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A Leaven In The World… Our Lady’s Month

May 8, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

Love for our Lady is a sign of refined and mature faith.
As I approach the point of 25 years in the holy priesthood of Jesus Christ and as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, my view of life from this vantage point shows the influence of passing time. The role of Mary in our faith is more important than ever.
Devotion to Mary springs from worship of Christ. To be Christian means to imitate Christ. We cannot grow in love of Christ without at the same time deepening our love also for His Mother and ours, the Blessed Virgin Mary. No one will ever love Mary as much as her Son Jesus loved her.
Art has been a significant help to faith throughout our rich history as Church. Michelangelo’s Pieta is a masterpiece of the sculptor’s craft, but behind its artistic conception lies a profound theology that undergirds the Church’s great Marian tradition.
The name “pieta” unlocks for us the rich meaning of Mary’s role in the life of Christ and therefore also in our lives. The virtue of piety flows from God Himself, our origin and Savior; our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Piety honors one’s origin naturally in our parents as enshrined in the Commandment to “Honor thy father and thy mother.” But this is commanded of us because of their honored role in imitating God Himself in cooperating with His plan of creation in the conception and birth of every new child.
All of us find our origin in God and in piety owe Him our love and obedience.
Our pro-life identity as Catholic Christians is also an aspect of the virtue of piety, for we cannot love God our Father if we do not also love our neighbors, “the least of these little ones.” We also look to the Commandments of the Decalogue and the teachings of Christ Himself to see that this is true.
Moses handed on the “ten words” of God in which we are commanded to love the Lord with our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength. Christ makes clear that love of neighbor flows from love of God with the teaching of the two greatest Commandments and His injunction to “let the children come unto me.”
Jesus Christ was born as the child of Mary, beginning as an unborn Child in her womb. She never loved this littlest of God’s creatures without also at the same time perfectly fulfilling the holy virtue of piety. Jesus Christ her Son is God and always one with the Father in Heaven. In her faith she loved God with her whole heart, mind, soul, and strength at the same time that she loved Jesus Christ her Son.
Mary accompanied Christ as a faithful disciple all the way to Calvary, a strong woman of courage who never faltered in her loyal discipleship. Michelangelo profoundly and compassionately illustrates the moment when Christ’s Body is brought down from the cross and placed in His Mother’s arms.
Mary is seated and presented as a powerful figure with surprisingly broad and powerful shoulders as she cradles her dead Son with her own immaculate and holy body. The one created by God carried her Creator in her womb and then cradled His broken and crucified Body with her own after His death.
Each May we bring Mary more fully into the forefront of our prayers and devotions with crownings and processions. We also remember her apparitions and teachings at Fatima, Lourdes, and other places around the world. Her prophecies and urgings to penance and prayer are valid for every age.
Throughout 2017 we continue to remember and celebrate the gift of her apparitions at Fatima.
This month our Holy Father will canonize the Fatima shepherd children, seers Francisco and Jacinta. Their own example as pious children who grew in faith and love of God through Mary’s appearance and teaching inspires us. Their zeal for souls led to great personal holiness. The apparitions are not the reason why they are being recognized for heroic virtue. Rather, it is how they responded to God’s call through Mary that is being recognized as the reason they received the crown as saints by God Himself at the end of their earthly lives.
If two simple children can achieve such great heights of heroism through Mary, should not also we be able to do the same? The performing of penance for souls, both our own and others, was a basic element of Mary’s reminders at Fatima. Francisco and Jacinta loved souls in jeopardy of damnation so much that they fasted from water.
In our age of exalted self-preservation it is hard to understand why anyone would risk their health at all, let alone for someone else. Francisco and Jacinta were given a vision of Hell, however, and what they saw clarified for them the small value of life in this world if lived without thought of Heaven and ultimately lost. They would not allow themselves to envision the possibility of even one soul in Hell that it was within their intercessory power to save.
Mary’s piety as a child of God was raised up to the great honor of being the Mother of her Creator, Jesus Christ. In August we will celebrate Mary’s Assumption, but often in art, Mary’s piety on Earth depicted as holding her crucified Son is paired with an image of God the Father and Son holding her in Heaven.
Mary’s example is celebrated in particular each May that our faith may become more like hers: a deeper experience of profound communion of love and obedience for God our Father. Her relationship with Jesus her Son illustrates how this is done. Mary holds her Son who seems completely powerless in her arms as she mourns the loss of Him from her earthly life.
The sculpture, however, marks the moment of victory for God, for the Son she holds has just perfectly accomplished the will of His Father by that death of seeming loss. He has gained for her and all of us a share in God’s life forever.
Our prayers of love for Mary our Mother are always raised up with hers, whether a simple “Ave Maria” or a rosary garden of prayers, into those of her Son who saved us by His own “piety,” love for the Father and obedience to His will. Mary intercedes for us that our discipleship in this world may be like hers, faithful to the end and joyful forever with her and all the saints in Heaven.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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