Mary our Mother and the Assumption
The Handbook is certainly the most authoritative source for understanding the Legion of Mary and the interior life of our Founder, the Servant of God Frank Duff. But the surest means for interpreting the Handbook are the books, articles and letters of our Founder. The Legion will certainly be impoverished if it should ever neglect these writings. They often expand the concise teaching of the Handbook, provide the context and development of his basic convictions and fill in any gaps there may be in the Handbook. While the Handbook contains everything essential for the Legion the other writings of Frank Duff are a precious interpretative tool and inspiring complement to it.
Today I would like to reflect on the Assumption of Our Lady in the light of one of Frank Duff’s writings: ‘Mary Our Dear Supplement’. One cannot help thinking that our Founder rooted his whole Legion life in the title Mary our Mother. He argues that it can happen that by mechanical repetition this title can lose some of its force. But he begs us not to let this happen because it contains all that God intended it to mean. God is opening his heart and giving us a precious gift in this title. He writes: ‘Mary loves us utterly but in a sense going beyond the emotional - which by itself would amount to little. Her love is nourishing and practical. It takes in every aspect of our lives. It is as vital to us as the mother is to her baby. But it is more comprehensive. The baby after birth can get along without its mother but the soul cannot manage without Mary. This is clear from the ordinary teaching of the Church. Mary has been made by God to be a part of salvation. Therefore that part must be acknowledged and co-operated with.’
Many spiritual writers, including great saints, have expressed themselves by saying that if all the love of every mother that ever lived were contained in one heart that heart would not love us as much as the maternal heart of Mary. This line of thought brings us to the point of admitting that we cannot fully comprehend Mary’s mothering of each one of us. But for Frank this does not go far enough and he writes: ‘But her maternal heart ascends almost infinitely beyond that. It has been incorporated into the secret Plan of God (Ephes. 1:9) as an expression of the divine love itself; and even made the turning point of that plan.’
Mary’s motherhood surpasses that of nature in every way. But Mary is our mother in a totally selfless, wholly attentive and joyfully effective way. Let me quote Frank again: ‘As her destiny is motherhood, first of Christ and then of man, God has moulded her to that function so that it has to operate to perfection.’
Nor should we make a radical distinction between the love, which she gives to Jesus and that which she gives to us her other children. For she sees Jesus and His members as one, practically identified; and it is the same sort of love, which she bestows on them all. Accordingly, her love is unique, invincible, inexhaustible. It cannot be shaken off or forfeited. It is proof against the worst of behaviour. It triumphs against ignorance and even hatred. Hers is the faithful love which never varies.’
But where does all this fit in with the Assumption of Our Lady? Well, in the Assumption Mary becomes even more profoundly our Mother. In the beatific vision she sees each one of us with the greatest possible clarity, detail and love. She is assumed into heaven not only as the Mother of God but inseparably as Mary Our Mother. It is a feast of tremendous hope. Through the grace of Jesus she has opened wide the gate of heaven to us. Because she is our Mother we are now in the heart of God because she stands there beside Him interceding for us. What a great sign of hope and consolation it is for us that Mary is body and soul assumed into heaven as our Mother. To some extent we are all aware of the lack of real effort in our quest for sainthood and in our very limited generosity in the apostolate of saving souls. But Mary is especially the Mother of her spiritually handicapped children, the refuge of sinners. Many of the saints said they would spend their heaven in doing good on earth. What must Mary spend her heaven doing? She is so truly and profoundly our Mother that there can be no limit to her intercession for us.
Let me conclude by another quotation from our Founder for whom the inexhaustible riches of the title Mary Our Mother were a central part of his life and the method of his life long desire for the salvation of souls in, with, and through Mary ‘As this is something for which every man longs in his heart but never experiences on earth, the mere suggestion that it is available to him through Mary will exercise an attraction. It is unquestionable that people are moved by presenting that thought to them. Then to think about Mary from that angle opens the door to her influence in their souls. Out of this consideration alone we must discuss Mary with everyone. She is their mother and they must know her. They must receive her mothering, which is vital to them. As the Legion has been so insistently proclaiming to you, the germ of love for her has been implanted, irrespective even of Baptism itself, in the heart of every man. Instinctively it will respond to a favouring touch.’