Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared on May 13 to three small children and insisted, among other things, on the startling revelation that, “My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
How amazing is that?
Think about it, this past year was the deadliest year ever for Christians, who are being martyred indiscriminately all over the world. There is violence daily in the news. Various nations are threatening to send nuclear bombs our way. In our daily lives we contend with road rage, family problems, and stress at work. At school there is peer pressure and bullying. For some of us, life is going great, but for others each day might be a struggle right now. Even in the Church there is contention about something the pope said, or I said…
And here is what’s amazing. Over it all, the powers and principalities of this world, more powerful than our sinful actions, our jaded cynicism, stronger than world leaders and violence and hatred – Our Lady and her Immaculate Heart will triumph.
Our Mother, our pure and maternal Mary will hold our charred, wrecked world in her lap and she will squeeze us tight and never let us go no matter how much we kick or scream. It’s kind of how, kids, when your mom drops you off at school and yells I love you out the car window while you desperately try to scurry away because she is embarrassing you in front of your friends, but secretly you really like it. Or even as an adult how when I go to my parents house and my mom grabs my face and all but forces a kiss onto my cheek but in a quiet sort of way I’m perfectly fine with it.
Nothing will stop the love of Our Lady for her Son Jesus, or for her spiritual children, for you and me. This isn’t a meaningless phrase, either. A mother’s love is the strongest force in the universe, because it becomes one with the outpouring of God the Father’s grace and participates in his nurturing, world-creating activity. In 7 days God made the world. For 9 months Mary carried Christ within her womb. Which is the greater miracle? Honestly, it’s hard to say.
Such is the awe inspired by Our Lady that the poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins compares Mary to the very air we breathe, referencing the way in which she is fundamental to our very spiritual existence.
“Wild air, world-mothering air,” he writes. Every breath he takes is a reminder that Our Lady’s love is fierce and untamed, it is procreative and daring. It is such, Hopkins writes, that she is, “Mary Immaculate,/Merely a woman” and yet through her flows all of God’s mercy. He goes on, “I say that we are wound/With mercy round and round/As if with air.”
There is this famous color in medieval painting that I call Marian Blue. It is the most expensive, most saturated and gorgeous color there was, and painters lavished money on painting Our Lady’s cloak Marian Blue. This is the mantle of Our Lady, and it is of great significance. It covers the globe, and we are covered by her protecting presence, which is how we can be assured that the air itself is saturated with God’s mercy. Mary is in charge of dispensing it, and we must always remember that the ministry of Jesus begins at her prompting and that he continues to minister to us through her because she is our Mother the Church. Her vocation begins with her Son Jesus but soon enough her motherhood extends to all of us. She chooses to be mother to everyone. No one is left out.
And what mother would choose differently? What mother would abandon one of her children? What mother would play favorites? Mary, writes Hopkins, “holds high motherhood.” And in reference to her mantle he writes that it will, “Fold home, fast fold thy child.”
There is this whole dimension to the visible Church that we see front and center every day: the hierarchy, the pope, the bishops, the priests and deacons. This is our home, the Body of Christ. It is a beautiful reality and I love being a part of it. St. Peter encourages us all to do so when he writes, “Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” The problem is that, sometimes, it can be hard to see where we fit. What gifts can I bring? Of what use am I? Am I even worthy of being here with all these people who seem so devout and holy? I know I feel those doubts myself sometimes, especially as a priest when I’m expected to stand up here and say meaningful, profound things to you but my own heart is capable of so much waywardness and coldness towards God. It’s one thing to be told that we are in the house of God, another to actually live that reality.
So how are we built into the house of God – through the mediation of Mother Mary. The Body of Christ is received from his Mother, and there is this whole other, even more important spiritual reality by which we approach God, and that reality is Marian. She folds us into her mantle and thus into the Body of Christ our true home.
So when it comes to your faith or any of the worries of this world, don’t worry, take a deep breath, and pray.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, may our hearts be ever united with yours