Photo essay

Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive the Son of God in this window at St. Patrick's Church, Palm Beach Gardens. The Holy Spirit overshadows her as a dove.

May is upon us. It is a special month bringing with it many significant occasions such as weddings, first Communions, Confirmations, Ordinations and graduations. It truly is a month of family celebrations and a reminder of the goodness and joys of life. 

It is also the month in which we celebrate Mother’s Day. How fitting that this special day falls within a month of family celebrations that reflect the joys of life. A mother is one who not only gives and nurtures life but points to what the meaning of life is all about. How also fitting that May is devoted to the mother of all of us in the person of our Blessed Mother, Mary.

In May, our Diocese usually celebrates the annual Marian Festival at Emmanuel Parish in Delray Beach on the first Sunday of May. Unfortunately, due to the safety restrictions during the COVID pandemic, we cannot have this special event again this year. This wonderful celebration brings together people of many different ethnic backgrounds from all over our diocese celebrating Mary as our mother, especially under the titles she holds in different cultures. It is a beautiful family celebration with Mary at the center leading us to her Son. It is a celebration of faith, life and our cultures which are united in the mother of God.

Mary is the mother of our faith. Mary is the one who was not only the first to live the faith but also the first to hand on the faith in a special way. Mary’s faith is evident from the very beginning. As the angel Gabriel appears to her and announces that she has been chosen by God to be the mother of his son, Mary’s life is completely changed in a manner she never expected. Fearful at the angel’s message and not understanding what it means or where it would take her, Mary responds completely in faith as she utters, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). So intense is Mary’s faith that when she immediately visits her cousin Elizabeth, she is filled with joy at Mary’s visit, and cries out, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). Elizabeth immediately recognizes Mary not only as the bearer of the son of God but also the bearer of faith. Our first introduction to Mary is as the mother of our faith.

As we journey with Mary to Bethlehem, how profound and moving is she as the Mother of our Faith as she gives birth to Jesus. Trusting in God’s providence, she follows quietly the promptings of Joseph and the angel even as they flee from Bethlehem to Egypt. Her faith is strong but quiet and always pointing to her Son. As Mary is so intimately involved in the life of Jesus, we are told how she treasures every memory in her heart (Lk 2:19, 51). The treasuring of these memories in her heart would be a unique source of insight into the mystery of Christ for the life of the Church.

We see Mary’s strong faith at work in the first miracle performed by Christ at the Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee (cf. Jn 2:1-11). At a family wedding party when the wine for the celebration ran out, we are told that Mary approaches Jesus in a motherly way to do something about the situation to help the newly wedded couple. Jesus tells His mother that the matter does not concern Him and that He will not work any miracle since His hour has not yet come. Mary’s faith is so strong that she ignores what Jesus says and tells the waiters to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Because of this prompting, Jesus turns water into wine, not only working His first miracle, but also beginning His public ministry. It is Mary’s persevering faith as the Lord’s mother which prompts this action.

Mary is faithfully but quietly present in the Lord’s ministry at every moment, always in the background and always treasuring every moment in her heart. Mary becomes the perfect example of what the Lord taught in regard to how we are to live. That is why when others come up to rightly praise Mary as His mother, the response of Jesus is always to praise her faith. He points to Mary’s openness to God as the pinnacle of her faith when He says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Lk 11:28).

Mary’s faith is so evident at the foot of the Cross where she participates in the redemptive action of Christ in an intimate way. We cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering she feels as a mother as she looks upon her Son condemned as a criminal and suffering the most intense physical and psychological pain. This is not what she imagined when Gabriel told her she was to be the mother of the messiah. And yet, in this moment of tremendous suffering, her faith does not waver. She trusts that what God spoke to her would be fulfilled.

It is after the resurrection of Christ that Mary takes on a special role among the apostles who are still doubting and wavering. Mary stands among them and now shares with them what she had treasured in her heart. It is Mary’s faith that brings them together, even in the upper room at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon them. Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical on the Rosary, Adiutricem Populi Chritiani, teaches so clearly, “With a generous heart Mary undertook and discharged the duties of her high and laborious office, the beginnings of which were consecrated in the Cenacle. With wonderful care she nurtured the first Christians by her holy example, her authoritative counsel, her sweet consolation, her fruitful prayers. She was, in very truth, the Mother of the Church, the teacher and queen of the apostles, to whom, besides, she confided no small part of the divine mysteries which she kept in her heart.”

Mary truly is the mother of our faith. In the life of the Church she stands as a model of what our faith is all about. She is the perfect mother because she lived her faith totally and completely by having an intimate relationship with her son through which she understood the mystery of redemption. As we celebrate this wonderful month of May, may we look to our mother to strengthen us in our faith by drawing us closer to her son. 

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