Mary: Cause of Our Joy and Mother of Priests

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Diocesan Pilgrimage at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Why has the Church of Arlington come on pilgrimage to Mary's House, to this Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception? Is it not to visit with the Mother of God, who is our mother too, in a more intentional and visible way, to seek her prayerful assistance as we ask her, the Cause of Our Joy, to lead us to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, Who is the only source of hope and the joy that flows from that hope, and to ask her, the Mother of Priests, to intercede for all priests during this Year for Priests, especially for the priests ministering in our diocesan Church? Yes, you and I: bishop, priests, deacons, women and men living the consecrated life, members of the lay faithful, all united by faith, hope and charity, all united in our love for the Mother of God, who is our mother too; we are here to proclaim with grateful hearts that Mary is the Cause of Our Joy and the Mother of Priests.

Joy! Is it realistic to speak about joy within the context of our contemporary society? The conflict continues in Iraq and Afghanistan; so many lives are lost and so many others are wounded. The stress and strain resulting from current financial and economic difficulties remain. Healthcare reform is still being debated with serious issues yet to be resolved. Human life is threatened and, indeed, destroyed at its beginning at conception through abortion and embryonic stem cell research, at its end through physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, and in various stages in between through other acts of violence. We experience the physical pain of illness, the breakdown of marriage and family, alienation of family members, the death of loved ones, the struggle of immigration processes, the hardship of entering a new culture and trying to learn a new language. Then, there is the relentless endeavor to redefine marriage and, above all, because it is such an underlying cause of all the above, the neglect and even denial of God's existence and reign. Joy? What is there to be joyful about? Is not sorrow a more realistic sentiment?

We would say "yes" were it not for a fundamental reality, which is rooted in our Christian faith. Joy, Christian joy, is sorrow overcome! We who believe in Jesus Christ as the One Savior of the world do experience an enduring and inner joy. We are not oblivious to or in denial of the reality surrounding us. We see the same things which everyone else sees. But, we see more, we see beyond, we see through. We know by faith and even from experience that authentic Christian joy is sorrow overcome. Why? Because of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, Who became one of us in all things except sin and Who has overcome sin and eternal death by His Dying and Rising, precisely so that we may experience within us an authentic and inner joy rooted in hope. On the night before He died out of love for us, Jesus assured us that if we remain in His love, then His joy will be in us and our joy will be complete. Jesus echoed His words moments ago in the Gospel, "Remain in my love…I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete."

Yes, God the Father sent His Son to bring us true joy. As we heard in the Opening Prayer: "Lord our God, you were pleased to bring joy to the world through the incarnation of your Son." Jesus came into the world because Mary cooperated with God's Plan; she said "yes" to His Word and Will. Thus, she is the cause of our joy, for had she not said "yes," the Messiah and Savior, Joy Himself, could not have come. But, Jesus did come, fulfilling the promise made in the Old Testament, which we heard in today's first reading from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah: "…See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord." That promise was fulfilled in the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I repeat, because this fulfillment came about through Mary's willingness to become the Mother of God, we rightly call her: "Cause of Our Joy." As the Introduction to the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cause of Our Joy, puts it: "Since Jesus had come to us through Mary, the Church came gradually to understand that the Blessed Virgin, because of her cooperation in the incarnation of the Word, is the cause or origin or source of this great joy; the Church has known too that the sorrow brought into the world by Eve's disobedience has been changed into joy by Mary's obedience, and so it began to honor her with the title 'cause of our joy'" (Marian Sacramentary, p. 255).

Mary is our Mother, always praying and interceding for us, always at our side, always bringing us to Jesus Christ.

Mary is also the Mother of Priests. During this Year for Priests, we entrust all priests, especially those serving in our diocesan Church, to this Mother. Dear brothers, turn to Mary, our Mother. As the Curé of Ars reminds us, "after giving us all he could, Jesus Christ wishes in addition to bequeath us his most precious possession, his Blessed Mother" (Pope Benedict XVI, Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests, p. 6).

Our Holy Father entrusted the Year for Priests to Our Blessed Mother "To the Most Holy Virgin I entrust this Year for Priests. I ask her to awaken in the heart of every priest a generous and renewed commitment to the ideal of complete self-oblation to Christ and the Church which inspired the thoughts and actions of the saintly Curé of Ars" (Ibid.). So, "We pray that the Blessed Mother wrap her mantle around [our] priests and through her intercession strengthen them for their ministry. May they be compassionate in their service; teach untiringly the transforming Word of Christ; and be a prayerful example of faith hope and love for us all. We ask Mary's intercession for our priests that, offering the Sacrifice of her Son, they may be conformed more each day to the image of her Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen."

My brothers in the priesthood, the Lord intends for us to be, like Mary, a cause of joy for the people entrusted to us, as we bring Christ, the One Savior of the world, the source of enduring hope and joy, to them through our preaching and teaching; through our sacramental ministry, especially through the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist; through our availability in self-oblation for their welfare. Asking daily the help of our Mother and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, her Son and the Great High Priest, we become more and more transformed into His image. As the Holy Father reminds us, "Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!" (Op. Cit., p. 6). Further, he says, "Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests in the heart of the Church. You are the living witnesses of God's power at work in the weakness of human beings, consecrated for the salvation of the world, chosen by Christ Himself to be, thanks to Him, salt of the earth and light of the world" (Pope Benedict XVI, Video Message to Participants in an International Spiritual Retreat for Priests at the French Shrine of Ars).

O Mary, you are the Cause of Our Joy because you brought us Jesus the Savior and Redeemer. Teach us to respond to His invitation: "Remain in my love." O Mary, you are the Mother of Priests, bless us, your priests that we may be "the love of the Heart of Jesus" for our people.

Amen. Alleluia!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2009