Feast: January 1
Patron Of: US (Immaculate Conception), France (Our Lady of Assumption), Portugal (Our Lady of Fatima), Argentina (Our Lady of Lugan), Australia (Our Lady Help of Christians), Brazil (Immaculate Conception), Chile (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel), Corsica (Immaculate Conception), Dominican Republic (Our Lady of High Grace), Mexico (Our Lady of Guadalupe), Paraguay, Phillipines, Slovokia, and South Africa.
Info: The Virgin Mary is probably one of the most celebrated women in the Bible. According to tradition, her parents were named Joachim and Anne.
It is believed that Mary was probably 15 years when Gabriel informed her that she would become the mother of Jesus. As a Catholic I was taught that, like Jesus, she too was immaculately conceived. Some of you may wonder why the Perpetual Virginity is included in the doctrine. Pope John Paul II gave an excellent analogy. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was so holy, that you could not even touch it. Because Mary is the New Ark (meaning Jesus was in her womb), Joseph did not wish to touch her. She was far too perfect. In fact, one of Mary’s many titles is Theotokos, which means “God-bearer” in Greek.
As a Catholic, I was taught that Mary was more than the Mother of God, she is also the church’s “spiritual mother.” (Catechism par. 963) We revere her as a person worthy of praise and respect for her obedience to God. Although we pray special prayers to her, she is not worshiped. (Catechism par. 971) Honor is not the same as worship. When we invoke her name, we are asking her to pray for us, much like if you were to ask me to pray for you. It is not so much us praying to Mary, but with her.
For the longest time, I felt that Mary was unapproachable. She was immaculately conceived. How could I, a sinner, even hope to be worthy of her aid? But then I learned of her title as Our Lady of Sorrows. This made me realize something I never considered, and I’m sure some of you haven’t either. Even though Mary was not crucified with Jesus, she might as well have been. She had to witness in emotional anguish as her own son, her flesh and blood–her God–was beaten, humiliated, and crucified. She could do nothing to stop her. Think how hard it was for her to watch! I realized here was someone who could certainly help me. She was still human, even though she never sinned. She played a vital role in salvation as Jesus’s mother. She suffered in the most horrible way any mother could. How could I not accept her help?
I once dreamed about the birth of Jesus. I dreamed I was there with my guardian angel as Mary brought forth the Christ Child. She then passed Jesus around so everyone could hold Him. When it came to my turn, I refused. Surely, I, a sinner, was unworthy of even holding Jesus. But my guardian angel told me, “That is the whole point, my child. No one is worthy of Jesus.” I realized the point of the vision. I am unworthy of God’s love and salvation, yet I am receiving it anyway.
In closing, I want to present my favorite prayer to the Virgin Mary, the Memorarae. Often, when I recite this prayer, I imagine myself standing crestfallen before the Virgin. Then she smiles and asks me what I need and I feel my fears and guilt wash away. All that remains is perfect love. Here it is:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.