Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thinking about Mary

May is Mary's month.  I know from speaking with many of you that my childhood experiences of May Devotions are far from unique.  Many of us grew up with May Crownings, Marian hymns, the Litany of Loreto, outdoor processions and ever-present Rosary beads.

In my boyhood parish, we had May devotions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening.  I recall going to May Devotions with my mother when very young. Later, in my teens and early twenties, I served as the musician for them. We used English, Polish and Latin for Marian Devotions back in the day! We had October Rosary Devotions in church as well. To this day I carry a Miraculous Medal with me and have icons of Mary throughout my apartment.  Of course, like all those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I pray her Magnificat every day and end my day with a song to Mary, either the Salve Regina or Regina Coeli.

Interestingly, during my brief studies in Israel, it was my visit to the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth that most moved me.  I was surprised by the emotion that came over me in Nazareth.  There was just something about seeing the Latin words "Verbum Caro HIC Factum Est" [The Word HERE became Flesh] on the altar in front of the home of Mary over the traditional spot where Mary said "yes" to God.  My theology tends to be deeply Incarnational. This and my devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, profoundly melded there in Mary's home.

Of course, Catholic and Orthodox devotion to Mary is often misunderstood, sometimes even by Catholics themselves.  We do not worship Mary.  We honor Mary (another word for honor is venerate).   Latin theologians, using old Greek words, would say it this way: dulia is the honor we have for the saints, hyperdulia is the special honor we give to Mary, the Queen of All Saints.  Only God is given latria or worship. We honor Mary in that very natural way that children honor their mother and ask for help.  Mary is the model disciple of Jesus. Where Mary has gone, we hope to follow, because like her, we recognize Jesus as our only Savior.  It simply follows that devotion to Mary is good when it leads us to Jesus.

Please join us for our Marian Devotion and May Crowning Sunday 9 May at 7 PM in Church. [addition: 2011 Devotions are MONDAY May 16] I would especially love to see you there if you've never been to a May Devotion before.  It is not a long devotion, but it is a great way for us to show our love for Mary together as a parish. I hope you will increase your devotion to Mary this month. Do something new this May, rather than just the same things you have been doing.  Feel free to contact me anytime if you want more information on Marian devotion or to share your Marian memories with me.

Here are some recommended Marian practices; details can easily be found on-line:

1. Read and meditate on the Biblical passages mentioning Mary. Click the link to the US Catholic Bishops under "further reading" to the left, look under Bible, and search for "Mary" in Matthew, Mark and Luke and for "woman" in John's Gospel.

2. Get in the habit of praying the Angelus. It is prayed when the church bells ring; the Regina Coeli is used in Easter time.  Pope Paul VI reminded the Church to return to this Incarnational prayer.

3. Sing or recite the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos. We translate the Greek word Theotokos as "Mother of God."  This Akathist Hymn is a long, Byzantine collection of praises to Mary.  It is often prayed during Lent by Byzantine Rite Catholics and by our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Faith. I pray it often throughout the year. The Akathist Hymn might be a good thing to do on Saturdays, since this day is dedicated to Mary in Roman Catholic tradition.

4. Display an icon or statue of Mary in your home during May. Say a short prayer when you pass by.

5. Check out a book about Mary from the parish library.  It is open between the 8 and 10 AM Masses on Sunday.  Ms. Anitra Lahey would be more than pleased to assist you.

6. Pray the Rosary with particular attention to the Mysteries. Once in a while, offer the Rosary for a big issue like an end to war, an end to abortion, or for peace between Christians and Muslims. (interestingly, Mary is mentioned in the Qur'an more often than in the Bible, and many Muslims honor her too.)  Expand your view of Mary's intercessory role so that it is not always just a personal favor from Mary, but one that recognizes her immense role in Salvation History.

May Mary pray for us now and at the hour of our death!
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