As we reach Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Feast on the Roman Calendar, we are inspired by the many titles Mary is called by, in prayer and meditation. Reminds one of a Marian Litany, believed to be the earliest Litany to Mary, found in a 12th Century codex in the library of Mainz, Germany. Relocated to the Library of St. Marks in Venice, Italy in the 13th Century, here is a short specimen, showing the praises to be met with most frequently also in other litanies of that or of later times: "Holy Mary, Mother and Spouse of Christ, pray for me [other MSS. have "pray for us"-the "pray" is always repeated]; Holy Mary, Mother inviolate; Holy Mary, Temple of the Holy Ghost; Holy Mary, Queen of Heaven; Holy Mary, Mistress of the Angels; Holy Mary, Star of Heaven; Holy Mary, Gate of Paradise; Holy Mary, Mother of True Counsel; Holy Mary, Gate of Celestial Life; Holy Mary, Our Advocate; Holy Mary, brightest Star of Heaven; Holy Mary, Fountain of True Wisdom; Holy Mary, unfailing Rose; Holy Mary, Beauty of Angels; Holy Mary, Flower of Patriarchs; Holy Mary, Desire of Prophets; Holy Mary, Treasure of Apostles; Holy Mary, Praise of Martyrs; Holy Mary, Glorification of Priests; Holy Mary, Immaculate Virgin; Holy Mary, Splendour of Virgins and Example of Chastity", etc.
The reason I write about all this detail, is because of one adjective, "Mary, Gate of Paradise." I don't know why I was thinking about this the other day, but it struck me that somewhere I had heard that, but I couldn't recall where. In Matthew 7:13-14, we read, “Enter through the narrow gate;- for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. (NAB)
St. Bernard: "When in danger, in anguish, in doubt, always invoke Mary. Do not allow it to fall from your lips, nor ever leave your heart". When in danger of losing the divine grace, think of Mary, invoke the name of Mary together with the name of Jesus, these two names are always inseparably united. These so sweet and powerful names never separate from our heart and our lips, because these names will give us the strength and courage to never yield to temptations and to overcome them all. Jesus promised wonderful graces to the devotees of the holy name of Mary, as told to St. Brigitte while speaking to his most holy Mother, revealing that whoever invokes the name of Mary with confidence and intention of amendment, will receive these special graces: perfect sorrow for their sins, atonement for them, the strength to reach perfection and eventually eternal life."
According to St. Ephrem, the name of Mary is the key that opens the door of the heaven to those that invoke it with devotion. Thus St. Bonaventure is correct when calling Mary “salvation of all those who invoke her", as if invoking the name of Mary was the same as obtaining eternal salvation. Also Richard of St. Lawrence says that to invoke this holy and sweet name carries with it overabundant graces in this life and sublime glory in the other. Therefore, concludes Thomas of Kempis: "If you look, my brothers to be consoled in all your works, resort to Mary, invoke Mary, be kind to Mary, place yourselves in the care of Mary. Intimate with Mary, cry with Mary, walk with Mary, and with Mary you look for Jesus. Finally desire to live and to die with Jesus and Mary. By so doing you will always go ahead in the ways of the Lord, since Mary, gladly will pray for you, and the Son will certainly take care of the Mother ".
And then we have the beautiful "Diary" of St. Faustina Kowalska, wherein she reports on actual meetings with the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and at the direct wish of the Father, she writes it all down so all of us can read about it. Remember, she was Canonized, and that is the best "imprimatur" on that Diary. Not long after I heard the information of this "Diary" available in an English translation, I received a copy of it, and have been reading and meditating on it ever since.
It is most unfortunate that many of our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters have no devotion to the Mother of God. I read that in a book by Dr. Scott Hahn, formerly a Presbyterian minister, before his conversion to Catholicism. (see "Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism"). I had no idea that their distrust of Mary went so deep. Let us pray that all who believe in her Son, Jesus, will also share a devotion to His Mother, the Virgin Mary. It was just a few days ago on December 8th, that we celebrated Mary's Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, she lived and died without sin - a tenet of Catholic Teaching (and Papal Infallibility)!
Today, on December 12th, we celebrate another Marian Feast - Our Lady of Guadalupe. The statue or figure of Our Lady is miraculous in many ways, and I refer you to a website by the Knights of Columbus for further study. It shows which claims made are true or false.
Be glad that Our Lord made Our Lady so available to us through numerous apparitions and even though the Church is very slow in confirming which of these are cleared for devotion, let us trust Mary and listen to what she is trying to tell us, until the Church tells us otherwise. Of course each one of us needs to discern carefully and pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance in these matters.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us and for the rest of the world.
Peace and Good!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
December 12, 2012