By Msgr. Michael K. Magee

Two weeks ago, the Catholic Standard & Times featured on its front cover a story of the Cardinal’s blessing of a new shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in our Cathedral Basilica, and the Spanish-language text of his homily for the same occasion (i.e., the Hispanic Heritage Mass) on page 26. There was also an article on the 125th anniversary of the parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Bryn Mawr, one of a very large number of parishes in the Archdiocese dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God under her various titles. {{more}}

These events as well as the recurrence of this month traditionally associated with the Our Lady’s holy rosary invite us to reflect on the role occupied by the mother of God in our Catholic piety, not only to be ready to explain her importance for us to non-Catholics who might be perplexed by it, but to appreciate more fully for ourselves the reason that we turn to Our Lady with such naturalness and confide in her with such complete trust.

It would be a misrepresentation of Our Lady’s role to suggest that we offer our prayers to her merely because we are afraid that our own prayers might not be heard, while her role as the Lord’s own mother will be likely to gain us a hearing. That explanation would betray an underestimation of God’s mercy in our regard and would seem to place her between God and us rather than beside us in our path to God.

In fact, Mary’s role in God’s plan cannot be separated from that of the Church herself; the fathers of the Church were quite correct in seeing Mary as the truest embodiment of all that the Church is. Both Mary and the Church show the importance that God attaches to intercessory prayer in his plan of salvation in Christ. We can be sure that sinners are converted to the Lord every day by the prayers of the Virgin Mary just as by the prayers that the Church prays every day – “Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world”.

This does not mean that God wanted to refuse salvation to the same sinner until our intercession changed his mind. On the contrary, that very act of intercession – of Mary as well as the Church – is already the fruit of spanine grace, moving the intercessor to pray so that God’s saving plan will be furthered not only by his solitary action but in response to the prayers of human beings.

The reason that some find themselves perplexed by Catholic devotion to the mother of God is not that Catholics value too highly the prayer of a mere human being. Rather, it is that some fail to realize how highly God Himself values and makes a part of His own plan of salvation the prayers of simple human beings like Mary, and also like us. What great work of His grace does God want to accomplish in response to your prayers?

Msgr. Michael K. Magee is a faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood.