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Bishop Burbidge: Why we honor Mary -- and our mothers


Perhaps you are often asked by our brothers and sisters in other faith traditions: “Why do Catholics worship Mary?” Of course, we explain that we only worship God. Yet, we honor Mary as the perfect model of holiness and as the first of the disciples.

What a perfect month to reflect on the questions: Why do we honor Mary?  Why is Mary at the heart of our spiritual lives?”

Our Catechism answers those questions by stressing the role of Mary in salvation history: In God’s divine and mysterious plan, she was conceived without sin; was chosen to be the Mother of God and was assumed into heaven body and soul and is our Mother and the Mother of the Church. Here is a beautiful summary: “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation, and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (# 969).

This month dedicated to Mary is also a time we give thanks to God for our own mothers, living and deceased. We thank them for the many ways their sacrificial love and faithful witness have inspired us. Our Holy Father Pope Francis offered a beautiful reflection on the vocation of motherhood here on earth and how that precious gift leads us to a deeper understanding of Mary, our heavenly Mother.

Pope Francis says that “A mother helps her children grow up and wants them to be strong, capable of accepting responsibilities, of engaging in life and of striving for great ideals.” In the family of Nazareth, Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40). Our Blessed Mother helps us to be strong in faith. Consistent physical exercise helps us to build strong muscles. Spiritually, we exercise by repeating daily Mary’s “yes” to God’s holy will, not our own. The more and more we do so, especially in the midst of temptations to seek a life without discipline and obedience, the stronger we become in faith and, thus, experience the favor of God.

In addition, Pope Francis says: “A mother teaches her children to face the difficulties of life and to confront them with courage.” Mary saw many difficult moments in life, from the very beginning when there was no room in the inn for the Holy Family, up until the very end where she wept at the foot of the cross. Through it all, Mary was not overcome by fear or despair. She persevered and remained courageous. Mary knows our struggles and difficulties, and from the Cross Jesus assures us that His Mother will be our mother, who will accompany us through our sufferings and show us the path leading to His glory. Be sure to carry the rosary as a constant reminder of this powerful truth! 

We thank our dear mothers, whom we celebrate in a special way this month, for the many ways, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they help us to be strong in faith and courageous in the midst of the trials of life. Throughout this month and always, we turn to Mary the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church and our Mother, for her protection, guidance and help, so that we too may always say “yes” to the Lord and His will and find favor with God.