Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 13, 2017.
The centennial anniversary for any historical event is impressive. Reaching one hundred years is a relatively rare thing in the animal kingdom: humans, tortoises, bowhead whales, and jellyfish to name a few centenarians. May 13, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of Mary’s appearances to three young shepherd children in the city of Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady of Fatima’s message is always applicable. Here are three reasons why.
Mary is Always God’s Mother
Icon portraying Mary as Theotokos
The Catholic Church has always believed that Mary is the Mother of God. Jesus entrusted Mary as Mother of the Church in John 19:26-27. The evangelist writes, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
To combat a false teaching that tried to deny Mary’s role as the Mother of God, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. formally declared Mary as Theotokos—God-bearer. It’s also fitting the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima fell on the Eve of Mother’s Day! This is another reminder Mary is a spiritual mother to all.
The Fatima Prayer and Divine Mercy
One of the most popular Catholic prayers that we learned from this Marian Apparitation in Portugal is simply known as the Fatima Prayer. It is a simple yet powerful prayer:
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.
The most important message Mary brought to those three shepherd children to share with the rest of the world is— Divine Mercy. Mary desires to bring all people closer to her Son. God desires Christians to pray for the the salvation of EVERYONE!
Our Lady of Fatima as Bridge to Islam
The single greatest book I have ever read about Mary is The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. He begins chapter 17 of this book title Mary and the Moslems by mentioning the references Mary has in the Koran and the honor she has in the religion of Islam.
Fulton Sheen on Our Lady of Fatima
One of the best book on Mary I’ve ever read!
The passage I found most fascinating is when Sheen explains why Mary appeared to the small village of Fatima,
“Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: “Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary.”In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: “I surpass all the women, except Mary.”… Since nothing ever happens out of heaven except with a finesse of all details,
I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as “Our Lady of Fatima” as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too” ( The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God p. 141).
I agree with Sheen; the selection of Mary’s 1917 Apparition seems too fitting to be a mere coincidence. Let us continue to ask Mary to work in the hearts of non-Christians to draw them to Christ!
Today is also the completion of my wife and I’s Marian Retreat which culminates with a consecration to Jesus through Mary. Through drawing ourselves closer to the person who is closest to Jesus we ourselves are drawing ourselves closer to Jesus Himself. Thank you God for the gift of Our Lady of Fatima and we pray that all of humanity is able to more deeply grow in love!
Veneration refers to honor. Catholics honor Mary because she is the Mother of God. In this 11th installment of Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D., we will examine another important Marian theme— her as Queen of Heaven. Old Testament queens prefigured the intercessory role of Mary. We will also look at New Testament evidence supporting Mary as Queen. Lastly, evidence from Sacred Tradition will be outlined to demonstrate the significance of Mary’s title as Queen of Heaven.
Old Testament—Queen Figures
In ancient times, queens acted as a mediator between the king and the people. Understanding the role of the queen in the time of the Old Testament requires use to examine the culture during that time. We cannot determine the queen’s authority based on current governmental structures. According to George F. Kirwin in his work Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother,
I believe that Mary is best understood as the “Gebirah,” the Queen-Mother who as mother and queen is intimately associated with Jesus in the establishment and maintenance of God’s kingdom among the men and women of this world. It is the formality of motherhood which best describes her relationship with her Son, the King, and with his subjects, members of God’s redeemed people who form the Church of New Testament times (p. 9).
Bathsheba: Foreshadowing of Mary’s Queenship
The most famous queen-mother in the Old Testament is Bathsheba—mother of Solomon. Her role as advocate for the people is evident in 1 Kings 2:19-20: “Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right. 20She said, ‘There is one small favor I would ask of you. Do not refuse me.’ The king said to her, ‘Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.'” Kirwin points out that although the queen-mother did not exist at the beginning of the Israelite monarchy that Bathsheba certainly was the first in this role (Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother, p. 30).
Along with Bathsheba’s intercessory role in the Old Testament, she even is implicitly mentioned within the genealogy of Jesus. According to Father Johann Roten, S.M., “In Matthew’s genealogy, without mentioning her name, (1:6) Bathsheba is described as the “wife of Uriah.” Bathsheba is essential to the genealogy in Matthew” (Old Testament Types of Mary). Such a reference hints at the importance of the queen-mother (Mary) as an advocate— later in the Gospels and throughout Church history!
Esther: Another Marian type
Another example of a queenly figure is Queen Esther. Just like Bathsheba, Esther intervenes on behalf of her people. “Esther is the heroine and is the paradigm for a fully liberated woman who places all her confidence in God. Through prayer and fasting she is able to challenge the evil perpetrated by the Persians and to intercede for her people Israel before King Ahasuirus,” writes Fr. Roten (Old Testament Types of Mary). Esther’s trust in God mirrors Mary’s faith in the Holy Spirit (cf Luke 1:38).
New Testament Hintings
While clear examples from the Old Testament point to the authority of the queen within Israelite government, the New Testament does specifically call out Mary as queen. As Monsignor Ferdinand Vandry put, “Although the Scriptures afford our faith no clear testimony of Mary’s queenship, nor of its universal nature, that dignity of the Mother of God is nevertheless acknowledged unanimously by Christian tradition (The Nature of Mary’s Universal Queenship). John’s Gospel presents Jesus as a king. Not specifically mentioned Mary as queen we can deduce her role as queen-mother because she is mother of Jesus.
Kirwin discusses the need to view Scripture as a whole in order to truly see Mary’s queenly role. He purports in Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother,
Peinador believes that if there is any hint of Mary’s queenly prerogatives in the text of the Apocalypse, this will depend upon the relationship one can establish between it and the Proto-gospel. In order to show how the Protogospel supports the doctrine of Mary’s queenship it is necessary to insist upon the victory over sin and death and as a result the establishment of a kingdom on the part of Christ and Mary. He has no doubts about the Marian sense of Genesis 3:15. There Mary is depicted as the partner of the divine Redeemer in the battle and victory over their common enemy and consequently we find in this text the foundation for her queenship (p. 36).
Thus, isolating Mary’s intercessory role from the Old Testament foreshadowings and lens of Sacred Tradition limits our ability to view her as queen-mother. Next, we will examine how the Church viewed Mary as queen.
Church Tradition on the Queenship of Mary
From the beginning of the Church, Christians always viewed Mary as the Mother of God. During the 4th century, a rampant heresy called Nestorianism rejected that claim. To clear up any confusion, the Council of Ephesus in 431 formally declared Mary as the Mother of God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 495, referencing the fourth ecumenical council,
Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus’, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as ‘the mother of my Lord’.144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).
St. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam (On Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary) logically flows from the Council of Ephesus’ charge as Mary as Theotokos (the God-bearer). Pius XII declared, “In this matter We do not wish to propose a new truth to be believed by Christians, since the title and the arguments on which Mary’s queenly dignity is based have already been clearly set forth, and are to be found in ancient documents of the Church and in the books of the sacred liturgy(no. 6). Lumen Gentium points out Mary’s role as queen as well, “exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death (no. 59).
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 22nd, 2012 Audience, “Mary is Queen because she is uniquely conformed to her Son, both on the earthly journey and in heavenly glory. Ephrem the Syrian, Syria’s great saint, said of Mary’s queenship that it derives from her motherhood: she is Mother of the Lord, of the King of kings (cf. Is 9:1-6) and she points Jesus out to us as our life, our salvation and our hope.”
Old Testament queens Bathsheba and Esther prefigured the intercessory authority of Mary as queen-mother. The proto-evangelium of Genesis 3:15 foreshadowed the battle between the Woman (Mary) and Satan. As partner to the King of the Universe (Jesus), Mary rightly is called Queen of the Universe (Redemptoris Mater, no. 41). Catholics honor Mary because she brings us closer to her Son! Benedict XVI wrote, “The title “Queen” is thus a title of trust, joy and love. And we know that the One who holds a part of the world’s destinies in her hand is good, that she loves us and helps us in our difficulties.” Let us thank God for the gift of our Queen, Mary Mother of God!
Saint Paul wrote, “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Romans 12:4-5). We often hear priests and bishops tell us, the laity, to be the hands and feet of Christ. The analogy of the many parts making up a whole body makes sense to me. Everyone has an individual role based on your gifts and state in life.
What I never thought about until recently was the specific role Mary plays (using this analogy of the Body of Christ). The Mother of God connects the faithful to her Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. In this post, I will share a few more reasons why Mary is the neck of the Body of Christ.
Her Humble Role in Salvation History
There’s nothing flashy about the neck. It’s a humble muscle whose primary focus is to link the head to the rest of the human body. Likewise, Mary is the connector of the Body of Christ with Christ the Head. Saint Bernard said, “It is not hard to be humble in a hidden life, but to remain so in the midst of honors is a truly rare and beautiful virtue.”
No other person in the history of Christianity (except for Christ) has as many titles or honor given as Mary. The angel Gabriel declared, “Hail, Mary full of grace” (Luke 1:28). To the average person this type of praise could lead to the sin of pride. Verse 29 referred to Mary as being “troubled” by the angel’s claim. According to St. Alphonsus’, “Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise, and desired that God only be praised.”
The humble neck is an appropriate analogy to speak of the Blessed Virgin’s humility.
Testifies to Jesus’ Full Humanity
In the fourth century, there arose a heresy, or false teaching, that denied that Mary was the mother of Jesus. Named after the bishop Nestorius who promoted this belief, the heresy formally became known as Nestorianism.
The Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 declared that Mary is theotokos (the God-bearer). Led by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, the council fathers, wrote about Mary:
“Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh.” (DS 251).
Catholics honor Mary as mother, and celebrate her motherhood on January 1st because:
Jesus entrusted us into the care of Mary as our spiritual mother (see John 19:26-27).
Honoring the motherhood of Mary reminds us of the humanity of Jesus
Mary as Mother of God protects against heresies claiming Jesus wasn’t fully man
Necks and Nourishment
Saint Bernard of Clairvoux fittingly wrote about Mary, “‘channel’ or, even, the neck, through which the body is joined to the head, and likewise through which the head exerts its power and strength on the body. For she is the neck of our Head, by which all spiritual gifts are communicated to His Mystical Body.” Saint Pope Pius X echoed the same sentiment in his encyclical Ad diem illum.
Food enters the mouth of the body and is carried down the neck (more precisely the esophagus) into the digestive system. In an analogous manner, Christ’s nourishing grace is channeled through Mary to the rest of the Church’s members.
During my first Marian consecration, I experienced a closer relationship to Jesus. Saint Louis de Montfort said,
[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.
Notice how the saint didn’t say Mary was the ONLY pathway to Christ. You can still pray directly to Jesus. It is in my experience that anytime I reflect on the life of Mary or ask her for help I always end with only thinking about her Son.
All analogies fall short of the reality they try to explain. But analogies help us understand things beyond our full comprehension. Mary is like the neck of the Body of Christ. Jesus entrusted the Church to his Mother (John 19:26-27). Examples from Church Tradition (Saints Bernard and Pope Pius X) and Scripture display how Mary’s primary role in salvation history is to give birth to Jesus and connect us with Him.
According to St. John Paul II, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Families are a microcosm of society. The breakdown of the family unit is the greatest tragedy of our lifetime.
Living with other people is challenging.
Raising children is a full-time job. It’s an underappreciated and exhausting job. There is no parent manual. Too many unique circumstances exist for a clear-cut black and white rulebook. Right?!
While the details of parenthood can be debatable, there is a blueprint to raising a family with grace and love. This model is found by examining the Holy Family! Jesus. Mary. Joseph.
An analysis of Scripture and Traditional Catholic teaching will show us that the Holy Family’s love, obedience to God’s will, humility, and patience give you an example of how to foster meaningful and lasting relationships with your friends, spouses, children, and neighbors.
Model for the Family
In his Angelus on December 31st, 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared, “The Holy Family of Nazareth is truly the “prototype” of every Christian family which, united in the Sacrament of Marriage and nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, is called to carry out the wonderful vocation and mission of being the living cell not only of society but also of the Church, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race.
Jesus displayed obedience to his parents. This truth is shown in the tradition of the Catholic Church. The opening Antiphon in the Divine Office for the Feast of the Holy Family is “Come let us worship Christ, the Son of God, who was obedient to Joseph and Mary.” Simple yet profound!
Imagine being God and still able to submit yourself to the authority of your father and mother.
Silence leads to sanctity
Guess how many words of St. Joseph did the Evangelists record in the Gospels? If you guessed a whopping ZERO than you are correct my friend! Though included in the key infancy and adolescent scenes of Jesus’ life the foster father of our Lord said nothing!
The adage “actions speaks louder than words” applies more directly to St. Joseph than arguably any other person in history– as we can only analyze his actions. Cardinal Robert Sarah in The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise plainly stated, “Man must make a choice: God or nothing, silence or noise.” Using Sarah’s logic Joseph not only clearly, but overwhelmingly chose God!
Joseph’s ability to heed the Angel’s message to flee the wrath of King Herod demonstrates a complete trust and dependence on God. The noise of life yanks me in different directions– all away from God. Looking to the silent saint as a role model helps to remind me of the importance of asking the Lord for help.
St. Joseph provides the ideal for what it means to be a kind and loving father and man. More than ever this world needs strong men to be role models for their families and communities.
Humility overcomes Hubris
According to St. Louis de Montfort, “The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary.” Mary is honored because of her humility and obedience to the will of God. Her YES to God’s plan was the pathway by which Jesus entered our world.
Like St. Joseph, Mary’s trust in God was evident in her obedience, despite the unique circumstances the Holy Family was in.
Due to Original Sin, humanity suffers a fractured relationship with God. The Mystery of the Incarnation involved God becoming man in the Person of Jesus Christ. Divine Love selected Joseph of Nazareth to be the legal and foster father of Jesus Christ and protector of Mary. Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God.
St. John Paul II closed his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio by saying, “I entrust each family to Him, to Mary, and to Joseph.”
May all men reflect upon the silent, humble, and diligent example of the Holy Family. Come Holy Spirit grant us opportunities to be holier versions of ourselves!
The most common question students got wrong in my catechism class was related to the teaching of the Immaculate Conception. Nearly all the students thought the Church is referring to Jesus. Instead, the Immaculate Conception is referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary!
According to Pope Pius IX in his encyclical Ineffabilis Deus, “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”
The angel Gabriel testifies to the holiness of Mary in Luke 1:28 by greeting her, “Hail, favored one full of grace.” Mary’s perfect obedience to God’s will of selecting her to bear the Son of God is another instance of her holiness.
How was Mary Saved
I once heard a priest describe Mary’s salvation this way. Imagine that humanity fell into a muddy pit. This caused our first parents (Adam and Eve) to get dirty with the stain of sin.
In order for mankind to be purified or washed from this imperfection God instituted the sacrament of Baptism. Mary did not need Baptism (and the other sacraments) for salvation because God saved her from falling into the pit (of sin) in the first place!
Mary is not a deity to be worshiped. Her role as in salvation history is that of Jesus Christ’s Mother. The Son of God is still the focal point of our hearts, mind, and soul.
To Jesus through Mary
We can look to Our Blessed Mother as a guide, a signpost, and a beacon that orients us toward God. Throughout Church Tradition, the Old Testament signs of Noah’s ark and Jacob’s ladder are interpreted as symbols of Mary. The Blessed Virgin acts as a bridge or intercessor between us and Christ. She is NOT a replacement for Christ.
The beauty and grandeur of Mary exists because she is the perfect mirror. Immaculately conceived and without sin. That was the mysterious plan of God. She reflects God’s love outward toward all of humanity. May we continue to grow closer to God and learn from the humble example of Mary to obey God in all things!