October 13, 2017

Christ the Cornerstone

Mary, gateway to heaven, shows us the way to her Son

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Throughout the centuries, the Church has turned to the Blessed Virgin in order to come closer to Christ. Many forms of piety toward the Mother of God have developed that help bring us closer to her Son. Mary embraces God’s will and freely chooses to cooperate with God’s grace, thereby fulfilling a crucial role in God’s plan of salvation.”
(United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Have you ever noticed that in our archdiocese, the Church in central and southern Indiana, a significant number of our parishes are named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary—far more than any other saint and more than twice the number of parishes named for our Lord himself?

Clearly, our archdiocese reflects the strong devotion to Mary that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents brought with them to Indiana, the crossroads of America!

The names of our Marian parishes, drawn from our Blessed Mother’s many titles of honor, also bear witness to our devotion to the Mother of God. Eight of our parishes are simply named “St. Mary,” and are distinguished only by the names of their towns. Another five contain “St. Mary” in their names with various designations such as “St. Mary-of-the-Woods,” or “St. Mary-of-the-Knobs.”

Our Lady” is also common, including Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of the Springs.

Finally, we have parishes named Annunciation; Mary, Queen of Peace; Immaculate Heart of Mary; Immaculate Conception; Holy Rosary and Most Sorrowful Mother of God.

Anywhere you travel in southern and central Indiana, you’ll find a parish named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the gateway to heaven.

We are proud of all our parishes, of course, and the amazing number of saints and other names (such as Holy Angels, Holy Cross, Holy Family, Holy Name of Jesus and many more) are all signs of the faith we proclaim day in and day out as missionary disciples who gather in parish communities to worship, teach and serve in Christ’s name.

In the month of October, we honor Mary in a special way. We recall her openness to God’s Word, her fidelity to her Son in good times and bad, her quiet contributions to the life of the early Church, and her continued advocacy for her daughters and sons throughout the past two millennia.

Mary is the Mother of God and our mother. And as St. Teresa of Calcutta liked to remind us, “We go to Jesus through Mary.” This is what we mean when say that she is “the gateway” to her divine Son. Mary leads us, if we’re willing to follow her, and she is a sure guide, especially in troubled times.

In his encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Outstanding among the saints is Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. … Mary is a woman who loves. How could it be otherwise? As a believer who in faith thinks with God’s thoughts and wills with God’s will, she cannot fail to be a woman who loves” (#41).

It is Mary’s love—made possible by her faith—that we seek to imitate as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. With Mary and all the saints, we are called to be Christ for others. This means being women and men who are open to God’s Word (as Mary was) and who have the courage to say, “Yes! As you wish, Lord,” even when we are frightened or unsure about what God has in store for us.

In his powerful apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis appeals to Mary as the heart of the Holy Family, in her role as wife and mother. “May we never lose heart because of our limitations,” the pope says, “or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us” (#325).

The history of Monte Cassino Shrine in St. Meinrad tells how a novena to Our Lady of Monte Cassino is credited for saving the village of St. Meinrad from a smallpox epidemic in 1871. The faith that God’s people placed in the intercession of Mary more than 140 years ago has not waned. Since the chapel’s dedication in 1870, thousands of people have visited the sandstone chapel to offer their prayers and petitions.

The way to love—as Mary loves—is to look to Jesus and follow him, one step at a time. The path that Mary followed will take us where we need to go. She is the point of entry for all who seek to know, love and serve her son.

When you think about it, you can’t help but marvel at the deep faith and goodness—the Marian spirit—of our people. Surely Mary is pleased! Surely she intercedes for us at all times but especially when things are tough.

May we follow her example always. May we open our minds and hearts and listen carefully when she tells us, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). †

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