‘Behold, Your Mother’
Mary is the model for us priests
Among the many aspects of the Catholic faith my dear mother imparted to us children was a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mom loved Mary. Mom’s name was Mary Bernadette. Images of Mary abounded in our home. We even had a garden in the backyard with a statue of Mary surrounded by flowers. And Mom also had more rosaries than shoes. She taught us to never hesitate to seek the intercession of Mary.
In “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis writes, “With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost” (No. 284).
Indeed, Mary is present among the People of God. As priests, we also believe that Mary is intimately present to us in our life and ministry. Mary is the mother of priests. Jesus invited us into this special relationship when on the cross he said to his mother, “Behold your son.” And then Jesus turned to the disciple whom he loved and said, “Behold, your mother” (Jn 19:27). Mary is ever-present at the foot of our crosses as a woman of sorrows. She is just as present in our victories as a woman of joy.
Since every celebration of the holy Mass brings us once again to Calvary to experience the suffering and death of Jesus, Mary is present. When we pray the Confiteor together, we call upon Mary, the angels and saints and those in the assembly to pray for us. We, for our part, pray with and for them. It is also the custom to seek Mary’s intercession in the Eucharistic prayer. On Saturdays, when there is no feast or memorial, it is the practice of the Church to celebrate a Mass from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The image of the “praying Mary” is one for us to behold as priests, for Mary is a model for each one of us. She stands with us at the altar of sacrifice in prayer. As she did with Jesus, Mary accompanies us in our sufferings and death
Mary’s prayer is both revealing and inspiring. The view of Mary praying at the foot of the cross reminds us that sometimes in our prayer there are no words. All we can do is be present and enter the moment. What is noteworthy about this picture from the cross is the fact that the only words remembered are those from the lips of Jesus. There are no words from Mary or the disciple whom Jesus loved. Fruitful prayer does not hinge on our words. We simply need to be present especially when there are no words. In that presence, however, sometimes as in the case of the Salve Regina, we have no other recourse but “to send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in a valley of tears.” What a fitting way to end our day and lift these sighs to Mary before we close our eyes.
The “praying Mary” is evident to us every time we pray Evening Prayer and say or sing the Magnificat. We echo her beautiful song of praise. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; / my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Lk 1:46-47). At the heart of our prayer, there needs to be joy and praise for God.
The posture of Mary at prayer is also present every time we pray the Rosary, reflect on the mysteries of Jesus and utter the Hail Mary. We turn to Mary as an intercessor, and say, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
The praying Mary is with us under her many titles, which point to not only certain places like Mount Carmel, Fátima and Loreto, just to name a few, but also human realities such as sorrow, joy, peace and hope, among others. Mary’s many titles illustrate her vast outreach over time and place. Mary is present to support us in our knots and to be a perpetual help.
Finally, the image of the praying Mary endures throughout the liturgical year as we celebrate various days dedicated to her honor, all of which encourage us to be praying priests. In this month of May, Mary is particularly present to God’s people and priests.
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”
BISHOP DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.