As always, the First Sunday of May was a great one in our Diocese as we gathered at Emmanuel Church in Delray Beach for the Annual Marian Festival. The afternoon brought a tremendous amount of rain which prevented us from gathering outside at the beautiful Rosary Walk. However, the weather did not prevent the faithful of our Diocese from coming to the event and literally packing the church of Emmanuel to honor Our Lady and to consecrate our Diocese to her Immaculate Heart. Many also brought with them the different statues representing the various titles of Our Lady representing different cultural backgrounds and placing these beautiful representations within the church. It truly was a faith filled, joyous and awesome experience under the mantle of Mary.
Pope Francis has shown a great deal of personal devotion to Mary in his life and papacy. He speaks constantly of her and is often seen in prayers of devotion to her. He has spoken much of her during this month of May. On one occasion, he expressed that we must “enter into the school of Mary, to learn to know Jesus, to live with Jesus and in Jesus, present in each one of us and amidst us." In this context he suggested that we should practice the exercise of thinking "What would Mary do?" This is a novel question since many of us are familiar with the popular question of the 1990s, "What would Jesus do?" The question was popularly summarized and even worn on wristbands as "WWJD." It seems the Pope has given us another formula, "WWMD."
"What would Mary do" is a very fitting question for us as followers of Christ. It is so because Mary would do in her life exactly what Jesus would do in His. She is a model for us of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the most perfect manner. Pope Francis suggested we think of this question when facing challenging situations in our lives "because she was a woman of fidelity, creativity, courage, parrhesia, patience and of putting up with things.” He referred to the scene of the Wedding at Cana in the Gospel of St. John where Mary instructed the people serving at the feast to do whatever Jesus told them when the newly married couple ran out of wine for their guests.
In this Gospel context, I could not help but think that it was Jesus who did exactly what Mary would do. We recall that when Mary approached Jesus to assist the couple in what was not the most extraordinary situation, Jesus indicated to Mary that this matter really did not concern Him. However, Mary seems to ignore the words of her Son and told the waiters to "Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Jesus did exactly that and changed water into wine, performing His first miracle, and assisting the couple at their wedding. Jesus gave a perfect example of doing what Mary would do even when His original intent seems otherwise.
The role of Mary, after that of Jesus, is primary in the Church. This is so because the Lord intended it this way. She is the perfect disciple always putting His will before hers and always trusting that God would take care of everything. Mary faced all that we face in our lives including the joys, the routines and the sufferings, but always with the faith that the Lord was with her. She indeed gives us a supreme example of faith, hope, and love which leads to a quiet joy that cannot be disrupted. It is for this reason that Jesus gave her to us as our Mother as He died upon the Cross and handed the Church to her in the person of the apostle, St. John. Mary is the Mother of the Lord and our Mother as the Mother of the Church.
Pope Francis has also given us a new celebration in honor of Mary which is the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church. This new Marian Memorial was celebrated for the first time this year just recently on the Monday after Pentecost. The Pope has fixed that particular day to be celebrated every year in honor of Mary. It was Blessed Pope Paul VI who officially bestowed upon Mary the title of "Mother of the Church" at the closing of the Second Vatican Council. The title goes back to the fourth century inspired by St. Ambrose.
St. John Paul II had tremendous devotion to Mary. The letter “M” was a center of his coat of arms and his motto was Totus Tuus – Totally Yours – referring of his relationship to our Blessed Mother. It was during the month of May on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima that an assassination attempt occurred on his life. He attributed his so narrow escape from death and return to health as the result of Mary's intercession. The title of Mary as Mother of the Church was further highlighted when St. John Paul II had a mosaic commissioned for the outside wall of his apartment called Mother of the Church in gratitude for his recovery. Certainly, St. John Paul II is another example of a man who lived his faith in accordance with Pope Francis' suggested practice of doing what Mary would do. As St. John Paul II expressed in his encyclical on Mary, "In her new motherhood in the spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church. In this sense, Mary, Mother of the Church, is also the Church's model."
The Marian Festival at the beginning of May at Emmanuel Church concluded with the celebration of Benediction. As all of the faith filled people present offered their prayers, honor and devotion to Mary, they did exactly what she would do. They turned to her Son present in the Blessed Sacrament and joined as the Church in adoration of Him. Mary leads us to her Son and in doing this embraces us in her faith which always brings joy. As we look to our Mother, Mary, Mother of the Church, during this month of May we know that what she would do is exactly what her Son would do and as He asks all of us to do. Pope Francis has given us a good suggested reflection – WWMD – What would Mary do?
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
May 25, 2018