Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Marian Devotion for Today's Apostles

May is a wonderful month filled with hope, much promise and new life. Spring flowers burst forth with their splashes of color; fresh green leaves cover the trees. Birds sing happily in their branches, and bright blue skies stretch high overhead. Life and hope are present everywhere. For us Catholics, this life and hope we find in May includes Mary. In fact, for us May means Mary!

We love our Rosary processions and May crownings in her honor. There are special Marian hymns sung at Mass and vases of flowers placed by her statue. For us Paulines May also is a month in which we turn our gaze more closely to Mary, Queen of Apostles. Why do we honor Mary under this title, and what does this devotion say to our/my daily life?

First of all for Marian devotion to be authentic it must be apostolic; it must lead to action. This was a key insight of Blessed Alberione. He understood that Mary was first and foremost an apostle, because she stepped into history in order to give Jesus to us, to give birth to him and form him in us. This presence of Jesus in us is essential to our mission of evangelization, for “how can we give what we do not have?”

In his sermons on the Queen of Apostles (p. 234), Alberione writes: “On December 8, 1919, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the clerics and aspirants came to me to ask under what title we would invoke Mary and what would be our devotion, e.g. Help of Christians, Mother of Divine Grace, Mother of Good Counsel, etc. I had already given thought and prayer to this and so my answer was: “invoke Mary under the title of Queen of Apostles; first, for the sanctification of apostles; second, that those who were helping the apostles would receive their reward; and third, that both apostles and faithful would be all together in heaven.”

Practically speaking how do we Paulines live out this devotion to Mary, Queen of Apostles?  For Alberione Marian devotion was not so much a matter of particular practices, i.e., the Rosary (though he was greatly devoted to the Rosary and wrote a number of Marian prayers). It was more a matter of living in a Marian climate, living in Mary’s presence, doing everything with her.

Mother Thecla lived out this teaching and encouraged us, her daughters, to do the same. In one conference she advised the sisters, as she often did, to “willingly keep yourselves securely beneath the mantle of our heavenly Mother and never come out from under it” (vol. 1, p. 51). And again: “Let us let the Blessed Mother lead us by the hand. If we do not hold back she will lead us to Jesus.” (vol. 2, p. 56). The wording might be seem childish to some, but it reveals where she solidly placed her trust.

Expounding on this aspect of our devotion to the Queen of Apostles, Alberione wrote to the Pauline Family: “The Pauline Family strives to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life, fully in the spirit of St. Paul, under the gaze of the Queen of Apostles.”  So the phrase, “under the gaze” of Mary, along with “in her presence” and “under her direction,” indicates his approach.  He placed everything under the gaze and direction of Mary. The goal was to “live in her presence,” doing everything through, with, and in her, so we would in turn, do everything through, with, and in Christ.

Thus the goal of Marian devotion and, in particular, of devotion to the Queen of Apostles was and always is devotion to Jesus: “To Jesus through Mary” and “It is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me” (Gal. 2:20). True devotion always has a Christocentric focus. The goal is always “to live in and of Jesus” in order to “give him to souls.”

But this devotion to Mary, this striving to do all with her, to live in her presence takes effort. It’s not easy nor is it automatic. We have to find ways to help ourselves. Besides praying the daily Rosary and formally consecrating or entrusting ourselves to Jesus through Mary, Alberione suggested saying three Hail Marys at the beginning and the end of each day for the grace of perseverance. This ancient practice puts Mary as a type of “bookend” on our day and it is good practical advice. Nor is it only a centuries-old devotion. Two years ago, the Knights of Columbus of Newtown, CT, initiated a Three Hail Marys Drive in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings: for the children and their families, for the first responders and teachers, and for the town. In this way they adapted the practice, making it also a means of outreach.

These approaches are helpful, for we have asked Mary to be with us in our day-to-day activities and to assist us–even if at times we forget her in the midst of our many commitments! And she will. She will see our good will and provide for us just as she did for the couple at Cana, gradually transforming us into Jesus, more aware of the needs of others, willing to freely give the faith-gift we have received.

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!

Sr Laura Rhoderica Brown has been a professed member of the Daughters of St. Paul for 30 years. She has worked for many years in a number of Pauline Books & Media Centers around the country, as well as in parish outreach and evangelization. She is currently assigned to the FSP community in St. Louis where she also serves as the regional coordinator for Pauline Cooperators.

1 comment:

Maryann Toth said...

Thank you for this beautiful article on Marian devotion, especially as we start the Novena to the Queen of Apostles. Love the thought of saying three Hail Marys at the start and end of our day as "bookends." God bless you, Sr. Laura.