by: Sister Isabelle, O.C.D.
On May 1st, about one week before Mother’s Day, our Archbishop Jose Gomez re-consecrated our country to Mary. With deep filial love he called to mind her promise at Fatima, that in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph. There she also told us that her Heart will be our refuge. These words, spoken during the tremendous sufferings of World War I, and as a prediction of even greater turmoil to come in World War II, also ring true in our own times as we face the pandemic of 2020. Mary’s visits to her children on earth serve a twofold purpose like a good mother, she comes to gently correct our errors and to console us in our sufferings. As we look back at the history of her apparitions, we can easily see that she is always working for our good and will never abandon us. Her care is balm to our wounds.
Long ago, at Guadalupe, ten years after Cortes conquered the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, Mary’s children were suffering from sicknesses that had been brought over by the Spanish explorers and conquistadors , and against which the indigenous people had no immunity. Does this ring a bell? Many today have no immunity to fight this coronavirus. In the years leading up to her apparition to Juan Diego, many of her beloved children died of a smallpox epidemic. This pain, coupled with the sufferings they bore from war, the oppression of human sacrifice, and their mistreatment by some of the explorers and conquistadors , did not go unnoticed by our loving Mother. She answered the cry of her children, showing forth her Son: “I will give Him to the people in all my personal love…because I am truly your merciful Mother, yours and…all the other people…who love me…who seek me…who trust in me…Do not fear this sickness…or any other sickness, nor anything that is sharp or hurtful. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?” What consoling words!
Mary comes to us in our darkest moments and speaks life. Just one week before the Second French Revolution, a time of persecution for our Church, Mary came to the convent chapel of the young Saint Catherine Laboure. She sat and listened to Catherine, who rested her arms on her lap and poured out her heart to Mary, while sitting at her feet. Catherine later said that this time with our Mother was one of the most precious moments of her life. Mary wants to do the same thing for you and for me. She waits for us to share our hearts with her. Mother Luisita used to say, “Love the Most Holy Virgin greatly. Make her the confidant of all of your trials.”
Back at Rue de Bac, Mary wanted to prepare Catherine and all of her children in France for the trials they would soon face. She spoke of “bad times to come” when the “whole world [would] be turned up-side down…and plunged into gloom.” Yet, this foreshadowing of difficult days in the future, she tempered with a message of hope. Mary told them to “come to the foot of this altar.” There, she said, “graces will be poured out on all those, small, or great, who ask for them with confidence and fervor…” In our own day, we long to come to the altar and worship, yet until that day arrives, we can still place all of our worries on the altar with confidence, as we unite in prayer with the Mass offered throughout the entire world. We can also bring our intentions to the altar, the foot of the Cross, by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Mary requested Catherine’s assistance in having a medal struck, which later became known as the “Miraculous Medal”, due to the many graces obtained by those who wore it with trust. For example, just as the first medals were being struck in 1832, a horrible cholera epidemic broke out in Paris, taking many lives. As soon as the medals began to be distributed, the plague lost its momentum and began to lessen. Mary is with us!
The theme of Mary’s presence with us in our trials grows stronger and more apparent as we continue to look at her intervention in history. In 1846, just 15 years after she had given us the Miraculous Medal, Mary tearfully begged her children at La Salette to change their behaviors which greatly offended her Son. Like a true Mother, she wanted to help them see that they had chosen the wrong path, in order that she might spare them from the consequences of their sins. In this case, she spoke particularly of working on the Sabbath and taking God’s name in vain. “If my people do not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son’s arm. It is so heavy. I can no longer restrain it.” These words sound harsh to our ears, yet, we know from Sacred Scripture that “the Lord disciplines the one He loves” (Hebrews 12:6). Mary longs for her children to lovingly obey our Heavenly Father, whom she knows only wants the best for them. She knows how generous and forgiving His Heart is and so she said graciously to the children that if the people mended their ways the fields would produce self-sown potatoes! Unfortunately, her message went unheeded and the predicted potato famine struck Ireland, France and all of Europe. Even then she did not abandon us but instead, exactly 34 years to the day, after the beginning of what the Irish called, “The Great Hunger”, Mary came to console her children at Knock, Ireland, where they had been hit hardest by the famine. She is always found at the foot of the Cross.
Mary stayed with Jesus to comfort Him in His passion, and she will stay with us. In 1858, Mary came to little, poor and sickly Bernadette, asking her to drink and wash in the miraculous spring of Lourdes that has brought spiritual and physical healings to thousands ever since. There, with great concern that none of her children be lost, she reminded Bernadette of the need to pray and do penance for sinners, thus pointing to the real sickness that plagues us – our sin. One of my favorite thing Mary said to Bernadette was: “I do not promise you happiness in this world, but in the next”. The triumph of her heart does not mean worldly success and comfort, but rather the reign of Christ coming to fullness in our minds and hearts.
Are you ready to hear more of the story? Really, the tale of Mary’s interventions in the lives of her children is beyond telling. She is present to us all, waiting for us to call upon her. We can be sure that she has heard our pleas for help today. Her Immaculate Heart will be our refuge as it was for all of the people we have already mentioned who received her heavenly visits. She loves to come to little ones and to bring them messages of hope. The children in Pontmain, France, who heard the sounds of gunfire and canon approaching their village, had the joy of listen to her comforting words, and she speaks these words to us as well: “But pray, my children. God will hear your prayers in a little while. My Son allows His Heart to be moved by compassion.” She wants to comfort us. Let us do our part then, and comfort her tender heart, which suffers so much from seeing us turn away from God. The children who saw her show us the way – teaching us to lovingly accept our sufferings as Jesus did and to offer them with Him for the conversion of sinners and as reparation for sin. They also remind us to pray the rosary daily, so we can let Mary into our lives.
Mary asks us to show our love for her and for God by reforming our lives and by taking her call seriously to do penance. She is always trying to help us love that we too may find the peace of her Son on earth as it is in Heaven. This Mother’s Day, let us rejoice that we have such a Mother, who is always with us, always listening to our pleas, and ever ready to help us. She knows our sufferings, she knows our sins, and she still loves us. The best gift we can give her this Mother’s Day is to ask her to show us how to let the Spirit of Christ reign in our hearts. This, the triumph of her Son, is the only triumph she ever desired.