October 30, 2015

Rejoice in the Lord

Mary, queen of all saints, comfort to all souls

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

The month of October is a time of special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. While this is an appropriate time of remembrance every year, I think it’s especially appropriate this year, when we have dedicated the month of October to prayerful deliberation of the needs of today’s families. Mary’s total acceptance of God’s will, her witness to family life, and her critical role as the first disciple of Jesus Christ make Mary a model of what the domestic Church (the Church of the home) should look like.

As October now comes to an end and we begin the month of November (often called “gratitude month”), the Church’s liturgical calendar invites us to celebrate the saints in heaven (The Solemnity of All Saints on Nov. 1) and the poor souls in purgatory (The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed on Nov. 2).

The transition from Mary’s month to the month in which we give thanks for all God’s gifts—beginning with the communion of saints—is a seamless one. After all, Mary is the queen of all the saints and a comfort to all the faithful departed, especially those who are still atoning for their sins.

All the saints, living and deceased, look to Mary to find their way to Jesus, her divine son. We look to this simple woman from Nazareth to learn how to live as Christ wants us to live, as saints, holy women and men who respond with courage and integrity to the demands of the Gospel. This is especially true whenever human dignity, family life or individual liberty are threatened.

Mary, the Mother of the Church, was an important figure in the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” “Lumen Gentium,” devotes an entire chapter to Mary, “sign of true hope and comfort for the pilgrim people of God.”

Mary’s role in the history of salvation (past), in the life of the Church today (present) and as a sign of the world to come (future) is fundamental to understanding what the Second Vatican Council sought to accomplish 50 years ago. It is also vitally important to understanding—and accepting—God’s will in our daily lives today.

Mary lived in a tumultuous time of human history. Religious freedom was threatened. The poor, the sick and people who for various reasons found themselves on the margins of society were routinely persecuted, abused or neglected. A devout Jew, Mary was surrounded by the hypocrisy, intolerance and self-aggrandizement of the political and religious leaders of her time, who failed to help their people see the truth.

What was Mary’s response? Faithful acceptance of God’s will, dedication to her family and service to others. Although the world around her was in chaos, Mary remained faithful.

As the recent Synod on the family made clear, one of the most important issues we face today is the devaluation of marriage and family life. In our attempts to help Catholics—and all people of good will—form their consciences and exercise their responsibilities as faithful citizens, we bishops emphasize the importance of the family. Based on marriage between a man and a woman, the family is the fundamental unit of society. Family is the social unit that safeguards and promotes the creation and nurturing of children.

We have no right to redefine marriage or to treat the family as though it were an arbitrary or changeable social structure. Supporting authentic family life should be a priority for economic and social policy. As we bishops of Indiana wrote in our pastoral letter, Poverty at the Crossroads: The Church’s Response to Poverty in Indiana, “Our society is only as strong, or as healthy, as our most basic social unit, the family.”

Every one of us is responsible for protecting and nurturing strong families. We are all called to ensure that family life is not undermined, neglected or abused.

As we work to strengthen families, we would be wise to seek the intercession and assistance of Mary, the heart of the Holy Family. Mary knows the importance of marriage and family life, and she knows the challenges we face today.

Let’s ask her to be our advocate and our inspiration as we encourage married couples to be as courageous and faithful as she was when she accepted God’s will, and freely chose to become the Mother of our Lord and, by the gift of God’s grace, our mother as well.

And let’s pray for the intercession of all the saints in heaven for us pilgrims on our earthly journey, and for all the souls in purgatory who long to see the face of Jesus. †

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