September 11, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

We are called to honor the Holy Name of Mary

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary, by the Lord God Most High, above all women on the Earth; for he has so exalted your name that your praise shall be undying on our lips” (Entrance Antiphon, Jdt 13:18–19).

On Saturday, Sept. 12, the Church honors the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is not one of the major Marian feasts such as the Assumption, which we observed on

Aug. 15, or the Immaculate Conception, which we will celebrate on Dec. 8, but it is still an important moment in the Church’s Year of Grace (the liturgical calendar).

The name “Mary” has a special significance for Christians, and we’re right to pause and reflect on it with reverence and appreciation for the amazing woman who is both the Mother of God and our mother. As Pope Francis observes, Mary is close to us in spite of her holiness and her great dignity as the Queen of Heaven. When we call on her, she comes immediately. In fact, she is already here, right beside us, always ready to help.

There are literally hundreds of titles ascribed to the Blessed Virgin such as Mother of the Church, Refuge of Sinners, Our Lady of Grace and many, many more, but the feast we observe on

Sept. 12 calls our attention to the simple beauty and strength of her name, Mary. There is great power in this holy name. When we speak it with love and devotion, we open our hearts to all that Mary has to share with us from the boundless goodness of her Immaculate Heart.

In Aramaic, the language she spoke, her name is “Mariam.” Based on the root “merur,” the name suggests “bitterness.” This is reflected in the words of Naomi, who, after losing a husband and two sons lamented, “Do not call me Naomi [‘Sweet’]. Call me Mara [‘Bitter’], for the Almighty has made my life very bitter” (Ru 1:20). Mary was destined to become the Mother of Sorrows, whose loving heart was pierced with pain, especially as she courageously stood at the foot of the cross and then cradled her Son’s body before it was laid in the tomb.

Mary’s bitter suffering was transformed by her Son’s glorious resurrection, and her name is now associated with the sweetness of life in Christ.

We turn to Mary in our moments of sorrow, and she comforts us. We approach her with confidence and hope when we’re frightened or tempted to despair.

Mary is our Mother of Perpetual Help. Through her intercession, the grace of her Son Jesus can miraculously change our bitterness into tears of joy in the same way that he once turned ordinary water into the finest wine. All we have to do is ask, and Mary is with us, our advocate before the throne of grace.

Every time we pray, “Hail, Mary,...the Lord is with you,” we reverence her holy name. Every time we acknowledge her as “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” we place ourselves in her hands, trusting in her goodness and compassion “for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” What a great blessing! What a precious gift we have received from Jesus who entrusted his mother to his beloved disciple’s (and our) care and, in the process, gave us an extraordinary advocate and protector in Mary our mother!

A popular prayer to Mary, the Memorare (from the Latin word “remember”), provides us with an excellent way to ask for our Blessed Mother’s protection and care:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.  To you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

Mary’s love for Jesus, and for each of us her children, is what we celebrate when we honor her holy name. She is the mother of our redemption, the mother of holy hope, and the star of the sea (Stella Maris) who shows us the way home when we are lost. When we call on her, she answers with kindness, encouragement and a mother’s loving care.

As Catholics, we worship God alone, but we reverence (or honor) Mary and all the saints as holy women and men who inspire us and show us the way to God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Let’s honor Mary this Saturday—and every day—by staying close to her and by reverently calling on her holy name. †

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