Franciscan Spirit Blog

Mary, Mother to Us All

I simply cannot observe or smell aromatic lilacs without thinking of Mother’s Day and recalling with vivid memory the precious time spent with my mother, my grandmother, and, later on, with my beloved children.

When I was growing up, I spent many a spring day with my mother and grandmother playing near the weeping willow trees and the hedge of lilac bushes that stretched all across our backyard. Luscious lilac scents were roused with every stirring spring breeze; tantalizing my senses and etching a long-lasting childhood memory upon my heart.

When I became a mother, my Mother’s Days were never complete until at least one of my children presented me with a bouquet of fresh lilacs, usually plucked right from a backyard bush. They would adorn our kitchen table and fill the house with amazing fragrance.

With Mother’s Day having just passed, our thoughts might be reminiscent of times enjoyed with our mothers, our spiritual mothers, or mother figures in our lives. The month of May can also draw our attention to our dear Mother in heaven. Yet, I suspect that many might fear that Mary is unapproachable because she seems so far away. After all, she is the Mother of God! What do we have in common with her?

We should remember that it was her Divine Son, Jesus, who gave us the eminent gift of his Mother even as he was dying on the cross: “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother’” (John 19:27). 

Saint John Paul II reminds us, “From the time when ‘the disciple took her to his own home,’ the mystery of the spiritual motherhood of Mary has been actualized boundlessly in history. Motherhood means caring for the life of the child. Since Mary is the mother of us all, her care for the life of man is universal” he said.

We can all understand the universal care of our Mother in Heaven for us or, at the very least, the longing for that spiritual motherly care in our lives. The Blessed Mother’s love and care is especially healing for those whose own biological mothers were unwilling or unable to provide authentic self-giving love. Mother Mary loves us all with a pure, selfless, and steadfast motherly love. She tirelessly calls to our hearts and souls. Her utmost aim is to bring us to her Son. 

Mother Mary’s care is rooted in the Holy Spirit. Saint John Paul II tells us, “The care of a mother embraces her child totally. Mary’s motherhood has its beginning in her motherly care for Christ. In Christ, at the foot of the cross, she accepted John, and in John she accepted all of us totally. Mary embraces us all with special solicitude in the Holy Spirit. For as we profess in our Creed, he is ‘the giver of life.’ It is he who gives the fullness of life, open towards eternity” he explained.


Our Lady of Fatima

We are living in such an important anniversary year—the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, Portugal! We can come to understand the messages and reasons for Our Lady’s visits in Fatima, Portugal, when we reflect on Mary’s humble, loving service right from the start—at the Annunciation, at the wedding feast at Cana, and at foot of the Cross. Through her life in Scripture, we see how Mother Mary wants to protect us and draw us to her Son.

We can visit the shrine at Fatima to experience the spiritual love and care of our Mother and Queen of Heaven, just as we can also experience that same spiritual mothering within each and every Hail Mary we utter sincerely from our hearts, and with every Rosary prayed. 

Mother Mary is right there with us, granting her graces and lovingly pushing us forth—always towards her Son Jesus, so that we will be able to continue each day to put one foot in front of the other to walk in faith. Mary is not unreachable! She is with us even now! Don’t fear calling out to her.

Let’s be mindful to do our part of Our Lady’s messages. We are called to pray the daily Rosary and to offer reparation for sinners. My dear friend and Fatima expert, Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R. remarked, “Our Lady called her children to live holy lives of prayer and penance. This is missing in many people’s lives today. They reject sacrifice because they’re attached to the world and so cannot allow Jesus into their lives. If we follow what Our Lady is asking, we will find ourselves close to Jesus.”


Mother Mary’s ‘Dwelling Places’

Saint John Paul II spoke about Mary’s spiritual motherhood and her “dwelling places” during his homily when visiting Fatima on the sixty-fifth anniversary when he was there to give thanks to her for saving his life exactly one year earlier and to celebrate her message at Fatima. He said: Mary’s spiritual motherhood is therefore a sharing in the power of the Holy Spirit, of “the giver of life.” It is the humble service of her who says of herself: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38).

In the light of the mystery of Mary’s spiritual motherhood, let us seek to understand the extraordinary message, which began on May 13, 1917, to resound throughout the world from Fatima, continuing through October of the same year.

He went on to explain how Mother Mary comes to meet us. It makes me think of Mary’s loving gestures in being “the handmaid of the Lord” when visiting her cousin Elizabeth during her own pregnancy—putting aside her own pregnancy discomforts to help someone in need. The pontiff said:

Mary’s motherhood in our regard is manifested in a particular way in the places where she meets us: her dwelling places; places in which a special presence of the Mother is felt. There are many such dwelling places. They are of all kinds: from a special corner in the home or little wayside shrines adorned with an image of the Mother of God, to chapels and churches built in her honor.

In certain places, however, the Mother’s presence is felt in a particularly vivid way. These places sometimes radiate their light over a great distance and draw people from afar. Their radiance may extend over a diocese, a whole nation, or at times over several countries and even continents. These places are the Marian sanctuaries or shrines.

In all these places, that unique testament of the Crucified Lord is wonderfully actualized: in them man feels that he is entrusted and confided to Mary; he goes there in order to be with her, as with his Mother, he opens his heart to her and speaks to her about everything: he “takes her to his own home,” that is to say, he brings her into all his problems, which at times are difficult. His own problems and those of others. The problems of the family, of societies, of nations and of the whole of humanity.

These are wonderful and poignant words to ponder in our hearts. We can certainly go to Mary with our own concerns. We can sit on her lap and pour out our hearts to her like a child would sit on his or her mother’s lap. She will listen. She’s our Mother. We should take some time to meditate upon Mary’s “dwelling places” in our lives. Is our heart her “dwelling place”? Can it be?


Mother Mary in Our Lives

Do we take time to think about the Blessed Mother? Life is busy. But we should carve a bit more time to learn more about her and ponder her life through Scripture, through prayer, and the writings of the saints. When we are in need of peace in our own life, do we pray to the Blessed Mother, seeking her intercession?

One time when I had to be on complete bed rest during a precarious pregnancy in which my doctor told me I was losing my baby, my spiritual mother, Mother Teresa, whom I was very blessed to know for about 10 years sent me a Miraculous Medal and offered some simple, yet powerful, prayers. I had lost three babies to miscarriage before that pregnancy, and the doctors had warned that the outcome to this particular pregnancy was not looking very promising. I had to keep still and keep praying for God’s holy will—whatever that would be. I was put in a position in which I needed to totally trust God.

A prayer that Mother Teresa taught me during that difficult time has stayed with me: “Mary, Mother of Jesus, be Mother to me now.” We certainly need Mary now. I prayed that prayer quite a bit and did my best to trust God. My daughter Mary-Catherine was born after a long nine months of staying still to preserve her life. She is twenty-five years old today! Amazingly, my first books were born out of that pregnancy. God certainly knew what He was doing by putting me still!

We might ask ourselves in what area of our lives is God asking us to trust Him now? Ask Mary to be Mother to you and lead you closer to the Sacred Heart of her Son! She will.

In the month of May when spring flowers are shooting up from previously unadorned soil, bright yellow forsythia blooms are bursting forth, and spring breezes are wafting the aromatic lilacs scents all around, take a moment to pause and ponder Mother Mary in your life. Ask her to draw you closer to her Immaculate Heart. As well, take the initiative to reach out to a mother figure and express your appreciation for her love and care in your life. Now is the time.

Our Lady of Fatima


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