October 2022 Allocutio
Fr. Paul Churchill
This month gives us many reasons to reflect again on Our Lady. St. Luke’s feast day reminds us of the evangelist who related much about her story. Just a few days ago we had the 105th Anniversary of the miracle of Fatima. But I think above all it is the Feast of her Rosary which must take pride of place.
In his letter on the Rosary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae) issued on this day twenty years ago Pope John Paul II said that it contains “all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium”, quoting from Marialis Cultus of Pope Paul VI.
Let me put it this way: reflecting over and over again, in prayer, on the great mysteries of Our Lord, we cannot go very far astray from true Orthodoxy. The Mysteries of the Rosary hold the essential truths of our faith and the value of reflecting on them day in and day out keeps us holding one of the safest and most unbreakable chains (catena) of our faith so that indeed through the trials and tribulations of life we keep steady in our faith.
In reflecting on these mysteries, we follow Our Lady’s own method of pondering on the events of her life. And by saying the Hail Mary over and over again we keep close to her, almost hand in hand with her, getting to know her Son better.
As we look at the Joyful mysteries, to take just one set of the mysteries, we see a simple humble virgin interacting with God through his messenger Gabriel. She knows better than anyone else that she depends totally on God and so has no hesitation in being there for him. Her question to the angel about how this is to come about is not a challenge to God but a simple request for direction. Is she to have the help of a man and, if so, is it to be Joseph or someone else? But the angel clarifies. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit you will conceive. So many have scoffed at this. Impossible, they say. But not for God; and Mary knows this. “Whatever God wants”, she replies without any further hesitation. Let us also say with faith and gladness to God: Whatever you want!
The Visitation shows us the mission of every member of the Legion: to carry Jesus to others with and like Mary. Her visit effects the freeing of the Baptist from original sin; it brings joy to him and through that to Elizabeth and will also affect the canticle of Zechariah who knows that God has visited his people and redeemed them. The source of their joy, after God, is Mary who says, “My soul glorifies the Lord!” As she reflected more and more on the message she had received during her journey, she adapted the prayer of Anne, her mother, from her patron, Hannah, to express what was going on in her heart.
In the Te Deum of the Church we hear that Christ “did not shrink from birth in the virgin’s womb”. He came not shrinking. Oh yes, a come-down, not counting his equality with God. Imagine becoming a slug or a worm or some other slimy yukky creature. For God to become human was even a more unpleasant step. And yet God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to join us and “being humbler yet he accepted death, even death on a Cross”. His birth opened the door for the fullest interactions he could have with us. He came positively, so much did he love us, and joined our world of fleshy growth while mingling among us and growing in compassion, above all for our sins.
If you look at many images of the presentation you will see an altar near Simeon as Mary hands baby Jesus into the hands of one robed like a priest. The scene is linked to the Mass when we hand the Lamb of God over to the eternal Father. But in presenting God, her little lamb, Mary is already pre-enacting our Mass on Calvary where she must hand over her treasure to God in an act of priceless trust. And Simeon’s words make that clear: “A sword will pierce your own heart too”. Mary teaches us that at each Mass we must entrust even the most precious loves of our lives to God and say: “These are not mine but yours!”
The Finding of Jesus in the Temple after three days is a barely veiled illusion to Mary’s discovering her Son risen from the dead. Perhaps on the first Holy Saturday she was already singing in her heart “I know that my redeemer lives and in my flesh I shall see God”. If she met him, as St Ignatius insists must have happened, she may have gone on to sing interiorly, “Now is Christ Risen, the first fruits from the dead!” But it is then that she most realises the significance of her finding him three days after his being lost in the Temple. And we may even say that, just as he spent those three days in the Temple with the doctors asking him and answering their questions, his three days “out of circulation” after his death, if I may so put it, was his reporting to Heaven on why we are a salvable family. And his biggest piece of evidence had to be his own mother.
Let us, with her, bring the good news to the world: we can be saved. Christ has said it in word and deed. Let us be witnesses, missionaries by what we are first. And helped by Mary may it be said of us all, “Christ in all ears that hear us, in all eyes that see us, in all hearts that think about us”. And may the Rosary remain one of our greatest tools in making us thus. Amen.