Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Mary?

Mary, Queen of Hearts and St. Louis de Montfort
There are times, more frequent than I care to admit, when my faith waivers, when I feel stuck in my spiritual growth, when I'm tempted to give up, to just quit everything and cry out "What's the use?" And then God leads me to someone whose words and example offer me inspiration and allow me to carry on with the work that He has called me to in His service.   Fr. Matthew Widder, pastor of St. Clement and Holy Name Parishes in Sheboygan, Wisconsin,  recently led the 60th Marian Day of Consecration at Mother of Good Counsel Parish in Milwaukee, home of the Mary, Queen of Hearts Shrine.  Each year, Mary Ann Ristow, whose mother raised the funds for the shrine in the 1940's in gratitude for prayers answered through a novena to Mary, Queen of Hearts, hosts this inspirational day, and I am so grateful to have been blessed to attend this annual event for the fifth time.  Perhaps, like me,  you are also in need of a spiritual boost.  If so, my notes on Fr. Matthew's talk are below.  Read on and be inspired by the example of the Blessed Mother to persevere in whatever it is that God wills for your life.

Fr. Matthew Widder (image from Heart of the Nation television Mass)

"Why Mary?" by Fr. Matthew Widder

A mother is someone who pushes us, nags us, and loves us unconditionally.  Whenever I meet with a mother or a grandmother, she doesn't like to talk about herself, instead, she spends her time telling me about her children and her grandchildren.  They are all that matter to her.  So it is with the Blessed Mother.  She wants to share Jesus with us, to talk about Him, to help us to know Him.  In all she does, she leads us to Jesus.

St. Joseph accepted Mary into his home upon the word of an angel in his dream, and we, too, should not be afraid to accept Mary into our homes.   Just as most earthly mothers have a decorative flair and know how to make a home attractive, Mary does the same thing with our prayers.  When we pray with Mary, she places our prayers on a golden platter and adds her heavenly fragrance to them before presenting them to Jesus.  With Mary in our home, everything we do becomes more beautiful.

It's frustrating to be locked out of our homes or cars.  During my teen years there was a time when I arrived home late from a night out with my friends and found the door locked.  I had to ring the bell and knock on the door until my mom let me in.  We need our Mother Mary to unlock the door for us.  She is on the inside with God and when we pray with her she unlocks the door to God's grace and allows us to enter.
Mary, Untier of Knots

Mary is always humble, and she teaches us to be humble.  During the Visitation, Mary pointed to God's greatness with her Magnificat.  She didn't point to herself.  Pope Francis likes the image of "Mary, Untier of Knots."  Her obedience and humility untie the knots of our sins.  She keeps nothing for herself but lets our prayers pass through her to God.

This was God's last plan to redeem us:  Mary obediently accepting God's will.  Mary is "full of grace."  Grace is the perfect presence of God, the absence of sin.  What the devil lost by his pride, Mary redeemed by humbly accepting God's will.  The most beautiful creature in the entire world is the creation of a saint.  Mary is that beautiful creature leading us to paradise.

Be open to the surprises of God.  Pope Francis often tells us that the spiritual life is full of surprises.  But we don't like surprises.  We like things to be planned out.  But God surprises us.  The scriptures are full of sudden detours.  I think of the saying that there are two seasons in Wisconsin-winter and road construction.   Everytime I see that my normal route is closed due to construction, I don't want to believe the "road closed" sign the first time I see it and I'll try to somehow get around it.  But it doesn't work and I have to retrace my steps.  We do this in the spiritual life as well, we try to do things our own way, the same way we've always done it, not being open to change.  But Mary was always open to the surprises of God.  She was open to God's detour.  We need to accept the detours in our lives, because where there is a detour, so there is Jesus.

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
 Mary teaches us about outreach to others with her trip to the hill country to visit Elizabeth.   My favorite image of Mary, the one I chose for my ordination, is the image of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.  Mary is holding Jesus out to us and she is looking out.  We all like to hold a baby close and to not let go, unless they're crying.  Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament is holding Jesus out and asking, "Will you accept my Son?"  It's symbolic of the New Evangelization.  Don't keep Jesus to yourself, pass Him on.  Don't be content to keep your Marian devotion to yourself.  We need to share what Mary has done for us, we have to pass on our devotion, to be on the lookout for the poor and those in need.  Accept Mary as the Queen of your heart, spread your love for her and give testimony.

How do we live out that devotion?  We obey Mary's words to the waiters at Cana, we "do whatever He tells you."  St. Louis de Montfort teaches a radical devotion to Mary, he tells us to be a "slave" of Mary.  He contrasts the word "slave" with the word "servant."  A servant has time off, but for a slave there is no getting away, there is always work to be done.  We are challenged to give our lives to Mary with our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Give Mary everything-our works, sacrifice, prayers, penance-entrust them to our Lady because she knows best how to use our prayers.  Allow Mary to open the door from within and trust that she will make the best use of our graces and good acts.

The best way to honor Mary is through the rosary.  Pope Francis tells us not to pray like a parrot, speaking words without understanding their meaning.  Sometimes when we pray the rosary, the words click by and we're not really praying them with meaning.  I once heard someone pray the rosary in ten minutes.  We need to slow down our prayers.  I heard a speaker on relevant radio say that as we pray the rosary we should treat the name "Jesus" as a speed bump.  Say His name with reverence and meaning.  Another way to pray the rosary is to bring the name of the mystery into each Hail Mary we are praying following the name of Jesus.  For example:  "Jesus in the Annunciation" or "Jesus in the Resurrection" or "Jesus, in the Agony in the Garden" or "Jesus at the Baptism."  When we pray the rosary, we should picture Mary taking us by the hand and leading us into the crescendo of the Glory Be at the end of each mystery.

How do we pray at Mass?  Give Mary our Holy Communion.  When we receive the Eucharist, introduce Mary to her Son.  Say to Mary, "Behold your son."  Our souls are a home for Christ.  When we visit someone in their homes, we encounter them in a sacred way.  We see how they live, and learn things about them that we didn't know.  Before we receive Communion we pray, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."  During Communion we are inviting Jesus with Mary into our home so that He may really know us.

God knew that we would need a helper in the spiritual life and so He gave us a beautiful gift in our Blessed Mother Mary.  Mary leads us to Jesus, she teaches us humility and obedience.  She shows us how to be open to God's surprises and to pass grace on to others.  Our prayer is to make Mary the Queen of our Hearts.  Give your heart to Marian devotion.  Speak about your devotion to others.  Don't be afraid to tell the story of your devotion to Mary, to give witness to the blessing of Mary in your life.

Efficacious Prayer  to Mary, Queen of our Hearts
O Mary, Queen of All Hearts,
Advocate of the most hopeless cases;
Mother most pure, most compassionate;
Mother of Divine Love,
full of divine light,
we confide to your care the favors which we ask of you today.

Consider our misery, our tears,
our interior trials and sufferings!
We know that you can help us 
through the merits of your Divine Son, Jesus.
We promise, if our prayers are heard,
to spread your glory, 
by making you known under the title of 
Mary, Queen of the Universe.

Grant, we beseech you,
hear our prayers,
for every day you give us so many proofs of your love
and your power of intercession to heal both body and soul.

We hope against all hope:
Ask Jesus to cure us, pardon us,
and grant us final perseverance.

O Mary, Queen of all Hearts, help us,
we have confidence in you. (3 times)


  1. Great post, Anne! Love the "speed bump" suggestion! Father Matthew looks so young, which always rejoices my see these holy, Marian and Eucharistic priests Our Lord is giving us in these days. We have 20 in seminary in my diocese, which is a rather small one. These new priests are being trained differently or something...they are crazy about Our Blessed Mother. Yay!

  2. This is an incredible post Anne! The prayer is so powerful and I will save it to pray it. I love Fr Widder's writing on our Blessed Mother. So profound and true. I never thought about introducing Mary to her Son during communion. Wow. "Behold your Son." The whole notion of inviting Jesus and Mary into the homes of our soul is a good reminder to let them into intimacy with us. I also love the image of Mary letting us in through the locked door from within. I will contemplate this post for a long while. Thank you for this powerful witness to Queen Mary. God Bless...