May 15, 2020

The Face of Mercy / Daniel Conway

Pope Francis turns to Mary for inspiration, courage, hope

(En Espanol)

“Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.” (Pope Francis)

Pope Francis has frequently said that his favorite image for the Church is her motherhood. “The Church is feminine,” Pope Francis says. “She is a mother.”

Mary is the model, the inspiration for the Church’s motherhood and for all that is holy, compassionate and loving in the Church’s life and ministry. When Mary’s influence is missing or weak, the pope teaches, the Church no longer acts as a loving mother.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis has repeatedly turned to Mary, Health of the Sick, for inspiration, courage and hope. He has implored her to intercede for us, and to help all who suffer from this modern-day plague to find consolation in the healing power of her Son, Jesus. Drawing on one of the Church’s most ancient Marian hymns, “Sub Tuum Praesidium” (“Beneath Thy Protection”), the pope prays:

“We seek refuge under your protection, “O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our pleas—we who are put to the test—and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.”

In a recent communication to archdiocesan leaders, Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson referred to Pope Francis’s reliance on Mary for inspiration and help during this pandemic:

“Mary is a great source of strength, encouragement and hope in times of trial, Pope Francis reminds us. Because she is our mother, she cares deeply for us and she wants what is best for us always. Let’s ask her to comfort the sick and the dying, and to share her courage with health care providers and all who are risking their own lives to serve the needs of others. Let’s turn to Mary when we are frightened or lonely. She will stay close to us and calm our fears. Above all, when we feel confused or lost on life’s journey, Mary can show us the way to her Son, Jesus. There’s no way we can successfully deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic all by ourselves. Thank God we can rely on our Blessed Mother Mary, and all the saints, to inspire us and guide us as we navigate the troubled waters of this very strange time.”

Recently, Pope Francis has encouraged all individuals and families to pray the rosary daily during the month of May to ask for our Blessed Mother’s special protection and care during this pandemic. As the pope says, “Contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary, our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial.”

Pope Francis has composed two prayers “that you can recite at the end of the rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you.”

These new prayers emphasize the importance of “contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother,” which the Holy Father believes “will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial.” The Holy Father’s letter, which includes the full text of his new prayers, may be found here: (case sensitive).

The pope is keenly aware that although we are all looking forward to a return to “normalcy,” we know that we will never be quite the same. He prays that Mary, the Mother of the Church, will inspire us all with compassion and courage. The pope has warned us against “the sin of indifference,” which he says is a virus worse than

COVID-19. He prays that Mary will help us avoid returning to business as usual, but rather that we can move forward in hope and embrace the mission of her Son, Jesus.

In a similar way, Pope Francis prays that St. Joseph the Worker, the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary, whose feast we celebrated on May 1, will continue to be the Protector of the Church.

Finally, the Holy Father prays that our experiences in recent months will lead us to a profound renewal of our faith in God, our hope in a better life to come, and our ability to witness to the joy of the Gospel.

(Daniel Conway is a member of The Criterion’s editorial committee.)

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