Pope Benedict XVI: May 2008 Archives

Our Lady of America

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A very dear priest friend and I were discussing the place given to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Holy Father's recent Apostolic Journey to the United States. I decided to review the Holy Father's discourses to discover when and where he spoke of Our Blessed Lady, as well as what he said on those occasions. Here is what I found, together with my own comments in italics.

1. Video-Message to Catholics and People of the United States of America on the Occasion of the Upcoming Apostolic Journey, April 8, 2000

“I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Que la Virgen María les acompañe y proteja. Que Dios les bendiga.”

2. Celebration of Vespers and Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America, Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

“We began by celebrating Evening Prayer in this Basilica dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a shrine of special significance to American Catholics, right in the heart of your capital city. Gathered in prayer with Mary, Mother of Jesus, we lovingly commend to our heavenly Father the people of God in every part of the United States.”

The phrase "with Mary, the Mother of Jesus" is taken from Acts 1:14. The circumstances of such an allusion — the successors of the Apostles united in prayer in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception — could not have been more fitting.

“Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15).”

While treating of the prayer of bishops and priests the Holy Father alluded to the Rosary. Together with Eucharistic Adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary is integral to the daily prayer discipline of the clergy.

"As I conclude my words to you this evening, I commend the Church in your country most particularly to the maternal care and intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. May she who carried within her womb the hope of all the nations intercede for the people of this country, so that all may be made new in Jesus Christ her Son."

This is as close as the Holy Father came to making an explicit "affidamento" or act of consecration of the Church in the United States to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The second line seems to evoke the Virgin of Guadalupe, heavenly patroness of the Church's works in favour of life.

“Dear Brother Bishops, with these few observations, I once more encourage all of you in your ministry to the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, and I commend you to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church.”

Again, the Holy Father commends the Bishops to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, calling her "Mother of the Church. The above texts seem rather meagre in terms of their explicit Marian content. I regret that there was no mention of Our Lady in the Holy Father's homily to priests and religious in Saint Patrick's Cathedral and in his address to young people at Dunwoodie. I had hoped that the visit to Ground Zero might be marked by a recognition of the compassion of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows. I want, nonetheless, to deepen the words concerning Our Lady that Our Holy Father did speak, by receiving them obediently, that is, with a quality of listening that changes life.

Setting An Example

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Yesterday was the First Saturday of the month of May. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI gave an edifying example of pastoral zeal to all the bishops and parish priests of the Church by praying the Rosary with the faithful in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. It was profoundly moving to see the Holy Father on his knees, telling his beads with simplicity, humility, and piety. He recited the prayers of the Rosary in Latin. A suitable antiphon in Gregorian Chant and a passage from Sacred Scripture preceded each decade. The Salve Regina, Litany of Loreto, and Regina Caeli concluded the celebration: a model for every cathedral and parish church in the world. At the end of the prayer, the Holy Father said:

"Today we are demonstrating together that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice relegated to the past, like a prayer of former times that one thinks of nostalgia. The Rosary is, as it were, coming into a new springtime. This is, without any doubt, one of the most eloquent signs of the love that the young generations nourish for Jesus and for Mary His Mother.

In today’s world so full of distractions, this prayer helps us to place Christ at the centre, as did the Virgin, who meditated inwardly all that was said concerning her Son, and then what He did and said. When the Rosary is recited we relive the important and significant moments of the history of salvation; we journey through the various phases of the mission of Christ. With Mary the heart turns toward the mystery of Jesus. Jesus is placed at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, by means of the contemplation and meditation of His holy mysteries of joy, of light, of sorrow, and of glory. Mary helps us to receive within ourselves the grace that emanates from these mysteries so that through us they might irrigate society, beginning with our daily relations, and purify it of so many negative forces, while apprising it of the newness of God.

The Rosary, when prayed in an authentic way, one that is not mechanical and superficial, but profound, undeniably confers peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and with love at the center of each Ave Maria."

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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