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3 Reasons we desperately need Mary as our Mother


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP - published on 12/31/22

The life we live is Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The more we look to the Mother of that life, the more we come to know and embrace life in its fullness.

Tomorrow, on the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, we will pray to God the Father: We rejoice to proclaim the Blessed ever-Virgin Mary Mother of your Son and Mother of the Church. Why do we start every New Year focused on the Motherhood of Mary?

We need the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Mother, and for at least three key reasons.

1. The Mother of God’s love awakens us and enables us to be ourselves

The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar reflected on a simple fact of life: “The little child awakens to self-consciousness through being addressed by the love of their mother.” In her book The Drama of the Gifted Child, the psychiatrist Alice Miller explains how

every child has a legitimate need to be noticed, understood, taken seriously, and respected by their mother. In the first weeks and months of life they need to have the mother at their disposal, must be able to be mirrored by her …. The mother gazes at the baby in her arms, and baby gazes at their mother’s face and finds themself therein, provided that the mother is really looking at the unique, small, helpless being and not projecting her own expectations, fears, and plans for the child. In that case, the child would not find themself in his mother’s face but rather the mother’s own predicaments. This child would remain without a mirror, and for the rest of their life would be seeking this mirror in vain. 

And sadly, this is the plight of many people. But it is not the end of the story. For we have been given an Immaculate Mother who provides for our every need—Mary is the Mirror we seek.

For “a mother does not stop at just giving life,” says Pope Francis. “With great care she helps her children grow, teaches them the way of life, accompanies them always with her care, with her affection, with her love, even when they are grown up. In a word, a good mother helps her children to come of themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II expressed something similar:

A mother is not only the mother of the physical creature born of her womb but of the person she begets. Mary is Mother of God because she accompanied the Son of God in his human growth. Mary’s Motherhood is not merely a bond of affection—she contributes effectively to our spiritual birth and to the development of the life of grace within us.

2. The Mother of God prevents us from turning Jesus into an abstraction

We need Mary the Mother of God to keep us from turning Jesus into an abstraction … from reducing Jesus merely to his teaching, his message, or his example. For Jesus is not a philosophy to learn; he is a Person to love. And only the Mother of God loves Jesus the way that he deserves. Which is why St. John Paul II made the point that “Mary leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us to his Mother.”

Making things concrete is the very essence of motherhood. Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa comments that “God silently entered the womb of a woman. God comes down into the very heart of matter: [the word] mater [“mother”] comes from materia.” The Mother of God constantly returns us to the heart of the matter: the humanity of her divine Son.

As Bl. Guerric of Igny insists, “Mary is the Mother of the Life by which all things live.” There is nothing vague or speculative or impersonal about that life. The life we live is Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The more we look to the Mother of that life, the more we come to know and embrace life in its fullness. And if we want more life in our life, we need to have a Mother to give it to us. And she does.

3. The Mother of God gives us power over death

An article from some months back in The Atlantic interviewed a hospice nurse who stated that, at the moment of death, “almost everyone is calling for ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’ with the last breath.” Something deep within us knows that, when we are in dire straits, when the end is near, we need our mother. No wonder we conclude the Hail Mary by begging Mary our Mother to pray for us “at the hour of our death.” 

It is said that Dostoyevsky, to keep from giving in to despair, would meditate for long stretches of time before an image of the Madonna.

I am still moved by a news report I read years ago about a desperate young woman who had scaled a chain-link fence on an interstate overpass, intending to jump to her death on the highway. A motorist who spotted her—a mother of two and grandmother of six—pulled over, called the police, and then clambered to the suicidal young woman begging, “No, honey. Don’t do this.” She reached through the fence and grabbed the young woman’s clothing, clutching her with all her might. Other drivers stopped and joined the frantic attempt to hold on to the woman through the openings of the fence. A police officer, arriving at the scene, described what he saw: a woman dangling from an overpass held by a “giant mass of people.”

What had led the young woman to that self-destructive act? The woman who had gone to her rescue recalled how the young woman kept saying over and over, “My mom don’t love me. My mom don’t care for me.” But the woman soothed her through the fence, saying again and again to her, “No, we love you.”

It was a mother who recognized that young person’s desperation. It was a mother who rushed to her aid. It was a mother who assured her with love. And it was a mother who inspired the charity of other passersby to help. As one rescuer put it, “Everyone was determined they weren’t going to let go of that lady for any reason.” A verse of the ancient Marian hymn Ave Maris Stella implores, “Show yourself a Mother” (Monstra Te esse Matrem). Sometimes when we are hanging on for life, only a Mother will do.

The actions of those Good Samaritans exemplify a beautiful insight of Pope Benedict XVI: 

The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. If a person is to accept themself, someone must say to them: It is good that you exist—must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love. 

Devotions and FeastsSpiritual LifeSunday ReadingsVirgin Mary
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