the light of truth. 
Jesus had one Father: God.  He had one mother:  Mary.  If we are his brothers and sisters, as he says we are, then we must have the same parents.  Matthew 12:48-50: 
Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?  And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren.  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.  
We know it is only possible to have one father and one mother, but we can have an unlimited number of brothers and sisters.  Notice that Christ uses the plural "brethren", but he uses a singular word for "mother."  None of us would make a claim to be the mother of Christ, but we do say we are his brothers and sisters.  Therefore, it is necessary that our mother and father be the same as his.  That, of course, is God the Father and Mary, the Blessed Virgin.  As St. Louis de Montfort said, if we acknowledge God is our Father but do not recognize Mary as our mother, we are unknowningly rejecting the fullness of the truth and cutting ourselves off from the full grace of God.  There will be no one in heaven who does not call Mary his mother.

No human being outside of Jesus Christ ever did the Will of the Father as completely and perfectly as Our Blessed Mother did.  Mary has shown us that her will is in perfect alignment with the Holy Trinity, of which she is the daughter of the Father, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the Mother of the Son.  She is the Queen of heaven and earth, the queen of the angels and the saints.  She is the ultimate enemy of Satan, the one human being over which he had no control.  To be one with Mary is to be one with God.  To be Mary's slave is to be the slave of Jesus Christ.  And if we pledge ourselves as slaves to Mary, she in turn will give us her total commitment to bring us to her Son.

St. Louis de Montfort explains what this means:
There is an entire difference between a servant and a slave. A servant does not give all he is, all he has and all he can acquire, but the slave gives himself whole and entire to his master without exception.

The servant demands wages for the services which he performs for his master; but the slave can demand nothing.

The servant can leave his master when he pleases…but the slave has no right to quit his master at will.

The master of the servant has no right of life and death over him…but the master of the slave has by law a right of life and death.

Lastly, the servant is only for a time in his master's service; the slave always.
This is what we do when we give ourselves as slaves to Mary.  We have given up all of our rights and everything we have to her, and in return, she pledges herself to us.  We now have the Queen of Heaven working for us, praying and interceding on our behalf,  and she is just as committed to us as she was to her Son, with the caveat that we never break our commitment to her. Mary demands that we stay with her at the foot of the cross, just as the Apostle John did.  As long as we stay at Calvary with the Mother of God, we need never doubt that this most beautiful and perfect creation of God, this greatest adversary of Satan the devil, is completely pledged to take us to heaven to be with her and her Son.  Only those who stand with Mary at the foot of the cross can be called her children.  What if, when Christ gave the apostle John and Mary to each other, John had said "No thanks, I already have a mother" and had walked away.  It is unthinkable.  If we step away from the cross, if we reject Mary as our mother, if we "miscarry", we cease to be her children, and those who are not her offspring, are the offspring of Satan.

Our Blessed Mother gave her only Son to be crucified as our Savior.  Jesus, in turn, gave her to be our mother.   He told us, "This is your mother."  This wasn't just a suggestion or a nice thought.  This was a statement of fact.  He told us, if you want to be my disciple, you must take Mary, my mother, as your mother.  As St. Louis de Montfort said:
It all comes to this, then. We must discover a simple means to obtain from God the grace needed to become holy. It is precisely this I wish to teach you. My contention is that you must first discover Mary if you would obtain this grace from God. 
Remember what Bob Dylan said:  You gotta serve somebody.  The surest way to know that you are serving God and not the devil is not to rely on yourself, but to put all of your reliance on, and to become the slave of, the Blessed Mother of God.  I have personally never known anyone with a deep devotion to Mary who was not fully and completely committed to her Son.  She is an invaluable help given to us by Christ Himself.  We are all weak and sinful.  But she is the one whom the devil could never touch, and she is the one who will unerringly lead you to God.  And that's true even for Americans.

Holy Mother of God, Pray for us!

1 comment:

  1. Very good blog, I enjoyed it. Thank you.

    "O Marie, Conçue Sans Péché Priez Pour Nous Qui Avons Recours à Vous... Amen."


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