Mary in our lives today

Immaculate Mary, Immaculate Mother, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, Virgin of Virgins, Mystical Rose and many more. Adjectives used to describe her include loving, angelic, obedient, pure, humble, faithful, patient and more.

Oct 06, 2023

If you ask any baptised Catholic who Mary is, chances are you will receive a litany of nouns and adjectives commonly used to describe her. Immaculate Mary, Immaculate Mother, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, Virgin of Virgins, Mystical Rose and many more. Adjectives used to describe her include loving, angelic, obedient, pure, humble, faithful, patient and more. These are what many of us have been taught in catechism and at formations.

The Catholic Church has always given Mary a special place, as mother of Jesus, in our faith life. The tradition of the Church has sprouted many devotions to Mary, bringing forth many groups of devotees, each focusing on one or more of her virtues. Devotions to Mother of Perpetual Help, devotions to Mary of the Rosary, devotions to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, just to name a few.

Her many appearances to people over the centuries at Fatima, Guadalupe, Lourdes, and at many unapproved locations all over the world, have further propagated the deep devotions that Catholics have for Mary. Many who had “encountered” or experienced Mary will surely attribute this to divine intervention, and would not be able to contain themselves in the joy and happiness of this experience.

The universal Church has dedicated the months of May and October to Mary, two out of twelve months in a year. Surely this signifies the special position the Church has given to her. For the month of May, we honour Mary, Mother of God. This month is a special time for Catholics to pay homage to our Blessed Mother Mary.

We also honour Mary in the month of October, the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is primarily because the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated annually on October 7, to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary in gratitude for the protection that she gives the Church.

Numerous prayers and hymns have been composed in honour of Mary. Catholics memorise many of these prayers by reciting them, either alone or in group prayers. The Magnificat, the Angelus, the Hail Holy Queen, the Memorare, the Hail Mary, and more. Equally plentiful are the hymns composed and dedicated to Mary. Mother Dearest, Mother Fairest, Ave Maria, Dear Lady of Fatima, On this Day O Beautiful Mother, and lots more.

There are also no shortages of churches and chapels named in honour of Mary. Church of the Immaculate Conception, Church of the Assumption, Church of the Holy Rosary, Church of Our Lady of Visitation, Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and more.

During the Year of Faith 2012-2013, declared by Our Holy Father Pope Francis, the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur organised a first ever Marian Rally at Kelana Jaya stadium on Sunday Oct 13, 2013. Despite it being a very hot day, more than 12,000 Catholics, from all walks of life, were present to attend the Eucharistic celebration, preceded by recitation of the full 20 decades of the Rosary in 20 different languages. The large diverse Catholic community in Malaysia clearly highlights the universality of the Church. In that rally, Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam, in his sermon, expounded the virtues and role model we have in Mother Mary, as passed down to us in the tradition of the Church.

With the abundance of traditions and honour given to Mary, it is not difficult to understand why Catholics possess a strong and dedicated devotion to Mary. For the many experiences and “unexplained” divine interventions we have attributed to Mary. For the comfort and solace we have felt each time we sought her intercession. For the many small miracles we have had in our daily lives. All these add up to increase our love and devotion for a woman in the Bible whom we have never met in person and about whom not much has been written.

A quick check in Google will tell us that Mary, Mother of Jesus, is mentioned 19 times in the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, Mark and the Acts of the Apostles. Each time her name is mentioned in passing, except during the Annunciation, and during the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, where Mary becomes the main character in that Bible passage.

Other times, Mary becomes the supporting actor, while Jesus is centre-stage, e.g. at the Wedding at Cana, Mary’s role was merely to tell Jesus there was no more wine, and she told the servants to do what Jesus asked.

Perhaps at some stage in your life, you have been asked by non-Catholic friends or family members why our religion places so much emphasis on Mary. Perhaps you may even have engaged in some lively deliberations on this topic, attempting to “defend” your faith”. I certainly have, not once, but many times.

Our response should not be defensive, but rather, to show them the love, care and humility that the biblical Mary represents during the life and times of Jesus while on earth. Like most mothers, Mary is the behind-the-scenes person for her Son. She does all the small insignificant duties and tasks, and is usually in the shadows of Jesus.

Though the Gospel writers do not mention her often, her presence is certainly together with the groups of women who followed Jesus during His three-year ministry. There are no miracles attributed to her in the Bible. No preaching from her. No words of wisdom or anything that warrants giving her a full mention in the Bible.

Our devotion to Mary may not be to the biblical Mary, but rather, to the spiritual Mary who has been assumed into Heaven, and continues to watch over us. Her many interventions in our lives continue, as evidenced by the numerous testimonies given by the lay faithful all over the world. It may be difficult to defend Mary’s special place using Scripture texts, but we can certainly invite others to experience the divine intervention that Mary can do for us in our lives today.

(Richard Chia shares his experiences on the journey of the Church in Malaysia in the past 40 years — its challenges and achievements as it moves toward synodality.)

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