Monday, June 1, 2020

Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

Readings: Acts: 1:12-14; Ps 87:1-3.5-7; John 19:25-34

Two years ago, in 2018, Pope Francis officially added today’s memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. It seems most fitting that we honor our Blessed Mother as Mater Ecclesiae- Mother of the Church- the day after we celebrate the Church’s birthday: Pentecost. Of course, May is a month devoted to Mother Mary. So, at least this year, by observing this lovely memorial on the first day of June, which is typically the memorial of Saint Justin Martyr, we are extending our month-long devotion to our Blessed Mother.

It’s easy to miss Mary’s centrality in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. In our reading from Acts today, we learn that after Jesus’s Ascension into heaven, along with the remaining eleven apostles, Mary and some of Jesus’s other close relatives returned to the place they were staying in Jerusalem.

Because our first reading is from the first chapter of Acts, Pentecost has not yet happened. As Mary, the apostles, and others of Jesus’s followers await the fulfillment of Jesus’s promise to send the Holy Spirit, the inspired author of Acts, who also wrote Luke, tells us that they “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.” (Acts 1:14).

Just as important as their devotion to prayer is that they prayed “with one accord.” As we gather for Mass today, that is what we’re meant to do: pray together with one accord. Right now our world, our country, and our community are in need of our prayers. Each day seems to bring some new crisis or catastrophe.

Over the past five months, we’ve suffered through earthquakes, a pandemic, and now rioting in the streets prompted by the injustice that makes many people feel powerless. The fact that the racial divide in our country has become more pronounced over the past several years has been brought into bold relief over the past week. Our nation needs healing. And let's not forget the on-going troubles the Church faces due largely due to her past failures, which have greatly compromised her witness and moral authority. Prayer for justice and for healing is an act of hope. As Christians, we are hopeful people.



Too often, we dismiss the power of prayer. Prayer is powerful and necessary. Given how many means we have at our disposal for prayer, we should all come to know firsthand the efficacy of prayer. One of the most powerful means of prayer we possess is the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Beyond that, we also have the Angelus, which, as we return to Ordinary Time, by centuries’ long custom, we are urged to pray morning, noon, and evening. We also have the Regina Caeli, which takes the place of the Angelus during Eastertime, as well as the Memorare, suitable for praying whenever anyone asks us to pray for a particular intention.

We can trust in the intercession of Mary because she is the Mother of the Church. Our Gospel reading this evening is precisely where Mary is made Mother of the Church. The disciple whom Jesus loved stands in place of the Church. Through our rebirth in Baptism, we become children of God the Father as well as daughters and sons of Mary.

Given that our Blessed Mother is in every way the model Christian disciple, we can be assured of her maternal care for us. In my homily for New Year’s Day this year, which day is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God and the World Day of Peace, I challenged everyone in our parish to commit to praying a Rosary every day of this year. Because 2020 is a Leap Year that worked out to 366 Rosaries. I tried to be clear that by praying the Rosary I meant praying one set of mysteries each day- five decades.

As I was thinking about 2020 being a Leap Year, I thought, “The last thing this year needs is an extra day.” Given that we can’t take away the extra day and award it to 2021, let’s make the most of it by devoting ourselves to praying the Rosary each day for the remaining 214 days of this year with one accord. Don't worry about whether or not you feel like praying. Be honest. If you left prayer to when you felt like it, how often would you pray?

Along with fasting and alms-giving, prayer is one of the fundamental spiritual disciplines of Christian life. For the Christian praying is as necessary as breathing (Romano Guardini, The Art of Praying, 6). In addition to the Rosary, I urge you to undertake the discipline of praying the Angelus three-times daily- morning, noon, and night. Heaven knows there are plenty of petitions we can entrust to the intercession of our Blessed Mother.

Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

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