05 Editorial - Mary – Perfect Example of Holiness

posted Sep 6, 2018, 10:44 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 10:44 AM ]
In September, during the Novena in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, children in parishes are encouraged to come daily to church and express their love for Mary, and be inspired by her life. Many Marian Shrines also celebrate their Annual Feast at this time. As we honour Mary, our Mother, we see in her the perfect example of holiness.

Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, invites us to 'Rejoice and Be Glad' (Mt 5:12). It presents how every member of the Church is called to holiness. The Pope reflects on living the beatitudes today, and seeking holiness in everyday activities. Pope Francis concludes with a paragraph on Mary—"She lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other … Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others." (Gaudete et Exsultate n. 176).

Mary rejoiced in the presence of God. The Magnificat encapsulates her attitude of finding joy in the Lord as she did His will. Pope Francis describes joy as one of the signs of holiness. He says, "The saints are joyful and full of good humour. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit. The Christian life is 'joy in the Holy Spirit' (Rom 14:17)." (n. 122)

Mary pondered in her heart all the events of her life. In silence and in prayer, she allowed the mystery of God's plan to permeate her whole being. Mary discerned what God was asking of her in each situation. This is another characteristic of holiness—a "habitual openness to the transcendent." The saints discerned what the Spirit was telling them in small and seemingly insignificant choices. They realised that "greatness of spirit is manifested in simple everyday realities." Disciples are to listen to the Lord as He challenges them in new ways. "God may be offering us something more, but in our comfortable inadvertence, we do not recognise it." (nn. 147, 169, 172)

Mary accompanied her Son the whole way, sharing even in His suffering at the foot of the Cross. Mary trusted in God's power to transform the most absurd situation into something meaningful. A shameful event became the deed of salvation by the power of God. Mary reminds her children to be persons of hope, knowing that God will not abandon them. A person who senses the pain and sorrow of another "is capable of touching life's depths and finding authentic happiness" and discovers "the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer." (n. 76) Mary also stands as a sign of solidarity with those in difficulty. She represents those who support others in their anguish when they are deprived of their human dignity or suffer discrimination and humiliation. The Church, taking shape at the foot of the Cross, is meant to be a community that cares and gives hope. Mary stands as a sign of concern and of trust in God's transforming power. Truly, Mary recognised the call to holiness and lived the beatitudes.

A mother's love brings joy, lifts us up when we are tired and heals our wounds. It encourages and sets free. I have noticed thousands coming to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount to express their devotion to Mary, many of whom are people of other religions. Sometimes, they ask, "Is there a special prayer that we must recite to Mother Mary?" I tell them that while there are specific invocations, we can speak to Mary spontaneously, just as we address our own mother, pouring out our feelings, expressing what is in the depths of our hearts. Surely, Mary knows what lies in the heart of every child of hers. Pope Francis says, "Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need do is whisper, time and time again: Hail Mary…" (n. 176). We thank God for this wonderful example of holiness that He has given us. May our Blessed Mother intercede for us, and remind each of us of our own calling to holiness in the world today.

Bp John Rodrigues is an Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay.