By Anthony Nguyen, C.Ss.R.
Church leaders are encouraging us to pray to the Blessed Mother now, asking for her protection and her intercession during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Many Catholics are responding to Pope Francis’ invitation to rediscover the beauty of praying the rosary during the month of May, and our bishops re-consecrated this country to our Blessed Mother last week.
The month of May has been dedicated to honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary since the Middle Ages. We turn to the Blessed Mother to strengthen our faith in God, to imitate her virtues, and to ask for her intercession. We can remain steadfast in our faith and hope by prayerfully reflecting on her life. At the Annunciation, Mary completely trusted God, despite the unknowns. May we follow her example and faithfully trust God as we face our uncertainty about the future.
We can learn many other virtues from Mary during this difficult time. In the history of the Church – especially during the 12th Century – many people from all walks of life promoted devotion to the Blessed Mother during May. St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s special way of showing his devotion was to reflect on the beauty of flowers in relation to Mary’s virtues: roses represent her love, violets her humility, yellow flowers her glory, and lilies her purity. We share St. Bernard’s special devotion at the Redemptorist Renewal Center during this time of the year, as we are surrounded by beautiful flowers. We are reminded of the purity of Mary’s love by the white flowers at the top of a tall cactus; her glory in the gold flowers blooming in the desert; and her humility in the violet flowers blooming in the warmth of the sun. We are so grateful to understand literally why May is known as the month of flowers, and we draw the connection between the blossoms and the virtues of Mary.
The Latin word “rosary” means “bouquet of roses.” We will pray the rosary frequently this month with the intention of offering a spiritual bouquet of flowers to our Mother Mary. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to pray the rosary on the first evening I was at Fatima, Portugal. After each group recited a decade of the rosary in their own language, we all sang loudly the words “Ave Maria.” Those words seemed to be a common language as we sang “Ave Maria” in unity and love for the Blessed Mother.
During the candlelight procession that evening, the prayer of St. Bernard came to my mind:
Following her, you stray not;
Invoke her, you despair not;
Thinking of her, you wander not;
Upheld by her, you fall not;
Shielded by her, you fear not;
Guided by her, you grow not weary;
Favored by her, you reach the goal.
As Redemptorists, we strongly believe in the intercession and protection of our Blessed Mother. Let us fervently pray the prayer of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, given to us in this month of May:
May Our Blessed Mother…help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need.
Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.
Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.
To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen
Mary became our Blessed Mother through the words of Jesus as she knelt at the foot of the cross. As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, let’s give thanks that our Blessed Mother is full of grace, and full of love for God and for us. Let’s trust that she is interceding for each of us, and for our country, during these unprecedented times.