Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Vita, Dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
—Excerpt of Salve Regina (Latin text)
What a blessed Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God! And it’s the 8th day of Christmastide! And of course, I hope you all have a wonderful and happy new year! On this holy day of obligation, we take a moment as we start our new year to honor our Blessed Mother, who in her “yes!” to God brought the Savior into the world to redeem us.
What, however, is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God? Pope Saint Paul VI says, in his apostolic letter, Marialis Cultus, that, “This celebration, placed on January 1… is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the ‘holy Mother…through whom we were found worthy to receive the Author of life’” (§5).
Isn’t that so beautiful? Speaking from personal experience, asking for intercession from Our Lady, and praying the Rosary, contributed in bringing me back to Our Lord. Whenever one of my non-religious friends would remark that women didn’t have much of a part to play in salvation history, I always point to Our Lady and remark, “The greatest saint in history was, and still is, a woman who trusted Our Lord and bore the very Incarnation of Hope itself. There’s a reason why the Devil fears Our Lady and the Rosary so much.” Before I get back to Our Lady, you’ll have to allow me one digression about fatherhood. I promise I’ll get to my larger point.
Some of you know this, but I’m not particularly close to my earthly father; my mother and father separated when I was very young and he wasn’t very involved in my upbringing. My father doesn’t live in America anymore, and hasn’t for 15 years, and getting a hold of him is a both a difficult, and awkward affair. I grew up without a father and it left a very large hole in my heart for many years. In my adolescence, my mother was often told she was doing “two jobs” by being a mother and a father; Rightly so, my mother remarked that’s simply not true. (Complementarity exists for a reason!)
Suffice to say, for a very long time, I discovered that this absence of my father had, in fact, created a very large God-shaped hole in my heart. My not being being able to rely on my earthly dad subconsciously translated into difficulty in trusting in God. This dad-shaped hole, in fact, contributed to my lack of trust in The Father in my prayer life for many years. (I came to this realization many years later. Addressing your wounds through prayer, Eucharistic adoration, the mass, good Christ-centered fellowship, and via a good therapist or Catholic therapist is extraordinarily important.) Indeed, as St. Augustine once remarked in his Confessions that, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.” It was no accident that one of the themes for one of our Frassati retreats several years ago, during the spring of 2016, was called “Rest for the Restless.”
I became a re-revert to the Church in late 2014. I give myself this term because I came back to the Church in 2009, fell away in 2011, and came back again in late 2014 with the help of the Frassati Fellowship. One of the things I had to teach myself upon becoming a practicing Catholic again was re-learning how to pray and how to trust. I didn’t go to Catholic school; I simply received the sacraments vis-à-vis an after school program for children. On the home front, in my youth, my mother didn’t take her faith very seriously so much of what I was being taught wasn’t really staying in my head. I had little to no Catholic friends growing up. When I came back to the Church five years ago, it felt like I had been transported to a video game produced in the 1980’s. You may know those older ones, like the ones on NES. Some of them had punishingly hard difficulty. If you lost all of your lives, you wouldn’t continue at the beginning of a level, you’d have to start all over from the very beginning of the game. That’s how I felt, a sort of, “Now what? Everyone knows so much about their faith. I know so little. I feel alone.” Of course, I wasn’t actually alone: Christ was there. But so was Our Lady.
I mentioned that I had difficulty appealing to God in prayer in my younger years because of my own dad-shaped hole. Then I thought about Our Lady and the Rosary. Our Lady doesn’t often speak in the bible, but it’s noteworthy that the very last time she does speak in the gospels, it’s at the Wedding at Cana. The last recorded utterance of Our Lady in the gospels is when she tells the wedding servants, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). I then thought, “Well, I’m having difficulty going to Our Lord, so I’ll appeal to Our Lady in the hopes I’ll grow closer to Him.” And that’s exactly what happened. As Our Lady led the servants to Our Lord then and appealed to them to listen to Him, Our Lady subsequently did the same with me. Our Lady isn’t just the mother of Christ, but she’s our mom too. And what a wonderful mother she is! Suffice to say, Our Lady holds a special place in my heart. After so many years away from Our Lord, Our Lady played a part in my own story of coming back to Christ. Now as a Lay Dominican, years later, the significance is all the more palpable: Church history says that Our Lady gave St. Dominic the Rosary!
Today’s feast is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. The title “Mother of God” comes from the Greek Theotokos, which means “God-bearer.” On this day, we are reminded of the role that Our Lady played in the plan of our salvation. I know that she certainly played a role in mine. Our Lady does in yours, too. Christ’s birth was made possible by Mary’s fiat, or sanctioning of God’s plan with her words, “Be it done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Calling Mary “Mother of God” is the highest honor any of us can give to her. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace.” As we begin another year, we draw inspiration from the selfless love of the Theotokos, who never hesitated to do the will of God. And we trust in her prayers to God for us, that we might, as the years pass, become more like her. And that we may listen to Our Lord and go to Him. O Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
Optional Side note: Some of you may heard of something called Marian Consecration. (It’s really a consecration to Jesus through Mary.) It’s too long to discuss this at length here, but I consecrated myself to Our Lady several years later, in 2017 for the first time. Suffice to say, I was missing out! I myself am doing it again, and I started it again on Christmas. By doing so, you will be placing yourself under the mantle of Mary’s protective care as the Immaculate Conception, Mother of the Church, and Mediatrix of All Graces. I humbly implore you to look into that if you haven’t. It will give you so many graces.
Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, 1974.
Marian Consecration Links:
If you’re looking for something more: